Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 8, 2019 Guest: Glenn Kirschner, Laurence Tribe, Natasha Bertrand, Wesley Clark, Vanita Gupta, Jerome Corsi
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Well, that`s all I have for this hour. But boy, do we have a lot more throughout the rest of this evening and I`ll have more tomorrow on MTP DAILY.
But it`s "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber that starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. A big night. So buckle up, everybody.
TODD: You got it.
MELBER: See you soon.
Let me tell you the top stories breaking today. One, federal prosecutor just indicted the Russian lawyer from that infamous Trump Tower meeting. Two, Bob Mueller`s investigators now say Paul Manafort committed a new crime by lying about his leaks to a Russian operative during the 2016 campaign. And three, President Donald Trump giving his first oval office address as president tonight about the shutdown.
Now, we`re covering each story, beginning with these major developments in the Russia probe. We all know why this Paul Manafort news matters. There was no greater campaign source for Bob Mueller to flip than former Trump Campaign Chair Manafort.
Tonight, we are learning why that cooperation deal completely fell apart. This is the first time we`ve heard these details. Mueller`s investigators apparently saying Manafort lied to them about how he shared polling data from 2016 with the Kremlin-linked operative.
So Manafort was allegedly hiding his Russian links, even after flipping, which makes the other news tonight even more intriguing. Federal prosecutors indicting the Russian, you see on the screen in the upper right, that is the Russian that Paul Manafort and others met with at Trump Tower. Other key players like Don Jr. and Jared Kushner, she is indicted for obstruction.
So before we go any further, why is this all coming out tonight? The indictment of the Russian lawyer is public because the feds acted today a deliberate development. The Manafort news is different, an accident. This whole intricate story unraveling because Paul Manafort`s own lawyers accidentally revealed what he was basically up to.
So this was supposed to be redacted. We`ll show it to you. In Manafort`s response to Mueller accusing him of breaking that cooperation deal, we see Manafort met with Kremlin-linked operative Konstantin Kilimnik in Madrid. And that`s not all. This was during the 2016 campaign.
Manafort forking over polling data. So not only did Manafort allegedly hand off political intel to this Russian operative which, well, that sounds a little suspicious, right? But according to Bob Mueller, Manafort would then try to cover it up.
Now prosecutors bear down on that kind of lying because it suggests the defendant has decided it`s better to risk committing a new crime of lying to the feds than coughing up the truth. And the crime of obstruction is also exactly what the New York feds are using in what you see here.
Again, as I mentioned, that Russian lawyer from the Trump Tower meeting. Now, they alleged she was intentionally misleading and fabricating evidence from the Russian government in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor all for a separate civil case.
So we are seeing here in this bombshell new pressure on the Russian side of the Trump Tower meeting. You may recall some of this. This is the lawyer who went on TV to disclaim any connections with the Russians. She now stands accused of those very Russian connections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump Jr. is told that they want to schedule a meeting with him and the Russian government attorney, who is flying over from Moscow, the Russian government attorney. That means you.
NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, RUSSIAN ATTORNEY (through translator): No. I`m certainly flattered by being mocked and called as a government attorney, but I have never worked for the government in the first place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: NBC`s Keir Simmons and Richard Engel have reported on this story and broke some of these very documents you see on your screen. Those are now cited in this indictment alleging the government link. Like any defendant, she is still innocent until proven guilty in America.
So what are we learning tonight? When you take this together, these key developments, what does it tell us about the investigations into the 2016 campaign? Well, let`s look at it like this.
It all started with some indictments of Americans and skeptics of Bob Mueller argued, well, crimes at home aren`t collusion. Then we saw -- remember those indictments of Russians? Rod Rosenstein came to the podium and announced them. It was a huge deal. And skeptics said, well, OK, but crimes abroad don`t necessarily have help at home in America.
So here and here but not here. But now we are seeing a new indictment of a Russian who was in America. Not only in America. She was in a room at Trump Tower with Donald Trump`s top aides and family members.
Today is the first time we have seen two people in that room, one American, one Russian, are now both indicted. The American, of course, pled guilty. What happens with the Russian? As I mentioned, as always, innocent until proven guilty. Whether there`s more information to come out, well, that`s what comes next.
Joining me now on this very big news day is Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard. He`s argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court. He advised President Obama. The author of many books, including the latest, "To End A Presidency," which is a study on the power of the impeachment.
I`m also joined by former Federal Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner and "The Atlantic`s" Natasha Bertrand who covers this case extensively.
Glenn, your view of the potential significance now, as I mentioned, of there being indictments of multiple people in that room for that fateful meeting that brought them all together, at least one time.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, Ari, the Veselnitskaya development is a really interesting one. And I think it highlights a couple of potentially important things about who she is and who she was at the time she participated in that Trump Tower meeting.
She was not only meeting with -- and obviously close to Russian government officials and it`s being reported in the documents released by the Southern District of New York a senior Russian prosecutor. It`s one thing to be closely aligned to those kinds of people. It`s quite another thing to be involved in conspiring with those people to create false documents and declarations that you will then offer to a court in New York that was going after her, Veselnitskaya`s client, trying to get them to forfeit some properties that he had allegedly used to launder dirty Russian money through.
So what does it tell us? It tells us that Ms. Veselnitskaya was intimately involved with the Russian government, with the Russian prosecutor, and was actually conspiring to commit crimes with them to the disadvantage of the U.S. criminal justice system.
And the other thing, Ari, is we learned that the prosecutors have some of her e-mail traffic between Veselnitskaya and the Russian prosecutor. And when I saw that, I thought to myself, boy, we`re going to be hearing a lot more moving forward about Veselnitskaya`s e-mails, I suspect. s MELBER: Professor Tribe, how do you view this in the larger context of these multiple investigations?
LAURENCE TRIBE: Ari, I view it as quite a bombshell. The Veselnitskaya part is probably less profound than the Manafort part.
But I agree with Glenn Kirschner that Veselnitskaya is now clearly exposed as an agent of the Kremlin. So that when an offer was made at that infamous Trump Tower meeting of e-mails from Hillary Clinton, the offer that Donald Jr. said he would love if it came at the right time in the campaign, we now know that that`s basically an offer of help from the Kremlin and a violation of American law, which forbids accepting offers or soliciting offers of foreign help.
As far as Manafort is concerned, we now have the umbilical cord that connects all of the Russian-side conspiracies with the American-side conspiracies.
MELBER: So, professor, let me draw you --
TRIBE: The chairman of the campaign -- sure.
MELBER: Let me draw you out on your first point because like any Harvard law professor, you speak in Multiple-point thoughts. On your first point, sir, you are saying that the material emerging here adds to the Kremlin side of collusion, that that could be for a prosecutor useful combined with presumably other information to tie the person in the Trump Tower meeting directly back to Putin.
TRIBE: Correct. And it means that the president`s son and the head of the president`s campaign and the president`s son-in-law, all of those people were soliciting help, not just from some random Russian but from the Kremlin.
And as far as the Manafort revelation today is concerned, what that shows is that the head of the president`s campaign, almost certainly with the president`s knowledge, was offering information about secret polling data in the United States to the Kremlin.
Now, it`s not that the Kremlin makes a hobby of following American politics. The only point of giving them that data would have been to facilitate their intervention in our campaign. And it was a quid pro quo because the other thing we learned from that inadvertent revelation is that part of this was involved with helping Russia vis-a-vis Ukraine.
So all that`s missing is a bow to tie this whole thing into a knot. And I think we are now seeing the structure of a multinational conspiracy to help Donald Trump win the election. It`s quite profound.
MELBER: It`s profound when you put it like that. Natasha, Americans coming home tonight looking at their screen will see a headline that is a bombshell no matter what administration you imagine or what family members you imagine.
If you see feds indict foreigner from hostile foreign power who met with guilty campaign chair and family members of the president, if it was Obama family members, Bush family, this is a bombshell. People expecting that, you know, to be more about -- thinking about the speech and the shutdown, a lot of other news, this is a bombshell.
How do you view it in the context of what Mueller`s doing? Because it is a separate federal prosecution.
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: It is separate. And at first, I, like many other observers said, well, we knew for a very long time, for over a year now, that Veselnitskaya had these ties to Russia`s Chief Prosecutor Yury Chaika and that she had been working very closely with him to undermine the Magnitsky Act worldwide. That was essentially their entire effort during 2016, especially with regard to the Trump campaign, was to try to get them to lift these sanctions.
But on the other hand, it`s extremely significant because it shows that the Southern District of New York is laying out in court filings the fact that she is a Kremlin agent. And legal experts have told me that that is a prelude essentially to -- for what`s to come. Especially if Mueller wants to lay out in his own court filings that Veselnitskaya was working for the Russian government when she met with the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in June of 2016.
And so I think for that reason alone, just the fact that she`s now been implicated, not only in this major money laundering scandal, of course, which is at the heart of the matter. But also that she was working hand in hand with the Russian government and that she was not just an informant for the government, as she has claimed in the past to NBC.
But also that she was acting essentially as their agent, as someone who was going to go to the United States and try to lobby high-level officials to lift these sanctions which, of course, was Vladimir Putin`s top goal, really, over the last eight or so years, especially after the Magnitsky Act was implemented.
BERTRAND: So I think we have to look at it through that lens.
MELBER: And through that lens, Glenn, to Natasha`s point here, if Bob Mueller`s playing chess, you start to wonder, are these federal prosecutors in New York his queen? And he`s moving it over the board pretty aggressively while sometimes people don`t realize how it intersects with what he`s planning.
KIRSCHNER: Yes. I think even though they`re separate investigations, I think they are probably coordinating with each other fairly regularly to make sure, one, that they`re not stepping on each other`s toes. They do have slightly different mandates.
But, you know, I agree with Professor Tribe, with the revelation of what Manafort was concealing from Bob Mueller about sharing polling information with Kilimnik and now we know Veselnitskaya was not only close with but would be in a position to conspire criminally with senior prosecutors and government officials with Russia.
You can see these tentacles, given these new revelations, just kind of stretching out and pulling the Trump campaign piece, the Trump Tower piece and the Russia piece closer and closer and closer together.
MELBER: Yes. And I want to get Professor Tribe back in. I don`t know if anyone would have expected we would be starting the new year with a Russian from Trump Tower being indicted. I mean, that alone tells you about the pace of this investigation, whatever jurisdiction it`s coming through.
Professor Tribe, I`d like to give you the final word, the closing statement, if you will, on this segment, and also have you listen to some sound that was unearthed today. Funny that it didn`t come out earlier, but it was unearthed of Donald Trump back in the day after his Russia visit, touting that they wanted him to do business there. Interesting. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I went to Russia at the invitation of the Russian people and the Russians. I went to Russia in order to perhaps build hotels.
At their invitation, they want me to build a great hotel in Moscow. They still want me to. I`m trying to drive the right kind of a bargain, unlike the bargains the city of New York drives. I`m trying to drive a tough bargain.
They want me back. They`ve asked me back. I may go back. I don`t know.
I can do the deal -- in two minutes, I can do the deal. If I want to do it, it will be done on my terms or it`s not going to be done at all. So he says, you went to Russia and he was a flop. I mean they`re asking me back. They want to make a deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Two minutes or three decades, give or take. Professor Tribe, your view of tying this all together.
TRIBE: Well, my view is that one of the possible reasons for the brouhaha about the wall and the shutdown is to distract attention from the coming together of the Russia probe because the president obviously fears being cornered, having the walls collapse on him. And maybe the main reason he`s putting so much emphasis on emergency powers to build a wall is that he wants to hold the walls back.
MELBER: A very interesting point and one that I think is part of the rest of our coverage. Professor Tribe, I want to have you back later in the hour to discuss some of the legal powers the president may try to seize.
Glenn Kirschner and Natasha Bertrand, thank you for joining us on this big story tonight.
Coming up, what Donald Trump could gain or lose from this oval office address tonight. The shutdown is hurting many people, according to reports around the nation. Maine`s independent Senator Angus King is my guest next.
And later, as mentioned, the legal debate over this leak that Donald Trump`s advisers may help him try to declare a national emergency to have military troops involved in some sort of scheme to build the border wall.
And later, my interview with a man who is both a witness and a potential target in the Russia probe. Jerome Corsi now trying to fight with Bob Mueller in court.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Our other top stories tonight, and the one the president will be addressing the nation about is significant. Think about it like this. We are now at the second-longest government shutdown in American history. Eighteen days with no end in sight.
And just under three hours, President Trump will deliver his address followed by a Democratic response from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Democrats have already said they reject any case Trump would make to justify the border wall, that the country is facing a national security crisis at the border.
A major open question, would Trump try to use that claim to declare a national emergency, which some advisers believe could create a legal path to use military funds to build the wall without congressional approval? Meanwhile, there are reports here that congressional leaders will be back at the White House tomorrow to meet all about the shutdown.
I`m joined now by Senator Angus King, independent from Maine, who caucuses with the Democrats. Thanks for joining me on a very busy night.
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Sure, Ari. Glad to help.
MELBER: Is there an argument the president can make tonight that would make you support funding the wall through Congress?
KING: Unless he has some extraordinary data that nobody`s seen yet, I don`t see how. What`s -- there`s a real big question contained within your question is, what is the wall?
One of the problems that we have here is that there`s been no plan submitted that I know of for what we`re talking about. Where, how much it would cost, what it would do, what parts of the border it would cover. That`s one of the real issues here is.
He keeps talking about something called "the wall" but we don`t really know what he wants. A typical construction project by the federal government, you`ve got to submit plans and say this is what we`re going to do, this is how big it will be, this is what it will cost. We have none of that.
MELBER: What does it tell you, Senator? I mean you make such a clear point I think people can understand. What does it tell you that the president wants a certain amount of money to say he`s won on this, but according to you, does not have any record of putting forward even where the money would go?
KING: That`s right. And what it says is, I think he`s trying to make good on a campaign promise, one that he made hundreds of times. But, of course, also hundreds of times he said Mexico was going to pay for it. That part of the campaign promise seems to have gone away.
But the other piece is that it`s a crisis. And I would refer you to a report by the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump administration September of 2017, about a year ago, about an assessment of the situation on the southwest border.
All the numbers are down. Interdictions, arrests, recidivism, everything is way down from where it was at a peak in 2007. It`s a problem but to call it a crisis and then to go from that to a national emergency --
KING: -- I think is a real stretch. And it`s, frankly, an attempt to end- run our constitutional process, in my view.
MELBER: And Senator, we`ve been speaking to people all across the spectrum on this. Take a listen to a Republican Congressman who was defending Trump in saying they`ve got to have some money in the wall to support re-opening the government who I just interviewed on a previous show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ROGER MARSHALL (R), KANSAS: National security is a huge priority. We have more deaths than crime created because of a porous southern border than problems coming out of the Middle East right now. So I think we all need to acknowledge that this is a huge problem and we want to fix the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you say to that argument, which I guess is a two-part. One, a view of the risk of crime from the southern border. And, two, an assumption that beginning constructing the border wall is the best way to prevent it.
KING: Well, I think, again, your question contains the answer. The first thing to say is, Ari, nobody here is for open borders. I`m really tired of hearing people say, you`re either for the wall or you`re for open borders. That`s nonsense.
All of us on both sides of the aisle have voted repeatedly for significant investments in border security. The question is, what`s the best expenditure of that money in terms of bang for the buck, return on investment?
Is it $20 million a mile for a wall or are there places where fencing would be more appropriate or drones or other sensor technologies? What, you know, what would be the best use if -- to deal with the problem, rather than this sort of one size fits all?
And, again, it goes back to what I said before. We don`t even know exactly what they`re talking about. There`s already a wall there. I`ve seen it. There are some places where it makes sense.
There are other places where it makes no sense and yet we don`t know -- the president`s basically asking for a blank check. Let me build a wall. I`ll put it where I want. It will look like what I want. You have nothing to say about it. That`s not the way this system works.
MELBER: Would you say from Donald Trump`s business experience that giving him a blank check is a good idea?
KING: I don`t think it`s a good idea to give a blank check to anybody in this situation.
MELBER: Fair enough.
KING: If this were a military construction project, they`ve got to go through engineering, they`ve got to come to Congress, to the authorizing committee.
MELBER: Right. There`s got to be accountability.
KING: That`s what the law requires. That`s what the constitution says.
MELBER: Well, Senator, I know it`s a busy night and we`ll all be watching to see what the president says in detail. I really appreciate you making time for THE BEAT tonight. Senator King.
KING: Absolutely. Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you, sir.
The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower indicted for obstruction for lying about her links to the Kremlin. We got a lot to get to when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: We are back with Donald Trump`s speech on the government shutdown. And a big question, will he use claims of a crisis at the border to try to bypass Congress and build a border wall with military funds? You`ve heard Trump talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I may declare a national emergency, dependent on what`s going to happen over the next few days.
REPORTER: So you don`t need Congressional approval to build the wall?
TRUMP: No. We can use them. Absolutely. We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country. Absolutely. No, we can do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We can do it. Or can we? There are many legal questions here. Already, Democrats say they would challenge this in court. The ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee coming out against it saying, "I`m opposed to using defense dollars for nondefense purposes."
American presidents have declared about 54 states of emergency since Congress passed a 1976 law on this. And because they have to be renewed each year, they automatically expire. Many remain in effect.
Joining me now is Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division under Obama. And the president of the leadership conference on civil rights, retired General Wesley Clark. And Laurence Tribe is back with us, a constitutional law professor at Harvard.
Many ways to come at this. General Clark, let`s start just down the middle. Is this a good idea for the military to be called upon to do something that Congress and the president otherwise can`t agree how to do?
WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I think it`s a really bad thing for the United States Armed Forces to be dragged into this. We`re non-political. We`ll do whatever the commander in chief orders us to do if it`s a legal order.
The lawyers are going to argue about that. But whether it`s legal or not, ultimately it`s political and the men and women in uniform understand it. They`re being used for an obvious political -- partisan political purpose here. It`s going to hurt.
MELBER: So your view is, even if it were potentially lawful, I mean, a court might ultimately have to rule on it, it`s just not the place for the military to be sort of the tiebreaker on a shutdown fight of this magnitude?
CLARK: That`s exactly right.
MELBER: And Vanita, is it legal?
VANITA GUPTA, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HEAD OF CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION: Look, I think that it`s a direct violation of the constitution for the president to try to usurp Congress` authority. The House in our democratic system has the power of the purse. And Trump`s effort to usurp that power on a -- by creating a fake national emergency is a violation of the constitution.
It`s also, I mean, you know, I think it really is important to understand that this is entirely a manufactured crisis. The president is in a legal and political trouble, is appealing to his base, is creating this whole crisis and now is trying to use it to legitimatize taking funds to create this thing that nobody can quite identify or understand.
There will be enormous amounts of litigation. There will be a lot of oversight and moves on Congress. And this is ultimately really detrimental to our democracy.
And mind you, of course, meanwhile, while all of this is happening, we have federal employees, thousands and thousands them around the country who aren`t getting paychecks, including some who are actually tasked with providing border security. That`s the irony here too.
And so we have to watch what happens tonight and what the president says with great alarm because of just the kind of degree of threats that it carries to our democracy and to the military.
MELBER: Professor Tribe, this, unlike some things that come out of Washington, is an idea that has, I think, to many Americans and to the courts an initial appeal. Because when you say "military," you go right to a body of law where courts have often said in real-time they don`t want to second-guess a commander in chief.
Then when you dig into it, you end up bumping into a lot of other cases which say yes, but that doesn`t mean that the president can say the word "military" and steal money out of the treasury that isn`t been appropriated. Judge Napolitano, a Conservative on "Fox", laid some of this out for their audience. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, HOST, FOX NATION: He can declare a state of emergency, but the declaration itself does not give him the power to take private property. It doesn`t allow him to spend money the Congress hasn`t authorized. So he would have to make the case that all the assets he now has including that military are not enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Where do you come down on this one professor?
LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Well, I certainly believe that what the President wants to do is unlawful and indeed dangerous. I`m not as confident as some people may be that the courts will agree because of the difference they often show to the president. But the context is important. The declaration of a national emergency is what leaders in democracies use to appropriate authoritarian powers. It happened after the Reichstag fire. It happened after the Manila bombing with Marcos. It happened after the coup in Turkey with Erdogan.
Now, of course, the President can point to specific provisions of law. There`s something in the U.S. code, 10 U.S. Code 2808 that says you can reshuffle some money for military construction. This is not military. We know that it`s fake. We know that the president --
MELBER: We may --
TRIBE: -- are not going to have a separate rule just --
MELBER: Professor, I`m going to jump in -- professor coming to alert you, we`re having some tangled difficulties but pick up on the point you were making. I think we may have lost you for a moment but you were saying, even with the statute under law there are limits. Go ahead.
TRIBE: Well, there are limits and the limits whether they`re enforced by judges or whether judges will defer to Trump are ultimately going to come up before the House of Representatives. I think the crucial thing is among other things that Adam Schiff in the Intelligence Committee, Jerrold Nadler in the Judiciary Committee, are going to look into whether the President is stretching his powers in order ultimately to undermine the separation of powers and the rule of law.
MELBER: And Professor, let me push you on one piece and then whip around it to get other panelists in. You made several references to foreign leaders. I think some people would view that as potentially provocative. Couldn`t a Solicitor General of the United States cite plenty of U.S. leaders like FDR and Truman who certainly within the law at least push to see where the courts would stop them on emergency and military powers?
TRIBE: There`s no question that presidents like Roosevelt, and Lincoln, and Truman in actual more circumstances have stretched the law. But we have had no instance in American history where a president for obviously political reality T.V. purposes as usurped congressional powers. This is unlike any national emergency we have seen.
It`s an attempt by the President to assume powers that belong to the other branches. And even if the courts don`t see it that way, Congress in hearings that look to possible abuses of power and high crimes and misdemeanors may see it that way. That`s where the ultimate remedy may have to come.
MELBER: Vanita, your view on that -- the professor mentioning within his criticism that he could see this as an area where the court might back up Trump depending on what he does.
GUPTA: Well, you know I think that we have to focus on what he`s going to say tonight and the manufactured crisis. I mean we have to devote -- the media is devoting all this time. I think there`s a real question about why the networks are carrying this to begin with. But remember that this is all of a piece with this political agenda.
From the start, the president has been demonizing immigrants. It has been an electoral and political tactic. And now he is you know, trying to usurp I think rightly as this professor tribe described kind of authoritarian measures to violate our separation of powers and to declare this make national emergency to kind of distract the country and carry out his political agenda. And I think that there will be a lot of litigation in court. It will be over the constitutionality of this, it`ll be over eminent domain, it`ll be over any number of issues.
And Congress is going to have a really important role to play and we`ll hear from Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer after. But this is -- again, this is harming real people in real communities and also undermining our democracy. And I think that the courts absolutely will have a very crucial role to play.
MELBER: Vanita Gupta, Wesley Clark, and Laurence Tribe, thanks to each of you and thanks for being with us. Straight ahead a witness and potential target in the Mueller probe long connected to Roger Stone. He`s here live. Come on up, sir. Back on THE BEAT, Mr. Jerome Corsi when we come back.
MELBER: We are now about 2 1/2 hours away from President Trump`s planned speech to sell the public on his argument for the wall and the shutdown using the bully pulpit of an oval office address for the first time. But while that is a clear effort to turn the conversation towards the wall, there`s a lot of attention on the investigations of his campaign. Paul Manafort facing new pressure today and now a key figure in the Muller probe once again making news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Jerome Corsi --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have Jerome Corsi --
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Corsi having conversations with Roger Stone.
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: This e-mail from Jerome Corsi.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Jerome Corsi, Roger Stone associate.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The Corsi story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The author and political commentator Jerome Corsi.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Conservative Jerome Corsi.
JEROME CORSI, ASSOCIATE OF ROGER STONE: I realized 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Jerome Corsi, a Mueller witness after publicly rejecting a plea deal he says he was offered by the Mueller team regarding alleged lies to investigators. And he`s back in the news with a break from his ally Roger Stone and a federal lawsuit against Bob Mueller himself. With all of that news, Jerome Corsi is back with me and he has a new book silent no more. Thank you for coming back on THE BEAT.
CORSI: My pleasure. Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: You were in court suing Bob Mueller. What do you -- what do you hope to achieve in court with this?
CORSI: Well, it`s a serious lawsuit. I mean, we already have allegations of electronic -- illegal electronic surveillance, of illegal leaking of grand jury information to the press, and allegations of I believe criminal prosecutorial misconduct and how I was questioned. And we`d like to get these issues a hearing before the court and that`s why we filed the lawsuit.
MELBER: So most people who get a lawyer threat or warning that they could be indicted by federal prosecutors don`t respond the way you are. Does this mean that you`re no longer concerned about getting indicted? I believe it was about 42 days ago that you got that letter? Have they indicated what they`re going to do?
CORSI: I`ve heard nothing from the special prosecutor`s office -- Special Counsel`s Office and I no indication of what they will do. I think --
MELBER: Do you think you`re in the clear and that`s why you`re being more aggressive in court?
CORSI: No. I plan to be aggressive anyway. And I`m not sure I`m in the clear. I`m not going to predict that. I do think that the statements from Julian Assange and WikiLeaks over this week that in fact I did not have contact with Julian Assange during the campaign or over the release of the stolen DNC e-mails helps my case as it proves that was not lying.
MELBER: You do claim though that you cooperated fully and accurately with Mueller`s team.
MELBER: How many hours would you say you spoke with them?
CORSI: It was 40 hours, six sessions. It was over two months and I went in. I offered all of my computers, my backup devices, my cell phone my e- mail accounts. I proffered all of that because I believed and still believed I did nothing wrong and I was willing to -- I wanted to tell the truth and I wanted to cooperate with them.
MELBER: Let`s put that in context. You say 40 hours.
CORSI: Yes, 40 hours.
MELBER: Steve Bannon who was close to Trump and was involved in the general election campaign came in at 20 hours, Michael Cohen 70, Don McGahn central to these attempted firings of Mueller 30 hours, Flynn higher at 63. You`re on that list now if what you say is right, 40 hours. Why did they spent so much time with you? What were they asking you about?
CORSI: Well I think the critical issue and I highlight this in the book Silent No More which details these 40 hours of interrogation and discussion. Oddly the Special Counsel`s Office believed I could establish a contact between Roger Stone and Julian Assange. It was going to go Roger Stone to Jerome Corsi of all people, and then to Julian Assange.
MELBER: So they spent more time with you on a theory you believe that you could be key to collusion evidence linking Roger Stone, the Trump campaign, and Russian intermediates.
CORSI: Certainly for the last 20 hours, that was the primary focus.
MELBER: 20 hours just on that stuff.
CORSI: Just on that stuff.
MELBER: And do you think you gave them what they wanted on Stone?
CORSI: No, because I don`t have a contact with Julian Assange. I`ve never spoken to him, I never communicated directly or indirectly with anyone in WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. And I`ll still maintain that I -- on my own calculated, figured out, deduced in July in August 2016 that Assange had the dust his e-mails. And I had no sources. He gave me that information --
MELBER: That was -- I have to tell you in your last interview on THE BEAT --
MELBER: When you said that you came up with that by divine intervention.
CORSI: No. That was what you -- that`s what (INAUDIBLE) said. That was her accusation.
MELBER: You refer to (INAUDIBLE), Mueller prosecutor and calling a divine invention, but right but you said it just came to you on the flight.
CORSI: Well, no, I said it through a process of deduction.
MELBER: Right. But it just -- it was not someone told you. And I have to tell you, of all the things you said on the interview last time, that one got some of the most attention for people who thought that was ridiculous for you to claim that. I want to -- I want to revisit that since you bring it up when you say that came to you through deduction.
MELBER: That doesn`t really match the written evidence that`s now in public when -- and I`m reading from your e-mail when you wrote to Stone "word is a friend in the embassy plans two more dumps." Word is sounds like a reference to the word on the street or things you`re hearing.
CORSI: I`ve read that.
MELBER: You typically say word is before you share a thought that is your own deduction?
CORSI: Often it`s very difficult just as you`re having difficulty right now to believe I deduce this, and I will try to couch it as something where it is. If I had that directly from Assange, I would not have hesitated who said Julian Assange has told me. I use the word is to really cushion and you can believe this or not, but I came up with this of my own deduction and I believe Julian Assange this week is affirmed that.
MELBER: But why not just say I think instead of word is.
CORSI: Well, over my entire life going back to when I was a child, my father said, Jerry, when you come up with these deductions which are often right, you`re going to have a trouble of getting people to believe them.
MELBER: I think Mr. Corsi, that`s true.
MELBER: That statement is true. The other interesting thing about your new lawsuit against Mueller to many people watching this case is it is putting out new information which reporters and observers are interested in. So in this hearing that you just had, there`s a reference to you and your stepson discussing a "scrub of the computer." Corsi and his steps son discussing a scrub of a computer in an electronic message according to your statements. Why were you talking about a scrub? Were you trying to remove evidence relating to this case?
CORSI: It was -- the FBI showed up at my stepson`s home, 40 years old and knocked on the door. They had a text message in which I`d asked him to scrub a computer. It was an old computer that have been sitting on my desk. The memory was full. My wife wanted a computer for her business. I said why don`t you take this old one to recycle.
MELBER: Did it have messages from his --
CORSI: No, it did not. It was an old computer that had not been being used.
MELBER: OK. And yet in Mueller`s draft indictment which you shared with the world interestingly, it says that between January and March 2017 you deleted all your e-mails from before October 2016. Why?
CORSI: Because the machine -- I had a 17-inch laptop that was dying in a needed new space. I also turned over the time machine application with the hard drive backup that had all e-mails whether I`d erased them or not and I knew that they were all there. I was trying to keep an old computer running because I liked that 17-inch. And to do so I had to erase e-mails. It was not a plan to erase evidence.
MELBER: And your position is that you`ve provided that now to them?
CORSI: Yes, I gave the entire backup machine. In fact, the prosecutors said during this inquisition that they were able to recover e-mails out of that time machine.
MELBER: You and Roger Stone who many people have learned about as an advisor to Trump and someone who`s talked a lot about Assange and WikiLeaks and Hillary Clinton and Podesta. You and he have communicated in public, you`ve communicated in private as we`ve now learned. We could put up the video of you guys together back in the day. And now something seems to have suddenly changed. He is now very critical of you saying you`re now working with Mueller to sandbag him on a fabricated charge. Is that true?
CORSI: Well, it`s not true. I mean, it`s not true Roger -- what Roger believes. I don`t want to fight with Roger and I have refrained from doing it. Roger is entitled to his own perceptions. Rogers entitled to how he perceives me. And I don`t have any intention to refute him. It doesn`t bother me that someone disparages me in public. That happens it frequently.
MELBER: Well, we`re getting out to that. That`s part of my job and I say --
MELBER: I say it not to disparage you but to give you a chance to respond.
CORSI: It`s a fair question. I don`t have a problem it.
MELBER: He now says, after we just showed you guys together, you guys communicating, seeming to be on the same team fair to say at one point in time. Now he`s saying "you`re starting to make Cohen, Michael Cohen look like a stand-up guy." Then he goes on to call you a "weasel and a liar." And then he says -- for your response, sir, Roger Stone alleges "how much did Jerry have to drink or how hard did the prosecutors have to squeeze him to make this nonsense up?" Is any of that true and fair and if not, is he trying to tamper with you as a witness?
CORSI: I`m not going to get involved in a dispute or debate with Roger Stone. He wants to say those things, so be it. It`s up to him to do it. And if he wants to disparage me, so be it. I`m not going to respond and I don`t intend to engage in that kind of discussion with Roger.
MELBER: Understood. I wanted to give you the benefit of that response.
CORSI: Its` a very fair question. I appreciate it.
MELBER: As for the developments that we`re hearing out of the Mueller probe, reports that they have now asked Congress for Roger Stone`s testimony. You said on this show that some of that was misleading. Do you think he has a problem if they scour his congressional testimony?
CORSI: Again, I don`t want to judge his case. I testified that I had created a cover story and I testified to that truthfully. In my perception, if Roger has a different perception and he may, Roger will have to express his view of that. My testimony stands and it hasn`t changed since I had the first 20 hours with the special prosecutors account with the special councilor`s prosecutors.
MELBER: My last question for you --
MELBER: -- maybe unanswerable, I admit.
MELBER: You are not the first Mueller grand jury witness linked to Roger Stone to come to this table and take shots from him like the old Muhammad Ali rope-a-dope without hitting back. Why do you think so many of Roger Stone`s confidants come out and even when he hits them they back off?
CORSI: You`ll have to ask them. I can only tell you that my own sense of integrity has more to do with what I believe and how I profess my beliefs and including my faith. It doesn`t have to do with answering Roger Stone or anyone else.
MELBER: Understood. Mr. Jerome Corsi, a 40-hour grand jury witness, and now a plaintiff in a suit against Bob Mueller, thank you for coming back on THE BEAT.
CORSI: My pleasure. I`d be happy to come back anytime you ask.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Coming up, we go to the shutdown. Nancy Pelosi making one of her first moves as speaker and a priority that Democrats campaigned on.
MELBER: Thank Donald Trump would use his first Oval Office address to promote his arguments on the shutdown and also try to shift a lot of attention away from his own problems but also what everyone would be discussing otherwise which is a brand new big House majority for Democrats and they`ve unveiled a big gun control bill here on the anniversary of the Gabby Giffords shooting trying to fulfill a Midterm promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: What I`m offering is a vision. One where we can break through and address the public health epidemic and crisis that is gun violence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gun violence was one of the things that prompted me to run for office in the first place.
REP. LUCY MCBATH (D), GEORGIA: When Parkland happened, those children were the same age as Jordan were murdered. That`s why i want to champion for them in Washington because there is a better way for us to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Each of those candidates you just saw are now in office and that includes Congressman Lucy McBath who lost her teenage son Jordan Davis to gun violence seven years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCBATH: My son, Jordan, was violently torn from my life. Today, I join my colleagues to prevent more families from facing the horror and heartbreak that is brought on by gun violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Democrat`s new legislation would expand background checks to most gun purchases and Dems say they have the votes to pass this in their new majority in the House which could then create -- they argue some pressure Republicans in the Senate. Why? Well, you`ve probably seen the polls. Whopping 92 percent of Americans supporting these kinds of background checks. And the Midterm exit polls showed that yes, a large chunk of Americans do want stricter gun control. These are Midterm voters.
Houses Democrats saying today whatever is happening in the Russia probe and in the President`s speech tonight, they`re going to continue to use their mandate from the Midterms and push these kinds of policies.
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