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Trump's A.G. Pick calls fit a "Crime". TRANSCRIPT: 1/18/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Val Demings, Glenn Kirschner, Richard Painter, Richard Blumenthal, Glenn Kirschner, Evelyn Farkas

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Senator, I don`t know what and I`m not sure I care to find out.  Although Mr. Grassley does get an honorable mention for being the best tweeter over the age 80.

Here`s my third Todd tweet tip, spell check.  You don`t want to be caught smacking with your Hamberders and covfefe.  At least not in this countrty.  That would be unprecedented.

Look, if you follow all these tips, and trust me, you`ll be a Twitter pro, but you`ll still get trolled online.  That`s a Todd tweet tip guarantee.

That`s all we have for tonight.  We`ll be back Monday with more MTP DAILY.  And if it`s Sunday, it`s "MEET THE PRESS."  It`s a great line-up.  Please don`t miss it.

"BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.  Ayman Mohyeldin is in for Ari.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST:  Todd, hold on.  I`m just -- I`m writing down all these notes that you were writing for.  I could use a little help on Twitter from you, my friend.

TODD:  I hear you.  #itsyourshownow.

MOHYELDIN:  Nice, buddy.  Appreciate it.  Have a good weekend.

All right.  Hello, everyone.  Thanks.  I`m Ayman Mohyeldin, in for Ari Melber on a bombshell night in the Russia probe.  For the first time, reporting that Donald Trump directed someone to break the law, reportedly telling Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, specifically about his contacts with Russia.  We`re going to cover this story from all angles.

Donald Trump`s attorney general pick saying this kind of action would be a crime.  And one of the Senators who questioned him joins me live on the program tonight.

Plus, Trump family`s involvement in the Moscow project, what Trump was saying publicly about Russia as he was privately seeking this deal.

But we want to begin tonight with the news "BuzzFeed" reporting Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress and to say negotiations for the Trump Tower Moscow ended months earlier than they actually did.

Now, in order to hide Trump`s involvement in the project.  And Trump was very involved with at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal.  The story also adds that it sourced two federal law enforcement officials.

Now, NBC News has not confirmed the report independently.  Today, though, Rudy Giuliani calling it categorically false and lies all from Cohen.  But the reporter who broke the story says Cohen wasn`t his source.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, Rudy Giuliani, he is already trying to suggest that this report is not true because Michael Cohen`s a liar.

ANTHONY CORMIER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BUZZFEED:  Has he read it?  Because it`s not based on Michael Cohen.  He`s not one of the sources.


MOHYELDIN:  And White House officials slammed Cohen, but interestingly enough, they didn`t quite deny the story.


BILL HEMMER, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS:  You`re saying the president did not tell Michael Cohen to do that?

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN:  I`m telling you right now this is exactly why the president refuses to give any credence or credibility to news outlets.

HEMMER:  But that was not a denial of my question.

GIDLEY:  No, the -- but the premise is ridiculous.


MOHYELDIN:  And crucially in all of this, "BuzzFeed" saying that Mueller isn`t just relying on Cohen`s word but on interviews with multiple witnesses, internal Trump organization e-mails, text messages, and other documents.  But moments ago, Cohen`s legal adviser, Lanny Davis, wouldn`t confirm or deny the story.  Watch.


LANNY DAVIS, LEGAL ADVISER TO MICHAEL COHEN:  Mr. Cohen, under guidelines that he has respected, won`t comment on anything to do with subjects that he discussed with the special counsel.

TODD:  In fairness, you have corrected stories that were false before that were involving Michael Cohen.  But you`re choosing not to -- is there anything to correct in the "BuzzFeed" story, in your opinion?

DAVIS:  I just can`t help you on that, Chuck.  I`m going to just say read the story.


MOHYELDIN:  And Democrats say if the reporting is, in fact, true, Trump could face impeachment.  Trump himself, as you can imagine, blasting Cohen on Twitter, claiming he is lying to reduce his jail time and once again interestingly, threatening his father-in-law in all this, which Democrats have actually called witness intimidation.

Now, all of this raising the stakes before Cohen`s much-anticipated public testimony next month on Capitol Hill, and whatever he`ll say about Trump and Russia.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS:  The special counsel did say that you were doing your best, to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to Russia.  Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?



MOHYELDIN:  My panel will break down all of the legal angles to this in a moment.  But first, I go to Florida Congresswoman Val Demings who this week was named to the House Intelligence Committee.

Congresswoman, it`s great to have you with us this evening.  Let me begin, first of all, with the notion that Donald Trump suborn perjury.  And if he did, how serious is that?  In your opinion, did he do that?

VAL DEMINGS (D-FL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  Let me say this.  If the president of the United States instructed his personal attorney to lie under oath to the U.S. Congress, then that is a disgraceful offense and certainly a serious violation of law.

I know the president said that he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and not be held accountable, but I don`t believe that that`s true.  If the president did what he is being accused of, then he will be held accountable.  And I would also suggest that he does not underestimate the U.S. House of Representatives, nor the American people.

MOHYELDIN:  So, if this, in fact, is true, should Mueller alert Congress?  Should you be notified now?  I mean, there`s always the -- there`s always two sides to this.  In one, people are saying let`s wait until the Mueller report comes out.  But if, in fact, this already is known, why isn`t Congress being told of this now as opposed to several months from now?

DEMINGS:  Well, let me say this.  We`ve said from the very beginning that we want the special counsel to be able to complete his work because we definitely want to get to the bottom of it.  We want to know the truth.  But because we believe the special council should finish his work, certainly does not mean that we are waiting on the special counsel to begin our work.

I`m just honored to be assigned to the Intelligence Committee.  I can tell you that we are going to hold hearings that we deem necessary.  We`re going to issue subpoenas to those people as well as for documents and materials that we feel appropriate.

And we are going to provide some much-needed oversight that we certainly have not seen in the last Congress and we`re going to hold those who violate the law accountable up to and including the president of the United States.

MOHYELDIN:  All right.  So is it time to start talking about impeachment?  What is it that you are specifically waiting for as a member of Congress who has a vote in all of this that is making you say you want to wait until the Mueller investigation is over if, in fact, you have much more substantial information that has kind of come out now in the public spotlight to not push for impeachment proceedings now?

DEMINGS:  Well, I can tell you this.  We`re not running to impeachment, but we`re certainly not running away from it.  The story that we heard today, as I`ve said, is disgraceful.  And if the president did the allegations that he has been accused of, then we will hold him accountable, including up to and including impeachment.

But let me say this.  I`m not sure the president`s biggest concern is that he may be impeached.  Because we really have not closed the door on whether the president of the United States can be indicted.  And so, until that loop is closed, we`re going to consider all of our options.

MOHYELDIN:  All right.  Congresswoman Val Demings, thank you very much for your time.  I appreciate your insights as always.

And we have a very special guest joining us by phone.  Ari Melber has the night off but he`s decided to phone in, help break this story down for us.  Never turn down the advice of a good lawyer like Ari.

Ari, great to have you on with us.  Let me first ask you this because I know you`ve covered so many of these stories from the very beginning.  How is this story different from the ones you`ve covered before?

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST (via telephone):  Well, thanks for having me, Ayman.

MOHYELDIN:  It`s your show, you can come on anytime, buddy.

MELBER:  Thanks for your hard work.  I am off but this seemed big enough to at least check in with you for.  The story is big because we are looking at an allegation of the direction of criminal conduct by the sitting president.

This is not campaign.  This is not pre-president.  This is how he conducted himself in office.  And that`s why the Congress, as we just heard from your guest, is looking at this as a potential high crime because it is a potential abuse of power while in office.  That, immediately, Ayman, makes it different.

MOHYELDIN:  Another aspect to this, Ari, over the past couple of days has been the president, what some have described as veiled and explicit threats against Michael Cohen`s family, his father-in-law.  I`m curious to get your thoughts.  Does this raise to a new level new questions about what Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is saying about the family of a private citizen?

MELBER:  Yes.  These reports are all about what Michael Cohen knows and can prove.  Certainly, as a convicted felon who`s pled guilty, if it`s just his word, that`s not very scary to Donald Trump or anyone else.

If it is his word, knowledge, and other evidence, that may be scary to Trump, which it may explain why he has, again, today, seemed to threaten or warn Michael Cohen`s family.  And as you and our viewers know, we heard from Cohen`s legal adviser just last night on THE BEAT that itself may make Cohen less likely to testify.  So all these things are coming to a head.

Another point I would raise, having followed a little bit of the news today, is Donald Trump and the White House seem to want to make this about Michael Cohen`s credibility and what he is saying or will say.  That`s not really what the story`s about.

The story matters and is a threat to this presidency because it`s about what Donald Trump may be able to have proven and done, meaning that it can be shown in court or elsewhere that he did these things.  That could be significant.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes.  And as you mentioned, Lanny Davis was on the program last night.  You asked him about this.  And it`s interesting because of all the people that have cooperated with the Mueller probe, have to some extent maybe turned on the president, the president goes after Michael Cohen like no one else.

I want to play you a part of that conversation with Lanny Davis.  Watch this.


DAVIS:  Well, I think this is aimed directly at Mr. Cohen to frighten him and his family.  There`s no question that his threatening and calling out his father-in-law, who "has all the money".

It`s not only improper and unseemly for a bully using the bully pulpit of the presidency, but the very definition of intimidation and witness tampering.


MOHYELDIN:  Let me get your reaction to that, Ari.  What do you make of what Lanny Davis was saying, again the president reiterating those comments today on Twitter?

MELBER:  I think it`s very significant that the people around Mr. Cohen, including Mr. Davis, view it that way, that the chairs of the committees who have oversight of this, again, they have the power now.  They have the subpoenas.  They`ve already warned the president against this as a potential crime.

And all of it adds to the view, which is not proven yet, but the view that there must be some evidence that Michael Cohen has about misconduct by Donald Trump and that explains Mr. Trump -- President Trump`s behavior.  Otherwise, he could leave this person, who`s set to go to prison in March, and not respond or overreact to all of it.

And so I think what we just heard from the Congresswoman and what we`re going to hear, I think, through the process is how does Congress pull on these threads.  One more point, before you let me go, as they say, I thought it was very notable that Mr. Davis today said he can`t speak to this because it`s the heart of the Mueller probe.  That tells you that we are learning, in a few leaks, about the type of things that Mueller may have a lot more evidence on.

MOHYELDIN:  All right, Ari Melber, we appreciate your time on your night off.  As I said, any time you want, it`s your show, my friend.  You can call in any time.

MELBER:  Thank you, Ayman and thanks for your work.

MOHYELDIN:  Thank you, buddy.  Take care.  Have a good night.

And with me now is former Federal Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner and Richard Painter who was chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush.

Glenn, let me get to you about all this.  How much does Mueller know in all this?  The interesting part of the "BuzzFeed" reporting is that Cohen is not the source.  At one point, it`s cited that there are two law enforcement officials.

But if we were to assume that the report is true, which we haven`t independently verified, but they have access to Trump Organization e-mails, text messages, and other documents, it would make me think surely the president in the position of being the president would not have put something like this in writing.  So how much do you think Mueller actually knows?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  So I was really interested "by that portion of the "BuzzFeed" reporting that said this information came to the Mueller investigation by way of internal Trump Organization e-mails, text messages, and collateral interviews of other people.

What does that tell us?  It didn`t come by way of Michael Cohen saying, the president told me to lie and then the Mueller team, a position I`ve been in as a career prosecutor, many times, is left to go out and try to find corroborating information to either support or refute, knock down what Cohen is saying.

The reporting indicates that this first came to the Mueller team`s attention by virtue of all that other evidence and basically, they already knew.  They caught Cohen red-handed, lying to Congress, and they asked him about it, and indeed, he confirmed, I did it at the direction of the president.  That takes on a whole different flavor by way of reliable evidence.

MOHYELDIN:  Richard, let me get your quick thoughts on the general reaction to the report.  What do you make of the sequencing of how the timeline has been painted with the revelations that Glenn also pointed out?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER, UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH:  Well, only Robert Mueller knows all the facts but it`s quite clear that there is corroborating evidence in addition to the word of Michael Cohen.  And we`ll find out what that evidence is in due time.

But we need to remember that lying to Congress is a felony, instructing your lawyer to lie to Congress is a felony.  And we, 20 years ago, impeached a president for lying under oath about an affair with a White House intern.

If we do not impeach and remove a president upon a credible evidence that he instructed his lawyer to lie to Congress, if we`re not willing to take the step of impeachment and removal of the president for that, our country`s going to be the laughing stock of the world.

MOHYELDIN:  So, Richard, really --

PAINTER:  This is a very, very serious crime.

MOHYELDIN:  Richard, really quickly, then, let me get your thoughts on the question I asked the Congresswoman.  Are we supposed to expect Congress to wait until the Mueller probe comes out, or is there something in the interim that Congress can do in their oversight responsibilities to address this central question of lying to Congress and deal with it immediately?

PAINTER:  Immediately.  The House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee should be meeting as they were in 1973.  They should have started those hearings two years ago.  But it`s time to get going and to find out what has been going on in this administration.

This is a lie to Congress about a business deal with the Russians, an adversary to the United States at a time when the Russians were conducting espionage inside the United States.  This is not lying about an affair with a White House intern.

This is serious.  This is a serious crime and it has been alleged that the president of the United States engaged in a felony.  The House Judiciary Committee, Senate Judiciary Committee must investigate.  They should start the hearings tomorrow.

MOHYELDIN:  And so Glenn, Mueller sends a memo about Cohen interestingly.  Now, said that he provided useful information in his cooperation with the ongoing investigation.  Does that fit the bill of the kind of information we`ve learned today?

From your perspective, from where you`ve sat, if Michael Cohen corroborated this information, would that be useful information?

KIRSCHNER:  Yes.  And it`s already important that Mueller has gone on record, in writing, in a court filing, saying that Michael Cohen was providing truthful and complete information.  And look, it`s no surprise that the president would turn to a Michael Cohen to lie for him.

We all saw the president lying to the American people about the Stormy Daniels payments and what did the president say?  You got to ask my lawyer, Michael Cohen.  Of course, he wanted his lawyer to lie for him then and it sure seems like he wanted him to lie to Congress as well.

MOHYELDIN:  All right. Glenn, I`m going to ask you to stick around for me a little bit longer.  Richard Painter, thank you very much.  Appreciate your insights as always, sir.

And coming up, we`re going to have a lot more on this "BuzzFeed" report and how Trump`s attorney general said some things under oath that could actually come back and haunt the president.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  The president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction, is that right?



MOHYELDIN:  I`m going to talk about that with Senator Richard Blumenthal from the Judiciary Committee.

Also, our look at how this "BuzzFeed" report is raising new questions about potential legal exposure for Trump`s family.

Plus, we`re going to compare Trump`s public statements on Russia to his private outreach to Putin.

And, of course, we`re going to tell you what Cardi B shared about THE BEAT.  You don`t want to miss that.

I`m Ayman Mohyeldin, in for Ari Melber.  You`re watching THE BEAT right here on MSNBC.


MOHYELDIN:  Donald Trump`s own pick for attorney general could soon pose a threat to the Trump presidency, believe it or not, because Bill Barr has stated it is a crime if a president orders someone to lie, like Trump is now accused of doing with Michael Cohen.

So, last year, Barr wrote this.  If a president suborns perjury or induces a witness to change testimony, then he, like anyone else, commits the crime of obstruction.  And he stood by that argument in his confirmation hearings just this past week.


KLOBUCHAR:  You wrote on page one that a president persuading a person to commit perjury would be obstruction.  Is that right?

BARR:  That -- yes.

KLOBUCHAR:  You also said that a president or any person convincing a witness to change testimony would be obstruction.  Is that right?

BARR:  Yes.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  So, if there was some reason to believe that the president tried to coach somebody not to testify or testify falsely, that could be obstruction of justice?

BARR:  Yes, under that -- under an obstruction statute, yes.


MOHYELDIN:  So looking back at history for a moment, encouraging witnesses to lie was featured in both the Nixon and Clinton articles of impeachment.

With me now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Judiciary Committee.  He joins us here onset.

Senator, thank you very much for making the trip down for us from Connecticut.  First, let me get your reaction to all of the news today in this bombshell report from "BuzzFeed".

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  These revelations are deeply damning and this moment could be mortally threatening to this administration.  Not only because of Michael Cohen but also because of the documents.  And I used to say as a prosecutor when I made summations to the jury, documents don`t lie.

They can go after Michael Cohen.  But remember, Michael Cohen, at the time he testified to Congress, was Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, his fixer, so his saying to his lawyer or fixer, shade the truth, lie to Congress, as Bill Barr has said very emphatically, is a crime.

MOHYELDIN:  From your position on Capitol Hill, sir, have you received or seen any information that corroborates what we have heard today in that "BuzzFeed" reporting that Michael Cohen was encouraged to lie.  Do you have evidence to believe the president did instruct him to lie?

BLUMENTHAL:  I have no evidence to support this specific report.  And if true, it is one of the sayings that`s been repeated.


BLUMENTHAL:  But what we see here is a pattern of the president`s contempt for the rule of law.  I`ve said, and this report confirms it, that there is a credible case of obstruction of justice against the United States president because of his false statements in the past to the American people.  But also because of his really encouraging deceptive statements about the Trump Tower meeting, about his concealing documents relating to his meetings in Helsinki.  There is a pattern here.

MOHYELDIN:  We constantly hear from members of the House, and I know it`s a different chamber, but we hear from them, saying that they want to wait until the Mueller probe is complete before they proceed with a discussion about impeachment.  I`m curious to get your thoughts.

Does Congress have a more robust responsibility now with this stuff coming out, with this information coming out, to do more sooner than simply wait for possibly another three, four, five months until a report is even possibly made public for them to act upon?

BLUMENTHAL:  As a prosecutor, I always wanted all of my evidence before I decided what the charges were and before I tried the case.  So, waiting for the special prosecutor`s report with all of that evidence makes a lot of sense.

But the House should begin and the Senate as well, right away, with its critical fact-finding process through hearings, looking at the threat to our national security from the potential collusion, ongoing, right now, ongoing with Russia at the president`s financial dealings, putting his own personal interests ahead of the national public interests.

These kinds of hearings from the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee on the House side but also on the Senate side, I think we need to have Donald Trump Jr. come back to our committee in the Senate and testify along with Michael Cohen.  So there is a responsibility.

MOHYELDIN:  OK.  You brought up Donald Trump Jr.  And he, in 2017, I believe, he said this about the Trump Tower meeting.  It was -- sorry, excuse me.  I was peripherally aware of it but most of my knowledge has been gained since as it related to hearing about it over the last few weeks.

So if the "BuzzFeed" report is true, that could potentially be a lie.  Do you believe that was a lie?

BLUMENTHAL:  That`s a very, very important question.  I think there is enough evidence here of potential perjury from Donald Trump Jr. to call him back to our committee, to consider criminal charges against him, and to follow the evidence and the law as to investigating him.  I think there is potentially an even stronger case to be made against him right now.

MOHYELDIN:  Criminal charges against Donald Trump Jr. if he lied.  Is that correct?

BLUMENTHAL:  If he lied, if he committed perjury before our committee.  And I was in the room when he said to us, "I was only peripherally aware."  That statement but also other statements.

For example, he`s denying that he talked to the president about the Trump Tower meeting before or after it occurred.  He`s saying that he was only peripherally aware about the Moscow Trump Tower project but also his denial of talking to the president about it, his father.  I think there is a lot here, a lot of smoke and there may well be fire.

MOHYELDIN:  So you`re saying all these points.  Have you brought these up with your colleagues, the new chairman of the committee?  Have you said to him, why have you not called Donald Trump Jr. in so we can get to the bottom of this?

BLUMENTHAL:  I reiterated today my call and I feel strongly that it`s important to reiterate, to have Donald Trump Jr. come back.  Today, I wrote to the chairman.

MOHYELDIN:  Do you think he will?  Will he call Donald Trump Jr. back?

BLUMENTHAL:  Well, we have to hear from Michael Cohen too and that`s the point that I made to him.  And I tend to doubt that Michael Cohen or Donald Trump Jr. may readily appear.  We may need to issue subpoenas for them.

MOHYELDIN:  And finally, I just want to get your reaction to William Barr and his narrow definition of obstruction.  How do you plan on voting on his confirmation?  More importantly, what did you make of his definition of obstruction of justice?

BLUMENTHAL:  Two key points here.  We`ve been talking about the Mueller report.  I was deeply disappointed that William Barr said that he would not disclose that report to Congress or the public, that he would disclose only his version of it, redacting or changing it.  And I will not vote for him unless he commits to make fully public the special counsel report to the Congress and the American people.  At the very least, to explain why he has redacted or changed parts of it.

The second point, William Barr, in response to my questions, said that he wasn`t sure the president could be indicted.  I think the president can be indicted if he has committed a crime.  If he`s suborned perjury or committed obstruction of justice, he is not above the law, and I think he can be indicted.

MOHYELDIN:  All right, Senator Blumenthal, thank you, sir, very much for your time.  We hope you get back to Connecticut before the snowstorm tonight.

BLUMENTHAL:  Thank you.

MOHYELDIN:  Safe trip.

All right.  Ahead, a closer look at Trump`s public rhetoric versus his private actions on Russia and the "BuzzFeed" reporting putting Trump`s kids and the Trump organization in the legal spotlight.  We`re back in 30 seconds.


MOHYELDIN:  All right.  So the "BuzzFeed" bombshell putting a legal focus on Trump`s kids and the Trump Organization they ran.  Sources now saying that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Moscow Trump Tower project.

And it names Trump`s kids, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., as having a big hand in the planning of that tower, receiving regular and detailed updates about the project from Cohen himself.  With Mueller learning about Trump`s alleged directive to Cohen through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization.  Even internal company e-mails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.

As Ari pointed out, the Trump Organization is not General Motors.  It`s not a huge company.  It`s basically a family-run organization.  The executives are his kids, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump.

That is the executive board you`re seeing right there.  And the lawyer was Michael Cohen, who is cooperating now.  The CFO was given immunity from prosecutors and that pretty much paints for you the picture of how this organization was run.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  The other four people who were inside the Trump Organization at the time this felony was committed, who apparently would have had the authority within the company to make something like this happen, they happen to be four people who were employed as top executives at the Trump Organization who all have the same last name.


MOHYELDIN: All right, and just moments ago on this program you saw Senator Richard Blumenthal tell me that Donald Trump Jr. should face criminal charges if in fact he lied to Congress.  Joining me now once again Glenn Kirschner former Federal Prosecutor and NBC`s Ken Dilanian joins us live from Washington D.C.  Ken, let me begin with you.  Let`s talk a little bit about the very latest news and how it impacts the Trump family and the Trump Organization.

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  Sure.  I mean, well, look, it could be hugely significant.  I just want to throw a little bit of a caution flag though, which is that no news organization including NBC News has confirmed this story today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, nobody.  And this is a story that is based on the testimony of two law enforcement officials and it would -- that would mark the first time that law enforcement officials with access to secret Mueller material have leaked something to the press potentially in violation of law.

I`m not that I disbelieve the story, I`m saying that we should throw that out as a caution.  And also the notion that the story asks us to believe that people in the Trump Organization are e-mailing and texting one another about an instruction from Donald Trump to Michael Cohen that he lie to Congress. 

To some people that doesn`t make a lot of common sense that they would put that in writing.  So those are the caveats.  Now, if this story is true, obviously it`s a game changer.  We`ve been talking about it the whole hour, it`s huge, it`s potentially in impeachable offense and it puts new scrutiny on both Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump because this story suggested Michael Cohen is suggesting that he briefed them extensively on this secret Trump Tower Moscow deal that was unfolding during the presidential election and Donald Trump Jr. told a very different story to Congress about this.

He said he was only peripherally briefed on this, that he wasn`t you know significantly involved.  And so if that ends up conflicting, if he told the lie to Congress, he`s potentially on the hook.  But we`ll just have to see hugely whether this story is true.  The other thing, Ayman, is there`s growing pressure if the story is true.

I`ve heard some members of Congress and even a former member of the intelligence community tell me Robert Mueller has an obligation to deliver this evidence immediately because Congress has been lied to and they have a right to act on it to start impeachment proceedings.  Some people are wondering why Mueller would sit on this for months if in fact he`s got evidence that the President committed a crime.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes.  And that could perhaps be part of the motivation behind those who may have leaked that information.  You brought up a very important caveat in all of this which we should note.  Glenn, let me get your thoughts on this particular point in all of this, that is Donald Trump Jr. telling the Senate back in 2017 that he is peripherally aware of the Moscow project.  Obviously, the BuzzFeed report if in fact true would contradict this.  You heard Senator Blumenthal say that means Trump Jr. should be criminally charged.  That`s a significant development.

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I agree, Ayman.  And I just heard Senator Blumenthal say the time is right to have Donald Trump Jr. come back before his Committee, the Senate Committee.  And I think that makes perfect sense and here`s why.  We now hear Donald Trump Jr. use a term like well, I was on the periphery.  That`s one of those slippery lawyer-esque terms that gives him a lot of wiggle room.

Here`s what I think makes a lot of sense.  Invite him back to testify again or subpoena him, and have him say one of three things.  I stick with my periphery claim.  No, I may have made a mistake and I may have known more about it perhaps learning from Michael Cohen then I let on the first time or he could plead the Fifth if he thinks he has some criminal exposure for not being straight with the Intel Committee the first time.

MOHYELDIN:  Let me get your thoughts very quickly on this point that Bob Mueller perhaps should come forward with this bit of information if, in fact, it`s true.  Separate from everything else that he is investigating, if he believes that Congress has been lied to, does he have an obligation to come out sooner than this report and at least just present that portion of this finding?

KIRSCHNER:  Having worked directly for Bob Mueller and learned in part how to be a federal prosecutor from Bob Mueller, I would not presume to tell Bob Mueller how to do his job.  It does seem like there`s a certain urgency involved if the Mueller investigation has strong evidence that Michael Cohen lied to Congress not about something minor, but about something like potential lies by the President, Russian collusion, conspiracy, subornation of perjury, that`s something that I think we need to deal with now.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes.  It feels like this is a different threshold if in fact, this report is true.  Glenn Kirschner, I appreciate your insights.  Ken Dilanian, I always appreciate yours as well.  Thanks, bud.  Ahead, inside Trump`s decades-long connection to Russia, also history`s guidance on impeachment and perjury.  What Senate -- Senator Graham said back on 1999.  And after roasting Trump on the shutdown, Cardi B is making some news about THE BEAT.


MOHYELDIN:  So what was Donald Trump trying to hide?  The bombshell reporting he told Michael Cohen to lie about his 2016 Russia dealings telling Cohen to underplay Trump`s focus on building a tower in Moscow during the summer of 2016.  It is a period that has invited deep scrutiny.  Observers long wondering why Trump at the height of the campaign for president kept praising a longtime American adversary.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There`s nothing wrong with not fighting everybody having Russia where we have a good relationship.

If we get along with Russia, that`s very good. 

And improved relations with Russia is possible, absolutely possible.

If we can make a big deal for our country and get along with Russia, that would be a tremendous --

I know Russia well.  I had a major event in Russia.  They want to be friendly with the United States.


MOHYELDIN:  And Trump did it merely call for better relations with Russia.  During that same period, he specifically defended and even praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.


TRUMP:  I think I`d have a good relationship with Putin.

He called me a genius, I`m going to disavow it, are you crazy.

He might be bad, he might be good, but he`s a strong leader.

Putin says very nice things about me.  I think that`s very nice.  It has no effect on me other than I think it`s very nice. 

He`s been very nice to me.


MOHYELDIN:  Trump carrying his same oddly warm stance towards Russia well into the Oval Office.  In fact, just this week the New York Times revealing that behind closed doors President Trump repeatedly urged for a NATO withdrawal.  It would be a complete break from long-standing American foreign policy and a long-held fantasy of Vladimir Putin.  Now, that report part of a pattern that led to House Intel Chair to jokingly say this to Ari this week.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA:  The best case that the President is not an asset of the Russians is the Russians would tell him slow down, you`re too obvious.  They`re going to be on to you.  The reality is his policies have been so pro-Russian and so destructive of our alliances.  If that explanation is compromised, it needs to be exposed.


MOHYELDIN:  All right, joining me now Evelyn Farkas, former Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Russia and Howard Fineman an MSNBC News Analyst.  Great to have both of you with us.  Evelyn, let me begin with you.  How revealing our Trump`s words in light of this new BuzzFeed report because every time something like this comes out, even telling you know, supposedly telling his own lawyer to lie about his dealings with Russia, every time a bombshell comes out it makes us go back and look at what President Trump has said about Russia and Vladimir Putin in a slightly different context.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY FOR RUSSIA:  I mean, I think, Ayman, first of all, words matter.  So we all get in the habit of dismissing what President Trump says but he was candidate and then President and what he said about Russia mattered.  Now actions are more important obviously than words often because they have more immediate consequences and they can also have more dramatic consequences.

So I think people are getting a little bit disturbed because they`re seeing now more action so early on you of the words and not as much action and maybe even action that was -- that did back up the fact that this administration was keeping the Obama policy vis a vis Russia going.  But now you have him doing things like threatening to withdraw the United States from NATO which is a very real situation.

I happen to have my own sources with regard to that story back around the time that it happened and that`s the reason why you saw Republicans and Democrats getting together on the Hill in the summer after President Trump tried to take some action which might have led to withdrawing us from NATO and put a bill -- they basically filed a bill that would prevent that at least, the Senate would need a vote on it.

So I think the problem now is that we`re seeing he`s willing to take some action and that benefit only Russia no one else, and then you go back and you see oh, we should have known this was coming maybe because of the words that he said in the -- in the past.

MOHYELDIN:  So Howard, let me ask you about the New York Times report that the FBI opened the counterintelligence investigation into the President shortly after he fired James Comey to determine whether he was a threat to national security or not.  You look at the news today, again, similar question to you.  Does this strengthen the case that some security officials within our national security apparatus we`re concerned that the President had ulterior motives in the way he praised Vladimir Putin and Russia?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC NEWS ANALYST:  You mean, does the -- does the -- does the BuzzFeed story have further heightened that.  What do you -- I`m sorry, I don`t understand --

MOHYELDIN:  Yes.  Does the  -- does the BuzzFeed reporting heightened that.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  Well -- yes, well, I would think if the President was going to the lengths of telling his fixer and lawyer to lie to Congress, missed one thing to put together a phony statement on Air Force One to put out to the press, it`s another thing to counsel somebody to lie to Congress.  I mean, even Donald Trump must have known that if true is the risky behavior.  And yes, from the very beginning what Mueller has been looking at, what the press has been looking at, what Democrats and now investigators on the hill are looking at are the longtime deep motivations of Donald Trump and his relationships with Russia, Russian leaders, and Russian money.

That goes back 25 years or more.  Don`t forget that Robert Mueller when he put together his team initially, hired a lot of people who were experts in money laundering and movements of money across borders.  We haven`t heard much about that aspect of the case but I assure you that deep down that`s a big part of it.  So if the question is Donald Trump`s motivation, why is he pushing?  Why so friendly?  Why urging people to lie?  Why setting up campaign events designed to help?  Why changing the Republican platform in Cleveland in 2016?

And so yes, they`re all related.  This is all of a piece.  As for in impeachment specifically, yes.  If this BuzzFeed story is correct and by the way I talked to Ben Smith, the Editor of BuzzFeed just you know, minutes ago, they not only stand by the story but they say they have sources that are out of the usual that are going to be difficult for other people to check but they`re very solid about the story.  That goes to the one count of possible impeachment which is obstruction of justice.  But behind all kind of the point of the lance, behind that is the whole history in portrait of Donald Trump`s motivations for ties to Russia whether there`s money involved, what other deals are involved, real estate, etcetera.

MOHYELDIN:  Evelyn, so let me get your perspective.  And you know Russia and Russian thinking probably better than anyone if it is possible to know the way they approach this.  How do you think Moscow, how do you think Vladimir Putin would have viewed or even interpreted President Trump`s posture towards Russia and him throughout the campaign?

FARKAS:  I think throughout the campaign they would have thought it was really helpful.  You know, the Russians like President Trump or candidate Trump didn`t think that he was going to win.  They merely wanted to weaken the soon-to-be what they thought would be soon to be President Clinton.  So they were trying to make it difficult for her and trying to throw chaos into our democracy and Donald Trump is a candidate did that.

And he also threw out this idea that we should be friendly with Russia which of course the Russians would have expected him to continue even as a citizen, even as a businessman you know, into the future and that also works very effectively for Russia.  So as a candidate, he, I think from the Russian perspective was great.  I think now as a president he`s now causing them trouble because he -- and this is the part I find more alarming, is not as much what he did as a candidate, but as president you know, we`re learning now that he took the notes away from the interpreter at the meeting and I think was the first meeting he had with President Putin so -- in Germany and Hamburg.

And of course those notes were not notes from verbatim notes of the meeting, they were what the interpreter uses to kind of use a memory jogger.  But it doesn`t matter, President Trump didn`t know that.  He was trying to cover up the content of his meeting with President Putin.  So that`s the more alarming thing that as President he continued and almost I would say it escalated because once you`re president, your loyalty is completely different.  You`ve won, you`re not doing business with Russia.

MOHYELDIN:  Decision maker becomes a different stake in all this.  All right, Evelyn Farkas thank you very much.  Howard, stay with me for a little bit longer.  We have some breaking news from Chicago we want to tell you about.  Former police officer Jason Van Dyke has been sentenced to nearly seven years in jail for the killing of Laquan McDonald.  Van Dyke was convicted of murder back in October after fatally shooting the 17-year- old in October of 2014.

All right, coming up, the impeachment of past presidents and why today`s explosive news could be very bad for Trump.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Impeachment is not about punishment.  Impeachment is about cleansing the office.  Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.


MOHYELDIN:  All right.  So that was a young Lindsey Graham arguing for the impeachment of Bill Clinton.  There are 14 Republicans still in the Senate today who voted to impeach or remove Clinton for obstructing justice and encouraging false testimony.  That is exactly what Donald Trump is alleged to have done with Michael Cohen according to this BuzzFeed report.  And that potential crime ordering witnesses to lie was part of Graham`s argument for impeachment back in 1999 when he prosecuted Clinton at his Senate trial.


GRAHAM:  He sent his friends to lie far him and he lied for himself as anytime any relevant question come up and stead of taking the honorable route, he just lied and he dug a hole and we`re all here today because of that.


MOHYELDIN:  And as we`ve said encouraging witnesses to lie, well, that was also part of the case for impeachment not only against Bill Clinton, it was also against Richard Nixon.  Back with me once again MSNBC News Analyst Howard Fineman.  Howard, good to have you back with us.  So if the Republicans had the same standard to Trump today, if they held the same standard as they did to Clinton, would the President be impeached today alone on the information we have so far?

FINEMAN:  Well, I`m not sure.  But interestingly Lindsey Graham who`s now the chairman of the Judiciary Committee asked William Barr who is in line to become the new attorney general whether that kind of action tampering with witnesses, urging people to lie before Congress would be obstruction of justice.  And I think Bill Barr might have wondered why Lindsey Graham was making that the first question -- one of the first questions he asked and Bill Barr answered yes.  And he answered the same way when Senator Amy Klobuchar Democrat asked the question as well.

So I think it`s clear in the Judiciary Committee that they want to get bar on record because William Barr may be in the position of power here in terms of releasing whatever comes out of the report in focusing the Congress on whatever impeachment activities they take up.

MOHYELDIN:  All right, Howard Fineman thanks for that historical perspective, always appreciate it.  Thank you.

FINEMAN:  Thank you.

MOHYELDIN:  And next, Cardi B shouts out THE BEAT coming up.


MOHYELDIN:  All right, so last night on THE BEAT, Ari talked shutdown with a former Senator and of course Cardi B.


CARDI B, RAPPER:  Trump is now ordering, as in summonsing federal government workers to go back to work without getting paid.  Our country is in a hell hole right now.

ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), FORMER SENATOR, NEW JERSEY:  She is right that I think most Americans sitting back right now is saying this isn`t just a problem over an issue, it`s a problem of the governance of the country. 


MOHYELDIN:  All right, you heard it there.  The Senator saying Cardi B. is right.  Well, Cardi B. actually picked up on the segment, posting it on her Instagram to her nearly four million followers.  Cardi knows making people work without pay is a bad look for the American government.  After all, it was Cardi who once said, you in the club just to party.  I`m there I get a fee.  That was for, Ari.

All right, one programming note before we go.  Just moments ago President Trump tweeting he`ll have an announcement on the border.  It will come tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.  You see it there.  He just tweeted out and make it a major announcement concerning the humanitarian crisis on the Southern Border from the White House.  Of course, the news coming after wall-to-wall reporting about that bombshell report from BuzzFeed today that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

It is making shock waves not only in the media world but also on Capitol Hill.  I`ll see you on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 5:00 a.m. with "MORNING JOE FIRST LOOK."  Of course, you can reach out to me on social media anytime.  "HARDBALL" starts right now.