Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 26, 2019 Guest: Matt Miller; David Corn; Juanita Tolliver, Annemarie McAvoy, Dennis Vacco, Jim Walden, Caroline Polisi, Gregory Meeks, Nicholas Burns
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Doesn`t everyone a little bit better now? Gee, me either.
That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thank you, Chuck.
This is THE BEAT. And we`re coming on what you may have heard as a huge news night. Top intelligence officials already spilling concerns about Donald Trump`s approach to the summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam.
Also, at any moment, the House will officially vote and the count looks like they`ll be shutting down Donald Trump`s attempt to declare an emergency to get wall money. There is a new threat on that from the White House. We`ll have that later.
Also, Mitch McConnell dropping a bombshell over whether he thinks Donald Trump is even doing something legal there.
And tonight, it is very rare to hear from Bob Mueller`s witnesses. It is even rarer to hear from their lawyers. We have something special for you tonight. We`ve never done before. Four of them join me live tonight for an exclusive interview. All of that is ahead on what we think will be a different kind of show.
But we begin with the story that could overshadow everything Donald Trump is doing across the globe. His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has now begun a marathon week of Capitol Hill testimony. There`s a source telling NBC, Cohen is spilling on even "criminal conduct" while Trump was in office.
I can tell you at this hour, Michael Cohen is in the tenth hour of his workday which is a closed-door meeting with the senators on the Intelligence Committee. And that is, of course, today the first of three consecutive days of testimony.
Cohen arriving at a secure facility inside the U.S. Senate just before 9:00 a.m. You see him there, walking in, escorted by Lanny Davis, his adviser and a lawyer you`ve seen probably on this show among others. He was facing, we`re told, quite skeptical lawmakers. Particularly, since this is the very committee he now confesses he lied to in 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, what`s the most important thing today?
SEN. BURR: The truth.
REPORTER: Are you sure you can trust Mr. Cohen?
SEN. BURR: Sure has a track record of questionable -- questionably doing that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s what it looks like when a senator doesn`t want to answer questions but can`t help himself and answers at least one. Now, Michael Cohen`s private testimony has been focused on Russia. That`s part of why it is private today. On how long Donald Trump worked on the Trump Tower Moscow project and whether the Russians had any leverage over then-citizen, now President Trump.
Cohen won`t talk about those Russia probe lines of inquiry in public tomorrow. We know that. But we can also report tonight a source telling NBC there will be other significant political and legal bombshells. Cohen ready to share "anecdotes" about Trump`s "lies, racism, and cheating as a private businessman," which he saw up close in the decade that he worked for Mr. Trump, evidence of criminal conduct by Trump. And this is key, since he became president. That`s what`s promised.
Also, Cohen bringing the goods on Trump`s finances, potentially bringing an actual financial statement. Cohen also says he`s basically prepared to give granular details of how Trump was involved in what is now a confessed crime, the scheme to keep Stormy Daniels and another woman quiet during the 2016 campaign. Plus, Cohen saying he will detail why he lied to Congress in the first place about, yes, the Trump Moscow deal.
Now, Donald Trump`s defenders are saying, "Look, you can`t believe any of this because Michael Cohen has not only lied before but admitted to lying." So there`s a debate about the fact that he lies at least some of the time. Trump`s defenders also note that of these two men, as of this hour, only one of them has been convicted of a crime.
But that`s one piece of this. The other piece is broader and it is not just about the law. We are headed in tomorrow, seeing the contrast and the climax of a fight between Michael Cohen`s world and Donald Trump`s world, between the way Michael Cohen says he wants to operate now and how he says Donald Trump has operated for a very long time.
Now, Cohen`s allies have, I`m sure you`ve heard the phrase, touted this as a John Dean style moment. Famously invoking a turning point in the Watergate era. Many say it is time to trust Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, THIS WEEK: He`s saying very clearly that he never directed you to do anything wrong. Is that true?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I don`t think there`s anybody that believes that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is there anyone that believes that? Well, tomorrow is going to be one of the most important days of at least the public side of all of these probes. Because tomorrow, we hear from Michael Cohen in public, he will be tested by members of both parties, and Americans will make up their own minds.
I want to bring in some experts to break this down. Matt Miller, board to the DOJ under President Obama. David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief from Mother Jones. And Juanita Tolliver from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Thanks to each of you.
This is one of those things like when the media overdoes a weather event and the storm hasn`t actually hit yet, and people are like I`m tired of hearing about this storm. And the problem of that, and we`re a part of it in the media, the problem with that is, of course, Matt, tomorrow is when we get the public testimony.
So what are you looking to that`s actually significant as he goes under oath? And I will say, Mr. Cohen`s lied before. I want to be clear about that to viewers. But he goes under oath tomorrow as a person in that rare position of someone who`s about to face jail time for among other things, lying to Congress, which will certainly focus your mind about trying to get it right this time.
MATT MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN FOR THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, that`s absolutely right. When people talk about the fact that he`s lied in the past, look, obviously, he has. And I think that`s one of the first questions tomorrow for him is, why did you lie?
And what I suspect he will say is what his lawyer said in court papers which is essentially I worked for someone who led an organization, then led a campaign, and now has led a presidency that was basically built on lies and built on deception. And in order to keep up the story that Donald Trump told, I had to lie for him. Sometimes that meant lying publicly. And sometimes that meant coming in, lying to Congress which I did but I paid the price for that.
And I think as a viewer, if I were watching this tomorrow and trying to judge what he said, he`ll come in and tell his story. I assume the president will deny all of it, probably on Twitter but if not after. And you have to ask yourself --
MELBER: Maybe on Instagram. Who knows what medium?
MILLER: Yes, maybe MySpace. Who do you believe, someone who has admitted to lying or someone who hat lies every day, casually, constantly, as constantly as you and I breathe oxygen, and never once admits to it?
I think that when you compare those two, and especially if Michael Cohen brings documentation as he seems to be indicating he`s going to, it is a much easier comparison to make about who might be telling the truth.
MELBER: This is a blockbuster day, David Corn. Take a look at the chief Democrat on the Intel Committee, Senator Warner, this is brand new, we just got it, about what he has just been hearing in the private session.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. WARNER: The only comment I`m going to make is that two years ago when this investigation started, I said it may be the most important thing I`m involved in, in my public life and the Senate. And nothing that I`ve heard today dissuades me from that view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: David, what`s important in your view?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, for us to know what he`s talking about. I mean that was testimony that Michael Cohen gave privately today to the Senate Intelligence committee. He is also talking privately to the House Intelligence Committee, presumably about Trump, Russia related matters.
If there`s something that has a senator who`s been sitting in the Senate for years saying, "I haven`t come across anything more important", the American public deserves to know what that is. So we`re told tomorrow that Michael Cohen is going to stay away from Russia related issues. I`m sure he will be pressed on it but we`ll see how far they can get on that.
But we need to know what scared, whatever has upset Mark Warner in that way. And tomorrow, we need to know what Michael Cohen knows about Donald Trump`s finances and business dealings, hush money payments. There`s a lot of mysteries.
MELBER: When you put it --
CORN: Reporters have been chasing after it for years.
MELBER: You put it well, which is -- have you ever seen on YouTube, they have those reaction videos? You are watching someone react to another big moment, a sports moment --
MELBER: -- whatever. We just saw Mark Warner`s YouTube reaction video to Michael Cohen but we didn`t get to see the underlying video. And so David, as someone who obviously, I would say, has strong views on this case, you`ve also been cited in the infamous dossier. You have been at this from the center. You`ve said people should take some of those Russian dossiers basically accounts seriously before that was -- as common of you, before Mueller was appointed. Some of those things have been borne out.
Michael Cohen`s listen to the dossier, he denies going to Prague. When you look at all that taken together, David, do you think that there is a way that Michael Cohen could look less than credible tomorrow or look like it is a bit of a nothing burger if it`s all about stuff that he was involved in, like Stormy Daniels and not the other stuff?
CORN: Well, it depends whether he is allowed to answer questions about Russia and particularly about the Trump Tower deal and what went on there and why did Trump want to keep it secret. Who asked him to call Putin`s office for help which he did and how did that play itself out?
What is the relationship between Trump and Felix Sater who Trump lied about who was the middleman in that deal that would have brought Trump a hundred million dollars? Trump said he didn`t -- basically didn`t know who he was during the campaign.
That was obviously a big major lie. So there are a lot of Russia related things. But just as important, there are $300 million and a loan from Deutsche Bank that we fully don`t understand that Trump got, other business dealings that are very curious to put it politely.
Those are things that Michael Cohen should be able to talk about. I hope the members of Congress, the Democrats, unfortunately not Republicans, have done their homework and know where to dig.
MELBER: Yes. And Juanita, that brings us to something else, when David talks about digging, there`s a whole line of questioning tomorrow if the members of the committee are prepared about what Michael Cohen saw with the front row seat about the way Donald Trump dealt with law enforcement and investigations in New York.
He said he won`t talk Mueller. OK. What about the Manhattan D.A. that`s looking into Manafort? What about the attorney general in New York where Donald Trump clashed with him previously? What about the Southern District where there have been credible reports he tried to install a loyalist?
That`s not off the table according to the memorandum we`ve seen, the memorandum for Elijah Cummings. Do you think that`s important from Michael Cohen to detail whether he had a boss who sort of had a habit of alleged obstruction?
JUANITA TOLLIVER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: Absolutely. And I think it will also continue to paint the case of the influence that Trump had over him as an employer and how he was Trump`s right-hand man every step of the way. The man who is trusted to make the deals, handle the payoffs, and clean up messes.
So to really back all this up, I am looking for Cohen to show the receipts, right. We need to see the evidence of all of this. And this is his opportunity to really lay it out and paint that clear picture of how many people of Trump was, how many things that he tried to cover up, how many times that he tried to obstruct justice.
Because one thing that really perked up my ears on this were criminal actions that Trump did while serving as president. All right. That distinction alone really makes this a level up game.
MELBER: When you say receipts, do you mean like the cost of his trip down to D.C. or you --
TOLLIVER: I`m talking receipts as in proof of campaign finance violations when he paid off Stormy Daniels and when he reimbursed.
MELBER: Ah, OK. I didn`t understand the vernacular.
TOLLIVER: Oh, come on, Ari.
MELBER: No, I am just playing. I did understand.
Matt Miller, take a listen to Hillary Clinton who`s emerged and is talking about again her political theory of why Putin would be so favorable to Trump, in part that he was her enemy. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I spoke out as I would speak out about fraudulent elections anywhere, including in our own country but that just got him so upset. I think he saw me as a worthy adversary, which I think I was. And he clearly favored in the campaign, first in the primary, Bernie Sanders, who had a long history of being very favorable toward Russia. And then he favored Trump who he had reason to believe would be also incredibly favorable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Matt, I just want to get your read on that and her coming out on that now.
MILLER: Yes. Look, I think she`s absolutely right. I mean it`s very clear that Putin had serious policy disagreements. He had reason to worry about her becoming president. But then I think the thing that differentiated Trump from every other Republican is just how friendly he was towards Putin really from the beginning of the campaign.
And that`s one of the important things Michael Cohen can shed light on. He`s not going to do it tomorrow but presumably he`s doing it to both Intelligence Committees and hopefully we`ll see those transcripts, is why that -- why the president -- why he was so friendly with him early on. Was it because of the business deal that Cohen was trying to negotiate? Was it because of hope for interference by Putin on Trump`s behalf in the election?
I think we need to find the answer out to those questions. And one of the things that`s interesting about these next set of hearings, in some ways it solves a problem that the Department of Justice has and that all of us have, which is we don`t know what the Department of Justice is going to turn over to Congress.
But if you`re the Southern District of New York and you think that Trump has committed a crime but you don`t know what to do about it because you can`t indict him, or if you`re Mueller, you can`t, one of the things you can do, whatever evidence you turn over, you don`t have to worry about whether the attorney general blocks you or not. You can let witnesses go up and testify to Congress.
And so if we see him testifying about potential crimes by the president tomorrow, that`s a way for DOJ to get this evidence out in public in a way that they can`t do while he is in office because he is a sitting president who can`t be indicted.
MELBER: Briefly, lightning round because I have to fit in a break. What is the topic, in a word or a sentence, that you`re most intrigued to hear from him tomorrow? A word or a sentence from Cohen tomorrow. Matt.
MILLER: Executive 2. Who`s the executive? Probably one of the Trump kids who signed off on the payments to Stormy Daniels.
CORN: So much. I`d say Trump taxes. Why don`t we see them? What is he hiding? Why is he afraid to release them?
TOLLIVER: Here`s the evidence. Here`s the records that show that Trump avoided taxes and committed fraud.
MELBER: All interesting lines of inquiry. If he did 10 hours in private tonight, still going, we`ll see what he does tomorrow.
Matt, David, and Juanita, thanks to each of you.
The reason I defeated break because coming up, we have the House voting on what`s expected to be a condemnation of Donald Trump`s claimed "national emergency" with the senator on the corner. I have a congressman who oversees foreign affairs on that later.
AOC hitting back against Ivanka Trump as they debate the wealth gap. Kamala Harris asks a major question about Trump and "racism".
But first, our exclusive tonight, a panel on the Mueller probe that you literally won`t see anywhere for the first time ever. You`re looking at some insiders who`ve been in that Mueller probe who are going to speak together live to me tonight.
Stay tuned. You`re watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.
MELBER: Tonight, I can report Bob Mueller`s probe will continue beyond this week. Now, we don`t know that because of Bob Mueller whose office has been silent, even as those rumors circulated last week that Mueller was nearly done, and even as "CNN" and "The Washington Post" reported on the clues for those rumors, and even if some analysts you may have heard speculate about a Mueller report that could be "days away", Mueller`s office stayed silent.
And like many, many reporters, I checked in with Mueller`s office during that news cycle to basically see if they wanted to add any context or comment and they declined. The only reason we can even report that Mueller will go past this week is that his new boss, Attorney General Bill Barr, had the DOJ announced late Friday Mueller will go past next week.
And that mini-episode reinforces how unlike some chattier people in law enforcement, say, Ken Starr or James Comey, there are actually only two sources of firsthand information that we get about the Mueller probe. The filings, the material he releases and the information released by people who interact directly with Mueller, witnesses, defendants and their lawyers. That`s it.
If you want hard intel on the probe, things that people saw or experienced, you need those witnesses or their lawyers. And that`s why on THE BEAT, we turn to people with firsthand experience whenever possible, regardless of one thing. So their politics or their choices.
You may remember we interviewed Sam Nunberg the day he vowed to illegally defy Mueller. He later backed down. But we interviewed him because he was a firsthand source. We interviewed two Roger Stone associates who described potential crimes by Roger Stone.
Mueller later indicted Stone for some of the very allegations they made on live T.V. And we also convened the first joint summit of Mueller witnesses to learn what they told Mueller and how the probe was going. Each of those people had inside knowledge. In the law, they`re called fact witnesses.
Mueller`s team spent dozens of hours with those witnesses to learn about anything they might have seen and even more time with guilty witnesses who flipped to share information on what they did. Now, as the DOJ hints that Mueller may be nearly done, again, public information on the probe is still stubbornly limited to those two sources, Mueller`s filings and what those witnesses and their lawyers experienced.
It is rare to hear from those witnesses. It can be even rarer to actually hear from their lawyers who are the type of people, the type of counselors who often stay behind the scenes while a probe is open and while their client`s fate may not be completely resolved.
Now, this probe does appear to be closer to closing, which may be part of why we are able to do something truly unusual tonight. We are holding the first joint interview of lawyers who faced off against Mueller in the current Russia probe, on live T.V.
It`s the first time we`ll hear from representatives of guilty ex-Trump aides who flipped, along with representatives of other witnesses to get some firsthand insights into questions roiling the nation that could determine the future of the Trump presidency.
We will go inside the Mueller probe with these insiders when we are back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Welcome back. Here we are doing the first joint T.V. interview on live T.V. of the lawyers who have faced off against Special Counsel Mueller, with firsthand insights into these big questions.
Joining me tonight is Caroline Polisi who since last September has represented George Papadopoulos, the first ex-Trump campaign aide to plead guilty in the Mueller probe. Jim Walden represents a former director at Cambridge Analytica, Brittany Kaiser, which serves as digital campaign entity for the Trump campaign. Mueller`s interviewed Kaiser.
Dennis Vacco who represents former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo who was interviewed by the Mueller team. And Annemarie McAvoy who represented one of the most pivotal figures in this entire case, the former Trump Deputy Campaign Chair Rick Gates who pleaded guilty and is a cooperating witness in the Mueller probe. I`m very excited to hear from each of you. Thanks to all of you for doing this.
DENNIS VACO, REPRESENTED FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE MICHAEL CAPUTO: Thanks for having us.
JIM WALDEN, REPRESENTED FORMER DIRECTOR OF CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICS BRITTANY KAISER: Thanks for having us.
ANNEMARIE MCAVOY, REPRESENTED FORMER TRUMP DEPUTY CAMPAIGN CHAIR RICK GATES: Thank you for having us.
MELBER: I wonder if we could begin with a big question. What did you talk about the most? What did they ask about most when you were in there?
MCAVOY: It is, unfortunately, difficult to discuss what really went on as we were representing our clients and certainly for me with Gates.
MELBER: As we say, next.
VACCO: Well, I mean obviously they were interested in Michael Caputo`s involvement in the campaign. He was there for only a short period of time so their horizon in terms of their questions were limited to the time that he was in the campaign.
MELBER: Russia stuff?
VACCO: They were generally interested in his involvement in the campaign. There were some generic questions about contacts with individuals that might have had Russian surnames, but nothing in particular with Caputo.
WALDEN: I`m in the same boat as Annemarie in the sense that -- go ahead.
CAROLINE POLISI, REPRESENTED GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: Pass.
MELBER: Do you think based -- because everyone is going to get time. Do you think based on your knowledge of the case, not leaking what happened inside the room, that they have a target or a theory of the case? I mean we`ve had witnesses like Caputo say they were investigating in a very deep sense whether people on the campaign were knowingly trying to collude.
MCAVOY: Oh, I think they definitely have an idea of what they`re looking for. And I think they also --many times as a prosecutor, you not only have the evidence before you but you have an idea of where you would like to see evidence go. And I think it is very clear that they have a game plan as to what they`re looking for. Whether they can prove it is another story.
VACCO: Yes, I agree with that. I think that they were very methodical in the handling of Caputo in their questions. And they clearly had a game plan as far as that was concerned.
MELBER: And Caputo you represented, very interestingly said he also thought part of what they wanted to do was turn people on each other. Let me play that for your response, everyone really. He`s talking about tactics and hardball. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: I believe that this is what Mueller does. He drives a wedge between old friends. He destroys relationships in the hopes that they`ll turn against each other and eventually turn evidence against the president of the United States. I know I would never do that. I know Roger would never do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VACCO: Well, you heard it directly from Michael in that clip. I think that from the perspective of a federal prosecutor, I mean that`s kind of Prosecution 101, right? You want to turn people against each other. You want people to give you information. You want them to be motivated to give you information.
Michael has a certain view of the motivation behind that. But frankly, I see it just as prosecutors being prosecutors. You want to take witnesses. You want to take them for what they tell you and how you can use that to leverage other witnesses.
WALDEN: I agree with Dennis wholeheartedly. The idea -- I would take it a step farther to the idea that they`re going to personalize this when these are a group of very, very capable professionals to me farfetched to the extreme.
MELBER: You`re saying that the Mueller lawyers and prosecutors you dealt with were very professional and you`re rebutting the way Michael put it?
WALDEN: Absolutely. And what they`re doing is they`re following the facts. They`re fielding every single groundball in the investigation and trying to be as thorough as possible. In my interactions with them, they were completely fair. They didn`t come in with an agenda. They weren`t trying to get anyone. It wasn`t a game of gotcha. They were literally trying to follow the facts and that`s what they did.
MELBER: And we`re -- go ahead.
VACCO: And if you don`t mind, so I don`t want my comments to be reflective that I am contradicting what Michael said. Michael is in a different position as a witness. So he goes into this very intimidating setting. All of these witnesses go into this intimidating setting, many of them for the first time.
And even the manner in which they set up the interview, where we had to meet them off-site, we had to meet them at a predetermined location. They drove us into the basement to the building, all under the cover of secrecy.
MELBER: Was that different than a normal law enforcement debrief?
VACCO: Look, I was 20 years in law enforcement, 5 in the federal government. I never asked a witness except for maybe somebody involved in the mob, in a mob prosecution, to bring in a witness through that type of security, that type of secrecy.
MELBER: And you`re suggesting the view that at least in your case, your client, that he found it intimidating. Do you think it was designed to intimidate?
VACCO: Perhaps. He certainly felt that it was intimidating. And then what unfolded beyond that was equally intimidating. You go into a room and you`re talking to individuals that you know that if you slip up, they have that 1001 capability. They have the ability to charge you.
MELBER: You`re referring to statute and false statements.
MELBER: Do you think that was effective?
VACCO: Effective tool that federal law enforcement uses all the time.
MELBER: And in your case with George Papadopoulos, they swooped him right off a plane?
POLISI: Well, exactly. George was in a little bit of a different situation. He was sort of the first domino to fall as people like to say. But I don`t know if it was -- I`m not going to say that it was unethical but they definitely used every tool in the toolbox to sort of wield their power and be intimidating, but that`s their right to do.
I mean they had to come out really strong, forcefully, in the beginning, to show everybody that they were going to charge this 1001 violation, which they have been sort of charging with abandon ever since the beginning of this case. They wanted to make it clear you can`t go in there and lie to them.
I will say in the case of George, they initially charged him with an obstruction of justice charge as well which is vastly more like a higher --
POLISI: Serious than a 1001 violation. So that is a tool that they used to intimidate him to get him to plead guilty with the 1001.
MELBER: Well, they --
POLISI: I mean so you --but these are common tools that prosecutors often use.
WALDEN: Let`s be clear, Bob Mueller did not write this playbook, right? It`s never the crime. It`s always the cover-up. These are very sophisticated people that should know that if you lie to Congress, if you lie to investigators, you`re going to jail.
Mike Flynn`s defense of "they set me up" fell on deaf ears. So I think that they`re doing exactly what they should be doing, and they`re certainly pushing some envelopes, but crossing no lines.
MELBER: Did you sort of exchange -- did you exchange looks with Mr. Caputo, you`re going down, what, underground, secretly into the special counsel`s building? Or did you tell him, "Hey, cool. It is going to be fine?"
VACCO: Well, I mean I knew that we were in for a fun day if you will because we were told to meet an FBI agent at a predesigned location. So when we got in the car --
MELBER: So this was so that no one would know where Mueller`s team actually works at?
VACCO: Sure. I think --
MELBER: That they took you there?
VACCO: In part, it was to not disclose where they are. I don`t even remember where we went quite frankly even though we walked out without any security with us. But I want to go back --
MELBER: Annemarie, lawyers love to say they don`t remember things.
VACCO: (CROSSTALK) for a moment.
MELBER: Go ahead.
VACCO: So for a witness like Caputo who by the time he got in front of the special counsel, he had already testified before the House Intelligence Committee.
VACCO: And he also had testified before the Senate Committee. So he`s already on record two times before he makes it to the office of special counsel. There`s a lot of pressure on just simply witnesses. There`s never been any indication whatsoever that Caputo was involved, implicated, had any substantial role other than just potentially being a witness. It`s nonetheless still very intimidating.
ANNEMARIE MCAVOY, LAWYER: Yes. I think when you look at how they`ve proceeded, there`s no question at least in my mind they`ve been somewhat heavy-handed with how they`ve handled folks. I mean you look at how they arrested Roger Stone. You know, machine guns drawn, you know breaking down the door basically, with the number of people that were there. I mean, normally in a case like that you would have him surrender voluntarily with his lawyer. He come in and you set up a time --
MELBER: And normally -- and let me ask you this. And normally, normally, in a case like that, would you have that individual having threatened to kill another witnesses dog and then go on to threaten a judge? Would that be normal?
MCAVOY: Well, first of all the judge thing happened after so that wasn`t relevant at the time. They had no knowledge of he was going to do something like that and it`s not clear that it was a threat.
MELBER: It`s not clear that it was a threat?
MCAVOY: Well, it was a picture of her and --
MELBER: We`ve got Michael Cohen speaking. Hang with me. We`ll get your reaction. I believe Michael Cohen has existed his testimony. Let`s listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: -- sticking around. Have a good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is a live shot. We were hoping he would say more. Obviously, he`s waiting until tomorrow. Let me turn back to the very special group we have here. Two lawyers for Mueller witnesses and two lawyers for former Trump aides who are guilty, and who flipped, and who provided testimony.
Matt, you were defending basically the argument that`s been made that they were heavy-handed. I`m pressing you on it because I think it`s important. You`re describing lawful tactics that were designed to intimidate but as well within their right. You`re suggesting that they overdid it. In the case of Mr. Stone, he was just in court apologizing and begging for mercy because of what was put in the pleadings which was basically the argument that the guy has been threatening people left and right.
Well, if he -- with the -- with the judge. If the judge had truly felt that she was being threatened and that he was really threatening people`s lives, he wouldn`t be out on the street yet. They would -- she would have put him in jail which she did not do. He -- but he`s an older guy. I mean to have that kind of it`s almost like a SWAT team show up the way they did is much more than they would normally do.
VACCO: Especially that they knew that he was represented.
MELBER: Let me -- let me kick around. First to Caroline.
CAROLINE POLISI, PARTNER PIERCE BANBRIDGE: I just categorically disagree with that. I`ve had many, many clients waking up to a very rude awakening to a knock at the door at 5:00 in the morning. That`s just routinely how they do it. Gone are the days I think when the government treats white- collar criminals with sort of kid gloves. That is how they do it in normal circumstances and I can say that because I`ve had regular clients that they do that with.
JIM WALDEN, LAWYER: Not to mention someone who the Mueller people may believe obstructed justice, pressured witnesses, might run, has substantial resources, all of those reasons I couldn`t agree more. This happens to Americans every day in every state in the land.
MELBER: Do you think it`s a function of being privileged and out of touch to be surprised that law enforcement are tough?
VACCO: Not in this case.
MCAVOY: I don`t think so. I think when you look at for instance also, it is the same sort of tactics in a way. You look at Paul Manafort, you know, the age that he is, and the physical shape, and that he`s still in solitary confinement. I mean, this is not the way it`s normally handled. And when you look at the Mike Flynn plea, they were going after his son. He had no money left. I mean, they bludgeon the people until they can`t fight back anymore.
MELBER: So you think that Paul Manafort is in solitary and that is designed to be somehow a punishment?
MCAVOY: It`s -- well, I think that --
POLISI: There`s certainly a possibility.
MCAVOY: Let`s put it this way. There`s certainly possibility that they may be doing it in the hopes that he will eventually crack. And then the question is does he --
MELBER: But do you know --
MCAVOY: -- does he then cooperate or does he make something up.
MELBER: Do you know who disagrees with you, Paul Manafort, who was recorded on a prison line and I don`t know or not.
MCAVOY: Well, that is --
MELBER: Well, you have to let me -- hold on. You have to wait and then you get to respond. I don`t -- I know as a lawyer, you have to interrupt when there`s a point that`s devastating to what you`re saying, but that`s part of my job is to give a fact even though it`s devastated what you just claimed.
Paul Manafort -- Paul Manafort is saying that he was being treated like a VIP inside prison and that his "confinement" includes a personal laptop, a phone, a shower, and a workroom.
MCAVOY: He`s still in solitary confinement. That is something that is not normally done for somebody like him for the type of charges that --
MELBER: Do you think that he`s OK?
WALDEN: Well, I think -- and part -- as Caroline mentioned, it`s probably for his own security as well.
POLISI: It`s the BOP`s decision, sorry. It`s not the government`s.
MELBER: Bureau of Prisons.
POLISI: So the other piece to all of this is when you have people who actually began cooperating -- you mentioned Mr. Manafort. Of course, you represented Rick Gates, they were very close. Rick Gates ultimately flipped first. Paul Airport was rumored to -- he was going to hold that and then he flipped. Did Rick gates make the right legal call?
MCAVOY: I`m not comfortable commenting on that. I`m sorry.
MELBER: Do you think Rick Gate made the right call?
MCAVOY: You can comment on that one.
WALDEN: That ultimately he made the right legal, call let`s just take a step back for a second and understand that these are some of the most troubling crimes that have occurred in our nation`s history at the highest levels of our government being played out across the media around the world. People need to step up and provide information and help the American public understand who is running our government. And if they don`t do that for self-preservation reasons or for reasons of patriotism, we all lose.
MELBER: Based on your dealings with Mueller`s team, if there`s collusion, do you think they`ll find it?
WALDEN: Yes. I think that they will find everything and more.
MELBER: And the flip side to that which you may like more as you`ve got the MAGA outfit to boot.
MCAVOY: I like red.
MELBER: I like red too. I like red too -- is when you look at this, you say, the flipside in fairness is if this comes to a conclusion without a finding of collusion, that would be good for the Trump side. Yes?
MCAVOY: Sure. I mean, you hope -- whatever side you`re on, you should hope that the case should go where the evidence leads it. I mean, that`s what a prosecutor should do and that`s what I assume that they are doing.
MELBER: One of the key witnesses in this entire thing that you guys have not represented, although separately we`ve heard from his attorney Lanny Davis is Michael Cohen. I showed him leaving these hearings. We have now turned a brief bit of sound of what else he said for your analysis, brand- new, first-time airing. Let`s hear Michael Cohen today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: First of all, thank you all for sticking around waiting for me. At this point in time, I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to clear the record and to tell the truth. And I look forward to tomorrow to being able to in my voice to tell the American people my story. And I`m going to let the American people decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How unusual is it to have a witness like him who`s waiting to go to jail and is now going to address Congress in public tomorrow while also this other probe remains open?
WALDEN: For better for worse, this is historic. I mean, this could really be something that seals his fate in terms of his credibility. If he`s not well prepared, knowing about Lanny Davis, I`m sure that he will be, or it could be the beginning of the end for the president.
POLISI: But to be clear, he still has you know, a dog in this fight. He`s gunning for that you know, evasive rule 35 motion by the government that could potentially reduce his sentence. So you know, obviously, people are going to attack his credibility saying that he lied to the very body that he`s in front of now and potentially he has a motive.
VACCO: Well, quite frankly, we`re forgetting that not too long ago he pled guilty to lying to the very Congress right now telling today I`m going to tell the truth to. So when is he telling the truth? When really does he tell the truth?
MELBER: What I want to do here -- go ahead.
WALDEN: No, as you say, we understand every single cooperator. The reason that federal law allows cooperation is because it allows people to do something bad and then repent and get leniency. So Michael Cohen also faces significant penalties if he`s found to have lied before this body tomorrow and I think that`s important to keep in mind.
VACCO: But an important point in the in the justice system, a defense attorney has the ability to test the credibility that witness who has a change of heart. When a witness gets to understand who would now acknowledges that they previously lied, they`re subject to cross- examination. I`m not so sure what the cross-examination of Cohen will be to this process.
MELBER: I`m going to do a lightning round before we go basically as quick as you can, a couple things. First, do you think that when Mueller is done, he will have found obstruction?
WALDEN: Factually, yes.
POLISI: I don`t know.
WALDEN: I`m not sure.
POLISI: I`m not sure.
MELBER: What was the most important thing you learned going through this process or witnessed when you were inside those rooms?
MACAVOY: It`s they`re tough opponent to go up against, the -- this team, the Mueller team.
MACAVOY: Yes, very.
VACCO: Something that I`ve known for a long time. The federal government has a lot of power.
WALDEN: I would -- I would say, lack of agenda.
MELBER: Lack of agenda, fairness.
POLISI: Not as it pertains specifically to my representation but I say as a whole, just the Selective outrage that -- when it comes to sort of everyday things, how the criminal justice system operates, people getting angry about it when it happens every day.
MELBER: Well, I think was interesting given that you have all this unique experience. Some of what you said, and some of where you disagree, and we appreciate you coming on THE BEAT to do this together. Annemarie McAvoy Dennis Vacco, Jim Walden, and Caroline Polisi, thanks to each of you.
VACCO: Thank you.
WALDEN: Thank you.
MELBER: Much appreciated. I have more news on this busy night. The House just voted 245 to 182 to condemn and disagree with Donald Trump`s attempt to declare a national emergency. We have a lot more on that on a breaking news night when we return.
MELBER: Breaking news right now. You were looking at the House floor where Democrats just rebuked President Trump with a vote that would overturn his "national emergency declaration" using money and resources for something that many have said is simply "not an emergency."
Today. Senator McConnell actually dodged a question on this suggesting that the Democrats may be on offense. Let`s get right to it with Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks from New York, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns. He is one of more than 50 officials who protested this declaration of whether it`s valid. Thanks to both of you.
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Good being with you.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Thank you.
MELBER: Congressman, what does this vote mean?
MEEKS: This vote -- this vote means as most of the American people know that the President does not have an emergency. He`s trying to pass or get done a campaign promise and so the members of Congress are saying that he could not violate the Constitution of the United States of America and get around the individuals who have the power of the purse, and that`s the members of the legislative branch of government.
And so we`re going to stand up for what we supposed to be doing under the Constitution and not allow him to try to use -- to violate the Constitution to take care of a campaign promise.
MELBER: Congressman is you know, most things that the House vote on the Senate doesn`t have to. This is different under the rules because of the nature of the emergency in federal law. Take a listen to Senator McConnell who some people are saying your vote today, what the Democrats are pushing has him softening his position a little bit. We have a comparison. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I`ve just had an opportunity to speak with President Trump. I`ve indicated to him that I`m going to prepare -- I`ve got to support the national emergency declaration.
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Do you personally believe that the President`s emergency declaration is legal?
MCCONNELL: Well, that`s part of what we were discussing today.
HUNT: What do you think?
MCCONNELL: Well, we`re in the process of weighing. I`ve haven`t reached a total conclusion about -- you know, I wouldn`t go to me for a simple will. I did go to law school but we had some real serious lawyers in there discussing that very issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congressman, that was striking because when you say you support something and you`re a lawmaker, it`s usually implied that you`re not supporting something you believe to be actively illegal. Your reaction.
MEEKS: My reaction is just what you said. It is shocking. And I would say to Mr. McConnell that you know when we took our oath of office, we took our oath of office to protect the Constitution, not a president, not an individual, and that`s what`s most important here. We`re talking about the Constitution.
And so the oath that Mr. McConnell should live up to now is not the something that clearly he knows is incorrect. There is no national emergency. He should now live up to what he knows is the facts that the President is trying to go around what the Constitution says. And he should encourage all of his members to vote as we have voted in the House today.
MELBER: Mr. Ambassador, as a security matter, what is the best evidence you have that this would not be an emergency?
BURNS: Well, there`s no factual basis for a national emergency at our southern border. In fact, just look at the Department of Homeland Security Statistics. Illegal border crossings are at a 40-year low. We have terrorist threats in the United States but not on that border. It`s mainly through the airports and there are more reported terrorists at least attempts in the northern border.
And so if you look at the government`s own data, it does not point you in any way shape or form to an emergency declaration on the southern border with Mexico. And I signed the letter with 57 other former administration officials from many administrations, Democrats and Republicans because we do have real national security challenges.
Congress appropriates funds for us to meet them and it`s not right that those funds might be redirected by President Trump for a fake emergency on the southern border.
MELBER: Congressman Meeks, while we have you, of course, the other big story is that Michael Cohen just did wrapped his ten and a half hours and is headed to you tomorrow. What do you think Elijah Cummings and your colleagues need to push him on tomorrow? What are you looking to see there?
MEEKS: Well, they`re going to push for the truth. They just want to make sure that the facts get out to the American public. I think that what we just heard at their last segment from Mr. Cohen saying that he wants the American people to hear the raw facts and that they can make their judgment themselves.
So I think that what Chairman Cummings will be doing is asking questions that will prevail so that the American people could hear facts not from anybody else that`s going to be trying to interpret them, but speak to their own ears so they could make determinations as to what`s taking place.
I understand there may be signed checks by the President reimbursing him for payments made to one of the President`s mistresses. So we will see what will take place.
MELBER: Where did you hear that?
MEEKS: Well, there was something that I was told that that came over not too long ago when someone who was aware of what Mr. Cohen`s testimony will be.
MELBER: Ambassador Burns, I hate to be this way, but I want to say in the under 30 seconds we have left, what if anything can you teach us about the foreign policy challenges that the President faces in Vietnam, the other big story tonight.
MEEKS: Well, he`s going to have to really focus on Kim Jong-un because right now the North Koreans have not made any significant concessions to the United States. They haven`t told us where their nuclear weapons are. There`s no plan for dismantlement. And I do think in this second summit the North Koreans need to produce major concessions to the United States and our President needs to be focused on that and not focused on what`s happening with Michael Cohen back here the United States. But I doubt that`s going to be the case.
MELBER: Well, and you raise a concern I think a lot of people have which is what`s the national security externality costs here if the President treats it as another Twitter day. But we`ll wait, we`ll see, we`ll report. Both of you seasoned experts on these important stories, Congressman Meeks, Ambassador Burns, thank you.
Up ahead, another story we didn`t want to miss. Kamala Harris not sugarcoating it. Wait till you hear what she said about Donald Trump`s "racism." And Ivanka Trump sounding off about unearned wealth and AOC in the same breath with no irony. That`s the story we have later as well.
MELBER: Ivanka Trump just announced she thinks Americans don`t want to be given something without working for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don`t think most Americans in their heart want to be given something. People want to work for what they get. So I think this idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Ms. Trump was responding to a question about AOCs economic plans, but the logic could also apply to inheriting family wealth, a fairly straightforward point that many, many people are making today.
When Ivanka was actually an infant, her father had a net worth of about $100 million. By 2005 when she joined her dad`s company formally, Forbes estimated his worth was at $2.7 billion. And as part of how this all worked, Ivanka even participated in a documentary called born rich underscoring her acknowledgment that she was rich at birth, born rich, because of what her parents gave her, getting something without working for.
Now AOC has responded today with this "as a person who actually worked for tips and hourly wages in my life instead of having to learn about it secondhand, I can tell you most people want to be paid enough to live.
MELBER: Michael Cohen left his 10 1/2 Senate today during our show and promised honesty tomorrow before the House. We will have special coverage. I will be a part of it. It starts at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC. And we are going throughout the day including NBC specials. Tune tine to learn what happens.
As for right now, "HARDBALL" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END