Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 27, 2019 Guest: Maya Wiley; Donny Deutsch; Eleanor Holmes Norton
CHUCK TODD, HOST, MTP DAILY: May have been a big clue as to why. Mimi Rocah, Sam Nunberg, Carol Leonnig, Ben Wittes, for Kasie Hunt, everybody else, what a day. My great team. Thank you, guys.
That`s all we have for tonight. But we`re handing the baton right now. We`ll have MTP tomorrow. But more of this coverage in this unbelievable day. Again, a criminal conspiracy was actually alleged by Michael Cohen today. That is sitting there. That is news sitting there.
Ari Melber, you`ve got the baton.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thank you, Chuck Todd. And good being on with you today as we reported what is a truly historic day in Washington. Tonight, I`m about to be joined by special guest Donny Deutsch who just spoke with Michael Cohen after his testimony and our analyst Maya Wiley.
I`m going to give you a very short intro. Because if you follow the news, you know the gist. Here it is. The president`s former lawyer Michael Cohen testifying under oath against Donald Trump for many, many hours. Laying out in detail a damning series of allegations. Some sounded criminal against a sitting president. Some sounded just terrible. Bad things detailed by a person who says he was in the room.
This was extraordinary. Unprecedented testimony from one of, remember, one of only six former Trump aides indicted in the Mueller probe and one of the only ones yet to speak this way. None of the others have talked about their crimes under oath or other details under oath. They haven`t.
No one has pointed this finger so directly at their old boss Donald Trump. And to Trump`s defenders on the committee, Cohen had a simple message. He said, "Look, I used to be like you. I used to defend this man just like you for the same reasons you do. And the only difference between us is I put that in the past tense." Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: Documents that are irrefutable and demonstrate -- I did the same things that you`re doing now for 10 years. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years. I can only warn people the more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I`m suffering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined as promised right now by Maya Wiley, a former counsel to the mayor of New York City and civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and Donny Deutsch, a long-time friend of Michael Cohen`s and an analyst for us at MSNBC.
Before we talk about what you`ve learned having been alongside this man the whole time in what was for anyone watching I think at times emotional testimony from a person who is going to go be incarcerated, I want to ask you what was important that Michael Cohen said that sounded true and implicates the president?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER CIVIL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Number one, his -- overall, his testimony was very credible, I thought. And part of it being credible is he didn`t overstate. He was very careful with the facts.
And so it was very credible when he talked about the way in which Donald Trump worked, the fact that he was directed to make payments and how that was structured through Allen Weisselberg. It was also, you know, the way he talked about the Trump assets and the way Donald Trump would inflate the assets if it was to his advantage, say, in the interests of insurance or deflate the, in this statement, assets if it was helpful for his taxes.
And that was really -- you know, it was not a big period of time in the testimony today, but it was pretty significant. Because those would be new potential criminal charges that would -- where he is directly implicating Donald Trump.
It was credible because the president himself has not released his tax returns which was always odd. And never quite explained to the American public why he wouldn`t. That might be a reason.
You know, I also think his points about Donald Trump`s wink, wink, nod, nod in terms of the Moscow Trump Tower.
WILEY: Right. Where he says very clearly, look, no, he did not directly tell me but what he did was what he always does is he looked me in the eye. Remember his opening statement. He looked me in the eye and said there is no business in Moscow as he then went out and lied to the public. That is kind of very typical ways in which we see crime bosses instructing people.
MELBER: You mentioned crime bosses, that was the other important point. Elijah Cummings who we will show later in this broadcast came out at the end and made a plea. He said, "Look, I`ve turned down over a hundred interview request. We wanted to get to the facts. Another shoe may drop. This isn`t normal."
And as we get more eyewitness accounts, the country is to deal with this, not as a political matter and perhaps not strictly as a legal matter. Because so much of what I know that was detailed today was truly gangster- like activity. Not all of which would be chargeable.
In that vein, before I go to Donny, I want to play Michael Cohen talking about the threats. The way that threatening people -- and look, you can use words in clever ways that aren`t technically crimes. But the ways that Donald Trump routinely and constantly used him to threaten people to get his way. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?
COHEN: Quite a few times.
SPEIER: Fifty times?
SPEIER: A hundred times?
SPEIER: Two hundred times?
SPEIER: Five hundred times?
COHEN: Probably. Over the 10 years.
SPEIER: Over the 10 years, he asked you --
COHEN: And when you say threaten, I`m talking with litigation or an argument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: Bullying behavior. We`ve also heard it in the language. And when you`re talking about calling people rats, when you`re talking about a sitting president, that kind of behavior becomes an abuse of authority.
Under the precedent we have from Richard Nixon is abuse of authority is in and of itself a ground for impeachment. We`re hearing about a sitting president directly from someone who has known him deeply, personally, and his ways of working and has essentially said those ways continued into the White House, not on every single type of claim but that this was conversations that he had had with the president in the White House.
MELBER: Yes. Donny, I want to leave some space for you to speak about this any which way you want. This is a friend of yours. He doesn`t claim that he did everything the right way.
But I wonder how you felt watching Chairman Cummings who I think does take his role seriously, who went out of his way to try to do some bipartisan outreach and mend fences during the hearing. But when -- Chairman Cummings was pretty careful, made a point in the hearing to say on the record, "This is not normal."
But to say that he`s from Baltimore, that he knows how this stuff works in prison. And that in his view, the president of the United States increased the risk of physical danger to Michael Cohen, your friend, by calling him a rat so publicly as he prepares to go do three years.
DONNY DEUTSCH, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: Yes. I know Chairman Cummings was so emotional and so upset the night that Trump went after Michael`s father- in-law and kind of started this threat of the family and took it very very emotionally. And I think he saw the kind of man Chairman Cummings was today.
A lot to unpack here. First of all, as you said in the T`s, I spoke to Michael a few minutes ago. Actually, he was with both of his lawyers. I said how you doing. He said exhausted. I mean I was exhausted watching. So I keep in mind, he did nine-hours yesterday. I mean it`s staggering.
I said would you have done anything differently? He goes, "No". And he brought up a point that he said during the hearings. I will say also that the Republicans not once with all of the charges, with all of the visual aids with the checks, with the documents that they bring up Donald Trump`s name once.
Literally, this was a -- how many hours was this? Not one Republican brought up -- other than say don`t smear the president, didn`t have any questions against any of the allegations. It was this constant --
MELBER: On a committee that -- again, this is not the Judiciary Committee.
MELBER: This is the committee that does oversight of the government. Particularly, when you talk about abuse of the federal government, something that any intellectual conservative would want to reckon with. You mention that. I want to now play so viewers can take it in themselves that moment with Congressman Cummings. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I know. I know it`s got to be painful being called a rat. By the way, I live in the inner city of Baltimore, all right? And when you call somebody a rat, that`s one of the worst things you can call them because when they go to prison, that means a snitch. I`m just saying.
And so the president called you a rat. We`re better than that. We really are. I know that this has been hard. I know that you face a lot. I know that you are worried about your family. But this is a part of your destiny. And we have got to get back to normal. With that, this meeting is adjourned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s how it ended. Tell me about the emotion on Michael`s face.
DEUTSCH: You saw the -- look, I`ve spent hundreds of hours, dozens of hours with Michael. And the only time he cracks and gets emotional is about his family, and when he referenced there. And it was painful to watch as a guy that -- knowing what he was going through.
And look, the game today was not, do I like Michael? Do I think he`s a good guy? Is he credible? And to me, where he really showed his credibility was the places he came to defend Donald Trump and exonerate him.
The three most heinous things that were teased that were put out there -- think about it. Oh, we hear there`s a tape that you smacked Melania. I`ve heard that rumors. And he went, "There is no such tape". And that Mr. Trump would never do that.
MELBER: Right. We`ve never once touched that story on this show because there`s nothing found there. But as you say, it came up in a committee hearing today and he under oath knocked it down.
DEUTSCH: He could have said -- look, he essentially could have said I`ve heard that also, I don`t know but I heard a lot of rumors. Same thing where as far as the salacious, the pee tape where he could have easily said, "Yes, you know, I haven`t seen it but I`ve heard people," I mean easily, absolutely does not exist.
And even with collusion where he specifically said I have not directly seen collusion. So, you know, that to me gave him credibility. The other thing going in that gave him credibility, he had everything to lose and nothing to gain.
He told the truth today. He doesn`t get a day off in jail for doing that. Had he lied once, he`d be facing more jail. So the Republicans entire raise on the dawn of liar, liar pants on fire was absurd to begin with. When somebody tells truth, you can never believe anything they have to say.
I thought the moment with Meadows, when Meadows looked like a fool when he was waving that document around and it turned out that Michael`s point was correct and his point was incorrect. I also thought AOC -- there were so many openings to your point also for where investigations can go. I have not been a big fan of AOC. I thought she did a great job because she tied up the tax returns. I love that all the kids came up explicitly.
And we know that at this point Mueller has not even interviewed Junior yet and there were certainly things about Junior. And going back to the Southern District and their relationship with Michael has completely changed. It was very contentious going in.
And now, they actually signed off when he wanted that two-month extension, not only -- they actually recommended it to the judge first. So they`re working very closely together. And Ari, I`ve said it on the show, on many shows, this ends with a RICO charge in the Southern District. That`s where this ends where they go after the entire organization.
You talked about a mob boss. That`s what it was built for. Someone who sits atop a criminal enterprise and is responsible for all of it.
MELBER: And that`s a district you worked in. I want to play as you think about that possibility, Cohen alleging that Trump did something that is basically what Cohen is partly going to jail for.
The idea of who gets away with what, that Trump inflated his assets which, yes, you can lie in public about it but again, did it to Deutsche Bank. You were pointing out as we were coming out on the set that regarding insurance companies, it`s also a big deal. Take a look at that moment today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LACY CLAY (D), MISSOURI: To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to a bank in order to help him obtain a loan?
COHEN: These documents and others were provided to Deutsche Bank on one occasion where I was with them in our attempt to obtain money so that we can put a bid on the Buffalo Bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Because this is a big news tonight and we`ve been pretty serious, I`m going to say it`s time to bifurcate. And I`m going to ask you a bifurcated question. I know you can handle it.
WILEY: I`m ready.
DEUTSCH: I don`t even know what that word means.
MELBER: One, if that`s true, what is the legal exposure for Donald Trump and the people who helped him do it? And two, even if it`s not true, as a matter of governance, is there still a question when you see this outlined under oath hanging over a president who owes Deutsche Bank which has been prosecuted for Russian money laundering, for all of these foreign debts as people try to figure out what`s going on in the White House and what`s he negotiating overseas?
WILEY: One, bank fraud. We don`t know yet.
DEUTSCH: I`ll count. You do it. I`ll put up my fingers.
WILEY: OK. Thank you. Donny`s counting. Bank fraud. We don`t know yet if there`s Sufficient evidence but it could lead to money laundering. That`s a possibility.
We haven`t heard sufficient evidence so I`m not saying that`s where it would go. But any time you start to talk about bank transactions lying to banks, remember that`s how they got Paul Manafort. There`s always the potential. Could be wire fraud as well, depending on how he communicated information if it was fraudulent information.
On your second question -- bifurcation. All right. You can use the other hand. On the bifurcation, on the other question, so sitting president who has demonstrated before coming to office that he is willing to stretch the truth, hide money transactions, make inaccurate statements potentially to insurance companies and to banks. Now -- and is hiding the attempt to make money off of a foreign government.
Now he`s in office and as we know, two of the lines of investigation is Trump inauguration and the inaugural committee and also the extent to which there`s been influenced by foreign governance on policy decisions of the United States.
So any of those vulnerabilities, financial vulnerabilities because he needs money or is dependent on business he gets from foreign governments could potentially, we don`t know, but could potentially influence how he makes policy decisions and we have certainly seen some troubling behavior from this president when it comes to foreign policy decisions.
MELBER: Right. And what you`re listing off, sometimes we have a big banner like Trump lied. The banner we have on breaking news right now was it was hard to fit in, if you look at the bottom of the screen, all of the documented things that he alleged against Donald Trump.
And this is where this is not normal. I mean people can say, well, maybe they didn`t want to believe this man. But when he and Donald Trump are diametrically opposed, you`re choosing between Donald Trump`s tweets by a person that "Washington Post" has found to have lied more than any other politician ever.
And Michael Cohen`s testimony under oath which as you just defined has a lot of pressure on it for its veracity. They can`t both be right.
DEUTSCH: With visual links also.
MELBER: Which -- and documentation. So this is not a normal day. This is a night for America to really process that.
I want to bring in a member of Congress. You both stay with me. Part of our special coverage, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is on THE BEAT tonight. She questioned Michael Cohen today.
And Congresswoman, thank you for making time on a long day. I want to begin right away with when you asked him about the timing of the so-called hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), COLUMBIA: Were you concerned about this news story becoming public right after the "Access Hollywood" study in terms of impact on the election?
COHEN: I was concerned about it but more importantly, Mr. Trump was concerned about it.
NORTON: And that was my next question. What was the president`s concern about these matters becoming public?
COHEN: After the wildfire that encompassed the Billy Bush tape that a second follow-up to it would have been pleasant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What did you learn there and what was the import in your view of Michael Cohen explaining there thinking under oath in a close election after what they`d been through, another story like that might have made all the difference in the world?
NORTON: To be sure, Ari, because what I was -- the timeframe during which these salacious events came up was October. And we`re talking about the November election. So I`m trying to find out if Donald Trump is trying to save himself from being brought down before the election.
And I have to tell you that there`s no doubt in my mind. In fact, he even got ahead of me on it that Michael Cohen indicated that that`s exactly what he was about during that month after they came -- after those matters came out. And the public never got to judge him based on those matters which may have had an effect and therefore may have affected who became president of the United States.
MELBER: It may not matter in the legal sense of what Mueller is investigating. But I wonder to you as a member of Congress given the line of questioning on what you just said tonight, does it matter if the reasonable inference can be drawn that if not for that confessed crime, Donald Trump might not be president?
NORTON: I suppose if you`re a Democrat, it matters a lot. But yes, I think it matters a great deal because there are very few matters that you can put your finger on and say but for that, you wouldn`t have Donald Trump as a president, every day going through murder and keeping us from getting to real business.
So I think this mattered. I think this October surprise mattered on who would become president and Donald Trump knew it and made sure it would not come to life.
MELBER: And Congresswoman, I wouldn`t normally ask you to assess the approach and the state of mind of one of your colleagues. You all work together well. But it`s not a normal night.
I wonder, have you seen Chairman Cummings in that state before? Have you seen him like this ever or a handful of times? And what do you think moved him to that degree?
Because he seemed to give a real plea both in the closing of the hearing and in his remarks right afterward to the nation almost across party lines. Asking people sort of through the T.V. screen tonight listen to what you just heard, look at this, this is different.
NORTON: Yes, I`ve seen him but rarely. There`s a part of him that wants to use testimony to teach and to bring us together. After such a powerful day as this, you note that he did not read from a script. He was touched by the position he was in and he spoke from his heart.
I must tell you, it didn`t last very long, but when it was all over, I don`t know if the television picked up. I suppose I should say the Democrats clapped. We didn`t clap any other time during that hearing.
MELBER: Yes, because it was beyond. It felt bigger than the sort of factual predicates that were laid out over the course of the day. And it was striking because everyone is trying to make sense. They`re going to make up their own minds. Congresswoman --
NORTON: Yes. And normally after -- probably also spoke to the credibility of Michael Cohen. Because if Michael Cohen was not to be believed given those hours of testimony, you can bet Chairman Cummings would have told him you ought to be thinking about what you said today.
NORTON: His credibility was not impugned. That`s one of the reasons that I think that the chairman thought he Should speak about the value of that testimony. That`s what it was about.
MELBER: You know, we cover Washington. You are a master of Washington, at least you have experience. And a lot of things are planned out very carefully.
We were told, of course, and we mention to viewers that Mr. Cohen was going to come out and address reporters. And then after what I think was not known that chairman was going to end in that way, in that dramatic fashion. The Cohen side with Lanny, they just said they have nothing to add to that.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, thank you for joining us this busy night. Donny Deutsch, thank you for your insights. Maya, stay with me. I have more with you.
Coming up, I want to dive into something I haven`t had a chance to touch yet. The other Mueller-related bombshell which Michael Cohen dropped today on both Roger Stone and Donald Trump. I will explain why it is potentially the most legally significant thing. Evidence suggesting Trump may have misled bob Mueller in writing.
And I have Mueller`s former chief of staff later in the show. A special breakdown of Cohen`s testimony about hush money payments. I have the reporter who first broke that story wide open. What I`m telling you is we have a whole lot more when we come back after the break.
You`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.
MELBER: Now, we turn tonight to our report on what looks like the most devastating claim Michael Cohen made today against Trump that`s relative to the Mueller probe. Cohen laid out many damning allegations we`ve been discussing.
But for Mueller, if you remember one thing from today`s seven-hour hearing, make it this. Cohen now alleges Donald Trump did know about WikiLeaks release of stolen DNC e-mails in advance. An allegation that suggests Trump may have misled Bob Mueller in his written answers in the Russia probe.
If this sounds new to you, that`s because it is. We`re hearing this claim for the first time. Cohen testifying he was in the room when he says Roger Stone told Trump over a speakerphone about the crucial July 2016 WikiLeaks e-mail dump before it happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of e-mails. In July of 2016, days before the Democratic Convention. I was in Mr. Trump`s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, why would that be credible? As a general matter, Cohen would be risking extra jail time if he lies to Congress about something that Mueller has been studying and could easily debunk.
As a specific matter, Mueller released separate evidence which actually reinforces this brand new allegation that we`ve been studying from Cohen. Because the indictment of Roger Stone says around June and July 2016, Stone informed senior Trump campaign officials about the e-mail dump.
So if that Mueller indictment and Cohen are right, it has a few implications. First, it directly contradicts Stone who claims, of course, that he never had any such discussion with Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton`s campaign.
ROGER STONE, LONG-TIME TRUMP ALLY: I can honestly say that candidate Trump, Donald Trump, President Trump and I have never discussed the WikiLeaks disclosures before, during, or after --
TODD: You never had a single discussion about Hillary Clinton e-mails with him at all?
STONE: That is correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Never a single discussion. Now, you may have just witnessed a lie on television, but the feds don`t indict people for lying on T.V. which leads to the second point tonight. Mueller indicted Stone for repeating that alleged lie to Congress under oath.
So just think about it. Here is why hearings like today`s grilling matter, whether they`re an open or closed session. Stone was asked if he discussed his conversations with the WikiLeaks intermediary with the Trump campaign in one of these types of sessions and he replied, "I did not." That is part of what got Stone indicted.
Now, Cohen`s team argues if Stone was lying, that shows Cohen is telling the truth about this today. Mueller says Stone was lying. Stating in that same Stone indictment that Mueller`s evidence shows, Stone spoke to multiple individuals in the Trump campaign about what he claimed to know about those WikiLeaks e-mails.
So this WikiLeaks part of the story may shape up as Mueller, Cohen, and Mueller`s evidence versus Roger Stone. And many people have reasons not to believe Stone.
And that brings us to the third and final point that makes this so potentially explosive. This was not some minor avenue in one hearing. Mueller viewed this as so essential to his probe that it made his list of questions for President Trump.
So yes, let`s grab our Russia receipts right now after this long day of questions and hearings. Because here is the leaked question that Mueller reportedly did ask President Trump. "What did you know about communication between Roger Stone, his associates Julian Assange or WikiLeaks?" Now, even if stone did tell Trump things about WikiLeaks, Donald Trump could always concede that without admitting a formal crime.
You could say, hey, look, all kinds of people pass on tips and predictions in a campaign. But if he flatly denied it and Mueller has evidence showing that, then I can report for you tonight this key moment in this hearing today could be something much more ominous for Trump.
Now we do not know what Trump wrote in the reply to the question I just showed you. Mueller hasn`t said, of course. But Trump`s team leaks a lot and there was a leak that a lot of legal experts said didn`t look like it came from Mueller`s team about yes Donald Trump`s written answer to that exact question.
CNN reported it, NBC has not confirmed it but it`s relevant tonight because CNN cited two direct sources who say Trump told Mueller in writing Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks. I`m going to leave this up on the screen for a minute. There`s a lot going on. I want it to sink in. Sources were saying long before Trump`s White House knew what Cohen was going to do today, that as president, Trump told Mueller in writing that Stone never told him about WikiLeaks.
Now, if that`s true, fine. But if it`s not true, it could be a new crime. I repeat, a new crime committed by a president in office. The kind of direct lies to a special counsel that Ken Starr so insistently used against another sitting president, you might remember. And if that`s true and Trump did deny this to Mueller, you know who else actually backs up this version of events, the person Mueller`s accusing of lying about this WikiLeaks stuff, the person who touted himself as the source of WikiLeaks Intel Roger Stone because I`m not trying to say they made it too easy but take a look.
Even after Roger stone was indicted, he didn`t just deny telling Trump all this stuff but weirdly -- and I don`t use this word lightly -- suspiciously. He came out and said, he knew Donald Trump also denied this exact thing in Donald Trump`s written interrogatories to Bob Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Have you spoken to the president about this?
ROGER STONE, FORMER ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I have not. When the president answered the written interrogatories, he correctly and honestly said Roger Stone and I never discussed this, and we never did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Correctly and honestly. Tonight we know more than anyone knew then. Why would Rogers Stone be so confident about what Donald Trump told Mueller in written interrogatories that aren`t in public? If Mueller already alleges that Stone lied about that very matter, and Stone says his answer matches Trump, then the question tonight becomes, has Bob Mueller concluded that Donald Trump also lied about this WikiLeaks matter, and if so, what does Bob Mueller do about that.
That is the reporting that we have for you tonight. The most ominous thing for Trump has apparently been playing out in plain sight in public with this new chapter today that is legally gigantic even if it may have been understandably overshadowed at times by other fireworks, and passion, and scandal, and drama, and intrigue in that hearing. I want to get our legal experts to break all of this down and its implications when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Welcome back to our special coverage. We`ve been detailing our new reporting on the most devastating claim Michael Cohen made today raising new questions of whether there`s evidence that Donald Trump actually misled Bob Mueller in his written answers. I`m joined by former federal prosecutor John Flannery and back with me is Maya Wiley.
I want to dig into this exact piece of reporting with both of you. John, do you view what Michael Cohen said in concert with the Stone indictment of what we just laid out as advancing the potential that Mueller has already caught Donald Trump in a lie or a potential crime and his written answers?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, it`s explosive. And you may remember, we discussed whether or not his answers to these questions would catch him up short and this certainly has. And we know from Cohen how it happens. We have -- no doubt we have Trump say, Rog, we never discussed WikiLeaks or Assange. And Roger says we never talked about that and that`s how they get their stories together. That`s what we learned from Cohen. That`s Trump`s way, his deceitful way to get witnesses to say what he wants them to say which is the cover-up.
MELBER: And as you`re pointing out -- as you`re pointing out, that also speaks to why there`s so much public discussion. People say, does Rudy Giuliani look sloppy? Why does Roger Stone do these interviews? But you`re making the point that that actually could be evidence of guile because that`s the way they`re trying to get stories straight that potentially according to Mueller on the Stone side are crimes are lies?
FLANNERY: Right. And that`s exactly what Cohen said was happening with his messaging when he gave his statement to send a message to others. And today they specified how the lawyers Sekulow and others helped them put together the statement that went to the Hill.
MELBER: Is that damning those lawyers that Michael Cohen named checked them?
FLANNERY: Well, I think we`d have to drill down closer but I think it`s -- the editing doesn`t bother me as much as what was their knowledge about when for example the Moscow deal was closed. And if they knew it was closed in June of 2016 instead of the beginning of the year or the year before, then there in hot -- they`re in hot water themselves.
MELBER: Let me bring my in on Maya in on this because as I`ve reported before and I`ll repeat it, it`s entirely possible that those leaks had some other purpose and that Donald Trump`s written interrogatories which we don`t have in our possession are accurate. That`s a possibility. But if they are accurate that would involve Donald Trump completely reversing what was his public claim about this.
Because if he sticks to the public claim which John just argued as part of him and Roger potentially corroborating their lies, his public claim was also like Roger that they never discussed what Cohen alleges they discussed today. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever talked to him about WikiLeaks? Because that seems to be what --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never had a conversation with him?
TRUMP: No, I didn`t. I never did.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever tell him to -- or other people to get in touch with them?
TRUMP: Never did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Even with good lawyers, if Donald Trump lied to his lawyers about that, would they be able to save him from trying to repeat that lie to Mueller if they weren`t in the room and didn`t even know maybe until today about this alleged Roger Stone speakerphone call?
MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: How can you save a client who`s not telling you the truth? You can`t. I thought we were going to go old- school, Ari, and go to Houdini friends, how many of us have them. Well, apparently Roger Stones a really good friend, a really good friend. Such a good friend that he`s going to catch a case for Donald Trump, except to your point he actually has helped create a problem for Donald Trump.
It`s also a pattern of discussion you know, to the idea that there`s a conversation happening between someone who`s either a witness or someone who is under indictment by Robert Mueller, communications with the White House about the cases which helps the White House then prepare to defense. It`s the same thing we saw with Paul Manafort.
But I also think we have additional potential corroboration here of the points you`re making and that`s draft offense for Jerome Corsi. Because in the draft offense, what the Mueller team says is that Roger Stone is an agent of the campaign, right? So in other words, he is working -- he might not be paid but he`s actually working for the campaign as --
MELBER: Yes, Paul Manafort wasn`t paid either.
WILEY: Exactly. As he is trying to get these e-mails, and that he is reporting that back. So it is also potentially corroborated in that draft defense. Now that -- again, to your point, that draft defense wasn`t filed so whether or not that would have changed, there are a lot of pieces of information here that suggest this is a big deal.
MELBER: Well, as you know, there`s an old saying in law school, we had so much evidence we didn`t even have time for Jerome Corsi up in here. Because that stuff which of course I`ve had both him and person to on this show does speak again to Mueller pursuing the evidence that Stone was lying.
Now you have Trump publicly matching him and flat -- and, John Flannery, what we`re reporting tonight is that makes it look like there might be an actual potential case against Donald Trump for lying to Bob Mueller which is quite a crime in office if he can prove it. It`s also possible as I repeat that Donald Trump told the truth. I want to also show for your analysis, John, a partial denial brand-new tonight from Julian Assange.
He says, and I`m reading, Roger Stone did not have the telephone call that Michael Cohen described Stone claiming to have had with Julian Assange. What does it mean to you, John, that that is a denial of Stone`s contact with Assange but not crucially for Mueller, not really a statement at all about whether Michael Cohen heard Roger Stone claimed that to Trump.
FLANNERY: Well, if he wasn`t in his Ecuadorian embassy and he was over here and said it might be a lot more interesting if there`s an unsealed indictment against -- a sealed indictment against him, I I think that this whole gang of Pinocchio`s can`t be trusted to tell us anything that`s truthful. And I do credit the performance if you will by Cohen today for giving the sense of being a man who was eating ashes and as close to the transparent as he could possibly be perhaps in his entire life.
MELBER: What is eating ashes mean in this context?
FLANNERY: Oh, it`s sort of like a like a bottom -- it`s a bottom place for you to exist in which there`s like nothing lower that you could possibly be.
MELBER: A type of humility.
FLANNERY: Yes, exactly. And I think he gave --
MELBER: Well wasn`t it -- wasn`t it Christopher Wallace who also knew his way around the courtroom, a notorious BIG who said he went from ashy to classy. Michael Cohen has gone as a millionaire from classy to as you argue ashy.
FLANNERY: Yes. And apparently, I`ve given you some insight into a rap line that I wouldn`t even be familiar with.
MELBER: Just one of them days.
FLANNERY: Oh yes. Well, it was a hell of a day so --
MELBER: It`s quite a day and although we mix in wisdom where we can find it, in closing I want to do lightning round with both of you. In a word or a sentence, did Michael Cohen advance a false statement, perjury, or obstruction case against Donald Trump if Bob Mueller wants to take it? John?
FLANNERY: Yes. And if he takes an exception, I think he could get an indictment and should and I think it`s also a basis in impeachment in a Congress that doesn`t have a spine to do what it should be doing if there were anything like checks and balances in our government. Long sentence.
MELBER: Two answers. John and Maya, thanks to both of you as always. And John, I want to bring one other thing up with you when we come back.
MELBER: We go deeper because we`re doing this in a reported way as we make sense of what we`re learning. Up ahead, what Cohen did not say about his final conversation with Trump, but the clues that he revealed about exactly what the New York feds might be doing which of course he can`t get into.
And more on the new evidence that was revealed by Cohen, the hush money check the Donald Trump personally signed. We finally have it. That`s a game changer as far as evidence is concerned when we come back.
MELBER: We`re back with our special coverage and I am joined by a former chief staff to Bob Mueller himself, an investigative reporter who helped break some of the very stories that Michael Cohen told under oath tonight. I`m going to speak to both of you in a second.
Let me explain what we`re turning to now. You have the unusual situation of the President`s former lawyer releasing this and explaining it`s evidence that Donald Trump committed crimes in office. It`s the stormy Daniels reimbursement check. And when you have it, this is now all over the country. We saw it in the committee room. We have it here in our newsroom.
This is not a jumbo check for some sort of charity auction. This is Donald Trump`s personal bank account. This is what proves to the public that Cohen was telling the truth at least about this and how he wanted to cover up alleged contact with women in 2016.
Now again, we`ll put it up. You have the signature of then-candidate Trump and the date -- excuse me then President Trump August 1st, 2017 because he paid this from candidacy into presidency. Cohen also supplied a second check $35,000, also signed by Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump Org chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: I was involved in several of these catch and kill episodes. He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair. He was concerned with the effect that it had had on the campaign. He told me that he had spoken to a couple of friends and it`s $130,000. It`s not a lot of money and we should just do it. Everything had to go through Mr. Trump. He knew about everything, yes.
REP. KATIE HILL (D), CALIFORNIA: What did the President ask or say about the payments?
COHEN: He was not knowledgeable about this reimbursements and he wasn`t knowledgeable of ny actions to keep him as far away as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Cohen`s evidence in testimony proves that Donald Trump lied for so long about this. Part of that we knew. But it also raises important new questions about how all that went down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: The check sent while President Trump was in office with Donald Trump`s signature on it to reimburse the physical end for the hush money payment. Six months later, the president denied anything about it. Is there any doubt in your mind that President Trump knew exactly what he was paying for?
COHEN: There is no doubt in my mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: For special coverage were joined by New York Times investigative reporter Megan Twohey who covered AMI`s dealings of Michael Cohen extensively, what he was just discussing, and John Carlin former chief of staff and counsel to Robert Mueller from the FBI.
Let`s start there because, John, this was something Mueller uncovered in his deep investigative work and then famously handed off to New York. Do you think Mueller understood this would be a potential outcome what has now exploded and then came out today on the Hill?
JOHN CARLIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO ROBERT MUELLER: Well, this is interesting. Look, I think Bob Mueller as he does followed his mandate carefully saw where the facts were leading, saw evidence of a crime, used the referral that had been given to him that said if it`s outside the scope of what you`re investigating it, you should give it to another investigator, did so, and watched as the excellent career prosecutors and investigators in the Southern District of New York and FBI followed up and revealed multiple crimes.
Then going back to a story you covered earlier, you have Michael Cohen flipping providing additional evidence and some of that evidence is quite relevant to the core of what Mueller is investigating and that is connections between individuals affiliated with the campaign like Stone within organization WikiLeaks that the president`s current Secretary of State and former head of the CIA has referred to as a non-state hostile intelligence operation.
And according to the revealing testimony today that prosecutors must have known about already but it was new to us, is that Michael Cohen says he overheard a conversation directly tying the president of the United States to information coming from that hostile non-state intelligence.
MELBER: That caught -- that caught your ear as well. I`m going to -- I`m going to Megan in a moment on her reporting that led to all this. But since you bring it up and since you worked directly for Mueller, if as you say that account which is consistent with allegations in the Roger Stone indictment bears out, and if Donald Trump privately doubled down on what he claimed publicly, which was rebutting that, how would Bob Mueller view that kind of lie in an interrogatory? Would he let it slide?
CARLIN: That would be extraordinarily significant if it`s true. And then the other question would be can you corroborate so you have more than the word of just Michael Cohen when it comes to the way a prosecutor or to review it. But remember at the end of the day, if the the interpretation of the Office of Legal Counsel stands --
CARLIN: -- the president can`t be indicted.
MELBER: So he can`t be indicted and there is that interrogatory. Does that something that Mueller says to DOJ Congress has got to see that. That`s not something we`re just going burry inside main Justice.
CARLIN: That`s exactly where I was going, Ari. If for the -- part of the rationale of the OLC opinion that says that a president can`t be prosecuted, it doesn`t say that a president is king or above the law.
CARLIN: It says we have another mechanism to resolve it and that is Congress. And for that to have any weight, that would mean there has to be a way for Congress to get the relevant information.
MELBER: Right. So you -- a lot of people talk about Mueller. You worked with him. You`re saying he would make sure Congress got it. Do you think it the evidence points to Trump lying on that answer to Mueller?
CARLIN: That I have -- no, I don`t know -- I know that you`re reporting what another news organization said but I have no idea what he -- what he said.
MELBER: Copy. Well, I just had to ask you. Megan, walk us through this since your reporting has kicked so much of it off. What were you -- what was important to you when you saw the hearing?
MEGAN TWOHEY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I would begin by saying that I`ve been one of many reporters at the New York Times who has reported on these issues and there`s also been fantastic reporting by The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press so I just want to start with that. But --
MELBER: Let me make I understand. We`re tight on time. You`re an investigative boss and also humble.
TWOHEY: Well, no. I just -- I do you think it`s important and I do think it`s just been remarkable that there were so many reporters that were going after this story. And I think that -- so listen, we knew the Trump made a -- we knew that Trump made this hush payment to Stormy Daniels. We know that -- we knew that it amounted to a violation of -- criminal campaign violation.
We knew that that was done at the direction of Individual One President Trump. But today we got a lot more details and a lot more color. One, we learned that there were for the first time Don Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization were identified as people who were involved in the reimbursements to Cohen for that. So that was significant. That was a significant detail that came out.
MELBER: So plain English, does that mean they were directly involved in the misuse of corporate funds?
TWOHEY: I think that it raises questions about whether or not they were complicit in this conspiracy to influence the outcome of the election.
MELBER: And does this suggest that this was routine? Like hey, just give Michael some money, don`t ask any questions, extra legal services money. He already works there.
TWOHEY: Yes. I mean, what the federal prosecutors had already described these as sham invoices, that this has been part of -- you know, that there was the sort of original conspiracy to do this hush payment to help influence the election and then that there was a whole system that was created afterwards for the reimbursement that involves sham invoices. So it`s clear also that the Southern District of New York is continuing to investigate these things.
We also learned that Trump`s involvement in this stretched into 2018, right. But he wasn`t just involved in the conversations on the front ends in terms of deciding what they were going to do with his hush payment that is late 2018. He was calling Cohen and saying listen, lie to reporters about my involvement in this. So that was another key thing.
And then we also had these incredible visuals. We had these checks that Cohen you know, arrived with and not just the one from Trump that was signed by Trump himself but also one that was signed by Don Jr. and Allen Weisselberg.
MELBER: Right. You`re name-checking the family. This does change things. There may be people who are skeptical of Cohen. There may be things you can say you don`t believe him on. This is a Donald Trump check.
TWOHEY: Right. That`s exactly right. And so while I think the existence of these checks, at least the Trump check had been -- you know, had been known, it`s another thing to see them visually.
MELBER: Megan Twohey, thank you so much. John Carlin, really helping us understand what jumped out to you. We`re going to fit in a break with one more thing when we come back.
MELBER: Something important we learned from Michael Cohen under oath today. He said he`s in "constant contact with those feds who prosecuted him and are still working cases. He also hinted they have other Trump probes. Here`s what happened when a Congressman asked Cohen about his last personal interaction with Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: And what did he or his agents communicate to you?
COHEN: Unfortunately this topic is actually something that`s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York and I`ve been asked by them not to discuss and not to talk about these issues.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven`t yet discussed today?
COHEN: Yes. And again, those are part of the investigations currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You heard that right. The last interaction between these two men, one who served the other for ten years, that interaction now is under federal criminal investigation. Thought you want to know.
That is out show. You have been watching THE BEAT. We will be back tomorrow, 6:00 p.m. eastern. And I`ll be back in just a moment as a guest on HARDBALL which starts right now.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Crimes and allegations. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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