Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: March 1, 2019 Guest: John Flannery, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Res, Ezzy, Dorian Warren
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR: And Diane (ph) already has the perfect teddy bear to snuggle with while watching our show, and we do have those. We like to snag new fans early around here. It`s always good for the demo. Congratulations to the whole Gorman family. And Ryan, man, you`re going to have to go find another bathroom.
Anyway, that`s all for tonight, we`ll be back Monday with more MTP DAILY. And if it`s Sunday to meet the press in NBC, we will see you then. " THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Quick Washington question, Chuck, is it good luck to have a baby during a very important House Oversight Hearing week?
TODD: Yes. If it`s for Diane, absolutely, it`s the best luck of all.
MELBER: OK. It will be marked every year, that great Oversight Hearing Committee. For those of us who follow those of kinds of things. Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Of course, of course. You got it.
MELBER: Have a good weekend.
We have a lot of news tonight. Democrats with subpoena power right now pressing the White House over a new nepotism national security scandal. New York Times reporting Trump overruled intelligence professionals who made a security clearance for Jared Kushner. We have that in the hour.
Also powerful House chairs demanding testimony from Trump money man Allen Weisselberg. Now tonight, we`re actually joined by one of the few Trump org executives to work by his side. That could be interesting. But I begin with client number 3 sitting down with individual 1. Allow me to explain. It`s a very 2019 story.
Donald Trump went to speak with another fellow former Michael Cohen client, Sean Hannity, to attack Cohen`s allegations that Trump was behind that hush money scheme to pay off Stormy Daniels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: He told me at least a dozen times that he made the decision on the payments and he didn`t tell you.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Yes.
HANNITY: He told me personally.
TRUMP: Yes, he did. And he made the decision. And remember this, he`s an attorney. Whatever decision he makes, he`s supposed to rely on an attorney to make a decision. When you have an attorney, you`re supposed to be able to rely on your attorney.
HANNITY: Attorney-client privilege?
TRUMP: Of course you will, but it`s also called reliance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He knows what he`s doing. Reliance is an actual defense, although not to committing a crime.
Now, if Donald Trump didn`t tell Cohen to make those hush money payments, if Cohen just decided to pay Stormy Daniels, you know, all out of the blue, why did Trump pay for it? Cohen has the receipts, of course, and he showed them to Congress. Today, Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to explain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP`S LAWYER: We brought out ten months ago that he made the payments. It`s our view of it that the President didn`t know about it at the time. And then the President when he found out about it made arrangements for reimbursement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Nobody really buys that, and Donald Trump is well known to not spend a lot of money. He is considered by many of his former coworkers notoriously cheap. Hundreds of people have actually sued him for not paying back what he owed. That means things he authorized like dishwashers, painters, bartenders, and yes, quite relevant tonight, lawyers.
Former Federal Prosecutor John Flannery was Special Counsel to three Congressional investigations, and former US Attorney Barbara McQuade knows her way around these issues.
John, I see you moving around in your chair, but you`re ready. You can hear me, right?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I can hear you. Absolutely.
MELBER: Reliance. Do you buy it?
FLANNERY: No, I don`t. And reliance, you know, it`s very interesting what these guys do. Reliance is based on this platonic idea of an attorney, and that`s not what he wanted. He didn`t want an attorney. He wanted a fixer. He wanted a crook with a title. He wanted a person who could do what he needed done, and he didn`t care all about the law.
This guy has a whole line of these people, starting with Mr. Cohen, the famous get the communists who associated him with mobsters, who told him always to fight, and always to make demands and everything else. So there`s no reason to believe for an instant that reliance.
And Sean Hannity, what a pair, talking about this as if they know what an attorney is and that`s what they want to have done. That`s not at all what this was about.
MELBER: Yes. I thought and I say this in all fairness, Barbara, I thought this was one of those rebuttals and defenses that really showed they have no ground left. And there are decent defenses. We`ve covered them on this show. There are good defenses, for example, to alleged collusion. But this seemed wild. So I have a short question for you followed by a longer one. My short --
MELBER: Yes, to Barbara. My short question is, have you ever seen one former client interview another former client of a lawyer going to jail about what one client allegedly did?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER US ATTORNEY: Short answer, no.
MELBER: No. Again, it`s easy to forget in 2019. Sean Hannity says he paid Michael Cohen to be his lawyer. That right there is a huge conflict of interest for that interview. Number two, of course, is the longer question to you. If Michael Cohen is right and the checks are right and they`re in evidence, and this is ultimately going to be resolved in evidentiary proceedings, not in the two clients of Michael Cohen proceedings, what does it mean legally, Barbara, that he brought those checks and that there was that multi-person -- I don`t want to use that word conspiracy but multi-person project to pay that money back, Trump org money to help a campaign?
MCQUADE: Well, anyone who participated in a conspiracy to pay these moneys back, knowing that they weren`t going to be disclosed on campaign finance forms could be guilty of a conspiracy and how you prove that.
We don`t have to rely solely on the word of Michael Cohen. There will be other evidence. They can talk to Allen Weisselberg, for example, who according to that recording participated in that conversation as well. So the checks are some evidence.
One thing that you have to prove for campaign finance violations, it`s a little different from some other crimes, is that it was committed willfully. That`s the highest level of mens reasonable or intent. You have to show that they not only knew what they were doing but that it was legal. But a great way to show that is through some other evidence of concealing what they were doing, filing a falls document, there`s been report of a false retainer agreement for example from Michael Cohen, that could show that they knew what they were doing was illegal and so they needed to cover it up in some ways.
MELBER: Is Donald Trump, on your point, is Donald Trump relying about it and famously saying in Air Force 1, ask Michael Cohen and saying he didn`t know about it. Does that go to that kind of evidence you`re talking about?
MCQUADE: Yes, absolutely. Anytime somebody is lying and covering something up or acting in an unusual way, you wonder why would they do that. And one of the reasons could be consciousness of guilt. I know what I did was wrong and that would cause me to lie about it. So yes, that would be additional evidence to prove that willful intent.
MELBER: John, I want to take this out further because I do think what Michael Cohen testified to is significant for the details and evidence provided. Not for the opinions provided, of which there were some, but the evidence. And as you know, prosecutors aren`t normal people, no offense to either of you. Prosecutors look at leads the way the rest of us look at ice cream or a nice big cinnamon roll. They get excited. And I say that as introduction to a former prosecutor, Chris Christie, who we know is sympathetic to Trump.
But being the ice cream loving prosecutor that he is and I mean that with regard to investigative leads, he got so excited about the fact that Michael Cohen on court a bunch of leads, he just sort of started walking through the leads. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what he really did yesterday was create a whole bunch of additional witnesses that the House is now empowered to try to bring before them, folks like Allen Weisselberg of the Trump Organization who he must have mentioned a dozen times, the President`s children who he said was involved in the hush money payments and others, right? So what he did yesterday was set all that up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: John, how do you view that? Do you agree because a lot of other Trump defenders were saying, I want to talk about Michael Cohen`s credibility. Chris Christie, a former US attorney ended up saying, "Gosh, look at those names, those are the people you`re going to want to talk to."
FLANNERY: He saw nothing but rum raisin ice cream apparently. The defense of the Republicans just to call him a liar only goes so far in any kind of competition like this, and he was lying for a liar, and what were the lies about? The lies were about concealing what Trump had done that was wrong and illegal.
And the list of names, those are not new. But what he did was he created a situation and which now publicly, we have our witness list and we`re probably worked through it. Some people say prosecutors are going to be upset about that.
Well, in a normal case they would but our system is not working. Our checks and balances aren`t working. People who should be standing up to the White House are not doing it. We are in a very special crisis in America. And the people`s House is going to do something about it. And the election that we won is going to enable us to have a good and fair and Republican government like we haven`t had for the two years before the midterm elections.
So whatever they do to compromise Mueller or whatever they tried to do to shut down the Southern District of New York, they are going to have to deal with the information, and that makes the difference.
Jefferson said a nation that expects to be ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be. The people are going to get the information and they are going to react to it, I believe.
MELBER: Fascinating. John, thank you. Barbara, I`m going to see you later in the show. We have to fit something in right now.
Breaking news on this Friday night, House Democrats are now moving forward on what is widely expected to be an epic showdown to get legally Donald Trump`s tax returns. We have NBC reporting from Washington right now.
The House Committee with the authority to get these taxes is moving forward on the steps for something we`ve discussed previously, a formal request to the IRS, lawyers working explicitly on language. The chair of that committee, Richard Neal, working with other top democrats who are involved in order to strengthen the legal case, this is an advance sort of a story we`ve been tracking.
And Jason Johnson in Washington for us from the Root.com, what is the news tonight?
JASON JOHNSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the news is that you`ve got Ways and Means that are going to formally ask for the President`s tax returns. But, Ari, this has to do also with what we saw earlier this week with the Oversight Committee.
Now the Oversight Committee could ask for the President`s tax returns but they would have to basically subpoena them, and then you would have a big court battle. Ways and Means can actually say, "Look, we want the President`s tax returns."
But the catch is this. They can`t just say, you know, how many Ms you got in your bank account? They can`t just demand it. They have to say, we need your tax returns in order to pass a certain kind of law. So that`s why the language is important.
MELBER: Can they ask how many commas, Jason?
JOHNSON: They could ask how many commas. They could ask how many commas he got.
MELBER: I have a US senator standing by, but on this breaking news, I now turn to ask you the analysis. There has been so much talk about Trump`s tax returns for so long. What do you see as the import of this coming against the back drop of the Cohen hearings?
JOHNSON: Well, there`s two things. Number one, you notice that Ocasio- Cortez, in the hearings, she mentioned, you know, Trump`s golf course and inflating the taxes. That is in the Southern District of New York, so it already becomes a legal issue of their interest in the tax returns for that case, but also this is a kind of thing that could be use for the Russia investigation, this could be use in the past future laws about what happens when people trying to deflate their assets. There are multiple ways this leads to that (inaudible) investigation but possibly new laws but possibly new laws.
MELBER: It`s very interesting given the sequential way we`ve seen as you mentioned, multiple Democrats working on this. Thank you, Jason.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
MELBER: We keep moving forward as I mentioned because Senator Richard Blumenthal is here with me in New York. This is one part of the story, Michael Cohen`s testimony sparking all kinds of investigative leads on the Congressional side, the Oversight Committee now wants to hear from Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump.
The Intel Committee pushing to question the money man himself, Donald Trump`s longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, then you have Felix Sater who was of course a key player in Trump Tower Moscow, and also his work with the FBI, set to testify later this month. And then, of course, the multiple committees as reported tonight interested in Donald Trump`s tax returns. Add to that Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters with new questions that dig into use of potential abusive funds by the Trump Foundation.
I want to bring in Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former Prosecutor himself, who serves on the Judiciary Committee. Thanks for being on THE BEAT tonight.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you very much.
MELBER: A lot to talk about but let`s begin with the tax returns. What can you tell us about that process of something Democrats have long wanted to do, but it seems now are these in your view concrete steps?
BLUMENTHAL: There are very concrete steps and they are made necessary by the Ways and Means Committee wanting to legislate in this area, and protect the public against the kind of tax fraud that was revealed very dramatically in the Cohen hearings, inflating the value of the properties to insurance companies or banks, that`s against the law.
MELBER: Fraud. You view -- I mean, this is information, you view what Cohen outlined there as, and he said it under oath, if true and there were some documentation, that alone has already meets the bar as fraud by Donald Trump?
BLUMENTHAL: That`s fraud against those insurance companies, it`s bank fraud. It could be fraud against the government, also deflating the values for tax purposes, that`s tax fraud. So these financial crimes are very consequential. That`s a very good reason to want those tax returns and to have good legal reasons for them.
But also, I think what striking about the contest money is the kind of Pandora`s Box it opened, not only in terms of witnesses but also potential crimes which are within the Southern District of New York. As you said, before, a lot of prosecutorial ears opened wide and eyes, frankly, at some of what Cohen said about those checks. You mentioned them earlier and you showed them.
They were written and discussed in the Oval Office. In the Oval Office after Trump became president. So I think the timing is very important as Barbara and John mentioned, two great lawyers, that the potential for conspiracy there involves literally the seat of government, and I think all of the Cohen testimony is very consequential in that way.
MELBER: Yes. It seemed like a significant thing even in a time when people are somewhat inured to how many breaking stories there are. I want to widen out and talk about something that`s so obvious, it may not need much discussion. But you`re here. And think for these issues on the judiciary committee.
Take a listen to one of the most absurd lines of attack on Michael Cohen, which was Republicans hammering him for being an alleged liar in the service and defense of a President who has been documented to lie more than any politician in American history. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JODY HICE (R), GEORGIA: Our first big hearing with, as we all know, a convicted liar, lying to Congress.
REP. PAUL GOSAR (R), ARIZONA: You`re a pathological liar. And look at the old adage that our moms taught us. Liar, liar, pants on fire.
REP. MARK GREEN (R), TENNESSEE: He`s going to prison for lying to Congress and he`s the star witness to Congress.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You know, it`s just one more example, Mr. Cohen, of you skirting the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Isn`t that absurd for that to be the line in defense of Donald Trump?
BLUMENTHAL: Well, the defense of Donald Trump is going to fall and crumble pretty quickly if that`s the defense. But remember about Michael Cohen, he has everything to lose and nothing to gain by lying now. And he lied, he tells will be quickly a reason to deepen and aggravate the amount of time, already three years he`s going to spend behind bars. And Robert Mueller knows everything already that he is telling to Congress.
And remember also, and as a former prosecutor, perhaps not normal, as you said, as a person anonymous --
MELBER: That things that get you interested, yes.
BLUMENTHAL: -- doubling that normal. But remember, the arguments we make to juries using witnesses who have committed crimes, they`re not choir voice, you can`t have choir voice to prove these kinds serious crimes. And we tell juries, don`t leave your common sense at the door. The court here is the court of public opinion, not a jury in a courtroom, but the same kind of a protest to apply and people have to use their common sense.
MELBER: I think that you make such information points, because that`s why this was different. There is something in common, as you know. The jury and the court of public opinion are both made up of regular citizens, who have a -- what we would call a BS detector, for some of what the focus in the building that you serve and do, for some of the grandiosity of partisan speeches.
But this weeks wasn`t about partisan speeches, it was about this guy who was writing with Donald Trump for 10 years. And so, the American people can listen to him, and figure out what seems credible or not when he has so much to lose if he lies now. And look at the character of the presented.
I want to get your response, of course. And then Jason Johnson, I want to ask as well about the Kushner security plans.
BLUMENTHAL: And there`s corroboration here, their documents, their other witnesses. We`re going to hear from those other witnesses. And what is so striking about what Donald Trump did was he was willing to solicit and accept help from a foreign hostile adversary to work in government, to help him get elected.
And that kind of threat to our national security, we`re seeing it again and the security clearance giving him properly to Jared Kushner because of (inaudible) overruled his own intelligence and security advisors and professionals, I think speaks fundamentally to why you saw nobody defending Donald Trump as a person, all of it was attacking Cohen.
MELBER: Right, which I think is telling. Senator Blumenthal, as you say, former prosecutor and US Senator --
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
MELBER: -- thank you for being here with me on set on THE BEAT. Before we go, Jason Johnson has been following these stories for us.
And the last one is, Jason, the New York Times is basically documenting the alligations that Donald Trump and his family members lied about nepotistic overruling of the Intelligence community to rush out a clearance for Jared Kushner. What do you believe matters about that story as everything else is going on?
JOHNSON: That basically we run the risk of our national security being for sale across the world. Look, at a very basic level, Ari, whether in the FBI or CIA and anything else like that, you can`t get security clearance if you have a certain debt income ratio. And s under most circumstances, Jared Kushner would never be allowed to get access to this kind of information because he owe so much money and he`s got so much that he might want to leverage.
So the fact that the President stepped in and say, "Hey, you can still get into club, sneak in the back, and went over our national security so much so that even Kelly felt like he needed to write a memo to say "I wasn`t in favor of this" indicates how dangerous our national security has been compromised by Jared Kushner.
MELBER: Yes. Jason Johnson, thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Coming up, we have a lot to go through, new questions about the Trump/Cohen and the Moscow project. Special Fallback Friday with a reporter, a professor and sure throwing a rapper, adds a Russia probe edition of the Fallback Friday. I`m Ari Melber, you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: President Trump`s Jared Kushner problem snowballing right now. Top Democrats drilling into these reports that Trump overruled his own Intelligence officials and his White House counsel, who is supposed to look out for him, to order his son-in-law get top secret security clearance despite those objections.
House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings now, tonight, demanding information about what then Chief-of-Staff John Kelly did, including an internal memo that was supposed to document this order from the President.
Kelly writing about this and basically saying they were troubled by the order. There are rumors, which Trump of course denied, that he had personally overruled those specialists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials?
TRUMP: No, I don`t think I have authority to do that. I`m not sure I do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You do.
TRUMP: But I wouldn`t. I wouldn`t do it. Jared is a good -- I was never involved with the security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the FBI, Frank Figliuzzi. Is this a nepotism scandal or a national security one?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It`s both. Because now, once again, have the President putting personal interest over national security interests. This is a President who appears to hold in complete disdain contempt the intelligence agencies, doesn`t like to listen to what they have to say. But yet will use clearances as a weapon and a tool, take clearance away from people like John Brennan who he doesn`t like, but force people, order people to give a clearance to his own son-in-law after intelligence agencies have said he poses a risk.
This needs to be deeply explored by Congress. We need to not only see the memos that Kelly wrote, Chief of Staff Kelly, White House Counsel McGahn who felt compelled to go in writing. That`s a clue that something in those background reports was very disturbing to them --
MELBER: It`s included Don McGahn
FIGLIUZZI: -- but he wants more than that.
MELBER: -- yes, Don McGahn always seems to be writing up everything to prove that he was on the right side of wrong things that still happened, if these accounts are true and they`re highly documented, four sources in the The Times
You mentioned Brennan, he was the White House doing exactly what you were highly criticizing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`ve decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation`s classified information, including by controlling access to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Go ahead.
FIGLIUZZI: So, look, this system is broken. Let`s just step back a moment. What Congress truly needs to look at is the entire background investigation and clearance approval process. This notion that the FBI works for a client other than the American people, right, that the agency requesting the clearance or the White House requesting the clearance somehow is the final arbiter of the decision is a silly concept.
If you want to do that, you can hire a private eye to do whatever you want and say whatever you want. Congress needs to look at the process, they also need to subpoena the entire background investigation, not just the memos of McGahn and Kelly objecting, let`s see what`s in there.
MELBER: And finally on the substance, what does it mean, for those of us who aren`t steeped in this, when the intelligence officials didn`t want to give this clearance to Kushner? I mean, you would think if it were a close call but they could go along to get along, they might do so. What does it mean when they were this concerned about someone who was clearly this close to the President?
FIGLIUZZI: Yes. So, Ari, you`ve got a great point. If it`s on the fence, if, you know, if the guys, the neighbor said he doesn`t mow the lawn the right way, this would skate. If they came say this guy shouldn`t get a clearance, we got a big problem. So there are foreign entanglements, there`s compromised, vulnerability. Maybe they`ve got classified intercepts of him, having inappropriate conversations with Intelligence services or government representatives. We simply don`t know.
FIGLIUZZI: All we know is the reporting that the president overruled their recommendation.
MELBER: It`s significant. It relates to what the career non-partisan people think about security and it gets you way out of this binary thing about Mueller where it wasn`t a felony or not?
No one saying Jared Kushner could have felony here, right? Not everything is about crime. What they`re saying is, our security folks, like the work you used to do said this is bad for national security. Then the President came in, overruled them on nepotistic grounds and then kept lying about it. Some stories are simple. This is one of them.
Frank, thank you, as always, for your expertise. Appreciate it.
FIGLIUZZI: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, there is new reporting on Trump Tower Moscow, Michael Cohen and, yes, other lies. But first, right, a former Trump exec who work with Allen Weisselberg, who might be in the hot seat on what he knows. We`ll be back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: It`s Friday night and the top story could be as big as any of those that we`ve discussed. Michael Cohen turning up the heat and naming names about executives at the Trump Organization. Congress wants to follow up. Cohen name check Trump`s money man Allen Weisselberg over 20 times in the testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Michael Cohen, TRUMP`S FORMER LAWYER: Allen Weisselberg, the Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization. He directed us to go back to Mr. Weisselberg`s office. The bottom signature, I believe, is Allen Weisselberg`s. Allen Weisselberg made the decision . That was Allen Weisselberg on the check. Mr. Weisselberg for sure. Allen Weisselberg. Allen Weisselberg. Allen Weisselberg. Allen Weisselberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: There you have it. Allen Weisselberg is the Chief Financial Officer at Trump Org, he was even featured as, one time, a judge on "The Apprentice". And Donald Trump has written that he did whatever was necessary to protect the bottom line. Trump`s former Campaign Manager also in the nose as Weisselberg tracks every dime that leaves the building.
And the House Intelligence Community plans to call Weisselberg to testify. We already know where this is headed. The head of the Oversight Committee says, "They`ll also pursue additional Trump Org officials including his long-time assistant, Rhona Graff, and his children who are involved in the business, Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump, and one time body that now COO Matthew Calamari who has gone viral after Cohen`s testimony with the resurfacing of a, and we have nothing against awkwardness, but a yes awkward 2004 appearance on the "The Apprentice."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Another man who has done a great job for me is Matthew Calamari, my Chief Operating Officer.
MATTHEW CALAMARI, COO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Donald, you know I don`t care for Jen very much, OK. I`d be honest with you, because -- wow, because -- well, I`m not doing too good.
TRUMP: People think this stuff is easy, right? It`s not so easy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s not so easy. Barbara Res is a former Trump Organization executive. She wrote the book All Alone on the 68th Floor and she hired Mr. Calamari. MSNBC News Analyst Howard Fineman has been tracking these stories for some time. Good evening to both of you.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC NEWS ANALYST: Hi there!
MELBER: Barbara, I think you know the saying, it`s getting hot in here.
BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP EXECUTIVE: Yes it is.
MELBER: It`s getting hot for people who`ve worked for Trump Org. Maybe not you.
RES: No, no. I`m cool.
MELBER: You`re good. You`re cool. Mr. Calamari, you hired him.
RES: Matt, the big squid we used to call him.
MELBER: Was that an affectionate term?
RES: It was then.
MELBER: It was then. Can anything be gleaned from that appearance? I don`t like to give people hard time. He wasn`t used to talking on T.V.
RES: No, the only thing he can -- he just said he`s the COO and that`s consistent with some of the appointments that Trump has been making.
RES: Putting people in charge of things that maybe they`re not necessarily qualified.
MELBER: You`re saying he was in over his depth?
MELBER: Was he a squid in rougher waters than he could navigate?
RES: I don`t know that they were rougher waters. They may have been more intellectual waters that he could navigate. I mean, you know, he was the bodyguard, Donald`s bodyguard.
MELBER: So he was like a squid in a water tank at a library and he was not accustomed to that environment?
RES: That could be, yes.
RES: I`m questioning what he actually did. I mean, he had a title but I don`t know what he actually did.
MELBER: Isn`t that -- wait. You say Mr. Calamari had a title but you didn`t know what he did and you worked at Trump Org. Isn`t that a bad sign?
RES: Well, he work -- when he work for me, I knew what he.
MELBER: I understand. But when he worked there?
RES: Well, as COO, I don`t know what he could possibly be doing as COO.
MELBER: How many people like that were there hanging around Donald Trump with titles, fixing problems but they didn`t really have real jobs.
RES: More and more as time went on. Initially, when I started, and there were eight or ten people in the organization, they all knew what they were doing and they all -- they all warm in their jobs.
MELBER: Weisselberg. Does he know how Trump used his money?
RES: Yes. Weisselberg I think really did a lot of Trump`s personal accounting and he was the accountant for the company. I mean, when I met him, he had just come there. It was like 87. He worked in Brooklyn. And when I worked there earlier than that, you know, Brooklyn did all our accounting for us, paying bills, writing checks, and that`s what he did. He paid bills, he wrote invoices, he collected money.
MELBER: Will he spill the beans or do a lot of "I don`t remember."
RES: You know, I am -- I thought to do I don`t remember. I`ve been deposed many times. And if there was, you got a smart line on the other side. That`s not going to bring two true. I don`t think Allen would perjure himself. I mean, I`ve been surprised the things that I`ve seen, the people I knew have done, but I would be surprised if he would perjure himself.
MELBER: Do you think that there are other hush money payments that he may know about?
MELBER: How many?
RES: Distinctively a lot.
MELBER: More than five.
MELBER: More than ten?
RES: I can`t say.
MELBER: But that strikes you as --
RES: An instinct. Trump would do that kind of thing an Allen would be the guy that would draw out the check. Probably Trump would sign it himself.
MELBER: Yes. Let me read to you from -- you mentioned depositions. You`ve been your way around them. Here was a 2011 one we had in a Trump case with Weisselberg and questioned -- he was described as Mr. Trump`s eyes and ears for his investments and he answered am I his eyes and ears from an economic standpoint, yes. So what did you think is the stuff that is most damaging that he would know?
RES: Not stuff having to do with stocks. I think more dealing with -- like -- as Mr. Cohen intimated insurance claims and things like that and payoffs, hush money as they call it, payoffs.
MELBER: Interesting. So look, you know both those individuals we just discussed. Howard, I want to bring you in and play some of the other name- checking Michael Cohen did. Because at the end of the day, whether he made mistakes or not, he knows these people, he`s a lawyer, he knows exactly what he`s doing. Take a look at the list of witnesses he made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: Don Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump. It would either be Eric trump, Rhona Graff -- is the -- Mr. Trump`s executive assistant, David Pecker, Dylan Howard, Barry Levine of AMI as well, Allen Weisselberg, Alan Garten of the Trump Organization as well.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: Who else knows that the President did this?
COHEN: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Leibman and Matthew Calamari.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Would Don Jr. or Mr. Weisselberg have more information about that?
COHEN: Mr. Weisselberg for sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Howard, how does the House deal with that?
FINEMAN: Well, Ari, in the campaign I spent some time on the 26th floor of Trump Tower in Donald Trump`s office talking to and other people, and it reminded me nothing so much as a somewhat more upscale back room at the Bada Bing.
It was -- it was Donald Trump sitting behind the desk and various people milling around. Nobody is sitting down because Donald Trump had too many trophies and paintings and other things on all the chairs and seats. There`s nowhere to sit down. But everybody milling around the office and only one person who mattered and who was making everybody else argue with each other and so on, that was Donald Trump.
The larger point is here and the big picture point is that the American people and the investigators are going to have to decide whether Donald Trump, his family, and his inner circle, all of whom were described there by Michael Cohen together constitute an ongoing criminal conspiracy that might have made itself either vulnerable or willing to conspire with the Russians.
But even if it didn`t do that, is this ongoing tax evading, hush-money paying, corner-cutting, ongoing criminal conspiracy that`s interested in one thing which is money for the family. I don`t know what Jared Kushner may have done or said that got the CIA`s interest. It could be foreign policy or it could be money that might have left him open to blackmail.
That`s the big question here and that`s what connects right all the different investigations in New York and Washington is this basically a giant RICO case. That`s what we`re dealing with.
MELBER: Lightning round. Of all the names named as a reporter and as a former Trump Org Exec, which do you think holds the most peril now after Cohen? Howard?
FINEMAN: Well, obviously Allen Weisselberg. I mean, I go back to the water date days. When I came in the movie, it was follow the money.
MELBER: Money, yes, Barbara?
FINEMAN: It still -- it still follow the money because that`s the ultimate motivation of this -- of this group of people.
RES: Weisselberg. And I loved the description of Donald`s office. It was 100 percent spot on.
MELBER: Spot on.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MELBER: Well, there you have an eye witness and a former Trump Org Exec. It`s fascinating to see this play out now on a national basis but also in many ways disturbing for the reasons you both stated. Barbara and Howard, thanks to both of you.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
RES: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, there are some other bizarre moments from the Cohen hearing. We have NBC`s Ken Dilanian to get into it. And inside Trump`s Moscow project -- and remember that BuzzFeed scoop? We`re going to get into all of that and why investigators now want to hear from Don Jr.
MELBER: Michael Cohen`s bombshell testimony revealed a lot more about Trump Tower Moscow. Donald Trump famously repeatedly denied and lied about it throughout his time on the campaign trail. Cohen now saying under oath that everything the President was claiming is false.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it and so I lied about it too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, this is important for several reasons including that it sheds new light on that famously disputed BuzzFeed report, remember, which said Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress and Mueller`s office famously shot it down, when the only time they`ve commented. But think about what we`re learning this week.
Cohen now testifying under oath that while Trump didn`t tell him directly to lie, Trump did make clear to him that he wanted him to lie and there are people saying that means maybe the BuzzFeed report wasn`t 100 percent wrong after all.
In fact, the Washington Post says Wednesday was a "vindicating day for BuzzFeed saying the store was it the story was in essence correct." Now, the BuzzFeed reports also garnered plenty of criticism and many saying it was echoed too fast including right here on television news.
Now, Mueller team -- Mueller`s team as I mentioned, they said look, in its essence the part about there being corroboration that Trump told Cohen to lie, they said on the record that wasn`t the case. Now, Cohen`s testimony does look to shed light on that report.
And I can tell you what BuzzFeed saying about this. This is brand new "Michael Cohen`s public testimony reaffirms what he claimed in private to investigators as we report it. President Trump met with Cohen before his false testimony. That testimony was edited by administration lawyers and Cohen understood the president was directing him to lie to Congress.
I`m joined by Federal Prosecutor Barbara McQuade. Everyone remembers I think who follows this story Mueller shooting that down. What do you make of this?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think this gives us a way to sort of reconcile all the different versions of this is kind of telling the same story. You know Robert Mueller and prosecutors, in general, are scrupulously careful not to overplay their hand. And so they`re correct, they`re all correct that there was no direct statement by President Trump directing Michael Cohen to lie. And I think it was that idea that Robert Mueller wanted to get out of the headlines --
MELBER: That`s interesting.
MCQUADE: -- because that was overstating the facts.
MELBER: You`re saying the overstating part was that they didn`t like the idea that there would be an expectation out there that it was a harder -- a harder direction than it was?
MCQUADE: I think that`s right. If you look at what they said, all they said is that the statement was not accurate. They did not say that President Trump did not in some way imply or indirectly indicate and instruct Cohen to make this statement and I think what he testified was that because of the edits by the lawyers and because of statements President Trump had said saying, there is no business in Russia, Michael. And then in the very next breath asking about the status of the negotiations with Russia.
In the same way, he says the crowd at my inauguration was the biggest ever, he sends a message to everybody get on board. That`s the message. And so it can be very difficult to prove when someone is so careful and maintains that plausible deniability by talking in code. It`s something that drug dealers do with each other and mobsters do with each other.
But if you can get enough people together in that sphere to say that was how he communicated and we all understood what it meant, then I think you can show his intent.
MELBER: What percent right do you think the BuzzFeed story was now?
MCQUADE: You know, I don`t want to attribute a certain percentage to it but I think the gist of it was accurate even if the precise words were not.
MELBER: Very well put. The gist which is interesting as we learn as we go. Barbara McQuade, thank you as always.
MCQUADE: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Up ahead from the Cohen hearings to new speculation about Mueller. There is so much going down this week and tonight we`re hold nothing back. I have a fallback Friday, a Russia probe edition with Kendall Dilanian, Dorian Warren and more next.
MELBER: Michael Cowen`s testimony upended everything this week. A whopping 16 million Americans watched him live on T.V. during the work day, millions more in coverage that night, and he`s upended our show too because this is our first ever Russia probe edition of "FALLBACK FRIDAY."
And for this fallback I`m joined by NBC Intelligence Reporter Ken Dilanian, Professor Dorian Warren, the President of Community Change, and making his first appearance on THE BEAT the rapper Ezzy, a Cleveland musician who started recording music at the age of 12 with a freestyle on the popular sway in the morning show that`s now been viewed over seven million times. Here`s a quick highlight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EZZY, RAPPER: My man Sway say he`s going to put me to the test. One beat later you could put me with the best. To be honest, I`m skipping classed to be on this but teachers think I`m gorgeous so I`m passing all my courses. My mamma proud of me I`m running toward college degree rather than running for police who like the sound of the heat, blow. You know what, I`m trying to blow up so when I walk the stage I pray that is for a Grammy before diploma and Ezzy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No wonder it went viral. Not bad.
EZZY: I just lost weight today, that`s crazy.
MELBER: Ken Dilanian, I got to ask you, have you ever heard bars like that?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS Intelligence Reporter: No, I don`t think so. That was pretty good.
MELBER: Ezzy, when you`ve impressed NBC Intelligence Reporter Ken Dilanian, he is the last word on freestyles. Ken, this is investigative "FALLBACK FRIDAY" because it`s been that kind of week. When you look at this week, what`s on your mind?
DILANIAN: Look, I`m glad you asked, Ari, because conspiracy the theorists on both sides of the Trump Russia story need to fall back. This is a really complicated story, right? There`s a lot of ins and outs to this -- to the facts, and we can disagree. Reasonable people can disagree on the implications of the evidence we`ve seen so far.
But the people who need to fall back are those on the right who insists that the whole Mueller Russia investigation is a deep state plot to end a coup against the President, and the people on the left who insist that Donald Trump is the Manchurian Candidate that he`s a puppet of Putin, because there`s no evidence to support either side of that.
MELBER: I think you put it well and it`s important. And some people might not even like what you`re saying, what talking about letting the facts and the evidence lead us, not what we might hope they say --
DILANIAN: That`s right.
MELBER: -- which I think is solid. Dorian, what about you?
DORIAN WARREN, PRESIDENT, COMMUNITY CHANGE: Well, Ari, the Michael Cohen testimony was riveting, and one of the things I learned was that Donald Trump doesn`t use text or e-mail apparently. So I want the President to fall back because here`s the thing.
MELBER: Because you think that`s like suspicious right there?
WARREN: It`s suspicious. If you -- if you use Twitter --
MELBER: Right. He`s into some new technology but not evidence. I think we have it. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
You claim and I quote, Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a home equity line of credit to avoid any money being tracked back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. Do you have any proof of this direction?
COHEN: Just the payment, sir.
So no e-mail Mr. Trump?
COHEN: Mr. Trump doesn`t have e-mail.
No text message.
COHEN: Mr. Trump doesn`t text message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: I mean, OK, I don`t want to read e-mails from Donald Trump because if you can imagine a stream of consciousness, but come on, like he calls an iPad the flat one. And come on, people use PayPal and Venmo. Why did he just Venmo the payments? Who`s writing checks every month?
MELBER: You`re saying it`s like a really old school campaign conspiracy.
WARREN: It`s so old school.
MELBER: But with Twitter like lying about it.
WARREN: But -- it`s confusing. I left -- I left that day of testimony confused so I just want the President to fall back and maybe send an e-mail or two.
MELBER: I`m wondering what you thought of a moment that was going around on the internet a lot which is on the one hand, what was important about the day was what we learned about Donald Trump. That was the point of it. That`s why so many people tuned in. Regular beef you see every day in the Congress.
But take a look at a moment that has gotten a lot of attention after Mark Meadows brought out a woman that many people saw was just a total prop and then there was this exchange. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: The fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman in this chamber, in this committee is alone racist in itself.
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Mr. Chairman, there`s nothing more personal to me than my relationship. My nieces and nephews are people of color.
CUMMINGS: Of all the people on this committee, I`ve said it and got in trouble for it that you`re one of my best friends. I know that shocks a lot of people.
MEADOWS: And likewise, Mr. Chairman.
TLAIB: But again I said someone and again those not referring to you at all as a racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: If people don`t follow politics like some of us do day in a day, how do you think that plays out? What do you see there?
EZZY: Homey, what`s his name again?
MELBER: Congressman Meadows.
EZZY: Congressman Meadows.
MELBER: But you can call him homey.
EZZY: Homey -- Congressman Meadows, maybe he should just fall back from some of the inconsiderate actions I guess I would say, you know. Me being an artist you know, it`s hard for me to limit myself at times --
MELBER: You`re talking about emotion like --
EZZY: Yes, yes. And as far as like -- you know, stuff that I will put an input on or not. It just sounded like to me like the common like -- I`m not racist, I have a black friend.
MELBER: Right. Now, is that true?
EZZY: I guess it`s kind of a cliche thing but --
WARREN: I have an idea. You know, this is the black friend offense. So how about this. Hey, Ari, you`re my friend so -- and I think you`re white. So let`s have the white friend offense. So basically, black people and people of color can never be racist ever because we have a white friend. Thank you, friend.
MELBER: Ken, I would shake your hand but you`re in Washington D.C.
DILANIAN: Next time I see you, Ari, I`ll shake your hand.
MELBER: How was this "FALLBACK" for you, Ken?
DILANIAN: It was life-changing. Thanks for having me.
MELBER: We thank everyone, Ezzy, Dorian, and Ken for a special "FALLBACK FRIDAY."
MELBER: So many friends. And next week, I have a special "FALLBACK" for you. Fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi and our friend Craig Melvin of the "TODAY SHOW" are here. I want to mention as we get excited for that, that Isaac does have this new memoir I.M. available. And tonight, you might want to know he`s kicking off his new tour, I and Me. You can find out more information at helloisaac.com and we`ll be back with one more thing.
MELBER: What a week. Before we go, we have a new interview I want to tell you about. I sat down with the host of Breakfast Club. They`ve been on this show but we went deeper in a long form talking about Barack Obama, his relation to hip hop and also their rebuttal to Fox News attacks on their interview with Kamala Harris. You can hear all of it on our new podcast which is going to go up this week on Apple or wherever you get your podcast. The whole interview is also on You Tube. You can just type in THE BEAT with Ari and the breakfast club and check out what we talked about.
We are out of time. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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