KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Again, the results from November were thrown out after a month`s long investigation into election fraud. So that is all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Hi, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much.
We begin tonight with breaking news. Democrats opening up the widest investigation into Donald Trump since the launch of the Mueller probe.
The House Judiciary Committee, which is one of the most powerful investigative bodies of the U.S. Congress has dropped the hammer officially. And let me walk you through exactly what`s happening. They are pushing now for evidence and documents from 81 different people, organizations, and companies tied to or with knowledge of the activities of Donald Trump.
This touches on virtually every aspect of his life in presidency and his contacts with Russians. The requests go to Trump`s family, although not to his daughter Ivanka but to his sons and son-in-law Jared Kushner, to his business and foundation, to members of his outside legal team which is interesting given the swirling discussions of potential obstruction. It goes to the Trump campaign, including every former aide already indicted by Bob Mueller.
The House Democrats are also looking directly into the lives of White House staffers, what did they do at work, and what did the lawyers do in the White House counsel`s office, which has leaked so much about potential requests for criminal activities by the president, whether he got people to do it or not.
Then new requests here to government agencies like the DOJ and the FBI, which Donald Trump has impugned and attacked, and then tabloid allies tied to the hush money payments to women that Michael Cohen was testifying to just last week.
Then multiple people linked to WikiLeaks and a request to WikiLeaks, itself, and nearly all of the people who went to the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. Each of these people have been told by this investigative body with subpoena power, they have to provide the information because of what is now this new sweeping investigation into alleged obstruction of justice by the president of the United States, as well as allegations of public corruption and an inquiry into "other abuses of power".
Now, some of these leads, of course, as I mentioned, they come from Michael Cohen. He is on the list, himself. Thirty-one of the 81 people in the organization contacted we checked, came up in just his blockbuster hearing. And while lots of committees are now investigating Donald Trump, the Judiciary is the one in charge of any potential beginning of the impeachment process.
That is what gives this extra heft. This is also something that shows what Bob Mueller`s work could mean in the context of what our Constitution always provides, which is that Congress is the first place to adjudicate abuses of power or potential high crimes by a sitting president.
Now, Chairman Jerry Nadler who`s discussed these issues and studied them for a long time, he says, "Look, this is not "I" word time yet." But he argues that Donald Trump effectively has already provided the evidence to show he`s committed a crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Do you think the president obstructed justice?
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Yes, I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that`s --
NADLER: It is very clear that the president obstructed justice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If that`s the case, then is the decision not to pursue impeachment right now simply political? If you believe he obstructed justice?
NADLER: No. We have to do the investigations and get all this. Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I am joined by "The Wall Street Journal" Shelby Holliday, veteran prosecutor Paul Henderson, and Eleanor Clift, a Washington correspondent for "The Daily Beast."
This is Congress. So we`re going to get out to how Congress makes this kind of investigation. Starting on the narrower plank of the actual legal implications, Paul, what does it mean when the chairman of the Judiciary releases a finding, a conclusion that the president has already committed the crime of obstruction?
PAUL HENDERSON, VETERAN PROSECUTOR: Well, it can mean a lot. And let`s be clear, they are looking for actionable bad behavior and actionable bad behavior is what you alluded to before is the high crimes and misdemeanors.
And I know that that drifts us into impeachment because we`re not at impeachment yet. But we`re definitely on the road. The car is on the road. And this is the gas for that car, this investigation.
So we are looking for bad behavior and action items from this president and we already know a lot of what they are. But I think what stands out to me is how broad and how aggressive this investigation is that supersedes and expands beyond even what we`re going to get from the Mueller investigation, whenever that comes out. But that`s definitely what the goal is to cover more crimes.
MELBER: Well, Paul.
MELBER: If this is a car, a lot of people thought Bob Mueller was driving it. The last time people remember an impeachment proceeding, then- Prosecutor Ken Starr was driving it. And he provided a bunch of material that pushed Congress in that direction. And everyone knew the political nature of it was that`s what the Republicans wanted.
Are you suggesting that Jerry Nadler is now really in that car and not Bob Mueller who is operating under narrower rules than Ken Starr was?
HENDERSON: I am saying there is more than one car and there are several investigations going on independent of this investigation, independent of Mueller as well. But this car now is very aggressive and very broad and is going to include a lot of investigative tools that heretofore had been limited in scope.
And I think this car is going to pull in all of the other investigations in a more focused and a more-narrow pathway that gets us to raising the question of impeachment, not just for Congress but for the broader public as well.
And they`re going to tie in all of these other smaller investigations and weave them into a concrete and specific narrative focused on addressing the issue of impeachment. Both for the broader public and for the rest of our elected officials to make a decision about what they need to do in terms of the next step because it includes everything.
MELBER: And just so I understand it. The Nadler car like a big loud Lamborghini and the Mueller car was a much quieter, a kind of a Maybach, something that you can barely hear as it goes down the road?
HENDERSON: I like that analogy. And I like to think of this car as the bigger car. And we see how big it is, because of the scope and the aggressive nature of how that car is moving.
And the other car, which can also get to that same goal are just a little smaller, maybe a little bit quieter because they don`t encompass all of the things that we are seeing here with a real focus on Trump`s past, his present, and even his future in the scope. I mean they`re even talking about his foundation, his charities, his financial arrangements, his campaign, his election.
MELBER: Right. It`s sweeping. It`s huge. It`s huge.
HENDERSON: It`s all in the pot. It`s all there. It`s all there.
MELBER: Eleanor, are you interested in getting involved in the automobile analogies?
ELEANOR CLIFT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I`m thinking of a Prius and a Hummer. And I`m not sure which vehicle I assign to either side.
I think the Democrats have known that they were going to be in an investigatory business for a long time, since really before election day. And they have carefully planned out a lot.
And with Nancy Pelosi at the helm, she understands the risks of heading down for impeachment when you don`t have public opinion. And it is not Robert Mueller`s job in his big Hummer to bring along the American people. He`s just -- he`s driving towards a legal conclusion.
The Democrats with their sustainable Prius, they`re going to educate the American people. And if you don`t bring the American people along, impeachment is a fool`s errand. And the 81 people they are subpoenaing, the investigations they`re going to conduct, it`s going to educate the American people.
And during Watergate, there were 58 Democrats in the Senate. Now, Richard Nixon resigned before he was convicted and he wasn`t even impeached. He knew the game was over.
There were 48 Democrats now and if the Republicans want to hold their red wool, fine. But let`s see when the public begins to weigh in. I think you know we have been talking to ourselves the last year-and-a-half and I think the public out there really, they don`t really know what this is all about and why it should matter.
CLIFT: They elected -- or the people elected Trump because they wanted him to sort of shake things up. And he`s done that. So let the education begin and I think that`s where we`re at.
MELBER: Right. Well, Shelby, Michael Cohen wasn`t talking to himself. A lot of people saw that and they know he rides with Trump.
And just looking at one person, when we say 81, I mean folks coming home here Monday night are seeing this is a lot. But when you dig into the examples, we looked at the Jared Kushner example, specifically.
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes.
MELBER: You have documents here that the Democrats want on Michael Flynn on the firing of Comey, on Jeff Sessions` recusal on the attempt to fire Bob Mueller. Donald Trump may not be indicted in office. But if Jared Kushner was an active part of a plot to do that, that looks like obstruction.
The Trump Tower meeting, the potential abuse of the pardon power, SDNY, financing, we know Jared Kushner had some issues around the security clearance, WikiLeaks, Trump and Putin, UAW, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, that`s just on Kushner.
HOLLIDAY: Yes. I mean I think the family, and then what I would call the gatekeepers of the Trump Organization, could be the most dangerous for President Trump. Because they have known Trump in so many different capacities. So Jared Kushner is a great example, for all the reasons you just listed. His kids are a great example.
But also, Rhona Graff, his assistant. She was the gatekeeper of information, of people who wanted to call and talk to President Trump. She was in touch with the Russian family that helped set up the Trump Tower New York meeting, not Trump Tower Moscow. Hope Hicks was on the airplane when President Trump dictated the response to that Trump Tower meeting. I mean --
MELBER: Right. I mean to your point, Rhona and Hope --
MELBER: They are Trump`s version of the e-mails because he doesn`t e-mail. He doesn`t text.
HOLLIDAY: He doesn`t e-mail. He doesn`t text. That`s a very good point.
MELBER: But these are people who stand around him and are the closest thing to, and if they keep notes or if you can track, or if they say the president or the candidate wants to talk to someone, and they write it down, those notes are the closest to even get to Trump e-mail because there is no e-mail.
HOLLIDAY: That`s a great point. And they`re the ones who people will e- mail in order to get to Trump.
HOLLIDAY: Keith Schiller, his bodyguard, also a very important person. He`s traveled with President Trump, then-candidate Trump or I guess then executive Trump to Russia. He`s familiar with the hush money payments and the women that Trump was surrounded by.
There are a lot of those "gatekeepers" around President Trump that aren`t affiliated with his campaign or the administration that could be very damaging for him.
MELBER: You mentioned hush payments. Eleanor, a former Trump executive who worked with all these people discussed some of that on THE BEAT on Friday. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you think that there are other hush money payments that he may know about?
BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP EXECUTIVE: Yes.
MELBER: How many?
RES: Distinctively a lot.
MELBER: More than five?
MELBER: More than 10?
RES: I can`t say.
MELBER: But that strikes you as --
RES: An instinct. Trump would do that kind of thing and Allen would be the guy that would draw out the check. Probably Trump would sign it himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In the order of priorities, Eleanor, how important is it for Democrats to dig into something like that versus things that are actually post-November 2016 that relate to the way he`s running the government?
CLIFT: Yes. I think there is a debate about whether you go after a president for alleged crimes committed before he became president. And I think what he`s didn`t since he became president should be of a greater priority.
And also, you can put under a heading of does the public really care about hush money? OK. There are illegalities there but we know what Trump`s character is. We know he`s been with other women. We heard Michael Cohen, I think, say very convincingly, apologizing to the first lady, you know, for lying to her.
So I think that`s salacious but I think that`s not as important as the way he has tried on government rules, the way he has profited from the presidency since he`s taken possession of the oval office. And it almost feels that way.
He`s trying to run the country like he did the Trump Organization with all the same illegalities. I`m anxious to hear from the CEO of the Trump Organization and he has immunity to a certain extent. But I think all these figures are going to take on lives of their own as they parade before Congress.
And that, with again, Iran Contra, there was actually a handbook was issued so you could keep track of all the players and there was Fawn Hall, Oliver North. So I think these people are going to become real-life three- dimensional characters in the lives of the American people.
MELBER: Right. We`re going to learn about them and about the judgment that went into the powers that they were given.
I`m going to turn to Richard Painter. So I want to thank the entire panel, Shelby, Paul, and Sweleanor.
HENDERSON: Thanks for having us.
CLIFT: Thank you.
MELBER: Thanks. I appreciate it.
Basically, the other big news tonight is three other powerful House committee chairs demanding the White House give up more information on the innards, the secret details of what Donald Trump has been discussing with Putin. Including, of course, these translators. Sometimes the only other American person in the room.
So for the legalities of all this, I want to bring in someone who knows the law and knows how the White House works, Richard Painter, who`s chief White House ethics lawyer in the George Bush administration. Good evening, Richard.
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER, UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: Good evening.
MELBER: Let`s get right into this piece alone, not the wider 81 people but something that goes to the way America national security is being conducted. What does it mean that Donald Trump made the decision to have so few, and sometimes only one person in that room?
And is this the right purview of Congress? Or when you were in the White House, would you have argued against it as a lawyer and said this is presidential prerogative, you don`t get that kind of stuff?
PAINTER: I would have argued against the president having one-on-one conversations with Vladimir Putin without anyone in the room. That`s what I would have argued against. It`s absolutely absurd.
And just to have a translator there without anybody else, without any of the national security personnel, that`s a very, very unwise move on behalf of the president. And Congress certainly should investigate. Particularly, when we have all of the other contacts with Russia.
The fact that multiple members of this administration have lied about their meetings with the Russians. The fact that Donald Trump, himself, sought investment opportunities in Russia. The fact that the Russians were invited to hack Hillary Clinton`s e-mail by Donald Trump, did do so. The contacts between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks. The list goes on and on.
MELBER: So would you want to --
PAINTER: And you put all that together.
MELBER: How would you want to ask about that? I mean Richard, as you talk about it, it sounds more and more interesting. If you were advising that House panel, would you say, yes, get this translator into closed session?
Don`t let it become necessarily a public spectacle, but ask, did the president and Putin what, did they talk about a joint defense agreement? Did they talk about leaks? Clinton? That kind of stuff?
PAINTER: Everything. I`d get that translator into a closed-door session with the Committee and go through everything in those conversations between our president and Vladimir Putin. This is a very dangerous situation.
We don`t have conclusive proof that the president is a Russian mob but he`s certainly acting like it. And the Congress needs to investigate and find out exactly what was said to Vladimir Putin and look at the rest of this Russia connection.
Remember, Robert Mueller is only responsible for alleged criminal activities in connection with the Russia investigation. There`s a lot more going on here that can be very, very dangerous for our national security. And this president`s relationship with Vladimir Putin is very strange, indeed.
MELBER: Well, you just put your finger on it. A lot of this gets narrowed to just what`s a felony. And at the end of the day, if any president, not just this president, had an exposure, for example, they were coordinating messages against our own CIA with a foreign leader, that might not technically be a felony, but it certainly would be something the American people and I think the Congress would want to know about and maybe do something about.
Richard Painter, a busy night. I always appreciate you making time for us.
PAINTER: Absolutely. Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Yes, sir. Stay warm out there in Minneapolis.
Coming up, I have an exclusive interview tonight with Michael Cohen`s other lawyer, the man guiding him through the bombshell testimony. This is his first live T.V. interview since that fateful day.
And tonight, breaking news on a Mueller filing against Roger Stone. There is a flag for a possible violation of, yes, the gag order that he`s already been accused of violating. This time, it could be different.
And later, my look, this is something we`ve been working on, on Mueller`s end game, why understanding his unfinished business will help you understand how to analyze the end of his probe, whenever that day comes.
And then later, the actor Jeffrey Wright makes his debut here on THE BEAT. We`re going to get into prison reform and the prison industrial complex in the Trump era.
I`m Ari Melber. And we`ll be right back.
MELBER: Michael Cohen shook the nation with his testimony against Donald Trump before Congress, roughly 16 million people watched that history unfolding live, tens of millions more watching the highlights later.
And right now, we turn to a BEAT exclusive with an insider who was behind him in that hearing. He was literally sitting there the whole time. Anyone who watched the hearings can recall how Cohen was flanked throughout the hearing by first, the famous Washington attorney right there, Lanny Davis. He`s represented the Clintons and often found himself the subject of questions from Republicans on the committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JODY HICE (R), GEORGIA: Who is paying Lanny Davis?
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: at the present moment, no one.
HICE: So he is doing all this work for nothing?
COHEN: Yes, sir.
HICE: How did Lanny Davis come to represent you? Did he approach you or did you approach him? Did you want to testify before Congress or did he urge you to testify here? I find the connecting of the dots here with Mr. Davis and you and, frankly the chairman and perhaps others to be rather stunning that there is an agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those congressmen clearly concerned about Cohen`s role, excuse me, Lanny Davis` role in masterminding what looks like a devastating case against Trump. And they may have missed the other lawyer for Cohen who, just like Davis, shepherded Cohen through all his hearings last week. Veteran lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Michael Monico, right there. He has become a celebrated criminal defense attorney after a stint as a federal prosecutor.
And while Davis drew public fire, Monico is advising Cohen on his testimony on what he can and cannot say in public. He literally had a fellow front row seat and backstage access to the hearings that riveted the nation.
Monico is actually headed back to Washington this week shepherding Cohen through his remaining confidential testimony to the House. With me is former U.S. Attorney Michael Monico. Thanks for being here.
MICHAEL MONICO, MICHAEL COHEN`S LAWYER: Thank you. Nice being here.
MELBER: When you look at what came through in that hearing, what was most important in your preparation and your strategy and what did Michael Cohen get across?
MONICO: Well, I think the most important thing is for Michael to tell his story, to tell what happened, and to tell the American people the truth about the president of the United States. And I think that did come across.
MELBER: What do you think was the most damming legally?
MONICO: Well, I assume the checks would be the most damming legally. The fact that the president of the United States wrote a check as president to Michael Cohen, that was part of a scheme to violate campaign finance violations and to violate the rights of the American -- this was a scheme to, in part to defeat the election.
I mean it was intended, as you well know. It was right after the Billy Bush tape and the last thing that Mr. Trump wanted, it appears, was to have two other episodes of him being involved with a porn star or a Playboy model. And they wanted to avoid that at all costs so they paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels through her lawyer.
And the first check, by the way, which was referenced in Mr. Cohen`s testimony was a $70,000 check which I have with me today. A copy of it, I have with me today. A $70,000 check written on the Donald J. Trump revocable trust, which is also an interesting sidelight that the check was written on a revocable trust that was theoretically begun so that the president would have some separation between his life as a politician and his life as a civil servant.
MELBER: Was that provided into evidence at the hearing?
MONICO: No, we didn`t have it at the time. We have it today.
MELBER: So walk us through -- hold it up and walk us through what this means.
MONICO: Sure. It means when Michael Cohen went to see the president for the first time in the White House in February of 2017 and the president as you may recall his testimony that he looked at all the lovely art. And the president was proud of the whole scene and it was very awesome as Mr. Cohen said.
The president said to Michael at that time, "You will be getting the two checks soon." The two checks meaning the two $35,000 checks. Because as you may recall, Alan, the president`s --
MONICO: Weisselberg said that instead of paying the entire $420,000 up in one lump sum, he wanted to pay it over the course of a year, $35,000 even each year. Each month, rather. And so, this check, the $70,000 check, which is signed, according to my client, signed by Alan Weisselberg and Donald Trump, Jr., that this check was the first check.
And it`s the check that the president, himself, said to my client when he visited him in the White House, said that that check would be forthcoming soon. And sure enough, it was on Valentine`s day, 2017.
MELBER: So your review is that really helps further demolish the denial that Trump was somehow post-facto reimbursing something he didn`t authorize?
MONICO: That`s exactly right.
MELBER: Yes. Let me play one of the tantalizing parts of this hearing. You are a former federal prosecutor yourself. Here was some of the discussion of the probe in New York. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: When was the last communication with President Trump or someone acting on his behalf?
COHEN: This topic is actually something that`s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York.
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 investigation that`s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is Michael Cohen then continuing to provide information about that to the Southern District or do they have everything they need from your client?
MONICO: Michael Cohen continues to assist law enforcement both in the Southern District and elsewhere.
MELBER: And do you think everything he`s done up to this point increases the likelihood that his prison sentence could be reduced?
MONICO: That`s hard to say. Certainly, his, you know, it`s completely and totally depends upon the Southern District of New York and if they find that he has helped them to a substantial amount, then they may help in getting a Rule 35 that provides --
MELBER: Rule 35, which can reduce someone`s jail time, even after conviction. I understand you don`t speak for them but you are very knowledgeable. You are a former U.S. attorney. Do you think he`s provided substantial assistance to SDNY?
MONICO: Ah, that`s a good question and it really is not for me to determine. It really isn`t.
MELBER: Do you hope he has?
MONICO: I hope he has. Certainly, I do hope he has. And I hope if he hasn`t yet, I hope he continues to do because he does continue to assist the Southern District.
MELBER: You said other investigations. Is that other authorities in New York?
MELBER: Would that be --
MONICO: Yes, it is.
MELBER: Would that be potentially including the New York attorney general?
MONICO: Yes, that`s true.
MELBER: And also the D.A. in New York?
MONICO: That`s possible. But so far, the attorney general in the Southern District are -- have asked us to help and we are assisting.
MELBER: You have been, as we pointed out, a front row seat to all this and you are walking us through a lot of what looks damming for the president, based on the evidence that Michael Cohen is providing. I also want to press you on one of the criticisms of him which you witnessed in the hearing.
Let me show what the Republicans are saying here now after the hearing. They`re saying that Cohen testified he never defrauded a bank, that he didn`t seek employment at the White House after Trump`s election, that he didn`t direct the commission of this online campaign, that he didn`t have reportable contact with foreign government entities. They say these are new lies by your client, Michael Cohen. Your response.
MONICO: No. Michael -- we stand by everything Michael said at the -- in his testimony. He was truthful in his testimony and we stand by everything that he said.
MELBER: One of the most explosive legal claims he made would appear to contradict both Roger Stone and Donald Trump in public about collusion, which we all know is the heart of what Mueller began looking at. Take a look.
(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.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever talk to Stone about WikiLeaks because that seem to be what --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never had a conversation with him?
TRUMP: No, I`d 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: If your client told the truth last week they`re under oath, does that mean Donald Trump is lying about that? And if he told that lie to Mueller, what would that mean?
MONICO: Well, my client told the truth last Wednesday when he testified that he heard Roger Stone on the phone whose voice he recognized talking to the President of the United States prior to of course winning the election. And in that phone call he told you exactly what he heard.
And shortly thereafter, there was a dump of e-mails that was accomplished through WikiLeaks which now we know WikiLeaks happened -- it happened -- come through WikiLeaks through the Russians. You know that is -- there`s no doubt about that that the Russians were involved in the hacking. And they`ve been -- 13 of them have been indicted for it.
MELBER: So that means Trump was lying in your view?
MONICO: You know I can`t say whether someone is lying or whether he forgot or whether he`s confused or whatever, but he certainly is -- it`s not the same as what Mr. Cohen remembers from that day.
MELBER: Finally, before I let you go. Anything important that you see out of what`s going to come this week in Cohen`s private testimony?
MONICO: I can`t say for sure. I know that since it`s private, I will not be able to talk about it, but it should be an interesting week.
MELBER: What`s the old saying, those who tell don`t know, and those who know don`t tell, and you seem more in the latter category, Mr. Michael Monaco but I appreciate your time tonight.
MONICO: My pleasure. Nice chatting.
MELBER: I appreciate it. We have breaking news now from Bob Mueller. A new filing tonight which experts say could lead to Roger Stone`s imminent imprisonment. And the Mueller report, well, people say it could drop this or next or the week after that, but we have clues to what to watch for when he does conclude when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Attorney General Bill Barr has announced Bob Mueller`s probe wouldn`t finish last week. It was an unusual statement which implicitly restarts the clock today as any theoretical time Mueller could finish his work. Now Barr wanted everyone to know Mueller wouldn`t be done by Friday so we got to factor that in.
Now, these announcements have many people assessing the current state of the Mueller probe. Think about it like this. If Mueller finishes say tomorrow or soon, what can we glean from that timing? The answer is a lot because we already know what might be called Mueller`s unfinished business, things he hasn`t done yet and some could be ominous for Trump world, some could be good for Trump world.
Well, right now on my special report, we`re going to look at both categories regardless because these are the things to watch for when Mueller does reach the end of the road. The biggest piece of open business are all the potential witnesses that Mueller hasn`t interviewed according to public record. For in-person interviews, that would be the president who provided the written answers which is less intense than prosecutors who deposed past presidents in person.
Now, if Mueller finishes without insisting an interview from Trump, that could be good for him. That there wasn`t enough evidence for him to demand that more intense interview. It could also be bad if it just means there is overwhelming evidence that made the more intense interview unnecessary. As for trump`s kids, well, two of them haven`t faced Mueller`s team.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned about anyone in your life that you love?
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being involved?
I. TRUMP: I`m not. I`m really not. I have zero concern.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But are you scared that you could go to jail?
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I`m not because I know what I did, I`m not worried about any of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So If Mueller finishes without compelling either of those family members to talk, what would that mean? Well, in the case of top aides like Corey Lewandowski, Mueller came across his name in evidence but didn`t force an interview. In the case of Roger Stone, Mueller never interviewed him, instead gathering evidence on him. In the case of Assange, there DOJ hasn`t announced anything. There are signs they are investigating him in Virginia and he could have clues to what Russia did in 2016.
In fact, you should know a separate grand jury subpoenaed a new witness, leaker Chelsea Manning in a case that could shed more light on WikiLeaks. So those are a couple examples. What does it mean if Mueller finishes without interviewing someone? Well, for Lewandowski, it meant he wasn`t close enough to alleged crimes to talking to, apparently good news for him.
For Stone, no interview meant he was a target in the first meeting with the feds, was this right here, not the kind you want, a morning raid. For Assange, all it really tells us is he wasn`t available. So for trump and his family, if Mueller does finish without further indictments or in-person interviews, that could mean he found no credible evidence implicating him in any crime to charge.
If there are further indictments, well, we`ll all be reading them. No, if Mueller were to finish tomorrow and say no further indictments about Russian interference, that would be significant. Remember, the core of his assignment is potential collusion.
Now, we already nailed one part of it, indicting the Russian side of the election hacks and he did so. Let`s remember, despite many false denials by Trump, claiming Russia wasn`t responsible, Mueller set up the chain of events where Donald Trump`s own appointee Rod Rosenstein announced Russia indictments contradicting Trump while also noting. Remember, Rosenstein, noted that indictment did not find knowing misconduct by Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet. There is no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers. There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So if Mueller finishes tomorrow with no new indictments on the other side, and what you heard Rosenstein talking about, basically not charging Americans with helping in a Russian plot, that`s a sign how terrible Russia`s conduct was, Mueller would not found evidence to charge Americans helping them, also known as no chargeable collusion.
So if Mueller does that, that`s one outcome. If he adds more indictments before finishing, we could see the opposite. Now, what do we know with all this is we`re in maybe 9th inning. Well, Trump is clearly expecting a no collusion outcome. He`s committed a no collusion defense. He`s denied knowledge of Russian help at Trump tower or a heads-up from Roger Stone according to reports.
Now, if Trump lied about those things to Mueller, well, then you could have a coverup, without collusion. One crime of obstruction without the crime of the underlying act then Mueller would have to decide what to do about that. What do you tell Congress about that? That brings us finally to obstruction.
Many Trump campaign aides have been charged -- I bet you`ve heard about this -- with lying all the time. Now, look at the White House, though. Mueller has interviewed a lot of White House aides, but these people in all fairness have not been indicted except one, Mike Flynn lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.
As of now, Flynn is the only member of the Trump administration who served to be charged with a crime. Now that could change, again, because we are looking at what we know now and what Mueller could do. So as you enter Mueller`s end game, as everyone sits around it, barbeques, and bars, and talking about this, we do have indications from Bill Barr last week that it would be starting the clock again today.
So you have to keep an eye on these areas as we think about what it means. Who has Mueller talked to and not talked to? Who has he targeted and who is he looking at for obstruction? If there are no new indictments and Mueller finishes up, that would seem to suggest that he didn`t find Americans helping with collusion. That`s a big deal no matter what you think of the president.
But if he does add indictments or sends Congress other material to say hey, some other really bad stuff happened. Well, that, that kicks it over to Congress and a whole another national debate if you looked at the Hill today, it looks like a lot of people are gearing up for.
That`s our special report. When we turn next, we have what Mueller is actually doing, a late-day filing here that puts the prospect of Roger Stone in jail way closer. That story breaking news with the prosecutor to break it down is next.
MELBER: Breaking news in the Mueller probe. A new filing regarding Roger Stone. I`m joined by former federal prosecutor John Flannery. What did Mueller file late today and what will it do in your view?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, he filed a notice about the government`s side of the question whether or not Mr. Roger Stone had violated the courts gag order not to say anything about the prosecutor or the prosecution and any media at all including Instagram. And it turns out that even as he was standing before the judge, he had written a book with a new introduction and the introduction talked about how crooked Mueller was put him on his hit list among other things. And in addition -- MELBER: Right. So when Mueller -- when Mueller tells the judge Stone is talking about the case, do you think that makes it more likely this judge will jail Stone?
FLANNERY: Oh, yes. In fact, the judge said at the last hearing when the judge wasn`t happy about having a target next to her picture in an Instagram publication by Mr. Stone, she said this is the last time. So if she stands by what she said in the last hearing, I hope he brought his toothbrush when he goes to -- I hope he brings his toothbrush when he goes to court because I think he`s going to the slammer this time.
MELBER: And the filing doesn`t have Mueller saying send him to jail, it just says hey, look at what he said. Do you view that though as comparably similar?
FLANNERY: I think it`s a haiku. I think that every good advocate knows his or her or its judge. And in this case, the judge couldn`t have made it more clear that this kind of conduct was not good. So what they did was they said, here`s the ammunition your honor. Take a look at these two excerpts on Google Books and on Amazon and here`s a picture that he put on Instagram two days after you asked for this hearing. Not good stuff.
MELBER: Right. And as you know, and anyone following it knows this was as you say, the judge who told who told stone to knock it off, no more shots. We`re going to keep an eye on it. Quite a development. John Flannery, thank you as always.
FLANNERY: Thank you.
MELBER: You know Michael Cohen was brought to an emotional place when warned of the danger that Trump put him in calling him a rat at that hearing. Next, I have a very special guest discussing this and a lot more on prison in the Trump era.
MELBER: Michael Cohen logged three big days on Capitol Hill and he`s not even done testifying. When it`s all over, it will be one of the most momentous, most watched activities of any person as a final act before yes, reporting to prison. Cohen`s time at FCI Otisville, one of America`s cushiest prisons according to Forbes, will however differ greatly from the over two million Americans currently incarcerated.
And a new HBO film O.G. explores the actual prison system by going inside through the story of someone that while fictional in nature, the actual piece is shot almost entirely -- get this -- inside a real maximum-security prison in Indiana. That is a real environment for a fictional universe exploring real problems facing anyone trying to shift from hard time to freedom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No future in here, especially what`s going on right now. When it pop off, you`ll be the first to get. Dignity, self-respect, grace, but at the end of the day, that`s what you want to hold to it in here. It might not be much to you now but it`s something to remember.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And I`m joined now by that very actor, the star of O.G. Jeffrey Wright, an Emmy and Tony Award Winner. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
JEFFREY WRIGHT, ACTOR: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Important project, why was it important to you to shoot inside a real prison?
WRIGHT: -- I did it, I think to educate myself, to inform myself a little deeper on the issues, but also on a creative level to see if I could pull it off, if I could if I could deliver an authentic performance in the company of these men who know this story in much more detail than I do. And they were -- they were big help to me.
They had like at any given moment, I had 100 expert consultants on set to talk me through various things. It was an incredibly moving process for me.
MELBER: Michael Cohen as I mentioned is headed to prison. Chairman Cummings in that dramatic hearing said that the way President Trump has talked about Cohen has actually put him in danger. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I know that is painful going to prison, I know -- I know it`s got to be painful being called a rat. I live in the inner city of Baltimore, all right. And when you call somebody a rat, that`s one of the worst thing you could call them because when they go to prison, that means a snitch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is he right about the implication that Donald Trump was putting Michael Cohen an extra danger?
WRIGHT: I can`t speak to that. I have been to Otisville though. I`ve been to the medium security prison there screening a film with the Tribeca Film Institute.
So when I look at these guys --
MELBER: The Trump guys.
WRIGHT: -- and I look at the opportunity that Michael Cohen`s have had that the Paul Manaforts have had in their lives to better themselves, the opportunity that they`ve had to develop positive outcomes on a personal level for themselves and yet choose an egregiously immoral path, I don`t think look at them with the type of understanding that I look at some of these guys who did much more violent crime simply because these guys never had the opportunity to explore more.
MELBER: You know how plots work.
MELBER: How do you see the plot of this Mueller probe ending.
WRIGHT: Certainly, what we`ve seen from the cases that have been made public, you know, the charges against Manafort, the implications they are relative to foreign policy decisions that were made certainly at the Republican National Convention, if you know we you know, we can only wonder, only speculate at what the business ties or the precedent, how those might have been formed or our informing policy decisions relative to Saudi Arabia, to -- excuse me, to Russia, and in any other place that he might have business, I mean it`s you know, it`s it seems pretty evident there`s something going on that`s undermining the strength of our democracy and undermining the strength of our governance. Something is rotten in this (INAUDIBLE).
MELBER: Before I let you go, Van Jones has worked on these issues. He was speaking at a conservative conference about reform. Take a look at what he just said.
VAN JONES, AMERICAN NEWS COMMENTATOR: The conservative movement in this country unfortunately from my point of view is now the leader on this issue of reform.
Take some dadgum credit for being smart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Talking about the First-Step Act which was bipartisan although I`m not sure the Republicans have always been in the lead. Your view.
WRIGHT: Well, they weren`t in the lead when Obama was in the office and they wouldn`t -- I mean, Mitch McConnell wouldn`t bring it up for a vote so I am not sure. You know, this is politics and I think Van is playing some politics there as well. I mean, I appreciate that he`s trying to reach out to the other side. I appreciate that he`s trying to find common ground. But not so sure why he`s so enthusiastic about laying praise at the foot of the Republicans and Donald Trump.
For me, the experience of working on this film spoke less about criminal justice reform as it did about the drivers that lead young men, young people into situations in which they find themselves with multi-decade prison sentences.
MELBER It`s an important conversation and I think it`s one in this film goes that in a really interesting way. Jeffrey Wright, the film is O.G. available now on HBO.
WRIGHT: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: And one more thing about these sweeping probes from the House Dems today and a newsmaker of the day, next.
MELBER: Whatever Bob Mueller is doing, the news today kicking off a very busy week is clear. The House Judiciary Committee is not waiting. They are flexing. They are requesting documents and evidence from 81 different people and organizations and companies tied to Trump which makes their chairman a pretty interesting interview subject. So count us as officially jealous of our colleague Rachel Maddow who will have Chairman Jerry Nadler tonight.
That does it for THE BEAT. I will see you back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. But don`t go anywhere. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END