Cohen's Lawyer reveals new hush-money. TRANSCRIPT: 3/5/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Jim Walden, Natasha Bertrand, Peter Wehner, Francesca Chambers,Dick Cavett

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  You`re ready?  Deep breath.  Sure?  All right.  Here it is.  No more waiting.  Sit down because here it comes.

"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.  Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  That`s it?

TODD:  That`s it, buddy.

MELBER:  I was -- see, I was getting excited for some sort of Chuck Todd delivery.  I`ve never been less excited for the start of my show.  I`m having mixed emotions.

TODD:  Well, that -- well, you just screwed up the entire promotion.  It is supposed to make you feel better.

MELBER:  You`re supposed to make me feel good.  Well, look --

TODD:  The big announcement is this, Ari Melber was starting on time but now it is 25 seconds late.

MELBER:  Well, now, Chuck, people know, we don`t plan these tosses.  Your astute observation about the overhyping of these candidates is a little reminiscent of Lebron.  And I`m --

TODD:  Yes, it is.

MELBER:  I don`t know much about sports but I do know he got in some trouble for overhyping.

TODD:  Well done.  Well done.  That`s a good reference.  I`ll give you that one.

MELBER:  OK.

TODD:  All right.

MELBER:  Thank you.  And thank you for the big setup.

TODD:  There it is.  Good luck.

MELBER:  Chuck Todd with a big announcement.  We have a big show.  We thank you.  Even though we didn`t know he was doing that in the toss.

Take a look at just what`s happening right now.  Let me show you this.  Roger Stone, new, could be jailed for violating his gag order.  This is a brand new order from a judge with a new hearing scheduled.  If that story feels like it is repeating, well, remember, he was told this was his last chance.

Also tonight, news that was broken right here on THE BEAT last night.  Michael Cohen`s lawyer revealed that new Trump hush money check written in office while he was president for a crime because Michael Cohen confessed to that crime.  We have more on that story that broke here last night.

And later, well, you can call it only a serious and embarrassing rebuke because it`s Donald Trump`s own party, Senate Republicans rejecting Trump right in the heart of his agenda on immigration.  So we have a lot going on that seems to be the case these days.

But we begin with what could be the epic subpoena showdown of this term, this Pelosi-Trump era.  The White House now, they`re not waiting, they`re not negotiating, they`re saying no way, refusing to turn over key documents about what many are calling a nepotism scandal, Jared Kushner`s security clearance.  They won`t give up the intel to Congress.

Democrats led by Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, fresh off those much watched Michael Cohen hearings, they say they`re not going to take no for an answer.  So this is what this looks like.  The White House says the request for documents on the security clearance was "overly intrusive".  And while they would brief Congress, they simply won`t give up the documents that this co-equal branch is demanding.

Now, "The New York Times" has reported what you know was a bombshell that Donald Trump lied and had overruled his own intelligence professionals and ordered them to give Jared Kushner a security clearance, despite serious concerns about national security.

Now, Chairman Cummings firing back.  He says the White House is stonewalling a legitimate probe and adds there`s a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the Constitution and a president that overrules career experts and his top advisers to benefit his family members and then conceals, that`s congressional for lie, conceals his actions from the American people.

This is a developing story.  And I want to begin with Jim Walden who`s a former federal prosecutor who`s actually represented the former director of the Trump campaign`s data firm.  He is actually one of the 81 people here that Nadler`s wanting more documents from in that House side of the probe.  And "The Atlantic`s" Natasha Bertrand who has covered all of these stories and their intersection with the Mueller probe.

There`s a lot here that`s legal, Jim.  Everyone knows that Congress is a co-equal branch and they ask for stuff.  But they don`t get everything they want.  Given your knowledge of some of the intricacy here, who has the better argument tonight?

JIM WALDEN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  On this one, I think that the president probably has the better argument because security clearances are uniquely a by-product of executive orders.  They`re not covered by the Constitution.  They`re not covered extensively by statutes.  And there was a 1980 case where a related issue came up and the oversight got shut down.

MELBER:  Are you dropping precedence in your first answer?

WALDEN:  I did.  I`m sorry about that.  It`s just --

MELBER:  That`s amazing.  Very legal right out the gate.  Keep going.

WALDEN:  OK.  So I think that if Congress was -- Congress is right now just asking questions, right.  So whether or not the Supreme Court is going to permit Congress in some ways intrude into the process that the president went through with Kushner I think is doubtful.

MELBER:  So you`re saying basically this is an area where they have a lot of power in the White House, even if Democrats could be right on the facts that the White House lied.  I mean Donald Trump, according to "New York Times," lied about this, that his family members lied, and that there was a sort of a nepotistic desire, according to Elijah Cummings, to override the national security protections.

WALDEN: Yes.  And to be clear, I`m not saying that the concerns aren`t fair.  They certainly are very fair concerns.

MELBER:  Right.  I got you.

WALDEN: But I really think that this Supreme Court is very unlikely to intrude on what has been exclusively an executive function.

MELBER:  Natasha?

NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC:  Look, I mean I`ll defer to the lawyer here, obviously.  But I think that it`s obviously fair to say that this is a very legitimate oversight request.  Now, the extent to it and actually the breadth of the request is something that will need to be I think hammered out between the committee and the White House.

It looks like, at this point, they`re willing to have those conversations.  I mean I know that Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel did say that he had not really received much feedback from Elijah Cummings, the Chairman and that he felt like it was really all one-sided.  But I think at this point rather than a subpoena fight, which we definitely may get to, there`s going to be one more kind of last-ditch effort to make it kind of easy for everyone.

And I don`t think that we`ll see necessarily a protracted fight over this.  I think that they will hand over key documents that the Oversight Committee will ultimately be satisfied with, because it really is just a question about Kushner.  It`s a question about why did he leave off a hundred plus contacts on his security clearance forms and then still get clearance.  I mean these are very basic questions that don`t require --

MELBER:  Well, I mean --

BERTRAND:  -- I think the Oversight Committee to go that deep.

MELBER:  To be fair though, who among us hasn`t forgotten a hundred foreign meetings here and there.

BERTRAND:  That`s a great point, Ari.  I mean it just slips your mind I guess.

MELBER:  You know, it`s not you just --

BERTRAND:  I mean Jared Kushner had a meeting with the sanction CEO of a Russian bank during the transition period and that wasn`t disclosed.  I mean --

MELBER:  Look, I know I have a duty --

BERTRAND:  -- these are just things that need to be asked about.

MELBER:  You have a duty as a government official, but sometimes you have 107 meetings that you forget.  I joke but it is not funny in the sense that it is very serious what the intelligence and national security officials, nonpartisan career, were worried about with Jared Kushner.

And we just tonight don`t know.  So we want to be fair about what we don`t know but also what we do know is they were this concerned.

We had an FBI expert on recently, Natasha.  And this issue I think you guys both know, who said, look if it was a maybe kind of call, the tie goes to the presidential family member.  It has to be bad for them to keep saying no.  And the overlap is with the Mueller probe where Jared Kushner has been under intense scrutiny, has gotten in all kinds of trouble, even if again not alleged to be a target or anything like that.

 I want to play some new sound from someone we haven`t from in a while but who you and I, of course, have spoken to over the months of this Mueller probe, Ty Cobb, former White House lawyer, talking about the challenge of even working for a client, a boss like Donald Trump.  This is new.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER:  He hates obstacles and he reacts strongly in the face of obstacles to try to move them out of the way or find somebody who will move them out of the way for him so he can do things.  It`s a challenging environment.  It was a fascinating task.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  What do you think of the euphemisms in play there because obviously, he didn`t hold the job.  Natasha.

BERTRAND:  Are you asking me, Ari?

MELBER:  Yes.

BERTRAND:  OK.  I think it is directly in line with what we heard from the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said that the president would often ask him to do things that were potentially illegal, that he couldn`t really do.  So it is not surprising at all that he would try to overrule the career officials that were telling him that Jared Kushner should not have a security clearance.

But experts also tell me that until the Mueller investigation is over, Kushner probably wouldn`t have been able to get a clearance anyway because he is under scrutiny in that probe.  So the fact that he is under federal investigation by the Mueller team is probably one of the major reasons, if not the reason, that he hasn`t been able to get this clearance, let alone the plethora of foreign contacts he just kind of forgot about.

MELBER:  Yes.  And Jim, before we turn to the House investigations which are making a lot of news tonight, I also want to play one other thing Ty Cobb said, which I think will interest people.  He is a Trump lawyer but he`s not the Rudy school.  Here`s what he had to say, new today, about Bob Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COBB:  I think Bob Mueller is an American hero.  I`ve known him for 30 years as a prosecutor and a friend and I think the world of Bob Mueller.  He is a very deliberate guy and he -- but he`s also a class act and a very justice oriented person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  What does that mean coming from Ty?

WALDEN:  I would say it is buyer`s remorse.  Cobb is an old school Republican.  He has old values Republican and a Ronald Reagan Republican as is Bob Mueller.  I have no doubt that Ty Cobb feels strongly about Bob Mueller.  And he is an American hero, putting aside the fact that he is a decorated war hero.

But I think what is happening with Cobb is there`s a little bit of reputation management going on.  You know, it was difficult to represent the president, no doubt.  He --

MELBER:  Hold on.  Ty does the euphemisms.  You give it to me straight.  What do you mean reputation management?

WALDEN:  President Trump and the people around him that are representing him broke a lot of eggs, violated a lot of norms.  That came off and tarnished some of the people --

MELBER:  Is eggs a code word for laws?  Did they break laws?

WALDEN:  No, I wasn`t really -- I wasn`t saying that Cobb broke laws.  But I think that the president broke eggs, broke norms, and did not follow Cobb`s advice.  And that`s difficult for a lawyer to deal with.  But the reputation consequences of having to go against a friend like Bob Mueller, he wants to come through it and say this is what I really believe.

MELBER:  Yes.  It may be very interesting as we get more clues from these individual players.  I mean you represented a witness in the Mueller probe.  You have that insight.  Ty went up against them.  John Dowd is also out and went up against Mueller as we get -- whenever we get into what may be the end game.  Only Mueller knows the timing.

Both of you stay with me.  What I want to do as promised is turn to the other news.  The security clearance fight is one thing with Congress, but then you have Chairman Jerry Nadler in the House revealing that he`s already hearing back from, yes, some of these 81 witnesses people and companies that have been asked for documents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW:  Eighty-one people is a lot.  Have you had any response already?  I realize this is the first day.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Yes, we have.  We`ve been having some very positive responses from a number of the 81 people.  They have been saying they will give us documents and some have already started giving us documents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Donald Trump`s inaugural chair and his former press secretary among those saying yes, they`ll comply, while the president attacked it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The fact is that I guess we have 81 letters.  There was no collusion.  That was a hoax.  There was no anything.  And they want to do that instead of getting legislation passed.  Eighty-one people or organizations got letters.  It`s a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  One of the avenues is Donald Trump`s family business ties.  Today, one of Trump`s sons says they`ll fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOST:  Are you going to get a lawyer?  Are you going to produce documents that they requested in two weeks?

ERIC TRUMP, SON OF DONALD TRUMP:  Oh, we have plenty of lawyers, don`t worry about lawyers.  Yes, we`re going to fight the hell out of it.  And, you know, we`ll fight where we need and we`ll cooperate where we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Natasha, what is the peril here if people farther from Trump`s orbit are cooperating and then the closest people, what we just saw, and the president himself, are not?

BERTRAND:  So I think the peril here is primarily political, right.  The House Judiciary Committee`s investigation so far seems to be pretty transparent.  They released all of the document requests online, the letters that were sent out to these witnesses.

And Jerry Nadler, I would note is someone who is very familiar with Trump`s business practices.  I mean he spent better part of two decades trying to prevent Trump from kind of rerouting the West Side Highway in Manhattan.  He know -- he is very familiar with the Constitutional law aspect of this.  And, of course, he is the one who would be willing to or would be able to launch impeachment proceedings.

So I think that it is interesting because these are not documents that have not been produced before, either to various Congressional committees, the special counsel, or the Southern District of New York.  The House Judiciary Committee was very intent upon for reasons of speed and efficiency upon asking witnesses for things that they`ve already kind of turned over so that the Judiciary Committee can just look them over again.

I think that what we`re going to see moving forward is the committee is not going to keep all of its deliberations a secret.  I think we`re going to see a much more transparent investigation that could be more politically damaging to the president and his allies and supporters than perhaps the Senate Intel Committee`s investigation and House Intel Committee investigation which have been very secretive and behind closed doors by necessity.

MELBER:  Right.  And I think, Jim, the president has a vested interest in tying everything back to collusion.  Obviously, Jerrold Nadler already spoke to that and said they`re looking at other abuse and potential obstruction and it is wider than the Mueller probe.

You have new reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" about the discussion of potential pardons.  On the one hand, the sources are clearly going at Michael Cohen`s credibility.  On the other, you have this tantalizing statement about Rudy Giuliani, "left open the possibility that the president could grant Mr. Cohen, one, a pardon in the future."  Do you see any potential misconduct exposure here on that side?

WALDEN:  I do.  I mean, and Bill Barr would take a different view.  Bill Barr`s view was if there`s a lawful legitimate act, even if it`s undertaken for corrupt reasons, it can`t be obstruction.  I disagree with that.

If the president uses a lawful authority but uses it specifically to try to obstruct, impede the investigation.  There`s liability whether the president gets charged now or later and we can have that debate.  That`s a problem if any of these prosecutors end up being able to prove that.

MELBER:  Jim Walden and Natasha Bertrand, on all these stories, thank you so much.

Coming up, this news tonight, a federal judge now ripping Roger Stone about potentially violating his gag order with a new hearing next week.  Also, Donald Trump faces a rare rebuke on, yes, the wall from his own party.  That`s an important story you shouldn`t miss.

And later, the new revelations about a bid to keep Donald Trump`s military school records secret.  Plus, an update on our exclusive reporting on Donald Trump`s very first hush money check paid to Michael Cohen while Trump was president.

And then later, T.V. legend Dick Cavett is on THE BEAT tonight.  He hosted the show from inside the Watergate hearing room where we`re going to talk about those Nixon parallels and Michael Cohen`s John Dean moment.

I am Ari Melber.  And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Bad news for Trump Adviser Roger Stone.  Today, a federal judge issued a new order, hauling Stone back to court for possibly violating his gag order.  This is based on some statements in a book, an Instagram post that attacked the prosecution.

The judge stressing today, Stone was only gagged after he abused the latitude the court provided, posting incendiary and threatening messages on Instagram, an echo of the witness threats he was originally indicted for.  So now Stone must defend his statements in this new hearing next week, while Mueller`s prosecutors suggest this violation was a problem for the gag order.

They have a standard filing and in a footnote, Mueller shows the side of the headline that says, "Stone`s post could violate his gag order."  Tonight`s news on this part of the Mueller probe is simple.  It is now more likely Roger Stone will go to jail and that`s because of Roger Stone.

We know jail is more likely because the judge who decides this just gave Stone his last warning recently, noting from the bench he violated the gag order already and unlike baseball, you don`t get a third chance.  No more chances mean jail.

And this same judge is the one you may remember who gagged Paul Manafort and told his team to knock it off with their press conferences outside the courthouse, saying the trial was not a public relations campaign.  And then when Manafort was busted for something worse than talking about the case, the guy was busted for talking about the case to witnesses, the same judge cracked down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Paul Manafort`s arrival at federal court in Washington was one of his last moments as a free man after Mueller`s prosecutors charged him with trying to influence witnesses who might be called to testify.

MADDOW:  Explains why she`s going to put the president`s campaign chairman in jail.  And the judge says, "I`ve wrestled with this."  What conditions could there be?  This is not middle school.  I can`t take his cell phone."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  The judge couldn`t take his cell phone so she took his freedom.  You may recall Paul Manafort has been incarcerated ever since.  So that`s how we know Stone is more likely to be jailed.  Now, how do we know tonight this is his fault?  Because Roger Stone played himself.  More specifically, he played himself on social media, on the gram.

And the context here matters.  Not everything a defendant says before trial risks jail.  Stone had argued a gag order was actually unfair to someone who made his money communicating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER STONE, LONG-TIME TRUMP ALLY:  I make a living writing and speaking about politics.  I would hope that the court would take that into consideration.

They would be depriving me of making a living if I am entirely gagged.

I need to be able to raise money to mount a defense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That sounds reasonable.  And during that time, on this very show, we reported on how that could be a decent argument.  I showed cases Stone could cite for defending his free speech.  But Stone`s conduct now has made it harder to invoke those cases or defend him.  Even Roger Stone, in fact, didn`t defend Roger Stone at the last hearing, the final warning hearing.

He said to the court, his Instagram post, attacking the judge was indefensible and he was responsible.  And though he also deflected onto a group of unnamed volunteers who help him, I guess, with his Instagram, he claimed he couldn`t remember who was involved in that just days earlier.

We also know this is Stone`s fault because he has been attacking Mueller in the case and media appearances across television using his very own indictment for a huge media blitz and leaking his own security footage which showed the Mueller arrest, in order to then to go back on T.V. to attack it all again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STONE:  To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down Bin Laden, it is unconscionable.  This was an egregious overreach by Mr. Mueller.  These are Gestapo tactics.  They treated me like El Chapo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Now, you may know already that those claims are false.  But legally Stone`s problem isn`t even lying about the case, it is talking about the case at all, even true statements can violate the current gag order.

And while Stone may not be able to control himself, to help himself to stop, this judge can jail him next week all because he keeps posting these attacks on Instagram, a sort of clumsy criminal wannabe gangster version of what the kids these days call doing it for the gram.

This may be a fitting crime for our reality show era because it risks everything for showmanship.  Stone attacks the judge who controls his fate with these crosshairs picture on Instagram, just like he posted this propaganda image, likening Mueller to Stalin also on the gram.

And this one imagining himself as some kind of David fighting a mighty Mueller goliath.  Or the latest image which can land him in jail which implies that Mueller has illegally framed him.

Roger Stone could be the first defendant in this whole Mueller probe to literally go to jail for the gram before he even stands trial.  Now, if that mean Stone fits our current media moment, let me observe tonight this is a sad kind of synergy that fits a wider decline of what it even means to try to be a hustler.

You know, there`s another person who makes his living off words, Shawn Carter, who recently noted that while the older generation of hustlers were discrete, nowadays the wannabes are bragging about crime on Instagram.  Carter explains why this is dumb, saying, "I don`t be on the gram going ham giving leads to cops, that`s all spam."

And in lecturing these online phonies, he says a little bit of advice.  "Please don`t talk about guns that you aren`t ever going to use.  You always tell on yourself.  That has me so confused."  Shawn Carter was addressing studio gangsters but he could have been addressing Roger Stone.

And if Stone had only listened to the judge in this case, to his own lawyers, or yes, to Shawn Carter, well, maybe Roger Stone could have avoided today`s rebuke from the judge and avoid whatever she decides next week.  But instead, on the gram, Roger Stone keeps telling on himself.  We wanted you to know about that story.

Now, up ahead, I have a Watergate insider joining us all about Michael Cohen`s testimony and how it all fits into the Nixon precedent.  But first, Donald Trump rejected by Republicans on the wall when we`re back in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  First it was, Mexico will fund a wall that will get built.  Then it was, finish the wall even if Americans pay for it.  Tonight, it is unclear if any of Donald Trump`s border wall will be constructed.  Trump`s proposal is in real new jeopardy because four senators in his own Republican Party breaking ranks to say they`re going to vote against his attempted national emergency and well, there could be more, the dam could break.

GOP defections, Senator Rand Paul says to reporters at least 10 of his colleagues now say they want to vote against Trump.  And the president has a message for those going against him in his party, assuming what can only be described as a veiled threat in that interview with Sean Hannity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I think that really is a very dangerous thing for people to be voting against the border security for anybody, including Republicans.  I really think that Republicans that vote against border security and the wall, I think, you know, I have been OK at predicting things, I think they put themselves in great jeopardy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Jeopardy.  I`m joined by Peter Wehner, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush.  He penned a recent article that criticizes Republicans for sinking into Donald Trump`s cesspool, defending just about anything.  And White House Correspondent Francesca Chambers from "The Daily Mail" who`s been covering this issue.  Good evening to you both.

PETER WEHNER, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR GEORGE W. BUSH:  Hey.  How are you?

MELBER:  Peter, when you see what Republicans have put up with and what`s happening here, what`s your analysis of what you call the cesspool and whether this is a real opposition?

WEHNER:  Well, I don`t think it is really an opposition.  I mean there are isolated cases, there were 13 Republicans in the House that are going to defect, between 5 and 10 in the Senate.  That`s not a huge revolt.

And remember, even if they go crosswise with Donald Trump on the vote, they`re not going to be able to sustain the veto, so Trump`s going to get what he wants.  If this were a real revolt, then the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be leading it because we know McConnell doesn`t agree with him.

Look, the entire --

MELBER:  Just on that point, you`re saying that while there is a step here, you`re saying basically Mitch McConnell is being hypocritical?

WEHNER:  Yes, he is being hypocritical.  He knows that this is wrong.  He knows that if Barack Obama had done this, then he would be in high dungeon.  And he`s basically said he doesn`t agree with what Trump is doing but he is going to go along with it.

The Republican Party has spent a better part of two years supine when it comes to Donald Trump compliant and for the most part cowardly.  And we have spasms of independence, spasms of courage, but they`re rare and the acid test is really going to be with the investigations of Donald Trump.

And I can virtually guarantee you that the Republican Party is going to be more or less in lockstep with them.  Look, I`m glad that the Republicans, that a handful of them are standing up but this is not foreshadowing deeper fracturing.  I wish it did but --

MELBER:  You wish it were because you`ve complained about the -- and been concerned about the cesspool.  I wasn`t expecting a Bush official to mention an acid test as a way to understand this.  It`s very Timothy Leery of you.

WEHNER:  Well, you don`t know what you get on cable these days.

MELBER:  Fair.  Francesca, you`re at the White House.  You hear Peter explaining what he sees as a Republican and the problem here.  Let me play a little bit of Mitch McConnell speaking about the man who occupies the building you`re in.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER:  I was one of those hoping the president would not take the national emergency route.  What is clear in the Senate is there will be enough votes to pass the resolution of disapproval which will then be vetoed by the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  What is he doing there?  And is that good enough for Donald Trump who famously wants a really excessive loyalty no matter what?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL:  So the White House is responding quite cautiously to this, pointing out there`s still ongoing litigation.  You have to remember that when the president announced this national emergency, he said he didn`t really need to do this.  That became the basis for legal challenges.

So the White House proceeding cautiously but an official told me this evening that it`s making staff at the White House available to lawmakers who are expressing concerns as well as directing them to the Department of Justice as it prepares for this vote, Ari.

MELBER:  Peter, take a listen to the way the President has tried to defend this as you know, the kind of typical thing that will happen regardless of what he does.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE:  If President Trump can build a wall when Congress has refused to provide the funding, then the next president can declare a national emergency and tear the wall down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And a lot of people talk about precedent, precedent, that if we do this, the Democrats will use national emergency powers for something that we don`t want.  They`re going to do that anyway, folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I apologize for asking you to give a serious response to Donald Trump`s blight CPAC rebuttal to Senator Alexander, but working here, we can elevate the discourse.  I mean, Peter, what do you think of that argument because it seems so patently nihilistic and conservatives in your party have long talked about the need to constrain federal power regardless of who`s in office.

WEHNER:  Yes, look, I agree with you.  It`s nihilistic and it`s hypocritical.  We`ve seen this movie before when Barack Obama took some actions as it related to the DACA kids.  Republicans were furious about it.  Whether it sets a precedent or not -- and I actually agree with Lamar Alexander, I think it could, but that`s not the point really.

What the point is whether it`s right or wrong.  Now, I know I`m using a vocabulary that`s alien to Donald Trump and to a lot of his supporters.  But the fact is that this is blatantly unconstitutional.  Whether it`s illegal or not as a different question.  But there`s just no -- there`s no doubt that this particular action which was to try and after -- if he was rebuked by Congress on this issue, on this funding issue, to then invoke emergency powers for something that is not an emergency which is a clear violation of the separation of powers is simply wrong and it`s unconstitutional.

And remember, this is the party that has people who probably have referred to themselves as constitutional conservatives.  But here is an issue which is so perfectly framed to say no, it`s a step too far.  And you get Rand Paul and four, five, six other Republicans but the rest are falling in line.  And this I think is symbolic of the deeper corruption and corrosion, intellectual corrosion and frankly moral corruption of the Republican Party.  It`s -- for me as a lifelong Republican, it`s a sad thing to say but I think it`s the reality of things.

MELBER:  Intellectual corruption and moral corrosion, happy Tuesday, everybody.  Francesca, final word.

CHAMBERS:  Well, Republicans seem torn on this issue, Ari.  When I spoke to Senate Republicans last week, they didn`t really want to say how they were planning to vote on this.  And several of them mentioned the fact that they believe that it`s an unprecedented expansion of executive power not just from this president but from past presidents and suggesting that they are against that, but again not wanting to go against President Trump on this.

But Secretary Nielsen, the DHS Secretary was at the policy luncheon today for Republicans trying to persuade their vote.  We know that Vice President Mike Pence went last week to try and talk to them so we expect more senior administration officials to be working with Republicans as we move toward this vote.

MELBER:  Right.  Which again goes towards what they care about at least on the optics, unfortunately perhaps not as much on the substance as Peter pointed out.  Francesca with the reporting and Peter Wehner, thanks to both of you.

WEHNER:  Thanks a lot.

MELBER:  I appreciate it.  Up ahead, Michael Cohen is back on the Hill tomorrow whether Trump likes it or not.  And he revealed through his lawyer a new Trump hush-money check live on this very show.  That new reporting is next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL MONICO, LAWYER OF MICHAEL COHEN:  It`s a $70,000 check which I have with me today.  The President said to Michael at that time, you`ll be getting the two checks soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Now to a big story that broke live on our air right here last night.  Michael Cohen`s lawyer, a former prosecutor was here exclusively and he brought receipts including a new one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONICO:  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.  He said that that check would be forthcoming soon, and sure enough, it was.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Here is a picture of that very check which we obtained during our show last night, $70,000 payment, February 2017, Trump had just become president, and Cohen`s lawyers tell us it was signed by Allen Weisselberg and Donald Trump Jr.  They also say that while this check was not entered into evidence last week, meaning it`s brand-new, it is official evidence in the case and it would seem to corroborate a key claim that Michael Cohen made about Donald Trump under oath.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP:  He says to me something to the effect of don`t worry Michael, you`re January and February reimbursement checks are coming.  As he promised, I received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I`m joined by federal prosecutor Paul Butler who`s previously argued corruption cases.  Good evening.  Does this check back up that part of Cohen`s testimony?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It`s proof that Michael Cohen has got papers on Donald Trump.  It`s necessary corroboration because as we all know, Michael Cohen is a witness with a lot of baggage.  And so he brought a receipt in the form of a $70,000 check which is documentary evidence that Donald Trump Sr. is in a criminal conspiracy with Don Jr, Allen Weisselberg and Michael Cohen to violate federal election law.

MELBER:  You mentioned the election law.  I mean, that`s what`s so important here.  There`s so many things happening, people may forget.  This payment is already a confessed crime in federal court which Michael Cohen confessed to.  It`s part of why he`s going to jail.  And when you look more widely at what the country thought of -- and everyone talked about how divided we are -- I thought this was notable, court of public opinion not juries.  But way more people in this environment believe in Cohen than Trump.  What do you think of that Paul?

BUTLER:  So two things.  One, not only is it a confessed crime already, it`s a crime that the Southern District of New York -- of New York has stated on paper that President Trump committed.  In Cohen`s sentencing memo, the SDNY said that he acted at the direction of the Individual One.

MELBER:  Directed -- not an indicted co-conspirator, the way they wrote it, but directed.

BUTLER:  Yes, by President Trump, Michael Cohen was.  And the timing here is so significant as the lawyer pointed out on that great interview that you did yesterday, Ari, when he said that this was after Access Hollywood where President Trump was making these payments, then-Candidate Trump to his alleged mistresses.  The last thing he needed was more evidence that he had a woman problem.  And so he felt that he had to make these payments as kind of a response to Access Hollywood.

MELBER:  Yes.  And that`s where the criminal part goes into an extra-legal part.  Everyone can redo elections as much as they want, but you have the emerging picture of this election crime which helped him in an election of another election crime where Mueller indicted the Russians whether they had American help or not.  And you start to stack how many crimes were committed to try to impact the outcome of the election, at what point does that have a greater significance.

The other thing we got into with Mr. Monico -- and he was very careful as I know you would be if you were representing someone in the Southern District of New York on this exchange.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONICO:  He does intend to continue to assist the Southern District.

MELBER:  You said other investigations, is that other authorities in New York?

MONICO:  Yes.  Yes it is.

MELBER:  Would that be potentially including the New York Attorney General?

MONICO: Yes, that`s true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  What does it tell you that Cohen`s lawyers in a -- in a limited way are acknowledging that he continues to try to help the feds who did not deem him a formal cooperator and the Attorney General of New York which might be a nice thing, but they don`t control his federal prison sentence, and Congress in this public way.

Mr. Monaco brought up the actual Federal Rule that you know about that can reduce his sentence.  Do you see any of this as adding up to helping him reduce his jail time or is that highly unlikely in your view?

BUTLER:  You know, he`s trying as hard as he can and it will really be up to the prosecutor especially the Southern District of New York.  Mueller has already given him a lot of credit.  Really what SDNT has said so far as Mr. Cohen, you haven`t really told us anything that we don`t already know so that certainly raises the question.

We`ve been wondering how much evidence Mueller has.  It`s starting to seem like the Southern District of New York also has a lot of evidence on President Trump.  And the other thing about those state investigations is that their pardon proof.  And so this may be in part about Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, people who are in the "don`t be a snitch club" about President Trump.

If president -- if they`re not snitching based on some promise of a pardon, then that can`t insulate them from us southern -- from a state prosecution because the president can`t pardon them for that.  So apparently that`s one of the questions that Michael Cohen will be answering tomorrow when he goes back to the Hill.

Was he promised some kind of pardon?  Was that dangled in front of him?  If that -- if that`s the motive for why Manafort and Stone are acting so shady, so not forthcoming even though it`s not in their own interest and staying out of prison.  They need to be cooperating.  Why aren`t they?  If it`s about a pardon, then those state prosecutions can get around that and Michael Cohen might have the goods on that as well.

MELBER:  Fascinating points that you make on the -- on the implications of the multiple cases.  Prosecutor Paul Butler, thank you.

BUTLER:  Always a pleasure.

MELBER:  Up ahead, we turn to a Watergate insider with key historical and a T.V. legend on how Michael Cohen stacks up against John Dean and a whole lot more.  That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER:  A lawyer for the president turns and tells all.  History will surely remember Michael Cohen blasting Trump as a criminal before he himself reports to jail.  A scene his allies have long touted as Cohen`s chance to be John Dean to Trump`s Nixon.

While America and the media have certainly changed a lot since then, during both these eras, it`s clear how a huge number of Americans are fixated on the constant twist of a White House in full freefall scandal.  An intrigue illustrated by how the legendary talk-show host Dick Cavett realized viewers would love to geek out over a special show that actually broadcast from inside the Watergate hearing room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CAVETT, TALK SHOW HOST:  There`s an F-litter on the floor to fill a garbage scow at the end of the day but I asked them to leave it that way so that it would -- so that you could see maybe what it actually looks like.

I would like to make it clear right now that I had no knowledge whatever the Watergate cover-up.

Senator Baker -- by the way, when I was sitting in that witness chair, I felt guilty.  It`s a very strange feeling.

HOWARD BAKER (R), FORMER SENATOR, TENNESSEE:  It reminds me of the first one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That funny man with a guilty feeling is my guest tonight, Dick Cavett.  A host who proved to be an inquisitive student of the scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAVETT:  Why was it all necessary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The plan was made to put electronic surveillance capability into the DNC headquarters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Any time anybody illegally wiretaps or bug somebody else, that`s a bad thing.

CAVETT:  What wonderful secrets could there have been?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, I think we were trying to find out how they can afford to have a headquarters in the Watergate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And while Mr. Trump tweets his grievances against influential people in media or culture, Nixon typically see then secret which we only know because of the infamous tapes that ultimately brought down his presidency.  On one, he asked his chief of staff H.R. Haldeman "what the hell is Cavett" and "how can we screw him?"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What the hell is Cavett?

H.R. HALDEMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, WHITE HOUSE:  Oh, Christ, he`s -- God, he`s --

NIXON:  He`s terrible?

HALDEMAN:  He`s impossible.  He loads every program --

NIXON:  Well, is there any way we can screw him?  That`s what I mean.  There must be ways.

HALDEMAN: We`ve been trying to. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  We`ve been trying to.  Joining me is the T.V. legend himself, Dick Cavett.  Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

CAVETT:  Well, it`s OK.  Listen, the door was open and --

MELBER:  You found your way up.

CAVETT:  I was looking for Rachel Maddow and I thought --

MELBER:  Well, sometimes you settle for what you can find in a newsroom.  Let`s look at this comparison that many people make of John Dean and Cohen.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN:  I`m ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.  He is a racist, he is a con man, and he is a cheat.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  I began by telling the President that there was a cancer growing on the presidency.  And if the cancer was not removed, the President himself would be killed by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Do these conversion stories move Americans?

CAVETT:  That`s a good thought.  What I was jolted by when Dean came on the screen just remembering the thrill of those days.  And as Gore Vidal said, you woke up, you had to get your Watergate fixed right away.

MELBER:  The people were hooked on it then the way they are today.

CAVETT:  Yes.  By the way, I believed every word -- I just believed every word he said.

MELBER:  I admire the way you did your show and the risks you took.  I love that we can watch a lot of the old ones on Amazon nowadays.  We can learn a lot from the way you did it.  For example, in a very racist America, you made a point of facilitating these conversations that were at the time groundbreaking.  Let`s look at James Baldwin on your show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BALDWIN, NOVELIST:  When the Israelis pick up guns, or the Polish, or the Irish, or any white men in the world, says give me liberty or give me death, the entire wide world applauds.  When a black man says exactly the same thing, word for word, he is judge of criminal and treated like one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Why was it important to you to do that in a format late night where that wasn`t happening?

CAVETT:  I don`t know.  I just thought I had read some of his stuff.  I had read a bad review that was also a rave of one of his books.  In fact, the critic said he said he stood there with the breeze hungrily licking at his trousers.  And the critic wrote no, he didn`t.  There`s use saying that he did.

MELBER:  Pushing boundaries in a different way.  For Salvador Dali marching an anteater around your set in one of the most delightful late-night scenes I`m going to say ever.  Take a look.  okay can we get A

CAVETT:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAVETT:  Can we get a look at him.  He`s really great.

SALVADOR DALI, SPANISH DRAFTSMAN:  Because of the tongue.  The tongue is exactly represent the molecular strip of Deoxyribonucleic acid.

CAVETT:  I think we all agree on that.

DALI:  (INAUDIBLE)

CAVETT:  Watch yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  What can we learn from Salvador Dali?

CAVETT:  That you can go on even if you`re insane.  So the great James Agee review a book Dali when he was young, and it was Dali`s so-called autobiography.  And one of the things he recalled was a funny head using his little baby sister as she crawled across the floor.  Her head as a football.

MELBER:  You have a lot of wisdom.  What would you offer to the younger generation?  What`s important when we`re overwhelmed by political lies and media and propaganda?

CAVETT:  My old philosophy professor Paul Weiss at Yale said you`re not going to make it better really.  It`s going to be ripped, and torn, and beaten, and horrible the way it is.  And if you will only try you, might make it a little bit better.  And that`s why I say, doesn`t Trump wish such thing.  The thing was such a disaster that he had saved his heels first for this trip to Vietnam.  I want to write a song called please Mr. President go back up that escalator.

MELBER:  Dick Cavett on that note, the escalator.  Thank you for coming on THE BEAT.

CAVETT:  You too man.

MELBER:  There we go.  There it is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER:  Fantastic.  Up ahead, we`re going to show you what we promised, this new bid to try to keep Donald Trump`s military school records secret.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  New reporting on a story you may not have heard about.  There are these efforts underway to try to hide Donald Trump`s academic records.  The Washington Post reporting there were top officials at Trump`s military school who hid his records at the request of some sort of wealthy alumni who said they were allies, friends of Trump.

And then the superintendent telling The Post back in 2011, they moved the records to a secret location on campus so they couldn`t be released.  Now, all of this happening at a time when, yes, of course, Donald Trump was challenging Barack Obama to release his college transcripts.  The whole report seems to corroborate something you may remember that Michael Cohen testified to under oath just last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COHNE:  I`m giving the committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump`s direction, threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump`s grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Nothing illegal about that, but many wondering, what was Donald Trump so intent on hiding?  Now, tomorrow, Michael Cohen will go back.  He`s testifying in a closed setting to the House Intel Committee.  I`ll tell you tomorrow for our special coverage, we have Congresswoman Val Demings who will be questioning Cohen.  She joins me tomorrow along with Sam Nunberg and the Rev. Al on THE BEAT.  That does it for me.  "HARDBALL" is up next.  

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END