Judge sentences Manafort to 47 months. TRANSCRIPT: 3/7/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: David Corn, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Ron Nehring, Margaret Carlson

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  General Motors, General Electric, and General Mills, none of them were in the military.  Cardinal Health didn`t serve in the Vatican.  And Bed, Bath & Beyond is not a partnership of three people.  To put it simply, you can`t always name a man by the company he keeps.

That`s all for tonight.  We`ll be back tomorrow, more MTP DAILY.

Of course, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.  Good evening, Ari.  And you`re now in waiting for Paul Manafort sentencing mode.  Good luck.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you.  We expect it any moment.  Thank you, Chuck Todd.

There is big breaking news here.  At any moment, as mentioned, a federal judge in Virginia will be sentencing Donald Trump`s former Campaign Chief Paul Manafort.  We know this will happen soon because they`ve already had one recess and they`ve run late.  Meaning we expect any moment, in this 6:00 p.m. hour on the East Coast, the end of the work day in Alexandria, Virginia, we expect to get the sentence.

This could be the biggest, most damaging day ever in the Mueller probe so far.  We know that because Manafort faces up to 24 years in prison in the courtroom you`re looking at alone in Virginia.  He faces 10 more years for his case in D.C., time he might not have faced had he not broken his plea agreement.

That sentencing is next week.  Now, Paul Manafort arrived in the courthouse this afternoon in a wheelchair.  We could see from the sketches in our court reporters, in a green jumpsuit.  That`s the same as his last trip to court in October.

This judge, T.S. Ellis, who has been at times critical of prosecutorial overreach did not give Manafort any credit for accepting any responsibility.  And his ruling on the sentence, as I mentioned, could come at any moment.  This is our special coverage.

I want to go right to the courthouse.  NBC`s Ken Dilanian is there.  And Ken, the latest news we have which I want to talk to you about here.  This is pretty interesting.  Is Mueller`s prosecutors going in on Paul Manafort here?  This is the last time they get to do that before the judge decides.

As you know and for your analysis, we hear Mueller`s prosecutors saying they spent "hours" of him -- with him, but that was not reflective of any value.  Meaning don`t credit him for the time they spent.  Indeed, they say he wasted the precious time of Mueller`s team, "50 hours" with us because he lied, he lied.  So it took longer to provide the truth to him.  What are you seeing, Ken?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS:  It`s fascinating, Ari.  Another quote from Prosecutor Greg Andres, hours of time spent with the special counsel are not reflective of the value of information we receive.  That solves a little bit of a mystery for us, Ari, because we thought that even though Manafort ultimately was found to have lied, he spent so many sessions with the special counsel, it stood to reason that he provided them at least some useful information.

MELBER:  Right.

DILANIAN:  But they`re coming to the court today and saying, in fact, no, he told us nothing that we didn`t already know.  He was completely useless as a cooperating witness.  That is bad for Paul Manafort.

But it also seems to me it`s bad for the Mueller investigation.  I mean they cut a deal with him for a reason.  They thought that he could provide them useful information pertinent to their case about whether there was a Russian conspiracy.  Apparently, he didn`t.

And as you know, Ari, none of the major questions we have about Paul Manafort, and whether he colluded and whether he provided polling information that found its way to the Russians, none of that is going to be answered in this hearing.  But what is going to be answered is how long Paul Manafort is going to spend in prison, at least in this Virginia case.

And as you said, the guidelines call for up to 24 years.  Nobody thinks Ellis will go that high.  But it`s not looking good for Manafort.  He seems to be losing on every key point that could argue for a lower sentence.

MELBER:  What does it tell you that the Mueller folks are, in a sense, really throwing the book at him?  They did not, as you and I know -- and there is a legal distinction.  They didn`t say, judge, this is exactly the years that we want and that can happen in other cases.

But they are clearly in emphasis right now at this late hour in that courtroom going back over what they say Paul Manafort did that made him worse than a traditional convict.  That is to say busted, convicted, then lying to prosecutors, post-conviction.  They`re trying to show -- I think they`re looking at this more harshly than a traditional convict.

DILANIAN:  I agree with you.  And, you know, I`m not sure that we should read anything into the fact that they didn`t recommend a sentence, because they have not done that in any of the cases.  It seems to be their modus operandi that they say here`s what the guidelines call for.  We don`t object to that.

And the guidelines are so harsh in this case.  I mean, let`s not forget, this is not a violent crime.  Paul Manafort doesn`t have a history of criminal offenses and yet he`s facing more than some people get for murder, 24 years, on top of a sentence that he will get of perhaps 10 years in Washington, D.C. and so --

MELBER:  And Ken, I`m going to cut in to say we`re hearing from our court reporters here through our control room that they`ve just announced Paul Manafort will speak, not something he chose to do during the trial.

He never took the stand.  He`s known to be a skilled communicator up to a point.  He has a law degree.  What do you think of this news breaking literally this moment that Paul Manafort will speak to the court before he gets this sentence?

DILANIAN:  Well, it would be the first time that he would speak publicly since 2017 when a gag order was imposed on him in this case.  And here is his chance to essentially express remorse, to put into context the crimes that he`s been convicted of and plus the admissions that he made in Washington, D.C. for this Judge, T.S. Ellis, who as you said has expressed some skepticism about the entire special prosecutor case and has said that the only reason Manafort is in court is because he went to work for Donald Trump.

And so this is essentially Manafort`s chance if he has any possibility of avoiding a massive prison sentence, it may be in what he says to this judge tonight.

MELBER:  Ken, we can`t predict the what of how many years he`ll get.  We can`t predict the when.  We`re told it could be any moment based on what`s coming out of a proceeding that has already run long.

We can on THE BEAT predict the who.  We will be coming to you when we get this breaking news.  Thank you for your court reporting.  We`ll be coming back to NBC`s Ken Dilanian.

DILANIAN:  Thank you, Ari.  I will be here for you.

MELBER:  As part of our special coverage on what is one of the biggest nights in the Mueller probe thus far.  I`m joined by Matt Miller, former DOJ official to President Obama.  David Corn, Washington bureau chief from "Mother Jones".  Jason Johnson, editor from "The Root".  Aisha Moodie- Mills, a Democratic strategist and fellow now at Harvard`s Institute of Politics.

Matt, how does this usually work and how is it working tonight?

MATT MILLER, FORMER DOJ OFFICIAL:  Well, one, it`s going long because I think we`re all being reminded from the trial that this judge, Judge T.S. Ellis, likes an audience.  He has an audience right now.  A lot of people gathered.  And so he`s going to take his time and say everything he wants.

I think it`s interesting that Manafort is going to speak to the judge.  I mean clearly, he`s going to try to convince the judge that he does accept responsibility, something the special counsel in his sentencing memo said Manafort has not done and argued that he tried to cooperate.  And then basically beg the court for mercy.

That would be, you know, the case he makes I think will be one that is diametrically opposed to the one the special counsel has been making both in their filings and in court today.  I think the interesting thing about the tact they take every time they`ve had a choice with Manafort, whether to go easy or go heavy, or really even to go between going heavy and going heavier, they have always chosen heavier.  And you see that again today with the arguments they`re making to the judge.

MELBER:  David, it`s easy to forget just how historic a night this is with everything going on, but this was the number one person in charge of Trump`s campaign.  And take a look at what Mueller`s done so far and how that compares as we all are kind of reacquainted with the facts.

Most of the people sentenced up to this point for what are sometimes called processed crimes where they`re under a year.  Cohen was handed off from Mueller and ultimately got three years in New York.  Gates and Flynn who flipped, Gates flipping explicitly on Manafort, we don`t know yet their sentencing, but it`s very clear that anything north of three years, let alone 10 or 15, tonight would be by far the most serious sentence Mueller has won.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES:  Let`s have a pop quiz.  Remember who John Mitchell was?  The attorney general but also the campaign chairman for Richard Nixon`s re-election campaign.  He went to jail for Watergate.  He was sentenced to one to four years, served 19 months, and got out.

MELBER:  David, I`m going to let you continue, but I didn`t know you were going to quiz.  We`ll quiz with you.  We remember him.  We also remember John Dean, Haldeman, Ehrlichman.  We`ll put this up.  Their original sentences, to your point, were in the range here of four and eight years.

CORN:  I mean we`re looking now --

MELBER:  And then look at this.  Look at what Manafort`s looking at.  Go ahead, David.

CORN:  I was going to say, Paul Manafort is on the verge of setting a very not wanted record.  You know, the prosecutor`s asking for 19 years.  Even if the judge gives him half of that and he still has to be sentenced for another set of crimes next week, he may way beat the record of any former campaign manager who goes to jail.

I mean this is really historic.  I don`t think, you know, we get lost in the day-to-day, but Donald Trump`s top campaign guy is going to jail for a very long period of time.  And while these charges don`t allude to collusion, the -- we can get to this perhaps later.  The case as it was brought by Mueller raised some very serious questions about Paul Manafort colluding with Russia while he was campaign manager.

MELBER:  Jason?

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM:  So, there`s a couple of things about this, Ari.  One, purely political speaking, yes, it`s damaging.  Yes, it was Trump`s campaign manager.  But this also has consequences for 2020 and not just from the standpoint of scandal.

Who wants to work with this guy anymore?  I mean this is a very practical issue here that as Donald Trump prepares to run for president again in 2020, he`s going to have a tremendous amount of difficulty really putting together a staff when you see these kinds of legal consequences for being anywhere near his campaign.

The other issue is this, and this trickles down all the way through Washington, D.C.  Paul Manafort was kind of a god of war.  He had his fingers in all sorts of different dictators and problematic people in different parts of the country, different parts of the world, and he`s eventually being taken down for playing the same kind of funny money games that a lot of people here in Washington, D.C. do.

This is not about Russian collusion because, again, the Mueller trial -- the Mueller investigation said he didn`t necessarily help that much with that, but this is a warning.  You know this is cleaning the swamp.

This is a warning to everyone who does this kind of business in Washington, D.C. that if you get too close to Trump, if you get too close to the wrong kinds of people, you can actually suffer serious jail consequences.  This guy is going down for a serious bid and it`s not going to be something he can laugh about or the other people on K Street can just say that only happened to him but it won`t happen to be.

MELBER:  Aisha?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, FELLOW, HARVARD`S INSTITUTE OF POLITICS:  Yes.  So here`s the thing.  We still have a situation, though, where it seems like all the president`s men are going down, but there is still not quite anything sticking to the president.

MELBER:  Well, I`m asking you about Paul Manafort.  Everyone loves to go chase Donald Trump.  We`re not doing that tonight.  I mean what I`m looking at here is the guy who ran the campaign could get, as David was discussing, a sentence on par with one of the greatest in the last 50 years.  What is the significance, in your view, of that, even if Donald Trump`s not accused of anything?

MOODIE-MILLS:  Well, I agree with Jason.  I think it`s draining the swamp and I think that he deserves to be held accountable for his crimes.  I mean, here`s the thing, yes, he`s the campaign manager and I think it matters that we set a precedent that these so-called white collar "crimes" are still high crimes.

And so I think that this is a really great thing that he is being held accountable.  But, Ari, I don`t think that we can kind of skirt around the fact that there is still the question of what does this mean in a grander scheme?  And I think that, you know, it`s true that anybody else who comes in 2020 to work with this president is going to question, you know, how they`re working with this president.  And then also there are a lot of questions that still remain to be answered.

MELBER:  Right.

MOODIE-MILLS:  That perhaps the way this sentencing is going down is a precursor to us getting to the bottom of something else.

MELBER:  And we`re getting word now Paul Manafort has begun to speak.  This is literally one of the last legal things before he learns his fate, before he gets his sentence.

Matt, that is something that he never did at trial.  His lawyers obviously determined as the case with many defendants who are ultimately convicted that taking the stand to defend themselves would hurt themselves because it opens them up to so many things they`d have to talk about.

What do you think of him now literally at this moment, at this hour tonight speaking?  And second, one other clue from the court proceedings, because we are literally in breaking news, Matt.  One good sign potentially for Manafort, at least in the amount of time, was Judge Ellis saying that some of the other cases that the Mueller folks were pushing back on may actually help Manafort, the idea being that his side was able to cite some cases where people would be getting the lower end sentence, not necessarily the max.

MILLER:  Yes.  And I think the response to that from the Mueller team, I would suspect, is it would be taken from their filings when they argue this kind of a remarkable thing.

The reason why Manafort is likely to get such a stiff sentence, the reason why the guidelines are so long in his case.  They looked around at other past defendants, other past people who have been convicted and sentenced and couldn`t find anyone similarly situated anywhere in the country, any time in recent memory.

He`s getting this stiff sentence because he is one of the most serious white collar criminals the Justice Department has prosecuted in recent years.  His crimes range from tax evasion to money laundering to obstruction of justice.  And so when you commit all these crimes, you`re going to get a very serious sentence.

And I think the reason you see him speaking for himself now is because those facts against him are so bad, it`s his last chance.

MELBER:  Yes.  and I`m going to cut in for this.

We have breaking news in the sentencing of Paul Manafort, him taking basically a chance to address the court one final time.  Ken Dilanian at the courthouse.  What`s happening?

DILANIAN:  Ari, this has been relayed to me from inside the courthouse, that Paul Manafort gave a fairly short statement in which he did not apologize, did not seem to express remorse, did talk about the difficult period that he has been through with his family.

He said the last two years have been the most difficult for my family and I.  He said to say that I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.  I have felt punishment.

And lastly, he asked the judge for compassion.  But, again, did not apologize, did not say I`m sorry, did not really speak to the details of his crimes or express any remorse for his actions, Ari.

MELBER:  And I`m looking at the notes as you are, because we`re just getting this right now.  Ken, what do you think about Manafort here saying that I have felt punishment during these proceedings, an apparent reference to solitary confinement, according to our colleague where he says, "I`ve had much time to repent.  I ask for your compassion."

DILANIAN:  Right.  Well, he`s saying he had much time to repent, but he`s not really discussing any kind of repentance or remorse for his actions.  I think a lot of people are going to read into this essentially that Paul Manafort feels sorry for himself.

He`s essentially telling the judge, look, I`ve had a really rough time in solitary confinement.  Please go easy on me.  Without actually speaking to the acts to which he has -- of which he has been convicted and to which he has pleaded guilty, Ari.

MELBER:  Well, it`s remarkable.  I`m told they`ve just gone into recess.  We`re processing all of this, Ken.  When I look at the statement, "I have felt punishment during these proceedings and I have had time to repent," the question is how that affects the judge.

The big decision now is out of the hands of Mueller.  It`s out of the hands of a lot of us analysts, observers, reporters.  It`s now down to one person in our system, this judge, and whether he looks at these comments as something that, A, he wants to incorporate into his decision.   And if so, do they help or hurt?  There will be people who look at a statement saying I felt punished and they think the only reason Mr. Manafort was even in pre-trial detention was because he committed new crimes after being convicted.  That is a wanton act that even many hardened criminals are rarely accused of.

DILANIAN:  Absolutely, Ari.  And even though Judge Ellis has expressed skepticism about the special counsel and about where Manafort figures in these proceedings, and even though he`s reputed to be a light sentencer on white collar offenders, this kind of statement cannot sit well with a judge, where a defendant comes before the court, doesn`t even mention any of the offenses he has admitted to and has been convicted of.

He doesn`t say -- apologize.  He doesn`t express remorse.  Simply says I`ve had a rough time in solitary.  I can`t imagine that Judge Ellis is going to treat that kindly.  I mean he may take into account the time that Manafort has served certainly.  Ad he may have strong feelings about the fact that Manafort wouldn`t be here if he hadn`t joined the Trump campaign.

But nonetheless, he`s faced with overwhelming evidence and a conviction and guilty pleas in Washington, D.C. and a massive record here that argues for a long prison sentence.

MELBER:  Ken, stay with me.  I`m adding back in our panel.   You and I are following our colleagues` notes.  We`re in what is the brief recess before for Paul Manafort what will be D Day in the coming moment when the judge retakes the bench here, 6:16 P.M. on the East Coast and issues his fate, his verdict.

Jason, I want to be very clear about this humiliation.

JOHNSON: Right.

MELBER:  That`s Paul Manafort`s word.  He says he`s been humiliated.  And I think in our system of crime and punishment, the question is when?  Because clearly, it wasn`t there when he was first convicted.

JOHNSON:  Right.

MELBER:  And he continued to fight it and did not take responsibility.  And it wasn`t when he pled out because, again, since then he has been found to be responsible for having continued to lie to prosecutors in a felonious manner, blowing up his own plea agreement.

Most people don`t get such a sweetheart deal anyway, by the way.  But he got that plea deal that he blew up.  So if the judge looks at this, this isn`t a reasonable question to ask, but when exactly were you humiliated, given that your felonious conduct went all the way through post-conviction?

JOHNSON:  Ari, his statement from what you`ve read is basically, I felt really bad that I got caught.  That`s it.  He`s not apologizing for anything.

And I think whether it`s Roger Stone or Michael Cohen, and certainly with Manafort, hearing that kind of statement and hearing the arguments his lawyers have made, it is a microcosm of the sort of injustices sometimes of our criminal justice system.  And what people do think they`ll be held accountable and what people don`t.

You can go from Meek Mill to -- you can ask anybody, you can ask a random person on the street here in Washington, D.C., if they had committed half of the crimes, half of the crimes, or half the amount of money, a third of the amount of money that Paul Manafort is involved in, they would have thrown away the key a year and a half ago.

MELBER:  Well, to your point, Jason, and we`ve been covering this on the show because it`s part of the larger ambit as some of the allies of the president have argued that there was some sort of overreach or aggressive conduct.  When, in fact, it`s the opposite.

Most poor defendants, including often black and brown defendants, are in pre-trial detention for money reasons.  Paul Manafort and Roger Stone up to this day having even been accused of threatening a judge were walking free.  And it was only after further accusations out in public that they, in the case of Manafort, had the detention.  In Stone`s case, next week he`ll have another hearing on it.

How do you view that context given what is his final message?  We`re finally hearing from Mr. Manafort tonight.

JOHNSON:  Yes.  He still doesn`t get it.  And if that`s the last statement that he`s going to make before he faces his sentencing, I am disturbed and impressed at the arrogance that he demonstrated.  And clearly, he learned nothing from his time in jail because this was an opportunity to demonstrate penitence.  This was an opportunity to say, look, I made mistakes but I have learned my lesson.  I will never do something like this again.  I violated the trust of the American people and the FBI and the Mueller investigation and everybody else.

And rather than coming forward and showing just a drop of humility, he talks about humiliation, which is about his own arrogance and that`s not going to sit well with any judge.

MELBER:  Aisha and then David.

MOODIE-MILLS:  Yes.  No, I totally agree with all of that.  And I know I don`t want me to do this, Ari but Paul Manafort to me is really symptomatic of a bigger cancer that kind of moves through our society that we don`t really talk about until now.

And so I am so thankful for you for actually talking about on your show the discrepancy in the way that the police are even treating this guy and what`s happening with him with regards to his imprisonment.  But there has been for too long a certain type of bad actor --

JOHNSON:  Right.

MOODIE-MILLS:  -- that gets away with a slap on the wrist.  A certain type of bad actor who generally happens to be a rich white guy that can literally have crimes against our government, be in cahoots with not only a foreign agent but one of the most hostile to the United States foreign agent and kind of can shrug it off.

And I think that with this sentencing, I am hopeful that this is a sign that`s like, no more.  We`re not going to have that in our society anymore.

JOHNSON:  Right.

MOODIE-MILLS:  People will be held accountable.  But there is a bigger picture to this that I hope people walk away from.

MELBER:  And David, all of this is coming against the backdrop where Rudy Giuliani has been out battling with Michael Cohen, another flipped witness who has proved troublesome for Donald Trump.  There are reports from other news outlets that Giuliani was back at the White House today.  Take a listen on this pardon question to how the president discussed it regarding Manafort earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  One of the reasons I respect Paul Manafort so much is he went through that trial --

AINSLEY EARHARDT, HOST, FOX & FRIENDS:  Are you considering pardoning Paul Manafort?

TRUMP:  I have great respect for what he`s done in terms of what he`s gone through.  You know, he worked for Ronald Reagan for years.  He worked for Bob Dole.  I would say what he did, some of the charges they threw against him, every consultant, every lobbyist in Washington probably does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  David?

CORN:  He also worked for warlords and, you know, kleptocratic thugs, I can`t even say it.

MELBER:  You can`t even say it.

CORN:  I mean he didn`t just work for Ronald Reagan.

MELBER:  No, I`m referring to the kleptocrats, the thugs.

CORN:  Yes.  But Paul Manafort doesn`t even reach Michael Cohen levels of contrition.  I mean at least Michael Cohen cooperated fully with Robert Mueller and then testified before Congress and kind of admitted to getting off on the wrong path, right?

And now the scales are from his eyes.  He`s no longer wowed and dazzled by Donald Trump and fame and fortune.  You know, he`s doing this after he got caught, of course, but at least telling us a story of a man who sees things differently and now just wants to help.

Manafort couldn`t bring himself to do that.  And I was thinking, as you and Ken were going over the statement, which is, is this the sort of statement that one would make if one still is hoping for a pardon from Donald Trump?

MELBER:  Do you -- what do you read in that?

CORN:  Because he`s not admitting he did anything wrong, he`s not saying I`m going to do everything I can to make this right and I will go back and now start cooperating with Robert Mueller, which he`s always free to do.  Maybe too late but he still can try.

MELBER:  And let me read those statements for viewers who are joining us for the points you`re making, David and for viewers joining us 6:22 p.m. on the East Coast, we have a recess in the sentencing hearing of Paul Manafort.  He`s already spoken.

The only thing we`re waiting for is the judge to come back into the courtroom here in what is a late-night session now by the standards of federal court and issue the actual sentence.  David Corn has been talking about what Mr. Manafort said breaking his silence.

This is big.  We haven`t heard from Mr. Manafort in any forum since he went in.  And he says tonight, and David for your response to the points you are making, I`m reading from our court reporter`s notes here, "The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I.  To say I have been humiliated and shamed would be a gross understatement," Mr. Manafort said.

He was making the statement to the court while seated in his wheelchair in his prison uniform.  Being separated from my family for the past nine months has been very hard.  He says, "I have felt punishment during these proceedings."  He refers to solitary confinement, saying, "I`ve had much time to repent and I ask for your compassion."  David?

CORN:  Well, think about this.  If he`s still trying to get a pardon from Trump, he`s saying I`ve taken a lot of hits here.  I`ve taken a lot of lumps.  And as Mueller says, I haven`t cooperated.  I haven`t helped them find out what really went on.

So, you know, I see this as perhaps a play for Trump even late in the game here because he figures he has nothing else left.  You`re a lawyer.  What do you think?

MELBER:  Yes.  I think that`s an important context you just put on it because someone who only was speaking to the audience of one, of the judge, could certainly use words.  Words are free.  Words are easy.

CORN:  Yes.

MELBER:  He could use more words to talk about why he should be given judicial compassion, but as you point out, David, he may have a different audience of one in mind, someone with the unilateral pardon power in the White House.

What we`re going to do because this is our special coverage is keep an eye on this.  Ken Dilanian with us along with our other reporters at the courthouse.  When this recess comes back out, we`re going to tell you.  We`re going to keep you posted on all of that.  And much of our special coverage panel will return.

Right now, I have other breaking news and I want to tell you what it is.  President Trump`s new Attorney General Bill Barr has announced, of course, that Bob Mueller could finish his probe as soon as this week that we`re in.

And there are these new signs that congressional leaders actually think the Trump administration might bury Mueller`s findings.  Today, the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which, of course, oversees DOJ and handles potential impeachment, he says there are signs that Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein are building a case to bury the findings.

Now, we just spoke by phone and Nadler is warning the DOJ against exploiting the now-famous policy against indicting a president to potentially cover up what Mueller finds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  If you take the position that the president cannot be indicted, no matter how much proof you have, and therefore we`re not going to comment on whatever evidence we have, then you`ve converted that rule, a normally good rule, into a cover-up.  If you withhold that information from Congress because you can`t indict the president as a matter of law, then it`s a huge cover- up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That is from our discussion today.  Chairman Nadler told me a few other interesting things about why he says his new probe of Trump corruption has to be broader than Mueller.  I`m going to play you that statement as news in a moment.

I also want to tell you the whole push comes as House Democrats are using their power to force a floor vote as soon as next week on releasing the Mueller report.  Now, that matters because Democrats would then be forcing Republicans to get on the record about transparency, raising the question, if Mueller doesn`t have anything damning against Donald Trump -- this is what I want to emphasize here.  The question that would be raised by that vote on the House floor is if they have nothing against Trump, why wouldn`t you want to release the Mueller report?

So to get into all of this, I want to bring back DOJ official Matt Miller and Reporter David Corn, part of our broader coverage as well.  Matt, what do you think of what Chairman Nadler told me there regarding why some of this should become public?

MILLER:  I think he`s exactly right.  Look, we`ve seen the president`s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, use this DOJ opinion that a sitting president can`t be indicted as a shield really for the last year.  So he`s been out talking about it and using it as a way to protect the president.

But the flip side of that is that same shield becomes a sword for Congress.  They can -- if it`s true, as DOJ says, that the Justice Department is not the arbiter of presidential conduct or presidential misconduct but that Congress is, then what that means is that Congress should have access to every piece of evidence that the Justice Department has regarding the president`s behavior.

And I think that means not just the Mueller report, but all of the underlying evidence, all of the records of interviews with witnesses.  It means that the Congress ought to be able to get access to testimony, either from witnesses, potentially from the FBI agents, and maybe Mueller who conducted that investigation.

And there is no good reason to keep that information from Congress.  And in fact, doing so would be essentially putting the president above the law.  I don`t know if the Justice Department is going to willingly turn that evidence over, but I think that the chairman has a very good argument in the court of public opinion and also in the actual courts should they -- should the Justice Department resist and he has to go to court to try to force a subpoena.

MELBER:  David, this is part of a conversation I just had with the chairman.  We`re airing it for the first time.  Take a listen to another point he raised in our discussion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  What is your committee`s message to individuals who don`t furnish these documents?

NADLER:  Well, if they don`t furnish the documents, and we think the documents are necessary, which we do, otherwise we wouldn`t have -- we would not have issued the request.  For any individuals who think they don`t need to respond, we have a compulsory process.  We can and will use subpoenas if we have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  David, that`s clearly a marker.  And it comes with him emphasizing that they want to be broader than Mueller.  That`s deliberate.

CORN:  Well, yes.  Robert Mueller has a very specific job.  His job is to look for crimes and prosecute the cases that he thinks he has a reasonable chance of winning.  It`s, you know, not his job to investigate everything, to do a big expansive report at the end, to tell the American public what really happened in the Trump-Russia investigation or with anything else that involves corruption in the Trump circle.

So what Nadler, Jerry Nadler, I think is rightfully doing and what Adam Schiff is doing in the House Intelligence Committee is saying we need to tell the public what happened, whether it is criminal or not, there still can be wrongdoing that is not a crime that you prosecute.

And so for that, you need to have a pretty wide angle lens to sort of see what`s out there and there may be things that happened on the Trump campaign, there may be interactions with Russia that were not illegal but still were very wrong and could be even considered acts of betrayal --

MELBER:  Right.

CORN:  -- on the part of the Trump camp.  And, of course, they`re looking at a lot more beyond the Trump-Russia.  You have emoluments.  You have nepotism.  The clearances with Jared Kushner and improper action there.  That goes to the Oversight Committee as well.

There is just a lot of stuff to look at.  It`s amazing Trump has only been in office for two years and he`s generated, you know, 12 different investigations that each could take a year to do appropriately.

MELBER: Yes.  And I don`t think there`s any debate about how many targets there can be the.  Other thing, Matt, that gets into the type of nitty- gritty of DOJ policy that I don`t think you or I would have ever thought would be national news, you know, five or ten years ago.  And now everyone is an expert on the Office of Legal Counsel rules about not indicting a president.

And everyone has become an expert or at least as familiar with the idea that well, wait a minute, yes, there are different rules for prosecutors in general about what they can say when they don`t indict.  But Chairman Nadler said something else really interesting today that I think other people talk about, I know you`ve talked about, and that we play -- we want to play for you a bit of Rosenstein and Barr both making this more broad point about why prosecutors are supposed to be tight-lipped.  Take a look.

We -- do we have it at all?  We may have it in a second.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  He`s making allegations against American citizens.

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  The rules I think say that the independent -- the special counsel will prepare a summary report on any prosecuted or declination decisions, and that that shall be confidential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  They`re as boring as Barr makes it sound.  It`s the most interesting thing to a lot of people in the world.  Declination being if they don`t charge people we`re going to learn about it.  So I wanted again with that context, Matt, take a listen to what Chairman Nadler just told me citing that and saying when he`s concerned.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Barr said this and Rosenstein repeated it.  And they both said that, you know, it`s Department of Justice guidelines, Department of Justice practice that you don`t comment on the conduct of someone who is not indicted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  He said he views that negatively because this is a case where the rules would support something else especially if it involves the president.  Do you think he has the better side of that argument, Matt?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE & SECURITY ANALYST:  I do.  Look, the Justice Department rules basically boil down to one thing, indict or shut up.  If you can`t make a case, if you`re not willing to make a case in court by indicting someone, be quiet.  And that`s the problem that Jim -- it`s the mistake that Jim Comey made with Hillary Clinton.  That he didn`t recommend indicting but he didn`t shut up and talked about.

MELBER:  I`m going to let you finish, but to be fair, it`s a legal and mathematical fact that James Comey never makes mistakes.

MILLER:  According to James Comey --

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER:  That is very, very much true.  And I think like -- with respect to say let`s say Donald Trump Jr.  If the Justice Department finds that it can`t indict Donald Trump Jr, I don`t think it should put out a report characterizing his conduct because they`ve decided they can`t indict him, they ought to shut up.

But the President is very different.  By the Justice Department`s own definition, they can indict him.  So the usual rules of indict or shut up don`t apply.  I think what it -- what it means is if you can`t indict, you have to give the evidence to the body of government, the entity of government that by the Justice Department itself says is the arbiter of presidential conduct.  So that gets to the point we made a minute ago.

It means at the end of this, they`re not going to indict the President.  Whether they think he committed a crime or not, they need to turn the evidence over to Congress their standard is different.  It`s not whether he committed a crime, it`s high crimes and misdemeanors which isn`t necessarily a higher standard, it`s not a sort of lower standard.  It`s a different standard informed by both legal and political questions, but it`s a call for Congress make and they can`t make that call without seeing all the evidence.

CORN:  And Ari --

MELBER:  Briefly because I got some other news.  Briefly, go ahead.

CORN:  It`s your time in here.  So if you take Matt`s example of them looking at Donald Trump Jr. and not bringing a case forward, maybe they found out that Donald Trump Jr. had some communications with Russia that signal to Russian go ahead and intervene the campaign won`t matter and they just decide it doesn`t actually violate a law.

So they`re not going to tell us.  That`s why you need Congress.  That`s why you need an independent commission to investigate those aspects and tell the public because crime or not the public deserves the right to know.

MELBER:  My special thanks to Matt Miller and David Corn.  We`ll be seeing you again as part of our special coverage.  What I`m going to do right now is reset where we`re going.  We have been watching with bated breath along with basically everyone in Washington, the White House is watching this, Congress is watching this, everyone is watching what you see in the corner of the screen which is when the judge resumes this sentencing proceeding for Paul Manafort, the only thing left is to actually hand down his jail sentence.

Paul Manafort just spoke as I was discussing with our panel saying he felt humiliated and shamed that that would be an understatement that he is repentant he said, that he had time to think about it in a reference to solitary confinement, but he didn`t say a lot else.  And now we`re waiting to see when that sentence comes.  As mentioned we have our full panel and our court reporters standing by and we`ll bring that to you.

There is other developing news tonight which is get this, Michael Cohen, Trump`s former lawyer is formally suing the Trump Organization basically for an unpaid bill of about $2 million dating from last year.

Now, we`ve reported before about how Trump`s unpaid bills cast him as a kind of a classic scrub, a guy who thinks he`s fly, but is actually a bustah and known to be broke.  Yes, I am quoting the singers TLC but this is the point tonight.  We could just as easily be quoting the brand-new lawsuit from Trump`s own former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Let me bring in Jason Johnson and Aisha Moody Mills.  Aisha, you can`t make it up.  What do you think?

AISHA MOODY MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I mean, he is a scrub, Ari.  That`s hilarious.  Yes, I mean, look, it`s that Michael Cohen -- and this was clear when he was testifying in front of Congress, that he is trying to catch to cash all the checks that he can before he goes away for his family`s financial security.  And he is leaving open his ability to make money in other ways.

And so yes, he should get his money that`s due.  And this is absolutely indicative of the way that everyone has known and talked about Donald Trump doing business where he steps people.  He doesn`t pay with (INAUDIBLE).  So I hope that he gets his money before he goes and his family is able to benefit.

MELBER:  Yes.  And he`s obviously born more of the brunt of Donald Trump and what it -- what it puts at risk working for him which is a point you both were making earlier in our programming about a different former Trump employee Paul Manafort.  But again, Jason, it`s not like this should have been a surprise to Michael Cohen which is not to say he "deserved it."  But look, I`m going to read here from the -- from the reporting.

Trump had underpaid four law firms are lawyers who work for him and this was an issue in him struggling to get good counsel even while he was a sitting president when the probe first started.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT.COM:  Yes.  I`ll be honest with you, Ari.  This is more than TLC.  This is more like Rihanna.  Trump better have my money because what Cohen is basically also making the argument that he increased the likelihood of his own legal problems because he continued to work for Trump.

Now, he could never get away with arguing like hey, you owe me money for illegal acts, but the amount of time that he spent working with Trump, the possibility that he may have sort of fudged the truth from time to time to protect this president and provide him with support, yes, he does definitely think that he should be paid what he owes.

And it`s particularly damning because the money all seem to dry up after Cohen`s office got raided which suggests that the president stopped paying him once there was pretty much no opportunity for Cohen to not continue to work for him exclusively.

So I don`t know if this is a particularly strong case, but given that he`s got the Mueller investigation, he has impending jail time, and he still got investigations with the Southern District of New York, Michael Cohen`s got to get all the money he can because that book deals not going to pay for all this.

MELBER:  Yes.  And Jason, there`s also the related debates here as the White House is attacked and a lot of Republicans have savaged Michael Cohen`s credibility.  I`ve been reporting how you really just have to look at each claim in the evidence because he has been known to mislead and lie about certain things.  He admitted it.  But what does he have.

The pardon thing though is a big deal because there`s always raises the question of whether there was misconduct in the White House or worse for Cohen whether he was being misleading about it.  Here`s what his lawyers are saying in the latest on the twists in this story that prior to July 18, Cohen directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon.

But after July 2nd, 2018, meaning that`s the line they`re drawing, Cohen told Lanny Davis who people may recall as his lawyer to say publicly he would never accept a pardon from President Trump even if offered.  That continues to be the case.  What do you view that as is that sort of a partial admission?

JOHNSON:  I think it`s a partial admission, Ari, but it`s also the behavior a lawyer who has at many times continued to change his story.  Remember the hearings last week where many people had it on record and in text messages, the Cohen said he wanted a job in the White House.  And then Cohen says, well, I didn`t want a job in the White House, I wanted to be able to work with the White House and basically have open door privileges.

So I can`t imagine that he was not exploring all of his options and at one point pursued some sort of pardon from Trump.  But let`s be honest, anybody who actually believes or bases their legal defense on Donald Trump coming to their aid is foolish.  And I bet you`re Paul Manafort is going to spend a lot of time in jail before Trump even remembers him again, and Michael Cohen knows that if he agreed and worked with the Mueller campaign there`s a little or no chance that Trump will ever come and rescue.

MELBER:  Yes, I think that`s a complex part because what you`re saying makes sense.  I think any viewer would say, right, I mean this goes very poorly for these folks.  And yet, Aisha, Donald Trump also went out of his way to do a huge solid for a former Bush aide Scooter Libby who was convicted of a crime in office while serving a president.

And Donald Trump is famously attacked the Bush family ran against Jeb, was angry they didn`t vote for him.  And that for many people was the ultimate public message of him saying, however terrible it is to go through this, however disloyal he may seem, in the end, in the end, in the end, he`s certainly willing to take random pardons for what -- former White House aides.

MILLS:  Yes.  I think the challenge though is that you can`t really predict what Donald Trump is going to show up in any moment in time, right?  And Michael Cohen, I think he got the message that I can`t bank my future the rest of my life on what this man might do two years, three years down the road if he`s still in office.

And so, one thing I want to remind us to, Ari, is that Michael Cohen is no sympathetic character.  He is absolutely a bald-faced liar. Right now it is convenient for him to demonstrate remorse, to show some receipts, to show up with his luggage and drop off some documents because ultimately he`s trying to save himself.

And that`s what happens when people flip right?  It doesn`t mean they`re good guys.  It means they`re trying to save themselves and hopefully the public will be able to benefit through it and we`ll learn some things that kind of get us closer to the truth of what we need to know about whether the president is enriching himself.  But you know, Michael Cohen talks out of both sides of his mouth as well.

JOHNSON:  All the time.

MELBER:  Jason, if any of these stories were applied to past presidents, would they be skating as well as Donald Trump thus far?

JOHNSON:  No.  And Ari, this is sort of the -- you know, 20-something years ago they used to call -- you know, they used to call Bill Clinton Slick Willy or he was the (INAUDIBLE).  This is the Teflon Don.  And the reason is because Donald Trump has a vise grip over about 38 percent of the public.  He has a vise grip over about 88 percent of Republicans in general and he has absolute control over the Republican Party.

And so no matter how bad this looks, no matter how many damning things come forward, no matter how many strippers or adult film stars or people he`s cheated or people he hasn`t paid back or bogus businesses or foreign entities that he`s cut you know, deals with, he politically remains probably one of the most powerful presidents we`ve ever seen in our life.

Half of these scandals would have sunk Obama.  They would have sunk Reagan.  They would have sunk Clinton.  Scandals like this did actually sink Richard Nixon.  But Donald Trump remains incredibly powerful.  Now, I don`t see that changing anytime soon no matter what comes forward.

MELBER:  Very interesting extra sort of beyond just the law, an extra view of that on the politics.  My thanks to both of you.  As mentioned, you`re still riding along.  Thank you very much for our special coverage.  I want to go to the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia where Ken Dilanian is reporting on the Paul Manafort sentencing hearing.  What is the latest, Ken?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER:  Ari, I`m just getting word about some comments that Judge T.S. Ellis has just made in advance of passing sentence.  And he said that he thinks the guidelines, in this case, are excessive and he thinks the sentence range that he`s been presented is quite high.  And he also talked about how he thought Paul Manafort had lived an otherwise blameless life.

And this is in keeping with what we`ve been saying about Judge Ellis.  You know, he`s had a pretty sympathetic view of Paul Manafort throughout this trial and a skeptical view of the government and he just articulated that just now in terms of the sentencing guidelines he`s been presented which is to refreshed viewers 19-1/2 to 24 years in this case.  So it seems like Ellis is prepared to go lower than that, Ari.

MELBER:  Well, I think you`ve given us some very concrete news, Ken.  Let`s discuss it in context.  Some people have strong views on the news.  They might think based on everything we`ve been discussing the facts of Paul Manafort, a lot of people don`t think it`s so high especially given the wanton busted criminal conduct post-conviction.

Having said that, the news you`re telling us is that the judge, the one person in charge of this decision says that the 19 to 24-year range which Bob Mueller`s prosecutors referred to in their filing is "quite high."  Any clue as to what he thinks then would be more reasonable?

DILANIAN:  No.  He hasn`t given us that clue, Ari.  But you know as a lawyer and I know as somebody who has covered the courts that that would be quite high for a white-collar first offender.  It`d be almost unheard of, the 24-year sentence for -- as egregious as this conduct is and as you said somebody who committed crimes even after being convicted and lied and broke a plea agreement.

Nonetheless, you know a ten-year sentence, in this case, would be considered a pretty draconian sentence in terms of white-collar crimes like bank fraud and tax fraud especially considering that Manafort is facing another sentencing in D.C. which could be tacked on to that sentence.  So - - but clearly 24 seems to be too much for Judge Ellis in this case.  Now we`ll just have to see where he lands.

MELBER:  Yes, and you raised the D.C. part which again goes to the different types of crimes, the Mueller folks can take what they get out of today.  I think based on your reporting, Judge Ellis is suggesting it will be significantly less than 19 years if I am interpreting the words quite high correctly.  That`s my inference.  And then whatever that is -- go ahead.

DILANIAN:  No, I think that`s a fair reading.  That`s --

MELBER:  So here we are -- and again, we`re not just talking about any random case.  This is the most important -- one of most important people Mueller has charge and facing potentially the most serious sentence.  Three years has been the max thus far from Cohen.

So what he -- we`re looking at a brand new sketch, by the way, that just came into our newsroom of what it felt like in there.  Paul Manafort as you could see seated in the middle in his wheelchair we`re told.  He did not rise when he addressed the court in his wheelchair.  And the sketch of the person in charge Judge Elliot, you could see -- Judge Ellis, excuse me, you could see there from the bench.

When we look at this then, Ken, do you think there`s a view of how the Mueller folks move forward?  In other words, depending on the years they get today, how crucial does it become if they want to throw the book of Manafort to get more years out of D.C. and then, of course, to get into real legal weeds, to have them served in a row and not at once?

DILANIAN:  Well, I think that this will bear on what Judge Amy Berman Jackson and D.C. decides to do depending on how light or how heavy the sentences of Virginia.  Because the whole tenor of this both cases has been Judge Ellis has been skeptical and more sympathetic to Manafort and Judge Amy Berman Jackson has been very annoyed with Manafort and more sympathetic to the government.

That`s been -- that`s been throughout.  That`s been the theme.  And so it would not be surprising if Judge Amy Berman Jackson is watching very closely what happens here and is basing her sentence in part on the severity of the sentence here in (INAUDIBLE) as it all ends up being a totality.

MELBER:  We don`t do good cop, bad cop when it comes to judging.  And most people face one judge, not two.  It is because of the range and the jurisdictional complexity of Paul Manafort`s now convicted crimes that he`s into court courts in the first place.  But to your point --

DILANIAN:  And it was his choice.

MELBER:  It was his choice.

DILANIAN:  It was his decision to do that all along.

MELBER:  It was a strategic decision.  But as you say, he`s now in a position where today maybe from the clues we`re getting the so-called good judge and in his view, I mean that`s only in terms of how it affects him when he might see is the bad judge next week.  Ken, stay with me with your ace reporting out of the courthouse.  I want to bring in another voice joining us for the first time in tonight`s show.

Ron Nehring was a Republican official who ran against the Trump campaign working on behalf of Senator Cruz and has spoken out against the Russian meddling interference efforts during the primary as well.  You join us on a big night.  Thanks for being here.

You bet.

MELBER:  Given that you were an adversary of and dealt directly with a lot of these issues, I`m curious what you think of a very notable thing that the judge just said that I think a lot of people would disagree with.  But this is the person in charge of Manafort`s fate and I know you`re learning this right and how so I hope you`re quick on your feet because we`re doing breaking news.  I`ve got it in my hand.

The judge said, after commenting that the sentencing range seemed excessive, he noted "Manafort has been involved in lots of good things, a good friend to others, a generous person, and then said he has also earned the admiration of a number of people."  Do you agree with that?

RON NEHRING, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Well, that might be true but you have to look at this in context.  I mean, Paul Manafort is someone who took the position that he has held in the Republican Part, in the position that he held in proximity to the Republican nominee for president, and abused those positions in order to financially enrich himself.

Furthermore, this is someone who went to work for Vladimir Putin`s puppet in the Ukraine and worked against Democratic forces in that country which is in directly contravenes everything the Republican Party stands for.  I mean, Ronald Reagan campaigned on liberating the Soviet Union and the you know, Soviet satellite states and so on of which Ukraine was a part of.

And Paul Manafort cashed in on the political connections that he had developed to work for some of the worst people in the world period, including in the worst characters in the Ukraine.  People who have all types of ethical problems and alike.  And then to make matters worse, he is someone who then had to go to the extreme of doing that fraudulently, and then not paying his taxes on top of that.

So you know, the judge may be correct on that.  I`m sure that Paul Manafort has done some nice things in his life.  But this is someone who deserves no sympathy and it`s an embarrassment to the United States of America.  He`s an embarrassment to the Republican Party.  How much of a legal sentence that he gets as a legal question?  But I hope that he gets the maximum sentence possible --

MELBER:  You do?

NEHRING:  -- a message that goes to all of the Republican and conservative campaign operatives and candidates who are moving up through the ranks today.  Because they will remember what happens here.  And it would be a terrible message to send to them that it`s OK to do something like this or you can get off, or you can use political connections in order to -- in order to minimize your sentence.

He gets up today -- Manafort gets up today and says, oh I`ve been humiliated.  Well, cry me a river.  I mean, this guy knew that when he got on board a presidential campaign, that all of his financial transactions would be subject to a greater degree of scrutiny.  He knew that going into this eyes wide open.  And if he has any contrition whatsoever, it`s because he got caught.

So no sympathy for Paul Manafort whatsoever. Terrible example for the country and for the Republican Party.

MELBER:  And it`s notable to hear you say that because in addition to being a Republican and quite good standing, I believe you chaired one of the largest state parties in the country for the GOP.

NEHRING:  I did.  I was chairman of the California Republican Party from 2007 to 11.  That was a volunteer position.

MELBER:  And are you -- you`re saying are you concerned as a Republican that if he gets off too light, it sends the wrong message to people.

NEHRING:  Absolutely.  This sends a terrible message to people who are involved in politics either -- whether their elected officials who want to run for higher office or they`re a campaign operative where they`re just getting out of college and going on their first campaign.

No one should think that if they violate the law, they go work for America`s enemies, and they commit these type of crimes, that they can somehow use political influence or send signals during a sentencing and somehow be rewarded by that.  That is not why people volunteer for the Republican Party at all.

MELBER:  Ron, I appreciate the clarity.  You clearly have strong views here.  Stay with me as part of our coverage.  I`m going to also bring in a first-time guests as part of our special tonight Margaret Carlson from The Daily Beast and a longtime observer of Washington.  Margaret, thanks for being here.

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  This is your first swing so I`m curious what you think is we are now deep into the hour on a hearing that`s run quite a bit longer than the court initially said as I think people can imagine and anyone who`s done jury duty may recall the federal courts aren`t usually open going into 7 p.m. on the -- on the East Coast but they`re going to finish this up any moment.  Manafort has already spoken.  What do you think is significant based on what we`ve learned thus far?

CARLSON:  There`s so little accountability in the Trump administration that the only accountability we`ve seen so far that`s memorable is what`s happening to some of these people that are going before judges.  And it`s very hard to see a man as broken as Paul Manafort and not feel some human sympathy you know, in part for his family that most of his family I didn`t know of what was going on.  It seems his wife did not know.

But what Ron said is so true that there has to be a standard beneath which you cannot sink and not pay a terrible price for it which is to probably in Paul Manafort case spend the rest of his life in jail.  And just because it`s white collar, you know, we tend to think if a white collar person has suffered at all, he`s suffered enough, and that the humiliation of it is enough punishment.  You hear that very often in in trials when the sentencing comes.  But it`s not the case.

MELBER:  You`re getting it a kind of a classism that is baked into obviously the federal system.  We`ve covered that throughout the show.  But also that`s sort of in the culture of Washington and the Greater Virginia area has a lot of the same -- that at least among the elites that Washington culture that somehow that word blameless jumps out to me Margaret, I`m curious if it caught your ear. 

The notion that this individual has lived a "blameless" life in the main overall when he has used yes, financial instruments and fancy, sneaky, elaborate schemes, but schemes that in summation, in total hurt people.  People in our country people in other countries took advantage of people who had far less power or money than he did.

The notion that the judge seized him as somehow blameless, I wonder if there`s something beyond the law going on tonight there.

CARLSON:  Well, when you bring up blameless, it makes me think also that our laws are structured in a way that it doesn`t look as if -- it looks like you`re a wily person using what`s allowed under the law because of that old saw which is it`s not what`s illegal, it`s what it`s legal in this country, that it`s white-collar because it`s manipulating taxes and it`s manipulating lobbying laws, and it`s manipulating foreign transaction laws.

But it`s still a certain kind of violence.  It`s violent to the system that we all participate in, and which we all abide by the rule of law, and if we don`t we`re going to be punished.  But somehow the elites because they`re so rarely punished and because it`s not violent in the way that drug crimes are or murder is, we think it`s somehow not as bad.  But it erodes the system in a terrible way because people think they can get away with things.

And we have a president who actually you know from what we know and what we suspect has gotten away with a lot of things.  Paul Manafort seems to be paying a price before some of the other people but nonetheless, it`s a price that he has to pay to keep the system working because he`s definitely, definitely not blameless.

MELBER:  I think you put it very well and it`s a big picture.  To broaden the big picture of our coverage as we await any moment what could be Judge Ellis` sentence, I want to bring in all of our guests in our special coverage.  My personal opinion, I may be biased, but I think this is a strong showing you guys.  I don`t know if you could see yourselves.

With the five minutes or so I have left though, that only leaves a little bit of time to go around the horn.  And so ending with my colleague Ken Dilanian and with his right to interject at any time if he gets breaking news, I want to start with Jason, then go to Aisha, and Ron.  In 30 seconds or less, you don`t steal from each other, what is your bottom line tonight, Jason?

JOHNSON:  My bottom line is I hope that Paul Manafort goes to jail for as long as possible.  And I`m disgusted and disturbed that we have a legal system where a judge can say that a man who at one point was nicknamed the torturous lobbyist who not only steals from America but actually worked for dictators and human rights abusers around the world to be called a man who lived a blameless life.

MELBER:  Aisha?

MILLS:  Yes.  So now we`re seeing the perpetrators of white-collar crimes now actually being presented as the thugs that they are.  And so I`m hopeful that we now go forward and to not think about white-collar crimes is just like white guys who get away with things but for the horrible criminals that they actually are.

MELBER:  Ron?

NEHRING:  Yes.  I think we have to make sure that no young person is coming up through politics today ever looks at Paul Manafort and says that`s the guy I want to be.  That`s the power broker who I want to be or that`s my career goal in life.  Every young person coming up through politics should look at Paul Manafort and say I better follow the rules.  I better make sure that I don`t betray my party, my country, my principles in pursuit of a check or in pursuit of their own greed.

Paul Manafort must forever be an example of what not to do we cannot allow the corrosion of our system of justice with any other type of outcome.

MELBER:  Margaret?

CARLSON:  Listening to Ron, it reminds me if we were to ask Republicans in the United States Senator in the in the Senate, they may -- they might make excuses for Paul Manafort because they make excuses for Donald Trump.  And so listening to Ron who was the Chairman of the Republican Party talk about a fellow Republican and call him to task and show that he`s not blameless even though they`re in the same party, congratulations, Ron.  We need that.

NEHRING:  Thank you.

MELBER:  David?

CORN:  The use of the word blameless is an affront to decency.  Jason hit it on the nail.  But even in this very case before the judge about Paul Manafort`s representation of a Ukrainian president who was corrupt and a thug, that Ukrainian President had his own troops fire on and kill unarmed protesters in Maidan square in Kiev.  There is nothing blameless here.  And I just wonder if this judge doesn`t really get it.

MELBER:  And Matt, this judge has just said from the bench "I was surprised Manafort did not express regret.

MILLER:  Yes, that`s right, as all of us were too.  Look, I don`t think we have enough time for me to say what I think about the judge`s blameless comment so I`ll say this.  I hope justice is served tonight but no matter what happens with this sentence, Mueller very specifically kept a card in his pocket.  He had a chance to recommend in D.C. weather that the sentence that the judge -- the judge there`s going to hand down be served after this sentence or be served concurrent with it.

And they`ve decided to wait and said they would file that that recommendation after this sentence.  They saw this trial.  They know this judge`s leanings.  And they wanted to wait.  I think, whatever happens, tonight we`ll determine what they recommend next week.

MELBER:  Ken Dilanian?

DILANIAN:  Ari, I`ve just been told that Paul Manafort has received 47 months in prison from this judge in Virginia.  47 months and it`s a fairly light sentence as compared to the guidelines of up to 24 years.  And before passing that sentence --

MELBER:  Ken Dilanian -- Ken Dilanian reporting from the courthouse for the first time the breaking news.  47 months for Paul Manafort.  We`re seeing a little bit of the action outside of this Alexandria Virginia Court House and people running out.  Ken Dilanian, walk us through what that means given what you learn today.

DILANIAN:  Well, it`s an extraordinarily light sentence in the context of what could have come to task here.  And judge Ellis foreshadowed it just before passing sentence by once again saying he thought the guidelines were grossly excessive in this case.  And he compared Manafort`s conduct to the conduct of people who have gotten sentenced of a couple of months in prison.

He did say this case was slightly different.  He did say he was surprised that Manafort didn`t express regret.  But then he handed a sentence that bears no resemblance essentially to the guidelines of 19 1/2 to 24 years --

MELBER:  Right.  Being somewhere in the neighborhood of four years makes people question what are the point of the guidelines if of all people, Paul Manafort, after conviction and blowing up his plea deal, and lying to the Mueller prosecutors, if he is the star candidate to be up for 19 years and get four, what does that say, Ken?

DILANIAN:  I mean, this is a message to the people that would commit this kind of conduct that we are o not going to throw the book at you in this court in Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia.  Now, there is another court that will pass judgment on Paul Manafort next week and I think you`ll see a much different result particularly in the context of what will be greeted as a very light sentence for Paul Manafort.

MELBER:  You hit such an important point, Ken, which is the breaking news tonight, Paul Manafort getting a very good deal based in the 19 years.  He was up for getting somewhere in the neighborhood of a few years, a four years, but he faces up to ten more next week. 

The story not over but by the standards of what he was looking for and his team was looking for, quite a lenient sentence for Paul Manafort coming out from Virginia tonight.  Thanks to my entire panel for our special coverage.  This has been THE BEAT with Ari Melber.  Don`t go anywhere.  MSNBC breaking coverage continues right now with "HARDBALL."

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