KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: That is all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Hi, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much.
We`re covering a lot of stories on THE BEAT tonight. Speaker Nancy Pelosi making news, declaring her standard tonight for what it would take to impeach President Trump. She says, "This is news." Tonight, I`m going to be joined live by one of her top lieutenants on that unfolding story from the Hill.
Later, an insider speaking out on Stormy Daniels hush money payments and corroborating parts of Michael Cohen`s allegations against Trump.
Also, more news on the campaign trail from Elizabeth Warren, including some of the news that she broke right here on this show on Friday.
But we begin with Bob Mueller grinding down two former Trump aides. This is a pivotal week in the Mueller probe. You`ve got one federal judge who will issue rulings that will define the fate and possibly the freedom of both Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, two former Trump aides who`ve also worked together for decades. And it`s through their work on behalf of Donald Trump that both men are now in this position.
They both await rulings from Amy Berman Jackson. She is known as a pretty tough federal judge. She was the one who first cracked down on Manafort, putting him in jail even before his trial.
Obviously, a tougher attack than the other federal judge which gave him such a lenient sentence with much controversy late last week. That was for separate crimes.
Also, at any moment, Roger Stone`s lawyers will formally submit their argument to her, to Judge Jackson, basically trying to convince her that Roger Stone didn`t really violate her gag order. He is something of an Instagram bandit, as you may know, and he had those recent posts which appeared to violate the gag order. She could jail him for that, also this week.
Now, as soon as that filing comes in, I can tell you we will report it out for you. We`ll tell you exactly what`s in it and what it means. There`s other developments though that are also kicking up in the Mueller probe this week. This is part of why people say, some people say, it looks like the (INAUDIBLE).
Wednesday, Manafort receives that sentence in the D.C. case. That could be up to 10 separate years in prison. Then you have Mueller and Michael Flynn`s lawyers providing an update that could determine whether those people are ready for sentencing.
Then comes the Stone day that I mentioned. That`s Thursday with Judge Jackson. Friday then, we`ll also get an update over whether Manafort`s Deputy Rick Gates can be sentenced or whether Mueller needs more time with him as well.
So that`s a lot of action right inside the courtroom. Then outside of it, you have President Trump reportedly privately hailing Manafort for not being a rat or a coward and likening him to a "political prisoner".
On all of the legalities, I want to begin with two former federal prosecutors, Glenn Kirschner, and Paul Henderson. Good evening, gentlemen.
PAUL HENDERSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Good evening. Thanks for having us.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Hi, Ari.
MELBER: Glenn, what do you see is important in this big week?
KIRSCHNER: You know, I`m actually looking forward to the Manafort sentencing because I think Judge Ellis` really unjust and unjustifiable sentence of Manafort so far below the guidelines with really no justification for it. Does harm not only to sort of the Mueller probe but really to our criminal justice system.
You know, there are a couple of reasons why a judge can depart downward, that is, go below what is supposed to be the bottom of the potential sentence for Manafort of 19 1/2 years. And the judge actually announced that neither of those things applied.
He didn`t accept responsibility for his crimes and he didn`t substantially assist the government in other investigations. In fact, we know Judge Jackson found, he lied to the Mueller prosecutors on, among other things, one of the central issues to the Mueller probe.
So for them to have Judge Ellis announce that he`s going from 19 1/2 down to just 3 years and 11 months I think really does damage in so many ways to the system. I think Judge Jackson, who is strong, independent, smart, no- nonsense, and law and order is going to get the Manafort sentence right. And for this former career prosecutor, those things still matter.
MELBER: Well, and so Paul, I wonder if you could handicap both of these big rulings this week. She is in the center of it. And Roger Stone`s arguments, which we`re going report in detail as soon as we get them, they may be a very simple version of Outkast, I`m Sorry Miss Jackson, admit responsibility and hope you don`t get jailed. What does Manafort say and what do you see happening in both of these proceedings?
HENDERSON: I think the hammer is going to fall and it`s going to fall very severely on Jackson. And I think all of the other reports are only going to make that sentence even worse for him. I think the real issue here and what a lot of folks have been talking about is whether or not these sentences are going to be concurrent or consecutive.
And here, these are separate crimes. I think it`s clear that this judge is moving in the direction that the sentences are not going to be concurrent.
MELBER: You`re talking with Manafort about whether she takes the four that he`s got in this other lenient case and adds to that rather than combining?
HENDERSON: That`s exactly what it means. Is she going to let them run separately or going to run concurrently? I think she is going to let them run separately because of all of the disparities that we`ve seen this case and, quite frankly, the huge disparity that we saw in the first case with Ellis.
And this is before we even start talking about the huge economic and race disparities that we see in federal sentencing. But in this case in particular that is so far below the standard and the guideline that we`ve seen, I think Jackson after this 17 months of dealing with this case and the 500 motions that have been filed back and forth, in addition to breaking his plea deal and the bad behavior both from Manafort and his representatives, now is the time to address all of those transgressions in sentencing. All of those are aggravating factors.
MELBER: Do you expect Judge Jackson to hit Manafort for what happened elsewhere or is she going to stay laser-focused on these charges?
HENDERSON: I think she is going to stay laser-focused on these charges, but she has to take into account and contemplate some of the bigger picture in terms of what`s happening with the Mueller probe and what`s happening with his co-conspirators because that`s one of the charges that he`s plead to is here, the obstruction of justice and also the conspiracy against the United States.
Each of those charges he`s got 10 years each for those charges. So even if she blends them together and just gives him the 10 years when he is facing actually two decades, I think he is likely to look at a sentence of something like 14 years.
But even if she rolls them in and contemplates the mitigating factors which I don`t think she is likely to do because of his behavior, in this case, I still think it`s going to be around 14 years and not the 10 or something lower.
MELBER: And Glenn, one of the reasons that the country has been having a big debate over criminal justice and inequity since Thursday night is a good thing that exposes a bad thing. And the bad thing according to many people is the very blatant inequities that were revealed in Judge Ellis` approach.
The good thing is that we do have transparent federal courts which means that in our democracy, in our rule of law, the citizenry learns in real time not only the result, but judges have to sit there and explain themselves and that that can have a positive factor here. That can be part of the process of accountability.
I mention that looking forward to Judge Jackson because although she has not been criticized the way Judge Ellis has, that same transparency put her on record as saying no more do-overs for Mr. Stone. And we all know that now. So I wonder how you think that factors in.
I`m going read here from what she told Roger Stone the last time he was in trouble over the gag order. "I gave you a second chance. This isn`t baseball. You don`t get a third chance." Do you think her saying that on the record and the nation knowing it really raises the pressure on her to have meaningful punishment for him now?
KIRSCHNER: That`s a great question, Ari because she did put herself sort of in a bit of a box by saying you don`t get a third chance. But let me tell you, I think she is going to see Stone`s transgression here as a bit of a foul tip.
I have a feeling she is not yet ready to, as we say in D.C., step `em back which is basically take him into custody and detain him pending trial. We saw the post where he said who framed Roger Stone, which does seem to violate the modified gag order that she handed down last time. We did hear that I guess a rerelease of a book is in progress. I just don`t know that she`s going to see this as enough of a direct transgression of her modified gag order.
MELBER: So let me ask you. Isn`t this the issue with Roger is that he parses and petty fogs his way up to the boundary? I mean I think you guys have both dealt with cases where people have done less and already been hit with more.
MELBER: With Mr. Stone.
KIRSCHNER: And he does it for the attention. And I think he is getting exactly what he wants. But I have a feeling she is going to treat him like the teenager that he`s behaving like.
She is going to take his phone. She is going to ban him from social media. She is going to send him to his room, perhaps put him on home detention with electronic monitoring via a GPS ankle bracelet.
And I think she is going to call this one a foul tip and give him one more chance. And then if he violates, step him back.
But I could be wrong. She`s no-nonsense. She may say, "You know what? I`ve already had enough with you."
MELBER: Stay with me. I`m going to bring in to our conversation "Wall Street Journal" Reporter Shelby Holliday who is not an attorney but sure spends a lot of time with attorneys the way you`ve been covering the story.
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Which is fun. I enjoy it.
MELBER: What jumps out to you about this? And the foul tip analogy is interesting because if you want to be tough on Mr. Stone, he`s clearly gone up to the line over and over. If you want to be benign about it, you say well, he didn`t go give a speech or do something that we would call the traditional violation. He keeps using Insta stories as sort of a way to tiptoe around and mess with it.
HOLLIDAY: He likes to play with fire. And when you talk to legal experts, they say this may not be blatantly over the line but he sure as heck is walking very close to it. That`s his personality. That`s what he likes to do.
I think what`s so interesting about this week is Judge Jackson will sentence Paul Manafort and send a signal to Roger Stone. That doesn`t have to be her intention, but whatever comes of that sentencing will be watched very closely by Roger Stone because he`s coming up to the pipeline next.
So I think with the four years that Manafort got last week, a lot of people were frustrated. A lot of Mueller watchers and legal experts were frustrated that that sends a signal to others wrapped up in the Mueller probe that maybe you don`t have to cooperate. Maybe you can lie to prosecutors. Maybe you can violate your gag order, break the terms of your bail, do all of these bad things and still kind of get off the hook.
Now, four years is not nothing. That is a significant jail sentence.
HOLLIDAY: But given what he was facing --
MELBER: But it`s just a slice. It`s a tiny slice based on what he did and what he was up for.
MELBER: And then you have all of this rumor mongering about whether or not his lawyer emphasizing no collusion other than legal denials is an appeal for a pardon. Here is the White House responding again to all of these rumors today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Manafort goes for the second half of his sentencing this week. Why hasn`t the president ruled out a pardon for Paul Manafort?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has made his position on that clear. He`ll make a decision when he is ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLLIDAY: This is a fascinating -- that was a fascinating point that Sarah Huckabee Sanders made because everybody`s been watching and even prosecutors noted that they thought Paul Manafort might be angling for a pardon and therefore refusing to cooperate fully.
The president has been very noncommittal on this issue, which makes a lot of people think he will issue a pardon. And some of President Trump`s supporters want him to issue a pardon. But I just think you have to step back and look at the huge range of crimes Paul Manafort has either pleaded guilty to or been convicted of.
And you also have to look at the fact that an America first president could potentially pardon someone who conspired against the United States and has yet to even apologize to Americans for that. I think that`s a big political calculation if the president`s really thinking about a pardon, whether or not it`s worth it, whether or not it`s worth spending that political capital remains to be seen.
MELBER: Glenn, on that point?
KIRSCHNER: Yes. You know, this is a man who stole from the United States by failing to pay his taxes, engaged in bank fraud, engaged in a conspiracy against the United States by illegally lobbying, and he committed witness tampering.
He tried to urge witnesses to lie so he is disrespectful of the country. He is disrespectful of the American people. And he is disrespectful of the criminal justice system. For the president to come out and say he is not a rat, he is not a coward, he is a brave man, that`s the exact opposite of the message that a law-abiding president would be sending.
MELBER: And Paul, take a listen to how Paul Manafort spoke about all of this back in the better days when he and Roger were toasting each other for their proximity to Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Did Roger recommend you for the job?
PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Roger was one of the two or three people who strongly recommended me, yes. Even after Roger stopped being the principal political adviser to Trump, he continued to be a very important adviser and is to this day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Take it all together for us, Paul. You see these individuals, one a convicted felon waiting for a potential sentence of up to 10 more years. The other literally pleading for his liberty before he even goes to trial. How does this compare to other legal cases you`ve been involved in when you see people flying so high, now even on a best-case scenario, even the "lenient sentences" facing some real tough times?
HENDERSON: I think that leniency is out the window. And when you hear these pleads that they`re making now to stay out of custody, I think it`s going to fall on deaf ears. I think those statements that we`ve heard are all going to come back and bite them.
They`re all going to be used as statements in aggravation when they`re contemplating all of the sentences. I can already anticipate the arguments that prosecutors are going to be making just to get the sentence. And I believe that this sentence is going to be much more harsh than the first sentence with Ellis.
And I think we`re going to see some serious time, and it`s not going to matter that this has been a high-flying political insider. What`s going to matter is his behavior throughout this trial, his behavior with the plea bargaining, his behavior with his association with all of these other folks around him that have engaged in all of this terrible behavior.
All of that adds to more years. All of that adds to not considering a mitigating factor to keep someone or run a sentence that`s going to be concurrent. What`s going to result here is a heavy stack of sentences and a heavy stack of years I believe for Manafort.
And we`re going see that in a matter of days. My guess is 14 years or more for these charges. And you will -- maybe we will see a change in attitude.
I will say that I think that that`s really important that we have not heard an apology. We have not heard Manafort come forward and say that he is sorry, that he regrets his crimes that he`s committed, his crimes that he has plead to. All of that I think puts the judge in a situation where she`s going to show him --
HENDERSON: -- that she is in charge.
HENDERSON: She has not appreciated his behavior. He has played games with her. So that`s what is going to happen.
MELBER: Paul Henderson, Glenn Kirschner, and Shelby Holliday thank you very much.
Coming up, Speaker Pelosi laying down a new marker here on how and when a House would ever impeach Donald Trump. I have a member of her leadership, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries live on that big story.
Later, an insider from the Trump hush money scandal, breaking his silence talking about Cohen and the motivation, the "Access Hollywood" tape.
Plus, some big news from the 2020 presidential race after our 30 Rock interview right here with Senator Elizabeth Warren. More on the Fallout and follow-up from that.
And then one of the most creative minds behind Seinfeld and Curb talking comedy and satire in the Trump era, all of that on tonight`s show.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news tonight. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is declaring something of a new standard on the record for what it would take to impeach President Trump. In a brand new interview with "The Washington Post Magazine", Speaker Pelosi says that it`s just not worth it to pursue impeachment at this time and says in order to pursue it, she would need compelling evidence and a bipartisan process.
She also prefaced her remarks by saying this is new, suggesting the speaker for whatever reason wants to put a marker down tonight. And here is one other reason why. Politically, as you may have heard, there are growing calls from her own caucus, from her own Democratic members saying maybe it is getting time to consider impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. AL GREEN (D), TEXAS: I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to call for the impeachment of the president of the United States of America.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe that we have everything that it needs to basically impeach him. I believe that.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D), MICHIGAN: Bullies don`t win. And I said baby, they don`t because we`re going go in there and we`re going impeach the [bleep].
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m now joined by a member of Speaker Pelosi`s leadership team from the House Democratic Caucus, as well as a member of the Judiciary Committee, relevant for all these reasons. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thanks for joining me tonight.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Good to be with you, Ari.
MELBER: Bottom line, is the speaker trying to make news here and raise the bar and thus the expectations on what it would take to impeach President Trump?
JEFFRIES: I think what the speaker is doing is drawing a clear delineation in terms of what the House Democratic Caucus is all about. We didn`t run a campaign last year and seize control of the House of Representatives based on a desire to impeach the president.
We ran a campaign under our for the people agenda indicating that we were going to focus on driving down the high costs of life-saving prescription drugs, increase pay for every day Americans, enact a real infrastructure plan, and clean up corruption and bring our democracy to life.
That`s what we ran on. That`s what the speaker appropriately wants to keep our focus on as we move forward.
MELBER: That makes sense. I`m going push you on it, though. I think everything you said is about supporting basically the policy agenda to try to improve working people`s lives across America. No doubt there is a record on that.
But wouldn`t you agree with me, real talk, that the majority of people in your district, the majority of Democratic voters already think that Donald Trump has abused his power, and they were expecting, at least waiting until Mueller issues his findings, to say whether or not there would be potential impeachment proceedings?
JEFFRIES: That`s correct. And I don`t think anything that the speaker said is inconsistent with that notion that we still are going to take a wait and see approach as it relates to the investigation being conducted by Bob Mueller, as well as the investigation being conducted by the Southern District of New York.
At the end of the day, impeachment is the ultimate political death penalty. It was included in the Constitution for extraordinary circumstances. And as the speaker laid out, we should only proceed, absent a compelling finding, that allows us to make a determination that we should go down this road --
MELBER: But Congressman, she didn`t just refer to the evidence which is what you`re calling wait and see. She said as part of the standard, this would have to be "bipartisan". And you know a lot of people look at the conduct of the Republicans in the Trump era, and they say why would anyone in power, with subpoena power running the House wait on them to make their own independent judgment about what Mueller may or may not find?
JEFFRIES: Well, two things. We`re going continue our aggressive oversight function as it relates to being a check and balance on an out-of-control executive branch. That is consistent with our constitutional responsibilities.
With respect to impeachment, as you know, listen, the House fundamentally is the grand jury. The Senate is the ultimate jury. Impeachment is like an indictment. And we can indict in the House of Representatives if the evidence is compelling enough to move forward.
But the ultimate objective presumably of the people who believe appropriately that Donald Trump has presided over chaos, crisis, confusion, and a culture of corruption is to remove him. And what the speaker has made clear is that to get to removal, you will need at least 20 Republican senators in the other House of Congress.
MELBER: So let me see if I understand you.
JEFFRIES: That`s something called reality.
MELBER: You`re speaking to an intricacy that you may know of because you deal with her daily, but that wasn`t quite in her statement, which is making waves tonight.
Are you saying that she`s basically laying out a position that she`s not going to go Newt and go in with a battle plan that is on a partisan basis in the House without a longer-term strategy for what it looks like in the Senate, and that you would have the build either through the events, the evidence, whatever is uncovered about the president, you have to build the support for that being a possibility in the Senate? Otherwise, it`s not worth it to get it started at all?
JEFFRIES: Well, I haven`t had an opportunity to speak directly with Speaker Pelosi about the context of those remarks but I can interpret them.
MELBER: Well, I`ve heard you guys are tight.
MELBER: That`s what I heard. I heard you guys talk about things.
JEFFRIES: We`re all down with NDP. But listen, at the end of the day, I do know that Chairman Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee, Speaker Pelosi on other occasions, myself and other members of the House Democratic leadership have made the observation that there is a distinction between impeachment and removal.
And that in order for us to proceed, ultimately, if there is a conclusion that this president has presided over a cult of criminality and corruption is totally out of control so that the ultimate political death penalty is merited, you have to do it in a bipartisan way if you`re going to get to removal.
We can indict in the House of Representatives. But in order to convict, it has to be done with Democrats and Republicans and the full support of the American people. I agree with Speaker Pelosi that that is the reasonable way to proceed.
MELBER: Very interesting, because this is making waves, and she`s obviously speaking to a constituency that`s got a whole bunch of different views on, again, on what you call the documented corruption of this particular president.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries from leadership, thanks for joining me tonight.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Appreciate it, sir.
Up ahead, AOC making waves of her own at the South by Southwest Conference talking about liberals and moderates.
But first, the lawyer who stuck on Stormy Daniels` hush money deal, who was all involved in it, who hasn`t been speaking, well, he is breaking his silence. We have more on that when we`re back in 30.
MELBER: Here is the headline. It was political. That is what the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal is saying about these controversial hush money payments that he originally negotiated.
Now, there`s a lot in here but you may remember the name. Keith Davidson was the lawyer before Michael Avenatti. And he says it was the release of the now infamous "Access Hollywood" tape that changed everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH DAVIDSON, HUSH MONEY LAWYER: The "Access Hollywood" tape was the motivating factor in this case actually resolving. It defeats the argument that this was done for a purely personal reason and that this was in fact done for political reasons because after the "Access Hollywood" tape, that something like this could be the straw that broke the camel`s back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You might say, of course, it was political or who cares. But this all matters now because it goes back to the crime that Michael Cohen confessed to. Donald Trump continues to mount a defense claiming that those payments were personal and not political, meaning you wouldn`t get in trouble with campaign law.
Now, Cohen`s going to jail because he plead guilty to, yes, a campaign finance violation. And this man who was on the other side of the table with Cohen, Davidson, isn`t necessarily in the clear either.
Congress wants to hear from him. He is also on that now-famous list of 81 people that the House Judiciary Committee is investigating.
He is also facing separate allegations that he originally colluded against his own clients with Cohen. That`s a claim he denies. We`ve covered it on the show.
But in this new interview, he is dishing on how friendly he and Cohen were. Davidson says Cohen confided in him about being upset that he didn`t even get, wait for it, a role in the White House, which of course is also interesting because whatever everyone thinks of Michael Cohen, this is one of the issues that have come up in whether or not he`s being a hundred percent truthful about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIDSON: He confided in me that he was just beside himself, and in his words, he said, "Can you believe it, after everything I`ve done, he`s not taking me to Washington."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Can you believe it? Well, many people say yes, you work hard for Donald Trump, it doesn`t necessarily get returned.
Now, how central is "Access Hollywood" tape? A former "Fox" reporter is also trying to get out of an NDA after reports that "Fox" killed the story on that before the election because Rupert Murdoch was trying to put a thumb on the scale and get Trump to win, releasing a statement that says, "the public has the right to know the truth."
"Fox News" has denied this. Davidson also today weighing in telling ABC, the "Fox" reporter called him for comment right after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out with factually specific details that might have informed that story which didn`t originally run.
Here with me now exclusively is the lawyer for that former Fox reporter Nancy Erika Smith, a leading civil rights lawyer who also represented Gretchen Carlson in a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. I`m also joined by David Dorsen a former SDNY prosecutor and former Chief Counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee who knows a thing or two about investigating political crimes.
Thanks to each of you for being here. Nancy, before we get into deep into the details, what do you think of what Mr. Davidson whatever his credibility the core of what he`s saying? Does that help the case against Trump because it seems like another person corroborating that this was campaign related?
NANCY ERIKA SMITH, LAWYER: It absolutely does, and the timing does as well. When you`re talking about mid-October weeks before the election, you`re talking about something that could clearly affect an election. Obviously, Trump thought that and there`s -- there are witnesses who has spoke to Jane Mayer at The New Yorker who indicate that Murdoch knew that as well, that`s why the story was killed according to Jane Mayer at The New Yorker.
MELBER: Although they deny that.
SMITH: They deny it but it`s really easy. This is simple. Maybe the Congress should subpoena my client and all of her records and then we will see exactly what Fox News had.
MELBER: Have you -- have you and your client been contacted by say, House Judiciary or Oversight?
SMITH: Not yet, but a subpoena will trump an NDA.
MELBER: So you`re making a little bit of news here which is why we like exclusive guests. You`re saying that your former Fox News reporter --
SMITH: Diana Falzone.
MELBER: -- is bound legally by this NDA contract unless and until it`s vitiated by the courts.
SMITH: Or she gets a subpoena.
MELBER: Or -- right. Or a lawful subpoena which you`re saying would override it anyway.
MELBER: So you`re saying, if -- you know, we just had a Congressman earlier in the show. If one of these Congresspersons wanted to subpoena your client with the power of the House, that would you say deliver what? What value would that add?
SMITH: That would add -- it would add to the investigation of whether Fox is really a news organization or whether it is a campaign arm of Donald Trump. Or whether just killing this story was an illegal campaign contribution worth what? Obviously, they thought it was worth something if it happened. He won the electoral college by 78,000 votes. Would 78,000 so-called Evangelicals have thought differently about him if they knew about an affair and a payoff money for with a porn star, possibly.
MELBER: I almost get the feeling you`re like an effective lawyer with a long term strategy here.
SMITH: Thank you.
MELBER: David, you know your way around the Congressional investigative process. Nancy knows a lot but also has a client here so she has an agenda and interest. Do you fundamentally think in your independent analysis that this is a proper and fruitful avenue for the House Democrats? What`s your reaction what she just said and the story?
DAVID DORSEN, FORMER ASSISTANT CHIEF COUNSEL, SENATE WATERGATE COMMITTEE: Well, absolutely. I think it`s a very important part of the picture. And I think it`s also very important part of the picture for the Southern District of New York. And I think that`s where the action is going to be. For one reason, as a prosecutor, I could get income tax returns. So the Southern District of New York may be sitting there with Trump`s income tax returns.
And what`s going -- when Trump paid Cohen to reimburse him for the payments in Stormy Daniels, he listed that as a retainer and presumably deducted those payments. That deduction --
MELBER: You know -- you know I get excited when you start talking about taxes aren`t you, David?
DORSEN: Well, it`s a subject that bores a lot of people, but when it comes to Donald Trump, it maybe is that part of his downfall because he deducted those payments to Donald -- to Michael Cohen.
MELBER: But is this like -- are you -- are you basically imagining an Al Capone situation where after everything that`s happened, it gets in trouble for tax deductions?
DORSEN: Perhaps. Because for one thing, Trump could pardon himself but he couldn`t pardon himself for violating state law. And the income tax returns that he filed on behalf of this for the state would be false because he presumably deducted these payments to Michael Cohen.
MELBER: Well, David, take a listen to the way the White House is handling this deflecting basically on Cohen, a problem that won`t seem to go away. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did the President write a check for Michael Cohen for $35,000 in August of 2017? He testified about this. He specifically accused the president of engaging in a conspiracy to conceal campaign finance violations. He presented the check.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: The President has been clear that there wasn`t a campaign violation. Beyond that, I can`t get in --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President has also said he didn`t know about these hush money payments.
SANDERS: Beyond that, I can`t --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His story has changed.
SANDERS: Again, I would refer you back to the President`s comments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: David, your view of their struggle to even explain what is corroborated which is these payments for again an NDA that they`d literally sued Stormy over again which was their way of corroborating they paid for.
DORSEN: Well, I don`t really know what they`re talking about because the payments are documented now with checks. I think they`re doing gobbly cook as in Watergate we`re hush money was an important part of the picture and ultimately I think was the downfall of the cover-up. I think that these payments are going to be very, very important.
MELBER: Interesting. And that`s interesting coming from your Watergate experience and SDNY. Before we go, Nancy, I do want to make sure we`re clear here because this is a dispute. And I want to read to you what a Fox executive says about this which is "Daniels and her associates were actually playing a bizarre cat and mouse game with Fox News and other outlets trying to get their story out without fingerprints and ultimately without enough proof to publish."
Isn`t that a fair defense for journalistic outlets that say they needed to be sure before they went with something?
SMITH: Journalistic outlets wouldn`t have to keep reporters who had the story under an NDA if they wanted the truth to come out would they? And presidential candidates should not be able to hide information from the American public with NDA`s.
MELBER: So are you saying if that defense is true, it might be valid. And your formal contention here is not that they don`t have a good argument to discuss, but that they`re actually trying to prevent the discussion of that.
MELBER: Yes. I think that makes sense. And I think the point you raised about the House is certainly interesting. Nancy Erika Smith and David Dorsen, thanks to both of you.
SMITH: Thank you.
DORSEN: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, Sen Elizabeth Warren making waves talking about what Liberal voters think of the so-called potentially socialist agenda. AOC sounding off on the "moderates." And later, I`m very excited about this, comedy in the Trump era and more with the man behind Seinfeld.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, I think you forgot my bread.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bread, $2.00 extra.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $2.00? But everyone in front of me got free bread.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want bread?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $3.00.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A huge shake-up in the tech sector.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s big, and it`s bold, and it`s going to be difficult to achieve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could she really force this kind of breakup?
MELBER: Could she really do it?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You bet.
MELBER: What`s the answer?
WARREN: The answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The answer is yes. That was Senator Elizabeth Warren right here on Friday night. She`s got a sweeping plan that she was unveiling to try to break up these popular tech giants like Google and Amazon. And now she`s taking a message right into something of a proverbial tech lion`s den because she went to one of the leading tech conferences in the nation in Texas. You may have heard of it, South by Southwest, and so did five other Democratic hopefuls in 2020.
Let`s get right to it. Mara Gay, Editorial Board Member for the New York Times. Nice to see you.
MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: They all go down there because this is one of these new school places to gather. What do you think about Senator Warren being the one what`s kind of the toughest tech agenda in this tech space.
GAY: I think it`s a smart play for her politically. I think there`s a lot of anger over these tech companies being unregulated. And I think you know, they`ve been making the argument for a long time that they`ve -- they`re the big interrupters, they are kind of trying to be good citizens in a way that most corporations you know, don`t portend to be, really. And I think that kind of asking for it in a sense.
And so you know this is a moment when there`s a lot of anger from their lack of action that they took, Facebook for example in the 2016 election down to Amazon having cities compete to give them you know corporate giveaways.
MELBER: And people don`t tend to think of most corporations as red or blue. But before these -- what you`re defining as these 2016 scandals, the tech sector was considered someone close to Democratic Party, was considered sort of new-school. I mean, Amazon was not considered Exxon I think it`s fair to say. And as you -- as you point out, that may be changing. This was her in rapid fire when I asked her in a word to define these companies and a few other things. Take a look.
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WARREN: Too big.
WARREN: Too big.
WARREN: Too big.
MELBER: Mark Zuckerberg.
WARREN: Too powerful.
MELBER: Favorite member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
WARREN: Janet Yellen.
MELBER: Your dream running mate throughout history living or dead. You could pick a person that would run with you.
WARREN: Teddy Roosevelt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And she cited Teddy who happens to be Republican for taking on the big corporation.
GAY: The Trust Buster.
MELBER: Yes, exactly. How much of this could be the fault line of the Democratic primary?
GAY: Listen, it`s a warning shot. I think actually that the real fault line of the Democratic Party is going to be -- and the central question for Democratic voters and other voters is going to be how these candidates deal with not just Donald Trump but also income inequality. And the tech sector certainly plays into that Amazon in some way absolutely. But I don`t see this as the central issue necessarily of the election.
MELBER: Right. And before I let you go, Speaker Pelosi saying very clearly we`re not on our way to impeaching him. The grassroots and some of the 2020 candidates seem to be striking a different chord.
GAY: Look, the case for impeachment should be extreme -- the bar for impeachment, excuse me, should be extremely high. It`s a drastic move. But I think when you have Michael Cohen, the President`s former lawyer implicating the President in potentially a dozen crimes. We`ve crossed a line that demands a serious consideration and we can wait for the Mueller report to see what happens but I think -- I think you know speaker Pelosi he`s going to be in a tough place and she`s trying to give herself time and that`s just fine.
MELBER: Right. And as you say, I think what she was saying and Congressman Jeffries was alluding to this night is they don`t want to be marched into it before they even find out what Mueller has but I`m sure there`s some people, we interviewed some of them who are going to say she`s gone too far in buying time. We`ll see --
GAY: Right. I mean, listen, there are some -- if the President is guilty of some of the things that he has been accused of doing, then you know, some of these allegations are impeachable offenses.
MELBER: Right. And so the question is then as they put it, do they wait for the Senate and say well we don`t have a cause. That was what Jeffries` argument tonight or do you have an obligation to deal with it. That`s a conversation we`ll keep rolling. Mara Gay, thank you as always.
GAY: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Up ahead, can you laugh these days in stressful news cycles? Well, the legendary comedian behind Seinfeld and Curve and a lot more is at the table coming up.
MELBER: If you watch THE BEAT, you know that sometimes we try to be funny on this show which rarely works out. But tonight we`re going to get some help from Larry Charles, the writer for the hit T.V. sitcom Seinfeld where he earned an Emmy. He also went on to direct Larry David`s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, plus the famous mockumentary Borat. And now he`s got his own Netflix documentary, Larry Charles` Dangerous World of Comedy where he embarks on a mission around the world to look at what makes us laugh.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- World of comedy is not just about comedians, it`s also about the people that make it a dangerous world, murderers, terrorists, extremists, and what they laugh at. We will explore comedy in places where nothing is funny, in places where it doesn`t belong. By knowing a country`s comedy, you will know its past, present, and future.
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MELBER: Thanks for being here, Larry.
LARRY CHARLES, COMEDIAN WRITER AND DIRECTOR: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Comedy as a window into the soul.
MELBER: That is something you believe or just your gimmicky pitch to Netflix.
CHARLES: Kind of something I learned actually. I didn`t go in with that agenda whatsoever. I really came in thinking I would meet people doing you know, what The Daily Show does here, satirizing corrupt governments and trying to survive, and that does exist in great numbers around the world.
But what also exists in great numbers is comedy being used to heal in these traumatic areas, these areas that are undergoing mass trauma and these war zones. People dying, being wounded and injured, families being destroyed and laughter being used as a tool for healing in those circumstances.
MELBER: Because Seinfeld was so beloved, it was one of the last shows that had really the whole country tuning in, and its jokes were largely seen as about everyone said nothing, of course, it was more than that, but about stuff that we could all relate to including the little stuff.
MELBER: What is the deal with airplane food? That`s very solid Jerry Seinfeld question. I won`t make you comment on it but you guys would delve a little bit --
CHARLES: You`re actually doing Gilbert`s impression of Jerry Seinfeld. Gilbert Gottfried`s impression of Jerry Seinfeld.
MELBER: Well, I`m nothing if not a hopelessly derivative. You work with Larry David.
CHARLES: Yes. We are all in politics getting ready to see more Larry David because Bernie Sanders is back. Let`s take a look at that iconic impression.
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LARRY DAVID, COMEDIAN: People love me, OK. I have individual donations than any candidate in history and I don`t take from millionaires and billionaires. The average donation is --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Everybody knows.
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MELBER: Does that count as an impression or is that just Larry David?
CHARLES: I think Larry David so uniquely qualify for that impression. It`s not really that much Philippe. Bernie is from the same neighborhood as we are also so I think it`s like we knew Bernie. We grew up a guys like Bernie Sanders all over the place in Brighton.
MELBER: And did you ever think one of them would get this far in presidential politics? He was number two last time, he`s back in it.
CHARLES: Well, I hate to tell you, I grew up in Trump village in Brooklyn so as much as I`m still getting over Bernie Sanders running for president, Trump being president, that`s something I will never get used to.
MELBER: Well, was the perception of Trump back then?
CHARLES: Well, first of all Trump village was built by his father and he was like a 14-year-old kid wandering around, still in the suit with the weird hair and he`s you know, he`s somebody that was thought of as a joke. He`s somebody that wants to be a comedian. He thinks he`s funny and now he has a captive audience which is kind of dangerous. That`s truly dangerous comedy.
MELBER: Before I let you go, I want to play some of your work in Curb Your Enthusiasm to do something that no one was really asking for which was try to make Holocaust Survival humorous.
MELBER: And obviously people have strong views one way or the other and there`s room for culture to engage things and you are Jewish.
MELBER: Let`s take a look at this clip from Curb.
CHARLES: Let`s check it out.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you even seen the show?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever see our show? It`s called Holocaust.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, all I know is I was damn close to that million dollars, all right. And the whole time everyone`s backstabbing me and undermining me trying to get me kicked off the show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You down know nothing about survival. I am a survivor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a survivor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES: It`s not really --
MELBER: If it bends it`s funny.
CHARLES: It`s not really exploiting the Holocaust. That`s what -- that`s what --
MELBER: Explain. Who`s the target of the joke?
CHARLES: The target of the joke is really the guy who was on Survivor. The idea that he would have no sense of what the Holocaust was that he would even have a competitive conversation where the Holocaust survivor shows how oblivious he is to history. And because of that we`re not exploiting Holocaust victims.
CHARLES: It`s completely funny and relatable.
MELBER: And isn`t there the old saying if you`re ignorant of history you`re destined to be made fun of on a premium cable show.
CHARLES: And that`s how it works. That`s the proof of the pudding right there.
MELBER: And what is more biting than satire really?
CHARLES: I don`t know. You tell me, man.
MELBER: You tell me.
CHARLES: I haven`t figured it out yet.
MELBER: Hey, I`m asking the questions here.
CHARLES: Well, biting the satire violence I suppose, that`s the next step. I don`t really have a good answer for that one. What`s more biting than satire? Do you have you have a joke? I don`t know what the answer is.
MELBER: You`re a little bit like Andy McCabe who I interviewed a while back when he didn`t --
CHARLES: Because he didn`t gave a straight.
MELBER: Not -- I wouldn`t go that far. When he didn`t want to answer and sometimes there are good reasons not to answer something. He might be waiting for the Mueller report. When he don`t want to answer, he would repeat the question back or say what are you really asking?
CHARLES: Well, I`m waiting for the Mueller report also.
MELBER: Larry Charles, I think you have that in common with many people. My final question would be this.
MELBER: When you look at comedy in the age of Trump and you`re special, is comedy in your view a helpful part to get through what you`ve described as a rough period or just a diversion?
CHARLES: Comedy is essential. Comedy is a crucial force in our lives. Comedy is like breathing and eating. Laughter is a crucial part of survival so I think there`s a very serious and very important subject and something that we need more than ever now.
MELBER: Larry Charles, we will be right back.
CHARLES: All right.
MELBER: We told you it`s a big week in the Mueller in the probe this week. Tomorrow I`m happy to tell you Richard Painter the former White House ethics lawyer will be here along with a lawyer who`s faced the Mueller probe Jim Walden, a former federal prosecutor as well. It should be interesting. That`s all the time we have though. I`ll see you then.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END