Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: March 13, 2019 Guest: David Corn, Elie Mystal, Julia Ainsley, Daniel Alonso, Shelby Holliday, Caroline Fredrickson, Carmen Ortiz
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: It`s everywhere you look. God. Come on. Aunt Becky knew, Laurie. Aunt Becky knew.
That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.
We have a special show on this big news night. I`m going to begin with this legal fact. Today, we reached an inflection point in both the Mueller probe and the legal hunting of President Donald Trump and his most senior aides.
Everything just changed. Last night, President Trump went to sleep with a potential pardon in his back pocket for even the most guilty, convicted, humiliated people on his team. Tonight, the president faces a legal nightmare for an incumbent. So intent on stifling law enforcement, the first state charges against a former Trump aide as New York prosecutors indict Paul Manafort today on charges that the president cannot pardon. No debate. Legal fact.
We`re going to get into why that matters because that bombshell completely changes the enormous pressure on Mr. Manafort and the White House`s entire calculus and leverage up until today. This bombshell dropped literally minutes after Manafort`s team walked out of court, sitting on this now seven-year prison sentence that he got.
The scene today far harsher that when the news of Manafort`s lighter sentence broke last week in Virginia. The D.C. federal judge today adding about three and a half more years to that 47 months sentence that Manafort got last week in Virginia, news that broke during our show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN DILANIAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Ari, I`ve just been told that Paul Manafort has received 47 months in prison from this judge --
DILANIAN: -- in Virginia, 47 months. A fairly light sentence as compared to the guidelines of up to 24 years.
MELBER: Judge Amy Berman Jackson has sentenced him to an additional three- and-a-half years. So he`ll get out of prison when he`s roughly 75 or 76- years-old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Paul Manafort with today`s news set for incarceration until 75 or 76 on just the federal charges. And let me explain exactly what that means. This is important as you hear everyone debate what Bob Mueller has done or whether he`s closing to ending.
Today, that`s the harshest sentence of anyone in the Mueller probe thus far. In fact, it is close to the longest sentence for anyone in any special prosecutor probe which was about eight years in all of Watergate. Now, Paul Manafort`s lawyers know this is a huge setback for their client who has actually been trying to downplay his own guilt and make these no collusion arguments aimed at the White House for a federal presidential pardon.
That is the context for something else you need to see. The bizarre scene playing out as Manafort`s lawyer stepped out today to address the public and protesters and try to make a misleading claim that he argued the court`s ruling on Manafort`s prison time also made some sort of ruling on Russian collusion.
The courts did not do that since these weren`t even collusion cases and Manafort`s lawyer found himself sort of fact check and shouted down by protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, PAUL MANAFORT`S LAWYER: For anyone who was in the courtroom today, what I`m about to say will not be a surprise. Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case. So that makes two courts --
PROTESTER: Manafort`s a traitor. He`s a traitor.
DOWNING: Two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russians.
PROTESTER: Traitor. Liar. That`s not what she said.
PROTESTER: That`s not what she said. That`s not what she said. Manafort is a traitor. Manafort`s a traitor.
DOWNING: It`s totally unnecessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s not what she said, they chanted about Judge Jackson. The protesters were right. The judge actually rebuked Manafort`s team for their collusion non-sequitur, her words. And we have more on that later tonight.
But the top headline here was this judge roasting Paul Manafort for his now confessed crimes. Rebuking the number of lies, the amount of fraud, the extraordinary amount of money that she detailed was at stake in his felonies.
And she justified this medium to harsh sentence partly because she said Manafort never even accepted responsibility for this offense. Ultimately, backing away from the facts.
So as a legal matter, all of that would have made this today the most devastating single day in the Mueller probe thus far. The highest jail sentence, the most direct rebuke of a senior Trump official on the record, especially since Jackson was so much tougher on Manafort than that federal judge we heard from last week in Virginia.
But for reasons that I`m about to explain to you right now, this worse day ever already for the Mueller probe, well, it got much, much worse with something you rarely see. A new separate, pardon proof indictment of Paul Manafort on these other charges by the top prosecutor in New York.
You can`t make up how much is happening right now legally. Sixteen new counts right here in this mortgage frauds case. This changes everything. The very existence of these state charges, which is new tonight, reduce any motivation for President Trump to try to rush to pardon Manafort on the federal crimes if he could end up sitting in a different jail for other crimes that, again, Trump cannot pardon.
And as this show, and my colleague Rachel Maddow, and many legal experts have noted for some time, Manafort`s team had been using their final filings, their final argument, in this case, to basically pitch a federal pardon. These state charges undercut everything they have been trying to do.
So if these charges stick, that itself could be checkmate for Manafort`s strategy and to the extent, Trump is going along with it, whatever Trump hopes to get out of that, which may be why Mr. Manafort`s lawyer who has been so quick to make outlandish and false claims, I want to show you this tonight.
He couldn`t even muster any response to the largest question haunting Trump world right now, how do you counter prosecutors in a jurisdiction you don`t control, where your pardons don`t apply?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Kevin, do you have any comment on the indictment in New York?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No comment. Not yet anyway. I`m about to get an update on all of this. The breaking story out of Washington with NBC`s Julia Ainsley reporting for us live outside of the Justice Department, a busy building to be sure.
But we begin with David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for "Mother Jones" who has tracked this Manafort case from its very inception. And Elie Mystal, executive editor of "Above The Law" and a contributor to "The Nation".
David, what`s bigger? This Watergate level historic jail sentence for Paul Manafort or him getting hit the same day with these pardon proof charges?
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: It`s a dessert topping and a floor wax. I mean they are both really gigantic stories in any era other than Trump era, this story would be around for weeks and it would just be tremendous. I`m afraid that within a day or two, we`ll move onto 23 other scandals.
But you have the guy who ran the campaign for the president of the United States going to jail. And seven years, some people think is a light sentence. Maybe it is given the gravity of the crimes. It`s still a long time.
He turns 70 on April 1st. In just a couple of weeks, he`s looking at spending if he serves up the full term here a tenth of his life behind bars. That`s a big deal and it does reflect upon Trump and the campaign and we can talk about the collusion aspect later as you want to do but --
MELBER: We`re going to get to collusion. Let me --
MELBER: Stay with me. Elie, walk us through what it means that these independent New York prosecutors are on the case starting today.
ELIE MYSTAL, EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW: Yes. It means, as you put it in your open, it`s pardon proof now, right. Like once Cy Vance, which is the -- who`s the Manhattan D.A. gets on the case, as you said if these charges stick, that means any jail time that he has to serve because of these charges are not subject to a presidential pardon.
It`s unlikely and one of the things in the charges here, Manafort`s accused of various kind of real estate fraud that inspired jacking up the rents in New York City. You put Manafort in front of a New York jury and accuse him of jacking up rents, he`s going to go away for a long time.
MELBER: And based on your knowledge here, again, people can like or dislike what these two federal judges did. We see disparities there.
MELBER: But based on your knowledge of this, you`re here at this table in New York, how are judges in New York going to deal with Mr. Manafort in your understanding?
MYSTAL: Look, I also wanted Judge Amy Berman Jackson to be more like Judge Sam Jackson, right. I wanted a full-on yes, he deserve to die and I hope he burns in hell. That`s not what she`s about. That`s not what she did. She made a reasonable sentence.
I think judges in New York are going to be reasonable about this case. They`re not going to pre-judge. They`re not going to put their thumb on the scale.
MELBER: Are you looking at years?
MYSTAL: I think he`s absolutely looking at years.
MELBER: Because we`re talking -- let`s just slow this down. We`re talking seven years plus here on the federal sentence.
MELBER: And if that is not pardoned drainer you`re seated with, that sits. And then you`re saying potentially years for someone who was going to be in their 70s in New York if convicted.
MYSTAL: With no reason to run the sentences concurrently. One of the things that happened with the Jackson and Ellis is that pardon sentences run concurrently. There`s no reason to do it concurrently with the state charges because the state charges arise from different criminal acts.
MELBER: And David, hold on, I want to play for everyone and you the president asked about this. And I want to be very clear as we take in what I think is an inflection point, game-changing night in the Mueller probe.
This is a president who is highly sophisticated about how to deal with criminal investigations. This is a president who had his eye on SDNY, the federal prosecutors in New York during his transition for reasons that remain suspicious as we`ve documented on this show.
Here he was based on what we know, pretending not to understand what we believe he does understand, about how bad this news is on Manafort with pardon proof charges today. Take a look, David.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What about the second set of charges that were filed in state court?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t know that they`re going after him for state taxes.
REPORTER: No, they`re going after him in New York state. He faced federal charges and he`s been sentenced on federal charges. Right after the sentencing took place here in Washington, D.C., the Manhattan district attorney filed state charges against him, which would seem to be a way to get around the effect of any pardon that might be down the road.
TRUMP: I don`t know anything about it. I haven`t heard that. I`ll take a look at it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CORN: Now, I still think there is a value to a Trump pardon with Manafort. I don`t know how many years he may end up with, if convicted, of these new charges in New York City. But even so, if he`s to get five years, I`m just pointing this out of the hat, getting rid of the seven years in the federal charges, there`s a big difference when you`re 70 looking at five years or 12 years.
MELBER: Yes, sure. I don`t disagree with you, David.
CORN: But so if we`re looking at --
MELBER: David, I don`t disagree with you. Hold on.
MELBER: But the point tonight, before you go deep in the weeds, is that there is no good rationale for Donald Trump who has proven to be quite wily about dealing with law enforcement to rush out a federal pardon now. I mean don`t you think that is less likely sooner because of this hedge?
CORN: Well, perhaps. But at the same time, if Manafort is still hoping to keep quiet and not tell the truth as the judge accused him of doing in the federal case, he still has an incentive to maybe stick to that position. So whether he gets it now or a year from now or two years from now to get rid of that federal time may mean a lot to him, particularly if he ends up getting some New York state time.
MELBER: Well, or it may mean less. In other words, we`re now into it depends on the future. But if he gets hit with five-plus years in New York, it`s a whole different ball game. And that`s why this is such a fascinating turn. Both of you, stay with me.
As promised, I bring in NBC`s Julia Ainsley who`s been reporting from the Justice Department. Let`s look at how this fits into the building behind you. People sometimes forget. For all of its independence, Bob Mueller works for the Justice Department. He reports into, what is now the Trump Attorney General Bill Barr. And this would look like a big Mueller victory here, Julia.
We`re going to put it on the screen for your analysis. This case started with Papadopoulos getting a couple of weeks. Other people, we don`t even think about. Cohen was handed off three years in New York. The seven and a half years for Manafort here is by far the most significant thing Mueller has done at a time that we still await sentencing for Gates and Flynn. Julia, how big of a victory is this for Bob Mueller?
JULIA AINSLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY & JUSTICE REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Absolutely. There are two big victories today. First, the Manafort sentence and then the news from the Manhattan D.A. because what this does is it sends a message to other defendants, in this case, other people who Mueller has indicted or people who he may indict in the future that says, you are not pardon-proof. And it is obvious that these judges see these charges that the special counsel is bringing very seriously.
One person I think would probably be paying particularly close attention today is Roger Stone because we know his defense team will go in front of the same judge tomorrow for a status conference and we may hear whether or not he`s in violation of his gag order.
And then, of course, you have Rick Gates coming up where his defense will show how much he has cooperated, unlike Paul Manafort. It shows that when you make decisions like Paul Manafort, which from the outside seems pretty irrational unless you think that he`s getting for a pardon, it shows if you go down the track of Manafort and not someone like Rick Gates who`s cooperating or someone like Michael Flynn, things can get harder because there are places where the president cannot reach.
And that`s what the judge made very clear today. She said, in the court, the facts still matter. Could be a kind of illusion to what`s going on in politics today. People might not trust what they`re hearing from their federal government. But inside her courtroom, the facts still matter. And in other words, someone who`s trying to manipulate this, someone like Manafort who`s trying to tamper with witnesses, that can`t happen in her courtroom.
And then the further you take this outside of Mueller, as it goes to places like the Southern District of New York, as it goes to the state level, that is even more proof from the intervention of the executive branch, of the White House --
AINSLEY: -- of the president trying to get involved.
MELBER: And so Julia, put that against the backdrop of the endless intrigue around when and if Bob Mueller might be close to done because a casual observer here would say seems like a lot is still going on, some things ending, some things beginning.
And, of course, while there`s no reporting that suggest Cy Vance and Bob Mueller publicly have an alliance here, Cy Vance, the New York D.A. did what is the normal, lawful approach which is to defer to the feds until the right point which was today, they finished the sentencing, and then pick up the mantel.
And we know, Julia -- Mr. Vance is here on screen who I think viewers are going to be hearing a lot more about as he pursues this case. We do know that Mueller`s other plea agreements like many DOJ agreements do hold out the prospect of cooperating with other authorities which could include the local D.A. So how does that all stack up against what you`re seeing Mueller up to right now?
AINSLEY: We haven`t gotten any reporting that has waved us off of the idea that this will be concluding within the coming weeks or coming months. But I will say that these cooperating witnesses are key here.
When you look at what information they need, it could be that more people would come forward and cooperate whether that`s with Mueller himself or with the Southern District or with the Manhattan D.A. But Mueller is going to have to answer the question before he submits his report, is any of that cooperation crucial to answering the question that he was laid out in his original task which is, did the Trump campaign cooperate with Russia to meddle in the 2016 election?
So further cooperation could bring in new people, it can go in different places. Of course, if we`re talking about Trump himself being out of legal trouble and we`re talking about state charges, you have to, of course, look at probes into the Trump Organization.
Not at -- this Mueller report won`t mean that the president or people who work around him are out of the legal hot water, so to speak. But it`s just a matter of Mueller being able to answer that question if anyone cooperation could steer him in a different direction.
And if not, then yes, we could be seeing that wrap soon. And again, that would be delivered right here to the Department of Justice and then it will be up to the attorney general what pieces he shares with Congress and then with us.
MELBER: Right where you are where. I`m sure you`ll be running out to tell us. My thanks to Julia Ainsley for her reporting. David Corn stays with me for the collusion piece of this later. Elie Mystal in New York, you get the last word on what we`re going to see for people who are watching this and saying wow, today is the first time someone outside of Washington has indicted a Trump official. Wow, there`s no pardon power. Wow, all those discussions with Trump`s potential obstruction, not proven by the way he intercedes with his aides, Flynn, Comey, McCabe, off the table. He could call Cy Vance all he wants and won`t get a callback.
MYSTAL: I`ll use my last word like Cohen used some of his words, right. If you continue to obstruct and lie for the president, people will come for you. That`s what`s going to happen now. And I think everybody in the Trump Organization needs to understand that at this point in their lives and careers, telling the truth is probably the right thing to do.
MELBER: Well put right here in New York. Elie Mystal, thank you as always for being a part of our special coverage. I wanted to hear your New York perspective on the law tonight.
We have a lot more including why this is a legal checkmate that can block any future Trump pardon. I`m excited to tell you, we have the only game in town, my exclusive with a top prosecutor who worked directly with Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance. That`s next. Exclusive.
Later, how the pardon proof charges could actually shape some of what is facing Roger Stone and other Mueller targets. We`re also going to reveal how a federal judge demolished the Trump-Manafort no collusion defense with David Corn later.
And new allegations about Donald Trump potentially trying to meddle in, guess what, a different New York case, the federal one against Michael Cohen.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.
REPORTER: Will you pardon Paul Manafort?
TRUMP: I have not given it a thought as of this moment. It`s not something that`s right now on my mind. I do feel badly for Paul Manafort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A big question for President Trump has been whether he would pardon his aides in the Mueller probe like Manafort until tonight. That question in a very real sense may have been taken off the table as New York prosecutors are aiming to checkmate President Trump with these new pardon proof charges indicting Paul Manafort in New York on these 16 counts.
You`ve heard us mention this before in our reporting and it`s a big deal tonight. It cannot really be stressed enough. This is the nightmare that Trump`s lawyers have always presumably warned him about. That this new New York charges tonight, that go after Paul Manafort in ways that Donald Trump cannot legally pardon.
So if convicted, and we just saw how much evidence there could be to use against Manafort, then Trump couldn`t really save him from a lot of jail time. Now, that`s huge because as you know, if you follow the news, the looming question in the entire end game of the Mueller probe is why the former chair of Trump`s campaign, Paul Manafort, kept lying after pleading guilty.
It didn`t seem like something you would do to protect yourself. So who was he protecting? And why did he keep parroting no collusion?
Now, if you watch this show, you know we first reported on this all the way back in August 2017 when we wrote and reported on THE BEAT about the ways that state AGs could investigate these cases. And if they found charges, that would be an end run around a federal pardon. Take a look. This was 2017.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tonight, for the first time, we can report new findings from an MSNBC legal unit investigation into the other way this Russia probe could continue even after pardons through prosecution for state crimes. A source with knowledge of one --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I think we might rerack that because this is pretty important. Do we have the ending part of that? We`re going to see about re-racking that. Basically, this was August 2017. Mueller has been in office a few months and we reported for the first time then, over a year ago, that there was a state looking at this way of charging that would go around Donald Trump as a person who controls federal pardons. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tonight, for the first time, we can report new findings from an MSNBC legal investigation into the other way this Russia probe could continue even after pardons, through prosecution for state crimes. A source with knowledge of one state attorney general`s preparation tells me that office is already looking at its potential jurisdiction for Russia related crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s what we knew in 2017. And now we know no pardon can save Manafort in New York. I am very excited to tell you about our exclusive guest on this topic. Dan Alonzo was the former chief assistant district attorney for Manhattan under yes, Cy Vance, the D.A. who filed these bombshell charges today.
Dan was Vance`s right-hand man or if you`re a Law & Order fan, we could say he was the Jack McCoy to Vance`s Adam Schiff. Thank you for coming on THE BEAT tonight.
DANIEL ALONSO, FORMER ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY`S OFFICE: My pleasure.
MELBER: What does it mean that you have the D.A. going at charges like this after someone has just finished getting their federal sentence? Have you ever seen a case like this when you were in the office?
ALONSO: No. I would call this very unusual for the D.A.`s office to follow a federal conviction or a federal acquittal for that matter. The reason generally is because New York`s double jeopardy laws are very strong. And so it would be very unlikely.
Also here, it`s not like there was some obvious miscarriage of justice. I mean I think here probably what D.A. Vance is thinking, as you`ve said on your earlier segments, is that in case Trump would pardon Manafort that he would have these charges hanging over his head.
MELBER: Right. And you haven`t spoken to the D.A.?
MELBER: But you worked with him for a long time. You`re saying your view is he knows this is an extra step and he may be taking it in order to deal with and counter a potential abuse of the federal pardon power.
ALONSO: Stressing that, I don`t know directly from the D.A. Yes, that would be my very strongly educated guess.
MELBER: When you look at actually winning a case like this against Paul Manafort under these conditions, how would you rate the likelihood of prevailing of getting Manafort a conviction in New York?
ALONSO: Putting aside the double jeopardy question which he has that as a potential defense, the case is a slam dunk.
MELBER: A slam dunk?
ALONSO: Yes, Manafort pled guilty to essentially these charges in federal court. He elocuted to them and he also admitted that he was guilty of the counts that hung where the jury didn`t reach a verdict.
So Manafort has already admitted the underlying facts underlying these charges. So he is going to be relatively easily convictable.
MELBER: You`re basically saying that one of the star witnesses against Paul Manafort in the New York case is Paul Manafort?
MELBER: And so what could he get, if convicted?
ALONSO: The maximum is 8 to 25 years in state prison. The minimum, if he`s convicted on the top count, is one to three years in state prison.
MELBER: And based on your knowledge, everybody`s been watching how these sentence guidelines can work or be downgraded --
MELBER: -- what would be a reasonable outcome in New York?
ALONSO: You know New York doesn`t have sentencing guidelines. These are - - the judge has complete discretion, as long as they don`t go below a mandatory minimum or above a mandatory maximum. So a case like this, it`s in the millions of dollars so it`s worth in the two, three, four-year range at the low end.
MELBER: How does Cy Vance look at this? Because Bob Mueller has a very different national reputation and awareness from being special counsel beforehand. Cy Vance is not the special counsel. He`s not looking at all aspects of 2016 but he is now the first person as a prosecutor outside of the federal system to take up charges against a prominent Trump aide. Does he know he just started what might be the biggest case of his career?
ALONSO: Cy Vance is a very smart and very careful prosecutor. So I think that he knows this is a very important case. I don`t know that he would agree that it`s the most important of his career. He has lots of important cases.
And I think it`s a mantra in the Manhattan D.A.`s office and Mr. Morgenthau used to say that every case is important to the victim. So important case for sure but I don`t think he would say to the exclusion of lots of other important cases that he has.
MELBER: Interesting. Again, because you worked with Cy Vance who everyone is learning is now picking up where Mueller left off with Paul Manafort. The last question I have to ask you is, of course, the biggest one. Do you know what it is?
ALONSO: I do not know what it is.
MELBER: Being someone who almost ran the whole D.A.`s office, I bet you can imagine. Paul Manafort pled out once, claimed that he was flipping and lied to Mueller`s prosecutors. He`s now facing, as you just put it, potentially a longer jail sentence in New York than what he faced against Mueller in a place where there`s no pardon and he might have rougher treatment.
Do you think the D.A.`s office can flip him for real this time and get better information?
ALONSO: Look, this speculation can be a fool`s errand. If I were a betting man, I would say probably not. If he didn`t flip under the federal charges and he violated his agreement, I would say he is unlikely to cooperate. He may well plead guilty but he`s unlikely to cooperate.
MELBER: And in your experience, why do people like that resist to the end cooperation?
ALONSO: You know there`s a million reasons. They have their own private view of the truth. There are people they are protecting. I mean in my experience, the biggest reason cooperating witnesses lie is not to falsely incriminate somebody, it`s to falsely exculpate somebody.
MELBER: Exculpate meaning to protect someone?
MELBER: Do they do it out of fear?
ALONSO: Sometimes. I don`t know if they`re doing that here. Obviously, we have the international connections but that would be speculation.
MELBER: International connections being that Paul Manafort may be on the wrong side of people around the world?
ALONSO: Obviously possible but I have no knowledge of that.
MELBER: As someone who worked with the D.A. here and filed the new charges, Dan, I really appreciate you coming on. Will you come back on tomorrow night?
ALONSO: My pleasure and I`d be happy to.
MELBER: Dan Alonso, I feel like we`ll be talking to a lot of people like you as we look to where this case heads. Thank you very much. I want to turn to what today`s bombshell actually means for the other people in Trump world like Roger Stone who faces a big hearing before the same judge this week and why Trump Org keeps coming up which of course involves Donald Trump`s family when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: The Manafort indictment here in New York has sent shockwaves across Donald Trump`s inner circle. Paul Manafort was charged in New York State on something that might sound narrow, mortgage fraud, conspiracy, and falsifying records is all part of that. Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance said very clearly in this announcement "no one is beyond the law in New York."
And that could matter to other people who have never even been charged in the first place because the Trump Organization has faced investigations for a range of activity beginning with Michael Cohen`s hush money payments -- hush money payments and ending with a whole lot of other things that are still sparking all kinds of questions for the people who`ve worked for that Trump Organization.
I want to bring in Wall Street Journal`s Shelby Holliday who is reported on the Russia probe and MSNBC Contributor Mike Lupica. Good day to both of you. We`ve done so much law throughout this whole first part of the show. I turn to you not on the law but on the bigger picture.
This is one of those days where it`s hard to even imagine it happening to any other president save for maybe Nixon, but this is the President of the United States. This was the number one guy in his campaign. This is seven and a half years and before the door even shuts if it were a movie, he`s getting hit with new charges in New York.
We just heard from a prosecutor`s friend in New York here, colleague and friend who says they`re not messing around.
MIKE LUPICA, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Ari, I was thinking today with Flynn and Manafort and everything that is happening, OK, where do they find these people? Where do they find these people? You know once we wrote books about government in this country called The Best And The Brightest, these are like --
MELBER: Although David Halberstam was speaking sarcastically, was he not?
LUPICA: The -- this is a level of hucksterism and grifterism. The likes of which I don`t think we`ve ever seen. This is like something out of old New York City. Tammany Hall politics.
MELBER: Do you think -- do you think over the long run people in the United States some follow the news closely, some don`t, some look at it as a team sport and everything is red blue, some don`t, do you think the cumulative effect here is to convince people that Donald Trump at a minimum has made very poor decisions about who he`s hired?
LUPICA: Yes. I mean, at a minimum, OK. And that is why the larger -- there are a couple larger issues for me today. One is it`s going to take generations for them -- for any kind of luster to be restored to the Office of the President of the United States. This is not going to be fixed by one election because I think it`s been diminished not just here but around the world.
MELBER: And you`re saying something very serious that sometimes gets lost which is why we wanted to turn away from every statute in double jeopardy and say you`re talking about what it means, just what we know now. Let`s say Donald Trump is cleared of any other wrongdoing. Just what we know about this -- the number of people his lawyer and fixer, this campaign chair, what they`ve been up to.
LUPICA: It`s seamy and it`s seedy. And we were talking about it before we came on today. That is why what Judge Amy Berman Jackson said today I actually thought was encouraging. If your -- she was an American today. She wasn`t just a sentencing judge. When she talked about this courtroom being a place where facts still mattered. To me it sounds highfalutin. She was speaking for all of us.
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Another thing I really thought was interesting is she said it`s not particularly persuasive to argue that an investigation hasn`t found anything when you have lied to the investigators. She`s calling me Anna for it out for lying to prosecutors and say -- you know, she warned them don`t say no collusion. This didn`t have anything to do with collusion. They went out and did it anyways. But I thought that one lion was so interesting.
MELBER: And how does that relate to --
HOLLIDAY: We have no idea what this investigation will find.
MELBER: How does that relate to Trump Organization in New York where you have Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. who`s faced to Congress, and Eric Trump, and of course the President? All these individuals, if we`re getting into New York investigations, Shelby, what does that mean for them?
HOLLIDAY: That could be very bad for them and that`s one reason why people think the President is so easy because his kids could be implicated, his son-in-law, he no longer cares about Michael Cohen but Michael Cohen went out there and said hey guys, I have this huge pile of rocks. There`s a lot of dirt under it.
And at the time you know, Republicans said we don`t trust you, we don`t believe you, we don`t want to look under those rocks. Democrats said we don`t trust you, we don`t believe you, we want to look under every rock. It appears as though these investigators in New York and possibly New Jersey and other states looking into Trump and his businesses and his inaugural committee, they want to look under all of the rocks too and that`s a very problematic for the President.
LUPICA: Who would have ever thought -- and maybe as New Yorkers we appreciate this but does anything sound more serious now than Southern District of New York? It`s -- sometimes you feel like --
MELBER: Well, Mike, I guess Manhattan D.A. is making the --
LUPICA: Right. But seriously you know, with Robert Mueller and in the Southern District you know, sometimes you actually are allowed to think that the system might actually hold in this country in which --
MELBER: Well, that`s the part where you put your finger on it and you say to be continued because everyone does get the presumption of innocence but Paul Manafort lost it. He`s a crook. He`s a criminal. He`s a convict. And that is something that we`re processing and as you both put it, the other models here, Mueller, the judge, the system, the jurors.
I should mention, people always say, well, what will people think if they have political proclivities. There was a juror on Manafort`s jury who came in wearing a red MAGA hat. And some people said, well, she`s not going to be fair. And to her credit, we`ve covered this earlier. She was fair.
MELBER: And she said something that I think is for us to reflect on. I know both you`ll rejoin us on nights like tonight. She said, I didn`t want it to be true but it was and we have to accept that. And that`s where the law and justice and the facts fit in with not just what you want. Briefly.
LUPICA: And no, Ari. And the one the other thing that Judge Jackson said was when facts don`t matter, democracy can`t work.
MELBER: Mike, Shelby, thanks to both of you. Very important. Still ahead, the U.S. attorney who actually went after the Boston Marathon bomber is with us tonight on Manafort and what U.S. attorneys can do. And also the Manafort judge today destroying the collusion claim. That`s next.
MELBER: The judge who jailed Paul Manafort today rebutted a major Trump talking point about this whole affair. These claims of "no collusion." Judge Jackson going directly at statements that Manafort`s lawyers made in their last thing they got to do their sentencing memo where they said Manafort`s crimes were not related to collusion with the Kremlin.
Judge Jackson knocked that back in today`s dramatic hearing saying "the no collusion refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand. The no collusion mantra is simply a non sequitur that no collusion mantra is also not accurate because the investigation still ongoing." I.E. Mueller is not done.
But moments later, you got to see it, Manafort`s lawyer making this misleading statement that was fact checked in real-time by protesters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN DOWNING, LAWYER OF PAUL MANAFORT: Good afternoon, everyone. For anyone who was in the courtroom today, what I`m about to say will not be a surprise. Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any Russian collusion in this case. So that makes two courts -- two courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liar! That`s not what she said!
DOWNING: Part number two. Very sad --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not what she said! That`s not what she said!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s not what she said. I`m joined now by Caroline Fredrickson, President of the American Constitution Society, a former Clinton White House Aide, and I should mention my former boss in the U.S. Senate, Mother Jones David Corn also back with me.
Caroline, what did you see as significant here in Judge Jackson going that far and saying we don`t even know about collusion because Mueller is not done?
CAROLINE FREDRICKSON, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY: Well, I mean, I think she`s sending a very strong message. First of all, you know, it`s the irony of Paul Manafort having been rebuked for breaching his plea agreement by engaging in in so many lies to the FBI, to the prosecutors, and then his lawyer going outside the courtroom and lying once again.
But I see it as you know, what he`s doing is he`s holding out a flag waving it as high as he can to bring down the rescue plane, you know, pardon me Mr. President, pardon me. The no collusion claim is as she said it`s a complete non-sequitur in this case but the investigation is ongoing. And at least until Cy Vance filed his charges I think maybe Paul Manafort was still holding out for that pardon.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, it`s not exactly a non-sequitur because in filings throughout the case, they -- both sides the prosecutor and the attorney gave us glimpses of information that showed that Paul Manafort did secretly meet with a Russian intelligence associate named Konstantin Kilimnik. We`ve talked about that. He met with him at the behest of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch.
And one of the things that they seem to have discussed was a pro-Putin, pro-Moscow peace plan. This is in August of 2016 while Russia is attacking the election and we know that publicly at that point Manafort was talking to people alive with Russian interests about a plan that would be beneficial to Putin.
So right then and there you do have an act of collusion, getting together in a secretive way. Now Mueller, he didn`t -- this was not part of the charge, it was part of proving that Manafort had lied to the investigators and hadn`t fully cooperated with them, wasn`t part of the central part of the case. But it`s really is something that we need to know more about.
MELBER: Right. David, I want to be clear -- I think both things are true. I think Judge Jackson was saying legally it`s a non-sequitur to ask for less jail time. But you`re saying is something else that I think is consistent with this and that is super important. Underlined it twice. You`re saying this case against Manafort even with his documented lies and obstruction still added to the evidence and information suggesting a case of at least Russians and some people on the Trump side trying to work together?
CORN: The chair of Trump`s campaign in the middle of the campaign is talking to people allied with Russia including if someone representing an oligarch about a plan that would help Russia while Russia is attacking the campaign to help Trump.
Now, it doesn`t mean there was an explicit quid pro quo going on. They may have been. We don`t know for sure whether there was or there wasn`t. But it is an act of collusion right there. And this is why you know, Mueller is not a fact-finder for the public here. He`s supposed to make cases. We need a strong congressional look at this and many other facets of the Trump-Russia scandal.
MELBER: Caroline, final word.
FREDRICKSON: Well, I totally agree with David. I think this is like a Russian nesting doll and you keep opening one and you find another Russian nesting doll and another one inside. And you know it -- we`re going to find who`s at the very center of this and it might be the president.
MELBER: It`s fascinating and you could reverse the nesting dolls and say you have Mueller and Andrew Weissmann but now you also have SDNY Berman and Khuzami, and then you now have Cy Vance so you also have prosecutor nesting dolls, no?
CORN: And don`t forget the Attorney General of New York.
MELBER: I would never, David. I would never. Great to have you both here on these important threads that were that we`re pulling on and then again Paul Manafort continued according to Judge Jackson to lie about. Why did he lie? We`re staying on that part of the story as well. Caroline and David, thank you.
FREDRICKSON: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, a former U.S. attorney who literally prosecuted the Boston Marathon bombing weighs in on new evidence about Donald Trump trying to basically meddle in the SDNY probe. That`s ahead.
MELBER: Today`s bombshell news in the Mueller probe and now in New York involved prosecutors and we are now joined by Carmen Ortiz, a former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted many serious cases including the Boston Marathon bombing case. Thank you so much for joining me tonight.
CARMEN ORTIZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Pleasure to be back, Ari. Thank you.
MELBER: Let`s begin with the intersection of Paul Manafort getting this jail sentence and New York prosecutors slapping new charges on him. What do you think the New York prosecutors goal was there and do you view this as an appropriate and lawful use of prosecutorial power?
ORTIZ: I do view it as appropriate prosecutorial power and I believe that Cyrus Vance`s goal was to make it clear that no one and in particular Mr. Manafort even though he said was beyond New York law was clearly beyond above the law.
And considering that there`s been a lot of talk speculation about potential pardon with the federal sentences, I think that he wanted to send a message that if there is any pardon Mr. Manfred`s troubles are not over and the prosecution of certain matters will continue.
MELBER: So it`s interesting to hear you say that because we`ve been reporting on how that is its legal effect because the President can`t pardon anyone on New York law. But you`re saying explicitly your view, your expertise is that that was deliberately what D.A. Vance was doing today with this sort of massive show of force. I mean, what did you think of the timing?
ORTIZ: Well, I mean, he wanted to send a message that was like super loud and clear and how -- I mean -- he made quite an impact because it came at the heels of the second sentencing -- second sentence that Mr. Manafort received.
So it was clear that he said that you know, he was sending to signal that if there`s any federal pardons that the state law was still going to move forward and that again, that Mr. Manafort was not going to be above the law and that also there was not going to be any obstruction in this process.
MELBER: Right. Well, you mentioned obstruction, I want to play a Judiciary Chairman Nadler who made some news just as we were coming on under the set. I`ll start with you yes or no question. While you were U.S. Attorney did you ever have a president personally call you about a case?
ORTIZ: No, not at all.
MELBER: Right. And that across both parties has been the norm and the rule. Here was Mr. Nadler, Chairman Nadler that the acting Attorney General Whitaker in his view wouldn`t give straight answers about whether Donald Trump was trying to do that and we do know he called, for example, U.S. Attorney that -- the SDNY repeatedly. This is brand-new. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss Michael Cohen -- the Michael Cohen case. Mr. Whitaker was directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys. Mr. Whitaker was involved in conversations about the scope of the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Berman`s recusal and whether the Southern District went too far in pursuing the campaign finance case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How do you view that line of inquiry, the Judiciary Chairman exploring whether the Donald Trump`s Attorney General was interceding in those matters?
ORTIZ: I think they`re completely appropriate for him to determine whether that was happening. Although at this point in time nothing has occurred. Perhaps the president was exploring that particular option not realizing quite frankly that he would then even more greatly put himself in the line of fire for being accused of obstruction of justice and possibly committing obstruction of justice if his intent in removing for example a U.S. Attorney or any federal prosecutor in an office that is conducting a federal investigation. And intentionally trying to impede or impair that investigation he would open up another can of worms and more troubles for himself.
And keep in mind, that even if you were to remove those prosecutors, that office in particular Southern District and in most U.S. Attorney`s offices as the Department of Justice is filled with career prosecutors who are dedicated to upholding the law. And so that the case is going to continue no matter what.
MELBER: And there -- I`ll say this in closing. They don`t tend to scare easily. I mean, you were prosecuting terrorists as I mentioned in the intro. They prosecute terrorists and mobsters. You were headed that whole office. So the notion of the calls from an Acting A.G. or even this president isn`t necessarily according to what we know going to throw them off the case, far from it. Former U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, thank you for coming on THE BEAT tonight.
ORTIZ: Thank you. Thank you.
MELBER: I really appreciate it. Up ahead, we have one more thing on Roger stones big court appearance before Judge Jackson tomorrow.
MELBER: Facts matter. That`s one take away from Judge Jackson sentencing Manafort today. And tomorrow, she could put Roger Stone in jail or let him back out. She going to decide whether he violated his gag order. Tomorrow I will interview the former attorney of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal who dealt with Cohen in the hash money payment. We will have a whole lot more on this big week in the Mueller probe.
Don`t go anywhere, though. "HARDBALL" starts now.
MATTHEWS: Four more years. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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