Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: March 15, 2019 Guest: Noah Shachtman, Jacob Weisberg, Johnn Flannery, Meghan Twohey, Jeru The Damaja, Noah Shachtman
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good luck out there. Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: All right.
MELBER: We are covering many different stories tonight. The White House is responding to what is now a bipartisan rebuke on immigration. President Trump is saying he will issue the first veto ever. All of these to break his own campaign promise that Mexico would fund the wall. Him, signing that veto today.
Later, we have this BEAT exclusive. A former "Fox News" reporter talking to Congress despite her NDA with "Fox News". We`re going to get into that and how that story led to Michael Cohen`s crime during the 2016 election.
But we begin tonight with firm detailed actual news about the Mueller probe on a Friday night. The probe is not over despite many rumors that it would have been over weeks ago. Actually, instead, there are now two federal prosecutors in two different cases stating under oath that there are at least two, maybe more active "ongoing investigations" that relate to or grow out of this Mueller probe.
First, there`s the Trump aide turned convict turned star witness against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, he is still, as of today, speaking to Bob Mueller`s investigators. Now, we know that tonight because of the new word that comes out here that Gates continues to cooperate in several ongoing investigations.
Now, legal experts say that implies that one of them would at least be the potential misconduct that has been alleged about the Trump Inaugural Committee. The New York feds are investigating that. Gates has talked to them, tackling questions about the money trail and a lot of other foreign influence allegations.
Meanwhile, there`s a Mueller prosecutor saying that Michael Flynn has also provided information for, this seems to be the theme tonight, "ongoing investigations". Now, while all these investigators pursue the leads that have come out of in part the Mueller case, Democrats in Congress pressing forward with their own crucial deadlines for multiple strands of the investigation.
Today, the deadline for Trump aides on those big questions about Donald Trump`s private conversations with Putin and why the United States president went to such unusual lengths to keep them secret not from the public, that might be normal, but from his own aides and national security staff.
That`s not all. Monday, a separate deadline for 81 Trump associates to fork over what some describe as a treasure-trove of documents on Trump`s business campaign and White House activities. Now so far, you may have heard about some of the legal language around this. Democrats are asking for the information.
But after you blow through a deadline, that sets up, in the normal course of things, the predicate to start issuing subpoenas. And you say to the court, look, we tried to start nice. They wouldn`t even send us a letter.
All of this is designed to deal with things that by definition Trumpers associates aren`t forking over. Either they have a good reason like privilege or they don`t have a good reason and they want to keep it a secret.
Now, here is the context to all of this as we look to what has been quite a wild week. The more you learn about the reality around Donald Trump, the less that he is able to sell a fantasy version of the underlying reality.
This is something that a person, a journalist who`s been following Trump for a long time, the founder of "Spy Magazine" Kurt Anderson, told us it`s actually the key to Donald Trump`s apparent success.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURT ANDERSON, FOUNDER, SPY MAGAZINE: He is an extraordinary grifter, salesman. And he sold himself. We were astounded that he was able to sell all the things he sold, bad condos and vodka and everything else that he sold back in the day. And now, he was able to sell a whole other set of fantasies to 46 percent of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He was able to sell those things. The question is not just the initial sell but the timeline. That vodka business that Mr. Anderson mentioned, it was sort of like Trump University or you may remember Trump Airlines or Trump Steaks or many Trump Casinos in Atlantic City and elsewhere, all of them went out of business because the thing that was being sold wasn`t real or in some cases was fraudulent, it didn`t last.
So if the details in the business matters and the campaign activities and the administration activities are exposed through the processes that I just mentioned, well the question is how does that affect both the facts that Americans care about and Donald Trump`s ongoing salesmanship of the most important product, himself?
I`m joined tonight with a very special panel right here in New York. Noah Shachtman is editor in chief of "The Daily Beast". Michelle Goldberg, a columnist for "The New York Times". And Jacob Weisberg, a former chairman of the Slate Group who`s here in part because he was one of the first reporters who also was looking at the Stormy Daniels story during 2016. Good to have all of you here.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.
Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: The salesmanship and when it runs out.
GOLDBERG: Well, I mean that`s been the question from the beginning, right. I mean you kind of keep waiting for that 46 percent, now it`s more like 40 percent, to realize that the emperor has no clothes.
And to be honest, I`m not sure that it ever will, at least with the majority of that minority. Impart, because --
MELBER: The majority of the minority is still a minority, right?
GOLDBERG: Well, it`s always been a minority. With minority that voted for him. He`s never had majority approval. But there`s enough of -- there`s a majority of the Republican Party which is enough to keep Congress from or Republicans and Congress from turning on him.
The thing is Donald Trump`s product right now is liberalteers. And it`s like the first thing that he`s ever sold that`s legit, right. I mean he really does make people who see his presidency as a desecration, he makes us suffer every day. And I feel like that`s what a lot of his followers care about, more than they care about the wall and more than they care about infrastructure. That`s what they love.
They love the fact that after a horrific massacre in New Zealand in which the shooter talks about an invasion of immigrants, Donald Trump is not afraid a few hours later to go on television and use almost the exact same language, invasion about our southern border.
Any other president would have the decency to be cowed by the moment but Donald Trump`s indecency --
MELBER: Or rise to the moment.
GOLDBERG: Right. But the very fact that he won`t rise to the moment, the very fact that he will never give a sort of into the norms that govern what kind of cut liberals like me think of a civilized life I think is what his followers love about him.
And so he`s already talking about his supporters kind of mounting some sort of violent resistance in the effort that there`s some attempt to dislodge him. And so I`m not sure that that kind of like cult-like inner core ever really dissolves until something happens that kind of materially effects them.
JACOB WEISBERG, FORMER SLATE GROUP CHAIRMAN: Ari, the two most pointless things to speculate about are when will Mueller issue his report and when will Republicans turn on Donald Trump. The answers are when he`s done and when it`s in their interest to do so.
But I think what we`re seeing with the investigation continues to unfold, Trump is like -- remember Pig-Pen from Peanuts, he`s always surrounded by a cloud of dirt wherever he goes and Trump`s like that. I mean the crime and corruption are there in his business.
They are there as we`re finding out now around the inauguration. They are in every aspect of his presidency. It`s everything he touches.
The weight of evidence will continue to get greater. But it`s so overwhelming now that there`s no excuse for saying while I`m waiting for one last bit, it`s just going to -- you`re going to have to get weak enough at some point that Republicans start to bail on him.
MELBER: Well, I think --
WEISBERG: Someday it will happen.
MELBER: When you mentioned Pig-Pen, I thought you were going to reference the Wakeful Dead drummer but we`ll take any Pig-Pen reference. You look at what you`re saying and then it is still stacked against the fact that we`re speaking on a day where the president of the United States was forced into vetoing something, only because it passed both Houses of Congress with Republican support.
And to do it, talk about exposing a con with facts, to veto it, as we`re going to discuss later in the show, it required him basically demonstrating that he is really committed to undermining his own campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall no matter what.
So I would push back slightly. I don`t think I so much disagree with you as I`m elaborating on your point. But the Republicans in the Senate are t against him on the domestic issue of immigration two years in. It does seem that facts whether it`s who pays for the wall or what`s exposed in these probes in the long run does move the ball.
WEISBERG: Some of them do care a little bit about parts of the constitution because they realize that one day there will be a Democratic president and the powers that Trump is allowed to grab and keep will belong to future presidents who might not be mostly on their side.
And give credit to the Senate Republicans who dissented on the issue. Not enough of them to override the veto but some, it`s the beginning of a crack in the wall, if you will.
MELBER: Noah, I want to put that in the context off these looming deadlines which again relate to facts that if you take the nihilist position to the extreme, Donald Trump wouldn`t have to look so secretive and fight so hard to hide the Putin translator notes and his tax returns.
The nihilist position would be I could do anything, the Fifth Avenue defense. The Fifth Avenue defense I would submit to you as a thesis appears to be utter non-sense because certainly if you could get away with that, I`m not even going to repeat it on air, you could get away with whatever terrible sundry cons are in the tax returns.
It`s precisely the opposite. The bluster hides the fact that there`s a fear that 46 percent, one of the weakest results that ever led to a presidency might drop to 45, 44, 43. Before you know it, you`re not going to be president again.
NOAH SHACHTMAN: Yes, it could be that or it could be that you look his supporters might continue to support him but that there`s stuff under that`s so personally embarrassing to him that even this man without shame could be shamed by it.
Now, look, traditionally, what has he fought back against the hardest against, it`s revealing how much money he has or doesn`t have. I mean ironically, right, there`s a week where Beto O`Rourke got into the race. Beto O`Rourke is, his family, his in-laws, are actually centimillionaires themselves.
So we actually may have a situation where the guy that just got into the race is actually richer than Donald Trump himself. And I think that some of the things that Donald Trump is trying to hide, they aren`t going to necessarily trip away at his support but they may trip away this core myth.
MELBER: Well, you`re speaking -- you were mixing in the politics here. We`ll have plenty of time to get to 2020 in 2020. But look, you`re right that it`s more traditional for candidates in both parties to play down inherited wealth whether they bought their way into school or not.
And Donald Trump, by all accounts, has been inflating his wealth. I mean literally like a new Sound Cloud rapper who is trying to pretend he has more money than he has. I mean Kanye famously said in one of his songs the jet skis in the music video, I admit it, we rented them. He didn`t have the lifestyle that he was claiming to live.
And Donald Trump, in that sense, is very Kanye though. I guess they are friends.
SHACHTMAN: I think in the article where it said rapper on gold plated tank has inflated sense of ego.
MELBER: With that, let`s bring in someone who has the right sense of ego who always claims not to look like Robert Redford even though he is known as the Washington bar`s version. Robert Redford John Flannery, good to see you.
You are also I should mention, in addition to those facts, special counsel to three different congressional investigations. And we begin with you there. Our panel will weigh in as well. But for starters to you, what does it mean when you see the looming deadlines, as I mention, on the Putin docs, on the business associates in the Judiciary Committee?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I`m very encouraged by it. It shows that the Congress is doing its business. They all get probably satisfaction from most of the requests they have made. And then they`ll have to pick and choose which ones they want to fight about, if they have to fight about them.
And I think that they might do better if they define what their objective is rather than just saying it`s oversight. And by that I mean I think that if they have to get into a court case, it would be more helpful if they`re saying it`s in contemplation of possible impeachment.
Because the courts have made distinctions in grand juries, in subpoena fights between whether or not there was a criminal case pending and whether it was a congressional subpoena. And in this case, I think they need every advantage they can have, notwithstanding what the speaker said.
MELBER: With the civil-criminal distinction there on the later end game over potential subpoenas, I feel like I wish you were in our double jeopardy segment earlier this week. We can try to get everyone to change the channel. I`m kidding, John. It`s just I feel like we`re in law school.
But that brings us to my next question for you which is you`re into the weeds that I think a lot of people are now interested in, right, which is, OK, what does it mean when they defy these subpoenas when they get the and who`s going to enforce that?
And you get into the inner branch thing of Nadler, a Judiciary Chair, going to the courts and saying back me up and Pelosi to be on board with that. I want you to speak to that and something that I know caught your eye open on the screen.
Jared Kushner`s defense Counsel Abbe Lowell who`s a very smart, intelligent lawyer, also at times been controversial in the Mueller case, he says I don`t know a special counsel, last night, who has done it better. Do you view that as optimism of at least about his client and the president?
FLANNERY: There have been a lot of lawyers and targets of investigations over the years that have complimented a prosecutor just before they end up on the wrong end of the subpoena or an indictment. So -- but as to the other question, people are gathering into the Coliseum, if you will, to see what`s going to happen.
And this will go on long enough that everybody is going to understand the details but the underlying thing they`re going to be asking is, why are they holding it back? Why don`t we know what the conversation was with Putin? Why don`t we know what happened up in New York at 666 Fifth Avenue? What don`t we know about the finances and family involvement in the inauguration?
Those questions, they all understand. A lot of times, we have been hearing other pundits say these are all process offenses. Lying to Congress, lying to a grand jury, lying on statements about connections overseas and here.
So I think that the underlying story within the process which is less complicated to those of us who think of ourselves as lawyers first is that the story is right there. And the stories are terrible stories (CROSSTALK) regime.
MELBER: And the stories, as you say, debt, money, and the desperate moves people will make. You mentioned the property that Kushner owe so much money and debt on, 666 Fifth Avenue. Michelle Goldberg, this has come up before. Now, some people know, this was something that they sublet originally from the devil, the dark lord.
Again, with the movie stuff. If it were a movie and they owed all of this money on 666, it would be ridiculous --
GOLDBERG: Right. Everything about --
MELBER: -- but walk us through this.
GOLDBERG: -- these people is way too on the nose. And so to be honest, I don`t have the details on my fingertips of the kind of corrupt deal that has bailed them out of this situation. I mean Jared Kushner --
MELBER: Well, I`ll just briefly, one of the issues was, is someone who`s working for the White House actively seeking foreign investment on a thing that could make --
GOLDBERG: Right. And so they have been underwater. This was like Jared Kushner`s big real estate deal and it was like many of the things he`s done, it was a disaster, right.
So he bought this building at the very top of the market. They soon got way underwater. There was kind of a lot of speculation about what this was going to mean for the family fortune, the family real estate company.
And then meanwhile, you see Jared Kushner having all of these meetings, this kind of clandestine meetings with foreign entities and their sovereign wealth funds. And now most recently, you had this business -- you had another company bail them out.
And the biggest -- I believe the biggest investor in the company that bailed them out is Qatar. And so there`s a sort of question of well, how much was our Middle East policy really about rescue and how much was it about kind of American interest versus about rescuing Jarred Kushner`s perilous real estate deal.
And so the very fact that you would have to ask those questions, not just about this but about almost every sort of foreign move that this administration makes goes to both how disreputable these people are but also how opaque and kind of how much we don`t know about what our government is doing.
MELBER: Right. And that goes to a reminder for people watching this who say, OK, why are we talking about all of this now? Well, it`s only three months into divided government.
Before this, there wasn`t any congressional oversight. There weren`t subpoenas. These deadlines are hitting now because they had to give them a few weeks reasonably to respond. I`m going to fit in a break.
Michelle Goldberg and John Flannery, thank you.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
MELBER: Jacob Weisberg, stay with me, I think. Noah Shachtman, you`re here with Jeru the Damaja later.
Coming up, Donald Trump issuing his veto so he can break his campaign promise. Later, the Fallout from exclusive reporting on this show on the reporter who`s going to tell Congress about how "Fox News" allegedly spiked her story on Trump hush money during the campaign.
And then, rare insights from an SDNY witness regarding Trump campaign finance violations. A breakdown later of the so-called, I didn`t make it up, this is a real thing, the Garth Brooks defense for Rudy Giuliani`s associate.
And then as I mentioned, the Hip Hop icon Jeru the Damaja, his first appearance on THE BEAT. He demanded to be with Noah Shachtman and we granted his request.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: President Trump just used the first veto of his entire presidency today to do something, and this is a fact, to do something totally illogical, to break his most famous campaign promise. Donald Trump- vetoing the resolution that would have blocked his claim for an emergency to seize your money, American money to build a border wall.
And he was forced to do this with opposition, as we`ve mentioned, from Republicans. The veto coming weeks after Donald Trump actually created the longest government shutdown in American history which was again done to break his promise that you wouldn`t have to pay for the border wall because Mexico will pay for it
I can`t say this enough. This is remarkable and ridiculous. Donald Trump going to these lengths to do something that politicians rarely try to do, which is first break a campaign promise and then draw attention to it. Remember, this is a candidate who told everyone one major thing about this wall, you wouldn`t have to pay for it and Mexico would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Believe me, Mexico is paying for the wall. OK, that`s it.
This is a wall that`s going to work. Mexico will pay for it. Mexico, in some form and there are many different forms, will reimburse us.
One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Mexico, Sean, is going to pay for the wall. Mexico. Mexico. Mexico. Mexico will pay for the wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: MSNBC News Analyst Howard Fineman joins me. What does it mean that the president of the United States has gone to these lengths, his first veto against his own party to drastically break and promote the breakage of that now defunct promise?
HOWARD FINEMAN, ANALYST, MSNBC NEWS: Well, what it means is he`s sticking to his theory of politics that got him elected president, he thinks which is to endlessly feed the passions of his base. That`s the simple and actually rather obvious explanation for what he`s doing.
But he`s doing it in a political situation where even though Republicans are for the most part sticking with him, both here in Washington and around the country, there are slippage around the edges there on the question of the wall itself and certainly the lengths he`s going to to try to get it done so --
MELBER: How does it help his base to draw attention to the fact that he`s basically forcing Americans to fund this thing? I mean it`s one thing to sell something to people may or may not want. It`s another thing to say someone else will pay for it.
I mean everyone is always open, more open to another round if someone else is paying for it. And then you have a second discussion about should I have another round. But here he was -- let me show you. Here he was talking about the form the payment would come in the Pesos. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it. Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they`re going to write out a check.
They`ll pay, in one form or another. They may even write us a check.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FINEMAN: Well, the problem here politically in opposing Trump is I mean I`m hearing a lot of comments around this but I`m not hearing for example, Democratic presidential candidates for the most part or in a sense, Democrats in general talking -- they don`t have much political leverage because they are against the wall all together. How it was going to be paid for and Trump`s lies about that are just another in a long litany of his lies going back to the beginning of the campaign.
MELBER: And they may feel, Howard, that he`s so sufficiently and completely and publicly owned himself, they don`t have much to add on this particular one.
FINEMAN: Yes. But if they`re not -- they`re not in the discussion about whether we should build a wall at all. They are all against the idea of building a wall. The mechanics of the funding are interesting. And yes, it shows what a fantasist and a liar the president is but everybody already knows that.
So I don`t think it`s necessarily the salient political point here. More important I think legally --
MELBER: I mean I don`t think you could be more wrong. I mean he went around -- I was at the rally. So he said Mexico will pay for it and people cheered. And that was his thing.
And I`m telling you, the people there, as you saw, they were excited by that point. In other words, it wasn`t just border security. It was I`m going to dominate the world as a dominant actor, representing America and make other people pay for things, on trade, on the wall, on immigration. You get the final word.
FINEMAN: Well, all I`m saying is that virtually every Democrat and the majority, and now close to a majority of the country, if not straight up majority of the country, doesn`t want the wall built at all and never have really.
MELBER: Howard Fineman, always like chopping it up with you on a Friday. Thanks for being here.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MELBER: Turning next to a BEAT exclusive on this letter now new from Congress. NDA Stormy Daniels and why "Fox News" could be on the losing end of this particular scoop when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: The news tonight, a former "Fox News" reporter is ready to tell Congress about the network`s role in allegations that it tried to bury a story that links Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels during the campaign.
Now, we broke this exclusive last night on THE BEAT. And today, you can see it`s making many other headlines. The House Oversight Committee telling us exclusively last night they would request documents relating to "extramarital affairs" and payments with or by Trump and any "potential campaign finance violation" as well as an appearance, this is all brand new, for a transcribed interview with that ex-reporter.
So this request went to "Fox News" reporter Diana Falzone and her attorney. She reportedly had the Stormy Daniels story or was working on it before the election and is now asking one simple thing. Let her out of NDA to speak about it.
Falzone`s lawyer telling us the client will comply with Congress`s request and that it itself overrides "Fox News``" NDA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you view this even before it ever gets to a subpoena level, these requests itself as something that you can comply with regardless of "Fox News" for your client`s silence?
NANCY ERIKA SMITH: Yes. Anybody out there, anybody in your audience who has an NDA must know that the law requires that you be allowed to participate in any government investigation and no NDA can stop that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is New York Times investigative reporter Meghan Twohey who`s been all over these stories and former Slate Editor-in-Chief Jacob Weisberg who I mentioned earlier in the show had the original details about the Stormy Daniels story basically before anyone. Thanks to both of you for being here.
MEGAN TWOHEY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Happy to be here.
MELBER: I`ll start with the easiest question. As a reporter, would you be interested in hearing the rest of what this ex-"Fox News" reporter has to say or should she stay locked up under this NDA?
WEISBERG: Well, first of all, I don`t think we need congressional hearings to prove that "Fox News" is a propaganda network and state television.
MELBER: Well, that`s your opinion, Jacob.
WEISBERG: Yes. I think they would have suppressed the Stormy Daniels story but I seriously doubt they had it in a usable form. And I think -- I know that because I was pursuing the story. And I remember Stormy Daniels mentioning to me that the Diane Falzone was one of the other reporters she was talking to. But she decided to take the money from Trump instead of going public.
And at that point, it was clear not only would she not going to participate in the story, she was going to deny it. Her lawyer was going to deny it. And at least for me reporting on it, the evidence without her backing it up, with her denying it wasn`t sufficient. So I think "Fox`s" motives could be terrible but Diane Falzone still likely did not have it in a journalistically defensible form.
MELBER: Right. I think that`s an important detail and new ones you`re referring to which is both things could be true. There could be undue pressure or motivations and there also could be a story that was not in the position to run and a person who was, as you say, alternating between talking to reporters and then taking money to not talk to reporters.
On the details, I want to get a little more reporting and then Meghan have you respond. Falzone`s lawyer though also makes the point that "Fox", who we reached out to for comment and as I`ve said every time we put the story. they deny that this was about anything other than the story not being in reportable fashion and many have pointed out that`s what other journalist, including yourself, during that period ultimately determined.
But this lawyer is telling us that that denial itself is misleading, that the person at "Fox" had a former employee who makes these denials wrong. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: We think that we will be able to show that Ken LaCorte`s a liar.
MELBER: Do you have material about him specifically if you`re making that allegation?
SMITH: For one thing, he didn`t stop the story. And that`s going to be evident.
MELBER: You`re saying that whole narrative that he wrote that he was the one personally intervening itself that he wasn`t even involved in overseeing that story?
MELBER: Was it someone more senior than him?
MELBER: Was it someone famous?
SMITH: We`ll let --we`ll let Congress decide whether or not to hold this - - hold the hearing in public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TWOHEY: So I think it`s interesting to juxtapose the claim that Murdock on Fox had an interest in even executed suppressing this damaging story about Trump in 2016 while also recognizing on the other hand that it was the Fox- owned Wall Street Journal that actually broke the story of one of the -- of the other catch and kill operation that happened during 2016.
Before the election, the Wall Street Journal was the first people to report that Karen McDougal had been silenced through a catch and kill operation with the National Enquirer. And the Wall Street Journal actually led much of the reporting on these efforts to silence these two women who had these damaging stories about Trump.
MELBER: Which means what?
TWOHEY: Well, I just think that it raises questions. If you`re going to say on the one hand -- I mean if there`s a claim that sort of Murdock own Fox had -- you know, was working to sort of the silence the story --
MELBER: Well, the rebuttal -- the rebuttal to that is that Sean Hannity and Roger Ailes who was important running Fox at the time who went on to literally advise Donald Trump of the debates, that part of the company seems to have more political sway than the journal. In other words, I think that`s an interesting argument raised but I don`t think it`s that helpful. It just reminds us the difference between Sean Hannity and the Wall Street Journal.
TWOHEY: Well, I mean, it depends on -- it`ll be interesting to see who they`re going to point the finger at when -- I mean, when she actually used shares her information with Congress.
MELBER: Well, I would argue -- let me push you a little more since we`re all journalists pushing each other, they`re pointing the finger at (INAUDIBLE) and that`s why I pressed her on, can you prove that. Because they`re saying is that`s a false cover story.
TWOHEY: Well, they`re saying it goes higher.
TWOHEY: So the question is how high does it go.
MELBER: And can you prove that.
TWOHEY: And if I remember correctly, I think the Fox story even suggested it may have gone as high as Murdock. So -- I mean, this is all -- that`s why I make the Murdock connection to the Wall Street Journal which did all of this groundbreaking reporting on these issues and actually helped these sort of the silencing of this woman come to light.
MELBER: I guess this segment is about Fox News not The Wall Street Journal.
TWOHEY: OK, well, I think that there`s it`s also about the efforts of this former Fox reporter to basically break her silence and come forward with more information.
MELBER: I mean, I mean, my view, Jacob, is either they have it or they don`t, right? I mean, if they can`t prove this and they`re just making wild allegations about Mr. LaCorte or others and I`ve pressed on that, then it kind of goes away. If they could go to Congress and prove that at a high-level Fox, not the journal was doing something wrong that led to Michael Cohen`s now confess crime, that could be a story.
WEISBERG: Well, everybody wants to simplify the story about Fox and Murdock and say they`re just in Trump`s camp, but it`s much more complicated than that. They`re -- in my opinion journalistically dishonest organization that nonetheless employs honest journalists. And Meghan`s point about the Journal owned by Murdoch is an honest journalistic organization that has maintained its integrity despite being owned by this guy who has his own motives of sucking up to Trump and sucking up to power.
But you know, the motives are -- Murdoch`s motives are mixed, Fox`s Business is complicated, you get Hannity doing nothing resembling journalism, but you have you know Chris Wallace and Bret Baier and other people there doing something that is journalism and trying to do it. So it`s a complicated nature.
TWOHEY: And let`s go back to the comparison. OK, let`s put the Wall Street Journal aside. Let`s focus on the comparison of Fox having elements of this story in 2016 before the presidential election. Slate having many of the same elements of this story at the exact same time, and neither of them published this story.
MELBER: But again, I mean, I hate to be a lawyer about it but that distinction doesn`t take you very far because Slate is not be incredibly accused with an NDA hanging over an employee of e-mails, facts, and evidence that would put forward the wrong reason. So you know, everyone goes to work in the morning. If someone -- one person goes to work and is accused of committing a crime and the other person didn`t. I don`t think Slate helps that much. You`re here because you`re in the middle of it, but you`re not accused of what he`s accused of.
WEISBERG: I`m not Stormy Daniel`s correspondent even though I moved on to the --
MELBER: Final thought. We`re over time. Final thought.
TWOHEY: No, I think that you also have to recognize anybody who has worked on stories in which women have been silenced by these secret settlements or NDA`s know that the moment that your subject has been silenced, it is really hard to get to publication with them.
MELBER: Right. And I think that`s a fair point that goes to why there`s a larger context. We will see and we`ve been pressing for the details whether they have the evidence to prove in this conduct or not. If not it`s one more story that didn`t go to press. Megan Twohey and Jacob Weisberg, thanks to both of you for being here.
WEISBERG: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, a rare look inside the SDNY`s Trump probe from a witness who actually as we`ve been discussing reps both of the people there that you see involving Trump NDA`s. And then later Jeru The Damaja is here with the Daily Beast`s Noah Shachtman.
MELBER: And we`re back with a rare look inside these New York investigations involving Donald Trump. The SDNY in New York has been something that Trump allies say could be even worse than Mueller.
Now, we`re hearing directly for the first time from a witness who`s involved in the SDNY probe. You may have heard of them Keith Davidson represented both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and we were discussing how extensive his communication has been with the SDNY investigators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH DAVIDSON, LAWYER: There`s about 1,500 pages of non-attorney-client privilege material that I gave to SDNY upon their request and I will make that available to the House Judiciary Community.
I sat down with the SDNY prosecutors who are about the most competent attorneys I`ve ever met. And just for a time period of a three separate meetings about 20 hours in total.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: 20 hours, 1,500 pages of material. That`s a key piece of information from again, a witness in the probe. That was his first time on MSNBC since he spoke to them. Now, Davidson is a key figure because he negotiated both of those NDA`s I mentioned. And also we just don`t know at this point who else is talking.
We do know Michael Cohen after being indicted there was cooperating. He told Congress that his last interaction with Trump in fact is under investigation by the very same SDNY. I asked Mr. Davidson about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you get the impression that the prosecutors of SDNY are looking at wrongdoing or potential crimes by Donald Trump himself?
DAVIDSON: You know, I don`t know any of that firsthand. It`s clear that this -- that there`s a they`re alleging a conspiracy and that there`s unnamed co-conspirators.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Maya Wiley who was a civil prosecutor in yes the SDNY. Good to see you.
MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you.
MELBER: Mr. Davidson, like many fact witnesses, does not come to the table unblemished or with a 100 percent credibility, and yet as an attorney wrapped up in all this, there`s a lot of pressure on him to get it right not wrong. What did you think of what he revealed?
WILEY: Well, I thought what he revealed was exactly what I would have expected of the Southern District of New York which is to say they are doing the work. They are going to get everything they can no matter what anyone thinks of the credibility of the witness because the point is you want to know everything that`s out there.
So if you`re getting 1,500 pages of documents, that`s because you want to know everything that`s out there. If you have someone who has direct information about something you`re looking at, you want to know everything they`re going to say about it.
But also remember, they`ve got Michael Cohen who is being attacked on credibility publicly and so whether or not there is corroborating evidence for any of the things he`s telling them, they`re going to look to people like Keith Davidson to get.
MELBER: When you -- when you see what Keith`s outlined, I want to play one more thing he told us here again, in his first interview which was look, the SDNY were you were they don`t play around. I think people have started to hear about that and what it means when they get cooperation. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIDSON: I don`t think that the federal government, the Department of Justice, or the SDNY gives anything away for free. I know that you know, they did give at least Mr. Pecker and Howard the immunity agreements and non-prosecution agreements. And shortly after that, it`s my understanding that Mr. Cohen did change his plea to guilty. So I think you put two and two together but now that that`s above my pay grade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So how do we don`t understand that part of the investigation because Cohen has given up what he has, Mr. Pecker and his Enquirer guys were apparently doing something that gave them cooperation but because of the Amazon Bezos blackmail controversy they may have lost it. Does this look like something that`s wrapping up loose ends or all these people talking Davidson, Cohen, and Enquirer, means there`s somebody else they`re looking at?
WILEY: You know, it`s really hard to know and I think it`s important not to speculate. But I think what we do know is anytime a federal prosecutor is investigating anything, it often leads to additional charges. In other words, you starts -- you start like pulling that thread and stuff starts to unravel.
And that`s because the more information you find, the more people you find, then the more potential both people who may be co-conspirators so that is a possibility certainly. It also could be ensuring that you know, everything you need to know about people who are your witnesses or are your targets, we don`t know until we know.
But I think what`s important to say here is the Southern District of New York is going to remain extremely aggressive in the pursuit of facts and evidence and they will go after anyone they think has committed a crime with the exception of indicted a sitting president.
MELBER: So who does that leave in this investigation? I mean, that`s what I wonder because at the end of the day if Cohen`s election crime was done by Cohen without enough people involved, that could be the end of the road on that.
WILEY: I mean, are you suggesting you know, whether any family members who maybe run parts of the Trump Organization may have had knowledge of any potential crimes that involve campaign finance laws?
MELBER: That`s what I`m asking. I just asked the question.
WILEY: I`m just trying to understand your question.
MELBER: Maya Wiley, intelligent, careful, but leaving us with a sense of where things may be headed within that care. Thank you.
WILEY: Thank you.
MELBER: It is Friday, and that means we have something you might not want to miss. I`m very excited to say that the hip-hop legend Jeru The Damaja is here along with the editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast.
MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT and you know what that means. It`s time to fall back. I`m joined today by Jeru The Damaja, a rapper known for his collaboration with DJ Premier including the critically acclaimed debut album The Sun Rises In the East. Jeru`s top singles have drawn over ten million streams on Spotify. He`s currently producing the YouTube series the Hip Hop Roadshow.
Jeru lives in Berlin now and uses the series to look at geography and history around the world. We`re also joined by Daily Beast editor-in-chief Noah Shachtman. He oversees coverage of the Mueller probe, the Trump administration, and a lot of other international news. He`s also worked or written for Foreign Policy Magazine and Wired Magazine great to have you both here.
JERU THE DAMAJA, RAPPER: Great to be here.
MELBER: Jeru, who needs to fall back?
JERU THE DAMAJA: OK. A lot of people need to fall back but I`m going to say, Aunt Becky. She needs to fall back because this whole college admission scandal thing, not only is it illegal, not only is it cheating, but it reinforces the idea that the wealthy don`t have to play by the same rules that everybody else plays by.
And then not only that, I`m concerned with the impact that is going to have on the children. Because -- and I`m not talking about being embarrassed because that`s going to happen in life, right. And I`m not talking about the attention because we live in a culture where attention is the new currency. But what I`m talking about is the self-esteem because they actually told their children they`re not good enough, right?
They told them they`re not able to compete. Because if they have faith in them that they could compete -- and it`s not their egos that I`m worried about -- it`s about that`s the future. So you have a bunch of rich kids with low self-esteem, a hyper-inflated sense of entitlement, what is the world going to be.
NOAH SHACHTMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAILY BEAST: But are you worried about the rich kids? I mean, I`m worried about the kids that didn`t get in that the rich kids took their spot.
JERU THE DAMAJA: No, this is what I`m saying. I`m not worried about the rich kids. I`m saying what kind of world is it going to be with those kinds of kids running it.
MELBER: That -- you`re saying this is symptomatic of a wider culture.
JERU THE DAMAJA: Exactly.
MELBER: You know, the kids who are directly in this controversy and then they are a statistical sample of a whole bunch of other kids, some wealthy, some want to be wealthy, some striving. But the idea that it`s not good enough to go to the college, you could just get into or get the job you could normally get.
SHACHTMAN: Now. I went to Georgetown and that`s the site of one of these cheating scandals and I have a message for the one person that can end this at Georgetown. Patrick Ewing, it`s up to you man. You need to address this full-on. And if you address this full-on, Georgetown administration will listen like they will listen to nobody else.
MELBER: Now, Noah, how much did it cost you to buy your seat of Georgetown?
SHACHTMAN: Good question. Excellent question. $1 million.
MELBER: Who else is on your list to fall back?
SHACHTMAN: Oh, my list of fall back. You guys know about Goop?
SHACHTMAN: Goop is the --
MELBER: Gweneth Paltrow.
SHACHTMAN: Yes. Is the Gwyneth Paltrow`s pseudoscience conspiracy peddling steam your genitals operation. Well, she was at South by Southwest the other day and she was asked hey, why are you peddling all this nonsense. And her response was oh, I thought it was a blog. I didn`t realize I had to give accurate information.
Which is like, I`m sorry, yes, as a journalist, I`m going to be particularly angry about that message. But come on to anybody, I didn`t know I had to put out accurate information so I put out some nonsense is just crazy.
MELBER: Also, Jeru -- also Goop is just annoying.
JERU THE DAMAJA: But what I want to know is what is Goop really about?
SHACHTMAN: It`s really just about --
MELBER: Goop is about selling really fancy stuff to people who have spare time and money.
SHACHTMAN: You know, in a way it`s kind of the same thing.
JERU THE DAMAJA: You worried about the rich -- you worried about the rich kids?
MELBER: Well, Jeru, what you`re talking about is trying to sell people self-esteem, value, status, and they`re trying to buy that.
JERU THE DAMAJA: It`s all the same thing. And you know, I actually should retract the statement that I made earlier because that`s the world we live in today right? A bunch of spoiled rich kids with a hyper-inflated sense of entitlement who buy their way into things and they run the world. Its life but I think we can make it better.
MELBER: My fallback for the week could also be for the decade or the century, OK.
SHACHTMAN: Wow, the fall back of the century.
MELBER: The mother of all fall backs in honor of our guest. All that big gun talk needs to fall back. I`m quoting you Jeru, because back in the 90s when gangster rap is popular, you were saying in music, and in our culture, and obviously, in our policies, the obsession with guns is a problem.
JERU THE DAMAJA: It is a problem. And I think you know -- it`s only a problem -- put it this way. It`s only a problem when this is in certain hands. You understand what I`m saying. That`s how they make it the NRA and all these other organizations.
They don`t want me to have guns but they want to have guns. And I know we`re supposed to be one of your Amendment rights or whatever. I don`t know which one because I`m not into that type of stuff, right. So to bear arms and all that, a bunch of people with guns are going to want to use them.
JERU THE DAMAJA: And that`s the scary part about it because -- and then not only that but look at the people who have guns and the things that they`re talking about. It`s racist rhetoric, it`s anti-government, but I think it`s just dangerous individuals who want to play by their own rules. I think everything we`re talking about is that, people who want to play by their own rules.
MELBER: Well, we wanted to get that in especially because people have these ideas about hip-hop or music. You were someone pushing up against that at the time and I`m a big fan so I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.
JERU THE DAMAJA: Oh man, thank you for having me. Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Thank you. Jeru and Noah, and we will be right back.
MELBER Before we go, we wanted to bring you one more story that is true but hard to believe. Rudy Giuliani is now in hot water for a private e- mail his associate sent to Michael Cohen at a pivotal time, the period right after the feds raided Cohen`s office and Trump folks were worried Cohen might flip.
Giuliani`s associate telling that he was in touch with Giuliani and could affirm everything is going to be OK. Sleep well tonight, he wrote, because Cohen had "friends in high places." Now, critics say it sounds like more evidence. Trump was trying to get people not to cooperate with the feds, maybe even hinting pardons from high places.
Here`s the response from that Giuliani associate Robert Costello. He says the line, "sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places" was a tongue and cheek reference to a Garth Brooks song adding he was worried Cohen was "suicidal."
Now, we always notice an attempt to use great lyrics as a legal defense, but team Trump`s problem here is that Garth song makes the opposite point. It is about low places.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARTH BROOKS, SINGER (singing): Because I got friends in low places where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, for all the Garth fans out there, we ask you, would that song comfort Michael Cohen or does this sound like a made-up Giuliani defense? And before we go, there is a country line that might apply more to cooperating witnesses. Maybe you know it. "I had to have this talk with you. My happiness depends on you and whatever you decide to do." Jolene or Michael Cohen in this case. That would be Donald Trump quoting Dolly Parton.
And we`re out of time, I`ll see you back here Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END