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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/10/22

Guests: Asha Rangappa, Michael Steele, Chai Komanduri, John Flannery


Donald Trump reeling after FBI search and pleading the Fifth. Trump lawyer recounts extensive FBI search in Florida. Trump goes quiet, pleading the Fifth and hiding search warrant. Far right escalates dangerous rhetoric after FBI Trump search. A veteran of the Obama campaign Chai Komanduri joins Ari Melber to talk about the far right escalating dangerous rhetoric after the FBI raided Trump`s house. John Flannery a former federal prosecutor joins Ari Melber to talk about Donald Trump pleading the Fifth Amendment.


JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC, MSNBC HOST: Thank you all for being with us this Wednesday and now in the immortal words of the Go-Go`s, we got THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER right now. Hey, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hey, shout out to the Go-Go`s. Thank you, John. Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber. We are tracking new breaking news about Donald Trump`s unprecedented legal problems.

Today, on August 10, 2022, a former United States President pleaded the Fifth, raising the topic of his own criminal culpability in a legal proceeding. Donald Trump`s spending six hours dodging questions at a deposition, you could see him leaving there in New York today. He stated that he pled the Fifth under the advice of counsel declining to answer the questions. This striking legal development which we will get into comes just two days after August 8, 2022 when the FBI searched a former president`s home.

Both developments showed the depths of Donald Trump`s legal problems. Neither means that he is in a legal sense guilty of anything to be precise. Both mean that the concerns about Donald Trump`s guilt about law breaking, about criminal evidence and criminal activity, stretch from the highest levels of the DOJ to a separate New York probe to inside Donald Trump`s mind. Only he can make the decision that he made today.

And let me tell it to you in plain English. It`s a right he can exercise. But he made the decision Donald Trump did. But he faces a higher risk by testifying truthfully in the New York probe, which he chose not to do. And by pleading the Fifth, which he chose to do, it is a legal but a controversial move, which he has probably derided for years. Donald Trump pleading the Fifth in this state probe, which is completely separate from that federal probe, which led the FBI agents to search his home, an unprecedented event that has continued to send shockwaves across the nation this week. And yet it was Donald Trump himself trying to link these two separate legal events and that angry statement that he issued today as he tried to explain why he`s suddenly pleading the Fifth.

Meanwhile, his lawyer recounting the details of Monday`s search.


CHRISTINA BOBB, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, it looks like a scene from a movie. You know, the FBI rolls up, they`ve got their black SUVs, and they unload and kind of dispersed. I arrived about 10:30, the FBI was already there, had already started their search. They stayed until probably about 7 o`clock 6:30 to 7 o`clock at night, they had a team of couple dozen agents that dispersed on the property and did what the FBI does. They were looking for both classified information that they think should not have been removed from the White House, as well as presidential records.


MELBER: It may have looked like a movie, but this ain`t a movie dog. This is real life. Other reports counted 30 to 40. FBI agents dressed largely in plain clothes with over 10 FBI vehicles going in and out of the property. This is a lot of pressure hitting Donald Trump all at once this week. Now, why now? I can actually tell you. The short answer is Donald Trump has been trying to fight defy and run out the clock on this slew of legal problems ranging from evidence disputes, to testimony to civil investigations to the possible criminal probes that could lead to people`s indictments.

Now, he has impacted the timeline with that defined approach. But it says he has learned I should say as he has learned not once but twice this week, he does not control that timeline. So we don`t know the entire path to Monday`s unprecedented search. But we do know it came after months of wrangling that ended with the DOJ and a federal judge convinced that Trump was both likely holding illegal material and likely not honest or trustworthy about returning. That is why that operation can really be accurately described as a court authorized search, which was or a court authorized raid, which in a very real sense, it was bottom line, Trump was resisting to the point that in our system of government, which has independent oversight, a court authorized men with guns to go get alleged criminal evidence out of Donald Trump`s house that he wouldn`t provide after many, many past legal commands.

So yes, in a very real sense, if the people with guns overseen by the judges have to come in, well, your past just a request or what we might call colloquially just a search.


There`s a similar pattern in today`s New York case and honestly I`m just going to tell you because I tried to keep it real, it would take more time than it`s worth to recount it all for you right now. But in the Times today, they actually have a partial summary of how Trump only got to sit down today, to this point after months of legal wrangling back to January he was fighting the subpoena. He lost the judge ordered the Trumps to testify a ruling that another court and appellate court upheld, then the judge held Trump in contempt of court, finding he had failed to comply with the terms of the James subpoena.

The Times summing it up, "It was an embarrassing two week episode that compelled Trump to pay $110,000 penalty." Until he finally came in for today`s deposition. That was just to get Trump to show up today. And that pressure is what then resulted in Donald Trump taking the rare step of raising the prospect that telling the truth about his actions under oath, could get him in criminal trouble or indicted. It is a right every person is afforded in America, but one that no former president has ever taken.

Let`s get into it. We have some special guests, Asha Rangappa is a lawyer, a former FBI special agent in the Counter Intel Division and also a Yale lecturer, Michael Steele, is just someone we like. No, I`m kidding. He has he has credentials too, he ran the RNC. He`s an MSNBC Political Analyst, a former Lieutenant Governor and a good sport. Welcome to both of you.

Asha, how about this bad legal week for Donald Trump? And as mentioned how he doesn`t control the timeline, but his approach, his delays his defiance, did delay push and sort of draw out certain things that do seem to be coming to a head?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes, and I think you did a really good job of laying out how he employs that strategy in a number of contexts. Look, I mean, you know, today was the day for his deposition. I think that given his choices, he actually made the correct choice. You know, listen, he can -- he has three choices in front of him, right? He can tell the truth, which could incriminate himself. And in this situation, there`s a parallel criminal case and the New York DA`s office that has been stalled. And any kind of incriminating evidence he provides could jumpstart that, so that`s not a great option. He could lie, which could then start a whole new investigation into a whole new crime of perjury, or he can take the Fifth. And in a civil case, this means that if this ends up in a lawsuit that goes before a jury, his Fifth Amendment assertions, the jury can draw adverse inferences from it, the burden of proof is lower in a civil case, it`s a preponderance of the evidence, but ultimately --

MELBER: Can I -- I`m only going to slow you down and then hand you the mic back, because we just got a lot of law, you`re saying that while he has the right to plead the Fifth and a criminal probe, it is still OK in a civil case, to treat it as a bad thing as a kind of a guilty thing, if someone pleads the Fifth because it`s not being used to incarcerate them?

RANGAPPA: That`s right, in a criminal case, a jury cannot draw inferences of guilt from someone asserting their Fifth Amendment right. But in a civil case, a jury can draw an adverse inference and there`s a lower standard of proof it`s a preponderance of the evidence. And in that in a civil case, though, what Trump is facing are potential financial penalties. We`ve seen this already when New York dissolved his charitable foundation, which he was misusing funds and sent his kids to remedial training on how to be fiduciaries. But, you know, he doesn`t like losing money. But I suspect that he`s more willing to lose money than go to jail. And I think that that`s why he made the choice that he did today.

MELBER: Yeah. And Michael, more broadly, this is someone who is known as a talker, who`s loud, voluble, always wants to tell his own story. Does that in his various forms, people know, in two very real ways this week, he has gone quiet. He doesn`t want to talk under oath, which is a tell, as I say, it is his right, but it is a tell. He doesn`t want to release the search warrant, which just would tell people more about what really went down on Monday. And by the way, I`m a reporter, you show me something wrong with the search. That`s evidence, I`ll report it. But he seems to be going pretty quiet, Michael.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: He is. And I suspect that`s his recognition and realization, you know, to Asha`s point that there are lot of lanes would that lead to where he is centered? It is not just New York is Georgia. It is not just the Feds, it`s January 6. And so anytime he opens his mouth at this point, particularly with the revelations that of the search, which we now know, you know, was about documents 15 or 12 boxes that additional boxes that they got.


Yeah, if I`m Donald Trump for the first time in a long time I shut my mouth. Because I don`t know exactly who`s standing in or driving in any of those lanes who could pick up what I`m saying and use it against me. So that`s not surprising. So that leads to the next layer. And the next layer is what we see playing out on Fox News, what we see playing out on Capitol Hill, what we see playing out in the conservative media, where his minions speak for Him, they perpetuate the lies he wants perpetuated. So I give you the anatomy of the disinformation, 7 a.m. Donald Trump puts out a statement saying, gee, I hope they didn`t plant anything in my property, right? When they came to take my, you know, papers, by 9 a.m. Rand Paul`s on Fox talking about, you know, they probably, you know, planted something or, you know, there may be something suspicious about what the FBI is doing.

By 10 a.m., Marjorie Taylor crazy has picked it up and is out there just directly saying, I believe the FBI planted something in Donald Trump`s place. So you begin to see how this narrative keying off of something that he can`t say directly or doesn`t want to expose himself to getting picked up by that ecosystem, and perpetuating lies and disinformation that the rest of us now have to basically saying, that`s a bunch of bull, you know, that ain`t true, et cetera, et cetera. But we`re now talking about something else, rather than focusing on as the good counselor here is focused on that, yeah, he got problems.

MELBER: Right. No, I think you both lay it out. Michael did it without referencing the preponderance of the evidence standard. And I felt that was fine. You know, not everyone has to bring that up.

STEELE: I live with that standard, my friend. I live with that standard.

MELBER: High standard. Michael has high standards. I think that Michael is reminding us about that echo chamber. Interestingly, there have been more and more calls, though, about put up or shut up on the very serious charge that there is again, oh, this endless Deep State secret conspiracy. This idea that there`s something wrong with Monday search, of course, can be litigated. There`s a court process for that. I`ve mentioned, Asha, in my experience, the subjects of searches often complain, as they are free to do is with free speech. But that`s not the test, you have to go prove it in court. If you can find it, by the way, as I think viewers know from law and order, if not law, you can -- if you find that something was illegally obtained in a search that you can`t even use it against the person, so great to see if you can prove that.

Meanwhile, here`s what people are calling for when it comes to Donald Trump`s complaints.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump can release the warrant. He should release the warrant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s call on President Trump to release the search warrant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Released the warrant. Let us have an understanding of why they did this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`d love to see the search warrant. I would love to see what they got.

KEVIN WALLING, FORMER BIDEN CAMPAIGN SURROGATE: I love to see him release that search warrant.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What`s to keep Donald Trump and his legal team from releasing the search warrant?



RANGAPPA: I mean, there`s nothing. I think what will be more telling is when they give him the inventory of what they took, because that`s going to tell you exactly why they were so concerned. I suspect that it will have a list of, you know, not with any specificity, but describing that they had taken classified documents. And I think that`s the key here, Ari. The crime is having classified documents on the premises without being authorized to possess to possess them. Donald Trump lost his security clearance, the minute that he left office, Biden did not extend a security clearance to him. He may not hold classified information, he may not remove government property. He is a possessor of stolen goods. That`s what this case is about. And I think the story isn`t the search warrant. The story is really, why the DOJ spent a year negotiating with him over this? They would not do that with anyone else.

MELBER: Do think -- well, let`s get into that. They took a lot of time hoping to resolve it. There`s been a lot of crap on in the right wing response. We`re going to cover some of that later. There was this question raised I saw by one conservative saying wait, they call in the FBI for a document dispute, the flip side of that, which we`ve discussed in the program this week as well, it seems like it ended at a point where they were, the Trump folks were just daring the government to say what are you really going to do? And I think for good reason, Asha, it`s not a first resort thing to conduct this, but it seems like their bluff was called.

RANGAPPA: That`s right. I think they ended up in a game of chicken that Garland`s methodical, deliberate, you know, deferential approach to not engage in a showcase showdown with a former president in the United States did not and well for him. Because Trump is a bully and I think Trump sees that as a sign of weakness and he basically figured, look, if they wanted, they`ll come and get on and I don`t think this guy is going to do it, and they did.


And I think the tell here, by the way, a lot of people have mentioned that there was no subpoena issued. You issue a subpoena to someone who is a lawful custodian, or to use another legal term, a bailer of proper.

MELBER: You`re on a roll, you`re officially on a roll. Go ahead.

STEELE: Love it, love it. It`s like low class.


RANGAPPA: You go in and get it. And I think that`s what he did. And I think this is why Trump is scared, because this is the first time that he`s seen the Department of Justice willing to stand up to his dilatory tactics.

MELBER: You make a very important point, I think, Asha, that bears underscoring the mix is the law with the personalities or the aggressive styles here, and that`s why I mentioned earlier that legally you have this court authorized activity, but it is assertive, so some people mentioned as a raid to refer to it being assertive. Trump is trying to use that word for different reasons. But look, there are individuals who were very controversial. Mark Meadows, Steve Bannon, who were still viewed according to the DOJ as they could negotiate. They went through their lawyers and they were dealt with in that way. I would say like adults.

Then there were people like Mr. Navarro, and apparently Mr. Trump on Monday, where the DOJ with a judge reached the conclusion, you cannot be trusted. We can no longer even say to you, we`ll meet you here to do an arrest or pick up the -- pick up the docs. And those people are treated differently. It`s the lowest of the low. Again, in fairness to Mr. Meadows, he was not treated that way, because he had back and forth process.

Is it a sad day that a former President and Mr. Navarro are at that low point? People in America can make that determination for themselves.

I want to thank Asha and Michael for kicking us off here. A lot of interesting stuff. Let me tell folks what`s coming up, Donald Trump in this deposition today, it`s not the first time he sat down, it is the first time he`s plead the Fifth. I have a breakdown of what that tells us. We also get into the right wing freak out, __ 00:02:01 is here on the false response that has turned dangerous our fact check in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: It`s a bad sign when you face an FBI search. Just about anybody knows that. That`s true even if you are never ultimately indicted. A lawful search means you probably have criminal evidence. If that search is never overturned in court or that evidence is found that alone is bad.

When Donald Trump ran for office directly vowing the prosecution of his opponents, of Hillary Clinton then of Joe Biden when he was in office. Trump was impeached for that bizarre attempted plot to get a foreign government to do what Trump apparently couldn`t get the DOJ to do abuse power to investigate the Biden`s over in Ukraine to try to damage them. We know about all that.

The evidence also shows Trump sought this political investigation of other perceived foes when he was in power, FBI veterans, journalists he has to jail. We know that from the Comey memos and others. I tell you all that because Donald Trump`s the entire known public profile is about trying and sometimes failing, but trying to be a banana republic autocrat. That is the hypocritical backdrop for these Trump defenders who know everything that Trump is about now projecting their politicized view of power, the problems that Donald Trump hat onto a DOJ that of course, is working within the system as we`ve been reporting and complaining about illegal search warrants executed at Mar-a-Lago.


RICK SCOTT, (R-FL) SENATE HOMELAND AND SECURITY COMMITTEE: The way our federal government has gone it`s like what we thought about the Gestapo of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secret police that we`ve seen in totalitarian regimes, if you`re associated with Donald Trump in any way, you better cross all your I`s and dot all your T`s because they`re coming for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a declaration of war against the American public.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R) GEORGE: We have to defend and make cuts in the Department of Justice.

RUSS VOUGHT, CENTER FOR RENEWING AMERICA: Use the tools at their disposal to defund the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next President of the United States needs to prosecute everyone.


MELBER: That`s just a sampling. Some of it is deliberate trolling. They know they`re taking the defund the police from the Black Lives Matter protest, they know they`re flipping it. And they know a certain number of people will respond online or wherever. But some of it is not only serious, but gets heard by other people and taken seriously, the liars and the trolls are not always understood that way by their listeners. This search was a DOJ pro, about whether Donald Trump had criminal evidence by basically stealing documents that didn`t belong to him from the White House. This federal judge found probable cause to search. But Trump`s lawyer is already now in this early stage going down the path that might hurt her career, just as past Trump lawyers ended up losing their law licenses or ended up in jail, some of them because you can`t get away with everything, when you`re a lawyer. You`re a member of the bar. There`s all kinds of consequences. And we are hearing at least the discussion of or the insinuation about the evidence free, libelous, defamatory claim that was mentioned earlier tonight that the FBI, according to these Trump folks might have planted evidence, which is then quickly echoed by Republicans.


BOBB: No, there is no security that something wasn`t planted. I`m not saying that, that`s what they did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His lawyers said they brought in backpacks, what was in those backpacks, was -- did they bring those in to fill them up? Or did they have something in there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know they duck their evidence, we know they plant evidence. We know they hide evidence. We know they lie.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Do I know that the boxes of material they took from Mar-a-Lago that they won`t put things in those boxes to entrap him, how do we know.

BOBB: They precluded me from actually watching what they did, but at this point, I don`t necessarily think that they would even go to the extent of trying to plant information. I think they just make stuff up.


MELBER: Plant, makes stuff up. That`s a lawyer. If she makes those kinds of claims in court, she might fine like Giuliani or Sidney Powell, she will be in more trouble. Some of the claims here are actually so irresponsible, inflammatory and dangerous, that we`re only going to air them briefly in this report for this factual context, because you have to know what`s going on as I refer to this. But there`s no evidence for some of the claims you`re about to hear. And we are going to be very precise and careful about this not be re airing it all the time. We will be extremely careful, if we have to report on the fact that some right wingers, some conservatives, some Trump supporters are making these kind of claims on air.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I do not think it`s beyond this administrative state and their deep state apparatus to actually try to work on the assassination of President Trump. I think everything`s on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your former police commissioner, he said their next move will be assassination if they don`t take him down after this. He posted that to Twitter, Bernie Kerik.

BERNIE KERIK, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER: I am deathly afraid for Donald Trump. I would not put assassination behind these people.


MELBER: The people you saw there are government veterans, some of them White House veterans like Mr. Bannon. So they have a following, they are making the most scurrilous, serious, defamatory allegation with no evidence. And then when I say defamatory quite literally, if you accused someone falsely of a crime, you have no evidence of that could be defamation. And then they are masquerading that attack as some kind of concern about this individual. And there are those as I mentioned that take it seriously. One report here from NBC that some Trump users in online forums are talking about a "civil war" with phrases like, "lock and load." Others asking when does the shooting start? A judge who has been identified by some as the one who signed off on this search warrant is already facing death threats. And online, they have pulled the page about him from the Southern District of Florida website Access denied. We know that`s what the page says we can`t say exactly why.

We`re at the beginning of whatever this is. We are past the point of violence being directly encouraged and supported by Donald Trump and some others around him as a means of interfering with democracy voting the peaceful transfer of power. This is serious. Sadly, some of this is what we have seen in other playbooks history can be in many ways a depressing guide. It is the autocrats abusing power trying to jail their enemies who, when even partially possibly held accountable under the rule of law, accused everyone else of doing that to them, and threatening quite directly violence against us, against the people abiding by the law and the nation as a means to intimidate the peaceful enforcement of the law. I have a special guest on this important story when we are back.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s an absolute coordinated attack since the second, my father came down the escalator, Jesse, they have gone after him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They put me in handcuffs. Bring me here. They put me in leg irons. They stick me in itself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a joke. This is momento and quite honestly I`m concerned that they may have planted something.

BANNON: Here they took away every possible defense so somebody can have a defensive law, OK, that`s why, we didn`t even put under defense.



MELBER: Extreme attacks on this justice system. We`re joined now by a veteran of the Obama campaign Chai Komanduri. We turn to you sometimes for the wider perspective and history. Before we get into the politics, given the way this is being processed and presented to part of the nation, I`m curious what you think domestically or internationally with what looks like the autocrat playbook.

CHAI KOMANDURI, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, it`s very much so. In fact, I think that Donald Trump has gone into a sort of full Scarface mode here. I mean, if you remember the movie Scarface, the Tony Montana character, played by Al Pacino decides to basically sit in his mansion surrounded by all evidence of his criminality, and say, hey, come and get me. You know, if you have the guts come and get me. I`m not hiding.

I`m not going to like conceal who I am. Come and get me. And that is very much in accord with the way autocrats work. Autocrats don`t hide things from the people. They are who they are, and they challenge people to take them on. And what has happened here is that Donald Trump basically kind of is following that playbook. He`s doesn`t want to show any fear, any concern, the idea that he`s doing anything wrong. That`s all part of the autocrat playbook.

MELBER: Yes, I think you lay it out. You know, there was a great artist who said the hood Scarface could it be more Tony.


MELBER: A double entendre. Tony Montana, Tony the adjective. And the Scarface legend is like, in all seriousness, strong men and autocrats in various countries, which everyone understood. I think, you know, Donald Trump was open about what he wanted to do the justice system and locking Clinton up and doing Biden.

I am curious as we turn to the politics because we tried to make sense of it and I was very clear with viewers about some of what we showed before that we won`t be running all the time, some really horrific, defamatory allegations that go to the safety of public officials at a time when there is violence, unfortunately.

I`m curious what you think is the important political dividing line between -- since I guess it`s autocrat day, what I believe Stalin called the useful idiots and the liars and the propagandists who know what they`re doing, which is to say, knowing that Donald Trump is doing this, and he was the bad guy, and he was the one seeking political persecution, and then lying about it as a political theater might be different than the millions of people who get tricked. I`m curious how you see that fault line on the right.

KOMANDURI: Yes, I mean, I think there`s two things going on here. I think first of all, it feels to me like the Fox News, Murdoch honeymoon with Ron DeSantis is sort of over. I thought when this news broke, that Fox News would do what they do on with the January 6th here. They`ve kind of strategically downplayed it, they talked about the raid, but they wouldn`t really be defending Trump.

And they would be doing things in a way to help Ron DeSantis. Sort of reminding voters, hey, you know, there may be things about Trump that are attractive, but this guy is a hot mess. And you should really think about maybe Ron DeSantis in 2024. I thought that`s the way that they were going to be going. The problem is they did not go that way. They went in a completely opposite direction than what I had thought that they were going to be going in.

I think the reason is that the -- it`s hard for Republican voters for Republican elected officials to admit two things. First of all, they were wrong about Trump. Second of all, the critics of Donald Trump, they were actually right about Donald Trump. And this is something that Republicans don`t want to admit. And I think it goes to like, sort of the difference between this period and the 1970s when Richard Nixon had Watergate.

You know, Barry Goldwater felt when he denounced Richard Nixon, and told him to resign, that he in no way was denouncing conservative policies. He was simply asking Richard Nixon to leave. There was not a reflection on Richard Nixon`s actual policies. The MAGA base and Republicans increasingly believe that denouncing Donald Trump is to denounce his policies, that there is no separation between the two. And I think you can see that`s why someone like Romney or Cheney are so different than the rest of the MAGA base.

You know, Romney thinks, well, if I was president, I do tax cuts. I do conservative judges. Liz Cheney says when my father was wise vice president, George W. Bush did tax cuts and conservative judges. We didn`t have to do January 6th, didn`t have to do all the stuff that Donald Trump did. The problem is with the MAGA base doesn`t see it that way. They like the fact that Trump is vulgar and coarse.


MELBER: You`re talking about the politics of payback and performative attacks and oppression on other groups in the country, which is different, right? If you use Richard Hofstetter, you know that`s -- that is the type of politics that`s about asserting power so the day-to-day you feel important white grievance, etc. Rather than oh, yes, what`s your policy on local funding of schools which is a policy then.


And then you mentioned Cheney, yes, I mean Cheney made Darth Vader look liberal and that was his line. But so, what? As for the divergences you mentioned, I want to show you said that which is interesting about DeSantis. Politico has these takeaways on the politics side of people saying, gosh, one Republican says this whole thing this week completely handed Trump a lifeline. It put everyone back in the wagon for Trump again.

Talk about unintended consequences, I mean, this is another reason why the Comey-Esque thing never works. Because the rules are about -- yes, you don`t want to raid someone or search someone because it`s considered bad, duh.

And yet you can`t, you really literally cannot predict that on Trump`s very bad week, which might, by the way, make him a harder to elect I don`t know, in the general. It according to this strategist and according to you, you`re saying actually helps push down. His would-be primary opponents.

KOMANDURI: It absolutely does. I mean, what is Ron DeSantis` argument against Trump now, he basically says Trump was a terrific president, and the election was stolen from him. Well, if that`s true, let`s just re- nominate Donald Trump. Like, why do we need Ron DeSantis when we have Donald Trump?

I mean, a stronger argument would be basically what Chris Christie is sort of saying, you know, Donald Trump lack discipline, he`s divisive, you know, we should be done with, and we need to move on. He brought this on himself. That`s what Chris Christie is saying. The problem is Ron DeSantis, knows the MAGA base is in there, and he`s not there and he`s not willing to say that.

So as a result, you know, there is no choice but to stick to Trump. And I think Fox News has decided that, and I think the Republican leadership has decided that which is why they have decided to go so hard against the FBI and against traditional allies of law and order, traditional allies of the Republican Party.

MELBER: Yes, it`s really striking. We`ve done a lot of the law and the facts on this since the news broke. This is the first time we`ve also gotten a little bit of view of the politics, which shouldn`t matter over at the Justice Department, but everyone is keeping an eye on whether this individual who`s pleading the fifth was having his home raided, is still on the way to trying to be president again. Chai Komanduri, thank you, sir.

KOMANDURI: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: I mentioned pleading the fifth and we have a breakdown on that. Why it is actually in some ways, really bad for Trump in a way that not everyone realizes yet and a special guest on that and what happened inside today`s deposition. Our deep dive on that is next.



MELBER: Legally provable fear that he might incriminate himself in crimes. And Trump is known as a talker. But he basically spent six hours today refusing to talk or tell his side of the story under oath. That`s after losing a long quest to avoid ever having to face this Attorney General Letitia James, she`s leading the civil probe here, which can still have potential criminal implications like any thorough probe.


LETITIA JAMES (D), NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: President Trump could not avoid justice in the great state of New York. My investigation is civil in nature. However, in the event that we uncover, any conduct or activities, which would suggest criminal activities, then that would change, obviously, our investigation.


MELBER: That`s true. It`s part of why legally, someone could even plead the fifth in this context, and the Trump could do it today. There has to be a credible risk that the witnesses` answers could be used against them as criminal evidence, or even to criminally indict them. Trump does face that risk because we already know there`s overlapping topics about his finances and his company that have gotten other people indicted.

I know a lot has been going on this week. But it wasn`t that long ago that you had his top financial officer handcuffed, indicted, awaiting trial, which is now scheduled for this year. But Trump himself has done those depositions under oath before, in fact, he`s been in more lawsuits than any candidate in American history. USA Today did account. And he`s answered many questions in depositions.

Today though, he basically stated his name under oath, you couldn`t claim that answer would be legally incriminating. But then for all of the questions about his own conduct and his business, he kept pleading the fifth and saying some version of, quote, same answer, again and again. Over the course of the day, we are told, according to reports, he did that for about six hours.

Now, his coup lawyer, John Eastman, by the fifth more than 100 times facing the January 6 committee and also found himself which is the untapped there. Searched also under a legally authorized plan by a judge. In his case, defenders searching for a cell phone, that search of that guy who pled the fifth, well actually looks a little bit small compared to the whole Mar-a- Lago operation.

The legal point here is that while neither Congress nor a civil probe can even prosecute someone in the first place, they can uncover the kinds of testimony, criminal evidence, or smoking gun evidence that can get you in trouble or indicted.


As for this civil case they already say they have evidence of Trump and his organization basically lying about his finances and a civil matter that can lead to fines, that can lead to the kinds of restitution that deals with the fact that they may have misled authorities or gotten to pay less taxes while other people paid more than their fair share.

All of this builds on the testimony that you might recall Trump`s former lawyer Michael Cohen provided to Congress. And while Trump is not a legal expert or a very credible source on many of these matters at the broader level. By doing this, he also faces criticism about the hypocrisy because he has long attacked anyone taking the fifth, something he pressed, when people linked to some of his opponents had pled the fifth.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see the mob takes effect. If you`re interested, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? Your staff taking the Fifth Amendment. Taking the fifth so, they`re not prosecuted. Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. Horrible.


MELBER: I`m joined by John Flannery, former federal prosecutor advisor as counsel to several congressional probes. John, some people look at everything that`s happened and say, it`s one more Nick in the armor. Is it that big a deal? Other people say, no president has ever left office and done this. The fact that Donald Trump and his lawyers think that he has grounds to plead the Fifth Amendment today. Do you view this as just one more thing, or judging him by real standards a new low?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it`s both historic, and he`s going to bite him in the hind quarters when the dust settles, and this is what I mean, we`ve been talking about the Fifth Amendment as if this is a circumstance for the Fifth Amendment. And the Constitution reads that, nor shall a person be compelled in any criminal case as a civil case, to be a witness against himself.

So, the question is he being a witness against himself? So, this is not a criminal case, you invoke the Fifth Amendment, but because it is a civil case, they can draw adverse inferences from you taking the Fifth Amendment in that civil case.

MELBER: Right. And we were -- we discussed that a little bit earlier in the program. And that basically, it`s important because it is your right, and it comes out of government abuse that they can`t just grab you, force you to say stuff or whatever, under their interrogation, and then use that against you. Here that`s not the case of its civil. But there are people who look at this and say, well, yes, so much has happened with Trump.

It seems to me, John, now I`m going to do the leading question. You`re familiar with that. It seems to me --

FLANNERY: Yes, I am.

MELBER: If Barack Obama left office was dealing with a case, first of all, define it for so long, and he had to be fined $100,000, just to get him in the chair, and then pled the Fifth Amendment, it seems to me a lot of people would tell us it was the biggest worst thing that happened that decade.

FLANNERY: Yes. Well, I was -- I said, the entire history of the United States. And here -- here`s the thing, if not the adverse inference. If I`m asking him a question, and this is why he sat there five or six hours, you have to ask the question that they tried to draw the adverse inference on in the civil case. So, you say, isn`t it a fact Mr. Trump, that you understated the value of your properties in connection with your tax filings?

He takes the fifth. Isn`t an effect that you overstated those same properties for the purposes of getting loans? Then he goes to trial, or they offer that evidence and considering how to go forward and the adverse inferences when you didn`t answer that question you, in effect, seem to agree to it. Because if I say, Ari, you`re a crook, and you say I take the fifth, yes.

The conclusion is you are a crook. Now, it`s interesting also how he deals with it, which I think gives away the tell that you talk about. He -- well, my wife and I, we have pigs, you know, well, if you pick up one, they squeal like mad, and he`s been picked up and he has squealing like mad like Spiro Agnew did when they investigated and indicted him. But Spiro didn`t have to take the Fifth Amendment, and this guy does.

And when the mob does it, they usually do it in a criminal case, but it doesn`t work out for them. Vito -- Vito Genovese in 1958 he took the Fifth Amendment 150 times. And I think Trump far eclipsed his number. And the following year, he was convicted and went to prison for 13 years. So, this is not a great track to be on. This is historic, this is dangerous for him personally.

This is a good thing for the country because we`re having a reckoning, whatever the outcome, and I hope the outcome is what appears to be the case. A man who fights and resists to talk and tell his story in this context, and a civil case doesn`t have a story to tell. That is other than inculpatory, I think.

MELBER: All really laid out clearly. And as you say, you said all of history, it is really striking the fact that there are those who want to minimize and normalize that which has never happened before because even if it`s your right, nobody else has left office and then said, yes, I can`t talk about that, obviously, because I might have -- I might have to tell you the truth about my crimes.


That`s a biggie, that`s a biggie. So, we end with in a way, John, to combine some of what you said with some of what we do around here, a kind of a notorious P. I. G. Good to see you. Good to see you, sir. All right, we fit in a break when we come back, why there are new reports from inside Trump World about whether somebody dropped a dime on Trump to the FBI.



MELBER: The FBI made it search and apparently people in Trump`s inner circle think that they got good information. That`s one of the implications of a new Axios report that Trump`s team are worried someone flipped and gave that information to the FBI. Now there`s an epically trolling video by an anti-Trump group of Republicans over at the Lincoln Project.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who was it, Donald? Who gave you up to the Feds?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who told them what you kept in the safe at Mar-a-Lago? No, not that stuff.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The classified documents, the teen boxes of top-secret files.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s naughty, Donald.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You broke the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No wonder the Department of Justice and the FBI came knocking.


MELBER: They make political ads, but I guess sometimes they make ads just to bother one person. That does it for us. A lot happening. So, thanks for spending time with us here on THE BEAT with Ari Melber. "THE REIDOUT" with Jason Johnson in, is up next.