Former President Donald Trump himself confirmed FBI agents searching his Mar-a-Lago home over potential secret government files. Though the FBI raid of a former president`s home is considered unprecedented, DOJ has indicted officials in both parties for spilling state secrets. David Kelley and Jill Wine-Banks joins Ari Melber to talk about the FBI raids on former President Donald Trump`s Mar-a-Lago home. Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of Donald Trump, joins THE BEAT with Ari Melber to talk about the FBI raids on Trump`s home in Mar-a-Lago.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
On August 8th, 2022, the nation learned for the first time in history a former president`s home was searched by federal agents acting lawfully. It is the kind of news that just hit like a thunderclap across the nation and really the world. Unprecedented details still sinking in.
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RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Nothing like this has ever happened before, and we don`t know how this ends.
MELBER: Breaking news courtesy of a brand new statement that just crossed from Donald Trump. His home in Mar-a-Lago is, quote, "Under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents."
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Stunning news overnight, an FBI raid on the home of a former president.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR, TODAY SHOW: Search and seizure, the FBI descends on former President Trump`s Mar-a-Lago home.
JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: We have a breaking FOX News alert. The FBI has raided former President Trump`s home in Mar-a-Lago.
MADDOW: Federal law enforcement authorities would have had to go to a judge and bring to that judge a request for a search warrant.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC ANCHOR, MORNING JOE: We begin this hour with one word -- unprecedented.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST, CHRIS JANSING REPORTS: Today we are in uncharted territory. The FBI search at Mar-a-Lago has no parallel in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s all true, and that`s all sinking in. The first ever search of the former president`s home setting what is today something we didn`t have until yesterday. A new legal precedent in America. That matters for the law. It`s captivating many, many people all over the country. No matter how you get your news -- newspaper, television, internet, phone alerts, social media -- this is the big story.
It upends Trump`s current situation. That obviously matters to him. And to our politics and to a thicket of legal implications that we`re covering for you tonight. We`ve been working hard on our broadcast and a special report coming up later and some very special guests.
But let me tell you this up front. At the broadest level, this development is the clearest, starkest, most physical indication that the United States is still governed by the rule of law, that Donald Trump is not above it, and that confidential independent investigations are clearly continuing and sometimes escalating that involve him and some of his conduct as president.
And I say physical because it was armed federal agents who took that judicially approved search warrant, crossing through the gates of Donald Trump`s Mar-a-Lago home. Going through the files, going through what is both his property, allegedly going through his safe and also going through property that he may have had in his possession but was not his. Pursuing secret government documents that Donald Trump was reportedly holding after he had flouted what were, and this is important, flouted binding legal demands to return them.
We are a full 20 months or so after Trump left the White House after his attempted coup failed. And he was still apparently holding on to these documents. There was also the very grave step of a top DOJ counter intel official who already had gone down previously to confront Trump`s team back in the spring about reportedly these materials that he had taken improperly, possibly illegally from the White House.
On Monday, the agents spent most of the day conducting the search which we`re told one Trump lawyer present. None of this incredible unprecedented story leaked out in any way in advance that we`ve heard. Indeed, the first public disclosure about this search came from someone who of course can lawfully explain it and publicize it, but if you want to call it a leak, the leak came from Donald Trump himself.
The FBI had quietly, secretly, properly coordinated this operation as well as the particulars of what happens when a former president who has lawful Secret Service protection and other legal protections and retinue of guards and other things that are his under the law, as a former official. Makes him different than other potential people who are searched. So the FBI also quietly coordinated with the Secret Service who are on the site. That was a few hours before the search. And reports suggest Trump basically knew before the Biden White House, where staff heard the news, "The New York Times" reports, like everyone else, on Twitter, online, in the public news.
Donald Trump was in New York yesterday during this time, where he apparently wrote out that statement, which broke the news in a way. He was seen leaving Trump Tower just last night.
And he is known for trying to outrun and outpace the law. We all know that. You`re watching the news. You know that. Donald Trump tries to outrun the law figuratively, literally, however you want to put it in combination, and this story certainly has a long path. The hunt for these documents began with the material that Donald Trump took from Washington down Florida. He also faces separate civil and criminal probes in New York, Washington, Georgia. Now we know a judge in Florida approving a search for Trump`s Florida home for these materials that now have been taken from Mar-a-Lago and are going back to Washington.
Phew. Right? I`ll tell you, that`s like -- it`s like a lot miles logged. But this is still about the law no matter how many places you try to go with all the stuff. It was Kenny Rogers who once explained you can hide out for a while, but you can`t outrun the long arm of the law. Sean Carter hit the same theme, how the criminal mindset involves running in secrecy. He recounted a thug under a lamp post, why he got his hand closed. Crack in the palm watching the long arm of the law.
Now, hiding crack, like hiding stolen state secrets, is a crime. It just is. That`s a legal fact. And watching the long arm of the law for long enough, well, most people do find out the law catches up. And the law is not supposed to care how long you`ve been running, how long you got away with it, how long you made the long arm of the law maybe stretched. And during that time you might have felt like a powerful, furtive, effective criminal outrunning the law.
The law doesn`t care about that, and it doesn`t care who you are. That`s the whole point.
We turn now to a very special guest here to join me one-on-one, Andrew Weissmann. Has much experience as a prosecutor, FBI general counsel, senior member of the Mueller probe, and someone who does care about the independent execution of the law in America.
Thanks for being here on this big news night.
ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: You`re welcome. Glad to be here.
MELBER: Your view of this news, what the search entails, and that final point that some people do manage to outrun the law for a long time but not necessarily forever.
WEISSMANN: So, I`ll do the last point at the end. But I had sort of two reactions to what happened. The first is I was really struck by the fact that this had to be done by a search warrant. There are lots of ways that government can obtain evidence and information. Sometimes it`s just voluntary, it`s on consent. Sometimes it`s by subpoena. Very often it`s by subpoena. If you`re trying to get documents from a reputable person or reputable company, you give them a subpoena and they collect the documents and they produce them.
MELBER: Reputable, yes.
WEISSMANN: To do something by search warrant means that you don`t trust the person to actually comply with the subpoena, and there`s just no question that Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general, and Merrick Garland, the attorney general, had to have asked that question. Why do we need to do this by search warrant and not by subpoena? And the missing piece is they had to have been given a very compelling reason why they could not trust Donald Trump.
MELBER: Can I pause you there? I know we have a multipart.
MELBER: Two lawyers with a multipart discussion, watch out. But when you say a compelling reason, are you suggesting by inference that that would involve proven or past conduct or malfeasance regarding these very materials?
WEISSMANN: So, the most likely in my -- you know, again, if I`m speculating, and sort of educated speculation, would be that Donald Trump lied, that the government had information that there were still extant classified information and other government information at Mar-a-Lago, but they had been told everything had been produced. That would be the kind of thing that would lead someone to say, well, a subpoena is not going to work, because they`ve already told us that everything was produced when we know from good and sufficient reasons and information that that`s not true.
MELBER: And so again, I`m only jumping in, that would be -- if documented that would be malfeasance, where we know that there was some transfer of materials.
MELBER: They went down, they got some of them. We know about what I mentioned intelligence officials and others. Other things we may not know, but what you`re saying is past that point after what was already a very unusual, very adversarial process, that they were then -- I take to you mean not mistaken, exaggerating, spinning, no, they were caught.
WEISSMANN: Lied to.
MELBER: In your view directly lying about it. Go ahead.
WEISSMANN: Lied to. Right. Exactly. You know, to put no fine point on this, they were lied to. In other words, one of the reasons you would try and get a search warrant is if you thought that the person who was going to get the subpoena was going to obstruct justice by either destroying the documents or just lying to and saying, I produced everything. But you knew that that was not true, then you would not go by subpoena, you would go by search warrant.
And that`s a missing piece is what was that conversation with Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco that caused them to say, we`re going to do this in such a, you know, bold and aggressive way that was necessary because otherwise, you know, I was getting documents from MSNBC and I was in the government I would call up counsel at MSNBC, and we`d have a conversation and they`d either be produced voluntarily or you`d give a subpoena and you`d get the documents. There would be no question about the bona fides of the party on the other side. To proceed by a search warrant means that there is a problem.
The second thing is, to proceed in this way -- and this is, again, educated speculation -- I strongly suspect that the nature of the documents that the government believes are still there have to be highly sensitive classified information that would involve true national security interests, because that`s the kind of information that you could see Merrick Garland saying, you know what? We can`t just keep playing.
WEISSMANN: You know, patsy and go back and forth. We have to get these documents.
MELBER: Let me fact check that with you on the screen, and then you have your part three in the long arm. "Washington Post," a new reporting, some of the records allegedly taken by Trump are, quote, "so sensitive," they may not be, quote, "described in the public."
WEISSMANN: So that -- I mean, and it`s consistent when I was general counsel at the FBI. You know, there`s classified information and there`s compartmentalized classified information that is information that is so sensitive that even if you have a top secret clearance that it`s insufficient to have access to certain information because it is so important to the national security of the United States. And it`s that kind of information you could see why Lisa Monaco and Merrick Garland would take swift and decisive action.
That`s all the sort of I`d say, good news. On your question of, you know, will the long arm of the law, you know, finally reach Donald Trump? I think that still remains to be seen. He has dodged quite a number of bullets, and you know, if there is a Republican president the next election, you know, there`s very little to say that Donald Trump -- that there`s going to be an ongoing attorney general investigation, or even if there is and there`s a prosecution that that`s going to go forward, or that the former president wouldn`t be pardoned, or if he`s the president, he wouldn`t pardon himself.
MELBER: Well, let me -- yes, let me narrow it then slightly. It would appear that Donald Trump and his representatives, in what was this long running clash with the government about this, it would appear that they bet on, what are you going to do, raid us? What are you going to do, be the first administration to raid your predecessor administration? It would appear they landed on that which is a version of the Trump defiance we`ve seen so many times and it would appear that the long arm of the law reached them yesterday with the DOJ, even this cautious attorney general as you mentioned, saying, OK, that`s a wild move but we will not back down.
WEISSMANN: I agree with that, and I think this certainly shows that Merrick Garland has backbone. He is willing to take decisive steps, and that`s, I think, incredibly important and commendable, and it`s going to be necessary. I`m looking to the end game.
WEISSMANN: Let`s assume that there is a criminal case that could be made, either in connection with January 6th or in connection with obtaining classified documents and/or lying to the government. Any and all of the above. At the end of the day, the sort of rope a dope that the former president plays could play out politically where he never actually is held to account.
WEISSMANN: And it doesn`t mean that you don`t go full steam ahead and, you know, that you do what Merrick Garland is doing, which is making the top shots and making the calls that he needs to make. But it`s not at all clear given the timeline, to your question, that the end will be that, you know, he doesn`t escape once again.
MELBER: Right. Well, I certainly don`t claim to know what`s going to happen tomorrow. I didn`t know this news was going break at 6:59 p.m. or so last night. Let`s go into the search warrant because I wanted to get your expertise on this. The feds have to submit what is basically a proposal to a judge to prove and establish probable cause if they want to search and seize this kind of property.
That warrant starts out blank, then they have to kind of pass a test so we know, one, the feds did establish the cause that there was this criminal evidence at Mar-a-Lago specifically, and two, we know the process is more rigorous than a typical warrant because you have review at the top of DOJ, as Mr. Weissmann just mentioned. You have a judge knowing this would set precedent. And we know the feds were on Trump`s property under the rules write down everything that they took.
They give that list called an inventory to Trump and his lawyers. The inventory of the property taken. So they can keep it private over at Mar-a- Lago or they could release it if they think the facts here would somehow help their case. They have not done so as of this moment.
Former prosecutor Joyce Vance is one of several experts who pointed out that for all of the knee-jerk Trump complaints about being searched, keeping this list secret suggests that Trump or his team know that releasing it would be, quote, "incriminating."
Andrew, I bring you back in. That`s one person`s view. Your thoughts on all of that.
WEISSMANN: So I totally agree with Joyce. There are three documents that are generated in connection with a search. There`s the actual warrant. That is a short piece of paper that says that the agents can go and search a certain location. They have a certain amount of time to do it and they have the look for certain types of evidence related to specific crimes. Donald Trump would be given a copy of the warrant.
The second type of document is the affidavit in support of that warrant. That is the FBI agent who lays out all of the facts under oath to establish the probable cause that you`d mentioned, Ari. That document is not given to Donald Trump at this point. If he were to be charged it definitely would be given to him because he would have a right to see it and to challenge it. But at this point he would not have that.
And then the third document that he will get is the one that Joyce mentioned and you alluded to, which is the inventory, which is just simply a list of everything that the FBI found in the course of the search, and that is required by law to be given to Donald Trump, and that`s something that he is free to disclose, if he wants to. He could easily redact the things that he thought might be classified, but if he thought he didn`t have anything to hide and this was just a witch-hunt, then he should either, as we like to say in the law, put up or shut up. And that is, you know, he should reveal that.
MELBER: Right, at a time when there is at least a claim of a debate over the activity and facts of this raid, anyone seeking to -- this raid, this search lawfully executed. Anyone seeking to get into that would have to deal with the facts available to them. Hiding them in a case that`s about potentially malfeasance and hiding other stuff doesn`t look too good, as you and Joyce emphasized.
We wanted to get your views here at the top of the story on THE BEAT. So I thank you for making time, Mr. Weissmann.
WEISSMANN: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Yes, sir.
Later tonight, Michael Cohen joins us about this FBI search and what he knows about Donald Trump`s approach to safest -- I should say to safes and secrecy. Juggling a lot here. Bear with me.
Now, next we turn to my new breakdown of some of the precedence here. Why top national security officials have been indicted or worse for spilling state secrets and what`s next. We have the receipts, the details. We`re back in our shortest break right now, just 60 seconds.
MELBER: Turning now to our special report on the precedent for what just went down.
When you hear about this search of a former president`s home, before you know anything else, you know the feds must be confident here. They didn`t just get the required judicial approval. They must be certain that the law is on their side.
So why is that? Well, the answer is actually very clear and it includes some additional bad news for Trump, whether he`s learned about this yet or not, you`re going learn about it now if you stay with me because this body of law on state secrets is tough, and the DOJ has a history of being tough, of prosecuting officials in this very area, even if they previously had high security clearances or commanded battalions or even ran the CIA.
The Justice Department has just proven time and time again because of the nature of the issues here, Andrew Weissmann referred to some of this, that they, the DOJ are willing to pursue and prosecute and indict and sometimes convict and incarcerate people who were even recent colleagues at the top of the government or served in the administrations with them or were in either party, or even people who have been viewed by many as wartime heroes.
Bottom line, there is a case history here, and it shows that serious people have been in serious legal trouble for even less than this. That`s the legal backbone for the dramatic search and raid of Donald Trump`s home. High level government officials have been prosecuted for this related issue of whether you are mishandling classified documents or spilling state secrets or doing anything, especially after you were in office, to endanger the United States. This is serious stuff.
So let`s get into it. Take Sandy Berger, National Security adviser to President Clinton. He was in charge of all kinds of national security and intelligence issues while in office. As I emphasized, had that valid role. But after he left that post, just like Donald Trump did, then you`re a citizen again. So Mr. Berger lost any legal claim to those top secret materials for the most part, and he was indicted and ultimately convicted for doing something that would have been legal when he had the job.
He basically grabbed some classified documents secretly out of the National Archives. This was back in `03, and his reason was, he said, also fair, because he was trying to prepare himself for important government testimony. Then when caught, Berger first claimed it was all some kind of accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today his lawyer says Berger set them aside to read them later and accidentally carried them out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, and he`s admitted, it was an inadvertent mistake. He shouldn`t have done it but he did mistakenly take the documents.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: The innocent explanation is the most likely one particularly given the facts involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s a big deal. He was a big figure in sort of Democratic security circles. It did not end there. Berger busted as that whole defense fell apart. What Clinton said there didn`t prove to be right. An investigation found he actively hid the papers, stuffed them in his pockets several times to furtively get them out of the Archives and also destroyed some with scissors. He admitted all of this.
Now what happens when do you that? Well, there have already been reports about Donald Trump in the White House trying to destroy documents in a toilet or fireplace. "The Times" has this photo relating to this happening inside a White House toilet. But Mr. Berger ultimately cooperated, something that we haven`t seen as reported in the top of the broadcast about much of what has happened at Mar-a-Lago.
Berger cooperated, he pled guilty and that led to an arrangement where he was fined $50,000, he lost his security clearance, he was under two years` probation, 100 hours of community service. So it was real punishment at the end of the road, although he did avoid jail time with that cooperation.
Now let me tell you something else. There`s so much cynicism these days and there`s so much trolling and lying designed to just sort of chip away at the reality in front of you. And yet today the reality is that the independent justice system is working, that it is apparently nonpartisan, that is being overseen by judges, as it is supposed to.
Now, you know who one of top prosecutors was who was overseeing this very case who announced that Berger plea deal? His name is Mr. Chris Wray. At the time he was at DOJ. Now he`s ascended to FBI director because Donald Trump picked him for that post. It is Mr. Wray who has been directly hands- on in these key decisions.
So he knows exactly how this works and anyone who wants to bring it up or try to bring in history in politics will have to deal with the fact that Mr. Wray is a Trump appointee who has previously been assertive in this classified area of law against Democrats. And now it`s his FBI that conducted this raid in this classified area of the law against a former Republican president.
Now, there`s a prosecutor here who thinks there was enough evidence to warrant the search of Mar-a-Lago. Reuters reporting this raid would be approved, of course, the way it works, by Mr. Wray. So all of this is the context. That`s just one case.
Let me tell you about another one I bet many people remember. David Petraeus. He was of course a military veteran, considered a war hero, broadly popular in many ways, and he was CIA director. Also served in both parties. But ultimately he had to plead guilty because he had basically shared or leaked classified information with a biographer with whom he had a relationship and then later lied about it. He told the FBI he didn`t give the information out. And in that case, which was very heavy, jail time was on the table, it went to court as I mentioned because of that deal.
Judge in that case ultimately fined Petraeus $100,000, which was higher than the prosecutors asked for, citing the seriousness of the offense. Mr. Petraeus, though, for reasons mentioned, including his service to country, did not actually go to prison and others viewed it as all even still too lenient.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: David Petraeus, who once also headed up the CIA was sentenced today to two years` probation and fined $100,000.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lawyers are citing it as an example of, hey, well, if he got off with that, our guy should get off with a similar lenient sentence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was going on then. And remember, whether you think that that was a lot of punishment or there could have been more, even that was more than a home search. You had the reputational damage, you had consequences, you had probation in one of those cases. And here you have the ongoing apparent, alleged defiance by this person who`s a former government official, Donald Trump, of the DOJ.
But the bottom line is, and you see it in these cases, no one`s above the law, especially not the people who are actually granted these extra powers in office. In other words, as you think about Donald Trump last night complaining about this out of New York, there`s this conspiracy theory that crops up every time with these problems where you say, oh, well, Donald Trump and these people think that somehow they are being treated differently.
They need people to think that. The history shows something else. The DOJ is confident because it`s gone at these cases before against war heroes, against veterans of both parties, because, and I`m sorry I have to say this out loud, but it doesn`t matter who you are, what position you had, if you are endangering the state secrets of the United States government, you are putting people`s lives at risk.
If you`re doing it when you`ve been on notice and you`re doing it potentially illegally, then yes, that, as has happened before, can be enforced as a felony.
Want to get into this with people who have handled all kinds of high profile cases, the former chief of SDNY and a Watergate prosecutor right after this.
MELBER: A legal search of a former president`s home is the biggest story in the nation. We just walked through some of the precedent, why this is a tough area of the law and that we bring in to experts. David Kelley is the former chief of the famed Southern District of New York, and I should mention my former boss and Jill Wine-Banks, former Watergate Prosecutor General Counsel to the army. Both of our guests here have quite a bit of experience in this field.
And David, I want to start with you hear in New York, because you have handled many cases. SDNY people know does a lot, but you also prosecuted an investigator, I should say, John Deutch, former CIA director in a Democratic administration, as it happens current administration about mishandling classified information. What do you see in this search? Does it look on the level to you? How do we get here?
DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It`s hard to -- it`s hard not to be on the level, I mean, given the level of scrutiny that most likely was given to the warrant and the application for the warrant and the judge who reviewed the warrant.
And certainly, if there`s anything that was improper about it, Trump has an opportunity to make a motion to the court to have it reviewed under Rule 41 G. and have the documents given back to him if he thinks he`s the rightful owner of it. So, he has an opportunity here to vindicate himself if he chooses to put his money where his mouth has been.
MELBER: When you look at the history here, it doesn`t look like this is an area that you really want to mess around with if you`re on the end of holding the docks.
KELLEY: Correct. Look, the cases you mentioned in the last segment, you have situations where each person did something bad. Sandy Berger took the documents and stuck them in his socks, right? And elsewhere. But, you know, he knew he was doing something wrong. Petraeus lied about it because he knew it was wrong. So, the question here is, there was conversation and interaction between the National Archives and the Trump camp.
What did he say and what did he do? So obviously, he didn`t give everything back. Because the Archives just saying we want our documents back. And it may well be at the end of the day that this case is only about that. Give us we want our documents back. They`re important to the national security, we`re taking them back.
But it could also be a lot more than that. And it may well be because he lied about it, or he did something, you know, under the table not wanting people to see but what he was doing. Given his history if it`s true about ripping up documents, and so forth. The National Archives had a real concern about the integrity and security these documents. They had to go in there and get them, they got them.
Now the question is under what circumstances were they taken? Under what circumstances were they kept? Did he lie about it? And so forth. That may be where the crime is. So, you have a seizure and that may be all it is. Or you may have a lot more. We don`t know what that those facts are yet. That would make it the type of crime that you talked about in your last segment.
MELBER: Right. That was built to that level, but you`re reminding us. And Jill brings you in that David`s saying there is a version of this where you just have the worst client ever, and then lawyers who can`t talk their client out of it. And as mentioned earlier in the program, there is -- what are you going to do raid us? And they finally do.
And it is about to David`s point, this wouldn`t be the lower end of the theory, just getting the darn documents back, the middle or higher end would be other potential criminality. What`s your view, Jill?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I agree with David, we do need the documents back for several reasons. One, because we know that at least some documents taken were highly classified. More than just top secret. They were classified in a way, as you mentioned, that we can`t even tell you the category of category -- of classification because that`s classified.
But even if they weren`t classified their documents, he had no right to possess at Mar-a-Lago. They are government documents. When he leaves office, they go to the National Archives, nowhere else. So, he shouldn`t have had anything at his house. We also don`t know because we haven`t seen the search warrant. And I`m assuming that a Freedom of Information Act request has been made and that we will end up seeing it.
But right now, we don`t know what crimes were listed as the basis for this search. We have heard a lot of reporting that it`s related to documents that were wrongfully taken from the White House and kept at Mar-a-Lago. But we don`t know that. So, whether there are crimes that relate to any of the tentacles of the January 6th events, whether it`s the fake electors, whether it`s the calls to Georgia for more votes, we just don`t know.
And I -- I`m always one of those people who hates speculating about what it might be because we are going to find out. But we do know that classified documents were taken wrongfully in the past. 15 cartons of them were retrieved previously. Negotiations, I`m assuming, fell apart, because they would have gone back and said, well, we`ve got these but now we identified the following things that are still missing, give them to us.
And he must have said, no, I`m not. And so, they had no choice but to seek a legal search warrant to go to a court, prove that there was probable cause, convince a judge of that and get it. Whether there are other things involved. Only time will tell.
MELBER: And Jill, yes, you mentioned the other sort of threads here. There`s a report here courtesy of Fox News that a Trump ally here, Scott Perry says, the FBI seized his phone. He said he was approached by three agents, they handed him a warrant and requested he turn over his cell phone. I`m wondering, Jill, how do you make sense of it? Because people have heard about so many different probes.
And this idea that there`s a bank shot or that you`re going to, oh, do this classified thing, and then look around in the house. Doesn`t seem like the way that Merrick Garland or a serious A.G. would want to pursue other things, although I`ll be clear, plenty of -- plenty of police raids, find what they find and move on from there, right? But this is not just a random search or raid. Jill?
WINE-BANKS: It is not. First of all, they must specify exactly where in the premises they are going to search. If they could have asked for the entire premises. But more likely than not, it`s limited to Donald Trump`s office, to his bedroom, to his safe, to his living. You know, we don`t know exactly where but it`s probably not the public dining room. It`s probably not the lobby.
So, it`s a specific place, and they are looking for something specific but in a legal warrant. If you are there and you find evidence of other crimes than what we`re looking for, you do get to take them. That is a legitimate use of the search warrant. So, we don`t know, we know that the agents did not leave empty-handed. They were seen leaving with a carton -- cartons.
We don`t know if there was one piece of paper in the carton or there was a stack of papers. We don`t know if there was a cell phone. It seems like everybody`s talking about documents, but maybe there`s some --
MELBER: Right, no, you could have electronics or anything.
WINE-BANKS: We just donƒ_Tt know what`s in that box.
MELBER: And what we saw is only what -- again, that`s sort of public source reporting. It could be other things. Really interesting stuff, especially looking at the actual precedents here. Jill Wine-Banks and David Kelley thanks to both of you. We next look at what Donald Trump might be thinking about and how he hides things. Michael Cohen a lawyer who`s been through so much here in this area is with us live next.
MELBER: And lawyer Michael Cohen. We are joined now by Michael Cohen. He is the host of the Mea Culpa podcast. He`s a principal with Crisis-X and he has walked us through so many of these issues here. Welcome back.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: Good to see you, Ari.
MELBER: You hear that type of criticism that was about a search on you. Now the search has hit home in a big way for Donald Trump. What is he doing here? Did he miss play this and what would be in his safe?
COHEN: Well, he definitively misplaced it. It`s definitely karma boomerang. He didn`t believe anything that he was saying about me. It wasn`t about me. It`s always about him. And that`s what he now has to contend with. So, it`s funny that you asked me about what was in the safe. Today, I probably received about two dozen plus phone calls some journalists asking, what do you think was in the safe?
And I think everybody should sort of stop and let`s just allow the process to go forward. They really want -- they don`t want to hear what I truly believe is in the safe, which is the same thing that you would have in the safe, right? Which would be your family documents. It would be the trust. It would probably be some birth certificates. Donald is a licensed firearm owner, so he may have that in there.
I also believe that there was probably a lot of cash in there because he had Wollman Rink, Lasker Rink had, the carousel he had, the food court, and so on. So that`s something I know the district attorney and the attorney general looking at very, you know, very significantly. But they want to hear things like you know, Stormy`s pink panties, or the P. tape autographed by Vladimir Putin or maybe some naked photos of Melania. That`s sort of the salacious --
MELBER: You`re talking about speculation. You`re not saying you have any view on that. Here`s Eric Trump, who you know, you work with all these people. Here`s Eric Trump last night.
ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP`S SON: My father never got so much as a speeding ticket in his life. My father always kept clippings. You know, press clippings, you`d have, you know, newspaper articles, pictures, notes from us. He had boxes, right? When he moved out of the White House. How about the Benghazi scandals? You want to talk about, you know, scandals that were never investigated?
MELBER: You have counseled this person, Donald Trump?
MELBER: We`ve heard from experts tonight that this might just be just about the potential illegal use of these documents. What do you think was his mindset? What was he telling his current lawyers based on your understanding of how he thinks when they would have definitely told him the DOJ means business, you gotta give it all back.
COHEN: Yes. First of all, when the Feds come, you know that it`s never a good thing, there`s generally going to be an indictment in jail, that follows. The Feds don`t make that mistake. They end up having the ability to not just seize the documents that are in that warrant. But there`s always additional documents and additional information that they gather. Eric`s an idiot.
And you know, to sit in to listen to Eric talk about, oh, my dad had clippings and so on. Listen, I promise you that the Feds did not raid for the very first time. The -- and by the way, it`s not the home. We have to all be clear about that. It`s not, it`s the property. You know, he`s not even supposed to be living there. But then again, nothing matters to him as it relates to the law.
MELBER: But you and I know, any decent lawyer would say, DOJ is taking this assertively. Work counseling you to turn this stuff back over. I mean, they left with stuff. According to reports we have. What does he say in that moment? He just doesn`t believe that this is going to get worse.
COHEN: No, he does not. He is such a narcissistic sociopath that he truly believes he`s above the law. That he`s going to be able to beat any of this and he just doesn`t seem to understand. Documents do not belong to him. I believe it`s like 18 USC 2071. You`re not permitted to destroy documents. You`re not permitted to take documents.
They don`t belong to him. Now to I think some of the documents may be love letters from Kim Jong-un, or it could be a letter from the Queen and he`s just holding it so that he could brag to somebody at Mar-a-Lago while chowing down on a burger and ice cream? Absolutely.
MELBER: Can I get -- can I -- there`s a smaller point here, it`s not as important as the earlier stuff, but I will ask you this. He is the ultimate declassifying authority. He did have four years to learn the job, and it is a big job. But had he figured out by January 19th, that he could have declassified virtually all if not all of this stuff? By declassifying it, he then would have been able to legally take it back to Florida.
MELBER: I know I`m pushing it here, Mike, we`ve had these conversations before, but it might understand as someone who just tries to make sense of the news, that by the end of the term, he didn`t know that he could use that power that way to avoid this entire search?
COHEN: Absolutely. They were busy thinking who they were going to pardon for money. I mean, who knows what`s really in that safe. Who knows what`s in the information that the FBI now has their hands on and I -- again and I said this -- and I say gleefully because everything that he did to people like myself, it`s now a karma boomerang.
He`s now experiencing the full effect of the federal government and the weaponization as he likes to call it against him. He is the ultimate weaponize, right? That`s going to be coming --
MELBER: That`s a final question. It`s not legal, it`s human. I got 40 seconds. Yesterday, he went through a version of part of what you went through. What do you think about him going through what you had to you and your family went through to some degree?
COHEN: Look at the end of the day, it will ultimately show that Donald Trump committed a plethora of crimes to which he is responsible for, and the American people want him held accountable.
MELBER: Mr. Cohen, you`ve had quite a journey. I didn`t know we would ever sit at this table and discuss the raid of his home.
COHEN: Neither did I.
MELBER: Appreciate you being here.
COHEN: Great to see, Ari.
MELBER: Mr. Michael Cohen and we will be right back.
MELBER: Donald Trump`s Mar-a-Lago property has been searched by the Feds and the Washington Post is reporting new into the evening tonight that the DOJ had the view that Trump or his lawyers and aides had not in fact returned all of the documents that were already legally supposed to go back to the government`s possession, and they suspected Trump`s representatives were quote, not truthful.
If you hear that and think well, duh, given the fact that Washington Post also found this was the most lying president ever. There is always the difference between what you say in public and what you say to the government or the DOJ. These lies may be criminal. It`s an update to a story that is very important, which is why I appreciate you spending time with us here on THE BEAT. "THE REIDOUT" with Jason Johnson in for Joy is up after a quick break.