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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/20/21

Guests: Mark Thompson, Michael Cohen, Daniel R. Alonso, Nick Akerman, Libby Casey


President Biden delivers an address on the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen speaks out. Republican lawmakers continue to say things about the insurrection that aren`t true, despite clear video evidence. New information emerges about the raids of Rudy Giuliani`s home and office.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we are tracking this developing news. President Biden is about to address the new truce in the Middle East. There has been 11 days of aerial attacks that have killed more than 230 Palestinians -- that includes 65 children -- and 12 Israelis.

Israel and the militant group Hamas have now agreed to this cease-fire to begin, basically, soon. This is 7:00 p.m. Eastern time, what has been the heaviest fighting in the region since 2014. It would begin basically Friday in the region.

I`m joined now by NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, and, from Tel Aviv, NBC News correspondent Erin McLaughlin, and White House reporter for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor Anne Gearan, who has been covering all of this.

For viewers, I just want to make sure it`s very clear we`re awaiting remarks from the president that we`re told could begin as soon as now. Obviously, we`re tracking how long it`s going to take or whether there`s a serious delay there. We will go directly to President Biden when he begins to speak.

Andrea, walk us through what this truce or cease-fire means?

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the most immediate thing, it does mean that there will presumably, if it is honored, not be any more firing, no rockets from Hamas in Gaza into Israel, no airstrikes by Israel against Hamas.

So, that is significant, obviously, for all the death and destruction and the humanitarian toll that it`s taken, particularly in Gaza, of course, in that prescribed, small area, with no place to go and more than 100,000 people now out of their homes, some sheltered, some not, and really a dreadful amount of civilian destruction there, as well as, of course, the civilian deaths in Israel.

Now, the Egyptians -- according to the prime minister`s office, the Israeli prime minister`s office, this was negotiated through the Egyptians acting on behalf of Hamas. And Egyptian monitors will go to the region and try to keep the cease-fire. But it`s very fragile.

There`s -- according to Israelis, according to the prime minister`s office, there are no preconditions. And there`s no agreement to do anything other than stop the firing.

According to Hamas, according to those in Gaza, there is -- there are preconditions, Palestinian rights involving Jerusalem and, of course, the incidents that precipitated all of this, which were the escalating tensions in Jerusalem, in East Jerusalem, where Palestinians were going to be evicted from their homes, continuing protests over a period of weeks, and then, of course, the rubber bullets that were fired against protesters in the area, but that went into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, that holy site, during evening prayers two weeks ago Friday, at the closing days of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year.

So, that set off the Hamas rockets. And, of course, then there was an overwhelming response from the Israelis, and they were off to their sixth engagement of this kind of conflict. So, now the question is, what happens next? Will there be other negotiations? Will they try to deal with the underlying conditions that set this off?

MELBER: Andrea, we`re looking at the podium at the White House, where the president, we`re told, will be coming out imminently.


MELBER: Erin, walk us through the situation on the ground.

We may cut in if we see the president.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, rocket fire continues from Gaza into Israel, many of those rockets being intercepted by the Iron Dome.

Now, it is not unusual after a cease-fire is announced for some fighting to continue in these situations. Remember, that cease-fire, as announced by the Egyptian delegation, which mediated and brokered the cease-fire, is scheduled to begin in about an hour.

We are still waiting to hear from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is expected to release a video statement later this evening. The announcement was initially formally made out of a three-hour Israeli Security Cabinet meeting, in which the cease-fire was unanimously approved.

But in that statement from the Israeli Security Cabinet -- let me just quote you what they had to say at the end of it. They said: "The reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign."

And that is the Israeli government making it very clear that Israel still stands to defend itself should rocket fire continue from Gaza.

MELBER: Right.

And we see -- we see the president. Let`s listen in.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Earlier today, I spoke with President El-Sisi of Egypt.

And Minister -- Prime Minister Netanyahu informed me that Israel has agreed to a mutual, unconditional cease-fire to begin in less than two hours. The Egyptians have now informed us that Hamas and the other groups in Gaza have also agreed.

In my conversation with President Netanyahu, I commended him for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close within less than 11 days.

I also emphasized what I have said throughout this conflict. The United States fully supports Israel`s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.

The prime minister also shared with me his appreciation for the Iron Dome system, which our nations developed together and which has saved the lives of countless Israeli citizens, both Arab and Jew. I assured him of my full support to replenish Israel`s Iron Dome system to ensure its defenses and security in the future.

Over the last 11 days, I spoke with the prime minister six times. I`ve also spoken with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority more than once in part of our intense diplomatic engagement.

And I want to also thank the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, our national security adviser, and everyone on our team for their incredible efforts to bring this about -- this outcome that we`re about to see.

You know, we`ve held intensive high-level discussions, hour by hour, literally, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and other Middle Eastern countries -- with an aim of avoiding the sort of prolonged conflict we`ve seen in previous years when the hostilities have broken out.

I extend my sincere gratitude to President El-Sisi and the senior Egyptian officials who played a critical role in this diplomacy.

I also appreciate the contributions of other parties in the region who have been engaged in working towards the end of hostilities.

These hostilities have resulted in the tragic deaths of so many civilians, including children. And I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones and my hope for a full recovery for the wounded.

The United States is committed to working with the United Nations, and we remain committed to working with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal international support for the people of Gaza and the Gaza reconstruction efforts.

We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority -- not Hamas, the Authority -- in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.

I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy.

My administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy toward that End. I believe we have a genuine opportunity to make progress, and I`m committed to working for it.

I want to thank you all. And may God bless you all. And I pray that this continues.

Thank you so much.


QUESTION: Are you confident the cease-fire will last, President Biden?

MELBER: President Biden speaking at the White House, relatively brief remarks of about five minutes, give or take.

This is President Biden`s first remarks since the formal truce or cease- fire between Israel and Hamas. We have been covering this story.

And we have NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who has been listening in, NBC`s Erin McLaughlin, who has been reporting live on the ground in Tel Aviv, and Anne Gearan from "The Washington Post," who has been tracking the Biden administration`s role over these tough 11 days.

Andrea, your response to the relatively brief remarks from the president there?

MITCHELL: Well, he gave a lot of credit to Egypt, as did Prime Minister Netanyahu, and thanked others in the region.

He emphasized that there had been hour-by-hour negotiations, stressing that there had been intensive U.S. diplomacy. This was clearly behind the scenes, because he had four conversations before today with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

But there had been criticism, even from some moderate Democrats who have been very close to him for years, saying that they thought that the president should have been more forceful sooner, not letting this get beyond the first couple of days, into the second week, before he started talking about a cease-fire on Monday, and then yesterday very explicitly saying he wanted to see substantial progress towards de-escalation yesterday.

So, there still has been criticism. And the U.S. really stood alone in the United Nations in opposing a statement that the Security Council was working on for many days, and then in the General Assembly, as it became bumped up to -- or broadened to the General Assembly, in -- under a French German initiative for the last 48 hours.

So, there have been a lot of criticisms of the U.S. effort. But he was certainly rebutting that in his statement just now.

MELBER: Yes, let me take that to Anne, who`s been covering this.

As Andrea mentioned, and is, of course, our keen and chief observer of all this, there`s a long history here, including a lot of diplomacy and a relationship history between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Joe Biden in multiple roles, even pre-president.

Over these 11 days, he`s tipping his hat to Egypt. He`s talking about the diplomacy. He mentioned there six conversations with Netanyahu, as well as conversations with Abbas and El-Sisi.

But what does your reporting tell us about the Biden administration`s stance here during a period of time where there has been a lot of international pressure to get to where they got in the region earlier than today?

ANNE GEARAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Ari, our reporting shows that the pressure was coming from two places.

I mean, as Andrea outlined, there`s significant -- both significant international pressure, but also increasing internal domestic political pressure. And it`s coming from a part of -- a constituency that Biden really hasn`t had to deal with it or worry about in the foreign policy context much since he became president.

And that`s the liberal progressive wing of the party, which is increasing - - Democratic Party -- which is increasingly critical of Israel and supportive of Palestinian rights, more in line with the views that you hear coming from Europe and other U.S. allies. And so Biden was really caught in between all of that.

And we started to see over the course of the statements that the White House issued after each of those four calls the progression from an immediate defense of Israel`s right to defend itself -- that`s the language they used -- to more qualified statements that talked a lot more about Palestinian rights, to what we had yesterday, which I sort of characterized as the diplomatic equivalent of the horse head in bed, where Biden says to Netanyahu, fix -- finish this, do what you got to do, but do it today, and get to a cease-fire, which is not anything that Netanyahu would have wanted to hear.

MELBER: And, Erin, having heard what the president of the United States just said, how does it match up to what you`re seeing on the ground, as well as what`s been stated as an expectation here by the United States, that this should work and hold and thus hopefully prevent, in the eyes of the Biden administration, further death?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, since the cease-fire was announced, we have seen sporadic rocket fire continue from Gaza into Israel. We will know more at the top of the next hour.

That is when the Egyptian delegation says the cease-fire is expected to take place. No doubt everyone in the region will be watching the situation, both sides very closely, the Egyptians saying that they`re going to be sending a delegation into Gaza, as well as Israel, tomorrow to see the cease-fire through.

So we will be looking at that process, obviously, very closely. But there`s another thing that the president referenced that is very important to Palestinians living in Gaza. And that is, of course, the rebuilding of Gaza.

And he said that he intends to see that happen, as long as Hamas is not able to re-stockpile or refresh its stockpile of weapons. And that`s important to Palestinians in Gaza, because it`s also important to remember that there is a humanitarian crisis unfolding right now in Gaza, over 260 Palestinians killed us, over 65 children included in the death toll, some 70,000 Palestinians displaced, serious damage to the infrastructure, including the health infrastructure there.

All of this happening in the midst of a pandemic that is also a source of concern not only to Palestinians, but also to the international community, and a major reason why so many governments around the world have been vocal for the cease-fire.

MELBER: And, Andrea, President Biden is certainly not the first United States president to struggle with this enduring challenge in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

This may be one of the largest foreign policy challenges of his young tenure. What, if anything, are we learning about his approach? He was famously chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, point person on foreign relations for the Democratic Party...


MELBER: ... vice president, now president .

There are some who have said -- and we just discussed some of the various pressures -- there are some who have said that it seemed at times over these past 11 days that he was in touch and around, but not necessarily positioning the United States as a leader in brokering some sort of way out of this.

MITCHELL: Well, he was very reluctant to publicly pressure Prime Minister Netanyahu.

And that goes back to his belief that goes back to the Obama years, when he was vice president, that more was to be gained by working behind the scenes, not backing him into a corner. And he was often the sort of the Netanyahu whisperer for Obama, who had a famously terrible relationship with Netanyahu.

So, while the Vice President Biden then was certainly on board with the White House policy, he often had to be the person, the intermediary, if you will. And it was very, very difficult. For instance, back in 2010, the first visit he made as vice president, he was on the ground in Israel when he was notably embarrassed by the Israeli government, expanding settlements exactly in that area of East Jerusalem at the very time that he was there.

And it was very offensive. They were really angry. It`s been widely reported that some of his aides wanted him to pick up and leave and skip a dinner with Netanyahu. And he said, no, I`m staying, I`ll have the dinner.

So it`s in Joe Biden`s DNA to try to work things out, to believe in personal diplomacy, to not leave people angry, and to try to find compromise. And that is what he has tried to work with Netanyahu.

And Hamas is a terror organization. And weighed in the balance, of course, is that the U.S. is -- at this very time was in Vienna this week, trying to restart direct talks with Iran, which is, of course, backing Hamas, arming Hamas in Gaza, to try to get Iran and the U.S. back into direct talks, they have been in indirect talks, to restart the nuclear deal and actually strengthen it, move beyond that, and get at the Iranian missiles and other aggression in the region.

So it`s complicated, and it was not what they expected or wanted, of course, as their first crisis. They wanted to work on China. They had that meeting in Alaska with the Chinese. They had the meeting yesterday with the Russians, planning a summit with Putin, despite the tensions with him, trying to recalibrate, reembrace NATO, change a lot of the policies of the Trump years immediately with reentering the Paris climate accords and ending the Muslim ban, reengaging with allies in South Korea and Japan.

So you have got the South Korean leader coming tomorrow to the White House. I mean, there`s so much else on their plate. They did not want a full-blown Palestinian-Israeli conflict on their hands, which is something that no administration, Republican or Democratic, has been able to handle or solve in the last 60, 70 years.


And that conflict, as you mentioned, is what has dominated the region here over the last 11 days of fighting. What we have been reporting tonight is, this cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, and the president of the United States speaking briefly on it, which we showed at the top of the hour.

I want to thank Andrea Mitchell, Erin McLaughlin, and Anne Gearan, who joined us on both sides of that event.

Thanks to all of you.

And I want to tell one who`s watching THE BEAT that the other big story that has absolutely captivated American politics is something you just don`t see every day.

We turn to it right now, a recent former president under criminal investigation through his main company and form of business, the Trump Organization now confirmed under criminal probe, prosecutors going right at the top executive, the moneyman, Trump Org financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who is under criminal investigation, including over taxes.

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, has been criminally probing Weisselberg. And that`s been going on for months, according to sources quoted by CNN.

And "The New York Times" has had a lot on the story as well. This is what prosecutors do to press a key witness. They are working to get Weisselberg to fully cooperate in this Trump Org probe.

Now, Weisselberg tapping a lawyer who specializes in tax and criminal defense. You have Donald Trump`s CFO getting his own legal counsel. That can be a sign of splitting.

Meanwhile, a family member, Weisselberg`s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg under the previous name, has spoken several times to investigators. She`s turned over boxes of documents. She admitted also to NBC -- this was earlier this year -- that Weisselberg would be the key to unlocking anything and perhaps everything these investigators want.


QUESTION: What do you think he could tell investigators?


QUESTION: Do you think he could be the ultimate tour guide into the Trump orbit?


Allen Weisselberg is defined by what Donald thinks about him, by -- about saving him money regardless, every day proving his worth by doing that, creatively.


MELBER: The developments in this case have completely escalated this week.

We`re joined by "Washington Post" reporter Libby Casey, Dan Alonso, a former chief assistant district attorney in the very Manhattan district attorney`s office that`s suing this probe, and Nick Akerman, former federal prosecutor with Watergate experience and also served in the SDNY.

Thanks to all of you for joining us on what any other night would be, of course, the top story.

Nick, you have covered and been involved in many of these kinds of sensitive investigations. One of the first rules is, prosecutors always want to have their evidence right, but boy, do they want to have it right when going at big fish like this with the arrayed firepower they have.

What does it tell you, big picture, this week that we learned the New York attorney general is involved in this criminal probe? And, second, what, if anything, do you glean from this Weisselberg news?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, what I see here clearly is that they really are doing a full-court press now on Donald Trump for income tax evasion.

We knew before that the New York attorney general`s office was involved at least on the civil side. But now that they have actually had to come out and announce that they were also cooperating on the criminal side says to me that they really are honing in pretty closely on Weisselberg, who is a key witness here, and on Donald Trump.

I mean, this is the same thing that I did when I took over the Nixon tax investigation in the Watergate case. I mean, it is very important to get somebody who can put the knowledge and intent in Donald Trump`s head to show that he knew what was on the return was false, and that he was trying to defraud the U.S. government out of collecting its taxes.

And Weisselberg is the key witness who can do that. He`s the one that prepared the return. He`s the one that worked with Trump in preparing those returns. And he knows what he said to Trump and what Trump said to him.

MELBER: Daniel?

DANIEL R. ALONSO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think that`s exactly right.

This was a smart move for the DA to team up with the attorney general, because, remember, the attorney general`s been investigating this organization in various different ways for a number of years. They have a lot of information. And that`s stuff that the DA wants to know, should know.

Frankly, from all public reports, the Trump Organization kind of jerked the attorney general around for a few years in terms of documents and depositions. And so you will want to team up. You want to see that.

The stuff about Weisselberg is incredibly important for the exact reason that Nick said, and another one, which is that Trump very famously doesn`t use e-mail. So, one key tool that is often used by prosecutors to establish knowledge isn`t there.

So you really need the confidant. And, in this case, it seems to be Weisselberg. So, if that`s what they`re going after, they need Weisselberg.

MELBER: As mentioned, you have literally been in this very office, this DA`s office, previously.

From the public and available evidence, Daniel, does this look to you like mostly a tax case, or like they have more than one thing?

ALONSO: It`s hard to tell. It`s clearly partly a tax case. But they have also -- they`re also looking into representations made to get loans, to get insurance underwriting.

I think that one significant area is, are these business records that they apparently falsified when they were reimbursing Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels payments, not just because of everything we have always heard, but for more reasons, right? They falsified records. They probably didn`t only do it one time, right?

What other payments have been made over the years, and were not properly accounted for? The DA is going to want to know that. And they have got quite a team assembled to look for it.

MELBER: And another question to you about your former office here. What about the rebuttal from people around Trump, who would say, if this is about past conduct, tax, financial or otherwise, where were the authorities in past years?

If this was so important, why wasn`t it investigated then? It would seem, from "The New York Times"` report, that the feds, through the IRS and other agencies, slept on one of the greatest,-- greatest tax cheats ever. I say cheat rhetorically. I`m not saying crime.

But people know from "The Times"` report that most Americans pay more taxes than Donald Trump, who`s worth a lot. So most people can think, gosh, you don`t have to be an IRS expert to really look at that.

Now, if they looked at it, and they let it go for that many years, and then it only kicked back up when he became what he became in American political life, do they have any problem there, in your view? And I understand you`re sympathetic to the people you used to work with, but what about that legally?

ALONSO: If I were still in the Manhattan`s DA office, we might use the technical term chutzpah to -- if that argument is made.

I mean, the fact is, it`s a five-year statute of limitations, right? So, for substantive tax crimes, they can only go back five years. And for most of that time, Trump was in the White House resisting subpoenas for his tax records that weren`t even sent to him. They were sent to his accountants.

I mean, Trump got extraordinary indulgence from the courts that no one else in my experience has really ever gotten. And maybe that`s right because he was president. Obviously, there are -- there is at least the argument that he should have been heard, and he was heard.

But nobody else gets that kind of intelligence. So now here they are, and now they are going back five years. And, obviously, if it`s a longer continuing crime, they can go back for a little farther as well.

MELBER: I think it`s a -- honestly a very strong legal counterargument, that, to the extent the presidency comes up, it has only helped him thus far.

It is not the source of his woes, structurally.

Libby, we have had the lawyers do their lawyer stuff. You know how lawyers are. You`re here as a reporter who`s tracking how this is all playing out.

I think, in some ways, we have all become numb to this. But George W. Bush was a controversial president in certain ways. Barack Obama had many detractors. George Bush Sr. and Ronald Reagan had various controversies.

We have never seen in the modern era, since Nixon and the pardon, a recent president leave office and immediately be under criminal scrutiny like this. What do you see, in your reporting, about how this is playing out across Washington and the Republican Party as well?

LIBBY CASEY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, to have a former president under criminal investigation, and happening on parallel tracks, it`s just unprecedented, Ari.

I mean, I think there is a sense of fatigue of Trump in one sense, but that can`t excuse the significance of these investigations. And when you talk about tax fraud, when you talk about some of these details, there are elements of this here that the public can really understand and can really comprehend.

And that "The New York Times" report you`re talking about, paying nothing or $700 in a tax return is something Americans can identify with. And so, as we talk about this and the actual details and specifics, the questions about, for example, the Weisselberg family, perks they got, taxes they didn`t pay on those, potentially, that`s something that people can relate to.

We`re not talking about sort of Ukraine and Democrats and Republicans. This is about dollars and this is about morality. And the fact that this has moved now from not just a civil situation, but to a criminal situation is significant, not just for Donald Trump, but all the other people here involved in this.

I mean, Trump has dealt with civil lawsuits in the past over things like Trump University, the so-called charity. And he`s paid out money. But that`s very different stakes than going to jail, not just for Donald Trump, also potentially for his children, and also for the Weisselberg family, as we look at exactly what threads they can pull out of how Allen Weisselberg`s son was making his money.

What sort of perks was he getting from the Trump Organization?


CASEY: And how can those people be flipped or leaned on to go up to the top?

MELBER: I think you put it really clearly. And that`s such an important point that people can relate to, which is, loyalty may matter. Personal connections can matter.

And if somebody finds out that it`s going to cost them to stay loyal, say, do the thought experiment, to a family member, a longtime friend, that`s a different calculus, gosh, I got to pay that or whatever, to going to jail for someone.

And, Nick, because you have dealt with these cases where you try to roll up the line, it`s not like Weisselberg, who`s -- I wouldn`t is a famous name that every American busy living their lives -- it`s not like Weisselberg`s coming out of nowhere here as some weird card for the DA to play.

This is someone that we who follow this have heard about for a long time. Michael Cohen fingered him, directly pointed the finger at him in that blockbuster congressional testimony after he had broken with Trump. Take a look.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Allen Weisselberg made the decision. Always Allen Weisselberg on the check.

Mr. Weisselberg, for sure.


MELBER: Nick, Mr. Cohen, of course, ultimately did time. He`s also expressed regrets. We`re also going to hear from him directly shortly live on THE BEAT.

But Mr. Cohen`s also an attorney. What do you think the attorney mind-set is there, when you`re given your under oath testimony and you start saying, hey, everybody, there`s a lot of evidence on that guy?

AKERMAN: Well, I think in this particular case, as in all white-collar criminal tax cases, the accountant, the person who actually prepares the return, is always a critical witness, because, if you don`t somehow turn the accountant, or indict the accountant, or leave the accountant on the side, the first thing the taxpayer is going to do is blame the accountant.

They always blame the accountant or blame the tax preparer. And so it`s either Weisselberg is guilty, Trump`s guilty or they`re both guilty. And it`s very important for the government to nail down Weisselberg on...


MELBER: Well, I will let you finish, nick.

Nick, I will let you finish. Part of my job is saying, it`s also possible that they`re not guilty, but go ahead.

AKERMAN: It`s possible.

But the fact of the matter is, if you`re making a tax case, a criminal tax case, you have got to have the tax preparer on board one way or the other. That is the key, because if you don`t have him cooperating, he`s going to turn out to be a defense witness.

And so you have to make sure that you have got your ducks in a row. And the biggest duck here is Weisselberg.

MELBER: So, you`re saying -- I mean, just so we really put a point on it, because it`s important, you`re saying the nature of his access and involvement in the underlying activities that these two prosecutors are now really deeply probing as a criminal matter is either you see him at the trial going, no, no, there`s a really good reason, no -- whoever it would be in this case -- it might be the owner, chief executive, the company.

No, the CEO really did think it was OK. That was -- they didn`t have that intention. Or you see him either in that chair, or the other chair saying, I did what I was told, I feel bad about it, they were the one demanding we defraud the government.

AKERMAN: That`s exactly right.

And that`s why somebody in Weisselberg`s position and duties is absolutely critical to this case. He`s kind of like the Paul Manafort of the Russian investigation. I mean, that`s why I would compare it.

He`s in a position of knowledge and activity with respect to those tax returns that makes him absolutely essential.

ALONSO: But it`s broader than that, Ari, if I can jump in...


MELBER: Go ahead, please.

ALONSO: ... that he`s not just a tax preparer.

I mean, I don`t think he`s -- he`s the CFO of a corporation that is under investigation, not just for tax fraud, but for accounting fraud in general.

And going back to the days of Enron and the Corporate Fraud Task Force, the key witness in those cases has always been the CFO, the COO, so the CFO is really crucial.


ALONSO: But I caution that he may not want to flip, and they may have a case against him. And this case may be people vs. Allen Weisselberg.


ALONSO: There may not be a Donald Trump charge if Weisselberg doesn`t cooperate.


MELBER: Well, we have underscored that on the program, the fact that big people are involved -- and I will go to Libby then quickly -- the fact that people are involved is always intriguing.

But if we want to follow the facts, it`s important everyone understand they`re investigating all these people. The person whose name on the front door may or may not ultimately be in the sauce.

Libby, please go ahead.

CASEY: Yes, we don`t even know if criminal charges will ultimately result, right?

But there`s one thing we do know. Loyalty is a one-way street for Donald Trump. And that`s something we know here in Washington. People like Kevin McCarthy have to be aware of that. And people like -- who work for the Trump family are also going to have to be aware and think through, how does that loyalty work? And where does that loyalty lie?

MELBER: Really well put.

I think we have gotten a lot of insights from each of you. And the last point here that I`m not sure if it`s fully absorbed, Libby mentioned earlier that some people are understandably exhausted and focused on other things.

It is possible that there will not be a case against either Weisselberg or the person who runs the Trump Org, Donald Trump, no case at all, or not guilty. That`s a possibility I have mentioned in our coverage.

It`s also possible that the theory of the case here, that what we`re looking at is that the person who became president was running a criminal conspiracy, that the theory of the case is not just that there was some margins, edging, cheating on little things, or what they view as little or NDAs, or this and that, but that, actually, the theory the case is, this was like a mafia organization or something that basically made money illegally on a regular basis, and just hadn`t gotten caught yet, and then that person got promoted to be president.

That is part of the theory the case. That`s why this is a huge deal.

So, a lot to think about.

Libby, Dan, and Nick, I want to thank each of you.

We have our shortest break right now. It`s 30 seconds.

And I encourage you to stay, because I`m interested to know what we`re about to hear from Michael Cohen himself -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: This week, the New York attorney general announced her involvement in what is now a criminal probe into Trump Org.

And we are joined by the former personal attorney to -- Michael Cohen, who knows his way around that very organization. He is the host of podcast "Mea Culpa." He`s the author of the book "Disloyal."

And the news that we have been covering is this intense pressure on the moneyman, Weisselberg. Insiders have said he knows everything. Michael, I want to be clear. I mentioned this earlier, but now I have the benefit of you as a witness and more.

You did call much of this earlier than much of this was confirmed in public investigations. Let`s take a look.


COHEN: In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Mr. Weisselberg, for sure.

The only few people that -- in the Trump Organization that know anything about the taxes, Allen Weisselberg.

Allen Weisselberg made the decision. Always Allen Weisselberg on the check.


MELBER: Walk us through what you saw.


MELBER: Go ahead.

COHEN: I`m not sure I said Allen Weisselberg`s name enough.


MELBER: OK. Go ahead. Well, you can say it now. Go ahead.

COHEN: Allen Weisselberg.

Listen, Allen Weisselberg is certainly one of the keys that are being looked at. I said this on Joy Reid`s read show last night on MSNBC. And I really stand by it. I think the person that`s going to end up flipping first is going to be Donald Trump.

I truly believe that, like your previous guests that you just had on, Donald Trump never put his name on anything. He had, as you know, no e- mail. He very rarely texted, if ever, unless he was tweeting.

And so what he will do is, he`s going to turn and say, it wasn`t me. It was my CFO. He`s the one that did it. He worked with my accountant. It wasn`t me.

He will blame everyone. He will blame Ivanka ,Don Jr., Eric, the accounting, Weisselberg, Calamari, me. He will blame anybody else, other than to accept responsibility, because the two things that Donald Trump fears and fears most is, number one, losing his company, losing his money, and the second is losing his freedom.

And he will do everything that he can to make sure that that doesn`t happen. So I wouldn`t be shocked if he would speak to prosecutors before anybody else.


MELBER: Well, you mentioned that he`s going to go and say, it wasn`t me. Classic Shaggy defense.

Barbara Res, who worked at the Trump Org, was with us as well. Take a look at what she says.


BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: I think Weisselberg is very concerned about his kids. I think that what they`re doing is the kind of thing they did with Flynn, remember, and his kid. And then he turned or he caved, whatever.

I don`t think Weisselberg will let his children go to jail.


MELBER: How does that square with your view that it could be multiple people racing to point at each other?

COHEN: Well, I had said that prior to Barbara`s comments, which is that Allen does not want to spend the golden years of his life incarcerated.

On top of that, he has his two sons that he managed to get involved with the Trump Organization, Barry, as the operator of Wollman, Lasker rink, as well as the Carousel in Central Park, and Jack on behalf of Ladder Capital.

I mean, I have talked about this ad nauseum. And truth be told, he doesn`t want to see them in prison either. So, the question is going to be whether or not he`s going to accept the responsibility himself and spend his golden years, or he`s going to provide the testimony that the attorney general and the district attorney wants.

It`s just -- it`s one -- it`s one of the other. He doesn`t get to pick and choose.

Now, will Weisselberg at some point try to plead the Fifth? That`s just not going to work, because the documents that they have will not permit that. He will then place himself and his children in the same jeopardy that we were just talking about.

MELBER: So, you look at the journey here, a lot of times in the investigations and in the public discussion of it, everyone`s sort of trying to imagine what these people are up against.

You have actually been in the situation.


MELBER: And it`s something you have, of course, spoken out on and evolved on.

And so I`m curious if you could walk us through, based on your understanding of what we might call the five stages of Trump loyalty and how people evolve on it, if you remember for yourself -- and I know you have written about it -- when you started to change your view and realize that not only was there no protection for you, but there were other things in play.

And where do you think Mr. Weisselberg may be on that spectrum?

COHEN: Again, so it`s not just Allen Weisselberg, but we will use him as the example.

What you ultimately find with Donald, as this investigation continues, is that Allen is going to be thrown under the bus. He`s going to be ignored. He`s going to be denigrated. They`re going to attack his credibility as much as possible when they realize that he is no longer on their side, that he is taking a position to protect himself.

And that`s when all bets are going to be off. And then Allen is going to have to make the determination, as will Barry and Jack and so many other people, whether or not fealty to Donald Trump means going to prison.

And remember something, and you know this very well, Ari, that the district attorney and the attorney general, the Southern District of New York, they all have powers that most people don`t understand how -- the strength of that power.

And when they come at you with the full force of government, you really have no choice but to take the plea, because one, they can financially destroy you. And Allen, despite his position, is not a wealthy, wealthy man, where he can take on this fight. Certainly, neither are his two children.

And they will then -- of course, the threat of incarceration is enough in order to get people to start to provide answers and cooperate. I probably should have done a 5K1, based upon the over 350 hours` worth of testimony. But that wasn`t what I wanted to do.

I -- my goal was just to tell the truth. And that`s what I did. And I`m thankful that all of the testimony that I provided, starting with the congressional testimony to House Oversight, as well as to the attorney general, the district attorney, and many other agencies, have managed to spawn these 18 investigations that are now showing fruit.

MELBER: And you mentioned it`s not just Weisselberg. We have been looking at him because of the leads on the investigation.

But, to that point, the management structure of the Trump Organization is fairly small. It`s certainly not transparent or anything like a public company. Walk us through how many people would be in the room, in addition to, say, Trump and the CFO, for the big decisions.

I mean, how many people are really at that upper echelon that would be in the know that investigators would want to talk to?

COHEN: Well, there were about 14 executive vice presidents, and that included the three children. So, take the 17, at best. At best, it`s 17, plus Donald.

And when I say executives, I`m talking about Allen Weisselberg as well, Matthew Calamari, the chief operating officer. You had general counsel. You had co-general counsel. I mean, there were, like I said, approximately 17 of us.

Now, it depends upon what the issue was would make a determination on who would be in the office. For some unknown reason -- well, and being the guy that would usually have to fix Donald`s mistakes and problems -- I was in the office quite often for many of these conversations.

Now, as it results -- as it relates to his taxes and so on, that was always very private. So that would be legitimately Don, Donald himself, along with Allen Weisselberg, and a guy named Donald Bender from Mazars, the accounting company.

Now, if it dealt with something that Don Jr. was working on, Ivanka, Eric, then they would be in the office for that specific. But, look, none -- nobody saw his tax returns. I mean, I would see them laid out each and every year on the massive 40-person table on the 26th floor across from my office, but I never inspected them, I never saw them, never got a copy of them.


COHEN: I would just see it when the door was open, and then they would lock the door, so that nobody would have an opportunity to see them either.


COHEN: It was always just Donald, Allen Weisselberg -- I say his name again -- as well as the accounting firm.

MELBER: And I`m running over on time. My last question is the shortest.

You mentioned your cooperation. You have spoken to the DA investigation many times. Is it your understanding at this point that you don`t need to speak to them again?

COHEN: Oh, no. No, no, no.

I will no doubt at least be speaking to them again. There`s so much information, and there`s so much confusion around the operation, that, listen, when they need me, they call on me, and I`m there to provide the answers to their questions.


MELBER: And if this goes to trial...

COHEN: Now, it`s funny, because in your...


MELBER: If this goes to trial, Michael, if this goes to trial, will you testify against Trump Org executives or the founder?

COHEN: If they ask me to do so, absolutely. I have already given them my word.

What`s interesting is that, in your earlier segment, you made a statement that, obviously, Allen has not been charged yet, and there`s no conviction yet. But you could rest assured that bringing in a guy like Mark Pomerantz in the DA`s office -- and you know this so well, Ari, as a lawyer yourself -- bringing in the DA`s office, now combine that with the attorney general`s office, the chance that there`s not going to be indictments coming out and there`s not going to be convictions, it`s kind of like me waking up tomorrow 7 feet tall and playing power forward for the Knicks, right?

It`s just not going to happen. It`s there, right? It`s going to happen.

MELBER: Right.

COHEN: So, you can rest assured that they are...

MELBER: And I completely understand. We -- yes, we call on you as someone who was in the room, and has been through this process.

So, as a witness, you saying that, I think, is very interesting. Viewers can hear that. I`m interested to hear you say it.

As the journalist, I remind people we aren`t there yet, so we don`t know. And we always remind people who has and hasn`t been charged for informational purposes.

COHEN: Right.

MELBER: I also get what you`re saying. You were there. So it`s interesting coming from you, sir.

Now I`m way over on time. Michael Cohen, thank you, sir.

COHEN: Ari, great to see you.

MELBER: Great to have you.

Up ahead, we have new information on a separate case, the Giuliani raids, and, also, the heat on Leader McCarthy, with the questions about January 6.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Republican lawmakers are increasingly saying things about January 6 that aren`t true, despite the clear video evidence.

Take a look.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): By and large, it was all -- it was peaceful protests.


REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): To call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie.

RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

CLYDE: If you didn`t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.


REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): I don`t know who did a poll that it`s Trump supporters.

RIOTERS: We want Trump! We want Trump!


MELBER: We`re joined by Mark Thompson, host of the "Make It Plain" podcast.

You heard the quote. If you look at the video footage, you would think -- well, what would you think?

MARK THOMPSON, "MAKE IT PLAIN": Well, thanks for having me, Ari. Great show tonight.

It`s really unbelievable. We all saw what happens. And the most egregious part of this and the most egregious contradiction is that Congressman Greg Pence himself voted against the January 6 commission.

And I think that audio, if I heard that audio correctly, that was the audio where the people were chanting, "Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!"


THOMPSON: I think Liz Cheney gave us a hint.

Yes, I think Liz Cheney gave us a hint over the weekend when she was on one of the Sunday morning shows saying that Kevin McCarthy could be subpoenaed.

Her father, who named himself Darth Cheney, probably -- I had a guest on my show yesterday who said he probably still gets some type of briefing, some type of inside information just because of who he is. I think she knows something. I think others know something. I think Kevin McCarthy knows what he did.

And they are afraid of a commission where they might be subpoenaed and have to testify as to what role they played, those tourists that came in the days and weeks earlier, where they had to do reconnaissance or, in the vernacular, case the joint.

So they all are complicit in this. And then even today, to vote against the budget, the increase in the funding for the Capitol Police, so they could do a better job -- and I know some of the Squad voted against it because they`re against further police funding and militarization -- I respect that.

But the party, the GOP, Ari, that is all about Blue Lives Matter, back the blue, voted today to defund the police, the very thing that they attack Democrats and progressives for saying and doing, that very slogan. They voted today to defund the police, specifically, the Capitol Police.

So I think they are showing their hand. And I hope the American people realize what this party is really up to.

MELBER: Yes, and the level of political duress they`re under, given that this was an attack -- an attack on their very workplace, and, as you mentioned, on some in their party, as if that`s even the point.

That`s a lesser reason, compared to the more important ones, all of it playing out in public. And we wanted to give the video evidence.

The gentleman there asking for the videos, well, there you are. You can see them on national TV tonight and judge for yourself if it was a tourist visit.

Mark Thompson, always good to have you. We were quick because of all the breaking news. So, thank you. We will have you back.

THOMPSON: Of course.

MELBER: We fit in another break, and then we have the other story we haven`t even hit yet.

There are new details and developments in the Giuliani raids and new signs there`s more evidence than we thought -- when we come back.


MELBER: The feds have a lot of evidence from their Giuliani raids.

There`s a newly unsealed court filing from prosecutors that reveals FBI agents have more than we knew until today. They actually seized 18 electronic devices of the president`s former lawyer. It`s more than previously thought, the feds scouring all of it.

The filing also confirming the government will move forward on something we have covered here and that`s important for doing it right, using a special master -- basically, this is an independent legal thing -- to review those materials, while providing maximum independence and protection for Donald Trump, as the person whose attorney-client privileged communications might end up reviewed.

That`s an update on a big story on a big night. We wanted to get it in because it`s news.

Thank you, as always, for watching THE BEAT.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up after this short break.