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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 5/24/21

Guests: Emily Bazelon, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Michael Cohen, Jennifer Weisselberg


Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, Michael Cohen, and Jennifer Weisselberg discuss the ongoing criminal probe into The Trump Organization. A new witness begins cooperating against Congressman Matt Gaetz. Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: I will say it for him. "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

And he has an extraordinary show for you.

Hi, Ari. I can`t wait to see this.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Nicolle, that`s nice of you to say.

I always think a good rule of thumb -- I know you have the same, because you have had a lot of amazing guests -- is, if the investigators or the government really wants to talk to somebody, then, as journalists, we definitely do.

WALLACE: I can`t wait to watch, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you. All right, Nicolle, I will see you soon.

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

And we do have, as mentioned, a show that we are excited about, a BEAT exclusive on this ongoing Trump Organization criminal probe. You won`t see these individuals and witnesses anywhere else.

We will be joined. As Nicolle and I were just briefly discussing by three of the people closest to Donald Trump`s business, the company that he has been running for such a long time, and that now is giving him such legal problems in New York.

We`re talking about the former lawyer Michael Cohen. We`re talking about Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg`s ex-daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg. And we`re talking about Stephanie Wolkoff, a former senior adviser to first lady Melania Trump.

They`re all coming together for the first time ever in an exclusive on THE BEAT, live television. That`s coming up a little bit later in the program.

We begin with the Republican Party`s complete and total and emerging embrace of the big lie, this takeover of this party, which has become a democratic crisis in real time. The United States Senate could vote as early as this week on the commission to investigate the January 6 Capitol insurrection. That`s been a big story we have been covering.

Now, all indications show that one political party, which at one point in time recently, in this year, which had its leaders claiming that they wanted to find facts or even hold Donald Trump to some degree responsible, well, now they`re going on record opposing the truth, a party putting Donald Trump ahead of a basic national security probe into how and why their lives, as well as others, as well as police, were put in such danger on January 6.


SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I have actually opposed the idea of a commission from -- immediately from the very first, because I think we will start waiting for a commission, rather than moving forward with what we know we need to do now.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): This is driven solely by politics and Nancy Pelosi. But we should not be a part of that.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): 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.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): But House Democrats have handled this proposal in partisan bad faith going right back to the beginning.


MELBER: The last statement from Senator McConnell is, fact-check, false.

This has bad, in its organization and its development, an attempt to have a literally bipartisan -- that would be the opposite of partisan, in the sense of whether one party was to stand to benefit -- a bipartisan effort to find the facts first and also seek congressional accountability and potentially change policy to make the Congress as secure as possible, to make sure this never happens again, and to also reinforce protections, physical and otherwise, around democracy and the counting of the ballots in the United States, including that final usually ceremonial certification, which was attacked so violently that day.

The Republican Party is increasingly afraid of one blogger in Florida. January 6 happened in part because of the big lie. And now we are learning just how far Donald Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani went. "The Arizona Republic" has obtained a voice-mail that Giuliani left for a key elections official, a Maricopa County supervisor whose name is Bill Gates.

Now this was Christmas Eve, December 24, a time when many are focused on other things.

And Giuliani said: "Bill, it`s Rudy Giuliani, President Trump`s lawyer. I have a few things I`d like to talk over with you. Maybe we can get this thing fixed up. You know, I really think it`s a shame," Giuliani goes on, "that Republicans sort of are both in this kind of situation. I think there may be a nice way to resolve this for everybody."

Gates did not even return that call.

Meanwhile, Maricopa County officials are outright threatening to sue their own state Senate because it won`t back down on false claims that basically defame what, based on the evidence, appear to be the honest administrators of that county`s election. Instead, they`re being defamed, they say, by false allegations that some sort of election evidence or materials were destroyed.

Over in Fulton County, Georgia, a judge ruling absentee ballots from the 2020 election can also be reviewed. Investigators did not find a fraudulent absentee ballot during an audit of over 15,000 votes and signatures by individuals who chose to vote that way.

Republicans in Arizona and three other states who tried to overturn the 2020 election results are now running to become election officials in their home states.

The American democracy crisis continues, even if the last election was not ultimately stolen.

With that in mind, we turn to our experts tonight, Democratic strategist and MSNBC analyst Juanita Tolliver, and a staff writer at "The New York Times," Emily Bazelon.

Good to have both of you here.


MELBER: Emily, I will start with you.

Thank you.

I will start with you on the law, because this could look like a story in decline. People who don`t follow this stuff daily might say, gosh, a lot of noise, but the guy did go back to Florida to blog. The other guy and his running mate became president and vice president. There`s a feeling of recent history to this.

And yet, when you look at where we ended tonight`s news report at the top of the program, the reason it`s the top story is, the people who want to cheat and end democracy in America are running to get more power in positions where, in a different election, they might have gotten away with it, Emily.


I mean, we are talking about an election in which the system held because the folks who actually have to conduct and administer the elections made sure that it did so. They resisted an enormous amount of political pressure. They did that whether they were Republicans or Democrats because they were doing their job.

And they are now in a position ,particularly in Arizona, where they`re watching all of their work being made effectively a mockery of. And they`re just trying to stick up for the basic machine of the democracy, as opposed to having it used toward partisan ends.

And so, to me, that`s the story that`s really clear. I did a lot of reporting around the time of the election about all the work that was going into very carefully conducting this election, because it was under such scrutiny, the drop-off boxes, how secure they were, the counting. And it was a remarkably well-run and pretty clean election.

And yet the story that`s being told from Trump and his supporters is completely at odds with that reality. And that is tough if you actually worked on it.


Juanita, I want to put on the screen what we talked about with these GOP election deniers, Politico reporting -- quote -- "They tried to overturn the 2020 election. Now they want to run the next one. Republicans who sought to undercut or overturn Biden`s election win are launching campaigns to become their states` top election officials next year."

We all know in the news that, perhaps a little bit unfortunately, when planes land safely, it`s considered less of a big story than when they tragically crash. And so while politicos and people interested in this stuff may have followed this closely, I think the fact that the plane did not ultimately crash, in the largest sense of the election results were honored and the inauguration occurred, may really leave some people underestimating how different it could have been, Juanita, if just in a couple of these states, two or three of these states, you had people who were willing to take it to the max and try to overthrow everything.

They want to win these secretary of state offices now.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Ari, the first thing that came through my mind seeing that Politico headline was, what if one of these people was in Raffensperger`s spot when Trump called him and say, hey can you find those 11,000, 12,000 votes?

They would have said, absolutely, let`s go, right? Like, I think the fact that you got this call into Maricopa County`s elected official, you got Trump`s calls to Raffensperger, and then you have that followed up by the insurrection just highlights the complete rejection in Trump`s mind of his ability to even take an L that has been over and over confirmed through these recounts.

In Fulton County, which, we know is going into its fourth recount, through this ridiculous -- I can`t even call it an audit -- display coming out of Maricopa County, and how easy it would be, if you didn`t have a few people who are willing to follow and uphold this institution and preserve our democracy essentially from, let`s be real, the person who at the time held the highest elected office in the land.

So, that`s no small feat. But what I see also here is a fissure within the Republican Party between you have these state legislatures, which are Republican-run, which are still telling the big lie, which are passing voter suppression bills in the name of that big lie and also advocating for these recounts, against these local officials.

And, as Emily mentioned, they`re the ones who did the hard work of making sure this election came off OK, an election that took place during a pandemic, no less. So, we know that they put everything they had into making sure that this was a safe and fair election, which it has been confirmed to be.

And to now have their work undermined, at what expense? To make Trump feel better? Because we know Biden`s not going to leave the White House while he is legally certified to be in that role. So, what`s the goal here?

MELBER: Right.

TOLLIVER: The goal here is to undermine these institutions.

The goal here is to make it weaker next time. The goal here is to undermine the people. And no voter in this country deserves to be undermined this way.

MELBER: Yes, as you said, it`s not an audit down there.

You could call it a confidence audit, which is what the mafia and cartels do, where they use the word audit to try to take something that`s not theirs. But, no, it`s not a real audit. It`s very seriously a problem.

I want to play a little bit of George Will, who has been a very strong conservative, very much a right-winger, he would say himself, for a long time. Here`s what he said about where this party is headed.


GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: We have something new in American history. That is a political party defined by the terror it feels for its own voters. That`s the Republican Party right now.

Every elected official is frightened of his voters, therefore doesn`t respect his voters, doesn`t like his voters, and is afraid that a vote for this will be seen as an insult to the 45th president.

I would like to see January 6 as burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11.


MELBER: I thought that was powerful coming from him, Juanita.

And there are many differences, 9/11 being a different death toll, and obviously a foreign clash that led to a whole reforming of our foreign policy.

And yet I think I know what he means, that, at a baseline level, we either learn the lessons of violent extremism wherever it emanates from, or we don`t, and that the very fast retreat by Republicans from January 7 and 8 saying, well, obviously this was a bad thing, or let`s have some fact- finding, to what we`re covering tonight, the real peril and question about whether they will support a commission. What does that say to you tonight, Juanita?

TOLLIVER: Well, I feel like it emphasizes a couple different things, right?

You do have the Republicans in the party who do love loathe this voting base, who are -- hate being beholden to them, but you also have the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the Republican Party, who are basking in the glow of this base, who believe the conspiracies, who are amplifying them further.

And so that fissures only going to deepen. I do think that it`s appalling that the very people whose lives were at stake on January 6 need a second to pause and think about the validity or purpose of this commission, when absolutely we don`t want anything like that to ever happen again, but they have to pause?

And I think everybody in this country should be looking at them like, is being loyal to Trump, being loyal to this base worth your life, worth this happening again, and raise that question to Republicans, because this is not a hard decision. This is not a hard choice.

And, honestly, if I`m leading the Democratic Caucus right now, I`m like, OK, choose to filibuster this, and I will organize my caucus against eliminating the filibuster. Choose to block this commission and we will move forward with select committees and keep a steady drumbeat to get to the truth for the public to hear from wall-to-wall coverage every single day leading up to the 2020 midterms.

That`s how you respond to this move. You do not back down in this moment.

MELBER: Very strong words and points from both of our leadoff hitters tonight. Juanita and Emily, thanks to both of you.

I`m going to keep it moving for reasons that some of our viewers may have heard about. We have this exclusive. You won`t see it anywhere else, a live panel of Trump insiders and witnesses, firsthand knowledge of the Trump Org, what federal prosecutors may be looking for.

These are people that the prosecutors and investigators wanted to talk to. Now we get to talk to them, the first time all together on live TV -- after this break.


MELBER: Now we turn to a BEAT exclusive.

I am joined for a live interview by three key former Trump insiders and witnesses. They`re speaking out at a time that the investigations are at a criminal pitch in New York for the Trump Organization.

I`m joined by Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg, who is reportedly under significant pressure in this Trump Org criminal probe.

We`re also joined by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former senior adviser to Melania Trump and a former close friend of both Trumps. She helped organize the 2016 inauguration. Her book is "Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady."

And Michael Cohen, Donald Trump`s former lawyer, host of the "Mea Culpa" podcast, author of the book "Disloyal."

I want to be clear. The three people you see here have a lot of firsthand knowledge. That separates them from many other individuals that we rely on for a range of information and expertise. But rarely do we get firsthand witnesses, and rarely together.

Think about just what they know in these proceedings surrounding Trump, the Trump family and his company.


CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC HOST: President Trump`s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

DON LEMON, CNN: Michael, you`re sounding the alarm.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: If anyone knows where the bodies are buried in the Trump Organization, it`s Michael Cohen.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Former friend and adviser to first lady Melania Trump.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Her name is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.

MADDOW: Ms. Wolkoff, of course, also played a key role in organizing the Trump inauguration.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Weisselberg`s former daughter-in-law has confirmed she`s been cooperating with the New York attorney general all along.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN: She`s the former daughter-in-law of Allen Weisselberg, the top Trump executive -- why she`s now cooperating with prosecutors and why she thinks Allen Weisselberg will flip on Trump.


MELBER: Each of you know a lot and have been busy. I appreciate you all joining us on THE BEAT to do this interview.

Thank you to each of you.



MELBER: Appreciate it.

We have set aside time for this, so we will be able to hopefully get some depth and purpose out of this.

Jennifer, I want to start with you.

What does Allen Weisselberg, in your view, know about the Trump Org that`s of interest to these criminal investigators?

JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF ALLEN WEISSELBERG: I mean, I think he`s the one that -- he is the maestro.

I think he`s the one that has orchestrated -- he`s at the apex of it. I think that -- I don`t fully believe that Donald knows the ins and outs, not of what`s going on. He would absolutely be fine with whatever would save him money on his taxes to benefit him.

But Allen is the one that has orchestrated all of it and put the family and everyone in a really bad position.

MELBER: Why is it a bad position at this point, in your view?

WEISSELBERG: I mean, I think that there are serious allegations of tax fraud and tax evasion, and, you know, criminality.

MELBER: Did you ever see Allen -- criminality.

Did you ever see Allen operate in a way that made you think or question whether he thought that he or the Trump Org had crossed legal lines?

WEISSELBERG: Yes, Allen himself admitted to me that his tax -- taxes and pay stubs, he said: "I will never show those."

Oh, no. He was supposed to be the guarantor on my apartment, my lease after I was getting divorced. And he`s -- when I was getting divorced -- excuse me -- and he said: "Oh, no, I can`t show my taxes. I can`t show my pay stubs."

And I thought, why not? Basically, he was saying, they`re illegal, and I`m not releasing them.

It was during the Cohen SDNY investigation. Pretty telling.

MELBER: So, he had access to money that, if it were, in your view, legitimate, it would be not a big deal to privately circulate that kind of financial material? And he conveyed to you that the reason was a sense of awareness of guilt, or that it would be looked at as criminal by potentially other parties?

WEISSELBERG: Ari, the reason I believe he will flip, yes, is because, since -- his behavior since 2017, what I have witnessed is that, when he took over as trustee, he was not only nervous, but he started immediately hiding money in escrow confidentially, for example, like, in the lawyers, Barry`s lawyer in a civil case, hiding money in escrow and confidentially having them cut checks that would make him vulnerable to tax evasion, tax fraud, compensation, gift taxes.

So, that`s how he is hiding his culpability and already saving himself.

MELBER: And before I bring in our other guests here, Jennifer, there were payments, as we have read, for your children`s tuition. That`s correct?


That`s one of the...

MELBER: What was the purpose...


WEISSELBERG: ... issues.

MELBER: Go ahead.

Well, I was going to ask, what was the purpose of that? And do you think that that`s an exposure there for Mr. Weisselberg for investigators?

WEISSELBERG: Oh, I think it`s not only an exposure for Allen. I think it`s an exposure for Donald. He was writing one of them too.

And inside the Trump Payroll Corp, which is the hub of the issues for employee taxes, state, federal, disability insurance, workman`s comp, saving on that, reporting one-fifth of your actual income. Donald Trump himself was writing that to lower compensation taxes in Trump Payroll Corp, as well as Allen.

But, as Barry says in his depositions, it was his compensation.

MELBER: Michael Cohen is here with us.

Michael, how does this all sound to you? Because some of those details and accounts are things that might be consistent with what you experienced, but, because of the family nature, I don`t know that you knew all of them directly. Does that sound like how Mr. Weisselberg operated? And do you think he has legal exposure?

COHEN: Well, I think if you take a look at the panel that`s here in front of you, Ari, you have what I would term to be the trifecta of trouble for Trump.

If you take a look, you have, of course, Stephanie, who has the Melania and the Presidential Inaugural Committee. You have Jennifer, who deals directly with the CFO, and myself that sort of encompasses Trump and family, as well as the organization.

But Allen is a very interesting guy, because Allen was the gatekeeper for every penny that came in and went out of the Trump Organization. But it wasn`t just the Trump Organization. It was also Donald`s personal accounts. It was the kids` business accounts. It was the Presidential Inaugural Committee. It was the campaign.

Any penny that had anything to do with Donald Trump went through Allen Weisselberg`s desk. So, now that they have Allen sort of under investigation, I remember, once, I had bumped into Allen and the family at a restaurant here in the city.

And when I went over to say hello (AUDIO GAP) was like: "Oh, you can`t talk to me. You can`t talk to me. You`re under investigation."

Like, I really do hope that, as soon as I get off of home confinement, and I hopefully bump into him again, I can turn around and I can say to him the exact same thing.

But I do believe that he has significant exposure. And I think his exposure is not one that you can just hide, because the beautiful thing about numbers is, numbers don`t lie. People do.

And, as we know, Donald lies about everything, Donald lies, and Allen swears for it. So, it`s a question of whether or not Allen wants to now serve time in his golden years, or he wants to provide the information to the multitude of different organizations, law enforcement organizations, that are currently investigating him.

My suspicion is that he`s going to -- he`s going to provide the information they want.

MELBER: Let`s take that point to Jennifer.

And it`s interesting hearing you say that, Michael, because, as I think viewers know, there was one point in time where you were making arrangements for Donald Trump`s benefit, the NDAs and other financial payments.

And you reached -- when it was all said and done, you partly did what you are saying Allen did, which was, you committed to things for him, and ultimately unwound them. And everyone knows the story.

Jennifer, what do you think of Michael`s view that Mr. Weissel...

COHEN: Yes, but, Ari -- Ari, just -- Ari, just -- Ari, sorry.

Ari, I`m so sorry. Just one quick -- Allen was involved in every aspect of that transaction as well, which, of course, is something...

MELBER: Right.

COHEN: ... that one would have to expect that he too would be a co- conspirator to the hush money payments.

I`m sorry. Go ahead, Jennifer.

MELBER: No, I think -- let me take it to Jennifer.

And I think Michael raises a fair -- at least a fair question, which is whether this review will go through all of those things. You have each attested to the fact that Mr. Weisselberg is under heat here because of how much money he`s involved with, that there wasn`t any money of any significant sum that he didn`t have his hands on.

We will get to Stephanie on that point, too.

But, Jennifer, go ahead.

WEISSELBERG: I`m sorry, Ari. What was the question exactly?

MELBER: Well, there`s more than one question, when we have this much going on.

But one question that Michael raised was that he didn`t think that Mr. Weisselberg ultimately would go to -- risk jail or take personal risk to save Donald Trump in the end.


MELBER: What is your view of that?

WEISSELBERG: Oh, no. Oh, no, he`s going to clip, absolutely.

No, he will save himself. No, I mean, him and Donald are just the same. There`s no difference. They will save themselves at any cost, yes.

That`s what I was saying. He`s already...

MELBER: And, Jennifer...

WEISSELBERG: He`s already -- for example...

MELBER: Go ahead.

WEISSELBERG: ... all the sudden, he wasn`t -- he was getting (AUDIO GAP) with an apartment at Trump Place. All of a sudden, in 2017, he`s suddenly showing that he`s paying rent for an apartment, because he wasn`t -- it wasn`t appearing on his taxes at all.

It`s not that -- indicated incorrectly. It`s that they`re missing. And that`s what my voice brought to the investigations, was what was missing, what the numbers are supposed to be, what I really know, because I lived it for 28 years.

So, and it`s all been deemed true. And I can tell them what number is wrong and how I know it`s wrong. But there are a lot of differences when Donald says numbers are certain things and then Allen says numbers and certain things. They don`t -- they`re not adding up.

So, yes.

MELBER: So do you think, Jennifer, it has crossed Allen`s mind that he could be in the situation that Mr. Cohen was in, that, in the end, Donald Trump is not only disloyal or unappreciative of whatever may have been done, but actually tries to pin the blame on everybody else?

Has that crossed Allen`s mind yet, do you think?

WEISSELBERG: I don`t know if it`s crossed his mind, but let me tell you something, he should be, OK?

What he`s done to Michael and his family, Stephanie and her family, to my family -- and Michael knows that I can`t say everything right now, because he put a gag order on me. Talk about hush money. He put a gag order on me in my civil case.

I can only say so much right now. What he`s into my family, which is his own blood, his own family, if nothing else depicts who this man is. And Donald does not know that. They do not realize who he is at home. He`s not the same person at the organization.

He`s abusive. And he shut me down.

MELBER: So, let me bring in a Stephanie. Let me bring in Stephanie, who`s also got a lot of experience, has been patiently with us.

And thank you.

Stephanie, I guess my first question to you is, given your work with the first lady and Mr. Weisselberg`s interaction with the inaugural funds and other projects you were involved in, what do you think about all the above?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: I think that all roads lead to Allen Weisselberg. I mean, all fingers point to him.

And I was shocked to find out that, a year after the 50th presidential inauguration committee was supposed to file their Form 990 to the Federal Elections Committee, that they`re claiming that $107 million has been accounted for.

Well, doesn`t sound like it`s me, doesn`t look like it`s me. And you know what? There are a lot of consistencies and half-truths and flat-out lies in the deposition. And people need to be held accountable. Lies don`t work. The truth eventually comes down.

I think it`s a lot easier to actually tell the truth, because you can`t keep up with all the lies. And they`re now tripping over one another, all of them.

MELBER: Stephanie, when Donald Trump was ostensibly busy being president, who was running the Trump Organization, based on your knowledge?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: I mean, based on my knowledge, it was -- I think they were all still involved.

I really -- I don`t have the authority to say who was. I mean, supposedly, it was Don Jr. and Eric. But Allen as always -- again, knowing that he had his fingers all over the PIC`s finances is so -- it was so -- I can`t even find -- I was so enraged, because that was something that was thrown on me and my family, that I was accused of stealing millions of dollars, after giving something that was supposed to be more patriotic.

And, look, we have all made mistakes, in the sense that I have given to a family that I should have never been -- assumed that they deserved it. And that`s my mistake. I learned a lot. And I can`t separate ethics and politics. And I say that often.

But the reality of all of this is that Allen was also involved in what happened to me so intrinsically. And I wasn`t really aware of it until after it was brought to my attention and after I read the 900-page deposition.

COHEN: You know, Ari, if we could just jump in for a quick second...

MELBER: I want to put something up on -- hold on.

Michael, hold on.

COHEN: Ari, if I can just...

MELBER: Michael, just hang with me for one sec. Hang with me. Hang with me. I`m going to moderate. It`s kind of part of what I do on the program. But I will get back to you.

But I did want to play something, in the spirit of -- we have heard a lot of criticism and evidence against the Trump Organization. We have got a montage here. This is more than one person speaking. It is how they boast.

But I did want to -- because we`re doing this with evidence, I did want to put up that their claims are, A, that the organization makes a lot of legitimate money doing legitimate branding and real estate, and that, B, as you all know -- and I will give you a chance to respond -- I`m not going to go through it in detail, but they have said, so viewers understand, that each of you has your own grievance or disagreement with multiple people at the Trump Organization.

So, with that in mind, I did want to play a little bit of what they say they do. Take a look at the montage.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really love shaping land, fixing land, having fantastic locations, and doing the best golf courses.

Normally, when you announce a hotel, two people show up? And here we have lots of people.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: The finest hotel in this country, if not the world.

D. TRUMP: It`s doing great. Everybody`s talking about the building. They love it. It`s become the favorite place in Hawaii.

ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Every year, we`re incredibly blessed to have a lot of celebrities.


MELBER: That is the organization that`s under criminal investigation in New York, two different prosecutorial offices looking at it.

I will go to you, Michael, as promised.

Your response to that defense of the organization by it -- you worked there, you worked with them -- as well as anything else you wanted to add, sir?


So, what I wanted to say to you is just to answer the question that Stephanie didn`t want to give you the direct or wasn`t knowledgeable onto it, Allen Weisselberg managed the trust. And the two boys, Don Jr. and Eric, were the ones that were allegedly managing the company.

But Allen was the gatekeeper. Now, mind you, each and every day, they would send information back to Donald in the White House, who, of course, was signing still checks on behalf of the Trump Organization, the Donald J. Trump Trust, for example, when he signed a $35,000 check to me, which was the first installment of my money back on the hush money payment.

So, that was just to answer that question.

As far as the nonsense that they put out about how fortunate that they are to have so many people coming to the various different openings and so on, most of them are employees that were there, or people that are related to the project, in and of themselves.

You can rest assured that nobody from the street decided to come in to just sit and to listen to Donald or Ivanka talk about how beautiful the marble is, because it`s the same marble that they used in the project before with the same carpeting and the same wallpaper. There`s not -- there`s not a lot of thought that goes into the Trump brand.

But that`s -- again, that`s neither here nor there. Donald is great at puffing. The kids were great at puffing, and that`s how they ended up with the original case against them by Cyrus Vance years ago with the Trump SoHo project.

MELBER: Trump SoHo, which, famously, not in SoHo. Imagine that.

Jennifer, your response to the above, the defense of the Org?

COHEN: It`s also famously not Trump anymore. It`s also not Trump anymore, by the way.

MELBER: Right. And, Jennifer -- fair.

Jennifer, your response, though, to the view that they say, oh, well, you have grievances?

WEISSELBERG: I don`t have grievances. It`s not easy to do this when it`s my own family.

I was the -- Allen and I were close, actually. I was a math major. So I know the numbers. We often talked numbers. I talked to Donald. I mean, they often told me -- they had like the gift of gab. We spoke often about business things.

I -- no, this is heartbreaking. I mean, I never thought -- I don`t like to hurt anyone. But when the government called me, and I`m doing my best, but he`s also destroyed me. I mean, I`m being shut down like you would if you`re sued by the org.

They say -- basically to cover up their own crimes. I mean, basically, they say, you won`t be able to feed your kids, you won`t be able to pay your mortgage, and you won`t be able to sustain a business.

And that`s what they have done. Allen has done that to his own daughter that he never had. It was -- it was three decades with him longer. I`m closer to him than my own family. So it`s tough, really tough.

But I have to (AUDIO GAP)


WEISSELBERG: Yes. He`s -- I mean, he`s -- there`s nothing -- listen, the civil case with A.G.-turned-criminal -- there is nothing civil going on in my civil case. It`s very criminal. And Michael and Stephanie know that.

MELBER: What I`m going to do is fit in our shortest break.

We have got all guests on the other side. This is just 30 seconds.

Jennifer, Stephanie and Michael, thank you for doing this.

We will be back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: The Trump Organization is under criminal investigation in New York.

And we are back with our exclusive panel, Michael Cohen, Jennifer Weisselberg, and Stephanie Wolkoff, all with unique firsthand experience, witnesses.

Stephanie, I wanted to turn to you.

The question that was raised -- again, in fairness -- and I think viewers can hear how strongly do you feel about this, how much of your own lives are invested in it -- but the same question to you about responding to some of what the Trump side has said?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: Well, I think that since I have been involved in and cooperating in all three investigations for the last three years speaks volumes, and that, as a cooperating witness, and someone who has documentation and fact, as in -- I wrote in "Melania and Me," everything is backed up by evidence, I mean, every single word, every quote, and every letter.

I have no grievances. I did what I did for the love of my country, and I have no regret. What I do regret thinking that I could make a difference in that -- next to them and with them. And I just think that there`s so much evidence that points to all of them and that their words and their photogenic, artificial acting is now going to catch up to them, because they have all tripped over themselves in this deposition.

And this civil case in D.C., now, knowing that Allen was so intrinsically involved, is going to change things, in my opinion.

MELBER: Appreciate that response.

We`re in our kind of final moments here.

I`d like to do quick lightning round, since I have each of you live. So, in a word or a sentence, if possible, starting with Stephanie, what is the word or subject that investigators asked most about?

WINSTON WOLKOFF: Follow the money. If you follow the money, you will get your answers. People need to start following the money.

MELBER: Jennifer? Jennifer?

WEISSELBERG: Taxes, tax fraud, tax evasion. What was compensated? What was gifts? What are their actual real estate? Yes.

MELBER: Taxes.


WEISSELBERG: What were the perks? Taxes.

COHEN: Allen Weisselberg.


MELBER: Which is an interesting answer. Not a complete surprise, but each of you identifying different areas of intrigue.

The second question is related. Do you have a sense, within your own view, of who may have the most criminal exposure here? Would it be the people involved in signing checks, like staff? Would it be potentially former President Trump himself? Who has the most exposure, in a word or a sentence?


WINSTON WOLKOFF: In a word or a sentence?

Well, this is a very insular group. And I think one go, they all go.

MELBER: Jennifer?

WEISSELBERG: So, the trifecta for me that I know is Allen, Donald and Barry Weisselberg.

MELBER: Michael?

COHEN: All of them.

MELBER: And the last...

COHEN: Each and every -- each and every one of them have culpability and will not be able to escape it, not with somebody like Mark Pomerantz, as well as now Tish James coming in.

MELBER: And the last question, I think, is one of the largest ones on everyone`s minds.

And you all have lived through this. And I appreciate you sharing your own personal experiences. Everyone here is a human being. And some of this is obviously quite difficult for you and your families, including the people on the other end, including the Trump family members. I say that whenever I cover this stuff.

But it`s extraordinary that we are talking about a criminal probe months after a president leaves office, a serious criminal probe with serious evidence that is really scrutinizing not only what he did, what his company did, but whether his company has been, in some sense, criminal for years running back.

So, it`s actually pretty extraordinary, even if people are desensitized.

My last question, in that spirit, is, there are, as you all know, agreements that can be made, cooperation agreements, for example, where people admit some kind of wrongdoing, but they completely evade prison.

Sometimes, those kinds of agreements are so controversial because they`re considered lenient.

I`m curious, given how close you all are, do you think -- do you ever see in a world where, if Mr. Trump is facing allegations or any kind of charges for the Trump Org`s activities, which we discussed, that he would cooperate under some terms ,that he would strike a deal in some way?


WINSTON WOLKOFF: I think, over the weekend, I shared a few tweets that were about Allen, letting him know that I think it`s time for him to wake up and realize that this family is going to pretend that it all had to do with Allen, and that Allen was in charge of everything, Allen was responsible, and they`re all going to flip against Allen.

And so everyone needs to realize that, eventually, they all do flip against you, regardless of who you are or what you mean to them, because you mean nothing to them. And people, I hope, realize that.

MELBER: That Donald Trump, in a certain situation might -- quote, unquote -- "cooperate," but only to entirely blame him.

Same question, Jennifer.

WEISSELBERG: Ari, I`m so scared right now just thinking about it. I mean, if he gets elected again, the power and control they have.

They`re hiding their crimes. So, because I know about the crimes, I will never be free as long as they`re free, because I know too much. I know way too much.

So, I think they all should be responsible. I don`t like the gymnastics of it.


And I`m over on time, but, Michael, same question.


I agree with Stephanie 100 percent. I couldn`t have said it any better. They`re going to flip. They`re going to flip on each other like it`s going out of style.



MELBER: I appreciate each of you sharing with us.

And I will remind viewers, we have had a lot of different guests throughout the course of this, and we have extended and will continue to extend invites to others named here, if they want to speak out as well. I think that could be interesting and informative.

My thanks to Michael Cohen, Jennifer Weisselberg, and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.

Thanks to each of you.

We`re going to fit in a break, but the feds also have a new witness cooperating in Congressman Matt Gaetz`s probe. That`s next.


MELBER: This Matt Gaetz crime investigation is moving.

The feds have a key witness who`s talking. This is Republican Congressman Gaetz`s ex-girlfriend, who will reportedly cooperate with federal authorities, CNN reporting on that based on its sourcing.

She`s been linked to Gaetz since 2017. She may be helpful in those financial transactions that involved alleged payments for sex.

NBC News has not confirmed this report, Gaetz under investigation for possible sex with a minor and sex trafficking. He`s denied all allegations and has not been charged with any crime.

We`re joined now by Melissa Murray, NYU law professor and MSNBC contributor.

This is quite a case that has had many developments, including the cooperation, the flipping of his ally Mr. Greenberg. What do you make of what we can read from where the investigation is heading with this information?

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: The fact that this young woman is allegedly cooperating with the government is certainly a new break in the case.

As I said before on this show, the fact of Joel Greenberg`s cooperation was something of a mixed bag for prosecutors. Certainly, he could give lots of information, but he would make a terrible witness, because, in fact, his own credibility would be compromised.

He`s accused of falsely accusing and he`s admitted to falsely accusing another individual political rival of sex with a minor, so he doesn`t make for a great witness. This new person, though, given her closeness, her alleged closeness to Representative Gaetz, and the fact that she`s untainted by the same things that Joel Greenberg is tainted by, makes for a much better witness to corroborate Greenberg`s claims, and also perhaps to be an independent witness on the stand.

MELBER: And, Professor, while I have you, we also wanted to get your view on the updating information coming out of the Giuliani investigation, which dovetails with the other stories we have been covering tonight about the sort of resistance to deal with the facts of January 6 in the political sphere.

In the legal sphere, you have the government now saying they have seized 18, 18 electronic devices from Giuliani. Prosecutors say the mere fact that Giuliani is a lawyer does not mean he`s above the law or immune to criminal investigation, responding to sort of the kind of attacks that Giuliani had made, saying he`s being targeted because he`s Trump`s lawyer.

I`m just curious what you think of this number that has sort of gone up as we have gotten more information about the process. There`s an old saying, I got two phones. In this case, he`s got 18. At what point do investigators look at this as either suspicious or a gold mine, because it seems like there`s just a lot of something going on, or at least a lot of communication?

MURRAY: Well, they don`t have to be mutually exclusive. It could be a suspicious gold mine for investigators.

I think the point of Mr. Giuliani`s professional aspirations here as a lawyer is that he`s arguing that some of the material contained on these phones is likely privileged as attorney-client material. This is certainly something the prosecutors and investigators would have thought about. They would have had to seek clearance from the Department of Justice before executing these warrants and getting these warrants in the first instance.

So they`re aware of that. But the fact that he is a lawyer and that some of this material may be privileged does not seclude him from investigators. As we saw in the Michael Cohen investigation, although there was privileged material, a special master was appointed by the court to actually review that before it was turned over to grand jury investigators.

So, there are ways to deal with the fact that there may be privileged information, even though there`s probably also information that investigators would need.

MELBER: That all makes sense to me. And it is clearly an open case, where we`re either going to find out that the feds are onto something, or they`re going to find out that they wanted to search Mr. Giuliani, with all the extraordinary implications, and close out the case.

Either way, it`s really striking.

Professor Murray, thank you, as always.

MURRAY: Thanks.

MELBER: Up ahead, we look at the push for true reform in the march for American justice, marking one year since George Floyd`s murder.

That`s next.


MELBER: Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.

President Biden is using the occasion to meet with Floyd`s family privately at the White House. There will also be a local vigil at the intersection where Floyd was murdered. Last night, there was also a rally and march held to mark this occurrence, this killing that was legally determined a murder by a jury, something very rare in American policing.

The first time -- when they held, this was the first time some of his family visited the city where he was killed.


BRIDGETT FLOYD, SISTER OF GEORGE FLOYD: It`s been a long year. It has been a painful year. That officer didn`t know what he took from us last year.


MELBER: And for policy, well, lawmakers continue to work on a massive police reform bill.

It`s named after Floyd. They claim they`re making progress. The bill, though, would not be ready for any kind of ceremonial passage in the Senate or even a big debate tomorrow.

Now, on THE BEAT tomorrow, I want to tell you that we are going to mark this the way we have been covering the story from the beginning and, sadly, many other related stories before the killing. We`re going to have special coverage that looks at not only the policy and structural racism, but measures what has changed and what has not, as well as how those closest to Floyd are reflecting on what is their personal loss.

I wanted to tell you that.

We have a quick break. When we come back, some legal takeaways from what we learned tonight on this Trump criminal probe of the Trump Organization. And we hand it off to Joy Reid.

That`s right after this.


MELBER: We heard from three key witnesses in this Trump Org probe tonight, and I got a couple quick takeaways as we end the hour.

Number one, they said follow the money. And they meant it. Number two, in the Weisselberg side, they said there is tax law violations. That`s a belief. That`s one witness` view, but it shows the pressure on that CFO.

And, number three, there was talk that Donald Trump could ultimately cooperate, but maybe not in the way you think, flipping to blame others and not admitting any culpability.

We thank each of our witnesses for joining us.

That`s it for THE BEAT tonight.