Former President Trump`s business and personal finances remain under a microscope at the New York DA`s office. Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen discusses the former president`s legal woes. Police reforms enacted and not enacted in America since George Floyd`s death are examined.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you, as always, for those reports that you do.
And thank you very much.
I want to welcome everyone to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber joining you as legal walls close in on the Trump Organization.
Here`s what we know right now. The former president`s business and personal finances have been under a microscope at the New York DA`s office. We also know they have now escalated this case by starting a special criminal grand jury for the probe.
And we know both that probe and the New York attorney general probe hitting Trump world, as "The Washington Post" put it in their scoop, both of them began with the same man, Michael Cohen, the former lawyer to Donald Trump, who joins me live momentarily for his exclusive first reaction to this grand jury news.
Now, since this first broke late yesterday, the fallout has been swift. A Trump adviser says there`s a cloud of nerves in the air because this time feels different.
Impaneling a grand jury means this case is legally accelerating. Some veterans of the DA office say it means indictments are -- quote -- "coming."
And that would certainly pressure Trump`s embattled moneyman, Allen Weisselberg. The last time legal heat led a Trump confidant to turn on Trump who knew this much, it was Michael Cohen, who, as I mentioned, sparked this probe, leading Trump to lash out like a mob boss, publicly calling him a -- quote -- "rat."
Donald Trump has lost power, is under investigation and, in his own words, is now worried about rats.
Now, Trump could learn from 21 Savage here, who warned about snitches and rats. Experts say Trump may try to pin all this on his moneyman, Weisselberg, but, as 21 said so presciently, snitches and rats, snitches and rats,when you tell on your brother, your brother can tell back.
Joining me now for his first reaction since this grand jury news broke, as promised, is Michael Cohen, a key witness in this case. He is Donald Trump`s former lawyer. He is the host of the "Mea Culpa" podcast, and he is the author of "Disloyal."
This is a very newsworthy time in a case that you have been a key part of. Thank you for coming back on THE BEAT to discuss it, Michael.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Yes, good to see you. And good to hear you rapping again, Ari.
MELBER: Yes, sir.
Look, "The Washington Post" said it. You didn`t say it. It`s not self- aggrandizing. I didn`t say it because you happen to be a very big and knowledgeable guest on our show. "The Washington Post" in the scoop said it. Both these probes started with you.
That means that you knew things. And it means that New York investigators think that, in the end, the things you knew were real, that you provided real evidence, and that they`re pursuing it.
What exactly was your reaction when you learn this has now escalated to a grand jury criminal probe?
COHEN: Well, we knew it was going to increase to that level.
We knew that when the attorney general, Tish James, escalated the case from the civil to a criminal matter. It was just a matter of time before which they would impanel a grand jury. I`m a little bit shocked that it was as quick as it was, which, to me, means that the information that they have is so significant and so rock-solid that there`s no way that they`re not going to move this thing, again, at this some faster speed.
MELBER: You mentioned that speed. And we`re getting new indications.
I want to read from a brand-new report here, Manhattan prosecutors reportedly telling at least one witness to -- quote -- "prepare for grand jury testimony, according to a person familiar with the matter."
Have you yet been asked to prepare for that kind of cooperation?
COHEN: I get that.
Ari, I can`t answer any questions regarding the DA and the A.G.`s investigation. It`s one of the parameters for me coming on this and other shows.
Obviously, I have no interest at all in providing any information that could or would benefit Trump or the Trump Organization.
MELBER: And I understand how these things work, although it`s part of my job to ask everyone and see what we can glean and learn. But I take your point there.
And it is interesting to see the preparations they`re doing.
Another point that came up -- again, we have been journalistically discussing these issues with you and other witnesses. We also spoke with Barbara Res, who, like you, knows Allen Weisselberg, who is this key moneyman. Will he, to put -- to use Donald Trump`s word, will he -- quote - - "rat" or will he cooperate or will he tell the truth?
Many ways to describe how people can react to these investigative -- these investigative inquiries. But here`s what Barbara Res said about him last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Weisselberg, he must be shaking in his boots. He`s the key man here. And he`s got things to say, besides just -- and he`s got his kids and the prospect of going to jail. And it`s a big deal for Weisselberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You know him. If he were hoping, maybe unrealistically -- but people have all kinds of hopes -- that this might somehow wind down, it`s certainly not winding down. It`s accelerating tonight.
What do you think the announcement of the grand jury does to his mind? He`s someone you know and worked with.
COHEN: Well, I think he`s very concerned at the moment about his obvious - - his potential incarceration, as well as becoming a topic and the subject of this matter.
But it`s not only him that he has to worry about. It`s his two sons, Barry and Jack. It`s much more than just him.
Now, I can tell you what`s going on only because it happened to me, Donald Trump will immediately, as will the kids, rally around Allen, and his sons and say, listen, we got you. We`re going to get the best lawyers. We`re going to ensure that you`re fully protected. We love you. You`re part of the family.
And that`s going to last for a very short period of time, especially because Donald doesn`t like to pay lawyers, like what happened with me. All of a sudden, with the joint defense agreement, he decided to stop paying, and he left me on my own, at which point I still was trying to stay loyal to the cause. I was trying to stay on message with Trump.
But the fact of the matter is, the SDNY and others, they have documentary evidence. That`s what I was saying on your last show, Ari. The numbers don`t lie. The people do. And when the attorney general and the district attorney, who had been preparing for this moment for a long time, when they turn around and they present to Allen a document or multiple documents that show a criminality attached to it, it`s now either you got to speak out, or you have to accept the consequences.
Allen very well knows what the consequences are. He saw it in what happened to me. And he saw how fast Donald Trump ended up turning on me as well, whether it was calling me a rat, whether it was turning around and telling the judge that he should throw the book at me and put me away for life.
I mean, this is who Donald Trump is. And remember what I said on one of your other shows. Donald Trump is not going to take responsibility for what`s going on here, because Donald Trump doesn`t take responsibility for anything. And he`s going to turn around say, I pay a lot of money to my accountants. I pay a lot of money to my lawyers. I didn`t know. I was told to do this.
And that`s where all of the witnesses are going to come in and all of the documents are going to come in. And it`s going to show a pattern, the fact that Donald Trump is lying, that he was involved, as I have said, going back over two years, that Donald Trump is involved in every single aspect of every single transaction that took place at the Trump Organization.
MELBER: Yes, and you mentioned exactly how he treated you in what was later deemed to be you telling the truth on some key issues, calling you a rat.
And it`s interesting to query whether that is the fate that might await Mr. Weisselberg, depending on how they play it, or whether they turn on each other, again, depending on what the underlying evidence is.
Michael, I want you to stay with me. You`re our newsworthy leadoff guests here one-on-one.
I want to bring in someone who has a view about how this affects the entire national Republican Party. Michael Steele used to run the Republican Party. He`s an MSNBC analyst.
Thanks for joining us, Michael.
MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, it`s always good to be with you.
Good to see you again, Mike. How you doing, bro?
COHEN: How you doing there, Mike?
STEELE: All right, man.
MELBER: Yes, sir. Good to have everyone together.
Michael`s been walking us through this. He knows the ins and outs, Mr. Steele.
This is, first and foremost, a legal story, with legal implications for the people involved. It is also the former president of the United States and someone who`s been consolidating quite a bit of power over the Republican Party, as we have seen day after day.
And I`m curious what you think about that aspect. I want to read from what the former president is saying. He says it`s a continuation of -- wait for it, Mr. Steele -- -- quote -- "the greatest witch-hunt in American history."
Then he says something that I want to ask you about, Michael Steele. Interesting that today a poll came out indicating, Trump says -- quote -- "I`m far in the lead for the Republican presidential primary and the general election in 2024."
What`s he getting out there? And how does this all play out in a Republican Party that continues to really debate itself over Trumpism?
STEELE: Well, I think it`s important that a couple of things happen in this process, so people don`t go stupid.
The first is, listen to what Michael is saying, all right? The guy was in the room. He was the lawyer. He was the one who counseled and advised and got information. So, when he tells you a thing is going to go a certain way, it`s not because he just thought about it and figured he would make it up.
It`s because it`s bad. It`s part of practice. It`s part of how Trump operationalizes in the business world and the legal world. So that`s one.
Two, from the political standpoint, understand how the dots are connected. What you see happening right now around the country in this some -- what some would say, oh, it`s not coordinated. But it is coordinated, what happens in Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, this assault on the electoral process.
Again, when people are telling you to pay attention to the thing in front of you, you need to pay attention, because that`s part of the coordination. It is the distraction. It is the thing that now, all of a sudden, gives Trump impetus to talk about, other than having to deal with the legal consequences staring him in the face.
He can now have a narrative in which he can put the two pieces together. So, now, all of a sudden, he`s talking about 2024. And why? Because he wants that base to rally to his support as prosecutors come hammering down on his somewhat colored hair.
So the reality of it is, you`re seeing these two pieces now align in such a way in which the legal business piece is coming into focus on the political piece. And Trump can work both of them, beat both of them like a drum.
And that`s to get the base stirred up, to get reporters and others confused at what they`re talking about and sort of put out a narrative a day. Stay focused on the reality. There are two separate pieces here. One is legal and business, which is the problem. The other is political, which is nothing more than the distraction.
MELBER: And I`m running over on time.
But, Michael Cohen, you also know Donald Trump. Do you think these are empty threats when he seems to imply, hey, if the legal heat gets bad enough, maybe he will put everyone through him running for president again?
I mean, that`s almost the way he suggested it.
COHEN: Yes, Mike Steele brought up an interesting comment when he talked about reality.
Reality doesn`t exist in Donald Trump`s world. I would certainly recommend to him that 2024 is three years away, and that`s a very long time, especially when you have the district attorney and the attorney general`s office breathing down your neck.
My recommendation would be for him to shut his mouth, to go find competent counsel in order to take on the likes of Mark Pomerantz and Tish James, because the people that he usually employs, they graduated from Trump University. And you are going to need somebody with a greater educational capacity than his former university in order to handle the mess that he`s gotten himself into now.
Remember, they have millions of pages of documents. They don`t just have the documents that they got from the tax returns. They now have Rudy Giuliani documents as well. This is a multi-multi-faceted investigation. There is many tentacles here that are going to be grabbing at Trump, at Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric, the Kushners, you name it, and a host of other people.
So, I really do believe that they need to come down to -- they need to come back to reality and understand that`s what`s facing them is much bigger than them.
See, Donald Trump forgets that he`s not the biggest thing in the world. And, believe me, I know. I was there against these people. And I can tell you that, when they come down on you, it is very rough. And Donald does not have the ability to deal with it, because he has no attention span.
Well, and, as you say, if it`s rough, it is now for someone who doesn`t have presidential powers. And in Mr. Weisselberg`s case, we will see what he`s dealing with.
Mr. Cohen and Steele, thanks to both of you.
We have our shortest break, just 30 seconds, when we turn to another exclusive interview tonight, the ex-daughter-in-law the man at the heart of the probe, Jennifer Weisselberg, in 30 seconds.
MELBER: The Trump Organization is under criminal investigation. A grand jury has been convened.
And we`re joined now by a very special guest. Jennifer Weisselberg is the former daughter-in-law of the person at the center of all this that we have been reporting on, the Trump org CFO, Allen Weisselberg, under significant pressure.
Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF ALLEN WEISSELBERG: Thank you, Ari. Thanks for having me.
We have some photos here that we will get to, courtesy of you, that show how this relationship between Mr. Weisselberg and Donald Trump, while it`s about the Trump Org and business, it seems to be quite close on a number of matters.
For viewers who may recognize or remember Mr. Cohen more than Mr. Weisselberg, I want to play a little bit of the few times, the very, very rare times, actually, that we actually heard from him in public, for example, on "The Apprentice."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN WEISSELBERG, CFO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Shouldn`t you have thought more along the lines of services, washing or grooming or trimming or massaging?
Out of all the money you raised, 5 percent of it went to charity, which was $19.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do they actually massage dogs?
A. WEISSELBERG: From what I`m told, they do, Donald.
TRUMP: What kind of massage?
A. WEISSELBERG: Only God knows.
TRUMP: I don`t want that job. I`d rather build buildings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What did you see in how he evolved in his role with Donald Trump, as it got larger in media and then politics? And was there anything he wouldn`t do to make Donald Trump happy?
J. WEISSELBERG: My point of view is from -- we have a family point of view.
You see I met Donald at Allen`s mother`s shiva call, and then you see pictures of the wedding, and you see the inauguration, all family events. Even Fred and Donald both were at Barry`s bar mitzvah. So, it`s a long family relationship.
But also they were enmeshed in the organization. And it seems like that continued when he became president, so -- in terms of finances.
MELBER: Yes, that they stayed close.
In terms of the investigation, when`s the last time you spoke to DA investigators?
J. WEISSELBERG: Well, my attorney provided additional documents last Friday.
MELBER: When? I didn`t hear, actually.
J. WEISSELBERG: So, last Friday, my attorney provided additional documents.
As per my grand jury subpoena, I have to provide any financials that come up in the other civil case I`m involved in. So, there are certain parameters to the grand jury subpoena.
MELBER: Well, it`s very interesting to hear that they`re this continuously in touch with your lawyers, that that`s an ongoing process here going into last week.
And do you have any expectation that you would provide testimony to this grand jury?
J. WEISSELBERG: You know, yesterday, I was rocked by the news.
It took my breath away. I didn`t know. I mean, they don`t tell us what`s going on inside the investigation. It`s a very -- it`s a good look at how the judicial process actually works, and it`s not influenced incorrectly.
It`s -- out of respect for Cy`s investigation, and also for my own safety, I think it`s best that I don`t discuss that at this time.
We did want to look big picture the past. I understood you might not want to give too much detail about the future. But we do have this, the simple chart, when you look at who`s involved in the Trump Organization. And these are people you have been around.
And so I`m just curious, when you look at the big players, I mean, did they ever -- in the previous interviews, did they ever ask you about Eric Trump?
J. WEISSELBERG: Yes.
I just found out recently -- when the attorney general`s office initially called me, I didn`t know it was on the heels of Allen Weisselberg`s deposition last July and August.
But they initiated a call to me in early September, and right before Eric was deposed. And so then we had a long interview .And they did bring up Eric, yes.
MELBER: Did they ask you about Donald and Ivanka?
J. WEISSELBERG: Not that I can recall, but I can`t be certain.
MELBER: And we will just put this back up.
J. WEISSELBERG: I think it was every...
MELBER: What about -- did Giuliani ever come up?
J. WEISSELBERG: Giuliani didn`t come up.
But now that I`m recalling all the aspects of this, it was -- they wanted to know every single person and any conversations with, all the top executives, anybody that I knew additionally that they weren`t aware of that was there, and extend -- anybody that might leave the garage door, anyone that would be willing to talk with them.
MELBER: And last two. What about Calamari and Cohen?
J. WEISSELBERG: Oh, Calamari.
Oh, no, nothing about Michael. It did not come up, but Matt, yes.
And that gives us even -- we did some of this reporting in the Mueller probe as well. There are things you obviously can`t talk about, but it gives us an idea of at least what they`re interested in, in scope.
The last thing we will do is look at these photos here that you provided, which seem to show that, while Mr. Weisselberg has a financial role at Trump Org, he certainly seemed to have White House access in the Oval. They were down there at inauguration.
Do you have a sense of whether Allen continued to boast or say that he was very close to Donald during those four years, when, ostensibly, Mr. Trump, as president, claimed that he was not really running his company anymore?
But how close were they in that time?
J. WEISSELBERG: I don`t know. I mean, they -- I saw them together at country clubs. And I think they were meeting up in his penthouse.
So, I don`t know. I mean, I don`t know for certain, but they definitely still communicated.
Well, Jennifer, it`s interesting. Again, this is a...
MELBER: Sorry, I didn`t hear you. Go ahead.
J. WEISSELBERG: This was the first Christmas in the White House, this picture in the Oval Office.
MELBER: You`re saying it was what? It was the first what?
J. WEISSELBERG: Christmas. Christmas party.
MELBER: Ah. So that would have been -- yes. So that would have been, I guess, `17.
Yes. And I think it`s all interesting, again, because this portrait that`s being painted is a question of whether Mr. Weisselberg was either going rogue -- that is, if there`s misconduct, was he going rogue and doing it when the president was not paying attention? Or that might be one defense?
Or were they actually in touch? Were they actually talking in person and over the phone and in other ways, which is something investigators look at, over what was Donald Trump`s knowledge of what was going on with the money and on his behalf?
And so those are big questions. You telling us that you were really rocked when you first heard this, that it`s the grand jury, and where we go from here, and you making news tonight, telling us your lawyers were in touch as recently as Friday, all very interesting stuff.
Jennifer, thank you for coming back on THE BEAT.
J. WEISSELBERG: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.
MELBER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Appreciate it.
Coming up: The escalating criminal exposure goes beyond Donald Trump to the entire company in ways that really legally matter. And we have an exclusive with a prosecutor who went after crime at the highest levels of Manhattan -- when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Corporations are people, my friend. Of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people.
ROMNEY: Where do you think it goes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It may be a highly controversial political statement, corporations are people, but, like people, corporations in our system can be indicted or face charges.
"The Washington Post" reports the Trump Organization itself could even face potential charges in this newly announced grand jury process in New York, depending on the evidence.
We can tell you it`s rare. We can also tell you it does happen.
So, for that angle, which we haven`t even gotten to yet, last night or tonight, since the news broke, we are joined by former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York David Kelley, also, full disclosure, my former boss.
Good to have you back, sir.
DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: You too. Thank you. Good to see you.
MELBER: David, we have had other guests with a lot of knowledge go into the exposure for top executives, including potentially the founder of the org, Donald Trump.
I asked you tonight, would you be worried about the Trump Organization itself facing charges or being indicted if you were their lawyer right now?
And, look, the charges against an individual and a corporation are not mutually exclusive. I mean, oftentimes, it may be both, they will go after both.
And the U.S. is different than a lot of other countries, insofar it imposes criminal liability on corporate entities. Focusing largely on what Senator Romney was just saying, corporations are really made up of people, and people`s conduct behind corporations can get the corporation in trouble, as well as those folks in the corporation who are causing the trouble.
MELBER: What do prosecutors weigh when looking at, let`s say, hypothetically, a series of potential crimes, and then the decision of whether or not to also indict the company?
KELLEY: So, we`re going to look at whether or not the wrongdoing is conducted by some rogue employees, or whether or not the company is kind of rotten to the core.
In other words, does a company have in place a compliance program to prevent this type of wrong from happening? Now, obviously, people can circumvent compliance programs and get around it. And prosecutors look at that.
But if they don`t have anything in place to prevent the wrongdoing, they have a kind of a culture that permeates the whole company, that is very permissive of the type of conduct involved, that means it`s going to be more likely that the corporation is going to get slammed, as well as some individuals.
Maybe the corporation alone will get hit and not the individuals. It depends.
MELBER: Would you say that it`s fair to say that the New York DA, in addition to looking at what did the money guy do, and did the founder of the org know it, was he in on it, that he`s also looking at whether, properly understood, the Trump Org is potentially itself a criminal enterprise?
KELLEY: My guess is that what -- exactly.
And what you would look at is whether or not the company was used as essentially, as you say, a criminal enterprise. How many different transactions are we talking about here? Is this a one-off? If it`s a one- off, it`s probably not a corporate crime problem.
If it`s a series of transactions, then it`s likely to be more of something where the company is looked at as kind of a criminal enterprise, as you say, and it`s going to cause the company to have more problems.
MELBER: David, I know you well. I know how busy you are. And I can`t help but wonder whether a BEAT viewer found your legal analysis so persuasive that your phone`s ringing new legal questions when you`re done with the interview.
KELLEY: Well, maybe so.
MELBER: Good to have you back, sir.
KELLEY: ... a 1-800 number to call.
David Kelley, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a big job, with a lot of expertise on that question that we will be hearing more about, I would bet.
Thank you, David.
We fit in a break now. We have had a breakneck pace to this show. We have a lot more coming up, including a special report I want to share with you. It`s about law and much more -- when we come back.
MELBER: One year ago, a police officer killed George Floyd.
As a matter of law, that killing was found to be a murder just within the last month. And while part of that case is over, we are now at the anniversary. And it`s a major mark for America, with marches across the country this week honoring Floyd and demanding reform.
If this is a time for reform after this long year, what else is there even to say? Well, a lot, it turns out, because any constructive action requires clarity about the facts, what has changed in this past year since Mr. Floyd was murdered, and what has not, which brings us to our special report tonight on the facts.
So, we`re going to do it like this, first, what`s changed, then what hasn`t, which many advocates say is part of understanding what should change.
Change number one, a murder conviction for an officer. In America, police kill more unarmed citizens than most countries, and they are virtually never convicted of murder. Over a whole decade, with about 10,000 police shootings, you see here there were zero officers convicted of murder.
Amidst recent pressure, that turned to about one a year. And now, in 2021, one this year with a jury convicting Derek Chauvin of murder.
Another change, police forces that uniformly line up behind officers, usually no matter what they`re accused of, well, in this single case, we saw a crack emerge, officers and even the police chief testifying against the defendant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendant violated our policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would this be authorized?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They could have ended their restraint.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your view of that use of force during that time period?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totally unnecessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was unusual.
Change number three, in rare cases where an officer is charged, prosecutors often use a framework of a bad apple going rogue, not charging a group crime, even if evidence suggests there was one by several officers.
But, here, prosecutors indicted officers who did not literally kill Floyd because they were part of what is now a convicted murder. Each of those changes matters to that case and to the Floyd family. Each are also limited. They`re about just that individual case, not fixing structural problems that lead to these situations in the first place.
And, to be fair, individual prosecutions are not usually intended to tackle wider policy structure. But there`s also been some change on that front too, new binding reviews of entire P.D.s, states passing laws to limit excessive force, 16 states curbing neck restraints, 10 other states adding body cameras to policing in the recognition that tapes appear to provide more truth than some reports by police.
Five states restricting controversial no-knock warrants. Some states reforming special police immunity, which prevents officers from being held accountable for their actions, even when there`s no jail time on the table, in civil court.
Take the recent Colorado incident where unarmed women and children were handcuffed and held at gunpoint by police in broad daylight in a parking lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my mother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I have my sister next to me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those were children. Do you remember what happened? Police admitted it was wrong. They said the whole thing was a mistaken identity. They apologized.
But there were no criminal charges. And, normally, that`s where the whole thing would end. But thanks to a new law only passed since the Floyd killing, Colorado is one of four states reforming police immunity. And the people you just saw on the ground now, thanks to the new law, they are able to take those police to court.
In Washington, there`s a push in Congress to end that police immunity nationwide, a push where the House swiftly passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 220. The nays are 212. The bill is passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That passed the House. Take it all together on this anniversary, and it`s measurably more action on police reform than any single year in the last several decades. Those are facts.
And yet, when it comes to the deepest parts of this problem, much has not changed at all. The most significant thing that has not changed is the core of America`s policing problem. Since Floyd`s murder last year, American police are using force at the exact same rate. They are shooting and killing Americans at the same rate this year as last year.
They`re heading for roughly the same annual toll of police killing 1,000 people per year. You need to know the disturbing fact on your screen here. Think about it. After all this protest, pressure, heat, scrutiny, the videotaped evidence, a murder conviction, the new laws, the prospect of more laws, if all that doesn`t even budge the rate of lethal force, we have to ask, how did this lethal force become this entrenched?
We have to ask, if we aim to reduce these killings, then doesn`t it become clear that far stronger reforms would be needed to even budge this rate of killing?
This chart shows America`s policing problem, this steady grind of killings, including of many unarmed people, that police departments themselves often later admit were mistakes or tragedies, the taking of innocent life.
Every point on this chart is a dead person, a family grieving. Now, experts say some of those incidents involve justified use of force and others do not, where police departments admit it.
But even before you reach the legal question of whether those incidents are chargeable murder, we have got to face this. Our nation has to understand the fact of how this grinds on at the same rate this year as last year, despite all the calls for change.
I repeat, each point on the chart is a person, people across America who found the police were the danger, with more videos over this year showing how police use force.
Wisconsin police shooting an unarmed man, Jacob Blake, in the back seven times, paralyzing him for life. California police tracking down an unarmed man who they said jaywalked in broad daylight, Kurt Reinhold, and then they shot him to death.
Or back near George Floyd`s community Minnesota police killing an unarmed father, Daunte Wright, in his car. Or just last month, police shooting Andrew Brown to death as he appeared to drive away from them. Police claimed they feared for their lives. But the video showed it was Brown who feared for his and lost his.
Those are just four points on this chart. The wider data shows one reason why this continues. The special powers and immunities the police enjoy in America have not changed this year. Consider police immunity and unions. A handful of states, as mentioned, did reform immunity.
But the norm is shielding police from accountability in both criminal and civil court, the immunity ending most potential cases against police before they begin. So, most officers never face even a public civil trial about alleged misconduct, let alone a conviction.
And special immunity for police is something that was just made up by judges, providing what`s become an absolute shield, as Justice Sotomayor explained in a dissent about the doctrine. She says it encourages police to shoot first and think later.
Those immunities are fortified by police unions` huge ongoing power, which goes beyond labor rights. They can scrub disciplinary records, disqualify citizen allegations.
All of this has been found, as a factual matter, to directly and positively correlate to police abusing their powers, an issue shown by the system that coddled and protected the person who killed Floyd, convicted murderer Chauvin.
Many citizens previously tried to blow the whistle on the danger he posed, over 17 known misconduct allegations. But most were scrubbed from his file. He faced scant discipline, let alone any public lawsuit. Minneapolis using a police-friendly rule that finds even credible concerns that don`t end in punishment are then automatically scrubbed from an officer`s record because the police unions demand it.
These systems of police power protected Chauvin, at great risk to the community.
Another thing that hasn`t changed, most prosecutors still operate with structural conflicts of interest and secrecy for their police colleagues, so police cases involving DAs having to investigate usually their own shops, which rarely works.
That problem on display last week, when a DA cleared officers of any wrongdoing, despite video showing police shot a man to death, when he didn`t appear to be a major threat while driving away, the DA flatly admitting he would hide bodycam videos that show more of the story, releasing only clips that he thought helped the police.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW WOMBLE, PASQUOTANK COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: So, this is actually a display. I`m not releasing the video.
QUESTION: Can you replay the video?
WOMBLE: I`m not going -- I`m not going to.
QUESTION: Can the media get the video you had in the presentation?
WOMBLE: Any other release of this will be done through the courts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: When he says through the courts, he means he won`t release the accurate video evidence of what the police did unless a judge makes it illegal for him to keep hiding it.
If that sounds backwards when it comes to justice, that`s because it is. Now, judges often defer to prosecutors because the idea is they`re supposed to know how to best try their cases.
But this is structural. Even an honest man can`t really be expected to try an aggressive case against himself or his best friends, in this case, his daily police colleagues. That`s why it`s structural.
So, you take it all together, and where are we on this anniversary right now? The murder of George Floyd did spark a movement. And that movement did achieve measurable change at the level of the individual case, as I reported for you tonight, and some policy reform. That is real.
The movement earned wider support as people saw the facts of what police did to Floyd and others on video. You can see it rising. But then look as time wore on, now many Americans turning away from support for Black Lives Matter, going back to where they were.
And what does that mean? Well, even Americans who said they supported reform last summer are eager to move on, to talk about something else, to think about something else, to claim maybe things got a little better, so now it`s time to move on.
OK. That may sound appealing to some people, to change the subject. But it is wrong, because what has not changed is the steady rate of police killings, an epidemic that shows why so many Americans cannot just move on, because they live in places where these killings are routine, a scary part of daily life, a danger never eradicated, rarely legally punished, a risk that has no guarantee of escape, even if you follow every rule and get a good job and buy a home and become a parent, even if you avoid ever owning a weapon, despite your constitutional right to have one.
Because this is a nation where you can get killed in broad daylight after being accused of jaywalking or walking towards your own kids in your own car or facing what is a peaceful accusation, that, at worst, you`re accused of using a counterfeit bill.
This is a nation where the supposed order that supposedly benefits some of us comes at the immoral cost of routinely killing others of us, other people, human beings who are unarmed, who are not dangerous, who are executed on the spot.
So, until that changes, it won`t feel like much is changing.
This is not a time for automatic pessimism or hopelessness, nor is it a time to overly celebrate that some steps towards a fairness long overdue and long denied has now been taken.
It`s been a year. This is a time for reality and facts. And if the facts make you angry, then it`s a time for anger and action too.
MELBER: A grand jury has been convened in the criminal probe into the Trump Organization.
And we are back with former U.S. attorney for the famed Southern District of New York David Kelley.
David, thanks for jumping on with us here. It`s a busy, wild time in this case. There have been a fleet of developments. It seemed that it got a lot more serious or accelerated when New York Attorney General Letitia James made a somewhat unusual announcement that her civil probe had turned criminal and she was working with the New York DA.
We heard from Michael Cohen, who, according to "The Washington Post" and other accounts, sparked both those probes. This was his first reaction tonight since it became public. Here`s some of what he told us just a few moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: Allen very well knows what the consequences are. He saw it in what happened to me.
And he saw how fast Donald Trump ended up turning on me as well, whether it was calling me a rat, whether it was turning around and telling the judge that he should throw the book at me and put me away for life.
I mean, this is who Donald Trump is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You`re one of the few people who sat across the table with other people who are rich and powerful and have all kinds of lawyers when they have to make some of the hardest decisions of their lives. You have seen some fold, and others go different ways.
Walk us through what the negotiations would typically be like at this juncture for Mr. Weisselberg, given what he`s facing.
KELLEY: Well, you would look at where your leverage is.
The leverage here appears to be, they may have some criminal conduct on him and, perhaps more important, his family. I mean, on one hand, he may think that: Look, I`m an older guy. I can do the time, or it doesn`t really matter.
But when they start talking about a couple of different things, both his family, maybe, depending on what they have on him, taking his livelihood, taking property from him, taking fines from him, things that would impact his family, that`s probably where there`s important leverage here.
And I think the prosecutors, if they`re trying to pressure him or somebody in his shoes to cooperate, that`s the kind of thing they`re going to pull. That`s what kind of cards they will play.
MELBER: Have you seen people change their minds at the last minute?
Because, based on the public accounting, which I always stress is -- we don`t know as much as you would know internally. But it doesn`t appear at this juncture that Mr. Weisselberg has found some way to fully cooperate or get out from under.
MELBER: Do you think would still be possible, based on your experience, that someone might change later?
KELLEY: Yes, it always happens.
It reminds me of a great Mike Tyson quote. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.
And once he really feels the pressure to be borne really brought upon him by the government and it`s a real threat, he may change his tune.
As you say, it`s very different when you`re on defense or feeling the brunt of that, or potentially -- again, legally, potentially your family`s jeopardy as well.
David, as always, thanks for sticking with us here on more than one segment tonight.
KELLEY: Happy to.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
We have covered a lot of ground -- when we come back, an update on another mass shooting in America.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Update on the tragic scene out of San Jose, California.
Officials have confirmed at least eight people killed in a shooting at a light rail maintenance yard. That was early this morning. The gunman has been identified as Samuel Cassidy, an employee there. Authorities say he is also dead.
After the shooting, buildings were evacuated. A bomb squad searched the area for potential explosives. The suspect`s home has also been searched. It caught fire. It is unclear whether or how that would or would not be connected to the shooting -- an update on an important story we have been covering here on MSNBC.
As always, thank you for watching THE BEAT.
If you have thoughts about some of what we have covered tonight, from the Trump Organization legal exposure, to the civil rights report we did on what`s changed and what hasn`t changed, you can always follow me on social media @AriMelber. That`s @AriMelber on Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media you might use.
I will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.
And "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.