New e-mails are released showing Donald Trump`s own Oval Office desperately trying to overturn his 2020 loss and undercut American democracy. The Biden administration unveils a plan to deal with domestic terrorism. New legal heavy hitters enter the Trump Organization probe, as a report emerges that CFO Allen Weisselberg could soon face charges. New York mayoral candidate Eric Adams discusses his campaign.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
And we have a lot going on. Tonight, we have a special report for you on who the New York DA is tapping for his team of bulldog prosecutors in this ongoing Trump Org probe, investigators who have busted mobsters and could hold the key to where this probe ends. That`s later tonight.
We begin now, though, with our top story on the expanding Trump era scandal or set of scandals at the DOJ.
This particular one is new and has receipts, new e-mails from Donald Trump`s own Oval Office trying to desperately overturn his 2020 loss and undercut American democracy as we know it. Now, in business and politics, it`s pretty well-known that Trump avoids e-mail. He has no known personal e-mail account, unlike, well, most people.
But it turns out he does send some e-mails his own way, apparently through his staff, but with a pretty clear subject line -- quote -- "from POTUS." And in the U.S. government, if an e-mail like that comes in from the White House, you best believe it gets people`s attention.
This particular "from POTUS" e-mail came after Trump`s election loss, minutes before Trump was announcing Barr was stepping down, when he was still demanding the government find some way to keep him in power, despite being the loser of the election.
So that e-mail fed a bogus report about the Michigan loss to DOJ. What we have in this story is more of Trump`s plotting being basically caught, busted in writing. He wanted the DOJ to act as what would have been potentially an illegal arm of his reelection campaign after its loss.
Now, Barr`s replacement was a fairly obscure attorney, acting A.G. Jeffrey Rosen. Now, he reportedly resisted many Trump demands in that high-stakes period leading up to the insurrection, when Donald Trump was showing how serious he was about trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power in America.
Another e-mail says that Trump asked staff to -- quote -- "send a draft document for review" at the DOJ. Now, that review document, well, it was the White House trying to ghostwrite a brief for the Supreme Court to, again, overturn the election results that made Trump the loser.
Now, we don`t have any indication that Trump wrote the underlying legal brief. Indeed, it was much longer than a tweetstorm, which undercuts the theory that Trump wrote it himself.
But the new evidence shows how hands-on Donald Trump was in this multipronged effort to steal the election. And that plot includes some legal, but anti-democratic ingredients, like shaking down those state county commissioners who were supposed to count the votes, or the bizarre Rudy Giuliani press conference, as distasteful, but legal.
But it also includes demands to commit crimes, which others simply resisted. We`re hearing more and more stories out of the Justice Department of the things that Trump demanded that staff just wouldn`t do. It also includes the crimes ultimately committed by other people on behalf of Donald Trump, like so much of what we saw and what`s been indicted at the insurrection.
And it also includes a question that now hangs over the unusual end to an unusual presidency and that, as we have covered, poses questions for the current DOJ and the current Biden administration, no matter how much they want to move on.
The question is, will investigators ultimately find that Donald Trump crossed criminal lines into committing election crimes himself?
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, look, all I want to do is this.
I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump`s demands to find him votes is actually now under criminal investigation in Georgia.
Now, any fair investigation will weigh all of the evidence, regardless of one`s feelings about the person or their politics. It doesn`t just weigh one statement or action. But that`s what`s bad news for Trump and what the Biden administration increasingly sees that it can`t just move on from, if we`re going to have an accountable democracy in this nation.
The mounting stories from the Trump White House add to the evidence against Donald Trump. They raise questions about whether the man tweeting "Stop the Steal," back when he was allowed to tweet, the question of whether he was engaging in enough concrete actions with the requisite mental intent to cross the criminal legal line of trying to steal votes himself.
I`m joined now tonight on this story by Cornell Belcher, the former Obama pollster and MSNBC analyst, and Joan Walsh from "The Nation" magazine."
Joan, I put it that way because this is serious stuff that you can`t just walk away from, if you think it was that bad. If you don`t, and the evidence cuts the other way, and it was just sore-loserdom and being just a really nasty person, but not a criminal, fine.
When you look at the mounting evidence, particularly what we`re seeing in the man who we were told "never sends e-mails" -- quote, unquote -- what do you see?
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC ANALYST: Oh, I see a lot. And I see a lot that we have to get to the bottom of.
This is not just a isolated phone call with the Georgia secretary of state. This is a multipronged assault. We have got Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, going to bat, embarrassing himself in these e-mails.
And, I mean, I`m glad we have got these e-mail records. They almost read as though they were written for public consumption down the road. They are so clear in their horror, these two DOJ people who wind up minding the store when Bill Barr leaves, trying not to do what the president wants or what Mark Meadows is telling them, or trying not -- there are several funny ones, because we all think Giuliani is a cartoonish villain -- about, no, I`m not talking to Giuliani, no.
So they put up a good fight, as far as we know, but we don`t know what else was done. And one villain here clearly is Bill Barr, because, OK, he resigned, rather than do some of these things, I guess, I guess. That`s the story.
But he didn`t resign and blow any whistles we know about, nor did these two men who are exchanging these increasingly alarmist e-mails. And so there`s so much. And I really wonder. I have great respect for Merrick Garland. I can`t really sit here and second-guess him.
But I really think there has to be such a deep look at what was going on in that Justice Department, because, obviously, as I`m sure we`re going to go on and talk about, I don`t know that this is tied to the investigation, the subpoenas of journalists, which go back several years.
I don`t know if it`s tied to the subpoenas of data from two Democratic congresspeople and their staff. I don`t know if it`s tied to subpoenas of White House counsel Don McGahn`s data records. We don`t know. But there`s so -- we`re just being bombarded by issues of obvious wrongdoing by that Justice Department.
And I don`t know that anybody, to my mind, has been ambitious enough in saying, this is how are we getting to the bottom of it.
MELBER: I think everything you just said makes sense.
I hope people are listening, Joan.
I mean, Cornell, to Joan`s point, when the authoritarianism creeps out from under the rug, and out from the White House, and out into the steps of the Capitol, it`s not enough to just deal with it in isolation, because the world is watching, and the next generation is watching, and the politicians are watching over what you can get away with or not.
And I want to be very clear to viewers, I always try to explain what I don`t know. I don`t know yet, because we haven`t had the investigation, what everyone was doing a DOJ during these times, this critical period.
I do know, Cornell, that those individuals I mentioned, including Mr. Rosen, were not profiles in courage. I do know that they did not stand up and use the power they had with an outgoing president, who they knew was leaving power, when they had an obligation and fidelity to their oath of office and the Constitution, to just publicly say the election is over, there will be no more filings before the Supreme Court because there`s no legal basis for that.
And your job at DOJ is to say that, not just say what the president wants. Internally, to Joan`s point, they may have been backing themselves up, which is lawyerly, rather than courageous. I say that as a lawyer, so I`m - - a little bit of self-dis too. I have never been known for my courage, Cornell, but very lawyerly, and yet telling.
This was one quote for you, Cornell, Rosen forwarding what Joan alluded to, Trump`s chief of staff saying maybe Italian satellites were manipulating votes. And the acting deputy A.G., who`s got a big job, acting number two, says -- quote -- "Pure insanity," Cornell.
CORNELL BELCHER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I don`t know even where -- how you start with that.
But, to your point, we were not exactly sure. However, look, Ari, at some point, you see enough smoke, you know there`s got to be some fire there. And the idea of them weaponizing the DOJ to try to be political -- to be a political arm for Donald Trump, it shouldn`t just alarm Democrats, but it should alarm everyone in America, right?
It`s undermining our democratic principles. I think we`re -- this is constitutional crisis stuff, right? I think we have been talking a lot about the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and For the People Act being stalled in the Senate. But the truth of the matter is, Ari, I`m afraid that neither one of these laws, quite frankly, would stop or get in the way of this sort of culture of corruption coming from the White House.
I think both the Senate and the House, they got to start thinking about looking at this level of corruption, and imagining -- this is a level of corruption I don`t think that the founding fathers would even imagine taking place in the White House.
So I think our lawmakers have to -- if they want to protect our democracy, they have got to go further than the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. A lot of what we`re focused on right now is stopping voter suppression. That`s one thing. They have got to put more laws to sort of stop an outright steal and the executive office using its power to fraud an election, which, by the way, is mind-boggling, because our founding -- or your founding fathers would have never imagined having to do that.
But here we are.
MELBER: Yes, I hear you on all of that. And that`s where the anti- democratic effort hits the racism that this country has to deal with.
And so I want to keep both panelists ,but give everyone this update, the other big story today. The Biden administration has this new plan they`re unveiling to deal with domestic terrorism, which includes one of the prime sources, white supremacists, a strategy that focuses on dealing with the direct violence and $100 million now to fighting the problem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: In the FBI`s view, the top domestic violent extremist threat comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Cornell, there`s been many shortcomings on the action. I will say, having knocked some of the other officials here, one thing I can say accurately is that, going back from Mueller, to Comey, to Wray, to now Garland, there has been factual agreement on the greater threat posed here by domestic white extremist groups than many of the other foreign and other types of threats that exist, but are not as great.
So, factually, they have been able to say that. Whether that`s been internalized in policy, whether Americans get that or even after January 6, is another matter, Cornell.
BELCHER: Well, let`s be completely blunt here, Ari. It has struggled to be internalized in policy, because many of those right-wing nationalist extremists are the base of the Republican Party right now.
They have been the base of Donald Trump`s support. He is, in fact, who they call, who he called on from the debate stage to stand by, right?
BELCHER: So it has been terribly difficult for us to put forward a policy to check this threat to our country, when one side of our political system, one party in our political system sees them, quite frankly, more as allies than enemies to our democracy.
Well, I hate to go back to ancient history, but the other part of this story that I can`t ignore, Ari -- and I know you both are familiar with this history -- but President Obama`s Homeland Security Department tried to warn about some of these same issues in 2010.
WALSH: And it was weaponized by the Republican Party, who claimed they were trying to criminalize anti-Obama dissent, and it was a political witch-hunt.
And that report that was written was shelved. The person who wrote it was fired or resigned, left, at any rate. And so we wasted at least 10 years. I`m sure there were people looking at these things. I don`t want to say nothing was done. But it wasn`t a top priority.
And, of course, under Trump, it was anything. But we -- Democrats got cowed 11 years ago on these issues, and it`s good to see what Merrick Garland said today, but it feels late, and it feels like something we have known for a long time.
So I continue to be alarmed by our inability to really grapple with this, and the fact that Republicans really are -- many of them are encouraging it and the others are too cowardly to actively discourage it. So, we have got a lot of trouble.
I`m not mad at the history lessons. Cornell went back all the way, 18th century.
MELBER: Joan has given us the last 10 or 15 years, both relevant, because we could learn, we could learn from those mistakes.
Cornell and Joan, thanks to both of you for kicking us off tonight.
WALSH: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate you guys.
We have a lot more in tonight`s show.
Giuliani, he`s got an ally who`s about to be in the criminal probe against him. We will explain.
But, first, the special report I mentioned. There are new legal heavy hitters coming in to investigate Trump Org. And they have gone after mobsters like Gotti and international bankers. There are clues here in one of the most consequential legal investigations in America today.
And that`s what we get into next.
MELBER: Welcome back.
Let me introduce you to two prosecutors in New York that could scare Donald Trump now, right now, more than anyone else. They are the ones working normally behind the scenes on the Trump Organization criminal probe.
Manhattan DA Cy Vance`s office will make one of the most consequential legal calls ever, and soon. It will be this year we expect a decision whether to criminally charge the former president`s company or even the former president itself.
And to do that, he is now relying on two tough and renowned legal experts in white-collar crime. This probe has always been about following the money and dealing with secrecy and then also looking at this enterprise as a whole. Insiders make a striking comparison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK O`DONNELL, FORMER PRESIDENT AND COO, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL: It`s all about money with Donald.
I actually went through a situation where I was asked to literally build false financials.
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: He doesn`t give you questions. He doesn`t give you orders. He speaks in a code, much like a mobster would do.
BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Trump has a way of getting people to do things that he wants them to do without saying, do this.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: How strange is it for you to sit here and compare the president to a mob boss?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Very strange, and I don`t do it lightly.
STEPHANIE WINSTON WOLKOFF, AUTHOR, "MELANIA AND ME": Follow the money. If you follow the money, you will get your answers. People need to start following the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those are real witnesses, real veterans of the Trump Organization in the outer orbit and other investigators. And you hear the comparisons there by those people who know from Trump Org to mafia tactics.
And now we`re seeing how prosecutors are scrutinizing and probing the Trump Organization the same way they have mafia organizations.
So, in our special report right now, we look at the evidence of this. I`m not talking about rhetoric. I`m not talking about labels. I`m talking about the actual prosecutors doing this work right now, two very specialized hired guns that the DA has tapped for this very case, because the hires can be pretty revealing.
They may shed light on what`s going on inside an otherwise secret process, this special grand jury that`s been impaneled in New York.
So, meet Mark Pomerantz, a top prosecutor who pursued mafia bosses, a specialist in white-collar crime. He led the Criminal Division in the famously tough and independent Southern District of New York. He`s been dubbed the perfect guy for the job if there is a legal, justified way to take out Donald Trump in court.
His most famous prosecution might be putting John Gotti Jr. behind bars, the notorious New York mob boss who headed the Gambino crime family after his father went to prison.
Pomerantz was, despite many tries, the only prosecutor to actually get him. Gotti faced -- Gotti faced, I should say, four separate trials in later years, each of them ending in a mistrial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GOTTI, CONVICTED FELON: If you go by the government, who didn`t I kill? And they were picking the jury. I says, I got to try to end this here.
I just got to try to end this. I says, get me a plea. Get me the -- I will take the plea. They chased me out of that industry but quick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Get me a plea on day one.
This is also someone who`s been on the other side of mafia cases, which is pretty interesting. He defended Anthony "Bruno" Indelicato, a famed member of the Bonanno crime family who was also -- and this is why it might be ringing a bell for you -- made famous by a depiction in the movie "Donnie Brasco."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL PACINO, ACTOR: This is Donnie, a friend of mine.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, just stand there and look dangerous, friend.
PACINO: Oh, he does look dangerous, doesn`t he?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Come on, Bruno.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, this ain`t a movie.
Here`s what`s key about the actual case. Pomerantz appealed the real-world situation, the client`s conviction there, and forced courts to effectively change the legal definition of racketeering, which had been used to prosecute organized crime figures.
Now, Pomerantz has defended some of New York`s highest-profile defendants. He knows exactly how it looks on both sides of the table, which means he may have some idea of the kind of hardball, tough defenses that a Trump Organization might try to bring out if they do potentially face indictments this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sam Waksal, the former CEO of ImClone, and society friend of Martha Stewart.
Waksal`s attorneys, Mark Pomerantz, argue that Mr. Waksal should have an easier sentence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anthony Chiasson, whose conviction on insider trading overturned earlier today by an appeals panel of judges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will not face criminal charges for his role in a prostitution scandal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New York`s accidental Governor David Paterson says the criminal probe of his activities is continuing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, Mr. Pomerantz is someone you would want to defend you, although, right now, he`s not available for the Trump Org because he`s investigating them.
He also in that investigation has reportedly been involved in these high- stakes Michael Cohen interviews. So that`s a lot.
Then the other clue. The DA has also tapped Gary Fishman as an assistant attorney general coming from New York attorney General Letitia James` office, who has been collaborating on this very case.
Now, Fishman`s a veteran white-collar investigator who has done some very big cases, including aggressively pursuing evidence in these high-stakes financial crimes cases, where the banks seem to have all the money in the world for their defense. But he won a $100 million mortgage fraud case, exposed a multi-multi-million dollar charity theft, then exposed lawbreaking by one of the world`s largest banks, leading to a record- setting $536 million fine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty hundred and thirty-six million dollar global settlement with Credit Suisse represents by far the largest sanctions settlement in the history of the Treasury Department.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New York City prosecutors have charged 13 people with running a mortgage scam. They say the defendants bilked homeowners and banks out of more than $100 million.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: William Rapfogel was arrested and accused of money laundering, grand larceny and conspiracy. Rapfogel allegedly then pocketed the cash, more than a million dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Those are big legal victories. They led to a previous New York attorney general tapping him to head the state`s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau.
So this is the prosecutor now working to try to flip, well, someone who may or may not allegedly have been involved in financial improprieties, the moneyman, the CFO, Allen Weisselberg, of the Trump Organization.
You take it together and you see what the DA has his eye on, two heavyweight lawyers working on the Trump Organization criminal probe, one an expert in organized crime, how the mafia rolls, the other an expert in financial crime, what people do in those secret boardrooms to steal money, which affects everyone, but you might never hear about it.
And most importantly to the DA and most concerningly for the Trump Organization, these aren`t just experts. As I just showed you in brief highlights, they have a track record of winning even tough cases against very tough defendants.
Now, I want to say what I have told you before because we`re looking at a very intriguing caseload here, but we don`t know where it goes. It`s always possible that even hiring aggressive and fair prosecutors, they don`t think there`s the evidence and there might be no charges this year.
But when a DA brings in these kind of outside legal ringers, people like Pomerantz and Fishman, it`s because they think they have a strong case to make. This is something we have been reporting on, but it`s also something -- I just want you give you clear -- a clear view here -- that`s pretty much in the legal mainstream, because if you`re just doing the ordinary cases, you don`t always bring in what I`m calling the ringers.
Here`s how legal expert Dan Abrams put it on THE BEAT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN ABRAMS, ABC NEWS: I think it`s one of the least-discussed decisions, and that was the hiring of Mark Pomerantz.
That immediately tells me this is much more serious than the past investigation of the Trump Organization. You don`t bring Pomerantz into the office full-time unless you have already got a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You don`t bring in the ringers unless you have something for them to do.
So, what`s it all mean? Well, we have a very special guest, DOJ veteran Matt Miller, when we`re back in just 60 seconds.
MELBER: Joining me now is a veteran of the Obama Justice Department. Matt Miller.
Thanks for being here.
MATT MILLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Good to see you, Ari.
MELBER: What do you take from the DA tapping these two experts?
MILLER: I think you`re right that it`s a sign that he has a very strong case.
And the way I read it is, he`s trying to make sure that his strong case is actually a bulletproof case. I think any time you would make a -- want to make -- you`re faced with something like a decision about indicting a former president, as the district attorney Cy Vance is facing, obviously, you want to make sure you have the strongest case possible.
It`s not -- this is no normal case, by any stretch of the imagination. But if you think of what it means to indict this former president, you know that Donald Trump is going to launch an unprecedented legal and political and personal assault not just on you, but on the prosecutors in your office who are charged with bringing that case to trial.
After January 6, you have to worry about the personal safety of the people in your office. It`s unbelievable you have to say it, but if you`re the head of the office, you have to think of that.
So this isn`t a regular case where you might take a case that you believe in, but you`re not 95 percent sure that you`re going to win. It`s a marginal case. You believe that defendant is guilty. There may be some problems with the evidence, but you`re going to go to trial and see what happens.
This is one that, if you`re going to put your office through the real hell that it will be to bring this case against Donald Trump, you want to make sure it`s bulletproof. And I think that by bringing those two prosecutors on board, those two veteran prosecutors, they`re not just trying to build - - to make sure it`s as strong an investigation as possible, but to tell Cy Vance before he makes the decision to seek an indictment, this is a case that you can win.
One of the reasons I wanted to get your views on all this is, you worked at the upper echelons of the DOJ, but with a knowledge of the building. And so you know, as I do, that some of the most feared prosecutors are not national household names. But potential defendants know their names. The mafia keeps track of them. The banks keep track of them.
And so that`s what we`re seeing in who the DA has tapped here, and I`m trying to share with viewers a little bit behind the curtain. Here`s a little bit of Mark Pomerantz discussing how he even wanted to get into prosecution. Take a look.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MARK POMERANTZ, ATTORNEY: As a law clerk back in New York for a district judge, seeing the cases that come before the court, it was obvious that the people who were having the most fun were the assistant U.S. attorneys.
The satisfaction comes not from getting long jail sentences -- at least, it shouldn`t come from getting long jail sentences -- but seeing that the right result was reached.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Matt, not everyone looks at it as a ton of fun. But he`s actually being pretty candid there.
When he says right result, this is something we have heard from people like Andrew Weissmann, who viewers know. These are people who actually have some zeal about busting wrongdoing.
And so, when you look at the Trump Organization, which, again, innocent until proven guilty, but it faces a ton of allegations of improprieties, the DA would seem to have people here in these two lead prosecutors who really care and are willing to put their neck out there in ways, as you just said, that might be -- think twice about your life and family, but because they`re so zealous about what they might think the evidence requires for the right result.
MILLER: Yes, look, I think there are two things at play here.
One is, yes, I think that`s obviously right, that they would feel -- to involve yourself in this case, it`s because you believe Donald Trump has committed a crime, and you want to see the right result done for the American people.
And prosecutors will -- look, let`s be honest, they`re going to make a decision about whether to indict on this case based on the facts of this case, but let`s not pretend that prosecutors aren`t aware of everything else that a defendant has done when they bring these cases.
They may bring you -- they may bring Donald Trump on charges of tax fraud or bank fraud or insurance fraud, but they`re aware of the fact that Donald Trump was basically found by a federal investigation to have committed obstruction of justice, never was charged with a crime, won`t be charged with a crime in that case.
But prosecutors are aware of the kind of vast landscape of the evidence when they`re thinking about a defendant that they want to go after or not.
I will say the second part -- you heard it in his interviews -- that, look, there are people in these cases that they do love -- they can be a bit of adrenaline junkies, and they like the -- they`re moths drawn to flame. This is a big case. And this is -- for someone like Mark Pomerantz, who`s had a brilliant career in the legal world, this is obviously a career capper if you bring this case and win it.
MELBER: Hey, depending on where they go, this could be the biggest case in American history, literally.
We`re almost out a time, Matt. When the Zoom arrow finally ends,and you do rejoin us in physical studios, as we hope you do, will you be able to adjust to our newsroom studios, which are not nearly as nice or impressive as your law library right there?
MILLER: It`s not a law library. It`s -- no, of course I will. I can`t wait to get back on the Acela and come see you in New York, Ari.
MELBER: Great. I appreciate the precision there. Fact-check: It`s not a law library.
MILLER: That`s right.
MELBER: I was kidding. But it is a nice room.
MELBER: Matt Miller on more than one -- favorite novel, Matt?
MILLER: My favorite novel? "The Great Gatsby," a classic.
MELBER: Classic. Classic.
Matt Miller, thank you, as always, a classic guy in a classic room with a classic literary taste.
We have a lot more coming up, including this Giuliani news.
Stay with us.
MELBER: A key witness speaking out amidst this probe against Giuliani, a longtime associate, you may recall, Lev Parnas, discussing a potential trial and evidence seized by the feds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEV PARNAS, INDICTED GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: I have never seen 18 devices. I know Rudy always had two, three different devices, a couple of phones and an iPad always with him, two, three phones maximum.
And I don`t -- I believe Rudy is never going to admit any guilt. He doesn`t believe he did anything wrong, just from what I know, Rudy. I might be wrong, but I don`t think he himself in his world believes he did anything wrong. And I think he`s going to go down to the count.
QUESTION: Do you think he will stand trial?
PARNAS: I think -- yes, I think he will stand trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A view from someone who actually worked with Giuliani on some of these issues and a reference to those famous 18 devices.
Kevin Gates talked about two phones. As for 18, well, you would have to explain that in court.
Turning to other big news, meanwhile, today in New York, the governor lifting basically all COVID restrictions immediately. Over 70 percent of the state`s adults are now at least partially vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Think back to a year ago, it feels like a fever dream, honestly, like thinking about like being scared to go outside. But, honestly, it`s lovely to see New York bounce back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m just ready to get back to reality and living life and being outside, being around people. So I think that it`s wonderful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fireworks and parties are in the works.
And the news hits as early voting is under way in New York for the mayor`s race and others. There`s 13 candidates, some you might recognize, like Andrew Yang and Maya Wiley.
Coming up, we will speak to one of the front-runners, Eric Adams with me live next.
MELBER: It`s one of the toughest jobs in all of American politics.
We`re a week out from the primary for the mayor of New York City. Early voting has already begun. The outcome will decide the next leader of the country`s most populous city, New York also emerging, like so many, from what was a crippling pandemic. It hit the city extra hard.
There`s also rising crime, all kinds of other tensions. There`s 13 Democrats running in the primary to replace Mayor de Blasio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the race to become the next and 110th mayor of New York City, a large and diverse group running for the open seat.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": Brooklyn Borough President and former police officer Eric Adams.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kathryn Garcia of Park Slope is de Blasio`s former sanitation commissioner.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Civil rights attorney Maya Wiley.
MAYA WILEY (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: It`s time we start recognizing that women are deeply qualified to run this city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
ANDREW YANG (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We need change and a fresh start.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: The largest election anywhere in the country by far.
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MELBER: And now we are joined by Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough president, a former police captain, and new polls say he may be the front-runner.
I don`t know if you agree with that. But thanks for being here.
ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you.
People often talk about my 22-years law enforcement careers in any capacity. But the real narrative is that I was arrested and assaulted by police officers. And civil rights leaders asked me to go into the police department and fight for reform. And that`s what I did for 22 years.
And that is why it`s the right time for us to recover from COVID and the economic challenges we`re facing.
Yes, I have heard a lot of New Yorkers talk about your story. Certainly interesting. You mentioned COVID. We`re speaking on a day where New York`s lifted all restrictions. But several areas in New York City, including poorer neighborhoods, have some of the lowest vaccine rates.
Do you look at that as something to fix if you won, or do you say, well, at this point, the vaccine is available, if people choose not to get it, so be it?
ADAMS: No, we have to fix it.
And when you look at those areas, and you zero in on them, you will find there are many areas where English is a second language. One of the biggest problems we had in this country and city, we were communicating with people as though everyone spoke English.
We have to understand the diversity of this city. Like, Brooklyn, for example, where I`m the borough president, 47 percent of Brooklynites speak a language other than English at home. And so I`m going to zero in, use a real-time system to analyze, are we reaching the herd immunity throughout this entire city?
MELBER: Yes, you mentioned that -- in Brooklyn.
Full disclosure, I happen to be your interviewer tonight, but I`m also a constituent.
MELBER: You mentioned police reform and civil rights. That`s an issue that as you know, one of your campaign rivals and a former BEAT guest, Maya Wiley, and you clashed over that. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILEY: Eighty-five percent, 88 percent innocent, that`s what stop and frisk was at its height.
And just a year ago, you called it a great tool. How can New Yorkers trust you to protect us and to keep us safe from police misconduct?
ADAMS: Every time you raise that question, it really just shows your failure of understanding law enforcement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How much of stop and frisk are you supporting there? What were you getting at?
ADAMS: A real distortion of my record.
When you look at folks like Maya Wiley and others that are running, you have to ask a question. Where were they when I was walking the streets and fighting against the abuse of stop and frisk? Where were they when I testified in federal court, and a judge mentioned in my testimony in her ruling Floyd vs. NYPD, she mentioned that it was my testimony that helps stop the abuse of stop and frisk?
And where were they when I was passing legislation to make it illegal to have a database? I have an unbelievable record in this issue. And this is how New Yorkers know me. And so, clearly, we won`t have any tools using the police department that will be as abusive as we did in stop and frisk.
I`m not going to allow that to happen. I know how to use the right tools to get the public safety we need with the justice we deserve.
Well, and you posed some questions there. We have been having different candidates on. Ms. Wiley is coming on Friday. So I`m sure they can speak for themselves on that.
Before I lose you, sir, I did want to ask you about the money. This is an expensive city to run in. I think everybody gets that. But here`s a article about Wall Street pouring millions in, a super PAC supporting Adams has received -- quote -- "more than $4 million from executives in the financial sector."
What do you say to people who are worried that you might be going more Wall Street than Brooklyn as you seek this promotion?
ADAMS: Yes, but what they didn`t mention is that we raised $11 million; 75 percent of the donors are small-dollar donors.
I am not allowed to coordinate with any independent expenditure or PAC. I don`t know who`s raising money outside of what the dollars that I raised.
So, two quick things. One, I`m the only candidate in the race that states let`s take public money out of -- private money out of campaigns altogether. Let`s have a public finance system.
The second thing that`s important that, no matter if you are on Wall Street or Main Street, you want to be safe. Our city is sliding backwards. And the prerequisite to prosperity is public safety and justice. Tourism is dependent on safety. Our children are dependent on safety.
All over our country, we`re watching the increase in gun violence and gang violence.
ADAMS: As a mayor candidate and as a mayor, we want to have a safe city where we can raise healthy children and families.
Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral candidate Eric Adams, thank you for joining us.
ADAMS: Thank you.
MELBER: We have to fit in a break.
And when we come back, we have something -- thank you -- we have something we think you will need to hear. Stay with us.
MELBER: We just got breaking news crossing the wire courtesy of "The New York Times." This is a brand-new report. It`s about 6:53 p.m. on the East Coast.
And "The Times" is reporting the Manhattan DA is nearing the end of its investigation and that it may charge Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg by -- quote -- "this summer." We just got this across the wire. You see the headline there: "Trump executive could face charges as soon as this summer."
And I want to tell you what this means. We began the broadcast tonight reporting on some of the financial crimes prosecutors that DA Cy Vance has tapped. This is exactly the kind of thing they do. They`re digging in deeper. They`re going hard.
This report from "The Times" crossing the wire on a story we have been covering for you discusses potential charges in specific. It quotes sources familiar with what is a secretive grand jury process. It refers to witnesses that we have reported on, like Michael Cohen and Jennifer Weisselberg.
And it raises the prospect -- not saying these charges are imminent, not saying they`re happening tomorrow -- but, by this summer, it raises the prospect of specific charges against Donald Trump`s longtime moneyman, including potentially grand larceny or tax fraud.
This is a huge development. It would put tremendous pressure on the individual who was one of two people in the room at times, him and Donald Trump, as they decided what to tell the government, whether to tell the truth or not, and whether to do things that, at least according to where this DA investigation is heading, do things that C.A. -- I should say Cy Vance, DA Cy Vance, seems to believe may be crimes.
I want to bring in a DOJ veteran, Matt Miller.
Matt, eagle-eyed viewers will recognize you from moments ago, when we talked about some of the prosecutors working this very case.
When you see "The New York Times" go up with a headline like this, that they`re looking at indicting Trump`s CFO by summer, what does it tell you?
MILLER: It tells me a few things, number one, that Allen Weisselberg is not yet cooperating with the district attorney`s office. And so they are trying to put more pressure on him.
Oftentimes, people will refuse to cooperate until the very last days, right, until the last days before they`re told that they`re going to be indicted. And, sometimes, as we have seen in many of the federal investigations in Trump and those around him, they will be indicted, not decide to cooperate until after they have been indicted.
So I think what it tells you is, they still want Allen Weisselberg very badly as their cooperating witness against Donald Trump. And they`re willing to go all the way, if the evidence supports it, to try and get him.
MELBER: And, Matt, you say that.
I want to read from the article. Again, I`m telling viewers this just crossed the wire from "The New York Times." It would be the first indictment in this Trump Org criminal probe, but, also, it would be the closest one to Donald Trump you can get without doing him or his family.
To Matt`s point, it says under the article -- quote -- "Weisselberg appears to have rebuffed Vance`s office and continues to work at the Trump Organization, a sign of a lack of cooperation." And there`s a reference to specific benefits or gifts, AKA, valuable things that Donald Trump sent towards Mr. Weisselberg that he may have, according to investigators, lied about, defrauded the government about, not reported as revenue, as benefits, as taxable benefits.
Matt stays with us.
I believe we have federal prosecutor John Flannery by phone.
John, are you there?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I am. Good to talk to you.
MELBER: John, what does it mean when "The New York Times" has multiple sources saying that the DA of New York thinks that they have the goods to indict Donald Trump`s moneyman, and then they could do so this summer, which is to say soon?
FLANNERY: That means that pain is finally going to rain down on the Trump Organization, perhaps Trump himself, perhaps starting with Weisselberg.
But you have to ask yourself whether or not Weisselberg is necessary anymore, because they have had other witnesses before the grand jury. And we won`t find that out. And summer is, what, 10 days away? So, any time from then on, we could see some pretty dramatic charges brought.
But you have been talking about this. We have the prosecutorial team. It`s a trial team. We have been talking about their ability to interview witnesses before. We have seen a parade of witnesses come forward, always all around Trump, like all around Weisselberg, but also around Trump himself.
So this is a very dangerous time for Trump and his people getting away with what they have gotten away with so far, if you believe as I do...
FLANNERY: ... that they have committed crimes and a day of reckoning is coming.
And, John, reading from, again, this new article, it says the investigation led prosecutors to subpoena the prep school on the Upper West Side...
MELBER: ... trying to learn about tuition payments that Trump made for a Weisselberg grandchild. Prosecutors, they say, also requesting the former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg, for information, and that she has met with them, according to "The New York Times"` new report here, six times. She`s been on THE BEAT.
We have about a minute left, John. Where does this go from here?
FLANNERY: Well, that incident that you just mentioned is plainly to squeeze Weisselberg, because Barry, his son, is a person who has received this benefit and perhaps not said it on taxes.
So it squeezes Barry Weisselberg, as well as Weisselberg ,to cooperate. It may also mean that they`re just going to go full-blown and just let people sorted out after they indict. They probably do have enough with the documents to take down them all. But we will find out in the days ahead.
MELBER: And with 30 seconds to Matt Miller, the Trump Organization and Donald Trump respond to this type of leak and this type of report how?
MILLER: They`re going to know that it`s a lot of pressure.
And if I was -- were Donald Trump, I would try to be getting Allen Weisselberg as close to me as possible, because, look, I suspect that the district attorney already has the documents that show the numbers don`t add up. What they need is a witness that said Donald Trump knew.
Allen Weisselberg may be the only witness. There may be others as well, but he`s certainly one. And so, if you`re Donald Trump, you want to keep him as loyal as possible, in the face of really tremendous pressure from the DA.
And one implication of both what you, Matt, and John have said is, when this hits "The New York Times," for however it got there, it`s quite a scoop. It tells everyone in Trump world this thing is very real, anyone who might have underestimated it up to this point.
Matt Miller and John Flannery on the breaking story, my thanks to you.
Thanks to viewers, as always, for spending time with us here on THE BEAT on more than one story.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID," with a lot of news, is up next.