Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization face indictments. The Supreme Court upholds Arizona`s new strict voting legislation. Former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen speaks out.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle.
I have a question for you. And I enjoyed being with you today. And you asked me about the law. I want to ask you about something you know a lot about, which is government and accountability.
And we can do the narrow legal thing. And that`s what happens in the courtroom. But what does it mean to you, what should it mean to America that this person who`s gotten away with so much is facing a type of broader accountability today? We will follow where it goes. But what does that mean?
WALLACE: You know, I am disturbed by this idea that this is less than, less than what people thought it would be, or not such a big deal, or it`s just his company.
If this were anybody else, and if we weren`t numbed to his constant criminality, to the ex-president`s constant sort of being revealed as being corrupt, to everything -- I mean, the folks that you have on your show have been the best narrators of what he was like, because they were there.
And to have the ex-president`s company, which was his whole reason for running -- he was a fake businessman who ran basically a fake company that put its name on buildings and other things. To have, as you said, that whole thing be charged as a criminal enterprise is just a bombshell.
And the fact that he is maybe for the first time as an ex-president being held accountable for what looks like many, many years of crimes is a huge deal. It tells us more about not just who he is, but who today`s Republican Party is, because I`m betting that, if they even covered on the right, they won`t care.
And that is just -- we have to stare at that and understand why that is. I think it`s a big story. You helped us make sense of the legal side. Unfortunately, the political side is a little grimmer. But I think it`s a big deal, whether people on the right care. Well, that would be a good thing. But if they don`t care, it`s almost a bigger story.
MELBER: Right, because that goes to the cycle of impunity, and what kind of accountability or guardrails do we want to have?
All great points. As you said, grim, or some of it serious, but the reporting part, I enjoyed doing with you today. So, thanks for having me.
And I will see you again soon, Nicolle.
WALLACE: It was fantastic. You`re welcome any time.
MELBER: All right.
And now welcome to THE BEAT.
We begin with breaking news, today, the Manhattan DA indicting one of Donald Trump`s longest-serving and most senior executive, CFO Allen Weisselberg, who surrendered to authorities at 6:20 a.m. this morning, walking into court for his booking -- you can see the photo there -- and finally his indictment and the process through arraignment for a $1.7 million scheme at Trump Org.
He is finding that is swiftly changing his whole life today, because here he was hours later taken by police in handcuffs to the booking appearance, where he surrendered his passport and pled not guilty.
And it`s worth taking a look at what the legal and psychological reality is today, the 73-year-old Trump executive you see here marched like this because his hands are behind his back. And, as you turn and you get the camera shot, he is cuffed like any other routine defendant, handcuffed in custody for arraignment, a sobering experience for someone who sources say resisted opportunities to tell investigators the truth or cooperate.
Weisselberg faces 15 counts for a range of charges, from larceny to tax evasion to falsifying records. It shows the DA here, Cy Vance, meant business during this multiyear probe.
And Nicolle and I were just discussing aspects of this. I got to tell you, that alone would be a big deal today, a top Trump executive indicted, cuffed, 15 counts. But it`s not the only headline.
Weeks ago here on THE BEAT, we were reporting on the legal avenue to potentially indicted the entire Trump Organization Today, that is exactly what the DA did. As "The New York Times" put it, simply, the Trump Organization charged in a 15-year tax scheme.
The former president`s entire company hit with multiple crimes, like tax fraud, false statements, filings and instruments, plus an obstruction count for falsifying or destroying records. And prosecutors say they have the receipts, citing this kind of evidence, spreadsheets, tax returns, documents, some which are directly implicating or including Donald Trump himself, a reference to his signature on the very checks that prosecutors now say are criminal evidence for the conspiracy.
That includes tuition payments. That`s a signature in the sharpie we all know.
For a businessman who pushes limits and touts all this supposed victories, this was, objectively, the worst day that Trump Organization has ever had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Believe it or not, we have so much more breaking news.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump`s moneyman has turned himself in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as the Trump Organization, tough to put handcuffs around buildings.
MELBER: They have thrown the kitchen sink at the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg. This is very bad news.
ALAN FUTERFAS, ATTORNEY FOR TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I think, in 244 years, we have not had a local prosecutor go after a former president of the United States for his employees or his company.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Legal experts see today`s indictment is potentially a first step for prosecutors to try to compel Weisselberg to cooperate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, until today, we had basic, limited information about the probe and some clues from witnesses, including those we have interviewed.
Now we have the case. We have a lot more details. And the scene inside the courtroom, you had Weisselberg there seated, masks, separated by still COVID related Plexiglas. His attorneys were there.
And the DA`s lawyers told the judge what the case is, this new detail that I`m telling you we`re learning, that the scheme was orchestrated by the most senior executives with an intentional, elaborate conspiracy running from 2005 through effectively yesterday to defraud federal, New York, state and city tax authorities, and to stash hundreds of thousands of dollars, a sum greater than most people`s salaries, in disguised payments that were, as prosecutors put it so starkly, off the books.
That`s it. You can boil the DA`s case down to a classic gangster move, hide income, as Beatnuts and Big Pun once put it, off the books. They told us it`s off the hook this year, making mad money off the books this year. Ain`t nothing but crooks in here getting mad money off the books this year.
Well, that`s the gangster stuff that the DA says the Trump Organization does on a daily basis with its CFO, off the books, for allegedly 15 years.
And the Beatnuts are right. If these individuals are convicted, they would be crooks in here.
That`s our report tonight.
I want to bring in our experts.
We have a key witness in this case, Michael Cohen, who everyone is waiting to hear from. And he joins us shortly in our first block of the show tonight.
As Michael stands by, I bring in our legal experts, a veteran of the office that brought today`s charges, Dan Alonso, and former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance, both MSNBC legal analysts.
Welcome to both of you.
Dan, you worked in this office. You worked with DA Cy Vance, who`s become a national name. How broad is this case? And how strong is it?
DANIEL R. ALONSO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it sounds very strong.
This -- the evidence that they have detailed in the charges themselves, first of all, they don`t seem to rely too much on people whose credibility can be attacked. So it doesn`t seem like they need Michael Cohen for this, for example, or others.
And they have got, as you said, the receipts. They have got lots of lots of documents. I think it`s broader than what we were expecting in the last few days from having heard from the defense lawyers.
And I will say, one thing that is very significant is that this state tax case charges the IRS and the federal authorities as victims in the scheme to defraud. Now, that`s perfectly proper, right? State prosecutors and the DA`s office with some regularity charges federal agencies as victims of crime, so, for example, Social Security, disability fraud, things like that.
This is a very interesting and appropriate use of the scheme to defraud and grand larceny laws to specifically charged in state court that the IRS was ripped off. It`s a very interesting way to do it, and it has the effect of upping significantly the amount of tax loss.
If we were only talking about New York state tax, as we have talked about in the last week...
ALONSO: ... we`re maybe at $100,000 or so. It`s in the indictment. But you add to that $500,000-plus thousand dollars of federal tax alleged to have evaded, and then, by concealing his New York City residency, he evaded another $200,000 of New York City taxes, allegedly.
So that brings the total tax was to about $900,000. That now starts to look like a pretty significant fraud case for that courthouse.
And, Joyce, Donald Trump may not use e-mail, but the investigators say that there`s plenty of records in the organization. We have heard of follow the money. They`re following the spreadsheets. They say the organization maintained internal secret spreadsheets to track the amounts it would pay for Weisselberg`s rent, his garage, and then they would reduce the amount - - we will put this up -- of direct compensation in the form of checks or deposits to the account for indirect compensation.
How does that help the case?
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s interesting, right?
The case against Weisselberg is a good case, as Dan says. This looks like a case that could go to trial and could be a winner. So, the real issue, the real question we have here is, does it go any further? Does it reach Trump?
And the fact that he wasn`t charged today suggests that prosecutors believe, without Weisselberg`s cooperation, they can`t go straight to him. Weisselberg so far, knowing all of this, has refused to cooperate and seems to be willing to take whatever pain this case imposes.
But, Ari, I remember, and I know you do, too, that Michael Cohen was in this posture early on. And so perhaps, like Cohen, Weisselberg will begin to see mounting legal fees. He will likely have to repay some back taxes. Maybe that will pressure him to cooperate in a way prosecutors haven`t been able to do before the case happens.
But if this goes to trial, the trial itself will cross Trump`s red line. Prosecutors will be able to put on evidence involving the corporation, his namesake corporation, and show that, for 15 years, it engaged in fraud. This is not the broad fraud that we were led to expect when Vance was pursuing taxes.
This isn`t bank fraud and insurance fraud. It`s much narrower, but it is a larger case than what Trump`s lawyers were talking about last week, $1.7 million that taxes were not paid on. That`s not insignificant. And that`s the president`s own company.
MELBER: You mentioned Michael Cohen, who`s standing by, so we will get his insights.
Daniel, I have told viewers about how you actually wrote the guidelines that were used over whether or not to charge the Trump Organization. We first reported on June 2 that avenue.
And I think it`s striking, because Nicolle Wallace made an important point earlier that the fact that something feels expected or old, just as Bill Barr tried to get people to feel a certain way about a Mueller report they hadn`t read yet, that`s understandable, but it`s not necessary the right feeling, because it`s not necessarily accurate to the scope of what`s happening.
I want to play a little bit of the reporting we did, as mentioned, partly based on your work, because we were tracking the idea that the whole company could get ensnared, which is what happened today. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Prosecutors are scrutinizing and probing the Trump Organization the same way they have mafia organizations.
The DA could indict all of Trump Organization.
Like Vance`s other do-overs, he could go farther and try to indict the Trump Org or indict its staff, which is a big deal.
ALONSO: Given the policy, given all the considerations, no reason not to charge the Trump Organization.
MELBER: Even if Donald Trump himself is not ever indicted, there is another way the prosecutors can actually indict the entire Trump Org.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And here we are. Today. it happened.
For folks who don`t follow this in and out legally, Dan, what does it mean? And do you think it is important that they went after the whole company?
ALONSO: I do think it`s important that they went over the whole company.
I mean, companies are legal persons. And when they commit crimes, it`s worth very much considering whether or not to charge them. Now, as you said, it`s complicated. There`s a whole long policy with a whole lot of factors. And you have to consider them.
But prosecutors should consider charging companies, particularly in broader schemes that last for years and years and years, and when it was done, at least in part, for the benefit of the company, which this clearly was, as alleged in the indictment.
So I think that the prosecutors went through those factors in the policy memo that you mentioned that I issued years ago on behalf of the DA, and they found that it was wanting. They hadn`t cooperated. They hadn`t self- reported. I would imagine that they addressed the collateral consequences that might flow out of it.
We just don`t know enough yet to know what those might be. But they certainly addressed them to see if it was a just outcome to prosecute and seek the conviction of these two companies. And it seems like they concluded that it would be.
MELBER: Joyce and Dan, thank you.
Now, as promised and as advertised on the screen, we turn to someone who`s been dealing with Weisselberg for a long time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: In the office with me was Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization.
Allen Weisselberg made the decision.
Always Allen Weisselberg on the check.
Mr. Weisselberg, for sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Michael Cohen there testifying to Congress about Weisselberg in 2019.
Cohen`s the person who actually sparked the Trump Org probe that led to today`s indictments. He`s been a witness there several times. The investigation remains ongoing.
And Michael Cohen joins me now.
Michael, you started this. Your reaction to today`s indictments of the organization used to work for and the CFO you used to work so closely with?
COHEN: So, I`m not surprised at all about the indictment. It`s a little different than I guess many of us expected. We were looking for hoping for a more sweeping set of indictments, meaning more than just Allen Weisselberg.
I want to be clear -- and I have said this on your show so many times -- Allen Weisselberg is not the keystone to this entire indictment. There will be more, as far as I`m concerned. There`s -- I know that I had gone in and I had spoken on more than a dozen occasions to the district attorney.
And there are a multitude of issues that are far more ranging than Allen Weisselberg not paying for a car or for an apartment. And he`s not the only one at the Trump Organization, as far as executives that have that same sort of wacky compensation package.
MELBER: Wacky compensation that the company intentionally used to avoid taxes; is that your view?
COHEN: Well, my view is that you`re living in an apartment, you`re not paying for it, you have a car that you`re not paying for, it`s probably not standard, and nobody really discusses it.
It`s -- again, people have to understand that the Trump Organization, despite what the Trump Organization`s attorneys said post the indictment, it`s not 3,500 people, all right? Yes, you have 3,500 people that may be somehow affiliated, but some of the hotels that they manage, they don`t pay these people. It`s part of the licensing deal.
Or they`re talking about hundreds of people that work on the golf courses. That`s not -- the entire company basically consists of about a dozen executives, including Donald and then the three children. So take four off. Maybe it`s eight to 10 people. And they weren`t going and telling everybody, well, look, Allen`s got a free apartment, and, therefore, Matt should have one, and then, if Matt gets a free car, or he gets the lease paid for, then Allen should get one, and then this executive is also getting -- it doesn`t really work that way.
They all keep it to themselves. And so that`s why I referred to it as a wacky sort of compensation package.
COHEN: Instead of just paying additional funds, which they should have done, they did it -- they decided to do it this way.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the multitude of illegalities that the district attorney is currently looking at. And I think it`s wrong of us to presume for a moment that this is it, right, this is the big surprise. Hey, everybody, look, we`re going to get Allen Weisselberg. It`s not Allen Weisselberg that they`re looking for.
Well, I think you make sound points. And you remind everyone that there`s a process to this. It may or may not end. We have a special report on that later, looking at the timeline, because it may be a means to an end.
Now, in fairness to those Trump lawyers, who hold the job that you once did, let`s hear what they were saying, reaction here after this unprecedented court appearance. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FUTERFAS: If the name of the company was something else, I don`t think these charges would have been brought. In fact, I am fairly certain they would not have been brought if the name was a different name.
SUSAN NECHELES, ATTORNEY FOR TRUMP ORGANIZATION: It is a political prosecution. Political prosecutions, where people are targeted criminally because the prosecutors disagree with their political beliefs, happen in corrupt countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fair point?
COHEN: And the Oscar goes to?
Because, look, they`re playing to a party of one. It doesn`t really matter what anybody is saying. Of course they`re going to call it a witch-hunt. Of course they`re going to say that it`s all politics, it`s based upon the fact that it`s Democrats vs. Donald Trump, the former president.
No, it`s not. It`s based upon 15-plus years worth of documents that are sitting now in the hands of a very capable RICO attorney, meaning Mark Pomerantz, along with Cyrus Vance Jr., a DA, as well as the attorney general, Tish James.
So, no, what they`re saying is not right. And the saddest part is, you have 74 million people that are believing what Trump is saying, right? And these are the same people that don`t believe in the -- that January 6 was an attack. It`s the same people that don`t believe any of these things, the big lie by Donald Trump. They all believe in him.
They also believe that Donald is going to be reinstated as president in August. But, no, that`s not what it is. And there`s documentary evidence.
We talk about this every time I`m on the show, Ari. They have a plethora of documentary evidence that, in all fairness, it negates even the need for Allen Weisselberg as a witness. They have other people. And there are enough people that will be pressured that all you need is one. And they have people already that have given them, like myself, the testimony as to what this was -- was I in the room for each and every one of the transactions?
COHEN: Probably not.
But can I explain how the system works at the Trump Org? Can I talk about the fact that I have overheard certain conversations regarding X, Y, and Z and put two and two together? Remember, there are only maybe 14 executives in the whole company.
So there was always information that was floating around? It`s not a good day for the Trump Organization.
MELBER: Was there any...
COHEN: It`s not a good day for Allen.
MELBER: Certainly not.
Was there anything in the indictment that was new to you, that was unknown to you?
COHEN: No. No. It was what I expected. I expected a larger, sweeping set of indictments. But they coming.
That`s the problem.
COHEN: We`re all so used to everything being instant, like a Google. You want your information in a second. It doesn`t work that way, not when it comes to -- not when it comes to this group. They`re going to be methodical, and they`re going to be professional.
MELBER: Right. And they will keep -- they will keep their own timeline. They will keep their timeline.
If they have a strategic or legal reason to do it in a way that the public, the press, other entities don`t find as convenient, it`s not only sound; it`s their job not to consider that.
MELBER: And, Mr. Cohen, you have said that you think Weisselberg`s -- go ahead.
I believe Weisselberg is going to provide testimony. He may not do it -- he didn`t do it yesterday. That, we know. But it`s a very big difference. And I have been there. And I can tell you that the feel of the handcuffs behind your back, it`s not comfortable, nor is it sitting there and having your photograph taken.
Now, Allen could be a tough guy for Donald, which is what we all wanted to be. That`s when you`re being investigated. But it`s a whole nother story now once you`re being indicted, because the next step is potentially -- and it`s not going to be, but potentially 105 years.
It`s seven years for each of the 15 counts. Now, I don`t believe he will get 105 years, but even one year for a guy who`s 74 is tough. Even two years or three years, like they gave me for a campaign finance violation.
So the lawyers for the Trump Org, great job in appealing to a party of one. The problem is, that`s not who you need to appeal to. You need to appeal to Mark Pomerantz, to Cy Vance, and to Tish James.
So I think that they`re ill-advised in following Donald`s legal game plan on this one.
MELBER: All fair points.
And while those lawyers may be thinking about Donald Trump, as you said, party of one, Mr. Weisselberg, if he does not find a deal, has to think about a party of 12. And what will a jury of his peers make of these astronomical sums, far more than most people make?
Michael Cohen, thank you for coming back on THE BEAT on this big news night.
I should mention, he is the author of "Disloyal" and host of the "Mea Culpa" podcast.
And for more reaction and analysis, we turn to "New York Times Magazine" writer Emily Bazelon.
Thanks for being here.
EMILY BAZELON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thanks for having me.
MELBER: First, your reaction to anything we heard from Mr. Cohen, who has become well-known to Americans and really the world as someone who was a very longtime loyal Trump Org executive, just like Mr. Weisselberg, who initially defied prosecutors, like Mr. Weisselberg?
His history after that well-known, as he alluded to it, cuffed, convicted, incarcerated, and a party to what was found to be crimes in New York that involved Donald Trump, who remains not a part of this today, and Mr. Weisselberg, newly indicted today.
BAZELON: I think the crucial question is whether Michael Cohen and your previous guests are correct that this is the beginning. Is this the tip of the iceberg? Are there other indictments to come? And will they succeed in putting enough pressure on Allen Weisselberg that he will flip?
Clearly, that`s what they`re hoping. And I think Michael Cohen was talking about what it really feels like to be incarcerated and the effect that that has, even if you previously imagined that you would never turn on your former boss.
And the question is whether Weisselberg is going to make similar decisions.
Let me ask you the other big question that hangs over this. And, as mentioned, we have some reporting coming up, but I`m really curious what you think. And we have relied on you on so many legal stories.
What, if anything, can be inferred from the fact that they fought to get the tax returns of Donald Trump all the way to the Supreme Court, they won and got them, and they are not referenced in this indictment today?
BAZELON: This looks to me like a very buttoned-up document, in which the prosecutors are making sure that they can prove every single fact really clearly based on the paperwork they have. And they`re not going beyond that.
One thing that struck me reading the indictment is, why didn`t they just give Weisselberg a raise? Like, why are rich people so fond of perks that they would rather defer, you know, what for Weisselberg is not an earth- shattering sum of money? This is someone who made $940,000 a year, right?
So we`re talking about, over 12 years, hundreds of thousands of dollars. To me and you -- to me, that`s a lot of money. To a lot of viewers, that`s a lot of money.
BAZELON: But, over 12 years, for a highly paid CEO in New York, that is not very much money.
And so, in some ways, I just don`t really get it. Like, why not just pay for everything? And if you`re going to have these deferred payments off the books, then don`t keep a separate spreadsheet, so that, if the government comes around looking, they`re going to find it.
Like, it`s strange, that part of it.
MELBER: You think, Emily -- Emily, you think it was unwise that they literally wrote down his real compensation, and then kept deducting from how they were hiding it from the government, except, oops, now the government has it?
BAZELON: I mean, retrospectively, it was unwise. They either thought that they were following the law, and that what they were doing was permitted under New York statutes, or they thought the government would never come looking.
And, look, the second possibility is a real one in a lot of situations. That doesn`t mean there`s anything wrong with the government coming to look, but the government does not do as much tax enforcement as perhaps it should. And so maybe that is the bet that didn`t pay off here.
MELBER: Yes, it also speaks to what may be either incredibly cheap, grandiose approaches to business or the thin profit margins that the company is famous for.
I mean, Michael just walked us through how the current Trump lawyers say they have thousands of people. The ex-Trump lawyer, who has been cooperating, Michael says, no, actually, that`s B.S. They do a lot of moving and faking. And then they have a small number of actual long-term employees.
And even those people who claim to work for a billionaire are finding every little nip and tuck to save a little bit of money from taxes, because maybe, if the whole company paid that much taxes, even for this small work force, maybe they wouldn`t be profitable.
I mean, these are real big questions. But, again, what`s up with the tax returns? And the best argument a Trump person might make is, well, if this all ends without anything hitting them, then maybe there`s nothing so bad in them, right? We have to hold ourselves open to that factual possibility.
Emily, as always, thank you for joining us on a big news night.
BAZELON: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Thank you.
We have a lot more in the program, the special report I promised we have been working on all day, what we can learn from this indictment and what`s coming up.
We also have special guests, including one of the top experts in the country on these kinds of cases, including in New York, and a former Trump executive and insider, Barbara Res.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Turning to our special report, the Trump Organization CFO indicted today on 15 counts for an alleged scheme to defraud.
It includes conspiracy, grand larceny, tax fraud, and falsifying or destroying business records. All that led to the dramatic scene of the CFO arraigned today, pleading not guilty to a $1.7 million scheme, as prosecutors stress this is an ongoing criminal investigation.
And that could strike fear into other executives. In court today, another prosecutor alleged crimes were committed by -- quote -- "the most senior executives at the company."
And we covered highlights at the top of our broadcast, but now we get into some more details. The indictments reference an Unindicted Co-Conspirator #1. Now, sources say that tantalizing reference is not to Donald Trump. That`s according to sources.
We also do not know who it is. But now we do know prosecutors allege that person is in on this expensive off-the-book scheme, implementing a compensation scheme to enable Weisselberg to underreport his income to authorities.
Now, Trump`s company was indicted today, as I have emphasized, not him. And yet he is also in the indictment in some other ways, his name there, allegedly, on the checks he used, which are used as criminal evidence against Weisselberg. The DA with 15 counts, including Weisselberg`s tax evasion.
Now, no one can just say whether the whole Trump Organization will be kneecapped by this, but there is Trump in the allegedly incriminating evidence, along with references to those other executives across what is a family business, where the family has certainly gone along for the ride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m the largest real estate developer in New York. My company`s bigger than it ever was. It`s stronger than it ever was.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: It is a family brand.
ERIC TRUMP, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: We have a great family dynamic. I think that`s probably the most incredible thing about the Trump Organization. We really, really work well together.
DONALD TRUMP JR., EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: My primary job is making sure not to kill the golden goose, which is the brand and the brand that has created a potential long period of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That golden goose is under pressure right now.
These charges add the legal and financial pressure that`s so familiar to accompany rife with these kind of problems you see here, too many headlines to fit, from civil suits, to probes, to all the bankruptcies.
And, at a certain point, people may feel exhausted and wonder, when does total accountability come? I have discussed that with you in this broadcast. Nicolle and I were discussing it earlier tonight.
But let`s be clear. According to the DA, the answer is today. This is the first time the whole company has been charged with a crime. At a practical level, it`s hard for any indicted company to just continue business as usual.
How do you meet with partners for a potential project or creditors, when their first question is going to be, will you be convicted? Will you be around next year?
Now, it is also striking with the indictment does not say? And we want to be as clear and objective as possible. This is what I raised with Emily Bazelon in our coverage.
This tough indictment that takes a pretty aggressive view of basically how funds were misappropriated doesn`t reference in any way Donald Trump`s tax returns, even though this is the DA who won that big Supreme Court case to get them.
It also does not say what Donald Trump really knew or didn`t know about what is allegedly a 15-year scheme at his namesake company. Now, prosecutors are clearly calling Weisselberg`s bluff or his resistance, and they`re doing what prosecutors do, are squeezing people with criminal evidence to try to get all of the facts, to get to the top of any scheme.
Now, again, let me be as objective as possible. Does that mean Trump is definitely at the top of this scheme? Well, prosecutors have to figure that out.
I mean, anyone can have a hunch or an opinion. Prosecutors need evidence. They need facts. They clearly believe Weisselberg has some of those evidence and facts, and he`s not sharing them. They want his cooperation.
So, let me be clear with you, as we`re at a new stage in this. It`s possible Weisselberg could go under oath, go under a lie detector, give all the facts, and they might still lead to a situation where either Trump didn`t know about this scheme or there wasn`t enough total evidence under the rules to bring charges against him.
I will tell you, if that`s the case, that is a good thing. It is good if prosecutors and the government get all the facts, and then follow the rule of law.
I can also tell you, the idea that all of this was going on with Donald Trump`s CFO for 15 years, if proven, and Donald Trump wasn`t in on it, didn`t know about it, had no idea about where the extra money was going, well, that looks to many sources like an unlikely theory of the case.
And it`s different from what we heard from the former colleague that joined us tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: But everything had to go through Mr. Trump. He knew about everything. It had to be approved by Mr. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He knew about everything. That doesn`t mean he wrote everything down. Trump avoids e-mail and many electronics.
That`s why Weisselberg, his right-hand man, would be so critical to providing what, for other people and maybe many younger people in similar businesses, would just be checking e-mails or even texts about approvals, records that say, yes, do that. Yes, move the money over. Yes, lie about whether it`s income. Yes, that will make us more profitable because we won`t pay taxes.
Prosecutors might be missing all those yeses. They might need Allen Weisselberg to unearth new details that they don`t yet know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN: Donald Trump himself famously doesn`t use e-mail, doesn`t text. Does Allen Weisselberg use e-mail, use text?
JENNIFER WEISSELBERG, FORMER DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF ALLEN WEISSELBERG: I have given the DA an e-mail that they didn`t know about. They constantly FedEx between property at Mar-a-Lago and their property in Boynton Beach.
TOOBIN: So, what`s the answer? Does he use e-mail and text?
WEISSELBERG: Donald and Allen?
TOOBIN: Allen. Allen personally.
WEISSELBERG: He tries not to. He`s made some mistakes, but typically no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The indictment alleges 15 years` worth of financial malfeasance and crimes. It could still be the end. It could be where this case ends up.
Or Weisselberg could provide information about other individuals, or the person who runs the company.
It is still unusual for an entire company to be indicted over these kinds of crimes. The precedent shows that is true. But, today, the Trump Organization, after years of trying to outrun all kinds of criminal and civil probes, including a prior probe by this very Manhattan DA, today, the Trump Organization stands indicted.
Donald Trump stands accused of being at the helm of a criminal enterprise. I don`t care how tired you are of him or these types of stories. As a factual matter, that`s not nothing.
Now, where do these kinds of investigations go? The former chief of the famed SDNY, David Kelley, will break this all down when we`re back after our shortest break in 60 seconds.
MELBER: We have been covering news out of the New York legal system.
And we have one of its giants. David Kelley was the chief U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, the famed office.
Full disclosure, he`s also my former boss.
Thanks for joining us on a big news night.
DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Happy to be here with you.
MELBER: Give it to me straight, David.
This has been debated throughout the day and on this program. But I remind viewers you dealt with this kind of stuff. This type of indictment looks to you small-bore compensation, medium, because it`s the long-running thing, or big because it does go after the whole company?
KELLEY: Well, certainly for the company for Weisselberg, it`s big.
And not to throw water on the fire for a lot of folks who are looking for the head of that company to be indicted, what I look at this, and one way of looking at it is to say they`re throwing a lot of weight to try to get somebody to flip, which suggests that they may not have a good case yet against the person they really think ought to be indicted, who`s the head of that company.
So, look, it`s a big case for the company. It`s a big case for Weisselberg. These are serious charges. I mean, it`s not slim pickings. It`s big stuff, a lot of counts, a lot of exposure, both for the company and for Weisselberg.
MELBER: And you`re putting your finger on it.
You read their strategic posture as being interested in charging someone else, likely the head of the company, Donald Trump, as having some of the ingredients, or what lawyers call elements, but needing Weisselberg. You view this as them planning, if they got enough from him, to potentially making that move against Trump?
KELLEY: Well, look, when you hear about all the press reports over the last couple of years about the false statements made to lenders and the false statements made perhaps to tax authorities, you might expect -- this was a very narrow indictment.
This was just really focused on Weisselberg`s use of company funds to -- for his own benefit. Obviously, it has to be authorized by somebody else. And, as you were saying in your last segment, the indictment suggests as much.
But what people are really expecting is to go way beyond that, because, if they`re really going to go after the Trump Organization, while this is significant against the organization, as any felony case is against any company, but what people are really expecting is, how big does this go?
This is just really, really narrow. This is -- it`s a very narrow case. And one way of looking at it is to say, I`m glad they finally got the company. But one way of reading it is to say, look, they have got to be really eager to get somebody to help them make the big case. And they haven`t gotten there yet.
KELLEY: And so they`re trying just really hard to get there.
KELLEY: So, I`m -- look...
KELLEY: And, look, this is all reading tea leaves, because we don`t know what`s in the investigation. We don`t know what they have.
KELLEY: But one way to read this is to say they don`t -- they`re not very yet against the company and the target that a lot of people were hoping...
KELLEY: The person who thinks he can commit murder on Fifth Avenue and walk away from it. And that`s not here.
And, David, now I`m running over on time, but a question I have not asked anyone yet this hour. What are the odds Allen Weisselberg could beat this case with a New York jury?
As I read the indictment, I said, geez, what`s his defense? Hard to beat a -- it`s hard to be the document case. It`s hard to have cold, hard proof that he`s getting income and simply not reporting it.
And when the Trump Organization or Trump comes out and says, oh, everybody does that, everybody doesn`t do that. I mean, look, a car here, a break on rent there, but this guy was getting -- he was living scot-free. And the income he was getting that he was -- that he was claiming was over and above what everybody else has to use their income for to live.
MELBER: Yes, all right, straight up.
David, thank you for coming on. Good to see you.
KELLEY: Thank you.
MELBER: When we come back, a Trump insider many know well, Barbara Res, on THE BEAT.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Trump Organization veteran Barbara Res is here.
The indictment makes a case against the whole company you worked for, as well as Mr. Weisselberg. The Trump lawyers say, everybody does this.
BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: No, not everybody does this, because I have worked for many other companies and developers. And they don`t do this. This is somewhat unique to Trump. I`m sure others do it.
But the first time I started working for Trump, and one of the very first things I encountered was, I was checking expenses for one of our top employees, and they were ridiculous. Where did they come from? I challenged him. He said, oh, no, they`re real. They`re real. I said, well, I`m not paying him.
He finally told me, well, this is -- Trump told me to just come up with so much -- I forget the amount -- $1,000 a week or whatever it was in expenses, maybe not that much back then, and they will be paid, and they will be off the books.
So, this is where I started.
MELBER: Why was that -- you say it came directly from him. That`s not yet what`s proven in the indictment, which is what makes your view so -- your experience so interesting.
Why, as I was discussing with other guests, was that his mode? Was it kind of an automatic frugality, or was it that the money was really that tight?
RES: Well, I think it was not so much the money was tight, because for -- we had finance. We had Equitable on that job. They were partnered. And they had all the money in the world.
It was, one, his attitude. And if you can beat the tax, if you can beat the government, do it, by all means, legal and illegal.
And, also, this was a way of engendering this -- the goodwill with this project manager, because, hey, look, I`m giving you tax-free money, that kind of thing.
And he used that kind of thing to engender loyalty and affection or whatever it was that would inure to his benefit one way or the other. It was always for Trump`s benefit. It was never, let me be nice to this guy. It was always, what`s in it for me?
And let me say this.
RES: Michael and I don`t necessarily agree on everything in the world, but for -- one thing is for sure. Nothing gets done without Trump`s knowledge and approval.
MELBER: There you go.
Well, and that`s what needs to be proven or not in the case.
Final question, Barbara. You knew Allen. How did he look? What was running through his mind, in your estimation, today?
RES: Well, I knew him. And he was a polite, a quiet guy, very much enamored of Trump, called him Mr. Trump, when we all called him Donald.
But he seemed like a nice man. He was -- I didn`t know him that well, although we had maybe a lunch and his son`s bar mitzvah. But now he`s probably a very different person. He`s living high on the hog. He`s got money and power and everything else.
But, having said all that, I don`t think that he is in a position to go to jail for Donald Trump. I just don`t think it would happen.
Barbara Res, thank you, as always.
We will be right back.
MELBER: It was quite a day at the New York courthouse.
To paraphrase Monica, just one of them days. Don`t take it personal, except Donald Trump may take it personal, now that his entire company and CFO has been indicted.
We will stay on the case, wherever it leads, objectively and fairly.
As always, you can find me here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I will be back with you tomorrow night. You can find me online @AriMelber or AriMelber.com.
But I`m thrilled to tell you, our special coverage continues with my capable colleague, the host of "THE REIDOUT," Joy Reid, after this break.