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tv   The Beat With Ari Melber  MSNBC  December 7, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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playing well, there's concern about a potential recession. >> stock market. >> stock market. that's when the -- people go wait a minute, i'm washing my hands of this guy. >> but when does donald trump ask him enough? when does that happen? >> well, i have to say enough. i already stole a little bit of ari for a few minutes. tom, mimi, frank, daniel, cornell, carol, the brady bunch. it does feel that way. thank you all, we'll be back with more "mpt daily." you know what sunday will be about. "meet the press" on nbc. ari melber picks up the coverage. ari, good luck. >> chuck, i want to hold you over if you have a second. >> go for it, i'll take it. >> there's been talk about political synergy from this new mueller filing. we have new synergy and we'll pick whereupon you're leaving off. that's my comment. my question is take a step back from the law. what do you think it means for america when you see a filing,
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you see the news today out of new york, the feds are saying the president of the united states directed a campaign-related crime by his lawyer? >> i think we're going to learn in the next couple of weeks how much power the president has over this supposed 35% or 40% of the country. we know a good 30% to 40% of the country lives in another world, has an alternative reality at times of what facts are and what are alternative facts, to borrow a phrase. i will be curious. these are legal facts. these are done by a republican named bob mueller. i'm curious to see how much it penetrates. keep an eye, though, on some senate republicans here. the first ones to peel would be them. keep an eye on folks like marco rubio in particular. those would be sort of what i would call the center of the republican conference. if they start breaking from the president, watch out. >> right. we'll be watching all of that
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and we'll watch you on sunday. chuck todd nice to see you tonight. >> thank you, sir. we have the breaking news that i was discussing with chuck. bob mueller revealing michael cohen's crimes as well as new details on his ties to russia with federal prosecutors in new york dropping the hammer and calling for substantial prison time. let's get right to it. two major court filings out tonight, one from bob mueller who said michael cohen has been helpful in his russia investigation and one from the prosecutors in new york who say cohen still deserves years in jail farce criminal mind-set that allowed him to basically commit a host of crimes. all of this is a week before a judge sentences cohen for all the above. let's look at the latest in the mueller filing which i was discussing with chuck todd. bob mueller says he's not taking position on how much time michael cohen should serve but he does note that cohen first came into his office, to bob mueller's investigators, and
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lied to them. not just about anything but lied specifically about money that cohen, trump, and we know felix sate sater were trying to make in russia. he's now saying that cohen has tried to mitigate those crimes and that he told the truth about russian attempts to reach the trump campaign dating back to 2015. also russia-related matters, as mueller puts it, that are, quote, core to his investigation. mueller says cohen learned about all of these things because of his, quote, regular contact with company executives -- a tantalizing reference to unnamed people in the trump organization. it could be employees, it could be family members. while mueller says cohen has been helpful, these federal prosecutors in new york are not impressed. moments ago and it is a thrashing. they say michael cohen only gave up basically at the end when he
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had few other choices. they hammer him and they note he wasn't ever actually formally a cooperating witness, that he didn't do everything he could have done and new york prosecutors note he also committed four distinct federal crimes. they say in their version of the case that he was motivated by personal greed, that he used his own power and influence for deception and that his actions were all a larger pattern of deception that basically perm nated his entire professional life and they note where the law comes in, that federal guidelines would come for someone who committed the offenses about 63 months in prison and they say while he should get a little bit of credit for what he did do on cooperating, he shouldn't get much. they call for four years, what they call a substantial term of imprisonment. all of this as we're learning about michael cohen, bob mueller, just now this hour, filing another big, big document you may have heard about. this is for paul manafort, the former campaign chair and the, quote, crimes and lies that mueller says justify them
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exploding his entire plea deal. that document, i can tell you, has been filed under seal which means as of this hour we don't know what's inside it. but what we do know, it's already a big day for bob mueller. i want to get to it with maya wily, a former counselor to the mayor of new york and a civil prosecutor in the same southern district of new york. john flannery, a former federal prosecutor and as part of our special coverage, nancy gertner who served as a federal judge and brings that perspective to all of what we're learning today. she's a professor at harvard law school. welcome to the panel. maya wily, what do you think is most important in what mueller is choosing to say and why your former colleagues at sdny are coming down so hard on michael cohen and why they put in there that president trump directed one of michael cohen's campaign crimes? >> i think you just said it, ari. i think what's relevant here is you have a -- one, you have a document that makes very clear that there have been significant
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contact between those in trump's sphere and russia. we actually already knew that. what we see now is the reverse side of it, meaning we have a long history between george papadopoulos -- beginning with george papadopoulos in march of 2016 who understand his job as connections to the russians and communicating with the trump campaign but we also learned that the trump tower moscow deal was happening and in 2015 the russians were directly reaching out to the trump world. so we already knew that there was lots of contact with russia even before this document. what we're seeing is there's more we didn't know about. that we also know there's going to be a continued investigation
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and the fact the manafort filing has been redacted. in terms of the southern district, it's clear. what they're saying quite frankly is, look, this guy didn't do the right thing and by the way he was a lawyer. his obligation to do the right thing was heightened and he came in, he was not really -- he didn't formulate a cooperation agreement, he didn't agree to talk to us about things that may be crimes that he was not already pleading guilty to and that should bring us right back around to the trump organization investigation that they're still conducting. >> nancy, i'm thrilled that we have the benefit of your expertise tonight because this is now going right into judge lane. how does a judge take these two very different recommendations, moou mueller saying he lied but he
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helped, you figure it out and the sdny where where maya worked is saying this a bad dude, he's a liar, he deserved about four years. what does the judge do? >> the judge will have two alternatives. on the one hand this will be driven by -- this is a drain driven by the prosecution because it's the mueller part that is the big question mark. if it were just the sdny part cohen would get time and the question is how much. the mueller part is what's driving it. now the fallacy of all that we're talking about is even if cohen were sentenced tomorrow to, you know, four years, three years or whatever variation that is, he'll continue to cooperate with the government. the government has the ability to file as you know what's called a rule 35 motion after the fact seeking a reduction in the sentence. so while this didn't happen in a very orderly fashion with him
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being a cooperating witness, the rule 35 will continue to hang over him and would lead to an adjustment. >> do you think a judge would give him years? >> you know, i've been speculating all day. i think a judge will give him years in the face of the -- in the face of the sdny recommendation. i don't think the judge will give him four years. it's before a very tough judge. this judge has not been lenient on white collar offenses and if you look only at the four corners of the sdny stuff, you would say, you know, because of the amount of money involved that this guy would get some years. but i say that's speculating because what will happen is the government can -- the court can impose a sentence and basically stay the sentence, he continues to cooperate with mueller and there can be a subsequent adjustment. >> sure, but this is real stuff. this is not papadopoulos time,
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john flannery, this is the contemplation of real crimes, real felonies. i just want to underscore, we'll cover this in a couple ways but i want to underscore it's not normal, it's not an everyday event to have prosecutors go into court and say we proved this campaign crime. this person admitted to it and it was done at the direction of the sitting president of the united states. your view of that piece of this tonight? >> well, that's significant. i mean, there's almost nothing comparable since watergate with this and to have a lawyer coming forward follows thapar electrical. but the thing that's interesting here is you have a good guy/bad guy presentation versus the southern district and the southern district gave tough language. and i agree they can come back and revisit it, but they don't
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want to reward somebody who sort of cabined off what he was prepared to do there. now, on the other hand, we have the statement by the special counsel basically praising his cooperation despite his lices, despite who hessia is. how do we justify that as a justice system? well, they group together. >> sounds like you don't know. i thought you had an answer, john, but then you said -- >> birds of a feather. birds of a feather. i think of birds of a feather. not eagles, perhaps, but birds of a better. that's my answer and we see there's been -- if you look at his history of lawyers mr. trump, we go from roy cohn and mr. cohen and we don't have as good a lawyer as roy cohn to do the terrible and evil things he did in the past. >> i would revise your remarks and let you build on them. i think what you have is someone
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who is as clearly criminal and deceptive as roy cohn but less effective in the sense of getting away with that. that goes to what i want to ask my prosecutors about. fascinating narrative that goes beyond what we knew two hours ago and i'm reading from the documents. i hope folks will bear with me. the first time they talked to him was on august 7, quote, on cohen's request and they said cohen provided relevant information to parts of the probe but then because they knew what they were doing when they sprung on him questions about the moscow project they write, quote, cohen provided false answers in what he later explained was an effort not to contradict his congressional testimony which we now know was perjury. john flannery, what does that tell you about the way they gathered and squeezed cohen and the way they're revealing it now? >> i think they're revealing it so we know what they're dealing
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with and that they have the advantage to press him to tell the truth by taking his tape recordings and his letters and e-mails and the other witnesses they had to talk about him and to confirm what he had to say. also in there, they say, that we have by other means confirmed what he's telling us and that they were helpful and that he made some corrections even as he was taking to them about matter which gave him credibility as a cooperating witness and the special counsel investigation. so i think that's substantial. i think the real question is here is if we have barr, what's going to happen? and when we move from whitaker to barr we have a similar problem in that barr is the same person who when they had the iran-contra investigation advised the president to pardon those people that might lead to bush. >> you're talking about news that at any other night we would have mentioned but i literally haven't yet which is for those just coming home from work on a friday, president trump announcing a new pick for an
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attorney, william barr, who served as attorney general in a republican administration and is widely respected, maya, considered a mainstream conservative legal voice. you might say matt whitaker is about as low a bar as you can get when it comes to credentials so i'm not interested in leaning into that comparison but he's no matt whitaker although as john mentions, it's possible that what interested donald trump most is the fact that he went along with a group of political pardons, clearly self-interested in the bush administration. we'll get to that later in the show but maya, i want you to weigh in on the same question as john which is why are we learning about the way cohen was brought into the special counsel probe tonight in your view? >> we're getting a very strong, very public signal that there is corroborating evidence. that's the way i read it. we don't have to just rely on michael cohen. he walked in there -- the
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mistake he made, which is not one that a very, very accomplished lawyer would make, by the way, is he walked in assuming he knew what the prosecutors knew and that's the thing you never want to do. he walked in, he was surprised, he wasn't expecting to be asked those questions about the trump tower moscow. he then lied, which was dumb. after that lie and in the remaining six sessions that he had he came clean and that's the kind of complexity of the story we're being told. here's a guy who's a career liar cheat. he was perfectly willing to do it again but like any good solid prosecutorial team they had more information. they knew that they had some facts that he didn't know they had. that means they can prove it without him. that means even if his credibility is impugned, they have additional evidence.
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>> which when you put it like that -- and we just got this so we're just making sense of it -- what you're saying is a very elegant, implicit rebuttal to the donald trump claim that, well, michael cohen is saying anything to get out of trouble so he brought this seemingly bad stuff to mueller and they're chewing on it. you're saying this footnote elegantly shows no here is the timeline we had a bad stuff. one extra witness but not our primary one. >> and cooperate with us and you'll be in a lot better position than if you don't because we're going to get you. >> i want everyone to -- stay with me, john. stay with me, everyone. there's a whole other filing from mueller raurdi iraurd -- r manafort. kende delainian has that.
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>> the special counsel is saying manafort lied about his interactions with konstantin kilimnik. in previous filings it was said kilimnik had ties to russian intelligence. there's an individual's name blacked out in the filing and the special counsel alleged manafort lied about that. robert mueller alleged manafort lied about a wire transfer to a firm linked to manafort, about another separate department of justice investigation that manafort offered information about and lastly the special counsel says manafort lied when he said he wasn't in contact with anyone from the trump administration, it turns out he was up until may of this year and because of all of that the special counsel has canceled manafort's plea agreement and he's facing 15 years in prison. >> when you look at that line
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does that relate in your view or is it possible to say to obstruction or the potentially collusion-related things since kilimnik is one of the potential russian-linked handlers here? to ken. >> oh, sorry. i mean, i think -- sorry, ari, i thought you were talking to someone else. >> i'm the anchor, i'm supposed to use names. that's on me. but to ken dilanian, can you glean what part of the problem that hits? >> i think kilimnik has been a mystery figure in terms of collusion and we don't know his role and it goes to the question of manafort's role in any contacts with russians during the campaign and because of the redactions, we don't see the full picture here. >> and appreciate your precision. bringing back nancy and our resident judge. i want to go to what more of mueller has said through the cohen filing because he's getting into the trump tower
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de deal. the company could have received hundreds of millions of dollars from russian sources. nancy, do you view this as an indication that finances might be at the heart of bob mueller's probe, money and not where it started publicly which was about e-mail hacking? >> well, i think that's how they got -- that's why they followed manafort. the litigation over whether or not the special prosecutor had a right to go after manafort. one of the things they said is they were following the money. following the money of the ukraine source to manafort and following the money is what they are doing throughout. but getting back to the sentencing issue. i am reminded that john dean, for example, when he testified
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before congress, i believe he did some time for his role in nixon's obstruction of justice. so the motion that cohen would get some time, i think this is right, would make some sense. that was apropos of your other question. but be respect to the russian issue, we have to step back, it's almost like we thought this case was about flynn, michael flynn lying about his contacts with the russians which, when if you recall, sally yates said that was an issue -- a concern about the russians might be willing to extort from donald trump or it was a way of influencing them because people were lying about russian contacts. so even a failed trump tower project opens the opportunity -- opens the door to the russians basically exercising influence on all of the trump players because they were lying about
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it. and the more significant the contacts are, the more significant and more substan usual the financial dealings were, the more the russians had on him and therefore that raises a whole host of other questions about russian sanctions, etc. so it's -- we've now opened the door much broader to russian influence, not just by dint of lying but by dint of the financial transactions. >> john, you almost get the feeling that they're good at this and people with more ethics or more government experience may have better resistance and this crew clearly didn't. >> i think that's true. and, you know, nothing can overcome the greed motive. until the recent disclosures, i didn't appreciate how much that trump hoped to profit from lifting the sanctions as well as the russians, as well as putin. but because of his investment in this moscow project and because
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he was being blocked by the same sanctions that were compromising the autocrats in russia, he had that, not just the white house he wanted to achieve but he had this question of the sanctions lift lifted it benefitted putin and himself. it's interesting to read the manafort document that's been produced and i only have a second to look at it but basically where they say he lied, that tells us what they have that's true and can be proven. and so that is interesting. they say on a couple occasions that he said something and when he was confronted with a fact he changed it and we can't ignore that he is at the same time sending information back to the trump team as to what he's being questioned about in this investigation. so you have him lying and you have option in cooperation with the west wing's team representing trump. that's significant. >> that's significant because
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there's been a lot of this that's boiled down to black and white where people think, oh, well, do you go after a sitting president for obstruction or not if that's the only thing and where does that go? but, in fact, as you allude to, john, at a minimum, we now have as of tonight bob mueller putting into the record and into court the two key people, the campaign chair and the long time person lawyer both actively came in and lied to him. now one of them got blown up over it, paul manafort, the other tried to dial it back in michael cohen but the question, then, any investigators question becomes what does that fit into at the white house. who knew about that? did others know about that? the fraud exception will come into play if you have employees of the white house or lawyers committing new criminal conspiracies and this is clearly implicated in here to say nothing of the campaign finance crime which is what i want to turn to next. i want to thank nancy for joining us. i want to thank maya, john, and
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ken and i may come back to each of you in our rolling coverage so stay close to your cameras. now i want to bring in neal katyal. a striking deal is that federal prosecutors as i mentioned in the southern district bring up donald trump in these new filings tonight. they say michael cohen not only made illegal payments but they say he made them in coordination and at the direction of individual one. that is donald trump. i'm thrilled as part of our special coverage neal katyal joins us and he argues as a legal matter prosecutors have concluded donald trump is on the hook for that felony. our viewers may recognize you. they've served in high parts of the justice department. i know when you speak about a felony, you don't do so lightly. >> to me the big news tonight is not about michael cohen, it's not about paul manafort, it's
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about one person, donald trump, and this filing that you just started to highlight that was made today in the michael cohen case really does for the first time you have federal prosecutors essentially saying that donald trump committed a felony. this is not a document by mueller. that filed by trump's own justice department, by the southern district prosecutors in new york and there are three pieces to the claim. the first piece is the one you just read which is from page 11 of the filing which says that cohen made these campaign finance payments at the direction of trump and we're talking about payments made for two women for having alleged affairs with trump and they were going to go public and what happened was cohen paid those folks and did so in a time when you're only supposed to give $2700 to a campaign and that's it for a very important reason. congress said we don't want rich people buying elections, we want
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transparency in our election process so in page 11 the southern district prosecutors say no, that was done at the direction of trump. then page 12 prosecutor's say the agreement's principle purpose was to suppress this woman's story so as to prevent the story from influence the election so they're taking away the trump defense which was in the edwards case, i was doing it to protect my private life. they're saying no this was done with the purpose of influencing the election then page 23, a long description by the prosecutors of how serious this violation of the campaign finance laws are. how it strikes a blow to our democracy. there's some pretty soaring language in there. you put those three things togeth together, the southern district federal prosecutors are alleging the president committed a
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felony. they're not indicting him. he has any number of defenses available to him but that's a document i haven't seen in my lifetime. >> what you're speaking to is the language of direction, you're saying legally makes donald trump in the eyes of these prosecutors culpable for criminal campaign finance violation cohen has admitted to? >> krekts. >> sr. th >>correct. >> do they do more with that? this is separate from the mueller probe. the idea that trump directed this criminal campaign activity? >> if this were any ordinary individual, prosecutors would be entitled to bring a case. what they've said here, they're saying that we have reasonable grounds to believe this and so presumably they have evidence besides michael cohen's own statement. they have some corroborating
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evidence to suggest this happened and they could under those circumstances indict an ordinary person. the justice department in two opinions has said you may not be able to indict and try a sitting president. now there are some disputes about that and maybe indictment, bringing the charges is different so there's one question about what can mueller and the southern district do in terms of can they indict the president. then there's a precedent realm in terms of what happens in terms of impeachment. the standard is high crimes and misdemeanors. >> i want to pause on that piece of your analysis because some of this gets into uncharted territory. are you basically telling us tonight, neal, that if donald trump had lost the election, this is the kind of thing that as a citizen he would be indicted for along with michael cohen and it's because he won the election -- which this new filing argues was part of what michael cohen thought would help
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him win the election was this crime -- that there's a reward? a bonus? >> exactly. those three statements that i isolated from the prosecutor's memo taken together established a federal felony and we have a principle in america that know person is above the law and at this point right now the thing is protecting the president from indictment appears to be not that he is law abiding person, there's a lot here to suggest there is a crime that has been committed and the only get out of jail free card he seems to be holding is the one that says well, i'm a president, you can't indict me, go home. >> so you're saying that's a huge deal, it jumped out to me as well in this filing in terms of journalistic rigor and fairness i want to make sure we explore the other side because this is an explosive thing. we're talking about a filing that talks directly to court
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about the president being an unindicted coconspirator not just in concept but what michael cohen has confessed to, which makes it worse for the president. but on the flip side of the constitutional arguments about indicting, isn't there a defense of the president that he may have been dealing with someone who was overzealous and did this the wrong way? that even if he directed the underlying activity -- hey, deal with this problem -- he didn't direct, quote/unquote, the criminal intent, meaning hide it, mislead the fec, that kind of stuff to a degree that it became a crime. >> sure, the president will be able to try to say something like i didn't intend it for campaign finance violations, i intended it to protect my family and personal life and this and that. and i'm saying what the allegations are in the filing of page 12 they say the principle purpose of the agreement was for campaign finance violations. if that's true it knocks out that defense.
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now it's going to be proven in a court, just like any indictment has to be proven in court, but what we're looking at is something that very seriously implicates the president directly in federal felonies. >> and i would ask you how the president might understand this but i'll go ahead and share and spoiler alert it's not much but he's posting tonight "totally clears the president. thank you." neal? >> yeah, i'm not sure he's read the filing. so i think if you read three pages of the filing, it's a pretty damning document and no one i know would want to be "cleared" in this way. >> i have to tell control room someone is holding down the button so i'm not hearing neal. the audience is getting more of you than i am, neal. say something else or give more
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analysis. now i can hear you. >> okay great. i think what the president is, like many people, willfully reading things that he's seeing and saying, oh, you know, this isn't a big deal, i'm cleared but the words are the words and the words are really darn damning right now and if i'm the president i am beside myself and frightened. i know the president has capacity for self-delusion but this is a hard one. those words are black and white on the paper. >> and then while i have you, the other big news is william barr appointed to be the new attorney general taking over from whitaker. you are in a position to know him and around him and know how doj works. what is your view of that appointment? >> it's a relief. we have right now a fake attorney general, someone i don't believe is constitutionally empowered to do the job so anyone the president nominates and gets through
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senate confirmation is a step up from what we have right now. number two, bar is an enormously distinguished qualified person who served as a great attorney general a while ago, two decades ago. the question to me is not what did he do a long time ago at attorney general, what are his views now? and he's taken views some have found troubling about the uranium investigation, calling for the president's targets to be investigated and the like. we have to see and figure out whether or not he has changed. donald trump himself used to be a democrat so people change in two decades and it's his current record that we have to evaluate and i think on the special counsel stuff i can tell you that back in 1999 when we were drafting the regulations, i think he saw eye to eye with the way we saw it which was the independent counsel act, that old statute after watergate was too strong a medicine and had dangerous constitutional
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ramifications and that the special counsel regulations struck the right balance because they allowed for an independent prosecutor and he testified on the hill and celebrated that idea of an nypd prosecutor sometimes when you have a politically sensitive investigation so at least if his old views are still his views today, that's a heartening step. it's not like what matthew whitaker said about the special counsel so, you know, my judgment is kind of reserved because i want to see what he said today but his old views were good. >> that's very interesting coming from you, particularly at a time when there is a rush, i think, with some reason to criticize what this president does no matter what. you're looking into the depth of this individual, his record on these issues and he'll go through a confirmation process which as we all know you often learn new things. neal, stay with our rolling coverage but i want to show the audience something that goes into the russia part of this.
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there are key parts of this cohen filing that, as we've been discussing, go into not only how the trump tower project in moscow was being developed and the idea of it being sold but why it was such import to donald trump and his company. mueller writing in court, new tonight, that it was a, quote, lucrative business opportunity that sought and likely required the assistance of the russian government and saying cohen was approached to set up a meeting between individual one -- that's trump -- and, yes, vladimir putin. according to the filing cohen was told this meeting would have a, quote, phenomenal impact not only in political but business dimensions as well and there was no bigger warranty than any project and the concept of, yes, that would be putin. here's cohen in 2015 talking about a trump/putin meeting. >> there's a better-than-likely chance trump may meet with putin when he comes here for the united nations. people want to meet donald
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trum trump. >> yes, they do. bringing in u.s. ambassador to russia, michael mcfaul who we asked to call in. neal katyal still with me for the law and ken dill ly dilania. ambassador mcfaul, this is a peek into the national security and counterintelligence premises of the powell is probe. do they check snout what's your wider reaction to what you're learning? >> we're learning cohen wants to get rich after the elections. and he had been focused on thato get rich after the elections. and he had been focused on that. he had been getting guidance about how to do that. i would concur that if you're trying to do a big business deal in russia, it's good to have president putin as your partner. and it's important to remember
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that they didn't think they were going to win this election when all these contacts and conversations were happening and michael cohen probably never thought he was going to go to the white house. he was always looking to cash in on his personal relationship with the president to do this big deal in russia. >>. i wonder if you would build on that ambassador. you have a sense of how normal government and officials and diplomats run and michael cohen was anything but. this was a man who didn't think donald trump was likely to win the campaign although he took acts on trump's behalf and didn't think he was going to end up in jail based on the reckless conduct and yet in a way both those things are on the table. prosecutors recommending four years, how does that contrast to say the way it's supposed to be done when people that might be in your position or are advising presidents and campaigns get into this murky world of
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becoming targets or becoming of interest to foreign officials. >> well, you know, i worked on barack obama's 2008 campaign. let's be clear. you said normal, right? to the best of my knowledge nobody was trying to do business deals with foreign governments during that campaign. that's crazy. it's absurd, nobody would ever do that. and number two let's be clear. we need to learn more but it sounds like the candidate himself was also involved in this, in these deliberations and that would be consistent with other negotiations he had. and number three i want to keep reminding people, ari, you talked about it before, let's remember, the same interlocutors they have in talking about doing what they're calling in these documents the moscow project are
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the same people who are the ones arranging the meeting in june, 2016, to help trump win, allegedly, let's keep adding that adverb, providing some kind of kompromat on secretary clinton to help him owin. it's the same group of russians. >> ken dilanian, your view? >> just to build on this, the reason that special counsel robert mueller has said that they were satisfied with michael cohen's cooperation whereas the southern district was not satisfied is because cohen kooptd cooperated extensively with the russian collusion indictment. and the document says he cooperated about contacts within and around the white house, the trump white house in 2017 and this year and that's the first mention of the mueller investigation reaching into the modern trump white house as opposed to the campaign.
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this document makes clear that donald trump lied and i don't use that lightly when he said in his first news conference as president that he had no contacts with any russians during the campaign. we had a hint of that with the trump tower moscow project but this document says that in september, 2015, trump personally conferred with cohen about reaching out to the russian government and it seems to be related to the trump tower project it seems to be the same individual who offered the campaign political synergy and synergy on a government level. now we don't know from this document what was said, what donald trump said, what cohen said but it looks like cohen was a target of recruitment here by the russians who are trying to infiltrate the trump campaign. and the last thing cohen said is he was talking about the circumstances of how he lied to congress and the circumstances of how he gave false testimony to congress. the implication is that it wasn't just michael cohen's decision to tell those lies.
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i think there's more to come on that. >> that's where the cohen and manafort filings both have clues about the notion that other people have been involved in these things. >> other people involved in obstruction conspiracies. neal, i'm curious about what you think of this odd use of the word synergy. people think of a meaningless word that is sometimes thrown around in corporation meetings like we'll all be synergistic. i'm not aware of it as a huge legal signifier. it seems like bob mueller went out of his way in that filing to refer to an alliance, a synergy between russia and trump officials without using the word collusion. do you read it that way or differently? >> that's fair. i don't think this is like mckinzie consulting speak. i think there's something important going on here. it's three things i would look to. number one, the trump tower meeting in june of 2016 which there have been so many shifting
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stories about and today it was reported that at least former mayor giuliani is saying that mueller believes that manafort lied about trump's knowledge and trump had knowledge of that meeting before it took place. that was there on june 30. that was contacted by the russians and fed is this information is what you say it is, i love it and the claim by some has been that trump has said i never knew anything about this, we don't know what he told mueller in his statement last week but that's one thing to think about. the second thing is this report that evidently there was going to be a $50 million penthouse for putin that was going to be paid for by trump and so on which would be a violation of the foreign corrupt practices act and as ambassador mcfaul was saying, why is everyone lying about this? there's so many different lies,
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lies from cohen, lies from paurt, lies from people all o r over. this is people who were -- these are campaign officials and trump's personal lawyer dealing with the russians and then lying about it. not just ordinary russians, but the russian government, the kremlin itself. the american people should have known that before the election and this was hidden. >> that goes into the connective tissue which is southern district prosecutors say things were hiddfrom the american publy michael cohen's criminal act which is were campaign crimes, no one can replay that and make a difference. certainly incriminating information about donald trump's life-style, if you want to call it that, was out there. then the manafort filing which we are just digesting and some of it i will hold up because it will remind viewers of something we've been doing all week which is some of the hottest stuff
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redacted but what's not reacted for your analysis, neal, and i know you're doing this live, is that there's an idea that there's a construction conspiracy between kilimnik and manafort. manafort lies about more than one thing. that he provided, quote, information about a different doj investigation so we see mueller saying here's a trump witness who will be saying something else but then that manafort changed his story with that and finally -- and i wonder if you think what the legal significance of this is -- what's not redacted is mueller saying that manafort initially claimed he didn't have any type of communication with anyone in the trump administration and he never asked anyone to try to communicate a message with anyone in the trump administration on any matter. that, of course, is contradicted by rudy giuliani and others boasting about their communications and then this in, again, i'm reading from the new filing, a text exchange from may 26, 2018 of this year, manafort authorized a person to speak
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with an administration official on manafort's behalf. >> wopt to -- i don't want to speculate on. that i want to read it before i have views. >> appreciate your precision. ken and john flannery, if you're still in the chair, we're going live with no breaks here, i'll put the same question out which is bob mueller to put in the plain english is saying, john, manafort lied to us and he was in touch. >> the plot continues, i would say ditto. the thing about the obstruction here is so strong. everybody is talking about what are they? they're consciousness of guilt. we cover it up to the last minute. even when we pretend to
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cooperate, we lie and run away. it is -- the fox is going to ground and mueller is as close as he could be to ramming speed. i don't know that we're going to have a seasonal present but he looks ready to me. and the question is will this be a family plan or the monies they have or will we look at the old gang? will we have manafort again with his former partner roger stone? the possibilities all seem reasonable and will they all be together. i think this will be a third fact a three-part act. one, here's the equipment we put in place, two, this is how we dispense it and three these are the americans who betrayed their country and compromised us and foreign policy is these guys can fulfill their inclinations.
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>> john, a lot of it goes to what ambassador mcfaul and others mention which is why are you lying. manafort is saying he has no contact with anyone in the administration about anything. that's a far broader claim than you need to make. you can be a defendant and you can talk to a friend who is in government about baseball or policy even if that is your passion and i won't go where your lawyers are talking about so he makes this sweeping denial and mueller busts him and says, no, you were doing in the writing. the arrogance, a text message in may to the administration and then says -- and i'm sure that there's going to be nervous people in the white house -- it says manafort said he'd been in communication with a, quote, senior administration official through february, 2018 and review of documents demonstrates additional contacts with, quote, administration officials. who are they? did they ever lie? >> well, this is the trojan horse approach.
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everything else, he was in a corner. he's facing a big prosecution in d.c. and he makes a false agreement and a plea at the end of this trail if he does it right he'll get a pardon from a questionable source and so he cooperates, he lies when he can and he conveys the information back to the trump people so they can prepare a defense and an attack on the investigation now i can't remember seeing a trojan horse strategy like this certainly in a presidential level. certainly in such a visible place but the reason we can get at these guys is because they're not that good at it. they talk publicly all the time, they talk inconsistently. they have strategies kids in the street wouldn't have and because of it luckily the republic may be saved and maybe some republican senator will find the backbone baker found during the watergate thing.
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>> not to make light of it but you only have to get through the first few episodes of season one of the wire to know not to send text messages. john, stay with me. there's a whole other piece to it. we're not taking breaks, with we're in breaking coverage but when you look at the filing on the southern district of new york, it hammers michael cohen for doing the opposite of what he claimed that he was, quote, cooperating but in the new filing we have, prosecutors say he wasn't cooperating enough and thus they represent he should get substantial prison time for extensive delivered in substantial criminal conduct. they detail that. illegal campaign contributions and of course false statements to congress. the prosecutors also rebuke cohen for what they call a criminal mind-set that at his own option he is above the laws of the united states. we have our experts back for this. i want to go to maya who has
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basically worked in that office. this looks to a lot of people like a stronger rebuke than you might have expected from the federal prosecutors there and they also go out of their way to say their way to sate wasn't full cooperation, maya. >> i think it's an understandable rebuke, quite frankly. as i said earlier, number one, this is an attorney. this is one who took an oath when he passed his bar exam that said he was going to uphold the laws and that he was going to hold the highest level of ethics as someone who was charged with the law. now what he also did was walked in, as we've said, and he didn't walk in and cooperate. he plead guilty and then started trying to cut a deal for himself that would help him out. there was some indication in some news reports that suggested that he was in fact holding out for a pardon and then kind of felt like he was getting thrown under the bus, so maybe it was
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in his best interest to paint a different picture of himself. i think what you're hearing from prosecutors is look, we don't like people who violate the law, particularly when they do it over a course of years, and then come in and try to play us. and i guess the dmx argument on sentencing didn't fly so well with them. they actually make a reference essentially to that argument that somehow he hasn't done anything as bad as some others, and then finally, finally, i think they're making quite clear while he has cooperated, it really does seem like he's done it in a way that was really about his best interests. let me just say one other thing about why it was in his best interests. because the district attorney of manhattan, as well as the state attorney general are also investigating what we're calling campaign finance law violations. they're looking at as state tax felonies and possibly misdemeanor crime in falsifying business records at the city
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level. so what that is really saying is you're not going to get a pardon if they find reason to indict you in this at the level of the city or at the level of the state. >> sure. look, maya, we discussed the dmx defense earlier on the broadcast. it says where my dog's at -- no it doesn't say that but it does say neal katyal that other celebrity types and prominent people have been delinquent on their taxes and some have avoided jail time. maybe michael cohen should get that light a sentence, that light a slap on the wrist. and as maya alludes to, that was wholly rejected in this filing today, starting with the fact that they really lay out that this was not a choice of full cooperation. he was dragged to it by his decreasingly optimistic outlook of what he could get away with. >> i totally agree with maya,
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who is a great southern district prosecutor and who has done this before. but i think i'd add one thing to what she said and what you're asking about which is prosecutors today went out of their way to say this campaign finance violation is really severe. they didn't have to use all the soaring language they used about the threat to democracy and things like that. so it's pretty powerful language. and to me it suggests that they are really steeling themselves and laying down a foundation to say these campaign finance violations of which there were two people involved, it was two to tango, michael cohen and donald trump are very, very serious. and so i think there is a second piece, a second move on the chessboard that's going on when you look at this filing today. and, again, it's not a filing by mueller. it's a filing by federal prosecutors in the southern district of new york that's extraordinarily significant. >> and i want to bring in
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jennifer rubin and also go to a broader point. jennifer is a "washington post" columnist and a conservative and a critic of donald trump. i don't want to wax too poetic here, but i wonder if we could begin by noting, jennifer, this is a president who has taken extraordinary measures identified by his own lawyers, some of them as potentially impeachable to try to shut down and undermine the doj and prosecutors and rule of law. i wonder if having gone through a lot of the details tonight, it's fitting to turn to you and look at what is working. career prosecutors doing their job, career prosecutors identifying individual one for directing this, because that's what the facts show. apparently they're not afraid of what that means or that donald trump will get in there. they don't have the same buffers that the mueller prosecution team does. and that i should note is the southern district of new york where donald trump famously invited then u.s. attorney preet
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bharara to trump tower for the very rare and unusual step of having a meeting with the person who is the prosecutor for his jurisdiction, trying to cultivate him, when it didn't work out, firing him. preet bharara has gone on to detail all of that. gosh, it looks pretty different now that we know that that is the office that was going to go forward and give a four-year recommended jail sentence to trump's then lawyer cohen and say that trump directed it, jennifer. >> right. i think there are about four or five key reassuring things that we can draw from the events over the last few hours. the first is that facts matter, and the facts in this case do not turn on the credibility of a single individual, whether it's cohen, whether it's manafort. obviously, the special prosecutor as a wealth of information. the southern district has a wealth of information, documentary, other witnesses, e-mails, texts. and so facts do matter. we've gotten so use to saying well, nothing matters because trump makes stuff up. that doesn't work in court
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because finally we have the facts that are presented to a court. a judge is going to rule on sentencing. this is the real show. so facts do matter. secondly, you have a slight difference of opinion here, which show house independent that southern district of new york is. remember, the southern district of new york is only involved with cohen on the issue of the campaign finance issues. mueller with everything else. he has perhaps been more helpful with mueller, which is why mueller is willing to be more lenient, but he really hasn't given enough or in the opinion of the southern district enough to justify a significant reduction in penalty. and so you see these two branches of the justice department, which are all under the executive branch, taking slightly different positions. that's not bad. that's reassuring. that's saying people are exercising their independent judgment based upon the specific case before them, which is different, and based upon the facts before them, which is different. so that should be reassuring,
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that all this bullying of the justice department has really amounted to nothing because people are doing their job and proceeding. i think the third point we should have is that it is going to be impossible i think at this point to either withhold a final report if we ever have a final report and/or fire mueller, because what he is doing and what the southern district is doing are now creating a parallel report, if you will, in the public domain through the courts, through these filings. so we are getting to know in realtime the extent of that information. you can't put the genie back in the bottle. you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube once that's out there. so in some ways they've created some protection for themselves. and i think the final thing we should keep in mind is knees people who have been enabling trump, whether it's rudolph giuliani, whether it's people in the white house who think it's fine to lie for this guy, it's fine to lie to the public, you can do whatever you want because
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your only client, your only responsibility is to trump, those people are in a heck of a lot of trouble, because those people may now be involved in actions which cute obstruction of justice. the fraud exception will make it impossible for lawyers to hide behind the attorney/client privilege. and this should be a warning to people who work in government and to lawyers that you must conduct yourself within the confines of the law. >> right. that you have ethical and legal obligations. >> exactly. >> i want to do a lightning round with my large mueller friday brady bunch panel here. yes or no, lightning round, yes or no, do the events and filings of today increase the legal exposure of individual one, donald trump? yes or no. john? >> absolutely, yes. >> nancy? >> absolutely, yes. >> maya? >> oh, yeah. >> neal katyal? >> 100%.
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>> jennifer? >> oh, yes. >> ken dilanian? >> the answer is yes because this has been the most consequential day yet of the mueller investigation. >> that is quite a statement given how many days there have been. i want to give a special thanks to our entire panel and the legal analysis here. and if you are joining us right now, you've been watching "the beat with ari melber" on a day when bob mueller spoke through speaking indictments and the southern district of new york spoke. and what we heard were two different stories that intersect with criminal activity confessed as well as alleged in the case of confessed and alleged with manafort and obstruction by people tied to the president of the united states. individual one, donald trump, identified for the first time for directing a campaign-related felony, a big day indeed. thank you for watching our coverage. and don't go anywhere because there is a lot more going on and a lot of news developing over the course of tonight. and chris matthews has you covered.
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ha "hardball with chris matthews" is up next. good evening. i'm chris matthews from washington. federal prosecutors in new york have accused the president of criminal violation of the federal campaign laws. they say trump directed -- that's the word -- lawyer michael cohen to cover up a campaign contribution in the form of payments to two women with whom he had sexual relations. this comes from the southern district of new york, not robert mueller, not the so-called 17 democrats the president says are working against him, not the deep state, not from a witch-hunt. it's from one of the two sentencing memos filed in the case of trump's former lawyer michael cohen today which are shedding new light on the president's potential legal exposure. as trump's long-time fixer, cohen pleaded guilty in august to campaign finance violations in making hush payments to two women on trump's behalf, and now tonight's sentencing memo makes clear that, quote, with respect to both payments, cohen acted in coordination with and at the direction of individual one. that's the president.


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