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tv   The Beat With Ari Melber  MSNBC  November 24, 2017 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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i hope you enjoyed those many deep dives. we'll be back on monday. in the meantime, enjoy the leftovers. happy thanksgiving. tonight, "the beat" goes to court. a special report. russia on trial. debating the evidence of collusion on location at the moot court in john jay college of criminal justice. where the former prosecutor and defense attorney present both sides of the trump-russia controversy to a live mock jury. now to tonight's host, msnbc chief legal correspondent, ari melber. >> hello. welcome to a very special edition of "the beat." we are at the moot courtroom today at the city university of new york. and this moot courtroom, like a
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real courtroom has places for the lawyers on both sides, a place for the judge, of course, a witness stand. all of this is part of what we're going to do today, test some of the legal arguments in the russia probe. we even have a jury. i'll speak about that. everything in the russia probe has involved a grand jury, 12 to 25 people gathered in washington. making decisions about the case. but it is all secret. what has changed now with two indictments, two trials coming, maybe more, is that there will be a public jury. and a public process to test some of these arguments. today we won't have a full trial simulation. we won't have a judge. we won't have rules of evidence or ask for a verdict to be rendered but we'll explore some of the key legal arguments because some of them will be tested in a public court. let me speak to our jury which are students from this college, john jay. all i'll ask you to do is to keep an open mind about the
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arguments you hear today. now, in the public realm, there's a lot of talk about the word collusion. but what you're going to be asked to assess are two types of arguments. was there a conspiracy between the donald trump campaign and russia to impact the election, if there was, did it go to the top, to the candidate? you'll notice that legal set of questions is different from the word we hear most often in public, collusion. >> the entire thing has been a witch hunt. there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign. >> i still maintain there is evidence of collusion. >> i was there. it is a total and complete farce. russian collusion is a farce. >> there is evidence of collusion. >> it has literally found zero evidence of collusion between the trump campaign and russia. >> the issue of collusion is still open. >> i believe tlches collusion. >> i did not collude with russia. nor do i know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. >> yes.
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there was collusion. >> intruly not involved in any form of collusion with russia. believe me. >> now to the arguments. we have two of the pre eminent lawyers to test out some of these ideas in the case today. a former federal prosecutor has done over 100 prosecution cases and he is currently a candidate for attorney general in illinois. and alan dershowitz is one of the most pre eminent attorneys in the country having tried over 200 cases. and he is the author of trumped up. each person will have four minutes to present their side of the case. renato for the prosecution. arguments go first. >> thank you. one year ago we were attacked by the russian government. all of us were the victims. you will hear from a representative of the department
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of homeland security who will tell you that 21 states had their voting systems penetrated by the russian government. you will also hear from the heads of four intelligence agencies, including the fbi, the cia, and the nsa who will tell you that they have concluded that the russian government was mounting an operation to undermine our election. you will see for yourselves the messages that were paid for by the russian government. messages that sought to pick people in the united states against each other to weaken us. messages where they sought to bring opposing groups together in the same spot to foment violence and conflict. messages sought to encourage people to secede from the united states and messages supported their candidate of choice, donald trump. you will hear from those intelligence heads that donald trump was the favored candidate of the russian government.
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now, ladies and gentlemen, what you may not know is that when foreign governments or foreign individuals he contribute to a united states election, that is a federal crime. and it is also a federal crime when two people agree to commit a crime. or agree to be part of a crime. that is called conspiracy. conspiracy is just a fancy legal word for agreeing to commit a crime. here you will hear not only the evidence that i told you about a crime being committed in the united states, the involvement of a foreign power in our election. a crime for which there can be no serious question. but you will also hear evidence that officials in the russia campaign were involved in that effort. that evidence will prove to you that those individuals were part of an agreement to have russian involvement in our election. that is why the united states
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has charged those officials with conspiring to obtain a foreign contribution in connection with an election here in the united states. so what will that evidence be? i would like the spend the next minute walking through the evidence with you. you will hear that the russians had someone at the top, a man named paul manafort. co-chair of the campaign who was trading influence with a russian oligarch. you will hear the testimony of a man named george papadopoulos who is cooperating with the united states. he will testify that he was receiving messages from individuals connected with the russian government who told him they had dirt on hillary clinton. and he will tell you that when he communicate that had to his supervisor, sam clovis, another co-chair of the trump campaign, that mr. clovis suggested that they send someone low level to russia to communicate with the russian government. who did they send?
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carter page who will testify that he traveled to russia and met and interacted with officials in the russian government. you will also hear that the president's son, donald trump jr., met with a representative of the russian government. she came and she offered dirt on hillary clinton, e-mails on hillary clinton, and you will hear in the same conversation, he told her they would reconsider their sanctions against the russian government. you will also see evidence of messages between him and wikileaks which is connected with the russian government. a foreign intelligence service. all of that evidence taken together will prove that there is a conspiracy to involve the russian government in our election. and i will ask you at the end of the trial to return a verdict of guilty on all counts. >> there you have some arguments. four minutes. a lot nakd there. when we come back, we'll hear from alan dershowitz on the other side of this case. ancestrydna is the gift of the season.
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welcome back to our special edition of "the beat." we are here in the moot courtroom at john jay college. we're exploring some of the legal issues in the russia probe. we just heard a presentation of the case against the trump campaign of a federal prosecutor speaking to a jury we've assembled of students. now we turn to the rebuttal of that case. that will be handled by john dershowitz and is the author of trumped up. professor dershowitz, you have four minutes. >> thank you so much. ladies and gentlemen of the jury, i'll sure you were convinced by the brilliant argument that russia tried to influence the american election. i was certainly convinced of that. the problem is that isn't a crime. maybe it should be.
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but it isn't. in 1812, the united states supreme court right after the founding of our country established a clear rule that said, there must be a statute before there can be a crime. we reject the approach of countries that say, you can make up crimes as you go along. the essential protection of our constitution is, statute first, crime only after the statute is clear. it is not a crime to collude with a foreign country. the united states has tried to influence many, many elections that have occurred in foreign countries. so i challenge my opponent to come up -- he mentions conspiracy. conspiracy is the broadest accordion like crime. but you need to have an agreement to commit a crime. it is not a crime for a campaign to try to get dirt on an point. i'll going to make the extreme
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argument to you right here and you will be surprised by this. hypothetical case. i'm a law professor. i'm allowed to use hypothetical cases. this didn't happen. hypothetical case. candidate trump calls vladimir putin on the phone during the election and says, vlad, do i got a deal for you. i want to be president of the united states. it want the united states to help you get rid of some statutes that impose sanctions. here's the deal. you help me become president of the united states and i'll help you get the statute changed. that would be horrible. awful. if it became public, nobody would vote for the candidate. it's not a crime. collusion is not a crime. it's a crime in one context, if two businesses collude to violate the anti-trust law. for example, if all the owners of the national football league colluded to make sure that kaepernick didn't get a job, that would be a crime under the anti-trust law. but it is not a crime simply to
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collude. and it is extremely, extremely dangerous to target people because you don't like them. yesterday it was hillary clinton. lock her up, lock her up, it's a crime, it's a crime. e-mails, the deal with russia, with uranium. it's a crime. lock her up. tomorrow, it's you. any of you in this jury box could be the target of a prosecutor who takes a statute like conspiracy and expands it like an accordion. to get you, it was the head of the soviet kgb who once said, to stalin, show me the man and i'll find you the crime. that's what's going on in this country today. it is going on by democrats trying to target republicans. republicans trying to target democrats. we have to go back to a system where we strongly oppose what may have gone on. there should be a bipartisan commission established by
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congress to look into the russian collusion. let it all be told to the american public. but let's not invent crimes out of political sins. our basic argument has always to be distinguishing sin from crime. sin, the punishment comes from -- crime, it is we who impose the punishment for crime. this is all about the rule of law. this is not about donald trump. i did not vote for donald trump. i voted for hillary clinton. i'm not here to defend donald trump. i'm here to defend the rule of law. i am here to defend you. i am here to defend every american from the misuses of the criminal law. thank you. >> professor alan dershowitz. when we come back, we'll hear reaction from legal experts on those arguments and from our jury. paying less for my medicare?
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one year ago we were attacked by the russian government. all of us were the victims. russia tried to influence the american election. i was certainly convinced of that. the problem is that that isn't a crime. it is also a federal crime when two people agree to commit a crime. or agree to be part of a crime. that is called conspiracy. >> and it is extremely, extremely dangerous to target people because you don't like them. you know, yesterday it was hillary clinton. lock her up. >> the russians had someone at the top. a man named paul manafort. today it is lock him up. >> the president's son, donald trump jr., met with a representative of the russian government. >> tomorrow, it is you. >> that evidence will prove to you that those individuals were part of an agreement to have
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russian involvement in our election. >> i'm not here to defend donald trump. i'm here to defend the rule of law. i'm here to defend you. >> welcome back to the special edition of "the beat" in the moot court rule at john jay college in the city of new york. we heard arguments from both sides. now we hear from our students who are keeping an open mind. just by a show of hands, who is now more convince that had there was a conspiracy that involved the trump campaign? and who is less convinced or more dubious based on what you heard? let me start with you, sir, in the back. what did you hear that made you less convinced the campaign might be involved? >> as the defense stated, collusion itself is not a crime. so i'm really a little bit dubious whether a conspiracy is enough to convict.
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>> who is more convinced and has a reason? >> what affected my thinking was when the defense made it clear that collusion is not a crime. it leaves open the idea of whether or not that is being used as a shield to cover conspiracy in an actual crime. to divert us a little bit. >> who else? >> the defense itself said the prosecution's argument was convincing. do i believe there was collusion? yes. it is a matter of whether or not it was legal. >> does anyone think it was hard to have an open mind given everything you hear? >> you hear so much in the media he, depending on which side you're on that is constantly supporting the side that you already heard. >> i move to have that juror dismissed. >> i think it is possible to have that open mind. especially in a court setting where you are remind that had it is not about the person but about the law. >> when aaron burr was put on trial at the demand of president
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jefferson, he went in front of the jury. he said how many of you based on what you've read in the media think i'm guilty? half the people raised their hand. he said your honor, i want those jurors kept. they're the only honest ones in this courtroom. >> it is a great point and it goes to what is difficult any time we have the rule of law which should apply to people even if they have powerful positions in politics. yet we have the rule of public pinch can distort the fair trial people are entitled to. i want to thank our mock jurors. when we come back, we'll hear from two more legal experts analyzing the issues in this case, including a former aide to president clinton who knows how the white house can work under the strain of an investigation. and then later, rebuttals from both of our lawyers today. remember how the economic crash
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>> i think the defense has the better argument here. i think renato had an argument given the evidence that has come out to date and we don't know what the mueller team knows and the investigation is ongoing. what we know now makes it a tough sell to say there's criminal liability. so based on that, i think the defense has the better of the argument. >> i imagine you say that even as someone who is concerned about public corruption and probably concerned about the evidence that shows russia did try to meddle. >> absolutely. but you need a crime to charge people with that crime. so i think the real problem is that given this stage of the investigation, we're not there yet. we don't know yet what the charges will look like. >> you're making such an important point. in public opinion we often hear a rush to judgment. the opposite of what the rules are in a courtroom. so what you're talking about is partly this gap between the type of arguments that can be made right now and what else investigators may find. that robert mueller has
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tremendous powers. and a lot of secret information that might lead to more or not based on what he's got. >> that's right. for example, on the obstruction side of things which today was not about, i think he's much further about and i think he knows where to go to get what he might need to complete that case. but on russia and the enter sxrengs the trump campaign's involvement, where we are now, it is not far enough for me to fill out the facts. >> same first question to you. >> to me what i was struck by, is that trials aren't ultimately decided based on the opening statement. i thought both sides did well. and the prosecution made a compelling case but you need to see what the evidence is behind it. the defense made a strong point that collusion is not a crime. but crimes are crimes. so we want to see, well, what specifically is alleged? what specifically did people do? the campaign finance laws, which were the basis for the prosecution, are no or the
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justly porous. there are some other things that may be a stronger hard criminal basis for something. just like watergate, this began with a break-in. that was through the door and this was through the computer. so you have a break-in. you have stolen property and you have the distribution of the property. and this time, you have e-mails. and everything we're learning is that a lot of people put a lot of dumb things in e-mails. and it may be that robert mueller has a lot more of that information than we even know right now. >> and dumb is not a crime. but intent to commit a crime is a key element. and you mentioned the e-mails. just in the past few weeks, more evidence of people in the trump campaign and even the trump family who presumably are in regular contact with the candidate, show an incredible resentmentivity to working either with russians providing dirt or wikileaks trying to coordinate. and that goes back to, what is
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wikileaks? >> by that point, from what we know, it was well known and certainly the campaign influence that wikileaks was working the russians and russian intelligence. and there's a federal statute that says hacking, aiding and abetting the distribution of hacked material is a crime. so what happened after they said hey, we have these e-mails, tons of them. it would be great if your dad could tweet about this. what happened in the campaign after that? that's the kind of real factual material that is very troublesome sflftrouble so some. this is just part of what happened in the courtroom west didn't go to a witness stand where you might under oath cross examine people. if you think wikileaks is speaking agency a publisher or an agent of the russian government. jennifer, i wonder what you thought about something that alan dershowitz did, broaden out from the potential defendant to the principle.
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there are people in this country, some of whom don't like donald trump. and there are people who love donald trump. but the legal issues on russia have nothing to do with your feelings about donald trump. so professor dershowitz, seemed to move away from that and say there's a principle at stake that must be defended. was that effective and something we might see in the manafort or gates cases? >> i think it is a strategy. to take the focus away from your client but do appeal to the jury's sense, this is a broader issue. we need to talk about justice and it is not just about my guy and especially what party he is. there were some things i found objectionable. you're not allowed to say hue voted for or if the government gets my guy, they're coming to you next. right. that might not make it into real court. >> i think not. but generally it was very effective saying, this is not what we're about as a country to keep your eye on the bigger picture here. >> and part of what this shows he is the distortion we're in where this investigation is so
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focused on a criminal investigation. criminal investigations are narrow by definition. they're secret, we hope, by the way they're undertaken. and this is a political scandal, a national security scandal, as much as or more than the specifics of a criminal probe. but because congress is being slow at the very least, or incompetent or worse, in the investigations they're doing. we're all looking at mueller and at this criminal probe and that may not tell us some of the underlying really big questions we need answers to. >> we heard from our jurors who are right behind you. they came here with an open mind. what did you think? they didn't surprise you about their reactions, as people who aren't maybe steeped in it the way you too are. >> wasn't surprising. they were all over the place which is what you expect there a jury when you get 12 people together who don't know each other and come from all different walks of life. so i wasn't surprised they came
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to the courtroom with different views. they reacted different when i the arguments and end up in different places. that's what you expect. the trick as a prosecutor is to bring they will all together with a unanimous verdict. >> i was struck by the common sense but also so many jurors felt they learned something from the prosecution' meticulous laying out of facts. that suggests that even very proficient students here aren't as steamed in the details of this as journalists, as lawyers might be. this may be something of a big blur to a lot of people. and the fact of an indictment. the fact of a trial can focus people's minds. >> and that's the difference in the courtroom. it is not whether you like it. it is not whether you think it should have happened. it is not whether you want to prevent it. congress's brief and maybe voters will decide if they think one party or the other is not responsibly dealing with this threat from abroad. it is whether there was criminal
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liability. so we saw jurors wrestling with that which is a departure from what happened in politically polarizing discussions. we'll fit in a break, as you know, in court there are often commercial breaks. when we come back, we'll hear rebuttals from both our star lawyers on the case today. bet. and the best. which egg tastes more farm-fresh and delicious? only eggland's best. which egg has 6 times more vitamin d, 10 times more vitamin e, and 25% less saturated fat? only eggland's best. which egg is so special, i'd never serve my family anything else? for me, it's only eggland's best. better taste, better nutrition, better eggs. but he hasoke up wwork to do.in. so he took aleve. if he'd taken tylenol, he'd be stopping for more pills right now. only aleve has the strength to stop tough pain
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welcome back. we are back with our lawyers who have spoken on both sides of the russia probe. starting with you, your response to the evaluation you heard. >> well, the first thing i want to mention, i think the experts talked about this a minute ago. while the word collusion is not something with a legal meaning, there are actual crimes here. what i focused on because of the
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format, conspiracy to accept a foreign contribution in question, the united states election which is a crime. it is a crime for someone to knowingly and willfully make a contribution if they're a foreigner and it is a crime to aid and abet that. aiding and abetting is when you know there is criminal activity and you help make it succeed. but there are other crimes that can be committed here. for example, hacking a server is a crime. i prosecuted that when i was a federal prosecutor. and anyone involved in that effort. anyone who knew there was a hacking and helped make that succeed would be guilty of aiding and abetting that effort. so for example, if you knew that there was going to be a hacking of a server and you said i'll help you distribute the stolen material, that would be a crime. knowingly receiving stolen material is a crime if it is worth over $5,000. >> what did you think of the students who seemed to have questions about whether you carried the burden on this being
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he worse than quote/unquote collusion. >> there's no question that i think as one of the experts mentioned, i have happen strung by the format. i have no witnesses and four minutes to make my opening statement off the cuff. those are challenges. as you can tell, i have running out of time at the end. >> that's what's unusual. we're explaining how this works and what the limits are. a real prosecutor with bob mueller would have way more material than you. >> right. an opening statement might last for 40 minutes, 50 minutes, an hour. and there would be weeks of testimony. hundreds of exhibits. that's what i would expect in a case like this. and you would have as someone mentioned, narrow charges against a specific individual. george papadopoulos, sam clovis, whoever that might be. and those charges would be brought. and it would be narrowly tailored toward that specific case, as opposed to one grand case charging everyone which is
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what we did here to simplify it. >> and professor dershowitz? >> first one brief response. if you made it a crime to knowingly receive at the product of hacked information, the "new york times" would be in prison, the "washington post" would be in prison. they've all published material. stolen material from wikileaks, from the pentagon papers. the united states constitution distinguishes between receiving stolen goods of a physical nature and receiving first amendment protected information. so it is not a crime to use information that you know was stolen as long as you didn't participate in the stealing or in any way help the stealing. so here we have one fundamental disagreement that i think i'm right about as a constitutional matter. terms of the evaluation ifrgs very happy with the evaluation. i think it showed that my strategy seemed to have worked. my strategy was to immediately concede what i couldn't defend.
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i can't defend the argument, of course, the russians are trying to influence the election. i can't even defend necessarily the argument that there may not have been some collusion. >> so that's an important point. you concede what russia was up to and that there may have been collusion but you say you can still win. >> that's right. i think the most important aspect of advocacy is to concede what you can't defend. you must maintain your credibility in front of a jury. and then draw a line to say, look, i'm not going to argue there wasn't russia attempt. i'm not even going to argue that there was collusion. show me the crime. in terms of conspiracy and this campaign contribution, it can't be a crime under the constitution to make it a campaign contribution to get information, first amendment protected information. if i were in court, even after all the case came in, i think i would have a pretty good chance of winning. and nobody mentioned reasonable
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doubt. >> you mean jay-z's first album? oh no. i got you. i got confused. >> i was very pleased with the evaluation. i think it was right spot. on. >> and one more point of view and then i want to go to the obstruction conversation which we didn't focus on. is it good for a lawyer to see what we saw, i noticed some of our jurors repeating your thesis. there is a debate over whether collusion combined with conspiracy is a crime but i heard he jurors repeat that collusion is not a crime. what i do when i argue in front of jurors or an appeals court torsion give them pithy, easily understood concepts that make make their own. i try never to tell a jury this is what you should believe. i want them to come to the aha moment and have it their, a umt so it is harder to talk they will out of it when the jury is alone in the jury room and somebody is trying to persuade them.
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it is easy to talk they will out of dershowitz' argument but not easy to talk they will out of an argument they have taken on themselves. >> and that's a big distinction. the president continues to cast doubt on whether russia took part in this. he is making a different argument. on obstruction which we didn't focus on today. this is not a full mock trial. do you think that bob mueller, in this case, would have a separate grounds for criminal liability regarding obstruction of justice? >> i do. this is something that we also agree on. at least i believe we do based on our prior debates. but yes. in fact, i think there's more public evidence because james comey has already provided testimony that's in the public record that we can all view so i would have at least one witness. which is one more than i had this time. the question is, the president certainly has the power to fire, for example, the fbi director. the question is, can he do so
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for an improper purpose? so could the presses never exchange for a bribe fire the fbi director? i would say no. even though he has the power to do it, it is a crime. >> but it is the bribe that's the crime. you don't have to reach the other issue. africa president can't accept a bribe. if a president did it for the right reason to promote his own reputation. say president george bush pardoned casper weinberger on the eve of the trial. are we going to prove why he issue that had pardon if he didn't get a bribe to do it? i think that would endanger everybody's liberty if we could make it a crime to psycho analyze a person's mixed motive and turn that into criminal conduct. >> we always psycho analyze a defendant's conduct when they're on trial. >> if there's a criminal act. >> first of all, there's a difference between a pardon and firing the fbi director to obstruct an investigation. a pardon by its nature will
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derail a judicial process. that's the point of a pardon. but if you are firing the fbi director to end an investigation, and that is your purpose. if he said, for example, i am firing the fbi director because i want to derail an investigation. >> that would not be a crime. >> we'll agree to disagree. >> let's assume the following. let's assume the president said, forget with the filibuster. i am ordering the investigation to stop. i am the president. the head of the executive branch. thomas jefferson did that. many other presidents have done that. you don't even have to have an attorney general. we have a real problem in this country. we should have a separate independent prosecutorial branch that isn't the justice department. the justice department has two roles. one, the minister of justice, and the other is the role to prosecute. in most other countries, those roles are separated. not in our country and that's causes the problem. >> so let's speak to the rebuttal of that and add the other news going. on donald trump talking openbly
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ordering the start of an investigation into a political point. professor dershowitz said he voted for hillary clinton. that apparently is the person that donald trump wants investigated. do you think that could be unlawful or unconstitutional? you're talking about stopping an investigation. what about starting one and could that arise as well. >> let me responds to that point. the issue was not that the president did so directly. the question is his purpose. so if he said, i don't want apply son investigated because he's my son and i will not allow him to be investigated. period. i think that that is a problem. that -- >> it's a problem but is it a crime? >> if he's doing it for an improper purpose. yes. >> so let me tell you what thomas jefferson did. he ordered his attorney general to indict set and prosecute aaron burr. he called the chief justice, john marshall, and said unless you get a conviction, i'll going to have you impeached. he then called in all the witnesses to the white house and said if you testify against burr, i'll going to give you
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immunity and a pardon. if you don't testify against him, we're going after you. that was thomas jefferson. the great third president of the united states. what did he was probably wrong. but it tells us what the framers of our constitution intended the role of the president, the head of the executive branch to be. >> so the rebuttal question is, does it tell us what the framers did or whether they fell short? because there are many -- >> both. >> there are many presseses in the 1800s that don't stand up great today. >> thomas jefferson owned slaves. he had a relationship with a slave. he's done a lot of things that were improper of. >> but they were legal at the time. >> i don't know if i would agree. >> you don't think owning slaves was legal? >> owning slaves was legal. >> a highly immoral thing. vk a relationship with a slave. i don't know if it was. but the long and short of it was that thomas jefferson had his personal failings. the question of whether or not it is a crime today. thomas jefferson is not on the ballot and he is not alive.
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a lot of things that may have been acceptable 200 years ago are not today. >> but are they criminal? >> i think they are. if the president of the united states ordered people the investigate his possibly and said i will give you immunity if you testify against my point. this was the exam will just offered. if you don't, this is going to be a problem. i'll going after you. hell yes. that would be obstruction of justice. >> let me close by giving you an opportunity. i give you each two sentences. >> i think the rule of law is more important than how we decide to go after particular political figures. if you don't like what trump did and i don't like what he did, in many respects, vote against him. campaign against him. go on the media against him. but don't stretch the criminal law to fit and target somebody you don't approve of. that endangers american democracy. >> i think if you care about the
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rule of law, you should care about the president of the united states trying to initiate political investigations of his points. and also, attack the fbi and the independent justice department. that is the real danger to the rule of law. >> thank you both. we'll be right back.
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taking victoza® with a sulfonylurea or insulin may cause low blood sugar. common side effects are nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, decreased appetite, indigestion, and constipation. side effects can lead to dehydration, which may cause kidney problems. ask your doctor about victoza®. we have a senate hearing.
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we have judiciary. we have intelligence. and we have a house hearing. i want them to get on with the task, but i also want the senate and the house to come out with their findings, and they say, no, we haven't found any collusion. there is no collusion. you know why? because i don't speak to russians. they're investigating something that never happened. >> continue our special edition of "the beat." one thing we didn't have in this mock trial courtroom today was any witnesses, and in any case that touches on the white house, there's always the question of whether the most important person in the country becomes a witness or gives an interview or testimony, and that is, the president. here is a look at that big issue. >> reporter: presidents have wrestled with testifying under oath as far back as thomas jefferson who rebuffed chief justice john marshall's 1807 subpoena to testify at aaron burr's trial. to comply with such calls would leave the nation without an executive branch, jefferson
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wrote. ronald reagan initially fought testifying before a grand jury in the iran contra affair and didn't do so until after he left office in 1990. >> today's questioning was behind closed doors. reagan was permitted to give video testimony rather than having to appear at the washington trial. >> reporter: gerald ford testified in a major criminal case while president, but as the potential victim, not a subject. >> president ford today testified as the defense witness at the request of lynette "squeaky" fromme. >> reporter: jimmy carter also testified on videotape twice while in office and richard nixon, whose term was cut short by an investigation, only actually testified after he left office. as for investigations involving conduct in the white house, george w. bush did an interview with the fbi about the leaking of a cia official's name and bill clinton testified in the white water inquiry. >> bill clinton, the first president ever subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in office will do so
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tomorrow. >> reporter: clinton testified about his contact with monica lewinsky. >> could you please tell the grand jury what that oath means to you for today's testimony. >> i have sworn an oath to tell the grand jury the truth and that's what i intend to do. i engaged in conduct that was wrong. >> reporter: as president, donald trump has not been subpoenaed, but he did say he's willing to talk with bob mueller. >> would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of -- >> 100%. i didn't say under oath. >> so if robert mueller wanted to speak with you about that. >> i would be glad to tell him what i just told you. >> reporter: that was before mueller indicted three of trump's former aides. if president trump does give an interview or testimony, he has far more experience than his predecessors. trump has been personally subject to more litigation than any president in history. >> you bet your ass i'd approve it. >> reporter: compared to his persona on stage, in depositions, trump is less
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brash, more muted, and even conciliatory. >> i don't have my glasses. i am at a disadvantage because i didn't bring my glasses. this is such small writing. >> your daughter told me in her deposition that you don't e-mail and i observe that that's because you're a very smart person. >> yes. we've figured that out. took a lot of people a long time to figure that out. >> when you say you think he would have gotten additional business, additional compared to what? >> maybe compared to where he would have been without -- >> without what? >> without, as you say, my running for office. i think my running for office potentially would have helped him. as opposed to hurt him. >> different presidents handle testimony different ways. i'm joined again by michael waldman who is not only a lawyer but was chief white house speech writer for president clinton and had a front row seat to some of the ways investigations affected him. first of all, what happens when a president gets close to having to give testimony? >> it's a very big deal,
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obviously. you're under oath when you're the president or any person, you can't get by with bluster or spin or charm. the stakes are just much higher. and the work of a white house can grind to a halt or at least always have the eye on this sort of thing, and in president clinton's case, he had to testify in the paula jones civil lawsuit and that's where he got himself into so much trouble, and then he had to testify in front of a grand jury, and that was something that was enormously anxiety-producing for the entire system. >> you say the entire system. what was it like being in a white house under that ongoing criminal probe? >> well, you know, what wound up being quite effective was there was really a pretty rigid segregation between the people who were worrying about the criminal probe, the impeachment, and everybody else. and the rest of us, by and large, our job was to try to do the job that the public
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expected, work on policy. when it's a mess, as it has been in this administration, is when people get into trouble. when an -- a passing conversation you have with someone in the hallway could lead you to have to hire a lawyer. and it seems as if this white house has had a really hard time understanding that these are real probes with real potential consequences and people should not all be hanging around in a meeting trying to concoct fake statements and other things that we know have happened. >> you say that and it makes sense, and yet donald trump entered the white house with the least government experience of any president in history, and the most lawsuit experience. he is, as we've shown, an experienced deponent. >> which is so interesting, because of course, as we know, he occasionally, let's say, has some difficulty with the facts and the truth when he speaks in public. by all accounts, as a witness under oath, he's actually been very careful. you haven't seen a lot of people saying, aha, see, look how he
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lied under oath in this case or that case or that case, all of which suggests maybe me he knows when he's lying in other circumstances. he needs to remember that he's -- he's under oath and the consequences of perjury even when you're the president. even whether there are clouds about what is and isn't criminal conduct are very severe. >> and you're saying court is the one place that has shown donald trump seems to know what he's doing or at least know when he's lying. >> in all the things we know about him, we haven't heard a lot of debunking of his testimony under these cases. i'm sure there's some, but a typical press conference has produced more facts that are in dispute than a lot of these lawsuits. >> michael walden, thank you for sharing your experience with us. that does it for our very unusual show. i want to thank john j. college of criminal just at the city university of new york, all our guests and the student jurors today. you've been watching "the beat" on msnbc.
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tonight, let's listen to trump in his own words. let's play "hardball." ♪ >> good evening, i'm chris matthews and washington, a year after donald trump's election, shocked the world, he remains unpredictable. tonight, we look at president trump in his own words. we'll examine the way he's conducted himself in the goldfish bowl of the oval office where he's delivered on the promises he made and how he's handled his many setbacks. the trump presidency has had, to put it charitably, mixed results, but it has never ceased to keep our attention.

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