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tv   The Beat With Ari Melber  MSNBC  December 13, 2018 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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tonight. i think three breaking news stories for one day is enough. we'll be back tomorrow with more "mtp daily." the beat starts right now. ayman mohyeldin is in for ari. i need to build a bigger show but we still only got an hour. you do too but good luck, man. >> i don't know if an hour is going to be enough, chuck. it is a busy, busy news night here in new york. thanks very much, my friend. i am ayman mohyeldin in for ari melber. there's a brand new criminal investigation into the trump inauguration. i'm going to talk to the "wall street journal" reporter who broke this story a short while ago. also nbc news reporting that donald trump was in the room for secret talks about hush money payments to women. plus, trump now responding for the very first time to the michael cohen sentencing. we'll have that for you. and conflicting reports tonight on whether jared kushner is being considered for chief of staff. but we start with the "wall street journal" reporting on a possible pay-for-play probe into
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trump's inauguration. federal prosecutors now investigating whether the inaugural committee misspent a portion of the $107 million it raised from donations. investigators trying to determine if the committee essentially sold access to the incoming trump administration. now, the probe being done by the same federal office, the southern district of new york, that prosecuted michael cohen. "the journal" reports the investigation partly arises out of materials that were seized in the federal probe of cohen. prosecutors reportedly obtained a recorded conversation between mr. cohen and stephanie winston walkoff who worked on the inaugural events. in the recording she expressed concern about how the inaugural committee was spending money, according to a person familiar with the cohen investigation. investigators have also asked richard gates, a former campaign aide who has pleaded guilty to lying in the mueller probe about the committee spending.
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this new probe going to a mystery around an early trump event. the inaugural committee raising nearly twice as much as barack obama's and much of the money never publicly accounted for. my panel on all of this, former watergate prosecutor nick akerman, ken dilanian and joining us by phone, one of the reporters who broke this rebecca. great to have you with us. walk us through your reporting in terms of what we exactly learned and what investigators are looking at at this moment. >> so what we understand is that investigators right now have two prongs to their investigation. the first, as you said, is that they're looking at spending by the inaugural committee, which hases disclosed where it spent $61 million of the $103 million it spent but hasn't disclosed where the other 50 or so million went. the other side of it is that they're looking at donors who gave to the inauguration and what they might have received in
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return for those donations. >> so how central to the probe are the tapes from michael cohen's office that we referenced earlier? why have they become so critical in this investigation? >> what we understand is this is partially where the investigation came from. there have been questions about the inauguration fund for a while. we know that mueller has looked into whether any foreign money went to the inaugural fund. but when fbi agents raided cohen's home, office and hotel room in april, they obtained this recorded conversation in which the top paid vendor for the inaugural fund expressed concern about how the inaugural fund was spending its money. we believe the investigation has grown somewhat out of that. we know they have also asked other witnesses such as rick gates who you mentioned and another inaugural donor, frank hainey. he's a tennessee developer who hired michael cohen earlier this year. and we understand that they're looking at whether there was
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some effort to get access through his donation to the inaugural fund. >> and, rebecca, really quickly, have you gotten a sense whether the investigation is focusing on a possible pay-for-play probe or is this more about the unaccounted funds of the inaugural committee? >> it seems to us that they're looking at all areas. as we reported, the investigation is still in its early stages, and we believe that pay-to-play is still very much a part of what they're looking at. >> have we learned any more about what rick gates has told prosecutors or shed light on for these investigators? >> we know that he's been asked about both sides of this investigation, so the spending by the inaugural and the donors who gave to the inaugural. he would obviously be in a good place to know. he was the deputy chairman of the inaugural fund and he also has a cooperation agreement that requires him to answer a question, so if they're looking, he might answer some of the questions about where this money
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went and who gave it, rick gates is a good place to start. >> and what more have we learned in your reporting about the role of first lady melania trump's friend? >> we lenders some interesting details, some of which have been reported previously. her company, which was the highest paid vendor by the inaugural fund, it was paid $25.8 million. it was a company formed 45 days before the inauguration. what's the most interesting new detail, i would say, is that wallkoff and some of her partners were paid about $1.6 million of the $25.8 million that her company was paid. the remainder went to subcontractors, a source told us. so we don't know who those subcontractors are. by law the fund is not required to disclose them, but we would expect that this is something that investigators would be very interested in. >> all right, rebecca ballhaus from "the wall street journal," thank you very much. nick, let me begin with you.
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the investigation that is now being led by the southern district of new york, the same office that led the investigation prosecution of michael cohen, a, how significant is that and, b, why them as opposed to an office from washington, d.c.? >> well, i think it's because it comes out of michael cohen. it comes out of what they seized in that search warrant in michael cohen's office, home and hotel room. what they're really looking at here is whether or not there is any kind of a quid pro quo for the millions that people were given to donate to the inauguration. under a fairly recent supreme court law, for the government to prosecute somebody for pay-to-play, they have to actually show that they paid for an official act. that is, they would have to give money to the inauguration with a promise, the quid pro quo, they would receive some kind of government benefit. so i'm sure that is what they're looking for. in fact if i were running the
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investigation, i would get the names of all the donors, line up the money, and then look in terms of whether their companies or they received any kind of federal funds. >> all right. paul, to that point, is that something that would have had to take time in order to see what was given in exchange for the money? what kind of charges could have been involved here if we're talking about more than simply access to attending a celebrity inaugural ball? >> yeah. so we're thinking bribery. as nick mentioned, it's against the law to receive or pay money in exchange for an official act. the supreme court case, mcdonald, does make it more difficult for prosecutors to prove because it turns out there's not a bright line between politicians doing favors for people who are their contributors and what looks more like a bribe. but in addition to just garden variety public corruption, the inaugural committee was a
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nonprofit. there might be tax violations. there might also be theft. $107 million is a whole lot of money. where did the money go? prosecutors follow the money. there might even be reporting errors like there are with regard to the michael cohen campaign financing, because like that case, this is also about transparency in our democracy. if all these people are giving millions of dollars to the trump inauguration committee, we need to know who that is, where the money went, and why the trump administration seems to be once again covering up. >> so christina, this -- when i think of the list of investigations that president trump is facing, and i say president trump and associates of president trump, his inaugural committee, trump organization, trump university, this is another front that now the president is embroiled in an investigation into his inaugural committee. what does that say to you?
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>> for so long he's been teflon don. for 40 years that he's been in the public eye, things haven't seemed to stick to him. since he's been president, he didn't have to show his taxes. there's so many things -- we have the "access hollywood" tape. nothing has ever really stuck. the problem is if we remember back, remember, there's a conversation that the mueller investigation would be wrapped up by 2017 thanksgiving at the final hour. and it wasn't. and so we know that robert mueller is, as nick said, slowly but surely putting all the pieces together, trump university, trump organization, trump inaugural committee, trump as president, because this is a man who's used to grifting and massaging and greasing the wheels. anyone who lives in new york or new jersey knows about trump and the trump family. how they have conducted business, how they have shorted people consistently for decades on construction projects, how the money has never been straight. this is something that i think the president doesn't really think is a big deal. you can sort of see him a little frustrated because it's sort of, this is how he's always behaved. the problem is, this is the
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federal government and you're used to lying and you're used to having people around you lie. now we see all the people around him in his outer circle, his midcircle and now his inner circle, all of those lies are catching up to them and they're actually being held accountable. pretty soon the president will have to be accountable. >> we'll delve into a lot more of that inner circle in just a moment. ken, let me get your thoughts about the information prosecutors want to get or are getting from rick gates, s somebody who was at one point part of that inner circle and trump world. >> i covered the paul manafort trial. during that trial he testified that he had potentially misspent money from the inaugural committee. i remember that made news at the time. the associated press did a pretty detailed investigation looking at how that committee spent more than twice as much as the barack obama inaugural, but had really the same number of parties. so there's always been a question about where did the money go. then on the fund-raising side, there were examples of people
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who made large donations and made significant asks to the trump administration and got policy results. that seems to be what they're looking at. for example, robert murray gave $300,000 to the inaugural committee, submitted a list of environmental roll backs that he wanted and has basically gotten most of what he wanted according to "the new york times." that is exactly the kind of things that prosecutors would be looking at. >> nick, that is a high par, thou -- bar, though, when you're talking about quid pro quo. it seems at least two years into the administration those rollbacks have gone into effect. hard to say it's exactly what he wanted. how do you draw a correlation between the money donated as an investigator and prosecutor, between the money donated and the quid pro quo? >> you have to prove at the time that there was a quid pro quo, that there was an agreement. there wasn't even an expectation, it was either a wink, a nod, or something that said i'm giving you the money, but in return i'm expecting x, y and z. that's what the government has to prove. it's not just access.
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access is not a crime under the new supreme court decision mcdonald. >> ayman, one way the government proves that, what prosecutors do, is they use cooperating witnesses. and so one of those witnesses is michael cohen. >> you just got to the question i was going to ask you. how important is he now in this investigation? >> he's key. so we have this tennessee developer who gives a million dollars to the trump inauguration committee, and then he hires michael cohen to help him get a contract for billions of dollars with trump's energy department. that contract is still pending. they haven't made up their mind, but who has made up his mind is michael cohen. he's sentenced to three years. if he comes up with other information, was there pay-to-play, what was the deal, that helps him do less time in prison and helps the sdny learn the truth. >> chris, i'll give you the
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final word. anyone who thought the sentencing of michael cohen somehow suggested an end to his role into a bigger investigation into trump world this evening -- >> i don't think so. if you ever get confused as to what the answer is, just say money and then work your way backwards. it's not just michael cohen, the lawyer of donald trump, it's michael cohen the deputy chair of the rnc. if mueller is doing his due diligence, if the sdny are doing their due diligence, they're not just looking at the individuals who have money who have possibly been doing pay-to-play, but also why are certain members of the republican party so supportive of this particular president and what do they know? so this opens up a much larger conversation about not just the president but his administration and the larger republican party in the past two years. >> ken, final word to you. where does the investigation go from here? what is your big takeaway after what we learned tonight with this investigation? >> this is just another legal
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thorn in the side, probably not even the most damaging or dangerous one, but in a presidency that is increasingly dominated by and consumed by these various investigations. it's going to be something that trump is going to take more and more of the president's time going forward, legal resources, personnel resources. it's going to bedevil this presidency. >> a lot of people have said this week put the presidency under a tremendous amount of pressure. we've seen that on twitter and his reactions. i can only imagine what it's going to be like in the coming hours. coming up, nbc news confirming trump was the third man in the room for those talks about illegally paying hush money to women. also new reporting about the potential legal exposure for executives at the trump organization, including the president's own family. plus, a russian agent pleading guilty for trying to influence american politics and she's now cooperating with the feds. tonight conflicting reports about whether president trump may actually be considering his son-in-law, jared kushner, to be the white house chief of staff.
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one more thing on his plate. i'm ayman mohyeldin in for ari melber. buckle up, because this is a wild night of breaking news an we are just getting started. ♪ the united states postal service makes more holiday deliveries to homes than anyone else in the country. ♪ with one notable exception. ♪ ♪
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ami admitted to prosecutors that there was a meeting between michael cohen, david pecker and at least one other member of the campaign. the news tonight, nbc confirming that that third person was in fact donald trump himself. as first reported by "the wall street journal," this dropping just hours after trump's first response to michael cohen's sentencing. >> number one, they say it's not a campaign finance violation. number two, or it's not even under campaign finance. number two, if it was, it's not even a violation. number three, it's a civil matter. they put that on to embarrass on. they put those two charges on to embarrass me. they're not criminal charges. what happened is either cohen or the prosecutors in order to embarrass me said, listen, i'm making this deal for reduced time and everything else. do me a favor, put these two charges on. let me tell you, i never directed him to do anything wrong. >> so that's what trump is saying now in public. but today nbc news reporting the swirl of investigations and the
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prospect of subpoenas from a democratic congress in 2019 has the president worried about impeachment. with me now is nbc's carol lee and christina greer is back with me. carol, let me begin with you. does this report change trump's story on these huge payments? his story has shifted from not knowing anything about the payments to now saying what he said today. >> yeah, ayman, it just makes it harder for him to distance himself from this. i mean, you know, what we've seen is, as you point out, from the start the president had one story where he said he didn't know anything about it, you'd have to talk to michael cohen. it's just shifted and repeatedly changed and morphed over time. and then on a parallel track, you have various investigations that have revealed publicly different pieces of evidence. you know, this is just the latest one. the fact that he is the third person that was in the room having those discussions.
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that makes it incredibly difficult for the president to say i didn't know about this or i wasn't involved in that. and it also just adds more fuel to the fire of what my colleagues have been writing about which is he's increasingly nervous and the people around him are increasingly nervous that with all of this coming out and they don't know what's coming next, that his prospects for impeachment are only higher. so they are trying to kind of hold the guard on this, particularly with some of these establishment republicans who the president challenged in the 2016 election. appeared t and the fear is if those types of republicans start to break or crack from the president a little bit, that will embolden democrats and there will be enough of a coalesce ens around the idea of impeachment for it to go forward. >> there's been some concern about the functionality at the white house. hans nichols said the president
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didn't even come down to the office or the west wing until closer to noon. i'm curious to get your thoughts, carol, from your reporting, have you gotten a sense of what is the biggest concern for impeachment? what part of the investigation, even with this new investigation that "the wall street journal" is reporting about the inaugural committee, which out of the litany of investigations facing the president that the democrats could possibly pick up in 2019 is he the most concerned about, according to your reporting and the aides? >> well, i think actually it's kind of -- it's all of them. it's broadly the fact that you have the special counsel investigation and then you have the southern district of new york, that investigation. and then you have other investigations that are percolating about, the president's business ties. now this report in "the wall street journal" about the inaugural committee. it's just that there are all of these sort of you can envision it like trains on the track, that this white house feels like they can't get control of and they don't know where it's headed. that's what the concern is.
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it's very much about what's coming next and what else do you know. i will also say that for all the evidence that keeps coming out that we know publicly already in terms of the president is the third person in the room in this discussion with michael cohen and david pecker, that's just one piece. there's bound to be a lot more out there, and that's what the concern is. >> christina, let me ask you about the relationship between president trump, michael cohen. he stated that he's a liar. he said that he didn't know anything about the payments. he's also said that he never directed him to break the law. but then you also had michael cohen when he was pleading guilty saying that he was doing so at the direction and it's also a position that the federal government has now taken, that he was doing so at the direction of a person running for national office, individual 1. everybody believes that to be the president. is the defense -- can the president even use the defense of distancing himself from michael cohen? >> it is far too late. first of all, the president says he only hires the best people. so even if michael cohen is this weak liar, loser that the president has referred to as,
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why did you keep him in your inner circle for close to two decades. he's more than a low-level pr person. he was your personal lawyer who recorded lots of conversations at your request, right? and so these conversations now are going to come back and possibly haunt the president. i think that's really fascinating, and this is what carol mentioned earlier just now, but this is also -- we've seen the republican party behave like sycophants to this particular president. i don't know if michael cohen has gotten to them, we don't know. but if they either respect the mission, if they respect the party, many of them have been lockstep with this particular president, even when he's been egro egregious and and the thet cal to their principles and morals. however, there are going to be cracks in that foundation because this is a situation where a lot of them have to think about their own re-election chances. this particular president has been bullying many of them and they might get a little tired of that. also his base is sticking with him and they can be fine with
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him not saying prayers in church or just being a brute. whatever it may be, or consistently lying and moving the goal posts. but respectable republicans are going to wake up, hopefully sooner rather than later, and i think that's where the real fear of impeachment comes from, with not just the house with nancy pelosi in charge, but also some of his colleagues in the republican party in the senate. >> we'll see how that plays out in january. thank you both very much for joining us. ahead, the white house responding to those reports that trump is eyeing jared kushner for chief of staff. but first, mueller and federal prosecutors turning attention to the trump family business. we're going to have that when we are back in 30 seconds.
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tonight growing legal pressure on donald trump's family. trump in the room discussing hush money payments with michael cohen and the "national enquirer's" publisher, david pecker. cohen and pecker now cooperating with the feds. so is this man. >> replacing george this week is my chief financial officer, a n allen weisselberg. you think george is tough, wait until you see allen. >> he's allegedly involved in the hush money payment. prosecutors are saying was he granted immunity in return for cooperation. reportedly dishing about a business that michael cohen's friend, donny deutsch, called a criminal enterprise. >> this is just the tip of the
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iceberg. i really believe even post trump presidency, you're going to see the trump business empire being picked apart for the next 20 years. it's basically built as a criminal enterprise. >> so criminal or not, the trump organization is headed by a very small team. two of them, cohen and weisselberg, now cooperating with federal agents. the spotlight now on the remaining players, trump's children, don junior, eric and ivanka. >> why work for me, why not go someplace else? >> well, i actually did go someplace else for a year and ultimately sort of the siren's call of working on your projects threw me back there. the sexiest projects out there, the best projects out there. and honestly, being in this field, i couldn't want to work for anyone else. >> the trump organization hopefully will be everywhere globally and we'll continue to grow it, take what you made, such a phenomenal brand and continue to extend that really and make it just a family company. >> all right. so with me now are tim o'brien,
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executive editor of bloomberg view who wrote about the growing pressure on donald trump jr. back with us, nick akerman, former watergate special prosecutor. tim, let me begin with you. you look at this from where the prosecutors are standing. they're slowly squeezing people one by one, people that were part of the trump organization. allen weisselberg, michael cohen. are they squeezing these people more and more do you think? >> i think that's a classic prosecutorial strategy, you squeeze up from the bottom as you move toward the top. in allen weisselberg, they have someone who's been with the trump information since 1974. he was fred trump's accountant. in david pecker, you have someone who's had at least a two-decade relationship with president trump. both of those men can speak to issues and history that goes well beyond some of the current stuff that bob mueller is looking at, which raises the question, i think, as to whether or not the southern district's investigations will go well beyond where mueller started. some of that may continue to be
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a problem for the president after he leaves office, and certainly, i think, is going to get into the operations of the trump organization itself. >> let me pick up on that point that tim just brought up. you've got two federal investigations. how much of that do you think is a bit of their design to provide redundancy to one another, to protect one another, so to speak. there's all this talk about can president trump shut down the bob mueller investigation. this one also seems to be gaining traction. >> there's a lot to that. i think that's exactly what they did. i mean they had this search warrant that was executed in new york and they let the southern district go with a big part of this case and did that on purpose. if trump tries to shut down anything in washington, the southern district is not going to roll over. i was there for ten years. they don't call it the sovereign district of new york for nothing. i mean he's in big trouble, and this case is turning into a very solid case against the
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president. >> it seems like they certainly have a lot of momentum. one of the things that president trump has been known to say is his family is a red line. if the investigation, mueller or anyone came after his family it would be a red line, all bets are off the table. any power he has he could possibly exercise against that. we are at that stage now when you look at where these investigations are going, into the trump organization, which is a family business. >> i think actually that red line was crossed last year. bob mueller executed a subpoena on the trump organization for financial records last summer. i think donald trump jr. is clearly front and center in this investigation. it appears that he misled congress and may have lied to congress, which is the same thing the judge in michael cohen's case pointed out as one of the most egregious things he did. and i think today the president's tweeting sort of put this into three baskets today. he said i never directed michael cohen. none of it was campaign related. and michael cohen can't be
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trusted. the first two of those, there's ample evidence that he appears, at least appears to have directed both the campaign finance problems and the payments to stormy daniels and mcdougal as well possibly michael cohen's testimony to congress about the deal in russia. and then on whether or not this was campaign related, there's also evidence in the record now per the cooperation agreement with ami. they said that the partnership was engineered to influence and help the election. and then a third issue as to whether or not michael cohen has credibility, these prosecutors are veteran prosecutors. they are not only going to rely on michael cohen. they have e-mail, they have financial records, they have tape recordings. >> thousands of documents. >> so he's sort of shooting these empty defenses up in the air right now. >> and rudy giuliani is trying to suggest that in fact michael cohen is telling the truth and the president's answers to bob mueller should comply or at least comport with that part of the truth. donny deutsch described the trump organization as a criminal enterprise.
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what is your take on the trump organization from what you've learned about it? >> from what i've learned about it, it's just like the mafia used to prosecute. you've got the guy who's the boss on top and you have people who have various roles. it seems to be no different. i mean at least i must say the mafia bosses i pruosecuted werea lot smarter than donald trump and better organized. >> yeah, it doesn't seem to have at least with all the documentation that they have been able to gather that it was a smart operation. >> you don't have your own people tape recording you at the same time that you're in the middle of a conspiracy to pay off women to keep them quiet during a campaign. >> what does that tell you, that the people around him in his inner circle felt they needed to record these conversations. we don't know who directed them to record it, but if they felt they needed to record it -- >> because he always threatened that he was recording other people. so anyone working for him who thought at some point he might throw them under the bus, is going to tape him before he tapes them. >> do you think it's a criminal enterprise from what we've
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learned? >> i think donald trump has intersected with organized crime for decades in atlantic city and new york. he clearly had partnerships with people that had connections to russian organized crime. i think to say the whole thing has been a criminal enterprise is a stretch, but i don't think you need to say it's a criminal enterprise to continue to prosecute him for breaking the law. >> all right, guys, thank you so much. nick, tim, appreciate it. is trump's son-in-law, jared kushner, about to become the white house chief of staff? you heard that correctly. new reporting breaking new. also a bipartisan rebuke of trump. a new vote from the senate about the saudi crown prince. first drama in the courtroom. a russian agent admits to conspiracy against the united states. there is more to this story? stay with us. ♪ the united states postal service makes more holiday deliveries to homes than anyone else in the country. ♪ with one notable exception. ♪
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featuring the deli trio and. turkey, bacon, and cheddar, both on toasted ciabatta bread. served in a no-mess bag, they're almost too easy to eat on the go. so here are a few panni-dos and panni-don'ts. eating in a car. eating on a car. [screaming] uughh! while tackling errands. or getting tackled by a guy named aaron. huh? [buzzer] while working on your website. while twerking at a construction site. [buzzer] actually, i think that's a panni-do. try my new deli trio or turkey bacon and cheddar pannidos. delivered exclusively with doordash. and accessoriesphones for your mobile phone. like this device to increase volume on your cell phone. - ( phone ringing ) - get details on this state program call or visit today a russian national admitted to trying to influence u.s. politics in the middle of
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the 2016 election. maria butina pled guilty in a federal court to a conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors for failing to register as a foreign agent, saying that she tried to establish unofficial lines of communication with americans having power or influence over u.s. politics, and that she was working to benefit russia, and at the direction of a russian official that prosecutors saying butina was helped by a u.s. person who's been identified by law enforcement as her boyfriend, republican political operative paul erickson. she worked closely with nra officials, organized a ed to at the national prayer breakfast and asked the president a question which caused him to give this response about russia back in 2015. >> i believe i would get along very nicely with putin, okay? and i mean where we have the strength. i don't think you'd need the
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sanctions. >> all right. so butina wasn't prosecuted by mueller's office. putin denied even knowing about her. >> all right. with me now, tom dickinson, contributing editor to "rolling stone," and evelyn farkus. tim, let me begin with you, if i may. what was butina trying to accomplish for russia? explain it to us in simple terms. >> she was trying to open a back channel to have prominent republicans speaking to the kremlin and advance russian interests. that's the nutshell of it.
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>> and how significant are the developments today in the courtroom that she was trying to influence, you know, american politics in the middle of the election. she got a chance to pose a question. we still haven't figured out how or why she was allowed to ask that question or in what context she was called upon. >> well, she was working at the direction of the russian government. i mean at least officials in the russian government. she's now -- we've always had a sense was very suspicious and we now know it was a criminal conspiracy. she's the first russian national to be convicted in this wider net of russian influence of the 2016 election so it's hugely significant. i think there are a number of other shoes to drop still. >> i know, evelyn, that the president of russia, vladimir putin, says that no one knows about her. he said he asked the head of his intelligence agencies and they're all kind of like baffled about it from his reaction. but here's the interesting thing. the ministry of foreign affairs official twitter account, actually have her picture up as their avatar so it says something about it. are you buying that they don't
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know that or not? are you buying that argument that they're putting forward? >> ayman, not for a minute. first of all, you had foreign minister lavrov, the moment she was snapped up by the fbi, saying let her go, she's innocent. so clearly the foreign minister of russia knew who she was. you can bet the intelligence agencies in russia knew who she was. of course she was operating at their direction. i think the interesting thing about this is that this particular influence operation goes back before 2016. so actually tim has some excellent reporting on this. you know, she was -- she started working for russia in around 2010, and her objective was, yes, to influence united states politicians through the nra. and it was very clever and it was very russian. this is the same thing they did, they tried to get in with the far right in hungary, and they gave money to that party. same thing in france, they gave money to marine le pen.
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they would do it on the left and the right. in this case they tried the right. they thought the right was an easier target because of the whole religious thing that putin also uses domestically. but the lines converged with the trump campaign when it became apparent that he was going to run for the office. so all these various dots are getting connected. but it's important to understand that putin was already targeting america, and now butina became part of the trump story once he became a viable candidate. >> tim, should we be reading into the fact that butina wasn't actually prosecuted by mueller's office? does it say anything that she doesn't fit into that investigation about the larger russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, although that is precisely what the federal prosecutors are saying that she was trying to do? >> no, it's a little confusing and it may be this diversification of courts and jurisdictions that you were talking about earlier. and i think the other important thing that we need to note in
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this case is paul erickson has been deemed complicit in this conspiracy. so they had a man on the inside, according to the federal documents. i've spoken to his lawyer today and he says that paul is a good american and would never have done anything to harm america. but according to the federal court filings, this guy was complicit and knew who she was working for and helped her do it, helped her identify targets within the nra, helped bring these nra folks to moscow, helped them meet with top russian officials in moscow. so this was clearly well known in the highest ranking people in the russian government. so this was not some sort of, you know, covert side operation. like this had some sort of official blessing. >> all right, tim, evelyn, thank you guys both very much. another big story today, trump rebuked for his support of saudi arabia despite the murder of a "washington post" journalist and the horrific war in yemen. late today the senate passed a
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bipartisan resolution to pull back support for the saudi-led war in yemen. also saying that crown prince mohammed bin salman was responsible for the journalist jamal khashoggi's killing. although it is naonbinding, it s historic. ahead, white house chief of staff jared kushner? well, conflicting reports tonight about that, next. ♪ the united states postal service makes more holiday deliveries to homes than anyone else in the country. ♪ with one notable exception. ♪
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there's reports that he's considering jared kushner? >> i'm not aware that he's under consideration, but as i think all of us here would recognize, he will be great in any role that the president chooses to put him in. >> so that is not a denial by any measure. trump's press secretary moments ago saying she's not aware that jared kushner is being considered as the new chief of staff. "the huffington post" and cbs both reporting trump is eyeing kushner for the job. they reportedly met about the job yesterday. that report not confirmed by nbc news. now, of course trump's son-in-law was inside that infamous trump tower meeting with the russians. here's what trump himself said today about the job search. >> what are you looking for in the next chief of staff? >> well, i want somebody that's strong, but i want somebody that thinks like i do. it's my vision. it is my vision, after all. at the same time, i'm open to ideas. >> all right, joining me now is former pennsylvania governor and former dnc chair, ed rendell.
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great to have you with us. let me first, sir, get your reaction to the news that jared kushner possibly the next chief of staff at the white house. >> you're kidding. >> why? >> it can't be true. >> why? he's one of the president's most trusted confidants. he's been in so many high-level meetings and been given so many portfolios, why not one more? >> ronald reagan had james baker, bill clinton had leon panetta, george bush -- the second george bush had andrew card. these are people with rich and deep government experience. jared kushner has had some experience in these last two years, but didn't have a sufficient security clearance. we're going to make that person chief of staff? hardly. i mean it shows that i think if this is true, its only meaning that is no one who's got any credibility will take the job. >> let me play you the sound bite from earlier this week when jared kushner was asked about president trump's search for a chief of staff. watch this. >> the president will make the
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right choice for chief of staff when he's ready. hopefully he'll choose somebody he's got great chemistry with, a great relationship with that will help him navigate the next couple emerge to keep pushing forward. >> that was on monday. and on wednesday he interviewed for the position. when you look back at two people serving in this position prior to him, he had a marine general supposed to bring discipline and reince priebus a political operative and knew how government worked and then jared kushner saying what you just heard there about what he needs to bring in a new chief of staff. what happens if trump taps jared kushner. does he have those qualities? >> no, i don't think he has the qualities or the experience for the job. the one thing he does bring is good chemistry with president trump and someone who could be 100% trusted to do what president trump wants to do. i don't think general kelly fell into that category or reince priebus fell into that category. so this is really circling the wagon in the most egregious
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sense. >> let me play i what jared kushner told cnn back in october. watch this. >> i don't make a lot of noise. noise is sometimes made about me but i try to keep my head down. >> so is that an important kwaults for a chief of staff when you have a president who is so loud and domineering that you keep your head down and the news should not be about who the chief of staff is. let the president do his talking or do you -- you want to have a chief of staff who also makes his own headlines and is willing to speak publicly about the president. >> well, clearly it is not what i would choose. it is what president trump would choose. and clearly he wants someone who is going to fade into the background, protect him to the extent that he can and someone he can trust 1 hu00%. he's not interested in someone who will help make policy. because jared kushner doesn't have the background to help make policy or advise on critical issues. there are life or death military issues at stake here and he has no experience whatsoever to
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recommend himself to the president. it is a stunning choice and if it is true. and i'm not ready to say it is true. but if it is true, it is a stunning choice and just shows what disarray this white house is in. >> i was going to say, an important if there. and let me ask you this. jared kushner has been at the center of some of the president's controversies and there at the infamous trump tower meeting, how would him be elevated to the chief of staff, excuse me, put him under further scrutiny and a further microscope. wouldn't he be a liability for the president as his chief of staff? >> yeah, you would think so. you would think the president would try to get someone strong, who would exert some discipline, who has great credibility and governmental circles. and who is squeaky clean and not connected with the campaign. that is why this choice can only be made because no one else will make the job in my judgment if the choice is being made. >> according to the president, he has ten people who want the
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job, according to him. governor ed rendell, thank you very much. always a pleasure. his lawyer said he'll be the next john dean and now michael cohen is breaking his silence. breaking news on that, next. the united states postal service makes more holiday deliveries to homes than anyone else in the country. ♪ with one notable exception. ♪
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the united states postal service makes more holiday deliveries to homes than anyone else in the country. ♪ with one notable exception. ♪ michael cohen is about to speak out for the first time since getting sentenced, remember his adviser lanny davis said he has a story to tell and saying michael cohen will be the
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next john dean, the white house counsel who brought down richard nixon. and tomorrow morning he will speak with stephanopoulos. and now he is getting attacked by the president. >> you know michael. he has been on your show. >> we know. >> he's a good person. let me just tell you that, michael is in business. he's really a business man. a fairly big businesses, i understand. i can tell you, he's a good guy. >> this was someone who surreptitiously recorded. >> terrible. >> is now known as a criminal liar but someone in your inner circle. >> yeah. well it happens. look, it happens. i hire usually good people n. retrospect, i made a mistake. >> it was a mistake. so tomorrow a key democrat on the house intelligence committee jackie speier will join us here on the program. meanwhile, michael cohen sentencing gave the light night comedians a lot of material to look at. watch this. >> if you are watching from
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home, you're in for a great show. if you are watching from jail, then you probably work for the president. >> michael cohen was sentenced to three years in prison. he'll be in the prison's newly dedicated trump administration wing. >> 16 members of team trump had contacts with the russian during the campaign. >> if he was a rapper, his name would be collude-icis. >> and chris red had part of the mavericks with ari melber and revealed one of the characters during his snl audition to help him get the job. tanya, a flight attendant from atlanta. >> we were stuck in atlanta for 16 hours and she was cracking jokes. i don't know where the pilot is so i can't tell you where he is. it is like saying things that you shouldn't say on the intercom. there is one guy who was rushing to another terminal and he had a
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backpack on and she was like, don't run with that backpack on, you look like a grown baby. and he did. no one looks like an adult running with a backpack on. >> the full interview is up at msnbc.com/mavericks. that does it for me. catch me at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow orn "morning joe." "hardball" starts right now. >> more trouble for trump. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. there is breaking news from the "wall street journal" of a new criminal investigation involving the president. according to people familiar with the matters, federal prosecutors in manhattan are investigating whether president trump's inaugural committee misspent the record $107 million from donations.

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