"Of course" it's not true, Trump's lawyer told me...
Truth, lies, secrets and a clash as Trump weighs possible charges in NY
Hi! This edition picks up on the possible indictment of Donald Trump and what his lawyer just told me… plus other items.
If you’re new here, welcome to my newsletter! The new piece below is available to all, if you want to read all the entries and join my annual zoom call for full subscribers, you can always sign up to be a full subscriber here and support this work:
Most lies are legal. Some can be a crime.
Donald Trump is a proven liar. That does not make him a criminal.
The New York D.A., however, is nearing the end of an extensive probe into whether Donald Trump — as a person and through his company, agents and intermediaries — lied in criminal ways.
We know that question is central to the probe because of the witnesses and incidents involved, and from what people on both sides of this clash have confirmed.
Veterans of the D.A.’s office say Trump’s alleged lies about business, taxes, financing and payments to women have been under investigation at the office. Trump’s current lawyer is focused on some of the same issues, which arose when I interviewed him this week.
Joe Tacopina is an experienced New York trial lawyer.
Trump has hired him in case this gets to a trial — an actual indictment of the former President. (The Times made waves reporting that is now “likely,” but nothing is certain until the D.A. acts or closes the case.)
Tacopina argues Trump either did not lie about paying Stormy Daniels, or if he did, it was not a criminal lie to the authorities (such as fraud, perjury, or tax evasion).
The legal problem, however, is how much evidence shows that both Trump and his company did lie about this payment — and possibly other financial dealings. The Trump Org was recently convicted of fraud, and its CFO is in jail, so there is a lot for prosecutors to potentially build on.
“Of course it's not the truth!”
Here is one key exchange I had with Tacopina, where I played video of Trump lying about the payment and asked, “if all of what you say is true, then why was Trump hiding it and lying about it?”:
TACOPINA: Ari, that is -- if that's what you're going to consider a lie -- a lie to me is something material under oath in a procedure.
MELBER: Well, I didn't say perjury. I said a lie.
TACOPINA: Yes, but that's not a lie-
MELBER: That's not a lie?… Did you know about this? (holding paper with Trump’s quote)
TACOPINA: We don't need that (reaching for paper) - here's why it's not a lie.
TACOPINA: Because it was a confidential settlement. So, if he acknowledged that, he would be violating the confidential settlement. So, is it the truth? Of course it's not the truth. Was he supposed to tell the truth? He would be in violation of the agreement if he told the truth…
MELBER: .. it seems like we're drawing some blood here, because you're having a strong reaction. He did lie about it. And in a confidential settlement, you can easily say, no comment, or I'm not getting into it. He says - ‘No. No, I didn't know about it.’ But he did know about it, didn't he?..
In a case like this, it is striking for a lawyer admit to admit his client didn’t tell the truth. (The full interview is online here.)
Tacopina’s answers drew plenty of headlines, like:
Trump’s Lawyer Struggles to Defend Lie About Stormy Daniels Hush Money
Trump lawyer tries to snatch document from MSNBC host in heated segment about 'hush-money' case
The potential legal problem for Trump is if lies about this payment, and other finances, reached the authorities or built a pattern of lies misleading the government. Tacopina is trying to narrow the definition of lie and perjury, and to preview the kind of arguments the D.A. will face if he does indict a former President for the first time in history.
In other news…
We focus more on news about the world than “news about the news” around here, but I did want to flag some good media news in this here newsletter.
The New York Times has a big new story reporting:
“Ari Melber’s 6pm program outranked everything else on MSNBC — the first time in the network’s 27 years that a show outside the prime-time window of 8 to 11 p.m. took top honors.”
The article reports on the growing audience for The Beat and MSNBC, and tracks some broader shifts in how people get their news these days.
It also suggests The Beat is part of “the new prime time.”
Now, here’s something we all know from concerts: There is no concert without the audience. Woodstock with an empty field ain’t “Woodstock.”
So there’s no influence for our journalism, or no Beat at all, without you all supporting the work. So thank you for that! For real.
When we talk about all this at work, we try to keep the balance — doing reporting and interviews that matter, and are journalistic, regardless of any external/ratings/or political pressure… while also aiming for a strong, compelling show that people want to watch.
For me, that approach has always been an extension of how I got started, which is writing. A good writer wants to be read, of course, which usually means writing in strong and interesting ways — while good writers also want to be independent, honest, real.. not “selling out” just to get some readers (or, even worse, clicks! lol). So building the audience for our work is gratifying in that sense, and we will work hard at keeping our balance and standards!
P.S. What did you think of Mr. Tacopina’s defense of Trump? Tell me in the comments and I will respond to some readers per usual!
As always, you can watch our most recent Beat segments for free at msnbc.com/ari - bookmark and share that, especially with any young people who may not have cable!
Congratulations on your increased viewership! You are growing, Ari, because people are hungry for factual information. You work hard to give us that, and we respond to you by watching.
Here’s what I think about Tacopina’s defense of Trump. Have you seen Trump lately? His weariness tells me that HE knows Tacopina doesn’t have a defense. It was evidenced by his attacks on the “justice system” and “Cohen being a convicted liar and having a credibility problem.” It is a repeated phrase by legal analysts and commentators about Michael Cohen. However, but for Cohen’s testimony in the congressional hearing (2018), there would be no New York cases against Trump for anything, I believe. The legal community questioned if Cohen would flip; once he flipped and went to jail, he now, has no credibility. Well, prosecutors don’t flip the innocents, they flip accomplices, co-conspirators, and yes--Criminals! Ask Weisselberg!
Further, Democrats keep worrying about the country “becoming” devided, should Trump be charged. Only Democrats speak to such fear; Republicans only mention it to stroke that fear. It suggests a hesitancy and feebleness, in pursuing justice.
Ari is a MUST WATCH! Love his quick smart wit and smoothness with guests that NO ONE else gets! Also love when he throws in the occasional rap lyrics. Keep going strong Ari Sir!