‘Put the paper down’: Trump lawyer pounces at MSNBC host in on-air spat over hush money case papers

Trump lawyer Joseph Tacopina reached for MSNBC host Ari Melber’s papers live on air as they argued over the former president’s hush money case involving porn actor Stormy Daniels.

Mr Melber was reading from a transcript of Mr Trump saying that he didn’t know of the hush money payment to Ms Daniels made during the 2016 campaign to prevent her from going public with her claim that she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006.

MSNBC played a clip of Mr Trump being questioned by the press on whether he was aware of the payment to Ms Daniels.

While Ms Daniels was paid by former Trump fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen, who spent time in prison on a campaign finance violation following the deal, model Karen McDougal, who made a similar claim regarding an affair with Mr Trump, was paid via the conservative tabloid the National Enquirer in what’s called a catch-and-kill operation.

Mr Tacopina claimed that Mr Trump hadn’t been lying when he said he wasn’t aware of the payments, prompting Mr Melber to read from the transcript at which point the lawyer reached for the document.

Cohen has handed over evidence to prosecutors, such as voice recordings of conversations he had with an attorney representing one of the women, in addition to emails and texts. He also has a recording of Mr Trump speaking about paying the other woman through a deal with the National Enquirer.

Cohen paid Ms Daniels $130,000 shortly before the 2016 election for an affair she claimed to have had with Mr Trump in 2006, which he denies. Cohen later pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.

Ms McDougal was paid $150,000 via the publisher of the National Enquirer.

Legal experts have said that Cohen’s testimony could be used in an effort to hand down an indictment against Mr Trump for falsifying business records. It would be a misdemeanour unless it can be proved that it was done to cover up another crime. No ex-president has ever been charged with a crime in US history, the AP noted.

Cohen spent some time behind bars following his 2018 guilty plea in connection to payments to Ms Daniels and Ms McDougal.

Cohen has claimed that Mr Trump reimbursed him for the hush money in monthly repayments which were inaccurately recorded as a legal retainer, according to The Hill.

“I want to get the benefit of your response,” Mr Melber told Mr Tacopina on Tuesday.

The host went on to read from a report by The New York Times.

“‘Prosecutors could argue that $130,000 became a donation to Trump’s campaign under the theory the money was silencing Daniels.’ So, two-part question. Why lie about this and why misidentify the payment if it was legal? And second, your response to that theory of the case?” he asked.

“This is Donald Trump paying with his own money,” Mr Tacopina said. “First of all, there’s a crucial distinction between separating campaign funds from personal funds, right? And on personal fund usage, here’s the bright line test. And it ends this case. It ends any case regarding Stormy Daniels.”

“If the spending or the fulfilment of a commitment or the expenditure would exist irrespective of a campaign, it’s not a campaign law violation. End of story. This would ... exist irrespective of the campaign,” he claimed.

“You’re making a potential defence that he would’ve paid this out, regardless?” Mr Melber asked.

“Not only would I say that. His lawyer at the time, who pled guilty to all sorts of lies and frauds, who’s now a cooperator, said that under oath. He said that under oath,” Mr Tacopina said, referring to Cohen.

“Outside of that campaign year, in his other many years on planet Earth, has he ever made a payment like this?” the host asked.

“I have no idea, Ari. I have no idea,” the lawyer said. “But Donald Trump is a litigious individual, who gets sued by a lot of people, okay?”

“And all the time, things are settled. I’ve represented hundreds of people in similar situations where they make payments for what’s called a nuisance statement. Look, $125,000 [sic] to you it’s nothing, but to me, it would be important,” he added. “But to Donald Trump, it’s what’s called a nuisance settlement, okay? And when you do that, it’s to make a problem, an embarrassing problem, go away. Doesn’t mean it’s real, because he vehemently denies an affair. So, it doesn’t mean it’s real or not. It means you’re settling something to not have to deal with the aggravation of it.”

“If all of what you say is true, then why was Trump hiding it and lying about it at the time?” Mr Melber asked and then went on to play the clip of Mr Trump.

“If that’s what you’re gonna consider a lie, a lie to me is something material under oath in a proceeding,” Mr Tacopina said of the clip in which Mr Trump denies knowing about the payment to Ms Daniels.

After a heated back and forth, Mr Tacopina said, “here’s why it’s not a lie,” before he reached for the paper Mr Melber was holding. “Could you put the paper down? Put the paper down. Let me answer.”

“Here’s why it’s not a lie. Because it was a confidential settlement,” he argued. “So, if he acknowledged that, he would be violating the confidential settlement. So, is it the truth? Of course not 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. So, by him doing that, by him doing that he was abiding by, not only his rights but Stormy Daniels’ rights.”

“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’,” the MSNBC host said.