The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 7/27/17 Democrats side with Republicans defending Sessions
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: July 27, 2017
Guest: George Lakoff, Michael Hirschorn, Michael Carpenter, Olivia Nuzzi,
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: And it starts right now. And, boy,
Ari, THE BEAT goes on and on and on for sure today.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: The beat goes on and what an hour could
be a theme for any number of hours in today`s political news cycle.
Thanks, Chuck. Appreciate it.
Donald Trump threatening to abuse his power. So, now, Republicans are
taking some of his power away.
There is so much noise coming from Washington right now, it would be easy
to miss an actual turning point today in the Trump presidency. The White
House exploring how to fire Jeff Sessions, but Republican Judiciary
Chairman Chuck Grassley now drawing a redline, telling Trump there will be
no hearings this year for any Sessions replacement.
That means Trump would be stuck with Rod Rosenstein as acting AG, the man
who enraged Trump by appointing Bob Mueller.
Today, John Cornyn and Ben Sasse also backed Grassley over Trump, setting
up a prospect that would actually be unthinkable in any other
administration. Members of the president`s own party, sitting him down and
saying, Mr. President, you have done such a bad job with the DoJ, you don`t
get to run it by yourself anymore.
These Republicans are essentially putting Donald Trump on a kind of DoJ
probation and they`re not mincing words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZA COLLINS, REPORTER, USA TODAY: Will the Senate take up a potential
alternative to attorney general if Attorney General Sessions is to be
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to the chairman of the judiciary committee,
the answer is no.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), IOWA: This effort to basically marginalize and
humiliate the attorney general is not going over well in the Senate. If
Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is not just senators reacting to media questions either. Ben
Sasse marched on his own to the Senate floor to, in his analogy, call bull
on the bull.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE, (R), NEBRASKA: If you`re thinking of making a recess
appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it. The
presidency isn`t a ball and this country isn`t a China shop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Whatever one thinks of Jeff Sessions policies, in the standoff
with Trump, he`s now having a “Departed” moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR: I`m the guy who does his job. You must be the other
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Yes. The president is the other guy because while Sessions is the
guy doing his job, the president is just offering criticism.
We can tell you the attorney general making a special trip to El Salvador
today. On his agenda, drugs, human trafficking, immigration issues and
that very violent street gang known as MS-13, all this while back home, the
president continues to put his job in doubt.
Joining me now, former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade, an Obama
appointee, who served under Attorney General Jeff Sessions until she, along
with the 45 other US attorneys, were asked for resignations.
Do you think this is fair and good for the Justice Department what the
president is doing to the man that you briefly served?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No. I don`t share the same
philosophies as Jeff Sessions about how to run the Justice Department, but
I do share the view that the Justice Department needs to be independent.
I know a lot of times in the public and in the media, we take our red state
and blue state views, but when it comes to the Justice Department, it
cannot be partisan. We need to have faith that the Justice Department
pursues crimes based on evidence and not on partisan politics.
MELBER: What do you think is in Jeff Sessions mind right now during all
MCQUADE: Well, you can`t ignore the fact that the president, who appointed
you, the president of the United States, regardless of who holds that
office, very high office, is saying things like you`re beleaguered and
doing a very bad job on social media, he has said it`s hurtful. And I`m
sure it is.
But at the same time, he has said he`s going to stay in his job. And I
think most of us are rooting for him to just sort of stand up to the
president and not kowtow to that.
It makes me wonder whether President Trump is trying to get him to resign
in an effort to be able to appoint a successor under the Vacancies Reform
Act and bypass confirmation in the Senate.
MELBER: I want you to stay with me. I want to bring in Nick Akerman.
He`s a former Watergate special prosecutor. As well as, Kathleen Parker, a
syndicated columnist with “The Washington Post.” Good to see you both.
Nick will also speak to the prosecutorial aspects, with Kathleen on the
politics. This is a tough one because a lot of conservatives still like
KATHLEEN PARKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Well, he`s
certainly more popular than Donald Trump is right now in Capitol Hill and
among the voters who put Trump in office.
I think Trump has been told - the president has been told that by enough
people by now that he`s made a huge mistake in going after Attorney General
But I have to - it`s a little head swiveling because, on the one hand, you
have the president tweeting these sort of humiliating messages about the
Attorney General and then the next thing you know Sessions is on his way to
tackle this horrible gang that the present is also enthusiastic about
So, it`s hard to know where the - what the dynamic is right at this point.
But I think, certainly, at the short run, President Trump is going to lose
this one obviously because he won`t have the cooperation of others in
And if he tries to just fire him outright, I think Sen. Lindsey Graham is
probably exactly right. I think he`ll have holy hell to pay. It might be
worth the price of a ticket for that to take place.
He might actually - I`ll just add one more. It might actually be the thing
that could cause President Trump to take a tumble. I don`t know if it`ll
be all the way to the bottom of the steps, metaphorically speaking.
What`s always been needed in order to move forward in some sort of legal
process to get the president a new address, it`s essential, of course, that
the majority of Americans - Republicans be enthusiastic about that.
And I think as he continues to go after Jeff Sessions in the way he has and
if he gets even more aggressive about it, people who would otherwise
forgive Trump, any number of offenses, might actually take a step back and
say, `you know, I don`t know about this guy after all.`
So, that could be on the - for those of us who have been appointed by the
president, that would be positive.
MELBER: Nick, have you ever seen a president be on probation like this
from his own party?
NICK AKERMAN, ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: No. Not only on
probation with respect to the Department of Justice, but don`t forget he`s
also on probation with respect to the Russian sanctions.
Both houses of Congress passed overwhelmingly a bill that basically
maintains those sanctions on the Russian government. So, you`ve got him -
MELBER: You mentioned the sanctions. I`m actually cutting in because Sen.
Markey is with us on THE BEAT, but there`s been a roll call vote, which
means I`m going to ask everyone to hang with us while I go to the senator.
Your view - Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts - on the conversation we
were - before I lose you to your actual day job; you might also be someone
doing his job - on what this means and why Republican senators, your
colleagues, are drawing this line on this issue?
SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, again, neither Republican nor
Democratic member trusts Donald Trump to actually impose sanctions on the
Russians because of their compromise of our elections last year. That`s a
The same thing is unfolding with regard to this story that he is trying to
fire Jeff Sessions. You don`t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out
what`s going on here.
He fired Jim Comey. He wants to get rid of Sessions. And then, he wants
to get rid of Robert Mueller and, he thinks, the Russian investigation as
well. So, these two issues are tied together.
The reality is it will create a constitutional crisis. It will be a
political firestorm. It will unite Democrats and Republicans in this
firestorm. In fact, both will be carrying the torches because this is
going to be an issue which goes right to whether or not we operate under a
rule of law or a rule of Trump.
MELBER: So, Senator, when you look at this and this Republican quotes,
should they go further and ensure there is not an actual formal recess to
ensure there will be no recess appointment?
MARKEY: The Republicans should ensure there cannot be a recess appointment
and the Democrats will use every parliamentary maneuver in our arsenal in
order to ensure that does not happen.
But, hopefully, it will be bipartisan. Hopefully, the Republicans will
come together with us to make sure that this travesty is not, in fact,
imposed upon our country at a time when we`re trying to find out whether or
not the Russians compromised our most sacred institution, the presidential
MELBER: And on healthcare, senator, you see this breaking news of
Republicans saying, three of them, they`re not going to go forward without
this agreement from Paul Ryan to work out the bill after a Senate vote.
Does that help or hurt the passage here of some kind of skinny repeal?
MARKEY: Well, right now, no Democrat knows what is in the skinny repeal.
We think actually that it is going to be a starvation repeal that`s going
to actually put the Affordable Care Act on a pathway for its destruction.
And so, right now, this Kabuki theater, which we have been operating
within, might wind up with this bill passing tonight, being sent over to
the House and then House and Senate Republicans getting together to then
figure out how to cut Medicaid even more, how to make sure Planned
Parenthood is killed, to make sure that the machete is taken to the
programs that really families all across our country depend upon.
So, this new announcement tonight by a handful of Republican senators gives
the American people no solace, no guarantee that anything other than a
terrible healthcare bill is going to emerge -
MELBER: But you`re saying - you`re worried that this is going to pass the
Senate, you`re saying, and do you think that then Trump`s efforts at
pressure that we`ve been hearing about with the Alaska senators and others,
does that mean that`s working?
MARKEY: Well, no, I`m not saying it`s going to pass. What I`m saying is
this is an interim maneuver by some Republican senators to say that their
vote is going to be conditioned upon knowing that when it goes over to the
House, if it does pass tonight, that there will be a conference committee.
But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will control that conference committee
and they have declared war on Medicaid. They have said that they want tax
breaks for billionaires. They have declared war on Planned Parenthood.
And so, ultimately, the result is going to be a healthcare bill, which is
damaging for tens of millions of American families.
MELBER: Sen. Ed Markey, I appreciate your time. I know you`ve got a vote.
We will keep up with you and appreciate it.
MARKEY: Ari, can I just - just congratulations on your new show.
MELBER: Oh, thank you. Senator, I appreciate you saying that.
All right. I don`t know what they say on the Hill. Good luck on the vote.
I want to bring back the power panel here. Two former prosecutors, Barbara
and Nick as well as Kathleen Parker.
Barbara, bringing you back into it, you heard the senator there call it a
potential constitutional crisis if there is a removal of the attorney
general over the Russia investigation. Is that political hyperbole?
You follow the facts and evidence as a prosecutor, not what they do
sometimes in the Congress. Is that an overstatement?
MCQUADE: Well, I don`t know how everybody defines that phrase, but I`ll
tell you what I think could be a potential constitutional crisis, is a
third scenario that we haven`t talked about yet.
Professor Steve Vladeck at University of Texas has thrown this one out
there. Under the Vacancy Reform Act, what President Trump could do is, he
would have the ability to appoint as an acting attorney general if Sessions
should resign as opposed to be fired.
If he should resign, then he could appoint as an acting attorney general
anyone who is currently a presidentially-appointed, Senate confirmed
official in the department - in his cabinet.
That could be Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who is a lawyer. In
fact, it doesn`t even have to be a lawyer. It could be Betsy DeVos. It
could be Rick Perry. Or he could look to senior officials within the
So, I think if he were to go - do something as outrageous as that, then I
think we would have a real constitutional crisis on our hands.
MELBER: Right. And, Nick, as you know, if that idea that Barbara is
raising is discussed enough on television, the president might hear about
AKERMAN: He might. And who knows. He`s probably thinking about it
already. I`m sure he`s asked his lawyers as to what his options are. And
I guarantee you that`s one of his options.
This is like a repeat of - what we`re coming out now is the 45th - 44th
anniversary of the Saturday Night Massacre. He is looking to get rid of
Anything he can do to protect his family, to protect himself, he`s trying
to do it. And the way he`s doing it is to get rid of the investigation.
And everybody has to ask the obvious question, why.
MELBER: Why. Kathleen, this is the part in the broadcast where, on
certain stories, I would say, to be fair to the White House, the president
has said, this is not all about Russia.
But as a journalist, I can`t do that because the president has repeatedly
said it is all about Russia. The only thing that he has cited that he is
unhappy with Jeff Sessions about is the Russia recusal. I went back and
forth with a White House aide about that on THE BEAT earlier this week.
They admit it. I mean, that`s just the situation. And take a listen,
Kathleen, to Leon Panetta, no stranger to Washington, saying he`s just
never seen any mistreatment of a cabinet official like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Never in my lifetime I`ve seen
a president who treats his cabinet the way this president has done. It
basically makes every cabinet member that much more nervous about what that
individual will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Yes. Well, Trump does not - he demands loyalty from others, but
he doesn`t have - he feels no compunction about withholding loyalty from
others. And I think everybody within his circle and also on the cabinet
recognizes this time.
Yes, he could come after anybody, any minute because there`s no - whatever
serves him in the moment is what he will do.
I doubt seriously that Jeff Sessions is going to resign no matter what the
president says or tweets or does. He`s probably not going to, for one
reason, he`s a tough guy and he`s committed to his job and to carrying out
the duties of that job, which is not to say we all agree with how he wants
to proceed, but he`s committed and he`s dedicated and a proven public
But also, he`s getting a lot of support. He`s getting - a lot for people
are getting in touch with him and saying, look, you hold tight, you do not
resign, don`t do that.
So, I think he`s going to stay put. So, the question is, what is the
president going to do. And will he go so far as to try to fire him
directly? And I don`t know - I think that our Congress will have to step
forward and take matters into their own hand.
Male: And that`s what we`re seeing, which is why the signal to noise ratio
is a little bit different this Thursday with Republicans standing up on
this particular issue.
Kathleen Parker, Nick Akerman and Barbara McQuade, thank you all.
Next, we turn, of course, to what we have later in the show, the skinny
repeal vote that the senator ran off with. I`m going to be joined for a
perspective on how this could affect women in particular with Cecile
Richards from Planned Parenthood.
Also, the unscripted drama at the White House. My very special guest,
first time on THE BEAT, Lawrence O`Donnell, who knows a bit about West Wing
And later, Obama`s former national security specialist on Russia is here in
a panel on why Trump`s hyperbole does work on emotion and how some suggest
You are watching THE BEAT with Ari Melber on MSNBC.
MELBER: There is a pretty famous saying among writers, I don`t like to
write, but I like having written. And that may be how Senate Republicans
are starting to feel about voting on Obamacare.
Tonight, as we`ve been reporting, they will roll through a series of
potentially difficult votes. Thus far, every Obamacare vote has failed
from a Republican perspective. But they are hoping that when it is over,
they will feel better having voted.
For more policy context, we turn to Cecile Richards, President of Planned
Parenthood. The skinny repeal, as you know, includes a proposal for a one-
year defunding of Planned Parenthood. Your thoughts?
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: That`s correct. Well,
Ari, I mean, this bill, as you`ve been following what`s happening on the
Hill, they literally - the House has declared martial law, so that they can
jam this bill through tonight or tomorrow without any public input, without
any public scrutiny because they know it`s one of the most unpopular pieces
of legislation they`ve ever tried get passed.
And as you said, it defunds Planned Parenthood, which essentially means
that millions of folks who count on Planned Parenthood right now for
preventive healthcare, for birth control and cancer screenings would not be
able to come to us anymore as early as this weekend or next Monday.
And in addition, this bill, even though it`s called a skinny bill, would
mean 16 million folks -
MELBER: Can I just pause you on that point?
MELBER: Did you say cancer screenings?
RICHARDS: Absolutely, absolutely.
MELBER: So, explain that - you`re saying if someone would come to this
organization for help with potentially a cancer screening, treatment,
preventive care, you`re saying that would also be affected?
RICHARDS: Absolutely. I mean, Ari, this is the thing that`s incredible
about what the Republicans are doing is, for - the vast majority of our
patients are on Medicaid. And they come to us for preventive services not
because, of course, Medicaid doesn`t pay for abortion services.
So, this is literally women who come to us for their annual exam to get
their Pap smear, their breast exam, their birth control. So, every single
thing that the Republicans are trying to end in this bill is preventive
healthcare that helps for early detection of cancer, prevention of
unintended pregnancy and the like.
And I think they have done this without any public input. And as you know,
the vast majority of people who have been calling Congress in opposition to
Trumpcare have been women. Estimates are as many as 86 percent of the
calls coming into Congress are women because they are desperately concerned
about losing access to care.
MELBER: Well, you`re bringing it up, let`s explore the point. Do you view
it as significant that it is some women Republican senators who`ve been
voicing some of the greatest alarm - Murkowski, Collins?
RICHARDS: Absolutely. I mean, Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Collins have been
incredibly bold in bucking the leadership and saying they know, in their
own states, that women depend on Planned Parenthood because women, they see
Planned Parenthood as a place to get affordable healthcare.
And it`s very, very clear. I was talking to Sen. Collins today. She said
there is no other healthcare provider that`s going to pick up the slack.
And again, I think that`s why folks are concerned. I do think that`s why
Congress has now declared martial law to try to do this before the public
has any chance to have input. It`s incredibly dangerous.
I think that`s why so many healthcare providers have come out against this
legislation. The Heart Association, the Diabetes Association, everyone who
is working on public healthcare is opposed to this bill, and I hope the
Republican senators are listening.
Cecile Richards is a healthcare policy expert and an advocate. Appreciate
your view. I hope you come back.
RICHARDS: OK. Good to see you, Ari. Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you. Coming up, they`ll all be fired by me. That`s a brand
new and real quote and it`s not from President Trump, but rather the man
you see on your screen, who`s also rumored to, according to Olivia Nuzzi`s
reporting, put out a statement this hour to further explain something.
That`s all we know, but we will give you more details as we get it. Why he
is on the war path against Reince Priebus and what the dysfunction of the
White House means for Trump`s governing.
Lawrence O`Donnell is here in three minutes. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM: Why are you so bent on carrying these idiot leaflets?
BRUNO: Because I am tired of working for candidates who make me think I
should be embarrassed to believe what I believe, Sam. I`m tired of getting
them elected. We all need some therapy.
DONNA: I`m assigning an intern from the press office to that website.
They`re going to check it every night before they go home. If they
discover you`ve been there, I`m going to shove a motherboard so far up your
JOSH: Well, technically, I outrank you.”
DONNA: So far up your ass!
JOSH: How are you doing?
DONNA: Are we ready?
JOSH: We are.
DONNA: I believe we are. You want to walk over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Emmy Award winning TV drama “The West Wing” offered a dramatic
lens on White House intrigue, but it had nothing apparently on real-life
threats, infighting and bullying in this White House.
The president`s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, has been
communicating plenty about his rival Reince Priebus in a new shocking
interview with “The New Yorker.”
Scaramucci unloading on the White House staff, saying “they`ll all be fired
by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I`ll
fire tomorrow. I`ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince
Priebus, if you want to leak something, he`ll be asked to resign very
He went on to attack Priebus in a vulgar way and to mock Steve Bannon for
building his own bread at the expense of the president.
Lawrence O`Donnell is the host of the Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell.
He`s also the Emmy Award-winning producer and writer for the West Wing,
among many other things, a former Senate consigliere and a friend of mine.
I appreciate you being here.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL:
Great to be here.
MELBER: Your views on what is happening.
O`DONNELL: It`s 6:28 PM here in the East Coast. And so, it`s family hour
MELBER: It is.
O`DONNELL: So, for the dirty bits of Scaramucci, 10 PM MSNBC. We`ve got a
call out to Joe Pesci to come in and read the Scaramucci part. I don`t
know if he`s available tonight, but we`ll send a car anywhere, Joe.
It is the most stunning stuff ever spoken by anyone who has ever worked in
the White House. That is in the history of the building.
MELBER: In public.
O`DONNELL: At any time. There`s no record anywhere in our history that
anybody ever whispered things like this backstage at the White House.
This guy, who I declared yesterday to be officially the stupidest person
ever to work in the communications of the White House, has now gone so far
beyond that description that you could never have imagined it.
I mean, you read the parts that have a certain kind of logic to them. The
sex act that he accuses Steve Bannon of doing by himself is something that
I`m not sure what parts of that - we`ll get to it at 10 o`clock, but we`ll
try because, because the president of the United States has decided he
needed to bring this guy in to upgrade his staff.
He has brought in someone who is stark, raving mad, who made a phone call
to a New Yorker reporter to leak to him and try to get the reporter to leak
to him who his source was on an earlier item. And the whole time he was on
the record and he apparently did not know that.
This guy is stunningly incompetent and unprofessional. And he`s not yet an
employee of the White House. This is a very important -
MELBER: Lawrence, let me press you on this.
O`DONNELL: He`s a visitor. He doesn`t work there.
MELBER: Does this matter because it is distasteful and vulgar because he
is as you unfit for the job, you used the word stupid or because somehow
it`s going to affect people`s lives?
O`DONNELL: Because this is the judgment of the President of the United
States. Every single word that this guy said to the New Yorker matters
hugely because it`s the judgment of the President of the United States who
knows this man well, who knows this is the way he thinks and talks, that he
wants him in the White House. This is the person he wants in-charge of his
communications, in-charge of in effect speaking for him. And what`s clear
about this is he speaks better for Donald Trump than anyone who has spoken
MELBER: You`re saying this - I want to - I have a new response I want to
play but it`s interesting, I want to revisit the point your making that
this - you`re saying reflects Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: He`s like Donald Trump`s little brother. He`s every bit as
deranged as Donald Trump.
MELBER: We have a brand new response because it is breaking a story and a
very Trumpian one and that it`s all occurring in the media and on Twitter.
Scaramucci now tweeting, “I sometimes use colorful language. I will
refrain in this arena but not give up my passionate fight for real Donald
Trump`s agenda. #makeAmericagreatagain.” Is that enough in your view?
O`DONNELL: No. There`s a big question as to whether he`s ever going to be
employed by the White House. His - the closing of the sale of his company
cannot happen before August 15th. And so, he cannot go onto that payroll
before August 15th. He`s done enough. There`s no other - there`s nowhere
else in government, no city hall, there`s no town hall in America where
this person would be employed after any of these words became public today.
There`s one place in American government where he might be allowed to work
after what he publicly said today and that is Donald Trump`s White House.
That`s the only place, but the next time Donald Trump tries to go in front
of an audience and pretend to have this new religiosity he`s found as a new
Republican and new Republican candidate for President and then President,
you can see how breathtakingly phony that is because this is real Trumpism.
This is the real thing.
MELBER: So let me - let me ask you the final politics question.
Technically he says he is an employee now but as you say -
O`DONNELL: He`s not - he`s not on the payroll. He goes in there with a
visitor`s pass every day.
MELBER: Right. He has -
O`DONNELL: He`s not on the federal government payroll. He may never be on
the federal government payroll.
MELBER: Last question on politics. I get attacking Reince. Why attack
O`DONNELL: Why do you get attacking Reince? There`s nothing to get in
here. This guy believes that Reince Priebus leaked that he was having
dinner the White House with the President and Sean Hannity last night and
that`s what his outrage was about. This is the guy who believes that
Reince Priebus leaked that and endangered the nation by leaking that
information. There`s nothing to get here. He is gravely mentally ill.
This is a gravely disturbed human being who should never be allowed through
the gates of the White House ever under any circumstances.
MELBER: And Lawrence O`Donnell do I tease Joe Pesci or is that a wait and
O`DONNELL: We`re begging Joe Pesci. Joe, please read the New Yorker
piece, the part especially that begins with a (INAUDIBLE) I`m not trying to
and all of those lines. Joe Pesci please, 10:00 p.m. You can phone it in.
You don`t even – no makeup. Stay at home on your sofa. We`ll send you
MELBER: There it is. Live reporting, live analysis, and live booking
request. Laurence O`Donnell, always an honor.
O`DONNELL: I`ve never booked my show before. This is my first attempt.
Joe Pesci, 10:00 p.m., please.
MELBER: Laurence O`Donnell, a big busy breaking news today.
O`DONNELL: My cousin Bennie goes to the White House.
MELBER: “LAST WORD” with Laurence O`Donnell, you know when it is, 10:00
p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific tonight on MSNBC. We appreciate it.
Coming up, what is the best way to actually take on President Trump? How
do you respond to all of this? We have a very special guest. Stay tuned.
MELBER: This is Your Brain on Trump. George Lakoff, a Linguist Specialist
is not a Trump fan but he is an expert on the mind. He warns never to
underestimate our new President saying Trump is not stupid. He`s a super
salesman. He knows how to change your brain and use it to his advantage.
So how do you respond to that, to someone who tries to actually change your
brain and emotion? Well, there are some three - about three responses
we`ve seen. One is quite common, echoing. You saw it during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Don`t worry about
it little Marco I will.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, let`s hear it big Don.
TRUMP: Don`t worry about it little Marco.
RUBIO: Gentleman, he`s always calling me little Marco and I admit, he`s
taller than me. He`s like 6`2”, which I don`t understand why his hands are
the size of someone who is 5`2”.
Donald, you`re a sniveling coward, leave Heidi the hell alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The echoing didn`t work for them, maybe it is working for the new
Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. We`ll discuss that in a
second. There`s another response, ignoring. This is sort of what Attorney
Jeff Sessions is doing. Trump publicly humiliating him for days, Session
just doing his job although he knows that the attacks are hurtful. A third
response is empirical, to fact check Trump. His opponents have tried it,
the news media does it, Republicans do it. What is the right response
thought to President Trump and the unique challenges he faces? George
Lakoff as I mentioned, is the Director of the Berkeley Center for the
Neuromind and Society. He predicted a year ago that Trump would win with
47 percent. Michael Hu, a former Reality TV Executive, and Trump critic.
George, you say that Trump has a new metaphor that the President is the
Nation. What does that mean and what`s the right way to respond?
GEORGE LAKOFF, BERKELEY CENTER FOR THE BRAIN, MIND AND SOCIETY DIRECTOR:
Well, first of all, when - there are metaphors that you actually live by,
you know. When you think about time as money, you don`t want to waste
time, you want to schedule your time, budget your time, et cetera. And he
is living by the idea that the President is the Nation and what follows
from that is that those people who like and love the President are those
who are the American people. So when you`re talking about the American
people, you mean Trump supporters. In particular, the idea of a leak is to
find relative to national security. That`s where leaks - the idea of a
leak comes from. It threatens the nation. So any leak that threatens the
security of the President is seen as a national security leak and therefore
it`s unpatriotic, it`s criminal, you know, people should be locked up for.
MELBER: Let me - let me jump in right there. That is what - I was just
discussing with Laurence O`Donnell, Anthony Scaramucci, the incoming
Communications Director getting blowback for attacking a leak, that
apparently the context of his suddenly controversial call to the New
Yorker. Here he is - this is literally how we show him echoing Trump right
down to the hand motions courtesy of the daily show there. What do you
think of that approach? Is that the frame you`re talking about that any
leak in his mind is bad for the country when that one was just political?
LAKOFF: If you live by the metaphor which is Trump`s metaphor, that the
President is the Nation, then that follows. Leak that threatens the
security of the President is a leak that is national - threatens national
security and is criminal and so on. It all just follows. It`s
unpatriotic. So -
MELBER: Let me bring in Michael for a second. You worked in Reality TV,
you talked about how the President is now governing this way. Put that in
the context of today`s vulgarity with Scaramucci saying well, he`s
colorful, maybe he didn`t mean to go this far out.
MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, ISH INTERTAINMENT CEO: It`s fantastic show biz and
that`s it. I wouldn`t necessarily give him credit for having been on
purpose but it is governing within a reality tv metaphor. And I think part
of the trick is for us to constantly educate the public that that`s what`s
happening. So for example, yesterday is now already forgotten Transban in
the military which was not real, right? It was a fake statement that the
President put out that was immediately rejected by the Joint Chiefs.
That`s the sort shiny object to get us going crazy. And there`s going be
one of these every single day as the Russiagate situation gets worse and
MELBER: And so, you say that Scaramucci does this almost not on purpose or
HIRSCHORN: I think it`s a little more primal than that but certainly this
idea that you know, we`re feeding the public basically a reality tv show
and that the public is not smart enough to understand the difference
between show biz and politics is in its own way a very intelligent
perception on the part of the President and I would give him credit for
MELBER: And George, if fact checking is limited, what is the alternative?
LAKOFF: Well, first of all, there are a number of things that you asked
about echoing, ignoring and fact checking. Let`s start with fact checking.
Fact checking, in general, does not work for those people who are followers
of Trump and it`s really not necessary for the rest of the country. But
the fact is that once you have a preemptive framing which is what Trump is
always doing and what Scaramucci is doing. Once you have a frame that is
set in motion from a particular point of view, then if you echo it, you`re
just repeating the same frame from the point of view. You`re helping the
MELBER: So let me - so George when he talks about Mt. Rushmore and then
everyone says, of course, he doesn`t belong on Mt. Rushmore, you`re saying
even the disagreement actually echoes his thing?
LAKOFF: This isn`t the echoing thing. This is what about calls truthful
hyperbole. That is, as a salesman, super salesman, you always say this is
the best product in the world. This is the best car you should buy,
whatever, and he is selling himself. So he`s got to sell himself as the
best President. And when you do that, you set up a linear scale of quality
of Presidents and what you`re doing there is saying I`m at the top. Now,
even if you say he`s not at the top you`re still on that scale. That scale
sets up a frame in which he is one of better Presidents, you know, even if
he`s lower down on the scale.
LAKOFF: So, he is doing preemptive framing simply in using that what he
calls truthful hyperbole.
MELBER: Wow. I`m going to pause here. Michael was saying this is
distractions from other big stories like Russia. I have to take break
because our next block is about Russia with a former National Security
Council Member on Russia. Michael Hirschorn and George Lakoff, thank you,
both. I`d love to have you back.
Coming up, how do you know if a Russian spy is trying to recruit you?
That`s what we`ll explain. Also, the fighting inside the west wing coming
too ahead, more on that, stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will tell you this. Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re
able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will
probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Wow. You know, that was exactly one year ago today. But what did
Trump mean with the word, Russia, in that sentence? This distinction
matters. Was he talking about the Russian government, or Russian espionage
service, or the larger network of hackers and business people who do the
bidding of the Russian government? Yesterday, a senior FBI official
testified about that before the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL PRIESTAP, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI: Unbeknownst to many Americans, the
threat posed by our foreign adversaries is growing both in volume and
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Russia actually uses business
relationships to corrupt and to influence people in other countries where
they are seeking influence, correct? Mr. Priestap, you`re familiar with
PRIESTAP: I`m familiar with both reports and my in my experience, that is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But how? How does Russia use business or corporate relationships
to influence people, and how do they do it without people even knowing?
The New York Times reporting in April, Russian spies were trying to recruit
Trump Foreign Policy Adviser, Carter Page, at one point, this is before he
advised the campaign. FBI agents interviewed him and decided he didn`t
even know he was being recruited by a spy. Now, Michael Carpenter was on
the Russia desk for the National Security Council, and joins me now. How
would this work where Russian spies would be going after an American and
they wouldn`t even realize it?
MICHAEL CARPENTER, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR RUSSIA, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:
Well, if they`re doing their job well, then the American might not realize
it. I mean, the way this works is you try to build a relationship. And
you start out slow and you work your way up until you have a more solid
relationship and one in which you can ask for certain types of favors or
certain types of information that the individual might not otherwise give
you. So, if you`re a think tanker, maybe you`re flown out all-expenses to
a nice location to participate in a conference, or if you`re in the
financial sector, maybe you`re given access to an influential oil and gas
company head, or you`re given some insider tips on a new deal that`s
coming. And so, you know, the Russian intel services are experts of sort
of cultivating these relationships over time, not in the first pitch,
usually, but with time they develop that develop that relationship, and
then they use it.
MELBER: And so, that is, of course, newly relevant because the questions
are, well, what were all these people doing at this meeting with Trump
officials, Manafort, Kushner, Don, Jr.? Take a listen to the Senate
testimony someone is saying they must have been fronts just like you`re
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Is there any
doubt in your mind knowing as well as any American how Vladimir Putin
operates, that Natalya Veselnitskaya was there acting on behalf of Vladimir
Putin and the Russian government?
BILL BROWDER, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: There`s no
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you think?
CARPENTER: I think Bill Browder is right. I think that –
MELBER: You do?
CARPENTER: I think Putin was almost certainly briefed on the meeting right
after it happened. I mean, I think there`s a lot of evidence that suggests
that this was a dangle, that this was an attempt to make inroads into
Trump`s inner circle. And by all accounts –
MELBER: And you`re saying – I just want to pause on this. I mean, you`re
saying, as someone who used to do the Russia desk at NSC, that this would
go to the highest levels of the Kremlin?
CARPENTER: That`s right. I mean, I – yes. I mean, based on my knowledge
of how these things are run, you know, when I worked at the State
Department, at the NSC, at the Pentagon, I mean, this is how they operate.
And they were wildly successful. They got, you know, the campaign
chairman, they got the President`s – or at that point, the candidate`s
son-in-law and his – and his son to all participate in this one meeting.
I mean, it was a huge coup.
MELBER: So briefly, what`s your response to Trump officials saying that
obviously, it had nothing to do with the Russian government, it was just an
adoption meeting, more or less.
CARPENTER: Well, I think some of the e-mail chains that have been released
suggest that there was knowledge, that there were links to the Russian
government. And this is exactly, by the way, how the Russian government
operates. They wouldn`t send officials from the embassy necessarily, or
someone with an official government title. They would send someone who
knows someone well at the top levels of the Russian government, which is
exactly what Ms. Veselnitskaya said. She said that she knew Yury Chaika,
the Prosecutor General of Russia very well. And so, there you`re given the
information that that person has links to the Kremlin. And then, you know,
you believe they have that type of information.
MELBER: Fascinating, concerning. Michael Carpenter, I appreciate your
guide through some of this complex material.
CARPENTER: Sure. Happy to be here.
MELBER: Hope to have you back. Tonight, the West Wing in some turmoil.
Anthony Scaramucci reefing his rivals in a new interview. I`ll be joined
next by Olivia Nuzzi, who`s been reporting on this, and is at the White
House right now. That`s a live shot. Come right back.
MELBER: There`s a word we use too often around here, but I will use it
accurately – unprecedented, the West Wing war that I was discussing
earlier with Lawrence O`Donnell, new Communications Director, Anthony
Scaramucci, threatening White House staffers saying, quote, “They`ll all be
fired by me.” And then he unloaded on Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as
well as Steve Bannon in a vulgar tirade, I`m not going to read to you on
air. Then moments ago, he tweeted, “I sometimes use colorful language. I
will refrain in this arena but not give up on the passionate fight for
Donald Trump`s agenda.” Not exactly an apology. Joining me now, Jamal
Simmons, Political Scientist and Democratic Operative, and Olivia Nuzzi, a
Washington Correspondent for New York Magazine. Olivia, you`re inside the
White House. What does this mean?
OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, things
are going well, clearly. This is a great day in White House
communications. Look, this is a complete and utter disaster for the White
House right now. But this is also the risk that Donald Trump wanted to
take by hiring someone like Anthony Scaramucci who has not historically
held a position like this.
MELBER: Do you think Steve Bannon takes kindly to the attack or doesn`t
NUZZI: I don`t think that he particularly cares. You know, I can`t say
that with any certainty, but I think from all that we know about Steve
Bannon, it seems like he`s someone who might take this in stride, who might
think that it`s funny.
JAMAL SIMMONS, POLITICAL ANALYST: Ari, there is this image that is
circulating in Twitter right now, Anthony Scaramucci sort of facing down
Reince Priebus in the Oval Office. He`s got his thumbs in his belt.
MELBER: Yes, we have it up on the screen.
SIMMONS: It is so thugged out. I mean, it looks like they are about to
end up in a brawl outside the door as soon as the cameras turn off. I
think this is – this is unprecedented. I`ve been around White Houses and
presidents since I was 21 years old, and I got to tell you, I`ve never seen
anything taking place like this.
You know, before we move further, something happened this morning that is
one of the scariest things that I`ve seen in the Trump administration,
which is that after the President put out this notice about the transgender
being prohibited from being in the military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chairman put out a statement saying they weren`t going to do it because
they didn`t actually get an order. What it appears to be is that the
military is choosing between Presidential statements and directives about
which things are going to follow and which things aren`t legitimate. It`s
a very dangerous path. I don`t think they – they didn`t defy him yet, but
the path they`re on is scary to me.
MELBER: Well, I think what they defied, Olivia, was governing by tweet,
and basically said, we won`t be pulled into the day trading ridiculousness
of this administration, but if we get a lawful and formal military order,
we`ll follow it, but tweets aren`t that.
NUZZI: Right. But which is in total contrast to what we heard yesterday
from the White House here in this room yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders
basically said, well, this is a decision that the President has made. She
admitted that he didn`t think that he needed to wait to figure out the
specifics and the logistics of what this would mean before sharing it with
the world. So, we have a President who is sort of behaving separately in a
way that`s almost divorced from the reality of how government tends to
MELBER: Jamal, 10 seconds.
SIMMONS: Yes, you know, I worked – you know, as I worked for General
Wesley Clark, I worked for Senator (INAUDIBLE) who was in the military.
These are people who understand the chain of command. And the one thing
you don`t want to have is people in the military having to ask questions
about the directives they`re receiving from the Commander-in-Chief. I`m
MELBER: I certainly think any ambiguity, Twitter or otherwise, problematic
there. What a big news day. Thank you to Jamal and Olivia. If there`s
one show I`d want to watch right now for all this, it would be “HARDBALL.”
And lucky for us, that starts now.
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