The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 10/5/17 Reuters reports Mueller eyes Trump-Russia dossier
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: October 5, 2017
Guest: Maya Wiley, Joe Conason, David Berzonsky, Joan Walsh, Michael
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: Although Prague is pretty awesome any
time of year. We`ll be back with more “MTP Daily” tomorrow. But THE BEAT
with Ari Melber starts right now.
Ari, let`s go have a beer in Prague with Ivana Trump.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Sign me up, baby. Sign me up. Thank
you, Chuck Todd. I appreciate it.
Now, there`s big news in the Russia investigation tonight, about what Bob
Mueller is probing now. Do you remember Donald Trump`s very first press
conference as president-elect? It was bizarre.
Trump tried to counter concerns about foreign governments enriching him by
showing the supposed paperwork for creating new ethics rules for Trump
hotels. The folders you see there were shown later to be purely voluntary
He brought out a private lawyer there to press his case. And then he waded
into a controversy that Jim Comey had just told him about in their first
meeting at Trump tower. The dossier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank a lot of
the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that
was released by maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the
intelligence agencies, which would be a tremendous blot on their record if
they, in fact, did that. A tremendous blot. Because a thing like that
should have never been written.
It`s all fake news. It`s phony stuff. It didn`t happen. It was a group
of opponents that got together, sick people, and they put that crap
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was weird. Most Americans hadn`t even heard much about the
dossier at the time, but it clearly struck a nerve.
Trump`s response also unnerved Jim Comey. And it was what moved him to
immediately start typing away on an FBI laptop in his motorcade leaving
Trump Tower, spawning the now famous Comey memos, which Congress heard
about and which helped propel the appointment of Bob Mueller as special
counsel along with Jim Comey`s firing.
No one knew it then, but all those roads led back to the dossier. Now,
let`s be clear. That doesn`t mean the dossier is true. Any lawyer can
tell you about exciting, controversial, potential evidence that turns out
to be a nothingburger.
In fact, three Russians are suing a firm behind the dossier over libel
right now. But the news tonight is Bob Mueller is not yet dismissing the
dossier as a nothingburger.
Bob Mueller is investigating whether it is a something-burger. He is
taking over FBI inquiries into a former British spy`s dossier of
allegations of Russian financial and personal links to the Trump campaign
and associates, sources familiar with the inquiry tell “Reuters”.
Now, Mueller`s office declined to comment and that report comes amidst the
news that we brought you last night that the Republican chair of Senate
intel says their pursuit of the dossier hit a wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: As it relates to the Steele
dossier, unfortunately, the committee has hit a wall. We have on several
occasions made attempts to contact Mr. Steele, to meet with Mr. Steele.
Those offers have gone unaccepted.
And, though, we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to rebuild
backwards the Steele dossier up to a certain date, getting past that point
has been somewhat impossible.
Burr`s Democratic counterpart in the House had the same problem, he told me
in an interview last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: On the dossier, your committee also wants to talk to Steele. How
do you get someone with his background abroad to talk at all?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we made outreach to Mr. Steele
and we`ve offered, Mr. Conway and myself, to go out to London to sit down
with him if that`s a more comfortable way for him to participate and
provide whatever information he can to the committee. I hope he will take
us up on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The FBI has more than hope on its side. It has a history with the
dossier author, Chris Steele, including an initial plan for Steele to
contract with the FBI to continue that Trump research which then fell
Also, reports that the FBI got names of some of the dossier`s sources from
Steele. The question is whether those names lead to something that
There`s an old southern saying, the hit dog always hollers. Meaning, if
you`re making a lot of noise, maybe you have a guilty conscience.
Investigators don`t know, at this hour, whether the Trump campaign has a
guilty conscience. But at that first dossier press conference, there was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was disgraceful, disgraceful that the intelligence agencies
allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake. Out. And
that`s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do. I think it
is a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me is Katty Kay, is an anchor for “BBC World News
America”. Ned Price served as a spokesman and senior director at the
National Security Council under Barack Obama and also worked as a CIA
Katty Kay, the dossier is back. A lot of serious people are looking at it.
KATTY KAY, ANCHOR, “BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA”: Yes. I mean, the fact that
the FBI is considering this dossier, and yet we know there were some
mistakes in the dossier, right? There was the name of a company that was
wrong. There was a retreat location in Russia that was wrong as well.
So, some facts about this dossier seem to be wrong. But there must be
enough in this dossier for investigators to be taking it seriously and for
Mueller to be looking at it at all.
And the big question I think tonight is where is Christopher Steele.
Clearly, the senators wanted to speak to him. Adam Schiff wanted to speak
to him as well.
The senators were making it clear, we can compel you, we can get you to
talk to us, and that they would very much like to interview him to find out
what his sources were, in particular, and who was paying him.
MELBER: Well, he`s in a place where a lot of people speak like you do.
KAY: I`m afraid it doesn`t give me a hotline to Christopher Steele. I
wish I could deliver him for you, Ari.
MELBER: Ned, your view?
NED PRICE, FORMER SPOKESMAN AND FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR AT THE NATIONAL
SECURITY COUNCIL UNDER BARACK OBAMA: Well, that`s right, Ari. I think
there are some elements that have proven not to be true.
But I think when you take a look at the dossier in toto, you realize that
there are some components there that have been borne out over time.
The key report in the dossier is dated June of 2016. And Christopher
Steele writes in that report that the Russians will launch a multifaceted
effort to denigrate Hillary Clinton and to advantage President Trump, doing
so with cyber means as well as traditional means involving some Trump
campaign officials, including Paul Manafort.
All of that probably sounds very familiar because as the administration
first put forward in October of last year and the intelligence community
piled on in January.
MELBER: You`re raising such an important point. I want to pause on it and
I want to get fancy with you if you`re OK with that. The epistemological
question, how did he know what he knew then? If I take your inference,
you`re saying that by knowing it then and early, before everyone else did,
before the media did, before it was really public, that suggests that he
had good sourcing?
PRICE: Well, I think we can take a look at a couple of things to suggest
he has good sourcing. First of all, Christopher Steele is a well-known
entity within intelligence circles.
He was based in Russia for a long time. He was head of the Russia desk at
the British secret intelligence service. To that, he is known to CIA. He
is known to FBI. He actually worked with the FBI on their FIFA
investigation prior to this.
So, he is someone who is trusted within the industry. So, I think that
lends credence to this document. And I think you take a look at what he
produced in June, and that, in and of itself, does not suggest that
everything in the dossier is true.
But there is enough that has been corroborated over time that I think it
begs on the part of Mueller to take a close look at this and to actually
include it in his investigation to see if his team can get a better sense
of those sub-sources on whom Christopher Steele relied for this
information, some of which again has been corroborated.
KAY: Right. This is the key issue, right? They have to be able to talk
to Christopher Steele to find out how much of this is accurate, given the
inaccuracies that we know about in the moment.
And I think some of the skepticism about the dossier early on when
journalists were talking about it kind of behind the scenes in Washington
DC was some of the salaciousness, right? As soon as people saw, heard and
read about some of the salaciousness stuff, including the video, the
allegations of prostitution, they thought, wow, this is too far out there.
And I think that`s why the senators were clearly so frustrated. And I was
surprised at the pointedness with which Burr and Warner were talking about
Christopher Steele and the need to talk to him and their frustration about
not being able to get hold of him because, without him, they can`t know how
reliable those sources are.
We just don`t know that. I agree with you, Ned, there`s circumstantial
evidence that suggests that he was in on something earlier than most people
were in on something. That doesn`t in and of itself mean that his sources
are solid, right, the way through.
MELBER: Stay with me. I want to add into our discussion here, Michael
Isikoff, a chief investigative correspondent for “Yahoo! News”, who has
reported extensively on the dossier, including if Christopher Steele was an
FBI asset who assisted with a corruption investigation, which we had just
Michael, I want to add your reporting and views to this because Donald
Trump and his allies may wish the dossier would go away. But as I`ve just
reported, you`ve got a Republican chairman talking about, I want to get to
the bottom of this. You`ve got Mueller reports, according to “Reuters”,
looking at it, which you would expect, given his purview.
And then, add to this, for your analysis, the “POLITICO” headline here, the
hunt for Trump dossier inflaming the probe, “two Republican House
Intelligence Committee staffers” traveled to London this summer, trying to
track down, guess who, also Christopher Steele. Michael?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, “YAHOO! NEWS”: Well, I
think it is worth remembering that from what we know as Christopher Steele
was working on the dossier and developing this information, long before it
became public, he himself reached out to the FBI.
The account he has given is that he was so concerned about what he was
finding, he thought the FBI with whom he had a relationship ought to know
And there are at least two contacts, one in July and one later, August,
September time frame, when he speaks to, meets with FBI agents with whom he
had a relationship.
And so, I`m a little puzzled by why people are all excited right now that
Bob Mueller would be looking for it and we need to find out his sources and
sub-sources because one can presume that any FBI agent worth his salt
contacted by Christopher Steele back last summer would have been pressing
for that same information.
And it was information that Christopher Steele felt he could divulge
without jeopardizing the lives of his sources or sub-sources, he would have
given it to them then.
So, now, whether that led anywhere, whether that allowed the bureau to
develop information further that corroborated or knocked down some of what
Steele found or wrote, we don`t know.
But the fact is, from everything we know is Steele reached out to the FBI
long ago. There was contacts. The FBI had every opportunity to question
Steele about his sources.
MELBER: Well, and this goes to the point I raised at the top, Ned -
bringing Ned back here - the nothing-burger or this is something-burger.
Michael is saying that the FBI history here means it is a safe
circumstantial bet that they`re digging into the dossier, the dossier that
so upset and enraged Donald Trump that he acted in a way that Jim Comey
started taking the kind of memos he never used to take before.
And so, then the question is, what is from an investigative and
intelligence view, Ned, the hardest part of the dossier that Mueller would
be looking at? Is it the money trail?
PRICE: Well, it`s a couple of things. It`s the money trail, but it`s also
the so-called compromise, the potential that the Russians have compromising
information on Donald Trump.
And this goes back to the most salacious allegations that are in the
dossier and the elements that so riled up Donald Trump in that January 11
So, it`s the fact that - if the allegation made in the June 2016 reported
contained within the dossier that his campaign was colluding with the
Russians, but further to that, it`s this potential for compromise that
could suggest that the Russians could leverage information that they have
over Donald Trump and/or his associates to extract concessions, now that
Donald Trump is now the commander-in-chief.
MELBER: And, Michael, briefly, that goes back to the landing point, which
is did Donald Trump understand then, and does he understand now, that the
traditional role of our intelligence agencies is to serve and protect him
and they gave him that information to help him. Not as he put it in the
clip I just played to somehow hurt him.
ISIKOFF: Yes. I don`t think that`s how Donald Trump saw it or perceived
it. Let`s remember, it was James Comey, then the FBI director, who
personally delivered the dossier, or a summary of the dossier, to President
Trump, then president-elect Trump, when they briefed him on January 6th.
And I think it`s a reasonable assumption that that`s what tipped Trump off
at Comey and ultimately led to Comey`s firing.
Everybody else had left the room. James Clapper had left the room. John
Brennan had left the room. Comey stayed back because it was decided he was
going to be the one that was going to give this embarrassing, awkward
information to president-elect Trump.
MELBER: Because he drew a straw so short, it was like a sub-toothpick.
ISIKOFF: And, ultimately, was fired by Trump.
MELBER: Well, that`s one theory of the case. Michael Isikoff, Ned Price
and Katy Kay, thank you all for your reporting. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, did Vladimir Putin get help from Americans for the hack? New
reporting tonight on that question.
And growing pressure on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. I`m going to speak
with Democratic Congressman who has a new call for accountability. We`ll
And my live exclusive interview with the congressman who went to jail for
tax evasion after threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony. He is out
of jail. He is with Steve Bannon. You see there, that new picture. And
he is joining me live on THE BEAT.
I`m Ari Melber and we`ll be right back.
MELBER: We have some breaking news that just came into our newsroom.
Reports from NBC News reporter Ken Dilanian that investigators for special
counsel Robert Mueller “recently traveled to the U.K., London specifically,
to speak to Christopher Steele, the author of that infamous dossier.
Again, this news coming into the newsroom right now. Viewers of THE BEAT
may recall, moments ago, I was reporting on this issue because of a related
“Reuters” report about Bob Mueller working on the dossier and inheriting
the FBI inquiry into it.
Minutes later, as is so often the case these days, we have this breaking
report. NBC News reporting that Mueller`s office indeed has made contact
with this elusive individual, Christopher Steele, behind that controversial
dossier, and, of course, also the man name-checked in that unusual briefing
from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday when they
said they had hit a “wall” in reaching him.
The news right now breaking. Bob Mueller has not hit that wall. And for
more on this, I turn to Congressman Ted Lieu. He`s a member of the Foreign
Relations Committee, who joins me here on The Beat.
Congressman, I`m going to read this again to you in full because I know
that since the time you walked into our Washington studio, this news broke.
Let me just read it to you. Investigators from special counsel Robert
Mueller`s office “traveled to London” recently to interview Christopher
Steele, that dossier author. Your reaction?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: I think this is important news that shows
that the special counsel is not messing around. He is tracking down all
And based on various reports, it`s clear that at least some, or perhaps
many parts of the dossier, are in fact true. So, I am very pleased that
special counsel Mueller had a chance, at least his investigators, to
interview Christopher Steele.
MELBER: You say reports suggesting it is partly true, at least. Your view
of what this says about the Mueller investigation`s view of the potential
veracity and also why did they go to London? Why didn`t they try to get
Steele to come to the town you`re in?
LIEU: Mr. Steele probably didn`t want to come here. But however they got
to him, they did in fact get to him, and that`s good news.
You can tell a lot about the actions of the special counsel. When special
counsel Mueller first came on, he looked at the evidence, and what did he
do? Did he say, oh, I need to hire more investigators and look around?
No. He hired a lot of prosecutors.
You hire prosecutors in order to prosecute. And then, he convened a grand
jury. You convene a grand jury because you want to indict people. So, we
can tell based on his actions that he sees criminal behavior happening.
MELBER: I want to get your view on another big issue, which is the conduct
of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who play dual roles, family members of
the president, as well as government advisers to him in the White House.
That wouldn`t normally be even legal if they were, for example, promoted as
potential cabinet members, but they found a loophole, in that they are
advisers in the White House.
You have been speaking out, and I believe have a new proposal about this.
What is your view given the reports of their use of private e-mail and
other questions about them, their access to classified information at this
point in time?
LIEU: Rep. Don Beyer and I wrote a letter to White House counsel asking
for Ivanka Trump`s security clearance to be revoked as well as Jared
Kushner`s and that they should be investigated.
There are a number of actions they took that anybody else with a security
clearance would have had their clearances revoked. They, for example, not
only used private e-mail for official business, but they also tried to
reroute their emails through the Trump administration in an apparent to
hide those e-mails.
And this and Jared Kushner misled people in his first two security
clearance forms by failing to disclose all his Russian contacts. And the
“New Yorker” reported yesterday that Ivanka Trump engaged in real estate
fraud in 2012.
I was in the Air Force. I had a high-level security clearance. If any of
my colleagues had done half of the things Jared and Ivanka did, their
security clearances would have been revoked immediately pending an
MELBER: You`re saying as a veteran, and from your experience, you believe
they`re getting what, a special treatment?
LIEU: Absolutely. I don`t even know why they still have a security
clearance. It makes a mockery of the security clearance process. I`m sure
General Kelly is aware that they do not meet the standards for holding a
And keeping in mind, not only does this affect their integrity, their
actions they`ve engaged in, but they are compromised. So, foreign powers
know that they are in trouble and foreign powers can now leverage this
against Jared and Ivanka, they can threaten to leak information, whether
it`s true or false, to attempt to get them to do things.
So, this is a very big problem for national security. They should have
their security clearances revoked immediately.
Congressman Ted Lieu, on a busy news day, thank you for joining me. I
appreciate it. I hope to see you again on THE BEAT.
LIEU: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: And if you`re just tuning in, we have been reporting on this
breaking news from NBC News that the author of the dossier, Christopher
Steele, has made contact and spoke with the investigators from Bob
Mueller`s Russia probe. That is brand-new breaking news. We`re going to
have more on that throughout our hour.
Now, coming up, a BEAT exclusive. A former GOP congressman, Michael Grimm,
is out of jail and running for office and in talks, as you see here, with
Steve Bannon. But believe the dogged by this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL GRIMM, FORMER MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Let me be
clear to you. If you ever do that to me again (INAUDIBLE). No, no, you`re
not man enough, you`re not a man enough. I`ll break you in half. Like a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVANA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP`S FIRST WIFE: He`s still asking me for advice,
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was he asking your advice about?
TRUMP: He asked me, should I tweet, should I not tweet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He asked you, should he tweet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what have you told him?
TRUMP: I said I think you should tweet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I think you should tweet. That is new from Ivana Trump talking
about her conversations with her former husband, President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, the tweets are pouring in with fallout from NBC`S report that
Rex Tillerson called Trump a moron and that he considered resigning.
Today Trump tweeted, “Tillerson never threatened to resign. This is fake
news put out by NBC News. Low news and reporting standards. No
verification from me.”
The story, as you may recall, reported something Tillerson said that Trump
didn`t allegedly know about. So, his verification would be totally
irrelevant. And Tillerson did not personally deny the moron part in that
unusual press conference that he held yesterday.
Today, he was out with Mike Pence. And despite other reports about a wide
rift between Trump and his cabinet, there is “a reported suicide pact”
forged between Mattis, Mnuchin and Tillerson whereby all three cabinet
secretaries vow to leave in the event that the president makes moves
against one of them.
With me now to make some moves of their own, Joe Conason is editor-in-chief
of “The National Memo” and an editor-at-large at The Investigative Fund,
and Maya Wiley is a senior VP of social justice at The New School and a
former counsel to the mayor of New York.
Maya, I start with you. If there is a suicide pact, and it means, I
believe, some kind of Trump administration career suicide, nothing more
than that, what does that tell you about what it`s like? And in your time
in government, did you ever have any such pacts when you were serving the
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I didn`t need a pact.
Happy to say. I`d call it a survival pact, not a suicide pact.
WILEY: Because actually one of the things that happens in government is
you find your allies and you find ways to protect yourself to keep moving
the mission. And that`s actually a strategy that happens in many
administrations. And often, is about survival.
So, it may be more about the news coverage and not the actual relationship.
I mean, think about the fact that there was a pact at the beginning of the
administration, right, where there was Mattis and, I believe, Kelly who
said they wouldn`t be out of the country at the same time, right, so they
could keep the mission moving.
MELBER: So, this is more about having a squad.
WILEY: I think it is a posse.
MELBER: What would you call it?
JOE CONASON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE NATIONAL MEMO”: I think a posse sounds
about right. I mean, the whole thing is so disorganized that whatever they
can put together to try to protect the public interest and themselves,
their own reputations - one of the problems, Ari, with Donald Trump is that
he taints the reputation of everybody he touches.
We saw that this week Cyrus Vance and all the other stories, the DA of
MELBER: Right. Which we covered yesterday about the money.
CONASON: Who was, up until yesterday, had a sterling reputation, as far as
I know. But now, it looks bad because of his association with Donald
So, for Mattis, Tillerson, McMaster, these are people who had excellent
reputations one way or another up until now and now have to defend their
reputations, but also try to defend what they see as the public interest,
and it is not easy in these conditions.
MELBER: Right. And the military side of it, I think, matters because you
have people who have, at least previously shown, nonpartisan credentials.
There is a very interesting tweet that I know a lot of folks were looking
at from a reporter here about John Kelly yesterday, saying General Kelly
was originally going to be on Air Force One to Vegas with Trump today - as
of yesterday - but was pulled off the flight, I`m told, and the White house
not answering questions about it. From reporter Jennifer Jacobs.
John Kelly definitely has his hands full. What is he supposed to do with,
as you put it, this pact or survival plan?
WILEY: Well, part of what he has to do is hold the cabinet together. So,
the last thing he wants as the chief of staff is to lose talent, not just
talent, but sort of the adults of the administration that are kind of
making sure not just that the mission is staying straight, but trying to do
their best to do what`s right for the country.
If we think about the Iran nuclear deal if we think about North Korea where
there are places where Mattis himself has also been at odds with the
President along with Tillerson. So it really isn`t just Tillerson.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well, I think you`re making such an important
point Maya, which is it`s so much broader than – we talk about the
parties. But it`s not really on a lot of these issues about parties at
all, it`s about this person, Donald Trump, who is as 50 Cent said, became
President by accident and acts like it, is what he said in an interview.
Here is Senator Bob Corker, I want to play this sound. This is really
interesting. Listen closely to the word he uses because he as a
Republican, he happens to be, basically implies we need these people on the
wall, we want you on that wall because on that wall these generals and such
are the line, and Tillerson are the between Trump and further chaos. Take
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think
Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and Chief of Staff Kelly are those
people that help separate our country from chaos and I support them very
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joe, that quite an admission.
JOE CONASON, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE INVESTIGATIVE FUND: Well, yes, but it`s
because these people, these – you know, those three members of the cabinet
grew up in an environment where diplomacy was valued. They understood what
the different parts of government were supposed to do. They knew that
military force was a last resort, not something to be joked about or
tweeted about as particularly not nuclear military force. And the
President, unfortunately, understands none of those things. He has no
conception what diplomacy is for or how it works. He has the idea of the
seriousness of the statements that he makes about the use of military
force. And to these three men, and I presume McMaster, too, this is
anathema. I mean, these – we`re talking about people`s lives. And in the
military, they don`t joke about this. So –
MELBER: Right. It`s like (INAUDIBLE) has thousand.
WILEY: Especially if you`re –
CONASON: How that thing to do with party. How that thing to do with party
MELBER: Out of time. Go ahead.
WILEY: And when you`re tweeting that your Secretary of State is wasting
his time when he is in the midst of a diplomatic meeting that is trying to
MELBER: With nuclear implications.
WILEY: With nuclear implications.
MELBER: Maya Wiley and Joe Conason, we always learn something from you
guys and I feel a little more somber, a little more serious coming out of
this. Is that a good thing? Maybe?
WILEY: I think so.
CONASON: No avoiding it.
MELBER: Thank you both. Now, the Republican-led Congress just let a
health care program for 9 million children expire this week. And I have a
special report next from speaking to a father who says this program is
vital to his daughter`s care. And a former felon, Congressman Michael
Grimm, is out of prison running for Congress again with Steve Bannon`s new
interaction. That huddle you see there, my live interview with him
MELBER: Time is up. A key health care insurance program for nine million
children in the United States just expired after Republicans in Congress
failed to renew it. Now, we`re about to hear from a parent who says this
program helps keep his daughter alive. Here`s the policy context though.
The Children`s Health Insurance Program also known as CHIP uses Medicaid
and state programs to ensure that Americans get health care. And while
what`s often been a bipartisan priority in Congress, Republicans ducked out
this year. They missed key deadline on Sunday to renew it and that means
funding is now on pace to run out. A reporting shows that in just 56 days,
the first states will lose funding for kids.
Now, there are a lot of countdown clocks in the news. I admit. Some of
them are even trivial. Here is one we think that matters and that 9
million families are watching closely. 56 days left for children`s health
care unless our Congress acts. As I mentioned, Republican missed the
Sunday deadline showing no urgency so far. And by the way, after ignoring
the deadline, they are headed for vacation for the next two weeks. David
Berzonsky joins me now, he spoke out about it this week saying his nine-
year-old daughter Luna who has epilepsy could lose vital healthcare
coverage if Congress does not act. David, we wanted to hear from you
directly as someone involved in this, affected by this with your family.
What does this program do for your family?
DAVID BERZONSKY, DAUGHTER INSURED THROUGH CHIP: Well, the CHIP program is
a bipartisan program that is set up about 20 years ago. And what it does
is it provides health insurance, comprehensive health insurance for
families of low to moderate income, which is a pretty broad spectrum of
people in America because the program covers people up to almost a median
income families, for us a family of four. So they provide us with our
health care insurance. It`s a good health insurance, it`s a reliable
health care insurance and it`s the kind of health insurance I was able to
count on when my daughter began to have seizures and was able to focus on
caring for her and not worrying about how it pay the costs.
MELBER: Yes. And this is your daughter Luna, she is nine now I
BERZONSKY: Yes, she is.
MELBER: And we got some pictures up and I understand that you shared these
with us and she also plays the piano and seems to be doing pretty well from
what we`ve heard from you. As for what CHIP covers, immunizations, doctor
visits, prescriptions, 39 percent of kids here covered by Medicaid or CHIP.
So where does this go? What happens if your coverage does run out of
Congress? It does enact as I say up in for some people, 56 days is when it
BERZONSKY: Right. So if the funding runs out, then the children who are
on the CHIP coverage will no longer have health insurance. And because of
the way in which the Affordable Care Act is currently structured, if you
are eligible for CHIP coverage, you are not eligible for being on the
Affordable Care Act. So in order for those children to get any coverage at
all, that would require Congress to alter the Affordable Care Act to allow
for children currently on CLIP to get health insurance. So, for the most
part, I think could you say pretty fairly that those 9 million children
would have no health insurance at all.
MELBER: Yes, I mean, it`s very real. And hearing from you as someone
who`s – you sound very knowledgeable about the broader policy issues but
also something that hits home. I wanted to add someone to our conversation
if that`s alright with you.
MELBER: I wanted to mention you know, as you well know, the political
roots of the program are very broad when it started. Massachusetts Liberal
Ted Kennedy and Utah Conservative Orrin Hatch teamed up for this idea and
President Clinton signed it in 1997. I want to bring in National Affairs
Correspondent for the Nation, Joan Walsh, who has discussed this issue and
the impact with me before. It used to be less than divisive. What do you
see is happening now?
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Well, Ari, I just
think that this has become a ridiculously partisan issue, as we know. And
I wish that families like David`s and folks who are hanging by a thread
watching political games be played with the Affordable Care Act, I wish
they could sue the Republican Congress for pain and suffering. Because
people like David and Luna and David`s wife are now worried about something
that they`ve been able to really, you know, relax about and take care of
Luna`s schooling and her great piano playing and now suddenly they`re
As you said, Minnesota, North Carolina, Arizona, I think the District of
Columbia, they`re going to run out in December, other states will are not
out by March, and there`s just –there`s no urgency. There`s less than
urgency. The house is apparently playing partisan games with this where
Republicans are demanding that if they extend CHIP, that they – the money
comes out of Medicare and the money comes out of the Affordable Care Act.
No one is asking the tax cuts for the wealthy they paid for. No one is
asking that new budgets appropriations for the military suddenly be paid
for with cuts elsewhere. It is only when it comes to health care for our
children and our disabled folks and our low-income folks that suddenly we
got to figure out a way – a divisive way to pay for it. So, my heart goes
out to David. I really hope that Congress does the right thing here.
MELBER: David, response. Speak to that and also the insurance rate for
children more than doubled under this program. So the uninsured rate, in
other words, said is it dropped. Meaning through this program, which
started out bipartisan, more and more American children were covered long
before any debate over “ObamaCare.” David?
BERZONSKY: Yes. So, I mean, the way I see it is, it`s relatively simple.
Like, I want my child and every child in America to have good, solid,
reliable health insurance. And I don`t think that`s really a political
issue. I don`t think anybody really feels that children shouldn`t have
good healthcare. And so, I would like to see our Congress do the right
thing (AUDIO GAP) pass a clean (AUDIO GAP) of the CHIP program. It`s vital
important for a lot of people. And you know, I can`t speak to the larger
politics of the Affordable Care Act but you know, from my perspective as a
father and business owner, I do see incredibly irresponsible and reckless
games being played to try to score political points and I think it`s really
tragic and immature really and I hope they can grow up and do their job
that we put them there to do.
MELBER: David, just speaking for myself, I really appreciate you speaking
out and sharing your story and sharing what you and your family is going
through which I know is always can be a difficult thing. This is a huge
story and if you`re watching at home and you hadn`t heard that this
deadline ran, I think that`s partly our fault in the media, maybe that`s
partly the politician`s fault for letting the deadline run but my thanks to
David Berzonsky for putting it on the radar here and Joan Walsh for your
reporting and coverage as well.
WALSH: Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you both. Now, coming up, controversial former Trump
Adviser Steve Bannon is backing a new primary candidate. This time he
wants Michael Grimm to get his seat back. The former Congressman served
prison time for tax evasion and he`s here live on THE BEAT next.
MELBER: Donald Trump starts a lot of fights but in the first fight of his
Presidency where voters weigh in, Trump lost, that bruising Alabama primary
where Steve Bannon`s insurgent candidate beat Trump`s Senate Incumbent.
Now Bannon is huddling with a new primary challenger Michael Grimm, a
former Marine and FBI agent who became nationally known when he was
indicted by federal prosecutors and pled guilty to tax evasion in 2015.
Grimm was released in April after seven months in jail and whether national
Republicans like it or not, he is back in the spotlight to force another
potential GOP civil war with a primary challenge to get his old seat back.
Ex-congressman and ex-con Michael Grimm is here on THE BEAT this evening
and Grimm had a widely covered confrontation with a journalist who asked
him about other legal allegations against him in 2014. In fact, Grimm
threatened to throw that reporter off the Capitol balcony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just finally, before we let you go, since we have
you here. We haven`t had a chance to kind of talk about some of the–
MICHAEL GRIMM, FORMER CONGRESSMAN, NEW YORK: I`m not speaking about
anything that`s off topic. This only about the President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what about –
GRIMM: Thank you.
Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again I`ll throw you off
this (INAUDIBLE) balcony.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? I just wanted to ask you.
GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why, why, it`s a valid question.
GRIMM: No, no, you`re not man enough. You are not man enough. I`ll break
you into half, like a boy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Michael Grimm is back in the spotlight and joins me for this
exclusive interview. Thank you for being here.
GRIMM: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: You look at that clip, is that guy that we just saw there, is that
the guy running for Congress or are you different now?
GRIMM: Well, no, I mean, I`m still the same person but I think any real
person has a bad day and makes a mistake. I mean, for five years I dealt
with reporters and never had a problem. On that day, I let my emotions get
ahead of me. It was one of those days where I was dealing with Sandy
taking three steps forward and five back and there`s no excuse. That`s why
I apologized to him. I said something that I shouldn`t have said.
MELBER: You`re here coming out of jail for pleading guilty on tax evasion.
Are you sorry for that?
GRIMM: Well, listen, I`m sorry that I had delivery boys off the books.
You know, that`s – and I have to say this you know, tax evasion makes it
sound so ominous like I`m Al Capone. I guarantee you, you go to
restaurants every day and every delivery boy that delivers food to this
station is off the books. That`s the reality. I had three delivery boys
and a dishwasher off the books. In the entire history of this city, that
is a civil fine. That`s a civil matter, except for one person, Michael
MELBER: Well, I`m not making it sound like Al Capone. I`ll read from the
guilty plea that you signed. You said you –
GRIMM: Well, no, but – the point is –
MELBER: I`m just going to read – concealing over $900,000 in restaurant
revenue and saying you knowingly made these misleading statements even
though “employees had been paid in cash.” That`s how you described it.
GRIMM: Right. Well, that $900,000 is not accurate. It`s a little bit
less than it but that`s over many years, and that also included about 14
months that I didn`t even own the restaurant, but that was part of the deal
they wanted to make because the number was too small. But the point is,
again, why is it a civil matter? Over 10,000 of these fines have been
given out to restaurant owners since the beginning of the history of the
city of New York. I`m the first one criminally charged because the entire
Justice Department was weaponized against me for political purposes. They
wanted me out of office. Which – but don`t get me wrong. I should not
have had delivery boys off the books because I shouldn`t have been like
every other business owner, I should have been better and I wasn`t and I
MELBER: Now you want a second chance. You want to go back Congress. Do
you think that former felonies or ex-convicts like yourself should have the
right to vote?
GRIMM: Someone who should been – should never have been a felony,
absolutely. Again –
MELBER: Should all ex-convicts have the right to vote is my question.
GRIMM: Not necessarily, no. But again, the crime here was the Justice
Department making me a felon when I should have gotten a civil fine.
There`s a big difference. OK. If you`re going to tell me that every
single restaurant owner right now down the block should all be lined up and
taken to prison and made felons, then that`s a valid position to have, but
then change the policy. You can`t have Mayor De Blasio going out thanking
business owners for hiring people off the books and then in a sanctuary
city, and only singling out Michael Grimm. That`s the problem.
MELBER: Is your – but on the voting, is your position that you can go be
a convict, be an ex-con, and get back into Congress, but other people
shouldn`t even have the right to vote?
GRIMM: Well, first of all, that`s a misnomer when you say they don`t have
the right to vote. I have the right to vote. I`ll be voting –
MELBER: Right, it depends on the state. But like for example you – Mitch
McConnell has said, basically, states have a significant interest in
reserving the right to vote to those who have abided by the social
contract. Leaders in your party, do, as I think as you know, oppose the
right to vote for a lot of ex-convicts like yourself?
GRIMM: Well, not like myself. I think they oppose it for people
especially that do violent crimes, people that are really breaking the law,
not civil matters, OK? A civil matter is a civil matter and a crime is a
crime. I was an FBI agent for over you know, 11 years and I believe in the
law, absolutely, but there is a big difference between a civil infraction
and a felony.
MELBER: Now, you mentioned sanctuary cities is what I think you`re calling
New York City. You previously voted to protect so-called DREAMers. Donald
Trump promised to deport them. Was he wrong?
GRIMM: No. Well, first of all, that specific vote, if you look at the
legislation, there was a poison pill in there. So, I`d have to really
research that vote, but from what I remember, there was a bit of a poison
pill. So when you look at legislation, it`s not always what exactly what
it seems to be. If it – if there`s a poison pill in it, that`s one of the
reasons why I would vote against it.
MELBER: So, do you support deportation of DREAMers then?
GRIMM: Well, I think that the DACA issue is the one thing that Republicans
have to stand firm on because it`s the leverage that we need to get real
reform and to actually get, I would say, number one, let`s start with
securing the borders. Number two, let`s end chain migration. Number
three, let`s actually have an immigration system that works, so that good,
law-abiding owners of restaurants and owners of other businesses have a
robust guest worker program so that they don`t have to put a dishwasher off
the books because there`s no one else coming for that job. And that`s what
people don`t want to talk about. But no one shows up for the dishwasher
job, except the people that are off the books. So what do you do if you
own a business?
MELBER: I want to get you on guns, you`re a candidate, this is a big
issue. If we could do lightning ground on a couple of them. Bump stocks,
should they be banned?
GRIMM: Well, I think it`s very clear that the ATF had the jurisdiction to
do that and they have to go back and re-evaluate that.
MELBER: Should they do it?
GRIMM: Yes, I think the ATF has to look at those. Absolutely. I don`t
know why they didn`t –
MELBER: You think – you sound a little bit like the President. When you
say, look at those, are you for banning bump stocks? Should the ATF ban
GRIMM: I think the ATF should. Yes.
MELBER: OK. Assault weapons and assault-style weapons, should –
GRIMM: Well, I think they already are.
MELBER: The `94 ban expired. So would you be for reinstating a ban on
GRIMM: Fully automatic weapons, my understanding is they are banned.
MELBER: Semi-automatic assault-style, like the Senator Feinstein`s `94
bill which –
GRIMM: No, Senator Feinstein`s bill, I don`t support.
MELBER: OK. Background checks?
GRIMM: If they`re done properly, yes.
MELBER: Is that – so would you vote for the background check bill that
has been proposed, like after Sandy Hook.
GRIMM: Whose bill is that?
MELBER: The Sandy Hook –
GRIMM: There`s – I think there`s more than one bill.
MELBER: The Senate version would be, you know, you had Chris Murphy put
something forward that basically said, close these loopholes and have
national background checks.
GRIMM: And again, here`s the problem why – and I`m not dodging the
problem at all. It`s just, what I have seen in almost all of this
legislation is it`s way too broad. So they –
MELBER: Too broad on guns?
GRIMM: Too broad meaning they`re bringing in other things. Like, there
was legislation that would have prevented veterans from getting guns unless
they had a note from the doctor and they could have been there because of a
myriad of reasons. They had stress because they couldn`t pay their
finances and now they can`t get a gun. So no, I won`t support that.
MELBER: And final question, do you expect President Trump to come campaign
for you in this primary or campaign against you?
GRIMM: No, I would expect him to stay out of this primary.
MELBER: You want him just out? Just leave it alone.
GRIMM: I`m not saying that`s what I want. I would – you`re asking what I
would expect. If I was the President, I wouldn`t get involved in the
MELBER: Former Congressman Michael Grimm coming in, thank you for time.
GRIMM: Thank you.
MELBER: I appreciate it. Ahead, we have more NBC News breaking reporting,
this about Rex Tillerson, up next.
MELBER: Breaking news right into our newsroom. Minutes ago, NBC reporting
on Trump`s ongoing feud with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and new
details on the fallout. NBC`s National Political Reporter, Carol Lee,
joins me. Carol, what do you have?
CAROL LEE, NBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, what we know is that
Chief of Staff Kelly stayed back from traveling with the President to Las
Vegas yesterday to – in order to try to contain some of the fallout from
NBC`s reporting on Rex Tillerson. And as part of that effort, he summoned
Secretary Mattis and Tillerson over to the White House for a meeting in
which they talked about how to carve out a path forward. What`s
significant about that is if you recall Kelly and Mattis, the Defense
Secretary were the two officials who convinced Secretary Tillerson to stay
in July when he was threatening to resign, as we reported yesterday. Now,
the other thing is that Vice President Pence, who was in Phoenix at the
time, was very upset with what he was learning and he called Secretary
Tillerson and said, you need to fix this, which is what led to Secretary
MELBER: Wow. This is a report that you have pushed that has shook the
White House, I know. We`re out of time on THE BEAT, I expect we`ll be
seeing more from you on NBC and MSNBC tonight. Carol Lee, thank you.
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