NBC News: Mueller Interviews Priebus Transcript 10/13/17 The Beat with Ari Melber
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: October 13, 2017
Guest: Eleanor Holmes Norton Andy Slavitt, Ed Rendell, Eugene Scott,
Renato Mariotti, Natasha Bertrand, Lawrence Wilkerson, Howard Fineman,
Nayyera Haq, Herzog, Andy Kindler
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: Ari, digest that, my friend. And
watch out for your black cats.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Sin City is what that makes me think of.
Have a good weekend, Chuck.
TODD: Thank you.
MELBER: Donald Trump makes two big moves today that are getting a lot of
attention. A very political announcement on the Iran Nuclear Deal, which
actually changes nothing today.
The other is a huge action, sabotaging Obamacare, and hampering healthcare
for potentially millions. That is our top story tonight. The man who
promised insurance for everybody making healthcare costs rise dramatically.
Trump ending his insurance subsidies for low-income families. That covers
up to 6 million people. Now, what do you think of Obamacare, and there`s a
lot of feelings about it, let`s be clear about a fact. Donald Trump`s move
right now contradicts his own pledges that he made on the campaign to
replace this program and to take care of people.
Now, he says he will destroy healthcare for Americans and that will make
Democratic legislators negotiate with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s going to be time to
negotiate healthcare that that`s going to be good for everybody. If the
Democrats were smart, what they do is come and negotiate something -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump also tweeting, “Obamacare is imploding. Dems should call me
to fix it,” making the strategy clear.
And the news breaking today that Trump is actually opposed to the deal that
Senate Democrats had been negotiating. There`s that word again with
The irony here is that Trump is apparently unaware that by blowing up these
key parts of Obamacare, he could be blamed for blowing up Obamacare.
Criticism about the move today from both sides of the aisle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I very much disagree with President
Trump`s decision. Low-income people are going to have a very difficult
time that, for some, it may be impossible, affording their deductibles and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And a stark joint statement from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
They called this action a “spiteful act of vast pointless sabotage.” Strong
words on an important issue, which is why, as I mentioned, it`s our top
At least 15 states now saying they will sue over this new move from the
I`m joined now by Eleanor Holmes Norton, a congressman who represents
Washington, and Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator for the
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid in the Obama administration. Two
individuals who know the issue well.
Congresswoman Norton, when you look at this, put aside whatever differences
you and the president may have on the best way to do healthcare in theory,
in practice, what does this do to people and is he undermining the very
pledges he made about having something to replace repeal?
REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), D.C.: Well, he has broken it now. And
so, it`s on his watch. He can no longer talk about Obamacare. He`s broken
it because he`s taken the central pillar, which is the reason you have the
Affordable HealthCare Act in the first place.
The words low-income people are used. Actually, these people who work
every day, can`t afford healthcare. Or they work for an employer, perhaps
a small business person, who doesn`t offer healthcare.
So, there are subsidies there to allow them to indeed go on this new market
and buy healthcare. And why do we do that? Because, otherwise, all the
rest of us who have employer-based health insurance will end up paying for
them when they get sick because when they get sick, they`ve got to go to
the hospital. It`s a simple as that.
So that by taking the first steps, it wasn`t quite the Pottery Barn notion
that you broke it and it`s yours. When he took the first step with 90
percent - he`s trying to pull - or he said that half of the navigators
wouldn`t be there, for example, or you couldn`t go on on weekends in order
to get your affordable healthcare.
For those around the edges and they hurt a lot. But this is like taking a
thread that holds the whole fabric together, pulling it out and then the
whole fabric falls apart.
MELBER: So, congresswoman, you look at this as a before-and-after moment
that the program up to this day basically, which was increasing the number
of Americans who have some kind of insurance and decreasing discrimination
based on existing conditions and all those issues people have heard about,
you`re saying up to this point that was Obamacare. And from this day
forward, it should now be judged as Trumpcare.
NORTON: This is now Trumpcare because the central pillar that made it
Obamacare, the subsidies that that went for people who could otherwise not
afford healthcare, although they work every day or to small businesses,
And so, what is left? It`s now theirs. Trump, you own it. If this was a
bluff, it was a bad bluff.
And by the way, it`s important for me to say this doesn`t go into effect
right away. So, I don`t want to panic everybody. This has to go through
regulations. It couldn`t happen before some time in 2019. And that`s why
I said, it may be a big bluff because he says he wants people to come to
NORTON: Well, I thought Republicans and Democrats were already at the
table with Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray in the Senate.
MELBER: Well, congresswoman, I`m old enough to remember six weeks ago when
they kept trying to push it on a party-line vote. They weren`t talking
about negotiation then.
I want you to please hang with me. I want to go to Andy Slavitt here, a
very experienced person on all the Medicare/Medicaid oversight.
I`m going to put up on the screen, Andy, some of what the Congresswoman
just alluded to, the various steps that have been going on. Ending cost-
sharing reduction payments on the Trump administration, the open door to
the plans with fewer benefits, stop sending officials to enrollment events
- the congresswoman mentioned that - advertising cut by 90 percent by this
administration, navigators cut - that`s the people who just help you find a
plan - and cutting the enrollment period in half, so there`s no time to
Do you view this as a policy matter as starkly as the congresswoman in the
before-and-after of this moment?
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR OF THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND
MEDICAID SERVICES: Well, Congresswoman just said something very important.
What you`re looking at now, ladies and gentlemen, is Trumpcare.
In Trumpcare, let`s be very clear, the CBO has actually already told us
what`s going to happen from these actions. Number one, 1 million fewer
people are going to have insurance coverage.
Number two, those who retain coverage, particularly those in the middle
class, are going to pay 20 percent more for insurance.
And number three, we`re going to see a complete deterioration of the
protections that people had.
And finally, I should add, this is going to add close to $200 billion to
the deficit. So, taxpayers lose.
MELBER: That`s just on the president side of the row.
The other thing I want to ask you about, Andy, is an issue I know that`s
near and dear to your heart and it`s something we`ve been covering a lot
and it doesn`t actually, at this moment, have to do with Donald Trump.
There are a lot of other important issues. The Republican Congress,
totally apart from what Donald Trump is doing, has failed to reauthorize
the key CHIP program, which has long been a bipartisan thing. Viewers of
THE BEAT may recall. We`ve covered it repeatedly. It`s what provides care
to 9 million kids.
And now, we put this up on our screen. The 48 days left because Congress
has blown through the deadline. To you first, Andy, and then to
Congresswoman Norton on what that means and how this works and why, after
years of bipartisanship, Congress appears to be asleep when it comes to
healthcare for children?
SLAVITT: Yes. CHIP is really a gimme. CHIP is the most bipartisan thing
out there. It insures 12 percent of kids in this country. There`s nobody
in the country that doesn`t like CHIP.
The only thing I would say, Ari, is I do pin this one on Trump`s doorstep
as well. This is what happens when we don`t have moral leadership. This
is what happens when we focus on making a political victory, trying to
deliver something for his base, so he can claim he did something about the
ACA even though he`s just damaging it, rather than doing what I think nine
out of ten, or maybe 99 out of 100 presidents would do, which is that, you
know what, give kids what they need first.
And I think this is very representative of the fact that the Republicans in
Congress don`t have a leader to look to that are pushing them to do the
MELBER: And then congresswoman?
NORTON: Well, I almost agree with him, but not entirely because he`d sign
CHIP if we got it to his desk. Why haven`t the Republican leadership, Ryan
and McConnell, simply gotten (INAUDIBLE). You`re absolutely right. They
have no opposition to it that I have heard.
And yet you`re leaving some districts - my district has a little time to
go. I think some districts have already run out of CHIP`s money.
That`s really a moral outrage. And it didn`t have to happen because
there`s not disagreement in the Congress. And I believe that Trump would
sign the bill.
MELBER: And I appreciate it. You have so much insight into this because
you are right there on the ground and you`re mentioning that there may be
people in Congress who do want to move on this if there`s the vote held.
I have to mention, we`ve been trying to get a hold of Sen. Orrin Hatch all
week to talk about this. I`ve noted that he was one of the Republicans who
was initially for it. His office has not been able to get back to us.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, if you`re listening or if anyone in Utah is listening,
you have an invite to come on THE BEAT and talk about this. We`re not
letting up on that story either.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Andy Slavitt, thank you both. Have
a good weekend.
I turn right now to Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor and former
chair of the Democratic Party, who knows a lot about the politics of this,
and Eugene Scott, a political reporter for “The Washington Post”.
Governor, what is happening to the politics of all this? It would seem we
talked about policy, we talked about the ethics. It would seem on the
sheer politics when you`re talking about children or making something work.
Yours used to be things that were good politics.
ED RENDELL, FORMER GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: Yes. I can`t believe anybody
in the White House agrees with what the president says he`s going to do
because it`s disastrous politics.
The congresswoman is right. He will own this. He`ll be seen as vindictive
and destructive and he`s taking away healthcare from people who need it
desperately and from kids.
What`s the percentage in that? I`m not even sure the base will like it.
But, certainly, what`s happening to Trump`s support is each week that goes
by, a little more chips away each time. And I think this will speed up
that chipping process and he`ll lose a whole lot more politically than he
can possibly gain. I can`t think of what the gain is going to be.
MELBER: Right. And, Eugene, Donald Trump is not really letting out what
the gain is going to be. He sort of talked about the meandering routes
today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re taking a different route than we had hoped because getting
Congress - they forgot what their pledges were. So, we`re going a little
different route. But you know what, in the end, it`s going to be just as
effective and maybe it`ll even be better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EUGENE SCOTT, “THE WASHINGTON POST” POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, to me, this
is a reminder of the president saying earlier in his administration, who
knew that healthcare could be so hard.
And when he`s at the White House, he spoke throughout on the campaign all
of the time that he wanted to put something that would replace Obamacare,
that would be better for Americans, but he hasn`t been clear in details
about what that is.
And I think part of the reason is he may be noticing that many of the
people who sent him to the White House actually approve of Obamacare way
more significantly than they led on when they were on the trail.
And so, now he`s stuck in this hard place where he said he wants to get rid
of this thing that people say they want him to get rid of and replace it
with something better, but it`s not yet clear what that could be.
MELBER: Well, you allude to that and then it goes to who is responsible.
And, Gov. Rendell, it would be one thing if Donald Trump`s presidency was
an endless series of avoidable outrages, feuds and distractions. That
would be a huge amount of lost time and opportunity, but it would be just
But what you see on a day like today with this attack on healthcare is
something much more than that. And then it goes to, well, who`s going to
be held responsible?
New Kaiser poll here, 64 percent of people saying Trump and the Republicans
now responsible for the Obamacare problems moving forward, 28 percent Obama
and the Democrats.
Governor, we hear about a 50-50 country. That doesn`t look like a 50-50
split on that one.
RENDELL: No. And after today`s announcement, I think those numbers will
get worse for the president. And the interesting thing is he had a chance
to work with Democrats and fashion something that wouldn`t necessarily
repeal Obamacare, but it would`ve amended it sufficiently that Trump could
have declared victory.
But whatever chance he has of working with Democrats has just evaporated
because we will see this as venal, hurtful to people, and hurtful to people
who need the help the most. So, I think any chance of accord with
Democrats on this is gone unless the Congress just gets together and does
it by themselves and sends it to Trump and dares him to veto it.
MELBER: And, governor, while I have you, we`ve got breaking news from the
time that you just sat down in that chair, so I know you haven`t heard this
yet, but I`m going to share it and get a quick response from you and it`s
going to be a big part of our show I think.
Breaking news coming into our newsroom, Reince Priebus, the former chief of
staff of Donald Trump, has done an interview with the special counsel`s
office, of course, led by Bob Mueller. William Burke is Reince Priebus`
lawyer and he confirms that, saying he was voluntary interviewed and
“happy” to answer their questions.
Governor, you have been in a lot of those high-powered rooms. What do you
make of that news?
RENDELL: Well, I think Reince Priebus will answer the questions
truthfully. I think he`s not going to risk of hurting himself or later
being prosecuted for perjury. And I think he will paint a picture of
potential obstruction. There is no question about it.
So, I don`t think that`s good news for the president.
MELBER: You think, reacting to this news here, that Bob Mueller`s team is
sitting down with Reince Priebus, you think that what he is going to say
will contribute to the obstruction case?
RENDELL: Yes, I think it will. I don`t think it will contradict the
obstruction case. I think it has the possibility of contributing and
reinforcing it because Reince Priebus is not going to lie for Donald Trump.
I don`t believe that for a second.
MELBER: Wow! Gov. Ed Rendell, an expert on many things, thank you for
that perspective. Eugene Scott, stick around. You`re part of fallback
SCOTT: I am.
MELBER: OK. We`re going to have a lot more on this breaking news. Again,
if you`re just joining THE BEAT, Special Counsel Bob Mueller has
interviewed Reince Priebus today, his team. We`re going to talking next to
a former federal prosecutor about how that works.
Later in the show, what is Trump doing with all this talk about Iran?
We`re going to separate the hype and what the White House wants you to
think to what our experts say is actually going on.
And later, we`re going to look at why a Trump cabinet member is flying his
own flag and minting his own coins, as they say, (INAUDIBLE).
And later in the show, because it`s Friday, it`s Richard Lewis. He just
sat down with me right here at 30 Rock to talk comedy, Trump and some MSNBC
tidbits. I`ll explain.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news in Bob Mueller`s Russia investigation. The special
counsel`s team today interviewed Trump`s former Chief of Staff Reince
Priebus. Brand new into our newsroom.
Priebus` lawyer telling us that he was “voluntary interviewed” by Mueller`s
team and “happy” to answer the questions. I`m joined now by Renato
Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, as well as Natasha Bertrand, who
covers the Russia inquiry for “Business Insider”.
Renato, what does Reince Priebus know and what does Mueller want to know
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, quite a lot. I suspect
that was a very interesting interview for Mueller`s team.
And I think the first subject that comes to mind for me is Priebus`s
involvement in the firing of James Comey. So, what we have heard from
various news reports is that the president spoke with Jared Kushner, Ivanka
Trump and Priebus about his concerns with James Comey, came up with his
rationale for firing Comey and then had Stephen Miller dictate a letter,
which we know was later rejected by White House Counsel Don McGahn and
there was edits, et cetera, made.
There was a whole drama surrounding that later that Priebus was also
involved in. So, that is definitely a top subject.
Another key subject, I think that he`ll ask about is Trump`s anger at Jeff
Sessions and fury over the fact that Jeff Sessions recused himself. I
think those topics are going to be rife with potential evidence that
Mueller`s team could use.
MELBER: And as a prosecutor, how would you ask someone like Reince about
the state of mind of the president as to whether he had criminal intent,
desire to obstruct an investigation or, as Trump`s criminal lawyers have
really hammered, was just a very angry person who wanted to fire someone
because you do have the right to fire, but you don`t have the right to fire
in order to commit a crime?
MARIOTTI: So, if I was talking to Mr. Priebus instead of talking to you,
we would be starting at the very beginning. I would be getting a sense of
exactly what his relationship is like with the president, what types of
questions and issues the president ordinarily brings to him and discusses
with him, so I could set up a contrast between ordinary decision-making by
the president and this particular decision.
Then I would be going through with him exactly what the president told him,
when, how, what his mannerisms were, what his attitude was, how he reacted
to what other people said. It would be a very exhaustive interview of Mr.
Priebus to try to get every nugget possible about what the president heard,
what the president said and how the president reacted.
MELBER: And, Natasha, as you know, there are really three buckets of
potential criminal activity that Bob Mueller is investigating - was there a
collusion with the Russians during the campaign; was there anything
improper with the Russians once this move from a campaign to an
administration, individuals like Michael Flynn who exercised government
power however briefly; and then third, was there obstruction, as Renato and
I were just discussing, pursuant to the ongoing investigation?
You`ve been covering this daily. You`re constantly filing articles I`m
reading. When you look at Reince, which of those three buckets do you see
him figuring into most?
NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “BUSINESS INSIDER”: Definitely
the obstruction aspects. Reince was there for all of the major decisions
that Trump made throughout his first six months in office.
I would also just note that, Renato pointed out that he probably was there
for all of the discussions that led up to the firing of FBI Director James
Comey, but he was also there when the president crafted this misleading
statement about his son`s meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower last
So, that is definitely something -
MELBER: Which again is response to criminal investigation.
BERTRAND: Right, right. So, that is definitely something that I think
Mueller will want to know more about, is why did he feel the need to craft
this misleading statement on behalf of his son if they really had nothing
MELBER: When you see Reince Priebus` lawyers say he`s happy to answer the
questions, that`s the political side of it. There`s a way to say I`m just
doing what I`ve got to do. And then there`s a way to kind of go a little
I mean, when I represented clients, we didn`t talk a lot about happy or
sad, angry or not. My clients were human beings and they had a full range
of emotions. I think it`s quite striking that in a short statement like
this, when Reince was fired quite unceremoniously by Donald Trump, he
doesn`t just say I`m doing what I`ve got to do or I`m being honest.
His lawyer in what is a carefully thought out and worded statement says
today was a - I don`t mean in a feral way - but today was a happy day for
BERTRAND: Well, this is something that we`ve seen actually from many of
the aides and people around Trump who have been called to be interviewed by
Mueller or by the Congressional intelligence committees.
We`ve gotten this response from their lawyers that, yes, they have nothing
to hide, they`re really happy to share everything that they knew because
they are very confident that they did nothing wrong and they`re eager to
share their recollection of what happened when they were at the White House
or around Trump at whatever point.
So, this doesn`t strike me as out of the ordinary. It seems like it`s
pretty much in line with what we`ve seen in the past.
MARIOTTI: Yes. What I would say as to Mr. Priebus` - if I was his
attorney, I wouldn`t be really concerned about an interview either. I
haven`t heard anything publicly to suggest that he has liability. He`s
just a witness.
Now, I do think that it may be - you can be put in a difficult position if
you`re a lifelong Republican who has obviously held very important
positions within the party and then you`re being asked difficult questions
about the president of the United States, who is also a Republican.
That could potentially put him in a difficult position, but given that he
was fired and, as we know, there are fissures within the Republican Party,
maybe he is happy. He`s certainly I`m sure happy to get a lot of this off
of his chest.
MELBER: There are fissures within the Republican Party. I`ve heard about
those. Whether that is something that`s animating Reince Priebus or not,
we don`t know. But, yes, if he was happy and factual, then he is going to
fill in other details that no one knows about just what happened in those
meetings when Donald Trump was trying to have pull-asides with Jim Comey
and was angry before and after all that critical period.
It`s going to be really fascinating if and when the fruits of any of this
becomes a part of what we learn, I would say, not just as journalists, what
we learn as a society. This looks like - today looks like a signal day in
the Mueller investigation, which remains, of course, ongoing.
Renato Mariotti and Natasha Bertrand, thank you both.
Up next, does Trump`s sound and fury on Iran signify anything or is it just
sound? I`m going to speak to Colin Powell`s former chief of staff.
And Trump today saying, ten months in, he is on schedule to meet all his
pledges. Is that true?
MELBER: Now, to the Iran deal where President Trump appears more focused
on rhetoric than action at least for today. Trump is now declining to
certify this arrangement, but he`s not ending it which he could do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the Iranian Nuclear Deal, why not just scrap it
altogether now? You threatened to do so. Why not just end it now?
TRUMP: Because we`ll see what happens over the next short period of time
and I can do that instantaneously. I like a two-step process (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said you were going to rip the Iran deal up. You
called it the worst ever.
TRUMP: Well, I may do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Leaving an agreement intact, but he may do that. The threat here
is that if Congress does not strengthen it the way Trump wants, then maybe
he`ll terminate it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with
Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. Our
participation can be canceled by me as president at any time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former the
Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell who has been a critic of
some of Trump`s approach here. Before we get to – is this a good idea, I
need your help to understand what is this idea? A casual viewer of the
news at a distance would think something really big happened on Iran today.
And so, if you can walk us through at this juncture, what does Trump`s
decertification actually do? And then afterwards, let`s talk about whether
it`s good or not.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: I think this is
a strategy developed by Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, perhaps John Kelly,
maybe Rex Tillerson, that`s too clever by half. What they`re trying to do
is use the stature passed by the Congress that required the President in
order to get the Congress into this deal to certify to them every 90 days
that Iran was, indeed, compliant with the deal. They`re trying to use that
as a way to get the President out of having to do that because he doesn`t
want to certify the deal as being OK every 90 days. That`s totally
contradictory to what he`s promised his base.
MELBER: So let`s pause on that. Under the – under the original deal,
with shall we say a more traditional President, that was designed to give
the President a type of accountability or leverage every 90 days, is that
WILKERSON: Well, actually it was the Congress asserting its responsibility
under the constitution and I`m one that says they do have such a
responsibility for foreign policy and saying, hey, you did this deal,
President Obama, but we are going and mostly my party, some Democrats, we
are going to check on you and we`re going to cause you to have to tell us
and put your name on it every 90 days.
MELBER: OK. So that`s how it was designed. Now you have a President who
is as you are referring to, has aides who openly appear to do, you know,
acrobatics to try to calm him. Walk us through whether this is good or
WILKERSON: Well, I think they hoped that this would give him his ability
to do what he wants to do with is his base and keep the base quite or
raises (INAUDIBLE). At the same time, as Mattis and Dunford, the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Tillerson and others have said it would not
abrogate the deal, not in such a way the deal would fall apart. I think as
I said, this is too clever by half. What we`re going to have ultimately is
Trump having to live up to his other promise. I`ve been on the Hill the
last two weeks. I think my party even is very reluctant to close out this
deal. It is, after all, working with regard to Iran`s nuclear weapons.
And so, they`re not going to do anything, so then Trump is going to have to
drag himself right back into this issue and he`s going to have to do the
second thing he said he would do if they were reluctant, and that is to end
it himself. It`s going to be right back on his plate and it`s going to be
a disaster in my mind, because what we`re looking at is we`re looking at an
eventuality that the President has to say we either back up from Iran
having a nuclear weapon being the non-acceptable deal or we go to war. And
that`s not going to be a good war, I will guarantee you.
MELBER: Right. And whether all of this works as a way to have other paths
other than a march to war, you know, you explain it so well and it seems to
me, if I can state the obvious, but sometimes that`s a part of my job, it
seems really unfortunate so many people are spending so much time trying to
simply nullify this President rather than just do what I think their main
job is which is focus on the natural security aspects of it. But maybe
that`s the state of play. Colonel Wilkerson, thank you as always.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Next we`re going to go back to the breaking news here, Bob
Mueller, his team, interviewing Reince Priebus today, one of the most
senior officials who worked for Trump that we have ever heard about facing
Bob Mueller`s crack investigative staff. What do they talk about? How do
these interviews work? I`ve got two special guests to break it down next.
MELBER: Breaking news coming into our newsroom, another Friday night piece
of breaks news on Russia. This time, Special Counsel Mueller`s Russia
inquiry has today, done extensive interviews with Trump`s former Chief of
Staff Reince Priebus. Priebus` lawyer telling us Priebus was “voluntarily
interviewed by Mueller,” and that was “happy to answer all questions.” He
interviewed to shed light on many parts of the investigation including the
firing of Jim Comey. I`m joined now by Howard Fineman, Nayyera Haq, and
Renato Mariotti. Howard, big news, you are someone who brings a lot of
experience on Friday nights like this, and they just seem to be busy. My
question to you, tell us what we need to know about this development.
HOWARD FINEMAN, GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, HUFFINGTON POST: OK. Central
to the theory of Bob Mueller`s case, is that there was a cover-up. There
was a deliberate attempt to hide the true story about what happened in the
election. And I think central to that is the question of the firing of Jim
Comey and the explanations that were given for it, what were the real
reasons for the firing and who said what afterward? And those are the two
parts of Mueller`s case that I think Reince Priebus can shed the most light
on. Reince Priebus came out in February of 2017 and said flatly as Chief
of Staff in the Trump White House, there have been no collusion whatsoever
with Russia during the campaign. Who told him to say that and what –
based on what, why did he say that? Then, of course, the whole firing of
Jim Comey, which I think Mueller believes is in itself an act of
obstruction of justice to fire the guy who was investigating the President.
What did Priebus know about it? What were the real reasons for it? What
was the whole genesis of the letter that was sent to Comey? Who drafted
what? Who said what? Whose opinions were what? And also, don`t forget,
Reince Priebus is not fundamentally a Trump guy. Don`t forget that back
during the campaign, when Priebus was still Chairman of the Republican
Party, he said that when the tapes, the Billy Bush tapes came out in
October – early October, that Donald Trump would probably have to drop out
of the campaign. That`s something that Trump never forgot. Trump hired
him anyway. Trump humiliated him every day six ways to Sunday during his
time a Chief of Staff, no wonder Reince Priebus is happy to testify.
MELBER: Happy. Happy is the word of the day, no question on that one.
Nayyera, the Chief of Staff in a healthy administration is the hub. And
so, this is an incredibly important interview for Bob Mueller for the
reasons Howard mentioned because you have you someone who`s fairly
independent and not necessarily what we call a double L, a lying loyalists,
but also because he`s in and out of the room and in and out of every
meeting and following the paper and the e-mail and the schedule. From your
experience in government, I know you`re at the State Department under Obama
as well as a former White House Senior Director, talk to us about the
import of getting to a point in the investigation where you`re interviewing
the Chief of Staff.
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Well the chief of
staff is supposed to be the most effective gate-keeper and mover of
information from the top throughout the White House and throughout the
administration. So for Reince to say that there is absolutely no collusion
shows either how much he is willing to lie for Donald Trump as his former
presidents or how out of the loop he was. And by all accounts, Reince was
not a very effective Chief of Staff in wrangling President Trump and
wrangling the team. There were lots of infighting t. There`s stories of
leaking and some severely disturbing events happened in the Oval Office,
while Reince was supposed to be in charge. You had meetings, private
meetings with Sergey Kislyak, the Ambassador of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, the
Foreign Minister of Russia during which no diplomats, nobody from the U.S.
side were present. You had Russian reporters who are allowed in for camera
spreads and allowed access to the U.S. President. U.S. journalists were
not allowed at the same time. All of these Russian activities going on,
not just during campaign, but in the official capacity in the White House
under Reince Priebus` watch. The fact that he let that happen shows either
incompetence or an awareness of the deep connection between the Trump White
House and the Russian government.
MELBER: Let me continue with the lightning round to Renato and then
Howard. What are the key questions you think Mueller would want to ask
Reince Priebus today? I`m just going to go first. I think he would be
very interested in Paul Manaforts contacts with anyone in the Trump White
House. This is a secret White House. They haven`t released visitor logs
the way others have. Mike Flynn`s evolving explanation, which the White
House called lies to Pence and others, but which subsequent events have
suggested if they were lies, they may have been lies that more than one
person was in on and really peeling back the onion on that. And then
thirdly, anything and everything Ronato, related to the response of the
investigation, because we talked a little about Donald Trump giving advice
about how to spin and work the system. Well, what other conversations do
we not even know about where people were saying do or don`t talk to
lawyers, do or don`t save or destroy documents. Renato, and then Howard
will do lightning round all the way around.
MARIOTTI: Sure, first of all, there has been a lot of great questions from
you, from both of the journalists. And it just goes to show why this
interview with Reince Priebus reportedly lasted all day long because I can
think of 100 questions that I`d like to ask in myself.
MELBER: Give me one, and then I`m going to Howard, that`s what lightning
MARIOTTI: Oh, sorry, I`m sorry. Sorry about that Ari. How about this,
what did him and the President talk about last week when they had dinner?
MELBER: Howard – that`s a good one. Howard?
FINEMAN: I agree with you Ari, what is Manafort`s contacts been? Because
you know, he`s about to be indicted, I think. And so, you want to know
what the White House is doing to protect them or distance themselves from
HAQ: What does he know about Cambridge Analytica? That`s the data firm
that Jared Kushner was operating.
MELBER: Incredible lightning round. In fact, only the – only the lawyer
Renato gets the demerit for going how long, that`s what lawyers do, myself
included, I admit. Howard, Nayyera, Renato, on breaking news, I really
appreciate your time.
MARIOTTI: Thank you.
FINEMAN: Thank you.
MELBER: What do you think about the big news on Facebook @THE BEATWITHARI,
give us your question. We`ll explore some of them next week and I`ll reply
online. Now ahead, the legendary comedian Richard Lewis is back with Larry
David on Curb and he was back with me today at 30 Rock to talk Trump and
another topic you might not expect. Also, there are some Trump supporters
who have responded to the battle clap from Eminem. Yes, l will show it to
you and you`ll decide how cringe-worthy it is. That`s up ahead on THE
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY DAVID, COMEDIAN: You are a comedian. You`re supposed to be able
take a joke. You know, you`re supposed to laugh about everything.
RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: Just because I`m a comedian, I have to find
everything in the world funny?
DAVID: Yes, everything`s funny.
LEWIS: You are devoid of anything that`s remotely caring or empathetic and
DAVID: Are you sure that (INAUDIBLE) isn`t funny?
LEWIS: This to me is a tragedy.
DAVID: I`m going to go.
LEWIS: I`m going to go too.
DAVID: I`m going this way.
LEWIS: No, I`m going this way.
DAVID: No, you came from that way, you go that way. I`ll go this way.
LEWIS: No, I want to go that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Comedian Richard Lewis is back at it on Curb Your Enthusiasm at
HBO. Show`s new season just started. Lewis is here in New York today for
his stand-up tour and we just sat down for an interview about all of that,
Trump and even, yes, his favorite MSNBC Analyst. I`m not joking, but he
LEWIS: How are you?
MELBER: I`m great.
LEWIS: Look at your outfit. You look – you look like you`re trying to
sell me a cashew.
MELBER: Well, your outfit looks like you can go in a casket, quite
LEWIS: You are on fire –
MELBER: I mean, it`s all black.
LEWIS: Well, I`m wearing black, I wore these, and if you were upset the
last time I did the show with the glasses, these are my anti-Trump
depression glasses. You put them on now, you see –
MELBER: What do you see?
LEWIS: Try them.
MELBER: OK, you want me to try these on.
LEWIS: Yes, you will see why I wear them, why I sleep with them on.
MELBER: They`re actually really nice. They`re the crisp frame.
LEWIS: Yes, it just helps me forget about all the problems, not about
dealing with it.
MELBER: Curb Your Enthusiasm – Curb Your Enthusiasm is back.
LEWIS: Let me (INAUDIBLE) by the way. I was like Jack Ruby, I feel like
MELBER: You and Larry David, this show is back on HBO.
LEWIS: I`m one of the regulars – I`m not a regular. I`m on like half the
MELBER: You are on a bill lit.
LEWIS: It`s one of my favorite shows in history and I`m glad to be on it.
MELBER: What does it like having the show back and does – is it differ in
the Trump era? Because I read it in the New York Times, they compared
Larry David for being so selfish, self-centered, even solipsistic, they
compared him to Donald Trump.
LEWIS: No, that`s silly. That`s stupid. He was like such a progressive.
And I would never tell you what the – what the arc is of the show.
Anyway, my car would blow up, my toaster would blow up.
MELBER: You`re on tour as I mentioned. Does Donald Trump make it into
your act? Listen, I went on – I went on stage 48 years ago because I
didn`t – I felt judged by everybody, particularly family. Even though –
because they were in their own world. So then I decided to choose a
profession where I can be judged every night for the next 49 years of my
life. I went on stage in Florida the other night, it was a thousand
people. I was there with Artie Lange. We had a great time. And I said,
look, there`s about 20 percent of you if I start going after the President,
you will start screaming and yelling and the whole show is over. So I went
at him my own way. I`m there to make people laugh. And I also spent my
entire career this eviscerating myself. I`m like a Jewish onion. By the
time my show is over, I`m just like a thin little Jew with a black suit on
fire on the floor. So I have more – my sweet spot is talking about my
psyche. That`s just – I`m not the social –
MELBER: Why is the onion on fire?
LEWIS: What are you a chef? What kind of question is this?
MELBER: That is in this business, they call that a follow-up question.
Who are your favorite experts or guests on the news?
LEWIS: Fineman – Howard Fineman.
LEWIS: Hi, Howard? Follow this, buddy. Richard Painter to me now is
Elvis. This guy is the most ethical human being. I saw Trump`s daughter
eat a Snickers bar. We paid for that Snickers bar. I want that 22 cents
back put in the Treasury in Sacramento within 12 minutes.
MELBER: Is there anything we didn`t get – we didn`t get to you that you
want to talk about?
LEWIS: Hey, my career is over now. What`s the difference? Let me go to
MELBER: Richard Lewis, knock them dead tonight.
LEWIS: I`m the original Beatnik on your show, remember that.
MELBER: And if you are in New York, you could catch Richard stand up at
Caroline`s on Broadway tonight and tomorrow night. And folks, it is
Friday. Maybe you had a long week. Let`s talk about who needs to
fallback. That`s next.
MELBER: It is Friday on THE BEAT and that means it`s time to fallback.
Yes. To fallback is a chance to tell someone from this week they need to
chill out, relax or even reassess their choices. Welcome back to the
panel. Eugene Scott and joining me comedian Seth Herzog at the table and
out in L.A., Andy Kindler, always a happy face there, very big smile. Yes,
I can tell you do comedy.
ANDY KINDLER, COMEDIAN: Is that better?
MELBER: A little better. Seth, who needs to fallback?
SETH HERZOG, COMEDIAN: I think Sebastian Gorka always needs to fallback.
This week, particularly, he put out that tweet that in the wake of you
know, Harvey Weinstein thing, that everyone – that there would be less
harassing if people just kept to the Pence Rule and wasn`t alone with a
woman that wasn`t their wife.
EUGINE SCOTT, POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Wow.
HERTZOG: Like, really? Like that`s the thing that`s going to stop it? As
if everyone just had more chaperones?
MELBER: Yes. There`s so much to say about is that. I almost don`t want
to say anything about it. Eugene, who needs to fallback?
SCOTT: Russia. Always Russia. I mean, you saw the story this week about
this Russian linked campaigns that were affiliating themselves, posing as
part of the black lives matter movement to stir up tension, racial tension
during the election of the and using Pokemon Go to make people upset. You
would take the game and go to a location where there was an incident of
police brutality and name the Pokemon after one of the victims. You would
possibly win some games, some money from Amazon as if all of this was a
joke. It`s just the latest unfortunate thing in this entire story.
MELBER: And that`s a great – and that`s a great one you bring up. I
don`t think people even heard enough about that story this week. It`s been
a wild week. You know, Eminem told Donald Trump to fallback this week.
Everyone – I think that was clap back heard around the world, which
relates to my nominee. I want to show earlier in the week we had on a few
rappers along with Bill Kristol to discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TALIB KWELI, HIP HOP RECORDING ARTIST: I want to say shout out to Fat Joe
and to – and to Chuck you know, they`ve been activist for thing for a long
MELBER: You`re not – you`re not shouting out Bill Kristol?
KWELI: I`ve seen Bill Kristol on T.V. but I don`t know a man – I don`t
know a man like that yet.
MELBER: OK. Hey, Bill, we don`t know you like that.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I – I`m speechless.
What can I say? I`m honored to be even mentioned – I`m honored to be even
mentioned in this back and forth, obviously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m glad Bill was honored. Incredible. The question was will
Trump respond to Eminem`s real bodying of him. The true total rap battle
(INAUDIBLE) as we cover. Now, the Trump administration has not responded,
but he does have big internet fans including diamond and silk who are
activists. People may have heard of, they`re big on social media. I check
out their stuff sometimes. But I didn`t know what to make of their attempt
on Donald Trump`s behalf to issue their own rap battle response. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump`s your President, so get over it. Stop crying
like a baby and a little (BLEEP) instead you have to use the word racism
and make a connect, but I`m telling you right now your whole rap was wet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HERZOG: I love it. They`re like – you know what? Let`s not even look at
the camera. Let`s film a video and never look at the camera once.
MELBER: So Diamond and Silk, we love you, but that`s my nominee to
HERZOG: I like Diamond.
MELBER: Andy, who needs to fallback?
KINDLER: Well, first of all, I hope we`re able to recreate some of the
Dershowitz chemistry between us. I`ve been thinking of that joke all day.
I want Mark Zuckerberg to fallback from his every man`s stick. Nobody`s
buying it. He`s over 30. Get a nice collared shirt. We don`t think
you`re a man of the people. Spring for a pocket tee. I think he was over
in Puerto Rico rolling out on new product –
MELBER: Yes, he did a virtual trip.
KINDLER: He`s– I went – I watch the Facebook movie and I rooted for
Winklevoss twins. (INAUDIBLE) The other thing is, is that, you know,
there`s something wrong with your sight if I see a pop-up ad that says if
you like Hitler you might also like Richard Spencer, maybe? Did I write
that? Did that come out of left field? If you like – I`m not saying I
MELBER: Is these real questions?
KINDLER: What`s that?
MELBER: I said, are these real questions?
KINDLER: No. They`re rhetorical.
MELBER: OK, or is that how you – when your – when your bid is really
killing, you leave a long pause and then you ask a question.
KINDLER: Oh, I blame the audience. I blame the audience.
MELBER: People do that. Hey, you know what? This is our fun segment but
people do that in politics too. We see a lot of politicians blame the
audience or the media. Andy Kindler keeping it real, dressing in all
black, Eugene Scott, Seth Herzog here in New York, thank you all. This is
a great Fallback Friday. And shout out to Diamond and Silk. We love you.
I`ll see you back 6:00 p.m. Eastern. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up
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