Republicans brace for “Trumpcare” backlash Transcript 10/16/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Perry Bacon, Jeff Weaver, Lenny Bernstein, Jay Rosen, Hannah Seligson, George Will

Date: October 16, 2017
Guest: Perry Bacon, Jeff Weaver, Lenny Bernstein, Jay Rosen, Hannah
Seligson, George Will

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: - awkward silence now.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: What I was going to say is that you’re
passing it early. And I didn’t know if that was because you wanted extra
time for that.

TUR: I went a little long with the panel. We had to kill our own
(INAUDIBLE) and blah blah blah.

MELBER: Insider talk. You know what you’re doing? And I’m going to wrap
it up. You’re letting people behind the curtain into what the nerds do on
the set and I know that’s always moderately interesting.

Katy Tur -

TUR: I think so too.

MELBER: Thank you.

TUR: You too. See you.

MELBER: We’ve got a big show. It is no secret that Donald Trump and Mitch
McConnell don’t get along. In fact, they rarely pretend to. But they did
strike a happy note in the Rose Garden today as Trump made it official and
asserted Obamacare no longer exists. More on what he meant in a moment.

Tonight, we also have a report about how the Harvey Weinstein controversy,
with new accusers emerging, is renewing discussion of why Donald Trump’s
accusers speaking out had such different results.

And did Republicans like Bob Corker wait too long to confront Trump? If
you thought Eminem was tough on Trump, wait till you hear why George Will
is calling Mike Pence a “sycophantic poodle” who no longer realizes the
extent of his own degradation.

All that tonight. And I want to give you a special programming note.
Rachel Maddow will be here with me on THE BEAT tomorrow night to talk about
a special exclusive report we have on one of Vladimir Putin’s most
influential foes.

So, we have, I think, a lot of important topics.

But now to our top story. Donald Trump holding this impromptu press
conference today, quickly igniting some new political controversies. Mitch
McConnell and Trump putting their past difficulties on hold.

Trump made news and he made some drama. He served up, as you may have
heard, this false claim that President Obama did not call families of
fallen soldiers and then he taunted Hillary Clinton.


Is she going to run? I hope - Hillary, please run again.


MELBER: Earlier in the day, Trump talking about the stalled GOP agenda in
Congress and who should be blamed.


TRUMP: I have great relationships with actually many senator, but in
particular with most Republican senators, but we’re not getting the job
done. And I’m not going to blame myself. I’ll be honest. They are not
getting the job done.


MELBER: Please be honest. Trump also pushing the blame wherever he could
get it. And then, later in the joint appearance with McConnell who he was
blaming, the highest-ranking Senate Republican, well, Trump turned around
and gave a thumbs up.


TRUMP: We’ve been friends for a long time. We are probably now, despite
what we read, we’re probably now, I think - at least as far as I’m
concerned, closer than ever before. And the relationship is very good.


MELBER: The relationship. What Trump did not mention about talking about
that outstanding bond is, of course, there has been a pretty clear feud
that’s been playing out in public for months.


MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Our new president has, of course,
not been in this line of work before. And I think had excessive
expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.


MELBER: Then Trump landed on something that actually impacts millions of
people’s lives, something we’ve been covering a lot here - healthcare. And
he made a claim that’s partly true. He’s undercutting Obamacare to the
point it may not be recognizable and partly falls, so Obamacare does remain
federal law because, of course, Republicans failed to repeal it.

Either way, this was the moment that mattered. Trump heralding day one of


TRUMP: Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer -
you shouldn’t even mention. It’s gone. There is no such thing as
Obamacare anymore.


MELBER: Shelby Holliday is a business and politics reporter for “The Wall
Street Journal”; Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent, for “The
Daily Mail” and joins us from the White House; and the original Beatnik,
John Harwood, CNBC’s editor-at-large.

Francesca, going to you first because you’re there. This was a doozy on
process. How prepared did Mitch McConnell look for what was the first
joint Senate-White House press conference and what else can you tell us
from being there?

first time that we’ve ever been called to the Rose Garden so suddenly to
have a press conference like that, especially with the Senate Republican

And you had mentioned earlier that Trump said that it was the closest
they’ve ever been. But it wouldn’t too hard for them to - these two have
been the closest they’ve ever been, Ari.

As you mentioned, they have been feuding for quite some time. President
Trump has blamed Mitch McConnell for not getting repeal and replace passed
in the Senate.

Today, they were putting on sort of a buddy cop show, saying that they’ve
been friends for a long time. But that’s not quite exactly true.

MELBER: No, it’s not true. And, John Harwood, I don’t want to try to pick
the one weirdest moment from this presser. And as I mentioned -


MELBER: It would be hard. I mean, parts of this presser matter in the
sense of the news that was made. Picking the weirdest moment is sort of
like trying to pick the best member of Wu-Tang Clan. You can’t do it.
It’s not doable.

But I will play for you Donald Trump, after everything we’ve heard, saying
he has the votes on healthcare. Take a listen.


TRUMP: We’ll have a short-term fix with Republicans and Democrats getting
together. I think we have the votes right now. As soon as we have the
next reconciliation, I think we’ll get the vote for healthcare. I feel
very confident. I think we already have the votes for healthcare.


MELBER: John, it’s 2017. So, part of my job and part of your job is for
us to have this exchange. I’ll ask you the question. Does he have the
votes right now?

HARWOOD: Well, Ari, to use Donald Trump’s phraseology, I’ll be honest, he
does not have the votes. He is not closer than ever before with Mitch

And Obamacare is not dead, in particular - to me, this is the oddest thing
about the - both the pool spray, at the cabinet meeting and the press

He declared Obamacare dead, but then he said that we are making a
bipartisan fix. Well, the bipartisan sex is in large part to restore the
very payments that he stopped. And he made the assertion that because of
what I did, I’m causing bipartisan talks to happen.

That’s not true. The bipartisan talks have been going on for some time,
but it’s potentially significant because if, in fact, he follows through on
this, that opens the door to the president in effect coming out, embracing
a deal that props up the Obamacare exchanges and takes credit for it, and
says because I’m doing this, I’m going to bring your premiums and
deductibles down. And that would be a true statement compared with what he
did last week.

MELBER: Right. And that’s a big if. Shelby, listen to Congresswoman
Norton who said on Friday what basically Donald Trump started saying today.
Whether by political malpractice or just plain old brainstorming, Donald
Trump seems to be walking into the Democratic buzz saw. The message here,
which is owning this as Trumpcare. Take a listen.


REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON: Well, he has broken it now.
And so, it’s on his watch. He can no longer talk about Obamacare.

This is now Trumpcare.

Trump, you own it. If this was a bluff, it was a bad bluff.


Yes. I mean, Democrats are definitely looking at this and saying, hey, if
you break it, you own it. Trump doesn’t want to own it, but he doesn’t
want Obamacare to exist. We just heard him say stop talking about it, stop
referring to it.

When he said we have the votes -

MELBER: If we stopped talking about it, it just goes away, right?

HOLLIDAY: Right. We don’t even know what he means when he says we have
the votes. We don’t know what he would have the votes for.

Multiple bills have been shot down. We just heard Sen. Collins this
weekend reaffirmed her opposition to the latest bill and to the whole
process by which these bills have come up in the first place.

But this is serious stuff. Insurers have already filed their paperwork
with states. Many of them are saying they would have to raise premiums by
as much as 20 percent.

Trump hammered healthcare companies today, hammered pharmaceuticals.
Actually, applauded the fact that their stocks have gone down. So, he’s
injecting more and more uncertainty every single day. And when you really
take a look at the big picture here, this is not about healthcare stocks,
this is not about pharmaceuticals, this is about American people and the
health care of American people.

And right now, we don’t know a whole lot about how that healthcare system
is going to play out. So, it’s, obviously, very scary for a lot of people
watching the show.

MELBER: Right. And, Shelby, staying on that point on the politics, when
you look at the Kaiser Family Foundation, we have a new poll here. And
this is all just breaking. I think we’re looking at indicators that could
continue to trend even worse for the Republicans.

Sixty-four percent saying, yes, OK, you say it’s yours now, Trump and the
Republicans responsible for these problems on Obamacare moving forward,

HOLLIDAY: Right. Well, as John said, Trump will say I pledged to
dismantle Obamacare, I’m doing it. Democrats have no choice, they have to
come to the table.

They may come to the table, in the sense that if Republicans and Democrats
agreed to fund cost-sharing subsidies, maybe they would give states more
flexibility, maybe they would repeal the employer mandate. We don’t know
what they would be willing to concede.

And at this point, again, it’s just a whole lot of uncertainty. We’re not
sure where they could find a compromise.

MELBER: Right. And, John, the only thing that’s changed since August when
Trump was blasting McConnell is they’ve had more public failures to, as we
say, get the votes on Obamacare.

I want to play for you, John, the genesis of that. When Donald Trump was
holding himself out there, as he so often does, in his appeals to, I guess,
a diminishing share of the country, a share of the country that looks at
this, oh, look, he’s being tough, he’s threatening to find people, this,
that and the other.

When you watch this after today’s presser, you wonder, well, what kind of
swamp draining is this. Trump in August.


TRUMP: I’m very disappointed in Mitch, but if these bills passed, I’ll be
very happy with him. I’ll be the first to admit it. But, honestly, repeal
and replace of Obamacare should have taken place.


MELBER: John, today, he claimed he was happy with Mitch regardless.

HARWOOD: Well, yes. He claimed that. He claimed a lot of things. But he
also praised Steve Bannon, his former strategist, both in the cabinet pool
spray and, to some extent, later, saying he understands why Steve Bannon is
going after Mitch McConnell and his allies.

Steve Bannon said over the weekend, I’m cutting off Mitch McConnell’s
money. He said that he’s challenging members who are loyal Trump voters,
95 percent of the time voting for Trump, he’s going to primary them and try
to take down McConnell and the global establishment clique as he calls it.

The president did not repudiate those comments. He did say in the press
conference, well, maybe I’ll talk to Steve and maybe some of the people
he’s going after are actually good guys, but he didn’t disavow that effort.
And that’s something that is, to me, more important substantively.

If, in fact, Steve Bannon prosecutes with big donor money, that campaign,
that’s going to be a real problem for healthcare, for tax reform and
everything else the president wants to do.

MELBER: And, Francesca, briefly, you were there. What did you see that we
might not have seen here in New York studios or folks watching at home. It
looked chaotic, but what did you see?

CHAMBERS: Well, I think the main thing that people should pay attention to
is what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ended up saying, which is
the people who are in Congress get to make the policy and winners get to
make policy, losers get to go home.

And I think that’s the moral of the story. The president seems to have
tempered his expectations on Obamacare as he realizes that, look, it Barack
Obama how many years to get there. Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton never
got healthcare reform.

And so, at this point, if it takes Republicans until the beginning of next
year, that would still be quicker than some past administrations have
gotten there, Ari.

MELBER: That was a while as far - what Mitch McConnell said, hey, give
Barack Obama a break, he didn’t get stuff done until year two. And it was
like, I think that’s because you made it take a really long time.

But politics is cyclical and it knows no factual boundaries, except for
when we put them on, which we’re going to do later in the show.

Shelby Holliday and John Harwood, thank you both for being here.
Francesca, please keep hanging out on THE BEAT.

Coming up, Trump responding to the reports of requests for information in
that groping lawsuit, which went all the way back to “The Apprentice” days.
We’ll explain why this is coming up now.

And legal bills adding up for Trump in the Russia inquiry. New questions
today about if he would consider firing Bob Mueller. And as I mentioned,
our fact-check on Trump’s comments about claiming Obama didn’t call the
parents of dead soldiers as well as other people who served in that
hallowed office.

I’m Ari Melber and you’re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it would help Special counsel Robert Mueller get
to the end of the Russia investigation -

TRUMP: Well, I’d like to see it end. Look, the whole Russia thing was an
excuse - excuse me, excuse me. The whole Russia thing was an excuse for
the Democrats losing the election. There has been absolutely no collusion.
It’s been stated that they have no collusion. They ought to get to the end
of it because I think the American public is sick of it.


MELBER: President Trump today over-talking a reporter who was asking about
that potential interview with Bob Mueller. There were leaks last week that
Trump’s own lawyers could offer such an interview. Trump also knocked down
any threats to Mueller’s job.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You discussed the special counsel and the investigation
currently, are you considering firing Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: No. Not at all.


MELBER: That is the White House message and that’s about all Trump said on
the matter, which if you think about it is kind of an uncharacteristic
restraint, which shows the White House wants to speak less.

There are some problems with that, though. The law can require you to
speak more. That is why, for example, Reince Priebus agreed to that
lengthy interview with Mueller’s team on Friday because there is an
obligation to talk to investigators on a separate one.

Another federal law which forces Trump to disclose what he’s spending on
lawyers. A new filing says he’s using $1 million in campaign donations for
legal fees. That’s over several months including a quarter million
defending Don, Jr., which is notable because Don, Jr. is not serving in
the administration. He is not in government. He was at that Trump Tower
meeting with Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.

I’m joined by former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, now a partner at
Dorsey & Whitney. And back with me, Francesca Chambers, live from the
White House, reporting for “The Daily Mail.”

Nick, this is something that lawyers take for granted, I think, to some
degree, but people often forget the law does make you talk, you have a
right to silence in certain situations, you have a right to a lawyer, but
as I just showed, there are things they have to share.

they have - ultimately, Mueller has the power of subpoena. And so, if you
don’t come in and agree to have a conversation, then they’ll just give you
a grand jury subpoena, and you have to go into a grand jury. And if you
don’t show up, you can be held in contempt, which means you can be put in
jail for the life of the grand jury, which is 18 months.

MELBER: Right. And there weren’t any big surprises to my eye - I’m
curious what you thought - in the filings. But I think the most striking
thing is with all the attention on Donald Trump, the aides, Michael Flynn,
Paul Manafort, you see a significant sum. I mean, it’s literally about a
quarter of the total spend of the Trump lawyers going to Don, Jr. defense.

AKERMAN: Which is quite amazing. I mean, 25 percent of your campaign
funds going for a legal defense fund, including people who do not work in
the White House.

I mean, you wonder what they’re doing with the lower-level people who work
there, the secretaries and people who probably know the most about
anything, you wonder what kind of legal representation they are getting.

MELBER: Yes. Francesca, give us your view. It seemed - we showed Donald
Trump over-talking, sort of Russia-splaining, if you will. But he was, by
the standard of his public statements since the campaign, as concise as
we’ve probably seen him in an adversarial press conversation about this
issue. Is he getting more disciplined on Russia? And if so, why?

CHAMBERS: Well, he was pretty clear. He thinks that - but that’s nothing
to do with - the White House has been saying that for some time now.

I think the real question as we go forward is whether or not, as you guys
were talking about, there is a subpoena here for the president or other
people who are still working in the White House, whether there are more
voluntary interviews.

The president has already said, earlier in the summer, that he would be
willing to talk to the special counsel, to Bob Mueller.

So, will his counsel volunteer him to go forward. That is not something
that we heard from him today. It’s unclear whether or not the president
heard that part of the question. As you can see there, he was interjecting
as she was talking at that point.

So, it’s very unclear whether or not he was just refusing to answer that
part of the question, about whether he would volunteer his time or he just
didn’t hear that that’s where she was going with it.

MELBER: Let me play for you another legal issue that came up in the press
conference today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the wake of the avalanche of allegations made
against Harvey Weinstein, your campaign is being subpoenaed for any
documents related to sexual harassment allegations made against you. Do
you have a response to that?

TRUMP: All I can say is it’s totally fake news. It’s just fake. It’s
fake. It’s made-up stuff. It’s disgraceful what happens, but that happens
in the world of politics.


MELBER: And, Francesca, I want to cut that into two pieces. Legally, it’s
not that they’re being subpoenaed by prosecutors or anything like that.
This is a request for information and discovery in one of these suits.

Donald Trump had famously claimed that he was going to sue all the female
accusers. He didn’t. He never made good on that threat or promise or
whatever it was.

But there is this litigation here. And these are older court documents
about a request for information, which, again, to be fair, is fairly
standard. Having said that, when he goes on in this climate in this week
with all the discussion of accusers and says it’s “fake, fake, fake,” last
time I checked, these people are real. These women are real.

They have claimed, some of which they are seeking to be adjudicated in a
court of law. What did you make of that response there? And is that
something that you think the press - the White House press corps
(INAUDIBLE) is going to stay on? Or do they see that as kind of a closed

CHAMBERS: No, I think this is something that will keep coming up because
we didn’t hear a very complete answer from the president. That was just a
few words when he called it fake news.

I think what he was saying is that their claims are false, that they are
untrue, and that he didn’t really think that there was much else to say
about them for that reason. But that issue is not going to go away, of
course. And I think there will be more questions about that.


AKERMAN: Yes. I think he’s going to wind up being subpoenaed. And he’s
going to have to testify in a deposition. As opposed to a criminal
proceeding, where you go into a grand jury, in a civil proceeding like
this, you go in, there’s a court reporter, there’s a lawyer who represents
the plaintiff and they ask you questions.

And I think he’s going to have to do the same thing that ultimately Bill
Clinton did with the Monica Lewinsky matter. He’s going to have to answer
questions on all of these matters.

MELBER: And I want to read John Dowd, the president’s criminal defense
attorney said, basically, this has all been delayed, giving us a statement
that said subpoena was stayed by the court months ago. Stayed doesn’t mean
over. Stayed means not right now. So, it’s a case where there could be
further developments.

Nick Ackerman and Francesca Chambers, thank you both.

Still ahead, some new reaction to this really bizarre claim from Donald
Trump that other presidents, including Barack Obama, did not call the
parents of fallen soldiers.

And what does a Goldman Sachs millionaire know about populism? We’re going
to talk to the man who ran the Bernie Sanders campaign about responding to

And I want to mention a program note. Tomorrow, on THE BEAT, we have a
special report on one of Putin’s top foes, a man with unique insights into
that special meeting I just showed there between Jared Kushner and the top
Russian banker. And afterwards, I will be joined by Rachel Maddow, making
her debut on THE BEAT tomorrow at 6 PM.

And we will be right back.



populism and we need to get it formed up is that there is bigger and more
crucial decisions coming down the road.


MELBER: Steve Bannon did not drain the swamp while he worked in the White
House. You may have noticed. The former Goldman Sachs banker is still
talking about it, railing against elites and promising he will be a
populist leader against capitalism, now that he is out of government.

He is also one of the only Trump insiders to directly respond to Eminem,
telling a reporter he doesn’t give an expletive, which Breitbart posted.
Bannon clearly relishes being a villain to the left. And his message now
appears to be I am whatever you say I am, and if I wasn’t, then why would I
say I am.

That, plus attacking Wall Street, where he used to work.


BANNON: You guys have more common sense, more understanding of what we
need to do and more decency than the elites. And the first order of
business is to undo all the damage of globalism, right, that allowed
Silicon Valley and Wall Street and Hollywood and the imperial capital right
here in Washington DC.

If you think that the elites that got the world into the situation it is
today are going to make the right judgments 20 years from now, you’re sadly


MELBER: That attack also comes as another Trump cabinet member under fire
for hiding up to $2 billion, not million, $2 billion, during the Trump
transition, raising a question of what populism even means.

Some Democratic strategists say Trump’s hypocrisy in failing to drain the
swamp is actually an opportunity and to own real populism on the economy
and healthcare as Jeff Weaver is arguing in a new piece that’s making the
rounds about the real populist revolution. He says it’s on the left.

With me, the man who wrote that piece, Jeff Weaver, former senior advisor
to Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Democrats, as well as Perry Bacon, a
political writer for “FiveThirtyEight”.

Jeff, how do you go from the frustration with the Trump team getting away
everything from the private jets to the missing $2 billion I just showed,
how do you get that over to what you’re calling, this revolution?

Steve Bannon is a very skilled snake oil salesman, along with Donald Trump.

Both of them pledged during the campaign they were going to help working
people in this country, middle-income people. And what we’ve seen from
this administration is an unrelenting attack on the financial and frankly
the physical health, with their attacks on the ACA, of working-class and
middle-class people across this country.

If you look at the administration, it is really a joke. George W. Bush
would never have had the guts to pack so many Wall Street types and
billionaires in his administration.

What is going on here is really a travesty. And folks who are talking
about the Trump hypocrisy are absolutely right. And Bannon is part of that
hypocrisy clearly.

MELBER: And, Perry, let me play for you what Donald Trump said today when
asked about Steve Bannon. They have this day out. I mean, he seems to
have a much more immediate big public profile than the typical departing
advisor. Here was the president today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you approve of Steve Bannon’s war on
Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment?

TRUMP: Well, Steve is very committed. He’s a friend of mine and he is
very committed to getting things passed. We’re not getting the job done.
And I’m not going to blame myself. I’ve been honest. They are not getting
the job done.


MELBER: As you see, Perry, it’s hard for Donald Trump to answer a question
about Steve Bannon without talking about himself. But what do you think of
what’s going on here?

he left the White House - by the way, Steve Bannon helped pick most of the
cabinet. So, his version of populism doesn’t include billionaire cabinet

But I should note that I think that Steve Bannon left the white house and
said I’m going to support the Trump agenda from outside the White House.
And I would argue the Trump agenda does include taking on Mitch McConnell,
taking on Jeff Flake, taking on kind of the establishment part of the
Republican Party.

And I think Steve Bannon is probably doing that in that role. Like I would
actually argue at this point Steve Bannon is probably doing Donald Trump
more good outside the White House than inside the White House because
Bannon was very ineffective in the White House itself.

ARI MELBER: Yes. I mean, right. The comparison there is telling. He’s
less harmful when he has less power is another way to make the point. I
want to turn from this. So this is sort of the abstract because you know,
Jeff Weaver writes op-ed, everyone forwards it and talks about it, Jeff.
You know, you got that power like your old boss. I’m trying to get Jeff
Weaver to smile but it’s hard to do.

you go. There you go. All right, I’ll take the compliment. Thank you.

MELBER: So this is all kind of up in the clouds, right? We want to zero
in on another piece of this that really affects people which is the opioid
crisis, which is something that Donald Trump talked a lot about on the
campaign trail and yet again, a major expose from the Washington Post and
60 Minutes which reports on how in this Republican environment in
Washington, the DEA has been stripped of the power to stop drug companies
from spilling narcotics out into American streets.


These were professionals who were doing it. They were just drug dealers in
lab coats. I think that the drug industry, the manufacturers, wholesalers,
distributors and chain drug stores have an influence over Congress that has
never been seen before. And these people came in with their influence and
money and got a whole statute changed because they didn’t like it.


MELBER: OK, so who did it? Well, the sponsor of that move in Congress,
according to this reporting, very exhaustive, is Republican Congressman Tom
Marino. And what’s he doing now? He is Donald Trump’s nominee to be Drug
Czar. Adding to our discussion is Lenny Bernstein, one of the team of
investigative reporters who broke that story. Take it away Lenny. What
should people know about this and how do you deal with opioid crisis that
has a corporate or capitalist component in this environment?

if you want to talk swamp, talk about this story. This is the swampiest
thing that we’ve seen in a long time. You’ve got you know, the U.S.
Congress, the drug industry, the Justice Department, the DEA, all of these
thrown into a big stew and end result, at time when 60,000 people are dying
of drug overdoses, is that the DEA loses its most potent weapon against
large drug companies that are letting pills, hundreds of millions of pills
spill out onto the street. If that’s not swampiest thing that affects
average folks, I don’t know what is.

MELBER: Yes, and Lenny, this goes to one of the many parts of it. It’s an
attractable crisis, but this is one of the many parts of it that you don’t
blame on some other country or some foreign element, right? I mean, this
is – you’re talking about companies that operate in America under American
law that are dealing with the American Congress and that your reporting
shows are basically getting a sweetheart deal to make money, right? And
that then Donald Trump’s administration seems to think either they don’t
care or it’s perfectly fine because they’re promoting the guy behind it.

BERNSTEIN: Correct. Let’s remember that McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and
Cardinal Health, the three distributors that control 85 percent of the drug
flow in this country are all in the top 25 corporations in America by size.
McKesson is fifth largest corporation in America, not the fifth largest
drug company but the fifth largest company. They make billions of –
billions of dollars off opioids and they did not like this law. And they
did not because the DEA was using it to stop them from breaking the law.
The DEA was sanctioning them when they refused or declined or neglected to
report suspicious orders of painkillers spilling out to users and dealers.
So they went and got the law changed. That’s the basics here. And if the
guy who carried that very onerous law, Tom Marino becomes Drug Czar, I
would argue that’s pretty swampy.

MELBER: Pretty swampy. And Perry, this isn’t just an important issue. If
you care about Americans, you care about what’s going on out there, it’s
also literally one of the key things that Donald Trump campaigned on. It’s
what we know from leaked transcripts told foreign leaders, he won New
Hampshire because he called it you know, a “drug opioid-filled den” and
what do we make of this?

BACON: And his staff right now has an opioid initiative that was being
worked on by among others by Kellyanne Conway. So they talked a lot about
you know, dealing with this issue but in reality, this pick shows you –
it’s part – it’s part of a broader thing in the administration, which is
often the cabinet nominees who are picked are people who are very, very
close to the industry they’re in. You look at Tom Price and HHS. You look
at Scott Pruitt, EPA, Marino here is that people are basically appointed to
regulate agencies but really they’re very close to the business communities
that sponsor those agencies and who donate money and so on.

It’s hard to see them as likely to be effective regulators because they –
that’s not what they’re there for. Pruitt is very pro company, it looks
like Marino will behave in that same way. So it’s odd pick to run – to be
the Drug Czar. And my sense is on Capitol Hill, this will be a hard person
to confirm because states that’s affected by opioids, places like West
Virginia and Ohio have Republican Senators who I think may have a hard time
voting for Marino after this story came out.

MELBER: Right, and this story is part of the investigative work that as I
mentioned Washington Post and 60 Minutes did and a lot of reporters are
doing. It’s not about the tweets, it’s not about the NFL, it’s a lot of
deep shoe-leather reporting. Lenny Bernstein, I know you were part of that
team there so we really appreciate you making time. Perry Bacon and Jeff
Weaver, thank you, both.

BACON: Thanks so much Ari.

WEAVER: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Coming up, President Trump accusing past Presidents of ignoring
the families of fallen soldiers and he was fact-checked live. We’ll show
you what happens. And later, some Republican leaders starting to speak out
against Trump, but George Will is here and he’s says folks, it is way too
late. He’ll explain live coming up.


MELBER: President Trump got fact-checked in real time during today’s press
conference for this false and outrageous claim about former presidents.


Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls, a lot of them
didn’t make calls. I like to call when it’s appropriate when think I’m
able to do it. They have made the ultimate sacrifice. So generally, I
would say that I like to call. I’m going to be calling them.


MELBER: President Trump there, discussing about whether and how other
Presidents make calls or contact with families of fallen soldiers. So that
was claim. Then all of a sudden, NBC’s Peter Alexander followed up and
Trump fell back sort of.


President Obama never called the families of fallen soldiers. How could
you make that claim?

TRUMP: I don’t know if he did. No, no, no.


TRUMP: I was – I was told that he didn’t often, and a lot of presidents
don’t. They write letters.


MELBER: Trump appears to think not knowing is a defense to a false
accusation. It is not. if anything suggests a reckless in the face of
what is obviously a serious matter, how our presidents honor fallen
soldiers regardless of party. One example George W. Bush here presenting
the medal of honor to the parents of fallen Navy SEAL. President Obama
visited Dover for example to receive the remains of troops who died in
Afghanistan. You see there. Now, when the body of the soldier killed in
Niger recently came to Dover, President Trump was golfing.

Now, today’s fact check fight comes amidst new scrutiny on how the Trump
administration approaches the press in general. There was that threat
recently to revoke broadcast licenses including that of this station, as
well as a new exhaustive account in a Columbian (INAUDIBLE) journalism
review, the Queen of Spin scrutinizing Ivanka Trump her approach to the
press and whether she gets pass too often. Joining me is the reporter who
wrote that piece, Hannah Seligson as well as Jay Rosen, Journalism
Professor at NYU, also runs the PressThink blog. Professor, I’ll start with
you on that fact check exchange today. And the habit of mind we’ve seen
with Donald Trump a lot. He says, well, I don’t know, or nobody knows when
the knowledge is available and he’s very clearly either misrepresenting it
or lying about it.

category of shocking but not surprising. I think what we’re seeing Ari,
might be described as the infantilization of the American Presidency in
which the President, instead of being seen as the most powerful person in
the world with the best information at the world and the most – the best
staff is treated as a kind of boy king whose not expected to know anything
because he’s too immature and doesn’t really know what he’s doing. And I
think we’re becoming conditioned to that which is itself shocking but not

MELBER: Well, you look at that intersecting with something you’ve been
writing about because this goes to sense of patriotism. Journalists are
allowed to be objective, fair, and factual and also feel patriotism, I
think. You’ve written about why it’s painful though, for patriotic
journalists to see this situation of the boy king and what more perfect
demonstration in this very serious discussion about how we deal with fallen
soldiers, something a lot of us care about. And yet as you saw, as you
described, the reporters almost want to feedback to the President this
information because it’s not clear that he does know that he’s lying.

ROSEN: I think it’s embarrassing to report on a president like this. It’s
kind of humiliating in way to the entire institution. And that
institution, the presidency includes the White House Press Corp. And so,
instead of fund of facing full frontal that fact, I think journalists try
to make it seem a little bit more normal than it really is.

MELBER: Right. And that – and that – there’s a theory of normalization
that is the press is normalizing Trump for sinister reason. I mean, what -
- some of what you’ve argued is, will not a good thing if you’re
normalizing attacks on the press or lying or other behavior, it’s sometimes
for much more understandable reasons, right, although they’re not –
they’re not reasons we should be acting on. Hannah, I want to ask you
about your piece. Do you have anything to say about his before we turn to
your piece?

of a bridge here between my piece and what other people in the
administration is Trump implicating to lie for him and stand in for him?
And I think this sort of gets to Ivanka to some degree. How much is she
lying for her father? How much does she have to sort of put on a front to
hold up Trump’s lies?

MELBER: Well, here she was in June trying out a defense that you argue
some reporters have given too much credence too. Take a look here on Fox

IVANKA TRUMP, ADVISER, PRESIDENT TRUMP: I try to stay out of politics. I
fell blessed with being part of the ride from day one and before but I
don’t profess to be a political savant.


MELBER: What did you find in your reporting when members of the media get
access to her and confront that which is clearly a false statement by
someone working in a political administration, at senior level, making
decisions every day about policy and politics?

SELIGSON: Right. And let’s just also state for the record that her lawyer
had said she was going to be the eyes and ears of the administration, that
her job really had no limits to it. Now she’s sort of backed away from
that and said I’m going to stay in my lane. What I hear from other
reporters is that they have to get through army of lawyers and P.R. people
to really get access to Ivanka. And that’s the difficulty in covering her.
And she has been covered to some degree about her stances on climate change
and gender and other issues but haven’t looked into her shady business
dealings as much as we should have and does she really have the interests
of American people at heart?

ROSEN: I think it’s extraordinary that not only do we not know what
Ivanka’s qualifications for serving in White House are but we really have
no idea what her job description is. And in Hannah’s article, she asked
the White House, can you just tell us what Ivanka does? And they refused
to reply. That is kind of amazing. It’s like a palace.

SELIGSON: No one would go on the record to tell me what Ivanka’s job
description is.

MELBER: It’s yes – totally – it’s ridiculous.

ROSEN: It’s a mystery.

MELBER: It’s ridiculous. She’s invited on THE BEAT. If she wants to come
on THE BEAT, but we would ask what she does for a living or not for living
I guess if it’s unpaid.

ROSEN: Yes, that’s a good point.

SELIGSON: But, I also just want to be clear that she has been covered in
some capacities but there is a big and I go into this (INAUDIBLE) in my
piece and everyone should read out Davidson’s New Yorker piece called
Trump’s Worst Deal. And their major questions about what role she played
in this Baku deal that is now being investigated by three Senators have
asked for to be investigated.

MELBER: Right. It’s a huge issue.

SELIGSON: What did she know?

MELBER: Hannah Seligson joining us with your reporting, Jay Rose, thanks
for coming back on THE BEAT. Still ahead, is it better late than never?
The Republicans criticizing Trump, George Will has a really tough column.
You got to hear this next.


MELBER: More top Republicans are slamming Donald Trump. senator Bob
Corker made waves for confronting Trump after announcing he would not seek
re-election. But a leading conservative notes Corker’s new courage is
undercut by the way he backed Trump during the campaign when it mattered


repulsed by those who try to direct the electoral process in a certain
direction and say, well, no matter what people do, we’re going to cause
this to happen at the convention. To me that’s inappropriate. At the same
time I have a plan to support our nominee –


MELBER: Nominee being Donald Trump. But in a blistering new column,
Conservative George Will calls out Corker and other Republicans who are
speaking out now, Will has strong credentials here, he left the GOP over
Trump and was clearer than these other folks about nowadays. George Will
was clear in warning voters about Trump before election day.


Mexican judge from Northern Indiana, then Paul Ryan endorsed him. And I
decided that in fact, this is not my party anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can the Republican Party withstand Trump actually being
their standard bearer?

WILL: No. It will – well, there’ll still be a husk of the Republican

He has an advantage on me because he can say everything he knows about any
subject in 140 characters and I can’t.


MELBER: In this new piece, George Will laments Mike Pence becoming a
“leashed poodle, too sycophantic to recognize his degradations from Trump”
and writes, Pence is a reminder that no one can have sustained transactions
with Trump without becoming too soiled for subsequent scrubbing. Those
Republicans who only now warn about Trump after he won and is in charge
bring to mind the mythology of the Owl of Minerva. You know, some say the
owl flies to warn against getting lost in the forest when it gets dark.
But because the owl only flies at dusk when you see her, you know darkness
is coming, but it is too late to save yourself. With me now is George
Will, who wrote that column. George, are we like the owl when we hear from
these Republicans? Did they act too late and what were you trying to
achieve in this new piece?

WILL: Well, they did act too late. The President remembered before he was
president said it’s not called the Conservative Party, it’s the Republican
Party, meaning a not Conservative Party in his judgment. He has trafficked
with members of the alt-right. They are honestly labeled. They are an
alternative to conservatism. An alternative to conservatism understood as
limited government founded with reference to the founder’s doctrine of
natural rights. The alt-right with which Mr. Trump is flirting and Mr.
Bannon is actively embracing says that in fact the tribalism to which we as
human beings are subject to temptation should not be transcended, it should
be celebrated.

It’s a kind of right-wing version of the identity politics that some on the
left practice. And we’re now seeing in Mr. Corker the kind of emancipation
of someone who’s walking out the door and is free to say what he wants
without being afraid of offending the Republican constituency. Some people
in the Senate sometimes speak of the six-year smile of someone who had
recently been reelected and doesn’t have to face the voters for another six
years. Mr. Corker may never have to face them again and is therefore

MELBER: And George, do you think these Republicans who went along with
Trump during the campaign were expecting him to lose and were surprised
that they’d actually signed up for what some of them is four years of
serious pain?

WILL: I think they were expecting him to lose. A lot of Trump staffer
expected him to lose. There’s evidence Mr. Trump, regardless of what he
says now, was expecting to lose. But in fact, they’re now in quite
untenable position and you to have some empathy for them. They are – they
are at odds with half the base no matter which way they jump. If they
decide to support the President, then traditional Republicans will find
them unacceptable. If they adhere to traditional Republican principles,
then the President in his – with his – as a fellow traveler now of Mr.
Bannon will be with 30 or 40 or 50 percent of the Republican Party opposed
to them. They’re in an untenable position. But then, who allowed this to
happen and who once it happened normalized him to get to the point where we
are today?

MELBER: And briefly, you call out Stephen Miller and some of these other
individuals as having “dominated by those who explicitly repudiate
America’s premises,” that there is something concerning in their challenges
to the constitutional order itself.

WILL: These are not conservatives and they don’t to their credit really
claim to be conservatives. They are importing, these people who want to
make America great again are importing continental European ethno-tribal
blood and soil right-wingery, which is not just not the founder’s version,
it’s the antithesis of the founder’s version. Therefore those who are
sailing under the flag of Make America Great Again are actually trying to
make America into something that never was and shouldn’t be.

MELBER: You make such an important point so rooted in history, like a lot
of your arguments that this was not a country built on heritage and when it
responds to its better angel, it’s a country of laws and rules and unity.
George Will, as always, thanks for being here.

WILL: Glad to be with you.

MELBER: Up next, I’m going to talk about a BEAT special report on Vladimir
Putin from the man who once risked everything to confront him. I’ll tell
you more about it, straight ahead.


MELBER: Did Vladimir Putin try to tip our election? And if so, did he use
state-owned banks to bribe Americans? Most of what we know about all of
these questions tend to come from Americans, from American investigators
and Congressional hearings and from American journalists doggedly working
the story. But what about the people who actually know Vladimir Putin best
or have even tangled directly with him? I want to tell you that tomorrow I
have an exclusive interview with one of the foremost Putin experts and
critics, the man who literally risked his life to speak out against Putin
in Russia and around the world. He is a Putin foe. And afterwards, Rachel
Maddow will join me for a very special discussion on THE BEAT. I’m very
excited to have her. That’s tomorrow 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Now that is our
show, I’ll see you back here tomorrow as I said 6:00 p.m. Eastern with
Rachel and that story. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It’s not my fault. Let’s play HARDBALL.



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