WH Chief caught in falsehood Transcript 10/20/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Ned Price, Hakeem Jeffries, Renato Mariotti, Julia Ioffe, Annie Linskey, Gay Talese

Date: October 20, 2017

Guest: Ned Price, Hakeem Jeffries, Renato Mariotti, Julia Ioffe, Annie
Linskey, Gay Talese

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right
now. Ari, apologies for handing the baton slightly late.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: No worries, sir. We`ll be watching on
Sunday. Thank you, Chuck.

It is Friday night and the news coming out of the Trump White House is a
red alert moment. This is not about tweets or feuds. Trump Chief of Staff
John Kelly was busted for misleading claims and your government responded
by saying he cannot be questioned because he is a general.


after Gen. Kelly, that`s up to you, but I think that that - if you want to
get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that`s something
highly inappropriate.


MELBER: Highly inappropriate to debate a general. That is not what the US
constitution says. Generals subject to oversight and vigorous reporting by
the free press. News today that proves Kelly got his facts wrong.

But, right or wrong, the White House is challenging a much higher principle
that civilians and elected officials do hold the military to account. And
it was an elected official, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson who criticized
President Trump`s call to a Gold Star family.


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The congresswoman stood up and
talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that
building. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.


MELBER: There is video of the event, which surfaced today, showing Kelly
got it wrong is according to independent accounts. Now, Kelly could have
made a genuine error and then he could correct it.

Tonight`s news is he failed to do so. And the White House spokesperson,
who reports to Kelly, took a position more commonly associated with Trump
than Kelly, standing by a false claim, contradicted by the overwhelming


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does Gen. Kelly still stand by the statement that he
made yesterday that he felt that she was grandstanding and that she was
taking credit?

SANDERS: Absolutely. Gen. Kelly said he was stunned that Rep. Wilson made
comments at a building dedication honoring slain FBI agents about her own
actions in Congress.


MELBER: There was a time when many saw Kelly as the last hope to change
Trump. Today, it looks like it is Trump who is changing Kelly. And Kelly
was known for discipline, but he is proactively continuing a political spat
with misleading claims, while his boss drags his family and service into
the political fray.

Yet, it`s Kelly now who is doubling down on a fight that he says is about
respect for veterans in the military, a bizarre claim when waged on behalf
of Donald Trump, who has demeaned military families and veterans, while
invoking generals for his selective political claims.


she was standing there, she had nothing to say. She probably - maybe she
wasn`t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people
have written that. She was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had
nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.

He`s not a war hero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a war hero.

TRUMP: He`s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that
weren`t captured. OK? I hate to tell you.

Under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have
been reduced to rubble.


MELBER: Donald Trump does not appear to understand that when our soldiers
are in their graves, they deserve only respect, not political

Now, it`s no surprise Trump is once again trying to accuse others of his
own more outlandish offenses. His record of insulting veterans and their
families is now well known.

He waded into that territory this week for no evident reason. And Trump`s
penchant for projection is also no secret. But this isn`t just another
squabble borne of emotional neediness.

It now includes a general in the White House who, caught in an incorrect
claim, sends out an employee, paid by your tax dollars, to tell you that
general is not subject to debate because he`s a general.

Let me say this tonight to Gen. Kelly. You will be debated. You will be
questioned. And you now have an obligation to retract this odd White House
spokesperson claim.

Our constitution explicitly places the military under civilian control.
That matters not only for this week`s rhetorical sparring, whatever it is,
whatever it was supposed to be, but also, far more importantly, as I hope
we all know, for the underlying incident that sparked it, which the Trump
White House has so vigorously distracted from, the death of four US
soldiers and the injuries of two others near the Niger-Mali border.

The FBI is investigating it. The Trump administration thus far has been
quite secretive. Now, we have no idea if the findings would show anything
should be done differently. It`s way too early to say. But, again, it
will be questioned. That`s how our system works, even if some in the Trump
administration don`t want to understand that.


president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be


MELBER: I am joined now by Ken Dilanian, NBC`s intelligence/national
security reporter, and Ned Price who worked for the National Security
Council under the Obama administration and also for the CIA.

Ned, your view of what Gen. Kelly sent out his employee to say today?

Ari, you had it exactly right. It`s Article 2 of the Constitution that
says the president of the united states, a civilian leader, is the

And, frankly, not only is the military subordinate to civilian leadership,
but generals, leaders within the military have a special responsibility to
tell the truth under military guidelines, military code of justice.

So, for Gen. Kelly to go out there and to make what could well have been an
honest mistake - look, everyone makes honest mistakes.


PRICE: Even generals. But he now has a special obligation to go out and
correct the record. Ari, there are countries in the world in which
generals, decorated generals purport to have a monopoly on the facts. This
is not one of them. This has never been one of them. And we must work to
make sure that we never become one of those countries.

MELBER: Well put. And I know you`ve served. Ken, I want to play
something else Gen. Kelly said yesterday when there was an initial response
in Washington and, I think, elsewhere that part of his comments were really
effective and were really heartfelt and lord knows he has served.

And yet, there were other parts yesterday and then what he`s overseeing
today that appear dead wrong. Part of the discussion yesterday, at one
point, he said he wasn`t going to call on all the journalists or use any
random method. He only wanted to hear from journalists who had a link to
the military.

Take a listen.


KELLY: Does anyone here know a Gold Star parent or a sibling? OK. You
get question. Any other - someone who knows a Gold Star fallen person?
John. I`ll take one more. But it`s got to be from someone who knows - all

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do appreciate your time.


MELBER: Ken, I wonder your response to that because, as an American, you
have tremendous respect for the Gold Star families. In fact, we heard from
one on this program this week.

But as a public servant paid by the tax dollars of this country in an open
press setting, that really stood out.

Ari. I think it`s a really dangerous road to go down. I think, for
example, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said just in the last hour to
reporters that he thought it was an inappropriate thing for Sarah Sanders
to say, that, of course, a general can be questioned in our democracy.

And, in fact, what I have been reporting on all day are the very legitimate
questions that the civilian oversight staffers in Congress have been
raising about what actually happened in Niger and whether there was an
intelligence failure and how 50 enemy militants could amass near our 12
special operations folks without the US military figuring out that they
were there.

And so, these questions are now being raised about this incident. This
rhetoric, I think, in the end is not going to have a meaningful impact on
how all this is handled. Ari.

MELBER: Yes. You mentioned Sen. Graham. I have the readout here. This
is a Republican senator. He was asked, is it highly inappropriate to
debate a four-star general and, Ned, he responded, no, not in America.

This seems different than some of the news cycles of Donald Trump saying
ridiculous things. And it seems to go to the heart of whether Gen. John
Kelly, chief of staff, has an obligation to address and clean this up?

PRICE: Well, Ari, when Gen. Kelly took his current White House post and
when he was commissioned as a general, when help enlisted as a marine in
1970, he took an oath that said he will protect and defend the constitution
against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

He has never taken an oath that he will defend a president at all costs,
that he will bend the truth, inadvertent or not, in the service of the
president. He has a much greater service, and that is a service to our

To my mind, Gen. Kelly, his entire career, has been a good soldier. He has
been a good soldier when he was an enlisted marine. He has been a good
soldier as a general. But I think what his role demands now is that he be
a patriot. He be a good patriot.

And as I`ve said before, those are often one and the same. But I think
this administration is really tearing those two concepts apart. And there
is a divergence there that`s especially dangerous.

MELBER: Right. And a lot of this goes back to what will the oversight be.
What are members of Congress saying here on another Friday night where the
Trump administration is making news, what would appear to be, for them, bad

I want to bring in New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries who serves on the
Judiciary Committee with me in New York. Is it appropriate to debate a

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: It`s absolutely. It`s appropriate to
debate a general in a democracy. Of course. This is not a military
dictatorship. We are a nation of laws, not a nation of men.

And pursuant to the rule of law, anyone is subject to being held
accountable to those who are charged with representing the people of this
great nation in terms of members of congress and as it relates to members
of the fourth estate, media, as embedded in the First Amendment of the
United States constitution.

MELBER: There was a lot of talk about Trump being changed or disciplined
by Kelly. Are we seeing Kelly today sound more like Trump?

JEFFRIES: That unfortunately appears to be the case. Gen. Kelly served
this nation in a phenomenal fashion. That service is to be respected and

But it is saddening and shocking that he would actually engage in character
assassination against a sitting member of Congress, calling her an empty
barrel, and then trying to justify that character assassination by
misrepresenting the remarks that she gave at the building renaming in 2015.

And then, for the White House today to double and triple down on that
mischaracterization is just consistent with the chaos, crisis and confusion
that we continue to see from the Trump administration.

And what Gen. Kelly should do is pick up the phone, call Congresswoman
Wilson, apologize for the character assassination and then we can,
hopefully, all move on from this episode and get down to the business of
the American people.

MELBER: Right. And the business of this investigation. I want to ask
you, congressman, as well as our panel, to broaden this out because
sometimes these conversations become all about Trump. This today feels
quite a bit deeper.

You think back to, say, 1951. We had General MacArthur butting heads with
President Harry Truman about policy for the Korean War, trying to exert
political pressure on Truman, appealing directly to the political branches.

Truman relieved then a big war hero with an influential following.
MacArthur saying, if there is one basic element in our constitution, it`s
civilian control of the military, policies to be made by elected political
officials, not generals or admirals. And Truman basically saying he did
not want to risk a wider war.


have made it evident that Gen. MacArthur did not agree with that policy. I
have, therefore, considered it essential to relieve Gen. MacArthur so that
there would be no doubt or confusion as to the real purpose and aim of our


MELBER: Ned Price, that was a very different model of leadership. It was
not, by the way, easy within public opinion at the time, but it was
something that Harry Truman felt the constitution was actually in play, not
only his own personal reputation, if generals were trying to muscle out
civilian control.

PRICE: Well, that`s right. And, Ari, frankly, we haven`t seen a
proliferation of generals in senior civilian leadership in other
administrations at least in recent memory.

The White House Chief of Staff, the national security adviser who is a
currently serving general, there are other military officials throughout
other cabinet departments and agencies that does not follow that model.

And it`s interesting when you hear President Trump speak of military
leaders. He calls them my generals, which I think really speaks to the way
he perceives them. He thinks he can - that they serve him and only him.

But I think the key is that they serve our constitution. They are there to
protect our constitution, to protect our country. And I think Gen. Kelly
and the others who are in this position will continue to need to do that,
even risking the ire of President Trump.

MELBER: Well, you raised such an important point, Ned. And congressman, I
wonder if you could speak to that here. It`s not his play, it`s not his
White House, and it`s certainly not his army. How important is it that
you, in a co-equal branch, remind Donald Trump of that when he has a
general running the White House comporting himself this way?

JEFFRIES: Well, it`s the people`s house, it`s the people`s democracy. And
you`ve indicated, Ari, there are separate and co-equal branches of
government. It doesn`t seem like Donald Trump respects that. It doesn`t
seem like he respects the Congress and our oversight responsibility. He
certainly has shown that he doesn`t respect the Article 3 federal court
system and the role that judges ought to play in our democracy.

He`s got autocratic tendencies. And the hope has been that the White House
chief of staff would be able to dampen those tendencies and put Donald
Trump on a path where he can function consistent with the manner that other
presidents of the United States have functioned, understanding their role
and their fundamental accountability to the people that they were elected
to serve.

It`s shameful. We`re going to try to focus as Democrats on delivering
better jobs, better wages and a better future. But in the context of the
chaos that he constantly inflicts upon the American people, it`s always
difficult in Washington, D.C.

MELBER: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you for giving us that
perspective. And Ned Price and Ken Dilanian, appreciate you both in your
analysis here.

New numbers showing Americans without insurance tonight. Is Trumpcare
boosting that problem? I have the Reverend Al Sharpton here live.

And new reporting on Trump`s very unusual interviews of specific prosecutor
candidates, including those with oversight of key Trump locations,
including Trump Tower.

And the Trump administration showing some new confusion on a basic point.
Is Vladimir Putin our adversary or our ally?

I`m Ari Melber. Much more ahead. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president - President Trump view Russia as an
ally, a partner, or an adversary?

SANDERS: And as I`ve said before, I think a lot of that depends on Russia
and what type of relationship they want to have and whether or not they
want to be a good actor or a bad actor.


MELBER: Say what now? The White House today making some other news,
saying it`s up to Russia to decide if we`re allies or adversaries. That`s
not been the long-standing policy. Trump`s ambassador to the UN has made
her decision.


NIKKI HALEY, US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: I find it fascinating because the
Russians, God bless them, they`re saying why are Americans anti-Russian and
why have we done the sanctions? Well, don`t interfere in our elections and
we won`t be anti-Russian.

I will tell you when a country can come interfere in another country`s
elections, that is warfare.


MELBER: Warfare, which is not something allies do to each other. Note to
Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Sessions saying Russia did meddle in the
election and he knows that the threat Russia poses is severe. But then
there was his answer on what to do about it.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Do you think we`re doing enough to prepare
for future interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries in the
information space?



MELBER: Some credit for honesty there. But why not? That`s one piece of
the puzzle.

Meanwhile, Special Counsel Bob Mueller digging into the Russia
investigation, doing interviews, climbing up the chain.

With me now, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti; Julia Ioffe from
“The Atlantic” who covers Russia; and Annie Linskey of “The Boston Globe”.

Julia, because we started there with the foreign affairs, I go to you
first. Put this into context for us, the history of how US administrations
have viewed Russia as an adversary.

JULIA IOFFE, STAFF WRITER, “THE ATLANTIC”: Well, I think that`s just - if
you talk to former administration officials from across administrations,
they - everybody comes in thinking, we`re going to do this differently,
we`re smarter than the last guy and we`re going to have a better
relationship with Russia.

And then, Russia continues behaving the way it behaves, acting counter to
our interests in a way that they think is advancing their interests, which
often run perpendicular to American interests. And we get to where we are
now. Usually not as bad, but where we are now, which is an adversarial

Sarah Huckabee Sanders isn`t wrong. She`s saying if you want to be
friends, if you want to be allies, you`ve got change up your game. You`ve
got to act better. So, she`s not totally wrong.

MELBER: Well, she seemed to suggest that the current status is up in the
air and the UN ambassador is saying the current status is adversary. I
mean, what was the famous saying that countries don`t have friends,
countries have interests. And, assured, if the interest changed enough,

IOFFEE: Yes. No, I heard it more as a kind of - we`re open to talking or
we`re open to some kind of diplomacy - maybe I`m giving her too much credit
- but if Russia changes its behavior. Whether that`s likely is a totally
different story.

MELBER: Renato, the president had held back on tweeting about Russia for
quite a while. And we covered that on THE BEAT whether the lawyers were
finally making some inroads or if he had moved on because it was actually
notable that he was still picking fights, he was still the Donald Trump we
know, and yet he stayed out of Russia.

That appears to be changing. A new tweet, “Workers of firm involved with
the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia,
the FBI or the Dems (or all)?”

What do you think about him weighing in there and how that relates to
Mueller`s work right now?

again it`s a mistake. There are still a lot of people sitting at home who
don`t know what this dossier is. And I`m sure there was a lot of people
who saw that tweet and were googling to read it for the first time.

I think it`s certainly a mistake. And what it tells me is that it`s
something that`s on his mind and that he`s concerned about. It`s something
Mueller can draw inferences from. In other words, that he can draw
conclusions from.

But in terms of the dossier itself, we know that Mueller interviewed the
creator of the dossier. We know that Mueller is not going to be able to
use the dossier as evidence itself. He`s going to ultimately have to go
out and get witnesses that will be able to testify firsthand about what
they say and heard.

He`ll have to get documents that can be authenticated. So, all of this
hubbub around Devin Nunes` independent, one-man investigation of the
dossier, I`m not really sure how much it actually matters. It seems like a
side show that somebody who is under investigation is pointing to in order
to distract from what is really important.

MELBER: Right. And, Annie, I don`t know if you heard that Paul Ryan has a
comedy special coming out on Netflix? Have you heard about that?

heard a preview of it, I believe.

MELBER: Killing it. Obviously, Mitch McConnell doing the opening act,
which I understand related to some tension. If you are watching at home,
whether or not you think these are funny jokes, they are jokes. I`m not
saying that as literal news truth, but here was Paul Ryan cracking jokes
last night.


PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I learned how DC works. I play the good
cop. Mitch McConnell plays the bad cop. And Bob Mueller plays the really
bad cop.


MELBER: Annie, what do you think of Paul Ryan wading into joking about an
open criminal investigation? Gutsy.

LINSKEY: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I think it gets to the level of which
this investigation has sort of infiltrated kind of every single nook and
corner of the Capitol.

And it`s something that`s clearly on the minds of not only the Democratic
senators, who are kind of sitting and hoping and wondering if there will be
something concrete in there to where they can really take a whack at Donald
Trump, but it`s also the Republicans who control the chamber, who are just
so wary of this investigation.

While they`re doing many of their own investigations, which I continue to
think is remarkable that a Republican-controlled both House and Senate have
multiple investigations into a Republican president. I mean, that is
really, when you think about it, quite extraordinary.

MELBER: And, briefly, Annie, do you think the Senate investigation will
wrap up any time soon?

LINSKEY: No, I don`t. They have lot - they clearly have a lot of work to
do. They`ve signaled they have a lot of work to do. And so, I think
there`s going to be - it will be quite some time before we see something
definitive as long as you`re talking about a joint report from the two
sides, which I think is the goal.

MELBER: Right. Annie Linskey and Julia Ioffe, thanks both for joining me.
Renato, stick around.

And check us out on Facebook at THE BEAT with Ari. We have a special new
digital video about Trump`s failing approval rating and how it could lead
to new subpoena powers for the Democrats. I`ll explain. If you go right
there, if you go right there Facebook.com/TheBeatWithAri.

Ahead, Trump breaking tradition and talking directly to prosecutor
candidates. Does it have anything to do with their jurisdiction?

Also, an alarming spike in Americans without health insurance. Rev. Al
Sharpton is here talking to me live Trumpcare`s future next.


MELBER: Trump administration under criminal investigation for potential
collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice and that makes news
reports especially odd that Donald Trump`s personally interviewing
candidates to be new prosecutors at DOJ, including those with jurisdiction
for Trump Tower and discussions with Marco Rubio about Mar-a-Lago. Now,
there is no law or rule preventing this but there is a long-standing DOJ
custom providing for independence including a 2009 memo on the issue from
Attorney General Eric Holder.

The attorney`s Trumps interviewed have links to Rudy Giuliani and Marc
Kasowitz, you may have remembered he was removed after a short and
controversial stint on Trump`s Russia criminal defense team. Now, there
would be a problem if that legal team was hand picking new prosecutors, and
the New York position already went through controversy over how he reached
out to and then fired Obama appointee Preet Bharara just spoke about this
in new reports that Trump interviewed candidates.


never interviewed by Barack Obama. Richard Blumenthal was not interviewed
by the President who appointed him and Jeff Sessions was not interviewed by
the President who appointed him. You`ve got a President personally
interviewing the candidates who will oversee the offices that could
investigate him.


MELBER: Now, when he held that prosecutor post under Obama, I actually
interviewed Bharara at the time he was stressing his independence from
politicians in both political branches. Another DOJ official Matt Miller
adding Obama never interviewed a U.S. attorney candidate. Trump is trying
to breach the DOJ wall. I`m now joined by that man, Matt Miller, as well
as former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti back with me. Renato, when
you became U.S. attorney, were you interviewed by the President?

MARIOTTI: No, I wasn`t, obviously. And I – you know, the question I
think, the more pertinent question is – was Pat Fitzgerald here in
Chicago, to my knowledge, he was not interviewed by the then-President
George W. Bush. And It`s – look, as Matt Miller has pointed out, it is
very unusual. Certainly, President Obama didn`t interview any U.S.
Attorney candidates. And the issue here is that there`s reportedly an
investigation into Trump`s businesses in Manhattan in the Southern District
of New York. You know, there is legitimate concerns about whether or not
that you know, that interview could set up a certain sort of you know
personal relationship and create – yo know, create feelings that could
hinder the independence of that person when they are making a decision
regarding prosecution.

MELBER: Right, which is exactly what Preet Bharara said when he spoke out.
He was one of the many fired U.S. attorneys. Although Trump had personally
met with him during the transition asking to him stay on, and Matt, you
know, he worked under Holder as you did in different roles. When I did
interview him, this was while he was a prosecutor. He was really stressing
the important role of independence.



BHARARA: You have to be independent and fearless. You know, we`re not
elected so we don`t have you know, local political clubs that we have to be
beholden to. We just do this job – you know, without fear or favor, like
the oath requires.


MELBER: And so Matt, that`s something prosecutors take very seriously
regardless of who`s President. Put that in the context that you`ve been
sort of both sharing but also reporting out, because I saw from reading
that you`ve been speaking with other officials about just how unusual this

MILLER: Yes, obviously independence is the most important thing at the
Justice Department. And look, there is nothing inherently wrong with the
President interviewing U.S. Attorney candidates. I think it`s probably a
poor use of his time if you wanted to interview all 93 U.S. attorney
candidates. But what happened here is he`s not interviewing say the U.S.
attorney candidate for North Dakota. He is interviewing the U.S. attorney
candidate where he has potential legal exposure. Those in New York and of
course over the summer, he interviewed the U.S. attorney for the District
of Columbia who have –

MELBER: Let`s pause – Matt, let`s pause for that. You are saying
something so important, I almost just want you to slow down. You`re
pointing out, a number of most people I don`t think know off hand. 93
federal prosecutors across the country are appointed by the President. And
you are pointing out if there was some new policy that said he`s going to
take 93 hours and do all those interviews, that would be one thing. And
you`re saying, no, he`s only reportedly interviewing a very few handful.
So go ahead and speak to that.

MILLER: Yes, that`s exactly right. Look, there are 1,200 Senate confirmed
position that the President appoints. He interviews a very small number of
those, typically only cabinet officials, and other people like say, the FBI
Director. He doesn`t get down into the subcabinet. He doesn`t interview
the 93 U.S. Attorneys, the 94 U.S. Marshalls that are appointed by him and
confirmed by the Senate because he has more important things to do. And
what`s happening here is, he`s not interviewing – you know, I think he`s
nominated 45 U.S. Attorney candidates. We know that he`s interviewed

The two in New York, the Southern District of New York, Manhattan and the
Eastern District New York and Brooklyn and the U.S. Attorney for the
District of Colombia. Those prosecutors in New York would have
jurisdiction over any wrongdoing at his companies and the prosecutor in
D.C. would have jurisdiction over any wrongdoing, potential criminal
wrongdoing at the White House. So when you look at the fact that he`s
singled out those three candidates to interview, you have to ask why. And
the only – the only answer to that really makes sense that he`s trying to
cultivate a relationship, the same way he did with Preet Bharara.

MELBER: Exactly.

MILLER: Because we have to go back and look, there`s a pattern here. He
met with Preet Bharara during the transition and he didn`t stop there. He
called him twice during the transition –

MELBER: He called him, Matt, you know this. He called him so many times
that Preet and his legal counselors – because they take this seriously
reviewed those rules and contacted Jeff Session`s Chief of Staff to say we
don`t think we can return the President`s phone call. Which again, in any
other agency, you do return the call. The whole point is, this one is
different. Matt, I`m moving forward because I want to play also for your
response Jeff Sessions being grilled about this, this week. Take a listen.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D) CONNECTICUT: How many other Attorneys General
candidates has the President interviewed besides New York?

sure I remember whether he had interviewed for New York, but if you say so,
I assume so. And he has the right to for sure because he has to make an



MILLER: There are two things that are staggering about that. One is that
Sessions didn`t seem to know that this has – that this has happened. This
is a fairly big deal. It`s the kind of thing that if it happened if the
President reaches down into – you know, into the bows of the agency and
wants to interview you know, someone like a U.S. attorney candidate, it`s
the kind of thing that would sets off alarm bells, you`d wonder why. It
would be a big deal. The second thing is that he`s not doing anything
about it. And this goes to the pattern with Sessions where – look, the
President tried to breach the wall between DOJ and the White House a number
of times.

Obviously, there`s the Comey firing, the loyalty pledge, his repeated
public request for what DOJ should and should not investigate, trying to
ask Session not to go – to drop the prosecution of Joe Arpaio. And
Sessions` job is to stand up to that if those breaches of independence.
And he`s not done it time and time again. And it`s clear he`s not done it
here. He`s not said to anyone at the White House, look Mr. President, or
if not the President, the White House Counsel, these aren`t interviews you
should be doing – you should be doing, I`ll take care of it, thank you.

MELBER: Right. Yes, Matt Miller and Renato Mariotti, thank you,
interesting stuff. Up next, numbers showing millions of Americans without
health care, Al Sharpton is here to talk about what`s happening under so-
called Trumpcare. And later, should the press focus on Trump`s character
so much or are we doing something wrong? Before “FALLBACK FRIDAY,” it`s
Gay Talese because you`re watching THE BEAT. Stay tuned.


MELBER: Donald Trump is on record being for sabotaging the running of
ObamaCare. Now, we can report some numbers for you tonight. The number of
uninsured Americans is up since Trump took office 3.5 million. Gallup
citing it`s a fact that the uncertainty about the health care law but it`s
also confusion Trump himself has shown on health care.


to take care of people. We have horrible health care.

I want to put in a health care bill, a real strong health care bill.

You are going to get health care at a much lower price with a much lower

We will repeal the disaster known as ObamaCare.

Health care is failing in our country and we`re going to get a change and
we will get a change fast.


MELBER: I`m joined by Reverend Al Sharpton, Host of “POLITICS NATION”
right here on MSNBC. Rev, I don`t know if you know something we have in


MELBER: We have spent about seven years covering ObamaCare. I didn`t know
coming into this building we could become pseudo-experts like you said
about ObamaCare. It is complex and the law is not perfect, but the numbers
that we have show that more people were getting health care when ObamaCare
was being run under a Health – sorry, Human Services Department that was
trying to over – really run it. And right now, the numbers are initial,
but in this first year now, fewer people getting health care because of the
way Trump is running it even though he failed to repeal snit.

SHARPTON: Well, I think that fewer people are getting it because fewer
people are clear enough to apply. You certainly can`t do – I remember my
civil rights group National Action Network, NAACP and others were all in
the drive along with social media thing, to really get people to sign up
you`ve heard none of that.

MELBER: No, they`re cutting that.

SHARPTON: They are cutting that. They cut the budget even to promote it.
And people don`t have the sense of security that I know what I`m joining.
And the insurers are also being very let`s say shaky because nobody knows
what you are doing. You have an executive order that he comes out with
saying that we`re going to allow insurers to come in with smaller
guaranteed packages, doesn`t necessarily have to include people with pre-
existing conditions and they can lowball it, which then makes the whole
premiums go up. Then he turns around a week later and says, well, I kind
of like what I`m hearing to compromise the bipartisan compromise that
Alexander, Senator Alexander, and Murray say that they come with.

And then the very next day, he says, yes, but I`m not going to do it. I`m
not going to support it. I liked it yesterday, but I`m not going to
support it. In the middle of this, would you go apply for insurance or if
you were an insurer, would you feel this is stable? So I think that his
lack of being able to govern and his lack of sticking to a position has
caused the lowering of insurers and the lowering of people applying for
insurance because you don`t know what is going to end up being what you are
applying for.

MELBER: You know him. He once explained his outer-borough insecurities.


MELBER: Do you think this is strategic Donald Trump trying to bad mouth
that which he couldn`t defeat in the Congress or is this just impulsive
Donald Trump, talk, talk, talk?

SHARPTON: I think that you are seeing this obsession with, that he wants
to undo anything Barack Obama did and I think it is also him saying he has
a very serious problem of trying to show that he`s the boss and he`s smart.
Anytime you have a guy runs around talking about his I.Q. all the time,
he`s trying to convince everybody that I`m smart enough. So if somebody
else comes in and says something I`m smarter than you, no I changed my

MELBER: Do you think Trump knows deep down that Obama had a much more
legislatively effective first year?

SHARPTON: I think that he knows that deep down that Obama did, that Obama
knew how to govern better, which is why it`s driving him crazy. It`s like,
you are trying to measure up to a guy that is 7-foot-tall and you are 5` 10
and you`re just not going to measure up, so you go and buy high heels but
you`re still not that tall.

MELBER: That`s well put. And next, I get to ask you later in the show a
question I never asked you before which is who needs to fall back? So –

SHARPTON: Oh, I can`t wait.

MELBER: – stick around. Coming up next, a legendary author Gay Talese is
back on THE BEAT.


MELBER: Do you ever feel like people talk more about Donald Trump than
about what Trump is doing as President? A new study finds the press covers
Trump more personally than other Presidents. The cast majority stories
covering his character, 69 percent, with the public, focused on the man and
his conduct while a minority of stories about policy. But for Obama half,
the stories at this point were about character. For Clinton and Bush the
numbers in the 40s and 30s. One reading is the press takes Trump`s bait
too much, another is when the President acts like this, it`s news.


TRUMP: I think there is blame on both sides.

Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he`s fired.

Come here. Come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful
Irish press. Where are you from?

I love your show. I call it deface the nation.


MELBER: Should reporters and citizens respond less to Trump`s behavior?
The only alternative is that Trump will reign in his outbursts and to
paraphrase Kanye West, you can wait for that to happen on the 35th of
Neveruary. To probe the big question, we have legendary New York Times
Journalist and Author Gay Talese.


MELBER: What do you think?

TALESE: In all my 60 years as a working journalist, I have never been so
aware of the hostility of journalism towards the President as the case now.
Now, no doubt, as Reverend Sharpton and others among my friendly group will
agree, it`s – he deserves it. This President deserves all the rancor
hoisted upon him by the media. It is hard to cover the policy, because the
man himself, Mr. Trump, makes it so easy, he draws to himself, and because
he`s so consumed with himself, so unlike as Reverend Sharpton said, Obama,
who was a revered figure, an eloquent figure and contrasting that and
following the failure of Mrs. Clinton to become the President that we
thought she would be.

We have the media as well as much of the nation disappointed in what we
have now compared to what we thought we would have. I was a – I was a
Bernie Sanders man, so don`t think I was a Hillary Man, but I was a Bernie
Sanders man, but that – forget me, talk about where we are as a veteran
journalist looking upon my colleagues who are 35 or 40-years-older than
when I was covering the news. What we have is a target that is so
unavoidable because every day he says or does something that brings out so
much ire in the press and I today, I came in thinking I was going to be a
happier guest of your show than I am now because sadly, in the last hour or
so, on this show and others before it, I see that Mrs. Sanders, perhaps
unwittingly, brought some dis – some tarnish on a great American, General

MELBER: Then General Kelly.

TALESE: And I think in a 24-hour period, General Kelly from being the
revered figure that he had been, now in a matter of a couple of hours – in
tomorrow`s paper, it probably shows (INAUDIBLE) yours – were going to have
him answering for what, for perhaps misspoken comments from the speaker?

MELBER: But shouldn`t General Kelly clean it up?

TALESE: Can General Kelly clean up what is already set of him? I mean,
she didn`t necessarily reflect what he believes. I think she said you
can`t talk to a four-star general, now all these people will say oh
generals –

MELBER: But as you know, Gay, he`s also – he`s also making what on a
video or have been revealed to be false claims. And he`s acting as the
political enforcer of the Trump White House and so at a certain point, you
know, you think about the arc of history here, I don`t know that this is
what generals going into the political space are supposed to do.

TALESE: Well, they`re probably not supposed to do what you suggested
they`re not supposed to do. But what I`m suggesting is anybody that goes
into the Trump White House, even a revered figure as Mr. Kelly, sooner or
later, is going to be tarnished, because the whole focus of that White
House as viewed by the media that we both respect, this mainstream media,
it is such a villainous place and the participants within it are so
susceptible to the kind of endless, vituperous view that they bring upon
themselves and we hoist upon them to a greater degree.

MELBER: Well, you make an important point, which is, you`re describing
this vituperous view, and it reminds me of where we started a week where
George Will a fellow writer like yourself said the dirt that attaches to
those who transact with Trump makes them too dirty for any subsequent
scrubbing. And maybe those are bookends to a difficult week. Gay Talese,
it`s OK you`re not happy today. We`ll have you and be happy another day.

TALESE: Thank you so much. I hope so.

MELBER: Thank you, Sir. And up next, who needs to fall back?


MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT and you know what that means. It`s time
to fall back. I am joined by Chuck Nice and Reverand Al Sharpton. I`m
going to ask you both. Chuck, who needs to fall back?

CHUCK NICE, COMEDIAN: Well, I`m going to go with former presidents. And
yes, because quite frankly, we know who they were talking about. Their
veiled attempt to speak to the nation and appeal to our better angels and
speak to us with dignity and a reserved tone all to make us nostalgic for
that long ago time called last year and, by the way, it`s two of them, two
presidents against one, that is bullying. And what kind of President would
bully somebody?

MELBER: Chuck Nice going with the sarcastic approach to fall back. It`s
the way to make a point.

NICE: There you go.

MELBER: It`s very 2017. Rev, who needs to fall back?

SHARPTON: I think General Kelly needs to fall back. He is a figure that
was as Gay Talese has said, revered, respected, and now you come out and
pick a fight with a Congresswoman and the family of a slayed member of the
military. How do you get into the gutter of following your President where
you ought to be raising him out of the gutter because that`s why people
thought you were there. For him to be calling names to the Congresswoman
and to back up that the family was lying about something in the middle of
their grief to take a shot for the President, fall back, General, fall back
up. Get up to being who you were supposed to be. We were looking up to
you, now we`re looking somewhere else.

MELBER: Wow, very well put. I`m going to do mine. We can cut the music
for mine because mine is about the CIA and Harry needs to fall back. If
you don`t know, Harry is a bomb-sniffing dog at the CIA, he`s replaced
Lulu, who was the CIA`s dog. Can we see Lulu? Not right now. You know,
who else needs to fall back? My pictures of dogs. This is a great story,
though, we think where you have a dog at the CIA and she`s doing her bomb
sniffing and they found out she was no – she used to do it fine. She was
no longer used to it. Mid – there`s harry, making a mid-career change and
they replaced with Harry, now the CIA has also announced while Lulu was
being let go, they said, “she wasn`t – there she is – she wasn`t
interested in searching for explosives, so now she`s moving on to other
things, Rev.

SHARPTON: Well, she might have found something more interesting to sniff.

NICE: How can I beat that?

MELBER: Can you beat that?

NICE: Well, you know, not on – not on T.V.

MELBER: You`re a Comic.

NICE: I can but not on T.V.

MELBER: You`re a Comic but Reverend Sharpton is not only closer to God
that you, he`s also funnier than you. Thank you, both for being a part of
“FALLBACK FRIDAY.” Our friend Chuck Nice and as always the Rev. Al
Sharpton, you can catch his show, “POLITICS NATION” Sunday morning,
obviously 8:00 a.m. right here on MSNBC. Do not miss it. I will be here
to see you Monday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope you have a great
weekend. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.



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