Trump “looks forward” to talking to Mueller Transcript 1/24/18 The Beat with Ari Melber
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: January 24, 2018
Guest: Zerlina Maxwell, Ted Lieu, Dick Costolo
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS DAILY: The other states are
starting to talk, South Carolina. Look at the goddesses on the state flag
of New Jersey, silently judging. The bear in the California flag, his
mouth as a gate, he can`t believe it either. So South Carolina, we look
forward to seeing all your flag sharing a single design. It will be banner
That`s all we have tonight. “The Beat with Air Melber” starts right now.
And I think I know what breaking news he is about to talk about. It is all
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I just saw it on your show at the end of the hour.
Thank you, Chuck Todd.
The breaking news right now, Donald Trump saying he will talk to special
counsel Bob Mueller under oath. This news is coming in, NBC`s Kristen
Welker is reporting it as we speak. Donald Trump basically saying here On
the Record that he will talk to Bob Mueller, of course there`s no date for
this face-to-face yet, but his lawyers are telling him two to three weeks.
This breaking news comes, of course, amid Donald Trump`s clash with the FBI
intensifying and Bob Mueller zeroing in on possible obstruction of justice.
“The Washington Post” reporting after Trump fired FBI director Comey, he
asked the acting director who steps up for Comey McCabe who he voted for in
the 2016 election. And officials say that McCabe basically told the
President he actually didn`t vote and also found this political
conversation with Trump disturbing.
It`s also reportedly drawing the interest of special counsel Robert Mueller
who now is getting ready to interview Donald Trump, according to tonight to
Now NBC News reports Donald Trump says basically he doesn`t recall asking
McCabe about that voting record. The White House doesn`t deny thought that
Trump asked the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the President have a habit of asking career
government officials their voting habits?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not that I`m aware
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he ask McCabe how he voted?
SANDERS: Look. The President and Andrew McCabe have had limited and
pretty non-substantive conversations. I can`t get into the details of what
was discussed. I wasn`t there. There are widespread reports of his
retirement. We are making sure that we are focused on the FBI and DOJ is
serving all Americans fairly and efficiently and we are going to move
forward from there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s a yes or no question, he did or didn`t ask?
SANDERS: I wasn`t in the room. I don`t know what was discussed. I know
he didn`t ask me. So I can tell you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Democrats saying this is potential evidence of obstruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make of these reports of the President
asking Andrew McCabe who he vote for, is that appropriate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it`s not appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never heard of that being done before. I
think it`s inappropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That kind of question is totally improper and evidence
in fact evidence of obstruction of justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s evidence pointing to the fact of possible
obstruction. If there`s is a case to be made about obstruction, remember,
that was one of the articles impeachment - impeachment against President
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With this breaking story, let`s get right to Betsy Woodruff
covering the Russia probe for “the Daily Beast,” Frank Figluizzi, former
assistant FBI director, Robert Torricelli, former senator of New Jersey,
Robert joins me right here on set. He served on judiciary and in foreign
relations committee during his time in the Senate, as well as Democrat
strategist Aisha Moodie-Mills.
Frank, this is not normal negotiation. This is something that many people
will welcome because Donald Trump going back On the Record now tonight,
telling reporters, we have reporting, on his way to this big Davos trip
that he looks forward to talking to Bob Mueller. What do you see as the
significance of Donald Trump telling everybody it`s time to talk?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: So
this is a very interesting PR stunt. You have heard the President complain
vociferously about Clinton`s interview about the FBI not being under oath,
so he wants to come out and say I will do it. I will do what Hillary
didn`t do. I will do it under oath.
But here`s the bottom line. If I`m Mueller, I`m not falling into this
trap. There`s no added value to the FBI swearing him in under oath. If
you lie to an FBI agent, you are violating section 1001 of the U.S. code.
So he will be admonished before the interview, that if you lie you are
facing criminal charges. So this is - this is – there`s no distinction.
There`s no value in this other than complete public relations at this
MELBER: Well, it goes part of that, right, Senator? This is a
negotiation, and it`s one that, again, things aren`t normal, but in normal
course, the lawyers like to have a lot of room to negotiate the terms.
Donald Trump claims to be a good negotiator. He had previously, said,
well, maybe there wouldn`t be need for an interview. And Bill Clinton as
you know definitely negotiated out how to go before Kenneth Starr`s report.
And here, Donald Trump is jumping out to say, forget the under oath part,
he is saying he is going to do an interview.
ROBERT TORRICELLI, FORMER NEW JERSEY SENATOR: This is all about the
details. First of all, the offer to be under oath is public relations. It
has no substantive value as just pointed out. What I would be more
fascinated to see is the range of questions. I mean, what kind of
limitations there are? I maybe the only person in town, I don`t really
believe that this is about building an obstruction of justice case.
To bring an obstruction of justice case against the President of the United
States, it would have to be so certain, so overwhelming. My guess is that
this is happening a lot of different level. What Mueller is really doing
is shaking up the tree here by doing these interviews and going in and not
limiting himself to obstruction of justice questions.
MELBER: Do you think, senator, it`s possible that all of the emphasis on
obstruction is kind of a head fake to lull the White House?
TORRICELLI: That`s exactly what I think is going on. And 90 percent of
those questions may be about obstruction, but somewhere in there, I would
bet my bottom dollar, Mueller intends to ask questions about money
laundering and the Russia probe and that`s the substance here.
The idea that he is going to bring a criminal complaint against the
President on a case and get unanimous verdict from a jury where the
President is going to claim he has executive authority to hire and fire, I
doubt it. I think this case has always been about money laundering.
MELBER: Let me bring in one of our reporters at the White House where this
move has gone off with quite a bit of attention.
Peter Alexander, live for us with true breaking news here in this news
Peter, walk us through how we got here from Donald Trump who was saying
late in the year, maybe he wouldn`t do any interview?
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this certainly ends months
of speculation about what the President would do. He said that he was
actually looking forward to it. He said I`m looking forward to it,
actually, his words, when asked specifically if he was willing to be
interviewed by the special counsel Robert Mueller. He said I would do it
This all took place within the last hour or so, inside the west wing of the
White House, the President walking into a gathering of reporters taking
place inside the office that belongs to his chief of staff, John Kelly.
The President was asked specifically about whether a date had been set.
Yet, obvious there has been a lot of questions right now as best of our
reporting before today. And up until this moment it has been that there
are active discussions between the office of the special counsel of Robert
Mueller and the White House, the attorneys here about whether this
interview would actually take place. The President asked about the date.
He said about two to three weeks.
MELBER: Two to three weeks. I think you and I are going to the same
place. Two to three weeks, that what begs to this sound way more real than
something that Donald Trump is famous for, which is talking about a lot of
things without detail. His lawyers, as you know, and then you and I have
reported have put out timelines that have not proved accurate. They were
saying going into the New Year, they thought this might wrap up. But where
do you think, based on your reporting and your sources there in the
building behind you, did Donald Trump get two to three weeks? Does this
relate to his lawyer`s discussions with Robert Mueller`s office?
ALEXANDER: He said best, (INAUDIBLE) from that conversation, he said that
his lawyers have told him it was likely to happen within two or three
weeks. That was what the information that we receive from the President
during the course of this meeting. That was what the meeting obviously
made its most news on the President. We will have the time to talk about
this. He has talked about immigration as well for the first time, saying
he was open to a path to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants, the
DREAMers in 10 to 12 years.
Another piece of new on a very separate topic. But obviously the big
bombshell from this was the President for the first time declaratively,
that he was looking forward to being interviewed under oath by that special
counsel lead Robert Mueller.
MELBER: Peter Alexander, with the big story tonight running out from the
White House, I suspect you may have a busy night. Thanks for joining us
here on “the Beat.”
ALEXANDER: Yes. Thanks, Air.
MELBER: Bringing back the panel, Aisha, you heard Peter Alexander say it
there. This is different. We do approach all of our sources and all of
our stories with healthy skepticism as journalists. But my understanding
and Peter said it there is that I don`t think the White House lawyers put
out two to three weeks without talking to Mueller. That is just going to
upset someone. They don`t want to upset for now reason. We are apparently
going towards the red zone (ph).
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hopefully. I mean, I would say
hopefully. And I`m still curious whether this is coming from White House
lawyers or if the President just decided to spit off at the mouth which is
what he often does.
Look. In his present life, the President has been known to be liar and a
crook. And so I think it is due time that we, as the American people, get
to know like the facts around whether he is also a crook in his public life
too. And so I`m hoping that this investigation actually gets to the heart
of the heart around what is happening with his family, with his businesses,
with his relationships with Russia or his agents` relationships. And I
think, you know, that`s the red zone. If we are getting close to the
truth, then that would be a great thing for this year.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: One thing that is
important to remember with all this is that it seems to indicate as a
private message that Trump`s lawyers had been giving matched the public
message that they have been giving. The fact that Trump said he looks
forward to interviewing with Mueller, that comes straight out of Ty Cobb
world. That is something that Ty Cobb has been telling him for quite some
time now, that he shouldn`t be worried about the Mueller probe. My
understanding is that they have been essentially been trying to prep him
for this. And based on his conservations this evening, it seems like that
Another piece of this is important for people to bear in mind. One thing I
have been told is that John Dowd and Jay Sekulow are the ones who have been
responsible for a sort of negotiating the terms of an interview between
Donald Trump and Bob Mueller`s team.
Important thing to bear in mind with is that, of course, is that John Dowd
has drawn a lot of criticism including from folks like Steve Bannon of his
legal (INAUDIBLE) and then Jay Sekulow is not a criminal defense attorney.
That is not his area of expertise are experienced. He is best known for
his work with his nonprofit focused on religious freedom as well as a media
So that`s the President`s legal team going into what will be the most
important interview of his life. And the stage is set, of course, for a
moment that`s going to be historic and I think pretty unpredictable.
MELBER: And Frank, interviewing a President is fundamentally different
than any other interview in a probe. You certainly don`t usually get two
bites at the apple, whereas there are other witnesses that you can bring in
and out or you put them in front of a grand jury, you check back with them
if you need, particularly if something doesn`t check out.
Walk us through this tonight, the President of the United States before
leaving the country telling reporters that he will talk to Mueller under
oath subject to his lawyers` guidance and subject to Donald Trump being a
person who – I don`t know if anyone followed the immigration debate over
the last, I don`t know, 13 months it seems, things with him do come and go.
And so we mentioned that skepticism. But this seems like a big one to over
promise. Walk us through all that, Frank.
FIGLIUZZI: Yes. So his statement tonight, if accurate, is a tactical PR
move but perhaps a legal mistake. I don`t think anyone is looking forward
to being interviewed by Mueller and his team. But the way this is going to
go, you mentioned how it`s so different when you are actually interviewing
the President of the United States. This is not an episode of law and
order where detectives are pounding their fists on the desk and extracting
This is a methodical, scripted interview, designed to confirm what they
already know, dates, times, who was in the room, what was intended, what
was said. And very often at this very high level, you will hear answers
like I don`t recall, I don`t remember, and maybe.
So when the President says I will be under oath, and perhaps his plan is to
say I don`t recall, I don`t remember, 17, 20 times, that`s not helpful.
But it`s a scripted interview. Mueller will ask questions he already knows
the answer to. He is confirming who has been in the room during meetings,
who drafted which letter, what was the firing about of Comey, et cetera.
But it is getting responses On the Record whether he is under oath or not.
TORRICELLI: It`s a scripted interview by the FBI or by Bob Mueller. It`s
a scripted interview by Donald Trump`s lawyers. It`s not going to be
scripted by Donald Trump. Donald Trump cannot, I think this is not a
partisan comment, I think this is fair for any observer sit through several
hours of interview and stay on a script. And undoubtedly, investigators
are already thinking of that. Because I already said my skepticisms about
the being an obstruction of justice case. The chance of Donald Trump
sitting through a two-hour meetings in which the questioners already know
the answers to every question and nor committing perjury or string all for
lying, what are the odds of that? Pretty high.
MELBER: And yet, perjury is not typically what you want to go after a
TORRICELLI: It is not. But in all of these cases, typically in my
experience of this, what the FBI likes to do, what justice like to do, is
use perjury to open the can. You commit offense or your subordinates do
and then you are in the hunt.
MELBER: Right. You are talking about the old expression, just a can of
TORRICELLI: It`s a can that you get into by getting someone to make a
mistake on perjury.
MELBER: Aisha, that`s not a real expression about the Russian bots. I
just wanted to be clear.
TORRICELLI: I think it carries.
MELBER: (INAUDIBLE) which is his nickname (INAUDIBLE).
Aisha, speak to the point he raises, though, which is it is hard. Donald
Trump has these what you might call passion points and he has been in a way
champing at the bit to do what he says tonight. He is going to do, which
is sit down with Bob Mueller, his controversial “New York Times” interview,
with the no collusion, no collusion, right.
MOODIE-MILLS: So I keep imagining the scene – you guys remember “a few
good men,” the movie. And the scene, the big pivotal scene and the general
is up there and they are coming at him with question about whether there
was wrong doing in the way that he conducted himself. And finally, he
says, you can`t handle the truth. Yes, I did it. I did it.
I think that that is what is going to happen to the President. He has the
attention spin on the math, number one. He also has an ego that is as
larger than all of New York. And I just can`t imagine him sitting there,
right, twitching, and not saying what he really wants to say, which is
certainly not going to be favorable for his case.
MELBER: So you are putting – you are saying Trump is Jack Nicholson.
MELBER: And Mueller is Tom Cruise, a young Tom Cruise.
MOODIE-MILLS: Mueller is Tom Cruise.
MELBER: And it`s did you order the code red?
MOODIE-MILLS: I think the President will explode.
MELBER: I think you maybe in the territory of fan-fiction which does
happen because we have also reported on the fact that Donald Trump has
proven to be often a canny witness. Hid confidants tonight and we are
about to hear for the first time, I`m told and I`m going to be hearing this
along with you for the first time because this is breaking news. How he
put it, his actual words, because this story broke first with our own
reporters including Peter Alexander as you saw in front of the White House
running out with the news. We now - I`m told from the control room have
the audio, let`s all listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
TRUMP: I`m looking forward to it, actually. There`s been no collusion,
whatsoever. There`s no obstruction whatsoever. And I`m looking forward to
it. I do worry when I look at all of the things that you people don`t
report about it, with what`s happening. If you take a look at, you know,
the five months-worth of missing texts, that`s a lot of missing texts. And
as I said yesterday, that`s prime time.
So you just got to look at that and say, what`s going on? You do look at
certain texts where they talk about insurance policies or insurance, where
they say the kinds of things they are saying, you got to be concerned. But
I would love to do that. Would like to do it as soon as possible. Good
luck, everybody. So here`s the story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a date set?
TRUMP: I don`t know. No, I guess they are talking about two or three
weeks, but I would love to do it. You know, again, I have to say, subject
to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Again, don`t under estimate Donald Trump. That was fascinating
audio. You could hear that was push and pull, senator. You have been in
those things. We call them scrums sometimes. The most important words to
my ear, and I don`t just say this because of my professional affiliations,
but subject to the advice of my lawyers was the last comment, which leaves
a big gaping hole for them to say we don`t like the terms, we are pulling
out, we are going to fight this. And the President has that constitutional
ability to negotiate this.
TORRICELLI: He does.
MELBER: But what did you hear?
TORRICELLI: Well, exactly that. There`s a door left open and Bob Mueller
doesn`t need my advice and he has got plenty of tough and experienced guys.
But at the end of the day these are not 50/50 negotiations.
Donald Trump undoubtedly is going to try to limit is subject matter of this
debate only to obstruction. I`m certain justice is not going to go along
with that. He is going to try to limit other questions. But in the end of
the day, if Bob Mueller doesn`t like these terms, doesn`t like the
negotiations, he just subpoenas him to a grand jury. Doesn`t talk about.
Then come and do it on our terms without a lawyer totally open ended. So I
doubt that Trump gets this orchestrated the way he wants.
MELBER: So you view of tonight`s news is something that Donald Trump
thinks is good. He is bragging he will go toe to toe with Mueller and you
don`t think it`s just good as he does for him?
TORRICELLI: You and I take a side bet. The chances are between now and
two weeks, and I know you take place, more than once the Trump White House
doesn`t call this interview off because they don`t like the terms. And the
question is, does Mueller just spin him to a grand jury or threaten to
anyway. This is going to go a lot of rounds. Tonight is just the opening.
Because I`m a journalist, I can`t take the side bet with you. Aisha might.
MELBER: Because I`m a journalist, I can`t take this side and bet with you.
MOODIE-MILLS: I`ll take $20 on it.
MELBER: You said you got $20 on it?
TORRICELLI: Not $5 on it.
MELBER: You got $20 on it. That`s between you two.
I want to thank Senator Torricelli, Frank Figluizzi, Betsy Woodruff and
Aisha Moodie-Mills on this breaking story.
We got to fit in a break, but there`s a lot more to this. I`m hearing a
lot from the control room about what is a faceoff that Donald Trump is
promising tonight. And Trump in fashion sitting down under oath if need
be, subject to the advice of his lawyers with the man on your screen, Bob
There is a lot more as well. NBC report raising new questions about the
path of obstruction including other cabinet members who sat with Bob
Also new reporting, another Russians are using Facebook and twitter to fuel
an ongoing attack propaganda effort attacking the FBI. It`s a big story.
And I can tell you I have an exclusive interview with the former CEO with
the former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo tonight.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching “the Beat” on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news. President Donald Trump just called a room full of
reporters into his office before his international trip to Davos and said
with the consultation of his lawyers, he plans to testify. He said quote
“under oath to Bob Mueller” and he gave a time frame. This is the first
time the President, whether you believe him or not, has ever provided a
specific time frame, saying according to what he hears from his criminal
defense attorneys, the President Donald Trump expects to speak in an under
oath interview with special counsel Bob Mueller in the next two to three
weeks. That is a rapid timeline and breaking news right now.
I want to go directly to two of our analysts on this, Zerlina Maxwell
worked for Hillary Clinton as director of progressive programming for
Sirius XM. Matt Miller, a legal specialist and a former chief spokesman at
the DOJ where he served under Eric Holder.
Matt, your reaction to this news?
MATT MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: I think I want
to wait and see what happens. Let`s remember, we have heard these words
from Donald Trump before. Not the promise of two or three weeks, but last
year over the summer, He said at a press conference in the Rose Garden,
that he look forward to speaking to the special counsel. That he would 100
percent cooperative. He later kind of backed off that pledge and said, you
know, he wasn`t really sure. He wouldn`t answer the question. We found
out his lawyer for pushing back a bit. Now he has come back the other 180
degrees. Let`s see what actually happens.
MELBER: One difference and I take your point. You and I both cover Donald
Trump at times, so I`m familiar with the concept you are raising, that what
he says is not always true. That`s the nicest way I can put it.
But, there is a big difference right now, because Donald Trump is saying
this not in a theory, not in a hypothetical, not in the early stages. As
he is saying this at the very time that now his attorney general, his fired
FBI director, his intelligence directors, his former chief strategist, have
all sat or plan to sit with Mueller in the case of Bannon. So this feels
very real as a time to give a timeline.
MILLER: Yes, I think that is right. Look. We are certainly at a point
where Bob Mueller and his team will want to interview the President. They
have kind of circle the target here. They have interviewed everyone else
that they have to get close to him. And now it is time to sit down with
I think it is likely that he will do this interview. He doesn`t have a lot
of other great options other than taking the fifth, which really is kind of
an unacceptable choice for the President of the United States.
But I do caution, let`s wait and see. You could see him say publicly, I
want to do this interview. I`m looking forward to it. And in a couple of
weeks pull out because he hasn`t gotten conditions he wanted. For example,
Bob Mueller has rejected this kind of ridiculous request. We heard from
his attorneys that some questions he would be allowed to answer in writing.
I think he is likely to do the interview. I want to wait and see it
ZERLINA MAXWELL, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON AIDE: I agree. And I also - would
say that, you know, Donald Trump has tried to shut down the investigation
in myriad ways. And so I`m not sure if he actually is saying this in a
serious way, like, yes, I am absolutely going to testify. I think that in
the meantime, behind the scenes, we have learned that Jeff Sessions has
been doing a lot of his dirty work behind the scenes to try to influence
the investigation and shape who Christopher Wray is going to hire and fire.
And so I think that what Donald Trump is telling the press and what Donald
Trump is doing behind the scenes are two separate things, but they are all
of interest to Bob Mueller. And I think that because he knows so much more
than we know, I think I agree with Matt. That yes, when you go through all
of the aides that are close to Donald Trump and then at the direct center
of this investigation, there are only, you know, a few people left, Mike
Pence and Donald Trump. And so the timing seems accurate.
Matt, these reports come amidst a time when there has been terrible news
for the Trump White House on these Russia issue this week. The reports
that the FBI director who ultimately replaced Jim Comey, threatened to
resign according to three sources because of further attempts at political
A new report today I mentioned at the top of the hour and “the Washington
Post” said that Donald Trump was trying to quiz, you know, his director
McCabe about politics and this on the screen, March 22nd, director of intel
Daniel Coats to this briefing at the White House, as his briefings
wrapping. Trump asks everyone to leave the room, if this is familiar,
raise your hand, except for Coats and CIA director Mike Pompeo. And Coats
told - so the President then starts complaining about the FBI investigation
and Comey`s handling of it. Coats told associates in March, Trump asked
him if he could intervene and then FBI director Comey to get the bureau to
back off its focus on the former national security advisor Mike Flynn.
So all of these at issue in the interviews, right Matt, and all of this to
some degree being the backdrop for a White House that now wants to talk
again about Donald Trump doing an interview, your skepticism on that piece
of it, not whether is keeping his word but whether this is a distraction
from those bad stories.
MILLER: I don`t know about the distraction, but certainly, you know, your
public relations stance, always you want to appear to be cooperative. You
always want to appear to say, you know, he want to say that I`m the one
that is cooperative. I`m the one that is acting in good faith here. So
that if you have to pull out of the interview, you can say it is because of
some extreme conditions that the other side has insisted on.
Now, of course, the prosecutors insist on one condition and one condition
only. That`s how you come in and answer and answer fully and tell the
truth if you don`t go slap charges with you. So he has not go a lot of
negotiating room here. But that could be that tact they are taking.
But look, when you go through those stories, I think the remarkable thing,
you know, you have seen a lot of those stories, you know. The story you
showed about intervention with Mike Pompeo, Mike Rogers, Dan Coats, all of
those were in this period last year between the inauguration and may when
Jim Comey was fired where Donald Trump was actively meddling in the
There appear to a time when that stopped, he was publicly meddling in the
investigation. He was publicly con for (INAUDIBLE) he fired. He was
publicly con for to be halted. But he wasn`t doing so much private.
This week we found the first instance of him meddling privately with law
enforcement again. When you see Jeff Sessions going to the FBI director
Chris Wray and trying to get the number two removed, that`s a troubling
MELBER: It`s really an important point that you make. And it is the
context. And that number two, Andrew McCabe, is the subject of my Special
Report tonight. Who is this man? Why does he seem to be according to some
folks in the White House the quote-unquote “new Comey.”
Matt Miller and Zerlina Maxwell, thank you both.
We have more, as I mentioned, on that story as well as this breaking news
out of the White House tonight, Donald Trump saying explicitly he will sit
with Mueller in as soon as two to three weeks subject to his lawyer`s
We will be right back.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: 6:31 P.M. on the East Coast, you`re watching THE
BEAT on MSNBC. Breaking news. President Donald Trump saying on the record
to reporters that he is looking forward to doing an interview with Special
Counsel Bob Mueller in the Russia probe and even giving a timeline, saying
it could be as soon as two to three weeks subject to his lawyers` counsel.
I want to continue our breaking coverage. Matt Miller joins me, a former
DOJ Aide and Zerlina Maxwell, a former Aide to Hillary Clinton. Let me
play for both of you and for our viewers who may have heard only parts of
this because it literally broke during this hour, here is the original
audio of Donald Trump speaking to reporters tonight about going under oath
with Bob Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m looking forward to it
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to?
TRUMP: Just so you`d understand. There`s been no collusion whatsoever,
there`s no obstruction whatsoever, and I`m looking forward to it. I do
worry when I look at all of the things that you people don`t report with
what`s happening, if you take a look at you know, the five-month worth of
missing texts, that`s a lot of missing texts, and as I said yesterday,
that`s prime time. So you just ought to look at that and say what`s going
on. You do look at certain texts when they talk about insurance policies
or insurance, where they say the kinds of things they`re saying, you ought
to be concerned. But I would love to do that. I would like to do it as
soon as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When will do it, Mr. President? Do you have a date
TRUMP: I don`t know. No, I guess you`re talking about two or three weeks,
but I would love to do it. You know, again, I have to say subject to my
lawyers and all of that, but I would love to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: There it is Zerlina. And he`d love to do it.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, FORMER AID FOR HILLARY CLINTON: I have never met a person
who was so excited to speak to a Special Counsel ever before. But I think
that – Donald Trump – I think this is really more about public relations
and about setting the narrative that on the one hand, the FBI is completely
corrupt organization with a secret society, the deep state if you will that
no matter what they find, it`s – you can`t believe it, or at least his
supporters can`t believe it. And on the other hand, I`d love to talk to
Bob Mueller, I`m going to tell him everything I know, there`s no collusion
and no obstruction, which is actually a new piece. Normally he just sticks
to no collusion.
Today, he said no obstruction which I think is interesting because I
thought that the no collusion defense was actually very deliberate on this
part because the obstruct – the evidence of obstruction is there`s myriad
pieces of evidence we can point to in terms of obstruction. The other
thing I want to mention is that while it is a Constitutional question
whether or not you can charge a sitting president or indict a sitting
president rather, I think that we have to talk about the other people
around Donald Trump and what they were doing because obstruction of justice
doesn`t just apply to the President. I think we talk about it mostly in
that context because it`s also relevant in terms of impeachment. But in
terms of the criminal courts, other people can be charged with obstruction
if they were intervening to try to obstruct the investigation or somehow
helped Donald Trump shut it down.
MELBER: Well, you make a great point Zerlina and of course, you ran a
campaign that got more votes but lost the electoral college to Donald
Trump. He does come up with slogans, he does pick things up, he is not so
much an originator as he is a popularizer. Ronald Reagan said make America
great again, Donald Trump noticed that that was the populous slogan from
Reagan. Other Republican you know, imitate Reagan. He just stole it
MAXWELL: Just stole it and put it on the hat.
MELBER: And so you hear it there. You know, there`s the saying no justice
no peace, here you have no collusion and now been added to it no
obstruction? So is he getting that from his lawyers as he`s doing prep?
You know, that`s some of the clues in here. Stay with me, but as I
mentioned this is a breaking story and we have some more breaking news. A
California Congressman and Democrat Ted Lieu has called into THE BEAT, not
planned but reacting to his news, Congressman, what do you think it means
that Donald Trump is saying for the first time with a timeline he`ll sit
with Bob Mueller within two to three weeks?
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: I think it`s good news for the Democracy.
The President should not be treated any differently and I`m pleased that
he`s going to be speaking under oath to Robert Mueller. And keep in mind,
he`s being interviewed not just as a witness, but also as a target. He is
a target of an obstruction of justice probe and he`s going to have some
serious answers he`s going to have to provide.
MELBER: Well, Congressman, you make that statement. I understand that`s
you view, and I know I know you`re on the Judiciary Committee. We have not
at any point as a news matter, confirmed that the Special Counsel looks at
him as a target, but I understand you`re making reference to the body of
evidence that he might be, his actions are under scrutiny at the center of
this criminal probe. What else does – what else stands out to you about
this, including as I was just discussing with our analysts here, the fact
that while Donald Trump has denied collusion both vociferously, repeatedly
at nauseam, he has added no obstruction to his sloganeering. And after I
get your response, I want to play for some more sound that coming in from
this – from this news statement. But go ahead, Congressman.
LIEU: What Donald Trump doesn`t get to decide is if obstruction occurred,
Special Counsel Mueller, prosecutors and the judiciary will. And keep in
mind that in the last 24 hours, a Department of Justice spokesperson
confirmed that when Mueller`s team interview Attorney General Jeff
Sessions, they were asking him about the firing of James Comey. And that
goes directly to the obstruction of justice by the President.
MELBER: Congressman, please stay with me. Take a listen as well as my
panel to audio we have not played yet. This is from the same exchange.
Again, I`m sharing it with you as we get it. I haven`t heard it yet myself
but this is more of the conversation, a back and forth with the reporters
about the potential terms of what Donald Trump now is saying for the first
time tonight, he`ll do on a schedule which is sit for an interview with Bob
Mueller. Take a listen to this audio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you do it under oath, Mr. President?
TRUMP: You mean like Hillary did it under oath? Who said that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said it. Will you do it under oath?
TRUMP: Did Hillary do it under oath?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no idea about any of that.
TRUMP: I think you have an idea. Wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait. Do
you not have an idea? Do you really not have an idea? I`ll give you an
idea. She didn`t do it under oath, but I would do it.
TRUMP: Listen, but I would do it – and you know she didn`t do it under
oath, right? If you didn`t do – if you didn`t know about Hillary, then
you`re not much of a reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I understand it, you would do it under oath?
TRUMP: Oh, I would do it under oath, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is, Congressman, a peek into the push and pull. We – I
checked Donald Trump a Lot around here, but I will note, he is accurate
about the fact that as is the normal course, many people are not
technically under oath because it is a federal law violation anyway to lie
to a federal officer. Indeed that`s what Mike Flynn ultimately pleaded
guilty to. But having done the fact-checking and credited that smaller
point, your reaction to Donald Trump on that piece of this.
LIEU: Well, keep in mind, Hillary Clinton did testify under oath for hours
and hours before a Congressional Oversight Committee and I would welcome
the President to do that as well. But Ari, you`re absolutely right. If
Donald Trump lies to an FBI agent during his interview, he would have
committed a crime of perjury, it does not require him to be under oath.
MELBER: Yes, and Congressman, I take your point on Hillary. I think he is
– I think the President, if I read him right, and to be fair to the point
I think he`s making is referring to the style of interview she did in the
e-mail investigation. But again, that`s not the issue tonight, that`s
closed. Your final thoughts on where this goes? I wouldn`t ask you to
predict, but your view of this two to three-week timeline combined with
what we`re hearing from leaks about the top level, cabinet-level interviews
that have occurred. Is your perception here that Bob Mueller is working
his way to the very top of this food chain?
LIEU: Absolutely, for a number of factors. We know that he had the
cooperation agreement with Michael Flynn and he would not have agreed to
simply a one charge indictment and guilty plea if he did not think Flynn
could provide information on people above him. And Donald Trump is going
to walk into this and if – not knowing what Flynn said, what Sally Yates
said, what Comey said when all of these witnesses have said when
interviewed by Bob Mueller. So the President is in serious legal jeopardy
and if he makes any lies, Robert Mueller`s team is going to know about it.
MELBER: Congressman Ted Lieu, we handed the microphone to the President
playing his audio and we handed the microphone to you to get your
perspective as well, and I thank you for that on this breaking news night.
We are going to fit in a break now, and when we come back, we have more on
this story. Donald Trump saying he`d love to talk to Bob Mueller and also
something Trump may not want to talk as much about. There are ongoing
reports of Russian interference on #ReleaseTheMemo right now and I have
exclusive tonight on THE BEAT with the former CEO of Twitter coming up.
MELBER: We`re following breaking news out of the White House tonight,
Donald Trump saying that he will sit for an interview under oath with
Special Counsel Bob Mueller and giving a timeline of within three weeks
subject to his lawyer`s approval. And that that`s a very big story we`ll
continue to follow tonight. The other story, one that Trump may not want
to talk about as much is that Russia`s meddling efforts is continuing this
week, including a propaganda campaign designed to infiltrate online debate
here in the U.S. New data showing that Russia linked bots are hyping terms
like Schumer Shutdown and pushing a Republican campaign criticizing the
Russia probe, lending fake support to this effort #ReleaseTheMemo.
Now that is big news. Now, while Donald Trump weirdly denies his own
intelligence agency`s findings that Russia meddled over a year ago, this is
a report that they`re meddling this week. Is anyone going to do anything?
Well, top Democrats sounding the alarm and taking the fight to Facebook and
Twitter. Dianne Feinstein writing to Mark Zuckerberg and the current
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey saying this meddling is designed to “undermine
Special Counsel Mueller`s investigation. Now, the man who used to have
Dorsey`s job is Dick Costolo. He was at the helm when the company
successfully went public and back before the 2016 controversy. He was
warning employees about the need for Twitter to strengthen responses to
abuse on their platforms.
MELBER: The former Twitter CEO is my special guest. He is a Co-Founder
and CEO right now with the fitness startup Chorus. Thank you for doing
DICK COSTOLO, FORMER CEO, TWITTER: Yes, thanks for having me. It`s fun.
MELBER: Let`s get to Chorus and health, but start with Twitter which you
MELBER: WHY does it still have a bot problem and does Russia`s ability to
use this platform so well concern you?
COSTOLO: Well, I think that the challenge that Facebook and Twitter and
Instagram and platforms like that faced historically was spammers. People
are trying to make money through the things like fake accounts. And if you
think about the sort of the war, the playing field and the war between
these security teams inside these companies and the spammers, they`re kind
of on a sort of a similar playing ground if you will in terms of
sophistication. When you bring in state actors, by which I mean, nation,
states, Russia, China, and to a lesser extent Iran and North Korea, you`re
talking about organizations, countries with almost unlimited resources and
sophistication that they can bring to bear in their attack factors. And
so, trying to keep up with them and in fact get ahead of them inside these
companies is going to continue to be a challenge.
MELBER: Right, because you`re saying you`re up against major power. I
mean Twitter`s bot problem, Mother Jones was reporting, Twitter followers,
Americans who just want to participate in democracy don`t even realize
they`re retweeting or forwarding this deliberately false information. And
this is going on as you know today. Russia linked Twitter accounts are
currently working to help American, Republican politicians demand the
release of a classified report about alleged bias at the FBI and DOJ,
helping this #ReleaseTheMemo rise inside Twitter. Is it a problem of will
in your view, or is it truly too technologically hard?
COSTOLO: I think the answer is neither. It`s certainly not a problem of
will. If you told people the folks inside Facebook and Instagram and
Twitter, you could – you know, you could snap your fingers and remove all
the Russia bot accounts, they would do it in a heartbeat.
MELBER: Is Twitter good for American democracy?
COSTOLO: I think so. Yes. I realize it`s a binary answer and it`s a lot
more sophisticated a question than that, but you`re getting to see what
everybody thinks as they think it without filters. So we`re getting to see
what these people really think and sometimes we may not like what we see,
but at least we`re getting to see the truth.
MELBER: And we`ve talked here about some of the problems with the civic
space in democracy. One of the positives is if democracy means people get
a voice, has been how many people who might not have access to the media or
get an Op-Ed published see there are humans rise up, the #OscarSoWhite, or
have you heard of black Twitter?
COSTOLO: The hash tag black lives matter.
MELBER: Right. I mean, you`ve got whole communities that are engaging and
then we`re seeing their power reflected or at least responded to in the
media, in Hollywood, in business and entertainment. I`m just curious for
people who take that now as a given, did you always know that that
political part would happen? Or when you guys started out, were you
thinking, this would be a fun place to talk about what you`re eating, and
you didn`t necessarily know that so many people would engage this as a
place for civic power?
COSTOLO: That`s right. It was – it was certainly not known in the
beginning that it would become a platform in which the smallest voices
could rise up and be heard just as broadly and widely and immediately
around the world as the people with the biggest microphone.
MELBER: I was asking you earlier about what is exciting you right now?
MELBER: And you started talking about artificial intelligence in games
specifically the AlphaGo.
COSTOLO: The fascinating thing about the AlphaGo match against the World
Go Champion was move number 37 in game two, when AlphaGO, the machine made
a move that all the human commentators and Go Champions look at and said,
well, it`s made a horrible mistake. It doesn`t know what it`s doing. This
is a crazy move. In fact, it was a move no human would ever make, as you
might expect, the machine won the game. So it turned out that this move
that looked like it was wrong, was the best move – you know, one of the
most beautiful moves it could have made.
That`s a remarkable benchmark in artificial intelligence history because
we`re now starting to see machines make decisions that we think, well,
that`s obviously – that doesn`t make any sense at all. And it turns out
to be the right decision. So as you think about the implications of that
for like medical decision making down the road as you start to apply A.I.
to medical decision making, the panel of humans who think one thing and the
machine thinks something else, it will be fascinating about who we think
about the ethics of what do you do?
MELBER: Some people know you as very successful. Other people –
COSTOLO: Not my parents.
MELBER: Other people know you as just super healthy. I mean, really over
the top healthy. And you`ve now turned that passion into a company which
is fascinating when I was reading about Chorus. Tell us about this and
does it really work?
COSTOLO: So the notion behind chorus is that people break promises to
themselves before they break promises to people with whom they even have
the most remote social connection. If I tell myself I`m going to get up
and go for a run tomorrow and I wake up and it`s raining, I might not go
for a run. If I tell who you know, we`ve spoken a couple of time but we`re
not best friends, I`m going to pick you up tomorrow at seven and go for a
run, and I wake up and it`s raining, well, I`ve got to go pick up Ari and
go for a run.
MELBER: Dick, we appreciate you cracking open some of these issues for us
and taking the time to take the questions.
COSTOLO: Yes, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
MELBER: Absolutely. Thank you.
MELBER: And up next, we will go back live to the White House. I`m going
to speak to a reporter who was in the room when Donald Trump made this news
about agreeing to speak with Bob Mueller, ahead.
MELBER: – THE BEAT on a breaking news night where Donald Trump tells
reporters he`ll speak under oath to Special Counsel Bob Mueller in the
Russia probe and do it in two to three weeks, subject to his lawyer`s
advice. Not a normal thing to say. And for more, I want to turn to our
friend and colleague, NBC`s Kristen Welker at the White House. I
understand you were in the room for this exchange that has everyone,
friend, foe or neutral about Donald Trump, everyone talking. What else can
you tell bus what was happening in that room?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me set the
stage for you, Ari because it was remarkable. I went to speak with one of
the senior officials here at the White House. It was going to be an off
the record conversation. And then about seven minutes into the
conversation, there were a number of reporters involved in that, the
President walked in, he surprised us. We started asking him about his trip
to Davos. He`s going to leave in about an hour and a half to of course,
that Global Economic Summit, and then Immigration, the President expressing
optimism that they will get a deal on immigration. But the head line on
that point Ari is that he essentially said he`s open to a pathway to
citizenship for DREAMers over the course of 10 to 12 years.
One reporter asks if DREAMers should be worried if they can`t get a deal
done on immigration by March 5th, that deadline of course for DACA, the
President said the DREAMers have nothing to be worried about. I found that
to be very striking. And then of course, the headline that everyone is
talking about, what you started off with, Ari, the fact that President
Trump said he`s looking forward to do an interview with Special Counsel
Robert Mueller after we pressed him a number of times, whether he would do
it under oath, he said yes. In fact, he would do it under oath. And that
was really stunning. Then he did reiterate something that we have heard
from him so many times which is that there was no collusion. And he went
on about that at great length. We asked him if he`s disappointed in the
senior leadership at the FBI, of course, he has attacked the FBI. He has
said he has great confidence in Christopher Wray but did he make some
disparaging comments about Andrew McCabe.
MELBER: Yes, I noticed that.
WELKER: Yes, and he was very critical of Andrew McCabe, essentially
pointing to the fact that he thinks he`s politically motivated. He didn`t
say that outright but that was certainly the inference. So a number of
stunning headlines. And then one more that caught my attention. He talked
about the fact that everyone talks about how Hillary Clinton lost. He said
one day, people will say he ran a great campaign and that he was a great
candidate and that`s why he won. So a lot of headlines here at the White
House tonight as he prepared to head to Davos.
MELBER: NBC`S Kristen Welker, thanks for jumping in front of the camera.
We will be right back.
MELBER: That`s our show. “HARDBALL” starts now.
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