Dems subpoena Trump Confidante Hope Hicks. TRANSCRIPT: 5/21/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: All right. Alexi, Michael, Maria, thank you all.
That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE
PRESS DAILY. That I promise.
“THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: You know, Chuck, Hillary `07 sounds like a Sean
Connery, James Bond kind of reboot.
TODD: It does. You`re right. Hillary `07.
MELBER: Hillary `07, her majesty`s secret service or something.
TODD: Hillary `07, this time, it`s – never mind.
MELBER: You know we can work this out. We have time until the election.
TODD: We do have time. We do. We do.
MELBER: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Especially in the summer months. Thank you.
MELBER: We have a lot to get to on THE BEAT tonight. There is a lot of
news late today, new subpoenas, brand new for two Trump aides at the center
of so much alleged misconduct.
Also, hundreds of rallies outpouring across America right now. There is a
wave of emotion, of activism, of energy, and even some civil disobedience
regarding this new state abortion bans. I`m going to get into that in the
And then later, by the end of the hour, I`ll talk to a Mueller insider
about these reports that Mueller is now in active negotiations to testify.
But how? Well, we`ll explain.
But we begin with this pressure, new, on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Because some top Democrats in her caucus are now privately lobbying her to
begin impeachment proceedings. You heard that right. This is new
reporting about an effort that actually seems more credible because it is
not posturing, it is not press conferences, it is reports, dribs and drabs
of them, that are breaking into public view.
All of this comes as former White House Counsel Don McGahn refused today to
comply with a lawful subpoena for his testimony which is pushing some top
Democrats over the edge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Our
subpoenas are not optional. Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here
for this scheduled appearance. Let me be clear. This committee will hear
Mr. McGahn`s testimony even if we have to go to court to secure it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Late today, Democrats issuing these new subpoenas to key players,
Hope Hicks and Don McGahn`s chief of staff. But the pro-impeachment caucus
is basically arguing that the best way to get action on all of these
subpoenas is through an impeachment probe.
Now, here`s this new reporting I`ve mentioned. “The Washington Post”
states that at least five members of Pelosi`s leadership team pressed her
in a closed-door meeting, this was last night, asking to at least let the
Judiciary Committee begin impeachment proceedings.
And then later, in another meeting, Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, who you
just saw at that committee hearing, making the same case. “The Post”
noting, this marks the “first time that the chairman and the top rank and
file lawmakers have lobbied Pelosi to begin impeaching Trump.”
And over at “Politico”, they report on the members` frustration and vented
about the White House repeated stonewalling, bluntly urging Pelosi start
the impeachment process. One source describing the conversations as “long
and very emotional.”
This is a lot of reporting in more than one outlet and it tells us that
after those private talks, there are more and more Democrats – this is not
just out in the country. This is not just out in the debate. This is the
people that Pelosi relies on to keep the caucus together. They are all now
pushing her on impeachment.
And today, what we are seeing is it`s spilled out in public. We just
showed you the reporting on all of those tense meetings last night. But
take a look at another chairman, Elijah Cummings, getting so much closer
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Where do we end
up when we do that? That`s the question. And I`m still mulling it over.
I`m going to talk to my colleagues when I get on the floor in a few minutes
but I`m getting there.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-CA): I believe that we have come to the
time of impeachment. I think that at a certain point, this is no longer
about politics but this is about upholding the rule of law.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): If Don McGahn doesn`t testify, it is time to
open an impeachment inquiry.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His campaign chairman is in prison
right now. Don`t tell me there is not enough to discuss and debate
REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes. If there was an
impeachment inquiry, I would support it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The last person you saw there is Tennessee Steve Cohen who is my
guest live right now. He`s one of the members who`s making this case for
impeachment in these private meetings with Speaker Pelosi last night.
I will note that so far, let`s be clear, the speaker is not barging. She
is saying Democrats are actually beginning to win some of the procedural
fights against the White House. Including, of course, late yesterday when
a judge was ruling against Donald Trump`s accounting firm and ordering them
to hand over financial documents to Congress.
Pelosi is saying they can pursue that strategy. All of this, we can now
report, will come to a head and it seems, tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. in
Washington. High drama because Speaker Pelosi will be huddling with the
entire Democratic Caucus to discuss the state of the investigations and
what are increasingly private and public calls to begin an impeachment
I`m joined now by Congressman Steve Cohen from the Judiciary Committee. I
know you`re in demand. I appreciate you being on THE BEAT tonight.
COHEN: Good to be with you, Ari.
MELBER: What do you see is important coming out of those meetings last
night? Do you see more members of your caucus saying, based on what the
White House has done, it is time to begin impeachment proceedings?
COHEN: They definitely are in the Judiciary Committee. And the Judiciary
Committee`s got the members who care most about justice, most about the
rule of law, and have within their charge to preserve the Constitution.
I`m the chair of the sub-committee on the Constitution which Jerry Nadler
was for many, many years. And he has also a specific reference for the
MELBER: Can you take us inside those meetings? I know there are aspects
of them that you`re going to keep to yourself. But, obviously, they`ve
spilled into the “Washington Post” and other outlets.
Our viewers are wondering, what is going on? Is this a real good faith
debate? Could you move the speaker? What was going on there in those
COHEN: The Judiciary Committee as a whole is for at least an inquiry of
impeachment as discussed by several members. And I don`t think any member
– there might have been two members that were particularly close to
Speaker Pelosi that`s kind of were not on board. But most, I would say 80,
90 percent of the committees on board to go forward.
MELBER: Ninety percent. So I mean right there, that feels farther than we
were recently. You`re telling us tonight, 90 percent of the Judiciary
Committee including the chair want to at least begin proceedings and
they`re pushing the speaker on that now?
COHEN: Well, I can`t speak for the chair but I know that the committee is
in that position. And it`s because most of us are lawyers, we have the
Constitution in our heart and most of us have probably had more interaction
with the Mueller report and with the facts than most of the rest of
Congress because it has come to us. And we wanted to prep for Barr and
prep for McGahn –
MELBER: If I ask you a question about that, would you try to answer me
COHEN: Always, swear to God.
MELBER: Well, sir, do you think the majority of members of Congress have
read the Mueller report?
COHEN: No, I don`t.
MELBER: And do you think that itself is an impediment to having a factual
discussion of what that evidence portends?
COHEN: I think it is. I think if you read the Mueller report, you will
see that the only reason he was not – Mueller didn`t recommend an
indictment for Mr. Bad Example, the president, was because the Justice
Department has a policy that you cannot indict a sitting president.
He made it clear that he was going through the traditional means and that
that was one of them. And that therefore, they could not. He couldn`t
defend himself if he said he should be indicted. And he thought fair play
would say that it was to defend himself which you do in a court of law or
you do in an impeachment hearing but you don`t in a statement from a
special counsel that cannot be acted upon.
So he did everything but say the man has committed obstruction of justice
and would be indicted but for the fact he`s president, just as Individual-
1, he is an unnamed co-conspirator in the Southern District of New York for
Michael Cohen actions to get campaign money against the –
MELBER: So when you walk into this meeting tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., what is
Speaker Pelosi going to see? When she looks out on a caucus that obviously
supports her, that re-elected her to this position that has incredible
faith in her which means in her judgment but appears to increasingly
disagree with her view that you should not even start the proceedings.
Especially given what you`re calling a stonewalling, what Chairman Nadler
is saying defiance. What is she going to see in this meeting tomorrow
COHEN: Well, it`s 90 percent I would say the Judiciary Committee. But the
Judiciary Committee are kind of a special breed and the whole caucus
probably is not there.
She`ll still see a majority of the people that will follow her lead. And
it is difficult to stand up and speak to the speaker in a meeting and
question her positions. It is difficult. It was difficult for me to get
up and share a policy.
But at a certain point, you`re elected and you`ve got a certain age and
you`ve got a responsibility to speak truth to power and that`s your job.
And that`s what I did. But I did feel some other people around me didn`t
have that comfort.
There was another member who did speak up and he is in leadership and I
admire him for doing it. But some of the other people were kind of – you
could see they were jockeying for position. So it will be an interesting
hearing, and who stands up and speaks out and what happens.
MELBER: Well, that`s striking. And I appreciate your candor and you
making the time. Congressman Steve Cohen.
COHEN: You`re welcome.
MELBER: Thank you, sir.
COHEN: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: My next guest is a progressive billionaire. His name is Tom
Steyer. You may have heard of him because he`s been leading the outside
effort to impeach Donald Trump since at least 2017. He`s got a new
million-dollar ad campaign calling on Democratic leaders to impeach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here`s a message.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For leaders of the Democratic Party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For over two years, this president has broken the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And nothing happens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You told us to wait for the Mueller investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when he showed obstruction of justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now you tell us to wait for the next election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is your campaign starting to win over people?
TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEED TO IMPEACH: Well, Ari I think our campaign has
represented a huge part of America for a year and a half. We have more
than 8 million people who signed our petition and specifically come out and
said this president has obstructed justice, been corrupt, and should be
removed from office.
MELBER: Well, let me rephrase my question. Are you winning over the
people who have the votes to begin an impeachment inquiry in the House?
STEYER: Well, I think two things are happening, Ari. One is we`re going
directly to the American people because we believe in the power and wisdom
of the American people. But I think that the people in the House, the
Congresspeople, are watching this president who has clearly obstructed
justice and clearly taken payments illegally as president.
They`re now watching him show utter disdain and contempt for them. So his
new tactic on obstruction of justice is an absolute defiance of their right
to oversee his administration, for their right to actually perform their
duty under the Constitution. So they`re very much feeling it personally
because this president really is trying to himself a king.
MELBER: Well, it`s interesting to hear you put it that way because you`re
talking about the actual interaction between the way the White House is –
and this is a fact. It sounds like a criticism but it`s actually a fact,
defying more lawful requests for information in any White House in American
And you`re saying, what do the Democrats or the House as a governing body
do about that? Because wasn`t the argument a couple of weeks ago, well,
let`s see – Speaker Pelosi said let`s work through these other channels.
Do you think that your argument for an impeachment probe has actually been
strengthened by the fact that those other channels are meeting with open
defiance from the Trump White House?
STEYER: Ari, I don`t think there`s any question about it. I think that if
this president doesn`t believe that there is going to be some recompense,
that there`s going to be some cause to his defiance of the law, of the
Constitution of the American people, then he`s going to only get worse.
In fact, the idea that they can work through normal channels – he has
declared that he will not be subject to regular channels, that he is above
the lawful. He expects to do what he wants, when he wants, and how he
wants and he really doesn`t care what Congress has to say about it at any
MELBER: And we have been covering this as the top story as many outlets
are tonight because it is feeling like a push for impeachment. We just had
a member of the Judiciary Committee say 90 percent of his committee wants
impeachment. Speaker Pelosi who has the respect of her caucus, obviously
she just got re-elected in that internal vote, is now facing this open
I want to both reflect the other views in the Democratic caucus as you know
and also bring one on to join you. Before I bring one on, let just play a
very loyal Speaker Pelosi lieutenant pushing back on all of this,
Congressman Jeffries. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), CHAIR, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Well, I
disagree with the notion that a growing number of the House Democratic
Caucus want to jump straight to impeachment. We also recognize that we are
a separate and co-equal branch of government. We have a responsibility to
serve as a check and balance on an out of control executive branch. The
caucus wants to proceed methodically in that regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s the defense, a methodical view. And joining us is also
Julian Epstein. He was the top Democratic staffer on the House Judiciary
Committee during the famed Clinton impeachment and he is also warning his
fellow Democrats to proceed quite carefully.
You just heard what Mr. Steyer said. He`s been a leader on this. What do
you mean by being careful? What is the argument for Democrats against
doing what my guests, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Steyer, have said tonight?
JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF MINORITY COUNSEL TO HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:
Well, I think the White House bag dab Bob legal strategy of just
obstructionism and strong arm in Congress is actually potentially more
illegal than even the things that were uncovered – the obstruction that
was uncovered in the Mueller report.
And I think it`s unacceptable and I think it certainly makes a legal case
for impeachment stronger. But I mean to the people argue that impeachment
is just a legal question and if the president has broached the line, that
it simply kind of – it`s the dutiful camp, what I call the dutiful camp,
who just believe that there is a legal question.
If you answer that legal question, if he`s crossed – if he`s breached
that, then you go forward with impeachment. I mean I respect that point of
view and I respect the people who are on that side. But I also think it`s
I mean if you look at the way impeachment was designed, and particularly if
you go back to the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65,
it is designed as not just a legal question but also a political question.
And the politics are not there yet. I think the legal benefit that you get
from opening an inquiry is very, very marginal. I think the courts are
making it clear right now that they have little patience for the games that
the White House is playing.
But in terms of whether move forward with impeachment, you basically have
three audiences that you have to persuade. You have the Democratic Caucus
and the House that you must persuade. You have the general public that you
must persuade and then you have Republicans. So you have those three
MELBER: I don`t want to oversimplify you because you`re a brilliant
speaker but I think –
EPSTEIN: Well, let me talk to my point –
MELBER: – I hear your argument but I`m going to moderate because it`s
something I do here. I think you`re basically boiling down to the argument
that this would eventually lose so don`t start. Is that right?
EPSTEIN: No, I`m – not quite the argument I`m making. I`m saying you
have three audiences. The people are for impeachment are opening up a
process, haven`t even persuaded their own caucus yet. They haven`t even
persuaded the Democratic Caucus so –
MELBER: We`re having a debate – but my debate with what I`m trying to
moderate here for you and then for Tom`s response is what is your
substantive argument against, is that they don`t have enough public support
EPSTEIN: I think that there is not enough public support. I think the
Democrats are not together so I`m not sure where it leads you. And I think
in terms of, you know, the legal argument, sure there is a legal argument
there. We can go – kind of go back and forth on that and on the type two
authorities. It is not quite as definitive as I would like it to be.
MELBER: I feel you on that.
EPSTEIN: But this president –
MELBER: Let me get Tom.
EPSTEIN: I think this president has acted contemptuously.
MELBER: I feel you on the points you`ve made. Let me get in Tom for
STEYER: Well, we`re not making a legal point. We`re making a point about
what is right and wrong and what we want to have happened is to bring in
the American people directly. To say that the American people don`t
support impeachment enough before they`ve had a chance to see the evidence
through a series of televised hearings doesn`t make any sense.
In fact, what we need to do is have those hearings, bring all of those
people, Mueller, McGahn, all of them, in front of the American people so we
can see how corrupt this president is, how corrupt his administration is,
and the kind of obstruction that he`s engaged in so that we, the American
people, can come together across party lines, across geographic lines, and
be sickened by what this president has done.
EPSTEIN: But Tom, you`re not making an argument for impeachment.
MELBER: With the limited time we have – I`m going to get you in. I don`t
want to put words in Tom`s mouth but he is making a little of the Rabbi
Hillel argument, if not now, when? Your brief response to that before we
EPSTEIN: I don`t think he`s making an argument for impeachment. I think
he is making the argument for process. He`s making the argument you should
have investigatory hearings, lay the facts out on the table and let the
American people decide.
That`s different from saying jump into impeachment. He actually made the
opposite argument that he says he`s making.
STEYER: Just to be clear, that is exactly the opposite of what I`m saying.
What I`m saying is this president has clearly breached the criteria for
being impeached, that it is urgent to hold him accountable. That if, in
fact, you do not hold him accountable, you are normalizing his criminality,
his corruption, and his obstruction and you are failing your duty to the
American people and the Constitution of the United States. That`s actually
what I`m saying.
MELBER: And it is very interesting hearing you two reckon directly with
each other. Some of these conversations are privately happening in the
House. Both of you have extensive experience. And Mr. Steyer has been
pushing this for some time so I think we benefit from hearing it. It is a
tough question, obviously. Julian Epstein and Tom Steyer, thanks to both
EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us.
STEYER: Thanks, Ari,
MELBER: Absolutely. Now, coming up, what did Speaker Pelosi say about the
first Republican to actually push her on impeachment? We`re going to get
into that later.
Also, new reporting on what are now secret negotiations leaking out in the
“Washington Post” about Bob Mueller`s testimony and will it be public?
And then, such an important story tonight, these national protests about
abortion rights. We have an exclusive with a D.A. who says she will not
enforce what she sees as an unconstitutional law limiting choice. Only on
THE BEAT. That`s later tonight.
And then, Donald Trump pushing to pardon convicted war criminals. I`m
going to break down why this is a precedent-breaking problem for any
commander in chief, another important story on what is a packed show.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: The new impeachment debate breaking out among some Democrats in
Congress is partly in response to this, these kinds of scenes, doing
something about the empty chairs, empty witness chairs. Trump`s former
White House counsel is openly defying a lawful House subpoena.
And now, that same committee is applying new pressure with the subpoena to
Hope Hicks, a Trump confidante and a Republican lawmaker have now said
Trump did commit impeachable offenses. So pressed about all of this and
whether to consider the probe, take a look at what Speaker Pelosi has done
here, trying to basically brush aside much of the debate with a broad
reference to patriotism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, HOST, MORNING JOE: Doesn`t it put more pressure on you
that Conservative Republican says the threshold for impeachment has been
PELOSI: Well, we haven`t – we`re not – this isn`t about politics. It is
not about passion. It is not about prejudice. It is not about politics.
It is about patriotism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It is about patriotism. But the problem with that talking point
would seem to be that those arguing that the president violated the
Constitution and should not get away with it have a rationale for doing
something. And it is also, they say, called patriotism.
To dig into this, I have the politics editor for the “Root.com”, Jason
Johnson, and “Daily Beast” Columnist Margaret Carlson. Good day to both of
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Good to see you, Ari.
MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: Hello.
MELBER: It`s getting lively, Margaret. What do you think of this debate?
CARLSON: I heard Jason last night. And I often say, what would Jason do?
But I slightly disagree with him.
My heart is with Jason but I believe Democrats should go the Pelosi route
and follow impeachment by other means, which is to continue the
investigations, hope that the courts are still functioning despite being
packed with McConnell judges.
And as the court did today, rule in favor of subpoenas and witnesses
showing up so that these investigatory hearings proceed and they can be
televised. Tom Steyer was making the point, well we need these televised
impeachment hearings in order to educate the public.
But there is nothing that says – I mean certainly, Ari, you`re very
influential. MSNBC wouldn`t be covering the oversight hearings.
MELBER: Well, I think part of it is the question of, who is actually
compelled to testify in a reasonable amount of time, which is separate,
Jason, from whether the underlying issue is satisfying or not. And there
are certainly people who look at this and say with no underlying crime, it
is not as bad as Watergate. There are those who view that and there are
others who say it is worse than Watergate.
In other words, the substantive part. Take a listen to Kamala Harris on
the substance. This was in our interview last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: These were indictable offenses and – but for the office of legal
counsel`s opinion, they would have been charged. So we need to have Bob
Mueller come and clear that up for the American public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: Yes. Look, that makes clear sense to me. And Ari, look, I`m in
favor of impeachment. I`m in favor of impeachment hearings.
And you mentioned in the last segment sort of the classic quote, if not
now, when? Well, I`ll give you another one. If Nancy Pelosi can`t do it,
it can`t be done, right.
Like she is one of the most powerful speakers we`ve had. She has a number
of people in her party and her base, they are saying this needs to get
done. There is no reason to (CROSSTALK) the process.
MELBER: There is a 50 Cent song by that name but he`s not the only person,
of course. He is the –
JOHNSON: I figured this. I figured you`d catch up.
MELBER: Were you embedding a secret 50 Cent Easter Egg?
JOHNSON: I was embedding that Easter Egg. I did not want to give you a
spoiler beforehand but I figured you`d pick it up.
MELBER: You thrill – you delight me, Jason. Go on.
JOHNSON: Thank you. So the idea is that Pelosi really needs to take a
look at what her base is saying throughout this situation. And I don`t
really think that Watergate is the best example. I think a lot of these
Democrats are afraid of what happened with Clinton back in `99, that
somehow there`s going to be a backlash.
But here`s the difference, Bill Clinton`s approval ratings were at 66
percent. His job approval was 66 percent before impeachment hearings.
They went to 72 afterwards. That`s not the case with Donald Trump. The
Democrats are playing with a very good hand right now. They need to begin
CARLSON: You know Trump wants to be impeached so that he can treat this
the way he treated the Mueller report and brand it as an exoneration. If
people like Jason knew that not only would the Senate not convict but that
Trump would win re-election, would they still be in favor of impeachment?
JOHNSON: Yes, of course.
MELBER: We don`t know that but let me – let`s let Jason respond and then
you`ll respond to him.
JOHNSON: Yes, of course, because it is still your obligation. Look, do
police say, hey, I`m not going to bring in this drug dealer because I know
he`s got a good lawyer and he`ll get off? No, you do your job anyway.
And at the end of the day, we don`t know what happens in 2020. We don`t
even know who the competition is going to be. But we do know this, if the
Democratic Party abdicate their constitutional obligations and basically
says we don`t feel like dealing with this because Nancy Pelosi doesn`t feel
like she has the clout, you will alienate and frustrate your base.
MELBER: And what if that drug dealer`s lawyer is already doing a three-
JOHNSON: Exactly. Now, we know he`s going to go down the garbage, right?
MELBER: Strictly hypothetical. I promise, Margaret, her turn. Go ahead.
CARLSON: Yes. I know you have a lyric for this, Ari. But let me say if
the idea that you`re abdicating your responsibility when you`re dealing
with an amoral institution that has completely abdicated its
responsibilities, and that`s the Senate.
You`re engaging in a futile act. That`s F-U-T-I-L-E, not feudal. And you
end up, you`re going into something. And you`re courageous and you`re
brave to do something that is absolutely futile.
MELBER: Well, there is a lyric for that, Margaret.
MELBER: Which is Jay-Z said, “Mama always told me don`t argue with fools
because people from a distance can`t see who is who.” You`re saying why do
something that requires the cooperation of a foolish Senate.
CARLSON: And it requires a lot of explanation of who is who to the public,
to the voting public.
MELBER: If we had an air horn sound, I would hit it. Jason, final
JOHNSON: I got to tell you this. The same thing happened in 1999. The
Senate would be forced to justify not looking at the articles of
impeachment, the pass in the House. That would actually be more damaging
for them. Democrats can`t keep operating off of what they think will make
Trump happy. They`ve got to do what Constitution require, what their base
requires, and what simple notions of justice require.
MELBER: And I`ll say just listening to both of you, I feel the same way I
felt at the end of the first discussion, which is torn by really well made
and interesting arguments. So it is actually fascinating that the
Democrats having pushed to this level, we`re now hearing from so many
people, and that is a sign of a tough call but also an interesting debate,
especially given the unusual precedent that the Congress is dealing with.
My special thanks to Margaret and Jason.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you both.
CARLSON: Good night.
MELBER: Bob Mueller reportedly now in high stakes negotiations over his
testimony and would it even be public. A Mueller insider joins us on this
very question in 30 seconds.
MELBER: New reports tonight on high stakes negotiations over whether and
how Bob Mueller would testify about his famous probe. Sources now saying
Mueller might limit any testimony that goes beyond the Mueller report to be
conducted in private.
Now one source says it`s Trump`s DOJ not Mueller that is quote resisting a
televised hearing. Now as we wait to see whether or not Mueller`s
testimony would be public and what it would entail, consider of course when
he`s testified in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL, RUSSIA PROBE: I will pull no punches in
terms of where that investigation would lead, and we would – I go down any
path that would lead to evidence on individuals, organizations, or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor who
worked for Bob Mueller directly in the D.C. U.S. Attorney`s Office for
several years. You see them there together. Thanks for coming back.
GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: How do you view this new reporting about the negotiations?
KIRSCHNER: You know, it doesn`t surprise me that because Bob Mueller is
still a DOJ employee that Barr may be continuing to put his thumb on the
scale against an appearance or if reluctantly he has to agree to an
appearance by a DOJ employee that he wants it to either be behind closed
doors or not televised because I think he already knows by virtue of that
scathing letter that Bob Mueller authored rebuking Barr`s sort of
ridiculous characterization of some of the findings in his report.
I think Barr already knows that when and if Bob Mueller testifies publicly,
he`s going to wow the pub with facts and with authority and with the
MELBER: So when you – when you read that Post reporting, you are giving
more credence to the sources saying it`s Barr, DOJ holding them back not
Mueller saying hey, I can`t talk about much in public.
KIRSCHNER: I am, Ari. But here`s what it also made me think about.
Listen, as prosecutors, when we investigate a case, and when we present it
to the grand jury, and when we ask them to vote out an indictment and then
ordinarily we proceed to trial, of course, here we can`t because of the
ill-advised OLC memos saying you can`t indict a criminal president. We
don`t then sit down and talk about really in any setting what all of the
witnesses said and what all of the evidence is.
So it doesn`t surprise me if Bob Mueller`s instinct might be listen, it`s
all in the report. In fact, when Barr says no collusion, no obstruction,
Bob Mueller could simply point to the report and say it`s all in here. I
never said no collusion –
MELBER: That`s an important point because doesn`t that also go to an
implicit criticism of the way some Democrats are approaching this which was
debated by some of our panelists earlier in the hour which is if you`re
calling Bob Mueller in to do something, like we got this report, we want to
explore potential impeachment, whether that be of the President or other
officers the United States, or some other act, isn`t that different than
saying Bob Mueller come do Reading Rainbow with us and read us your report?
KIRSCHNER: Exactly. Bob Mueller could take the principal position, look
folks it`s all there 448 pages of it. And look at the way he concluded,
Ari, volume two. Could it be any more transparent or frankly any more
powerful – and if I could just read it briefly – this is how Bob ended
volume two which was chock-full of obstruction of justice by the president.
He said the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by
any person including the president accords with the fundamental principle
of our government that no person in this country is so high that he is
above the law, period.
I could see Mueller taking the principal position that folks, it`s all
there, and to have me regurgitate what I`ve put in writing or testify in a
hearsay fashion about what the witnesses said that led me to this
conclusion is not what you need. What you need is the witnesses.
MELBER: I think that – I think that has been an implication up and down
in his approach thus far. He`s not going to rent a plane and skywrite the
line you just said over the – over the blue skies the Congress. He
doesn`t want to do a dramatic reading that is not who he is in his style.
And unless and until he was being called in a different capacity, for
example, to help present a case if the Senate were trying a case, it`s not
clear what the show-and-tell would do which is why that Post reporting that
goes to this negotiation is so interesting. Glenn, as a Mueller insider,
Mueller-ologist, we appreciate you coming on.
KIRSCHNER: Thanks, Ari. I appreciate it.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Up ahead, turning to a whole different set of
stories. These protests erupting nationally over state anti-abortion
bills. And we have a BEAT exclusive, a .D.A in Georgia vowing not to
enforce that bill.
But first, Donald Trump exploring pardons for war crimes on the advice of a
Fox News anchor. Veteran Paul Rieckhoff is here next.
MELBER: New details tonight on Donald Trump`s reported plan to pardon
several people accused or convicted of war crimes. A New York Times
sources two U.S. officials saying Donald Trump is now requesting official
paperwork for pardons that he would issue by Memorial Day.
Now if you think any of this sounds unusual, that`s because it is. Very
few presidents ever try to overturn convictions for war criminals because
among other reasons, presidents don`t want to look like they support war
One of these soldiers, for example, is on trial accused of horrific murders
of unarmed individuals. Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher facing charges of
killing an unarmed man and a young girl with sniper rifle, basically a
sniper rifle attack that occurred in Iraq as well as stabbing a teenage
captive to death and firing a machine gun aimed at civilians.
Now, as Gallagher`s own platoon, not outsiders who basically reported this
string of conduct saying they saw him commit “shocking acts in Iraq. Now,
Gallagher`s lawyer insists he`s innocent. The others for example, are a
private contractor that was already convicted of first-degree murder that
Trump my pardon, and a marine charged with “urinating on the corpses of
dead Taliban fighters.”
A pardon in any of these cases would be a radical departure from the way
most American presidents across party and history have ever dealt with
anything touching on war crimes. A bipartisan consensus not a red or blue
issue, a belief stated by our military leaders and by our political leaders
that if nothing else, the military has to stand for higher values.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand ready to do
our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must recognize
that the internment of Japanese-Americans was just that a mistake. Here we
admit a wrong. Here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal
justice under the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is what it looks like when a president takes responsibility
for acts that even taken in military emergencies were deemed a violation of
law or human rights. So many are asking why is Trump considering this
Well, a little context, absurd as it may sound is one of the other random
pardons that Trump seized on came after his meeting with Kim Kardashian.
This one comes after lobbying by a Fox News anchor which would explain this
reaction on Fox and Friends as that person praises Trump`s move in front of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t stand that headline accused of war crimes.
They`re not war criminals, they`re warriors. This is very heartening for
guys like me and others in the service who look at the previous
administration. You had a culture of coddling and not defending the
warfighter. Trump has done a total 180 on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: There is a 180 here. It is the 180 against the tradition for
generations. As mentioned, presidents of both parties and military leaders
publicly committing to the rule of law which means acknowledging and
accepting when the rule of law finds in what are obviously quite rare cases
that war crimes have occurred.
Joining me now for this important discussion is Paul Rieckhoff. He founded
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He hosts the podcast Angry
Americans and served as an army first lieutenant and platoon leader in
Iraq. Thanks for being here.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Thanks,
MELBER: What do we need to know about this?
RIECKHOFF: Here we are. Like I`m having a discussion with you on
television trying to explain to the president what pardoning war criminals
is a bad idea. I mean, this is a new moral low for us at a time where it
seems like bad stuff is coming out every day. Perspective I think that
people lose here is the military has rules. The military has courts. The
military has the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
This is the ultimate insult to our military to have a president jump in,
the commander-in-chief jump in and say you know what, I don`t care about
what you say, I don`t care about what you rule, I don`t even care if you`ve
found a decision yet, I`m going to blow it all up.
So it`s really a disrespect to our military, it blows up our world
standing, and we`re supposed to be the good guys, right. When we go into
places overseas, we`re in 40 percent of the world, we`re usually greeted as
the good guys because we abide by the rule of law and the Geneva
Convention. This throws all that out the window.
MELBER: Yes, and you say that and I want to read from more the admittedly
dispiriting reporting about some of these crimes which I mentioned are rare
but when busted, the New York Times talks about how it was this one
individuals comrades who reported the killings and were initially told
well, the Navy might not look kindly on rank and file team members making
allegations against a senior commander, and their careers could be
sidetracked and their elite status revoked.
And yet – and this is where I think there is a silver lining amidst the
horror. And yet those soldiers said no, we represent something else. And
there is as you said the Uniform Code of Military Justice and there are
rules and they took whatever career risk. And the system, in this case,
appeared to work because it`s got a trial. And as I mentioned in this one
instance is his trial will proceed and we`ll see what happens.
The notion that the president would intercede to override that and then say
that`s pro-military, your reaction to that is well.
RIECKHOFF: These are not liberal reporters who are testifying against this
guy. These are – these are six other Navy SEALs, right, who would put
themselves out there and I think really are showing what soldiers should
do, what our troops should do, be courageous, abide by the law, honor that
For the president to come in also, let`s play devil`s advocate here. The
guy hasn`t even been found guilty yet, right. Let`s let this run its
course. And then if he wants to make a statement about it, fine, but
respect the rule of law within the military –
MELBER: And what do you think – I know you don`t – you don`t like to
speak for too many other soldiers but you did lead a soldier`s group, a
veterans group. When soldiers hear that Donald Trump wants to pardon
someone who was convicted of urinating on other dead soldiers, does that
sound pro-military to them?
RIECKHOFF: No. There`s nothing about this that`s pro-military. I mean,
he wants to do this on Memorial Day which would be the ultimate thumb in
the eye of our military on a day that should be about honoring those have
we lost for generations.
So outside of a few radical fringe elements and maybe people who are
personally connected to these people, I haven`t seen anybody defend this.
On moral grounds, on legal grounds, on ethical grounds, this would be rock-
bottom for us as a nation morally and for our military, and would shatter
us for decades.
If the world sees it our president lets people go when they break the law
in a place where discipline and good order is essential, it`s
MELBER: Yes. You know, it`s our job to put words to these stories, and
when I first read this I thought, there`s no words for this. Paul
Rieckhoff, we learned about these issues a lot from you. I appreciate you
coming back on THE BEAT.
RIECKHOFF: Thanks, Ari. I appreciate it.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Next, we take a turn to a whole another story,
these nationwide protests over the new state abortion bans. We have a D.A.
who`s making news tonight on THE BEAT saying she will not enforce what she
views as an unconstitutional law, next.
MELBER: Tonight, this wave of anti-abortion laws sparking over 500
protests across the country organized flooding statehouses, courthouses,
city streets. You`re looking at it. This is all happening now and it`s
trying to both stop the passage of abortion legislation in a range of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fight this, fight this, and let the legislators know
that we will not stand for this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The choice of when and whether to have a family is
deeply personal. It is not a decision that any politician should exert
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my body. This is my right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Protests breaking out after Alabama passed a law to ban nearly all
types of abortions in the entire state including potential jail time for
doctors who perform the procedure. Eight states have passed these types of
restrictive laws just this year alone. Many say it is an effort to get Roe
v Wade overturned immediately by a Trump altered Supreme Court.
Now, Georgia is one of the states making it now illegal to receive an
abortion once a heartbeat is detected. Now, for an exclusive tonight, I am
joined by DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston who is vowing not
to prosecute anyone involved with abortions despite this new law in
Georgia. Good evening. Thanks for joining me about this.
SHERRY BOSTON, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DEKALB COUNTY: Thanks, Ari, for having
MELBER: Your obligation is to enforce the laws. Explain to us why you`re
taking this position and also why you maintain that your view would be
BOSTON: Well, I took an oath as District Attorney to uphold the law and
that`s both state law and federal law. And right now the Supreme Court
under Roe vs. Wade has decided that we have a fundamental right to privacy.
And so as a district attorney, I believe it`s my obligation to make sure
that I do not enforce the law in Georgia that I believe is unconstitutional
under the United States Supreme Court.
MELBER: Does that mean that your potential goal would be to create a sort
of a potential legal safe haven in your jurisdiction in contrast to the
rest of the state for this procedure?
BOSTON: Well, obviously, I`m only the district attorney in DeKalb County
so I can only speak for my jurisdiction. But I want to continue to protect
the citizens of DeKalb County. And I believe that enforcing this law and
ultimately prosecuting women, mothers, doctors, nurses or anyone that that
aids in an abortion, I believe that the laws passed in Georgia is
unconstitutional and very ambiguous and that I have an obligation to
protect the citizens of my community.
MELBER: I want to ask you a parsing question but I think it matters to
people`s lives and I think our viewers will be interested in it so forgive
me in advance. But legally, are you taking the position then that unless
and until the Supreme Court clearly upholds this new law you won`t enforce
it or are you taking the position that even if the Supreme Court ultimately
blessed this law, you would decline to use your prosecutorial power to ever
BOSTON: Well, I will say this. As prosecutors we have discretion to make
decisions about the laws that we prosecute. For example, in Georgia, it`s
still against the law to commit adultery. And I`m certainly not spending
my time prosecuting people for adultery.
I believe that my community has spoken and I believe that there are many
crimes in my community that stand far and more important than what`s
happening honestly in the bedrooms of DeKalb County residents.
As a woman and a mother, I have grave concerns about this type of law here
in Georgia and everywhere.
MELBER: It`s very interesting when you`re laying out – I guess my final
question, I`m curious, are you hearing reaction from this either pressure
in government or public reaction?
BOSTON: I`ve heard a lot of reaction for my community. I`ve gotten emails
and phone calls and tweets, and I can tell you overwhelmingly what I`m
hearing from the women and men in my community is thank you for standing
up, for speaking for being a voice, and for ultimately saying that I have
no intent of putting people in jail and saddling them with felony
convictions for seeking a medical procedure and choosing really how they
want their families to be.
MELBER: District Attorney Sherry Boston, very interesting. Thank you for
explaining your thinking to us tonight.
BOSTON: Thank you.
MELBER: I really appreciate it. I want to tell our viewers, tomorrow
Democrats will be holding this pivotal meeting on impeachment and pressure
on Pelosi and we`ll get into one more thing when we come back.
MELBER: There is a lot going on in Washington tomorrow and I will be there
along with THE BEAT. Speaker Pelosi holding a closed-door meeting with her
entire Democratic caucus. We`ve been told Democrats will be bringing up
the impeachment debate, maybe pressuring her. I`ll also be interviewing a
key player in all of it, Intel Chairman Adam Schiff. This part of the
Center for American Progress ideas conference. We`ll be asking him a lot
of questions and I will bring you any news he makes on THE BEAT that night.
Also in New York tomorrow, a federal judge hearing arguments about Trump`s
attempt to prevent two major banks from releasing his financial records, a
follow on the case that he lost already.
Now, that does it for THE BEAT tonight. But don`t go anywhere because
“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the