AG Barr on opposition to Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 5/31/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. Have a great weekend. That`s all we
have for tonight. Anyway, we`ll be back more – Monday with more MEET THE
And if it`s Sunday, it`s “MEET THE PRESS” on your local NBC station. I got
a big show. The White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Beto O`Rourke,
and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Don`t miss that show.
“THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That is a big Sunday show.
TODD: Thanks, brother. I appreciate it.
MELBER: We`ll be watching. I hope you have a great weekend until then,
TODD: I hope so.
MELBER: Welcome to this Friday edition of THE BEAT. Now, let me start
just real simple. For many Americans, this was Mueller week. The special
counsel speaking for the first and only time in his role, but Trump
Attorney General Bill Barr is clearly pushing ahead to make it something
else, to make it sort of Barr week.
And he`s got this new interview that actually, and this is kind of
interesting, it may help Democrats because it doesn`t exactly rebut critics
who say Mr. Barr acts more like Donald Trump`s personal criminal defense
attorney than the attorney general of the United States.
And Barr also know what`s he`s doing so he`s got news. He dishes some
little tidbits of news of his own here, recounting even when he first got
the letter of rebuke from Mueller for, according to Mueller, not capturing
the scope of the report, of confusing the public.
And Barr uses dramatic language today to dismiss concerns about his own
reputation and then he goes ahead and basically defies Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAN CRAWFORD, CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: The special counsel is
a little sharper on obstruction.
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s trying to state
the bottom line. And the bottom line was that Bob Mueller identified some
He did not reach a conclusion. He wasn`t exonerating the president but he
wasn`t finding a crime either.
Rod Rosenstein and I felt it was necessary for us as the heads of the
department to reach that decision. Many of the instances would not amount
to obstruction. Many of the instances would not amount to obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Many of the instances would not amount to obstruction. Now, in
fairness, the Mueller report itself does not state in its treatment of the
evidence that every instance discussed was amounting to obstruction.
So I want to be clear there. Barr is doing a lot of things that look a
little bit embarrassing to him but that doesn`t mean that everything he
says has no legal basis.
So what`s wrong here with this picture? Well, the Mueller report does
state that its whole point and purpose was to provide the evidence to
enable Congress to make a decision, not have the Barr summarize it or re-
summarize it or mischaracterize it or rule on it. And that is something
that Barr again deflects on here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: My purpose there was not to summarize every jot and piddle of the
report and every you know, angle that Mueller looked into but just state
the bottom line which I did in the four-page memo. I said that Mueller did
not reach a decision. He gave both sides.
Again, I wasn`t trying to provide all the flavor and nooks and crannies of
the report. Rosenstein and I reached a decision and the criteria we
applied in finding no obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The fact is we already know Bob Mueller thought the summary wasn`t
just inadequate or incomplete. But as he thought about his old colleague,
you see here in some file footage, he thought this man who he used to work
with, who he clearly respected fundamentally, lost the thread.
And that`s why he immediately committed his objections in writing telling
Mr. Barr the summary didn`t capture the context, the nature, the substance
of Mueller`s work and its conclusions. And that was selling public
Now, I can tell you for the first time, Barr is actually recounting his
side of receiving that unusual letter of rebuke from a man who, again I
want to say this respectfully but I think accurately, a man who at this
juncture has far more public credibility than Mr. Barr.
Now, Mueller and Barr shared that long history and Barr reflected on that
as well while talking about this letter he got from Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRAWFORD: He wrote the letter taking issue saying that you had caused
CRAWFORD: Did that catch you off guard?
BARR: Yes, sure. I was surprised he just didn`t pick up the phone and
call me, given our 30-year relationship but –
CRAWFORD: Why didn`t he?
BARR: I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I don`t know. I don`t know. Well, maybe our guests know, Jason
Johnson, politics editor for “Theroot.com”, Paul Butler, former federal
prosecutor, and Sophia Nelson, counsel of the GOP House Oversight
Committee. Good evening to each of you.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Good evening, Ari.
SOPHIA NELSON, COUNSEL, GOP HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Hey, Ari.
MELBER: Paul, Mr. Barr would have us believe that he doesn`t understand
why lawyers sometimes do things in writing rather than pick up the phone,
super cash when you are old buddies. Can you help him and the rest of us
BUTLER: You do it to preserve a record. You do it because you don`t trust
the guy you`re writing the letter to.
There`s no reason why Mueller should have trusted Barr. Barr
mischaracterized the report that Robert Mueller spent two years working on
which is about our national security.
MELBER: So just fact-checking that point, when he says something that I
think could sound reasonable to people, right, if I knew someone for a very
long time and I said, “Oh, why didn`t they just call me?” In, casual
parlance, that`s a reasonable sounding to say.
You`re saying that he is trying to sound reasonable while hiding the fact
that this really was a blowup between them that was bad enough to be in
BUTLER: Yes, what Bill Barr did when he had that fake press conference
where he mischaracterized the Mueller report is put the interest of Donald
Trump ahead of the interests of the United States. So there`s absolutely
no reason why Mueller should have had any confidence in him.
NELSON: Yes. I mean he`s exactly right. At the end of the day, Attorney
General Barr is really I think damaging himself. And I don`t want to get
too far ahead of you but his comments in the interview this morning were
just unbelievable about people dying and reputations be damned. He really
So I think that Paul`s dead on that at the end of the day, we lawyers, like
to have these things called present sense impressions and we like to get
things down on paper because we want to preserve a record that we did
And clearly, Mueller felt that he could not trust Barr to pick up the phone
to say, hey, you`ve got to go back out and correct yourself because he
didn`t get it right the first time.
MELBER: And you`re talking about what he says everybody dies? Because
you`re familiar, of course, with the new source material. Let`s hear that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: Everyone dies and I`m not – you know, I don`t believe in the
Homeric idea that immortality comes by having odes sung about you over the
centuries, you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, Sophia, based on what I know and it is Friday of a long week,
but my understanding is
everyone does die.
MELBER: So that is true?
NELSON: That`s real. That`s true.
MELBER: That is real. That`s very real. So real sometimes people don`t
even want to think about our own impending death. We`re all just packages
of cells that will eventually expire.
But you`re saying that he`s doing something wrong there. What is wrong
with him saying that?
NELSON: But there`s something else about this package. It has a soul.
And my problem is the soul of the Republican Party has been lost, the soul
of this attorney general has been lost.
Because at the end of the say, this is about the constitution of the United
States of America. And Robert Mueller and his team spent two years and $35
million in taxpayer dollars. And two guys Rosenstein and Barr decided to
overturn it and make a different analysis than the men and women tasked to
do do it for two years.
Who by the way, were following the DOJ, OLC analysis as you know? So they
were actually following DOJ guidelines for Barr to say otherwise is
disingenuous. And I do fear that he is like the grim reaper here in this
interview like I`m going to die so reputation be damned.
Doesn`t he have children and grandchildren? Doesn`t he want people to
think well of him when he leaves this earth? I know I do.
MELBER: I`m really torn. I`m going to be very honest. And I love what
you`re saying about the soul.
But as I kick it out to Jason, I`m going to be honest. It`s one of those
things where it depends who says it.
JASON JOHNSON, EDITOR, THEROOT.COM: Because if the most enlightened person
you know did say it in the right context, your honorable grandfather, your
really humble yoga teacher, everyone dies, yes let`s take that in. But
he`s saying it as a rebuttal to the fact that people, including – we`ve
had them on this program and others, people who worked with him, who
respected him, who thought he was better than this are aghast at his
It`s not about whether or not you die. It`s about whether your reputation,
your professional work, the oath you take to the office matters, Jason.
JOHNSON: Well, again, Ari, what Barr is basically saying is I don`t care
what anyone thinks because I`m working for Trump. Many men wish death on
me, I don`t care, right.
I`m going to be here. I`m going to do what Trump wants me to do. And at
the end of the day, I think history will reflect well on me. But this is
the other thing that I think –
MELBER: But at the end of that 50 Cents – the end of that 50 Cent line is
I`m going to be who I`m destined to be.
JOHNSON: Exactly. And that`s what Barr knows. He knows that at the end
of the day, this administration continues. That he will be – he`s going
to be the hand of the president. He`s going to continue to do this kind of
Remember, next summer, you`ve already heard the president say that he wants
Barr to possibly be the point man on investigating Joe Biden or
investigating Hillary Clinton. So he`s thinking of the long game because
he doesn`t care what`s happening now.
MELBER: Right. That is going to be a surgical summer as it were.
JOHNSON: Right, exactly.
BUTLER: Yes. Some of this is with regard to Mueller, him not being as
direct as he could be on these issues. So you know, Ari, you and I are big
hip-hop heads. The thing I love about that culture is it`s direct, it`s in
BUTLER: That`s not how Robert Mueller flows. And so when I might say
Trump is a thug and the attorney general is a liar, what Mueller says is
well, I didn`t have enough evidence to charge – well, actually, he didn`t
even say he didn`t have enough evidence to charge Donald Trump with a
What he said is Bill Barr and the Department of Justice won`t let me charge
Trump with a crime, but if I thought that he was innocent, I would tell you
that. And I`m not telling you that.
And what he says about the attorney general, Mueller writes that letter
where he says, “Well, you didn`t exactly capture the substance and context
of my 400-page memo.” Again, that`s calling Barr a liar just not saying it
as direct –
MELBER: Right. But doing it in those –
BUTLER: – as a hip-hop there would.
MELBER: Right, in those careful ways, which again is what makes him a good
prosecutor and the kind of person you would trust to navigate difficult
issues without fear or favor and prejudice. But we are out here in the
post report period. The 68 days between the report being turned in and him
speaking in public and what that did.
And then the question, Sophia, you worked as a counsel to the Congress, in
a committee, and the question of how the Congress is struggling with that.
And that`s where – again, I mean we`re just calling it as we see it.
There are Democrats who very clearly seem to be struggling with how to talk
about this, even the ones who say they`re for an impeachment probe. Take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
We need to change public opinion.
The Judiciary Committee should begin impeachment inquiries, inquiries. All
Democrats have to keep our eye on the prize.
To impeach without removal is I think a mistake.
The inquiry is not the same as the filing the, you know, articles of
That`s not impeachment. That is to determine. It`s the first step.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: At this juncture, Sophia – I see Jason shaking his head. Go
JOHNSON: Yes. This is so –
MELBER: And then Sophia.
JOHNSON: This is so ridiculous. This is why – I was very happy to see
Senator Harris and Senator Warren this week came out and said, “You know
what? Once I became president,” as they were speaking confidently, “I`m
going to send a memo to the DOJ and I`m going to get rid of it because a
lot of this comes from the fact that Mueller was like I can`t do anything.
I can`t indict a sitting president.”
That`s sort of the core around this. So all the dancing around that the
Democrats are doing now is also because of an interpretation at the
Department of Justice that needs to be clarified or changed. If we have a
president that can`t be indicted, you`re going to get that kind of word
salad from Mueller and that`s where this problem comes from.
NELSON: Ari, let me say this. Of all the Republicans that are ducking and
hiding, I`ve only heard Justin Amash and recently former Defense Secretary
and Congressman Bill Cohen who was on the Nixon impeachment, Judiciary
Committee in the House as a Republican.
And he said something I want to leave people with today which is Congress,
do your job. This isn`t about whether or not you`re going to get
reelected. It`s not about whether or not you`re coming back. You took an
oath to the Constitution.
What Mueller laid out in 400-and-some pages of his report, I read it all as
I suspect all you did, were serious high crimes and misdemeanors. I`m over
my neighbors and everybody else trying to skirt around this and say how
this president is being picked on. He`s not.
And at the end of the day, the Congress has to do its duty and they must
start an inquiry now because it`s time.
JOHNSON: But I think there`s –
NELSON: It`s time for them to do it.
JOHNSON: Yes, I think we have a conflict though between doing the right
thing and the politics. So if Speaker Pelosi`s endgame is to get Donald
Trump out of office, impeachment might actually interfere with that endgame
because of the politics. So that –
NELSON: Who cares?
JOHNSON: Where is she going?
BUTLER: No, it`s not –
NELSON: Who cares? It`s the right thing to do.
JOHNSON: Well, you might care if you don`t want Donald Trump to be
president and you don`t want him to get re-elected but no one can predict
what impeachment is going to do in 18 months.
NELSON: So we let him continue to commit crimes and obstruct and do bad
JOHNSON: That doesn`t make any sense.
NELSON”: That`s crazy. I`m with you, Jason. I mean it just makes no
sense to me to keep making this argument that we let him get away with it
because we fear losing elections.
That`s not America. That`s not what this republic was founded on. It`s
JOHNSON: I hear you. I hear you loud and clear but you got to give
Speaker Pelosi credit.
She`s not the most powerful woman in the United States for no reason.
She`s a master politician. She knows her strategy.
NELSON: This is about the constitution, not about politics.
JOHNSON: I don`t think it`s strategy. I don`t think it`s a strategy.
MELBER: Sophia and then Jason.
NELSON: No, I`m just saying this is bigger than politics. And that`s
where patriots come from. And that`s what`s profiles encourages, it`s when
men and women like Margaret Chase Smith and others stand up and they say
this is wrong, McCarthy. We`re not doing this. I don`t care if you send
me home packing and I never get re-elected again.
At some point, we have to make a decision what we value more, the Republic
and the values of the republic or do we let this president continue to
embarrass us. Bill Barr talked about eroding the institutions. No
president has done more damage in two years than all of them combined for
240 years than this one has.
That`s my opinion. But that`s how I see it.
JOHNSON: I wouldn`t necessarily go that far at this point. But I will say
this, it doesn`t have to be an either/or. Look, the problem that I`ve had
with Speaker Pelosi is she was throwing water on this before we even got
the report out. That was the problem.
She has basically been discouraging and sending out a chilling effect to
the entire House saying no, no, no, don`t take this position, don`t take
this position. I don`t believe she`s playing three-dimensional chess. I
don`t believe she`s playing a long game.
I think she`s simply afraid and doesn`t think she has the votes. And the
problem is just like you have to convince the American public that
impeachment is a good idea, you have to convince your own members. And
she`s not letting them do that by saying she doesn`t want to go for it.
MELBER: And it`s fascinating listening to each of you make such
interesting arguments across the board and that also, the point you end on,
Jason, is the bar point, which is do you treat this as something that`s
just happening and watch it happen or what he did, right, unlike say your
criticism of Pelosi.
He came in very clearly with a view and he abdicated it and he articulated
it and he may have moved people on it. And we are at the highest stakes of
inter-branch, legal, political, constitutional clashes.
And who is fighting with a clear message and who is not I think is a part
of this as we really end what was Mueller Barr week here and Mueller
breaking his silence? My special thanks to Jason, Paul, and Sophia.
Learned a lot from you guys tonight.
JOHNSON: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Thanks to each of you.
NELSON: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, we have a lot. Democrats have a plan for Bill Barr and
Donald Trump. Senator Richard Blumenthal from the Judiciary Committee,
pivotal, is here with me.
Also, later, how the Republican obsession with AOC may actually get
bipartisan legislation to clean up lobbying. I`m not joking. We`ll
And later, a disturbing report about one of Donald Trump`s favorite
authoritarians. Rick Stengel is here on the stakes.
And some news about the Mueller report. I`m going to give you something
special that I want you to know about. That comes later.
And of course, it`s Friday. I`ve got the Flatbush Zombies here as well.
You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Here`s something you don`t see every day. The sitting attorney
general of the United States which is one of the most nonpartisan offices
that is supposed to exist in the entire government name-checking the
political opposition to the president and saying there`s no evidence that
Donald Trump is shredding institutions but really it`s the resistance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: I think it`s important that we not in this period of intense
partisan feeling destroy our institutions. I think one of the ironies
today is that people are saying that it`s President Trump that`s shredding
our institutions. I really see no evidence of that.
And from my perspective, the idea of resisting a democratically elected
president and basically throwing everything at him and you know really
changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president,
that`s where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal from the Judiciary
Committee, a former federal prosecutor.
You take these issues seriously. And I don`t make light of them but I am
compelled to say at the end of this week with Mueller breaking his silence,
Attorney General Bill Barr`s argument boils down to I know you are but what
I mean, what is he doing talking about the resistance shredding
institutions and how would citizens shred institutions? They`re not in
charge of the Justice Department.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You know, what
William Barr is doing to the Department of Justice and to the rule of law
is so disgraceful and shameful. All you have to do is go over what Donald
Trump has said about the Department of Justice, about the brave and
dedicated men and women of the FBI, about judges, Obama judges, and about
the rule of law in this country.
And clearly, it is he, Donald Trump, the president of the United States who
is shredding those institutions. Nicolle Wallace did a wonderful segment
which showed Trump`s statements over a period of time. And for William
Barr to blame anyone but the president of the United States for undermining
the credibility of those institutions, particularly –
MELBER: Is it even appropriate, Senator, for him to be holding forth his
random opinions about the propriety of the resistance? I mean why would
the attorney general do that at all?
I get, by the way, the campaign folks do it. They have every right, that
we`re going to have a big boisterous debate in the country but is that
really where the A.G. should be?
BLUMENTHAL: He is very cleverly and deceptively using the power of T.V.
We saw it with –
BLUMENTHAL: – with Bob Mueller in nine minutes. He didn`t work to move
the needle than weeks, maybe years of commentary.
MELBER: You`ve mentioned that. I`ve heard this a lot. I`ve heard from
people in Washington that Barr understands Trump`s obsessions and so he has
been leaning into them no collusion talking points, things that can be
tweeted and then, of course, television.
Did it strike you that in this new interview, he`s in this sort of cabin
environment with the fire over the corner and the vest? Do you read into
that at all?
BLUMENTHAL: I read into that very ingenious use of demeanor, style,
background, obviously the fire roaring, the vest, the informality, all
designed to create an impression.
MELBER: So which by the way, we have expected from our presidents and our
politicians. You`re a politician as well as a senator, right. You have a
government job and you`re a politician.
But to see the attorney general, I mean there`s something concerning there,
even though I`m not suggesting but it`s certainly different than many other
attorneys general. And the other thing I want to push you on is your
You mentioned Nicolle Wallace, our great colleague who has done great break
downs. Jimmy Kimmel of all people who happens to be a comedian but a clear
speaker. And he put your speaker to task on this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, we`ve been on that
path for a while. And when we do get to where we`re going, we`re going to
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: But it feels like we`ve been on the
path for a really, really long while.
PELOSI: We really have. Well –
KIMMEL: Like since the `70s.
PELOSI: It has to be clear to the American people and we have to hope that
it will be clear to the Republicans in the United States Senate.
KIMMEL: And you think that those Republican senators, even if they know he
committed a crime will side with Donald Trump?
PELOSI: They have been every day. Not one of them has spoken up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Does he ever point about pressing her to start an impeachment
BLUMENTHAL: He has a very, very good point about the impatience of the
American people with the criminality of the president, which is –
MELBER: No, I have to ask you. Is that a yes?
BLUMENTHAL: Here`s where I agree with Speaker Pelosi and with my
Democratic colleagues who are demanding an impeachment inquiry as they call
it right now. We need accountability. That ought to be our guiding
principle, whether it is in the Congress through an impeachment proceeding
or in the courts or in the court of public opinion at the ballot box.
But what`s really important here is that we know what we have in common
which is there have to be hearings. And it comes back to the power of
television, the word from Bob Mueller`s mouth will continue to move the
I`ve been out in the State of Connecticut for these past several days. At
nine parades or more, ceremonies, all kinds of meetings with constituents.
And clearly, opinions are evolving and changing. That`s the power of –
MELBER: Right. Which is a fascinating part of this now in the week that
Mueller has spoken. Senator Blumenthal, thank you so much.
Still ahead, we will be joined by a top Obama era diplomat about Trump`s
affection for authoritarians. But first, the freshman star, the Democratic
class, AOC says pray for me as she teams up with the last person you might
ever expect when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Now here`s something you might not see every day. Freshman
Democratic star AOC and Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz joining forces.
Now, here`s how it happened.
AOC announced she thinks members of Congress should be outright banned from
becoming lobbyists after they leave office. Senator Cruz tweets he agrees.
AOC responds, “Let`s co-sponsor a bill, let`s do something about it” and
Cruz responds, “You`re on.” And this is Ted Cruz, the same guy who mocked
AOC for noting airport croissants cost almost half as much as the hourly
wage for so many people who work at airports and also blasted AOC`s own
Green New Deal.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I support cows. I hope to see PETA supporting the
Republican Party now that the Democrats want to kill all the cows.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And AOC who is good with digital organizing posted a video saying
she`ll do almost pretty much anything to get money out of politics
including, which includes working with Ted Cruz. She added, “Pray for me.”
Today, AOC also shines a light on income and equality. She`s spending the
day bartending in Queens. This is the same job she held when she was
running for Congress. And she`s got the promise again to make this all
come together in one story which is getting money out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ (D-CA): They call it working class for a
reason because you are working nonstop. We`re up against an opponent.
He`s taken $3 million per cycle from Wall Street, real estate, and
pharmaceutical companies. We need to have the courage to stand up for
working people and stand up against corporate interests.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So let`s take a break from Trump and talk about this partnership
with the partnership of our own. Libertarian Matt Welch, editor-at-large
of Reason Magazine and Progressive Liz Plank, host of Vox`s “Considerate.”
Nice to have you both here.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REASON MAGAZINE: Thanks for having us.
LIZ PLANK, HOST, VOX`S CONSIDERATE: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: A lot of people see Twitter as an endless place of angry tirades
and cliches. Although there`s plenty of good stuff that goes on as well.
Walk Us through AOC using what might have just been a little moment to
actually force potential action.
PLANK: Yes. I think AOC working with Ted Cruz is kind of like Batman
working with the Joker. And you might disagree on who Batman is in this
analogy. But I can let the people at home decide who they feel is Batman.
But yes, it`s a very unlikely duo. It`s very surprising and it`s very
surprising because actually in the documentary – in that documentary you
put in at the beginning, you see that one of her first viral moments as a -
- sort of on the national stage was actually going after Ted Cruz in a
tweet where he was going after net neutrality, using the word snowflakes.
And she said “You know you`re a sitting senator. Comcast made you X amount
of money to put out this tweet. Your records are public. We know how much
money you`re getting from these lobbyists.”
So it`s really interesting to see them now work in concert together when at
the beginning, their feud, I guess them feuding was such a point of stardom
MELBER: Yes. And Matt, I want to get you on both the politics and the
substance. There`s certainly a bipartisan or nonpartisan view that the
abuse of the lobbying system, right, is nothing liberal or conservative
about it. To a lot of people, it`s just rank corruption.
But when it comes to Cruz, we wanted to have on a prominent supporter of
Ted Cruz and we just couldn`t find one. And I say that not to be mean but
look at even in his own party. It`s well-known. We`re going to show some
Republicans, prominent Republicans who`ve always had problems with him,
too. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you kill Ted Cruz on the floor of the
Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody could convict you.
JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Lucifer in
the flesh. I get along with almost everybody. But I have never worked
with a more miserable son of a (BLEEP) in my life.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody hates Ted. It`s a
very tough thing. They all hate him. I mean, for a lot of reasons but
they all ate him.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR AT LARGE, REASON: I mean he stabbed his best friend in
the Senate and the ribs, Mike de Leon, on the criminal justice bill in 2016
at a – at a very crucial moment, completely surprised him. So yes, he has
this reputation that precedes him. I hate to be the guy to get in the
middle of a perfectly nice and fun cross-partisan Twitter legislation.
MELBER: You`re a libertarian. You always find something.
LIZ PLANK, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, VOX: You have to ruin the party.
WELCH: I`m am not sure this passes constitutional muster. I mean, the
Constitution enumerates the right to petition your government whether you
like the petitioners or not, whether they`re paid or not. We don`t like
them. We don`t like members of Congress. We`ve found two classes, the
people that we despise.
And a lot of American politics right now is like OK, so this group, I don`t
like it. Great! Let`s punch them somehow, right? So I`m not –
MELBER: You`re saying – you`re saying we live in a world where now people
say the idea of lobbying is a dirty word on the left and the right but you
can be lobbying as an anti-war protester, you could be lobbying your
government for anything.
WELCH: (INAUDIBLE) Planned Parenthood, whatever.
MELBER: So you`re actually concerned about the simplicity of this plan.
WELCH: And also the AOC idea and this is something that progressives I
think have to learn every generation is that when you have a big idea about
telling businesses what to do or Americans what to do, that is regulation,
right? This is – Elizabeth Warren as the most enthusiastic and
knowledgeable regulator running for president since Ralph Nader.
So if she gets her way or if the Green New Deal is passed, what is that
going to do? That`s not going to drive lobbyists out of business. That`s
going to drive lobbyists in business because people are going to want to
lobby to protect their interest against government.
MELBER: Paradox – you know, we try to have some fun here. We end up in a
PLANK: Well, I think – I think you`re right. And a lot of people have
been saying you know, it`s too simplistic it`ll increase chatter lobbying,
right. People will find other means of doing it. But I think it still
reveals sort of the paradox of the AOC effect that Republicans seem to hate
her but they kind of are in awe of her and they – I think there`s more
Republicans than we think I think – I mean, there`s a lot of covertly – I
think there`s a lot of action – like more covertly happening in
Washington where Republicans want to work with her and want to be
associated with her because she`s popular.
MELBER: Well, and briefly, don`t a lot of Americans look at this to the
lens of who`s going to fight for them and not always the partisan
PLANK: Yes. And that`s what she does not social media, right? She
doesn`t use social media to talk about herself, she uses social media to
listen, and not just to her constituents but also now we`re seeing –
MELBER: So lightning-round. Given that it started on Twitter, what Emoji
would you give for the likelihood of the success of this – of this bill.
PLANK: Can I – I don`t think I can say it on television. It`s the –
MELBER: Well, then don`t.
PLANK: I won`t. It`s the not very nice – like it`s the poop Emoji.
WELCH: I think –
PLANK: It`s you know, probably not.
WELCH: I think we have to erase that one up to the 100, sadly. It`s not -
- it wouldn`t be signed into law and if it got that far it wouldn`t pass
constitutional muster. But I agree, it is fun and clearly game. Respect
game when it comes to social media on the –
MELBER: Matt Welch with keeping it 100 and a game reference. Let`s
reflect on that.
PLANK: Kind of, right?
WELCH: You`re the one who invited us, Ari.
MELBER: And I don`t regret it. I don`t regret it one bit. But I did want
to let this moment sit. Matt and Liz, thank you so much. We take what in
the business, it`s called a serious turn because we cover more than one
type of story here.
So coming back with diplomacy and an authoritarian who is accused now of
executing the team that was trying to meet with Donald Trump, a
controversial and important story. And later, “FALLBACK FRIDAY,” a lot
more on THE BEAT. Stay with us.
MELBER: Now, we turn to a grisly story that is airing out some very
troubling questions about Donald Trump`s affection for authoritarians and
even brutal dictators. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly had
a person executed by a firing squad.
Now what they`ve done according to a source is execute the very envoy who
was helping arrange the February summit with President Trump and four other
officials. Now reportedly this official which you see right here was also
put into a prison camp and then reprimanding his sister who is apparently
now laying low.
All of this because of the fury about how those February talks about
nuclear weapons did not work out. Now, this kind of report is obviously
quite serious which is why we`re telling you about it. This is a report
that NBC News has yet to officially confirm tonight. It is based on an
anonymous single source who spoke to his South Korean newspaper.
Now, Secretary Pompeo was asked about it today in a press conference in
Berlin and says the State Department has seen the report and they are
checking it out. And all this comes just days after Trump said he was not
really bothered by Kim Jong-un`s missile tests and he amplified Kim Jong-
un`s attacks on a U.S. former Vice President Joe Biden.
All of this is coming together at a time of incredible tension for the
relationship and these questions about Donald Trump`s foreign policy. I
want to bring in a former Obama diplomatic official and journalists Richard
Stengel who joins me for this conversation.
And to begin, let`s just look at the way Donald Trump talks about this very
dictator who today stands accused as we say in a non-confirmed report of
this execution. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s a tough guy. Hey, when
you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over
from your father. If you could do that at 27 years old, you – I mean
that`s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he`s a very smart guy, he`s a
great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY: You
know, Ari, one of the things you learn when you`re traveling around the
world for the United States is that leaders of bad moral character attract
other people of bad moral character. Leaders of good moral character
attract both. And Trump for some reason seems attracted to the leaders of
bad moral character in the case of Kim Jong-un, an autocratic dictator who
executes his enemies, who`s never run for election.
The fact that he is having praise for this man at the same time while
Angela Merkel is in the United States and he doesn`t say anything about her
who is a bastion of democracy, it`s a tragedy.
MELBER: So you see it as coming from his personal judgment and that also
means that he`s resisting the folks that do the jobs you did, the diplomats
who would say we don`t want to be seen especially for getting nothing in
return at a geopolitical sense. We don`t want to be seen as just giving
comfort to this type of authoritarian.
STENGEL: You know, I don`t want to be an armchair psychologist but he has
authoritarian personality. He`s attracted to other authoritarians. He`s
envious at people of leaders who can rule without having checks and
balances or having to deal with the people. And those are the people he
somehow empathizes with, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping.
MELBER: Well you – and you mentioned Putin and this goes to the part
that`s really bad but not criminal. I`ve been reporting on how the Mueller
report does not find a conspiracy with Putin and the Trump folks. And that
was something people were concerned about. And in fairness to them, that
crime was not charged.
And then there`s the really terrible thing regardless of no crime as you
say which is this – what you call this interest in authoritarians, and it
goes back. I mean, we just pulled this for you – for your analysis, 2013
Donald Trump on Putin. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He`s done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and
who he`s representing. He`s done an amazing job. He`s put himself there
really as – you know, a lot of people would say he`s put himself at the
forefront of the world as a leader.
I think that Putin has done an amazing job of showing certain leadership
that our people have not been able to match.
STENGEL: Yes. I mean, he admires strong men. And one of the things that
unites Putin and Trump as they both weaponized grievance, right. Putin
weaponized the grievance of Russians who felt like the world collapsed when
the Soviet Union collapsed, and Trump is weaponizing the grievance of
Americans that feel left out.
What does Putin want to do? He not wants to make Russia great again. What
does Donald Trump want to do? I won`t even say that slogan, but that`s the
MELBER: Yes. And so, ultimately how does the State Department where you
work deal with this? And this is the human side that is sort of hard to
even ask about, but what does it mean but you go into these rooms and
across the table, you`re looking at people that the stakes are so high they
might be killed if they don`t get the right thing out of the meeting?
STENGEL: Well, I have to say, one of the things that that always made me
feel great when I was a diplomat was that the things that we said in public
about what we believed in justice, human rights, were the things that we
actually said in private.
I hope this administration is doing that same thing in private even though
they don`t even endorse these things in public.
MELBER: Richard Stengel, former State Department official under the Obama
administration, thank you for your insights on this. I really appreciate
it. Coming up, it has been a long week but we`re going to get into a whole
lot of “FALLBACK FRIDAY” including new reports of UFOs in The New York
Times, and the Flatbush Zombies are here next.
MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT and you know that means. It`s time to
fall back. We have a very special Brooklyn fall back tonight with the
music group the Flatbush Zombies. Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick
Elliott who are childhood friends from Flatbush in Brooklyn and they`re
hitting it big, two albums in the Billboard top 20, and a new album Escape
from New York plus appearances on The Tonight Show, collaborating with
artists from Wu-Tang Clan and Brooklyn big shot Joey BadAss, and they`re
performing in the supergroup Beast Coast at this weekend`s Governor`s Ball,
a huge show featuring The Strokes and Nas. Thanks for being here.
ERICK ARC ELLIOTT, RAPPER: Thanks for having us.
MEECHY DARKO, RAPPER: Thanks for having us.
ZOMBIE JUICE, RAPPER: Thanks for having us.
MELBER: Exciting times for you guys. Who needs to fall back?
ELLIOTT: Social media.
MELBER: Social media. Why?
ELLIOTT: Social media takes a big fall back. I think wall tethered to it
a little too much. I think that it`s necessary for us to exist nowadays to
be on the phone and on the internet, but I think it`s doing so much for us
that we don`t realize. I think that we`re ignoring social interaction.
I`m looking at you directly in your eyes. I think for someone who is
texting a lot, that person probably has a problem with that. There`s a
little bit of anxiety mixed in there. Sometimes your go on the phone to
kind of avoid conversation. So people rather text then to meet up with
somebody in person. I think those are things that are like problems man.
We need to really check that.
DARKO: Yes, and like to expand what he`s saying, one thing we talked about
earlier, I even get my news from social media, you find out everything from
social media. If you don`t want to find something out, you stay away from
social mores. That`s how much information is on social media. So I feel
like we need to go back to a time where eye contact is very important.
It`s funny to me when I`m in a social gathering and there`s so much
interesting people around and someone goes to their phone.
MELBER: Do you find that. I mean, people your age at a party are on their
DARKO: All the time. Even my age, I was on elevator the other day and I
look at the man about 20 years older than me. I see him pull out his phone
and I look at his screen and he did nothing. That was just his way of not
looking at us in the room right.
MELBER: Right. It was like his anti-Zen.
DARKO: And when he goes back into his room, he`s probably going to go on
social media after and drift off and waste hours. And I`m glad they added
that thing that show of you how long you stay on social media now so you
could really like monitor yourself because it`s very important.
JUICE: Personal relationships, you know it takes away from emotional
personal relationships. You feel like you want to talk to someone online,
you don`t want to go meet them anymore. It`s like the game tenders.
MELBER: Right. It`s everything becomes gamified, yes. What other
fallbacks do you have?
JUICE: I think simple arrests marijuana possession should take a fall
back. Although marijuana is available to about 20 percent of Americans
recreationally, it`s still minorities and are getting arrested at very high
So while some people are out selling their CBDs, selling their tinctures,
getting high doing yoga somewhere in Portland, you notice still poor black
and brown people getting arrested at a very high rate, getting their life
taken from them, thrown in jail, getting in the – getting everything took
away from their rights to getting student loans, to even participating in
the $3 billion merging cannabis industry.
MELBER: A lot of places and the law enforcement side, a small amount of
pot is a little bit like loitering. You could charge people for it but
when you look at the data who gets charged, right, it becomes a performance
JUICE: It`s roughly 50 percent minority, roughly 50 percent.
DARKO: What about the people, are they going to –
JUICE: And there are still people – yes, there`s still people in jail –
that are still in jail for life.
DARKO: Because – what hurts me is when I see article like mom from Denver
makes millions off of her new brownie company, and I`m like a dude from
high school, that I went to high school with is in jail. That hurts me a
little bit when it`s like – not a little bit, a lot when these people are
still in jail for some weed that they sold ten years ago, maybe. They made
a mistake ten years ago. And that`s the biggest parts of me. Yes, make it
recreational, but what about all the people that are still in prison right
now from this –
MELBER: Yes, that`s really well put. I`m going to throw in my fallback,
and I don`t know if you saw this on the news. There`s a some real talk
about the military being concerned about actual sightings of unidentified
flying objects. Read this. Yes, this is New York Times reporting.
Military pilots saw a sphere encasing a cube in orbit. And the object is
flying at hypersonic speeds, sudden stops, instantaneous turns which is
they say beyond the physical limits of a human crew.
And then get this. An incident so spooked the squadron, an aviation flight
safety report was filed. No one in the Defense Department is saying the
objects were extraterrestrial. They`re not saying they are aliens but
they`re telling us they`re maybe not human and everyone is just chill about
DARKO: Well what it is – UFO means unidentifiable flying object. It
doesn`t mean it`s an alien so this means I have no idea what that is. It`s
just funny to me that they`ve been using the same descriptions for UFOs for
about 100 years now. Aliens apparently have not gotten faster and it`s
just – I don`t – I don`t know what to believe. I`ve been looking in the
sky. I haven`t seen anything yet.
MELBER: But when you read –
MELBER: When you read this – yes, and some of the – why are people more
concerned about this? I think it`s –
DARKO: They`re looking in their phone.
JUICE: Because they`re looking at their phone. You can`t look up when
you`re looking down.
MELBER: You can`t look up when you`re looking down. What is your
DARKO: Oh, my fallback. NCAA basketball and the sports program as a
whole. I think it`s very unfair that a lot of these young kids like they
give everything to a program and they make people like me – I know what –
I know about basketball and college sports from people like Jalen Rose and
all these people, and they got nothing from that college.
(INAUDIBLE) is a prime example. He`s probably the biggest draft pick in
history of basketball and sports in general. He made not even a dollar or
a penny. If I was to try to bribe him to feed him and give him sneakers or
meal, he might go to jail or and I might go to jail for trying to offer him
Meanwhile, these same schools are making millions of dollars. I think
coaches are making maybe up to $6 to $8 million. Coaches might be making
MELBER: Right. Everyone is making money but the people that everyone goes
DARKO: And I think that they should set up a program of some sort that if
a kid is talented enough and his number is selling jerseys, then even if
you give him a fraction of a percent that when he gets out of college, he
has some form of money or she has some form of money so they can understand
finances and have something.
Because the thought of me playing for a team and representing something for
the rest of my life and not getting anything from it and looking at my
screaming at me knowing that he`s going to get another batch of young
talented kids the next year and another batch. And NBA is stopping these
kids from going straight from high school into the NBA and I don`t think
that`s fair because not everybody is built for college. Suppose a guy
slips on a banana peel and his knee breaks, it`s over for generations in
his family. And he`s the one to take those risks.
MELBER: And he might have the best shot at any income for his family or
DARKO: And he might be the best thing we ever seen since Michael Jordan.
I don`t want to see his leg break in college, I want to see that in NBA.
MELBER: Well, these are – these are some of the conversations we like
having, which is why we wanted to have you on “FALLBACK FRIDAY. Meechy
Darko, Zombie Juice, Erick Elliott, Flatbush Zombie, thank you, man.
MELBER: My special thanks. And now, I want to tell you a couple of
things. Number one, ahead of Mueller`s historic statement this week, what
happens next? I`m going to tell you an announcement about that here at
MSNBC coming up.
Also, I want to tell about breaking news out of Virginia Beach this
evening. Police say 11 people killed in a shooting at a municipal center
next to the city hall there. The officers have taken a suspect into
custody. They believe the suspect was acting alone based on what we`re
hearing from law enforcement at this time. Six other individuals we`re
told in early reports have been hospitalized.
This is all a breaking story so we`re going to keep our eye on it and bring
you more updates across MSNBC as we get them.
MELBER: A quick thought experiment before we go. How differently would
the last two months have been for everyone if after Bob Mueller finished
his report, everyone heard from Bob Mueller first and not Bill Barr? Here
is your experiment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: As set forth in the report after
that investigation, if we had had confidence that the president clearly did
not commit a crime, we would have said so.
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: The Deputy Attorney General
and i concluded that the evidence developed by the special counsel is not
sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Mueller didn`t speak for 68 days after he turned in his report.
So is there anything to be done about it now? Well, Congress will figure
that out. We are going to give you though, if you`re interested, a special
report on MSNBC with some of our best legal experts this Sunday at 9:00
p.m. Eastern, looking at Mueller contradicting the Trump-Barr claims, to
reigniting of the impeachment debate, two Mueller aides debating his
approach, no holds bar.
We`ll get into all of this, our special report, Mueller speaks, and I`ll be
anchoring it 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday night. I hope you consider
joining us right here on MSNBC.
Don`t go anywhere right now though because “HARDBALL” is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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