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Cohen to drop his own legal team. TRANSCRIPT: 06/13/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Guy Lewis; Seth Waxman; Sam Nunberg; Madison Gesiotto; Katon Dawson; Jess McIntosh, Dave Chappelle, Ben Jealous, Jimmy Gomez

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: June 13, 2018 Guest: Guy Lewis; Seth Waxman; Sam Nunberg; Madison Gesiotto; Katon Dawson; Jess McIntosh, Dave Chappelle, Ben Jealous, Jimmy Gomez

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it`s Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it`s Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it`s Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it`s Sunday, it`s MEET THE PRESS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: If it`s any day around here, we are remembering Tim but especially on this day.

That`s all for tonight. (INAUDIBLE), you know, we are always thinking about you. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Evening, Chuck. Appreciate the words you just shared. I like many, many people I grew up watching Tim Russert. I wonder what you think about and it`s never an easy question, but you know, what would he make given the fair, objective, factual person he was of the world we are living in?

TODD: I can tell you this, boy would he hate twitter. You know, just look at that. Luke and I have had the twitter conversation. Social media, boy, that would have been the thing that I think Tim would have truly, truly despised.

MELBER: Well, and you say that in some of what you showed and what people remember was the way he prepared for everything. Because only through preparation can you try to even understand where you`re headed. And if everything is instinct, you refer to a twitter or a lot of apps that is instant, that is the opposite preparation.

TODD: It is totally the opposite of sort of Tim`s mindset. The idea of, just throwing something out there without knowing the facts behind it. Yes. That would have been, I think, the biggest thing that he would be fighting.

MELBER: Yes. Appreciate, as I said, your words.

As I imagine, many people do watching Chuck Todd, thank you.

TODD: You got it, brother.

MELBER: Tonight our show begins with the story that a lot of people are looking at and that may make Donald Trump nervous.

His longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen splitting with his own legal right in the middle of the white hot pressure of this federal probe. Now Cohen is, of course, facing a deadline on Friday for the review of attorney-client privilege materials and those relate to the documents seized by the FBI in the dramatic raids on his home and office and hotel in April.

So here is what we know tonight. Number one, the plan is for Michael Cohen to split with his current legal team. That would be his first choice by definition and plans to hire new lawyers. The break reportedly over Cohen`s legal bills. We have seen reports that this investigation and we have seen this with other defendants and potential defendants, which is what he would be, have had a lot of financial strain.

Cohen recently putting up his multimillion dollar Park Avenue home as collateral against certain bank debts. And I can also tell you something very important about this story. We are going to get into it with some very knowledgeable guests.

Historically, Michael Cohen has gotten help with the legal fees in the Russia probe from the Trump campaign. And I don`t mean a small amount of money either. Over $200,000 for his legal fees from the campaign, again, with the ongoing Russia probes. The last payment that we know of, which may not be the last payment ever, was in January. And I should note for precision that was, of course, before this FBI raid.

So here is the big question on everyone`s mind tonight and it`s almost certainly on the mind of people in the White House according to our reported. Why is Michael Cohen changing lawyers? Is it because he is considering doing something that Donald Trump would never pay for? Is he considering flipping? That`s the question.

As always, I want to be clear about what we know because the answer could also be no. He may be switching lawyers for other reasons. Other reasons I should say NBC has learned that at this hour there has not been formal talks with federal prosecutors involved in this case. That would be, of course, a preliminary step if you were ever getting towards what we call flipping, toward getting some kind of a deal. Now, Cohen`s new lawyers will have to play catch up when they come onboard. They are going to confront this big questions about loyalty to the most famous client in the world.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump, the family. Fortunately, Mr. Trump has a significant number of people. I like to keep myself in that little circle of extremely loyal people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He does?

COHEN: And we will do what is necessary to protect him and the office of the presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I am joined by a man who sat and face down Mueller`s investigators, former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. He also knows Michael Cohen and has worked alongside him in the early days of that campaign. Former federal prosecutor Seth Waxman who has a keen understanding of how these kid of deals could come together and Guy Lewis who may be the most hooked up. He has worked with, get this, Bob Mueller, James Comey and Rod Rosenstein all at the DOJ.

I literally don`t know where to start. So I will start with you, Guy. How do you read this legal change up?

GUY LEWIS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I got to think Ari, that the President and his lawyers are sitting down, maybe as we speak, discussing this very question.

Take a step back and look what`s going on. They have raided Cohen`s home, office. They have seized documents. I mean, literally, the world is falling in on this guy. And remember, the same, the exact same standard that was used to search all these places is basically the same kind of standard that a grand jury would use to indict Cohen. So know that it`s coming.

So the question becomes, knowing this train is coming at me at 100 miles an hour, what do I do? I either cooperate or frankly, I fight it until the bitter end which is what we heard in the clip that you just played.

MELBER: Well, and if there`s a train, it`s a train that can only slam into Michael Cohen`s legal body, if you will, if there is sufficient evidence of crimes. This is very serious and these prosecutors in the southern district as well as wherever Mueller originally dug up, Sam, they don`t just make stuff up. You said that wasn`t your experience with them. You also said early on when we talked about this. And as I say, you are one of the few people who has have been in these rooms that you were worried about Michael. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I worry about Michael. I must been seen Michael is going to lie. I worry about Michel. Michael`s phone got screwed out. he has got screwed the most I have seen by Donald Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NUNBERG: He certainly did. Michael is walking around with a big chip on his shoulder. He thought it was Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus that forced him out of not getting a job when in fact, I subsequently have learned that it was Jared. And not only that, but they made him leave the Trump organization.

Now some of it stem from "the Daily Beast" interview that you covered and subsequent other issues where Michael actually gave them President-elect Trump good counsel of not taking, suggesting that perhaps his son-in-law and his daughter shouldn`t enter the White House.

Michael, whether you like us or not, whether you like Donald Trump or not and always, Michael is a very tragic figure. I don`t know what they are investigating per se. I do know and I have said that to you, they asked me about all businesses that I heard of when I was there. It was very weird to me. I didn`t necessarily know that was under -- I guess anything is under investigation.

MELBER: Mueller`s investigators were asking about the way Trump organization ran which could implicate Michael.

NUNBERG: And they were asking me about Michael`s other businesses. Michael operated business. Michael was --.

MELBER: The taxi business.

NUNBERG: Well, I brought up that I heard, you know, Michael had a taxi business. I heard other things that were basically public. And luckily for me in hindsight, besides getting fired I think from this campaign, I stayed out of business element of the Trump organization. It wasn`t my purview.

MELBER: You know Michael. Can you help us understand why someone who lives in a multimillion-dollar Park Avenue condo, who rolls around in the Trump lifestyle would apparently be running out of money the moment he has big bills?

NUNBERG: Well, I think when I saw with the Stormy Daniels` payment that he had to take out a loan. I believe, Ari, (INAUDIBLE), he took out a loan essentially a bridge loan to make that payment. You know, I don`t know how cash rich he is, you know. You know, he didn`t -- he is sort of real estate businessman himself and lot of it is floating debts. You know, I mean, not as big as Jared Kushner`s. But, so that was -- I think that`s one of the reasons. And he invest a lot in properties across the city. I don`t know --.

MELBER: You find it -- right. You are -- I`m not saying that you are his banker, but based on your knowledge of the kind of business he did and you know him in a way many people do not, it doesn`t surprise you that he may not have enough cash on hand to deal with the crushing legal fees.

NUNBERG: No, it doesn`t surprise because his legal fees, especially if he has to go over all these documents purviews, they add up. Look. The RNC paid over half a million dollars that we know about the Hope Hicks legal fees. And they paid, I assume for (INAUDIBLE). I assumed they have paid for others that we are going to know. They are very selective about that, Ari, because they never gave Caputo a cent.

MELBER: Well, that is a very interesting set. Let`s look on screen here at some of ways the money has supported people. Some of them ended up cooperating. "Politico" reporting there was a legal defense set up for Mike Flynn independently. Friends of Manafort trying to support him. Roger Stone crowd funding. Caputo, as Sam was just mentioning, was saying they got hundreds of thousands in separate donations.

It may surprise some viewers that all these tough guys with all their tough talk, and I have been on the other end on some of the phone calls, at the end of the day, they don`t have enough money to get through the early pre- potentially, I want to say carefully, potentially pre-indictment phase of this legal fight.

SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. I mean, these are expensive endeavors. I mean, the lawyers that are working for Michael Cohen and these other individuals are high priced lawyers working in the biggest city in the world, if not the country rather. And they are going to chew up and go through that burn rate really quickly. Now whether this is a dispute with his lawyer over the way the defense was being mounted or a fee dispute or on the other hand, cooperation. You know, we don`t quite know.

But if it`s on the cooperation side, this is something that we as a former prosecutor we used to call the snowball effect. You start to get one two cooperator yours your side, you start to feel pretty good. You get to four or five and six cooperators, you start to get that snowball rolling down the hill. You start to feel really good. Kind of catching up everybody else. And finally that snowball landed on your target`s head at the bottom of the hill, so.

And I also find it interesting that we are on this week of critical mass for Paul Manafort. He has got to be sweating a little bit as well. Because Michael Cohen may have information about him as well. So this is a good week or a good day for the prosecution if Michael Cohen is getting closer to flipping.

MELBER: And Guy, I don`t know if you have heard the term messy. People talk about things can get too messy. That is Donald Trump`s view according to "New York Times" reporting here today. Trump himself telling people he is angry at Cohen over the messiness of the situation. He is worried if he pushes Cohen away too hard it could increase the likelihood that Cohen will offer information to the government.

You know, what`s wild about that leak, Guy? It makes it sound, if the sourcing is correct, like an admission that there is negative information about Trump that Cohen has that he could provide to a criminal investigation. Why someone would leak that, I don`t know. But if Trump didn`t do anything wrong he has got nothing to fear about Cohen providing quote-unquote "information."

LEWIS: Ari, you are exactly right. And Seth is right on point. We used to see, as prosecutors, and we would be toss it (ph). We would participate in this knowing that it wasn`t 100 percent accurate when we wanted the message to go out there that there was some other reason that they were either changing lawyers or frankly, had gone in and had a sealed hearing in federal court. It was because the cooperation, the plea agreement, everything was unfolding in order to do this outside the public`s ability to see and review what was going on. In this case, it is going to be virtually impossible. But just because they say that there is a fee dispute, doesn`t mean necessarily that`s the only reason why they are changing lawyers.

MELBER: What would the other reason be?

LEWIS: Well, they are bringing in somebody frankly who may have a very good relationship with the southern district of Florida, who worked in the office recently, who knows these prosecutors --.

MELBER: But here is the thing about that. Michael Cohen has been lawyer in New York or a fixer or whatever he says he is, for a long time. So if your life is on the line, your money is on the line, your family potentially not seeing you if you are charged, wouldn`t you want to get that choice right the first time?

LEWIS: Well, obviously you want to. But equally true, Ari, it may be the McDormett Will lawyers, great lawyers, by the way, terrific law firm, have sat down and read him the riot act and said, look it. The evidence is overwhelming. You are being -- you are going to destroyed.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Just to be crystal clear. Are you suggesting that a different theory of the case that they are so hard, hard-pushing him to cooperate. He doesn`t want to do that that he wants switch counsel.

LEWIS: Listen. You heard the interview that -- the clip that you just played. He is a tough guy. I mean, he has told the federal prosecutors basically to go stick it.

MELBER: Yes.

LEWIS: So it may be very well be that he is telling the McDormett real lawyers the same thing.

MELBER: Right. Hey, I listen to all the clips we play during the show.

LEWIS: Yes, exactly. And it may be that he has told that look, I want something who is going to go in and fight this thing literally to the death.

MELBER: You, as always, give us an extra nuance, whether people like that outcome or not, you`re pointing out that there is so much we don`t know tonight that over interpreting the legal change is perilous. Because it could be something in that direction as well. Fascinating either way that a New York lawyer seems to be wanting to switch horses amidst steam, et cetera. I think I`m mixing metaphor, Sam.

But let me play for you something Donald Trump said that kicked this all off along before the Stormy Avenatti of it all and the Mueller of it all and the southern district of it all have all converged. Take a look at this moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did Michael Cohen make that if it wasn`t true?

TRUMP: You have to ask Michael. Michael`s my attorney and you will have to ask Michael.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Michael Cohen`s office was raided in days leading us up to tonight`s news. Honestly, was that the dumbest thing Donald Trump has done this year?

NUNBERG: No. I will tell you.

MELBER: Top five?

NUNBERG: It`s up there. But the reason is, is that he once he had Rudy come out and clean that up. And that`s what Rudy has been doing. You know, remember, we all thought or a lot of us thought, I didn`t necessarily believe that Rudy was doing this terrible job. I was happy as a Trump person to see somebody getting on TV finally defending him.

MELBER: Why have Rudy clean up a mess you made on air force one? Why tell the world and Mueller might have been listening, ask Michael Cohen?

NUNBERG: Well, I would to tell you is Rudy then came out, right, and he told Sean Hannity, if you watched it since where you played and I even think that Sean had no idea. And he said, yes, Michael made the payment. And we have a way to pay him and he was on retainer.

MELBER: You have been around Donald Trump. He doesn`t admit mistakes but he does pivot and spin and walk away from things he said. Would he do that moment over again knowing what he knows tonight?

NUNBERG: Well, he will never admit the mistake itself. What he thinks now that is that it is cleaned up. What`s very interesting about "The New York Times" article you were referencing is that ultimately, and he was very close to publicly breaking away from Michael. But I had warned them in the press not to do that. Michael is a critical figure.

MELBER: You warned them that would be against their interest.

NUNBERG: To be 100 percent against their interest.

MELBER: Are you suggesting -- you say warn them through the press. Are you suggesting that you do media appearances to speak to the White House and Donald Trump?

NUNBERG: Well, I have. I said my analysis was that would be very, very bad for the President to turn his back publicly on him.

MELBER: I did -- you know, I keep it 100 with you.

NUNBERG: Right.

MELBER: You know I keep it 100 with you.

NUNBERG: Yes.

MELBER: You know that?

NUNBERG: Yes.

MELBER: I think it`s so odd that a lot of you Trump guys communicate to each other through television and admit that you are doing it through television.

NUNBERG: Well, to get the President to watch, right.

MELBER: Right.

NUNBERG: He is watching. Trust me he watches your show. By the way, Mueller watches your show, the special counsel. I go got to be very careful, too. I get follow ups from them.

MELBER: About thing you say on here?

NUNBERG: Correct. Yes.

MELBER: It`s an interesting time.

Sam Nunberg, Seth Waxman, Guy Lewis, on a big news tonight. Thank you all for your expertise and for coming on THE BEAT.

Coming up, anti-Trump conservatives blasting the Republican Party for a cult.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s becoming a cultish thing, isn`t it? It`s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And we turn to an important humanitarian crisis. Revelations of poor care for immigrant children separated from their parents by the Trump administration. I have that story tonight.

And as promised, Dave Chappelle makes his debut on THE BEAT tonight, talking politics comedy and why, get this, he is endorsing a Democrat in his first campaign appearance ever.

I`m Ari Melber. And you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Donald Trump`s dominance over the GOP has some anti-Trump conservatives saying the party is starting to look like a Trump cult. And they blame that for why a long term conservative Republican incumbent congressman who would criticized Trump occasionally lost last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It`s becoming a cultish thing. It`s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a President that happens to be of supporting of the same party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Primary voters in the Republican Party have devolved into a Trumpist cult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And a conservative radio host Erik Erickson also says this is a cult personality prompted by last night primary defeat of Congressman Mark Sanford. He is, to be clear, a stunt right-wing conservatives but GOP primaries voters have now rejected him, not for some of these other problems in history, but for being a critic of Donald Trump.

The candidate who bet Sanford last making it clear where she stands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are the party of President Donald J. Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Let`s get into it.

Jess McIntosh is a former Clinton campaign adviser. Katon Dawson, a former South Carolina GOP chair, perfect guest for this discussion. And Madison Gesiotto worked on the Trump campaign advisory board. All are represented.

Jess, what is wrong with members of party supporting the President of that party?

JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SHAREBLUE: Well, what`s wrong with it is that Bob Corker can`t say anything until he has decided he is not going to run for reelection.

This was cult-like party the second Donald Trump was inaugurated. He had his spokesperson come out and declare that it was the largest we would ever see when all evidence spoke to the contrary. He had his first cabinet minute. Everybody had to go around in a circle and praise him and talk about how they loved working for him.

MELBER: That was a little weird.

MCINTOSH: We have seen this since day one. And it`s really, it is sad that Republicans are unwilling to show any spine over it. I`m glad that Corker is coming around but we really need them all to decide that our democracy was a little bit more than their political futures.

MELBER: Madison, you are a Trump conservative and we like having everyone on for these kind of political debates. Take a listen to a little bit more of Senator Corker who is, you know, is very conservative on these issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORKER: I heard senator from Texas, the senior senator from Texas saying the other day, well God, we might upset the President. We might upset the President of the United States before the midterms. But no, no, no, God, we might poke the bear is the language I have been hearing in the hallways. We might poke the bear. The President might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment. Do we are going to do everything we can to block it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You see how upset he is. Can it go too far, Madison, in this sort of loyalty to one person above even party principles?

MADISON GESIOTTO, FRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISORY BOARD: You know, the only bear I think he should be worried about poking is the constituents of his state. Those people feel that he hasn`t been loyal to them. I have talked to a lot of people in Tennessee that were not happy with him being one of only five people who voted against expanding private care options for our veterans. That`s probably part of why he is not running in November. Because I don`t think he would win. People are sick of it. They are finally standing up and showing loyalty. We are showing loyalty to each other. We are showing loyalty to our principles. So yes, he can be a conservative but there`s other conservative out there that many people in Tennessee feel and people in South Carolina felt yesterday would better serve their needs.

MELBER: Katon, this is your state. Your take.

KATON DAWSON, FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOP CHAIR: Well, Bob Corker is born in South Carolina. So none of that surprise me. It sort within the DNA of what we have down there. Mark Sanford`s cake was baked for a while. I mean, it most embarrassing moment in South Carolina history when he got up and thanked his mistress before he did his wife and his children. Very much --.

MELBER: Was this about that and not Trump?

DAWSON: Sure, a little -- yes. And I had came out and I asked him to take a hike on the (INAUDIBLE). One of the most clever ads we had on the whole cycle in South Carolina.

MELBER: And as we say in politics, snap.

DAWSON: There you go.

And so, you know, the Trump thing came in late. She won by a nose. Sanford`s like Bill Clinton very good at getting reelected. Very good at saving his money. Probably save too much. But now the chapter is over. So we have lived in South Carolina. But for the cult structure of what we are talking about, you know, I was accused of being a member of the George Bush cult for eight years. The Barack Obama cult for eight years, these are base party people. So Corker, I kind of wish.

MELBER: Do you really think this is overblown?

DAWSON: Well, I don`t think that the Trump phenomena is overblown because I`m going to compare it to Barack Obama.

Barack Obama and Donald Trump have one thing in common. They got a solid core base that politicians would kill to have.

MELBER: I mean, they are both drink water.

DAWSON: I`m in the sure --

MELBER: But let me play something for you that Barack Obama didn`t make and that this President did. Take a look. This is the trailer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A story on a special moment in time. When a man is presented with one chance that may never be repeated. What will he choose? To show vision and leadership or not. Will this leader choose to advance his country and be part of a new world? Be the hero of his people. Will he shake the hand of peace?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The hand of peace. You saw it at the end.

DAWSON: I saw the hand of peace. It was waving too. There we go, waving at the electorate. Electorate that likes Donald Trump. They are solid. They are with him. And the example of what I think the Democratic Party is missing that we saw with Republicans, we took eight years of Barack Obama and this is what Republicans should fear. Eight years of Barack Obama. And 1436 legislative seats, couple of five or six government. Redraw the line.

MELBER: Let me get to Jess.

MCINTOSH: Barack Obama never got Democrats to abandon their progressive principles en-mass. Donald Trump has gotten the Republicans in the House and Senate to completely throw away whatever their party stood for before he got there or supposedly stood for before he got there. He literally alienated our allies and cuddled up to a dictator last week. And he has Republicans everywhere saying that`s a good thing and they always thought it was. I mean, that is some 1984 stuff right there. And that`s where --.

MELBER: I`m going to have you all back because it is an important day. We like having all sides in. I got to save time for Dave Chappelle, which is a sentence I do like saying.

Jess McIntosh, Katon Dawson, and Madison Gesiotto, thank you all for being here.

Coming up, my exclusive interview tonight with comedian Dave Chappelle on his big move in to politics and why he is teaming up with the former head of the NAACP when we are back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Now, we turn to our exclusive on THE BEAT tonight.

Comedian Dave Chappelle is about to join me to talk politics. He recently won an Emmy for that performance around America. He is hosting of "SNL" days after Trump won and --.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: I listen to them say naive poor white people things. Donald Trump is going to go to Washington and he is going to fight for us. I`m standing there thinking in my mind, you dumb (bleep). You are poor. He is fighting for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That was the spirit in Chappelle`s Netflix special as well as that Emmy Winning "SNL" performance.

Now he has been at the forefront of comedy for years. His old show revealed and explored all kinds of tense cultural moments. Now he is back with a Netflix special, as I mentioned, and planned tour, this is new, with Jon Stewart.

But this is why we are talking tonight. It`s the first time in his career that he personally campaigned in politics out with the political endorsement. Something he has never done before and campaigning now with former NAACP Chief and his long-time friend Ben Jealous who is a Democratic candidate running for the Governor of Maryland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: I got to tell you personally as a guy, I never had a lot of trust in government really until I realize that my brother could likely get a powerful seat who makes me trust the seat more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: With me now is Ben Jealous, Candidate for the Governor of Maryland and Comedian Dave Chappelle. Thanks for being here both of you. My question Ben, after all, your work in civil rights, why are you running for Governor now and Dave why are you endorsing him when you don`t usually get involved in endorsing candidates?

CHAPPELLE: Ben, you want to go first.

BEN JEALOUS, GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, MARYLAND: Sure, I`ll go first. You know, Ari, you know, I`m running for Governor because I have a vision that we can finally fully fund our schools, we can finally pass single-payer so- called Medicare for all and we can end this era of massive student debt by ending mass incarceration. And a big part of ending mass incarceration in Maryland is to finally legalize cannabis, period. And so that`s part of why Dave is here is that we`ve been talking about frankly our experiences when we were young and the need for us to have a just set of laws that helped to reduce the number of people in our prisons.

CHAPPELLE: Oh as for me Ari, Ben and I are like family literally. Like our fathers were best friends and my father was Ben`s godfather. So I met Ben in person when we were 17 when Bill was at Columbia and we became fast friends. Unbeknownst to me the plan was Ben was supposed to convince me to try to go to college and that plan obviously failed miserably. Thank God. But --

JEALOUS: Well Dave made 750 bucks telling jokes in Washington Square Park in 15 minutes and I was like College is not going to help you do better than this.

MELBER: So Dave, had you gone to college you might have become rich one day.

CHAPPELLE: Yes that was the myth. I mean, I was the legend. I think everything worked out better than I could`ve ever imagined.

JEALOUS: But you also have to understand that my godfather was on a tear because Dave was the first male in his family not to go to college since slavery. And so there was a batting average that he wanted to keep up for the family and I was on a sacred mission but when I came and reported back that his son could make seven out of $750 to park telling jokes, he was like yes, OK, I get it.

CHAPPELLE: Yes, you never -- listen -- go ahead, I`m sorry.

MELBER: No, go ahead.

CHAPPELLE: I was going to say, man, like I have never ever even stuck my toe into politics, I don`t even necessarily believe in politics but this is the first time that I believe in somebody this much for a job like this because I know him so well. Like we came up together, I saw Ben do activism his entire youth and when he got the road scholarship, my father, I remember said to him very pointedly. He said, Ben, I`m afraid you`re getting the scholarship so that she will no longer be a threat to them, whoever they are. And Ben has always stayed true. And when I got in trouble with my show and all these things, he was like my confidant. I would call him to help me work through some very challenging personal problems, professional problems that I had and he was always like a rock for me. And I think for the state of Maryland, it couldn`t get any better. I truly --

MELBER: You`re saying Dave, when you were in -- your saying when you were in South Africa or you were taking a break from the career in the U.S. you were relying on him. What was his counsel to you then?

CHAPPELLE: Well, I think that`s kind of private. I think the bottom line is that I trust him enough at a time when I didn`t trust anybody and he`s never betrayed my trust. I think that trust in politics or in public office is something that the country desperately needs especially in these times. He`s a very trustworthy person. And the fact that a guy like this could possibly sit in a seat like the governor`s chair is very exciting to me that makes me feel more faithful and hopeful about what our country could be.

MELBER: Ben, you mentioned the drug war cannabis is part of what you`re running on. President Trump is spoken about that recently. Dave, you`ve talked a lot about those issues and racism in your -- in your comedy. I guess a question of both of you then is if you`re going to change these laws in Maryland or be an example for the rest of the nation, do you talk about this as something that is just logical because cannabis might be over-punished in some places or do you also address the fact that data shows this has been -- and not just a war on drugs but a war on black and brown people to Bet and then Dave.

JEALOUS: You know, we talk about all -- I mean it`s undeniable that if you look at the enforcement patterns, they`ve been targeting against black and brown communities for a long time. But we also frankly talk about the violence in our city. I wasn`t -- I didn`t start out on this journey over a year ago planning on this being a big issue in my campaign. I mean, Dave had made the argument early for like a quarter century but you know, then something funny happened, Ari. I asked a retired member of the Baltimore Police Department, he just retired, 15-years on the force to go talk to commanders across the city that he knew and asked him why violence was surging in our city. This was a year ago, the second anniversary of the uprisings in Baltimore.

And he came back and he said, Ben you know, there`s too big data points, and one none of them really agreed with anybody else like they all had an argument about why violence is surging now, but they were also all an agreement that in the last 10 years, in the last 10 years in Baltimore City they were all in agreement that half of the killings were one set of marijuana dealers killing their competition. And now it just made me stop cold because real talk, I`ve had two family members shot in Maryland in the last ten years. I`m absolutely committed to doing whatever it takes to bring down the shootings in our city and in our state and make sure nobody has to go through what my family`s been.

CHAPPELLE: I look at the legalization of marijuana is an inevitability nationally not just in the state of Maryland. And I`m sure that there is a gross disparity in the enforcement of drug laws in general in the United States. And if you look at Ben`s resume his entire professional life has been dedicated to the concept of equity for everybody, not just Black people or Brown people, I`m talking gender, I`m talking sexuality. He`s trying to like write the playing field. I`ve watched him really sincerely work tirelessly to that end. I believe in the product. It`s the first time that I`ve ever got to see somebody become a politician of clothes and retained themselves. You know, Ben is here with his kids today, he`s a good dude man. Like I -- there`s nothing in this for me. I just feel like this guy should be on that stage. He`s an important voice in my own personal life and I think that he can make a great difference for the state of Maryland and best case scenario for the United States.

JEALOUS: You saw (INAUDIBLE) you know, he finally outed himself as a son of our state everybody`s like you know, Dave`s from D.C. Assuming he`s popular in the toughest part of D.C., Dave is from Silver Spring.

CHAPPELLE: I`m not giving my -- I got my street cred but I really do believe that -- I really do believe that -- and this is a very pivotal time I`m just getting to that age too. I mean, I`m sure -- I`m sure you can really -- we start looking around and everyone who`s running things are your age and you realize it`s you pear groups turn to take the reins and I just think he`s one of the most confident people I know today. Like he`s hardly qualified for this so I`m going to fall.

MELBER: Well, and Dave you won an Emmy for your "Saturday Night Live" hosting right after the election, everyone remembers what you said that night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAPPELLE: All my black friends who have money say the same thing when Trump got elected. That`s it, brother, I`m out. I`m leaving the country, you come with us? No, I`m going though. I`m going to stay get this tax break and see how it works out. I`m wishing Donald Trump luck and I`m going to give him a chance and we the historically disenfranchised demand that he give us one-two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now here we are a year and a half in, you`re out here campaigning for a Democratic candidate. Do you think Donald Trump has given all people in the country a chance and what -- how would you say it today?

CHAPPELLE: Without talking about the President I`m campaigning not even because Ben is a Democrat, I`m campaigning because he`s trustworthy. If -- whatever party he ran under I`m going to endorse this guy because I know him personally. I have no particular deep party affiliations. I think that we just had eight years of a president who has a resume of social activism. I was happy with that president. And this guy has the similar resume. He`s been doing this as long as I know him. He`s just been advocating for people and I just believe he`s very sincere in his effort. I`ve seen the blood, sweat, and tears of how he got to this position and if he`s you know, God willing, if he becomes Governor, I don`t think anyone`s going to be sorry for it. I think he`ll do a great job. I think --

MELBER: Well, Dave, you brought it up -- you brought it -- you brought up the word President, do you think you`re sitting next to someone who someday could be President as well?

CHAPPELLE: I told Ben that he could be present in the United States before there was an Obama. That I knew of. I mean I`ve always believed that but he chose another route. I mean, he stay with -- he stay with his community activism.

JEALOUS: Well, back then I told him I just want to be President of the NAACP and that did happen a little faster than we thought was possible.

CHAPPELLE: Yes, I mean, you know, he`s a remarkable dude, man. I`ve seen him overcome his own personal -- his own personal demons in his own. It`s really terrifying to aspire to do anything outside of -- outside of the narrow boxes that society wants us to do. Ben is a brave dude and he`s a trustworthy dude and he`s retained all of himself and I think that this is a great thing and he`s ready. That`s why I`m here.

MELBER: And I know --

CHAPPELLE: As a matter of fact, it`s dangerous for me to even step into the political arena. Poopity Scoop.

MELBER: Poopity Scoop, is that how we end all of our interviews. My last question I guess, because I know you guys -- I know you guys got to go is and starting with Ben. I mean, since your with Chappelle, you`re campaigning with Chappelle which is something I think a lot of candidates would love to be able to do, is there a kind of a ship held test we can apply here. Is there anything in politics that you see that would fall under the rubric of when keeping it real goes wrong?

JEALOUS: You know, I got to tell you man, when we started off this journey, there`s a story I tell about how Dave saved my life down in Jackson, Mississippi when I was a young organizer fighting a Republican Governor who`s trying to make a black college to prison and Dave showed up with a dime bag of pot. And things could have gone very wrong but we were spared because the police officer recognized Dave from Def Jam and all of a sudden he just wanted tickets to the show and didn`t -- and didn`t search Dave`s bag. The -- and you know, I mean, that`s I think the beauty of politics in this moment is that people are comfortable with us talking about what`s real. The fact that we were once too much younger black man, you were afraid in that moment of spending a long time in jail and in prison. And you should have to be you know, that exceptional to be justly treated.

And so that`s you know, a lot of what fuels Dave`s politics and mine. A lot of what fuels Dave`s comedy and my politics is the fact that we both survived in an era where a young black men were the murdered in the country, the most incarcerated in the planet and then we both found our own ways to lift people to a higher place and we both still recognize that unfortunately too much of what we went through as young people and young people are still going through and what we`re eager to see it -- to see it change. So we know how smart they are and how much they could be contributing if our system was just a little bit fair, or a little -- the playing field a bit more level, our country a bit more just.

MELBER: Dave, final word.

CHAPPELLE: Yes, you may never see me endorsing somebody again. I really - - I really do believe in the product. I mean, this is the real deal. This is a real deal.

MELBER: Well, it`s fascinating and we don`t often see a duo like this learning a little bit about your history with each other, what motivates both to you and what Ben says is why he wants to step into the arena is fascinating so I thank you for bringing the story to THE BEAT and thanks for your time Dave Chappelle and Ben Jealous.

JEALOUS: Thank you.

CHAPPELLE: Thank you.

JEALOUS: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Up ahead lawmakers and activists take the immigration fight to the streets with a White House March. I`m going to speak to the Congressman who`s there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back. I`m joined by the Congressman who marched to the White House today protesting these Trump Administration policies separating immigrant families Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez of California. Congressman, what is going on do you view this as a humanitarian crisis?

REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, this is a huge issue. This policy of the Trump Administration to separate the kids from their parents as they come and seek in asylum is doing long-term harm to these kids and to these families. But it`s also doing harm to the kids across the country. You know, we act like our kids don`t know what`s going on but they do. They hear it from their siblings, from their classmates. They hear it on the playground, they hear from the people that take care of them. There`s a real fear that`s being created out in the communities that you know, if you`re an immigrant, if you`re documented otherwise, your parents might be separated from you and you might be left alone. So we`re concerned and we`re calling on this Administration to end this policy of separating the kids from their parents.

MELBER: Right. And Congressman when you look at these reports, let me read. Federal authorities took a daughter as she was breastfed in one of these detention centers. And when that mother resisted, she was handcuffed. Another woman saying I want to be with my children. The Border Patrol agent said, "you will never see your children again. Families don`t exist here. You won`t have a family anymore." Is this a Trump Administration policy that essentially amounts to child abuse?

GOMEZ: This is -- it does amount to child abuse because you`re causing trauma to these kids they`re coming into this country that have rights under international law to seek asylum. And these people are fleeing domestic violence, gang violence, economic hardship, and they`re asking for our help. So they are causing harm to these children and it needs to stop and it needs to stop right away.

MELBER: What`s the next step briefly?

GOMEZ: You know we`re going to ask for a review of the conditions of these -- of these children in custody. So we want to make sure that they`re being treated fairly, they`re treated humanely and we have real concerns. And especially we want to go and actually visit them. We want to be able to talk to them and see what`s really going on. And what we`ve seen is we`ve seen U.S. Senators and Members of Congress being turned away. So we want to have an opportunity to talk through these kids directly and investigate the conditions they`re being held under.

MELBER: Congressman Gomez, I know you and some other members have been working on this. We`re going to continue to stay on the story and I appreciate you telling us about your work.

GOMEZ: Well, thank you so much. And you know, this fight isn`t over and it`s on a variety of fronts. It`s on these drastic bills that are coming up when it comes to DACA. I call it the bad and the ugly when it comes to these bills that are coming out of this compromise. So we`re going to sit here and fight every step of the way on the DACA front, on the parent front, on every front so we`re going to make sure that we win, and thank you so much.

MELBER: Congressman Gomez, thank you and I hope we could discuss it again. I have one more thing when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Donald Trump back at today calling the Free Press Americas "greatest enemy." Trump suffering through a major defeat in an attempt to retaliate against CNN by stopping the merger of its parent company. A federal judge just rejected that effort which Trump had campaigned on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As an example of the power structure on fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it`s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Trump lost but his administration had been targeting CNN in this fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: CNN is terrible. You people do not cover us accurately.

They have been fake news for a long time. They`ve been covering me in a very, very dishonest way. A poll came out today on CNN such a fake. No, not you, not you, your organization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us a chance? You`re attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Trump aides reportedly wanted to manipulate the regulation of this merger as a point of leverage over CNN but Trump`s failed crackdown on CNN is a contrast to Sinclair which has its own mergers going on, Trump not attacking that kind of media consolidation. It`s easy to focus on Trump`s attacks on the press and the DOJ and some of them may work. But tonight`s news in case you haven`t heard is that Donald Trump tried to use government power to punish a news organization he says he hates and he failed. He lost and that`s not just good for CNN which happens to be a competitor, it`s actually good to see checks and balances work. Now up ahead, there is new pressure from the right on Scott Pruitt and moisture gate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Before we go, one of Trump`s most loyal Fox boosters just broke with him over the Scott Pruitt scandal. Laura Ingram now says Pruitt has got to go. A potentially key development in the story we`ve been bringing you, moisture gate.

That does it for our show. HARDBALL starts now.

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