Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 26, 2017 Guest: Daniel Bonevac, Jack Balkin, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MTP DAILY: Ari Melber starts right now. And more importantly, for me, THE BEAT, for the first time, I hand the baton over. Mr. Ari Melber, how are you, sir?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: I`m good. Thank you, sir. I`ve got to ask you before I let you go, Chuck, given all the administrations you`ve covered and the biggest story here in town in Washington, do you think there`s a point where Jeff Sessions goes into the Oval and says, are we good or do I need to go?
TODD: I don`t. I don`t think he will offer his resignation. I think he`s going to make him fire.
MELBER: Which is significant. That`s what we`re going to be watching. Chuck Todd, thank you for the handoff. I appreciate it.
TODD: You got it, Ari. Good to have you.
MELBER: Donald Trump says he will sign just about any bill on Obamacare, but Republicans just failed on a vote to send him any bill on Obamacare.
Congressional Republicans` campaigned on repeal and replace, but they couldn`t get that plan through Congress. Today, a Senate vote on a bill to just repeal Obamacare with no replacement failed. Seven Republicans defying Trump on the vote.
Now, Trump made a last-ditch effort at pressure, calling out Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Twitter, but it did not work.
As every millennial knows, it`s easy to talk tough online because you can hide behind a computer screen. Is President Trump too busy though to face down his party in person or is he just too scared?
He looks scared because he spent so little time actually meeting with senators to do the work to find an Obamacare strategy. Everyone also knows the president likes Twitter, a place you can post quick thoughts, but increasingly it looks like this could be a presidential posture based on Twitter fingers.
That`s an Internet expression that refers to people who act tough online and then fold when it`s time for a flight in real life.
Sen. Murkowski, for her part, responded to the president`s Twitter fingers by saying she`s not afraid of any electoral blowback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I don`t think it`s wise to be operating on a daily basis thinking about what statement or response that causes you to be fearful of your electoral prospects.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, that doesn`t sound like a Republican eager to rejoin Trump`s fold as lawmakers face a barrage of votes tomorrow.
Let`s get right to it. Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono is here. Senator, thanks for joining. Tomorrow is a so-called voterama that includes something now being called skinny repeal. Do you think that is better than full repeal?
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Whatever the Republican come up with this is all on a path to repealing the Affordable Care Act. And whatever they come up with to replace the Affordable Care Act will literally rid millions and millions of people from healthcare coverage.
So, what they`re coming up with in any way, shape or form will not be good for millions of people in our country, particularly the poorest, sickest and oldest in our communities.
MELBER: So, you don`t view skinny repeal as anything you`d get onboard with here.
HIRONO: It`s just a ploy. They`ll do anything to try and get the votes that they need. But it`s really to get us to the point of repealing. And you know what, they can`t even figure out what to replace the Affordable Care Act with.
And the big debate among them seems to be how many people do we need to kick off healthcare in order to get the votes that they need.
This is not healthcare. This is really - I don`t even have the words. How can you call it healthcare where you`re kicking off millions of people from the very kind of coverage that they need.
Healthcare is a right, not a privilege only for those who can afford it.
MELBER: Take a listen to President Trump on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any senator who votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, and I predict they`ll have a lot of problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you think he sounds more concerned about the problems senators would have rather than the people who might lose their insurance if the policy goes through?
HIRONO: I don`t think the president knows very much about any of the substance, what`s in any of these bills. And, of course, he campaigned on a promise that everyone would get healthcare and everything would be great.
And the versions of the bills that we`ve seen from us in the Senate do anything but. So, he`s just out there tweeting. He is not a substantive kind of guy. This is what he does. For the Republicans to listen to him, they`re going down the wrong path.
And I`m really glad that Lisa Murkowski said she`s basically - she`s not afraid of him.
HIRONO: People in Alaska know what she stands for and who she`s fighting for. And she`s fighting for them.
MELBER: On that point, I mean, you mentioned the tweets we were talking in our introduction here, about his Twitter fingers. This tendency to talk top and then not really do the work, back it up, go meet with people. Do you have a sense from your Republican Senate colleagues, their mood today, those who have defected, has his tweets helped or hurt?
HIRONO: You know what, it is very clear that he will attack anybody. And so, this is, to me, the behavior of a classic bully. And he can tweet all he wants, at 5 AM, whatever it is, one day he`s tweeting this, another day he`s doing that. So, totally unpredictable and not any kind of founding or basis in which to vote for any bill.
And really, the Senators are going to need to take responsibility for whatever versions they come up with. But the versions that we`ve seen so far will knock millions and millions off of healthcare, and that`s not right.
MELBER: Sen. Mazie Hirono giving us good thoughts about the implications here on what it means to people affected by these policies. Thank you very much, senator.
HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.
MELBER: Aloha. The other big story today, what I was just mentioning with Chuck Todd, this big chill between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions ongoing. The White House saying they haven`t been in direct contact this week, but they surely have been communicating with those tweets and the public criticism from the president.
Let`s get right to it. Bob Bauer is a former White House counsel to President Obama, Byron Dorgan, former North Dakota Senator.
Bob, you look at this situation. Is it inappropriate in your view what the president is doing or within his rights as the way he chooses to manage the attorney general?
BOB BAUER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think it`s highly inappropriate. He`s not simply saying he`s troubled with the way the Attorney General Sessions is running the department.
He`s saying he`s unhappy with the fact that Attorney General Sessions did not take the steps that the president believes are necessary to protect him, the president, maybe family members, maybe campaign aides in an investigation that concerns him. It`s highly inappropriate.
Sen. Dorgan, take a listen to your former colleague on what this says actually not about Sessions, but about Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why hasn`t the president fired Andrew McCabe as acting FBI director?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president`s made an incredible nominee in Chris Wray and he is looking forward to getting him confirmed and taking over the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That, of course, at the White House today. I also want to play you Sen. Lindsey Graham, sort of the other side here in Congress. Let me read it you.
He says, "I`d fire somebody that I didn`t believe could serve me well rather than trying to humiliate him in public, which is a sign of weakness."
BYRON DORGAN, FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR: I mean, he`s taunting Jeff Sessions. But, look, this is a very dangerous kind of game he`s playing.
He`s tweeting himself into a very deep canyon, into some very big trouble. He`s implying and suggesting, I want my attorney general to go out and investigate my former opponent, somebody that I said lock her up about, right?
And you cannot use the Justice Department as your handmaiden to go run your errands. You cannot do that. This is a dangerous game he`s playing.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, senator, to build on that point, this is - there is so much here that is abnormal we can lose track. But in addition to the manner in which the president`s doing it, let`s put that to the side for the moment, these rather childish and churlish tweets, the way he`s talking to the Times, you`re putting your finger on the bigger problem, which is, this isn`t about his management of policy, which is a place for disagreement. It`s Russia, right? It all comes back to Russia not because of the media, not because of Jeff Sessions, but because of the president.
DORGAN: The president is obsessed with the issue of Russia. I understand that, but the fact is there are some pretty clear indications that it comes back to the campaign. We have 17 investigative agencies - intelligence agencies who have said this comes from Russia, this meddling, and we also know that Roger Stone is connected to Guccifer, connected to WikiLeaks, and there`s all kinds of connections here.
And so, look, this president, if he tries to fire Jeff Sessions - he could if he wants to - fire Rosenstein - perhaps can if he wants to - and fire Mueller, I think that that will be the end of things for - I mean, I think there`s going to be a real firestorm by the American people and by Republicans and Democrats in the Congress.
MELBER: What do you mean the end? I mean, you served in the senate, when you say the end, what are you saying?
DORGAN: Well, I mean, I think he will be - the president will be investigated. I think you may well have discussions about impeachment. If he were to go through - he`s already fired Comey. If he were to fire Sessions, Rosenstein and perhaps one more and then go after Mueller, I just don`t think the American people will stand for that.
MELBER: And, senator - and then I want to go to Bob Bauer to follow up, senator, do you think people in the White House are giving the president that - what you`re using, the I word that clear a line as a warning that he knows that there are lines?
DORGAN: Oh, I don`t know. Look, that`s not what I want to have happened at all. My wish is that he stop tweeting. He would do accept that Jeff Sessions is the attorney general at this point and there`s now a special counsel. Let this play out and let`s move forward and work on things like tax reform and infrastructure and healthcare.
We`re way off in the weeds on all these other issues which makes no sense to me.
MELBER: Well, Bob, I feel deep in the weeds. I need a weed whacker and yet we`re covering these stories as they emanate from the White House. We didn`t bring up Russia and Sessions. He did.
Bob, walk us through how a White House counsel deals with this? Because you have the most powerful client in the world. Your first job is to help him do everything he wants to do lawfully. And then, your second job is to help him understand what the lines are. What is Don McGahn, your sort of counterpart there doing, do you think?
BAUER: It`s impossible for me to say. There are a lot of lawyers currently circulating in the White House. Somebody was just added from outside to the legal team to apparently coordinate the public and private aspects of the president`s response to this Russia investigation.
Public, in the sense, that he`s managing the Department of Justice. Private, in the sense, that his own personal legal interests are at stake.
It`s possible that Mr. McGahn is going about other duties and leaving Russia to this newly added counsel.
MELBER: Is that wise? If he`s doing that and leaving it to the private attorneys who only represent the criminal defense of the president, not the office of the White House, do you think that`s wise?
BAUER: Well, the most recent addition was an addition, as I understand it, to the public payroll of a lawyer who has a sort of dedicated responsibility for this aspect of the president`s legal affairs.
One other point I would make, the president continues to tweet, the president continues to give interviews like the one he gave to "The New York Times" against his interest. If, in fact, lawyers, whether it`s the White House counsel or his other lawyers, are in any way condoning both the practice and the content, it is the most remarkable legal advice on the face of the Earth.
MELBER: I think that`s a really nice way of saying it`s terrible legal advice.
BAUER: It is not conventional legal advice. And so, one has to assume that the lawyers in question don`t have complete control of their clients.
MELBER: Right. I take what you`re saying. And I take the respectful you put it. Bob Bauer and former senator Byron Dorgan. Thank you both, gentlemen.
BAUER: Thank you.
DORGAN: Thank you.
MELBER: Next, I`m going to speak with a millennial Trump supporter and a Democratic operative about why Trump is hitting campaign rallies instead of actually working with Congress on his agenda.
And the White House now dodging questions about the new plan to punish Putin. Would Trump really veto a vetoproof vote on sanctions against Russia?
Also, this is going to be interesting, what did we learn about the limits of polling in the 2016 campaign? A researcher, I should say, joins THE BEAT to explain how Google searches can predict politics better than polling.
You are watching THE BEAT with Ari Melber on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that`s ever held this office.
No president has done anywhere near what we`ve done in his first six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump made so many big campaign promises, many wondered what would we do if he failed to fulfill them. Well, we got the answer last night in Ohio.
President Trump back in full campaign mode, arguing he actually already has fulfilled the big promises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare.
We will build the wall.
We`ve added much more than 1 million jobs.
We are keeping our promises to the people. And, yes, we are putting finally - finally, finally, we are putting America first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The speech full of that kind of victorious talk, but was it true. To be fair, no president fulfills all their pledges, but Trump`s pledges to build a wall, fix immigration, drain the swamp, repeal Obamacare, put America first and boost jobs, if you think about those, after six months, let`s be honest, Trump has failed to get results on about five out of the six priorities.
It took Congress, not Trump, by the way, to put America first by standing up to Russia on sanctions this week.
Now, the bright spot for Trump is the economy, surging stocks and falling unemployment. Whether that is a Trump bounce or him inheriting momentum is certainly up for debate.
Now, keep that factual record in mind when the president makes this false statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No president has done anywhere near what we`ve done in his first six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No. Historians and non-partisan experts say Trump`s first six months with no major legislation passed fall way behind the first months of several presidents like Roosevelt or Johnson.
But was President Trump lying just there? Maybe not. Maybe he really believes these six months have done more than FDR. And that kind of delusion could be even more concerning than deliberate exaggeration.
Paul-Anthony Cuesta leads the New York College Republicans. He is a Trump supporter. Jim Manley, a former aide to Sen. Harry Reid.
Paul, as a Trump supporter, does it concern you that the president thinks he`s achieved so much when we actually has a lot of work left to do?
PAUL-ANTHONY CUESTA, STATE CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK FEDERATION OF COLLEGE REPUBLICANS: Well, of course, he has a lot of work left to do, but he also - I would say, he`s the only president who has gone through what he`s actually going through right now, six months, where he`s serving as our chief officer and also having a lot of people that are delegitimizing his presidency, especially with the claims with Russia.
MELBER: So, you`re saying he`s up against a lot, but do you think he understands that he`s making a false statement there when he claims he`s done more than - you don`t he`s done more than FDR`s first, say, 100 days.
CUESTA: Oh, no, that`s a whole different time. You`re talking about the reconstruction era - not the reconstruction era, but you`re talking about the New Deal era, we were going through a depression.
But I wouldn`t say that he`s done more, but he`s going through a position where he`s in a presidency during the millennial generation, boom in technology where he`s going through a lot in regards to attacks, but also having to be strong and serve as our chief officer.
MELBER: Jim, what do you think? Do you think the president believes what he`s saying?
JIM MANLEY, FORMER AIDE TO SEN. HARRY REID: Well, I don`t know if he believes what he has to say. If he does, he`s about the only one who does.
But the fact of the matter is, as you have suggested, it`s flat-out factually false, everything you said. You said maybe five out of six. I`d say six out of six.
The swamp hasn`t been drained. It`s smellier than ever. He`s done very little, if any, to promote job creation. His tax cuts are dead. He`s barely going to get anything through on healthcare. I mean, I can go on and on.
But I simply have - I spent 21 years in the senate as a staffer. I`ve never seen a president so poorly mishandled not only the legislative process, but the executive branch as well. It`s just amazing.
MELBER: I mean, that is the weird part, right, Paul? I mean, you support this president. And you`re a college Republican leader and you`re a loyal Republican.
It is weird, though, to have a president who seems so out of the loop on how Congress works. And from what I can tell, maybe you read the tweets differently, uninterested in learning.
CUESTA: Well, I do agree. We had a very, very difficult period in American history where we have a president that is newly inherited a huge mess. A huge mess in regards to international affairs and also domestic problems.
We have a lot of cities with brown water, Ari. So, we have a lot of cities that water heads (ph) on pikes. So, him coming into this presidency at a very crucial period, it`s an opportunity right now for not only for him to have the answers, but for us to reach out to him and support him throughout the other levels of government that people are oblivious on.
MELBER: Jim, do you buy that? Do you think it`s tough really on this president?
MANLEY: I don`t buy that, with all due respect, in part because he has done absolutely nothing to reach out to the American people, to try and bridge the differences, significant though they may be, between different parts of the country.
He`s at 36 percent approval rating. That`s not going to go anytime - it`s not going to improve anytime soon. He`s doing nothing to try and expand it. So, he`s just playing to the base. That`s what we`ve seen just in the last couple of days as he`s going on these campaign swings.
MELBER: Well, he`s playing to the base, Jim. Or sometimes he`s playing to whatever crowd happens to be in front of him regardless of whether that`s necessarily the right place for the message.
Here he is with the Boy Scouts thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I know Democrats that heard that and they would`ve never voted for it, but they voted because they believe the lies of President Obama.
By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Paul, when you look at that, does it make you say, this is what I voted for, that`s going to make America great again? Or do you think he`s kind of losing thread here?
CUESTA: Well, I would say, Ari, that it`s not the leaders of America to make America great. It`s the average American that goes above and beyond. I was a member of the Boy Scouts of America, specifically Troop 11 (INAUDIBLE) and I would say -
CUESTA: We tackled a lot of issues, Ari, that are bigger than politics from community gardening -
MELBER: But didn`t he bring politics to that event?
Tower Well, of course, he did. He`s trying to revolutionize and empower the younger generations. The Boy Scouts of America, these are the people I consider as the future leaders of America, the people that are going above and beyond (INAUDIBLE) doing nothing.
MELBER: Jim, Paul just out-Boy Scouted you, but you can have the final word.
MANLEY: I never was a Boy Scout, but again he continues to drive decency (ph) down. I`ve never seen anything like that appearance. It just was absolutely disgraceful.
MELBER: Jim Manley and Paul-Anthony Cuesta, couple of different views on what`s going on. Appreciate you both being here.
CUESTA: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, Congress, finally ready to punish Russia for the election meddling. Will President Trump agree to it?
And what`s the best way to figure out what someone`s really thinking. We have an expert using Google searches to spot new trends and figure out what people might be googling, especially in the era of Trump.
And the radical-in-chief, President Trump breaking norms. We`re going to talk to a constitutional scholar, who says Trump is actually exploiting deeper flaws in our system. And a Trump supporter in the academy who says Trump is doing exactly what he promised. There could be fireworks. That`s ahead on THE BEAT.
TRUMP: And it`s not a good place. In fact, today, I said we ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool or perhaps to the word sewer.
As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps.
We have to talk about it to find out what`s going on because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is not normal. Have you ever found yourself recently saying that, thinking about Trump`s election? It`s true.
In fact, it`s one part of the national mood that Trump critics and supporters probably agree on, Trump is mixing things up. But is it a shattering of our traditions or a chance to stop business as usual in Washington?
Consider, Trump shatters norms in two ways. He breaks rules like the due process rules he violated in the first travel ban, and that ensured it was blocked in the courts.
But he also breaks traditions, which are not rules and are not enforced by any government mechanism. The way Trump bullies people, the way he disdains Congress, lashes out at even his most loyal aides, the way he baits and falsely impugns those of us in the free press.
On all those issues, Trump is violating norms that had been followed, obviously, by presidents in both parties. But those are traditions. They are not enforced. There`s no court that will tell him to stop Twitter- shaming the attorney general.
Trump critics say that`s one of the most damaging parts of his leadership. He`s basically exploiting a bug in the system to demean our government and public discourse. And they know Trump is excelling at a time when elections are dominated by big money and trust in institutions are at all- time lows.
Trump proponents do have a rebuttal. They say don`t be shocked by Trump doing the things he pledged to do, to end business as usual, to slam the DC elites, to push the limits, and shake things up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country`s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.
He`s not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured, OK? I hate to tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I hate to tell you. But he doesn`t really hate to tell us, does he. He delights in shocking, challenging and trolling. So, will we ever get our norms back? Do we even want them back?
We have a special debate on this for you today, with philosophy and logic professor Daniel Bonevac, who says Trump is a president who`s on our side, and constitutional law professor Jack Balkin, who argues that Trump benefits from a constitutional rot in our government that`s allowing demagogues to basically impede democracy.
Professor Balkin, I start with you. Is Trump destroying civic norms?
JACK BALKIN, KNIGHT PROFESSOR OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT, YALE LAW SCHOOL: The big problem that Trump is doing is he`s increasing polarization and he`s causing people to distrust government, to distrust democracy and distrust each other.
If he succeeds in doing that, it will be very, very difficult to put everything back together again.
MELBER: Professor Bonevac, in this what you wanted when you backed Trump?
DANIEL BONEVAC, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Yes, it is. Absolutely. I don`t think he`s causing distrust in government. I think that distrust was already there.
I think he is finding a fertile ground for doing what he`s doing and communicating in the ways he is precisely because there`s distrust.
I think a lot of the public doesn`t want business as usual. They don`t want the ordinary norms preserved. In fact, I would argue that when you introduce the two of us, actually both claims are right. I don`t think we`ve had anything like normal behavior in Washington since 1974 and the Budget Control Act. And so, I think we badly need something that disrupts the pattern that`s developed since then and tries to return us to more fundamental constitutional norms.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I mean, that`s interesting. You`re saying both of these dynamics could be true but it`s a long way from the budget control act to tweeting the kind of personal attacks, the vulgarity. Do you stand by that or do you think that`s just the cost to doing business with this kind of change age?
BONEVAC: I won`t defend every individual tweet. But I do think that in a sense, a lot of Republicans have had the sense, not trust Donald Trump and his core supporters, that Trump past decade or so, the Democrats have been engaging in politics of personal destruction. And Republicans has been playing nice in return. We`ve seen John McCain, Mitt Romney and so on, really not respond to very vicious attacks against their character during this campaigns. And so, I think a lot of Republicans are feeling as if finally, somebody is hitting back, somebody is actually punching back. In fact, there`s a story you know, of a brother who comes running into mom saying my sister pulled my hair and the mom says well, listen, she doesn`t understand that it hurts. A few minutes later the sister starts crying and the brother comes in and says, well she does now. And I`ve heard a number of people tell that story to indicate that`s what`s going on.
MELBER: I mean, I think your story doesn`t help your argument as much as you think it does. That sounds like teaching children about a cycle of physical violence and you`re talking about a candidate who ran encouraging his supporters at times saying I`ll literally pay the legal bills if you illegally attack someone. I don`t know that that`s where you want to be. Let me get Professor Balkin in and then you again, but Professor Balkin your reply.
JACK BALKIN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT AT YALE LAW SCHOOL KNIGHT PROFESSOR: I think that what Professor Bonevac is pointing to are some very worrying features of the last 30 years. Increasing political polarization causes people in both parties to completely distrust what the other would do if it got power. And this ultimately underlines the possibility of the particularly kind of government we have in the United States. Because we don`t have a parliamentary system, we don`t have one party rule. That`s not the design, instead, we need to have various overlapping consensuses in order to get anything done. And if you stoke hatred toward the other party and if you cause people not to trust the other person, then what will happen is you just can`t effectively get government done. We see this.
MELBER: Right. And that`s a - that`s a profound point. And I just want to get in one more thing Professor Bonevac. The other norm he`s changing is the norm of just normal administrative governance, something both of you know about. Here is Sarah Huckabee Sanders today basically saying that on the matter of life and death, people who are serving our country right now, risking their lives it`s unknown whether they will be kicked out of military or removed from field of battle because of the norm shattering way the President issues these by twitter and people`s lives are involved. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t answer the question of what`s going to happen to transgenders who are in the military now?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think sometimes you have to make decision and once he made a decision he didn`t feel it was necessary to hold that decision and they`re going to work together with the Department of Defense to lawfully implement it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Professor Bonevac, would it be better to do the normal process where the Pentagon would roll this out in an orderly way (INAUDIBLE) and things in the underlying policy?
BONEVAC: Hat`s hard for me to say. I think that there`s a lot about the internal dynamic of how these things work that we aren`t privy to. And so, my own preference would be as you put it for that normal procedure to take place but is not be introduced in a tweet and for a policy really to be firmly in place. On the other hand, I think that if you think back to a number of decisions that have been made by Presidents from both parties over the past few years, they`ve taken this kind of character. And my suspicion is that some of that is due to circumstances and personalities but some of it is due to the fact that it`s very hard to get the institutional structures moving unless something forces them to move.
MELBER: I want to say the country maybe polarized, both of you gentlemen are not, very honest and civic exchange about some of these issues. I hope you`ll come back Professor Bonevac and Balkin.
BALKIN: thank you.
BONEVAC: Thanks for having us on.
MELBER: Absolutely. I appreciate it.
Coming up, will President Trump get on board with the new Russia sanctions? Why the White House is saying now it`s complicated and quick? What`s the last thing you actually googled? You might not want to say it out loud but it might say a lot about you. We have an expert on what it all means.
MELBER: Was President Trump right when he said all the polls were wrong? There`s a new book, Everybody Lies that says polls can be faulty and that Google searches can be a more accurate way to understand our behavior. Right before the election, the book`s author wrote Trump`s support might be stronger than thought based on the Google data. The same data can actually also be used to highlight other political debates including abortion. Take a look at the states where legal barriers make it very difficult for a woman to get a legal abortion. Now, look at this, the 14 states where the most people are frequently googling phrases like, "how to cause a miscarriage." This is a striking overlap which the author argues could reveal the limited access to abortion services are already changing people`s behavior. Now, if web searches do reveal our most hidden anxieties or desires, it begs the question, what are we googling in the age of Trump? Joining me is author of the book, Everybody Lies. Thanks for being here.
SETH STEPHENS-DAVIDOWITZ, EVERYBODY LIES BOOK AUTHOR: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Forget the Trump, let`s start though with that example when you look at these rules on abortion. You`re saying the searches tell a story. You know that they tell behavior?
DAVIDOWITZ: I think it`s very clear. You see that not only are they highest in places where it`s now hardest to get abortion, they rose substantially in 2011 when there was a crackdown on legal abortion. And we don`t know for sure just from the searches that they`d lead to bad behavior but you can see that in the places where it`s now hard to get an abortion, they`re kind of missing pregnancies. There are people who are getting pregnant and they`re not showing up in either birth or legal abortion.
MELBER: And this is - you know, people talk about a bug or feature. This is not a feature of Google. I mean, we hear this term big data. This is not why Google exists but it`s now telling us things we would not otherwise even know you think?
DAVIDOWITZ: I think people lie to polls because they have no incentive, to tell the truth but they tell the truth to Google because they have an incentive to get the information they need. So they tell things to Google that they might not tell anybody else.
MELBER: So, what truth were they telling before the election and are you - did you predict what are the pollster missed that Trump would win?
DAVIDOWITZ: I predicted that Trump would win but I`m not sure if that`s because I`m a genius or pessimist because I`m always kind of predicting bad things will happen.
MELBER: You were unhappy with Trump winning?
DAVIDOWITZ: Yes. But I think - I think, one thing that was very clear in the data leading up to Trump was the level of racism in this country. It was a lot higher than people realized and in parts of the country where people thought racism wasn`t that high because on Google people make racist searches usually looking for jokes mocking African-Americans in disturbing frequency.
MELBER: So, with somebody watching here says, hey, that`s unfair. There are many reasons to support Trump other than racism. You`re saying the evidence - without saying anything - of course, we`re not going to say on T.V., you`re saying there was explicit evidence in the data of racism. What is the evidence?
DAVIDOWITZ: The strongest correlation with Trump support in the Republican primary was Google searches for racist material. So, It doesn`t mean that everybody supports Trump is racist but it`s very, very clear in the data that it was a big part of his initial support.
MELBER: And what happens if a pollster says to someone do you like candidate because you`re racist?
DAVIDOWITZ: Very, very few are going to say yes.
MELBER: Yes, I kind of figured that`s where you`re going with that. Any other big trends in here that you think people are missing, and you predicted the Trump thing. What are we missing now?
DAVIDOWITZ: I think, one thing that surprises me in the data is I`m kind of obsessed with Trump and all my friends are obsessed with Trump, but that`s really a blue state phenomenon. The obsession with Trump, with Russia, with Jared Kushner and with all of - with even Obamacare and whether it`s repealed, right now it`s really limited to blue states relative to red states. That`s a huge partisan divide and how much -
MELBER: And what are they googling in red states?
DAVIDOWITZ: Not about Trump. They`re just googling sports and entertainment and the usual stuff. So I think that might be a good sign for Democrats in the future, to have Sessions engaged -
MELBER: Highly engaged electorate. And that`s happening regardless as you say with the poll and that just real daily desired searching. Thank you for coming on. The book is Everybody Lies, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, appreciate it.
Coming up. Congress making that move on Russia. Will President Trump get on board? The answer may surprise you.
MELBER: The other big question facing the White House, will President Trump sign this new sanctions bill against Russia or not? The Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker says there are some changes that could be made including stripping out some pieces that relate to North Korea. But he said this is going to become law, period. The sanctions passed the House by a vote of 419-3, which mean Trump concerns -- his concerns about this are literally legislatively irrelevant. That was a veto proof majority.
Now, how is it playing in Russia? The Kremlin says today, the sanctions are "sad." Michael McFaul is a former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, and Ed Pilkington, Chief Reporter for The Guardian U.S. and doing investigative work on the Russians and potential links to Trump`s inner circle, including finances. Ambassador, is the Kremlin doing some sort of fan fiction in trying to sound like President Trump?
MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, first, Ari, congratulations on your show.
MELBER: Thank you, Sir.
MCFAUL: Good to be here with you today. Well, the Russians don`t like these sanctions, of course. They`re trying to make sure that there will -- we understand and the President will understand that there will be consequences, they will respond. I expect that to be true. And you know, they would like to see him veto this, at least symbolically to show that he`s still trying to work with the Kremlin to achieve some kind of new relationship.
MELBER: And Ambassador, what would be the point of vetoing something that`s veto proof?
MCFAUL: It`d be a signal to President Putin that I tried. He can then say, look, I tried but these -- you know, these crazy people in Congress have tied my hands. I don`t think it`s wise. I think this particular situation was created by President Trump`s ambiguous policy towards Russia in the first place. Had he made an argument to give him flexibility with sanctions to say, I`m going to get this, that, and the other -- things in the American national interest to lift sanctions, they would have given him some wiggle room but he never did that, and so that`s why we have this legislation pending.
MELBER: Yes. Well, your -- this is the question. I mean, this isn`t a T.V. question where, like, I`m like making it up. I want to know why, why didn`t he do that?
MCFAUL: Inexperience, lack of a foreign policy team, divisions within his own administration for how to deal with Russia, and a lot of people at lower levels in the government just not willing to explain to the President how to deal with Russia given this rather bizarre, to say the least, obsession he has with Vladimir Putin. But I think it`s a huge strategic mistake. When I was in the Obama administration, we didn`t want legislation tying our hands with respect to sanctions. We wanted the flexibility to negotiate.
MELBER: Yes. No, it`s a --
MCFAUL: They take that away because they don`t trust the President.
MELBER: Sure. It`s a non-partisan issue. It`s really about, you know, where you sit and that`s something where presidents want that prerogative. And there`s a (INAUDIBLE) for it, which is the Ambassador says they just seems to -- they seemed to have whiffed. Before we get to your reporting, your view of the sanction standoff right now.
ED PILKINGTON, CHIEF REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: I think President Trump has a problem, he wants to look as though he`s independent, but you know, how can he stand against sanctions that are designed to protect America against foreign intervention in a -- in a Presidential election? I don`t think he can hold his position that he`s got at the moment.
MELBER: And you`ve been digging into the links, what are you finding?
PILKINGTON: What we`re finding is that if you look at the money, if you follow the money, and this is something we heard just this week that Robert Mueller and the special counsel is excited to do, he`s expanded his investigation to follow the money. If you look at them, you see an overlaying layers between the Trump family, and this involves Jared Kushner as well, family circle, the real estate interest in New York, and alleged money laundering coming out of Russia. And this takes us back to the now- notorious meeting in June last year, in which Jared Kushner and Don, Jr., the son of the President, entered a room with four Russians present. One of them was a Russian lawyer who was representing a Russian-owned company, involved in money laundering allegations, including a very big New York trial that was only settled this May.
MELBER: Do these issues go away if Jared Kushner is in the government and less involved in his business?
PILKINGTON: Well, that`s the funny thing we saw this week. We saw him present with us with an 11-page dossier, giving his explanation for that meeting last June. And essentially argued, he knew nothing, he absolutely knew nothing at all, and money was nothing to do with it. It was completely separate from his financial interests. I think what we`re seeing now with the interests of Robert Mueller is playing into this whole business, is that you cannot do that.
The New York real estate world in which Jared Kushner and the President were deeply embroiled, it`s fantastically complicated, it`s increasingly getting its money from abroad, much of it from Russia. He cannot separate himself from this problem.
MELBER: Right. And the question becomes not just follow the money but maybe follow the rubles. Ed Pilkington, Ambassador McFaul, thank you both, I appreciate your expertise.
MELBER: Straight ahead, President Trump`s relationship with the press. The former editor of the New York Times is on THE BEAT to talk about why the President can`t seem to quit fake news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every single President on Mt. Rushmore -- now, here`s what I`ll do. I`d ask whether or not you think I will someday be on Mt. Rushmore. But -- no. But here`s the problem, if I did it joking, totally joking, having fun, the fake news media will say, he believes he should be on Mt. Rushmore. So, I won`t say it, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s not an old clip, that was the President last night. Is the news really fake, or as Stephen King argued, is the President fake and the news real? All Presidents do fight with the press, but Trump is the first president who claims he doesn`t believe in news. As president, we counted, Trump has now tweeted 69 times about fake news, including the failing New York Times, which drew 17 tweets.
If you really think an outlet is fake, though, say The New York Times you think is like the National Enquirer, you`d ignore them. And Trump doesn`t, he just sat for an hour-long interview with The New York Times, and that is actually his third as President. Watch what he does, not what he tweets.
My very special guest is Jill Abramson, the former Executive Editor for The New York Times and now a political columnist for The Guardian. An honor to have you here, Jill.
JILL ABRAMSON, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE GUARDIAN: Oh, I`m thrilled to be here. And congrats on your first week, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you. What does it say to you, given the job you`ve held, that the President continues to do these interviews with the New York Times?
ABRAMSON: What it says to me is he knows that the Times is a very important institution in this country. And certainly, you know, one of the leading news organizations in the news media. And he craves its attention, he craves its approval. By one of Trump`s biographers, Tim O`Brien has said, he is obsessed with The New York Times. So, you know, it doesn`t surprise me that he`s given three interviews to the Times. And at the first one, he even began the interview by saying, the Times is a great, great American and world institution. So, when he beats up on the Times, he`s playing to the base and they love his talk about the fake news media.
MELBER: Right. And so, you raise such an important distinction, which is him essentially tricking people, or trying on convince people of something that isn`t the case because he`s not treating it as fake. And then you have this reporting from Jim Comey`s memo that Trump urged the FBI to try to jail reporters. Mr. Trump told Comey he should jail journalist who published classified information. It was an act of intimidation which as you know would be likely unconstitutional. A huge scandal if it was the one thing that any other President did. And then, I want to read you the latest on this, this week for your response, officials saying Jeff Sessions now due to announce in the coming days, a number of criminal leak investigations based on news accounts of sensitive intelligence information. What do you see going on here?
ABRAMSON: What I see going on here is, you know, Trump -- President Trump himself has been decrying leaks, criticizing Sessions for not opening criminal leak investigations. So, Sessions is bowing to him, and you know, President Trump would not be the first President to encourage criminal leak investigations. President Obama surprised me and everyone by initiating more criminal leak investigations than any President before him. So, you know, I don`t find it surprising. I find it alarming that the President during the campaign talked about, "Opening up the libel laws" and actually, you know, trying to change basic -- the basic contours of the 1st amendment. That`s scary.
MELBER: And in your new piece, you write that one of the things saving Trump from more damage is his cowardice. "Belittling the people who have been the most loyal to him is another side of Trump`s weakness of character -- you`re right -- So is his habit of denying his worst behavior when he is caught red handed." But the cowardice you say limits his damage. Explain.
ABRAMSON: Well, you know, he has not actually gone through with so much of what he has threatened and the way he is, you know, slow tortured Jeff Sessions in tweets and interviews this week is just evidence why doesn`t many of your guests have made this point, why doesn`t he just fire the man? He has that power. He shrinks from doing so. And even when he fired Jim Comey, he did so sort of hiding behind Rod -- the deputy attorney general.
MELBER: Yes, it`s funny that sometimes the -- yes, the loudest, most macho person on the internet isn`t always the toughest person in real life.
ABRAMSON: Well, you know --
MELBER: A lot of times the -- real quick.
ABRAMSON: My mom -- my mom, Ari, always told me, most bullies are cowards.
MELBER: Jill Abramson with the last word. You can always find us on Facebook @TheBeatWithAri. You can always e-mail me at ari@msnbc. Chris Matthews has "HARDBALL" now, and I`ll join him later in the hour.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END