Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 27, 2017 Guest: George Lakoff, Michael Hirschorn, Michael Carpenter, Olivia Nuzzi, Jamal Simmons
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": And it starts right now. And, boy, Ari, THE BEAT goes on and on and on for sure today.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: The beat goes on and what an hour could be a theme for any number of hours in today`s political news cycle. Thanks, Chuck. Appreciate it.
Donald Trump threatening to abuse his power. So, now, Republicans are taking some of his power away.
There is so much noise coming from Washington right now, it would be easy to miss an actual turning point today in the Trump presidency. The White House exploring how to fire Jeff Sessions, but Republican Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley now drawing a redline, telling Trump there will be no hearings this year for any Sessions replacement.
That means Trump would be stuck with Rod Rosenstein as acting AG, the man who enraged Trump by appointing Bob Mueller.
Today, John Cornyn and Ben Sasse also backed Grassley over Trump, setting up a prospect that would actually be unthinkable in any other administration. Members of the president`s own party, sitting him down and saying, Mr. President, you have done such a bad job with the DoJ, you don`t get to run it by yourself anymore.
These Republicans are essentially putting Donald Trump on a kind of DoJ probation and they`re not mincing words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZA COLLINS, REPORTER, USA TODAY: Will the Senate take up a potential alternative to attorney general if Attorney General Sessions is to be fired.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to the chairman of the judiciary committee, the answer is no.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), IOWA: This effort to basically marginalize and humiliate the attorney general is not going over well in the Senate. If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is not just senators reacting to media questions either. Ben Sasse marched on his own to the Senate floor to, in his analogy, call bull on the bull.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN SASSE, (R), NEBRASKA: If you`re thinking of making a recess appointment to push out the attorney general, forget about it. The presidency isn`t a ball and this country isn`t a China shop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Whatever one thinks of Jeff Sessions policies, in the standoff with Trump, he`s now having a "Departed" moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR: I`m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Yes. The president is the other guy because while Sessions is the guy doing his job, the president is just offering criticism.
We can tell you the attorney general making a special trip to El Salvador today. On his agenda, drugs, human trafficking, immigration issues and that very violent street gang known as MS-13, all this while back home, the president continues to put his job in doubt.
Joining me now, former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade, an Obama appointee, who served under Attorney General Jeff Sessions until she, along with the 45 other US attorneys, were asked for resignations.
Do you think this is fair and good for the Justice Department what the president is doing to the man that you briefly served?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No. I don`t share the same philosophies as Jeff Sessions about how to run the Justice Department, but I do share the view that the Justice Department needs to be independent.
I know a lot of times in the public and in the media, we take our red state and blue state views, but when it comes to the Justice Department, it cannot be partisan. We need to have faith that the Justice Department pursues crimes based on evidence and not on partisan politics.
MELBER: What do you think is in Jeff Sessions mind right now during all this?
MCQUADE: Well, you can`t ignore the fact that the president, who appointed you, the president of the United States, regardless of who holds that office, very high office, is saying things like you`re beleaguered and doing a very bad job on social media, he has said it`s hurtful. And I`m sure it is.
But at the same time, he has said he`s going to stay in his job. And I think most of us are rooting for him to just sort of stand up to the president and not kowtow to that.
It makes me wonder whether President Trump is trying to get him to resign in an effort to be able to appoint a successor under the Vacancies Reform Act and bypass confirmation in the Senate.
MELBER: I want you to stay with me. I want to bring in Nick Akerman. He`s a former Watergate special prosecutor. As well as, Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist with "The Washington Post." Good to see you both.
Nick will also speak to the prosecutorial aspects, with Kathleen on the politics. This is a tough one because a lot of conservatives still like Jeff Sessions.
KATHLEEN PARKER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, he`s certainly more popular than Donald Trump is right now in Capitol Hill and among the voters who put Trump in office.
I think Trump has been told - the president has been told that by enough people by now that he`s made a huge mistake in going after Attorney General Sessions.
But I have to - it`s a little head swiveling because, on the one hand, you have the president tweeting these sort of humiliating messages about the Attorney General and then the next thing you know Sessions is on his way to tackle this horrible gang that the present is also enthusiastic about pursuing.
So, it`s hard to know where the - what the dynamic is right at this point. But I think, certainly, at the short run, President Trump is going to lose this one obviously because he won`t have the cooperation of others in Congress.
And if he tries to just fire him outright, I think Sen. Lindsey Graham is probably exactly right. I think he`ll have holy hell to pay. It might be worth the price of a ticket for that to take place.
He might actually - I`ll just add one more. It might actually be the thing that could cause President Trump to take a tumble. I don`t know if it`ll be all the way to the bottom of the steps, metaphorically speaking.
What`s always been needed in order to move forward in some sort of legal process to get the president a new address, it`s essential, of course, that the majority of Americans - Republicans be enthusiastic about that.
And I think as he continues to go after Jeff Sessions in the way he has and if he gets even more aggressive about it, people who would otherwise forgive Trump, any number of offenses, might actually take a step back and say, `you know, I don`t know about this guy after all.`
So, that could be on the - for those of us who have been appointed by the president, that would be positive.
MELBER: Nick, have you ever seen a president be on probation like this from his own party?
NICK AKERMAN, ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: No. Not only on probation with respect to the Department of Justice, but don`t forget he`s also on probation with respect to the Russian sanctions.
Both houses of Congress passed overwhelmingly a bill that basically maintains those sanctions on the Russian government. So, you`ve got him -
MELBER: You mentioned the sanctions. I`m actually cutting in because Sen. Markey is with us on THE BEAT, but there`s been a roll call vote, which means I`m going to ask everyone to hang with us while I go to the senator.
Your view - Ed Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts - on the conversation we were - before I lose you to your actual day job; you might also be someone doing his job - on what this means and why Republican senators, your colleagues, are drawing this line on this issue?
SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, again, neither Republican nor Democratic member trusts Donald Trump to actually impose sanctions on the Russians because of their compromise of our elections last year. That`s a sad commentary.
The same thing is unfolding with regard to this story that he is trying to fire Jeff Sessions. You don`t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what`s going on here.
He fired Jim Comey. He wants to get rid of Sessions. And then, he wants to get rid of Robert Mueller and, he thinks, the Russian investigation as well. So, these two issues are tied together.
The reality is it will create a constitutional crisis. It will be a political firestorm. It will unite Democrats and Republicans in this firestorm. In fact, both will be carrying the torches because this is going to be an issue which goes right to whether or not we operate under a rule of law or a rule of Trump.
MELBER: So, Senator, when you look at this and this Republican quotes, should they go further and ensure there is not an actual formal recess to ensure there will be no recess appointment?
MARKEY: The Republicans should ensure there cannot be a recess appointment and the Democrats will use every parliamentary maneuver in our arsenal in order to ensure that does not happen.
But, hopefully, it will be bipartisan. Hopefully, the Republicans will come together with us to make sure that this travesty is not, in fact, imposed upon our country at a time when we`re trying to find out whether or not the Russians compromised our most sacred institution, the presidential election.
MELBER: And on healthcare, senator, you see this breaking news of Republicans saying, three of them, they`re not going to go forward without this agreement from Paul Ryan to work out the bill after a Senate vote.
Does that help or hurt the passage here of some kind of skinny repeal?
MARKEY: Well, right now, no Democrat knows what is in the skinny repeal. We think actually that it is going to be a starvation repeal that`s going to actually put the Affordable Care Act on a pathway for its destruction.
And so, right now, this Kabuki theater, which we have been operating within, might wind up with this bill passing tonight, being sent over to the House and then House and Senate Republicans getting together to then figure out how to cut Medicaid even more, how to make sure Planned Parenthood is killed, to make sure that the machete is taken to the programs that really families all across our country depend upon.
So, this new announcement tonight by a handful of Republican senators gives the American people no solace, no guarantee that anything other than a terrible healthcare bill is going to emerge -
MELBER: But you`re saying - you`re worried that this is going to pass the Senate, you`re saying, and do you think that then Trump`s efforts at pressure that we`ve been hearing about with the Alaska senators and others, does that mean that`s working?
MARKEY: Well, no, I`m not saying it`s going to pass. What I`m saying is this is an interim maneuver by some Republican senators to say that their vote is going to be conditioned upon knowing that when it goes over to the House, if it does pass tonight, that there will be a conference committee.
But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will control that conference committee and they have declared war on Medicaid. They have said that they want tax breaks for billionaires. They have declared war on Planned Parenthood.
And so, ultimately, the result is going to be a healthcare bill, which is damaging for tens of millions of American families.
MELBER: Sen. Ed Markey, I appreciate your time. I know you`ve got a vote. We will keep up with you and appreciate it.
MARKEY: Ari, can I just - just congratulations on your new show.
MELBER: Oh, thank you. Senator, I appreciate you saying that.
All right. I don`t know what they say on the Hill. Good luck on the vote.
I want to bring back the power panel here. Two former prosecutors, Barbara and Nick as well as Kathleen Parker.
Barbara, bringing you back into it, you heard the senator there call it a potential constitutional crisis if there is a removal of the attorney general over the Russia investigation. Is that political hyperbole?
You follow the facts and evidence as a prosecutor, not what they do sometimes in the Congress. Is that an overstatement?
MCQUADE: Well, I don`t know how everybody defines that phrase, but I`ll tell you what I think could be a potential constitutional crisis, is a third scenario that we haven`t talked about yet.
Professor Steve Vladeck at University of Texas has thrown this one out there. Under the Vacancy Reform Act, what President Trump could do is, he would have the ability to appoint as an acting attorney general if Sessions should resign as opposed to be fired.
If he should resign, then he could appoint as an acting attorney general anyone who is currently a presidentially-appointed, Senate confirmed official in the department - in his cabinet.
That could be Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, who is a lawyer. In fact, it doesn`t even have to be a lawyer. It could be Betsy DeVos. It could be Rick Perry. Or he could look to senior officials within the Justice Department.
So, I think if he were to go - do something as outrageous as that, then I think we would have a real constitutional crisis on our hands.
MELBER: Right. And, Nick, as you know, if that idea that Barbara is raising is discussed enough on television, the president might hear about it.
AKERMAN: He might. And who knows. He`s probably thinking about it already. I`m sure he`s asked his lawyers as to what his options are. And I guarantee you that`s one of his options.
This is like a repeat of - what we`re coming out now is the 45th - 44th anniversary of the Saturday Night Massacre. He is looking to get rid of this investigation.
Anything he can do to protect his family, to protect himself, he`s trying to do it. And the way he`s doing it is to get rid of the investigation. And everybody has to ask the obvious question, why.
MELBER: Why. Kathleen, this is the part in the broadcast where, on certain stories, I would say, to be fair to the White House, the president has said, this is not all about Russia.
But as a journalist, I can`t do that because the president has repeatedly said it is all about Russia. The only thing that he has cited that he is unhappy with Jeff Sessions about is the Russia recusal. I went back and forth with a White House aide about that on THE BEAT earlier this week.
They admit it. I mean, that`s just the situation. And take a listen, Kathleen, to Leon Panetta, no stranger to Washington, saying he`s just never seen any mistreatment of a cabinet official like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Never in my lifetime I`ve seen a president who treats his cabinet the way this president has done. It basically makes every cabinet member that much more nervous about what that individual will do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PARKER: Yes. Well, Trump does not - he demands loyalty from others, but he doesn`t have - he feels no compunction about withholding loyalty from others. And I think everybody within his circle and also on the cabinet recognizes this time.
Yes, he could come after anybody, any minute because there`s no - whatever serves him in the moment is what he will do.
I doubt seriously that Jeff Sessions is going to resign no matter what the president says or tweets or does. He`s probably not going to, for one reason, he`s a tough guy and he`s committed to his job and to carrying out the duties of that job, which is not to say we all agree with how he wants to proceed, but he`s committed and he`s dedicated and a proven public servant.
But also, he`s getting a lot of support. He`s getting - a lot for people are getting in touch with him and saying, look, you hold tight, you do not resign, don`t do that.
So, I think he`s going to stay put. So, the question is, what is the president going to do. And will he go so far as to try to fire him directly? And I don`t know - I think that our Congress will have to step forward and take matters into their own hand.
Male: And that`s what we`re seeing, which is why the signal to noise ratio is a little bit different this Thursday with Republicans standing up on this particular issue.
Kathleen Parker, Nick Akerman and Barbara McQuade, thank you all. Appreciate it.
Next, we turn, of course, to what we have later in the show, the skinny repeal vote that the senator ran off with. I`m going to be joined for a perspective on how this could affect women in particular with Cecile Richards from Planned Parenthood.
Also, the unscripted drama at the White House. My very special guest, first time on THE BEAT, Lawrence O`Donnell, who knows a bit about West Wing dramas.
And later, Obama`s former national security specialist on Russia is here in a panel on why Trump`s hyperbole does work on emotion and how some suggest fighting back.
You are watching THE BEAT with Ari Melber on MSNBC.
MELBER: There is a pretty famous saying among writers, I don`t like to write, but I like having written. And that may be how Senate Republicans are starting to feel about voting on Obamacare.
Tonight, as we`ve been reporting, they will roll through a series of potentially difficult votes. Thus far, every Obamacare vote has failed from a Republican perspective. But they are hoping that when it is over, they will feel better having voted.
For more policy context, we turn to Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. The skinny repeal, as you know, includes a proposal for a one- year defunding of Planned Parenthood. Your thoughts?
CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: That`s correct. Well, Ari, I mean, this bill, as you`ve been following what`s happening on the Hill, they literally - the House has declared martial law, so that they can jam this bill through tonight or tomorrow without any public input, without any public scrutiny because they know it`s one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation they`ve ever tried get passed.
And as you said, it defunds Planned Parenthood, which essentially means that millions of folks who count on Planned Parenthood right now for preventive healthcare, for birth control and cancer screenings would not be able to come to us anymore as early as this weekend or next Monday.
And in addition, this bill, even though it`s called a skinny bill, would mean 16 million folks -
MELBER: Can I just pause you on that point?
MELBER: Did you say cancer screenings?
RICHARDS: Absolutely, absolutely.
MELBER: So, explain that - you`re saying if someone would come to this organization for help with potentially a cancer screening, treatment, preventive care, you`re saying that would also be affected?
RICHARDS: Absolutely. I mean, Ari, this is the thing that`s incredible about what the Republicans are doing is, for - the vast majority of our patients are on Medicaid. And they come to us for preventive services not because, of course, Medicaid doesn`t pay for abortion services.
So, this is literally women who come to us for their annual exam to get their Pap smear, their breast exam, their birth control. So, every single thing that the Republicans are trying to end in this bill is preventive healthcare that helps for early detection of cancer, prevention of unintended pregnancy and the like.
And I think they have done this without any public input. And as you know, the vast majority of people who have been calling Congress in opposition to Trumpcare have been women. Estimates are as many as 86 percent of the calls coming into Congress are women because they are desperately concerned about losing access to care.
MELBER: Well, you`re bringing it up, let`s explore the point. Do you view it as significant that it is some women Republican senators who`ve been voicing some of the greatest alarm - Murkowski, Collins?
RICHARDS: Absolutely. I mean, Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Collins have been incredibly bold in bucking the leadership and saying they know, in their own states, that women depend on Planned Parenthood because women, they see Planned Parenthood as a place to get affordable healthcare.
And it`s very, very clear. I was talking to Sen. Collins today. She said there is no other healthcare provider that`s going to pick up the slack.
And again, I think that`s why folks are concerned. I do think that`s why Congress has now declared martial law to try to do this before the public has any chance to have input. It`s incredibly dangerous.
I think that`s why so many healthcare providers have come out against this legislation. The Heart Association, the Diabetes Association, everyone who is working on public healthcare is opposed to this bill, and I hope the Republican senators are listening.
Cecile Richards is a healthcare policy expert and an advocate. Appreciate your view. I hope you come back.
RICHARDS: OK. Good to see you, Ari. Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you. Coming up, they`ll all be fired by me. That`s a brand new and real quote and it`s not from President Trump, but rather the man you see on your screen, who`s also rumored to, according to Olivia Nuzzi`s reporting, put out a statement this hour to further explain something.
That`s all we know, but we will give you more details as we get it. Why he is on the war path against Reince Priebus and what the dysfunction of the White House means for Trump`s governing.
Lawrence O`Donnell is here in three minutes. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM: Why are you so bent on carrying these idiot leaflets?
BRUNO: Because I am tired of working for candidates who make me think I should be embarrassed to believe what I believe, Sam. I`m tired of getting them elected. We all need some therapy.
DONNA: I`m assigning an intern from the press office to that website. They`re going to check it every night before they go home. If they discover you`ve been there, I`m going to shove a motherboard so far up your ass. What?"
JOSH: Well, technically, I outrank you."
DONNA: So far up your ass!
JOSH: How are you doing?
DONNA: Are we ready?
JOSH: We are.
DONNA: I believe we are. You want to walk over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Emmy Award winning TV drama "The West Wing" offered a dramatic lens on White House intrigue, but it had nothing apparently on real-life threats, infighting and bullying in this White House.
The president`s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, has been communicating plenty about his rival Reince Priebus in a new shocking interview with "The New Yorker."
Scaramucci unloading on the White House staff, saying "they`ll all be fired by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I`ll fire tomorrow. I`ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus, if you want to leak something, he`ll be asked to resign very shortly."
He went on to attack Priebus in a vulgar way and to mock Steve Bannon for building his own bread at the expense of the president.
Lawrence O`Donnell is the host of the Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell. He`s also the Emmy Award-winning producer and writer for the West Wing, among many other things, a former Senate consigliere and a friend of mine. I appreciate you being here.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: Great to be here.
MELBER: Your views on what is happening.
O`DONNELL: It`s 6:28 PM here in the East Coast. And so, it`s family hour TV.
MELBER: It is.
O`DONNELL: So, for the dirty bits of Scaramucci, 10 PM MSNBC. We`ve got a call out to Joe Pesci to come in and read the Scaramucci part. I don`t know if he`s available tonight, but we`ll send a car anywhere, Joe.
It is the most stunning stuff ever spoken by anyone who has ever worked in the White House. That is in the history of the building.
MELBER: In public.
O`DONNELL: At any time. There`s no record anywhere in our history that anybody ever whispered things like this backstage at the White House. Ever.
This guy, who I declared yesterday to be officially the stupidest person ever to work in the communications of the White House, has now gone so far beyond that description that you could never have imagined it.
I mean, you read the parts that have a certain kind of logic to them. The sex act that he accuses Steve Bannon of doing by himself is something that I`m not sure what parts of that - we`ll get to it at 10 o`clock, but we`ll try because, because the president of the United States has decided he needed to bring this guy in to upgrade his staff.
He has brought in someone who is stark, raving mad, who made a phone call to a New Yorker reporter to leak to him and try to get the reporter to leak to him who his source was on an earlier item. And the whole time he was on the record and he apparently did not know that.
This guy is stunningly incompetent and unprofessional. And he`s not yet an employee of the White House. This is a very important -
MELBER: Lawrence, let me press you on this.
O`DONNELL: He`s a visitor. He doesn`t work there.
MELBER: Does this matter because it is distasteful and vulgar because he is as you unfit for the job, you used the word stupid or because somehow it`s going to affect people`s lives?
O`DONNELL: Because this is the judgment of the President of the United States. Every single word that this guy said to the New Yorker matters hugely because it`s the judgment of the President of the United States who knows this man well, who knows this is the way he thinks and talks, that he wants him in the White House. This is the person he wants in-charge of his communications, in-charge of in effect speaking for him. And what`s clear about this is he speaks better for Donald Trump than anyone who has spoken to him.
MELBER: You`re saying this - I want to - I have a new response I want to play but it`s interesting, I want to revisit the point your making that this - you`re saying reflects Donald Trump.
O`DONNELL: He`s like Donald Trump`s little brother. He`s every bit as deranged as Donald Trump.
MELBER: We have a brand new response because it is breaking a story and a very Trumpian one and that it`s all occurring in the media and on Twitter. Scaramucci now tweeting, "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up my passionate fight for real Donald Trump`s agenda. #makeAmericagreatagain." Is that enough in your view?
O`DONNELL: No. There`s a big question as to whether he`s ever going to be employed by the White House. His - the closing of the sale of his company cannot happen before August 15th. And so, he cannot go onto that payroll before August 15th. He`s done enough. There`s no other - there`s nowhere else in government, no city hall, there`s no town hall in America where this person would be employed after any of these words became public today. There`s one place in American government where he might be allowed to work after what he publicly said today and that is Donald Trump`s White House. That`s the only place, but the next time Donald Trump tries to go in front of an audience and pretend to have this new religiosity he`s found as a new Republican and new Republican candidate for President and then President, you can see how breathtakingly phony that is because this is real Trumpism. This is the real thing.
MELBER: So let me - let me ask you the final politics question. Technically he says he is an employee now but as you say -
O`DONNELL: He`s not - he`s not on the payroll. He goes in there with a visitor`s pass every day.
MELBER: Right. He has -
O`DONNELL: He`s not on the federal government payroll. He may never be on the federal government payroll.
MELBER: Last question on politics. I get attacking Reince. Why attack Bannon?
O`DONNELL: Why do you get attacking Reince? There`s nothing to get in here. This guy believes that Reince Priebus leaked that he was having dinner the White House with the President and Sean Hannity last night and that`s what his outrage was about. This is the guy who believes that Reince Priebus leaked that and endangered the nation by leaking that information. There`s nothing to get here. He is gravely mentally ill. This is a gravely disturbed human being who should never be allowed through the gates of the White House ever under any circumstances.
MELBER: And Lawrence O`Donnell do I tease Joe Pesci or is that a wait and see?
O`DONNELL: We`re begging Joe Pesci. Joe, please read the New Yorker piece, the part especially that begins with a (INAUDIBLE) I`m not trying to and all of those lines. Joe Pesci please, 10:00 p.m. You can phone it in. You don`t even -- no makeup. Stay at home on your sofa. We`ll send you the lines.
MELBER: There it is. Live reporting, live analysis, and live booking request. Laurence O`Donnell, always an honor.
O`DONNELL: I`ve never booked my show before. This is my first attempt. Joe Pesci, 10:00 p.m., please.
MELBER: Laurence O`Donnell, a big busy breaking news today.
O`DONNELL: My cousin Bennie goes to the White House.
MELBER: "LAST WORD" with Laurence O`Donnell, you know when it is, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific tonight on MSNBC. We appreciate it.
Coming up, what is the best way to actually take on President Trump? How do you respond to all of this? We have a very special guest. Stay tuned.
MELBER: This is Your Brain on Trump. George Lakoff, a Linguist Specialist is not a Trump fan but he is an expert on the mind. He warns never to underestimate our new President saying Trump is not stupid. He`s a super salesman. He knows how to change your brain and use it to his advantage. So how do you respond to that, to someone who tries to actually change your brain and emotion? Well, there are some three - about three responses we`ve seen. One is quite common, echoing. You saw it during the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Don`t worry about it little Marco I will.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, let`s hear it big Don.
TRUMP: Don`t worry about it little Marco.
RUBIO: Gentleman, he`s always calling me little Marco and I admit, he`s taller than me. He`s like 6`2", which I don`t understand why his hands are the size of someone who is 5`2".
Donald, you`re a sniveling coward, leave Heidi the hell alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The echoing didn`t work for them, maybe it is working for the new Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. We`ll discuss that in a second. There`s another response, ignoring. This is sort of what Attorney Jeff Sessions is doing. Trump publicly humiliating him for days, Session just doing his job although he knows that the attacks are hurtful. A third response is empirical, to fact check Trump. His opponents have tried it, the news media does it, Republicans do it. What is the right response thought to President Trump and the unique challenges he faces? George Lakoff as I mentioned, is the Director of the Berkeley Center for the Neuromind and Society. He predicted a year ago that Trump would win with 47 percent. Michael Hu, a former Reality TV Executive, and Trump critic. George, you say that Trump has a new metaphor that the President is the Nation. What does that mean and what`s the right way to respond?
GEORGE LAKOFF, BERKELEY CENTER FOR THE BRAIN, MIND AND SOCIETY DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, when - there are metaphors that you actually live by, you know. When you think about time as money, you don`t want to waste time, you want to schedule your time, budget your time, et cetera. And he is living by the idea that the President is the Nation and what follows from that is that those people who like and love the President are those who are the American people. So when you`re talking about the American people, you mean Trump supporters. In particular, the idea of a leak is to find relative to national security. That`s where leaks - the idea of a leak comes from. It threatens the nation. So any leak that threatens the security of the President is seen as a national security leak and therefore it`s unpatriotic, it`s criminal, you know, people should be locked up for.
MELBER: Let me - let me jump in right there. That is what - I was just discussing with Laurence O`Donnell, Anthony Scaramucci, the incoming Communications Director getting blowback for attacking a leak, that apparently the context of his suddenly controversial call to the New Yorker. Here he is - this is literally how we show him echoing Trump right down to the hand motions courtesy of the daily show there. What do you think of that approach? Is that the frame you`re talking about that any leak in his mind is bad for the country when that one was just political?
LAKOFF: If you live by the metaphor which is Trump`s metaphor, that the President is the Nation, then that follows. Leak that threatens the security of the President is a leak that is national - threatens national security and is criminal and so on. It all just follows. It`s unpatriotic. So -
MELBER: Let me bring in Michael for a second. You worked in Reality TV, you talked about how the President is now governing this way. Put that in the context of today`s vulgarity with Scaramucci saying well, he`s colorful, maybe he didn`t mean to go this far out.
MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, ISH INTERTAINMENT CEO: It`s fantastic show biz and that`s it. I wouldn`t necessarily give him credit for having been on purpose but it is governing within a reality tv metaphor. And I think part of the trick is for us to constantly educate the public that that`s what`s happening. So for example, yesterday is now already forgotten Transban in the military which was not real, right? It was a fake statement that the President put out that was immediately rejected by the Joint Chiefs. That`s the sort shiny object to get us going crazy. And there`s going be one of these every single day as the Russiagate situation gets worse and worse.
MELBER: And so, you say that Scaramucci does this almost not on purpose or what?
HIRSCHORN: I think it`s a little more primal than that but certainly this idea that you know, we`re feeding the public basically a reality tv show and that the public is not smart enough to understand the difference between show biz and politics is in its own way a very intelligent perception on the part of the President and I would give him credit for that.
MELBER: And George, if fact checking is limited, what is the alternative?
LAKOFF: Well, first of all, there are a number of things that you asked about echoing, ignoring and fact checking. Let`s start with fact checking. Fact checking, in general, does not work for those people who are followers of Trump and it`s really not necessary for the rest of the country. But the fact is that once you have a preemptive framing which is what Trump is always doing and what Scaramucci is doing. Once you have a frame that is set in motion from a particular point of view, then if you echo it, you`re just repeating the same frame from the point of view. You`re helping the other side.
MELBER: So let me - so George when he talks about Mt. Rushmore and then everyone says, of course, he doesn`t belong on Mt. Rushmore, you`re saying even the disagreement actually echoes his thing?
LAKOFF: This isn`t the echoing thing. This is what about calls truthful hyperbole. That is, as a salesman, super salesman, you always say this is the best product in the world. This is the best car you should buy, whatever, and he is selling himself. So he`s got to sell himself as the best President. And when you do that, you set up a linear scale of quality of Presidents and what you`re doing there is saying I`m at the top. Now, even if you say he`s not at the top you`re still on that scale. That scale sets up a frame in which he is one of better Presidents, you know, even if he`s lower down on the scale.
LAKOFF: So, he is doing preemptive framing simply in using that what he calls truthful hyperbole.
MELBER: Wow. I`m going to pause here. Michael was saying this is distractions from other big stories like Russia. I have to take break because our next block is about Russia with a former National Security Council Member on Russia. Michael Hirschorn and George Lakoff, thank you, both. I`d love to have you back.
Coming up, how do you know if a Russian spy is trying to recruit you? That`s what we`ll explain. Also, the fighting inside the west wing coming too ahead, more on that, stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I will tell you this. Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Wow. You know, that was exactly one year ago today. But what did Trump mean with the word, Russia, in that sentence? This distinction matters. Was he talking about the Russian government, or Russian espionage service, or the larger network of hackers and business people who do the bidding of the Russian government? Yesterday, a senior FBI official testified about that before the Senate.
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BILL PRIESTAP, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI: Unbeknownst to many Americans, the threat posed by our foreign adversaries is growing both in volume and complexity.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Russia actually uses business relationships to corrupt and to influence people in other countries where they are seeking influence, correct? Mr. Priestap, you`re familiar with that?
PRIESTAP: I`m familiar with both reports and my in my experience, that is true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But how? How does Russia use business or corporate relationships to influence people, and how do they do it without people even knowing? The New York Times reporting in April, Russian spies were trying to recruit Trump Foreign Policy Adviser, Carter Page, at one point, this is before he advised the campaign. FBI agents interviewed him and decided he didn`t even know he was being recruited by a spy. Now, Michael Carpenter was on the Russia desk for the National Security Council, and joins me now. How would this work where Russian spies would be going after an American and they wouldn`t even realize it?
MICHAEL CARPENTER, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR RUSSIA, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, if they`re doing their job well, then the American might not realize it. I mean, the way this works is you try to build a relationship. And you start out slow and you work your way up until you have a more solid relationship and one in which you can ask for certain types of favors or certain types of information that the individual might not otherwise give you. So, if you`re a think tanker, maybe you`re flown out all-expenses to a nice location to participate in a conference, or if you`re in the financial sector, maybe you`re given access to an influential oil and gas company head, or you`re given some insider tips on a new deal that`s coming. And so, you know, the Russian intel services are experts of sort of cultivating these relationships over time, not in the first pitch, usually, but with time they develop that develop that relationship, and then they use it.
MELBER: And so, that is, of course, newly relevant because the questions are, well, what were all these people doing at this meeting with Trump officials, Manafort, Kushner, Don, Jr.? Take a listen to the Senate testimony someone is saying they must have been fronts just like you`re describing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Is there any doubt in your mind knowing as well as any American how Vladimir Putin operates, that Natalya Veselnitskaya was there acting on behalf of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government?
BILL BROWDER, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: There`s no doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you think?
CARPENTER: I think Bill Browder is right. I think that --
MELBER: You do?
CARPENTER: I think Putin was almost certainly briefed on the meeting right after it happened. I mean, I think there`s a lot of evidence that suggests that this was a dangle, that this was an attempt to make inroads into Trump`s inner circle. And by all accounts --
MELBER: And you`re saying -- I just want to pause on this. I mean, you`re saying, as someone who used to do the Russia desk at NSC, that this would go to the highest levels of the Kremlin?
CARPENTER: That`s right. I mean, I -- yes. I mean, based on my knowledge of how these things are run, you know, when I worked at the State Department, at the NSC, at the Pentagon, I mean, this is how they operate. And they were wildly successful. They got, you know, the campaign chairman, they got the President`s -- or at that point, the candidate`s son-in-law and his -- and his son to all participate in this one meeting. I mean, it was a huge coup.
MELBER: So briefly, what`s your response to Trump officials saying that obviously, it had nothing to do with the Russian government, it was just an adoption meeting, more or less.
CARPENTER: Well, I think some of the e-mail chains that have been released suggest that there was knowledge, that there were links to the Russian government. And this is exactly, by the way, how the Russian government operates. They wouldn`t send officials from the embassy necessarily, or someone with an official government title. They would send someone who knows someone well at the top levels of the Russian government, which is exactly what Ms. Veselnitskaya said. She said that she knew Yury Chaika, the Prosecutor General of Russia very well. And so, there you`re given the information that that person has links to the Kremlin. And then, you know, you believe they have that type of information.
MELBER: Fascinating, concerning. Michael Carpenter, I appreciate your guide through some of this complex material.
CARPENTER: Sure. Happy to be here.
MELBER: Hope to have you back. Tonight, the West Wing in some turmoil. Anthony Scaramucci reefing his rivals in a new interview. I`ll be joined next by Olivia Nuzzi, who`s been reporting on this, and is at the White House right now. That`s a live shot. Come right back.
MELBER: There`s a word we use too often around here, but I will use it accurately -- unprecedented, the West Wing war that I was discussing earlier with Lawrence O`Donnell, new Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, threatening White House staffers saying, quote, "They`ll all be fired by me." And then he unloaded on Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as well as Steve Bannon in a vulgar tirade, I`m not going to read to you on air. Then moments ago, he tweeted, "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up on the passionate fight for Donald Trump`s agenda." Not exactly an apology. Joining me now, Jamal Simmons, Political Scientist and Democratic Operative, and Olivia Nuzzi, a Washington Correspondent for New York Magazine. Olivia, you`re inside the White House. What does this mean?
OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Well, things are going well, clearly. This is a great day in White House communications. Look, this is a complete and utter disaster for the White House right now. But this is also the risk that Donald Trump wanted to take by hiring someone like Anthony Scaramucci who has not historically held a position like this.
MELBER: Do you think Steve Bannon takes kindly to the attack or doesn`t care?
NUZZI: I don`t think that he particularly cares. You know, I can`t say that with any certainty, but I think from all that we know about Steve Bannon, it seems like he`s someone who might take this in stride, who might think that it`s funny.
JAMAL SIMMONS, POLITICAL ANALYST: Ari, there is this image that is circulating in Twitter right now, Anthony Scaramucci sort of facing down Reince Priebus in the Oval Office. He`s got his thumbs in his belt.
MELBER: Yes, we have it up on the screen.
SIMMONS: It is so thugged out. I mean, it looks like they are about to end up in a brawl outside the door as soon as the cameras turn off. I think this is -- this is unprecedented. I`ve been around White Houses and presidents since I was 21 years old, and I got to tell you, I`ve never seen anything taking place like this.
You know, before we move further, something happened this morning that is one of the scariest things that I`ve seen in the Trump administration, which is that after the President put out this notice about the transgender being prohibited from being in the military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman put out a statement saying they weren`t going to do it because they didn`t actually get an order. What it appears to be is that the military is choosing between Presidential statements and directives about which things are going to follow and which things aren`t legitimate. It`s a very dangerous path. I don`t think they -- they didn`t defy him yet, but the path they`re on is scary to me.
MELBER: Well, I think what they defied, Olivia, was governing by tweet, and basically said, we won`t be pulled into the day trading ridiculousness of this administration, but if we get a lawful and formal military order, we`ll follow it, but tweets aren`t that.
NUZZI: Right. But which is in total contrast to what we heard yesterday from the White House here in this room yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders basically said, well, this is a decision that the President has made. She admitted that he didn`t think that he needed to wait to figure out the specifics and the logistics of what this would mean before sharing it with the world. So, we have a President who is sort of behaving separately in a way that`s almost divorced from the reality of how government tends to work.
MELBER: Jamal, 10 seconds.
SIMMONS: Yes, you know, I worked -- you know, as I worked for General Wesley Clark, I worked for Senator (INAUDIBLE) who was in the military. These are people who understand the chain of command. And the one thing you don`t want to have is people in the military having to ask questions about the directives they`re receiving from the Commander-in-Chief. I`m very nervous.
MELBER: I certainly think any ambiguity, Twitter or otherwise, problematic there. What a big news day. Thank you to Jamal and Olivia. If there`s one show I`d want to watch right now for all this, it would be "HARDBALL." And lucky for us, that starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END