Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 24, 2017
Guest: Eric Fanning, Cornell Belcher Chaitanya Komanduri, Lloyd Grove
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": - is well below six. But one chemist told "The Huffington Post" that the press release is "chemophobic fear mongering" and that you don`t need to worry about copper poisoning.
Listen, Moscow and poison are two words that when said together are really frightening. This is a totally different thing, though, but proceed to happy hour at your own risk. Or perhaps use those mugs to drink a White Russian.
That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily". THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari, if I drink a White Russian, will you call me dude, El Duder or El Duderino -
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: I just want to know how many White Russians you`ve had.
TUR: I feel like I`ve had a lot. Today, my mouth was not keeping up with my brain.
MELBER: Katy, all I can say is this is why I watch. Thank you.
TUR: Thanks Ari. Have fun.
MELBER: Donald Trump is riling Republicans today. He`s saying if he didn`t get his wall, he will shut it down.
Donald Trump does not make much policy, but he is willing to make noise. Today, doubling down a threat to shut down the government if he doesn`t get money for the border wall.
It`s been a rough summer for Trump and he is clearly reaching back to classic hits with his base.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On day one, we will begin working on an impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Day one was a long time ago. This is day 217. And as even Trump allies question whether he can salvage his presidency, Republicans are telling each other, the party you save maybe your own.
Now, late August is not usually the time to play your last card in legislative wrangling, but Trump dialing up to 11 with his threat to shut down the government. His spokesperson didn`t add much nuance today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the president sign any budget bill that does not include funding for the wall?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He campaigned on the wall. He won on talking about building a wall. He will continue to fight for that funding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why he is now threatening a government shutdown if Congress won`t pay for it?
SANDERS: The president is committed to making sure this gets done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is he threatening a shut down over (INAUDIBLE 2:30).
SANDERS: Once again, the president is committed to making sure this happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Meanwhile, Trump getting downright casual in his tweet shaming today, calling out Mitch M and Paul R for the mess they created in Congress, but Speaker Paul Ryan is saying the House already passed a bill funding the border wall back in July.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We passed that already in the House. So, we passed the funding for the border security. That is something we feel very strongly about. We think it`s very necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump`s threats and attacks against his own party have gotten so bad, it is raising questions over whether he will see a primary challenger, according to Republicans, in 2020.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The direction he`s headed right now, just kind of drilling down on the base rather than trying to expand the base, I think he`s inviting one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Some serious talk there from Republican senator. Meanwhile, if Trump were to get his way, it will be the first time in history that you`d have a government shutdown when one party controls the House, the Senate and, of course, the White House.
Trump has talked a lot about unity, perhaps this is what unity looks like, Trump style. I`m want to welcome Heidi Przybyla, "USA Today" senior political reporter; Erika Andiola, an undocumented immigrant and political director for Our Revolution; Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Professor at LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas; and Joe Conason, editor-in-chief of "The National Memo".
Greetings, everyone. Erika, let`s start with the wall, the funding and why Donald Trump is saying this is the wall he might want to die on politically?
ERIKA ANDIOLA, AN UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT AND POLITICAL DIRECTOR, OUR REVOLUTION: We see where he`s coming from. You cannot see where - where else is he going to come from after coming from Arizona and defending Joe Arpaio after making all those comments at what happen in Charlottesville.
This is a president who has literally folks who are white supremacists in the White House and it cannot continue to scapegoat immigrants on what`s happening in this country with the economy.
And I really hope that whatever he`s threatening to do, the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, can really hold the line and say, that`s not the solution, the solution is actually taking care of the 11 million people who are here and stop blaming us for the economy of this country.
There are so many more solutions that can happen and not just fueling on this wall. That`s not going to do much for this country.
MELBER: And, Joe, you contrast that with the politics, Paul Ryan basically telling Donald Trump, keep my name out your mouth. I already did what you wanted on this money.
Other Republicans saying we might want to work on tightening immigration reform. There are ways to do that, by the way, on the border that both parties have explored, but you don`t usually see this late August kind of gamesmanship and brinksmanship when it`s all within one party.
JOE CONASON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE NATIONAL MEMO": I think the Republicans must be very worried that the president is out of control and that he wants to draw them into some kind of weird fiscal suicide pact.
Ari, the wall is not popular, at least not the way he wants to do it. And government shutdown is even less popular.
So, he`s basically saying to the Republicans, if you don`t do what I want, the way I want it, I`m going to blow my brains out and take you with me, metaphorically. And that`s just - I can`t see how they can work with that.
This is a president who doesn`t really understand the legislative process, isn`t interested in it and doesn`t realize, I guess, how bad it would be for him and his party if they did proceed to a government shutdown somehow.
MELBER: And then, Heidi, there`s the question of the votes in the Mexican Congress. I don`t know what your Mexican congressional whip count is at this point in time and how prepared you are to talk about on national television.
But this was how prepared the White House press secretary was when pressed on the question, which again, maybe it was all fan fiction during the campaign, but now we`re in it, it`s real, about whether Mexico is going to pay for it. Take a listen to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that mean he is abandoning any efforts to negotiate with Mexico any payment for construction?
SANDERS: Certainly, don`t think any efforts have been abandoned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s not saying that Mexico is going to pay for it.
SANDERS: He hasn`t said they`re not either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Heidi, we`ve gone from Mexico will pay, you better believe it, to he hasn`t said they`re not paying.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, "USA TODAY": Well, Mexico was never going to pay for the wall and this is like the extreme illustration of that that now he`s going to shut down Congress unless the American people pay for the wall, which is essentially what he`s saying.
We have to, Ari, take these senior White House officials who are saying to the media that he`s quite serious about this seriously. And if he is, this could be essentially the wall, that not necessarily Trump dies on, but that this Congress dies on because, at the end of the day, this is a promise that he made from day one when descended those stairs and launched his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and druggies and essentially carting out this niche on immigration.
He will never get the money. So, at the end of the day, if he decides - if somebody has to take the blame, it`s not going to be him, it`s going to be the Republican Congress.
You can see he is already pointing that finger and polls show, guess what, a lot of his base, they will go ahead and blame Congress and not him. I think that you can see - you can see how he`s kind of planting the seeds for that here.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, PROFESSOR AT LBJ SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: So, in terms of the strategy for paying for the wall, it was Mexico is going to pay for it, but then there was an intermediate step.
So, then, when he figured out maybe Mexico isn`t going to pay for it, he said I will garnish the remittances of the many Mexicans send back home to Mexico, so he tried that. So, there has been this other step in between.
And then, there was the idea of having a border tax. So, he`s been playing with that Mexico part quite a bit, and now it`s comes down to the American taxpayer.
And here is the thing about the border wall, Ari. Over half of Americans don`t want to spend the money on the wall. It`s only 28 percent of Americans who want that wall. So, the support is very slim, yet deep.
The other point about the border is we already have 700 miles of border wall. And in addition to that 700-mile physical fence that we already have, we have hundreds, thousands of drones, of thermal sensors, in addition to the border patrol.
So, when Trump speaks, he makes it seem like, it`s this barren wasteland, if you go down to South Texas or Arizona, that the border is very secure. We actually have to think about the bigger issue of the demand of American employers bringing in immigrants to risk their lives across that wall.
MELBER: Just speaking, we`ve been showing a lot of the footage of the wall that exists. There are places that are reinforced with wall and fencing and there are other places less so based on what border security is determined.
Joe, on the politics, you also have people saying in the Republican Party far earlier, obviously, than any other administration that maybe he won`t be their nominee next time.
CONASON: Well, they have that (INAUDIBLE) power actually. Should they decide to look at any of the serious problems that the president has, they could impeach him. I don`t believe they will.
I guess the next step would be that they would primary him, but who`s going to do that? Is it Vice President Pence who has been out sort of showing himself around. I don`t know.
They have a big problem in their party because they have a split. They have a split between the Congressional party and what amounts now to the presidential party, the Trump base. And I don`t think either side can win without the other.
They didn`t really win the presidential election. They lost the popular vote. So, what do they do if they have that kind of a split. It`s not a healthy situation for either the congressional side or the Trump side.
MELBER: And I know that you`ve been assessing him also on personal terms. It`s something we`re going to actually talk about later on THE BEAT is whether that`s the right strategy for Democrats or not. You`re doing it more as a writer, an observer.
You wrote, "No president in recent memory has taken such an irresponsible, vengeful, destructive approach to public policy. Trump has frightened some of the most conservative Republicans in Congress in his approach to healthcare, which ultimately ended with nada.
My question for you, is there a way the wall ends with nada if, as Victoria was saying, he gets to blame someone and doesn`t care about the outcome?
CONASON: Yes. But then, I don`t think the Congress remains silent in that situation, Ari. Anybody who`s in a seat that isn`t safe and thinks that they have to say something about this administration and its spending policies, why there`s no infrastructure program, why the healthcare plan crashed, why there`s no border wall and certainly Mexico will never pay for it, as others have said.
They`re not going to not say it`s Trump. They will have to say, listen, the president has failed. And all of America is watching this happen. It`s not as if Trump can fool all of the people all the time. That is not happening. His poll numbers are very low. The reason is his administration isn`t producing.
MELBER: No. I read somewhere you can only fool some of the people some of the time.
CONASON: You heard that, yes.
MELBER: TBD. Erika, I want to give you the final word. You`ve spoken before about what this means in the human dimension to people who are undocumented or trying to figure out their future here. Your thoughts on all of this as we think about the debate heading into September in Congress?
ANDIOLA: Yes. I think that the president has a very - he`s just very stubborn on getting whatever he promised in his political campaign done, but the reality is that those are not real solutions.
And it`s not only about the wall. It`s about an attack on immigrants. We have seen the Muslim ban. We have seen him threatening to take DACA away from us. I`m a DACA recipient. I could lose DACA for literally no reason, just because he wants to continue to keep those promises that make no sense, that have absolutely no backing on policy.
Policy experts continue to say that immigrants do have a lot to contribute to this country. And what we need is for both parties to stop playing political football, for him to stop attacking us and to make sure that, in this budget, also enforcement and a lot of other different policies they`re are going to discuss that are going to affect the community (INAUDIBLE) how much we contribute instead of continuing to attack us on the way that they have done since he took office and even before that.
MELBER: Heidi, Przybyla, Erika Andiola, Victoria DeFrancesco, thank you for being here. Joe, stick around. There`s something else I want to ask you about. Appreciate all your time.
Next up, the Russia investigation and Trump, a top Democrat turning up the heat after discussing the key witness with that controversial dossier.
And it could be about to get real. Trump`s ban on transgender military service members, we have a special guest, an opponent of this plan, this is president Obama`s army secretary, who happens to be the first openly gay head of a military service. He is on THE BEAT.
And a strange disconnect emerging in Trump polling and what the resistance can learn from it. We go underneath the numbers with two advisors to Barack Obama about what Democrats should do.
I`m Ari Melber. And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Russia is back in the news for Donald Trump. Congressional investigators obtained a Trump campaign email never seen before, proposing a Trump official meet with Vladimir Putin.
The Putin pitch went to a man who currently works in the Trump White House, Rick Dearborn, and he used to be the number one staffer for Jeff Sessions. Yes, the same Jeff Sessions under fire for mischaracterizing his own meetings with Russian officials. So, that`s the first reason Russia back in the news, the drip, drip, drip of evidence of Trump-Russia contacts, which undercut Trump White House claims that it had zero contacts.
The second reason is Trump himself. This afternoon, "The Washington Post" has an account of the seven different times Trump has tried to call off the dogs on Russia, including a new report that Trump lobbied against a bill to protect Bob Mueller`s job.
That is not bad because the White House has shot down questions about whether Donald Trump would try to get Muller removed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does that mean that firing the special counsel is something that`s on the table for this president?
SANDERS: Although the president has the authority to do so, he doesn`t intend to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And the third reason Russia is back tonight may be the biggest reason, the dossier. A key witness linked to the dossier, telling investigators about it this week and Republican Chuck Grassley saying that very testimony could actually go public, bringing even more scrutiny on its explosive accounting of all of those alleged links between Russia and Trump.
So, no, this isn`t going away. And while the dossier is just one accounting of those issues, we are not saying it is all verified.
Today, the top Democrat on the Russia inquiry says much of the dossier checks out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: And when you look at just what has become public, some of the public information is very much in line with what is reported in that dossier.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What is reported in that dossier is in line with what we know. That`s what Congressman Schiff. This was just hours ago on MSNBC. That the dossier basically matches up the Kremlin`s three goals. Recruiting friendly Trump backers, gathering Intel and releasing compromising intel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: They want to find out what support friendly US persons would want, they want to gather relevant intelligence and then they want to disseminate compromising information.
Well, all of that is implicated in the Don Jr. emails that have already been released, an effort by the Russians through their proxies to find out what the Trump campaign would want and what they want was negative information about Hillary Clinton. They certainly gathered that intelligence by hacking into democratic institutions and they certainly disseminated that intelligence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now Nick Akerman, a former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor and a former federal prosecutor in the SDNY New York and welcome back to Joe Conason, editor-in-chief of "The National Memo" and a reporter who has covered many Washington scandals, including some with a legal dimension.
Nick, I go to you first. Congressman Schiff saying the dossier may not be all true, but it`s a lot true. Is that fair?
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think that`s fair. And it may be all true for all we know. We just don`t know at this point.
What you`re finding is, as time goes on, we keep learning new and additional facts, but we don`t know what Mueller staff knows.
For all we know, we may just have the tip of the iceberg on this. He has access to intelligence information, potentially national security wiretaps, so we don`t really know what`s going on.
But kind of at the same time, we keep getting more evidence. We also learn the Donald Trump has consistently, from day one, tried to stop this Russian investigation.
He did it not only with trying to get Comey to back off, then firing him, then talking about Jeff Sessions and going after him, but also now it appears he`s directly lobbying Congress to try and ensure that he has a way to get rid of this investigation.
All of this comes down to one simple fact. You have somebody who is acting extremely guilty, someone who is acting in a way that he realizes that time is running out and he`s taking all kinds of desperate moves to try and stop this investigation.
MELBER: You put it so well and so interestingly. And yet, you`re prosecutor, so you know something that people often forget, which is prosecution is not about crime. Many, many crimes go unsolved. Prosecution is about evidence.
AKERMAN: It`s gathering facts.
MELBER: So, what are the facts in this dossier that actually are important to Mueller because some of them may be incidental or they may not make the case for domestic federal crimes, which is his charge, right? He is not dealing in ethics. He is not dealing in whether it would be better to leave foreign conversations to after you`re elected.
I think most people have always said that would be better, but that`s not in and of itself typically a crime, right? What are the things in the dossier, in your view as a prosecutor, that go towards federal crimes?
AKERMAN: What goes towards federal crimes goes towards the motive. The question is Donald Trump, did the campaign collude with the Russians? Do the Russians have something over Donald Trump that has made him basically criticize everybody else in the world except Putin.
Those are the questions I`d be asking. So, looking at the financial transactions that are listed in this dossier, I think all of those are fair game to try and determine who the players are and why Donald Trump is doing what he`s done and whether or not that is connected to some of the same people who showed up at that June 9 meeting at Trump Tower.
MELBER: Let me go to Joe because you`ve covered a lot of these types of issues, as I mentioned. And I don`t know if you`ve ever gotten to see at a Passover Seder, but we often say on those evenings why is this night different than all other nights, and so I put the question to you.
CONASON: I`ve been to a few, Ari.
MELBER: Having covered your share of legal political dramas in Washington, why is this investigation and this dossier different than so many others?
CONASON: Well, I think it`s different because there is such a large sort of panoply of characters and organizations that are implicated in this scandal now in ways that seem fairly concrete.
Ari, keep in mind, the dossier itself was never meant to be exposed to the public. That kind of happened by accident and it was supposed to be a guide to people who are researching Trump and trying to understand his relationship with the Russians, beginning with Republicans who were concerned about him and the Russians and then passing on to Democrats.
What`s interesting about this to me will be, if we get to see Glenn Simpson`s testimony, that`s the former "Wall Street Journal" reporter who had responsibility for assembling the dossier and hired Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who worked on this because of his Russia connections, those are people - I don`t know if you know Glenn, I`ve known a long time. I have a lot of confidence in his integrity and his seriousness. People in England that I`ve talked to and that others have spoken to say the same thing about Christopher Steele. So, I think -
MELBER: So, you know Glenn -
CONASON: I have said from the beginning -
MELBER: What picture do you think Glenn painted in this still secret testimony. His lawyers told us, they do want it released. They welcome that. That`s up to the committee.
CONASON: Right. Well, look, I think Glenn first of all explained that he hasn`t been up to anything nefarious here. He was doing a job that he was hired to do as a private investigator.
He did not, for instance, as it`s been accused set up the Trump Tower meeting as some kind of trick on the Trumps and it will be interesting to see, by the way, Ari, when and if Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, who were in that meeting, finally testified before the committee themselves and to see whether their testimony is released because I have my doubts about that. None of them have testified yet.
AKERMAN: I think that`s right. What are they going to say? We do know what Donald Trump and Jared Kushner are saying, at least by virtue of the statements that Donald Trump created for at least his son, if not for Jared Kushner.
What they did is, he created very surgically a statement that basically took them both out of any criminal involvement whatsoever.
So, the real test to this is going to be in the cross examination of both of these individuals and taking the documents that they find and whatever other emails that they come up with and to really go after both of these individuals, as well as Paul Manafort, and really take them to the test, of taking him through all of this evidence bit by bit. And that`s the part that`s going to really make the difference here.
MELBER: Former federal prosecutor Nick Akerman, longtime Washington reporter Joe Conason, thank you both.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
CONASON: Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, reports that the Trump administration can make it official soon, they want to ban transgender service members from the entire military. The first openly gay secretary of the army is here to discuss.
And why isn`t Trump even more unpopular given how unpopular so many of his policies are and can Democrats change the equation?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: All service members are brothers and sisters. They are all part of the same family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag and live according to the same law.
They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump on Monday saying veterans are all part of one family. Today, a new report on "The Wall Street Journal" that he is moving forward demanding the US military breakup that family and kick out people who self- identify as transgender. Joining me now for a special discussion is Eric Fanning. He`s a former Secretary of the Army under Barack Obama. He also happens to be the first openly gay man to hold that post. Your reaction to what the President proposes now.
ERIC FANNING, FORMER UNITED STATES ARMY SECRETARY: Well, I think he`s the Commander in Chief and he has thousands of transgender service members serving under him now and he describes them as a burden and a disruption. And the only disruption I see in all of this this is his proposal to discharge them, to take them out of the jobs for which they have been trained and pull the rug out of under a commitment we made after a year`s worth of study and review and creation of policy.
MELBER: One of our reporters on THE BEAT spoke here to currently enrolled member of the U.S. military who happens to be transgender, who I believe you`ve met. I want to ask you about this. This is Air Force Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland who says new today, "For my President to deny an able bodied, fully qualified person the ability to raise their right hand and serve their country, potential giving their own life for our freedoms is doing this country an injustice." Can you tell us anything about Sergeant Ireland and do you agree that this is well, perhaps within the authority of a Commander in Chief. Do you also view this as an injustice?
FANNING: I do view it as an injustice. I think the only thing that should matter for service is requirements. And if you can meet the requirements, you should be able to serve. But this proposal goes beyond that. It says that people who have already been recruited, trained, are doing their jobs, clearly meeting the requirements, that they`ve got to leave.
MELBER: And you know, we talk a lot about politics in the news. This story is much deeper than that. This is as you`re saying about values. But I wonder if you would comment on the polling that`s showing here. Republicans, 60 percent of Republicans oppose allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
FANNING: Well, you got the majority of the public overall that supports this service. And in some ways, the President may have done the exact opposite of what he intended because he has introduced transgender Americans to the rest of the country as patriots. They`re already serving. One of the sort of not so well hidden secrets throughout the history as we open up opportunity that policies really just catching up with the reality in the field. There were already African-Americans serving when we integrated. There are already women dying alongside men than we opened up combat positions to them. Gays have been in military from the very start. We have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, marine, coastguards right now doing the jobs that they`ve been trained to do.
MELBER: Right. It almost doesn`t matter if someone in the abstract is thinking about who should be there. Those are the people that are there and we owe then the gratitude because the Lord knows they`re risking their lives. Former Army Secretary Eric Fanning thank you.
FANNING: Absolutely. Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, Trump`s poll numbers are low. We know that. But here`s a strange fact, his policy plans poll any lower. I have two former advisors to Barack Obama to dig into what the resistance wants to do about it.
MELBER: Donald Trump is not popular. About 56 percent of the Americans disapprove of him and only 30 percent approve putting him 20 points under water. You see it there at (INAUDIBLE) polls. Now, the conventional wisdom is that Trump`s 37 percent base does not drop and when Democrats or fact checkers hit Trump, it only helps him. Call it the Dr. Dre rule of politics. When you dis Trump, you dis yourself. But that conventional wisdom actually only tells part of the story. A former aide to the Obama and Clinton campaign has a theory about Trump support that he says might rescue Democrats arguing the key is to ignore the circus and the cult of personality which Trump thrives on and hammer his actual policies. Take this week`s talk of a border wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMERICAN CROWD: Build that wall! Build that wall!
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Build that wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Talking about the wall or a shutdown or Trump`s rhetoric may be exciting but what about digging into the policy of the wall? Only 28 percent of the Americans back paying for it. That means that many people who still a prove of Trump oppose funding his wall. Or take Paris, the American writer Henry Miller said to know Paris is to know a great deal. But Trump wanted to know less of Paris.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. So we`re getting out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: But only 28 percent of the Americans support getting out of Paris to put it that way. So again, Trump supporters among the people who don`t like a Trump policy. Or take a look at health care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better, and this is -- make no mistake, this is a repeal and a replace of ObamaCare. Make no mistake about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: OK. But only 16 percent of the Americans back that Trump care approach to ObamaCare which means roughly the majority of Trump`s own supporters oppose his policy. Democrats talk a lot about Trump the man, his demeanor, his attitude, his ethic, even his fitness for office. But this strategist is now arguing that a focus on Trump the man is probably a losing frame but exposing the Trump agenda might pick off a few votes and the argument here is that Trump came out of November, 2.9 million votes in the whole. A few more votes is all Democrats need. So, are President Trump`s policies more vulnerable than he is? Is that where Democrats should be focusing? Is it time to ignore the circus?
I`m joined by the Democratic Strategist advocating this approach. He`s a former Clinton and Obama Staffer named Chaitanya Komanduri, you see him there. And Democratic Pollster Cornell Belcher who`s also former top official in Obama`s Presidential campaign as a pollster and he has a different view arguing campaigns are usually more about personality than any facts or policy and isolation. Gentlemen, good evening.
CHAITANYA KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you.
MELBER: Chaitanya let me start with you because we`ve tried to outline what you`re arguing here. Trump supporters like him more than his policy. So why do you think any information about his policy is going to move them?
KOMANDURI: Well, one of the things that you can really look at is that there`s two real buckets (INAUDIBLE). One is the Trump circus which is the tweets, the vulgarity, the coarseness, the racism, the sexism, traits for dictators, you name it, all the stuff that really gets coverage. The other part is the Trump policies which are fairly conventional Republican policies. And the conventional wisdom is the Trump circus is a distraction from the Trump policies. But the reality is, the Trump circus is significantly more popular than the Trump policies. Look at the response to Charlottesville.
As bad as the response was for that, his response for Charlottesville was more popular than Trump care, significantly more popular than Trump care. 28 percent of the people approved the President Trump`s response to Charlottesville, only 16 percent approve of Trump care. There`s absolutely no connection between this President`s popularity and the popularity of his policies which makes him very different from other Presidents historically.
MELBER: It`s fascinating the way you put it. Certainly different because we`ve seen on many issues Democrats seize on whatever his latest comments are and say this is really bad or the worst. Cornell your response.
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I actually don`t necessary disagree with my -- with my friend. But I think it`s a little more complicated than that. I think there`s several variables. I mean, the very fact that he is you know, out talking about and promoting such unpopular positions but yet his favorability stays you know, where it is with his base I think speaks to the sort of disconnect between the issues and where his favorability is. But I want to -- I also want to understand sort of help the viewers understand the context here as well, right? You know, Democrats are obsessed with these Trump voters, right?
And the truth of the matter is, Trump is a President with less than a plurality support, right? He has less than a plurality support. And even in the key battleground states, he failed to reach what Obama did (INAUDIBLE) that majorities. Trump is not a president who has a majority support in Michigan. He`s not a President who has majority support in Wisconsin. He`s not a President who has support -- majority support in Pennsylvania, right? The core of Trump voters we see in polling really doesn`t move that much. And what`s been problematic for democrats really is that 51 percent majority out there who voted for Barack Obama and quite frankly did not stay in line with Hillary and protested the vote. So I -- so I come out from a different angle. But I will also say this.
When you look at the office of President, look, you know, voters didn`t vote for George Bush because they thought that he had you know, the best plan, that he was better on education. They voted for George Bush fundamentally because they thought he was fundamentally a good man and a moral man who`s strongest decisive leader, right? And when you look at Trump`s support and where he`s actually not dropping off in these characteristics, it`s still a round strength. And voters -- his voters in particular still see him as a strong leader.
And voters broadly still see him as a strong leader although they don`t necessarily agree with him. When President Obama was so very successful, you know, it was driving this characteristic around change. In 2008 if you told me the advantage that we had over a candidate who brings change to Washington over John McCain, I would always tell you what the horse race in that state would be. You know, and when you look at 2012, even against Romney, you know, it wasn`t that voters thought that Romney was going to be bad on the economy, he was a businessman but they did think that Obama would be better fighting for the middle class. So there are characteristic traits underneath that is really important.
MELBER: Right. Let me -- let me -- you`re talking about traits, let me get Chaitanya response because you said people think Trump is still strong. Here we see in Gallup, honest only 33 percent, cares about people like you, kind of important, only 40 percent, strong and decisive to Cornell`s point, 47 percent Chai. Does that ever move if Democrats do more of what you`re talking about and less of the circus?
KOMANDURI: It will definitely move. Look, the reason Trump supporters support him is because they see him as a bull in a China shop. He is a cultural figure. He`s a tribal leader. They enjoy the show of seeing him going around breaking as a bull in a China shop breaking the China. However, the minute they start suspecting it is their China that is being broken, their support drops. The classic case was Trump care, also tax reform. I mean, George W. Bush in March of 2001 had 56 percent approval of its tax cuts. That is -- Donald Trump has virtually less than half of that with basically same exact policy which largely a cut for wealthy people, for corporations at the expense of working class people. People innately suspect that the President is not the person that they trust with their own lives and the consequences of actual policy.
However, they love the entertainment of him tweeting, of him having rallies, of him, saying build that wall. However, when you actually poll, should the wall be built, it drops down. 28 percent who support the border wall, only 16 percent support deportations. A whole lot of people who are cheering him at that rally don`t actually support what they are cheering for.
MELBER: So, Cornell, because you advised so many candidates, how do you even apply that? I mean, the bull in the China shop that other people around the country look and see the President saying false claims, they see him lying, they want that called out. Chai is proposing that if those claims don`t touch people`s lives, people see it as a performance they enjoy because he`s riling up other people.
BELCHER: Well, but again, I`m not actually disagreeing what Chaitanya -- but I think there`s multiple variables here. One is again, for that core - - that core group of voters and particularly sort of Republican voters in general, the strength thing is important. And you talk to Republicans strategist, even George Bush and Ronald Reagan, they had the strength thing and (INAUDIBLE). You know, as opposed to Democrats trying to take Trump on multiple different fronts, his brand, right, and this is not me, this is Atwater, show me my opponents strength and that`s what I`m going to go after. His brand is about strength, right.
And for a group of voters who are anxious about what`s happening in this country, anxious about what`s happening on foreign land, anxious about terrorists, anxious about changing world economy, they are looking for a strong figure. I would argue the take out that if we want actually want to make some end roads with Trump, we have to undermine his brand as a strong leader and that`s -- and that`s -- to me, that`s the primary charge for Democrat.
MELBER: And as you said, that`s something I`m hearing both you agree on. We always welcome intramural debates. Sometimes they`re the most interesting. Chaitanya Komanduri and Cornell Belcher, both first timers on THE BEAT, I hope you come back.
KOMANDURI: Thank you.
MELBER: Don`t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter @THEBEATWITHARI also you can me as always at ARI@MSNBC.COM. We actually read them. Ahead, Trump trying to put pressure on journalists. Today we have a new report about a real news organization that might be feeling the pressure. You`re not going to want to miss this. It`s next.
MELBER: Nothing new about Donald Trump bashing the media. But what happens if the media buckles under the pressure? That is our new story tonight. Meet Gerard Baker, a financial times veteran now in charge of Rupert Murdoch`s Wall Street Journal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERARD BAKER, WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: I think a lot of reporters feel that -- somehow feel very much that they are part of the -- that they`re in the contest, really and that it`s their job to take him on. It`s about trust. If our readers see that you`re saying scathing things about Donald Trump on Twitter, if they think you`re coming from a position, they`re not going to trust you. So I was very concern that we`d be seen to be fair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Got to be fair. And Baker turns some heads when he personally attended his paper`s interview with Trump, an unusual move for an Editor- In-Chief. The Journal drew, even more, heat when it only release excerpts of that interview. If you wanted a full transcript, you had to go to politico.com. That`s weird that a competing outlet had the whole transcript and that was because of a leak. It had stuff apparently the Journal did not release like Ivanka Trump popping in to greet Baker in saying, "I heard you were here. I wanted to come by and say hi." And then replying, It was so nice to see you in Southampton a couple of weeks ago." The Trump family vacation socializing with News Corp goes all the way to the top. Ivanka Trump is seen socializing with the Murdochs on the road which raises questions about whether any fun in the sun plays out back home.
Now here`s what`s new today, a very rare leak about Baker and Trump. Now, let`s be honest. Reporters love leaks. They`re exciting, we think they`re revealing, they usually give you some lead on the truth even when they don`t have the whole truthful. Perhaps the only leaks reporters don`t love are leaks about reporters and that`s what makes a different Trump media story. Highly unusual leaks going to the top of Murdoch`s Wall Street Journal with some arguing, Gerard Baker wants to ease up on Trump. These new leaks say he draft Journal article described Trump`s Phoenix speech as an off script return to campaign form with the President pivoting away from the remarks a day earlier in which he had solemnly called for unity. But Baker shot that down telling reporters in a midnight e-mail, "Sorry, this is commentary dressed up as news reporting.
Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism? It is not clear why the reporters` reference to Trump returning to campaign rally form would be selective criticism. Baker also said earlier this year, reporters should not call false statements by President Trump lies, they should believe conclusion to their readers. I want to bring in Lloyd Grove, he`s an Editor-at-Large for the Daily Beast and a long time Media Reporter. What is going on here?
LLOYD GROVE, THE DAILY BEAST EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, Rupert Murdoch talks to Trump almost every day, one hears. And Jerry Baker, who`s from Britain, he`s a British citizen but a Murdoch employee for a long time, does the boss`s bidding. And he is for a long time at the Journal. He`s been out over there for 4 1/2 years, has said that the reporters should not be tough on Trump although he would deny that he calls that fake news. But there`s a lot of frustration in the Wall Street Journal newsroom because they`ve been hamstrung by the top editor.
MELBER: So the daily reporters who go out to these rallies get screamed at sometimes as we saw by the President and then file their stories. You say are then running into management saying no, that`s too tough on Trump?
GROVE: Well, they`re running into Gerard Baker and what`s very unusual about this particular incident is not only were the e-mail leaked but the rough draft of the story.
MELBER: The early draft in the article. You never see that.
GROVE: And whoever leaked that was risking their job. That`s a firing offense to do that.
GROVE: He`s locked the newsroom basically when somebody goes to those lengths.
MELBER: Wow. Here`s Donald Trump talking about the Journal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I don`t believe in the Wall -- I`m not a believer of the Wall Street Journal. I think it`s basic garbage. It`s going to lose fortune anyway, don`t worry. It will be out of business like all the rest of them very soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that Gerard Baker in your view reward for all this?
GROVE: How sharper than a serpent`s tooth to have a thankless candidate. I think the Wall Street Journal has -- I mean, last fall after the election, the Wall Street Journal printed a headline that just sort of transcribed Trump`s claim that millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton without any sort of guidance or anything like that. So Gerard Baker is of the school that reporters shouldn`t do analysis, they shouldn`t do context when it comes to Trump. They should just print when it says. But we`re not a transcription service in this business.
MELBER: And do you think this all goes back Murdoch who at one point was more critical of Donald Trump the candidate?
GROVE: I think a lot of it goes back to Murdoch. Rupert has been used to using his newspapers in England as political instruments for his business. And he hasn`t done that yet with the Wall Street Journal but there`s been some kind of incremental kind of action with you know going soft on his friend -- new friend, old friend Donald Trump.
MELBER: A lot of talk about media bias in this country and there are all different kinds of bias. We have a tough job but we have to be open to criticism. This is a story that shows there is potential pro-Trump bias. That is the bias to watch. It`s so interesting. Lloyd Grove, thank you for your reporting. And now it`s time for who said it? Here is your quote. "They`ve lost their minds. They keep trying to do the same thing over and over again." Now, this is from 2013. History may be repeating itself. I have the answer for you after the break.
MELBER: We`re back with Who Said It. The quote, "They`ve lost their minds. They keep trying to do the same thing over and over again." The answer, well this was five years ago and it was former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talking about Republicans threatening a government shutdown. It came in 2013. The fight was over ObamaCare. It lasted 16 days. Now, different President, a different stand-off with his own party in control of the Congress and the issue paying for the border wall instead of Mexico. Same risk if the government closes. The National Parks go, economic productivity takes a hit and this time embarrassment for the GOP. The White House saying, they`re serious about this. We`ll keep you posted. "HARDBALL" is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Washington roulette. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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