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The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 8/30/17 Trump and Congress

Guests: Michael Isikoff, Emily Bazelon, Kirsten Haglund, Robert Greene

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 30, 2017

Guest: Michael Isikoff, Emily Bazelon, Kirsten Haglund, Robert Greene

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": - for you yet. But if you come on down, I`ll get you some.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: It`s made out of basil, right?

TODD: That`s what I hear.

MELBER: That`s what I hear. Chuck Todd, thank you as always.

TODD: You got it, buddy.

MELBER: Now, we begin with developing news on the Russia probe tonight. This is coming from the Kremlin itself. Now, it`s not every day that a break in a US criminal inquiry is met with a public response from an adversarial country. That makes this potentially bad news for Donald Trump and, more importantly, it could be bad news for US national Security.

Here is what we know and is new right now. Vladimir Putin`s right-hand man announcing he did receive an email from a Trump aide asking for help making money in Russia. Let`s stop right there and take that in.

Donald Trump ran for president, loudly denying over and over that he had business in Russia. We all remember that. And this week, these emails leaked showing that was false, that Trump sought business and sought help from the Kremlin with it.

And today, the Putin government confirms they heard that digital plea for help. Now, yes, there is good reason to follow the rubles. The Putin aide here, Dmitry Peskov, saying today, I can confirm that among the mass of emails, there was an email from Mr. Michael Cohen, "this really happened."

Now, why is Russia corroborating a story that looks so bad for Donald Trump. Well, they do offer a defense within this corroboration, claiming they didn`t respond to that email or raise it with Putin, a claim Bob Mueller is sure to be fact checking.

Now, these developments are putting even more pressure on Trump aide Michael Cohen, who sent that email, and is facing calls by Congressional investigators to sit for questioning. The same investigators, of course, who just pressed Donald Trump Jr. into agreeing to an interview of his own.

All of these developments tonight, when you stack them together, raise a pretty basic point. If you need an alibi in the Russia investigation, it`s probably better that it does not come from a key aide to Vladimir Putin.

I`m joined now by former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who is a former member of the National Security Council; "New York Magazine`s" Olivia Nuzzi; "The Hill`s" Niall Stanage; and "New York Times" Emily Bazelon is going to join us momentarily.

Olivia, we have talked about this a lot, but when you look specifically at the Kremlin speaking out today, they are confirming the other side of this, receipt of the email. They don`t even need to do that. What do you make of it?

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": It`s terrible for the president, obviously. There is just sort of a drip, drip and it`s increasing with speed every day as this goes on.

And I would point out, Michael Cohen is not just his personal lawyer, but he is somebody who has been a campaign spokesman. He appeared on television often as a surrogate for the president. His daughter was Melania Trump`s personal intern in the White House just, obviously, this year. He has visited the White House.

It`s not just as though he is some random member of his legal team. He is very, very important to Donald Trump, not just in a legal respect, but also on the campaign itself.

MELBER: Mr. Stanage, let me play for you what I mentioned, so folks can take it all in with the new information that they were seeking to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, that they were actively seeking the Kremlin`s help. And all the while, during that same year of 2016, Donald Trump was saying things like this.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m all over the world, but we`re not involved in Russia.

I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, OK?

I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we`ve stayed away and I have no loans with Russia.

I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia. None whatsoever. I don`t have property in Russia.


MELBER: Not for lack of trying. Now, ambassador, as always, we reached to you to do some Kremlinology. Interesting wording here from Peskov, who is such a central Putin figure. He says he didn`t respond to the email because it was outside of his job description.

Here is how Reuters described his comments. Peskov said the request was off-topic and that responding to it fell outside of his job description because we do not react to such questions about business themes, this is not our job, we left this matter without a response.

Does that mean that no one else involved in Putin circle or outside business interests might`ve responded after prodding from the Kremlin ambassador?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: It`s a good question, Ari. We don`t know that, right? We don`t know if there were other emails, other contacts related to this. If this was a serious business proposition, of course, they would`ve had other contacts with other Russian officials besides Mr. Peskov.

He`s the guy you try to get to Putin. He is very close to Vladimir Putin. Let`s be clear about that. And if you think you need to have a contact with him, he`s the guy you go to.

But I also want to underscore something you said in your intro. He didn`t have to tell us this. Why is he telling this? Why is he making this public? That, to me, I don`t know the answer to that, but it seems very mysterious to me.

MELBER: Could it be gloating?

MCFAUL: That he`d go out of his way to confirm it.

MELBER: Could it be gloating that he is powerful? Go ahead.

MCFAUL: I don`t know. Could be gloating. It could be - there`s real disenchantment with what President Trump has done to - in terms of US/Russian relations. They had big expectations last November about lifting sanctions, getting Crimea recognized, rollback NATO, no talk about democracy or human rights. And none of that has happened.

So, maybe they`ve lost interest in trying to help Mr. Trump succeed.

MELBER: That`s very interesting. You read it is potentially a negative or a turning there.

MCFAUL: Possibly. I don`t know exactly what - I know Mr. Peskov well, but I don`t know exactly what he meant. But it`s very unusual to go on the record with something like this.

And I would just remind your viewers, don`t believe me, go back and look at what Prime Minister Medvedev said just a couple of weeks ago about President Trump`s inability to stop that sanctions legislation.

He basically said he`s weak and he`s given up foreign policy to the so- called deep state, the Congress, the national security experts. That suggests that they no longer think that Trump can deliver on the promises that he made on the campaign trail.

MELBER: So, Mr. Stanage, how does that play out in Trump land?

NIALL STANAGE, WHITE HOUSE COLUMNIST, "THE HILL": I think this is a real big problem because, as the clip you played demonstrated, Ari, Donald Trump and the people close to him have always argued, yes, well, maybe Russia somewhat interfered, but there was no collusion, we have no interests.

That has crumbled. It crumbled in relation to the famous June 2016 meeting. It`s now increased question here.

And I think the Russians here seem to be saying, well, we didn`t respond to the email from Michael Cohen, but that`s not really the point.

The point is that by making this request for help, obviously, the Russians then had leverage of a kind, whether they use it or not with someone who is known to be extremely close to the president of the United States.

That is an issue. Whether they responded or not - if you email me, Ari, and asked me a favor that could involve millions and millions of dollars, whether I respond to your email isn`t the point. The point is I have - I have a way to influence them.

MELBER: And if someone is emailing you, the question would be who where they emailing you on whose behalf.

Emily Bazelon, "New York Times" reporter and also a former clerk to a federal judge, with some legal expertise on how these things can be interpreted in investigations, Michael Cohen is a senior business representative of the Trump organization and a lawyer for Trump.

We have been told over and over this is a lean organization that moves quickly and represents the boss. Is it plausible or likely that he was writing with the knowledge of Donald Trump on Donald Trump`s behalf or would he as a lawyer freelance and make this up and then tell his boss afterward?

EMILY BAZELON, STAFF WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE": From what we know about this organization and the way it was structured very much around Donald Trump, it seems rather impossible that Cohen was out there doing this entirely on his own.

On the other hand, we just don`t have the proof yet, right? This is the kind of bread crumb of this trial that we`re watching as we get more and more information drip by drip about what these emails show.

MELBER: Right. What we hear over and over, though, from the Trump organization is that they do things that Donald Trump orders, that he`s hands on. And perhaps it was a tiny country and a tidy deal or a little throw-away licensing deal, but here is a Trump Tower in Moscow, is where it`s slated to be, and you`re now seeking the help of an aide to Vladimir Putin, not someone that you want to trifle with. There is no back seats with Putin. You ask for help, you`re ask it.

BAZELON: Right. And this is a deal that Trump and his children had talked about, had played up, had made a big deal about. And so, again, that just kind of adds one more shred of evidence perhaps to what you are pointing toward.

MELBER: And, Mr. Stanage, this comes as there are top Democratic investigators saying it changes the calculus. Some real news here from Rep. Swalwell. Now, again, this is something he could have said a month or two months ago. He didn`t. He`s saying it now in response to these developments and then the Kremlin`s statement today.

Democrat in the House Intel Committee telling Yahoo! the committee might want to actually have witness testimony from the president himself. Mr. Stanage?

STANAGE: Yes. And people have thought of that as unprecedented or as an implausibility. It`s not entirely without precedent. Gerald Ford, when he was president, was called in 1974 to testify. The previous example for that was Woodrow Wilson.

But, nonetheless, this does point to the fact that what the House investigators finding out in the interview that you quoted, Ari, Congressman Swalwell talks about things proceeding at a dizzying pace, I think is his phrase, so I think that does get to this point that there are a lot of interesting pieces of information being excavated at the very minimum.

MELBER: And then, Olivia, on the Trump side of this, I want you to join me and take a journalistic risk on live television, if you will.

Join me in the supposition that Donald Trump has not tweeted about this since we went on air live, which is a risk, because he tweets a lot. We are not seeing the president lash out at this particular part of the Russian news the way he has in so many other parts.

And what I notice, I want your view is, wow, if the Kremlin is talking, suddenly he clams up.

NUZZI: Right. He is exercising a kind of caution that is unusual for him, right? He normally tweets what he thinks when he thinks it. We don`t know him to be somebody who ever holds back.

And the fact that he is not tweeting the last couple of days about this being a witch-hunt, it`s very out of character, and it makes you wonder, obviously, if he`s starting to get worried, what does he know right now about this investigation that we don`t know.

And if you go back and you read these emails, the reporting that`s been in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," it was internally at the Trump organization where they were making these connections between the campaign and between his real estate deal, his potential real estate deal in Moscow.

So, I think they`re really doing a lot of work for us here in terms of connecting these dots that you don`t really have to speculate the way that Donald Trump has accused journalists of speculating and people who support him have accused journalists of speculating.

MELBER: Right. A lot of clues right out in the open. Ambassador, Olivia, Niall, thank you all for joining me. Emily, stay with me. I want to talk about another big story with you.

Now, coming up, the Russia investigation and the pardon issue. Today, a counsel from Watergate is warning if Trump were to pardon enough people in the wrong way, he could create a new federal crime.

Also, before he was president, Donald Trump, no stranger to testifying under oath, now, as we mentioned, this Democratic lawmaker pushing for that, we have the reporter who broke that story on THE BEAT.

And later, how Trump struggles with power? Robert Greene, the seminal strategic author, is here to discuss the 48 laws of power. He is a guru to many familiar faces. He`s going to explain Trump on THE BEAT.


MELBER: Donald Trump made a pitch today on the one idea Republicans now say could save a first year in office with no legislative achievements to date - taxes.

Trump failed on healthcare and hasn`t built that wall, but he tried to tackle policy in Missouri using himself as an example.


TRUMP: Eliminate special interest loopholes. And I`m speaking against myself when I do this, I have to tell you, and I might be speaking against Mr. Cook and we`re both OK with it, is that right? It`s crazy. We`re speaking - maybe we shouldn`t be doing this, you know?

Tax relief for middle class families. They`ve been sort of the forgotten people, but they`re not forgotten any longer. I can tell you that.


MELBER: We are unable to confirm Trump`s claims about the impact on his own taxes because unlike every recent presidential candidate, he refused to release them.

Bringing up his own secret tax returns during this policy speech does take a certain chutzpah. The White House did not release a full plan with today`s speech either. There is a one-page summary, which suggests people in the top 1 percent will get another quarter of a million dollars from the federal government - that`s per an independent analysis - while raising taxes on far more people in the middle class.

So, does that benefit you? Well, according to our financial colleagues at "CNBC", you`re in the national 1 percent if your family makes roughly over $600,000 a year. Or in a city like Houston, you have to make over $1.6 million to be in the top 1 percent. If that`s more than you make, this plan doesn`t help you.

With me now is David Hoppe. He is the former chief of staff to Speaker Paul Ryan and has first-hand experience in all of these battles of negotiations with Donald Trump, as well as Julian Epstein Democratic strategist and a former congressional aide as well.

Mr. Epstein, I will start with you. Is this plan any good for the middle class, as Trump claims?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think as you just said, Ari, it`s impossible to evaluate because President Trump during the campaign and since he`s been president has not given us any details.

His secretary of treasury and his Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn said this would be done by August. They don`t even have a plan by August. They have the bare outlines of a plan.

All of the analyses seem to show this is a plan for the elite and the well- connected, the majority of the benefits will go to the top 1 percent of the earners.

But I think leaving aside what the substance of the plan is, the idea that Donald Trump has the temperament to get something that`s more complicated than healthcare through Capitol Hill right now, has the team on the ground, I don`t think he has in Mr. Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, or Gary Cohn, economic advisor, the kind of sophistication they need to navigate Capitol Hill.

And he continues to alienate those that are most important to him on Capitol Hill. Senator McConnell, Speaker Ryan and all of the other congressional leaders who - he`s poking them in the eye over healthcare, his foolish remarks about Charlottesville and you can just go on down the list.

This August has been a month for him where he has offended just about everybody. You`d guess he probably doesn`t have a dog in the White House because he`d probably offend the dog if he had it in the White House as well.

MELBER: Well, I appreciate the poetic license. I want to give David a chance to respond. But let me play for you as well. These are some Trump supporters who`re frustrated not with his ideas in theory, but the fact that, as you know, working for Speaker Ryan, he hasn`t dug in and passed major legislation yet. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You voted for him?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And why have you checked disappointment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because regardless of what he truly wants to get done, whatever that may be, he has got to be his own worst enemy. He couldn`t be any worse at achieving goals in politics.


MELBER: David, your view on results.

DAVID HOPPE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO SPEAKER PAUL RYAN: Well, at this point, the biggest result, obviously, is the Supreme Court justice that was put in. They had not accomplished what they wanted to on healthcare, no doubt about that. That`s a failure.

Right now, they`re looking at the fall as the opportunity to do taxes. And the tax bill will be written by the members of the Ways and Means Committee and then will be taken over to the finance committee. They`ll mark it up and they`ll bring a bill together.

That`s what they`re doing. Those are the people who know taxes best and they want to make reform. The reforms they want to make are to start giving some money back to the private sector.

So much money is taken out of the private sector now by the government that the people who want to use this to build their businesses, if you`re looking at family businesses, those are some are some of the key people in this country, they are having to spend - give 39 percent or more of their taxes to the government instead of putting it back into their business to employ more people, to raise productivity by adding some machinery, they may need capital expenses, those sorts of things.

MELBER: Right.

HOPPE: So, it`s a range of things that they`re trying to do here and the Ways and Means Committee, the Finance Committee members will be the ones who will put pen to paper on this, to put the details together because, that`s right, the details of this are much more difficult in the long run.

In healthcare, you`ve got some concepts that are very difficult, but in taxes you`ve got a million details, all of which are difficult.

MELBER: Julian - I`ll tell you, Julian. Point of personal reference. In law school, tax law was my least favorite course. It is truly complicated.

And I wonder, Julian, as a fellow congressional veteran, like David, if you could analyze his theory here, which is that healthcare was hard and they failed, taxes is harder, but they`re going to use the same legislative approach. They`re trying to have Congress lead from behind, and this time it`ll be a win.

EPSTEIN: Well, I just think you put your finger on it and the question - David, I think, outlined the congressional process very well. And he worked for a guy who is not just an honorable guy, Speaker Ryan, but a master at this.

But that said, there`s a reason you haven`t had tax reform in 30 years, major tax reform in 30 years, is because it takes very, very concerted leadership from the top, the top being the president of the United States.

We`re looking at a president now whose numbers have slipped down into the low 30s. The number of Americans that actually enthusiastically support this president is down into low 20s. You combine that with the fact that he continues to alienate - David`s former boss, Paul Ryan, had to distance himself from the president`s remarks on Charlottesville, as did so many other congressional Republicans.

You look at the fact that he is alienating congressional Republicans, you look at the fact that CEOs won`t sit on his business council, that the military leaders, his own military leaders, rebuked him, that members of his cabinet even wanted to distance themselves from him, members of his own cabinet that he has to rely on for tax reform wanted to distance himself on Charlottesville, and you just continue to see. Whether it`s North Korea, whether -

MELBER: Let me give David the benefit of response (INAUDIBLE) the globe and North Korea. I want to give David the benefit of response and also to build on Julian`s point. Charlie Sykes was speaking about your old boss on this point, saying, "I`ve long admired Paul Ryan, but he has made a Faustian bargain. I keep thinking, but for tax cuts, Paul," referring to the support for white supremacists, saying "I imagine most of the elected officials are privately horrified and realizing that their bargain is increasingly untenable."

David, as a former top aide to the speaker, your response before we run out of time.

HOPPE: Well, the benefit that they have right now is taxes are an issue that Republicans have dealt with for a long time. They know basically where they want to go. And they have people in Speaker Ryan and Chairman Brady on the House side and Senator McConnell and Chairman Hatch on the Senate side, who know where they want to go, how to get there.

They`ve been a part of this before and they`ve done some of these things before. But for Republicans, they have also had much more work with the White House with Mr. Cohn and Secretary Mnuchin than they ever did on healthcare.

So, they`re a bit ahead of where they were on healthcare. Even though taxes is harder, they are further down the line than they were on that, and I think that`s the reason for optimism here. Also -

MELBER: I don`t want to give - Mr. Hoppe, I don`t want to give you hard time, but I want to point out for the benefit of our viewers, you`re not answering the question, though, that Charlie Sykes, a Republican himself - go ahead.

HOPPE: Let me answer that question. And, Paul, throughout the presidential campaign on a number of different occasions and he has in response to several things the president has said this month, has said that`s not the way, that`s not the direction of the Republican Party, that`s not what we believe, that`s not the party of Lincoln.

Remember, Paul is really a disciple of Jack Kemp. His first job out of college was working for Jack Kemp. And Jack - I worked for Jack for four years when he was in the House. In fact, the four years that we were doing the tax reform in 1986, I was Jack`s chief of staff. So, I know Jack very well and I know the type of impact Jack can have on you. And that`s where Paul comes from. He understands this is the party of Lincoln. This is a different party.

MELBERR: Gentlemen, I know you both worked in the House, but I`m sensing Senate filibusters. I`d love to have you both back on THE BEAT. Dave Hoppe and Julian Epstein. Thank you, gentlemen.

Ahead, movement on the issue of Trump pardons, why Democrats now demanding a new investigation into Trump`s unusual pardon of Sheriff Arpaio.


MELBER: President Trump`s unusual use of the pardon power continues to draw fire this week. Here are three ways it`s heating up right now.

Today, Democrats pushing back, demanding a new investigation into Trump`s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio, saying he ignored DOJ policy. A judge will still hear the arguments on how that pardon impacts the case.

Number two, many now drawing a line from that pardon to Russia. This former key Watergate figure warning if Trump is trying to use his pardon power to stop aides from cooperating, that could obstruct the administration of justice, a potential felony. Now, that`s just one view.

Under the law, the president can pardon anyone. The question is whether Trump would abuse it in a way that`s a crime.

And then third, the exclusive report we brought you on THE BEAT, how mass Russia pardons could also backfire on Trump by making local inquiries more likely and that news I mentioned at the top of the hour, a key Democratic investigator wants the Trump Tower Moscow news to lead to Donald Trump personally testifying. He says it should be on the table, in an interview with Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News.

With me, the man who broke that story, Mr. Michael Isikoff. Thank you for being here. Tell us the context for this interview and how a member of Congress might go about that unusual pursuit.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, "YAHOO! NEWS" CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I wanted to talk to Swalwell yesterday because, back in March, when FBI Director Comey had testified before the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Swalwell asked him about Felix Sater.

Felix Sater is the Russian emigre, convicted felon, turned FBI informant who was a long-time real estate advisor to the Trump organization, had a business card identifying himself as a senior advisor to Donald Trump, who was involved in various Trump organization deals. And of course, popped back in the news this week with the disclosure of this e-mails showing that he was pitching the Moscow -- the Trump Tower Moscow project during the Presidential campaign and saw it as a way to help get Donald Trump elected. So, you know, those were pretty fascinating e-mails. We haven`t seen it before.

And so, I reached out Swalwell and I said -- he first told me he wanted to see Sater as a witness, called them a relevant witness because to get to the bottom of what those e-mails were about and what happened, you have to talk to the principals and here we have principal, Felix Sater. But ultimately, this is about Donald Trump and what he knew and when he knew it. And we know that Donald Trump signed, personally signed a letter of intent for that Trump Tower project in October of 2015 after he`s already been running for President for -- since June, so four -five months.

ARI MELBER: So can I ask you -- can I ask you the big question? You raised that he sign the letter of intent. Why did he lie about it?

ISIKOFF: Well, there`s a lot of statements that Donald Trump has made about his relationships with various Russians and with Felix Sater himself that have come into question. Look --

MELBER: I mean, let`s go back, Michael, because you`ve done the exhaustive reporting. That was early enough, I mean before the presidential primary voting started where a different response would have been, yes. I am exploring business dealings in various countries. Maybe if I become President it will change. The hacking had not been exposed and most of it conducted. The other issues had not come to the floor. The back and forth over sanctions, the changes to the Gop platform. All the benefit of hindsight we have hadn`t happened which means it`s weird to make that the thing you hide.

ISIKOFF: Fair enough. And I should also point out that there`s a -- Trump has a track record of not being forthcoming about his relationship with Mr. Sater. He was deposed under oath in 2013 and said that he wouldn`t know him if he walked into the room. This despite the fact there`s multiple photographs, one I see you`re showing now of the two of them together that he had this office, Sader had this office in Trump Tower. And when Alan Garten, the Chief Counsel for the Trump Organization was questioned during the campaign about Sater, because there were legitimate questions about just what the relationship was with Felix Sater given his background.

Garten said, told reporters that the business card he had was from 2010 and the arrangement only lasted six months. That was in the New York Times story in April of last year. Well, we now see these e-mails that Sater is pitching this Trump Tower project starting in the fall of 2015 and continuing into January of 2016. So, as I said before, there`s a lot of reasons to be skeptical about the comments that Trump and his senior people have made about all this.

MELBER: Right. They`re skeptical and then there`s just down right gobsmacked. Investigators maybe somewhere in between at this point. Michael Isikoff, thanks for sharing your reporting with us. When we come back, we have some developing news on the entire issue around that key aide Michael Cohen who asked the Kremlin for help and an interview with Robert Green, the author of 48 Laws of Power. Stay with us.


MELBER: She had one job, defending women`s equality on the job. But news breaking tonight, Ivanka Trump is now backing a White House plan to gut the one policy she touted during the campaign.


IVANKA TRUMP, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ADVISER: At my father`s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported not shut out.

Politicians talk about wage equality but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career. He will fight for equal pay for equal work and I will fight for this too right alongside of him.


MELBER: But reports in the Wall Street Journal Newsweek now revealing Ivanka backs to Trump plan to gut Obama rules that forced the disclosure of gender pay gaps. Now, companies don`t even have to say how they discriminate against women, it would be harder to prevent it. Ivanka Trump telling NBC News she believes the policy intention was good but it wouldn`t yield the intended results. I`m rejoined by New York Times Magazine Reporter Emily Bazelon the author of a book on The Power of Character and Empathy and Conservative Commentator Kirsten Haglund who is a former Miss America. Kirsten.

KIRSTEN HAGLUND, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: They were beautiful words and I remember as a young center right, you know, conservative who`s really, really concerned about the future of the GOP as it pertains to engaging the next generation of young women. This was really exciting to me and I thought, hey, maybe we were going to see some change here. Unfortunately not. This is a real missed opportunity.

MELBER: Is she buckling to pressure?

HAGLUND: I don`t -- I don`t know if the intention, to begin with, was serious to follow through. And if she is really expected to have the amount of authority, she would propose something where she`d actually be able to see change. And as a conservative, I think that conservative women especially have transitioned from saying, OK, I just want as little government as I can at whatever cost to say, if we truly want to conserve the family unit and we want to see more prosperity for female on business women entrepreneurs and equal pay from the time they enter the work force until the time that they leave. We need to make sure that we leverage the power and the (INAUDIBLE) that of those of the White House to able to push companies to pay their women fairly.

MELBER: I guess, that`s -- which is what she`s not doing.

HAGLUND: Which is what she`s not doing. It`s a huge missed opportunity, right?

MELBER: OK, I just want to make sure I understand. I was like, wait, wait, OK, missed opportunity. Right, one missed by her and it`s a sort of striking to see her back on this of all things. And Name, I want to talk to you about this. Michael Moore famously predicted a Trump victory. Now, he`s warning Trump could be re-elected if his opponents don`t get tough, saying, we don`t have to convince a single Trump voter to vote differently, Moore says, because we already have the majority and he predicts the majority will again oppose Trump but Americans have to reform the electoral college to follow the popular vote.

This comes amidst a big New York Times report showing how hardball Republican tactics turned a 47 percent loss into over 60 percent majority in a key legislature in a business that would be called fraud. In today`s politics, Emily explains that it`s called data innovation. Her piece on the War Over Democracy Versus Math and How Obama Aides are trying to turn the table now out, what did you find?

EMILY BAZELON, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE REPORTER: Well, that I find with that -- the tools now exist. The computer modeling is sophisticated enough for whoever controls the redistricting to be extremely precise in targeting how they distribute voters. And so, if you are a legislature that wants to do this in a way that benefits your party significantly over the other party, you can do that. And then the question is will courts step in? The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the Wisconsin redistricting plan that we`re talking about.

MELBER: And so, it is literally the case in both the popular vote and some of these key states that democrats win not only more votes but win sometimes as you reported a majority and then they`re the minority.

BAZELON: That`s right. And we should say that in states that Democrats control, Democrats can also use gerrymandering to keep themselves entrenched in power. And so, the question is when we see these extreme kinds of partisan gerrymandering, should courts take play a role and can they use the same tools as the map makers to asses and attack the gerrymandering and then fix it.

MELBER: I mean, this is one of those things, Kirsten, where you know, an internet was brand new and everyone was like this is so awesome and it`s good for democracy. And between the freakouts of the President of the United States on Twitter and things like this where big data runs into very old school anti-democratic efforts, you feel like, wait a minute, this is really run amok. And I -- someone who`s stays at courts as well, I think a lot of judges haven`t caught up with it.

HAGLUND: Well, I mean, obviously, technology is a tool that can be used for good and evil, right? But I think both Republicans and Democrats who have been burned by gerrymandering before should look for a way to say, hey, we need to make sure that we are establishing some guidelines here to make sure that one person, whoever that is in power can`t call out the system. Additionally, in order to have a government that is more fair and represents people, where obviously we know there`s a lot of apathy. People feel their voices aren`t heard. We need to have a way for candidates who aren`t just entrenched in the establishment to get a chance to run on the ballot, this is going to help that too.

MELBER: One more for you. Is Donald Trump using the power of the Presidency to make money for himself? Under fire for ethics groups for what he was wearing on that tour to Texas in the midst of the hurricane during his many stops. You see the USA hat. Nothing wrong with USA except in the official photos of the Trump meetings about the storm that`s actually a cap he`s selling for $40.00 on the re-election campaign Web site. You can get it in white. My colleague Joe Scarborough bearing down on this.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump never thought he was going to win the Presidency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s it. That`s it.

SCARBOROUGH: This was all a money making scam. He thought Jeb Bush was going to beat him. He never thought -- so he was going to straight out (INAUDIBLE) he`s going to take the money and run. So let me use the position I`m in right now and try to get that tower in Moscow.


MELBER: Scarborough there talking about the issue broadly. The hat is being just one example Emily but this is the President of the United States. He can wear a USA flag, he can wear the Presidential Seal, what`s wrong with that, instead he`s wearing merch.

BAZELON: Right. There`s a kind of shamelessness about this that seems like it should be surprising if anything is still surprising. Also, that is one expensive hat.

HAGLUND: I wouldn`t pay $40 for any hat.

MELBER: It is a lot for a baseball cap. And Emily and Kirsten, thank you so much for talking politics.

Ahead, President Trump and theories of power. He says he likes it but is he any good at it. The laws of power author is here. He`s going the explain why Trump fails some very key laws of power. That`s next.


MELBER: We`ve been covering some big legal developments in the Russia inquiry today. And while Donald Trump blames other people for his failures, the only reason there is a Special Counsel for Russia is because of Trump himself. He claims to be savvy deal maker but one of the nation`s experts on power, Robert Greene, says that while this is unusual for most Presidents, Trump has a poor grasp of strategy evidenced through his failure to follow most of the famous 48 laws of power which distinguish this strategic from the impulsive like law four, always say less than necessary. But there is a Russia probe because Trump said more than necessary including why he fired Jim Comey.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It`s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.


MELBER: Trump also fails law 16, use absence to increase respect and honor. Instead, Trump seems emotionally obsessed with being overexposed. Greene says Obama had a much better grasp of these laws of the power including disdain to dismiss things beneath him, like Trump`s race baiting birther campaign. Here was Obama dispatching Trump and a reporter who would waste time about Trump`s birther attacks.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, Jonathan, have to reason and I`m shocked that a question like that would come up at a time when we got so many other things to do. Well, I`m not that shocked, actually. It`s fairly typical. We got other business to attend to.


MELBER: We also asked Greene whether Trump follows any of these laws of power. He does say Trump follows the law, keep others in suspended terror and have an error of unpredictability. As a performer, Trump knows all about unpredictability.


TRUMP: I said, I have a great plan. It`s going to be great. But what is it? I`d rather not say. I want to be unpredictable.

We must as a nation be more unpredictable. We are totally predictable.


MELBER: Now the laws of power are drawn from historical text which ranges from Sun Tzu to (INAUDIBLE) valley. Green is a revered strategic guru by a whole range of people from business leaders like the CEO of American Apparel to controversial authoritarians like Fidel Castro, the sports and entertainment figures like entrepreneur 50 Cents and then Knick`s Carmelo Anthony. Greene`s following is actually so intense Kanye West who has often said he`s proud he doesn`t read books once rapped there`s real stuff I never wrote, only book I ever read I could have wrote, 48 Laws of Power. Joining me now is that expert on power and strategy, Bestselling Author Robert Greene. I am a true admirer of your incisive writing and it`s such an honor to have you on the show.

ROBERT GREENE, 48 LAWS OF POWER AUTHOR: Well, it`s an honor for me -- for being on the show. Thanks a lot, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you. So, you say Trump fails most of these laws, what are other examples? What do you mean he fails at the laws of power?

GREENE: Well, a lot of power are the signals that you send to people. And you mentioned the law of always say less than necessary. When you talk without a filter, you`re showing people that you really have a lot of weakness. You have no self-control. When you get involved with petty battles, like the Charlottesville or with anybody who disagrees with him, you know, his famous counterpunching strategy. It makes you look weak and insecure. And you know, you compared that to Obama who rightly didn`t want to get involved at all in that argument. These are signs that used -- that a powerful person sends to others that he`s strong, that he`s controlled himself -- him or herself. And, you know, Trump is -- it`s amazing that he`s gotten as far as he has by signaling so much weakness.

MELBER: So much weakness. Yes, I mean, you mention that and you think about a recent example where CEOs are leaving his business council and he sort of went after them. Let`s take a listen to that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you think the CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?

TRUMP: Because they`re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. They`re leaving out of embarrassment because they`re making their products outside.


MELBER: What law is he breaking there?

GREENE: Well, he`s doing the same thing as -- that the Obama law that we mentioned. But, you know, basically to be good at power, you have to be good at strategy, you have to think ahead, you have to think several moves in advance. You can`t just simply react emotionally to everything that happens. So, he, you know, he has a plan or a goal in mind, such as tamping down the Russia investigation, which he`s clearly obsessed with, and he reveals that to Comey early on, in January at some point, sort of not understanding basic human psychology that when you`re so overt and show your cards so clearly you going to cause a counter reaction. You`re going to make someone deeply suspicious of your motives.

MELBER: So you -- that`s interesting. You think that -- you think that the way he talks about and conducts himself on Russia, backfires on him?

GREENE: Well, completely. You know, he definitely wanted to get rid of the investigation. And everything he`s done has only created the whole Robert Mueller Council an Independent Council. Or for instance, what he did with Senator Murkowski when he wants to strong arm her into voting for the health care bill that the Republicans had. He`s very aggressive and -- it`s his usual bullying tactic. And he didn`t understand the power dynamic where she`s in charge of a committee that in fact has much more power than he has over this particular issue. The Secretary of the Interior was trying to bully her as well. So on and on and on, he democrats an inability to think ahead, to plan ahead, to understand people psychology, and he creates sort of continual unintended consequences.

MELBER: One of the criticisms of your work is if people take it literally, it can make you a very ruthless individual. I mentioned Fidel Castro a follower. I don`t know how proud you are of that but you have a law, do not commit to anyone. And then we think about that, we are looking back at this, Donald Trump did appear to follow that law violating major norms in the process when he was pressed on this, by of all people a Fox News moderator in a debate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely, Sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election.

TRUMP: I will look at it at the time.


MELBER: What`s going on there?

GREENE: Well, he`s trying to keep all of his options open. You know, he`s very obvious when he`s lying about something. So the do not commit to anyone strategy is really more about keeping your options open. And Trump is not about that at all. He`s -- everything he does is geared towards his base, towards strengthening his base. One of the laws of power that he`s completely violating there is win the hearts and minds of people which is basically a powerful person is always trying to expand their base. That`s traditionally what a president does in the first six months in being in office. So he`s always -- as a strategist, his fault is he`s always sort of narrowing his options. Now that he can only appeal to his base, he has no ability to widen his support. He`s trapped.

MELBER: Robert Greene, you are such a deep thinker to explain some of this, and I really loved reading your book. So thanks for coming on the show.

GREENE: Thanks for having me, Ari. My pleasure.

MELBER: Fantastic. Ahead, George Clooney on President Trump and why he`s actually optimistic. Straight ahead.


MELBER: Something a little different tonight. George Clooney not holding back on what he thinks to the Trump administration so far saying, it`s increasingly clear how Trump is in over his head and incapable this man is of being president of the United States. Clooney who has a long standing interest in public affairs spoke to the A.P. today. But he also had an optimistic note adding, the good news is that our other institutions, meaning press and judges and senators, have proven the country works. As they might say, good night and good luck, but also a programing note. We don`t have George Clooney on Monday but we have a very special edition of THE BEAT, a special report on the Most Powerful Man in Washington, Bob Mueller. That`s Monday night, Labor Day, right here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. As always you can e-mail me at ARI@MSNBC.COM. That`s our show, "HARDBALL" starts right now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Harvey on the move, this is HARDBALL.



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