Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 7, 2017 Guest: Kamala Harris, Kitty Kay, George Will
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Today, Donald Trump, Jr. was the first child of a president in the modern era to speak to congressional investigators, five hours of questioning, about his June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
The president`s son admitting he took the meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton and he was planning to talk to a lawyer if he got anything good from it.
Trump Jr. changing some parts of his story. Now, the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee today was explaining exactly why Trump, Jr. had to be truthful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The truth of the matter is, whether you`re sworn or not, if you lie to Congress, that is a crime.
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MELBER: Trump, Jr. says he was overworked and inexperienced when he took this now infamous meeting. That is a defense Jared Kushner also used.
Now, you may have heard there are two sides to every story. Legally though, there may be eight because that`s how many people went to the Trump Tower meeting and there could be eight sides to this story.
Today, we heard one. Congressional investigators have already talked to two other people on this. Jared Kushner, who was on the Hill in July, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort who also appeared before Senate staffers in July.
Now, he turned over his notes, you may recall, from the Trump Tower meeting.
So, to be clear, at this juncture, Congress has basically heard at least three of the eight sides of this story. And Special Counsel Bob Mueller has heard at least one because we know the Russian-American lobbyist, who was at that meeting, appeared for several hours already before Mueller`s grand jury. That was just last month.
Now, late this afternoon, Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted about this very big, long meeting he had today. And he said he appreciated the committee`s professionalism and courtesy. He did also tweet a longer statement, saying he trusts that his interview fully satisfied the committee`s inquiry. That, of course, is up to them.
I want to turn to Sen. Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who joins me on this busy day. That was his side. What is your view of what the committee got today?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Ari, that was coming out of the Judiciary Committee. They have their investigation. The intelligence committee, we`ve been at this now for about nine months. We`re trying to do this in a thorough bipartisan way.
Our goal with Donald Trump, Jr. was to see if we can get the testimony as many of those eight folks that were in that room first before we bring in Donald Trump, Jr.
And I can assure you that Senate Intelligence Committee is going to want to - the members themselves, Democrats and Republicans, are going to want to talk to Mr. Trump, Jr. and ask him questions directly.
MELBER: What comes through his statement is an admission of intent, but not action. The intent being he did want dirt on Hillary Clinton. How do you view that part of this?
WARNER: Well, I`m not going to make a critique of that. I do think, on one hand, he`s saying he was na‹ve, he didn`t know what he was getting into. Yet, on the other hand, he invited the then campaign chairman Paul Manafort to that meeting.
He thought that it was important enough for that. He invited his brother- in-law, who was a senior adviser to his candidate father.
So, somehow, this doesn`t all gel. They`ll have a chance to explain it before the Senate Intelligence Committee when we have - when it`s appropriate time, when we`ve had all of - as many of these stories as we can get before we bring in Donald Trump, Jr.
MELBER: Well, you`re putting your finger on something that even a charitable reading of his new statement today, and that part is public, doesn`t really clarify, which is, on the one hand, he says this was just a random offer, he had no idea whether it was going to be useful, he would clear anything he got, he says, from it with his lawyers. And on the other hand, he brought all the VIPs to the meeting, senator.
WARNER: Ari, that`s why you`ve got a TV show. That`s why you`ve gone from being a lawyer and got your own TV show now. You connect the dots.
MELBER: OK. I appreciate that. And the dots here seem to be - and, I guess, how do you question all the other people in the meeting to explain. This isn`t like an entourage where you have to bring everyone to every meeting. Do you view that as an investigator as suspicious or you think it`s too early to tell?
WARNER: Well, I think it`s - there seems to be a little inherent contradiction in saying this is somewhat of a random meeting. Yet he`s talking about how busy he is. He`s acknowledging he was trying to find dirt. He knew it was coming from Russian sources. And he brings the campaign chair and his senior brother-in-law official. That, to me, means that, to a degree, that it seems like it was more than a random meeting.
But, again, I feel like it`s important to give Mr. Trump, Jr. the benefit of the doubt until we get a chance to question himself. I also want to hear from as many of those other - of the five other individuals that were in the room, not all of them Americans. We won`t hear from all of them as we can before we bring in Mr. Trump, Jr.
MELBER: Senator, let me play for you what your Republican counterpart said about the scope of this in a historical context. Take a listen.
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SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I`m not sure we`ve done anything like this since Watergate. So, the committee`s function is to try to assemble the facts as best we can and then to lay it out for the American people to come to their own conclusions.
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MELBER: Do you also view this as a Watergate-level investigation and could it take that long?
WARNER: Well, I hope it won`t take that long. One of the things - Richard Burr and I are friends. We`re colleagues. He is the chair; I`m the vice chair. We want to do this in a way that`s bipartisan.
We may not reach exactly the same conclusions. I think it would be a heck of a lot better if we did. But we`re going to make sure we present to the American people all the facts.
Not only to make sure we determine whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, but also to make sure that these kinds of activities don`t happen again in the future.
The one thing we know is that this was a very comprehensive approach the Russians had. We found evidence in the last few days that they are part - their efforts also included buying ads through Facebook and possibly Twitter and other social media entities.
So, we`ve got to investigate that. We`ve seen the Russians intervene in France where actually Facebook took down 50,000 accounts before the French presidential election. So, we know they are intervening in Germany as well.
This is a tactic of 21st century, in effect, cyber misinformation and disinformation campaigns as well as direct interference that we saw in terms of hacking of the emails and putting out of - at least attempted - it appears here of fake information and discriminating information against candidate Clinton.
MELBER: Right. You`re on the Hill. I was there earlier today. And you`re saying something I heard other experts and officials say that you can`t stop the future efforts if you don`t get your arms around everything that`s happened. I know that`s what your committee is working on.
Sen. Warner, I hope you`ll come back on THE BEAT. I appreciate you joining us on this busy day.
WARNER: Any time. Thank you so much, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you, senator. I want to turn directly to Philippe Reines who worked for Hillary Clinton and knows a bit about both sides of this, and Katty Kay, World Anchor for "BBC News America" and a familiar expert to our MSNBC viewers.
You hear Sen. Warner land (ph) on the future. Investigations are about the past and there`s a lot of questions about the past. The future is, can Russia get away with this again when you see a real inability of the current administration to even acknowledge what happened.
KATTY KAY, BBC ANCHOR, "BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA": I suspect not only get away with this again, but do even more, don`t you, Ari?
This Facebook story adds a whole new angle to this. And anyone who believes that that`s the end of it and that their message won`t get more sophisticated and that they won`t get themselves, their hackers won`t get better at circumventing whatever barriers Facebook or Twitter want to put up next time around, I think is kidding themselves.
They have a vested interest in trying to disrupt western democracies and they will carry on doing so. And the inability - well, we don`t know yet that the congressional inquiries or the FBI inquiry won`t take some kind of course correction as a result of what they find.
But, so far, the inability of the American government to respond very effectively to what happened, I think, will encourage them even further.
MELBER: Mr. Reines, there is a tendency sometimes in popular culture to talk about being a victim as if it were something negative, when, in fact, if there is a crime and there is a victim, it is usually not their fault and there shouldn`t be any such stigma.
You are here at this table as a political victim. You were part of the campaign that was attacked by a foreign adversary and the investigation is about how they did, whether they had help.
I want to put up on the screen for folks here this new story from "The New York Times" on these accounts because they were designed to attack you and your work. It says on Twitter, as on Facebook, Russian fingerprints on hundreds of thousands of fake accounts that posted anti-Clinton messages. Many automated Twitter accounts, which are called bots, they sometimes fired up identical message seconds apart in the alphabetical order of their made-up names.
Did you have a sense of how far this went during the campaign?
PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS UNDER HILLARY CLINTON: I don`t think so. And I`m not sure that anyone did.
With hindsight, it`s September now, we`re coming up on a year and we`re just learning it. Facebook itself seems to just be learning it. I believe I saw a report on the way here that Twitter is now turning over the same kind of information.
And while it was, I think, clear certainly to Secretary Clinton and to the Clinton campaign and to the US government and to various other parts of our society that Putin was interfering with our election, it was not clear to what extent and certainly not to what effect.
And every day that`s gone by, we`ve understood more and we`ve seen how much worse it`s gotten. And to your analogy of a victim, there is also I think a fair amount of blaming the victim going on.
MELBER: You do? How do you think people are blaming the victim?
REINES: Well, Secretary Clinton has a book coming out next week that gets into a lot of this and she`s going to be blamed for complaining about all these various things that were blatant attacks on our country.
And while I would love to disagree with Katty, she said something very important, which is that this is not going to stop. This is going to get worse.
And President Trump has a very bad, or several bad tendencies, one of which is something doesn`t happen until it happens to him.
The Russians - this worked out better than Putin ever could have imagined. But now that he`s done it, he`s going to continue to target office holders. Hillary Clinton is off the public stage. Vladimir Putin is not going to tap into her phones into her e-mail.
MELBER: Well, she`s off the public stage, but not the bookshelf, which you mentioned. But, Katty, go ahead.
KAY: To be fair, we don`t know how many people actually logged on to those Facebook pages. We don`t know how many times they were shared. We don`t know the degree to which the Russians actually succeeded in changing whatever percentage of people`s minds it was. We don`t know that.
We do know it was incredibly cheap. A hundred thousand dollars, nothing for the Russians to try and interfere. They will carry on trying to interfere even if all they`re doing is stirring the pot, muddying the waters about the effectiveness of American democracy and increasing the tone of partisanship in the country. They`ve achieved something. What we don`t know is exactly what they achieved.
MELBER: Philippe Reines, would you have taken the meeting that Don, Jr. says he just took because he was busy and he was a little inexperienced with a foreign power offering this kind of info.
REINES: Absolutely, never in a million years. And I think what you`re seeing with Don, Jr. and really with the Trump organization, campaign and now White House writ large, they never served in government, with the exception of Gen. Flynn, who violated all sorts of ethics, responsibilities he had. They never served.
The first thing you`ll learn is just to be careful who you meet, be careful who you talk to. His constantly changing statements from today, one of the biggest ones was that he was intending to talk to his lawyer if anything came of it.
You talk to your lawyer on the front end. You talk to people on the front end. You don`t meet with one of Russia`s greatest - one of the US greatest adversaries.
He`s worried about fitness and information of Hillary Clinton. Did he spend even one moment looking at the fitness and the background or vetting the people he was meeting with.
And as you both pointed out, it`s not just the president`s eldest son. It`s the son-in-law. It`s the chairman of the campaign. This is the hierarchy rolling out the welcome mat.
MELBER: So, your view as a campaign professional is this was something that they took seriously, not a random meeting?
REINES: Well, I think it`s very clear that the saying, actions speak louder than words. In this case, we have actions and words. He was told we have dirt on Hillary Clinton. He said I love it. You don`t need to - all the obfuscation going on from there.
MELBER: Right. I`ll just read it. "What you say, I love it." And I`m actually going to dig in in our next segment legally to what it means because he`s trying to parse several things in this brand-new statement.
Mr. Reines, thanks for joining. Katty Kay, please stay with me. I want to ask you about that. And I want to give everyone an update on this important story, regarding, of course, Hurricane Irma. This is barreling north now, a dangerous Category 5 storm. This is over 370 miles wide at this point.
The winds are now being counted at 185 miles per hour, which is part of what makes it so devastating, expected to make landfall in Florida early Sunday morning, this coming weekend. Now, the effects of the storm could be felt far earlier, as early as tomorrow night.
We can also report for you, at least five people in the Caribbean have already been killed in storm-related incidents. Now, we have full coverage of the historic storm here on MSNBC and we`ll keep you updated throughout our hour and this evening.
And coming up, as I was mentioning, I`m going to break down the legal strategy that undergirds this new, lengthy statement from Trump Jr. related to his Senate investigative discussion.
And brand-new sound. Steve Bannon breaking his silence on TV about Trump`s so-called enemies.
And then, some awkwardness tonight at the White House. A very special dinner with Paul Ryan.
And something very special on THE BEAT tonight. My sit-down interview today with Sen. Kamala Harris. We talked about justice in Russia and I asked her a big question.
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MELBER: Is the testimony or potential hearing with the President Donald Trump off the table for this investigation?
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MELBER: She may have made some news with that answer. We`re going to show you that ahead. And the lightning round in my discussion with Sen. Harris.
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MELBER: Hillary Clinton is?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: A great, great public servant.
MELBER: Ted Cruz is?
HARRIS: From Texas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fact check, true. He is from Texas. I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Donald Trump, Jr. spoke to senate investigators for five hours today. And now, we have a legal breakdown of his evolving defense for that Russia meeting.
Trump Jr. has previously made many claims about the meeting. Some appeared false, but it is legal to lie in public. It`s not legal to lie to Congress. That is a crime. As Sen. Durbin said today, that`s why this story that Trump Jr. is telling matters more than any other day.
And the first thing you have to know is Trump Jr.`s new defense today is a hybrid, like a cronut or a centaur. It`s half confession and half justification.
So, first, he admits he went to the meeting because he did want dirt on Hillary Clinton. That itself could be a crime if a foreign government gave him something valuable. But second, Trump Jr. says, he had a legal plan to make that all OK.
Today, saying he took the Russian meeting with the intent of getting information about Clinton`s fitness, character or qualifications. Boom! That right there is the admission.
Now, here is the hybrid. Trump, Jr. also saying he would "consult with counsel," his lawyers about how to legally use any dirt that he did get from Russia. Now, that`s not a great defense. That you`ve got something that might be illegal, but you promise not to use it if your lawyers tell you not to.
That might be the best defense Trump Jr. has left because the emails show that he loved the idea of getting this dirt, which brings us to Trump`s parsing of that word.
You might even call this Clintonian. Today, in the new defense, Trump Jr. says love was just a "colloquial way" of saying that he appreciated that gesture of setting up the Russia meeting.
Now, Donald Trump Jr. is not the first person to use the word love and then take it back. But loving potentially illegal for an election assistance that can be a dangerous game.
Now, finally, Trump Jr. also returned to an old defense today, saying even if they did take the suspicious meeting with Russians, it didn`t work because it "provided no meaningful information." And he didn`t know who would attend it anyway.
So, here the legal defenses Trump is rolling out, it`s new. He did not want to get on the wrong side of the law. He wanted the foreign dirt on Clinton, which would be bad on intent, but he says he planned to clear it through the lawyers as we were reporting earlier tonight.
Then he says he never got the dirt anyway. Now, that`s not a full denial of asking Russians for oppo, but it may be the best argument he has left.
I`m joined now by Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor; David Priess who used to brief Special Counsel Bob Mueller daily as FBI director on intelligence. He is also the author of "The President`s Book of Secrets". And Jamal Simmons a democratic strategist.
Paul Butler, I start with you, as a prosecutor, what do you think was the most important legal work that Donald Trump, Jr. did through this statement?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, I think Trump Jr. has exposed himself to criminal prosecution for false statements and possibly for illegal campaign contributions.
So, he said that he took this meeting to assess the competency of Hillary Clinton, like he`s some kind of good government maven. No prosecutor is going to believe that.
He says that he`d forgotten about these three phone calls he made to set up the meeting when before he had said all done by email and he claims that he never told dad about this, even though the meeting was about dirt that he would just love to get on Clinton.
He invites the campaign chairman and Kushner. He doesn`t tell the father, the Trump Sr., the candidate. Again, a lot of prosecutors aren`t going to find that credible.
So, false statement is a five-year felony for lying in a congressional investigation. And also, if there was a solicitation for some kind of dirt on Hillary, you don`t actually have to get the information to be guilty of the campaign financing crime. All you have to do is ask with willful intent and Trump Jr. may very well have done that.
MELBER: Well, briefly, just because you are making a big, big charge or a claim there. You`re saying that just going to the meeting and being interested in the material, even if he went to his lawyers and they said don`t use it, you still think creates liability?
BUTLER: Again, we`re a long way away from a criminal prosecution, Ari. But the statute makes it a crime to corruptly solicit contribution from a foreign national. So, we have the foreign national. Whether dirt on a campaign counts as a contribution is something that a judge would have to decide.
But his defense is, well, all I did is ask. That`s a solicitation. So, in terms of the act, what we think of the Actus Reus in criminal law, he`s done that. The mens rea, whether he did it with a guilty mind, with intent, that`s something for a prosecutor to determine.
MELBER: Now, David, you`ve sifted a lot of intelligence. How do you sift what can be gleaned from the statement and what we know today?
DAVID PRIESS, FORMER ANALYST AND DAILY INTELLIGENCE BRIEFER, CIA: Well, I look at this like an intelligence officer, which is you look at the information from a source and the recollections of a source through many lenses.
Two of the most important are whether they are reliable and whether they`re valid. Validity, you look to see whether there`s some ground truth to it. The story appears to be changing. We have a lot of questions about the truth.
Reliability, you look at credibility over time. And that seems to be changing.
Someone else I know, who looks at information the same way, is the guy I got to know pretty well when briefing him, Bob Muller. He`s looked at information through those same lenses.
MELBER: How is Bob Mueller going to look at the fact that the statement from Donald Trump, Jr., that he gave the Senate today, he says I was skeptical of this outreach, how do you square him claiming he was skeptical with how much he embraced it, the love, the high-level people at the meeting?
PREISS: Well, what it allows him to do is go back to a man who he`s shown even more interest in, which is Paul Manafort, who was at that meeting, and try to compare the statements to parse that information because if Paul Manafort who was, as people say, the grown up in the room, the one who`d been involved in campaigns before, he can`t claim naivete as an excuse.
If he can compare that to what Donald Trump, Jr. said, find some daylight between the two, suddenly he`s got some room to work with legally.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, time in a campaign is the only thing you can`t replenish. When you start allocating all of these different officials from the campaign to go sit in a meeting, there`s a reason for that. There`s something that everybody went there to do.
What I`m really interested in is, Don Jr. has never really been telling the truth about this meeting, except maybe we hope he`s told the truth today, but his reasons have shifted all along.
At the end of the day, maybe Don, Jr. is holding on to the Arpaio-Trump card, which is that even if he gets caught, his dad might let him off the hook. And if that happens, that is a political bombshell if he pardons him.
MELBER: Paul Butler, how about that? Jamal Simmons going for really a cosmic point. The time is not a renewable resource. And a lot of high- level people spend time at the meeting. But at the end the day, that`s not enough for the Senate or Bob Muller. There has to be some there-there beyond the fact that they showed up there. We already know they were at the meeting.
BUTLER: Yes. So, we have seven other people, who were at this meeting. In your earlier interview, Sen. Warner said that he wants to talk to those seven other folks before he meets with Trump, Jr. and have them testify under oath. Mueller probably is going to do the same thing. He is going to get all of the statements and then invite Trump, Jr. in for a little sit-down.
If I were representing Trump, Jr. before this meeting, I would say, dude, take the Fifth. You may be innocent, you may be guilty, but there are people on this committee who think that you have exposure, so it`s in your interest.
He`s waived that now. He cannot take the Fifth because he already voluntarily talked about this stuff.
MELBER: Do you address all your clients as dude?
BUTLER: When I think it would work, when I`m trying to get them to talk to me. And we know that the Trump - and especially his dad, they don`t seem to be great clients for lawyers. Dad especially doesn`t take good advice.
MELBER: Advice of counsel being an issue here. We`ve got to go. Former federal prosecutor, Paul Butler; former briefer, David Priess; and Democratic strategist, Jamal Simons, thank you.
Next, a BEAT exclusive. I went one on one with Sen. Kamala Harris, a rising political star speaking on the Russia probe, bail reform and more.
MELBER: California Senator Kamala Harris is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. And today, I talked to her in her Washington office as senate investigators were grilling Donald Trump, Jr. a few doors down.
We talked about that Russia inquiry. She made some news on it, which we`re going to air shortly. Plus, her assertive questioning of Jeff Sessions and even her playlist.
But we begin with her new bill to prevent innocent people from facing jail time just because they`re poor. Harris says her legislation on pretrial integrity would fix the problem in the justice system that comes down to money and fairness.
MELBER: Sen. Kamala Harris, thanks for joining me.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Great to meet with you, Ari. Thank you.
MELBER: There is a lot going on, but you`re focused on criminal justice reform. Why?
HARRIS: As I`ve always said, we need to be smart on crime and on the issue of criminal justice reform. And in particular, the issue of bail. This is about a matter that is increasing public safety but it also about benefits for taxpayers and a better return on their investment as taxpayers. And truly at its heart Ari, I`d say that this is matter of economic justice as much as it is criminal justice.
MELBER: Well, you`re a former prosecutor but you`re introducing legislation that argues there`s too many innocent people waiting around in jail. What do you mean?
HARRIS: On the issue of bail, what we`re looking at is a system where people are sitting in jail awaiting trial for days, weeks, months and it`s not uncommon years. And many of them are sitting in jail awaiting trial and not at home, not caring for their children, not going to work every day simply because they cannot afford to get out of jail before trial. And that`s why it`s an issue of economic justice. The typical scenario is someone gets arrested say for grand theft. Let`s say it`s a woman who went to a department store, stole something of great value. The judge says you know, for this crime of grand theft, let`s say your bail is $20,000. He looks at the bail (INAUDIBLE), it`s $20,000. So she`s got just one of a few choices. She can come up with $20,000 to get out awaiting trial while the average American does not have $20,000. Bail bondsmen says I`ll put up the $20,000. That`s $2,000. The average American does not have $2,000 sitting around. The poor person is paying a premium in way that the rich person doesn`t.
And here`s why. If you have $20,000 sitting around and you pay the bail to get out, if you come back to court, you get all your money back. For the poor person who had to put up the $2,000 to get the bail bondsman, they don`t get that back. So they get hit twice with its flaws. We have designed a beautiful system of justice in our country that is epitomized by that lady, that statue with the blind fold. She`s blind to your status, right, to your economic status. She`s blind to your color, to your ethnicity, to where you live. She`s supposed to be, but on this issue, not so much. So we need to fix it. And the fix, according to -- you know, what we hope to do with our legislation is to say no. Instead of making a decision about who gets out pending trial based on how much money they have in the bank, let`s make the decision based on the risk they pose to their community.
MELBER: How did you end up working with Rand Paul on this bill?
HARRIS: He gets that this is something that impacts Appalachia as much as it does urban America, as much as it does suburban America and rural America, so many of us have so much in common than what separates us. He gets that. This is truly, I believe, as symbolized in evidence by the two of us who are sponsoring it, Rand Paul and me. This is truly an issue that is -- I would say not even bipartisan, it`s nonpartisan. There`s so much inequality in our country around income. And the bail reform issue really cuts to the heart of what we need to do, the level the playing field and treat all Americans the same way, not based on how much money they have in the bank.
MELBER: That was just the first part of our discussion. Up next, Senator Harris on the Russia inquiry and whether President Trump should testify and whether Bob Mueller has the power he needs to get the answers.
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MELBER: One of the questions you were pursuing is whether the Special Counsel, Bob Mueller will have the independence to do his job.
HARRIS: Absolutely right.
MELBER: What was the answer you got?
HARRIS: There was not a clear answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Senate Investigators grilling Donald Trump Junior today. The Special Counsel investigating how his father helped shape his initial statement about that Trump Tower meeting. But will investigators talk to President Trump? No Senators has asked for that yet. I did ask Senator Kamala Harris about the prospect today as a member of the Intelligence Committee. She has pressed Trump officials on their contact with Russia including attempt exchange with Jeff Sessions that made him nervous.
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HARRIS: Are you aware of their communication?
JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: A lot of people were at the convention. It`s conceivable --
HARRIS: Sir, I have just a few --
SESSIONS: Well, you let me qualify it? If I don`t qualify it, you`ll accuse me of lying. So I need to be correct as best I can.
HARRIS: I do want you to be honest.
SESSIONS: I`m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I asked Senator Harris about that moment in the DOJ`s approach to Russia.
MELBER: Attorney General Jeff Sessions famously said, you were making him nervous when you questioned him. Are you questioning people like a Prosecutor or like a Senator?
HARRIS: Both. Both. I mean, listen, I am a prosecutor at any core and part of that is it`s about the truth seeking mission. What`s the truth? Let`s find out what happened. Let`s get into the facts.
MELBER: And one of the questions you were pursuing is whether the Special Counsel Bob Mueller will have the independence to do his job.
HARRIS: Absolutely right.
MELBER: What was the answer you got?
HARRIS: It -- there was not a clear answer. And I asked both him and Rod Rosenstein which is, will you commit that Bob Mueller will have 100 percent independence and commit to him as well as to the United States Senate and the people of the United States that he will have 100 percent independence in the investigation?
MELBER: Are you concerned that Rod Rosenstein may not provide that authority?
HARRIS: There`s no guarantee that he won`t. So far so good. And thank God for Bob Mueller being in that position and I have a great deal of respect for him. And I believe to be someone who as a prosecutor had the utmost integrity. And I believe he`ll do the right thing and take -- you know, take that investigation where the facts lead him. The American public should be very, very, very concerned and troubled and offended, frankly, that a foreign government who is an adversary interfered and the intelligence community of the United States is unanimous in this finding.
Russia interfered with the election of the President of the United States. And regardless of who you voted for or the party, you`re registered with in the United States, the fact that a foreign government would interfere in our election of our President of the United States should trouble all of us. And so the point there being then, we need to get to the root of what happened and whether there was any participation by anybody in terms of their campaign. But Ari, I`ll say also this and it`s been lost I think in the discussion about the Russia involvement in the election. We cannot only look as I would as a prosecutor at what happened, right? Look in the rear view mirror what happened so we can attribute accountability and also consequence. We also must look forward and understand that what happened can happen again. And for that reason, there should be a sense of urgency that we all apply to getting to the facts and getting to the truth of the what happened.
MELBER: To that point, do you think the Trump administration is stopping Vladimir Putin from doing this in 2018?
HARRIS: I don`t know. I don`t know. But I`ll say this if you don`t acknowledge something everyone has acknowledged which is that there was that interference, it`s hard for me to believe that you`ll understand that you need to then avoid the thing that happened in the past from happening again.
MELBER: There is a private interview today with the President`s son, Don Junior. There are other interviews and hearings. Is the testimony of potential hearing with the President Donald Trump off the table for this investigation?
MELBER: So, it`s possible the Senate could seek his testimony?
HARRIS: I think it`s possible. Yes.
MELBER: Under what conditions?
HARRIS: We`ll see where the facts where they lead us.
MELBER: We`ll see. You sound a bit like Donald Trump.
HARRIS: I`m not at all.
MELBER: Back with me Katty Kay and former DOJ official, Matt Miller. We`ll see whether the Senate makes President Trump testify.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE, AND SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. That`s right. I think they can try. I think what Kamala Harris wants to happen and what the Republican Chairman of Committee wants to happen will be different. It`s unclear that if Republican Chairman would ever try to subpoena him. And of course, there`s no reason he would come testify. I know it`s something that actually President Nixon, his advisors considered doing in the middle of Watergate and ultimately decided against it. I think Donald Trump would not be the most compelling witness.
MELBER: You don`t think he would do himself a favor. I mean, Clinton also provided a type of Grand Jury testimony voluntarily. What about her point that she`s still concerned about DOJ leaving Mueller alone.
MILLER: She`s right to be concerned about that. And if you go back to that hearing, the reason why Senator Sessions was so nervous, he didn`t have good answers to the questions. And Rod Rosenstein, yes, he appointed Bob Mueller to lead this investigation but let`s not forget he`s the one that signed off on firing Comey, which created this whole conflagration in the first place. And he has still to this state never explained why he did that, why it was justified. Other than that, no, he`s never explained whether he knew it was about the Russia investigation. There`s still big questions about both Sessions and Rosenstein`s independence.
MELBER: Do you think Senator Harris is trying to send a message because she wants DOJ to hold the line or do you think these Senators are looking at what to do with a panic button if something happens in interference with this inquiry?
MILLER: I think they`re kind of connected. I think both Senator Harris and you`ve seen other Senators, Senator (INAUDIBLE) are trying to establish what the red lines are. One red line clearly is Trump making any move to fire Bob Mueller. Another red line would be pardoning people, pardoning his son, former campaign advisors. Those are red lines that the President can possibly --
MELBER: Right, but Katty, pardoning constitutional, interfering with the investigation, illegal.
KATTY KAY, BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA PRESENTER: No, we had Christopher Wray saying, look, there`s no interference, that this is an independent investigation. As far as he is aware an involvement or is being able to do his job. But anyone who looks at what the process was that led to Donald Trump getting rid of Jim Comey must be worried that this is a President who would at least like to have interfered with that investigation.
MELBER: And do you think his initial letter that we heard so much about will become public?
KAY: I think that`s something that clearly the Investigating Committees are going to want to look at and they`re going to want to look at who helped him draft it and exactly what he said and is the most --
MELBER: Right. And whether the secret reasons line up with the public reasons and then the later (INAUDIBLE).
KAY: And now we have three different people from that meeting with the Russians who have testified. The more meetings -- you know this as a lawyer -- the more meetings you have, the more stories you have, the more you can check the accounts against each other.
MELBER: Meetings and e-mail, they always come back to life. Katty Kay and Matt Miller, thank you, both.
MILLER: Thank you.
MELBER: I appreciate it.
Ahead, a now quote furious Speaker Ryan on dinner plans with Trump tonight. And why is Steve Bannon talking about Trump`s so called enemies?
MELBER: More blow backs right now developing over President Trump accepting Democrats demands on that funding and debt deal. Speaker Ryan is heading to the White House momentarily we can tell you, for a nice dinner with President Trump. Some House conservatives though say they are exploring plans to try to oust Ryan. That`s according to a new post report. And conservative media like Breitbart saying that Democratic leadership is normalizing Trump and these deals. Now that might be all bluster. The folks talking about challenging Ryan but the frustration isn`t just the conservatives lost yesterday. It`s that Nancy Pelosi apparently won. Meanwhile, Steve Bannon is breaking his silence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: If you`re going to break with him, resign. If you find it unacceptable, you should resign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, who are you talking about?
BANNON: I`m talking about obviously about Gary Cohn and some other people, that if you don`t like what he`s doing and don`t agree with it, you have an obligation to resign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Gary Cohen -- Gary Cohen should have resigned?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by a very special guest on (INAUDIBLE) in Washington. George Will is a Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist for the Washington Post. He also left the Republican Party after Trump`s nomination, advising the GOP make sure he loses, grit your teeth for four years and then win the White House.
GEORGE WILL, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Yes.
MELBER: Thank you for being here.
WILL: Glad to be here.
MELBER: Did Nancy Pelosi really win on something big or did Donald Trump just take what was offered to him?
WILL: Well, if this is the art of the deal, the art is not very demanding. That is you find it with the other guy wants and capitulate. But this was part of a Trump trifecta. Let`s work backward. He takes Senator Heitkamp, a vulnerable Democrat in North Dakota on his plane to North Dakota, which is a Presidential courtesy. Then he goes beyond courtesy by saying something that can and will be used in all her ads as she runs for re- election next year saying, good woman, I like her basically. Before that, on DACA, the legalization of the status of the children -- brought here as children, he says, I was opposed to it until I was for it because now I want Congress to legalize it. That`s step one and two.
The big one, of course, is the debt ceiling. Now whether the debt ceiling is an effect of action forcing devices disputed but conservatives like it. They think it`s important. So they go into this meeting, Ryan has said a three-month endorsement is ridiculous, the extension is ridiculous. McConnell doesn`t want it, Mnuchin doesn`t want it, Mick Mulvaney, the Budget Director doesn`t want it. The Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is in the process of explaining the agreed upon position of these four leaders when Trump interrupts him and says, well, come to think about it, I want the other guys` side.
MELBER: So for Donald Trump, the art of the deal is the art of whatever Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer`s deal is at that moment? I mean, it`s kind of amazing, right?
WILL: Well, it`s not a deal. A deal is what you split on a splittable difference.
MELBER: You`re right. George, I`m being lost with my words. The art of the -- I think you said capitulation. Let me play for you Nancy Pelosi, talking about a different issue in her interaction with Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: He said thanks for calling. This is what we need --- people really need, a reassurance from you, Mr. President, that the six-month period is not a period of round-up.
I was reporting to my colleagues. I said this is what I asked the President to do and boom, boom, boom, the tweet appeared. So that was good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Boom, boom, and here`s the tweet that apparently Nancy Pelosi says she (INAUDIBLE), for all those DACA that are concerned about your status during a six-month period, you have nothing to worry about. No action.
WILL: Enforcement discretion is what Barack Obama called it when he decided to give them this protection. Republicans, at that time (INAUDIBLE), said that`s actually a legislative act. What you`re doing, you`re conferring legal status on a million people, not just prosecutorial resources being allocated. Well, he is now doing the same thing.
MELBER: He`s doing what they used to criticize.
WILL: Yes, these are incredible people. I love these people. And if at the end of six months, Congress has not legalized what Mr. Obama did by executive fiat, then I will do something. Exclamation point. I don`t know what he`s --
MELBER: But George, isn`t that the word for -- I don`t know if you ever listen to reggae or Peter Tosh, he had a famous song, Legalize It.
WILL: No, I`m not.
MELBER: Legalize it. It seems to be Donald Trump`s message. He`s claiming he dislikes this immigration plan. Then he`s saying, well, Congress come help me legalize it which raises the question why. Play such hardball if you`re going to do it anyway. Final question for you, Congressman Castro was on this program not usually a bomb thrower, I think you might say although he`s certainly a progressive Democrat but he is coming down hard on the "I" word. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: If he fires Mueller for a similar reason, to get rid of the Russia investigation, or because he thinks it will accomplish that, those are grounds to start impeachment proceedings.
MELBER: You`re saying today that if those reports are true, that if it can be substantiated that the initial reason to remove Jim Comey was Russia, that is grounds in your view to begin the impeachment process?
CASTRO: Yes of the absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is there a substantive case for that or it`s too early?
WILL: Neither the text nor the constitution nor the history of the impeachment clause test us what high crimes and misdemeanors are. It`s a political remedy. It`s not retrospect, it`s not punitive, it`s prospect off to protect the country against something. That`s basically what it is. The idea -- I mean, this -- we`re about six steps ahead here for firing someone who has not probably going to be fired Mr. Mueller, so I`d say everyone, calm down, deep breath.
MELBER: Calm down? All right.
WILL: Well, it`s Mueller`s move.
MELBER: I`ve been watching your analysis and reading you for many years. I really appreciate you being here.
WILL: I enjoyed it.
MELBER: Thank you, Mr. Will. George Will now, and up next, Senator Harris as you may have never seen her before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Favorite amendment to the Constitution?
HARRIS: Oh, there are many. 13, 14th, 15th, fifth, fourth, sixth, you know, I can keep going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Today Senator Kamala Harris and I talked criminal justice and Russia, and then we did a lightning round on THE BEAT.
MELBER: Democrats must --
HARRIS: Speak truth.
MELBER: Vladimir Putin should --
HARRIS: Stop interfering with our elections.
MELBER: Ted Cruz is --
HARRIS: From Texas.
MELBER: If you had to be on an island with one of your current Senate colleagues it would be --
HARRIS: I can`t choose between them. My Senate colleagues are like, they`re just like a bouquet of flowers. How would I pick one out of that beautiful bouquet?
MELBER: Hillary Clinton is --
HARRIS: A great, great public servant.
MELBER: Donald Trump is --
HARRIS: President of the United States.
MELBER: Kamala Harris is --
HARRIS: Almost done with this interview.
MELBER: Most played song your Spotify list?
HARRIS: You could have asked what`s your great regret. My great regret is on my Spotify list is I failed to put on one of my most favorite performers ever. Bootsy.
MELBER: Bootsy Collins.
HARRIS: Of course.
MELBER: From P-Funk?
MELBER: OK. Because?
HARRIS: Because I love Bootsy (INAUDIBLE). Are you kidding me? I`m totally part of that whole listening generation of music.
MELBER: Stevie Wonder.
HARRIS: Yes, love. Every -- my mother had every one of his albums. Stevie, Aretha, every one of the albums. You know, find the time to dance. Find the time to whistle and sing and bop your head. You know, we have to, like all of that. All of that.
MELBER: Well, you said this interview was almost over and you were right. Kamala Harris, Senator from California. Thank you.
HARRIS: You`re welcome. Thank you, Ari, thank you.
MELBER: The interview is over and so is our show. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Irma heading to Florida. Let`s play HARDBALL.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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