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The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 9/14/17 NYT: Sessions

Guests: Christopher Ruddy, Julian Epstein, Maya Wiley

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 14, 2017 Guest: Christopher Ruddy, Julian Epstein, Maya Wiley

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: And I loved it. Steve Kornacki, thank you as always.

Now, tonight, we begin with a story breaking late today in "The New York Times," pulling back the curtain for the first time on exactly how Donald Trump learned Bob Mueller was taking over the Russia investigation.

Now, this story is not important because of palace intrigue that`s embarrassing to Trump and Jeff Sessions, though it includes much of that.

It`s an investigative account of how panic over the Russia inquiry goes to the top of the White House with implications for the ongoing inquiry into whether Trump abused his power to obstruct justice.

That is one of the criminal inquiries in Mueller`s investigation. This was a fantastic and fascinating story to read when it came into our newsroom and I want to share with you tonight as we go into it.

Three critical revelations in "The Times" report. First, when White House Counsel Don McGahn told Trump that the DOJ was appointing Bob Mueller, Donald Trump lost it completely.

He was in the Oval Office with Mike Pence, Sessions and other aides in a May 17th meeting about hiring a replacement for Jim Comey. Of course, the vacancy that actually set the special counsel appointment in motion.

And "The Times" says Trump responded by launching a "volley of insults at Sessions," blaming the appointment on him and saying that his appointment was one of the worst decisions Trump ever made, also calling him "idiot" and saying he should resign.

Now, we know that in public, Trump says many things about Russia, but this is fascinating and important potentially because it`s in private, "The Times" account saying, that Trump saw this as basically the worst thing in his presidency and erupted in rare self-criticism about his decision to hire Sessions.

Remember, Trump could`ve asked Jeff Sessions about potential recusal before hiring. Trump didn`t do that simple thing because he wasn`t prepared for that job interview and he shows little interest in staffing the federal government.

Now, this report shows Trump`s response to Mueller was to oust the attorney general, so he could get a new one that would not be recused and thus give Trump more direct oversight over the Russia inquiry. That may be a bad thing for him, at least if investigators believe this Times` account.

Here`s the second revelation. It`s about Sessions, who later told people Trump`s attack that day was "the most humiliating experience in decades" of public life. Sources telling "The Times" that Sessions during the meeting with ashen and emotional.

Now, remember, the US Senate rejected Jeff Sessions` judicial nomination over his civil rights record. And 47 of his former Senate colleagues voted against his nomination to this post to be attorney general.

When Jeff Sessions says this was the most humiliating thing in his career, it must`ve been severe and we know he offered to resign. That`s been previously reported in "Politico".

But in the new account, we learn Trump later reversing himself, specifically rejecting a resignation letter with a hand-written response on it that he sent to Sessions.

And now, finally, in our account, the third revelation here that is the most legally important. Donald Trump began taking action to fire the attorney general over the Russian investigation. He did it with witnesses in the room and he did it after admitting, of course, that he fired the FBI director over the Russia investigation.

And in this Times` account, we learn tonight, the only reason President Trump didn`t go through with this second law enforcement Russia-related firing was that Pence, Bannon and Priebus intervened to save Mr. Sessions` job, arguing that ousting him would sow more chaos and rally Republicans against the president.

Notice that two of the people there in this account who saved Sessions no longer work in this White House. And note that their stated rationale holding the GOP base may be the very reason they offered Donald Trump because they know him and they knew that kind of political calculation might move him.

But I think they knew another reason. President Trump is under investigation for firing the nation`s top investigator over Russia, the FBI director. And he tried to oust the nation`s top law enforcement officer over Russia, the attorney general.

Priebus and McGahn are facing demands to testify under oath before Mueller. This news story suggests Bannon will be next. He was part of this decision, part of the reversal and he is a man who recently said firing Comey was the worst decision in modern political history.

Maybe Steve Bannon knew, as this report tonight suggests, that the Russia firing of Jim Comey was just the tip of the iceberg.

I begin now tonight with Renato Mariotti who spent nine years as a federal prosecutor and Attorney Maya Wiley, a former counsel to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Good evening to you both.

Renato, you look at this account. What do you think of specifically those aides intervening to prevent a Russia firing of Jeff Sessions?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s very interesting. And I think what the real questions that are raised by that is what reasons did they give the president for keeping Jeff Sessions around.

"The Times" mentioned that there is a political calculation, but what exactly did they say? What other reasons did they give, what reasons did the president reject, what did he find persuasive, what was he saying in response to them?

Every word he says and every word that they say to him is going to be dissected by Mueller and his team because it`s going to be evidence of the president`s intent and state of mind. And none of their conversations with him are privileged. So, all of that is going to come in and all of that is going to be examined.

MELBER: Right. You`re saying what was likely not privileged is anything that they or, Maya, that Don McGahn would say. Now, you have been a counsel to a chief executive in government.

The type of things that Don McGahn may have told Donald Trump, for example, if you do this on top of Comey, it could contribute to an obstruction case. That`s something that Mueller can probably get out of him, do you think?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO FORMER MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: I think he could. And we certainly know he`ll try. And one of the things he can get, which we should remember, is any hand-written notes.

This is not just about what someone will say in an interview, but what kind of documents exist and we often think about formal written records and we forget that, in addition to emails, there are also the notes that people take in a discussion.

And lawyers, in particular, as you and I both know, will take notes in order to better understand the facts and give legal advice. So, I think there`s a lot there that Mueller is going to be able to dig into.

MELBER: And, Renato, the hand-written note that Donald Trump, according to "The Times" wrote to Jeff Sessions, does that go into what the special counsel can get?

MARIOTTI: For sure. Now, I actually think - I would have to think that that note would be very carefully thought out by the president and his staff because, obviously, there was a lot of discussion before that.

But, certainly, Mueller can get it. And it is interesting that the contents of the note were not revealed in this story, which you have to wonder why somebody leaks the rest of the account, but not that.

And one thing to follow up on what you were talking to Maya about, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, in other words the Federal Court of Appeals in DC, had to examine the issue in the past when Kenneth Starr was trying to get the conversations between Bruce Lindsey, then the White House counsel, and President Clinton and decided that there was no attorney-client privilege.

So, I would expect there to be no attorney-client privilege even as to Don McGahn`s comments to President Trump.

MELBER: All right. We`ve got two experienced government attorneys here. I want you to both stay with me, but I want to bring in John Stanton from "Buzzfeed", Margaret Carlson from "The Daily Beast", and Evelyn Farkas, former Pentagon official and a Russia expert, who overlapped and worked with Jeff Sessions when he was on the Armed Services Committee.

John Stanton, on the context, this week, we`re also talking a lot about the Flynn family, who are - both the father and son now subjects in the Mueller inquiry. Around the same time that this was all happening, basically around May 16th, the day before this explosion, as reported in "The New York Times tonight, was when Comey`s memo leaked, saying that, basically, there was a request for him to end the Flynn investigation.

It suggests that, behind the scenes, during this week, Donald Trump was spending a lot of time worried about trying to contain Russia.

JOHN STANTON, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "BUZZFEED": Yes. I mean, I think if you remember back then, the Russia investigation was basically what everyone was talking about. And he was very clearly kind of obsessed with it.

I think it`s not surprising that that memo would come out that he would then explode Jeff Sessions. And I think it was very clear from sort of his behavior and how he was talking about things that he was feeling very kind of trapped almost and being hunted by people.

And I think, to a certain degree, it`s a little bit understandable, I guess, that this would be a problem for him, although it also sort of goes to what, I think, a point you mentioned earlier, which is that he doesn`t seem to have been particularly well-prepared for dealing with any of these issues, whether it was staffing people, whether it was how he would go about sort of firing somebody in a manner where it didn`t cause all kinds of problems for you. All these things, like he just sort of is doing it by the seat of his pants and -

MELBER: What`s so striking - Evelyn, I served in the federal government at a very low level. You served in the federal government at a very high level. I think we both know there are job and interview memos that are meticulously prepared when you`re looking at Senate-confirmed positions.

Obviously, we`ve learned Donald Trump is not using that kind of preparation, even though it`s frankly work other people do. He doesn`t have to do it. He just has to glance down on it. Walk us through your view of the story of that piece and Jeff Sessions, who according associates who spoke with "The Times", said this was the most humiliating experience of his entire career.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: I think, first of all, look, Donald Trump brought this upon himself. He was the one who was conducting all kinds of meetings and letting his staff conduct all kinds of meetings with the Russians, who then didn`t come clean.

He and his staff refused to acknowledge the discussions or what kind of relationships they had with Russian officials, either Kremlin officials or, I would call, informal officials, the oligarchs, the people who are close to the Kremlin.

So, number one, they had this whole obfuscation strategy going, which was the wrong strategy. And, of course, the firing of Comey, we may find out what`s really truly legally an obstruction of justice issue.

Then, you get to how he treated Secretary Sessions, which, in my opinion, was pretty abysmal. First of all, it either shows that he lacked understanding about the legal jeopardy, what was at stake for Secretary Sessions. Or if he did, it showed a callousness.

And I think the other quote that we might bear in mind when we talk about Secretary Sessions` response to all this was the response he had in July.

If you remember, Ari, he mentioned - he said on the record, it`s hurtful. And I think that`s the thing that makes me feel a little bit badly about this because the one thing about Secretary Sessions, whether you agree with him politically or not - and while I was there, I worked on the other side of the aisle. I didn`t agree with him on the policy issues necessarily, although some very bipartisan, because it was Armed Services. But he was always polite. He was always a gentleman. He always tried to be this southern gentleman. He took pride in being a Christian. He had the Boy Scout motto on his desk according to -

MELBER: Well, that`s nice, Evelyn. I`ll jump in. I don`t care how polite he was. I care that he made what he thought was the right independent decision at the DOJ in consultation with the ethics lawyers. Whatever one thinks of Jeff Sessions -

FARKAS: Right, right.

MELBER: - other attitudes, he listened to the ethics lawyers, who said you`re too close to Trump campaign to oversee this.

FARKAS: I agree.

MELBER: And the fact that was what Trump wanted to oust him for is itself a legal problem, no?

FARKAS: Yes, I agree. He exercised the proper judgment in that situation. And I only add that personal stuff only because it gets to Donald Trump`s management, style and his character.

MELBER: Margaret?

MARGARET CARLSON, "THE DAILY BEAST" COLUMNIST: Well, Ari, the difference between Sessions and Trump is that Sessions has served in government and knew what he had to do and he did it.

Upon becoming president, Trump thought all his worries in life were over because he wasn`t just president, he was like a king. He didn`t have to abide by rules, he didn`t have to be careful, he didn`t have to consult with other people, he could act impulsively, which everything he did with Sessions was impulsive. Everything he did with Comey was impulsive.

Looking back on it, Bannon is right. Firing Comey will turn out likely to be one of the biggest political mistakes in recent history because there`s been a cascading number of events since then, including Mueller. And Trump is not good at controlling his anger and he struck out at Sessions.

And Evelyn makes a point. Sessions is personally decent and it must have been the most humiliating thing because it was done in front of other people. And Trump has not shown any loyalty to one of the most loyal people to him ever.

MELBER: Right. The first endorser. And, John, this same report here breaking tonight from "The Times" says Trump once again in July told associates he wanted to remove Sessions, but for a second time didn`t take action. John, again, something Mueller is going to look at, which is both things they did that may qualify as obstruction and things they attempted that could qualify.

STANTON: Yes. That`s exactly right. I mean, I think the specific thing (ph) where the Trump folks constantly say, well, we didn`t actually do something, like we didn`t actually get any information from the Russians during the meeting that his son had or something like that, but they did try. And the fact that he was considering is I think - is definitely something that Mueller is going to look at.

And, again, I do think that the fact that he considered doing it and his kind of backed off and kept him from doing it for a couple of days until his attention was focused elsewhere, again, really does point to the fact that there is not a whole lot of planning going on here, that they`re just sort of dealing with things as he decides to deal with them in the spur of the moment, which is not a great way to run a railroad that has giant nuclear weapons.

MELBER: Right. And, well - and spur of the moment, Margaret, here was Donald Trump on that fateful day on an aircraft carrier making it even harder because when the president says, the attorney general should not recuse, it actually is exactly the kind of evidence of the interference that makes for the recusal case.

Take a look at this moment in history.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in the attorney general?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, should Sessions recuse himself from investigations into your campaign and Russia?

TRUMP: I don`t think so at all. I don`t think so.


MELBER: Margaret, I don`t think he evinced in that moment any awareness of what he was doing and why made it worse.

CARLSON: No. I mean, recusal would not be something that Trump would be familiar with. And once he became familiar with it, he still didn`t understand why it was the right thing to do and why Sessions had to do it. And so, he blamed Sessions personally.

And the human reaction is to feel sorry for Sessions and the legal reaction is to say it`s just one more incident that Mueller has to show intent to interfere with the investigation, obstruct justice.

One of the excuses about the Donald Trump, Jr. meeting is that that wasn`t successful. It doesn`t matter if you get - I think you made this point - if you get the fruits of what you set out to do. It just matters that you tried to do it.

MELBER: Right. As a legal matter, the argument that we`re bad at collusion and bad at obstructing justice and bad at abusing power isn`t the best defense.

I want to thank this big panel on what is a big story in our view. And, Maya, I`m going to check back with you later in the show on Chuck Schumer`s hot mic moment. Thank you, all.

Coming up, the right wing having a lot of concern over Trump`s deal - or was it no deal - with Democrats last night.

Others stunned by Trump repeating the claim - this is brand new - both sides to blame for Charlottesville violence, an old claim revived today by the president.

As for hot mic, what did Chuck Schumer`s comment about Trump when he thought no one was listening reveal about our politics.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: He likes us. He likes me anyway. Look, what, we said was exactly accurate.


MELBER: Border law turning into a sham. You may be skeptical, but we actually have new reporting from the Trump administration that they may not like.

I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: One way to read the big political story today is Donald Trump made a deal on amnesty for Dreamers. That`s, obviously, not the whole story because it all depends on the meaning of the word deal and the meaning of the word amnesty.

Donald Trump appears potentially confused about both words. The most charitable reading of his reaction to Democrats announcing their outline of an immigration deal and its truly bizarre parsing of how to grant legal status to Dreamers without looking at citizenship.


TRUMP: We`re not looking at citizenship, we`re not looking at amnesty. We are looking at allowing people to stay here.


MELBER: Not citizenship, but stay here. Well, here is how Preet Bharara, who served as a prosecutor briefly in the Trump administration before he was fired, described the word salad. "Trump will not be discussing autocracy, but will discuss legal undermining of democratic norms over a period of time."

In other words, this is amnesty by another name. Now, that`s what`s in the deal, but is there even a deal. Before Trump walked back this possible agreement with his tweet storm this morning, some reporters were immediately skeptical that any handshake deal with Democrats on immigration would hold.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: The president, according to this, caved on the wall.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": They said - and the phrasing there is we came to an agreement.

MATTHEWS: Yes. An agreement. We agreed -

MADDOW: Agreed.

MATTHEWS: - to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly.

MADDOW: I am disinclined to believe anything that Donald Trump says about his own future behavior or that anybody else says that Donald Trump has committed to anything about his own future behavior until I actually see the behavior.


MELBER: That was prophetic, proven by this morning.

Now, then there is all the politics. Whatever Trump was saying or committing to, conservative groups already up in arms about any agreement for Dreamers. And maybe Breitbart just hears what it wants to hear, throwing a nickname at the king of nicknames "Amnesty Don" there in red, you can see, and Steve King is upset.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I think something (INAUDIBLE) reverse here with this president`s policy or it will just blow up his base. I mean, this was a straight-up promise all the way through his campaign.

What it means is that the base will leave him. They won`t be able to defend him anymore.


MELBER: Bill Kristol, founder and editor of "The Weekly Standard" and Nick Confessore, a "New York Times" reporter.

Bill, there it is from deal to no deal, but conservatives saying any deal like this is a deal breaker. What do you make of it?

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I don`t actually - I`ve been reading people today and I think a lot of Trump supporters are still sticking with Trump. They like Trump more than they dislike immigrants.

For better or worse, I suppose it shows they are less mean-spirited, some of the Trump supporters, than one thought. Their love with Trump, he can sell this, I think, to a surprising number of his supporters or at least they won`t fundamentally break with him.

So, whether there`s an actual legislation - people can say they have a deal. Even a more competent president than Trump can say that. That`s a long way from actually drafting legislation, getting 218 votes in the House, getting 51 votes or 60 votes, I suppose, in the Senate.

So, I don`t think just because three leaders meet and say there is a deal there`s a deal.

I want to add one word just because of such an interesting panel you had on Sessions and Trump and Comey and the like. Think of it - I`m just very struck. I don`t think we have fully - we generally have fully appreciated what Steve Bannon said.

Steve Bannon was in a lot of these meetings. He was in the one we discussed that "The New York Times" reported on. He is a smart guy.

When he says that it`s the biggest mistake ever to have fired Comey, maybe he`s being rhetorical, but I don`t - he knows that`s going to - that would look silly a year from now if Mueller finds nothing that`s really impeachable, if he indicts a couple of people, there`s some whatever trials and the thing kind of goes nowhere much, then it won`t have turned out to have been a big deal whether Comey was doing the investigating or Mueller was.

What Steve Bannon must think - I really do think Bannon must think this - is that Mueller is going to fundamentally threaten the Trump presidency.

And Bannon is in a position to kind of know what might be there or at least suspect what might be there. That`s one point.

The only second point, very quickly, we always - the Russia meeting, for me, the key thing is that July 8 moment - and you and I have discussed in the past - on Air Force One where Trump dictates a clearly false account of what happened in that meeting.

Why do that? Why do that? You`re just asking for trouble. Talk about setting yourself up for obstruction charges. That`s just an easy one. That`s not like trying to fire a Jeff Sessions. He`s entitled to fire Jeff Sessions.

We can look at his motives, but actually just misleading people about the actual subject that`s at hand, Russia, why does he do that unless he`s very worried about what`s going to come out about that?

MELBER: So, Bill, you think that when people heard Steve Bannon as saying this was the worst decision ever here, firing Comey, that was a backward- looking assessment. You think it`s forward-looking because it shows Bannon`s view of where Mueller is headed?

KRISTOL: Yes. Because I am backward looking - Trump`s taken a little hit in the polls, but he`s holding most of his support. He is not in disastrous shape. It`s not empirically true that the Trump presidency has paid a huge price so far for replacing in effect the Comey investigation with the Mueller investigation. So, yes, I think it`s forward-looking.



Just back to the immigration point for a second, Ari. This is the moment in which we begin to see if Trumpism is a personality cult or if it has a high policy content.

If the Trump supporters stick with him and while people like Steve King and Breitbart are saying betrayal, betrayal, betrayal, this is a movement centered on the man even more than any of his ideas.

But I do think the deal we`re talking about here, if in fact it is a deal, is in some ways kind of a graceful exit for the president. He can`t get the wall built and so he defers that. He is going to move the immigration debate kind of off the train, which is most unfavorable to the restrictionists, which is the Dreamers, because most of the country wants them to stay.

And if he can get some heightened enforcement in the workplace out of it, that`s not a bad deal for him given the realities of the politics right now, it`s not a great deal in terms of his campaign promises.

MELBER: Right. Well, you raise that. And it really goes to the so-called cult of personality. And the irony being, if that`s true - and we`re going to talk about this actually later in the show with Chuck Schumer`s hot mic moment. If it`s true, that would mean that Donald Trump can do a lot more because people are bound to him for other reasons than policy, and yet he seems very worried about that.

And, Bill, then you look at the Republicans, I don`t know how much Bob Marley you listen to, but he said, you can run, and run, and run away, but you can`t run away from yourself. And you`ve got a lot of Republicans maybe running away from these questions when they have their own self, their record on the immigration issues. Take a look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, can I talk to you for a second about this DACA deal potentially?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Just to call the press (ph) on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, are you comfortable with the president negotiating with Democrats?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got to catch an airplane here. Sorry about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you support a bill that doesn`t have wall funding in it to let (ph) DACA?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support enforcements.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s not exactly an answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got to go.



KRISTOL: Look, I mean, if they end up with a deal that is - if it`s some combination of - if it`s DACA legalization, but necessarily a path to citizenship, combined with heightened enforcement and not a quite a wall, then can incidentally that to continuing resolution, debt ceiling, tax deal, infrastructure deal.

Trump would lose some Republican votes on it, but he would get a lot of Democratic votes if either Schumer and Pelosi are on board. And so, you could end up bizarrely with this kind of classic, half Democrat, half Republican deal, with the conservative Republicans opposing and I suppose some of the left-wing of the Democratic Party might oppose it.

If you would tell me a month ago after Charlottesville when, I think, correctly people were saying, how can you even associate with Donald Trump, people were asking every business leader to quit, every advisory council they were on. And, again, I sort of onboard that because I was so appalled by Charlottesville.

If you had said a month later that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi would be palling around with Donald Trump over dinner at the White House - I am not criticizing them for doing this. They are politicians. They think they`re getting a good deal for the policies they care about.

It`s just so - I don`t know. It`s kind of head-spinning, isn`t it? It`s a guy - he`s a monster that you can`t deal with him or he is a guy that you can sit, have dinner with, and then basically go ahead for the next two, three months, it looks like, with an actual legislative agenda when you`re going to be working with him.

MELBER: Well, and the question for Schumer and Pelosi is what are you getting from him because we showed that clip at the top. My colleague saying, if this is based on a prediction of a deal of future behavior, you`ve got to get the behavior, you`ve got to get the policy. If not that, then you`re really on the short end of the stick. We will see what happens.

Bill and Nick, thank you both.

Quick update on some breaking news. South Korean media reporting North Korea has launched a missile from the capital of Pyongyang. No word yet on the precise type of missile. Japanese media, we can tell you, is reporting it was fired over the northern island of Hokkaido. No response yet, we can tell you, from the White House. We`ll have more breaking news as we get it.

And that politics segment up ahead. You are watching THE BEAT.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Donald Trump is a right wing idea log. Donald Trump is independent, open minded and pragmatic. Donald Trump doesn`t care about passing legislation or Donald Trump cares about making deals. Those are just some of the conflicting views out there that the New York Times has published all of those claims and they can`t all be true or can they? Trump contradicts himself because he`s not a set of ideas seeking a platform. He is a platform seeking ideas. That helps explain his approach to the DREAMers. Right now, he has the power to grant a revoke Dreamer protections through executive order. But he says he`ll deport DREAMers in six months and until then, the work Democrats to get DREAMers permanent protection from deportation.

Now, that`s protection from deportation that Trump himself is threatening. It`s hard to win an argument with yourself. Now, one man who knows Trump`s mind better than most is Chris Ruddy, Newsmax CEO and he`s spoken regularly with Trump since the inauguration. His new article says Trump is turbulent, controversial and polarizing and that Trump is facing a turning point because he entered September with no major legislative wins and approval record low of 34 percent, which explains the thirst to make deals. So Trump`s zigzagging on DACA is also evident in that breaking news I was just discussing with Bill Kristol. This Times report that he demanded Jeff Session to resign for his independence in the Russia query. And then, return the resignation letter to Mr. Sessions with a handwritten response on it to not resign. That may be the one time Jeff Sessions was in the same spot as the DREAMers where no matter how close you listen to Trump, you can`t tell if he wants you to stay or go. With me now is President Trump Confidante Chris Ruddy who`s CEO of Newsmax and a Democratic Strategist Julian Epstein. Good evening to you both. Chris, what do you make of Donald Trump doing these negotiations which in some sense are with himself since he has the power on the DREAMers?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX: Look, you used the words polarizing and controversial, I used that to describe his first eight months in office. But what I say in my blog today on Newsmax is that the real Donald Trump we saw last night, he`s a unifier, he reaches out, he compromises, he wants to bring people together. I think we`re seeing that. I think with the election, a very bitter campaign, a very difficult time. You know, people on your network have been calling for him to be impeached almost from the day he took office.

MELBER: Like who?

RUDDY: Oh, Maxine Waters.


MELBER: Yes, we interview -- sure we interview people from both parties.

RUDDY: And a lot of people.

MELBER: Who else? Who else?

RUDDY: I`ll give you a list. I`ll send over a list, you could read the names tomorrow.

MELBER: We`re doing a live interview. You make -- you make a statement like that and could it mislead someone (INAUDIBLE) you`re saying something about the network. We report what politicians say. That`s part of what we do in the news.

RUDDY: A lot of people have been using your network to say everything about impeachment, to say he`s mentally insane. Look, you just turn on "MORNING JOE," Joe Scarborough, who I like a lot. But Joe`s gone off the rail sometimes. He says that he thought President he had dementia, pre- Alzheimer`s, all those things, just look at the transcripts. And I don`t think that really shows -- look, the President is the type of guy that approaches things differently than politicians. I think it`s one of the reasons he got elected. And I really applaud, let`s applaud that fact that he`s making a bipartisan approach. And he is rethinking a lot of his positions. I think this is a really positive thing. So instead of looking to the past, I think we should be looking proactively here.

MELBER: Let me -- let me -- I appreciate that. Let me bring in Julian -- you made the assertion about impeachment. I just want to point out for viewers, you didn`t have any names on the impeachment claim. And I don`t think folks on this network are advocating that, although we certainly report on the Special Counsel. We`re a long way from the "I" word, so I want to get that on the record. Julian, your response.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that`s true. I lived through impeachment once and very, very few Democrats, unlike Republicans in 1998 are calling for impeachment until more facts are on the table. That said, I think there`s something to what Chris is saying in terms of Trump is trying to turn the corner and reach out across party lines. But the bottom line here is that Donald Trump got rolled. The Democrats are getting everything they want for. They`re likely to get DACA enshrined into law although Donald Trump said that would never happen during the Campaign. He`s totally reverse himself. And they`re delinking it from the border wall funding.

The staff of the White House and members of Congress are all pretty much saying that there will not be any linkage between extension of DACA or clarification of DACA and the border wall. So he`s getting rolled. And why there may be some kind of short term benefits to the President to getting a deal done with the Democrats. It should certainly help him a little bit maybe in the polls. It shows he can work across party lines. I think there`s a larger question as to whether that would be a pair victory for this President. Because this President, remember is under criminal investigation right now. Two-thirds of the public don`t trust him.

MELBER: Well, let`s go -- I`ll come back to Chris on --

EPSTEIN: Let me finish that point if I can-- let me just finish one point if I can. And he continues to alienate establishment Republicans in the Senate. And if he starts now to alienate the base with Breitbart, as you said with your previous segment calling him amnesty don, who is going to turn to in a time of trouble?

MELBER: Chris go ahead.

RUDDER: I think this is a huge win for the President. You know, he`s saying he`s alienating the GOP establishment. Let`s look at the facts. They did not want a border wall.

EPSTEIN: The base -- the base, not the establishment, the base.

RUDDER: Well, I think if you look at the polling number, 70 percent of Republicans, according to the latest Politico Morning Consult Poll, support keeping the DREAMers here. So the President`s got broad support on this. He really knows he can`t remove those DREAMers even if he would write executive action overturning Obama`s order. McConnell and Ryan want to keep the DREAMers. They don`t want a border wall, he`s now got the Senate Democrats on board with that plus he got them to fund massively border security.


MELBER: So that may be --


MELBER: Hold on, hold on. Chris, that`s interesting. Your view and you do talk to the President regularly, is that while he set the six-month deadline, you think in the end, his goal here is not to deport DREAMers?

RUDDY: Absolutely. No question in my mind. He said that he wants to protect them.

MELBER: And you think -- and you think he`s walking away -- Julian, hold on a second man. Give me a second. And Chris, you think that basically, the deal that was discussed and then withdrawn from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi here is still on the table?

RUDDY: Absolutely. I think that they`re saying there`s no formal deal. You know, I think Chuck and Nancy jumped to the gun a bit. They should have allowed the President to speak with the Republicans to make sure they were on board with this, inform them. They didn`t give him any breathing time. I don`t think he was expecting that announcement so late. But hey, look, the overall picture on this is really good. A lot of people on MSNBC that didn`t like the President, this is an opportunity to rethink. Give him a little time. Why don`t we applaud him when he`s doing something in a bipartisan fashion.

MELBER: And Julian, I took Julian`s time, before Julian, I`ll give you the last 20 seconds sir.

EPSTEIN: Chris misses the point that the President campaigned against this. And if he campaign against this, he is saying to his central, to his base supporters, that they can`t trust him. And in the same way, the President has betrayed his base now. There`s a long list of betrayals with Congressional Republicans. And I think the question the Democrats will ask, is this guy really a trustworthy partner? And the likelihood is given his record, at last in the first seven or eight months of switching positions constantly, the lies that have been chronicled repeatedly. I think the answer is that they`re going to continue to play him when they can opportunistically and get what they want. But President Trump is getting nothing out of this. And the fact that he`s a dealmaker basically agreeing on Democratic terms is a joke. He betrayed his base on this.

MELBER: And THE BEAT question --

RUDDER: We`ll see his poll numbers go up. His poll numbers will go up.

MELBER: We`re out of time --

RUDDER: His poll numbers are going to go up.

MELBER: The big question -- the big question is who is getting played? And we don`t know yet. Chriss Ruddy and Julian Epstein, thank you, both. Ahead, the reality on the border wall, special report on THE BEAT with the facts and the fictions of that promise.


MELBER: As I mentioned, we`re going to have this report on THE BEAT about Trump`s bored he wall, separating fact from fiction. But first, a report on some breaking news. South Korean media reporting now that North Korea has launched an unidentified missile from its capital. NBC`s Ron Allen joins me live for a special report from Seoul. Ron?

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. South Korean Defense Officials has confirmed to west that the North Koreans apparently fired another ballistic missile in an easterly direction out over Japan. The missile apparently landing in the Pacific Ocean mirroring an incident happen about two weeks ago when the North Koreans in defiance with the world community fired off a similar ballistic missile around the same scale and size as one couple weeks ago. Now, this, of course, is coming just a couple days after the U.N. Security Council passed yet another round of tough sanctions aimed at trying to stop the North Koreans from continuing this kind of provocations. The information that we have so far is that this missile flew over Japan, that there were no fragment that`s fell on to Japanese territory.

Again, importantly, this missile was not flown in a southerly direction toward the U.S. territory of Guam as the North Koreans have threatened to do. And as the United States has said that it would retaliate against if something like that were to happen. We`re still trying to get all the details that we can about this. But again, it appears the North Koreans have fired off another missile. There was no response, no attempt to shoot it down by the Japanese or by the American Military in the area. The United States we`re still trying to understand exactly what we know about the details of what happened. The South Korean government, we know, is about to meet an emergency session to decide how they respond to this.

We also understand that there were apparently South Korean military exercises going on around the same time that the North Koreans fired off this test missile. So we don`t quite know the sequence of those events but the two things were apparently happening around the same time and the same proximity. So again, another dangerous escalation of the confrontation here between the North, the South, and the United States after these U.N. Security Council Resolutions. And again, another test, another act of defiance by the North Koreans here. We`re trying to sort exactly what they did, what happened. But again, a missile apparently flying over Japan and landing in the Pacific Ocean. Ari?

MELBER: Ron Allen reporting from South Korea. Thank you.

Next up, we have as promised, a special report on THE BEAT about Trump`s new claims and spin on the border wall. We did some digging and we have all of the facts straight ahead.


MELBER: Today Donald Trump is walking back his pledge to build a wall. We have a new reporting right now on what`s really going on. Here was Trump today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The wall will come later. We`re right now renovating large sections of wall, massive sections, making it brand new. We`re doing a lot of renovation. We`re building four different samples of the wall to see which one we`re going to choose and the wall is going to be built. It will be funded a little bit later.


MELBER: Trump has gone from saying Mexico will fund a new wall to saying Americans will fund a new wall, but today, talking about it being funded later and emphasizing renovation instead of a new wall. Now, if you`ve ever worked with contractors, maybe you know there`s a big difference between building a new kitchen and renovating your old kitchen. So if Trump talks about this renovation, here is our new reporting tonight. There is a wall replacement project that is finishing up in New Mexico, and the Customs Department confirmed that to THE BEAT today. But that began under the Bush administration with $11 million for fencing. And there`s another replacement project in Arizona as well, that plan began four years ago and was funded during guess who, the Obama administration.

As for Trump`s reference today to those four samples, well, federal officials tell us eight, not four prototypes will be built soon, what we learn from those prototypes may be employed in future wall projects. That doesn`t mean any wall will be built though. Remember, a prototype is a preliminary model of something from which other forms are developed or copied. And that means there`s just a model for the wall but no funding. Now, we could seek foreign aid.


TRUMP: We will build a great wall and Mexico will pay for the wall.

Mexico is going to pay for the wall. They don`t know it yet but they`re going to pay for the wall.

Mexico will pay for the wall, they`ll be very happy to do it.

Yes, Mexico will pay for the wall.

Who is going to pay for the wall? 100 percent.


MELBER: 100 percent or maybe zero percent. Now, when we asked where this money would come from to build the prototype, Trump administration officials conceded to THE BEAT today, "Future construction is tied to a budget passing Congress." So here`s your decoder for Trump`s new words on the wall. The current renovation is from the Obama and Bush administrations.


TRUMP: The wall will come later. We`re right now renovating large sections of wall, massive sections, making it brand-new. We`re doing a lot of renovation.

MELBER: That`s the renovation they`re doing. Now it may sound like Trump is working harder to pretend there`s construction than actually getting construction done. Well, that`s something she`s actually something e he`s proud of. He boasted in the Art of the Deal about a time he staged a fake construction site to trick Holiday Inn Executives taking a "Vacant lot, filling it with bulldozers to create a fake fraudulent work zone. And what the bulldozers did, he said, wasn`t important. So long as they did a lot of it. They can dig up dirt from one side of the site and dump it on the other." Now, remember, Donald Trump the businessman didn`t just stage that fraudulent construction site. He bragged about it afterwards. Apparently, he thinks he can fool some of the people a lot of the time. Now, that`s bad news if you wanted a wall built. And for Trump, it`s only bad news if people who wanted a wall built ever find out.


MELBER: Now, to a revealing peek inside Democrat`s strategy for cornering Trump caught on a hot mic when Senator Chuck Schumer thought no one could hear him detailing his strategy towards Trump after their much-publicized meeting. Now, remember, Schumer`s public message has been that he`ll talk to Trump about Dem priorities but also hold the line.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We`re going to hold his feet to the fire, and I can assure you this. Anything we`re going to support will get almost no Republican votes. That may mean we support him on nothing. But we`re not going to sacrifice our principles for the sake of compromise.


MELBER: That`s when we knew the mic was on. But here`s a fascinating moment on the Senate floor we`re about to air for the first time when Chuck Schumer didn`t know a hot mic picked him up. He says Trump may like him even more than the Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.


SCHUMER: He likes us. He likes me anyway. Look, what we said was exactly accurate.


MELBER: He likes me anyway. Then Schumer shows his canny side explaining he gave Trump advice that in politics like basketball, you got to be able to dribble in more than one direction. Now, notice this pro tip would benefit Democrats if Trump follows it.


SCHUMER: Here`s what I told him. I said, Mr. President, you are much better off if you can sometimes step right and sometimes step left. If you have to step just in one direction, you`re boxed. He gets that. Oh, it`s going work out and it`ll make us more productive too.


MELBER: Oh, it`s going to work out. Back with me, Maya Wiley who knows a thing or two about New York politics. She`s a former Aid to Bill de Blasio. What Chuck Schumer are we seeing there?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO NEW YORK MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: We`re seeing Chuck Schumer the deal maker who understands that he wants to get legislation done and that he`s trying to ensure that he has a President with whom he might be able to work at least on the issues that they were talking about, DACA in particular and he wants a deal.

MELBER: Does it work though if Trump finds out that Chuck now says this?

WILEY: Well, I think it can still work because the truth is it`s in Trump`s interest to solve this problem he has because this is a very popular program. They have -- the elections coming up in 2018. Everybody is looking at the impacts of this on the election --

MELBER: And you work for these politicians. They do a lot of public fighting. Here he sounds -- I mean, he also sounds perfectly collegial with McConnell.

WILEY: Well, look, I think the reality that people -- these are governors. They have to govern the country. What this really is just a conversation about bipartisanship when what we really need to have is much more public ability to be bipartisan.

MELBER: And there was a bipartisan by the Congress on Charlottesville which we`ve been reporting on. Then Donald Trump said this today.


TRUMP: I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa if you look at what`s going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also. A lot of people have actually written, gee, Trump might have a point. I said you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.


MELBER: Back to both sides.

WILEY: Well, there`s having negotiation and they`re facts. Sometimes what Donald Trump says are what I call false facts, which is that it`s simply not true that they`re just all equally bad. In fact, the statistics show that domestic terrorism is much more likely to be perpetrated by people who are on the far right. 74 percent of domestic murders in the past decade have been far right, far left was 2 percent.

MELBER: Right. And Charlottesville was white supremacists conducting a murder.

WILEY: Correct.

MELBER: His need to go back to this and stick to his --

WILEY: Well, what it demonstrates is what we -- he had demonstrated after Charlottesville, which is that he actually is not going to stand up for both racial tolerance and a unified country when it comes to race.

MELBER: Right. Maya Wiley, who joined us on several topics today, thank you very much. That`s our show. I`ll see you back here tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump dates Democrats. Let`s play HARDBALL.



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