Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: October 18, 2017 Guest: Sheila Murphy, Calvin Murphy, Michael Isikoff
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." See you soon.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: I`m Steve Kornacki. Ari Melber is on assignment. He is going to be joining us shortly.
Senators today grilled Attorney General Jeff Sessions. This was his first Senate Judiciary Committee testimony since his confirmation earlier this year. And there are four key headlines.
The first is maybe the worst for Sessions. More pressure on what critics say are his misstatements about contact with Russians. And the Democrat who questioned Sessions into that original denial was back at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: First it was, I did not have communications with Russians, which was not true. Since you have qualified your denial to say that you did not "discuss issues of the campaign with Russians," what in your view constitutes issues of the campaign?
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me just say this without hesitation that I conducted no improper discussions with Russians at any time regarding our campaign or any other item facing this country.
FRANKEN: Mr. Chairman, I don`t have to sit in here and listen on to his -
SESSIONS: You`re one the who charges without having a chance to respond. Give me a break.
FRANKEN: You don`t recall you talked about issues. And Trump`s views on issues with Russia. Not being able to recall what you discussed with him is very different than saying I have not had communications with the Russians. The ambassador from Russia is Russian.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s Al Franken there, senator from Minnesota, pressing the case that Sessions is being less than truthful, while the DOJ insists he`s clarifying a record of forgotten meetings that didn`t seem important at the time.
And the second take away from this hearing today is news - is that Bob Mueller is interviewing people involved in James Comey`s firing, but he has not yet reached out to Jeff Sessions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: Have you been interviewed or been requested to be interviewed by a special counsel either in connection Director Comey`s firing and Russian investigation or your own contact with Russian officials?
SESSIONS: Well, I`ll be pleased to answer that. I`m not sure I should without clearing that with the special counsel. What do you think?
FRANKEN: Have you been interviewed by them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, that`s news because Mueller never says who he`s interviewing. We only know when the witnesses or their teams talk about it in public.
A third takeaway from today, it is about the future. Sessions refusing to say if the president would pardon anyone in the Russia investigation.
This, in a new statement to THE BEAT, Sarah Isgur Flores, spokeswoman for Jeff Sessions, says "the special counsel`s office has never confirmed a criminal investigation into Comey`s firing."
That`s true. Mueller is not announcing his investigation`s focus, but journalists have reported he`s investigating obstruction and, of course, the Comey firing was the final straw that led to a special counsel appointment in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: Do you believe that it would be problematic for an ongoing investigation if a president were to preemptively issue a pardon for someone who we have reason to believe is of interest to that investigation before the special counsel had a chance to finish his work?
SESSIONS: Well, the pardon power is quite broad. I have not studied it. I don`t know whether that would be appropriate or not, frankly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And the final headline comes courtesy of Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a former prosecutor himself. He asked Sessions to name names when it comes to preventing the next Putin attack.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Campaign and election interference by the Russians is not going away. What I would like to know from you is the name of a person in the Department of Justice whose job it is to look at that. Is there such a person? And what is his or her name?
SESSIONS: I`ll be frank. I don`t know that we are doing a specific legislative review.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The DOJ may not be reviewing how to use or expand legal authority to prevent Russian attacks. And Trump`s DHS took eight months before even telling states they were targeted by Russia.
Those are the questions about the future. As for the past, Sessions answered some questions and left many more on the table.
With me now, the man you just heard from in that clip, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse who questioned Sessions today at that hearing.
So, senator, what questions do you still have about the Trump campaign and contact with the Russians?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, the gateway question is to work through their kind of non-assertion assertion of executive privilege. There have been a lot of questions pertinent to our understanding of that set of facts that have gone unanswered.
And it is appropriate for those facts not to be answered where there has been an assertion of executive privilege. But there have been no assertions of executive privilege.
Now, rule at the Department of Justice allows you a short time period, what the rule calls an abeyance, to sort out whether you`re going to assert executive privilege or not, so you don`t just have to, like, give up your privilege because you don`t have time to sort through it.
And I understand that and that`s fair. But there are questions that have been unanswered now for months and months and months. And somebody`s got to start following the rules here on executive privilege.
KORNACKI: You mentioned that - the assertion of executive privilege. Obviously, that was a theme that Sessions brought to this hearing today.
Let`s play a little bit of him talking about that during the hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: Did the president ever mention to you his concern about lifting the cloud on the Russia investigation?
SESSIONS: Senator, if I understand, that calls for a communication that I`ve had with the president and I believe it remains confidential.
KLOBUCHAR: But you don`t deny that there was a communication.
SESSIONS: I do not confirm or deny the existence of any communication between the president that I consider to be confidential.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, senator, you were saying before we played that clip, there`s a bit of a line here. There are communications. There are exchanges that somebody like Jeff Sessions could have with the president that really are protected by executive privilege, but there are legitimate questions that need and should be answered, even respecting executive privilege.
What are the key questions that fall on that side of it?
WHITEHOUSE: The simpler thing on the executive privilege question is that there is no executive privilege as to any question unless somebody asserts it. It doesn`t just lie out there.
The president has to say - and it has to be the president that as to this conversation with the attorney general or as to these kind of conversations with my cabinet, I assert executive privilege.
You can`t hide behind executive privilege, but never assert executive privilege. It just doesn`t work that way.
So, there`s a lot of the bi-play between the White House and various cabinet officials that relates back to the Russian investigation, relates back to what the president was saying and thinking at the time, relates back to his state of mind and potentially to his intent with certain comments, which connects to the whole obstruction of justice issue.
So, it`s important that we open the gateway in order to be able to get answers to those questions, work with the president on record that he is, in fact, asserting executive privilege. You can`t live in the never, never land in between where there is no assertion, but no answer.
KORNACKI: Let me ask you too about the most contentious exchange from his hearing today, I think the one that`s attracting the most attention. We played a bit from it there at the top. That was between Jeff Sessions and Al Franken.
It basically seemed to be a continuation of an exchange they had at his appearance earlier this year. Franken basically asking Sessions at the time about a report that Trump campaign surrogates had had conversation with Russians.
Session saying at the time, from his own standpoint, he had no communications. Later, it coming to light that there had been moments, there had been exchanges, there have been conversations that Jeff Sessions with folks from the Russian government.
Sessions is saying, basically, look, I gave you a good faith answer to a question I didn`t see coming earlier this year. I did not mean that I was speaking to them in any capacity as a surrogate. He said, basically, there`s an inference there, an implication in Franken`s questioning that`s bad faith and is being unfair to him.
What do you make of Sessions response? Do you believe that?
WHITEHOUSE: I think that this ground has been well plowed. I don`t think we learned anything new from today`s exchange, other than the attorney general feels very strongly about this. And I think rose rather passionately to the defense of his own honor.
KORNACKI: All right. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, thank you for the time.
WHITEHOUSE: Good to be with you, Steve.
KORNACKI: Sure. Let me go to former federal prosecutor now, Renato Mariotti, and Katty Kay. She`s anchor for "BBC World News America".
So, Renato, Sessions met with Trump before writing a letter recommending the FBI director be fired, but refused to talk about conversations with Trump. So, what can Bob Mueller, the special counsel, do when it comes to that question of executive privilege?
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, first of all, as the Senator just noted a moment ago, Sessions did not invoke executive privilege. He said this is confidential. There`s a lot of things that are confidential that federal prosecutors cannot pry into.
So, if something is just merely confidential - my bank statements are confidential. A lot of things about my life are confidential that are obtained via subpoena or search warrant or other means.
The question is, is he invoking executive privilege? The fact that he didn`t invoke it means Congress right now can try to force his hand. But if he does do that in front of a Mueller, Mueller can go to court. And I would expect that that would not hold up that Sessions would ultimately have to give answers on that to Bob Mueller.
One of the other exchanges here, we can play this for you, I think there was a question there to Sessions about potentially having conversations with Donald Trump when it came to firing Bob Mueller, potentially removing Bob Mueller as special counsel. I think we can play that for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: If the president asked for your advice about whether or not to remove or fire the special counsel, would that be an appropriate conversation for him to have with you?
SESSIONS: I have not thought that through, but if it deals with the special counsel, I think the communication would need to be directed to the person who supervises the special counsel, and that would be the deputy attorney general.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And, Katty Kay, what did you make of that exchange, what did you make of that answer there?
KATTY KAY, "BBC" HOST, "BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA": The second part of the answer was probably more honest than the first part of the answer. It`s hard to believe that he hasn`t thought about what would happen if the president came to him and said that he was planning on firing Bob Mueller.
He`s recused himself from the Russia investigation. This would have to go through Rod Rosenstein. I don`t see how Sessions can honestly say that he would have anything to do with that, but I also can`t see how he says he hasn`t thought about it. This is something that he must have thought about, particularly ahead of this hearing.
KORNACKI: And he also wouldn`t talk - again, he was talking about these being private conversations, conversations with the president, but he also wouldn`t talk about conversations he`s had with Trump about the firing of James Comey.
KAY: I was quite impressed that you managed to find three big headlines from this hearing. I didn`t listen to all of it. But all of the snippets that I listened to on and off during the course of the whole hearing, he basically said continuously I can`t remember and I can`t say. Those were his two big headlines.
He went back to version 1.0 of why Comey was fired and said it was all about the Hillary emails and the treatment of Hillary Clinton, nothing to do with Comey.
But he is obfuscating. And at some point, the Senate or Bob Mueller is going to have to decide whether they`re going to try and push him harder and get answers to these questions.
KORNACKI: In fact, let`s play a little bit. This is what Jeff Sessions had to say about the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: If that`s the main reason the president wanted to fire him, his jumping into the email investigation and taking it over in an unprecedented way, why did it take so long?
SESSIONS: The investigation?
FRANEKN: The president knew when he was inaugurated that Comey jumped into the middle of the Clinton email investigation, took the job of the attorney general over. That`s the main reason that he was fired. Why did wait so long to fire Comey?
SESSIONS: Well, I`m not sure you have a grasp - the full import of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And, Renato, that`s one of the most interesting, I think peculiar to people elements of all of this. it is that the official reason and the reason that Jeff Sessions is getting at in this hearing today, the official Donald Trump - for firing James Comey was that he was too hard on Hillary Clinton essentially.
MARIOTTI: Yes. It`s weird given the president`s own tweet this morning, attacking Comey and saying that he was in the bag for Clinton, right? So, it doesn`t even square with the president`s statements.
I have to say, clearly, Mueller is investigating the firing of James Comey, unless all of these news reports from many different accounts, on many different days are all wrong.
And assuming that Mueller is investigating that, I think the attack that Sessions took today is a mistake. If it was advising Sessions, I would have - I could see him saying that he refuses to go into matters like that or try to evade the question, but to try to suggest that this is really - the firing of Comey was really about the Hillary emails I think is silly at this point.
The president has contradicted that multiple times.
KAY: We have videotape of the president sitting there, saying this was about the Russia investigation. How can he possibly now - I don`t understand why Sessions even went back to the Hillary Clinton emails.
That makes no sense. And it undermines, again - the problem is it then makes you think, if Sessions isn`t being straight with us on why Jim Comey was fired, what else is he not being straight with us on.
KORNACKI: Yes. His one comment there too, I think, that jumped out at me was he said it`s not understood, he said, the significance of James Comey`s conduct toward Hillary Clinton.
So, it is, I think, the most peculiar aspect of that to a lot of people. Renato Mariotti, Katty Kay, thanks to both of you for being with us.
And coming up, is Donald Trump violating the Constitution. Oral arguments started today in a case that could have a huge impact on his business dealings. We`re going to talk to one of the plaintiffs.
Also, an exclusive interview with an official on the front lines of the healthcare fight. She`s running the Obamacare exchange in a major state and says that Trump`s transactions are coming at the worst possible time.
And we`re going to have a look at the personal side of the political debate about Donald Trump`s contacts with fallen troops.
And how about this? Ari Melber will be here next. So, stay with THE BEAT here on MSNBC.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: One of the most important legal challenges, the Trump presidency had its first day in court today. A question of corruption and foreign influence that`s dogged Trump from his first week in office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, CNN ANCHOR: A Washington DC watchdog group filed a lawsuit in federal court against the president of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first lawsuit of its kind against the wealthiest president in modern times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lawsuit alleges that from the moment Donald Trump was sworn into office, he was in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In plain English, it means no gifts from foreign governments. But the suit claims the president is getting just that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No gifts. Because the founders worried gifts could be bribes. Trump accused of illegally taking those gifts through his company by ethics groups led from officials who are drawn by both parties, including Republican ethics counsel Richard Painter.
Now, Trump Tower gets payments from China and Abu Dhabi, the suit argues, while the controversial Trump DC hotel has drawn representatives from foreign countries like Kuwait, Bahrain and Azerbaijan.
Critics arguing the business here is a direct result of Trump now being president. So, all of this is unfolding today, a big story you may not have heard about yet, but it was Judge George Daniels in a courtroom today hearing arguments from both sides.
A lawyer for the Trump administration pressing the judge to toss the whole case and the lawyer for the ethics group saying, no way, there is evidence that Trump is right now violating the Constitution.
That group telling THE BEAT today that the arguments, they think, went excellent. Judge Daniels says he will make a call probably within the next month or two.
Now, he can dismiss the suit, he could issue a new order stopping Trump hotels from taking this business or have the case proceed to trial.
And I could tell you something else. He`s actually the second judge to oversee this very young case because the first recused herself when her husband, a prosecutor, took a new job with, guess who, Special Counsel Bob Mueller.
I`m joined now by Richard Painter, one of the attorneys in this case against Trump. He was also, as we`ve mentioned before, chief White House ethics lawyer under Republican President Bush 43 as well as Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor and former chairman of the DNC.
Richard, I go, of course, to you first. What happened in court today? Factually and then as an advocate, which I know you are. What arguments do you think could win the day for your side?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER UNDER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, the arguments today were on a motion to dismiss brought by the Justice Department on behalf of the president of the United States.
They want the case dismissed on two grounds. One, they claim that CREW, the organization in which I`m vice chair and also counsel, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, does not have standing to bring the lawsuit.
And the second argument is that we are wrong in our interpretation of the emoluments clause, that this clause of the Constitution only applies to the narrowest possible circumstances where the clause would basically be meaningless.
We can test that in both issues. We believe we do have standing to bring this lawsuit, that we as a government reform group have been injured by the conduct of the president and that, furthermore, the conduct of the president is in violation of the Constitution.
And this is about a lot more than just two stays in the hotels and books hotel rooms. It`s about the financing of the Trump business empire. Any real estate empire is dependent upon an enormous amount of borrowed money and other equity investors. We don`t know who they are.
All we know about Donald Trump is that, ever since the mid-1990s, the New York banks wouldn`t loan any money to him because they didn`t like not getting paid back. We don`t know where he`s getting his money from.
And if it`s from foreign governments, it`s in violation of the constitution. We know there`s money from the Bank of China. We found that out. But we want to know about what other money from foreign governments are coming into this president. Is he dependent on foreign governments and banks and sovereign wealth funds controlled by foreign governments in violation of the Constitution? We need to find that out now.
MELBER: Right. And your case, I think, is an important way for - as you put it, for people to find out. There are really two things here, Richard.
I want to play for you some sound from a Trump lawyer for your response because there is, number one, the almost national security argument you make that all of us should care a lot whether there are secret foreign deals being made that have reward or leverage over our government.
And yet, that, in one sense, is a policy discussion. The constitutional argument, as you well know, is that you have to convince this court that emoluments are in play here, that this is a gift.
I want to take a play here that you can listen to of Sheri Dillon, the president`s lawyer, saying whatever you think about all this, it`s not a gift under the Constitution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERI DILLON, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present and it has nothing to do with an office. It`s not an emolument.
The Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here. President-elect Trump has decided, and we are announcing today, that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States treasury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you say, Richard, the argument there that this is a fair market value transaction, not a gift?
PAINTER: Well, she`s just flat-out wrong in her interpretation of the Constitution. The founders are well aware of this problem that foreign governments, including, by the way, Russia at the time, they were doing it way back then, trying to corrupt other countries` governments through pay- offs to their politicians.
And that includes presents, any value-added transaction and, furthermore, any emolument. And an emolument is a profit or benefit from a dealing with a foreign country or an entity controlled by a foreign country`s government. And it`s very clear in the Constitution what the founders intended to prohibit. They were not stupid. They knew that countries like Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary at the time, now of course we have China, many other countries would try to corrupt our government.
And once again, it`s about a lot more than just hotel rooms. This is about the fundamental financing structure of the Trump business empire. We have no idea where he`s borrowing his money. We have no idea who the other equity investors are. We don`t know where the money is coming from.
Does he have a dependency relationship with Russia, with China, with any other foreign government, and we want the judge in this case to find out the facts and then decide whether the president is in compliance with the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
MELBER: Governor Dean, this case, Richard`s case hits the court today. How important do you think it is in the Trump era when we have a lot of different disputes going on?
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Well, I think it`s extremely important. First of all, the attorney who was defending Trump was factually incorrect. Many of the hotel payments that have gone to the Trump Hotel in Washington DC have been well above market.
In fact, their volume is not that great, but they make up the money by charging certain delegations enormous amounts that aren`t disclosed. That`s the first thing.
The second thing is that Trump has promised to donate large sums of money to all kinds of people. It came out today that he once promised to donate $25,000 to the family of somebody who lost their child defending the United States and he doesn`t pay.
He always promises. This is his pattern - his business pattern for many, many years, long before he was in the White House. So, the fact that he`s going to donate his foreign profits means absolutely nothing because he has promised all sorts of things like that before.
Thirdly, I mean, I defer to Richard because I`m not an attorney. This clause, I don`t believe, has ever actually been tried, but it was designed to defend exactly against this. And I actually think Bob Mueller is going to have a lot to say about this because part of his investigation is to find out, for example, did Trump who sold his white elephant house in Florida to a Russian for an exorbitant amount of money, was that participation in laundering money.
If that`s the case, that`s clearly an emolument. He got some money. The Russians got some money. It was illegal. I think Mueller is going to find out all that stuff. So, this case is not going to go away based what this particular judge decides. It`s going to come back again and again and again.
MELBER: Well, governor, you`re not a governor, but you are a former public official. I`ll ask you the plain English common-sense question. When this government, the Trump administration, says it`s not logical to think that people would try to curry favor by throwing money at his businesses, does that pass the laugh test for you as someone who ran a state government and, obviously, you had lobbyists and other people trying to get to you?
DEAN: Well, I mean, the scale of Trump`s malfeasance is extraordinary. And the answer is this has been going on for a very long time.
Jared is going to be investigated, probably is being investigated now because he got into a lot of trouble when his family brought the 666 Fifth Avenue. The value of the building went way down. He had to get bailing out. Nobody, as Richard pointed out, is going to lend the Trump`s money because they don`t pay it back.
And so, there`s a lot of question about where the money for that came. And most people believe it came from a Russian oligarch.
So, this is a pattern that`s going on. Again, I think this case is really important because this is a straight-up emoluments case, which has never been argued before in 200-and-some-odd years of history.
But if you don`t think Bob Mueller is looking into this kind of stuff, I think we all would have to have a second look.
MELBER: Well, I have to thank three people really quickly. I`d like to thank both of you Richard Painter Gov. Howard Dean for being in this discussion. And I want to thank my colleague Steve Kornacki who helped me out when I had some difficulties technically here at the top of the show. So, thanks to everyone.
Ahead, are we prepared for future election meddling if it comes from Russia? Attorney General Sessions responded to that. It was actually pretty fascinating.
Also, the political debate over Trump`s attempts to contact the families of fallen soldiers. A controversy he has been stirring up. But is it also a personal question for our heroes among us? Up next, I`m going to speak directly to a Gold Star mother and father who lost their son this May.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Many who have served in the White House call it the most sacrosanct duty a President performs. Speaking on behalf of a nation to a parent whose child was lost in service to the country. Today, President Trump digging deeper into the controversy firing back at a Democratic Congresswoman over his call to the widow of a fallen soldier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: He said, well, I guess you knew, he -- something to the fact that he knew what he was getting into when he signed up but I guess it hurts anyway. She was in tears. And she said he didn`t even remember his name.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn`t say what that Congresswoman said. I didn`t say that at all. I had a very nice conversation with the woman with the wife who sounded like a lovely woman. I did not say what the Congresswoman said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The larger context is clear in an Associated Press report which notes, "Like Presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen, not all. What`s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who has done better to honor the war dead and their families." One such individual, Army Specialist Etienne Murphy died in May after an armored vehicle that he was traveling in rolled over in Syria. And I want to turn now to broaden this national discussion because I`m joined by his parents, Sheila and Calvin Murphy. Thank you, both for joining me. This is a difficult topic anytime and especially, I imagine, right now. I guess I want to start, Miss Murphy, by asking you to tell us about your son.
SHIELA MURPHY, LOST SON IN SYRIA: My son was a good boy. He liked the laugh. He loved his country. He loved his wife and his two boys. It was in his blood to join the military but he wanted to do more for his country so he volunteered to become a Ranger, which he did, one of the army`s elite. And it was just his goal to go and fight against evil for this world, for this country, and for his family.
MELBER: And Mr. Murphy, how do you think we should remember these soldiers who die in service, as we have this national conversation?
CALVIN MURPHY, LOST SON IN SYRIA: Well, with me, the Rangers, they`re like a special breed of men and women. I don`t think they should die but they go serve their country because everything that they have to go through to get where they are is just -- is just a tremendous accomplishment. And they do things behind the scenes that no one knows about. And we just want them that you know, that they should be, they deserve the credit, you know, the credibility that they work so hard for and this country that they dedicated their life to protect. And so it`s kind of hard when people kind of overlook that.
MELBER: And Mr. Murphy, this occurred in May of this year. Did President Trump call you after your son was killed?
C. MURPHY: No. We haven`t heard anything from the President. But I mean, we had -- we had -- the Chief of Staff has called us, the head of the Rangers has called us. You know, we have got --- you know, we had Senators from Massachusetts, Georgia, Mayors from Georgia and Massachusetts call us and -- but no, not the President.
MELBER: And Miss Murphy, what did you think when you heard about President Trump`s recent comments, sort of comparing his own approach to this I guess to previous Presidents in both parties?
S. MURPHY: Well, I just want to give my honest opinion. A letter or a call really isn`t going to change how I feel but I just think that whenever anyone is discussing things that have to do with people who are grieving, that they should maybe think about what they`re saying because you don`t know how it`s going to affect that person or those persons. And what I want to say, I don`t want this to be some back and forth you know, banter about whether or not someone did a better job. It`s about my son. At the end, he was a Specialist Etienne Murphy. He loved doing what he did. And now this is the aftermath. This is what happens when people, our young people go over there to fight for our country that they love so much. We`re the aftermath. We`re the casualties of war. My daughter-in-law, my grandchildren, my son, my daughter-in-law, they`re the casualties of war. The young people, those soldiers coming back with PTSD, they`re the casualties of war.
So it`s not really about whether or not a person may have called or did something more than the previous one, it`s about what are you doing now to help those who are left behind, who have to struggle day to day. I dread the sunrise and I welcome the sunset because I`m hoping as the sun sets, maybe I don`t have to deal with another sunrise because my pain is just so great. So if that letter or that phone call could bring my son back, I would run from here on foot to Washington, D.C. to get that letter. But right now, it really doesn`t matter who did the greatest thing. What matters right now is that people remember my child Specialist Etienne J. Murphy and all the ones that are gone and those out there right now at this moment fighting for us, remember them. Put the spotlight on them and not on anything that has to do with whether or not someone did something that the other person didn`t do because it doesn`t matter to me right now.
C. MURPHY: Yes, that`s true.
S. MURPHY: I just want my child back. I just want my child.
C. MURPHY: He is their Commander in Chief. He is their Commander in Chief and every life matters.
S. MURPHY: Yes. It all does. All life.
C. MURPHY: He`s the one who ultimately has to send -- make that decision for them to go. So I mean, he should care about each soldier and every family.
S. MURPHY: But it`s OK because I`ve learned not to depend on man. I understand that President Trump may have been busy. I understand that he may not have the compassion or the concern that I have because it`s my child. So it really doesn`t matter to me whether or not I receive a call or a letter because I do understand how people are and how this world is. It`s just, it is what it is. I`m just trying to let people know about my son and the many countless others. And I just don`t want them to be forgotten. I don`t want it to be about a phone call or a letter not being received but more so about what are we doing now to honor them and what are we doing now to help their families?
MELBER: Mrs. Murphy and Mr. Murphy, I think it`s so important what you`re saying because in the politics, in news, in stories which we intersect with sometimes, obviously we`re forgetting the point. The point is your son`s service and as you`ve shared, I think really honestly your daily grief. So we want to honor your son and I thank you for sharing that. I wish we were -- if we were in the same room, I would ask if I could give you a hug. I really appreciate you honoring your son and sharing that with us today.
S. MURPHY: Thank you.
C. MURPHY: Yes, thank you.
S. MURPHY: Thank you for having us.
MELBER: Thank you both Mr. and Mrs. Sheila and Calvin Murphy. This is an important story and that`s why we wanted to hear directly from people affected by it and we`ll be right back.
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JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have never had a meeting with any Russian officials to discuss any kind of coordinating campaign efforts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you discussed with them any policies or positions of the campaign or Trump Presidency?
SESSIONS: I`m not sure about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Attorney General Sessions saying he`s not sure whether he talked with the Russian Ambassador about policies or positions of the Trump campaign. That`s new today. Sessions has not denied that Russia was behind election hacking. But what is the top law enforcer in the country doing about it?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think we`re doing enough to prepare for future interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries in the information space?
SESSIONS: Probably not. We`re not. And the matter is so complex that for most of us, we`re not able to fully grasp the technical danger that are out there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Last night on THE BEAT, my colleague Rachel Maddow talked about the threat of Putin`s approach to the world.
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RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Anybody who`s challenging, any of whom -- anybody who`s rising to the point of being interesting in terms of opposing Putin, what constantly looms over that is your expectation that they will end up dead. It makes it very serious that Putin got this far into our own politics. It is a -- it is not just a threat to us, it`s a mortal threat to American politics
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MELBER: I am joined by Chief Investigative Correspondent for Yahoo! News Michael Isikoff. Michael, you see Sessions there not denying the election hack that is a little different than the boss he has. But where does this investigation go when you have the testimony you saw today and since we have you here, what stood out to you?
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, actually what stood out to me is you know, obviously, he would not answer the questions about his own conversations with the President relating to the firing of Jim Comey which is pretty striking given that the White House has consistently said that they want this investigation over. They want to lift the cloud over the President that`s been hanging over it primarily in terms of Special Counsel Mueller`s relating to that issue. So the President could authorize Attorney General Sessions to answer the questions relating to this -- to this matter.
Sessions was well aware it was going to come up. The Democrats wrote him a letter and said this is what we`re going to ask you about in this hearing. And instead, he hides behind this sort of -- sort of assertion of executive privilege because he didn`t exactly assert executive privilege. He just said that it is subject to executive privilege. It`s all something that he could have answered and he chose not to. And that is only going to fuel the suspicions of those who have a darker view of what happened then, Attorney General Sessions presents.
MELBER: Yes, and I asked a Justice Department spokesperson about this today point blank. Are they standing by what the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions by implication said about Comey? Because as we`ve discussed earlier in an hour today, the President underlined that`s with his tweet. And so at a certain point, the stories aren`t even straight in public let alone in private Michael.
ISIKOFF: Right. And I did think it was striking because -- that Sessions did talk a bit about the reasons for firing Comey and took some pretty pointed shots at him relating to his handling of the Hillary Clinton matter. And I thought he went you know, a bit beyond than he`s gone before. And you know, what`s striking about that is, you know, this is conduct that didn`t raise any objection from the President at the time when he was on the campaign trail or from Sessions himself as a -- as a major surrogate for the President`s campaign.
MELBER: Absolutely. And so it leaves a lot of those questions even though he was clearly even ducking, some of them as you point out. Michael Isikoff, always great to have your insights.
ISIKOFF: Sure, anytime.
MELBER: Ahead, my exclusive interview live we the health care official who is running one of these ObamaCare exchanges caught in the crossfire of Trump`s changing point about whether he`ll stick to a deal on funding.
MELBER: Donald Trump stoking more confusion on ObamaCare today, contradicting his own statement that he`d work on this bipartisan plan to shore up funding. Republicans, of course, failed to overturn the law. That was the repeal stage. This week, we`re seeing a new stage, sabotage. Trump pushing into more extreme territory to undermine the current markets, which means this may be now less about reform and more about how ObamaCare insurance markets workout in the states. Now, those state markets matter more than ever.
My next guest runs one of the exchanges at the heart of this battle and says the timing of this White House unrolling the ACA couldn`t be worse, and the actions at the federal level undermine her efforts. Also today, 19 different state attorneys general go to court to force Trump to make the payments. Trump`s failure to offer any consistency has people looking to these states for leadership. In fact, it was Senator Lamar Alexander calling out Trump for turning his back on this bipartisan deal that he says Trump engineered.
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SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: He completely engineered the bipartisan agreement that Senator Murray and I announced yesterday in this way. I mean, he talked to Senator Schumer and encouraged him to ask Murray to do it. He called me twice over the last ten days, to talk to me about a bipartisan agreement for the short-term.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bridge.
ALEXANDER: A bridge so people aren`t hurt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Senator Alexander apparently learning the Meghan Treanor lesson about Trump`s legislative offers. If his lips are moving, he may not be telling the truth. Trump ultimately did to the stick to any part of his pledge to work on this ObamaCare bipartisan plan. I`m joined now by Allison O`Toole, the CEO of MNsure Minnesota`s health care exchange program. You are in the thick of this. You say the timing couldn`t be worse. Why?
ALLISON O`TOOLE, CEO, MNSURE: Well, it really couldn`t be. Thanks for having me, Ari. We`re two weeks out from open enrollment. And what this decision does is not only undermine a program, but it ultimately impacts millions of Americans and that`s not fair.
MELBER: And so, when you see what he`s doing, do you think it is designed to basically undercut your work in the states?
O`TOOLE: You know, I don`t ever ascribe motives to anyone, but you know, what it is doing is undercutting market stabilization efforts and hindering enrollment. And that makes my job tougher in Minnesota. My job is to make sure as many Minnesotans enroll into coverage as possible. And, you know, the timing really couldn`t be worse in that regard.
MELBER: We`re going to put on the screen, the Minnesota insurance coverage, under ObamaCare. Over time, more and more people have gotten insurance. The uninsured rate has dropped more recently in 2015 to 4.3. Where is it headed now?
O`TOOLE: Well, 96 percent of our -- of Minnesotans are covered now, and that`s great news. We`ve got the highest rate of insurance in state history, and one of the highest in the country, and we want to keep that trajectory going. What we`re facing right now are headwinds, because of this federal action. And we`re going to be working really hard to combat that in the next few weeks and for the next several, couple of months.
MELBER: So, in short form, your view is for, at least for Minnesota, it isn`t broke?
O`TOOLE: Oh, it`s not -- you know, we`ve had success here. We`ve had success with state innovation, too. And it kind of have had taken the reins at a state level and stabilized our market and we are enjoying success. That`s not to say that the Affordable Care Act doesn`t need to be tweaked. I testified in front of Senator Alexander`s Committee a few weeks ago and really support his bipartisan efforts. I am hopeful that they will get something done there. It`s not perfect, but it is working in Minnesota.
MELBER: Yes. Well, we`ve heard a lot of sniping about this in Washington and on the politics. I know you`re interested in the policy, and actually out there doing it in a state so we wanted to hear from you. Allison O`Toole, thank for joining me today.
O`TOOLE: Thanks so much for having me, Ari.
MELBER: Absolutely. You`re watching THE BEAT and I`ll be back with a final word.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END