Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: November 21, 2017 Guest: Dennis Herrera, Francesca Chambers, Brett Cohen, Alexei Wood
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": That's all for tonight. We'll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now.
Ari, I kind of feel like he did actually ask somebody if he could revoke the pardons of Tater and Tot.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: I'm just glad you brought us that Friday - Tuesday pardon news. I wish -
TUR: Now, he's pardoned three people. Three things. Three pardons. Arpaio and the two turkeys today.
MELBER: Three pardons. Who and what they're for, I think, is the harder part. Katy Tur, thank you very much.
TUR: Bye, Ari.
MELBER: On THE BEAT tonight, developing news on two big stories. President Trump breaking his silence on Roy Moore.
And here, exclusively on THE BEAT, I have new reporting on the Russia investigation. Trump's personal criminal defense attorney Ty Cobb talking on the record with THE BEAT tonight and he dishes on his view of the timeline of Mueller's Russia probe and some of how he views his obligation to President Trump. This is only on THE BEAT and that report is later this hour.
It's not our top story, though, because our top story tonight is something you really need to see with your own eyes.
It has now been 12 days that Donald Trump has been holding back, refusing to answer those shouted questions about pedophilia allegations against about Roy Moore. That, at the White House lectern, you see there. And then, again, flatly ignoring questions about Moore in the cabinet room.
But, tonight, what you need to see is President Trump has weighed in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat, Jones. I've looked at his record. It's terrible on crime, it's terrible on the border, it's terrible on the military. I can tell you for a fact, we do not need somebody that's going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?
TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. If you look at what is really going on, and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. And you have to listen to him also. You're talking - he said 40 years ago, this did not happen. So, you know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to campaign for Mr. Roy Moore?
TRUMP: I'll be letting you know next week. But I can tell you, you don't need somebody who is soft on crimes like Jones.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what is your message to women, sir, during this pivotal moment in our country where we're talking about sexual misconduct. You've had your own allegations against you.
TRUMP: Let me just tell you. Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say. He denies it. And by the way, he totally denies it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Roy Moore does totally deny those allegations that he preyed on teenagers and everyone is entitled to due process, as we always note in our reporting.
But the reporting also shows Moore has also talked, just this month, about getting parents' permission when he dated their daughters. Investigative reports have gone beyond simply comparing his statements and the accusers' because other evidence has emerged that Moore was reportedly banned from youth venues over his behavior.
And as a judge, he sided with the accused abusers over minors who were alleged rape victims.
And there's new context for Trump finally weighing in on Moore today because today he said this about Trump. "I'm sure he understands the damage false accusations can do and the danger of rushing to convict someone in the court of public opinion."
Tonight marks two weeks and a day since this story broke. And Moore's latest strategy is clear. It's to tie his predicament to Trump's.
Now, Donald Trump did not say there in that exchange that he agrees exactly, although his support for Moore came today with an observation that Moore's female accusers are Trump voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe this?
TRUMP: Well, he denies. I mean, Roy Moore denies it. And by the way, he gives a total denial. And I do have to say, 40 years is a long time. He's run eight races, and this has never come up. So, 40 years is a long time. The women are Trump voters. Most of them are Trump voters. All you can do is you have to do what you have to do. He totally denies it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I have a special panel on this new development. Leah Wright Rigueur is a professor of public policy at Harvard University; Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent with "The Daily Mail"; and Yamiche Alcindor, a national reporter for "The New York Times".
Professor, I start with you. These women accusers are Trump voters, he says, as a seemingly unrelated point to what looks like an embrace of Roy Moore's candidacy tonight, 15 days out of the accusations. Is that your view of it?
LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: So, I think what Trump reminded us today is that there is no bottom. We continue to see that there are no depths to which he won't descend.
And in this case, I think what he was trying to do was give people a moment of out, right? He earlier in the statement had said, oh, we should believe the women and mentioned that they may have been Trump supporters.
But at the same time, essentially, threw them under the bus and said, we should listen to Roy Moore. So, I think that was a Hail Mary pass.
If I'm Republicans right now, I would be furious because the president opened his mouth.
MELBER: Francesca, your view?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE DAILY MAIL": Well, he's been trying to play both sides of this issue the entire time, saying through his spokeswoman prior to this that the allegations are deeply troubling, but then also saying that the people of Alabama should decide.
So, I think we saw a continuation of that, so to speak, outside. But, however, we also heard him say that he could campaign for Roy Moore, which was new, because even his counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, had said yesterday that he wasn't expected to campaign for Moore.
And you'll recall that he didn't support Moore in the primary, so that's something that I'll be following moving forward, is whether he goes down to Alabama and stand next to him on stage.
MELBER: Yes. Yamiche, take a listen to a little more from Donald Trump and then a response. Just a brand new one because this all just breaking, him weighing in from our own Nicolle Wallace, who is, of course, known as not only a journalist, but a former high-ranking Republican. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Women are very special. I think it's a very special time because a lot of things are coming out and I think that's good for our society and I think it's very, very good for women. And I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out. I'm very happy it's being exposed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": Women are very special and I'm very happy it's being exposed. And I'm going to throw my weight, as a man accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women, behind a man accused of sexual misconduct by nine women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think it's a remarkable doubling down of President Trump as someone who is all confrontation, as someone who never backs down.
I mean, it is remarkable to see that he was able to, I think, even after the "Access Hollywood" tape, but also after many women told "The New York Times" and other publications that they were essentially harassed by the president, that he was able to continue to be the president.
So, because it's so remarkable, I think he has no reason to not also go ahead and back Roy Moore, even though, of course, Moore is accused of molesting. So, it's even more of a reason why you see Republicans fleeing from Roy Moore.
I think this also sets up the idea that President Trump is never on the same page as the Republican Party. Mitch McConnell does not want Roy Moore anywhere near the US Senate and President Trump is essentially completely ignoring that fact and completely ignoring that.
And I think it's interesting because he didn't have to say - he didn't have to talk about Democrats at all and he was saying that Roy Moore's candidate is soft on crime. He could have just said, you know what, the Republicans can find a better candidate, but this person isn't the right candidate for us.
It didn't have to be just going to the Republicans against Democrats because there are Republican who are saying we could have a write-in campaign. There are other senators in the US Senate right now who have had write-in campaigns successfully happen.
So, to me, it's just remarkable to see the president double down on this.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, Yamiche, the way you lay it out there, you're sort of pointing to both the ethical and logical holes here, which I think doubles back on the point that Francesca was making that, in trying to have it both ways over such an extended period of time, the whole thing doesn't even make sense, which is a secondary problem after the first problem, which is there's a real ethical question here when it comes to the politics of leadership, which are different than just the politics of politics.
And on that point, you talk about fleeing the Republican Party. Francesca, take a listen to Neil Cavuto over at "Fox News" in a broader discussion, but, again, where we see this tension because he points out on many issues, Donald Trump not acting like a president if that means leading and taking clear positions. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEIL CAVUTO, "FOX NEWS" HOST, "YOUR WORLD WITH NEIL CAVUTO": You have got the real estate. You've got the White House. You've got all the advantage of being the most powerful human being on the planet that you don't have to throttle any human being who offends you.
Last time I checked, you are the president of the United States. Why don't you act like it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Francesca, that's again conservatives saying, he's not acting like a leader this week and you have these new comments tonight.
CHAMBERS: Well, there had also been a push for President Trump to say anything about this issue at all. You'll recall, prior to this, he was asked about it in Asia, but really pushed it off and pointed to Sarah Huckabee Sanders' previous statements on it. Said we'll talk about this when I get back, but then didn't talk about it.
So, after he was pushed pretty aggressively to say something, anything on this topic, you saw him taking quite a few questions on this matter today.
But I want to talk about Yamiche's point. She mentioned the write-in campaign. That's something I had actually asked the White House about yesterday and it didn't come up in today's conversation with President Trump. But I did ask about this yesterday.
And the idea that Kellyanne Conway had said the same thing that President Trump said today, that Doug Jones would be terrible, he would not be a vote for tax reform specifically which the president really wants and needs for his agenda.
And so, I asked, would the president be supportive of a write-in campaign for Jeff Sessions or Luther Strange for that matter? And the White House really danced around that issue and said that they answered that question, they've had it and that it's for the people of Alabama to decide, so they're really not trying to get involved on that issue.
Which is interesting, the idea that Jeff Sessions - he's a sitting attorney general and who had the seat before - could potentially mount a write-in campaign.
MELBER: Right. And again, that goes to the wide gap between folks in the Republican Party and the conservative movement who have been looking for alternatives with the idea that either they can't stomach supporting Roy Moore; or if they want a Republican agenda, they should get creative take what might be a higher risk because some things are worth the risk.
For that point, I want you all to stay with me. I'm going to bring in John Podhoretz, who is a conservative columnist and thought leader. And, John, what did Donald Trump just do from a conservative perspective in how he weighed in tonight?
JOHN PODHORETZ, "NEW YORK POST" COLUMNIST: Well, I think he's now made - established the total breach between the prior connection between the Republican Party and what might be called traditional morality and expectations of traditional morality among its politicians, with the notion that partisan alignment is all.
So, aside from the fact that he is a guy who, obviously, has similar charges against him to the ones that are against Moore, he is also making it very clear that, in his party, there is no need and no reason for conservative politicians or Republican politicians to levy moral judgments against conservatives and Republicans.
MELBER: Yes. You put it like that, you put it starkly.
Stay with me, Professor Rigueur, I mean, you have studied as political scientists do, realignments. John Podhoretz here tonight is arguing that this is a type of selective partisan realignment that at least Donald Trump is pushing and the standards just shouldn't apply to certain people.
RIGUEUR: Right. So, one thing that Donald Trump is really good for doing is stomping all over ideas that say, for example, the Republican Party has to be the party of morality. Or is the party of morality or is the party of family values.
He's essentially said this during his campaign after he was elected. He said it today that those things are irrelevant. What I care about is winning and winning at all costs.
So, I think what we're seeing here is - again, it's not just Roy Moore tying himself to Donald Trump. It's Donald Trump tying himself to Roy Moore.
Now, for the Republican Party, for conservatives who do have acknowledged that they have a woman problem, right, this is a huge, huge kind of smackdown, if you will, in that area. Women don't take kindly to being told they are not valuable, that their stories are not to be believed. And that's exactly what Donald Trump did this afternoon.
MELBER: You talk about believing. John Podhoretz, take a listen to the Democrat in this race, who we don't hear as much about, because there's been such a focus on Roy Moore, who, to the professor's point, says he does believe the women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe Roy Moore was a sexual predator?
DOUG JONES, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR ALABAMA SENATE SEAT: I believe the women. I think that answers the question. I believe their stories have credibility and I believe them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel that Donald Trump, at this point, is endorsing - passively endorsing a man who has been accused to be a child molester?
JONES: I'm going to let the people of Alabama make that decision. I feel like my record speaks for itself and I don't have to have to have the president or anyone else to talk about it or try to label it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: John, what do you think of the line that he's walking?
PODHORETZ: Well, I mean, I think Trump was actually trying to thread a needle. I think he's, on the one hand, saying, look, he said he didn't do it and it is 40 years ago. On the other hand, we should believe women, it's great that all this stuff is coming out about women and it's all getting exposed and they're Trump voters.
He is trying to muddy the waters. I don't think he is actually trying to say that Roy Moore didn't do it or did it. It's all a mess. And, therefore, you can vote for Moore if you want to. That's how I read all of it -
MELBER: Isn't that, with this situation, a rather extreme political permission structure?
PODHORETZ: I mean, I think it's unconscionable. I think that it is the best hand if you're going to play the hand that Trump is playing and basically say, look, I'd really prefer if you put Moore into the US Senate.
This is the hand to play. Like, is to say, it's great that all the stuff is coming out to clarify terrible things with women, but, look, Roy Moore says he didn't do it, you've got to listen to him too, it was a long time ago.
So, in theory, he is getting it both ways. I don't think anybody who really is following the issue will accept it, but if he muddies the waters sufficiently for Moore, this is the game. The play is that he can sort of provide enough cover for Moore that Alabama voters who would be inclined to listen to him will bite the bullet and scrunch up their eyes and vote Republican on December 12.
MELBER: John Podhoretz, Yamiche Alcindor and Leah Wright Rigueur on the developing news there from the Trump White House. Thank you. Francesca, stick around. I want to talk to you more about some aspects of this.
And then, coming up, our other big story. I have exclusive reporting on Bob Mueller's Russia investigation. What Trump's criminal defense attorney is exclusively telling THE BEAT tonight about the time line and upcoming interviews. You literally won't hear it anywhere else.
And later, a key part of Trump's anti-immigration agenda struck down, stopped in its track by a federal judge. I'm actually speak to the man who took Trump to court and won this first procedural step.
And later, my exclusive interview with a journalist who is literally on trial by the Trump Justice Department for his role, they say, in rioting at the inauguration protest.
I'm Ari Melber and you're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Now, we turn to some breaking news tonight on THE BEAT.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb is responding tonight on the record to critics and reports who suggest that he has been overly optimistic or even misleadingly so about the pace of Bob Mueller's probe. He has been quoted as saying it could wrap up by the end of the year.
And there's a new "Vanity Fair" report getting a lot of attention, suggesting that maybe that prediction was more of a strategy for containing Trump with the goal of preventing him from "flying into a rage" and firing Mueller.
Well, tonight, we have new exclusive reporting here on THE BEAT. Ty Cobb tells me, "I'm not shaping this time line to calm anybody."
And as for the expectations, he goes on to say, on the record to THE BEAT, "My timeline gets reported the whole thing would be over. And what I have said for the last several weeks is that the interviews ideally will wrap up shortly after Thanksgiving and there's a possibility the entire Mueller matter can be resolved in early January."
That again is brand new exclusive reporting. Ty Cobb, who is the criminal defense attorney for Donald Trump, on these reports about how he has been managing both the case and his client in the White House.
Cobb also shooting back on the idea that he would try to sugarcoat any bad news to the president. He says, "In my job, you have the responsibility to give the commander-in-chief honest information."
Let's get right to it. On the show tonight, I have Abigail Tracy who broke that story in "Vanity Fair"; former Watergate special prosecutor, Nick Akerman, now a partner at Dorsey & Whitney; and former federal prosecutor, Paul Butler, professor at Georgetown Law who specializes in public corruption.
Abigail, I'll go right to you. Obviously, your story has struck a nerve. What do you think of this latest from Ty Cobb?
ABIGAIL TRACY, STAFF NEWS WRITER, "VANITY FAIR": I think he is making a point. Obviously, he is saying that the interviews are different than the entire investigation. But also, this timeline that he's putting forth now of January is still incredibly aggressive, particularly compared to the estimations that I'm getting from legal experts that I've spoken with or seen quoted elsewhere.
And I think, back to his point that you don't sugarcoat news for the president. I think one thing that Donald Trump has demonstrated time and time again is that he self-sabotages and, at times, opens himself up to legal risk.
So, I don't think it's unreasonable that his legal team might be seeking to shape the narrative in a way to prevent Donald Trump from possibly laying the groundwork for his version of a Saturday Massacre.
MELBER: Right. And that would be a disaster even for Donald Trump's self- interest, Nick. And so, you have this report that's basically saying, maybe White House lawyers are just worried about making Donald Trump feel good.
But I want to be clear about our reporting. And we always talk to as many sources as we can, as I know you do. I've got Ty Cobb here tonight saying this could be done by January and he is not just saying that to calm his client.
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Complete fantasy. There's no way this can be done by January.
First of all, you've got the Manafort trial that they're talking about, at the earliest, having it start in April of next year.
The whole point behind the Manafort trial is to basically put the squeeze on him, so that he will testify against others. Now, that takes time.
Even the trial itself has got to take at least two or three weeks. So, even if you get into May and then he's got to be sentenced, which isn't going to happen probably for another two months after that, so if he gets the full 15 years that the government wants to have imposed on him, the idea that he's suddenly going to cooperate until he gets that sentence, I mean, this is going to go on for a long time.
MELBER: Paul, let me get you on the same question. Referee this claim from the White House and then your analysis. But just on the claim that the interviews could be done. And I think that what they're arguing is that, by January, the fact finding could be done. Yes, if someone flips, anything can change. But referee that claim for us.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: When you do that interview with Ty Cobb, play that song from Disney, "When You Wish Upon a Star" because it's fantasy. It's not going to happen.
I have a little things-to-do list for Mueller. So, try Papadopoulos and Ryan (ph). Michael Flynn is obviously in his sights. That's coming. Other people, Carter Page, maybe even Kushner or Trump, Jr. Again, he is looking at them. And, finally, an interview with the big kahuna, Donald Trump. So, working his way up there. He's got a lot on his to-do list. No way it's going to be done by January.
MELBER: And all of this coming alongside this phone call between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump that went about 90 minutes, Abigail. This is back drop for the legal intrigue, his ongoing foreign policy.
Trump defenders say, of course, he's got to continue to talk to different world leaders. Critics say, gosh, an hour and a half seems like a long time for what is typically an adversarial leader.
Take a listen at Donald Trump here talking about what they talked about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We had a great call with President Putin. We're talking about peace in Syria. Very important. We're talking about North Korea. We had a call that lasted almost an hour and a half.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Where does that figure into the nervousness that you had detected from some White House folks?
TRACY: I think it again speaks to this overarching trend that you guys are touching on that this is not something that's going to be closed and shut really quickly.
Obviously, this is raising more questions about what's going on between Donald Trump and Putin. But also, yes, it's not unreasonable that he would have a long conversation with a foreign leader.
But I think it, again, speaks to the specter of it. So, 90 minutes is an incredibly long time. Obviously, there was a vote - the Russian detail on the Syria mechanism to determine where these chemical weapons were being deployed, which is a big issue.
But, of course, like you also come back to it, and I think it continues to raise questions and bring more intrigue into this ongoing investigation.
AKERMAN: There's no question. What is he doing talking to Putin for 90 minutes? He has criticized everybody in his administration, including Sessions, including his secretary of state. He's criticized his own majority leader in the Senate. But the one person he has never said a bad word about is Vladimir Putin.
MELBER: Kind of weird.
AKERMAN: Kind of weird.
MELBER: It's not criminal automatically, but it is weird.
AKERMAN: The question is what's Vladimir Putin got on Donald Trump? I mean, what's going on here.
MELBER: And then, Paul, the other piece to this. moving just away from this back and forth over White House legal strategy is who knows what. And any student of Watergate and we have a participant from the Watergate prosecution knows that John Dean was so critical because of his role as White House counsel.
And the other report here we have going into Thanksgiving is that Don McGahn, campaign lawyer turned White House counsel turned adviser on Comey firing, is sitting down with Mueller's team. Walk us through how important that is.
BUTLER: There's so much to ask - for Mueller to ask the White House counsel. So, Sally Yates not only warned President Trump, she first warned White House counsel McGahn about Michael Flynn. He's dirty. Don't go near. He was still hired.
It took the president forever to fire him even after it was known that he had lied to the vice president. So, lots of questions about that meeting. What happened? Why did Trump keep Flynn on for so long? What did he tell Trump about Comey, about the firing?
So, there was this meeting with Attorney General Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the White House counsel where they talked about why they were going to fire Comey.
Again, it's a goldmine for a prosecutor. You have the people like Hope Hicks, the communications adviser; McGahn, who knows a lot, and they have to spill the beans. So, it's going to be dramatic.
MELBER: I have to say - I mean, one of the interesting parts of this job is learning from so many experts. The combination of hearing the latest from the White House view and Ty Cobb on the record, plus the reporter he was essentially responding to, plus two ace prosecutors. This has been fascinating.
So, appreciate it. And if I don't see you guys before Thanksgiving, have a great Thanksgiving, Abigail Tracy, Nick Akerman and Paul Butler.
I also have a special programming note. This Friday, we have our first special show on location. It's called Russia on trial, debating evidence of collusion. We go on location at a moot court with live jurors to hear arguments on both sides pressing the case about a Russian election conspiracy.
We have former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti and defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who has argued 200 cases, appealed them. Well, he is waging Trump's defense. This Friday, 6 PM Eastern, it could be interesting.
And ahead tonight, more on the breaking story. Donald Trump now urging people to vote for this accused predator. What is happening, though, on the ground in Alabama? We go out there for the latest.
And a photojournalist facing years in prison on trial today for how he covered the inauguration day protest. I'm going to show you the video at the center of the case, why this matters for the First Amendment, and that reporter that you see there is on THE BEAT exclusively tonight.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOTS: -- sixth day in office he signed an order defunding cities that opposed federal efforts to deport undocumented residents. There were protests, there were legal challenges. And now I can tell you the entire Trump policy there is blocked. The federal judge ruling it's unconstitutional. That is yet another place where Donald Trump's rush even improvised approach on immigration has had some cost. In fact, he spent just six days on that order and just eight days on the infamous travel ban, you remember those protest at the airports and other places near the border which also ran into something of a wall in the court. And it turns out Trump's attempt to tough talk on sanctuary cities also hurting him. The new judicial order blocking his policy cites Trump's own public comments against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm very much opposed to sanctuary cities. They breed crime, there's a lot of problems. If we have to, we'll defund. We'll give tremendous amounts of money California --
BILL O'REILLY, TELEVISION HOST: So you're going to defund --
TRUMP: -- California in many ways is out of control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, this judge based the ruling against Trump partly on the President calling his policy a "weapon" in that same O'Reilly interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'REILLY: So defunding is your weapon of choice.
TRUMP: Well, it's a weapon. I don't want to defund a state or a city --
O'REILLY: But you're willing --
TRUMP: I don't want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or state. If they're going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly, that would be a weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, this week's new setback to Trump all began back when San Francisco's City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, took the Trump administration to court and Dennis Herrera joins me now. Your response to what looks like at least procedural or first step victory.
DENNIS HERRERA, CITY ATTORNEY, SAN FRANCISCO: Well, thanks, Ari. It's actually much more than procedural, it's substantive. You have an order that guts the heart of an unconstitutional executive order that was unconstitutional before the ink was even dry on the paper it was printed on. And from our perspective, we're gratified by the court's ruling and it demonstrates that for purely political purposes and to scapegoat immigrant communities across the United States without concern for the impact of public safety in those communities. The Trump administration was engaged in a partisan political stunt that was certainly not based on the rule of law.
MELBER: Do you think you would have been less likely to score this victory if Donald Trump had been more careful in his public remarks and less rushed in pushing out that first executive order?
HERRERA: That's certainly a possibility. As you alluded to in the introduction, the court's order made very clear and the judge highlighted the language of both the President and the Attorney General both in the campaign trail and once they're in office in revealing what the true purpose was behind the order and its attempt to try and coerce cities into carrying out federal responsibilities.
MELBER: Yes, can I ask you about that?
MELBER: It's so weird because, in law school, they used to talk about this. And they said, well, if you make a rule that says the only way to catch discrimination, for example, is to say, well, if the government announces it's discriminating, then they're busted. And you set these arguments and you say, well, OK, but who would ever admit that? And there is as well documented, all sorts of types of discrimination that isn't announced and yet here we are with an unusual administration that does seem at times to announce what you're calling potentially unconstitutional intent which is part of why they lose.
HERRERA: It's absolutely right. I mean, what it points out is the necessity of when you are drafting executive orders and engaging serious business of policy making, to have lawyers and scholars reviewing what it is that you do to make the findings that you make, if you're truly trying to get at some public policy problem. But what this -- what this revealed was that it was nothing more than a partisan stunt designed to appeal to a political base that the President felt like he had to throw the red meat to at the expense of public safety and communities across the country.
MELBER: And the point on their response, I want to mention one of the architects of the immigration policy Stephen Miller, we've invited him on the show. He once said he would debate voter fraud on any show, anywhere, anytime. I don't know if you caught that. And then he's been ducking on request but his invite remains open. And if he is willing to come on, would you be willing to talk to him about your issues here?
HERRERA: Any place anytime.
MELBER: All right, we will pass that on and Dennis Herrera, thank you very much. Coming up, President Trump backing Roy Moore despite those abuse allegations. How is it then playing though on the ground in Alabama? We go there for a different angle on this story. And then later the protesters on trial, the photojournalist who could face decades in prison is here exclusively.
MELBER: President Trump finally breaking his silence on Roy Moore. This is 12 days after those sexual misconduct allegation surfaced including from a woman who was 14 allegedly at the time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, is an accused child molester better than a Democrat? Is an accused --
TRUMP: Well, he denies it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: NBC's Vaughn Hillyard is reporting this fast-moving story down in Huntsville, Alabama, and Francesca Chambers for the Washington side of things back with me. Vaughn, how is this playing this evening? Are people that you're around, are they hearing that Trump weighed-in? Is that a big deal?
VAUGHN HILLYARD, NBC NEWS REPORTER: We're actually here at an event in which Doug Jones the Democrat is going to be attending in just the next 20 minutes. Doug Jones is actually the one on the campaign trail. We actually went to his Huntsville field office where a couple dozen canvassers were coming in and out here through the afternoon. He just held a press conference in which he said that he believes the women, he believes their stories. And you're talking to people on the ground here, it's quite a stark contrast if you're looking purely at the campaigns that are being run. We've attempted to talk to Roy Moore but he's been missing since Thursday. We have not seen him in public. Since that point, there's nothing on the campaign schedule tomorrow.
You saw three more surrogates held a press conference on the steps of the Montgomery Capitol today in which they came out and they tried to poke holes, Ari, into the stories of specifically Leigh Corfman and Beverly Nelson, just two of the nine women to have come forth with allegations. The other seven who have presented their allegations have interestingly not been as rebuffed as these two women specifically. But Doug -- Roy Moore is -- seems to take -- to take great pleasure in Donald Trump's comments today, quickly retweeting out NBC News' video that NBC tweeted out as well as putting out a statement to his supporters with the Youtube video of Donald Trump's comments and embracing it and seeming to suggest that it was an endorsement for him.
MELBER: And so Francesca, does any of that surprise you? There seems to be something of an inverse campaign going on as you're going to the home stretch. The Moore campaign seeing a strategy where they have more -- I guess more to lose than to win by being out in front of people.
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL: Well, also, you know, it is not you as surprised, it's not surprising that Roy Moore would send out that video from President Donald Trump. It's playing in Washington as a major boost his campaign that the President said today that he might campaign with him. He also -- he said that the women were -- the women are special. We heard all of that earlier but he also seemingly said, look, a vote for Roy Moore is better than a vote for a Democrat. And the big thing that's playing out here nationally is you have to look at the makeup of the Senate.
If Republicans, President Donald Trump's party, are to lose that Senate seat, that brings Down Republican stronghold to bare majority of 51 seats. And already, Republicans have had difficulty passing major pieces of legislation like an ObamaCare repeal and we're now looking at taxes but they haven't passed it yet either. And with the December 12th special election, that could see -- whoever wins that seat, seated pretty quickly, it definitely has to be making Republicans very nervous in Washington. The idea that they could lose that Senate seat that's currently held by a Republican to Democrat and what that could do to their agenda. And that's a major part of this story.
MELBER: Right, that so much hangs on this special election which itself is a product of Jeff Sessions' going to the White House to the DOJ and then also in the news, so many moving parts. Francesca Chambers and Vaughn Hillyard out in the road, I know we'll be checking back with you again in the coming days, thank you both. Straight ahead, the Trump protest trial puts the government against protesters and self-proclaimed journalist. One of them, Photojournalist Alexei Wood faces years in prison. He's here next with an exclusive video. And later, the sexual harassment claims against Democratic Congressman John Conyers. There are new developments and a new investigation.
MELBER: -- reported for you last night. A Trump era trial putting the government against protesters and self-proclaimed journalist. My exclusive guest is here tonight after spending the day in a trial court that could take away his freedom for years. This is all based on allegedly happened at protest against Donald Trump's inauguration day. Many did gather peacefully but authorities also indicted 200 people and accused six of them in court today, including Alexei Wood. He's an American photojournalist facing felony charges for rioting, inciting a riot, and destroying property. Prosecutors alleging Wood was effectively part of that destruction. You're looking right now at key evidence in this trial, his own Facebook live video and the reporter's lawyer says the right to a free press is now on the line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXEI WOOD, PHOTOJOURNALIST: So howdy, folks. We got ourselves three blocks of black block. All right, it's happening time you all. We have some graffiti.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In court this week, prosecutors are saying under the law, you don't personally have to break a window to be guilty of rioting and the first amendment doesn't protect what they call dangerous conspiracies. They say Wood here contributed essentially to a "path of destruction throughout the city." Joining me now is Alexei Wood and his attorney, Brett Cohen. Alexei, you chose to go first and that's why you're on trial this week. Why did you want to be the first up?
BRETT COHEN, LAWYER OF ALEXEI WOOD: If I can talk for Mr. Wood. Mr. Wood is looking to get the message that he didn't do anything wrong during this -- during this event.
MELBER: If you're going to talk for Mr. Wood, you have to say more than that.
COHEN: Oh, sure. He is concerned about his -- as you describe him as a photojournalist in the lead-up. He's concerned that although people can criticize his ability to be a journalist, he is concerned about the government doing that and continuing to press the charges.
MELBER: And what about the response to the idea that at a certain point, the video, according to prosecutors went over the line from reporting or observing to being a part of what they call felonies.
COHEN: Well, those are the allegations that they made and I believe that the -- you know, to answer that question at this time, while we have an open trial, we are in the second day of trial, I don't really want to go and let the government know through this program what our defense is going to be.
MELBER: No, I understand that. In fact, the very presence of both of you on the program is highly unusual, because you spent the last two days in court. But what do you want people to know, Brett? I mean, do you view this as a simple overzealous prosecution of a range of people, or do you view it and does Alexei view it as something that targets the free press or that is a product of the Trump era?
COHEN: I think that the government is apparently not happy with what happened in D.C. on the day of inauguration. And, as the government expressed in its opening argument, essentially talking about how the witness -- how the victims were affected by what was going on, and really Mr. Wood did not want to be arrested for what he was doing that was not what he anticipated when he came to D.C.
MELBER: And Alexi, I know there's a lot you can't say, but what do you want people to know, generally about all of this.
WOOD: Sure, well, first of all, it's Alexei, thank you. Second of all, just to -- just to have (INAUDIBLE) this case that is going on, that it was a mass arrest and that I would say strongly that it's a first amendment issue, not only just for myself in the freedom of press realm, but in protests in general.
MELBER: And do you think this is, as I mentioned, a product of the Trump era?
COHEN: I don't think Mr. Wood is qualified to answer that. Obviously, this was an incident that occurred before Trump -- President Trump was inaugurated. So it's hard to point to President Trump as being the driving force behind this prosecution. Whether he's behind in the carrying on of the prosecution, I can't say.
MELBER: And Alexei, what has been your experience that you can discuss from inside the courtroom. I mean, do you think this is going OK? Do you think this is fair? Are you confident in the outcome?
WOOD: Honestly, I am confident in the outcome. I feel righteous in my innocence. I live streamed everything. It's there for the entire world to decide. And it's -- everything is TBD and we'll see.
MELBER: And are you -- this is what I've got to ask you and it's a weird one, but you know, you were out there recording all of this. Some people take issues with your methods. Are you worried about winding up in jail?
COHEN: I don't think he should really be answering that at this time.
MELBER: What would you -- what would you say, Brett, about that? I mean, because that's the larger context of all of this, right? Is this -- you say, about the timing, is this sending a message, is this chill speech, is there a speech issue for protesters or reporters or would-be reporters out there today who might go to the next protest?
COHEN: There's something to be said about setting up guidelines as to what reporters can and cannot do during an event such as this. And I believe that this trial might bring those issues to the forefront. I'm hopeful that the jury will, you know, see it favorably for my client, but it's going to be up to the jury. And although Mr. Wood says that it's for the whole world to see, now it's up to the 12 members of the jury.
MELBER: Well, and that is how it works in our system. As I mentioned, I know it is rare for folks to walk out of an ongoing trial and talk in public and I know there's some things you can't get into. So to both of you, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Wood, I thank you.
WOOD: You're welcome. Thank you.
COHEN: Thank you.
MELBER: Again, I also want to tell you, a programming note. We have a special show this Friday, Russia On Trial, Debating The Evidence Of Collusion. You're going to see arguments inside a mock courtroom in front of live mock jurors debating both sides of the collision question at John Jay. That's Friday 6:00 p.m. Eastern, right after Thanksgiving. Up ahead, Congressman Conyers confirming a sexual harassment settlement, also denying misconduct. That is next.
MELBER: Other news tonight, there's a House Ethics -- House Ethics Committee launching a new investigation into America's longest-serving Congressman, John Conyers, hit with sexual misconduct allegations, as well as a wrongful dismissal complaint from 2015. Now, today, he admitted there was a financial settlement with a former staffer, but denies misconduct. The story began in BuzzFeed, which spoke to a former employee, alleged she was fired for not succumbing to sexual advances. Meanwhile, four ex-staff alleged Conyers had "request for sexual favors," asked staffers to "pick up women and bring them to apartments and a hotel room and "rub the legs of women and touch them in "an inappropriate manner." BuzzFeed reporting that Conyers did pay $27,000 to settle and there was an exchange of a confidentiality agreement. Another spotlight on a system that Congresswoman Jackie Speier is trying to fix.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: In the last 20 years, there have been 260 settlements at a cost -- the taxpayers of this country of $15 million. That $15 million has been there to silence victims of all types of workplace discrimination. Today, we are here to change that. Abusers and sexual predators have thrived in the shadows in our current system where all the power is deliberately taken away from the survivor.
MELBER: Gag orders can be a long-standing problem in these type of settlements. Gretchen Carlson stressed that on THE BEAT a few weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETCHEN CARLSON, AMERICAN COMMENTATOR: Listen, we've got to change the way in which we approach these kinds of cases and take the blame away from the women. We also have to take away the secrecy of it because most of these cases are solved in settlements, where the women cannot speak about what happened to them or they go into secret arbitration with the prevalence of those clauses and employment contracts. And again, women are silenced.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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