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Transcript 12/8/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Jennifer Rodgers, Jill Wine-Banks, Howard Fineman, Max Boot, Luke Harding, Laura Bassett, Fat Joe, Christian Finnegan, Chuck Nice, Francesca Chambers

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 8, 2017 Guest: Jennifer Rodgers, Jill Wine-Banks, Howard Fineman, Max Boot, Luke Harding, Laura Bassett, Fat Joe, Christian Finnegan, Chuck Nice, Francesca Chambers

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT, though, with Ari Melber starts right now. And, Ari, I know I`m late, but, man, Nicolle was late too. So, I`m just saying. So, make Matthews pay for it.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: My only quick question, how are the oysters?

TODD: I`ll tell you in a few minutes.

MELBER: All right. We`ll check back with you. Breaking report there. Chuck Todd, have a great weekend down there.

What we have tonight is a lot to chew on. Two stories breaking on this Friday night. Who Bob Mueller interviewed today and why the FBI conducted a secret briefing in the White House Situation Room about Russia contacts.

By now, I bet you know that many big stories do break on Friday nights these days. Tonight, no exception. But tonight`s story comes late in the day from "The New York Times."

It`s an important scoop regardless of where one may stand on the Russia probe. This is a story that actually can cut both ways. It reinforces how persistent Russian operatives in cultivating top Trump aides even after the election, which, obviously, looks bad.

But it also suggests those Russians may not have always had the best access, which Trump allies are using to argue there was no high-level conspiracy.

Now, whichever direction you take this story, it is significant for the workings of our government and for this Russia threat, whether the president acknowledges it or not.

So, here`s what I`m going to tell you. Here is the big news tonight. "The New York Times" reporting, one, that Bob Mueller`s team spent today and yesterday interviewing top Trump aide Hope Hicks.

And, two, that Russian operatives were trying to contact her well after the election, a pattern that was so acute that the FBI warned her about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition.

So, even after Trump won and even after intelligence agencies had publicly labeled the Kremlin for trying to influencing the election, Russian spies were basically still trying to get into the Trump transition team, to get into the government in waiting heading into the White House.

Now, another point that`s important. "The Times" reporting this account is about Russians going after Hope Hicks, trying to reach her. No indication that she was encouraging that or that she did anything wrong in this story.

FBI agents met with Hicks twice after Trump took office, reportedly giving her the exact names of the Russians who contact her and said that they were not who they claimed to be. So, those names something more like a cover.

And they also urged Miss Hicks to "be cautious." Now, that`s advice she could certainly use tonight after sitting with Bob Mueller`s team all day.

Hope Hicks has been at Trump`s side from the start. In fact, she is one of the few first White House aides who got her start working for Donald Trump in business.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hope Hicks. The legendary Hope Hicks. Come on up here. Come, come, come. She`s shy.

She`s a great person. She`s done an amazing job.

I have a great staff, one of whom comes from Connecticut, Hope Hicks. She comes from Connecticut.

Hope Hicks. This is Hope. This is Hope. This is Hope. Nobody takes more phone calls, I think, in a day than Hope. So, thank you, Hope.


MELBER: Nobody takes more phone calls. I`m joined by Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, who`s at Columbia Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity and knows a thing or two about corruption cases; Watergate prosecutor, Jill Wine-Banks; and Howard Fineman, global editorial director for "Huffington Post."

How good a journalist is Howard Fineman? Well, he is the only non-lawyer we allowed to report and join us on this legal story.

I start, though, with our former prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. Again, to be clear, big deal that the FBI had this at such a red level. They`re in the Situation Room warning about Russians. This is after the election. This is after the collusion claims.

And yet, as we always are careful to do, on the other side of it, no allegation of wrongdoing by Miss Hicks. How is this important? And how would Mueller touch on this in the interviews we now know he did today?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, certainly, another sign of the brazenness with which the Russians were trying to get to Trump and to his inner circle, for sure, right?

As for what Mueller and his team want from her, surely, they want to talk to her about what she did with these outreaches, who she talked to about them.

I read that she told White House counsel Don McGahn about them. Kind of what happened from there, I don`t know if they inquired about other topics. But it`s interesting for that reasons.

It`s also interesting because it kind of now goes on top of the pile of information that the president knew about when he was still telling everyone that there was no Russian interference, he didn`t believe it, didn`t believe the intelligence information about it, he didn`t believe Hope Hicks, I guess, when she reported this to him.

So, just another piece of evidence in that pile too that he apparently disregarded.

MELBER: I wonder, Jill, if you could pick up right on Jennifer`s point that it might not make Hope look bad all alone, but it could make the president look bad if it ups the exposure for him to not have the credible denials that he`s made.

At a certain point, if the FBI is telling your top person in the Situation Room about this, how do you keep going out on stage and claiming there`s no Russian interference of any kind.

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think you just said it and summarized it beautifully. That is, I think, one of the most important elements of the story.

There`s no doubt in my mind that Hope Hicks reported to the president in the same way that she did to Don McGahn. This is, as Jennifer said, one more piece of evidence that the president knew that the Russians were interfering, that they were engaged in the election, that they were trying to reach his administration.

And yet, to this day, he continues to say I believes Putin. He says he didn`t do anything. Who does the president think sent those agents to try to contact Hope Hicks? Clearly, Putin is behind this. And it`s time for the president to admit it and to admire our intelligence services instead of demeaning them and to admit that the Russians have interfered and attempted to hurt our democracy.

MELBER: And, Howard, all of this comes on a day when there`s more reports about the way the WikiLeaks material spilled out into the public view. Donald Trump, we checked this, talked about WikiLeaks 141 times in just the final month before the election.

And so, while it`s not always clear exactly what moved where, when, there is this growing chorus about the fact that the White House seemed to be - excuse me, at the time, the campaign seemed to be definitely on notice about all this material having links to Russia.

MELBER: Well, the connection between the two stories we`ve just been discussing is as follow. Yes, the Russians were brazen seeking to cultivate Hope Hicks, who, by the way, sits now outside the Oval Office. That`s where her desk is.

Why were they so brazen? Why did they feel a level of comfort, if you will, about knocking on Hope Hicks` door, presumably every other door? Why the almost fraternal approach that this bespeaks?

And I think that`s what Bob Mueller is going after here. He is going after the connective tissue between Putin and his circle and Trump and his circle. Why they felt cooperative if they felt cooperative? What contacts there were, what contacts were attempted? And he is looking to fill those in as he looks for the question of motive and possible collusion.

And, by the way, I covered Hope Hicks during the campaign. I dealt with her. She is not only very smart, it`s impossible to overstate how plugged in with Donald Trump`s world she is. He spoke to her all the time.

There`s no doubt that if the FBI came and took her to the Situation Room, and briefed her on these approaches by the Russians, there is no doubt that she immediately went and told the boss because she talked to the boss all day long.

He probably wondered where she was for the hour she was down in the Situation Room. So, that`s a warning. I think it`s an FBI warning to Trump as well.

MELBER: Yes, you make such an important point. And we can all tell our campaign war stories. I didn`t hear from Hope all the time as a journalist, but I did file a couple of stories about whether or not Donald Trump was going to actually pay for the original loans that he structured when he said he was self-financing.

And he perceived that as a suggestion that he couldn`t afford it and I can report she called me with him very much near to the phone and they ultimately provided a quote from him because apparently, unlike some other stories, that had personally hit him because he was very offended at the notion that he couldn`t afford it.

Ultimately, several months later, they did forgive the loans. It all comes forward and backward. Jill, I want you to respond to anything you heard from Howard there as well as the Trump defense here, which is sort of voiced in "The Times" reporting as well.

They say, look, "The Russian outreach to Miss Hicks could undercut the idea that the Russian government had deep ties to the Trump campaign. If it had, Russian official might have found a better entree than unprompted emails to Hicks."

So, Jill, how might a prosecutor rebut that. I mean, that`s a type of defense. A situational defense.

WINE-BANKS: First of all, I think Hope Hicks has been shown to be one of the closest connections to Donald Trump, so that I don`t think that I can accept the premise that they were reaching out to somebody who they were desperate to make a connection.

He talked to her all the time, as you`ve noted. So, I think that the answer is that she was an extremely good connection and we know that she`s been involved in things like the drafting of the phony report about the June meeting in Trump Tower with Don, Jr.

So, she is involved in the Russia investigation. And I think that there`s no reason to suggest that that wasn`t a good outreach.

They may have had no reason to believe she would cooperate with them. But to answer the question about - that it was brazen and why would they do that so brazenly is because they`ve had entree to everybody they`ve tried.

MELBER: Right.

WINE-BANKS: So, why wouldn`t they keep on trying? They ask and they get.

MELBER: And then, it`s not isolated because there are so many people. Some high. Some, as we`ve just reported, well placed, very close to Donald Trump. But others may be more peripheral. And then, you have a debate about how peripheral they are.

To that end, Howard, I want to ask you about, not my term, because you know I`m careful as a reporter, but proverbial "coffee boy," George, who of course has pled guilty to false statements. His fiance speaking out in a somewhat unusual way, but she is not helping the Trump folks because she is not buying the coffee boy defense.



GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, "ABC NEWS" CHIEF ANCHOR: Was he in touch with the chief strategist Steve Bannon?

MANGIANTE: Yes. As far as I know, yes. I know Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He was in touch with Michael Flynn - General Flynn?

MANGIANTE: Yes, as well. As far as I know, absolutely, yes. He never took any initiative without the blessing of the campaign.


MELBER: Howard, how important is that? And don`t rule out the prospect that maybe he was in touch with Flynn just to take the latte order and not talk about anything else.

FINEMAN: Well, the key here is that he was named to the original foreign policy advisory committee. And it didn`t say next to his name, coffee boy.

He was one of a supposedly distinguished panel of people that Donald Trump was going to turn to for advice during the campaign. Why was he on that list to begin with? What were his contacts with the other people? What was he supposed to be doing?

You can laugh about it, except that Donald Trump was accused at the time of not knowing anything about foreign policy. Just as in other areas, he put together - someone put together for him a list of people and I think Michael Flynn was involved in putting that together.

Why would Flynn have put Papadopoulos on the list?

MELBER: And let me take that to Jennifer because this is sort of a you don`t know me like that defense. This, you see in corporations. And you it`s now used in politics. People say, OK, somebody over there did something, I don`t really know him and he doesn`t really know me. How do prosecutors chip away at that if they do believe that George who was seen in photos sitting with Donald Trump, talking foreign policy, was more than a barista.

RODGERS: Well, you`ve already seen a little bit of it, right, with the clips of Donald Trump suggesting that he was more than that and he is a great guy and he`s a great catch for my team and so on.

And then, you`re just establishing the links, right? Where was he in the meetings? The picture that we all see where he`s right at the table with Trump. Those ties, those communications, you`re bringing witnesses to discuss all of that. You`re just trying to show that they`re closer than the defendant might say.

MELBER: It`s like the old song, "more than a barista to me." It`s Friday. So, I had to get in at least one terrible joke.

Howard Fineman and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you very much. Jennifer, I have more on the law with you.

There`s reporting on how Trump`s favorite bank might be in a panic over the Mueller subpoena. I have an author of that new book, "Collusion".

Also, Trump hits the road with a full-throated endorsement of Roy Moore. How are Republicans this one?

Also, there`s new video of Barack Obama making a comparison that has a lot of people talking. We`ll show that to you.

And music star Fat Joe is here on THE BEAT tonight to talk hip hop, activism and some very interesting news on Puerto Rico.

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


MELBER: How much evidence has Bob Mueller actually gotten for his indictments so far? Tonight, we know.

Court rules actually require Bob Mueller`s team to detail what he has on former Trump aides, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. It`s considered only fair to them as defendants.

And according to a new filing obtained tonight, Bob Mueller has almost 0.5 million documents on these defendants - e-mails, financial records, corporate records and more.

And that broad scope shows Mueller knows far more about his targets than the White House knows about Mueller.

The news comes as his team spent today grilling Trump aide, Hope Hicks, a rapid pace considering it was exactly one week ago that Mueller brought Mike Flynn into court to plead guilty.

So, those are the important developments happening in this case. Consider that the signal and contrast it to the noise emanating from Donald Trump`s defenders because as Mueller bears down on targets and witnesses, the noise is getting louder.

When investigators come up empty, sometimes it gets quiet. But they come up with the goods, the noise can get really loud as nervous people want to drown out the signal. So, consider that the context for this noise.


LOU DOBBS, FOX NEWS HOST, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: There are two conflicts of interest that could get Mueller fired. The first one is, Mueller interviewed with the president for Comey`s job.

He is being dishonest and deceptive.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY: Mueller`s credibility is in the gutter tonight. His conflicts of interest, his clear bias, the corruption are on full display. Mueller is frankly a disgrace to the American justice system and has put the country on the brink of becoming a banana republic.


MELBER: Sort of weird how in that Mueller graphic about conflicts, there was no actual information.

But if you broaden out to the past week, the number of Trump White House aides that Bob Mueller prosecuted went from zero to one. That`s a binary change. And it is being met, we can see, with a shift in the attempted signal to noise ratio.

The attacks not only on Bob Mueller, but now on the entire FBI itself, some casting it as a kind of a Russian secret police.


DOBBS: Mueller has been using the FBI as a political weapon. And the FBI has become America`s secret police.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST, TUCKER CARLSON: The FBI doesn`t see it that way, of course. From their perspective, you`ve got a right to shut up and do what you`re told. And by the way, you`ll stop asking so many questions if you know what`s good for you. This is exactly how the secret police started.


MELBER: The secret police. So, let`s keep in mind as a nation as we process all that. There is the signal and there is the noise. And if you know anything with Bob Mueller, he will probably tell his investigators, forget that noise.

Back with me is former prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers as well as Max Boot who served as an advisor on both John McCain and Mitt Romney`s presidential campaigns and is currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a student of many of these issues in the American context and internationally.

So, I begin with you, Max. Do you think this is a noise distraction? And what do you think substantively of the attempt by some of the most prominent conservatives in the country, who I just showed, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and others, to liken the FBI`s fact-finding to the "secret police?"

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, I think your analysis is exactly right, Ari, that this is a response to the fact that Bob Mueller is making inroads and building a case against Trump and his associates and, therefore, the Trump wing of the Republican Party is panicking.

But the that they`re trying to smear a man like Bob Mueller is simply disgusting and disgraceful. I mean, there are so many disgusting and disgraceful things going on in the world right now, including the fact that many of these sample people are backing an accused child molester for the Senate in Alabama.

But, nevertheless, this is pretty horrifying that you have somebody Bob Mueller who is a decorated combat Marine veteran of Vietnam, a lifelong prosecutor who up until he became the special counsel, was universally revered in Washington, known as a man of unshakeable integrity, appointed to run the FBI by George W. Bush, reappointed by Barack Obama. Not a partisan bone in his body.

And now, many of these same people, who once praised Bob Mueller, are now trying to tear him down because they see him as a threat to Donald Trump. And, of course, it`s not just Bob Mueller they`re trying to tear down.

The Justice Department, the FBI and Trump himself was leading the way in a way that I think actually violates his oath of office because he is support to take care that the law be fairly executed and he`s not doing that. He is actively trying to obstruct justice at this moment.

MELBER: Jennifer?

RODGERS: I couldn`t agree more. I mean, it`s one thing to attack the press, right? Presidents do that sometimes. It`s another thing to attack the judiciary, which at least is a coequal branch. But to attack your own Justice Department and to declare the FBI in tatters, that`s his Justice Department. He appoints the AG. He appointed the deputy AG and that`s who appointed Mueller.

So, this notion of attacking the people who are your people is really, I think, unprecedented and really disheartening for those of us who are in law enforcement.

MELBER: And I know you say that as someone who worked with the FBI on a daily basis and from law enforcement.

Max, I want to also point to the importance of language here because going on to a year into the Trump presidency, there`s clearly a larger pattern of using distraction attack and extreme language to kind of exhaust everyone and to kind of clear it all out.

And I want to play for you Rush Limbaugh. I showed Tucker Carlson making the reference to secret police. And regular viewers of THE BEAT will know we don`t make it a practice to constantly just look at what other TV channels are doing as a daily habit, but I`m looking at this because it seems important.

Likewise with Rush Limbaugh, he uses the word coup to refer to the lawful investigative process here in the country. Take a listen.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: Mueller has always been in an investigation leading to impeachment. Not crime. I think there is, and has been ever since Trump was elected, a silent coup to get him out of office, ultimately.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ARKANSAS: This whole investigation stinks worse than cabbage cooking in a small unventilated kitchen with sardines on the side.

There needs to be an investigation of the investigation.


MELBER: That there is a former governor and the father of the current White House press secretary.

Max, your view as a conservative about how people should meet this sort of extremist rhetoric which relates to potential action.

BOOT: Well, I think it`s just shocking the extent to which all these purported conservatives are willing to subvert the rule of law in their defense of Trump, which makes your kind of wonder why do they place such an importance on appointing the right justices to the Supreme Court and other judicial positions.

Those judges are theoretically supposed to uphold the rule of law, and yet, clearly, this Trump chorus is seeking to undermine the rule of law.

Another thing that just jumps out at me is the fact that Trump and his supporters spent so much time attacking people on the left, including especially those NFL players who kneel during the playing of anthem, for questioning police brutality, for questioning some of the actions of the police, and they like to masquerades as great defenders of law enforcement and upholding the virtues of the men and women in uniform.

Well, here they are destroying and undermining the credibility of the FBI, the Justice Department, Robert Mueller, anybody and anything that stands in their way.

And they don`t mind destroying and undermining the credibility of law enforcement in order to protect Donald Trump.

So, this is entirely cynical, entirely partisan and just reprehensible and it`s making it worse because all these people are basically colluding to Trump to obstruct justice.

MELBER: And I think you nailed it especially because what is the FBI, it`s federal cops. Cops do state law, the feds do federal law. They`re all law enforcement. And as you say, this is an attack on everything they do and stand for. And they are, by the way, people who risk their lives for it.

Max, stick around because I have another hypocritical issue with the president to raise with you, which is Roy Moore. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you for being here as always.

Up next, one of the few reporters who has ever interviewed that author of the famous Trump dossier. I`m going to speak to him about that.

And what Deutsche Bank is doing about that big subpoena. And then, Roy Moore, as I mentioned, days out from the election, Donald Trump personally campaigning for him.


MELBER: My next guest is one of the world`s experts on Donald Trump`s history with Russia and that dossier.

Luke Harding spent four years reporting from Moscow for "The Guardian", covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his new book is "Collusion".

He grilled Paul Manafort back when he was working for a Putin ally, works that now figures into his indictment. And Harding got a meeting that most members of the US Congress could not.

He interviewed the now famous Christopher Steele, the British spy who wrote the dossier. Harding has also reported extensively on Donald Trump`s financial relationship with a bank that recently got subpoenas for Trump- related documents from Bob Mueller.

Luke Harding joins me now. He is in London.

What are your sources saying about how Deutsche Bank is handling the demand for financial records about Trump?

LUKE HARDING, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, my sources are telling me that Deutsche Bank is completely terrified. They`re having a meeting next week to discuss this.

And the back story is exceptionally tricky. Donald Trump famously defaulted on a loan, $45 million, with Deutsche Bank in 2008 after the financial crisis. He sued the bank. But then the bank lent him another $300 million.

And I talked to people inside the bank in New York. And I say is this normal? And they say - they respond with expletives. And they say are you kidding me? It`s not normal. And I think this partly explains why Bob Mueller has subpoenaed the bank to try and get to the truth.

MELBER: Right, they said to you are you f`-ing kidding me? .Walk us through why that would matter if you did on the President to fall view of the theory that Mueller, according to Reuters reporting, wants to know whether anyone linked to the Kremlin could have bought part of that Trump debt.

HARDING: Well, that`s right. I mean, Trump has a history of bankruptcy. He gave a personal guarantee, the bank took that. But what we have to remember, Ari, is that while Deutsche Bank, New York was busy lending to the future President. Deutsche Bank in Moscow was carrying out a massive money laundering scheme for VIP Kremlin connected plans, involving about $10 billion going from Moscow and to the western financial system.

So, and Deutsche Bank was making great profits off this. And the question is whether these two strands, the kind of Russian money laundering and the lending to the President was connected. And of course, the other problem is, the Department of Justice is investigating Deutsche Bank, and who does department report to? Well, the President. So, there`s a clear conflict of interest here.

MELBER: We have heard -- I`ve heard about that one. Do you think from your reporting that Donald Trump will ever be a critical of Vladimir Putin if U.S. policy requires it?

HARDING: I mean -- I mean that`s the question I cannot forgive in my book. Collusion with, I mean, we`ve had almost a year of upheaval and daily chaos and news that you follow. But that the one constant that have been like the sun rising in the morning, is that Donald Trump will never say anything nasty about Vladimir Putin. And the dossier of Christopher Steele, whom I met, says essentially that Putin has leverage over Trump. And I see nothing in recent weeks or months to suggest that that`s not the case.

MELBER: How much of the dossier is true?

HARDING: Well, Steele`s own assessment, according to friends of his that I`ve talked to, is between 70 and 90 percent. I mean, it`s a piece of ruin tangents, it`s not perfect. But the reason he sent it to the FBI, all of this report is because he felt that it was such a kind of great, kind of, conspiracy in his view that in needed to be kind of properly investigated. And I think, to having talked to his friends that his morale is pretty good. I mean, he`s been slimed by Republicans on Capitol Hill but actually, we`ve had four indictments, so far, we`ve had Michael Flynn last week, and I`m sure there are further indictments to come in the next few weeks.

MELBER: Oh, I have to go but why do you think there`s more indictments in the coming weeks?

HARDING: Well, I mean, I think -- I think we`re not done with Paul Manafort. I think, there are kind of further question marks about Carter Paige, the former policy aid. And then maybe other plans, we don`t know yet not about. So, and I think the heat has definite turned up on Jared Kushner, as well.

MELBER: Wow! Luke Harding, you have a book that a lot of people are talking about and thank you for your time again. It`s called Collusion, Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and how Russia helped Donald Trump win. Programming note, my colleague, Rachel Maddow is reporting on the Trump- Russia Dossier at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, right here on MSNBC.

Now, still ahead, Barack Obama makes a very interesting comparison about how the U.S. could lose its Democracy. I`m going to show you exactly what he said, and Trump on the road, you going down south with the very simple message in all caps, vote Roy Moore. And later tonight, not just fall back Friday folks, Fat Joe is also here, don`t miss it.


MELBER: Donald Trump is all in for Roy Moore. At this very hour, his on his way to a rally. This is right by the border of Alabama. Trump and the Moore campaign touting in this is a special both from the President. You know, political professionals talk about earned media, and Trump sure got lots of that in the election. Well, this event is in a major Alabama media market, that means it`s designed to reach those Alabama voters who will hear about it, watch T.V., read the paper, along with Trump`s tweet today that said exclusively in all caps there in the bottom, vote Roy Moore.

Join me now is Laura Bassett, the senior political reporter for HuffPost, and back with me, Conservative Max Boot. Laura, It`s gotten worse, if you think this is a questionable choice, Donald Trump went from literally campaigning for Roy Moore`s primary opponent. To now embracing him, if anything increasingly despite the rising number of allegations, evidence and reporting that this is an individual who was a serial predator of women who were even below women and teenage girls who were below the age of consent.

LAURA BASSETT, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, HUFFPOST: Well, honestly, I think that the allegations against Roy Moore have actually helped him. I think, this late in the game, it seems like they`re helping him because it seems to have in sent. (INAUDIBLE) Republican who don`t believe the accusers and who would`ve think that the Washington Post story is fake news. And who read their news from InfoWars, from Breitbart and believe these women are lying and they`re angry. And they feel like there`s this big liberal conspiracy to take down Roy Moore. And so, I feel like if anything, it seems to be a boon for him.

MELBER: And do you think in some way, whether or not it is an understandable development, some of the valid rage against Donald Trump`s positions has spilled out in other directions?

BASSETT: Yes, I think that, I mean, there`s obviously a lot of rage going on against the Republican establishment at large. And I think, when Mitch McConnell came out and said Roy Moore should drop out of the race that helped to Roy Moore. All Roy Moore needs to do is say, Democrats don`t like me, establishment Republicans don`t like me and that seems to be really rallying his base. And it`s --

MELBER: So, Utah, I mean, there`s ethics and then there`s the politics. Your saying -- you`re reporting is that the politics of that helped Roy Moore because they don`t like Mitch McConnell.

BASSETT: Yes, I don`t think that -- I read a poll the other day where Republican voters tend to believe women less than Democratic voters. So, I think with the Republican races like this, I think the ethics actually matter less than the politics.

MELBER: Let me talk to you, Max Boot about homelessness. Hard term? Maybe, maybe not because David Brooks says, this is a rot, at this point afflicting the Republican Party. He calls a comprehensive moral, intellectual, political and reputational. Former Republicans waking up every day and realizing, "I`m homeless, I`m politically homeless." Max.

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, that`s certainly a realization I came to the day after the election on I re- registered after a lifetime as a Republican. And we registered as an independent because I could not be part of this political party that has sold its soul to Donald Trump. And what we`ve seen in the years since, is that it doesn`t end with Donald Trump, once you throw out all standards, once you judge that victory is worth supporting anybody, including a guy who is creditably accused of sexual assault by 16 different women. Then, you have no way to avoid even further moral compromises.

So, now in the case of Alabama, the Republican Party is supporting a guy who is very creditably accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, among other -- among other victims. And beyond that, everything he says and does is simply appalling. I mean, this is a guy who has -- who as actually said that the last time America was great was under slavery. Now, this is a guy who said he agrees with Putin that America is the focus of evil in the modern world. This is a guy who has said that homosexuality should be outlawed and Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress. He is kind of a caricature of a backwoods, bigot, hustler, and hypocrite. Kind of a modern day (INAUDIBLE), and it tells you everything you need to know about the complete moral and intellectual collapse of the Republican Party, that they are actually supporting this guy.

MELBER: As they say, Laura, happy holidays.

BASSETT: I mean, it is a game of whack a mole. It`s not just Roy Moore, its Donald Trump, that`s Farenthold, with now, Trent Franks. It`s -- if people in the Democratic Party, too, of course, it`s across industry. I mean, you can take one guy out, you can tar and feather each individual guy. And until you tackle the structural problems in society that are allowing for these guys to exist. I mean, where -- nothing`s ever going to change.

MELBER: Well, that`s it. Thank you very much for being here. Max Boot, thank you for your analysis on both of those stories. I want to show you guys something else, this is a new video emerging of a pretty serious warning if you listen closely about how Democracy can get lost. This comes, of course from former President Barack Obama, he was speaking at the Chicago Economic Club but he invoked the lessons of Nazi Germany to warn about how societies lose Democracy.


BARACK OBAMA, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve seen societies where that happens. Now, presumably, there was a ballroom in, you know, Vienna in the late 1920s or `30s that looked pretty sophisticated and seemed as if, you know, with the music and the art and the literature and the science that was emerging, it would continue into perpetuity. And then, 60 million people died.


MELBER: Very severe warning there from the former President, he is basically saying, the complacency is the worst enemy enabler of this kind of problems. He did as Barack Obama saw off and does go on to talk about other ideas and other ways to fix that in that address. He said, you have to safeguard Democracy with Democracy and with a free and active Press. We wanted to show that it came from a Facebook attendee.

Now coming up on the show tonight, we have a lot more and not just fallback Friday but also Fat Joe is on THE BEAT and he`s talking about news in Puerto Rico.


MELBER: -- paradox about Donald Trump`s political rise. Unlike most candidates, he was very famous before he ran for office and then campaigning made him more polarized. Fact, he finished the Presidential race as the less popular candidate. He`s one of only five to assume office despite getting fewer votes than his opponent. Trump went from being basically a harmless (INAUDIBLE) in the culture, dropping by shows like the Fresh Prince or giving directions in Home Alone 2.


MACAULAY CULKIN, AMERICAN ACTOR: Excuse me, where`s the lobby?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Down the hall and to the left.



MELBER: Harmless, so it would seem. Trump went from that role as basically a kind of a famous gag to something very different now. Cultural leaders, treating him as a serious joke and once nonpolitical figures like Eminem are taking on Trump, that`s something we covered on THE BEAT with the rappers Fat Joe and Talib Kweli and naturally, Bill Kristol.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to say shout out to Fat Joe and to -- and to -- and to -- Trump, as well because you know, they`ve been activist in this in pop thing for a long time.

MELBER: You`re not -- you`re not shouting out Bill Kristol?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve seen Bill Kristol on T.V. but I remember -- I remember may I like that yet.

MELBER: OK. Hey, Bill, hey, Bill, we don`t know you like that.

BILL KRISTOL, CHIEF OF STAFF TO THE VICE PRESIDENT: I -- I`m speechless, what can I say? I`m honored to be even be mentioned. I`m honored to be even be mentioned.


MELBER: You know, that day, Fat Joe was on the phone but he did promise to come back to talk politics and the hurricane in Puerto Rico. Tonight, I can tell you the New York Times reporting the death toll there is far higher than the local government had claimed of the reporting that over 1,000 hurricane-related deaths had occurred.

And now, this Grammy-nominated musician is back. Joining me now is rapper and activist Fat Joe, thanks for being here.


MELBER: I`m good. I want to start with Trump and then get to some other things. But, when you look at Donald Trump now, how does he compare to the Donald Trump you knew as someone in New York?

FAT JOE: Man, he`s totally different, man. I didn`t think he was like that, I would see him walking about New York, going to big games and stuff like that. So, I always say, I was actually excited. You know, I`ve been a Democrat my whole life but I was excited when Trump announced that he was going for President. I was like, oh wow! New Yorker Trump.

MELBER: You liked -- you liked the idea at first.

FAT JOE: I liked it, and then, in when he went down the escalating, call all of Mexicans, rapists and drug dealers, I was like, yo! Like, yo, what`s going on, man? Like, I thought he made a big mistake, who would have known that would have got him to the White House?

MELBER: Yes, and why do you think coming out of New York, which has so much diversity here --

FAT JOE: Yes, that was so weird, man. That was just so weird because New York is so diverse. It`s probably one of the only cities where you can see Jewish people and Muslim people working side by side in unity. And it`s so much diversity in New York City is weird to see the views that he shares. You know what I mean? It`s crazy.

MELBER: Let me play for you what Jay-Z, who I know you talked to was saying about this because he recent did this as you know, this big interview with the editor in chief of the New York Times.


JAY-Z, AMERICAN RAPPER: The great thing about Donald Trump being President is now we`re forced to have the dialogue. And now we`re having the conversation on the large scale and he`s like provided the platform for us to have the conversation again back to our President. You know what I`m saying like you would think, man, after the composed manner in which Obama stood at that podium, the dignity he brought to that place that this couldn`t exist, but it does.


FAT JOE: He revealed the silent majority that some people who feel like him walking amongst us that don`t necessarily tell us in our face, but that`s just the truth. And Jay-Z hit it head on, this is a time that people got to stand together, black, white, Latino, Asian, whatever. We all need to stand together, and if we stand for love over hate, then that`s what`s going to win.

MELBER: Puerto Rico is a cause you have been behind for a long time, but specifically the hurricane. You were telling me you raised $3.7 million with other artists at this title benefit. But here`s what we know right now, you`ve got a million applications for assistance from FEMA but only about a quarter have been approved. A third of this island still without power. Where do we go from here?

FAT JOE: Man, I don`t know, man. I don`t know, we just -- I`m talking to my cousins, I`m talking to my family. And they say it`s getting better, but slower than they want it to and it just a little bit at a time. Black Friday, the number one seller was suitcases, so everybody is just leaving the island and we`re going to have resorts and it`s going to be not the Puerto Rico that we know and love.

MELBER: And when you look at this moment that we`re talking about, with all of this debates over Donald Trump. I mean, and you look at Russia and you look at where we go from here. Do you think that artists are playing the right role? You know, last time you were on, we were talking about Eminem. Do you think that the artists need to speak up more?

FAT JOE: You know, you got Fatj, you got Fat Joe with Ari, and so, we go ahead, yes, Fat Joe from the Bronx. So, we, doing as much as we can, we`re being vocal about it. People just waiting, man, for the Democrats to take over, man. That`s what -- I think that`s the game, that`s the game plan, that`s the play. You know, I don`t think Donald Trump last his four years as President.

MELBER: You don`t, why not?

FAT JOE: Because he`s not supposed to be President. So, that`s -- I mean, it`s sad whenever you have -- I remember the day he was elected, man. People were just so furious, people were so upset. I`ve never seen that in the United States. We going to a time in my lifetime, we used to read about it in school. You know, now, this is such a weird time that`s going on in America where everybody doesn`t know what`s going on. You know, every day is a breaking news, have you noticed that? That every single day --

MELBER: I notice that sometimes, yes.

FAT YOU: -- must-see T.V.

MELBER: Fat Joe, terror squad. It`s about us, it`s about trust. It`s what I remember. Thank you for being here, I really appreciate it.

FAT JOE: Thank you so much, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, Fat Joe.


MELBER: It`s been a long week, perhaps, but its Friday on THE BEAT and you know what that mean? It is time to "FALLBACK". I`m joined by Christian Finnegan, a stand-up comic and original on VH1`s Best Week Ever, Chuck Nice, also a comedian, rumored to be funnier, and we`ll find out, and Francesca Chambers, a frequent BEAT guest, but this is your debut on "FALLBACK".


MELBER: There you go, who needs to fall back?

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Well, this one, it`s hard for me because I`m a huge fan, he`s one of my heroes. But I`m going to have to say it`s an annual thing for me, Sir Paul McCartney, needs to fall back.


FINNEGAN: Yes, If I had a time machine, I, of course, will go back and kill Hitler. But I would make a stop on the way to November 16th, 1979 to stop him from releasing the song Wonderful Christmas Time which ruins my ear --

MELBER: I think, you`re tired of it.

FINNEGAN: Yes, oh, it`s the worst, it`s a terrible song. I mean, I suppose it`s a nice song if you want to feel magically transported to a TJ Maxx, but --

CHAMBERS: Is this song you been singing in the green room?


CHAMBERS: Is this the song that you --


CHAMBERS: Oh yes, he`s been singing it like --

FINNEGAN: Even -- the minute you hear those keyboard sounds, it sounds like they`re from like a junior high sex Ed film I guess. Because I know the minute you hear it, it`s going to be stuck in your head all day. You know.

CHAMBERS: But now you`re plaguing me with it because he`s been singing it in the green room the whole time.

MELBER: You`ve heard it.

FINNEGAN: If we sing it, we have to be royalties?

MELBER: Yes, don`t sing it. From the little you told me, I don`t think we want to hear you sing it. But it sounds like a repetition thing. As the grateful dead say, maybe you had too much too fast.

FINNEGAN: That is true. I feel like it`s constantly trying to set me off like a Manchurian kind of thing. I keep -- you know, I do have this urge to kill.

MELBER: Chuck, you don`t look like you`re feeling this.

CHUCK NICE, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: I love Paul McCartney. Are you kidding me? I wish he was my lover.

MELBER: Who needs to fall back?

NICE: Right now, I`m going to go with Jeff Sessions who has been quietly waging a war since marijuana since he has been in office, and quite frankly, there`s something called the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment to the budget which will stop the -- it already stops the federal government from prosecuting anybody for medical marijuana. If that goes away, everybody who uses medical marijuana or sells it will be in peril. Now, let me say this. I do not smoke marijuana regularly, and I`m -- or like Snoop but, I do believe that I have a family history of glaucoma that could hit me at any time in the next couple hours. And as a result, I just think that this is something that should be addressed.


NICE: That`s all I`m saying. OK?

MELBER: Francesca Chambers, who needs to fall back?

CHAMBERS: I was stuck this week, but I went with LaVar Ball. He tweeted this gif of the President, and he`s dunking over the President and the President is getting very mad and looking at his phone and, like, the phone is of LaVar Ball dunking him you know, and it keeps going in the same GIF. So he had this feud obviously with the President after his son had been accused of shoplifting in China, and the President and him shared some tweets and then we all moved on. But now he`s still hitting -- he`s still hitting the President. You know, it`s the holiday season, Ari, you know.

MELBER: Lighten up. Too much.

CHAMBERS: Let`s just move on. Let`s just move on.

MELBER: My fall back is simple. People on their phones all the time, everyone is glued to their phones and missing out on life. And now there`s a new phone, signature edition from LG for $1,800. It`s being sold as an exclusive and I just think they are dialing up our addiction and always making us use the phone.

NICE: Well, it looks like I`m going to have to return that phone now that you have called me out. Awkward!

MELBER: I hate to do this but I will. I think this time I think Chuck was funnier.

NICE: Oh, come on. Stop it. Stop that.

CHAMBERS: I never had a chance.

MELBER: No, and you know what. And you -- and you were great, too. I don`t know. I should never take sides.

NICE: And you were great, too. An old girlfriend said that to me once.

MELBER: Christian, Chuck and Francesca, thanks for lightning up our Friday. That does it for THE BEAT. Thank you for watching. "HARDBALL" starts right now.



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