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GOP Congress on verge of gutting Obamacare Transcript 12/19/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Bill Kristol, Corey Lewandowski, Adrienne Elrod, Nick Akerman, Helene Copper

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 19, 2017 Guest: Bill Kristol, Corey Lewandowski, Adrienne Elrod, Nick Akerman, Helene Copper

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Maybe they`ve got a pencil with teeth marks in it. You could see this army of humanoid robot politicians right now at Disney World or while you sleep the tonight. Pleasant dreams, everybody. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow morning`s TB Daily. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Someday, Ari, they`re going to have robo-anchors at the NBC store on the first floor of 30 Rock. I promise.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Let me say I have no doubt that will happen. And also we`re going from your robot coverage to later this hour I am covering UFOs so --

TODD: Yes.

MELBER: So a lot going on. Thank you, Chuck Todd.

Major action on Capitol Hill tonight. Major legislation rushing toward passage and this is not just about taxes. Tonight, the Republican Congress is on the verge of doing something it has failed to achieve for the last seven years. It is on the verge of gutting Obamacare.

That is our breaking story and this is what the Senate floor looks like right now. You see Senator Ron Wyden making his arguments. There is a chaotic rush right now to ram through a tax cut bill that has now violated Senate rules. I`ll explain that in a moment.

And despite what you may have heard, a lot of politicians say let us be clear on our reporting right now. These rushed votes are not just about taxes. They are about your health care. The tax bill does what dozens of House votes has failed to do in the past several years. It demolishes a key plank of Obamacare as some protesters argued today on the floor.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I`ve waited a long time get this final statement in support of tax reform --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Save our health care. Save our health care.

HATCH: I asked for order --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ll be in order.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant of alarms restore order in the gallery.


MELBER: Republicans in the House passing this bill earlier today. But that is not official. In fact I can tell you, that will not be law. They are going to have to retake this entire vote tomorrow to fix some things that formally violated Senate bills today. Now this bill cuts taxes with greatest benefits going to higher income earners and certain corporations. It also ends the key Obamacare insurance mandate affecting up to 13 million people.

When Republicans tried a similar move this summer, you may recall there were those protests, there were the sit-ins, there were arrests. And that pressure appeared to work. The Republican-controlled Congress could not deliver the votes. Including that dramatic John McCain thumbs down. And recall he was not alone. Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins joined McCain in voting against that last-ditch attempt to gut Obamacare.

But now tonight, under the cover of tax reform, both senators there I mentioned are backing this bill. Here`s how Senator Murkowski explained her vote against Obamacare repeal.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I believe each of us stood for the reasons we felt were right.


MELBER: That was last summer. Now what changed? Today we asked Senator Murkowski`s office. Her spokesperson said she never liked the individual mandate. And comparing that bill to gut Obamacare to tonight`s vote is kind of like apples and oranges.

For the argument against tonight`s Obamacare poison pill, which again it guts the mandate without these other structural fixes, you can get it directly from Senator Collins herself. She reiterated it this week.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Repealing the individual mandate without other health care reforms will almost certainly lead to further increases in the cost of health insurance.


MELBER: That was pretty clear. And she was saying, the government making health care insurance more expensive is a bad thing but Collins now says she is voting for all of these bills and she just hopes the structural help for Obamacare will come later.

There are only a handful of days until Congress leaves for its recess for the year. And it`s clear, Republicans will do just about anything to get this one legislative victory. The tax part is unpopular. The health care part has been pretty hidden. It may prove even more unpopular as the nation learns what Congress is really doing right now.

I`m joined by Congressman Joe Crowley, National Urban League president and CEO Marc Morial, and two analysts who were former aides to Hillary Clinton campaigns.

Appreciate you all being here.

Congressman, are you more concerned about the tax changes or the gutting of the Obamacare mandate?

REP. JOE CROWLEY (D), NEW YORK: I think that they are both atrocious in terms of what they have in store for the American people. And one is using the tax bill to really hide and attempt to hide what they`re doing on Obamacare, the American people are getting exactly what they`re doing here.

And what it really says, Ari, is that the Republicans have never seen a tax bill they don`t love. Even if it means taking away health care away from 13 million Americans. How Susan Collins or any of those senators that stood up and said they wouldn`t do this, they`re doing it now under the guise of a tax cut. It`s just absolutely outrageous.

[18:05:09] MELBER: As we`re speaking, and I know you`ve been out and around the floor, busy all day on the Senate side, we`re looking at live picture of Senator Murkowski. I was just reporting on what her office said. Do you buy her explanation that it`s apples and oranges this time to gut Obamacare?

CROWLEY: Absolutely not. Taking away the mandate is every attempt to take away Obamacare. It means that 13 million people will not have insurance now. And to do this, all for a payoff. The payoff was Anwar. She got the drilling. She got what she wanted and that was her price, to sell out the Affordable Care Act and the American people.

MELBER: And then on the White House side, you have the odd and unusual scenario of a president, openly boasting about how this is going to affect his taxes when he won`t release his tax returns here with Sarah Huckabee Sanders today.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we expect that it likely will, certainly on the personal side, could cost the president a lot of money.


MELBER: Congressman, number one. They can`t prove that because they won`t show the returns.

CROWLEY: Not likely will.


BERMAN: Number two, I`ll put up on the screen for the fact check and get your response. To the extent that we know some circumstantial things about his status. The view is that he could save up to 100 million over a decade on this bill.

CROWLEY: There`s no question the Trumps of the world, including President Trump and his family, will see enormous benefits from this tax cut. The LLC, limited liability corporations, what they do for pass-through entities, we know it`s going to bring their rate down to about 20 percent for most of their earnings. So the president and his family are laughing their way to the bank, as are many members of the Senate.

I`m very disappointed to see the Senator Corker switches vote. I think that`s a sad day for Tennessee, but also for himself personally. I admired his stance in voting against it and now he`s reversed that. And I think it`s wrong for Tennesseans and it`s wrong for the American people.

MELBER: Congressman, stay with me. I`m going to whip it around to the panel here.


MELBER: I`ve got some people who fought and worked on these issues a lot.

But starting with you, Marc, you look at the cities, you look at urban communities and communities of color, which you have focused on for your organization. This is a double whammy and the Obamacare part has not gotten enough attention, it seems.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: It`s really a triple whammy and it`s a stink bomb for the American people cooked up in a cave because there`s been no transparency, no hearings, no deliberate process to pull this off.

Number one, the tax provisions itself will benefit disproportionately the 1 percent in ways that have been discussed significantly. It`s as though if we had 10 sandwiches to serve, one person would get eight and the remaining nine would share two. That`s the essence of the tax provisions in this bill.

Number two, the poison pill in the budget resolution which is we`ll cut $1.5 trillion out of domestic spending and people programs like Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security is what`s coming next. And now third, there`s a repeal of the individual mandate. This is a bad deal and I predict that the American people are going to be heard on this beginning immediately.

MELBER: We`ve done eight minutes of substance. That`s a lot. I get tired if I get too much substance. I`m going to go to you on the politics.


MELBER: Does this help the Democrats if this is the way it all goes down?

MAXWELL: I think so because in the short term, the Republicans can claim a win as if this is a game and on the policy front, politically Democrats have an argument to make that they have just made it a lot more difficult for and your family members. And so the individual mandate is what made the bill worked in the first place. It is the portion of the bill that requires you to sign up for health insurance.

And the reason why this is important, you know, there is a lot of talk among political journalists about healthy people won`t sign up. They mean men. Because women at reproductive age, which -- or as soon as you`re starting to have sex, when you are a teenager, usually around 17 or 18 years old, and through your reproductive years, you have to go to the doctor, you have to go get your annual check-up.

And so women do not actually have a choice to not go to the doctor. And so the individual man date is what keeps premiums down for everyone because everyone has to sign up and so you`re not having pools of just sick people.

MELBER: Right. And you mentioned that about a bill that of course also in other ways dealt with gender discrimination.

MAXWELL: Exactly.

MELBER: That have been stitch into the U.S. code. I want to play Nancy Pelosi today who really put it starkly. And again we -- one of the dangers in this whole era is being exhausted by hyperbole.


MELBER: But this is what -- this is what the former speaker said here on the floor. This is the worst bill to ever come to the floor of the House. With stiff competition for some of the things they try to do, the worst bill in history.

ADRIENNE ELROD, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Yes. I mean, look, I think Leader Pelosi is absolutely spot on this. And a lot of what -- the real issue that we have here is we don`t exactly -- still don`t know what is in this bill.


MELBER: Right.

[18:10:06] ELROD: I mean, I think it was Senator Inhofe today who said to one of his -- to a reporter, hey, I`m going to go read the bill that I just voted on, which is kind of ridiculous.

But look, Leader Pelosi is right. I think, you know, going forward in the next few months, we`ll really find out what is in this bill but what we do know at this point is that they wrote notes in the, you know, columns of the bill in the dark of the night. The process was not transparent. There was not a standard committee process for this bill. And this is a huge bill. This is a huge piece of legislation to not go through a standard committee process is appalling.

MELBER: Well, you make the point I want to get back to the congressman because, Congressman, look, there are a lot of different ways to deal with something like this. We talked about what`s in it. I don`t think the procedural issues are the most important, front of mind for Americans. But it does seem to be telling. You know, the old saying, you had one job. I mean, the Republicans, this is only thing they`ve done all year and the way they`re doing it after this dramatic vote with the big speech from Paul Ryan requires a revote. Does that tell us anything about how this is going?

CROWLEY: I think it does. Ari, I think it does. I can`t tell you how many reporters have stopped me today and they asked me whether or not I or Democrats would cooperate with corrections that are going to be made or need to be made. And that`s before we even knew about the revote tomorrow. So the revote tomorrow is an indicator right away of how flawed this legislation is.

To get the process, it`s what is in the bill, how flawed it is. And already they have to revote. We know they`re going to need a lot of help in terms of making corrections here. And it`s interesting to see how -- if Democrats are going to be willing to work with them to correct this. This behemoth of a terrible bill, as Nancy said. One of the worst bill -- the worst bill to ever hit the floor of the House.

MELBER: Marc, go ahead.

MORIAL: Go back to the beginning when the GOP promised a bill which would save middle class taxpayers` money. It doesn`t. Promised a more simplified tax code. It isn`t. Promised to close loopholes. They created more. That`s a test that they flunk. And they also flunk the Tip O`Neill- Ronald Reagan test.

When Tip O`Neill and Ronald Reagan did their historic `86 deal, they did two things. One, they agreed it would be a bipartisan undertaking, which it was. And they also agreed that it would be revenue neutral, which it was.

This bill is neither. So in many respects, it is a travesty on the American people. But it`s also a travesty of governance in the 21st century that they would ram through this? What is this really all about? We have to pay back our donors. This is a win for the GOP donor class. Period. Exclamation point.


MELBER: Congressman Crowley, thank you for joining us from down there. And Marc Morial and Zerlina Maxwell, thank you both. And Adrienne, stay with me because you and Corey Lewandowski are going to have some notes to compare later in the show.

Also new reporting on what`s behind the Republican attacks on Bob Mueller. Insiders talking pardons. And the right ramping up more of that talk of a coup.

We`ll talk about the problem with that.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski makes his debut on THE BEAT. I will be interviewing him. And we`re going to talk to a "New York Times" reporter who broke the story that everyone has been talking about. The Pentagon investigating, yes, UFOs.

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


[18:16:30] MELBER: It`s the night on why the heat has been dialed up on Bob Mueller by so many conservatives. There is a report in Politico that basically says the big reason we`re hearing so much about Bob Mueller being compromised is to lay the groundwork for pardons.

Let me read from this article. It`s pretty interesting. It says, "The whole idea is to give Trump political cover if he wants to start issuing pardons to any current or former aides swept up in the Russia scandal."

An investigation nowhere near over, Trump`s legal team meeting with Mueller`s office this week and in "The Washington Post," you have Trump advisers saying this could be a more contentious phase between Mueller and a frustrated president. Anything can happen. Nobody is above the law. Pardons are perfectly legal and the president has the legal authority to issue them in all kinds of ways.

The big question here is what would happen if there is an attempt to use these pardons in an unlawful manner. I want to show you some of the attacks that have come against all of these issues. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigation was weaponized to destroy his presidency for partisan political purposes. Now if that`s true, we have a coup on our hands in America.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: A political mob conducting a silent coup out to impeach Trump --

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS CHANNEL ANCHOR: A soft coup is underway right here in the United States of America.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR: This is an intent to stage what essentially amounts to a coup d`etat of the highest elected office in the United States of America.


MELBER: Just a sampling there of the attacks.

Nick Ackerman, a former Watergate special prosecutor, and Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of the "Weekly Standard."

Bill, I start with you. There is no way to know, we can`t know why people make the attacks they make they when they make them but you served in the White House and you`re a pretty sophisticated political operator, if do I say so myself. Do you buy this theory that it`s not so much about ousting Mueller by laying this kind of groundwork?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: It could be about ousting him, it could be about laying the groundwork to defend pardons. It could just be to weaken him. So many issues whatever report he does, it`s resisted more by Republicans in the House and elsewhere. But it certainly is a sustained and coordinated attack. It`s I think goes way beyond the bounds of anything that is a sort of legitimate way of raising questions, and again one has to think dynamically in this case, as you know.

It`s not like what happens when, let`s just say, Mueller indicts Kushner? Is that possible? Is that even a low odds thing? I don`t think so. So Hanukkah is over now so he can do it without, you know, interrupt Mr. Kushner`s holiday. So what if that happens? All of this talk about, well, he`s of course not going to fire Mueller. Are we so certain at that point? So I think anything is possible.

MELBER: Wow. You raised Kushner. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor in his own right, is pretty close to Trump, and has his own history with the Kushner family, I should mentioned made a little bit news just within the last couple of hours here on MSNBC. Take a look., Nick.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`m telling you he deserves scrutiny. You know, why? Because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that called into question his role. OK. Well, then if he`s innocent of that, then that will come out as Mueller examines all the facts. And if he`s not, that will come out, too.


MELBER: You don`t usually hear that from the folks involved in the Trump campaign like Chris Christie.

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s pretty amazing but it is true. Kushner was intricately involved with Flynn. They were very close. They work together. Kushner was involved in that meeting in June 9th at Trump Tower.

[18:20:03] He had contact with WikiLeaks. He was on the e-mail chains that went through WikiLeaks which published all of the stolen e-mails that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee. He was also the person in charge of the microtargeting of voters to try and suppress the Hillary Clinton voters during the campaign. And the question is whether or not that was done in coordination with the Russians through the Bannon outfit, the United Kingdom, to try and suppress voters using the Russians.

MELBER: Let me ask you this, though, Nick. You know, We hear a lot about how good prosecutors apply the law, full stop. But I think everyone understands it is different when you get into the first family. And so do you think that Bob Mueller would take what is still considered a pretty typical charge, like lying to the FBI? If that was all he had, do you think he would move forward on that at this stage in the investigation against a family member?

ACKERMAN: I think he`s got a lot more than that. I mean, first of all, he lied on his national security form. He lied repeatedly on a whole series of things. Left off hundreds of contacts. Some of them extremely material and significant. He was -- if he is involved in anything dealing with the theft of the DNC e-mails, he is part or could be part of the conspiracy that may ultimately be charged here.

What we do know is there was a federal crime committed. The crime was the theft of the e-mails from the DNC. The question -- only question is, whether or not members of the campaign, any members of the campaign, were part of that conspiracy. And certainly, Kushner is in that position. And the question becomes, what is Flynn going to say?

We know that somehow, Flynn`s lie to the FBI after the campaign somehow relates back to what was done during the campaign. And we know that because of the materiality of the lie that is set forth in the plea that Kushner made -- not that Kushner made, that Flynn made to the U.S. district court. So what is it that Flynn is going to say? There is a lot -- there is a wide open door here that we just don`t know exactly what that testimony is going to be. But certainly one person could be Kushner.

MELBER: Yes. Bill, go ahead.

KRISTOL: Yes, I just -- I mean, I don`t know, obviously, if he is guilty of anything or what. But why the hysteria over the e-mails from the transition from the general services administration provided Mueller, that they staged this really kind of phony complaint about from one of Trump`s lawyers, maybe in coordination with Trump`s political team.

Well, those e-mail from the transition first struck me as very -- I mean, are they worried that they didn`t know that Mueller had all these e-mails? Kushner is one of the major players in the transition. Kushner testified before Mueller. I think maybe more than once already. Certainly once. Are there issues with what he said which are now not corroborated by things in the e-mails?

I`m very struck by the extent to which they wanted to sort of de-legitimate or discredit these e-mails they gather.

MELBER: Right.

KRISTOL: You guys are the lawyer, that I gather Mueller got in a very ordinary and uninteresting way, frankly.


KRISTOL: And that don`t raise any serious issues apparently.

MELBER: We reported on that. Pretty ordinary. They were dot-gov e-mails. And as we reported, if you have a good argument against him, you take to it a judge.


MELBER: But they seemed -- you put your finger on it, Bill, they seemed really rattled about that specific treasure trove which Mueller obviously has been -- like so many things, been working in quiet while all other people talk.

I want you both to stick because I got more to ask about in the show. We`re going to fit in a break.

Also, Donald Trump`s former campaign manager is coming on THE BEAT for the first time, taking my questions. I`m going to dig into it with Corey Lewandowski. And the rule of law or the rule of Trump. Why an angry Trump almost pulled his own Supreme Court pick.


[18:26:57] MELBER: -- with potential implications for all these Russia issues. Donald Trump pushing back against the "Washington Post" reporting he was so mad that his own Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, before he was confirmed that he wanted to yank the nomination. The report says Trump didn`t like this judge`s response when asked about Trump attacking a federal judge over his Mexican heritage.


NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, well, I find that disheartening. I find that demoralizing. Because I know the truth.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Anyone including the president of the United States.

GORSUCH: Anyone is anyone.


MELBER: Anyone is anyone. So a source now telling "The Post," Trump worried Gorsuch would not be, quote, "loyal, fuming about insufficient gratitude for a lifetime appointment to the nation`s highest court." The Supreme Court justice is of course supposed to rule only on the facts and the law.

Conservative Max Boot writing about this very issue, the rule of law being corrupted by what he calls the rule of Trump. Something that of course came up with removed FBI director Jim Comey and the questions of loyalty.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: The dinner was an effort to build a relationship, in fact, he asked specifically, of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay. What I concluded at the time, is in his memory, he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner and was preparing himself to say, I offered loyalty to you, you promised loyalty to me. And all of a sudden, his memory showed him that did not happen and I think he pulled up short.


MELBER: Well, consider both of these accounts and look at that as a lens for this other news that Donald Trump personally wanted to interview his candidates for federal prosecutors in key places like New York and D.C., where they have jurisdiction over him. And he also sent a very clear message to the DOJ which we reported at the time and a legal request to investigate his rivals.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m really not involved with the Justice Department. I`d like it to let it run itself. But honestly they should be looking at the Democrats. They should be looking at the Podesta and all of that dishonesty. They should be looking at a lot of things. And a lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department including me.


MELBER: I`m joined by Matt Miller who worked at the DOJ under Eric Holder and Bill Kristol back with us.

Matt, do you see any links here to this sourcing in the "Washington Post" about Donald Trump`s view of his own Supreme Court nominee and all the issues around Comey, loyalty, the prosecutors, the whole kit and caboodle?

MATT MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, look, I think it obviously comes down to his overriding philosophy, which is Trump doesn`t care about norms, he doesn`t care about the way that other presidents have operated. He has no respect for the rule of law. It`s about Trump first and foremost and any official that works in his administration or any official he plans to appoint, he expects to be loyal to him even if it means violating their own oath of office.

I mean, if you look at what he`s asked Jeff Sessions and what he`s asked Rod Rosenstein to do, to watch political investigations of opponents and you know, quash investigations into him. You know, those are the violations of their obligations as Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General. And he just -- he just doesn`t care about that type of thing because he cares first and foremost about himself and we see him kind of you know, trying to lay a wrecking ball to entire institutions that would constrain him. I think the open questions still about the Trump Presidency is whether those institutions will be strong enough to push back.


BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I would distinguish the two cases. I mean, look, if he lets off steam about Gorsuch which he appointed and he`s annoyed and hasn`t answered, he doesn`t do anything about it, it`s ultimately not that different from other presidents saying foolish things in the White House and not doing anything. I think the other stuff, the actual threats to the integrity of Justice Department, the independence of the FBI to the rule of law within the executive branch, that`s serious, you know. In a way, I sort of worry that we get you know, we get interested in psychoanalyzing Trump, that childish and he`s vain, he`s narcissistic and all this.

But it`s really worth a lot of other presidents about some of those traits and I don`t minimize the importance of them in terms of his incapacity to govern well. But I think the real serious threats is what we should focus on and that`s why of course, the firing of Comey, the attempts to you know, deal directly with the U.S. attorneys. Those things are real. I mean, and that`s where a president can really damage the actual function of the rule of law in the United States. What he said internally about Gorsuch is unseeingly but since he doesn`t seem to have done anything about it, I don`t know that it matters as much.

MELBER: And Matt, on that point, I mean, who do you think can get through to the President? It does seem that the sort of sugar coating strategy of some of the White House lawyers to say this is all wrapping up and it`s all good, and don`t worry about it, has resulted in a President, who on this issue, this might be the only issue that this applies where a President seems calmer than many of the people around him about -- ostensibly about the status of the Russia probe.

MILLER: Yes, I think that`s right. Look, I think Bill has a good point. I mean, ultimately, he didn`t take a kind of rash action in the Gorsuch case, but if you believe this Washington Post story, it`s because his aides were able to pull him back. And I think that`s what you see time and time again. They`re able to pull him back from doing things that would be inappropriate and at times they fail. And so when yo look at what seems to be happening with respect to Mueller, you know, he`s been fed this story by his attorneys that this case will all be over first by Thanksgiving, then by Christmas, now by early in the year.

What happens next year when he -- when he finds out that this case isn`t going to be over in January. It`s probably not over. It would be like maybe any time soon. And then you know, if he does, if Bob Mueller does go so far as to you know, indict his son, indict his son-in-law, you know, heighten -- you know, further pursue the investigation into the President himself. Are his aides able to constrain him from taking any kind of rash action to obstruct the investigation? I don`t think we know the answer to that question yet.

MELBER: Well, and Bill when you -- when you play it all out, Donald Trump isn`t someone who`s been that detail oriented. So I mean, we were talking to federal prosecutors last night who explains that there are rules that govern the removal of a special counsel, that if they`re violated, you can go to court, you could get a preliminary injunction. I mean, it could be - - it could be travel ban all over again where he thinks he`s king and he learns the hard way that he`s not.

KRISTOL: What was worrisome in that Post article I thought is that he`s very angry about Sessions and Rosenstein and he`s open to getting rid of them and there are ways he could get rid of them that would allow an incoming A.G., especially if could you make someone like Pruitt acting A.G. since he`s already been sent to confirm for his job at EPA, he could go right in and fire. I`m worried that people are being too complacent, actually. They were getting -- it`s all the psychologizing, well, Trump is actually relaxed. We don`t really know that. He`s not a dumb guy. He can put a facade. He can appear relaxed and then he can go away for three days and have some private conversations and come back and do something very dramatic especially if he`s provoked, or if Kushner is indicted or something. So I`m worried about people being -- people need to be on guard, I would say.

MELBER: That`s a good point and we are dealing with a professional entertainer and reality star unless we forget. Bill Kristol and Matt Miller, thank you, both. Still to come, another lead in the Russia probe. Why was green party Candidate Jill Stein getting support apparently from WikiLeaks and the Kremlin? Also, my one on one tonight with former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski. I`m going to ask him about Russia and get reaction from Nick Akerman and a top Clinton aide.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Corey, good job, Corey. Good job. And hope -- and our whole -- our whole squad, right?


MELBER: There are four people who ran Donald Trump`s campaign and they`ve taken different paths since the election. Two made it into the White House. One was indicted and is currently under house arrest and then Corey Lewandowski stands apart, keeping his distance from Manafort and some of those Russia problems, but also from the White House. Lewandowski didn`t join the administration despite being O.G. Trump launching Trump`s campaign back when D.C. Republicans thought Trump was a joke and The New York Times was reporting that his nomination was a remote prospect and people thought it was running mainly to appear in debates and win attention from the media. Well, tonight, Lewandowski joins THE BEAT for the first time. And afterward, after I speak with him, I`m going to turn directly to former Clinton Aide Adrienne Elrod and former Prosecutor Nick Akerman for a response and fact check.

Joining me now is Corey Lewandowski, Co-Author of Let Trump Be Trump. He is former Donald Trump Campaign Manager through many primary victories. Thanks for being here.

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

MELBER: Absolutely. Let me start with the big question here which is Bob Mueller`s investigation has revealed information as you know about Trump advisers. Were you disturbed by anything that you learned, for example, in the Flynn pleading about him lying to the FBI or the effort to undermine sanctions?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, sure. Anytime that somebody is lying to the FBI, there`s accountability. And what we`ve seen now is that the investigation has found two individuals who have been convicted of lying to the FBI and two individuals who are under indictment for things which they did a decade before ever coming to the Trump organization. But what we have not seen is any collusion, cooperation or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia that has decided materially outcome -- affect the outcome of an election. So I think what we need is Bob Mueller and his team to come to a resolution if they are going to continue this and what that is, is how much time are they going to have and how much taxpayer money are they going to spend before they have to give the American people an answer?

MELBER: You mentioned those four separate cases. Do you think it`s good for the country what Mueller has been able to do so far on those four cases?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, again, I think you know, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates have been accused and indicted for a number of things and they`ll have their day in court. And if Mike Flynn and the other individual who were lying to the FBI did so, and they`ve pled guilty to doing so, then there is an accountability no matter what. That`s how the system works and that`s very important. Nobody is above the law.

MELBER: Do you have any concerns about pardons? Do you think any of those people should be considered for a pardons or you think they should not get pardons, the four Mueller cases so far?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, you know, that`s the decision that the President makes at his own discretion --

MELBER: Then you have the June Trump Tower meeting which has gotten a lot of attention. You were still an important person at that time but you weren`t brought to that meeting. I`ve been looking through your book, Corey, I wonder, why didn`t you end up getting pulled along to that meeting and was it a bad idea for those folks to go to it?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, I think I wasn`t invited because they know I would have said it was a terrible decision. You know, this campaign was strictly focused on the domestic policy things and making America great again. That`s what we wright about in the book Let Trump Be Trump. And so I wasn`t told about the meeting, I wasn`t part of the meeting, I didn`t participate in the meeting, I didn`t even know about the meeting until the media reported it just a couple of months back. Because you know, this notion that anybody was going to be able to provide a silver bullet on Hillary Clinton, a public figure for the last 30 years, I think it was a fallacy. So you know, anybody who would have approached me as a campaign manager, who would have said, we want to give you dirt on Hillary, I would have said talk to the campaign attorneys.

MELBER: So you say it`s a terrible idea. You say they were keeping you out of the loop. Does that mean it`s possible if they were keeping you out of the loop about a meeting offering help punitively from the Russians that you could have been out of the loop on some wider conspiracy? I mean, can you rule that out really?

LEWANDOWSKI: Look, I think it`s fair to say that for a significant portion of the primary campaign, I had sole control over the campaign other than the candidate himself. And I sat next on candidate Trump for thousands of hours during that period of time and never ever did he and I ever talked about cooperation, collusion, coordination, Russia, in any way, shape or form. Now, if other people who were operating outside the realm of what their responsibilities were, were trying to coordinate, to materially impact the outcome of the election, and if they did that, I hope they go to jail for the rest of their lives because our democracy is too important to play with.

MELBER: Let me ask you one more thing while we`re at it. Can we talk literature for a second?

LEWANDOWSKI: Be my guest. Look, remember, I wrote Let Trump Be Trump. I`m a simple guy, so be kind to me.

MELBER: No I`m just -- I`m going to read from the book here. This is page 231 about Corey Lewandowski. It says, "Corey didn`t care what they thought. Bold by nature, he was a lightning rod on T.V. a defender of Donald Trump. He wasn`t afraid to speak his mind or advocate for his old team in front of anyone and he didn`t have a problem going toe to toe with anyone. Did you write those lines?

LEWANDOWSKI: I did write those lines.

MELBER: So you write -- it`s like a third person device.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, look, I wrote the book with Dave Bossie who was the Deputy Campaign Manager. And you know, we thought about writing it, I wrote one chapter, he wrote the other. But we wrote it together because between the two of us, we`re really the only ones who were there from the beginning to the end in all the major decisions. So look, there are some parts and you`ll see it in the book and I`m glad you read that, thank you, where I use the first person to retell a specific story. But in the most part, Dave and I wrote it collectively.

MELBER: Corey Lewandowski, it is an interesting book and I do appreciate you coming on THE BEAT. We like to hear from everybody. Thank you time.


MELBER: And back with me now, former Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman and Adrienne Elrod, Top Aide to Hillary Clinton`s 2016 campaign. What did you think if Corey`s version?

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I have two immediate reactions here. Number one, I hope that he`s telling the truth. He just said a lot there in that interview so if he`s not telling the truth, there`s a lot to -- for Robert Mueller and his team to look at. You know, secondly, it sounds like Corey is trying to strike a middle ground here. I think that he is you know, certainly happy to throw his former colleagues out of the bus which did he in that interview, but he`s also you know, trying to keep himself sort of in a -- I think he`s being careful with the way he parses his words. I think he`s trying to keep himself in a space where he`s protected but he`s not you know, willing to completely you know, fully disparage his colleagues. So you know, Corey is very good on T.V. and he`s very good at sort of parsing these arguments apart. And I think that`s what we just saw there.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I think there`s a couple of things. One, he was the Campaign Manager when Papadopoulos learned about the fact e-mails had been stolen from the Democratic National Committee back in April of 2016. Now, did Papadopoulos tell him about that or did Corey Lewandowski know about that? I mean, it seems odd that the Campaign Manager wouldn`t have had some advance notice of what was going on. Secondly, what did he know about Roger Stone`s role in the campaign? I mean, Roger Stone was talking to Trump all the time. If Lewandowski was spending thousands of hours with Trump, what did he know about Roger Stone`s role and then later Roger Stone`s role with the WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0?

MELBER: Well, and that goes to part of the fact check. Corey clearly stating in his interview with me and elsewhere that he was basically out of the loop with regard to the Russia stuff. And it is true according to what we know that he wasn`t in that big meeting. But Washington Post also notes members of the Trump campaign interact with Russians at least 31 times. Knowledge of that went to the highest levels both Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort aware of it. That`s an account. What do you make of this -- whether you want to call it defense or you want to call it a political spin and in both parties campaign operatives do it, that he has landed on out of the loop spin.

AKERMAN: Well, I think that`s what he`s trying to do until it`s proven otherwise. But the idea that there`s been nothing about any collusion or conspiracy between the Russian government and the campaign is (INAUDIBLE). I mean, the fact of the matter is, Flynn`s guilty plea, the materiality of that is in his allocution to the court that what he lied about after the campaign relates directly to what happened during campaign with respect to a conspiracy with Russia and the campaign. We don`t know what the facts are involving all of that but he`s just overlooking that. And what kind of campaign manager was he if he didn`t know what Papadopoulos was doing in Russia and what all these people were doing in talking to all the Russians during that time?

ELROD: Yes, he was like a pretty ineffective campaign manager to me if he wasn`t aware that all these things were going on.

MELBER: I think -- I think he answered that question to be fair in the book. He said that he was bold. Corey is bold is one of my favorite lines in the book. But I appreciate as I said him coming on. I appreciate Nick and Adrienne coming on. And if he ever wants to come on with everyone at once, we`ll do that too. The invite is open.

ELROD: That would be great.

AKERMAN: Yes, that would be great.

MELBER: Coming up, there is another focus this time on the Senate side Russia probe and another 2016 candidate actually under scrutiny. And this is really interesting. The The New York Times Reporter who broke this story about the Pentagon investigating UFO`s is on THE BEAT tonight.


MELBER: The U.S. military spent years secretly investigating UFOs and collected testimony about a UFO sighting in 2004 by two navy airmen. This according to a big report from The New York Times Helene Cooper who probed this secret operation, the advanced aerospace threat identification program. Today the White House was asked about the President`s view on UFOs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the President believe in the existence of UFOs and would he be interested in restoring funding for that program?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Somehow that question hasn`t come up in our back and forth over the last couple of days but I will check into that.


MELBER: The program also released video of Navy pilots who encountered an aircraft surrounded by that glowing rotating aura you see there. The Times reports the military refused to release the location or the date of the incident you are about to see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a (BLEEP) drone, bro?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a whole fleet of them, look on the S.A.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My gosh. They`re going against the wind. The wind`s 120 knots to the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing dude.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that thing. It`s rotating.


MELBER: Joining me now is that reporter, Helene Cooper, Pentagon Correspondent for The New York Times. Helene, why was the military studying UFOs? Why was it a secret and did they find any?

HELENE COOPER, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the military has for decades received reports, particularly from pilots who say that they have been -- they have encountered objects that they didn`t understand. That`s been going on for a long time. The Air Force had a program decades ago that looked into it but a lot of this sort of petered out. In 2007, however, they started -- the Pentagon started looking into this again. And again, these are based on -- they`re looking at reports from military service members, particularly pilots, but other service members as well, who have come into contact or intercepts with things that they don`t think come from here.

MELBER: And this was millions of dollars. It was a secret, but now your reporting, you got people talking about it. You spoke to Harry Reid, the former Democratic Leader. Why are they talking now about something that years ago was total secret operation, spending tax dollar money on trying to figure out what these UFOs might be up to?

COOPER: At the Pentagon, it`s a dodgy subject and I think you can understand why. There are a lot of people who believe that this is pseudo- science and that this is not money that taxpayer dollars should be spent on. So you have these layers at the Pentagon of people who`s -- there are true believers, there are people there who think that the government should be researching this stuff. And then there are a lot of people at the military who don`t think the government should be researching this sort of thing. So the people, this program was kept very secret from the start in 2007. Harry Reid when I went to Vegas to interview him called it black money and said that they wanted to hide it in the budget so that it would not be easy -- easily find.

MELBER: Right. And we`re not just talking about NASA or science, we`re talking about the Pentagon. I mean, did your reporting suggest that there is any effort to take any of this information and prepare battle plans if there are aliens and they do want to potentially attack the world?

COOPER: I do not think it`s gone that far. None of my reporting suggests that anybody is preparing battle plans. This was a very small program. While $22 million is a lot of money to you and to me, that`s nothing compared to the normal Pentagon budget which is over $600 billion right now. So -- and that $22 million was spread over many, many years.

MELBER: Yes. You know, the last thing I got to ask you right?

COOPER: I`m afraid to ask.

MELBER: I want to know if your reporting on this, which has got a lot of people talking, has altered your views at all and made you more or less of a believer in the possibility of life out there?

COOPER: I don`t know. I`m afraid to even think about it. I mean, I certainly don`t think we`re the only people out there in the universe or in the galaxy or whatever. But beyond that, you know, it`s like -- it makes my head blow up to even think that far.

MELBER: I can understand that. Helene, this was a fascinating story which as we`ve showed is being discussed at the White House and a lot of -- a lot of dinner tables around the country. Thanks for spending --

COOPER: That was a crazy question for Trump, yes.

MELBER: Thanks for spending some time with us tonight.

COOPER: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: And turning gears. There is an investigation about campaign collusion with Russia, but not Donald Trump. This is new and you might want to hear it, that`s next.


MELBER: Did you know Donald Trump is not the only U.S. presidential candidate being investigated for ties to Russia? The Senate Intelligence Committee now looking at green party candidate Jill Stein for potential collusion with the Russians.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Miss Stein was at the infamous dinner that included Mike -- General Flynn and Vladimir Putin. And we do know that she`s had very complimentary things to say about Julian Assange, who clearly was being used by the Russians to take some of the hacked information and release into our political system.


MELBER: Here she was at that Moscow dinner in 2015. You can see Putin as well. But unlike Michael Flynn, she says she didn`t take money for that controversial trip. Kremlin did promote her, though, including at least one ad on Facebook from Russia. Politico reports that there was an ad that basically said, "Grow a spine and vote Jill Stein." She also praised WikiLeaks during the campaign for the release of those Clinton e-mails, and she even included Assange at her party`s convention. And politically Jill Stein mattered. Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Michigan by about 10,000 votes. Recall Stein got over 50,000 in Wisconsin, 22,000 vote margin, and she got a larger one, 31,000 votes. Those are states that decided the election. That`s why investigators are looking at Jill Stein. It`s no surprise that the reaction to the Russian meddling is polarizing but it doesn`t matter whether the investigation goes right or left. These leads need to be run down.




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