Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 22, 2017 Guest: Christine Stapleton, Zac Petkanas, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Chuck Nice, Seth Herzog
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: So Roy Moore appears torn riding solo on this one.
That`s all for tonight. Happy holidays everybody at home. We will be back tomorrow -- not tomorrow, Monday with more MTP DAILY. And if it is Sunday, it is the MEET THE PRESS on NBC. THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Hi, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katie. You know, that`s the funny thing about elections. Even if you don`t concede, sometimes you still lose. Have a great weekend.
TUR: You too. Merry Christmas.
MELBER: Merry Christmas. It is Friday evening heading into, as Katie just mentioned, Christmas weekend. We are tracking several unusual stories that make this, honestly, a busier news cycle than usual. First, reports today that all the attacks on Bob Mueller from congressional Republicans, well, they may be coming from inside the White House. A reporter only story is going to join me in a moment.
Second, Jeff Sessions is taking brand new actions to undercut Obama era rules at the DOJ. This as story that may have been buried in a Christmas Friday news dump.
And third, reports of what is now being called an emergency plan or cut off or respond to any effort to oust Bob Mueller. An organizer of that effort he joins me exclusively on "the Beat" later this hour.
Now all of that is the outside plan for Mueller. I begin the inside tonight with the inside plan. All eyes on Rod Rosenstein who is, of course, the only DOJ officials who stands between what Donald Trump may want and Bob Mueller`s investigation. Conservatives pressing Rosenstein on what they call bias at the DOJ.
Well, tonight I can tell you, they are getting pushed back by people who Rosenstein has known longer and who he may respect more than some of the partisans in the House. There is a bipartisan coalition, a former federal prosecutors and GOP officials that are coming essentially to Mueller`s defense today. This is on the heels of Senator Mark Warner`s red line warning this week. All of that pressure outside the investigation.
Meanwhile, inside it, new reports Mueller is looking at things that house investigators are also looking at. The entire Russia probe involves some fact checking including fact checking Jim Comey`s explosive claim that Donald Trump demanded personal loyalty of him. Donald Trump, of course, had denied that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Didn`t say under oath. I hardly know the man. I`m not going to say I want to you pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn`t make sense. No, I didn`t say that and I didn`t say the other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Who would do that? That was Donald Trump`s denial there in front of the White House.
But the new reporting is that a witness has told Russia investigators in Congress that Jim Comey related that loyalty request at the time, which means Mueller will likely be getting that same evidence if he already doesn`t already have it. And that would help corroborate Jim Comey`s claim.
Now, who told him that? Well, the witness isn`t just anybody. There was a source saying it was the FBI deputy director himself, Andy McCabe. McCabe reportedly hearing this from Comey around the time that it happened. Of course, allegedly all of that during in January. And just note, last week it was congressional Republican who were call for Andy McCabe`s firing.
Now that could be a very convenient coincidence or it could yet again raise questions of whether these congressional Republicans are deliberately trying to complicate or discredit the Russia probe in ways that benefit Donald Trump. And that makes today`s report from business insiders Natasha (INAUDIBLE) so intriguing because she writes about how three House Republicans who have most fiercely attacked Bob Mueller and related issues at DOJ have guess what, been in close touch with the White House including the President directly.
All of this raising questions of whether there is a good cop, bad cop strategy. And the article names congressman Mat Gaetz among those openly demanding the firing of Mueller and coordinating with Trump land. And Gaetz, of course, has attacked a whole range the DOJ officials including names that are obscure and who have nothing to do with the Russia probe.
He is also essentially insinuated there are some kind of issue with Rod Rosenstein who again is the name that keeps coming up because he is the only DOJ official in position to lawfully remove Bob Mueller. Now Gaetz has not provided evidence of anything Rosenstein has done wrong while overseeing Mueller. That is a point we discussed specifically this week on "the Beat."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What is your specific concern with Rosenstein?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My specific concern about Rosenstein is that he was not forthcoming with information before the judiciary committee that were absolutely sure that he has.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m accusing him of withholding evidence that should have been in the possession of the Judiciary Committee and I don`t think that he personally lied.
MELBER: You don`t think he lied.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I think that he withheld information that would illuminate further conflicts of interest.
MELBER: So he didn`t lie. He didn`t do anything wrong.
[18:05:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he withheld information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by Natasha Bertrand and from "Business Insider" with that story and the "Washington Post" E.J. Dionne.
I welcome you both.
Natasha, what are the contacts and the times of communication that you found in your reporting and why would it matter?
NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Well, there were some interesting comments made the other day by Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio. He basically told a CNN reporter he has been in touch with the White House. He didn`t, you know, lose faith. He didn`t really explain what the communication was about but he said in response to a question about, hey, have you been talking to the White House about Mueller? He said, of course, we talked to the White House. We talk about all sorts of things.
The other two that were very interesting to me is Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican who has called for Bob Mueller to be fired kind of outright, flew on air force one with Trump a couple weeks ago before Trump held a rally in Pensacola. And during that flight, Matt Gaetz told Trump that he thought that the Mueller probe was infected with bias.
Another member of Congress on that flight was representative Desantez, also from Florida who, you know, has introduced a provision, increase provision back in August that would limit the scope in funding of Mueller`s investigation.
So you have two of these people who are on a flight with Trump directly talking about the Mueller probe. Trump then said this is why you have to do your job.
MELBER: But here - I guess, here is the question if we want to be as often minded and as fair as possible. Is this Matt Gaetz who I have spoken to, and you have been reporting on, taking his precooked concerns to the White House, which however one may view them is not necessarily problematic from a process perspective or is there some sort of coordination or dare I say collusion where the White House is taking things that they shouldn`t be doing against the investigation and getting other people to be the bad cop.
BERTRAND: Well, if these contacts came in vacuum that might be he plausible. But there has been extensive reporting about how the President has gone to members of Congress since this this investigation began and asked them to end it. Asked them to, you know, curtail the investigation so that they clear him or exonerate him. Ask him to, you know, come out publicly and say that he has done nothing wrong. So Trump does have a track record of going and trying to pressure members of Congress to act in a certain way.
Now whether or not he has done that with the congressional lawmakers that I said it in my article, that remains to be seen. But it would be surprising if he did not, somehow, you know, speak to them and encourage them.
MELBER: Yes. I know you make a really important observation there about what else we know about the way Trump has approached this.
E.J., on the stakes, Senator Mark Warner turned a lot of heads this week. Although nothing, to be clear, has happened yet in terms of the warning he offered. Here`s more from Mark Warner about why he says this is so important.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBERS, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We have not reached any conclusions. But the importance of what we`re doing, I said this is the most important thing we have done. I feel that more strongly today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: E.J., it kind of make you sit up a little extra in your seat. Most important thing ever, what is he getting at?
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: He is getting at the fact that this is most important scandal since Watergate. And we make a lot of comparisons with Watergate. But there was a big difference. In Watergate, Democrats controlled Congress and they wanted to get to the bottom of what happened. In this scandal, Republicans control Congress and a lot of them don`t want to get to the bottom of what happened. So congratulations for Natasha on this reporting. Because it adds another brick, if you will, to a whole structure of Republican obstruction of the investigation that Senator Warner is worried about.
And I think they have reason to be worried. They are worried because General Flynn has no doubt gotten Mueller closer to what happened. Possibly closer to a story about obstruction. And they are worried because they know Mueller is doing a lot of work on Trump`s finances. And Trump doesn`t want anyone to go near their finances. And so, Warner and a number of other Democrats are worried that we have hit a point where Trump really will take risk of blowing up this investigation because the risk of letting it go forward may be even more dangerous for him.
MELBER: Yes. And that is so well put.
Natasha Bertrand, thanks for reporting and sharing with us. And E.J., comeback here later in the show on some of the palace intrigue.
I want to bring in some prosecutors now. Former U.S. attorney Barbara McQuade and criminal defense attorney Brian Wice.
Barbara, starting with you, folks at home have heard a lot of obstruction. Obviously, politicians have a wide birth to say whatever they want including saying things that aren`t true. The Supreme Court famously found a right to lie which helps politicians in both parties around the world.
But walk us through anything you just heard in Natasha`s reporting with the type of coordination if it were coming from the White House. It could be problematic or at least is not something a prudent lawyer would recommend to the client under this kind of probe.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. You know, as we have discussed before Ari, one of the most important pieces of evidence that is most difficult thing to prove in an obstruction of justice case is the corrupt intent. Not the act but the intent of the person. You have to show that they had some sort of bad purpose. And if you can show that the White House or President Trump is getting other people to do his bidding, to put an end to this investigation, then I think that could bolster that evidence of the corrupt intent that Robert Mueller needs to prove in any case. So this could actually all be helpful in the end to Robert Mueller.
MELBER: Brian, how about you?
BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I think she is absolutely right. The people who we have talked about in this segment, Ari, are not jail house snitches. These are made guys, these are career law enforcement people who have faces like affidavits. They are guys that have no brief, no motive to lie. And it is not just about context, it is about corroboration. And that`s exactly what we are seeing in this case. If this may be death by a thousand cuts, this may be corroboration by a couple of guys who again are truly worthy of belief.
MELBER: And then Brian, talk about the money trail which is something else that has been circulating. There was a lot of talk about Deutsch bank and whether their records relating to anything with Donald Trump are going to be useful to Mueller. And then you have this new account. The prosecutor seeking Kushner records. Now this is allegedly unrelated, hundreds of millions of dollars has been lend to the Kushner family real estate business. To be clear, the Times reporting today no indication the subpoenas related investigation being conducted by Mueller.
But Brian, walk us through why from a defense perspective, you don`t want more record because things are unrelated until you find something that might relate them.
WICE: Because, Ari, as we have said on the show a number of times, this isn`t a people case. It is a paper case. And the email stands for evidence. And as anybody who has ever seen all the President`s men understands, you follow the money because that is ultimately the oil that lubricates any ongoing criminal enterprise.
So in this situation, the closer that the special counsel comes to the oval office, and again, that`s why people like Steve Bannon are so important. Steve Bannon was the President`s (INAUDIBLE). He is the guy that gets the bug inside that Burgen Hunt and Fish club (ph) that brings down on John Gotti. And in a situation like that, the closer the investigation comes to the inner circle, the more you are going to see the President and the carnival barkers strike back at Bob Mueller.
MELBER: Very interesting points legally, Brian. I am being told by control room that you hit your maximum for analogies and references in this segment.
MELBER: Barbara, you are clear. You have plenty of room to run. But final question to Barbara then on the money trail. What does it say about these cases that very wealthy people would have, and I always like to be fair about this, exposure. We are not saying anyone necessarily has committed any kind of crime. We just know that these are prosecutorial interest. But as you know, you can`t just get anybody`s bank records from nowhere, from nothing. You have to usually prove to a court process or to a judge that they are relevant. That there is some search for criminal activity. And yet in the popular imagination, Barbara, Donald Trump ran on the idea that he and his team were so rich, they would be cleaner than the typical polls. It doesn`t seem to be working out that way, at least according to the subpoenas.
MCQUADE: No. And you know, Robert Mueller`s mandate is quite broad. His main focus, of course, is on Russian interference with the election. But he also has the ability to investigate anything that has arisen or may arise throughout the investigation. So if he is lawfully gathering records and looking for Russian interference but happens to find some kind of financial fraud or money laundering, he has the authority to bring that, too. And so, that ultimately might be the charge that he brings against some of the individuals he is looking at in this case.
MELBER: Barbara McQuade and Brian Wice, two great legal minds to walk us through the other parts of this story. And I wish you both the very happy holiday weekend.
MCQUADE: Thanks to you, too, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you.
Now coming up, more news this Friday night. This is very important. Jeff Sessions is moving to tear up decades of DOJ rules including some that counter discrimination.
Also, revelation to have Trump abuse a clarity deduction to make millions from Mar-a-Lago. I have inclusive interview with the reporter who broke that story tonight.
And tens of thousands of American are getting ready to protest of Trump takes any illegal action against Bob Mueller. One of those organizers is on "the Beat" tonight.
All that, plus reports Republicans warning Trump about a bloodbath next year in the midterms.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.
MELBER: Two major stories breaking on this holiday Friday night. One coming from inside the DOJ and the apparent sneak attack by Jeff Sessions and there`s a reason it might be leaking out on a Friday before Christmas. He is revoking legal guidance that had impact some of the most marginalized, disabled, immigrants and ex-convicts. I have more on that story ahead in this segment.
The other story though I want to start with right now comes from inside the White House and a team frustrated and on edge. "Politico" reporting Republicans warned the White House of a bloodbath in the midterms within hours of that big tax rally that were all smiled but Trump`s inner circle then meeting and saying there was tension, tempers flaring, complaints about Trump`s political operation boiled over.
Let`s get right to it. Krystal Ball is a president of People`s House project to elect progressives and a friend and colleague. And I`m also joined by Ron Reagan, MSNBC contributor.
Krystal, your view of this door being cracked that suggests they walk off that big celebratory gathering where there was plenty of praise and then talked Turkey and they sound scared.
KRYSTAL BALL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, and of course, they made themselves, they put themselves in a deeper hole with that tax bill which is unbelievably unpopular even with Trump`s base. So I guess this is a sign they are at least someone in touch with reality.
And the problem for the party is as historically unpopular as this President is, he is one of the more popular figures in the party. Mitch McConnell`s approval rating are dismal. Paul Ryan is looking to retire because he is about to get his butt beat by iron stash in his home state, in his home district. So they are in the tough spot.
Now, Democrats don`t have a great set of leaders popular at the top either. But in this time when you have Republicans in charge of everything, the fact that their figure heads are all so dramatically unpopular means that we have all the cylinders lined up for a truly spectacular mid-term for Democrats.
MELBER: And Ron, Krystal makes the point, if it`s there was a popular lunch table for the Republican Party here, if there is like where the popular kids seat, it is a pretty empty table. Take a listen to I think some of the sound from inside the party that backs up point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: The political genius on display, throwing away a seat in a red state in America is hard to ignore.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I don`t think Steve Bannon adds anything positive to the dialogue in the country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not afraid of Steve Bannon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Bannon`s over the top rhetoric is not helpful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, the Republicans have reason to be nervous. And of course, if the Democrats can win Alabama, I suppose they can win anywhere.
The politics, as Krystal mentioned, are definitely with them. The map, on the other hand, really isn`t with the Democrats. You take Senate, for instance, and I believe the Democrats are defending 25 seats to the Republicans` eight. I think the real question will come down to do Republican voters, people inclined to vote Republican, will they see all Republicans as a reflection of Trump? If they do, if the Democrats can attach Trump to each and every candidate in all the states and districts where there are elections, then I think Krystal may be right. That we are looking at a huge wave election.
If they divide the two, though, they say, well, Trump is, you know, he is just Trump and, you know, my Republican candidate here isn`t anything like him. Might even, you know, exert some control on him. Then this could revert to the map as opposed to the politics a little more and maybe the Democrats don`t take back the house or congress.
MELBER: And Ron, what -- go ahead, Krystal.
BALL: Well, I was going to say, some of the dynamics are already set in motion, though. Because there is so much energy on the Democratic side, in districts where we may not have even fielded a candidate, are certainly not a serious candidates, we have serious primaries with top tier candidate who are out hustling raising money and doing what they need to do. So we are truly competing everywhere.
And as you know, in midterms, a lot of it is a turnout and an energy game. And as we saw in Alabama and as we have seen in other places in Virginia notably, the coalition that strongly backs Democrats is strongly motivated and they are turning out to send a message to Trump.
MELBER: Before we go, Ron --
REAGAN: I hope she`s right. I just wanted to play devil`s advocate, Ari.
MELBER: Can I ask you one thing, thing, Ron. Yes, but I do want to do - and I also want to show the folks we are in this debate today in "Washington Post," you have chief of staff Kelly, Kellyanne Conway, Bill Stepian who is Trump`s the political director, Brad Parcel (ph) who was on the campaign, Hope who is always there, and then Corey Lewandowski who was ousted but was back at the White House.
I put this on the screen, Ron, with you as an experienced person who has been around White House politics. This all leaks everything negative that was in this account in the "Washington Post" that we just referenced came from a meeting of give or take those six people. What does that tell you?
REAGAN: Yes. That tells you that this is a White House where the loyalty to the President is wafer thin. It has been extraordinary the entire ride here. This almost a year that we have gone. How many leaks have come out of this White House? We saw it at the "New York Times" reporting about, you know, Trump`s sort of daily activity and his television and diet coke, you know, consumption and all of that.
It is astonishing that so many people in this White House will leak unflattering details about the President and their machinations.
MELBER: Right. And there was no lag time. I mean, it was out right after the meeting.
REAGAN: No, no.
MELBER: Ron Reagan, thank you so much. Krystal, I`m going to come back to you later in the show.
REAGAN: Thanks, Ari,
MELBER: Turning to the other news I mentioned, E.J. is back to talk about this.
Jeff Sessions rolling back major DOJ policies and civil rights protection. This story happens to be leaking out on a holiday Friday. So let`s forget the tweets. This is a story about what the Trump administration is doing.
"The New York Times" reporting, DOJ files showing Sessions making these reversals on civil rights, rights for the disabled, legal immigrants, explosives and the formerly incarcerated. Sessions canceling 25 different policies.
The Trump administration argues that these policies went too far beyond the laws they were based on. That the people behind these policies, like the former, AG Eric Holder argue they were needed to modernize rules and protect rights.
Take, for example, the guy who just came out of Ferguson where a Holder probe did not find evidence that Mike Brown shooting was a crime, but it did find police abusing power and forcing citizens into death for nonviolent crimes.
So here are the facts. That Holder probe found when Ferguson police pulled people over, eight out of ten were black. And the policy that Jeff Sessions is cancelling was trying to prevent racial discrimination and death threats or another.
An Obama era policy that said employers should not segregate people with developmental disabilities if that can be reasonably avoided. Advocates for people with disabilities today arguing that rule was protecting their rights. And with Jeff Sessions withdrawing it, there was a fear it will be harder to enforce laws protecting those citizen.
As promised, I turn back to the "Washington Post`s" E.J. Dionne.
An important story, E.J. Do you think this policy changes are concerning and why are they coming out tonight?
DIONNE: Well, I think they are concerning. And I`m glad you are doing this story because I think one of the reasons this big pile was released right around now is a lot of people`s minds are either on the tax bill or the coming holidays. And it was a great way to get them out there without much scrutiny.
Our colleague and I were looking around. And yes, there were good stories in the "Times" and the "Washington Post" but they just didn`t get a lot of attention. And I think this is the underground government that Donald Trump is running that I think the media are going to really have to turn to in 2018. Because while we have focused on the tweets and on the, legitimately on the investigation, rule after rule after rule that was made in the Obama years has been undercut. In this case, you listed the ones, the groups affected there. The fines, excessive fines on people. Civil rights issues, disability issues, guns and explosives. These are a big deal and they are doing this with very, very little public scrutiny. And that is why we are talking about it on a night when a lot of people would prefer to think about Christmas gifts.
MELBER: Right, which by the way, you are welcome to think about both, you know. The human mind is a vast place.
DIONNE: I believe that.
MELBER: E.J., I mean, let me read you. We contacted the NAACP legal defense fund about this story today. They said resenting these key these resources is not just irresponsible. It is another example of the department shirking the obligation to protect civil rights and ensure compliance with the law.
It is also striking because Ferguson and some of those issues got a lot of attention at the time. And the changes sometimes are really I guess more dry or some would argue, boring than the drama of the original story. And yet, it is the systemic changes that matter. When you look at this stat, I mentioned, that eight out of ten people being pulled over there are African-American. Nonviolent offenses. Driving stops that lead to this death trap that Eric Holder talked about.
I would just argue or observed that I don`t think it is a left or right proposition. That the police should not be putting nonviolent people in unaffordable death traps. And that policy that is now being revoke today by Jeff Sessions makes it harder to combat that.
DIONNE: No, that`s right. And libertarian conservatives, at least some of them at the time, spoke out against this and said governments shouldn`t finance themselves with unjust fines levied in a discriminatory way which is what was going on there.
And this is why we have federal civil rights laws. The (INAUDIBLE) who worked in the civil rights division under President Obama told the "Washington Post" that what revoking these bills means is that communities that we are reluctant to a form will no longer feel any pressure to reform. It could well go back to the practices that we learned are very discriminatory and just basically wrong.
MELBER: E.J. Dionne from the "Washington Post," thank you as always.
Up ahead, House Democrats on high alert for this Mueller finds so over now 100,000 Americans who have indicated plans to take to the streets if it happens. An organizer of this so-called rapid response effort joins me exclusive.
And the day President Trump signs the tax bill and head down to Mar-a-Lago, exclusive reporting on Trump`s tax deal hidden from the IRS. The reporter who broke that story also on our show tonight.
And look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I will be working very hard over the holidays. Again, I want to wish you a very merry Christmas. I have some beautiful pens over here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Beautiful pens. Donald Trump and I may have something in common today. It also involves Oprah. I will explain. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is very much a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs. And jobs are produced through companies and corporations. And you see that happening. Corporations are literally going wild over this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Corporations do benefit under Trump`s tax plan, so does he. Trump could get $11 million a year under this bill. A figure that`s hard to confirm because Donald Trump continues to withhold his tax returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President will you answer questions for the American people?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump headed to Mar-a-Lago today without the traditional year-end press conference. The first time a president skipped that ritual in 15 years. Donald Trump, of course, doesn`t like press coverage but it also means he didn`t take any questions on this story. The Palm Beach Post exclusively reporting that he abused a tax loophole to avoid millions. Now, this might not be the story Trump wants people talking about as he heads to his second home in Florida. But the reporter who broke the stories on THE BEAT is going to break it down momentarily. Let`s walk you through it -- the highlight though. The story shows Trump didn`t just duck taxes. He did it by claiming to be charitable.
The IRS called that one of its dirty dozen scams where supposed act of charities crafted to skirt IRS scrutiny. This gave trump over $5 million. And joining me is Christine Stapleton, as I mentioned an Investigator Reporter for the Palm Beach Post and Krystal Ball joins me as well. Christine, what did you find?
CHRISTINE STAPLETON, INVESTIGATOR REPORTER, PALM BEACH POST: Well, we found that in the early 1990s, President Trump was in financial trouble and he wanted to make some money off Mar-a-Lago. He initially wanted to break it into little estates and the town which wasn`t really fond of him decided they didn`t want that. He came back and said what about a private club? And they said sure, if he would agree, well, he had promised to also give a preservation easement and preserve the property and the town said OK. We`re interested in this. And the problem is that these preservation easements are supposed to be charitable donations.
You`re not supposed to get anything in return. And the town wanted Donald Trump to put in it writing, that he would do this. They did not trust him and they wanted to make sure that the easement would be put in place and Mar-a-Lago would be preserved. President Trump, then Donald Trump and his attorney were -- could not do that because that would show that it was a quid pro quo situation and he got something in return for this, what was supposed to be a charitable donation.
And so the deal eventually went through without it being put in writing. The town council finally decided look, we`re not going to let you open the club, we`re not going to give you a certificate of occupancy until that easement is in place. And it took two years to do that and then they did give the certificate of occupancy and the club did open up.
MELBER: Krystal, start wherever you want to on this one.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST: Well, Ari, sometimes people do change. But this person certainly seems to never change, our President. I mean, this is all the same stuff that we`ve come to expect from him. Lying to serve his own purposes, bilking the federal government of millions of dollars, pretending to be charitable when in actuality it`s all about his bottom line. And so yes, I think he has been very good over the years at work the system. But this goes beyond and he -- which is something that he brags about. But what Christina`s great reporting points out is that this goes way beyond just working the system as it exists.
This actually goes to keeping something hush-hush and misleading the federal government so that he could get millions. He could avoid millions in taxes that he really owed those coffers. So one other thing I`ll point out here is that of course, in any other time, in any other administration, this would be a major scandal. But because the bar has been set so low, or so high, depending how you look at it, this is barely a bump for him and you know, barely gets notice of the public when it really should be a focus and a scandal that everyone is paying attention to.
MELBER: It`s well put. And Christine, for the final word I`ll go back to you with my take on this story which is one of the things that Donald Trump basically argued during the campaign was that to the extent he`s a hustler, he would come into office and stop hustling for himself and use those same hustle skills, if you will, for everyone else. I think yesterday`s tax bill shows that`s not really the case. He makes $11 million a year on that as well to the extent it can be inferred from the returns he has that do -- that have leaked. It`s tilted toward top earners. So yes, if you already are like Donald Trump, if you have a billion here or there, give or take, you`re doing well. There`s no evidence though that that hustle is being deployed on behalf of regular citizens, Christine.
STAPLETON: Yes. And I think this is particularly interesting because this is not just the case of an easement he claimed you know, 25, 30 years ago. This is his biggest form of charity that he has given in his life. He has given these easements on his properties in Bedminster, he has given them on golf courses, at his homes. Over $100 million he`s claimed in these easements over the years. And there -- we`ve spoken to experts who say if he is being audited, that perhaps it`s because of these easements that he`s given. They are under scrutiny by the IRS right now and we don`t know if President Trump is the target but he has certainly used these repeatedly over the years as his biggest form of charity.
MELBER: Right, and you mention the IRS that reminds me of what some other experts have said in this very show and elsewhere which is what the IRT has on Donald Trump, Bob Mueller has likely already obtained. Christine and Krystal, thank you, both and Happy Holidays.
BALL: Thanks, Ari. Same to you.
STAPLETON: Happy Holidays! Thank you.
MELBER: Coming up, more than 150,000 people say they will protest if Trump does try to oust Mueller. One of those organizers joins me ahead.
MELBER: Some developing news this Friday, a dramatic message to Donald Trump about the Mueller probe. 22 former federal prosecutors, I mentioned this at the top of the hour, sending Donald Trump a very serious letter warning against any illegal ousting of Mueller. They say it would have severe repercussions for our sense of justice and they have served presidents ranging from the Nixon administration to the Obama administration. The warning echoes what the top Democrat in the Senate Russia investigation said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: These truly are red lines and simply cannot allow them to be crossed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And on THE BEAT, Congressman Ted Lieu was talking about how the response would go if there was action against Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: We would take to the streets, we would try to impeach Donald Trump. And look, if he wants to follow in the footsteps of Richard Nixon, he`s welcome to try but it will not end well for him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The White House meanwhile insists Donald Trump has "No intentions of trying to remove Bob Mueller," but many Americans apparently not taking them at their word. Moveon.org now saying they`ve got over 150,000 people signed up ready to act at any moment for protest. A dozen groups also promoting something called "Nobody is above the law rallies" and they say they have over 650 sites for those. Also, the L.A. Times reporting protesters stashing bull horns near Times Square, hot chocolate mix and sleeping bags stockpiled in major cities and they`ve started arranging carpools in Houston.
I`m joined now by Zac Petkanas who`s helping to organize one of these protests. He`s the former Director of Rapid Response for the Clinton Campaign, as well as Aisha Moodie-Mills, a Democratic Strategist, and Analyst. Zac, why are you taking these actions? Do you know something other people don`t?
ZAC PETKANAS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I mean, look, we have seen over the past couple weeks a dramatic increase in the attacks on the Mueller investigation from the White House, from Republicans on Capitol Hill, from the right-wing media. And it is clearly a ramp up in order to pave the way for one of a couple things. One is to either remove Robert Mueller from the investigation. Two is to try undermine his investigation through some sort of Saturday night massacre that would curtail it. Or three would be potentially to issue pardons of key witnesses.
Senator Mark Warner laid out some very clear red lines that we should all be watching for, that would undermine in this investigation. And so there`s a group of promoters, organizations, that are insuring that people have a place to go and protest to stop any kind of move that would undermine the Russia probe and the Mueller investigation.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I mean, I think that this is critical that we act. Frankly, we need to act in advance and send Donald Trump a lesson -- a message. But here`s the thing that I think this is so awesome and Zac, thank you so much for the work that you`re doing, is that in the event that he tries to fire Mueller, it`s really important that the public understand what`s happening.
Right now, Donald Trump is talking to his echo chamber of the fan base and blowing smoke at them and pretty much speaking to choir about what all he thinks he can do and the fact that you know, this has nothing to do with him essentially and that he`s innocent.
But the truth is that I`m not sure the whole general public really understands the severity of what is being investigated, what is particularly -- what is possibly implicated in terms of his engagement around even money laundering but of course, the Russia investigation. And so, by having all of these protests happen, we`re really going to be sending a signal to him that we`re watching, but certainly educating the broader public about what`s going on. And I think that justice with Nixon, that attention that is charged by the mass on the White House is absolutely going to triggered something more rapidly in terms of how they`re going to have to respond.
MELBER: Zac, the main concern here is a nonpartisan one that there are rules for the rule of law that should not be violated by any president in any party. Are you really the best person to be leading this or out front when you are directly associated with Hillary Clinton and are seen as an opponent of Donald Trump`s from the get-go?
PETKANAS: Well, that`s what`s so great about the Web site, trumpisnotabovethelaw.org. It`s actually not run by any individual organization. It is self-fulfilling. People can go to that Web site and they can plug in their zip code and they can find protests near them. And if there`s not one, they can create one themselves. And so that`s how the number has skyrocketed over the past week, more than doubling.
People are going to the Web site, there are now events in all 50 states, including Puerto Rico, and they can go there and they can -- these are individually driven. And so really the organizers like MoveOn as well as the Truman Security Project as well as Public Citizen Common Cause, Stand Up America, they are really promoters of this event. And it is not just Democrats who are signing up, it`s Republicans and Independents as well.
MILLS: And do you know what Ari? We have got to resist --
MELBER: We`re out of time. So tell me in like a sentence.
MILLS: We got to resist this idea that this is partisan, it`s not. The law is the law. And Republican should very much be on board by trying to make sure the President doesn`t break it.
MELBER: Zac and Aisha, thank you both. It is interesting to see these efforts in development. Let me show you one more thing here tonight. A Washington Post story that you have to see to believe, a first look at Donald Trump`s new Presidential challenge coin. Trump personally involved, we`re told, in re-designing it. And here it is. A White House Aide saying it`s gold compared to the silver and copper coins from previous presidents. And trump removed the national motto, E Pluribus Unum and replaced with it with make America great again. The Presidential Seal has also been replaced with Donald Trump`s personal signature. That brings the count of times that he appears on the coin to four. Trump`s coin also reportedly thicker than the historical coins. You can see it there. The Post reporting the design can help Donald Trump`s coin stand up all on its own. You be the judge of what it all means. Now up ahead, I have a pop quiz for you. What might I have in common with Donald Trump and how can it help you win something from our show? Also on this holiday Friday, who needs fall back? I`ve got great guests on that ahead on THE BEAT.
MELBER: --on THE BEAT so I`m going to let you in on a little secret. That means it`s time to fall back. Cue the music and welcome to my comedian friends Chuck Nice and Seth Herzog who really -- you guys really go for it there. You appreciate the music.
SETH HERZOG, COMEDIAN: I love that. When is that album going to drop?
MELBER: Chuck Nice, man, it`s been a week like every week I say that, but it has been a week. Who needs to fall back?
CHUCK NICE, COMEDIAN: I`m going to tell you. I`m going to say government alien hunter haters.
NICE: Yes. It`s a mouthful. But here`s the deal. There are people who are mad because our government spent a lousy $22 million to determine whether or not aliens are visiting our planet. That is ridiculous. Seriously? I mean, we spend $600 billion a year just in case our president starts a war by calling somebody a little rocket man and you`ve got a problem with $22 million?
MELBER: Let me put a little fallback pushback.
NICE: Go ahead.
MELBER: If I may. What? Why was this at the Pentagon? Maybe this should have been like a science thing. But people are like wait a minute, we`re spending millions with the weaponry --
NICE: Who cares where it is? It is the best use of tax dollars ever. Your government is doing the coolest thing they ever did with your money. Real life x files, OK?
MELBER: Who needs to fall back?
HERZOG: This week more than any other week I`ve really been thinking about Santa Claus needs to fall back. Now, that might be a surprising choice. Who is this guy, and why is he the moral authority over who is naughty and who`s nice? Like I don`t know how he feels about things. There was no Senate hearings. I don`t know how he lands on certain issues. You know what I`m saying? Like why is that we just assume he thinks like we think. What`s going on up there? How many elves are signing NDAs, you know?
NICE: That`s what I`m saying.
HERZOG: Like all, we know about him is he`s a reclusive crazy old man who wears pretty much the same outfit every single day. He doesn`t talk to other humans. He`s obsessed with wooden objects and wooden toys. You know, when is the first elf going to talk and when`s that shoe going to -- going to drop?
MELBER: Is this part of your experimental seasonal stand-up work?
HERZOG: No, this is a real thing.
MELBER: And if so, can we make sure -- can we make sure this isn`t like part of all-year stand-up for you because this bit --
HERZOG: I`m just saying.
MELBER: This bit is like a lump of coal in my "FALLBACK FRIDAY" chimney.
HERZOG: Oh, my Gosh.
MELBER: And by the way --
HERZOG: You`ve got a lot of coal in your chimney. But coal`s coming back.
MELBER: You`re speaking coal. I see what you did there. That was good. You`re speaking as someone --
NICE: I`m sorry. That was a redemption right there. That was a redemption.
MELBER: You are speaking to someone who -- we have different types of experts in (INAUDIBLE). I am an expert on bad jokes. So I know of what I speak.
HERZOG: Oh I know you are.
MELBER: My fallback, Scott Pruitt. Using money -- you talk about alien money. He`s using public funds to have his office swept for hidden listening devices and sophisticated "biometric locks." I`m like Scott, I love your sense of self-confidence. You are not the most interesting thing in this administration.
NICE: Exactly. Nobody cares, Scott.
HERZOG: People are worried what I think. Everyone wants to hear what I think. No, Scott, no one knows who you are until now.
MELBER: It`s -- as always a joy to be here. Your stuff was funny, and your stuff, you were able to try it out on national T.V., so you know it doesn`t work.
HERZOG: Oh, my God.
MELBER: That`s our "FALLBACK FRIDAY."
HERZOG: (INAUDIBLE) Hanukkah
MELBER: Good luck to Seth. Up ahead, though, just in time for Christmas, a special BEAT announcement for you. And here`s a hint. Think Oprah. I`ll be right back.
MELBER: Oprah`s famous for many things. One of them is the audience giveaway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFRE, MEDIA PROPRIETOR: You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! Everybody gets a car!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Everybody gets a car. I have something that will make you shake around a lot less than that. But we do give away pens on this show. Why? I get asked about these pens more than just about anything else all the time. So in the spirit of the holidays, we have been sending some out. Here`s Mimi with her pen calling it a cherished possession, awesome. Diane took this photo while in the act of writing with her pen from THE BEAT and watching the show. Laurie here in deep thought with her BEAT pen and says thanks for the sweet pen. Thank you, Laurie.
And here`s another one. Fans of THE BEAT of all ages, but Emily says she`s sad because she doesn`t have a pen yet. Which means she knows about this giveaway. Emily, thanks for watching. And now we`re sending you a pen. If you want to get in on this action, all you have to do is go to our Facebook page @THEBEATWITHARI, like the page and give us your suggestion of a guest we should have on in 2018. We will pick some winners and then ask for your address, and then send out more pens. And if you don`t use Facebook you can e-mail us as well at email@example.com.
There`s the beautiful tree. Have a great Christmas. I`ll see you back here Tuesday 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2017 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.