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Trump attacks FBI as "tainted" Transcript 12/26/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Richard Painter, Howard Dean, Leah Wright Rigueur, Baratunde Thurston, Todd Barry

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: December 26, 2017 Guest: Richard Painter, Howard Dean, Leah Wright Rigueur, Baratunde Thurston, Todd Barry

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Katie, how was your Christmas?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was lovely. I got a flame thrower for Christmas.

MELBER: Get out of here. What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know. It is a torch for the creme brule. (ph)

MELBER: A very small flame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my mind, it is a flame thrower and I think it is very cool.

MELBER: Well, you know they say. There`s no greater piece than the piece that comes when you first crack that flamed sugar dusted top of a creme brule (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought there was no greater piece than peace in the Middle East.

MELBER: A real state issue as I remember it, Katie. And there we moved back to politics.

Katie, I will see you soon. Thank you very much.


MELBER: Our story tonight is one of unintentional revelations. You know, sometimes Donald Trump exposes more than he means to. And while Christmas weeks could be a time for the President to just chill or focus on his tax bill, Donald Trump appears to be showing some signs of anxiety lashing out today at the FBI.

In new comments, Trump calls the FBI tainted and he cites a FOX News report. The attack comes right after Trump took time on Christmas Eve which you may have understandably missed to attack the number two official at the FBI by name, Andy McCabe. Note that Trump is getting very close to crossing the line his legal team has set for him. Please Mr. President, don`t antagonize Bob Mueller.

But Donald Trump appears intent on reinforcing a new strategy that Republicans have been pushing, trying to undercut the Russia probe. The idea as the "Washington Post" explains is to undermine Mueller indirectly by going after the organization he used to run, the FBI. And in this account there in the Post, it tracks the effort which has moved from frankly the fringe to much of the conservative mainstream. That is the context where Donald Trump`s seemingly odd holiday tweets. In fact, those tweets this week, we checked. This is first time he has mentioned the FBI on twitter in three weeks. Now here is part of the FOX News segment that triggered him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like this is pretty shady. There is a sense that the FBI is still protecting the possibility that the dossier is true. Why would they do that unless they have some vested interest in it not being complete nonsense which I think it is?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dossier we have learned known is bogus. The question is how was it funded? And that question has not been answered yet.


MELBER: Now that news segment there cited a leak to a conservative newspaper asserting the FBI has not verified claims in the Russia/Trump dossier. Republicans also attacking the FBI now across the board.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I don`t want to discredit him. I just - I would like to see the directors of those agencies purge it and say look, we have a lot of great agents, a lot of great lawyers here. Those are the people that I want the American people to see and know the good works is being done. Not these people who are kind of the deep state.


MELBER: The deep state. This is strategy now. A coordinated effort to discredit the Mueller probe. This is an effort Rachel Maddow recently warned about.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: It sounds nuts but they really are working on it. Increasingly since Mike Flynn pled guilty and we learned he was cooperating with Mueller`s investigators two-and-a- half weeks ago. We have seen a whole lot of red flags flying. We have seen the increasing anti-FBI, anti-Robert Mueller to growing fever pitch in pro-Trump conservative media. We have seen in it comments from White House officials who have started to say things like, the fix is in against the President.


MELBER: That warning is proving prescient and that is the statement of fact regardless of where you come down on this whether you think it is good to attack the FBI or not.

Now let me give you a legal view here tonight. There are two ways you can view this newly aggressive public strategy. One, it could reveal that people closest to the President, to the Russia probe, are getting nervous. Maybe they know something that is pushing they will to dial up attacks to Mueller. Or two, this could be something like an insurance policy.

Mueller may not actually be any closer to finding wrong doing in the White House, we don`t know. And Republicans may simply want to ratchet up attacks to polarize, to undermine any potential future indictment or findings by Mueller. And if there aren`t any, so be it.

Now, the evidence for door number one comes in the one place, if you think about it, where Republicans and Democrats actually overlap in their Venn diagram (ph) on this issue.

Think about what is on your screen there, the top Russia investigator in the Senate, Mark Warner laying down that unusual marker last week saying he thinks something may push Trump over the edge. And then look at the overlap. Because the red version, if you will, the conservative version of that same belief or expectation, that Mueller is moving up the chain, is demonstrated by these attacks on the FBI and Mueller. The evidence for door number two comes from the political legal media juggernaut of right wing outrage. But note that both of these doors, whatever strategy you think is going on, are about politics, not about justice.

I want to say this to you tonight as the year 2017 draws to a close. We still live in a republic. That means everyone does have a right to their political opinion about the FBI or anything else. But those opinions do not decide who broke the law. That is investigated by, yes, the FBI. And if there is a crime, it is then charged by, yes, the DOJ and then a jury in our system in our republic has the last word.

Let`s be clear. For the Russia probe, that means the first step is the FBI. And the second, the charging decision, is Mueller. So it is no coincidence the attacks are heating up on the FBI tonight. And that gives us a strong clue about where the attacks are headed next.

I`m joined now by Nick Ackerman, the former Watergate special prosecutor, former Maryland congressman Donna Edwards, and NBC`s Hallie Jackson in where else? Mar-a-Lago with the President.

I start with you, congresswoman. Nick, as prosecutor, you can walk us through how it all works. But, you as someone who has held a representative office, your view of the import and the risk posed by those who would undermine the way the FBI is supposed to find facts in an investigation.

[18:06:21] DONNA EDWARDS (D), FORMER MARYLAND CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I think it really starts with what you said. We are a republic. Now, it reminds me of the children`s game hot and cold. And it seems to me Mueller is getting hot and that means Donald Trump and his emissaries, including FOX News, are stepping up their attacks on the people who stand between them and an indictment or charges. And so I`m not surprised by the attacks. But what I`m surprised by is the lack of response by the Republican leadership in the House saying that this is inappropriate in our system. And so I`m waiting for that.

MELBER: And I`m going to Nick on the breakdown. But first for some reporting on the context of all this, I go to Hallie Jackson. I have to make a clarification on what I said. You are in West Palm Beach. But that is also a place to gather information.


MELBER: Mar-a-Lago adjacent. Perfect. Walk us through what you are hearing. Go ahead, what are you hearing?

JACKSON: Yes. Listen, I have to say that the sound bite that you played in your introduction there, the congressman, the member of Congress calling for a purge of the department of justice, talking about the deep state. I had interviewed him. That came from my show earlier today here in MSNBC where he started the conversation, Ari, the part you didn`t hear, calling the department off the rails, Ari. So that is sort of where this discussion, where the discourse has come to in certain Republican circles.

I will say this. That is not the kind of language that I hear reflected in my conversations with other Republicans, high-level Republicans on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. So it is not as though that is now the official GOP line, if you will.

However, you are hearing it increasingly from the President`s advisers. People who are very - rather people who are very close to the President. His closest allies for example, are people who want to be close to the President. And then obviously, you are hearing it from the President himself.

I think there`s a couple of pieces to the puzzle here. You have those, who, for example, served in past administration calling into question, not the Republicans who are coming out and saying these kinds of things about the department of justice and about the FBI, but also about the Republican who are saying nothing.

And I think where you will see this story go, Ari, if I had to guess over the next couple weeks, is an increasing call for people who have been side line so far to speak out more forcefully against these kinds of language about the United States law enforcement agencies here.

Now you are right. The President is obviously agitated by this. He seems to take this very personally, if his twitter is any indication and obviously, it is. One opportunity that we have to ask him question, we are going to take that opportunity because I think this is something that hasn`t been drilled down enough with Donald Trump, is why he feels so concerned about the FBI.

I will also say, though, there are people in Republican circles who are truly concerned about this FBI agent who was demoted off the Mueller probe because of those apparently anti-Trump text messages and other text messages, who have a concern that they view as legitimate about that but they are not spreading and painting with the broad brush the way you are seeing some other, some of their other colleagues do.

MELBER: Well, you put your finger on it which is the brush.

And Nick Ackerman, this is what so problematic. There is nothing unusual about taking issue with this or that member of an agency or the whole federal government. But that`s not what`s really going on. There seems to be an effort to really go at the entire FBI. The irony, of course, the conspiracy theory that the FBI somehow wants to put a thumb on the scale and gets Trump is, they had open probes. It turns out of both nominees which is a fairly unusual thing. One of those things was probably discussed in ways that everyone agrees violated at least internal policy with Jim Comey talking nonstop about Hillary Clinton. The other, the Trump ne never disclosed before Election Day. So it is hard conspiracy there to get your head around.

I have said a lot. I want to get your respond. But before I do I want to play for you one of the silent people as Hallie mentioned, Christopher Wray. This was how he talked about the FBI earlier in a hearing.


[18:10:22] CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: There is no finer institution than the FBI and no finer people than the men and women who work there and are its very beating heart. Almost 37,000 men and women with a fierce commitment to protecting the American people and upholding the rule of law. Men and women who face the darkest that life has to offer with unyielding integrity and honesty and dedication.


MELBER: I don`t want to put too fine a point on it. And you know, I try to be fair and not bombastic. But those agencies he is speaking about are out risking their lives. Is it too much to ask that he risk his relationship with Donald Trump and standup to the President this week?

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: No. I think he should. I mean, what he said I agree with it 100 percent. I worked with hundreds of FBI agents over the ten years I was a federal prosecutor. Politics never came up. These people did their job. They are dedicated. They were out there uncovering what they had to do. This whole idea that you go attack the FBI is really a bit absurd anyway. Because when you come down to it, the FBI is simply the investigative function of the department of justice. They don`t decide who gets charged. They don`t decide who gets indicted. They really don`t have much input other than to provide the prosecutors with the facts.

In fact, in a case like this, where you have an active ongoing grand jury and you have prosecutors running the investigation, in some ways, the investigation is run more by the prosecutors than it is by the FBI.

MELBER: They are making the big calls, exactly.

So Donna Edwards, where do we go from here?

EDWARDS: Well, I mean, I think that, you know, in this coming week, I`m going to look for the Republican leadership to stand on the side of the men and women of the FBI. I mean, what we have here is the President has attacked witnesses to potential witnesses, at least. And people who corroborated the stories against Donald Trump and within this Russia investigation.

And so it is incumbent on the leadership to stand on the side of the men and women of the FBI. And that means that they have to say to the President, both publicly and privately, that his attacks on the FBI and on those men and women who serve are unprecedented, unjustified, and they have to stop because it becomes an attack on the rule of law.

MELBER: And you put it so well, congresswoman.

Before we go, Hallie Jackson, you know how to take a curveball. Let me throw one at you about Donald Trump with New Year`s Eve coming. He hike the price to party with him on New Year`s Eve, up to $750 for non-member of Mar-a-Lago. Does the President of the United States really need to be selling tickets to party with him? Is that necessary?

JACKSON: He is an unorthodox President, Ari. And this is apparently another nontraditional move.

MELBER: Very untraditional. I will tell you that is both a question and what we call in television a tease because I have a whole lot more on the ticketing for New Year`s Eve. For those who are interested.

And Nick, we can see about getting you a ticket.

ACKERMAN: That`s what I wanted. Absolutely.

MELBER: I want to thank the panel. Hallie Jackson out in the field. Congressman Donna Edwards and former prosecutor Nick Ackerman. Thank you all and a very happy holiday week.

Up ahead, candidate Donald Trump meets President Trump. "Art of the Deal" co-author saying this is classic conman behavior. And now that he says Donald Trump showing it.

Also, as mentioned, the profiting of the Presidency. There is a new report about all the ways that Donald Trump has profited this year and how much time he spends promoting and Richard Painter joins me.

And from birtherism to the infamous both sides response to Charlottesville. The bestselling author (INAUDIBLE) on "the Beat" tonight to talk about race in 2017. We have also heard from comedians trying to make sense of a year unlike any other. Comedian Todd Berry, the dead pan extraordinaire joins me alter tonight as well.

It is a holiday week but it is also a special show.

I`m Ari Melber. You are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.


[18:17:34] MELBER: Donald Trump is using his holiday vacation this week to promote his private business interests, golfing in Florida. Something he has done roughly twice a month all year. Presidential golfing is something candidate complained about.


TRUMP: Obama, it was reported on, played 250 rounds of golf and he is going to be in Hawaii I think, did they say, for three weeks? How can a President -- for three weeks. I don`t have time for that. He played more golf last year than Tiger Woods.

He plays more golf than people on the PGA tour. It`s true.

He has played more rounds just about than people that play professionally on the PGA tour. I mean, this guy.

You need leadership. You can`t fly to Hawaii to play golf.


MELBER: That could just be simple hypocrisy. But a man who knows Trump pretty says there is more to it.

Tony Schwartz ghost wrote "the Art of the Deal" and told "the Beat" Trump never graduated beyond projections. So when he attacks others, he is often revealing stuff about himself.


TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, THE ART OF THE DEAL: Trump got and if you read his tweets, when he is talking about other people, almost invariably he is describing himself. And that was the case in the book. Now, of course, he hadn`t yet decided to run for President. But that notion that he is a con man, believe me, that`s deep inside what he knows himself to be.


MELBER: A con man. You know, if you have seen dirty rotten (INAUDIBLE), the classic conman movie, you know, it is not enough for the con man to just con. He typically also wants recognition. He wants to celebrate the con and have it appreciated and maybe that is why Trump couldn`t simply take a win on this tax bill, no. He soon volunteered that while he had claimed the bill and hurt rich people and him, by this weekend CBS reporting Trump told a group of rich supporters, the bill helps the rich.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President told them that this bill would be personally bad for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President say he is going to get killed financially by the GOP bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President walking into dinner last night seeing a few friends and saying quote "you all just got a lot richer."


MELBER: You all just got a lot richer. That Is CBS News citing two anonymous sources. NBC has not confirmed the account.

The West wing also on edge right now about the midterms. Trump advisors don`t want the GOP message to be, we lied. Our tax bill helps the rich.

And unlike past elections, Democrats going on offense. They have candidate in virtually every district showing optimism about taking seats in even deep red areas.

I`m joined now by Democratic congressman from New York Hakeem Jeffries as well as Cristina Beltran, associate professor at New York University.

Congressman, your party is competing more wildly. Is this a bluffing your view or these seats are more competitive? And how does the tax debate figure it?

[18:20:27] REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Well, this is going to be a very competitive election. And we are going to have an opportunity to compete all across the nation in north to south and east and the west. And this fraud of a tax bill and Donald Trump`s willingness to expose it for what it is through his own words. It is just going to allow to us continue the narrative that Donald Trump and the Republicans continue to try to jam one raw deal after the next down the throats of the American people.

MELBER: Do you think he eagerly said that?

JEFFRIES: I absolutely think he said it because it is obvious if you look at the four corners of the bill who would benefits, 80 percent of the benefits of this tax scam go to the wealthiest one percent of the country. That`s just the reality.

MELBER: So when he goes around the country telling everybody actually this is good for the working class, is he lying to them? Did he think they are stupid? Did he think they won`t figure this out?

JEFFRIES: Well, it is not clear to be. But what is clear is that the bill is nothing more than a ponzi scheme. In other words, we are going to shoulder our children and grandchildren with $1.5 trillion in additional debt simply to provide massive tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires, special interest corporations and big donors to the Republican Party. And he is going to try and sell it as something that benefits everyday Americans.

CRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Yes. I mean, I think -- he said so many shocking things that occasionally we sort of forget that we now have a President who talks like a mob boss, you know. It is like basically the sort, we are all going to get richer, you know. He is telling his friends, you know, you all all get a taste.

And I think there is a kind of - I think what is interesting is that he wants to -- he sold it as a middle class tax cut. We know it is corporate tax cuts, a massive corporate tax cut. And I think the fact that the last- minute insertion of a real estate deal that sort of helped bring Bob Corker on board and it is going to give him probably $11 million, as you discussed, I think that is going to be really a key because that is going to be able to galvanize voters.

It is interesting that now people know Trump lies. But now there is a really very clear element of the tax bill that directly benefits the Trump family. And I think that is going to be something that Democrats can really mobilize on because it is just so blatant.

MELBER: I think you make such an important point, which is who is he lying on? And when Trump lies on the press, I hear this because my job is to report the facts. The fact is there is a lot of people who don`t care or like it. And I have been at Trump rallies and I have met some of them. I`m always nice to them. But I have heard that.

Him, lying on the press and lying on the politicians is different than what you are outlining, which is him lying on the average American taxpayer, working class taxpayer. If you are watching at home and you don`t make a million, you will probably going to lose out.

BELTRAN: And there is something about him that is so interesting that he no longer uses public speech as the bully pulpit. It is verbal wish fulfillment, right. He talks to people. It makes him feel good to say what he says. It makes his base feel good to hear it. So it is like it is political speeches opioid. It is like - it makes him feel good. And it makes his base feel good. So he says these things. The problem is they will say one thing to the public in terms of my base, my affluent friends will be sad. But then later he will say, you know, I`m going to give you a taste. You all going to do quite well.

MELBER: You are saying his political rhetorical style is like an opioid, right. And that raises --

BELTRAN: Yes. It makes him feel request and makes them feel good.

MELBER: But that raises the biggie smallest question in ten crack commandments. Is he getting high on his own supply? Does he actually believe what he is selling?

BELTRAN: Right. And I think that is key. I think actually there is a way in which he is so engaged in a process of wish fulfillment that one wonders if he actually is believing. I think he is going to start believing it is a middle class tax cut in the same way isn`t quite sure Obama is a citizen. I don`t know what the line of - the delusional line here is very dangerous.

MELBER: And the delusion is dangerous.

Congressman, I believe you represent (INAUDIBLE) neighborhood but I won`t make you comment on that unless you choose to. I will show you the President`s Christmas Eve message. Obviously, he used that as a time to take step back from all the politics and the media bashing and let`s put this up on the screen. Christmas Eve. He took it as a time to really unify - no he didn`t. He posted a photo retweeted of him says winning. And you zoomed in he has a media organization, actually it happens to be one of our competitors, so I could care less, CNN, under his shoe.

Congressman, a new low for a Christmas Eve message?

JEFFRIES: Well, first of all, do I appreciate you quoting biggy smalls aka Frank White, from life after death. We have much appreciated back at home.

But in terms of this message, one, what we have seen from a president who has got authoritarian tendencies is that he constantly goes after independent entities that can critique the things that he has been doing. So he has done it with respect to the media in this particular instance, in an egregious fashion. We have seen him do it by labelling individuals so- called judges, who are part of the article III fabric of our constitution. He is doing it now as it relates to the FBI and the special prosecutor. Individuals that can hold him accountable for possible criminal behavior connected to the campaign. So this is just part for the course. And I have to believe that the overwhelming majority of the American people, particularly those who would come out and vote in the midterm election are going to see through the madness.

[18:25:31] MELBER: And that is the big question.

Professor, thank you for coming by "the Beat."

BELTRAN: Thank you.

MELBER: Congressman, always a pleasure.

JEFFRIES: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Up ahead, the profits and the presidency. There is this new report I mentioned how much time Donald Trump is promoting his own properties.

And bestselling author (INAUDIBLE) joins me later tonight on race relations in the Trump era.


[18:28:56] MELBER: Act normal. Donald Trump`s business was on his mind from the very start of his administration. His very first press conference which he made all about his company recounting how he just learned technically no law prevented him from running a company out of the White House.


TRUMP: Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man. A great, great developer from the Middle East. I turned it down. I didn`t have to turn it down because as you know, I have a no conflict situation because I`m President which is I didn`t know about that until about three months ago. But it is a nice thing to have. But I don`t want to take advantage of something.


MELBER: Then Trump turned to a classic ploy. The double conditional word muddle also known as lying.


TRUMP: So I could actually run my business. I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don`t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to.


MELBER: If he wanted to. To be clear, that was Trump taking credit for not being involve with his businesses when he actually is involved. We now know he spent the next year after that press conference promoting his properties. New reports today, he hiked the price for spending New Year`s Eve with Trump, doubled fees at Mar-a-Lago as as soon as he won the election and revenue there followed, spiking by $7 million. I`m joined by former Governor, DNC Chair Howard Dean, Richard Painter, an Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush who`s suing Trump over these issues, and Leah Wright Rigueur, a Harvard Professor. Richard Painter, this is not normal. It might be legal. Is it ethical?

RICHARD PAINTER, ETHICS LAWYER: Well, it`s normal for Donald Trump. This is what he`s been doing since day one. It`s about self-promotion and promotion of his businesses. He`s just flat out wrong when he says the President cannot have a conflict of interest situation. He can. There`s one particular criminal statute that does not apply to the President and the Vice President but other lies apply including the Emoluments Clause Of the Constitution that prohibits foreign government money could come to the President of the United States. And the bribery and gratuity statutes and other privations. And what he`s doing here is making a lot of money off the Presidency. It is not just the $600. The people going to that party are either members of Mar-a-Lago or they`re guests and friends of members of Mar-a-Lago who paid $200,000 to join Mar-a-Lago. I believe they doubled that as soon as he was elected President.

MELBER: They did.

PAINTER: So the bottom line is a lot of rich people are hanging around the President and enjoying their tax cut because they got lion`s share of the tax cut while the rest of us is stocked with a $2 trillion in debt. And I hope they have a good New Years Eve celebrating.

MELBER: Well, Governor Dean, I wish everyone a happy New Years. I`ll read a quote on the screen that Trump ethics czars said, well, this is a totally "normal business New Year`s Eve Party to which every normal person would say, what do you mean normal business New Year`s Eve?" Most people don`t look it as a chance to auction off access. Let me show one of the stat for your analysis because Donald Trump talks a lot of smack about vacations. Here`s his vacationing during the first year as according to travel which I think shows two things. I`m curious what you think. Number one, he doesn`t work a lot. If you don`t want to be effective, maybe you welcome that. But number two, he`s constantly vacationing to promoting his own properties.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR, VERMONT: Well, the promotion is extraordinary. There hasn`t been a President in my lifetime that`s done anything like this. You know, at the beginning, the constitutional business about the emoluments clause which is you`re not supposed to take foreign money to influence your policy, it didn`t bother me. I thought it was a far -- you know, a far-flung argument. I`m not an attorney. It`s pretty clear that he is shaking down foreign government or his staff is shaking down foreign governments who have moved their events to his hotel in Washington at somebody`s bequest in order to get favors. Do you know this guy? I`ve said it for a long time. I think he`s running a criminal enterprise out of the White House and I think that`s what Bob Mueller is on the track of.

MELBER: And you look at this as a part of that?

DEAN: I do, absolutely. He`s shaking down. For him to -- also look what the bill did. The bill basically, there were 14 Republican Senators who voted for a bill that made them between $1 million and $35 million apiece put in by Orrin Hatch -- a clause put in by Orrin Hatch the Chairman of the Finance Committee who himself benefited from the bill. That is crookedness. That is crookedness. That can`t be legal. In the Senate and Vermont, you`re supposed to excuse yourself from voting on bills like that and people do both Republicans and Democrats. This system is broken. The Republicans are the party of corruption.

MELBER: So Professor Rigueur, for the wider view that you often bring us, what happens when you have this sort of situation and it is unprecedented and no other President, I mean, no other President -- excuse me -- tried to run a business out of the White House. They could -- you could technically have a law firm or give paid speeches theory, all of the terrible idea that no one has pursued. What happens to our political and civic life when this just goes on year after year with Donald Trump?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Right. Well, it goes up in flames. The White House clearly has a very loose relationship with ethics. What they have a very close relationship with is money. And you know, to put it in terms that our audience can understand, the motto of the White House seems to be, cash rules everything around me. And the people that are on the hook for it are the tax payers. (INAUDIBLE) dollar bills. So the people that are in the hook for it are the taxpayers and what happens is they look around and they say why isn`t Congress doing anything about this? Why aren`t politicians? Why is this happening? Why are the American people getting fleeced? It increases polarization, it increases partisanship, and really, it`s part of what we see is the breakdown of modern Democracy. It is not good.

MELBER: Richard Painter, what do you say to people at the end of this year who may follow you, who may agree with you but who feel then dispirited because it seems like they`re getting away with it?

PAINTER: Well, we should have focused on this before the election that people had bothered to find out who Donald Trump was. I was practicing law in New York 25 years ago and he ripped off a lot of people in town. Nobody trusted him and that`s why he`s borrowing his money overseas and that`s why we want to find out whether that`s from foreign governments. I hope Bob Mueller is on that as well. But we don`t -- you know, he`s not a trustworthy person. He`s been lying since day one of the White House. So at this point, we got to figure out how to get rid of them because I don`t think he`s going to change. We`ve given him a year and it`s not working out. He`s been obstructing justice, he`s been lying to the American people, trying to shut down the press.

This attack on CNN -- I know they`re your rival, but going after CNN and then going after that anti-trust case against AT&T Time Warner, really retaliating against CNN. That`s unconscionable. That`s the kind of thing happens in a dictatorship. So we`re going to have to get rid of him if we want to keep our democracy and there are no two ways about it.

MELBER: I appreciate your points, I appreciate your attention to detail and I`ll note, we covered the apparent potential retaliation at issue in the Trump administration`s targeting of CNN`s parent company at the time. Yes, I happen to compete against them every night. I don`t care. This is bigger than that and we will keep covering it and I appreciate you raising it. Richard Painter, Governor Dean, Professor Rigueur, all of you, I wish you happy holiday week. Up next, Donald Trump and race relations. How he went from birtherism to the both sides attack. The bestselling author, Baratunde Thurston is my next special guest for a one on one on that next.


MELBER: It`s no secret that year 2017 had enough racial controversy for a decade. Baratunde Thurston, the author of how to be black is here to break down what a year it`s been.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots.

As you know, I was very strong in the inner cities during the campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional --

TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?

We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism.

DAVID DUKE, WHITE SUPREMACIST: This represents a turning point for the people. We`re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.

TRUMP: I think there`s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don`t have any doubt about it either. But you also have people that were very fine people on both sides. George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status?

Wouldn`t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now?

JOHN KELLY, CHIEF OF STAFF, WHITE HOUSE: A congresswoman stood up, and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise

REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: The character assassination that he went through to call me out of my name an empty barrel.

TRUMP: I think they`ve gotten better or to say -- look, they`ve been afraid for a long time and you can ask President Obama about that.


MELBER: Baratunde Thurston, what are your thoughts?

BARATUNDE THURSTON, AMERICAN WRITER: Yes, you can ask President Obama about that. The same President who powered the Trump campaign through claims of birtherism and otherness and this idea that a very American person in definitely not American. This has been a painful year. This has been a year of people drawing baselines, about who is American and who is not. And by people, I mean those with all the power now. The Republicans in Congress who have co-signed on to a white supremacist agenda of a president who seems to want to embarrass himself in front of native- American people and push aside their sovereign rights with Latinos against Muslims, against Black. Everybody who`s not his mediocre white guy who`s destined for a district court ship is excluded from his version of America. It`s a sad year.

MELBER: When I report on these issues, sometimes I hear different things from different people. Imagine that. One thing that I`ve heard from many people in the Black community and the civil rights community is this all started with birtherism. When I was at a Trump rallies in New Hampshire, if anything it was played down more. But here was Donald Trump way before he ran for president when he started to saying, I`m going to be a counterweight to Barack Obama in 2011. And to him, it was all about birtherism.


TRUMP: You are not loud to be a president if you`re not born in this country. He may not have been born in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have people down there searching --

TRUMP: Absolutely.


TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they`re finding.

All I want to do is see this guy`s birth certificate.

Perhaps it`s going to say Hawaii. Perhaps it`s going to say Kenya.


MELBER: What do people hear when they hear that and why is that also turned out to be something that seems to be different depending on where you`re sitting?

THURSTON: Yes, I mean, I hear racism. I hear a loud dog whistle. I hear fear. I hear someone who lost position. I hear someone who sees equality as injustice, who sees leveling the playing field as cheating entitled people out of what which they`re entitled to. I see someone who is afraid to fight on a level playing field, to actually compete for its capitalistic and pro-market as this guy is guy is fused. He can`t win in a fair fight. He can`t win in a fair election. He can`t win on a fair debate. He can`t win with a fair understanding of the history of this country. So it`s not enough to just succeed Barack Obama. You have to dismiss him as legitimate. And that`s an extreme position for someone who walks and talks so loudly, big empty barrel making a lot of noise. He doesn`t actually have that much to stand on.

MELBER: I didn`t know you were going to be flipping the script in this discussion.

THURSTON: Neither did I but John Kelly is an inspiring figure.

MELBER: And you probably didn`t know that Omarosa was also going to be involved in this. Here she is talking about her exit from the White House.

THURSTON: Do we have to?


OMAROSA MANIGAULT, FORMER POLITICAL AIDE IN THE WHITE HOUSE: There were a lot of things that I observed during the last year that I was very unhappy with, that I was very uncomfortable with, things that I observed, that I heard, that I listened to.


MANIGAULT: I can`t expand up on it because I have to still go back and work these individuals. But when I have a chance to tell my story, Michael, quite a story to tell. As the only African-American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the President, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, and have affected community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.


THURSTON: That`s a -- that`s a genius move. As a lone lady, but basically, Omarosa was like, I don`t need you, black people, I`m good. I`ve got the White -- oh, black people, remember me? What happened was some stuff went down. Racism made me uncomfortable so I got to hand to it her business-wise, it was a smart move. Because she`s in scarce supply, so scarcity increases the price. A black person in a Trump White House, high price. I think she was getting paid like $180,000 a year. So that`s market forces. Good on you. But now you`re going to have a harder time coming back to the community that you so shunned, so flagrantly to embrace this hateful person.

MELBER: You -- as always, you raise a lot of interesting points for us to continue to think about it. And I suppose the last thing to end on a lighter note is would you do a fallback Friday with Omarosa? If she was right here, will we do that?

THURSTON: I mean, if I could tell her to her face to fall back, I guess I would but I`m really not interested in normalising, shining the light on or enabling people who undermine the very tenets of democracy. That`s just kind not my thing. So if you had somebody else, that would be preferable.

MELBER: Baratunde Thurston, very raw, very real 2017. Thank you.

THURSTON: All right. Good to be here.


MELBER: -- quite a year. How do we make sense of it? You know, we focus a lot on the news around here so we rely on journalist and experts and former government officials to explain what it all means. You know, the novelist Charles Bukowski argued however that too much Eriodictyon gets in the way. He said an intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in simple way. Amen. And this year we`ve relied on some funny artist to get to the heart of everything like when comedian Billy Eichner explained, you don`t need an investigation to figure out that Trump colluded, just listen to his bumbling denials.

BILLY EICHNER, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: The minute Trump said that there`s no collusion, that`s what tells me there`s collusion. He`s an idiot. He`s so obvious. You know, people are like he`s a master manipulator. No, he`s not. Please. He couldn`t even convince Dionne Warwick to man a cash register on Celebrity Apprentice. I mean, I remember the good old days. He`s a terrible, corrupt misogynist, racist person.


MELBER: Def Comedy Jam legend D.L. Hughley also kept it simple saying you can understand Trump by remembering he lies all the time.


D.L. HUGHLEY, AMERICAN ACTOR: Donald Trump is by far known to be a liar, a prevaricator. He know he lies a lot. He lies a lot about a lot of things. He lies when the truth will do. And so you have Jared Kushner, who lied, you have Don Jr. who lied, you have Manafort who lied. It`s hard to find a person who told the truth.


MELBER: And when Richard Lewis from HBO`s Curb Your Enthusiasm dropped by, he even gave a comedic tribute to how Trump`s scandals have elevated a new cast of ethics warriors.


RICHARD LEWIS, COMEDIAN: Richard Painter to me now is Elvis. This guy is the most ethical human being. I saw Trump`s daughter eat a snickers bar. We paid for that Snickers bar. I want that 22 cents back, put in the Treasury in Sacramento within 12 minutes.


MELBER: Of course those jokes only work if you get them, which means agreeing on the premise. If you know Trump lies a lot, jokes about him lying are amusing. If you deny that fact, you might not like the joke. 2017 is a year where political drama seemed to take over everything and even relatively non-partisan comedians like Todd Barry, who starred in the hit movie The Wrestler and has several Netflix specials including the new Spicy Honey, even he began dabbling in politics when he tossed out a line roasting Ben Carson last year it became one of his most viral jokes ever. He wrote, "Ben Carson used to be my doctor, I stopped seeing him because he always shifted the conversation to Housing and Urban Development." With me now is stand-up comedian and actor Todd Barry.

TODD BARRY, COMEDIAN: You know, you offered to have me read that myself. I should have taken you up on it.

MELBER: I was -- I gave it -- you want to do it? Put it back up. You can --

BARRY: No, actually, no, you did fine.

MELBER: Oh, so you`re bluffing.

BARRY: I`m just poking at you. I`m going to be funny out of the gate.

MELBER: You are known to be very funny.

BARRY: Thank you.

MELBER: I think you`re very funny.


MELBER: You`re not that political but people are loving your political jokes. What is that?

BARRY: I`m not political. I mean, people -- because when you`re a comedian especially in the Trump era, every interview is like, so has it changed your comedy? I was like, no, it`s just not my strength. Same reason I don`t do impressions, just because it`s not what I do.

MELBER: Right. Well --

BARRY: But that -- but I do it on Twitter. But that`s because it`s easy and disposable and you just make a little snarky comment that it won`t necessarily work on stage.

MELBER: Well, so here`s one on Mike Flynn where you really digging into these payments, which got him in a lot of trouble. Flynn paid $45,386 for a speech in Moscow, as a professional live performer all I`m thinking is what`s going on with that $386?

BARRY: Right. We went over that one earlier and you didn`t get it.

MELBER: What`s the joke there?

BARRY: The joke -- I think you -- did you read it correctly? He got paid. He didn`t pay.

MELBER: Was paid.

BARRY: OK, you said that? It`s just an odd amount to be like his agents on the phone like the offer is $45,000, we need 45,386. It`s just a curious amount.

MELBER: You`d -- and that`s what you noticed about it.

BARRY: Yes and that`s -- I think it got quite a few re-tweets.

MELBER: It got a lot of re-tweets. Here`s another one you did that`s sort of random I think. But I love random humor. You wrote, "Hey, Donald Trump. I just ordered chicken teriyaki at a sushi restaurant. Guessing you`ve done that before."

BARRY: I think that`s a great tweet.

MELBER: What do you -- what is that?

BARRY: That`s one of the most powerful ones I heard. That`s just I feel like -- I mean, that really happened when I was at a sushi restaurant. It`s just like the thing, a kind of the low rent thing to order. I think the tacky like --

MELBER: It`s super tacky.

BARRY: Yes. It`s like going to, I don`t know, putting ketchup on a lobster or something like that.

MELBER: Now, I want to show you a clip from your crowd work tour which people can see on Netflix.

BARRY: No, it`s not on Netflix anymore.

MELBER: I saw it on Netflix.

BARRY: You did when it was on Netflix.

MELBER: It was once on Netflix.

BARRY: It`s on iTunes now.

MELBER: OK, so many platforms.

BARRY: I know.

MELBER: But this is so impressive, what you do and most people would be so scared to do it. You go out on a stage, you don`t have material. You engage live with the audience and you do this thing where you kind of poke at people, you make fun of them, but you`re also never mean. Let`s take a look. Here you are asking a guy questions and getting into it from the tour.


BARRY: Are you in a band?


BARRY: What`s your band?


BARRY: Avant Abstract?


BARRY: Oh, my God. I did my business cards in that font.

Who sings?


BARRY: Oh, an instrumental band? It`s worse than I thought.


MELBER: How do you make fun of people without offending them?

BARRY: I guess it`s just the fear of getting beaten up that sort of tempers it a little bit but I don`t know. I just kind of try to dance on the line of like poking but not really. I just don`t -- because I just don`t -- it`s not going to be joyous to me to actually insult someone or hurt their feelings.

MELBER: Do you worry you won`t be able to think of something?

BARRY: What do you mean?

MELBER: You`re out there interviewing these people --

BARRY: Oh, yes.

MELBER: You`re supposed to get laughs.

BARRY: Yes. I do. And for some reason I`m -- am I sweating a lot? I`m just kind of rocking back and forth.

MELBER: You are swaying.

BARRY: I know. Howard Dean didn`t do this.

MELBER: Howard Dean more of a professional T.V. guest.

BARRY: I`m like in my living room. Your question -- it is -- it`s just the risk I take but I kind of like it because I don`t -- I`m surprised also. If I do -- I mean, I`m doing a whole tour now of just crowd work where I just do that kind of thing.

MELBER: So you live on the edge.

BARRY: Are we done?

MELBER: Yes. This is how you --

BARRY: Oh my God, we`re done.

MELBER: You`re good at picking up the cues.

BARRY: I have 20 more minutes to say -- that answer was 20 more minutes long.

MELBER: Todd Barry, the new special is on Netflix.

BARRY: Yes, it`s called Spicy Honey.

MELBER: Spicy Honey on Netflix.

BARRY: It came out today.

MELBER: And up next I have a special word about something I`m going to do about Ken Starr tomorrow.





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