Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 9, 2018 Guest: Eric Deggans, E.J. Dionne, Katty Kay, Christina Greer, Sheldon Whitehouse, Yodit Tewolde, Nick Ackerman
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari, it is good to see you back in the saddle.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Great to be back and I love a good dragon story.
TODD: Half dragon. It is season ten of "Game of Thrones."
MELBER: Chuck Todd, thank you very much.
We begin with breaking news right now. Steve Bannon is out at Breitbart. And this is also a busy news day across the board. A potential breakthrough in this Russia probe, transcripts extensively detailed from a hearing with, yes, the now famous firm behind the Trump Russia dossier are out tonight and Russian blackmail came up.
Also there is a former Trump campaign adviser live here on what the Trump legal team will be doing as they brace for what could be a grilling by special counsel Bob Mueller himself.
And another extraordinary moment today that I have something to say about later, the cameras rolling for that supposedly bipartisan policy planning meeting at the White House about immigration. I will tell you what I think it was all really about.
All of that ahead in our show.
But we begin with this important breaking news, Steve Bannon out at Breitbart.
This is without a doubt tonight the biggest fallout yet from Michael Wolff`s explosive book about the Trump presidency. Steve Bannon out at Breitbart News. And the "New York Times" reporting this was not his choice tonight. Bannon forced out by the billionaire Trump supporters, the Mercer family. And this was after Bannon not only burned that bridge with Trump, but scorched it by attacking him and his family members in this new book we have all been talking about. He alleged that Trump Jr. was acting treasonous and unpatriotic which he then five days later apologized or sort of.
He also allegedly said in the book that Ivanka Trump was quote "dumb as a brick." Now the mighty fall for many reasons, this one I would report for you is about money. That is how Bannon could be forced out at all from a site that was so associated with him in an era where many people claim maybe nothing matters or maybe anyone can get away with anything. And Steve Bannon himself had been conjuring a mythology that he was powerful because he didn`t play by anyone`s rules. Not the media`s, not the RNC`, not even the President. But it didn`t work.
The news tonight is that you actually see Steve Bannon is just like everyone else. He has a boss, he needs a paycheck and for all of his tough talk, his great undoing came not from his enemies or the Democrats or the media, his undoing came from Steve Bannon`s own brash mouth.
Now - and here are the facts. The Mercers had been investing about $10 million in Breitbart which gave them about half of the company`s control way back from 2011. So follow that money.
After being fired as White House chief strategist, it was Bannon who went back to Breitbart. He started running an editorial called "at first night" and he made waves about why this was the key to his future. He said I got my hands back on my weapons. I built a machine at Breitbart. And now I`m about to go back knowing what I know and we are about to rev that machine up, Steve Bannon said, and rev it up we will do.
Well, his hands aren`t on the weapon tonight. Steve Bannon`s hands are on a pink slip. And Trump had famously recently said Bannon lost his mind after being fired. Tonight let`s be clear, Steve Bannon lost his largest alt-right platform for power. And it was never his to begin with.
Steve Bannon rose to power by melding what he called grassroots populist outrage with funding from the conservative elite. That may have been a messy alliance, but it always worked up until tonight because of the money. A former banker himself Steve Bannon did have a kind of special independence from the GOP structure because he had independent money. But he also forgot a cardinal rule of power. What puts you on top can also bring you down. As Sean Connor explained, the same sword they night you with, they will good night you with. And as Jimmy Cliff observed, the harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all.
A special panel on this developing political news, Christina Greer from NYU`s Nicsilver Institute, Katty Kay, anchor from BBC "World News America," E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post" and Eric Deggans, a TV critic and analyst for NPR and a MSNBC analyst as well.
I begin to go around the horn with you, E.J., this was not part of the plan. This is a result of reporting of a book of information in the public square. Steve Bannon ousted from the site that he is so associated with. What does it mean to you?
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, just add to your list of sayings, he who has the gold makes the rules. That is the golden rule of politics. And I think what you saw here is the idea as you suggested that populism could meld with low tax conservatism was always troubling from the very beginning.
Jay Mayer of the "New Yorker" reported that the Mercers had already started to break with Bannon when Bannon basically said he didn`t like this Trump tax cut because it tilted too much toward the rich. And so I think it is going to be very interesting to see does this push regular conservatives even closer to Donald Trump and Donald Trump even closer to regular conservatives. That is certainly the first effect of this book.
One other quick point if I could, the reporting of Michael Wolff`s book was done mostly as far as I can tell back when Bannon was riding high. He was kind of hoping to take down the Kushner/Ivanka alliance and it just blew up on him.
MELBER: Yes. And Christina Greer, give us the wider context. This is a Web site that has become much more than just one of many websites. It is a place where Steve Bannon drove hard line policy message and many people feel attacks on American citizens.
CHRISTINA GREER, FELLOW, NYU NICSILVER INSTITUTE: Yes. Well, having been targeted by bright part several times, I know that this is a Web site that traffics in racist really aggressive horrible reporting, the people who write into Breitbart are some of the underbelly of American society. This is a Web site that has a whole section called black crime in the website, the traffics in horrible anti-Semitic notions constantly and oftentimes false truths. The sort of put up a quote from someone usually indicating that they are either Jewish or a picture of a black woman and then they just let the comment section go wild.
So for someone like Steve Bannon who is moving away -- who has been ousted from this type of organization, says a lot about the Mercers, it says a lot about the Republican tax cuts, because these are people who are willing to sort of go even deeper into the deer of American politics because it is going to make them more money.
So what we are seeing now is just Republican Party in Washington, D.C. full did, on looting the American government and really ignoring all the principles that actually will sustain us in a social safety net in a collective action sort of way.
ERIC DEGGANS, NEWS CRITIC: Well, what is interesting to me about this is that the conservative media structure that has grown up around Breitbart and that Breitbart is sniffing in part of, you would think with Donald Trump as President would be flowering, that they would be excerpts even more control over the discussion. And instead of being focus on supporting the president in the way that they have, they are eating themselves in a way. There is this conflict and competition between people at these various news organizations. And it is hampering their ability to get their message out. Breitbart, we are hearing now is not going to -- or Bannon we are hearing is not going to host the show that he had on Sirius XM either because that was through Breitbart News. They are going to be consumed with dealing with the fallout from getting rid of Bannon instead of focusing on how they are covering the news or supporting the President`s agenda as they have done in the past.
MELBER: Well, and you just said supporting the President`s agenda. Here again is the way Steve Bannon was positioning. It just a few months ago saying that he was going to war for Trump when he left the White House. If there is any confusion, let me clear it up, I`m leaving the White House and going to war. He was explaining on behalf of Trump in a wide choice of interviews he did.
And Katty Kay, they can throw in all the words they want, it was obvious at the time that there was tension, that`s why he was leaving the White House. It was obvious that the pourer that he has is not simply in being the third or fourth press release regurgitating whatever the White House message was, but in doing what he did in Alabama and other places which was being a pressure cooker, positioning himself, whatever you want to call it to the right or to the ground or to the wild other corner of where the Republican party would either go or be forced to go.
KATTY KAY, BBC ANCHOR, WORLD NEWS AMERICA: Yes. And there are still supporters of President Trump and of President Trump running for President again next time around in the next election who will say that Bannon had his ear to the ground of the base that they need. And they are still in favor of that fire that he whipped up so kind of unexpectedly around the time of the election that got Trump the victory in 2016.
But you said just a few minutes ago that his inflated sense of self importance, that bubble was burst today. I wonder whether it was burst today or whether it was burst on that cold night in December in Alabama when Roy Moore didn`t manage to succeed, was that actually when we look back at this, the beginning of the end of Steve Bannon because he didn`t manage to pull it off. I mean, there is one thing to have -- say you have the ear of the base and that you can run all of these counter establishment candidates, but if you can`t get them elected, what use are you. And that tice in with what E.J. is saying and Jay Mayer`s reporting that actually the bust up had -- the kind freeze between the mercers and Bannon had already begun a while ago.
GREER: I agree with that completely. But I think we also need to remember any Republican who cast their lot with Donald Trump also needs to remember that he is not loyal to anyone but himself. And the sad thing is his children might soon find that out one day as well.
But you know, he was with Steve Bannon and now you see how he speaks about him, sloppy Steve. There are so many people -- every single person who was attached their political career to Donald Trump, when their time has come, he has thrown them by the wayside and literally stepped over his body in order to promote himself. And by that should left for all Republican.
MELBER: And that is a lesson E.J. that really doubles back to the deeper point you are making about if someone is watching at home and going, OK, this loud brash guy who will probably ended in the White House and then left and as a website, who cares. The point is that only Steve Bannon, right?
The point is, as you were arguing earlier and as Christina is alluding to E.J., who is in charge? And is there a method within Trumpism or the Republican Party to give voice to the people that they aspire to represent, the coalminer, the middle class, the working Americans around the country. We hear a lot about them. Or at the end of the day is tonight important obviously I think so, what appears, well, I`m curious.
What you think E.J., is tonight important because we are seeing the pressures put on by a well reported book about who is really in-charge and it turns out there is a handful of billionaires in charge and that is the end of it?
DIONNE: Well, I think we already started to see that with the tax bill. There was very little in this tax bill to benefit the voters of the mountains in West Virginia or Kentucky or the people in the old mill times in Michigan or Pennsylvania. And you have already started to see Trump take a hit in the polls among white voters without college education. So even among white evangelical Christians.
So I think there has been a perception out there even before Bannon`s fall, and to be honest I don`t know if any of us can be sure that all those voters really knew who Steve Bannon was. That`s the problem.
MELBER: The polling was in several red states, his name I.D. was surging up over 40 percent. Which again for a staffer --
DIONNE: You know, it is pretty big, I will grant you that. But just to underscore something Katty said that I think is very important. When Roy Moore lost, it sure looked like Donald Trump held that against Steve Bannon. It was basically Bannon told me this guy could win so I went all in for him and I got embarrassed a second time in Alabama. So I think that really didn`t help his cause either. But we are seeing the collapse of this plutocratic populism. You can`t really bring those two together.
MELBER: And Katty, let me give you the final word, Katty. But I want to update with sometimes we get breaking news in pieces of paper here in the newsroom. And sometimes we get little anonymous quotes of gobbledygook (ph). And I have one of those that I will read to you and then then get your final thought.
This is from a source close to Bannon. This is brand new, saying Bannon is a true believer in the populist national agenda. Potus is transactional. When he needs something badly, they will have a relationship.
Final thought, Katty Kay.
KAY: Yes, so that is going to be the question, right. Where does the conservative base that Bannon thought he represents now throw in its lot? Do they throw it with Donald Trump or do they keep their attachment to Steve Bannon?
It is interesting that on the same day Steve Bannon is fired at Breitbart, the President is in the White House talking about the prospects of immigration reform. That is the one thing that his base, that those workers around the country really don`t want to see happen. So they are going to be half done. You are already getting some of Trump`s more high profile supporters on the right come out and say, hold on, you are going to lose a whole lot of support if you really go ahead with anything that you floated during that meeting in terms of real immigration reform.
DIONNE: That`s completely right. I agree with that.
MELBER: It`s fascinating and it matters for all the reasons that are broader and bigger than Steve Bannon. This has been a fascinating conversation with folks who know him well.
Christina Greer, Katty Kay, E.J. Dionne, Eric Deggans, Thank you very much.
DIONNE: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Coming up, we turn to the other big story, this key testimony out tonight from the Russia probe, insights in to the Trump dossier. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is on "the Beat" live.
And what are the pros and cons of Trump if he does do his testimony under oath?
And we are going to peel back the layer on that political feeder today. We were inside the riddle (ph) - take you inside the room you are looking at there and explain.
And later, I want to address the deepest question raised by the Michael Wolff book, it is about Trump and it is about cons.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news tonight, key transcripts about the Trump dossier are now out for the first time. The head of the firm behind the dossier has testified. And we now know what he is telling Congress. That Christopher Steele that now famous British spy who was hired to look into Trump`s links to Russia became quote "concerned that what he was learning about Trump represented a national security threat."
This is brand new. We are also learning from this information from Congress that he had the view that Trump might have been quote "blackmailed or had been compromised."
A lot more to it, let`s get right to Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. He is a member of the Senate judiciary committee.
There is a fight over why some Republicans didn`t want this testimony made public. And then there is what you think is important now that it is transparently out in the light of day. What do people need to know about this?
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, the way that the Judiciary Committee ought to be working is that we ought to be working in a bipartisan fashion to do what is right within our wheelhouse which is to protect the department of justice from obstruction and interference. And to draft legislation to protect our 2018 elections which just a few days ago CIA director Pompeo warned us we are going to be the continued subject of Russian meddling. That`s what we should be doing.
But the chairman has decided that we should basically break into two teams, a Republican Judiciary Committee and a Democratic Judiciary Committee and go our separate ways. Given that decision, I think senator Feinstein maybe only choice that she could to release the Glenn Simpson transcripts today. But certainly not the best of all worlds.
MELBER: You are referring to senator Grassley?
WHITEHOUSE: Senator Grassley is the chairman. Senator Feinstein released it.
MELBER: So Senator Grassley did say or react which I want to read in fairness. He says that this release is totally confounding and it undermines the integrity of the committee`s oversight work. Does it do that?
WHITEHOUSE: I don`t think so, particularly because in this case, the subject, the person whose words were in the transcript, the interviewee, had written an editorial laying out what he said in public ahead of this and called for the release of the transcripts. So it`s not as if somebody came in under one set of expectations that this would be a private confidential interview and had their expectations disrupted or disturbed by unbeknownst to them and without their wishing it having their transcripts suddenly in the public domain.
The person whose testimony was at the heart of this transcript was perhaps the person who most wanted the transcript released.
MELBER: And then back to the first question, what are you learning and what should we be learning from this testimony?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, I think the key piece of it is that this latest Republican effort to cause a distraction from the tasks before us really doesn`t stand up. That in reality, the Steele dossier which I think drives a lot of Republicans crazy, was actually perfectly legitimate intelligence product by an experienced former senior person in the MI-6 Russia desk who has had his work regularly taken seriously and valued by law enforcement and intelligence services in the United States.
And that the timing is very different than has been suggested, that the Steele dossier was not the product of a Democratic political effort. It was actually first commissioned by a conservative newspaper. And that the Steele dossier wasn`t what triggered the FBI investigation.
That began when the British and then as director Clapper told us European allies and then the Australians based on their contact from Papadopoulos all came to American agencies and said hey, you guys, you really got to be worried about what Russia is up to in your elections. We have some really serious Intel we need to share with you. And those were the driving factors behind the FBI beginning to look into this.
MELBER: Right. Which is important and also goes to what we saw in the testimony which is the view that if anything, if you find stuff that is bad enough, you actually have some obligation to report it as well.
Senator Whitehouse, thank you for your time.
WHITEHOUSE: My pleasure.
MELBER: I want to turn to Nick Ackerman, former Watergate prosecutor and defense attorney Yodit Tewolde.
Yodit, when you look at both this fight with dossier and the wider debates of what Donald Trump is going to do and whether he is going to testify in public, he says the dossier is all basically fake or political. Does that work as well if the issues in the dossier are going to be part of how he is actually interviewed in a criminal probe setting?
YODIT TEWOLDE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It absolutely could. Let me just first say that this dossier, the Republicans are way more focused on than Mueller. OK? Mueller is five steps ahead of us. He is Sherlock Holmes. He knows all of -- everything that is in that transcript, he already knows, right. They are bringing way more attention to it.
Now, this whole political gamesmanship between the Republicans and Democrats, it is only confusing the American people, OK, about how this is actually working. Mueller is trying to investigate in a most fairway. And this whole Democrats doing this, Republicans doing that, this reaction for that reaction, it is only confusing the American people.
MELBER: How about Trump as a potential client? Newt Gingrich was saying basically today maybe he should try to avoid testifying at all. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s all fake news. It is phony stuff. It didn`t happen.
Very sad what they have done with this fake dossier. It was made up.
Does anyone really believe that story? I`m also very much of a germaphobe (ph) by the way. Believe me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Close, but no cigar. That is President Trump. I will read you what he said because I want to be clear about this.
Newt Gingrich says I think the idea of putting Trump in a room with five or six harden very clever lawyers who are trying to trap him would be a bad idea. Given your views as a lawyer, can Trump just avoid testifying at all?
TEWOLDE: I mean, he could try. But to try to avoid testifying after he has said publicly that I`m willing to cooperate and his lawyer is saying that he is willing to cooperate and be interviewed would seem sort of suspicious. But I know as a defense attorney I`m always so afraid of putting my clients up on the stand because I don`t want them to be scrutinized by the prosecutor.
That is similar in the situation here. Trump is not necessarily the most well-spoken. Has put his, you know, foot in his mouth a couple of times. And for example with the James Comey, he told Lester Holt in an interview that, you know, Russia was on his mind when he fired him. So he could say very, very incriminating things in this interview, with people who know how to interview and get things from him. So I would be very, very cautious and aware.
MELBER: Nick, any response to that? And also, of course, we just had Senator Whitehouse in the dossier.
NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Here is the dossier. I mean, it is 300 pages. I must say. I have only read 150 of it so far.
But really it is almost a nonevent in the sense that what he`s really doing is talking about his business and his investigation business. And the fact that he has used Christopher Steele in the past and Christopher Steele has always been a reliable credible investigator, has good reputation.
MELBER: But it being a nonevent is good for Mueller in the sense that the Republican critique had been that maybe what you are holding, and you can hold it up again, that there would have been something bad in there. And you`re saying it`s really just normal investigative work.
ACKERMAN: Sure. I mean, I use investigators like this all the time. And there is nothing in here that is really unusual. But to go to the point about Trump being a witness, I mean, he could take the Fifth Amendment. He would be basically saying a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate him, which would be counter to everything he has been saying all along about this being a witch hunt. And on top of it I think that he has a real problem with Flynn.
MELBER: Right. That is another thing I want to ask you about, so stick around. Because I know you are going to be talking to a Trump supporter. We are going to have a whole back and forth.
Yodit, thank you very much for joining us on "the BEAT." I appreciate it.
Coming up, the questions of Bob Mueller might want to ask President Trump including new reporting on that. The former Trump campaign advisor joins me with Nick Ackerman.
And one of the biggest revelations from "Fire and Fury." I`m going to explore later in our show and why it matter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of --
TRUMP: One hundred percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that --?
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: President Trump there saying that he would be willing to speak under oath. Is it a good idea?
Let me bring in Nick Ackerman back with me, former Watergate Prosecutor and Michael Caputo, a former Trump Campaign Adviser and ongoing ally of the Trump administration. Michael, I`ll start with you. Is it a good idea? Could it hurt Donald Trump if he testifies?
MICHAEL CAPUTO,FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Well, when I got contacted by the House Intelligence Committee and invited to come and testify, you know, I was told by my attorneys and any other lawyer who -- you know, who would -- I would speak to that speaking to investigators in the House or the Senate is really a dangerous enterprise, but it really gets to be a sticky wicket when you go to speak to the Special Prosecutor and investigators. I`ve not been contacted by the special prosecutor in the Russia investigation but I think it`s -- it could be a mistake for the President to do this. I know he`s been deposed before because he`s a very successful businessman. He`s been in and out of corporate litigation for a couple generations. So I think he knows what to expect. I also think his lawyers have a pretty good handle on this. I`ll support whatever they decide to do but I think that it`s something they might want to consider taking a pass on.
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, if I were advising Donald Trump what to do, as an attorney, I would tell him to take the fifth. The problem -- I mean, because he`s just got too much to lose here. I mean, his lawyers, first of all, he`s got a history of lying. He`s certainly not going, to tell the truth to his lawyers, and the real problem he`s got is with Mike Flynn because we don`t know and his lawyers don`t know exactly what Flynn is going to say. And if I were a prosecutor, I would try and get him on record as to what I know Flynn can say that is corroborated by other testimony and other evidence. And I think that is the real problem he`s got going into this. Now, on the other hand, politically speaking, there is no way he can take the Fifth Amendment. He can`t refuse to answer questions saying I refuse to answer on the grounds that a truthful answer would tend to be incriminating.
MELBER: He could argue that as President if at least relates to matters of state and national security, et cetera, that maybe he shouldn`t have to to testify.
AKERMAN: Expect for the fact that everything they want to ask him about is going to be for the most what happened before he became President. I mean, the obstruction part is different, but certainly, as to any conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government, he doesn`t have any privilege there.
MELBER: Do you -- do you worry, Michael Caputo, that whether or not any actual links to Russia that involve the campaign are found in a criminal way, which has not at all been proven by the evidence. Do you worry that Donald Trump`s style of speaking about this could cause more problems? I mean, this is a person that I know you believe in and that you`ve worked for but apart from ideology, this is a person who announced that Russia was on his mind when he removed Jim Comey, who had a tweet go out from his account that he knew Flynn lied to the FBI and that we were all told to make believe that that was written by someone else. This is a person who apart from what happened with Russia, which I`m always careful and fair to note is not proven in any way at a criminal level does say things you have to admit that hurt his case.
CAPUTO: Well, I think that there`s credible reporting out there from the New York Times and other organizations that this investigation is basically Mueller and what Mueller wants to ask the President about is leaning more towards obstruction than Russia. And we`ve seen no real evidence of criminal activity or even collusion with Russia throughout this investigation. And certainly, it doesn`t point to the President. However, in my opinion, I think that you know, it`s definitely a risk for the President to do this, but what they`re really after is this President -- the President`s conversations with General Flynn it seems to me. I think that the Democrats, as well as a lot of other people, want to know the conversation between the President and General Flynn when they were discussing the accusations about Russia, et cetera. And, you know, if there was any discussion of falsification or concealment, that would be a problem. It might lead to an obstruction charge but I just don`t see it.
MELBER: Michael Caputo, I always appreciate getting your perspective. I`m glad you make time for us on THE BEAT. Nick Akerman, thank you, both.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, Donald Trump bringing the T.V. cameras inside the White House. He wanted to appear like he was negotiating. And later, my take at some of the other revelations from the big book that led to tonight`s ousting of Steve Bannon from Breitbart News.
MELBER: Now to something a little different. No matter what you think of Donald Trump, there was an extraordinary development at the White House today. Trump meeting with lawmakers from both parties in an open setting about immigration for over 50 minutes with the cameras on. Now, we do see certain types of debates play out on camera. C-SPAN began showing the House in 1979. But remember, of course, the executive branch is different. Negotiations there happen behind closed doors. We don`t get to keep a camera in the cabinet room.
Now, this is a former reality T.V. host and he may just want to look like he is doing work. But still, what we saw on camera today, lawmakers actually having to grapple with the President in what would usually be closed-door meetings about an immigration deal, that is something worthwhile. Sunlight a disinfectant, that means what you`re seeing here maybe an infection in your view, but it is a better thing for our civic democracy when we can all see it. Take a look at Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: You have put it out there that you want $18 billion for a wall or else there will be no DACA. Is that still your position?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I can build it for less by the way.
HIRONO: But you want --
TRUMP: I must tell you, I`m looking at these prices, somebody said $42 billion. I like to build under budget, OK? I like to go under budget and ahead of schedule.
We can build the wall in one year and we can build it for much less money than what they`re talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: No, Donald Trump did not answer the Senator`s key question about sticking point for DACA, instead talking up building schedules. He also doesn`t talk in those private meetings apparently about Mexico paying for the wall. Senator Dianne Feinstein also was more focused on action pressing the President on whether it was possible to pass a clean fix for DACA and that led to a House Republican leader then trying to clean up Donald Trump`s tendency to lean into whatever the latest question was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: What about a clean DACA bill now?
TRUMP: I have no Problem. I think that`s basically what Dick is saying. We`re going to come up with DACA. We`re going to do DACA and then we can start immediately on the phase two which would be comprehensive.
TRUMP: Yes, I would like -- but I think we have to do DACA at first.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. President, you need to be clear though. I think what Senator Feinstein is asking here, when we talk about just DACA, we don`t want to be back here two years later. You have to have security as the secretary would tell you.
TRUMP: But I think that`s what she`s saying.
MCCARTHY: No, I think she`s saying something different.
FEINSTEIN: What do you think I`m saying?
MCCARTHY: I think you`re saying DACA without security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Mr. President, I think what she`s saying -- no, that is what she - - no, that`s not what she`s saying. It turns out their backroom negotiations are like heated family dinner parties perhaps and that also revealing because there was confusion there about what they`re going to do. Another clash came with the number two Democrat in the House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D), MARYLAND: With all due respect, Bob, and Mike, and Lindsay, there are some things that you`re proposing that are going to be very controversial and will be an impediment to agreement.
TRUMP: But you`re going to negotiate those things. You`re going to sit down, you`re going to say, listen, we can`t agree here, we`ll give you half of that. We`re going to -- you`ll negotiate those things.
HOYER: Right, but comprehensive means comprehensive.
TRUMP: No, we`re not talking about comprehensive, now we`re talking about DACA.
HOYER: We are -- we are talking about comprehensive.
TRUMP: If you want to go there, it is OK, because you`re not that far away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: it went on like that for a while. Former Governor Howard Dean is with me. Governor, we the rest of us don`t usually get to see this. You have run the party. You have been a governor. You are in more of these backroom meetings. What did you take away from those exchanges?
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR, VERMONT: I thought it was pretty unscripted. I know why they did it. They did it because Donald Trump called himself a whatever, a stable genius or whatever it was and I think they wanted to prove that he wasn`t crazy. But I thought -- I thought that it was actually fairly refreshing. There is a back and forth. I think that -- I think Trump really is a negotiator. I don`t think -- he doesn`t care ideologically about much of this and I think he hung his own people out to dry a little bit. You know, it was -- it was -- I think it was more of a genuine meeting than you usually get in these things. I have to say.
MELBER: So you think -- yes, I mean, that`s -- you are known as someone who`s been critical of the President, but perhaps not reflexively so. You think this was on balance a good thing to do?
DEAN: I do think it was a good thing. I think they did it because they were on defense about whether the Trump -- the President was sane or not. But I think that the dialogue was fairly real. And you know, he was opposing the Democrats on some things and then they turn around and oppose his own people on some things. This guy -- this is a guy who doesn`t really care about policy, he just wants to get to a deal. So we`ll see what happens. There`s a deal to be had here. The problem is that there`s not much good faith between the parties after some of the other goings-on.
MELBER: Yes, and I don`t want to be too (INAUDIBLE) but you know, when people say things are getting meta, like a negotiation about a negotiation, I was starting to make sense this is we do. You know, we watch what happens, we look at the news and you know, when Trump says we`re going to - - you guys are going to negotiate that, you`re going to sit down, you`re going to say listen, and you`re going to negotiate it, and I`m thinking but that`s what this meeting is. And then Hoyer says, well, Mr. President, comprehensive means comprehensive and Trump says no, we`re not talking about comprehensive, now we`re talking about -- and Hoyer says we are talking about comprehensive. And I thought wow, they`re really talking about talking a lot.
DEAN: Yes, there -- I mean, look, I won`t say a lot got done, and I don`t think Trump knows anything about the policies, he never has cared a lot about policy, but I thought that you know, when you get these -- I`ve seen a lot of these things. I`ve been in them and I`ve seen them. The reason you do them is for staging and that`s why his staff convinced him that they should do this and I`m sure he agreed being a television guy. The dialogue was fairly unscripted. And I think it unnerved the Republicans and I thought the Democrats -- I`m sure the Democrats aren`t going to buy this after all this time, but I think it is conceivable that Trump will come where down somewhere in the middle of this. Look, Trump wants to get a deal.
MELBER: He wants a deal.
DEAN: And Trump doesn`t just want to do DACA, he wants a deal. And that means the Republicans are going to have to give in something and they don`t think they should. And that`s what the real problem is.
MELBER: Right. And you`re observing the Republicans were as you put it "unnerved" and McCarthy was very unnerved when he was trying to clean out whatever he heard of the President`s mouth. Governor Howard Dean, I always appreciate your insights.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. The breaking news tonight was, of course, breaking when we came on stage. Steve Bannon out at Breitbart, the biggest fallout of Michael Wolff`s book. But u have a breakdown I want to share with you. Something you may not have heard that is in this big book.
MELBER: -- now to as promised my take on basically the one thing everyone in politics has been talking about, Fire and Fury. The book lighting a fire under the Trump White House and which has through the power of the reporting in this book through words on a page split Trump from his former campaign Chief Steve Bannon. And tonight this book is clearly what then ejected Bannon from his perch of media influence, ousting him from Breitbart. Author Michael Wolff reports other people in Trump`s orbit could also lose their jobs so the palace intrigue may not be over. Now, I happened to be off last week, so I began seeing the explosive reaction on to this book before actually getting my hands on it. Reading it reveals there`s actually far more here than embarrassing stories about Trumpworld, though there`s plenty of that. There is a larger point in this book for our understanding of the Trump presidency and the world we`re living in. The point is that, according to this book, none of this was supposed to happen.
I don`t mean like at a level of logic or legitimacy or saying a person shouldn`t be President or isn`t qualified. That is a judgment the electorate makes. The book suggests something far deeper that Donald Trump never wanted to be president and never planned to be president and that he admitted that to his most trusted -- most trusted confidants. In Wolff`s account, that would make the con even deeper than even Trump`s critics alleged. You know, the typical attack on Trump as a con man is he doesn`t care about coal miners, or his own voters, that he`s conning them to just get attention or personal enrichment while president. This book actually gives an account of a much deeper con where the payoff wasn`t just sending say foreign diplomats to patron Trump`s hotel, no.
The book says the con was a hoax of a presidential campaign designed to lose so Trump could profit in attention and revenue after the loss. Wolff isn`t saying this is a selfish or childish campaign. He`s reporting that when it comes to winning, it was a fake campaign. Maybe all those accusations of fakery by the President are some kind of tell. Now, note that none of this part of the book`s ideological, it`s not about Trump`s politics, it`s about Trump. And that`s what makes it more devastating to Trumpism because it could depress even his supporters if they accept the account in the book and the evidence that Trump was conning them.
Now, this part of the book has gotten, I think, a little less attention because no one`s lost a job over that yet. And it`s also so counter to Donald Trump`s brand that it takes more thinking to untangle. Even a lot of Trump critics buy into the story that he only cares about winning, they say that. This book says Trump didn`t actually need to win. He liked the game. He was so happy just be in the game, he preemptively surrendered to Hillary. He was planning a loss and happily playing along.
This book was saying Trump was basically happy to be the Republican`s version of the Washington Generals to Hillary`s Harlem Globetrotters. That Trump was happy to don a green jersey like the one you see on your screen there and just every day get played by Hillary, which is different than how many covered 2016. The book argues that he`d be like that Washington General player you see there, leaving the net open while the Globetrotters win and dunk. Boom. Wolff reports Trump told allies, losing was winning and he`d be the most famous man in the world, a martyr to crooked Hillary. And Wolff says he based this reporting on over 200 interviews.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, FIRE AND FURY: I have recordings, I have notes, I am certainly and absolutely in every way comfortable with everything I`ve reported in this book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The book quotes people like Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch for evidence. Those are people Wolff dined with and spent years covering for other books. But is there more evidence? I can tell you tonight, yes. The evidence that Trump was the Washington Generals, or as Wolff puts it in the book, The Producers. That`s another plot where people win by trying to lose. Here`s some evidence. First, Trump didn`t launch his campaign by donating a big amount of money. He began, basically, from the start with a self-proclaimed billionaire making a loan, which I reported at the time. And while a primary campaign can run over $130 million, he didn`t put in 25 percent or even five percent of that. He began with less than one percent, under $800,000. He wouldn`t hire campaign professionals.
Of course, it`s one thing to say, fine, you want people outside the beltway. It`s another to say you want the most important job with no professional help. Can we stop and think about that for a minute? That would be like Trump building a hotel with employees who had never done a building before or launching a season of The Apprentice with people who had never produced T.V. Trump didn`t do those things that way and under Wolff`s theory in this book, it`s because those things were more important to him than the White House, which he planned to lose. And when Trump surged and seemed close to winning in Iowa, he ducked out of the final T.V. debate there allegedly over a fight with Megyn Kelly, or maybe that was cold feet.
Trump spent that night at a very odd event with Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum which many said paved the way for his loss in Iowa to Ted Cruz. But Trump did find time during the campaign to launch a T.V.-style program. The book reports that was all about planning to make money after the loss and then encouraged by Ailes that they were floating rumors about a Trump network. Trump didn`t sound like someone making a closing argument to win. He sounded like someone laying down the messaging about that planned loss.
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CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: Do you make the same commitment that you will absolutely -- sir, that you will absolutely accept the result of this election?
TRUMP: I will look at it at the time. I`m not looking at anything now. I`ll look at it at the time. She should not be allowed to run. And just in that respect, I say, it`s rigged because she should never -- Chris, she should never have been allowed to run for the presidency.
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MELBER: We saw that in public. In private, the book says, Ailes was recounting Trump`s argument that he was excited to lose. I don`t think about it as losing because it`s not losing. We`ve totally won, he allegedly said. And that attitude went to election day, the Trump campaign challenging early votes in Nevada.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump`s lawyers say election officials in four mostly democratic polling places in Las Vegas illegally stayed open beyond the posted closing time and allowed people to vote who got in line after the polls closed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A spokesperson for Clark County has said that that did not happen. There was nothing improper. This is something that the Trump campaign has said that they would do if they found anything that they thought was improper.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Playing up that losing message. And then Trump won, he walked out on the stage that night and was the first candidate in a modern era to get on stage at a victory speech and then ask a staffer to speak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In a certain way, I did this -- Reince, come up here. Where is Reince? Get over here, Reince. Say a few words.
REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No.
TRUMP: Oh, come on, say something.
PRIEBUS: Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States, Donald Trump!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Literally dragging Reince there. That may have been out of shock. Wolff writes that Donald Trump Jr. reportedly said that his father looked as if he had seen a ghost that night. Was this all an accident? Are we living through the plot of The Producers? Wolff`s reporting does match what a lot of people who knew Trump over the years said about this from the start. That it was not about making America great, it was about making Trump great. In fact, a musician and businessman, 50 Cent, has been saying that exact theory for months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
50 CENTS, AMERICAN RAPPER: His presidency is an accident. If you are a president by accident, you might do some of the things Donald Trump is doing. I think he was doing that to build his profile for a bigger deal on television and everything else.
He wanted to lose the presidency. He didn`t want the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Before this book, "He don`t want the job" was a theory. Now it`s become an account backed by a lot of interviews. Maybe that`s what scares the White House so much right now.
MELBER: Well, when we came on the air here for THE BEAT tonight, we were covering the breaking news that Steve Bannon has been ousted from Breitbart, a previously fairly unthinkable fact. We covered the release of some key testimony there from the Russia dossier, which is opening up a new line of partisan fighting. If you have thoughts on any of these stories, you can always come on to our Facebook page, the beatwithari/ -- facebook.com/thebeatwithari. Let us know what you want to hear. Up next "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.
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