Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 12, 2018 Guest: Margaret Carlson, Donna Edwards, David Rothkoff, Rose Likins, Julia Ioffe, Donna Edwards, Judah Friedlander
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. My quick question, have you seen a week like this yet? Because there was a definite bipartisan reaction which is different than some of the scandals.
TODD: I guess. I just sort of -- at this point, you know, every week goes to 11. At some point, 11 is the new 10. Anyway, I got nothing. See, I`m running out of adjectives and metaphors.
MELBER: Which is a sign of the 11ish period wherein as you thought 11 is the new 10 is something to think about. Chuck, we will be watching this Sunday. Thank you.
TODD: Thank you, brother.
MELBER: Tonight we have breaking stories. Chaos rocking the White House with the one problem, of course, caused by Donald Trump`s own words. But the other breaking right now, a report from the "Wall Street Journal."
Donald Trump`s lawyer arranging a $130,000 payment to a former adult film star on October 2016. This story breaking this evening. And it was part of the alleged agreement to stop her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump himself. The journal citing people quote "familiar with the matter for this explosive account." Now I have more on that as our top story and the White House`s response tonight in a moment in this segment.
Also, though, I want to update you on this continuing fallout over Donald Trump`s reported comments referring to countries like Haiti and other African nations as s-hole countries. Now unlike many other scandals, the reaction of this one has been widespread and at times, bipartisan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the course of his comments, I have said things which are hate-filled, vile.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I read those comments later last night. So first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot speak the words of tolerance and peace and love and on balance and then put down a group of people, a nation of people, because of the color of their skin, of what part of the world they may come from.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s the widespread (INAUDIBLE) pouring in and there is international reaction as well.
But of that wasn`t enough breaking news, here is that other story rocking the White House tonight. The White House formally On the Record responding through a lawyer to the "Wall Street Journal" report on the alleged payment by Trump`s lawyer. The journal reporting that a woman, her named is Stephanie Clifford, but her stage name is Stormy Daniels, had according to the journal privately alleged a sexual encounter with Trump saying it quote "took place after they met at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Mr. Trump married Melania Trump in 2005."
Now let me be very clear about what we know and what is in this article. It does not allege nonconsensual behavior. What it alleges is an effort to hide the behavior that allegedly occurred. Now this is a big story. The White House and Cohen both responding to the "Wall Street Journal" report. And they don`t get into denying or acknowledging the payment issue. They do comment, however, on the claim, the allegation of the sexual encounter.
And let me tell you fairly exactly what they say. A White House official says these are all recycled reports, published previously and strongly denied prior to the election. The lawyer, Cohen, says these rumors have circulated tie and again since 2011. President Trump once again vehemently denials any such occurrence, as has Miss Daniels. Note use of the name Daniels. I`m going to get to that in a moment. Cohen also providing NBC with a letter.
And it reads, the allegations, that there was this affair with Mr. Trump are absolutely false. We want to show you exactly what we have been provided. Rumors that there was hush money, quote "completely false." And then it is signed not by the actual name of the woman at issue. It is signed quote "Stormy Daniels." That`s the woman`s stage name. Not the name as reported by the "Wall Street Journal." Stephanie Clifford.
To get into the details of this story, I`m joined by Yamiche Alcindor, MSNBC contributor and journalist who has been covering this immigration story. She just interviewed Haiti`s ambassador to the U.S. about the international implications. I`m also joined by former congresswoman Donna Edwards, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and longtime Washington reporter at the "Daily Beast" Margaret Carlson.
Much to get through. Yamiche, I start with you on the "Wall Street Journal`s" reporting, which of course, dove tails with reporting at the "New York Times" where you have worked and a lot of other publications which have documented the range of allegations by women against Donald Trump which, again, as we fairly report have been vociferously and repeatedly denied. Your analysis of that story?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, essentially, it just adds to the picture of Donald Trump. I mean, his relationship with a woman being problematic. And that "New York Times," we had several women who said they had un-consensual encounters with Donald Trump where he acted inappropriately, where he was touching them or saying things that were inappropriate.
So this hush money seems to say that Donald Trump`s lawyers knew he had an issue. And that he then that were then were essentially paying off this woman to keep quiet because they knew this could be a problem.
I should say as someone who interviewed dozens, really hundreds of Trump supporters, there were so many women who told me that even if these allegations were true, they just weren`t problematic to them and that they were still voting for Donald Trump because they felt like he could better their lives. So there is this really interesting thing where I`m not sure how much this is going to really move Trump supporters.
MELBER: Yes. You mentioned that and we have heard that. Alabama was an example where, with a different range of allegations. People were moved beyond what would be the normal Republican electorate turnout there.
Margaret Carlson, I want to read more from this article because it is breaking tonight. I suspect some people are hearing about it for the first time. In a wider context, this is from a related articles, I should be clear. "Wall Street Journal" saying the company that owns the "National Enquirer," a backer of Donald Trump, also agreed on separately pay $150,000 to a former playboy centerfold model for her alleged story of, again, quote "an affair a decade ago." Now that is the original November report which is cited in tonight`s new "Wall Street Journal" article.
Margaret, walk us through why that matters. I mean, you are a longtime journalist. Sometimes you get an article that has a little piece with this new allegation about an NDA, a gag order. But the "Wall Street Journal" seems to be suggesting we look to a wider history.
MARGARET CARLSON, WASHINGTON REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, there is an accumulation of charters against Donald Trump, of nonconsensual and now consensual but paid for sexual encounters. The White House would have you believe, in addition to the base not counting any of this against Donald Trump.
The White House says that the election was a laundering mechanism. That if people voted for Donald Trump and he is President, that everything that happened before, the 19 or 20 women who came forward, now these two reports, Stormy Daniels, just the name is kind of shocking, that it doesn`t matter because he became President with all this being known.
And by the way, the second thing, the element is, if the President denies it, if claims are denied, then therefore they don`t count. Do you remember back and it seems long ago now, poor Senator Al Franken. The idea that he didn`t deny but was regretful was used against him by the White House. Because President Trump denies everything. I don`t know if you get that distinction. But denying without any evidence that it is not true, and in fact, you know, there is going to be evidence, paper evidence of a payment in the case of the attorney, Michael Cohen, to Stormy Daniels that somebody with some effort would be able to track down.
MELBER: And she would be paid under her legal name, by the way.
CARLSON: Yes. Clifford. But it doesn`t seem to me impossible to track these days. But whether the accumulation of this ever, you know, destroys, takes away from his base or will the White House concede anything, it is all approved because he was elected. I don`t know.
MELBER: You just - you raise several points actually that require some untangling. And we are going to set aside the time to do it. You used the word laundering, the notion that one electoral college outcome somehow should I think to extend the idea, clean or transition the information that was known before November. That, I think, as you suggest is a very dubious way to approach facts if they can be proven.
And two, when I turn this to the congresswoman, speak to the point of laundering that Margaret raises. And two, the point that even for those who say they knew a lot about this in this person, when elected if November, some of the information that has come out, including this article, is new, is post November.
DONNA EDWARDS (D), FORMER MARYLAND CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, some of it is new, Ari. And let me just say that only in Washington, in Donald Trump`s Washington can a sex scandal with a former porn star come in first on this show over a racist rant by the President. And so --.
MELBER: Well, and I`m going to let you continue. I think you raise an important point we debated which story to leave with, congresswoman.
EDWARDS: Yes. I imagine so. But only in Donald Trump`s Washington. But the point - and I think the question that people at home will have is, one, why were these payments negotiated? I mean, this one apparently was negotiated just prior to Election Day.
And then the larger question is, how or whether this factors into the considerations of what the Russians may or may not have had over Donald Trump. Those are still open questions. And I find it curious that the President denies these things. But I wonder how many other nondisclosure agreements are out there. And what I would note is that any nondisclosure agreement can be opened up if there is a subpoena in a criminal or other kind of investigation. And so this is not over.
MELBER: Yes. You are raising some intricate legal questions about the difference between a fight over money which is to simplify what civil cases are about and a fight where prosecutors are involved which is what criminal cases are about.
Please, all of you, stay with me to shed some light on that prosecutor angle that you just raise. We are lucky to have Jill Wine-Banks as well, a former federal prosecutor with us.
Jill, I know you have been listening in. If you could speak to what congressman Edwards just mentioned as well as I`m going to put on the screen, the rather aggressive use of these gag orders in (INAUDIBLE) of law. They are called nondisclosure agreements but they gag people by force of law, attempted contract. They have been used heavily for Trump organization employees, which other companies use. I don`t mean to imply that`s average (ph). But they have also been used explicitly for political advisors which is more unusual. And in stories we have done here to MSNBC, they were used for Trump campaign volunteers which legal experts told us, it was not only highly unusual but almost certainly un-in forcible in court.
All your reactions, please. And then I`m going to kick it out back to our panel.
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, of course it is revolting that we are having to debate whether you lead with racist comments by the President or his involvement with a porn star. This is not normal behavior and we should not be normalizing it.
But as to the nondisclosure agreement, it is not uncommon for people, for employers to ask for a nondisclosure or to settle a lawsuit including a, you won`t tell that I settled with you. It is interesting that it came out. And hopefully, it will be the subject of a subpoena and we can get to the bottom of it.
But I think your point earlier that it may not matter because people knew that he had a history as a womanizer. They certainly had evidence of nonconsensual sex which should be of more concern than the fact that he paid someone for sex. That may revolt some of his followers, but it is not, I don`t think, as serious as the fact that we had 18 women accuse him of nonconsensual assault and improper behavior who were ignored. They should not be ignored. We should focus only.
MELBER: Jill, is there any potential legal significance to Trump`s lawyer distributing statement not under the person`s actual name but under their stage name? And I don`t say this to be at all fickle or petty about it. But as a legal matter if you hand someone and say has this is a denial from James Bond, which is apparent where they played, it seems different than saying this is a legally in forcible denial by the individual. This, what we received in our newsroom two days ago dated, but received today, signed by stormy Daniels.
WINE-BANKS: Well, that`s an interesting question. I`m not sure because it is a name that she uses so that certainly in that role, she cannot reveal it. That`s an interesting question. I don`t have a firm answer on it. I`m sorry.
MELBER: Well, that`s what makes you a careful former prosecutor.
Margaret, final question to you on that same point. I know from covering the Hulk Hogan trial, that an attempted defense at least at times was for him to say that things that he didn`t said as Hulk Hogan didn`t have the same legal responsibility as things he did as a real person. And it would seem to me, again, we are all in breaking news mode. I don`t want to go beyond what we know, but I have to report that it would seem stronger as a matter of both law and just straight forward denial to put it out under the real name which is public than under a fictive name.
CARLSON: Ari, I`m a lawyer but I never play one on TV. So I can`t do more than Jill because she knows so much more than I do. But I think you will be able to break through the Stormy Daniels versus is it Stephanie Clifford, her real name in sorting through this.
And I did want to reiterate that point that Jill just made that the nonconsensual sex should weigh much more heavily than this. But do remember many people have gone down before. I`m thinking of Governor Elliott Spitzer and Amber and, you know, David Vitter and the madam.
You know, the paid for kind can get you in an awful lot of trouble too. It is just that, you know, Donald Trump says he can walk down Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and it is not going to matter. These charges have not mattered. Whether the accumulation of them is going to matter, we will see. But now the Republican Party is the Trump party ever since that tax bill and that Rose Garden ceremony. He is an exquisite President according to Paul Ryan and blessed according to Orrin Hatch. So we don`t know. I don`t know that the party as a whole is going to be affected by this at all. And if they aren`t, he has got this backing and nothing seems to stick to him.
MELBER: Margaret and Jill, I want to thank you both for joining us with this breaking story.
Yamiche, with all the reporting you have been doing on the immigration issues. And Donna, I want to ask both of you to stay on to talk about that.
Coming up, we have a lot more on the day of chaos, serious blowback from the Trump White House and not just from the usual suspects. These vulgar comments prompting already one diplomatic resonation and sending shockwaves overseas. I am excited to tell you that while this is in many ways a dark story, we have some light. The former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador is here to discuss the import.
Also, I`m going to look at the larger context in the me, too era later tonight.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.
MELBER: And now to the other breaking story rocking the White House tonight.
Donald Trump pushing back on these reports that he said these several countries were s-hole countries but not pushing back that much. This is the President`s defense.
The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough but this, these reports, was not the language used.
Later though, given the chance to address it or explain what language he did use, this President under fire for this diplomatic disaster of his own making, well, he ignored questions from reporters. And where, I can he will you it was after an event for a Martin Luther King Jr. honoring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will you give an apology for the statement yesterday?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did you refer to African nations --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are you a racist? Mr. President, will you respond to these serious questions about the statements, sir? We are talking to the President. Not you. Mr. President, are you a racist?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: To borrow a phrase from Donald Trump that I don`t often use, that was sad.
As for the real world impact, the U.S. ambassador to Panama resigning. That`s new. Saying he can no longer work under President Trump and take a look at this. "The New York Times," drawing a line tonight. This is a new op-ed and it is by - it is the former Washington bureau chief saying flatly, Trump is a racist.
Quote "Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differently than he treats white people. That makes him a racist."
I`m joined now by David Rothkoff from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. And also back with me, Yamiche Alcindor who has been all over this story as I mentioned.
Yamiche, you are not responsible for every word that appears in your newspaper so I`m not asking you to co-sign anything. But your view of these August institutions like "The New York Times" that had trouble, I would observe, at earlier points using that language or drawing that conclusion. What does it mean that Donald Trump`s own words have taken so many observers to this place?
ALCINDOR: I mean, I think it means that we are crossing a line here where people are looking at Donald Trump and really ready to put out there and say some really definitive things. The idea that these comments were so painful to people. My mother is Haitian. My father lives in Haiti still. There is - so I have been hearing from so many Haitians all around the country who are just in tears and upset. Because these are the people that, of course, have gone so much between earthquakes and all sorts of things. And then most of them emigrated here like my parents get PhDs, get highly educated. And then they get give back to the community, give back to America. And now they are in pain because this is a President that obviously thinks that they are no better and that should essentially be replaced by people from Norway.
So I think that the U.S. ambassador I think put it really clearly to me yesterday. He told me that the U.S. and Haiti`s relations go all the way back to the revolutionary war where Haitian soldiers, black free black people from Haiti, came and helped American soldiers come and fight for their freedom. So there is this idea that people feel that this is an affront to the very decency of both the United States and Haiti. So you have Haiti taking formal actions to summon American follows to come explain themselves. And now, of course, you have places like my former employer, the "New York Times" writers, they are going I think that going there and formally saying, look, this is what we think. This is how we feel.
MELBER: Yes. Very well put. And I appreciate you putting that way. You mentioned the foreign policy implications. David, I want to speak to you about that. I also want to play the other side of this. During the campaign, this kind of thing was more widely condemned by Republicans. As a journalist, I can factually observe that the only thing that`s changed is Donald Trump has more power.
And so apparently, national security, a cogent or logical approach to other countries, a basic human decency and dignity of treating other people, what we might call founding American goals, values we hope to aspire too. For some Republicans, they have gone out the window because he has more power. Here is one who is running for the Senate, Congressman Jim Renacci from Ohio defending this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President many times says what people are thinking. Judge the President after four years. Let`s judge the President after what we have done. Let`s not judge the President on what he says.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID ROTHKOFF, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE VISITING SCHOLAR: Look, this kind of behavior is appalling. And I think it is a cancer eating away at the Republican Party. They are effectively accepting unacceptable behavior. And it is happening every single day.
You know, you say the "New York Times" has offered an opinion that Trump is a racist. It is not an opinion any longer. We have years of proof that Trump is a racist. He is a racist. He is enriching himself from the presidency. He is lying on a regular basis. Two thousand lies plus as he is going. And every single day, the leadership of the GOP or GOP party spokespeople or candidates tolerate that. It becomes their story. It becomes the identity of the GOP.
But I have to say, there are shock waves beyond this. This is not just that Donald Trump is the worst of us. Although, let`s be absolutely clear. Donald Trump is the worst of America. This kind of lying, this kind of racism, this kind of corruption is as bad as it gets. But it also weakens America.
You know, China is the leading investor in Africa. China is the leading trading partner in Africa. How do you think it plays when an African leader turns on the television and sees the leader of the United States calling his country a shithole?
MELBER: Yes. Is this a time for them to resign?
ROTHKOFF: I think it is. Look, you know, there have been arguments made by people that senior officials ought to stay in place because they can keep Trump in check. But sometimes leaving sends a message. You can`t go here. And whether Charlottesville or whether it is here, I think it is time for somebody to put a flag in the ground and say, we will go no further.
This ambassador who resigned in panama is the first step. But what about Rex Tillerson? What about H.R. McMaster? What about James Mattis? What about the people who are close to the President who were once thought to be the axis of adults. They are becoming the axis of immorality. They are enabling him. They are validating him and they are damaging the institutions that they are at least ostensibly there to protect.
MELBER: You both put it so well. I may be pausing. I`m not supposed to pause long on television. But what you both have said tonight, what you have reported is really worth reflecting on. Particularly I think a theme that I heard from both of you which is complicity and how do we as a society think through dealing with that.
Yamiche Alcindor and David Rothkoff, thank you both.
ROTHKOFF: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, a former high ranking U.S. diplomat, the ambassador of El Salvador under Bush says Trump is undoing important American progress. She is my guest on "the Beat."
And later, more this explosive "Wall Street Journal" report breaking tonight that a Donald Trump lawyer allegedly paid off a former adult film star for her silence one month before the election.
MELBER: There has been plenty of reporting and well deserved on the shock and condemnation of the President`s choice of words this week but there is also real-world fallout, implications for national security and diplomacy, some spelled out on the front pages of newspapers around the world. Some of the countries Trump directly mentioned responding. Here`s El Salvador, Colombia, Haiti, right there in morning news shows around the world reacting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump described Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as (BLEEP) holes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ours is not a (BLEEP) county, neither is Haiti or any other country industries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s colorful language. It`s extreme language. It`s language he will know will insult and it`s not even factually correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A representative for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT COLVILLE, SPOKESMAN, U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS: These are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. I`m sorry but there is no other word one can use but racist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Later today, the President of El Salvador issued a call for respect. Donald Trump`s comments coming as he`s calling of course for 200,000 El Salvadorian refugees to leave the United States. They`ve been living and work here because of a pair of disastrous earthquakes all the way back to 17 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The struggle to survival in El Salvador after a devastating earthquake three weeks ago. one million people is still homeless. Only a quarter of them now able to get even temporary shelter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A person who knows firsthand what El Salvador is Rose Likens. She was the Ambassador there during the George W. Bush administration and is my special guest on THE BEAT tonight. First of all Ambassador, thanks for joining me.
ROSE LIKINS, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO EL SALVADOR: Hi Ari, thanks for having me.
MELBER: Tell me what you think people should know first and foremost about El Salvador.
LIKINS: Well, El Salvador and the United States have a long history together and a great relationship. Salvadorans are extremely hard working whether there in El Salvador or the United States. They`ve had to work hard given the piece of geography they were given on this planet. And when they come to the United States, they establish businesses, they have -- they put their kids in school, they send their kids to college, and they send remittances home. So it`s a great relationship and there`s a big future to it if we can get past this problem.
MELBER: Was the President wrong, was the President biased, was the President racist?
LIKINS: His comments are hurtful and unkind and unnecessary. In 32 years as a practitioner of diplomacy, what I learned is respect and treating people with dignity and genders, the foundation for relationship that enables us to accomplish things together. And that`s what we should be trying to do.
MELBER: Ambassador, as you know, there`s a concept of diplomacy between governments, and then there`s a concept of public diplomacy. How people around the world think of America. I want to play for you as someone who`s led this efforts as some of the reaction gathered by A.P. reporters from people around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WANGUI MURAGURI, KENYAN ENTREPRENEUR: That is the perfect definition of racism. That`s all I have to say.
CLARA TUMA, RESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICA: I think (BLEEP) and I think he should probably just stop saying these childish things.
EDGAR WANYEKI: Trump is saying that African immigrants (BLEEP). That is becoming racist and that is not good.
BONIFACE MWANGI, KENYAN ACTIVIST: What Trump said about Africa is a lie and it speaks more of Trump than anybody else, that Trump is a shameful, disgusting, embarrassment of person of a president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How does that view now explosive because of the President`s comments, affect what people in your position have to do tomorrow and next week and next year on behalf of the United States and these nations?
LIKINS: It`s a tremendous privilege Ari, to represent the United States overseas and to be the face of America. But this undoubtedly makes the job so much harder and unnecessarily so. You know, as human beings, we try to create friendships and relationships, person to person. You visit schools. You visit the country where you`re accredited. And it`s that person to person diplomacy that lays the foundation for tremendous things. The saving grace in all of this is the United States is not one person. And I know from my experience around the world that Americans are so generous. Churches, civic groups, medical organizations, give generously around the world and I hope that our partners and friends around the world will remember those efforts, and not let this one extremely negative and unfortunate event block out all of the terrific things that Americans do around the world every day.
MELBER: Please stay with me, Ambassador. What I want to do is broaden the conversation. I want to bring in NBC News Foreign Correspondent and Co- Host of MSNBC`s "FIRST LOOK" Ayman Mohyeldin as well as the Atlantic`s Julia Ioffe. Two people that are familiar to our viewers for covering diplomacy, for covering foreign affairs. Ayman, your analysis?
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC CO-HOST: Obviously when you look at this and you think of what the President has said in the confines of a private conversation with members of Capitol Hill, as you mention, this is going to have real-world impact on American diplomats, American foreign policy interest, American citizens. You think of all the ambassadors that are currently serving in countries in Africa. We already have been hearing from governments calling those ambassadors into their respective capitals and meetings with foreign secretaries or foreign ministers and sent to being asked to clarify their comments.
We heard from the government of Botswana today who literally put out a statement saying that they`ve spoken to the ambassador there and they would like to know -- we have there on the screen -- the Botswana government has also inquired if Botswana is regarded as a shithole country. That`s not what you want to be getting from your ambassadors who are based overseas tomorrow morning, that they`ve been summoned by these foreign ministers.
But the other issue is it`s disparaging to talk about Africa that way, but we also have about 6,000 soldiers that are base in the Africa that are carrying out all kinds of operations. If you`re demeaning these countries that are hosting our soldiers, if you`re antagonizing the population, some of which you played those sound bites from those residents there, you are creating a sense of animosity that not only puts our diplomacy at risk but puts the lives of American soldiers and American personnel and American diplomat at risk as well.
JULIA IOFFE, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, there`s also the image issue, right, that we`re supposed to be the face of democracy, of human rights and that this is -- then we have the head of our government talking in this way about other countries. It just makes us look ridiculous and frankly, this isn`t the first time we`ve looked ridiculous since the election and actually since the campaign. This is just part of a pattern. And I think all of this is eroding our standing abroad as a serious nation. The other thing is it shows a complete ignorance of how immigration works and what immigration is. Immigration is, you know, it`s like physics, like water or gas. It goes from a high-pressure area to a low-pressure area. So yes, you`re going to be coming from a shithole country to a better country that`s why you want to leave because it`s not a great place, right? It is a poorer place and poorer opportunities, right?
MELBER: Let me ask you a follow-up on the logic that you`re arguing because if people are proud of America and think of this as a destination, then as you say, wouldn`t the goal, isn`t the statue of liberty`s entire idea that yes someplace around the world are different but we aspire to be a beacon?
IOFFE: Yes. But it`s also again, a deep, deep ignorance of what immigration is. There`s a reason, I think it was Chuck Todd show that talked about how nobody in Norway wants to come here. But the fact that -- the fact that Donald Trump wants people from Norway to come here, thinks about how immigration as a kind of racial buttressing for the -- you know, the white majority that`s quickly becoming a minority that as opposed to why immigrants actually get up and move. Immigration is not a fun process. It is a difficult process. And you only get up and move if you think the place you`re going to is going to be better.
MELBER: Right, and as has been pointed out, as, for the politics of it, the notion of having asylum or protection for people who are fleeing problems has been a bipartisan framework for immigration since the civil rights era.
IOFFE: It`s also what gives us you know, foreign policy heft brand. It`s this idea that we`re a beacon that we stand up for these things. We stand up for people who fight for their rights, who fight for their freedoms, that we welcome these people to our shores and that we support these things abroad. And the fact that you know, the president undermines us every day.
MELBER: Julia Ioffe, Ayman Mohyeldin stick around. I want to talk about who should fall back. I can take up some examples and ambassador, thank you again for joining our special coverage.
MELBER: Coming up, we have more on this breaking report tonight from the Wall Street Journal that a Trump lawyer paid $130,000, previously unknown, to an adult film star to buy her silence regarding an allegation with Donald Trump. And a little lighter, a little later, we have a very special "FALLBACK FRIDAY" featuring the famous 30 Rock comedian, Judah Friedlander. He`s bringing his hat.
MELBER: And back to the other breaking news story tonight. The Wall Street Journal reporting here that the Donald Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid a former adult film star off a month before the election. Now, here is the context for this report. Of course, just three months ago, though it feels like longer, that the Harvey Weinstein story broke out into the New York Times and the New Yorker and catalyzed a movement. Since then there was #MeToo and Time`s Up. Recently we saw Oprah speak out at the Golden Globes. It may seem like a while ago but her remarks praising women who speak up, that was five days ago. Or it was just a month ago that the voters in Alabama decided to decline to elect a once prominent Republican because he faced accusation from several women of sexual misconduct including when they were minors.
For more on this story in the wider context, I`m joined by Howard Fineman who I`m happy to say is now a Contributor or again for nbcnews.com as well as a friend of THE BEAT and I`m rejoined by former Congresswoman Donna Edwards. I want to pick up on a point you raise earlier in the hour, Congresswoman. The potential significance to this kind of story in the wider probe by Bob Mueller because one of the unverified accounts which the President, of course, has denied and brought up was the notion that the Russian government might have some sort of blackmail material on him that related to his sort of private contacts. I put it that way. And here`s a report that dovetails with the concern that his private history would somehow be something that he had to keep secret.
EDWARDS: Right. And I think that the point is that this agreement with Stormy Daniels was negotiated in October of 2016, a month prior to the election. And what`s not really clear to me as one, whether there might be others that were negotiated in that same time frame. We may not have known about them but the Russians may have known about them. And so, I think it`s going to be important to really get to the bottom of this not because we`re interested in Donald Trump`s nonconsensual sexual behavior while he was married some time ago but because of the impact that that may have had on the election.
MELBER: Right. It`s well put and I want to make sure we`re clear, Howard, there have been allegations of nonconsensual contact and he has denied those. This particular allegation as described in the Wall Street Journal is consensual but is allegedly something they paid well over $100,000 to keep secret. And let me read again from the Journal account your analysis. "Miss Clifford whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, has privately alleged the encounter with Mr. Trump took place after they met at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, these people said, Mr. Trump married Melania Trump in 2005.
Howard, let me ask you to compare this in light of another individual who`s faced questions about his private conduct but who is held in much higher regard than Donald Trump, and that is David Petraeus. A widely respected general who many people felt served his country honorably and served at the CIA and there were not complaints about his professional management of the CIA. But ultimately he was not only removed but charged because, in the national security context, even consensual activity could form the basis of a national security blackmail risk, your analysis?
HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there are a couple big questions, here. I mean, in my view, this underscores the fact that the real threat, perhaps, to Donald Trump is not so much Vladimir Putin but Michael Cohen, Donald Trump`s long time personal attorney who knows what deals Michael Cohen did to keep things quiet on Donald Trump`s behalf in the decade that he worked directly for Donald Trump, was his closest adviser, really, closest legal confidante. Was this the only deal he did to keep somebody quiet? What other deals were there? What did Michael Cohen know and when did he know it? Now, one could argue that the thing with Stormy Daniels was 2006 and that it was consensual that, you know, that`s history. But that begs the question of what else is out there? And I think the fact that they paid $130,000 to keep her quiet is significant. There`s also, if you look at all the reporting on this as I`ve been doing, some funky money that may have passed through the National Enquirer --
MELBER: That was my next question for you. The Wall Street Journal report, then makes a very direct reference that another large sum, $150,000, might have been routed through an entity owned by Donald Trump`s very good friend at the National Enquirer, your analysis of that?
FINEMAN: Well, they "hired her" at the National Enquirer to write some things for $150,000. As far as I know, writing had not been a big part of her previous career experience. And I they never publish -- I don`t know if she wrote anything but they never published anything. And of course, the head -- the head of the National Enquirer has been very close to the Trump camp for many, many years.
MELBER: Howard Fineman and Donna Edwards, thank both on this developing story. Coming up after the break, we changed directions and I think we may have earned it. We discuss who needs to fall back and we have a very funny guest, Comedian Judah Friedlander, that`s next.
MELBER: What a week, but thank goodness it is Friday on THE BEAT and you know what that means, it`s time to fall back. And I`ve got a very special fallback guest. Judah Friedlander, the Actor, and Comedian you may know him as Frank from 30 Rock. He`s got a new stand-up comedy special, America is the Greatest Country in the U.S. on Netflix now, and my special friend MSNBC`s Host of "THE BREAKDOWN" Ayman Mohyeldin. Judah --
JUDAH FRIEDLANDER, COMEDIAN: Yes sir.
MELBER: Your maiden voyage here on "FALLBACK FRIDAY," who needs to fall back?
FRIEDLANDER: My first vote is for someone named while male supremacy. That`s my first one, as a power structure in general. I think it`s kind of like the force. It`s something that is flowing through society and connects everyone whether you like it or not.
MELBER: And you think that`s what the President was appealing to in these private remarks this week that went public?
FRIEDLANDER: Yes and as well as many other things, you know. It encompasses racism, sexism, those are tools of white male supremacy, and I think it`s something that needs to be dismantled.
MELBER: Ayman, who needs to fall back?
MOHYELDIN: I`m going to say H&M. H&M had an advertisement online this week featuring a young black kid, African-American on his sweatshirt. You can see it says "coolest monkey in the jungle" absolutely the most tone- deaf, insensitive possible advertisement you can imagine. Social media is up in arms. A lot of celebrities calling them out, even rappers like The Weekend and others who had agreements with H&M I think they`re saying they`re going to cut ties with the company.
MELBER: Wow. Well, number one, that`s -- both of yours I think are important. Fall back sometimes is our lighter segment but there`s a lot that needs to be addressed. Yes, sir?
FRIEDLANDER: Well, that falls under white male supremacy and technically, H&M, that`s two different things. So you said one thing and he said --
MELBER: It`s fair. Those are two letters. And you said The Weekend, not really a rapper, but a singer.
MOHYELDIN: That could be a follow-up discussion, right? We could go both ways --
MELBER: I would say some of his lines and lyrics are rapper-esk.
MOHYELDIN: But he`s not a rapper.
MELBER: I mean he sings.
FRIEDLANDER: I don`t know. I`ve actually only listen --
MOHYELDIN: We`ll refer to him as an artist.
FRIEDLANDER: I don`t -- I don`t know music.
MELBER: You don`t know music.
FRIEDLANDER: I haven`t liked it, what I`ve heard.
MELBER: And yet we welcome you here anyway. My pick for fall back is the fashion department. Take a look at these jeans, let me know what you think. This is top shop -- no this is a British retailer, fake news jeans are selling them for $90, a trending product on the brand`s Web site. By Tuesday, the Times reporting 30 percent of the sales were right here in the U.S. and sold out by Wednesday. Judah, why would someone ever want fake news striping down their jeans?
FRIEDLANDER: You know, I`m not sure. I`m glad people are still wearing clothes and taking care of themselves but that I don`t know.
MELBER: It`s weird, right?
MOHYELDIN: I think it`s very weird. I think when you start normalizing these type of expressions that we are being attacked with, the members of the media, and that we constantly use it in derogatory way now to insult others. When somebody says something, we just say it`s fake news as a way to undermine their credibility. The fact that we`re using fashion labels to normalize them, I think is distasteful and is probably going to be counterproductive --
FRIEDLANDER: It`s really even trivializing. It`s a corporatization and trivializing which makes it almost worse.
MELBER: Yes, it`s kind of funny that it`s just like -- it`s dismissing the important part of it. I would get it if it was like maybe was you`re past, that problem and now, ha, ha, let`s all laugh about fake news.
FRIEDLANDER: Right, or you want to bring it up as an issue. Like you want to draw attention to the issue that is a big problem. This is just trivializing.
MOHYELDIN: But then again, would it be the same if it were let`s say on a t-shirt in a kind of thought-provoking way as opposed to just on the jeans in a decorative fashion?
MELBER: All I can say is, I`m glad they weren`t something that you`ll see Ayman in around the office.
FRIEDLANDER: They don`t make them in my size. No, I don`t think.
MELBER: You see him on acid wash jeans a lot and that`s a personal choice.
MOHYELDIN: I keep it with the European skinny look.
FRIEDLANDER: Mr. Melber, how much are they and where can I get them?
MELBER: 90 bucks, (INAUDIBLE), sold out. Judah Friedlander coming down in by THE BEAT, we appreciate you visiting and Ayman Mohyeldin, a friend of THE BEAT, thank you both. We will be right back.
MELBER: Another breaking news report and this is one we haven`t discussed at all in our hour but I just got it. The President had his physical at Walter Reed and we can tell you the military doctor who oversees the exam says it "went exceptionally well" and that the President is in "excellent health." More details will be released after the weekend on Tuesday. We wanted to get that update in for you. That does it for THE BEAT.
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