IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

State of the Union Transcript 1/30/18 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Michael Waldman, Madison Gesiotto, George Will, Katrina van den Heuvel, Kathleen Parker, Howell Raines, John Meacham, Maxine Waters

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 30, 2018 Guest: Michael Waldman, Madison Gesiotto, George Will, Katrina van den Heuvel, Kathleen Parker, Howell Raines, John Meacham, Maxine Waters

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MTP DAILY: We will be back tomorrow with for of "MTP Daily." Yes, (INAUDIBLE) got weird around this. MSNBC has covered of the state of the union continues now with "the Beat with Ari Melber."

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.

As you know, we are now hours away from Donald Trump`s first state of the union speech. The Trump`s aides say will tout his record on taxes, jobs and immigration. But it comes amidst the most controversial two weeks of Bob Mueller`s Russia probe including tonight`s news that Trump is resisting new sanctions on Russia which Congress pass into law. And these stories that Trump`s own lawyer and his new FBI director threaten to resign over Trump`s attempt to meddle with law enforcement.

Our own Tom who has caution against jumping to Watergate comparison, well today, he says the White House is moving towards an exonal tactics. And a former Republican congressman and our own colleague Joe Scarborough makes it plain saying today if Obama or Clinton did half of what Donald Trump has been doing, Republicans would have torched the capital.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have resisted comparing what is going on here with Watergate because I always thought that was unique. Now there is beginning to be a whiff of the tactics of which in this White House that we saw during the days of Watergate.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: It goes against every constitutional norm. And Jim (INAUDIBLE), if Barack Obama had done that, Republicans would have burned the city down.

This is a shredding of all legal and constitutional norms.


MELBER: We have a very special guest list here on "the Beat" tonight. A lot of important and experienced people you see right there. But we kick it off right now with Reverend Sharpton, along with Pulitzer-prize winning "Washington Post" columnist Kathleen Parker.

Reverend Al, not a normal President, not a normal speech and not a normal climate. What do you think of all the comment there, but also former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough basically blowing it up this morning and saying if Obama did half of this people would freak out.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, POLITICS NATION: No. I think that Joe was spot on. And not only if Obama had done half of it, if he did even a quarter of it, I think you would have seen outrage.

And let`s remember as we wait to see what the first state of the union is, and I have seen a few, you have to remember that we have this climate of the Russia investigation, but you have all of this disunity and all of the kinds of things that have fired up different parts of the public against each other set in orchestrated by this President. So I don`t know anyone that I can think of that entered the chambers to give a state of the union address, particularly their first one that has been responsible, themselves were for dividing America. And it is more divided than it has ever been.

Even in the height of the civil rights movement when Lyndon Johnson and others had to deal with that divided country, they were not the ones who were the orchestrators of the division. He has been the one that normalized a lot of behavior. He has called countries s-holes. I mean, you walk -- it is like a man walking in to something that he created trying to then call for people to unite when he was the one that drew them even further apart.

MELBER: Right. How does an arsonist become a firefighter. And you mentioned LBJ was, of course, a civil rights activist, many of who I know you worked with, who pushed him to a place to say to Congress we shall overcome. It is hard to imagine this President, Kathleen, to Rev.`s point, having that credibility to do that. I want to talk a little policy with you, is that all right Kathleen?

KATHLEEN PARKER, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I don`t know. It depends on what it is. Let me just quickly say one thing to add on to what the reverend said. I think Barack Obama would have been impeached his first week if he started out the way that Trump was.

MELBER: You think Obama would have been impeached -- you said first week, but his first year with this record if he acted likely?

PARKER: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, if he said the things -- it would be hard to go through the list and imagine a Barack Obama saying some of those things, but talking about the Mexicans being rapists, and putting, you know, trying to block Muslims, which of course, then these things would not have happened under Barack Obama. But still, there is just no possible way he would have got the pass that this president has got. And I don`t think the Democrats would have put up with it either. So not - I don`t think it has to do with, you know, I think everybody in nonpartisan or bipartisan rather effort to get rid of him because he wouldn`t just been viewed as unstable. And of course, we do know that African-American men would be judged differently, that is just a fact given in the context of some these remarks.

MELBER: Well, let me go on the policy part. You make an important point. And there is no reason that judging the President factually should involve judging him differently and there has been an effort to sometimes lower expectations. We are going to talk about that a little later in the show.

The big policy news here reading from "the Washington Post," where you one of the Pulitzer-prize - so you are writing there, the White House says no need for these new Russia sanctions. It wont implement Russia-related sanctions mandated by Congress last year because the threat itself is acting as a quote "deterrent."

In the world of bombshells, Kathleen, this story is a big one. It is outrageous by any estimation to think that you are going soft on a foreign adversary, against the law that is literal, against the law that Congress passed. Now I have news on this. That was just unbelievable to many people, even if you bring skepticism to this story. Here though, in within the last hour, our own Chuck Todd was at the White House appearing to back pedal on this piece. Take a listen.


TODD: It`s not clear whether the President intends on enforcing these sanctions as strongly as Congress intended. Can you clear this up?

MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I don`t know if I can clear it up. I do know that I have full faith in secretary Mnuchin that he is going to be taking the time necessary to do this properly. We signed the bill. The bill is the law. We will enforce the law. I would not misinterpret a brief about treasury as indication that we have anything but an intentions to follow the laws.


MELBER: So Kathleen, your analysis tonight as Russia loom over the state of the union. The White House appearing to go from we are not doing it to oh, it`s a delay, we might do it later.

PARKER: Well, that`s typical White House backtracking. But the thing is it is such a crazy idea that first of all the sanctions, just the threat of sanctions is sufficient. But putting aside the legal aspect of it, on what are they basing this, you know? What -- this was intended to be punishment for interfering with the elections, as I understand it, of 2016. So by what gauge are they saying that it`s working?

And then moreover, they are planning to, I think, and place sanctions on other countries or other businesses that do business with Russian businesses, in that way punish Russia. But that seems a little farfetched. I don`t know how they can anticipate what those outcomes would look like and what effect it might have on us, as between other countries and businesses.

So I don`t understand what the thinking could possibly be. It just seems yet again another example of President Trump not wanting to do anything to antagonize Russia. And yet another attempt to sort of make nice with Putin. So that ongoing narrative of why can`t Trump fire Russia?


SHARPTON: Let me add to that quickly, is that not only is she absolutely right, he can`t seem to fire Russia, this is the same President that was tweeting and going into all kinds of language about why we ought to have sanctions against North Korea and they are a bigger threat.

MELBER: Right.

SHARPTON: I mean, it`s not like he is not one that would advocate strongly about sanctions. So get this right. He is being accused of collusion, or people around him with collusion. Today you are dealing with Nunes` report coming out. You have already got some of your circle that has been arrested and indicted and you are going back and forward on whether you are going to do something Congress has already voted to do about the very country that you are being accused of being in collusion with? I mean, maybe if there is smoke and flames, I have got a reason to call the fire department, you think?

MELBER: You are saying the plot of this movie has got at times obvious.

Rev., I want to check in with you later in our coverage. Kathleen Parker, thank you for joining us.

Now we turn to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Howell Raines and John Meacham who won his Pulitzer-prize for "American Line about Andrew Jackson."

John, in the book you write that according to people in Washington, Jackson was an outsider. His arrival signaled the destruction of the rules of the nation, accustomed to moral gentility and ultimately those attacks on Jackson brought his loyalists together, investing them and their hero with a shared sense persecution.

I feel there might be some parallel, but you are the expert, how does Trump`s first year compare to Jackson`s?

JOHN MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, as Mark Twain once said, history doesn`t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. So there`s some of that here. I think the idea of the first great populist figure coming to Washington, there are some Jacksonian overtones here, the key difference is that Jackson was an experienced political figure. He had been a general. He had been the first congressman from Tennessee, been a senator twice. He ran for president and lost with dignity even though he won the popular vote. And he was devoted to the idea of the union, that we were, as he put it one great family. And we had this - we had to stick together however difficult out fights within the family were.

And I think that is what we are missing today, is that we are having simultaneous yet, absolutely non intercepting conversation in the country. And I think has been exacerbated by the president.

MELBER: And we will put up on the screen some of the iconographic of Jackson that Donald Trump appears to like. You can see over the photo over his shoulder there or, John, by Steve Bannon who talked about the historical legacy of Jackson.

What are the differences here? I mean, again, you are the historian. But one would be that Jackson actually had at least a defined sense of policy goals for the nation.

MEACHAM: He did. He believed -- and he really redefined the presidency. I mean, he is immensely consequential figure. The most important figure between the founding and Lincoln. He was the first President to assert that he was the directly elected representative of all the people. This is back when we had more of an Article One which is Congress`s view of government. And so -- and the rise of the imperial presidency in many ways was accelerated by Jackson.

I talked to then candidate Trump about historical parallels in May of 2016, I think it was. And Jackson never came up. Jackson did come up, as you said, from Steve Bannon after the election.

One of the things that happens and of it how has collection of these two is when Presidents look back, they often see as they wish to be seen. That is they are looking for someone who gives sanctions what they are doing that actually pushes their agenda forward with the kind of glow of history. And I think that embracing Jackson is problematic for Trump. But to be fair, it really is about the only person in the other 44 folks that - 43 folks he can do.

MELBER: OK. I get what you are saying there.

Howell Raines, you have been thinking long and hard about the evolution of the Republican Party here. Donald Trump is going to speak tonight. We mentioned that Russian hangs over now. Sharpton and Kathleen Parker were talking about just how odd it is to have someone who claims to be so tough on so many countries and yet, today, going into the state of the union, he is blowing through this deadline. He is going soft on Russia amidst the law enforcement meddling.

Here was Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, giving Trump`s Russia advice for tonight`s speech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the elephant in the room, the Russia investigation, don`t mention it?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: No. I don`t think there`s anything he can really say about it that makes any sense. And I think if he gets in and gets down that rabbit hole, he tends to get angry about it. And that`s not the person you want to see tonight.


MELBER: What do you think, Howell?

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: First I want to say, John`s excellent commentary on Jackson. It is important to remember that Jackson at the supreme moment of peril to this nation said to John P. Calhoun, the union, sir, must be preserved. One doesn`t get any sense of that kind of thinking or conviction from anything that the President has done including on the Russia issue.

What`s interesting to me about today`s action is only five members of Congress oppose the sanctions. And it`s almost as if on this occasion, Donald Trump is saying to the Congress, I feel basically about you the same way I feel about reporters, they are all the same. So it`s a very peculiar introduction to this evening.

I want to say one more thing about the state of the union, it`s not just a show about Congress and the President, it is the first chance that the nation gets to take a deep look at how much this new President has learned about his job. And I think that`s the drama`s going to play out tonight, because Presidents are expected to inhabit a role of leadership and grow into reliable protectors above and beyond party.

MELBER: Do you think, Howell, do you think he is growing or do you think he is diminishing himself?

RAINES: Well, whatever I think, I think the challenge for him tonight is he has shown himself to the American people in snapshots. He dismisses Comey. He gets mad at Paul Ryan. He dumps Bannon, he makes up with Paul Ryan. All these snapshots.

Successful Presidents have to use this event to start making a movie about their leadership and that was true of anyone you can name from Eisenhower to Obama who had reasonably successful presidencies. And Trump, this is the night that he really has to start his movie. And even down here in deep red Alabama, there it`s a sense that it`s time to start being President in Ernest.

MELBER: I think you put it so well. And I want to give John Meacham a chance to respond to that.

You are talking about the important power of narrative in the story that the president tells to the country which is what state to the union in their best form can be. And yet John, Howell talks about a movie. And many Presidents in both parties have used the state of the union to include other people as stars in that movie, people who have done public service, people who represent the policy they hope for.

I think the problem, I will state it for your analysis, is at times there is a perception that this President doesn`t care about the movie of America, and is only interested in his own narrow self-aggrandizing diary, which he is willing to share on twitter, but is ultimately always only about him.

MEACHAM: I think that`s well put. You know, Howell is exactly right. Great Presidents, not only put us within a sweeping narrative, but they put us in that narrative so that we have a place to go. We have motivation and energy to follow them to a place that they have painted in our minds.

And you know, Trump does understanding certain kind of narrative, but it`s a reality show narrative. As he told, you know, as the "New York Times" reported, he actually said we should see every day of the presidency as a day in which I conquer my enemies. And that`s a very 21st century narrative.

Most other American Presidents have had a kind of our eutherian quest, you know, the kind of a knee where they are on their ways someplace. And I think that`s the distinction. It is -- right now we are in this a remarkably hessian (ph) political moment. It is a war of all against all. There is very little cooperation. If the market were way down, this would be a radically different conversation, more people would know about Russia. There`s a kind of a false lull because some classes in America are quite prosperous right now. But if that begins to get shaky, I don`t think Trump has a great deal of rope.

MELBER: John Meacham and Howell Raines, thank you both for your perspectives and your rendition as we approach this momentous evening.

Coming up, congresswoman Maxine Waters is boycotting the state of the union, but she is here on "the Beat" tonight.

Also, a new rational for Andrew McCabe`s departure from the number two post at the FBI and then echoes a lie about Jim Comey`s departure.

And later, a debate on some of the divisions tonight and a look at the very big historical picture with George Will and Katrina (INAUDIBLE).

I`m Ari Melber. And you are watching a special edition of "the Beat" on MSNBC. A big show, agent of guests, please stay with us.


MELBER: Welcome back to our special state of the union coverage tonight.

Donald Trump, an unusual President has he heads into his first state of the union with an unusual distinction you see in here. He is the most unpopular President at the first state of the union ever. A public opposition dove tailing with some Democrats saying they are boycotting tonight. That included congresswoman Maxine Waters who has been sparring with Trump officials all year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being a resident of California, I appreciate everything that you have done.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I don`t want to make up my time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I also appreciate the opportunity to --

WATERS: Reclaiming my time. Reclaiming my time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, I thought when you read the rules you acknowledged that I shouldn`t be interrupted.

WATERS: Reclaiming my time. What he failed to tell you was when you are on my time, I can reclaim it.


MELBER: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, this is your time, congresswoman. I don`t think I will mess with it. But I will begin with the big question that you and others are leading. Why are you boycotting the state of the union tonight?

WATERS: I have chosen not to attend the state of the union tonight because this president has defined himself pretty clearly from the time he campaigned through this year that he serve as president, he has defined himself as untrustworthy. It has been documented that he has told over 2001 lies. He has basically disparage the so many people, nicknaming people, even with Dianne Feinstein recently called her petty during the campaign. He called Hillary crooked. He called Rubio little Rubio.

And I wan to tell you people in my community don`t like that. There is a history of name calling in our community. And we know that that is not meaningful at all.

So whether we are talking about the name calling or the promises that he has made, the idea that he promised that he was going to build this wall and that he was going to make Mexico pay for it, and now he is coming back to us asking us to give him $25 billion or he is going to do away with some of the immigration that is legal immigration now, and particularly, the diversity visa.

So you can go - visas, you can go on and on and on talking about his distortion, his lies. This President has a character flaw. He has no good values. And he is not going to change overnight. And so, I don`t know what he is going to say tonight, but he won`t become presidential with one speech.

MELBER: Given that critique, your premise that there is a character flaw, there is a values problem and there is, in your estimation, very little prospect for change, what should he do? What could he do if he got to a place where he wanted to win back your cooperation on policy in Congress?

WATERS: I don`t know, but I think he could start by not denying that Putin and the Russians hacked into our democratic national committee. Stop defending Putin, the Russians and the oligarchs of Russia and not cooperating with this investigation. Saying that he was going to stop paring people. He was going to stop name calling. He was going to stop obstructing justice. All of those things, of course, would give one the ability maybe to rethink.

MELBER: When you see this news tonight which we were just discussing at the top of our hour, the other big story. The White House apparently in defiance of the bill that you and others passed into law sanctioning Russia, what`s your next move if they don`t identify the targets for these anti-Russian sanctions?

WATERS: Well, my staff has just gone through that with me. And I`m looking at what we can do to maybe repeal some of the language that was in the sanctions bill that gives him the authority to wave or not to wave.

Obviously, he is not going to move forward with those sanctions if he can get away with it. He`s too tied into Putin. And I do believe that in addition to several ways that we are looking at, you know, causing those sanctions to take place on Russia. I have always believed that he never wanted sanctions, he wanted to lift those sanctions that we already have so that Putin can drill into the arctic and it`s all about the oil and it`s all about money.

And so, I don`t trust him. I don`t think that he would ever move to carry out the sanctions that we have voted on. And so I`m not just disappointed. It`s all that I have expected of him. I don`t expect very much of him.

MELBER: Yes. Congresswoman Waters, I thank you for giving us your perspective tonight.

WATERS: You are welcome.

MELBER: Up next, a lawmaker on the intel committee today says the state of the union is lawless, that a response to Trump`s escalating attacks on the FBI and the longstanding tradition of political debate. Tonight, we welcome a Trump campaign surrogate along with our own Reverend Al Sharpton.

And later, conservative columnist George Will who left the Republican Party over of Trump has a view on why the state of the union might be overrated.



REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: The President addresses Congress tonight, and the state of the our union is lawless. Lawless as the President tries to remove Bob Mueller through tactics like this, lawless as his aides in Congress seek to help him.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Top Democrat on the Intel Committee there, saying the President is lawless, heading into tonight`s speech. There`s a lot going on including a new announcement today from the FBI. Now the Bureau doesn`t typically comment on personnel especially on State of the Union day so consider the context, reports last week that the FBI Director threatened to resign over Trump`s effort to oust the Deputy there, Andrew McCabe, a story the White House didn`t even deny, and yet today, that FBI Director Wray publicly explaining why the number two is out just like Trump wanted. The reason, Wray cites an internal review of McCabe, the number two linked to Hillary Clinton, the same case that was the pretext for firing Comey. If you`re keeping score, Trump wanted Comey out because of Russia, but his DOJ said it was because of Clinton bias.

And Trump wanted this official McCabe out, and now the FBI says, wait for it, it`s all because of Clinton bias. You know, an observer might get the impression the White House isn`t even working very hard on these cover stories anymore, they`re the same stories. And put that in the context of the wire purge. The FBI Director Comey fired, his deputy as we`re reporting attacked by Trump now, out. Bob Mueller, Trump attempted to fire him, then Trump attacked Comey aide Jim Baker, he`s been reassigned. Then this week we have of course Mueller`s boss, Rod Rosenstein, facing this Trump attacks and reports he`s a target in this secretive memo (INAUDIBLE) to release and Trump has long blasted Jeff Sessions for recusing from Russia.

So, if you look at the picture, any one of these moves against this men might be explainable but taken together, we are seeing going into the State of the Union, a relentless campaign against every senior investigator involved in the criminal probe into the Trump White House. It may not be a Saturday night massacre party because it`s not all going down in one Saturday night. But what if the purge is chasing the same Nixonian goals but spread out slowly instead of one lawless night. Students of history are now asking that question.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It looks like a slow motion Saturday night massacre.

I wonder if some people in his entourage at least have studied the Saturday night massacre. It`s not that Nixon did it, it`s the way he did it, and that maybe he would have gotten away with it is if he had done it more slowly and more obliquely and maybe that`s what we`re seeing today.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Michael Waldman, President Clinton`s former Chief Speechwriter for four state of the unions and an Attorney and back with me, the Reverend Al Sharpton who`s covered the last six state of the unions for MSNBC. Michael, the challenge going into the state of the union with this kind of controversy and the question about whether this is a slow-motion massacre.

MICHAEL WALDMAN, FORMER CHIEF SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT CLINTON`S STATE OF THE UNION: Well, he`s giving the state of the union, the kinds of questions you always ask, should it be optimistic or pessimistic, what`s the policy agenda. But he gives this with a dark cloud of impropriety hanging over his head. He is acting guilty. The question is why are the Republicans choosing to act guilty along with him. We got what is plainly an attempt to subvert our democracy by a hostile foreign power and an attempt as you say in a way we have not seen since Richard Nixon to go after law enforcement that`s investigating the President. It`s an immunization, we`re getting used to these one at a time. But it`s really quite an extraordinarily egregious abuse of power of a kind we have not seen in a long time.

MELBER: And if you go back to Nixon, Rev, take a listen to the way he tried to tackle a similar challenge in his state of the union.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.


MELBER: Rev, he, like this president, felt like that he should decide how long an investigation goes.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: And I think that that was something that did not help Nixon and if Mr. Trump tries that tonight, it will not help him. I think that one of the things (INAUDIBLE) said it right, how do you handle the presidency? Many people are going to look at tonight, whether or not he has grown into the presidency. And if he comes with something like that, which really dispels the function of Justice Departments and investigations, it shows then adequacy of his learning curve in the first year.

WALDMAN: Well, if this President talks about law and order as the president tends to do, there will be ashes in his mouth after something like this. It will be pretty interesting because a year ago, crime was way down, decades low, and he said it`s American carnage, we need harsh new laws. Now the crime is still down and Jeff Sessions is saying that`s because President Trump`s policies have worked. It`s sort of chutzpah in Alabaman would be the way I would say it.

MELBER: From ashes in his mouth to Alabama chutzpah, you know it`s a big state of the union tonight.

SHARPTON: It was huge.

MELBER: Rich. And for all the rhetorical explanations, Michael Waldman, a man who knows his way around state of the union, thank you. Rev comes back. Ahead the resistance, why Chuck Schumer just brought up Obama.


MELBER: Welcome back to our special State of the Union coverage. We just got the very first excerpts of the speech that`s something of a tradition around these parts. These are not probably the nosiest part but we are told that President Trump tonight will say there is never been a better time to be an American, that`s a point that might cause some debate. He calls on both parties to come together for an infrastructure plan. I`m duty bound as a journalist to note that the White House has not released an infrastructure plan to Congress to vote on. That is sometimes the type of thing that is done along with this kind of language and rhetoric. But we will be watching tonight to see what accompanies the rhetoric.

Now, we turn to as promised the debate to hear from both sides, two guests with major political experience. Madison Gesiotto, a former Trump Campaign Advisor and an Adviser to a Trump Diversity Coalition, she`s a conservative analyst and a graduate of Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University and she`s made the rounds on Fox news and elsewhere on behalf of Donald Trump. And back with me Reverend Al Sharpton who as I mentioned covered the last six state of the unions for MSNBC. Let me begin with you Madison. What do you think is the most important part of the story Donald Trump can tell tonight.

MADISON GESIOTTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: The economy, the economy, the economy. Let me tell you. One thing he`s going to focus strongly on tonight is the success we`ve seen economically over the past year. Consumer confidence, 17-year high, unemployment 17-year low, just as he said, he`s passed along with the work of Congress as well, the tax reform and tax cut bill that`s now law and over 3 million Americans have seen you know, a bonus because of that, $1,000 sometimes more, and that`s a lot of money where I come from. That`s a lot of money that they can use to pay for a whole year of school interest for their kids, to pay for their electric bills, so many things they can do with that money and I think they`re really excited about that. And I know he`s going to hit on that tonight along with of course infrastructure, immigration, and other issues, national security being one that he talked a lot about on the campaign that he (INAUDIBLE) as well.

MELBER: Right, well, Madison, you mentioned the economic record, you clearly have something similar on your mind to Chuck Schumer, because Rev, he also notes some of these indicators but argues they are a long-term reflection of other policies, take a listen. Chuck Schumer. Here`s what he said. He said, "two words I don`t think we`ll hear tonight on the economy, thanks, Obama."

SHARPTON: Well, I think that if the President is to take matters and suggestion and talk about jobs and talk about the economy and talk about all of these wonderful economic blessings we`ve had, he`d have to say and thank you, President Obama. There is nothing, zero, this President can cite that he`s done in this first year that he has done policy-wise or legislatively that has resulted in the economy that they`re trying to give him credit for. All you have to do is say I did this, therefore this happened. Other than that you`d have to admit that you were riding a wave, you were a boat on the wave, you were not the one that was the water, that was the wave that we were coming in on. That`s lying thanksgiving dinner, my mother labors over the stove, I bring it out of the kitchen into the dining room, put some salt and pepper on and talk about how great we prepared the meal. I just see the meal that was already prepared.

So he should -- to everything Madison says, well, he should say thank President Obama after every line. Immigration, I don`t think he really wants to bring that up. If he comes with this 1.8 million that he`s going to bring to citizenship, but he`s going to do all these other hard things for him to get it, like in the family kind of immigration, like his wall, he`s going to alienate half the hall and most of the public watching. And if he goes softer, he`s going to give Breitbart on him again. So he better stay away from that. I think he`s got to be very careful about talking about bringing Americans together unless he`s talking about far-right white males.

MELBER: Well, Madison, let me go back to you. First of all, full disclosure, I`m not above seasoning some takeout food and trying to make it seem like I was involved. But that`s the rhetorical rebuttal Rev offered to you, that the president that you`re advocating for is basically acknowledging games that reflect the Obama policy. Is that a pickle for him?

GESIOTTO: You know, unlike the two of you, I`m in the kitchen cooking, and let me tell you something. Since January 20th, 2017, our President has been in there working with the administration specifically on the economy. This is something he knows well and as a businessman, he has worked first hand and solve the effects to things like over-regulation can have on businesses and can have on the economy. So for the past year, for every one regulation that`s been put in place, they`ve cut 22. Last year, when Obama left office, there was the highest number of regulations logged in the Federal Registrar that we`ve ever seen in the history of this country, nearly 100,000 regulations. And one short year, we`ve cut that down to under 70,000, I think around 62,000 actually.

On top of that, just like he promised, as I said before, tax cuts and tax reform have been huge, and that is going to continue to be huge as we continue to see this economy grow and people have faith in this country. As we saw last week in Davos, he gave a great speech, many liberals gave him credit on this as well. And you know, when it came to that, he was asking people to reinvest in America. He went -- he wasn`t talking about elitism or globalism, he went to these big business leaders and to these other leaders of other countries and said hey, America is a place where you want to invest right now, bring your money back to country. And that`s what people are doing.

MELBER: Right. And I got to fill in a break. Madison Gesiotto, I always appreciate your perspective and the back and forth with Rev. Sharpton. Also, you can catch Rev Sharpton on "POLITICS NATION" Sundays at 8:00 a.m. always on MSNBC. Up ahead, what happens when Donald Trump known for being unscripted turns to a teleprompter and should the media give him a double standard break? And how Trump`s first year in office is falling short of some key promises, George Will and Katrina are with me next.


MELBER: Welcome back to our State of the Union special coverage. I`m joined by Katrina who writes the President`s celebration on Tuesday night as a betrayal, his triumphs have been the triumphs of the one percent favored industries and corporations. And more broadly, even apart from Donald Trump or what you think of him, take this critique from Pulitzer Prize Winning Conservative Columnist George Will who notes that President Woodrow Wilson`s oral address all the way back in 1913 paved the way of these messages being delivery as rhetoric to Congress rather writing. And he says at this point, it`s a tiresome exercise in political exhibitionism regardless of which party`s president is abusing it. I`m honored to sat George Will joins me now, along with Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher of The Nation, a friend of mine and my former boss. And George, you say theatrics outweigh the value of what this could be. What do you mean?

GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Look at the pedigree of tonight`s spectacle which I think is the worst item in our civic liturgy. The Constitution rather laconically says the presidential from time to time give the Congress such information as necessary to ascertain the State of the Union. Presidents Washington and John Adams went to Congress to do this, but Jefferson to his great credit, said, A, I don`t like the sound of my own voice, I ought to have a president like that, and also thought it was monarchical for the president to stand in front of and lecture the legislature so he sent his thoughts in writing. All subsequent presidents did that until Woodrow Wilson, the root of so much mischief. Mr. Wilson who thought it`s impossible that the country could hear too much from him and who wanted the presidency to be as powerful as possible began the process of giving it in person. After his stroke, he didn`t but Harding the next president came along and did the same. That`s fine.

And we all understand that Ronald Reagan by taking Lenny Skutnik who had been very heroic after a plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge, put him in the gallery and we began to get the spectacle that we now have. Fine, I don`t object to presidents doing this. It`s human to take advantage of what`s given them. What`s dispiriting to me is to watch senators and representatives, those of the president`s party, it doesn`t matter what president is at the podium, will stand up on their hind legs whinnying and braying like the animals in animal farm in approval of what the president says and the members of the opposite party will sit with their lips pursed and their arms crossed in disapproval. It`s become a an political pep rally which is itself distasteful on that. But it is particularly awful that the uniformed military, in uniform and the Supreme Court robed will attend this spectacle and will be manifestly ill at ease as the people jump up and down and theatrically pout in their midst.

MELBER: You make very fair points. You mentioned this before our broadcast and we looked up with your assistance, Woodrow Wilson saying in 1913 according to The Washington Post, this was not to become a habit as you point out, George, it did. Now, look, what we`re going to do because you make such good points is cancel the rest of the show, the broadcast ends. The State of the Union -- no, it doesn`t. I`ll bring in Katrina.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, THE NATION: But you know, George, I mean, part of what`s happened is our media system is now built on spectacle. So tonight it is brilliant for much of what you know, cable T.V. has become. The obliteration of the line between news and entertainment is part of the reason Donald Trump is president. He was abetted to a certain extent by a cable media system which delighted in what he offered. Now, my view tonight is of value because you will see a stark contrast between what President Trump touts as his accomplishments and what he has actually delivered. I think a president who promised to stand with the working men and women of this country, the forgotten people, now stands with those who rigged the rules against them.

He promised to drain the swamp. He has more billionaires in his cabinet than any previous administration. He promised to change the trade rules to bring jobs back to America. Our deficit with China is greater than it ever was. He promised to stop stupid wars, instead, he has -- not expanded but recommitted us to Iraq and Afghanistan, committed us indefinitely to Syria, sent lethal weapons to Ukraine. This is a President who has stood with the one percent, not with the forgotten men. And I think that`s very important because tonight he will tout his major legislative accomplishment, Ari, was a tax bill which is written for corporate donors.

MELBER: Right, let me read to you as you mentioned the donors because you`re talking about the record, the policy and the record and whether tonight is a reckoning. I`m reading to you Trump words. Draining the swamp was the slogan. The words that could haunt him I believe to your point, he tells the guests at Mar-a-Lago who pay to be around him "from the tax bill, you all just got a lot richer."

VANDEN HEUVEL: You -- and just -- and he said we`re open for business. So I think -- you know, I think it`s going to be -- it`s a very perilous moment, let me put it this way for Democrats, for progressives. I think we have demonized Trump which is you know, to the -- at the expense of laying out a bold and clear agenda for what we are for, we know our democracy is imperiled but what are we for? Sherrod Brown, a good Senator from Ohio who`s running for re-election put out a great manifesto last year about the dignity of work, about security, about retirement.

I think instead of fixating on Russiagate, for example, that we need investigation without interference, Democrats would be wise to really look hard at documented documentable abuses, voter suppression, the lack of jobs for working people, stagnant incomes, what they can do to tuition-free of education, Medicare for all. There will be responses tonight from many people and those will not be spectacle. Those will be people speaking to millions of Americans who are forgotten even by a president who claimed he stood with forgotten men and women. He didn`t. He stood with the one percent. He has betrayed his promises.

MELBER: Katrina Vanden Heuvel and George Will in a short space, some food for thought about the problems with the system, with the president, with the media, ourselves included. I appreciate you giving us that perspective as we go into the State of the Union tonight. Now, a quick tease here, if you do follow my Facebook page, then you may know sometimes we do some pretty wild things on Facebook live and sometimes we go backstage giving people even more than you may want to see.


MELBER: I want to give you first off to what we`re doing. If you see here, this is what we call in the rounds, we got all (INAUDIBLE), we have real people, we got our folks and our crew, we got all these great people. We`re live on Facebook, everybody.

I just want to be clear, these are reporters in their natural habitat, OK? These are people who can make you look great or terrible but they work with facts and facts as we know are dangerous things. Right? They`re not amused.


MELBER: That`s backstage and in 35 minutes, 7:30 Eastern, you can join me on Facebook live where I`ll previewing our State of the Union coverage behind the scenes. We will be right back.


MELBER: Here`s some brand new video that just came into our newsroom. This is Trump`s hotel in D.C. you`re looking at. An activist group projecting that image under a fa‡ade of Trump`s own hotel. A call for Congress to investigate allegations against the President timed of course to the State of the Union here now just two hours away. As for our special coverage, well, it continues with MSNBC all night. The very special coverage starts at 8:00 p.m. I as well will be a part of that fact- checking the speech afterward, but more importantly, right now, it`s "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.



Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.