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Replacement for Bob Mueller's boss out at JD. TRANSCRIPT: 2/9/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Luke Harding, Niall Stanage, Zerlina Maxwell, Tom Perez, Andrew Desiderio, Paul Shaffer, Antonia Hylton, Christian Finnegan

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 9, 2018 Guest: Luke Harding, Niall Stanage, Zerlina Maxwell, Tom Perez, Andrew Desiderio, Paul Shaffer, Antonia Hylton, Christian Finnegan

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Katy. Thank you.

We begin with the breaking major news with big implications for the Russia probe.

The top DOJ official in line to replace Bob Mueller`s boss is out at the justice department tonight. You may have heard her name before. She is the number three at DOJ, the highest ranking woman there, Rachel Brand. She is leaving after just nine months on the job.

"The New York Times" broke this story within about the last hour. NBC`s Pete Williams confirming it. He joins me in just a few minutes.

Brand has gotten a lot more attention than people typically do in her post because of her role. She is next in line, the number three to replace Rod Rosenstein who, of course, is acting attorney general for Russia and thus, he is Bob Mueller`s boss.

Attorney general Jeff Sessions was recently touted Rachel Brand who we are reporting will be leaving DOJ, as well as Rod Rosenstein. They were seated together and the attorney general`s praise was a contrast to some recent Republican attacks on DOJ officials.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: That was to Ron and Rachel are Harvard graduates. Their experienced lawyers. They have - Ron had 27 years in the department. Rachel has had a number of years in the department previously. And so they both represent the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the department.


MELBER: Quality and leadership, well, that`s out tonight. Now Donald Trump himself had fan speculation about Rachel Brand`s future and her potentially stepping up because he himself, the President, recently declined to say he had confidence in Rod Rosenstein, Mueller`s boss.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does it make you more likely to fire Rosenstein? Do you have confidence in him after reading the memo?



MELBER: Breaking story. I`m joined first tonight by NBC`s Ken Dilanian who covers the Russia probe as well as attorney Julian Epstein, a former counsel to House Democrats.

Ken, you look at this story and it is significant no matter what the reason she is leaving. Neither NBC News or "New York Times" has obtained any official public statement, but what does your reporting tell us?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Well, Pete Williams` reporting that she has been offered a very lucrative job in the private sector, Ari. But you are right. Regardless of the circumstances, and by the way, we also have reports that she has been unhappy in this job at the justice department, which, by all accounts, is a very unpleasant place to work right now with the attorney general under pressure and not necessarily coming to the aide of his department which is under pressure.

But, look, the real import of this, whatever reason she is leaving is, as you said, she was essentially next man up to supervise the Mueller investigation in the event that Rod Rosenstein was fired or removed, which Donald Trump has expressed a desire to do. And actually, you know, Democrats who are concerned about this prospect were somewhat comforted by the idea that she would be in that role because she is a person with a very good reputation for integrity.

She is a Republican lawyer who worked in the Bush`s justice department. She was on the privacy and civil liberties oversight board during the Obama administration. She clerked for the Supreme Court. Went to Harvard law school. She is highly regarded in legal circles. Now, with her gone, it is unclear who gets that job.

Now, in order for someone to be in the line of succession, to actually get supervision on the Mueller probe, they would have to senate confirm. So Trump can`t just put anyone in there and they would get be tried --.

MELBER: Right. You mentioned Pete Williams and I`m going to dig in with him later in a few minutes on some of that.

Julian, think about what Ken just said. Some of the reporting reflects that she was unhappy. Now, you could be unhappy for any reason. You can be unhappy for no reason. Or you could be unhappy because, again, part of my job sometimes to point out the obvious, because people who have been at the DOJ and the FBI have been treated markedly differently by this President, pursuant to the Russia probe, that most other Presidents in both parties since he took office. Your analysis of how this squares with what Bob Mueller`s doing and what Trump is doing?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think Ken Dilanian was spot on and I think you were spot on. I think, you know, obviously we are speculating. We don`t have very much information. But I think the most benevolent speculation, is that morale at the justice -- if you Speak to people at the justice department and the FBI, they will tell you that morale is at an all-time low because of the in session (ph) attacks by this administration, the White House, against the integrity of this agency. And so that is safe to speculate that she feels that very. Very low morale that is just inside the justice department.

But I think you could be a little bit more aggressive in your speculation and also see what a lot of people see, which is this Republican memo last week. This very ham handed attempt to try to put up a smoke screen on the Russia investigation, was a very ham handed attempt to presage, towards what could be a larger equivalent of obstruction of justice. And I think she is making the decision right now that she would rather be an Eliot Richardson or Bill Ruckleshaus, the two officials in the Nixon era who resigned rather than to firing in a bank counsel than be a Robert Bourque, who had otherwise had a distinguished career, but who ultimately was third in-charged who fired Archibald Cox and then it came bask to hunt him forever.

MELBER: So Julian, let me pushed you on that. You are drawing an important link, and we are not reporting much on the detail of her motivations for leaving. But you are drawing a link based on what is other public evidence, that there has been a sustained and targeted attack on these people, combined with a President, who unlike any President ever before, has said he removed an FBI director, because of his role in the criminal probe into the White House on Russia. And you are saying that`s an important piece of context for what some are called a slow motion Saturday night massacre.

EPSTEIN: Right. I think it`s very safe speculation that she feels the low morale. I don`t think there`s much question about that. Almost everybody that has been there, she has been there in three different administrations. Everybody that has succeed from previous administrations I think feels that.

But I think more importantly, I have never known an association attorney general, when it`s possible that a deputy attorney general position, the number two position might be opening up. I have never known a number three associate attorney general to leave in that situation, unless -- well, I have never known that. And I think -- so it`s a reasonable -- it`s reasonable to speculate that she does not want to be in the position of a hatchet man over - or a hatchet woman over what could be a massive criminal conspiracy of obstruction. Which a lot of people think is kind of what`s in the works, the handwritings on the wall. Of course it`s speculation, but I think it`s reasonable speculation.

MELBER: Right. And look, it`s Friday night news. It`s trickling out late on a Friday night, as you say in the context in the week after that very unusual memo, literally the House had never used rule 10 to declassify something. Many said it was a dud. Many said it didn`t prove their point. But that is all of the speculation built on evidence that there was something going on that some people seem to want to discredit on a partisan narrative.

Ken Dilanian and Julian Epstein, thanks for hustling up on this story.

Other important questions as I mentioned, where does the line of succession stand and how does all this impact the Mueller probe? I`m happy to say we have the reporter on the block, NBC`s Pete Williams has been tracking this story tonight.

Pete, number one, your big picture reporting of what you are hearing, what`s happening? And number two, whatever the reasons, obviously the number three post at DOJ is important, walk us through what happens.

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS REPORTER: I`m told that there is no other plans for anybody else at justice to step down or no more recusals coming in. She`s not out yet. She probably, we are told by friends will be leaving the justice department within the next couple of weeks. And what we are told by friends of hers is that she had a, as one person described it, as sort of job you don`t turn down offer.

Now, of course, one can ask themselves as you have been talking to your guests in different circumstances, might she have turned it down. But in any event, what we were told that she is leaving to take this job in the private sector.

I would say that an associate attorney general is not a job for everybody. And for some it`s a good fit and for some it isn`t. And who knows whether that`s a factor here or not as well.

In terms of succession, there`s two ways to look at this, Ari. And the only reason we care about this is for the special counsel rules. Now the regulations say that when the attorney general is refused, it`s the deputy, they don`t say beyond that. But the order of succession tells us the answer and it`s attorney general, deputy attorney general associate and then various U.S. attorneys around the country.

Now the next one in the succession line is the U.S. attorney right across the river here in Alexandria, Virginia in the eastern District of Virginia, that position is vacant right now. There is an even a nominee. And then it goes from there to the eastern district of North Carolina and the northern district of Texas, both of which have Senate confirmed U.S. attorneys.

But I think the way to look at this order of succession things is sort of how does the government work on autopilot? If something really bad happens, this is why for example, the order of succession doesn`t do what you would normally think it would, which is to go now to assistant attorney general for, you know, the solicitor general or some other high ranking Senate confirmed person at the justice department. It starts to fan out around different regions of the country, in case some God awful thing happened. And you know, you had to reach around the country to find somebody else to mind the store.

So this is sort of the autopilot thing, but the President is always switch to manual mode. He can put anybody he wants in these positions. They just can`t be acting. They have to be confirmed positions. That`s what the rules say. That an acting person can`t be in the line of succession.

So for example, if we have an acting U.S. attorney as we do right now in Virginia, you skip over that and go to the next one. So, as I say, there`s two ways to look at this. It`s sort of a default thing, but it doesn`t tell us how it actually might happen.

MELBER: Right. And you are citing of course the executive orders that were put out for the line of succession, any President has the authority to change those as well.

WILLIAMS: And they all do.

MELBER: And they do.

WILLIAMS: Yes. And the President has changed this thing, I think maybe twice or three times.


WILLIAMS: I thought the most recent one was in February and then it was called to my attention by you and others that actually there`s a more current one in March and that`s the one I have been talking about.

MELBER: Exactly.

Pete Williams, thank you for your reporting tonight. I know you are busy on this story.

Now I turn to writer Howard Fineman, a friend of the show, "the Washington Post" Jennifer Rubin. And joining me from London, "the Guardians`" Luke Harding who has been all over many aspects of the Russia probe.

I want to widen out for viewers who are interested in this story, but get a little nervous when me and Pete start going deep down into executive order succession. And by nervous, I mean bored. Because the point - let me start with Howard. The point is not who is on that list necessarily, although it`s our job to keep track of it and we try to. The point is tonight, Friday night, after a week of memo gate, while Bob Mueller continues to grind on. And this White House fired an FBI director, said they don`t have confidence in Mueller`s boss, ran a coordinated campaign with Republicans and conservative media to attack FBI and DOJ officials by name.

In that context, here you see it, fired, attempted discrediting, sidelined, you see it all over there with attacked in the lower right corner, the top Dem, you see McCabe in the upper right. You see Rod Rosenstein, we are talking tonight about his number three, the person that would replace him out. How would you view this, for Howard, for viewers at home who say what more do we need?

HOWARD FINEMAN, WRITER, NBCNEWS.COM: Well, the big picture here is there`s a war going on and it`s very active and very open between the Trump White House and the justice department, over the legitimacy and the efficacy of the Mueller investigation of whether there was are collusion with Russia. That`s what this is all about.

For whatever reason, Donald Trump not only feels threatened, but he is fighting back in ways that no President has done in public, if you are even in private in the past. And I think that Rachel Brand decided that she didn`t want to be in the middle of that crossfire, this is my guess here. This is kind of a self-administered Friday night massacre. She is getting herself out of the way because she was going to be forced to be -- take sides in that war. In one way or another, whether she wanted to or not.

MELBER: You are saying, this is so key. You are saying this is on the inside. She has access to information, to intelligence that most of us don`t have, that is literally a crime to leak. And you think what she knows and what she can see around the corner was she doesn`t want to do this?

FINEMAN: Yes, that`s my sense of it.

MELBER: That`s your theory?

FINEMAN: Yes, that`s my sense of it because I know from talking to people who talk to the man in the oval office, that he, if not ready or able or willing to fire Bob Mueller, has as his main objective here, the slowing down, the nicking up, the besmirching of the entire Mueller investigation and Mueller himself. She doesn`t want to be in the way of that. She doesn`t want to participate in it obviously. But on the other hand, she doesn`t want to become somebody in the direct line of fire of Donald Trump.

And by the way, in the conservative media, if you look on websites, if you look on twitter, the people who support Donald Trump vehemently or a part of his team, so to speak, are talking all the time about this line of succession. Our viewers generally might be bored about this, but in Trump world they are game planning this out down to the U.S. attorneys in North Carolina and Texas. They want to know whether the Trump, you know, people or not, whether they are Bush people or not.

And Rachel Brand, by the way is sort of a Mueller-McCain Republican. She volunteered I believe for McCain. She worked at the same law firm as (INAUDIBLE) as Mueller. I mean, that`s the kind of person that the Trump people are going to be very nervous about. My guess is she decide and you know what, I want out of here before I can`t get out.

MELBER: Jennifer?


Two things. First of all, the President can appoint a new - can nominate a new number three at the justice department. And who he chooses to pick for that, and whether he or she can get through a senate confirmation, remember Republicans only have a couple of votes to spare now, that Doug Jones has been elected, remains to be seen. And I think if he attempts to put in someone who is perceived to be a crony, a political ally, that is going to a big deal.

Second thing, first of all, you don`t of course go out and accept a can`t refuse job unless you have had interviews and have shown some interest. So clearly, she was looking to get out.

What I would like to know is, what does she know and who will she have to testify against? What does she know for example about the efforts to find dirt, as we learned on the FBI director? What does she know, for example, about those meetings in which Rod Rosenstein was involved and was told to go draft a memo to explain the firing of the ex-FBI director. So she knows a lot.

And part of what is gnawing at me is does she see that she is going to have frankly a huge conflict of interest? She is going to have to give testimony, if she hasn`t already, against people who are her boss or are her associates. And that is an uncomfortable place to be. The only way that you can get around that is to get out of the justice department.

MELBER: Luke, your view from across the pond. You are the author of "Collusion." You have looked at a lot of these issues. What does it tell you as an expert on the fact pattern that there is some changing of the guard?

LUKE HARDIN, AUTHOR, COLLUSION: Well, I think it`s part of a broader attempt to have a go at Mueller. And one thing I would say, is spare a poll of support Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump dossier. He has been remorselessly sledged this week by Republicans in various you memos. He has been accused of lying to the FBI, of lying about his contacts with the media.

And I have been talking to his friends this week who say these accusations are absurd. They are ridiculous that he as behaved with integrity. He can`t defend himself on your show, but he is really been kind of put through the mill. And here is someone who volunteered, who came forward to the FBI and said, my secret sources are telling me this there is massive collusion. There is a full blown espionage operation involving Russian intelligence assets and the Trump campaign. And I think you guys should look at this.

And everything I have seen feels to me like a prelude to discrediting Chris Steele to firing Mueller and trying to sort of make this whole thing to go away. But of course, it won`t go away because I would say the dossier is clearly true. And I think these allegations are clearly troubling the President and troubling people around him.

MELBER: And so Jennifer, on that point, the only way to view this more benignly, this story tonight. It is of course breaking on a Friday night, when we often see bad news attempt to get itself buried. The only benign way is to close your eyes to everything else that`s happening including what Luke just discussed?

RUBIN: Well, she could be leaving as we said for perfectly innocent, perfectly good reasons. If you had a choice between a job that pays say a million dollars in a private sector and staying in this madhouse, you would go too. So her motivations can be completely understandable.

However, the consequences which we have been talking about are very serious. And we will have to see how this plays out, who replaces her? Do they have to go to the line of succession? What kind of person would be replacing her? And what happens to Rod Rosenstein? This all becomes kind of academic if the President, for whatever reason, feels he can`t get rid of Rod Rosenstein.

MELBER: Well, you call it a madhouse. They used to say not mad meaning mad and bad meaning good. And I know you mean not mad meaning mad, but mad meaning totally crazy in a rough place to work.

Jennifer Rubin, Luke Harding and Howard Fineman on a breaking story, thank you for your insights this Friday night.

Coming up, another huge story that was our lead story before this, John Kelly under fire. New reports he is offering his resignation to President Trump.

And did Democrats fold in this immigration debate? Is Chuck Schumer on the wrong side of this one?

Also a hot topic in many liberal circles. I`m going to speak directly to DNC chair Tom Perez about it.

And remember when David Letterman did this to Donald Trump?


DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: These are beautiful ties.

TRUMP: They are great ties.

LETTERMAN: The ties are made in where, China? Ties are made in China.


MELBER: You ever see him that quiet? Letterman is back with a big project, including George Clooney tonight and Obama. I`m going to speak on "the Beat" top Paul Shaffer from the "Letterman" show tonight.

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


MELBER: Trump chief of staff John Kelly facing many questions about how he is handling allegations of domestic abuse against what is now a former aid. And "the New York Times" reporting Kelly even telling officials he is willing to resign.

Halfway across the world, Mike Pence making some news in an exclusive interview with NBC`s Lester Holt.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The White House has acknowledged that they could have handled it better. And Lester, when I returned to Washington, D.C., I`m going to look into the matter and I`ll share my counsel with the President directly.


MELBER: Mike Pence saying he will talk to the President. That might not be good for John Kelly.

Friends say Kelly`s lack of experience in Washington politics may be why he wasn`t attuned to how these domestic abuse allegations would be perceived. And when it comes to all these allegations, Trump has been focused on them being a problem because of bad press.

Look at these reports, Trump said he quote "has little tolerance for aides that attract negative media attention that spills on to him." He has quote "very disturbed" and especially upset not about the abuse allegations, but the, quote, "bad press this is engendering."

Apparently this is more about press than the underlying allegations. As they say in the business, sad.

I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell who worked for Hillary Clinton and Niall Stanage from "the Hill."


ZERLINA MAXWELL, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON AIDE: That is not surprised that Donald Trump would be concerned with the press because it`s always about him and it is not about the women. When you heard what he said earlier today in the oval office, he talked about the future of Rob Porter`s career and how sad it was that now his career is derailed.

He said nothing about the victims in this case. And I think a White House that talked about locker room talk and essentially normalized violence against women after the "Access Hollywood" tape is the same White House that is going to take one man`s word over the word of three, maybe four women, because there`s one in the Trump administration, we don`t know who she is, and a photograph. So one word - the word of one man over four women, that`s this is White House.

MELBER: Or that they only took action not over --

MAXWELL: After we found out about the picture, not that the picture exists, but that we found out about it. They care about the public caring about this issue and they don`t really care about it internally. But that`s no surprise. They normalized this during the election and it`s par for the course for this White House.

MELBER: I think you put it well and you put the seriousness of it. And I`m not good enough at my job to know how to pivot from the eloquent and serious point you make to former White House aid Amarosa. I don`t know how to make the turn.

MAXWELL: Me either. But I think this is circus that we watched. With Big Brother is only a continuation of the circus that`s going on in the White House.

MELBER: I know you have because you are - you to have international diplomatic credentials, take a look at how we do it in America here now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was haunted by tweets every single day, like what is he going to tweet next.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anybody say to him, what are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tried to be that person and then all of the people around him attacked me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you work for him again?



MELBER: So what do you think of that?

NIALL STANAGE, WHITE HOUSE COLUMNIST, THE HILL: I think it`s pretty bizarre. But to make a serious point with this, after that came out, the White House deputy press secretary came and said well Amarosa was fired three times from "the Apprentice," and we got rid of her here too.

She was fired three times from "the Apprentice" and that didn`t stop her from getting a job at the White House in the first place. And yes, we can laugh at the flippancy of this, but I actually this goes to the point that Zerlina was making. That is the White House that was obsessed with style, with press coverage, with celebrity to a certain extent, to its own detriment. And then you end up with the situation like that.

MAXWELL: Right, absolutely. And I think that it`s funny that she is whispering when she is miced (ph) up on a national television. I think that is very interesting. It is like I want to keep this a secret when from before he went on broadcast to the world.

But I think that -- I actually was present for a panelist of the national association of black journalist conference this summer. And Amarosa was there. And it turned into a little bit of a mess. And at the time, she was very defensive about of questioning what she was doing in the White House.. It was essentially a made-up position that never existed before. And we were concerned as to why she would come to a conference like that and not be forthcoming or at least explain what the Trump White House was doing for our community?

MELBER: Did you tell her how worried you were?

MAXWELL: I think that she got the message that most of the people in the room were pretty skeptical.

MELBER: If it`s important, if it is about a matter of state, a stage whisper is the only way to bring it home.

Zerlina Maxwell and Niall Stanage, thank you for all angles on the story.

Up ahead, there`s a big question on policy and Democratic divide. What was the shutdown for? My guest, DNC chair Perez is next.

And later, David Letterman going political in his new talk show from Obama to Clooney, late night legend Paul Shaffer is on "the Beat" tonight.


MELBER: -- top story tonight, more showdown politics, more pressure to defend DACA recipients after Nancy Pelosi`s 10-hour record-breaking speech. From Rand Paul to Pelosi, there has been a lot of talk about shutdowns. But what have Democrats achieved? Senate Democrats shut down the government with a DACA ultimatum. Chuck Schumer said they would relent because Senator McConnell intended to provide a floor vote on DACA in return. Schumer said he was clear that Democrats would push Republicans and Trump towards a DACA deal.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: We walked away from an agreement in principle on DACA. If he had been willing to accept any one of these deals, we wouldn`t be where we are today. This is a Trump shutdown, only President Trump can end it. We, Democrats, are at the table ready to negotiate.


MELBER: Only Trump can end it. But it was Chuck Schumer who ended it, supporting a two-year budget deal, raising the debt ceiling for a year, funding for CHIP, something we`ve reported a lot on this show, but no DACA vote. Ultimately this week, Nancy Pelosi voting against the bill which is passed without her and without apparently that promised scheduled vote on DACA, which is the thing that Democrats were demanding when they shut the government down. I`m joined now by the top Democrat in the party, DNC Chairman Tom Perez. Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Why did you and this party proceed without getting a DACA vote scheduled?

PEREZ: Well, we have something now that we didn`t have a couple of weeks ago, Ari, and that is next Monday in the Senate, we will begin a debate on the DREAM Act. And if an up-or-down vote is allowed on a clean DREAM Act, the majority of the Senate will vote to approve it. And then what we have to do is get over to the House and put all the pressure --

MELBER: Well, let me stop -- let`s stay in the Senate, Mr. Chairman.

PEREZ: OK, yes.

MELBER: I got to repeat the question, you`re mentioning that there`s a process, but why vote to fund the government without getting a scheduled date for a DACA vote, which you don`t have?

PEREZ: Well, we start the debate on Monday on DACA and we will have a vote at the end of the debate. Ari, our bigger problem that we --

MELBER: Your position -- this is an important point because as you know, there`s a lot of Democrats who disagree with you, and I can point you examples. Your position is that there is a date for a DACA vote, we just - - no one knows what date it would be?

PEREZ: Listen, you know, Ari, I`m just as disappointed as anyone. I`ve worked on DACA issues, I`ve worked on immigration issues for a quarter century. And this is unconscionable what this administration is doing. Let`s level set. The Democratic Party and President Obama brought us DACA, that was the right thing to do. The crisis was created by Donald Trump, and that is the reality. If we had more votes in the United States Congress and the United States Senate, we could fix this problem now. We don`t have enough votes.

MELBER: We don`t think -- I mean, you`re -- let me be clear in case -- I take your point. In case anyone`s watching and thinking, no one`s challenging your policy history and record on this, right? But we are talking about the facts of what happened politically, let me play Congressman Gutierrez who feels that by -- let me read to you, Congress Gutierrez who feels as you know, that Chuck Schumer, he says anyone voting for this Senate budget deal is colluding with Trump and the administration to deport DREAMers, it`s as simple as that. Is he wrong?

PEREZ: Well, you know what, am I disappointed? Obviously, Congressman Gutierrez is disappointed, heck yes, I`m disappointed because you know what, they are playing political football with DREAMers.

MELBER: And you`re disappointed -- are you disappointed in Chuck Schumer - - I don`t want to misquote you. Are you disappointed in Chuck Schumer the way Gutierrez is?

PEREZ: No, I`m disappointed that we can`t do something right now about the DREAMers, because 90 percent of the American people believe we should pass a Dream Act. The Defense Secretary said today, we would do nothing to deport Dreamers because you know what, they`re protecting our country. So I`m as disappointed as anyone. And the challenge that we have is that we need more Democrats. That`s why I took this job because the real solution here is we`ve got to elect more Democrats to take over the Senate and take over the House.

MELBER: I hear you and -- I hear you and when -- I hear you and when I talk to leaders in both parties, they always agree, they want more votes which helps. But I am pushing you because people in the country are hearing this debate, they`re hearing Nancy and Chuck as the President calls them, disagree. And let me play for you a Democrat who three weeks ago said there would be a scheduled DACA vote within two weeks because of the Chuck Schumer shutdown strategy. This is a very prominent Democrat. Take a listen.


We have a commitment to make sure that we bring up the DREAM Act on the floor of the Senate in the next two weeks or so. What we have to do is keep fighting like heck, because this isn`t over. This is why when I think of the DREAMers and I think of how they have become a pawn in this game and it`s not a game at all.


MELBER: Why didn`t your strategy to get that vote within what is now the last three weeks, why didn`t that, what I`m calling the Schumer strategy, why didn`t it work.

PEREZ: Because we don`t have enough votes in the Senate, Ari. And you know what? As I said, this is -- This is unconscionable what`s going on. And the reason it`s going on is because the Republican Party is hostage to the tea party wing of the party. This should never happen. And again, I`m going to keep fighting like heck because the DREAMers are every bit as American as my three U.S. born children and we have got to keep fighting. Was I disappointed with in the outcome in the Senate? Of course, I was disappointed.

MELBER: You were disappointed. Because when you say keep fighting, let me -- let me show you a congressional reporter describing this. I want to give you a chance to rebut if you think it`s unfair. He said, here`s the final vote, Dems fold without the promise they were seeking. When you say keep fighting, just so we understand -- I`m not trying to give you a hard time, but I try to get the answer. When you say keep fighting, do you mean the Democrats in the Senate should have fought harder and continue to shut down until they got a date for a DACA vote?

PEREZ: You know what? We have to keep fighting to pass a clean DREAM Act, OK? And you know what? I wish I could control the timing in the Senate. And if I could, we would have already had this done. And that, the shortest distance theory in the U.S. Senate, it never happens, Ari, because the Senate is fundamentally broken as the House is. But you know what, folks? I am confident that if we get an up-or-down vote, and when we get an up-or-down vote, and we`re starting the debate Monday, I`m confident that that vote would pass in the Senate.

And then what we have to do is make sure that the House of Representatives doesn`t become a graveyard for immigration that it did when bipartisan immigration reform passed in 2013 and 2014 because Paul Ryan has again been hostage to his tea party right. And so we got to keep fighting as Democrats. And the wheels of justice on this have spun way too slowly, they are -- it`s unconscionable that DREAMers are being used as pawns in a broader political game. That is what Donald Trump is doing. He created this crisis. A federal judge has said that this program was authorized. This is a crisis of Donald Trump`s creation and we have to keep fighting as Democrats to make sure that we give those DREAMers the citizenship that they have earned.

MELBER: Yes, and I want to be clear, we do fact checks on this show sometimes. I will say fact check true, we`ve reported on the fact that this is an executive program, that this program has injected uncertainty, unilaterally that he need not do, and that a lot of past Presidents in both parties have had a far more logical approach to the immigration process and yet we also have to fact check you and Chuck Schumer, you said within the last three weeks, you`d have a vote by now and you don`t and I hear that you want one but we wanted to get to the bottom of that and we want to get the benefit of your response. Chairman, I`m going to go forward. I appreciate you joining us tonight.

PEREZ: Good to be with you.

MELBER: Thank you, Tom. I want to turn now to Andrew Desiderio. He`s a Reporter for the Daily Beast, he has a new article, Nancy Pelosi`s Tight Grip on the House Democratic Caucus Comes Loose. And this is an important intramural debate, Andrew, there are people who sometimes don`t like anything that feels like potentially bad news from anyone they`re rooting for. Politics is a team sport, and yet we`re seeing a potentially important divide here on policy within the Democratic Party. I wonder your assessment of what we just heard from the Chairman and where this is going particularly with the -- with the rift that we`re seeing.

ANDREW DESIDERIO, REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it`s not just a divide on policy, I think it`s a divide on strategy, that`s what we saw yesterday. We heard mixed messages coming from Democratic leaders yesterday. We heard that Minority Whip Steny Hoyer was whipping against this, which means they were trying to get as many Democrats as they could to move this against it. But then Nancy Pelosi`s letter to her colleagues said basically, here`s why I`m voting for it, you do you. Meaning you do your own thing. And what we saw overnight was that 73 Democrats ended up voting for this budget. Now, you mention Congressman Gutierrez in the last segment, he`s been one that`s been pushing leadership to tell them sort of, this was their last leverage point to do something on DACA before the March 5th deadline.

MELBER: Right. So what did you think of the Chairman`s rebuttal? He doesn`t seem to want to agree, or at least want to publicly agree that they may have given up leverage as some of the Hispanic caucus and other progressives were saying.

DESIDERIO: Well, Chairman Perez has mentioned that they don`t want any immigration bill to go to a graveyard in the House like it did in 2013, and the reality is the Democrats did not seek a commitment that that would not happen again this time. So what we saw happen last night, was that 73 Democrats, which is a very large number, ended up voting for this budget and breaking with Nancy Pelosi. But the problem from Gutierrez`s perspective and other hard liners on this issue is that they didn`t whip hard enough in favor of this to try to force the issue and make Paul Ryan give them the commitment, similar to what Senator McConnell gave to Democrats last month to end that shutdown.

MELBER: Andrew Desiderio, keeping your eye on the building behind you. Thank you for your reporting this Friday night.


MELBER: Up ahead, since Donald Trump took office, his predecessor has made very few public appearances. One exception, Barack Obama sitting down with the late night icon David Letterman. Next, I`m very excited to speak to a man who`s been at Letterman`s side for decades and works on his new show and is obviously a legend in his own rights, the one and only Paul Shaffer back in 90 seconds



GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: Did you want to do comedy? Did you start with comedy and then became a Weatherman?

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, LATE NIGHT: Let me ask you a general question first. By you asking me a question, will this cut into my pay?



MELBER: That`s George Clooney and David Letterman having some fun. Clooney asking the tough questions. Letterman is back in his chair for his Netflix series with very special guest. It`s called. My Next Guest Needs No Introduction which was the case when Barack Obama debuted. Letterman`s interview style is no joke though. He once exposed Donald Trump`s double talk on Chinese labor and silenced him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He has a stance on China which is a country that`s just ripping our heart out. I mean we just do nothing to protect ourselves.

LETTERMAN: Where are these ties made? These are beautiful ties.

TRUMP: They are great ties.

LETTERMAN: The ties are made in, where? China? The ties are made in China.


MELBER: Quiet, wow. My next guest is there that night and every night. Paul Shaffer is Musical Director of the show back from when it launched in `82. The two of these men are still at it. Shaffer is the Musical Director on this new Netflix special. Joining me now is Paul Shaffer who wrapped up a mini-residency at Caesar`s Palace in Las Vegas.

PAUL SHAFFER, MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Thank you for mentioning it. I had fun out there.

MELBER: It`s such a thrill to have you here. I grew up in a household that was always on Letterman watching you.

SHAFFER: Wow, Ari, what pressure I`m under right now? How am I going to live up to that?

MELBER: I think you`re going to have tons of pressure starting with your involvement as a Musical Director.

SHAFFER: I`m thrilled to be working on Dave`s new show. It`s a whole different type of position. There`s no live band. You know, as we saw from that little clip, it`s a very intimate thing that he`s doing. He has -- although he has a small audience he -- and he comes out and says hello to them at the beginning, that`s not like he does a monolog or anything. So there`s no razzmatazz music on it but he did tell me, you know, I like you to do the music and between him and his producers, they explained to me, we wanted to feel like it`s Paul`s -- it`s Dave`s old friend doing the music.

MELBER: The show does so far feel intimate. I want to take another look here at him talking to former President Obama because it is different in the way you see some of these guests.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She always mocks my dancing, but I have dad moves. And I think the key is what we call staying in the pocket.

LETTER: Staying in the pocket.

OBAMA: You got to stay in the pocket because I think everybody in here knows dads who get out of the pocket, and they`re trying stuff that they can`t really pull off. And you know they start doing like karate kicks.


MELBER: How did that show, which was you and Dave originally get people to be comfortable because you`ve now become famous, you`re like an icon, here even with the glasses, people know who you are, but you and Dave both kept the kind of an offbeat fun vibe, it didn`t feel like traditional showbiz, it certainly didn`t feel buttoned up?

SHAFFER: It certainly was the show that was totally what you see is what`s happening there. You know, all those years, if Dave was in a kind of a bad mood, you could tell. If he didn`t like the guest, you could tell. If he loved the guest, you could tell.

MELBER: If you look at Barack Obama and David Letterman together, and you have two people who seem happily retired talking to each other because they want to. I imagine you don`t get a Barack Obama interview like that unless he wants to do it.

SHAFFER: I don`t think you`re not -- you know, you`re not going to get him to be so candid, Obama made him laugh and vice versa, but still, you know, they deal with some issues that you`re not going to see, you know, normally on a -- on a late -night talk show.

MELBER: Have you seen Jimmy Kimmel talked about his family and his view on health care?


MELBER: Our own Jimmy Fallon, after Charlottesville said we`re usually funny here, but we got to stand up to this. There certainly has been in this era a more line drawing than some might have expected or thought from the old days.

SHAFFER: I think Dave was always the guy who was real and told it like it was. Didn`t everybody looked to him to see when they could come back after 9/11 and nobody budged until he did? And we saw that over and over again. The writers` strike the same thing when is Dave going back, you know? He brought that kind of realism and honesty to Late Night, I believe. And I think everybody -- all of the wonderful hosts that are on now would back me up on that and say I got it. Dave is my inspiration. They all say that.

MELBER: My final question is do you feel anything like what Dave Letterman said that not being on nightly during the Trump era is any kind of loss.

SHAFFER: Well, of course, for a comic and a guy who was going to you know, in a position of going to comment on current affairs and to have that guy playing straight for you would have been a comic`s dream, but Dave is going to figure out a way to get his licks in.

MELBER: He`ll get his licks in.

SHAFFER: Oh, right, he is.

MELBER: And you think Donald Trump is a comic`s dream?

SHAFFER: They`re all -- look at the ratings. I mean, they`re all skyrocketing in the ratings, all they have to do is mention him. People want to hear about their beloved president at the end of the day for sure.

MELBER: Paul Shaffer, thanks for coming by THE BEAT.

SHAFFER: How much fun, Ari. You got the beat.


MELBER: Now on Friday, it is time to fall back. Thank goodness. Christian Finnegan joins me from the original VH1`s Best Week Ever, a very funny comedian and I`m joined by Antonia Hylton, a Correspondent for Vice News Tonight on HBO. Antonia, who needs to fall back?

ANTONIA HYLTON, CORRESPONDENT, VICE NEWS TONIGHT: So my nomination for "FALLBACK FRIDAY" today is Justin Timberlake. And I have a couple good reasons for that. First being that his Super Bowl performance was underwhelming. His album is a little uninteresting but the most important thing, in my opinion, is that in this moment of #MeToo, Times Up, people generally trying to stand up for the things that they believe in or care about, he missed the biggest, easiest opportunity to say sorry to Janet Jackson. And I`m 100 percent team justice for Janet.

MELBER: Yes, I think you make a great point, Antonia. I would note, what did you think about the fact that his outfit was more varied than his music?

HYLTON What do you think?

MELBER: You tell me. I`m asking you.

CHRISTIAN FINNEGAN, COMEDIAN: You know, I thought the dancing was good. I would like it to be 20 percent less impressive technically and seem semi- human organic. You know what I mean?

MELBER: But it`s Super Bowl is so chore, that is just how good it is. I mean, when Beyonce and Bruno did it, it was highly choreographed but she was amazing.

FINNEGAN: There`s a way to inject life into it.

MELBER: Yes, yes. Christian, who is your nominee?

FINNEGAN: My nominee are the writing staff for the Presidential Daily Briefings. You know, everyone is going off on Trump that he`s not reading these briefings. Nobody is saying maybe these writers aren`t quite up to snuff, maybe less purple prose, maybe too many multiple syllable words, maybe bring it down a little bit.

MELBER: So you are shooting the messenger.

FINNEGAN: Yes, absolutely. I think -- and also maybe he`s a New York Post kind of guy, and maybe put in like a page six blind item, like which South Asian dictator is threatening nuclear war?

HYLTON: Have to speak to tabloid language.


MELBER: Antonia, any other fallback nominees.

HYLTON: My next fallback nominee would have to be the word memo. I don`t really want to hear it ever again.

MELBER: Because yes, it`s not real.

HYLTON: It`s not real. And I think most Americans feel a little bit gas lit by it at this point. You got the Nunes memo, we got the secret Dem memo, we got maybe more memos coming down the line and I think everyone has learned nothing at this point.

MELBER: And words are powerful because the Nunes thing was a press release, not a memo.

FINNEGAN: Yes, to me a memo means like, hey, we`re out of highlighters, don`t eat stuff out of the fridge. Memo doesn`t seem like a grandiose important thing.

HYLTON: (INAUDIBLE) basically been on that level.

MELBER: Yes, I think you guys are kind of agreeing. I want to thank you both for falling back on this Friday. We will be right back with a BEAT special announcement.


MELBER: So what happened this week? Tonight a DOJ official stepping down that could affect the Russia probe, John Kelly in a controversy, Tesla launching into space. We have a new thing for you. It`s called "BEAT THIS WEEK." It`s a special video package of what we think are the highlights. You can hit us at our Facebook page @thebeatwithari to see it and tell us what we miss. I`ll be back Monday 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.