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17 killed in deadly school shooting. TRANSCRIPT: 2/15/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Stephen Spaulding, Jess McIntosh, Andrew Cuomo

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 15, 2018 Guest: Stephen Spaulding, Jess McIntosh, Andrew Cuomo

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MTP DAILY: "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts no now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. And thank you. And thank you for your coverage on what remains a tough time.

We begin our coverage on this horrific massacre that has left a nation in shock. And as always asking what we are going to do about it. Seventeen dead, 14 wounded. This is, however familiar it may feel occasionally, this is one of the United States worst shootings in a school ever.

Today the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz appeared in court. He has been charged with 17 counts of murder for this killing spree tat a high school in Broward County, Florida. Police say he used an AR-15 assault rifle. And there are string reactions coming in from students, parents, and teachers demanding action.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congress is failing. I feel the government is failing. There has something has to be done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to do something. We need to do something as a society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s no reason that a kid, 19 years old that`s been investigated already and not even a year ago, being able to purchase AR-15.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It starts with the politicians. I believe it starts with the NRA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want us to take action. And I don`t want this to be just to be another mass shooting. I want it to be the last mass shooting.


MELBER: President Trump speaking about what is the 18 school shootings this year. He did not make a reference to the gun law.

Conservative lawmakers say it is not the time to tackle gun control. House speaker Ryan putting any brakes on that kind of talk.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What you don`t do is knee-jerk and say let`s just take away a citizen`s rights.

This is not a time to jump to some conclusions.

Right now, I just think we need to take a breath and collect the facts.


MELBER: Other lawmakers say we have the facts, let`s act.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many school shootings do we need in a given year? So I`m here to say, Mr. Chairman, please, let`s take some action. We cannot see this continue on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Cornyn brought this up to me that you and the three of us are going to sit down and talk about this.


MELBER: President Obama, who saw 12 mass shootings during his tenure speaking out and he doesn`t weigh in on the day to day policies, of course, but he is calling today for common sense gun safety laws, and he says, we are not powerless, we have to change.

Broward County is hosting a candle light vigil tonight for the victims in the community reeling from another school shooting.

Now the debate over gun reform is always, as you know, if you watch the news, if you watch these debates, you know it comes back to the NRA, a very powerful gun lobby in Washington.

We begin with the look back because it is so relevant to today. You may recall in 2002, it was senator Russ Feingold who had bipartisan legislation with John McCain to cut back on the type of money that would pour in from groups like the NRA. The law was later narrowed by the Supreme Court.

A recent audit shows that the NRA spending surged to hundreds of millions of dollars in the last election cycle. To dig into this serious debate, we turn now to former Wisconsin U.S. senator Russ Feingold.

Senator, thank you for joining me tonight.

RUSS FEINGOLD (D), FORMER WISCONSIN SENATOR: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate the invitation to be on the show, but this is just so painful. And I obviously add my voice to the families, my condolences. All Americans obviously have to feel how horrible it is for people to have to send their children to school wondering what might happen, for those children to be in school, wondering if this can happen to them, this is completely unacceptable and my heart goes out to the families.

MELBER: I hear that. And we hear that from a lot of people like yourself who worked on these issues, who have thought about this. And we, as you saw, for everyone just played some of the -- what is the usual conflicting debates we hear in the aftermath.

You are here to dig deeper on not just gun policy, which is something you know about and you worked on the Judiciary Committee. But also on what undergirds some this, which is an argument you have made and I mentioned, it`s a bipartisan argument, because Senator McCain was a long board with you. You were arguing that money distorts what democracy would otherwise produce. That the NRA is part of that problem, as we look here at people gathering there in Florida, these are people we heard from directly today saying they want action.

And so my question to you is, and obviously take as much time as you need to answer it. My question to you is, does that distorted democracy problem and that deregulated politics problem in your view power the problem we have in regulating guns in this country?

FEINGOLD: It does. I mean, what has happened here is we have reached the point where elected officials are so afraid of the various gun interests. And by the we are talking about the NRA, but you are also talking about the gun manufacturers, who make an awful lot of money about this.

So there`s campaign money. There is money that put behind the independent ads, there is even an allegation possibly that the NRA was involved with the Russians in the last election. But you know, what it is about is the fear people have that is that that money will translate into votes against them if they vote for any kind of reasonable gun regulation. So it has to do with an electoral fear as well as a fear of losing the resources.

And you know, you finally are reaching a point in this country, you have to look at anybody who doesn`t think we should have some kind of additional background checks or some restrictions on somebody getting these kinds of guns. And you have to use a phrase from an early era in American politics, which is, sir, have you at lost long last have no shame? Is there no shame that you can you look at that television and see this happened to these families and not feel an obligation to do like speaker Ryan did which to say, well, you know, this isn`t the time. This isn`t the way to handle this. Well, they never do anything about it. They just wait for the next shooting.

MELBER: Yes. When you look at the contributions of the NRA, as you mentioned, there`s the gun manufacturers, which is the corporate side of this. There is the NRA which does have many members and grassroots supporters and that is part of politics. But there is the money because most people, as you have argued throughout your career, you can`t compete with the one I put on the screen with Senator John McCain, saying he is praying for the victim but getting $7 million or senator Richard Burr saying his heart was with the people of Las Vegas when you had that shooting, but $6.9 million from the NRA or senator Marco Rubio who talked about praying and has been in the center, this debate based on his remarks over the past day, getting $3 million from the NRA. What do you think would happen if some of that money was removed from this equation?

FEINGOLD: Well, I think it would help. Look, you know, the part of this is related to the citizens united decision which, you know, took limits off of the kind of money that could come into campaigns, a lot of the money could be sort of hidden and difficult to track. So even though there always was some money involved with the NRA, issue with the gun issues, now it`s sort of exponentially increased.

If we could put the Jeannie back in the bottom and a lot of the various public policy, and not have such an incredible imbalance or tweeting the money on the side of corporate interest like gun manufacturers and have some kind of balance in our system, some kind of public financing or vouchers or something to make elections a little bit more balanced, that would make a great difference.

Look. Even the NRA members from Wisconsin where I am from, many of them don`t believe in the stuff. They don`t really think that we should have come kind of background checks that are appropriate with regard to buying guns at a gun show. They don`t think people necessarily should be able to have these enormous ammo clips.

That`s not the view of the vast majority of the people in the state of Wisconsin, including I would say most NRA members. So who`s doing this?

You`re right, Ari. It`s the money, the money manufacturer and gun lobby money that is in destroying this. It does not reflect the will even of law abiding citizens who want to have firearms for legitimate purposes.

MELBER: Yes. You say that. So let`s apply that to the specific debate which a lot of politics as we know is parochial (ph). And people think about what hits not. When you look at the debates over just the last couple of years on gun background checks, the Congress trying to make sure that even people on the terror no-fly list, even people who were, according to the social department potentially suffering from mental disabilities or mental instability and fugitives, people who were literally fugitives under the laws crossing state lines, et cetera, all of those people were basically given extra protection by Congress so that it would easier for them to buy guns.

And you served in the senate. I was, you know, a junior aide in the senate, you know. That cuts against what we usually see there, which is everybody worried about their own parochial stuff, but most constituents as you know, and most gun owners aren`t on those lists. And most people think, God, if you are on the no-fly list, and we won`t trust you to get on the plane, because you might take the plane down with just your hands, why would we trust you with an AR-15?

Can you speak to that part of the background checks where those aren`t even people that would seem to be a big political constituency.

FEINGOLD: Well, this, what are you are at here is a disconnect between what the actual voter and one of these persons` state or districts wants or believes. They don`t think somebody should be able to get access to these kinds of weapons, really. They don`t think a 19-year-old that`s having these kinds of problems should have access to these kind of ammo clips. And yes, they are not that concerned of an impact on them of some of the things you have just described.

But there`s a disconnect between our entire political system and the average citizen`s role in it and the role of corporate and big money domination of the entire system. It`s ripped away from people the real participation in the Democratic process because the masters of the politicians and the incumbents now is not the people in their states or districts, it is the masters of money. It is the corporate interests that are calling the shots in my state and throughout the country.


Senator, we begin with you tonight for this reason. And to think deeply about some of the underlying causes. I thank you for joining us, senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin.

We turn now to two more important parts of this. A reporter on the ground, NBC`s Tammy Leitner who is outside of the school in Parkland, Florida, a town where the crowds are gathering. And in a moment we will also speak to a student there.

Tammy, what is the latest?

TAMMY LEITNER, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Ari, I can tell you the vigil is going on just a short distance from where we are. But just a short while ago we got briefed by the sheriff`s department in some new information. Still nothing about the motive, but we now know that it appears that the shooter Nikolas Cruz targeted certain classrooms. He went back and forth between certain classrooms on different levels in the school. We also know that he dropped the rifle in the school, ran out the back of the school and that`s when he blended in with other students who were running from the campus, running from him. They obviously didn`t know that he was blending in with them.

We also learned more about his whereabouts, where he went after that. He ran over to a Walmart. He then sat in a subway, ordered a drink. From there he went to a McDonald`s. And finally he was just walking down a residential neighborhood, when a local police officer spotted him, though he matched the description, and he thought this can`t be the guy. He looks like any other high school kid. That`s when he said, his cop instinct kicked in. He stopped him. He took him into custody without any problems.

Ari, e have also learned a little bit more that the FBI did have contact with a complaint about this guy last year. He had posted something on You Tube saying that he wanted to become a school shooter. But they were never able to confirm the identity of the person who actually posted it. So they said that complaint went nowhere -- Ari.

NBC`s Tammy Leitner who has been reporting on this story for us. Thank you.

I turn now to Isabella Gomez who is a student from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.

I want to thank you for speaking with us. I understand you were inside the school during the shooting and I understand that you lost some of your friends.

What happened yesterday? What did you see when you were in the school?

ISABELLA GOMEZ, SURVIVOR IN THE HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING: I was in class and the fire alarm went off. We didn`t hear any gunshots, but we all started going down. We had a substitute They told us to go down. And they were just -- everyone`s freaking out, saying that it was a real fire and that everyone was going down the stairs. I was on the third floor.

And on the second floor, I was about to grab the door to get down to make sure that everyone could get out from the second floor. And all I feel is just like gunshots, like on the walls, just like pop, pop, like just going after repetitive. Everyone just started freaking out. And everyone started running upstairs. And no one knew what to do. No one knew what was going on. I was really confused. Like everyone just thought it was like a false alarm, like a drill, because this had happened in another school before.

And everyone started running upstairs. And we are on complete shocked. And as soon as I`m running upstairs, I`m on a second turn to get to the third floor and all you hear is the door open and just shots in the staircase. Just - everyone just loud noises, everyone screaming, everyone trampling over each other to get back to their classes on the third floor.

And we get back in. We got some kids back in. We dive behind my teacher`s desk. And from then once we closed the door, all we just heard was just shot after shot. It was just never stopping. And after that, we just waited until the SWAT came and got us. We didn`t know who they were. We thought it was the shooter, so we didn`t open the door for them. They almost broke down our door, but then one of the kids went to the door and looked that they came and got us and they took us out.

MELBER: And when you were then evacuating, did you see any of the scene? Did you see any other students who had been hurt or killed?

GOMEZ: Yes, I did. They were everywhere. They were -- when we walked out, they were saying, guys, it`s going to be OK, be calm. Just be careful. Like just look forward. Hold on to each other`s shoulders. Just don`t freak out. Try, just close your eyes and I couldn`t keep my eyes closed. Everything was just happening so quickly. There was just screaming, I couldn`t like bear to see anything that was going on. It was just person after person. There was blood everywhere. There was people holding on to the handles, probably trying to get into the room. There was just -- it was horrible. There was just blood everywhere. There was people, pieces.

MELBER: It sounds impossible to imagine. When you and I spoke earlier today, you mentioned that you -- two of your friends were killed. Could you tell us about them?

GOMEZ: Yes. I wasn`t really close with them. One of them was Joaquin Oliver, who is a really sweet kid. My condolences go out to his family. He was just full of life all the time. He was such a good kid. He was so sweet to everyone. He was just the life of the party all the time.

Meadow Pollack, the sweetest girl I know. She always had a smile on her face in school, never meant harm to anyone. She would always say hi to me, because she would always like to check up on me. She was someone that my brother used to date years ago. But I wasn`t really close with her.

MELBER: You said she was your brother`s ex?


MELBER: You know. My last question is, how is everyone doing? How are the families doing? If you know, and we are looking at some of our viewers are seeing some of the footage of what looks to be a very large gathering there at the vigil. How is everyone holding up during what is such a tragedy for any community to go through, any family?

GOMEZ: I mean, OK, I was there on Pine Trails Park earlier today, it right now is the vigil and the candle lighting. And people are just - everyone is just really staying together. Everyone is holding on to each other. I feel like this is going to bring our community together. It`s sad that this is what it takes, but I feel like everyone is just going through something so hard that they had to witness and all these families that lost their kids and injured and all these friends, that we lost all of these people at our school, such sweet people. I mean -- I don`t know. They are going through something. But I think we are all here for each other.

MELBER: Yes. You said you don`t know. I don`t know either. But as you say, when we cover these stories, sometimes we do see communities come together, we see so much pain and we see so much suffering, but we do also see unity. And so we are listening and learning and bearing witness to some of that.

Isabella Gomez, thank you for spending some time with us tonight.

GOMEZ: Of course. No problem.

MELBER: Thank you.

We will keep you posted on this throughout the hour.

Coming up, there is a lot of other news including Steve Bannon spending 20 hours with Bob Mueller in the Russia probe. That is brand-new information.

We are also following the money in a scandal that continues engulf the Trump presidency with statements from his lawyer that have only added questions.

Also, I will return to this story later tonight. I have a Special Report on the history of gun laws in America and one thing that I think we need to do right now.

Also on "the Beat" tonight, New York governor Andrew Cuomo who wants to speak out on gun control as well. And he will join me live on "the Beat."

I`m Ari Melber. And we will be right back.


MELBER: How much ground can you cover in 20 hours? That`s a big question, because that`s roughly how long Steve Bannon met behind closed doors secretly this week with Bob Mueller`s Russia investigators. That`s according to sources that spoke to NBC.

Twenty hours of interviews, all of this coming after new reports that Bannon was going to dish everything he knows and he was part of the secret effort to save Jeff Sessions` job.

I`m joined by Bill Kristol from the "Weekly Standard" and former federal prosecutor Paul Butler.

Paul, I will start with you. Twenty hours is a long time. This is a key witness. What does this tell you?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, can we talk about how Bannon just totally dissed the House intelligence committee? But he seems to be running scared of Mueller, so he said to the House I`m not talking to you guys. I will answer yes or no questions, but Mueller, 20 hours? Man, with the FBI and some of the country`s best prosecutors?

Ari, I think obviously they are asking him about the firing of James Comey. They are asking him about Michael Flynn. And they are asking him about all those wild things that he said in that book "Fire and Fury" including that President Trump while a candidate kept trying to meet with Vladimir Putin and famously, Bannon said that the road to Donald Trump is money laundering and that route goes right through Kushner and Trump Jr. So I don`t even know if 20 hours was enough time to get into all of that.

MELBER: Yes. Well, you mentioned the parallel tracks in the house committee. Take a listen on that.


REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R-TX), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: He did not answer all the questions we would like answered. And so a little frustration among the committee members with respect to that. We have further steps to take and we will be taking those.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Certainly it will be our recommendation to our leadership that we initiate contempt proceedings.


MELBER: So you have Adam Schiff the Democrat there talking about contempt, that`s obviously a big deal, and yet it is not, as you just mentioned, it`s not the biggest legal part because Mueller has a lot more teeth and a lot more evidence. When you think about --

BUTLER: Well, and a lot more courage, frankly. Again, the House has the same contempt power that Mueller does. But the keyword you mentioned with congressman Schiff is Democrat. Because it`s the Republicans who control that committee. And they are not fulfilling their constitutional responsibility. They are supposed to check the executive and they are falling flat on their faces with regard to that.

MELBER: So, Bill, how do you handicap all of this in the spirit of all the self-interested leaking that`s going on. Because part of what we saw in "Fire and Fury," for people who get too excited about Bannon throwing out big words is, he had a blood feud with people in his own team, including Trump family members, he would do anything to discredit them. And there is an argument that that makes him a less credible witness because it may not be about just the Russia facts.

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER/EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, but I don`t think at this point it`s about people`s motives or what they like or don like, you are testifying before a grand jury here before as special counsel himself with FBI agents under penalty of perjury. I presumed you are got intelligence. So I think what we know is that Robert Mueller knows an awful lot.

I mean, Bannon, Priebus and McGahn, if I`m not mistaken, have all testified. I believe they all have the same counsel, (INAUDIBLE) to be in the Bush White house, very well respected defense counsel. I assumed he is - and I think you have lawyers, correct me if I`m wrong, if people have the same counsel, the proved to they are not at odds with one another, which means I take it they were all kind of cooperating with special counsel, with Bob Mueller.

And so, you know, how many conversations was Trump in with Priebus, Bannon and McGahn. Heck of a lot. And it is not clear to me that you can exert executive privilege once you are not in the White House anymore about conversations with the President. Not maybe you can before Congress. But not I think before the special counsel if they are investigating crime.

So what I think is that Robert Mueller knows everything and is moving faster than people think and is going to do -- this thing is not going to drag on forever. And one has the impression that they think they are learning a lot. They had 20 hours. That`s not just, you know, let`s tie up few loose ends on Paul Manafort`s money dealings in 2009. This is about Trump.

MELBER: It is about Trump. And it also may be about the campaign. There are witnesses who have come in with a very discrete government portfolio which at the end of the day means they are speaking about a certain number of months, but Steve Bannon was back there during the campaign when there were all these other questions.

Let me read to you something else he said, Bill.

Mueller is doing a rollup just like he did with the Gambinos, Manafort, the - I don`t even know how you say it, (INAUDIBLE), Gate is a made man, Papadopoulos equivalent to a quote "wise guy out in a social club in Brooklyn." If you`re not going to fight, you are going to get rolled over. Bill?

KRISTOL: Well, Bannon`s not fighting, I think, so he has decided to roll over, it looks like. Bannon loves all that hyperbolic rhetoric and those metaphors. At the end of the day, as you guys know better than I, if you are dealing with a serious prosecutor, you can bluster all you want about, you fight, you know, you are testifying and you are under penalty of perjury, and you need to go and tell the truth or not. And it just looks to be like Mueller is systematically discovering everything he needs to know about Trump, also about Kushner and other members, what he now does, whether you indict someone other that Trump like Kushner. They are really tighten the screws. I think that is quite possible. But what do I know? That is pure guessing.

But it just feels to me like this investigation is further along than the conventional wisdom has had it. And that is focus on Trump. I really don`t buy the argument that, you know, he is just doing his job. But if you investigate, see, he might indict a few people who have been misleading along the course of the way. He is clearly thinks that there`s at least a plausible chance that Donald Trump has obstructed justice or done illegal things during the campaign or both and he is going - he is talking to the people who would have the most knowledge about what Trump has at least said about it and maybe what Trump had done about it also.

MELBER: And that would go a long way towards explaining why people who seem to be in the no and in the Intel and elsewhere where Trump allies have seem to be so panicked, especially in the last two to three weeks.

Bill Kristol and Paul Butler, thank you both.

Up ahead, another big story that keeps getting weirder. Adult film star Stormy Daniels says she can now speak out about her history with Donald Trump because his own lawyer just violated she said their NDA.

And again, as I mentioned, later in the show, I have a legal breakdown of why gun control is more complicated than you think and why now might be a time to act.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Tonight the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels is saying she`ll break her silence about her history with Donald Trump because of new comments from the man who arranged her now infamous $130,000 hush money payment. Michael Cohen, the longtime lawyer for Trump who has released this unusual statement about all of this. Cohen admitting to arranging that payment, denying the money came from the Trump campaign or from the Trump organization.

Now, that alone is news. The President`s lawyer confirming parts of this very unusual story all because of federal complaint about whether that payment actually broke election laws. A story we reported right here on THE BEAT when Common Cause`s Paul Ryan detailed their complaint. So Cohen is admitting to one problem, someone paid for this person`s silence. And he`s doing it to rebut a bigger problem, the allegation that that payment itself was an illegal campaign contribution. But much of the reporting about Cohen`s new position has been wrong.

Look at this Fox News headline or the New York Times who first broke this story, wrongly stating Cohen said he paid her out of pocket. He did not say that, and these matters. Cohen used the words out of pocket to try to make it seem like he was admitting to personally paying this hush money and then he got some headlines that he wanted which is what lawyers do. But look at the actual words. Cohen`s out of pocket personal funds were only to, "facilitate a payment and says that the Trump`s campaign and the company did not reimburse him directly or indirectly." So he facilitated a payment, but that doesn`t mean he actually paid for it himself. Cohen could be reimbursed by someone else. He doesn`t even say whether his client Donald Trump reimburse him, and that would be typical because and most clients don`t just donate money to solve their clients problems.

In fact, American Bar Association`s rules prohibit lawyers from paying for client`s issues saying a lawyer shall not provide financial assistance to a client in connection with contemplated litigation. The only exception would be when clients are too poor to pay a settlement and Donald Trump certainly is not admitting to that. So why am I telling you all this? Because this is a big story and you have to put aside the misleading lawyer jargon. Here`s what we know. They did pay for this woman`s silence right before the election. They did try to hide that payment. And then they only admitted all this because of the legal pressure. And they did work the media a little bit with that confusing statement.

But as you know, you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can`t fool all the people all the time. Joining me first on THE BEAT is that Common Cause Chief of Strategy here, that`s of course the group that filed complaint with the FEC, Stephen Spaulding. He was the special counsel to the former FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel. And along with me is Jess McIntosh, Executive Director of Shareblue which works with Democratic campaigns and issues. And Stephen, starting with you, does it concern you that Michael Cohen worked the press on this or are you confident in the long run that he can`t work the FEC the same way?

STEPHEN SPAULDING, CHIEF OF STRATEGY, COMMON CAUSE: Well, let me just start out with the basic premise and why Common Cause filed this complaint. Americans have a right to know who was trying to influence their votes and our views in their campaigns, including when $130,000 is funneled through a Delaware LLC a week after an explosive bombshell tape from Access Hollywood came out with the President bragging about sexual assault. Suddenly this $130,000 payment is made. So when you have Mr. Cohen`s admission now, saying that he helped to facilitate that payment, that just underscores the need for the FEC, and I know it`s easy to get lost in the Alphabet Soup of Washington that we all slurp down here but that`s the Federal Election Commission`s job. It`s to enforce our campaign finance laws and to investigate. That`s what we`re asking for. We think --

MELBER: Hey, my viewers know what the FEC is and we been on the story, are you going to win or not?

SPAULDING: Absolutely. I totally agree. I hope so. I mean, I think the legal standard here is, is there reason to believe that a violation may have occurred? And given all of the circumstances of this payment and Mr. Cohen`s frankly bizarre statement earlier this week, I think that just further shows the need for the FEC to get to the bottom of this, to put people under oath and determine who paid whom for what and to uphold their campaign finance laws that are supposed to protect our democracy and provide transparency and hold power accountable.

MELBER: And Jess, this is coming from the campaign that wanted to drain the swamp, that said that Hillary Clinton did not keep track you know, of her Clinton Foundation money the right way. You know, Stephen has an agenda here. We clearly disclose it. But Stephen could lose, this could be legal, and it could still be a really bad thing?

JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SHAREBLUE: Well, yes, I feel like getting it for an FEC violation is a little bit like getting Al Capone for tax fraud. Like I hope he wins, I want him to, I hope he get -- we should not be committing election -- FEC violations at all. However, if you are paying somebody to be quiet about a really bad thing you did, you have proven that you are susceptible to blackmail. That is literally what blackmail is. No one`s saying that Stormy Daniels extorted this money, but if you are paying for silence because you did something so wrong you need to keep it from everybody, that is a major national security problem.

MELBER: Well, Jess, and you`re raising another question, which is what if the now admitted underlying type of contact is the same as the topic of the alleged blackmail, unverified, in a very controversial dossier that Trump always says is not true?

MCINTOSH: Right, absolutely. And sending your lawyer out with a statement so ridiculous as to suggest that he paid for it out of his -- we were meant to take what we -- I think what a lot of people took from that statement which was that he paid $130,000 out of the goodness of his own heart and out of his own wallet. You certainly have a better handle on the legal grasp of things that I do, but to facilitate a payment, that could meant that money went to him to go somewhere else. You don`t even need to call that a reimbursement.

MELBER: It literally means that Donald Trump could have then loaned him the entire sum the very next day.

MCINTOSH: Exactly. Yes.

SPAULDING: Can I just say --

MELBER: Real quickly.

SPAULDING: In addition to the -- in addition to the FEC, we also filed a complaint with the Department of Justice to examine whether there was a knowing and willful violation. So again, we know the President goes after -- well, you know, he fails to tell the truth, as does his team. He goes after any institutions that try to hold him accountable, whether it`s the press or the Department of Justice, but we`re going to do our part to ensure that our laws are upheld. No one is above the law, including the President.

MELBER: And as we always say, I really appreciate you guys facilitating your time to be here-- no, no one says that, because that`s not how normal people talk. Jess McIntosh and Stephen Spaulding, thank you both. Now, up next, as I mentioned, I have a special legal report on some very important myths surrounding the gun gridlock in Congress, real reasons for the stalemate and what needs to be done. It`s my special report tonight in 90 seconds.


MELBER: It`s happened again, another school shooting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s happened again, a mass shooting at an American school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Columbine High School, the hard work now begins for school counselors who must help students deal with the terror.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 33 dead, at least 26 wounded, this one single incident will no doubt affect every American student.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Newtown today, a shock gave way to the horror of reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We find comfort, reflecting on the incredible person that Emily was and how many lives that she was able to touch in her short time here on earth.


MELBER: Now we begin this process anew. We listen to the grieving families, we bear witness to the murders, we hear the politicians craft their responses. We see the alarming statistics that circulate in the wake of these shootings, the numbers picked on the hope that maybe this time, maybe this tragedy will galvanize action. We see statistics showing some of these murders are preventable in places where guns are harder to get. Statistics showing America is now the most dangerous place a rich child can grow up in a rich country. We see statistics showing that the NRA dictates the gun debate and the GOP Congress makes it easier for people to get guns, even the mentally unstable. And this process that we do after the shooting itself can be exhausting.

It is a somber rite of passage now for a society that is increasingly accustomed to these mass murders even if we don`t want to be accustomed to this. But like so many political debates, especially right now, a lot of the reflexive instantaneous political reactions are off base, and not just from the NRA which arrogantly lectures the nation on when is the right time to discuss laws to keep our children safe, and not just from President Trump who hypocritically tweeted about mental health after he signed the very law making it easier for mentally unstable people to buy firearms. That`s bad. But so is the claim from some Democratic politicians that this is only Republicans` fault and you know, if the Democratic party were in charge, these mass murder weapons would definitely be regulated. The history of gun laws here is instructive and on a night like tonight it is worth addressing.

Now, over the past decade, Republicans in Congress and conservative groups have led the charge to radically deregulate safety protections and anything to keep guns out of the wrong hands. That includes passing bills, making it easier for fugitives to buy guns, for as I mention, the mentally unstable, for people to avoid background checks, for people to buy guns through loopholes and waging lawsuits to push the Supreme Court to recognize even wider individual gun rights. That`s Republicans, but they were not completely alone. There were Democrats in Congress who helped.

Now, when you hear pundits say well, if Democrats win back Congress, this will all change? Well, maybe, because these issues could be shifting, but the fact is that when Democrats did have control of Congress and the White House, they didn`t pass gun control legislation, they didn`t renew the assault weapons ban that Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Bill Clinton had long ago set into law. When the NRA pushed a bill to give gun manufacturers total immunity back in 2005, to give them basically more protection than any other corporate industry, it took 14 Senate Democrats to put that bill over the top, plus Bernie Sanders in the House. Here was Democrat Max Baucus arguing that victims of gun violence don`t deserve their day in court against the NRA`s gun lobby.


MAX BAUCUS, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: And I am rising today to ask my colleagues to support the protection of lawful commerce and arms act. An increasing number of lawsuits are being filed against the firearms industry seeking damages for wrongs committed by persons who misused the industry`s product.


MELBER: Or other Democrats arguing gun victims should not be able to use the courts to pursue gun control.


Rick Boucher, Former Democratic Congressman: The lawsuits against the firearms industry are nothing more than thinly veiled attempts to circumvent the legislative process and achieve gun control through litigation.


MELBER: Or take Democratic Senator Bill Nelson from Florida who has been speaking out today about this shooting in his home state and advocating background checks. And he may be genuinely committed. He`s clearly grieving with those families. But as a Democrat in Florida, he also voted for that same NRA bill to protect gun manufacturers in 2005. If politicians are going to talk about policy at times like this, they need to be held accountable on their policy record. As for the assault weapons ban, which most Democrats in Congress did support originally 25 years ago, well, just five years ago it was the very top Democrat in the Senate Harry Reid, openly battling another Democrat Dianne Feinstein to argue that banning those heavy weapons didn`t make sense.


HARRY REID, FORMER DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: Frankly, and she knows I haven`t read her amendment. I didn`t vote for the assault weapons last time because it didn`t make sense. But I`ll look at it.


MELBER: It didn`t make sense. The gun stances of Harry Reid and Max Baucus and Bernie Sanders may not have aged well. And these Democrats have every right to continue to evolve. There was evolution by President Obama who deployed great energy and executive orders in his second term after the Newtown mass murder and during his first term when the Democrats did partly control Congress, the Obama administration did not prioritize passing gun control, they left a lot to be done.

Now, the tragedies in his second term did move him to all those executive actions. The point here is not to seek an equivalence that departs from the facts. Congressional Republicans are the main protector of the gun lobby, that fact is not even debatable, it is why the NRA publicly prefers Republicans and overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump`s campaign. And it is again, the Trump administration literally using federal power right now to put more guns in the hands of fugitives and the mentally unstable, and people on the no-fly list, right now.

But let`s be clear as we deal with what`s happening. Those Republicans did not act alone. It`s empty for some politicians right now to offer thoughts and prayers for tragedies they could have helped prevent by legislation but it is also empty for other politicians to pretend their side is pure when some of them have historically been part of the problem. And this is not a matter of nuance or fact checking tonight. This is a prerequisite for the change so many Americans are seeking. When we see another shooting, another line of children running from another heavily armed murder, another school turned into another crime scene with piles adolescent bodies, another series of eulogies and ceremonies and funerals with small coffins built for people who have not grown up yet, children who were murdered, murdered before they were allowed to grow up. This is about them not about political parties, because people in both parties need to change.


MELBER: -- the nation reflects on the mass murder in Florida, I am joined by the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo who spoken out and led on gun control issues. Thanks for joining me tonight. Your view of what we just saw yesterday.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Ari, look, first, obviously, the pain of those families strikes us all. We all felt it. We can all relate to it. They`re in our thoughts and prayers. My only hope is it actually causes this nation to actually move and do something. We`ve gone through too many of them. We`re almost now calloused by the frequency of these events. But it was horrific and I hope it prompts action as it should.

MELBER: You led with the safe act in New York. There are certain states particularly northeastern states that have done more particularly after Sandy Hook. Did anything that happened in New York provide a blueprint for other plays or in your view, is it always depend on the local politics?

CUOMO: No, look, it`s the same issue always and it`s a relatively simple equation. You`ll hear politicians now in Washington saying, well, it`s not a gun issue, it`s a mental health issue. No, it`s a mentally ill person with a gun issue. That`s what it is. And the answer is, mentally ill people shouldn`t have guns and you shouldn`t have guns as dangerous as an AR-15, which means what we did in New York, which wasn`t easy but background checks for everyone. They say we have background checks, that`s baloney. There`s a background check if you walk into a gun store. If you can`t pass a background check, you buy it privately or you buy it at a gun show, background check for everyone. Database, Ari, of people who are mentally ill, we now have a database of 77,000 people who have been reported in who are mentally ill from hospitals, doctors, et cetera and they`re on what we call the no buy list.

MELBER: Right.

CUOMO: Because you have a list of people are mentally ill. And then we banned any new AR-15s. Why? Because the risk outweighs the reward. You don`t hunt with an AR-15. You don`t do anything with an AR-15 except having intent to hurt many people.

MELBER: Do you think you could move -- do you think you could move the president on any of this.

CUOMO: Can I move the President? No. Can the American people move any politician? Yes. Is there an energy that is generated by a crisis like this? Yes. I passed the safe act in New York days after Sandy Hook, right? Because let`s be honest. Politicians are afraid of this issue. It is a tough issue for politicians. They fear the backlash from the conservatives and the Second Amendment types. And by the way, it`s a legitimate fear. When I passed the safe act, I took a political pounding. My favorability dropped because I trampled the Second Amendment.

MELBER: Right.

CUOMO: Now five years later it, hasn`t made a difference to any legitimate hunter or any legitimate --

MELBER: Right. I`ve got one more thing to ask you. Your argument is that you lived to see another day. While I have you, we`re speaking in the middle of a trial on one of your top former aides on bribery. What is your view of that and if proven, do you see the allegations unacceptable, the idea that he took bribes while working in conjunction with your team?

CUOMO: Well, obviously, if proven bribes are unacceptable, Ari. But I was Assistant District Attorney. I was the Attorney General in New York before I was Governor. I did hundreds of cases. And we`re in the middle of a trial right now and I respect that process and I respect the integrity of the jury and the prosecutors and the judge so I don`t want to comment on it while it`s going on but if proven, then obviously.

MELBER: I hear you on that and maybe then we can get to you to come back and discuss this and other issues in the future. An important night and I appreciate you making the time New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

CUOMO: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, Sir. And we will be right back.


MELBER: Thanks for staying with us for the hour. I do have a program note of something a little different. The very highly anticipated Black Panther movie opens at midnight tonight. And tomorrow, one of the stars will be on THE BEAT, Winston Duke on Black Panther`s social and political impact as well as his origin story coming all the way here to be in this very anticipated movie. That is our show. "HARDBALL" is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Frozen in the headlights. Let`s play HARDBALL.