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Mueller eyes Trump's effort to fire him. TRANSCRIPT: 03/08/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Mazie Hirono, Elizabeth Spiers, Joyce Vance, Stacey Dash

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: March 8, 2018 Guest: Mazie Hirono, Elizabeth Spiers, Joyce Vance, Stacey Dash

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Ari, you know, one of those days where you have to deal with breaking news in your hour, perhaps.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Perhaps. We will be watching. Thank you, Chuck.

TODD: You got it, brother.

MELBER: Our top story tonight, Bob Mueller seems to be everywhere and Donald Trump`s efforts to spin him are clearly backfiring.

Take Virginia, this is where Mueller`s prosecutors were just today pressing new charges against Paul Manafort. And added another ankle monitor to the indicted former Trump aid. Now he was wearing one from Mueller`s charges in Washington. This is a second one. Those are two places in the United States.

Mueller also probing this apparent plot to hatch a Trump-Russia back channel in the say-shells (ph). This "New York Times" report also shows Trump inappropriately talking to Mueller`s witnesses about his own attempt to fire Mueller, but Mueller already learned about that conversation.

So consider what all these stories amount to. We are seeing a picture of Bob Mueller hunting down Trump aids quite effectively. And a picture of Donald Trump trying to hunt down Mueller, but ineffectively.

Donald Trump asking his White House counsel to get Mueller fired, then asking him to deny it, which that counsel, Don McGahn refused. And then we see Trump confronting him about that and claiming it never happened.

Now Mueller has that exchange, as does the "New York Times." Take it all together, and you see something pretty big and important here. Trump tries to move on Mueller and fails and Mueller catches him doing it. And then when Trump starts to ask people to deny that that ever happened, those people, some of whom who work for or with Trump, they report his plot to Mueller. So now Mueller had that too.

Now that not just embarrassing, it`s not just a little shady, this story is legally important because every time Donald Trump hides his efforts to pressure or hobble this criminal probe, he is literally giving prosecutors like here you go, evidence of the potential corrupt intent. This was the same problem with Trump firing Comey and pressuring the Flynn probe, it`s bad if you show that you know it`s bad as James Comey himself once testified.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I spoke to the attorney general and I spoke to the new deputy attorney general Mr. Rosenstein when he took office and explained my serious concern about the way in which the President is interacting, especially with the FBI. I asked the -- told the attorney general, it can`t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the President talks to me.


MELBER: It can`t happen that you get kicked out of the room, Comey telling Congress under oath that is exactly the kind of thing that is suspicious because it suggests the person doing the kicking out of the room knows they are doing something wrong.

So the question tonight, does this all amount to obstruction, to witness tampering? We don`t know. We here can report on the evidence that`s piling up. Whether there`s a crime to charge would be a legal judgment and that just hadn`t been made yet, whether people like it or not. Bob Mueller is the authority who will make it. But that caution doesn`t mean there`s nothing else to take from this bombshell reporting. The man who argued Obama`s cases at the Supreme Court, solicitor general Neal Katyal, he says that Donald Trump is now showing a lack of integrity. Katyal defended Osama bin Laden`s driver and he invoked that controversial case itself to make this point about Trump`s conduct.


NEAL KATYAL, FORMER U.S. ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL: It looks so bad. And basically you have got Donald Trump acting like a two-bit criminal here and saying to witnesses like Priebus, hey, what did you say, you know? Were you nice to me and so on?

That is horrible. You know, I`m a defense lawyer. I love a challenge. You know, I represented bin Laden`s driver. And let me tell you, bin Laden`s driver acted with far more integrity in every stage in the investigation than Donald Trump has so far.


MELBER: That`s harsh. You know, there is an old country song from (INAUDIBLE). The former U.S. solicitor general is saying that President Trump, from bin Laden`s driver to you isn`t up.

And apparently tonight, we are reporting live from the gutter and Bob Mueller looks to be on top of all of it. I turn now to former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance and White House reporter Francesca Chambers.

Joyce, how bad is it and how important is it that some of this witness discussion relates to the potential removal of Bob Mueller himself?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So it`s bad, Ari, not just in the legal sense, not just in the sense that there are people who will face criminal charges as the Mueller investigation moves forward, it`s also bad for our institutions.

We expect the President to have respect for the foundational institutions like the justice department that are part of our democracy. And here we have the President of the United States flouting the norms that protect those agencies, clearly trying to influence practices and policies, and whether it rises to the level of actually trying to inappropriately influence a witness or trying to interfere and obstruct an investigation.

What he has done over the last year to weaken those institutions, in order to protect himself and his friends is devastating. It`s hard work that we will have to do to climb back up that hill when this administration ends.

MELBER: And Joyce, I don`t know if you are familiar with Trump aides who appear in public and make these dark jokes about the lives they are living at the White House. Take a look at the man of the hour here, Don McGahn, the lawyer for Trump as White House council speaking at CPAC.


DON MCGAHN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I advise the President on a range of issues, essentially government law that the President has to encounter on a day-to-day basis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that involves you in just about everything?

MCGAHN: Unfortunately, yes.


MELBER: That`s a lawyer joke, unfortunately, yes, because he has got his work cut out for him.

What do you think of the clear rule he is playing, as someone who is reporting back to Mueller, tattling, to use a simple term on his own boss?

VANCE: You know, it`s hard to judge other people. I was President Obama`s U.S. attorney in Birmingham for eight years. So clearly a job with far less responsibility than White House counsel, but I never had anything but the utmost respect for my boss and for the work that I did and the environment that I did it in.

There`s a part of every lawyer that cringes when we hear the White House counsel making comments like this and wondering why he is still there, while at the same time, we all I think have to appreciate people who are making personal sacrifices to see the work of government going forward. We will only know how this really plays out when we see everything at the end of this investigation and learn whether McGahn was one of those forces who is trying to keep the trains on time or whether he perhaps too will also have some exposure as this concludes.

MELBER: Francesca, it is hard to track just how many stories have hit the White House this week. They are under pressure from Stormy Daniels, which came up in the briefing room you are reporting from. And we have more of that later in the show. This Mueller news is huge. The witness news is huge. And you had Mr. Sam Nunberg also as well as Roger Stone, witnesses speaking out on TV all week. Give us your take from the White House.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY MAIL: Well, and then you also had Cory Lewandowski on Capitol Hill, today the former campaign manager for Donald Trump. So a number of converging story lines here on Russia and on Mueller. The White House not talking today about any of these things.

But if you look to the former White House press secretary Sean Spicer who was on television today, and potentially that gives you a mind-eye (ph) into the White House`s thinking. He said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with President Trump asking if he did. And that`s not what he is asserting. But if he did ask any of his former White House officials or allies, what they discussed with Mueller, that there wouldn`t be anything wrong with that if he asked them, how it went or if he was nice to them, not specifically at that point obstructing justice in any way.

MELBER: Well, Francesca, on that point, sure. I can see giving it the most benign reading, but the Times article here includes him basically allegedly telling someone, yes, remember I didn`t really try to get Mueller fired, which is the kind of issue that is under review in the obstruction and the reporting is that he did.

CHAMBERS: And that is something that special counsel is supposedly looking at as well. And then again, moving on to Corey Lewandowski on Capitol Hill today, you have him being asked about what he potentially knew about that Trump tower meeting in June of 2016, between the Russian lawyer, the President`s son, the President`s son-in-law and Paul Manafort. And he says that he answered all relevant questions about his time with President Trump and Russia.

However, at the same time, rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on that committee saying that is not true and saying that not only has Lewandowski failed to answer relevant questions, so had Steve Bannon and so has Hope Hicks. Adam Schiff also suggested that Steven Miller, the senior policy adviser could find himself in the hot seat next with the committee. Although Republicans are hoping to wrap up and work soon on the investigative side and start writing their report.

MELBER: Right. And Mr. Miller famously was involved in the letter -- initial draft regarding the removal of Comey and said on television that the President`s powers would not be questioned, which is not true.

I`m going to get to a senator. So thank you both, Francesca and Joyce.

I turn you to the Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono.

Senator, Hi. Your views of these reports that the President who is literally under review for obstruction was talking to these witnesses.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, the chaos continues with the President and in the White House. And there are regular practically daily, hourly revelations that point to a pattern of behavior by the President and those around him that have to do with obstruction of justice, possibly witness tampering, any number of very, very concerning behaviors. But there`s definitely a pattern.

I think it`s hard for the President to keep track of, you know, the lies, the outright lies and the obfuscation that he has been engaging in.

MELBER: Are you suggesting that perhaps the list of lies has even longer than the list of staff departures?

HIRONO: Well, that`s how - you know what? With so many senior people, mature people leaving the White House, Trump is left basically with himself which is a very scary proposition for the country.

MELBER: That`s also a fair point.

I want to play for you another Democrat who like you has raised some of these concerns, Congressman Adam Schiff talking about that news today with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Questions about the production of the false statement concerning the Trump tower meeting, questions about the firing of James Comey as well as any discussions so that Mr. Lewandowski had with the President about the potential of firing Bob Mueller. These and other questions went unanswered.


MELBER: That was his readout at least of things that they did not find out from that testimony, your view, Senator?

HIRONO: Ari, this is why the Mueller investigation has to continue, has to go forward, because as I say, there are revelations on a regular basis. And they point to conspiracy, obstruction of justice, all are very concerning areas that the Mueller investigation has to get to the bottom of.

And by the way, as I said on the armed services committee, it is very clear from the testimony before that committee over the last few days, is that the Russian interference with our elections and their efforts to really question our institutions or have people question our institutions continues. And we do not have a whole of government strategy that will enable us to counter these efforts, which are continuing.

Everybody acknowledges that they are continuing, but nobody is taking the lead. And there are fingers saying that, you know, they are saying, well, the President ultimately has to bring everybody together, but clearly, he wants this investigation to totally go away.

MELBER: Right. And you say that on a day when the House Republicans have said, this should be their last witness after a fairly bungle filled set of memos and other things coming out of that.


MELBER: I want to ask you about something totally different, if we can turn from some of the national security problems that you have elucidated, to something brighter, which is the contributions that women have made to American history. This is international women`s day, as you know. There`s a lot of issues you have led on. I want to get your view on that. Also play for you something we put together here and thinking about this which is some of the firsts from women throughout history. Let`s take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A convention in any state that has refused to ratify the equal rights amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The freedom to have an abortion is now legal in every stay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. Supreme Court will get its woman member this afternoon when Sandra Day O`Connor takes her oath of office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off STS7 (ph) and America`s first woman astronaut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no longer that big sign outside that door of the office for vice president that says white, male only need apply.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The admiral Nancy Pelosi of the state of California is duly elected speaker of the House of Representatives.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I accept your nomination for President of the United States.


MELBER: I wonder what this day means to you and what you think policy should continue to advance, a year or I would say, maybe two years here? There`s been a lot of discussion about the role of women in public life and power.

HIRONO: International women`s day means a lot not just to me but to women all across the country and the world. And what`s great is that women are coming forward in our country as well as in other countries, stepping forward to speak out and to really stand our ground.

And I want to say that in your clip, you talked about the abortion, well, equal rights amendment, Hawaii was the first state of the union to ratify the equal rights amendment. And Hawaii was also the first state in the union to make abortion legal.

So, you know, it`s great for me to have been part of many of these firsts, when Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination, Patti Mink (ph), my friend and predecessor in Congress was the first woman of color to get elected to both the House and the Senate.

So we are making progress. We have 22 women in the Senate now, more than ever in the history of our country. The Me Too movement, all of this is coming to the fore. And we need to get moving because we are certainly not equal yet, in terms of pay, in terms of power, but our voices are getting stronger every day. And I`m going to do my part to make sure that our voices remain strong and heard.

MELBER: Senator, Mazie Hirono, thank you for joining us. Thank you for that.

HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha!

MELBER: Late today, Donald Trump popped right into the White House briefing room. You are looking at a brand-new picture here, breaking news. This is believed to be according to reporters in the scene, the first time he has personally walked in there. And he said something that we will report to you.

He said there will be quote "a major announcement" in his view regarding South Korea later tonight at 7:00 p.m. eastern. So reporters will be gathering in case this news breaks any earlier. When we get any clues as to what it means and if it is indeed quote-unquote "major."

Now coming up, there are now questions about Donald Trump`s attorney`s attempt to silence Stormy Daniels. Guess who is here? The journalist who originally interviewed Daniels about this alleged contact all the way back in 2011.

Also tonight, my "Beat" special report on the Trump-Kushner history of debt. And why Bob Mueller is following not only the money but the debt.

Later, my interview with (INAUDIBLE) actress who says she went from clueless to conservative.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s do a makeover.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on, let us, Cher`s main through (ph) in life is a makeover, OK. Gives her sense of control in the worlds of chaos.


MELBER: Stacy Dash says she went from Obama to Trump. She has been on FOX News a lot. Today she is declaring herself a congressional candidate and her first interview is on "the Beat."

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


MELBER: This could get interesting. My next guest is one of the only people in the world who spoke directly to Stormy Daniels when she was telling her whole story, holding nothing back.

In 2011, Jordi Lippe-McGraw interviewed Daniels for "In Touch" magazine. You are shaking your head. This is true.


MELBER: You could see it here. That was the cover quote "My affair with Donald." Now the transcript of that only came out this year. Stormy Daniels went into some great detail in that discussion about what she called this relationship and contact with Mr. Trump.

Now today, Ms. Daniels is facing a kind of restraining order which Donald Trump`s lawyer obtained through arbitration. She is suing this time, not for money, she says, but for freedom, freedom of speech. Her lawyer arguing that the entire hush payment agreement they reached us with invalid because Trump didn`t sign it.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` ATTORNEY: Our position is clear. He never signed the agreement, even though he knew all about it. And therefore she is free to speak. If the White House or if Mr. Cohen had any evidence that he actually signed the agreement, they should be disseminating it, not tomorrow morning, tonight. The President of the United States needs to answer the very basic questions relating to his relationship with Ms. Daniels.


MELBER: Donald Trump hasn`t really made public comments about the new part of these accusations from this adult film stair, but he apparently is not happy with his staff on this.

New reporting from CNN says he is quote "very unhappy with his press secretary from yesterday`s briefing, saying that Trump has made it very clear none of these allegations are true, but she kicked up quite a storm in referring to the arbitration fight.

I`m joined now by Jordy Lippe-McGraw. Thanks for being here.

LIPPE-MCGRAW: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Did you ever think when you landed this story, would be like this?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: No, certainly not. I never thought that an interview that I did six years ago would now become part of major news and Presidential scandal. It`s just a crazy story. I mean, back in 2011, you have to remember Donald Trump was just a reality star.

MELBER: I do remember that.

LIPPE-MCGRAW: So I never quite thought he would become President, let alone that -- an interview that I did with a porn star involving the future President would become big.

MELBER: You remember her. You remember this interview?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: Yes. I did it over the phone so I never met her actually in person. But yes, I interviewed her over the phone and "In Touch" released the full transcript. It is a 2,000 words to be exact.

MELBER: At the time, did you think she was telling the truth or lying?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: I mean, as a reporter, you always have a kind of have a sense of skepticism when people come forward with these kinds of stories, so we did our due diligence, as a reporting team. Obviously, I spoke with her. You see everything that came out. We had her take a lie detector test, which she passed.

MELBER: She passed a lie detector test?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: Yes, she did. We also spoke with other people who corroborated her story, so by the end of that whole process, I had no reason to not believe that she was telling the truth.

MELBER: You did believe her?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: I did, yes. Of course.

MELBER: And based on what has come out since then, do you find her story more or less credible?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: I find it to be more credible that we completely honest. I mean, she hasn`t spoken out yet, but all of her friends and other people that have come out, have said similar stories to the one that I have had. And she is obviously tackling this head on with her lawyer. So if it`s not true, it would be very surprising. There was a lot of detail to go into in that interview to not be true.

MELBER: Well, and "the Beat" is a family show when we aimed to be. So there is a lot that we are just not going to get into. But there was this part and this was the relationship being business like, Stormy telling you, again, in the interview that set this all off originally.

Quote "he was curious, not necessarily about the sex or anything like that, but business questions. He kept showing me he was on the cover of a magazine. He kept showing it to me. He was trying to sell me, I guess." What did you make of that?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: I mean, the whole time I was speaking with her, it wasn`t like she was trying to make this out to be some grand love affair, that they were in love and that they wanted to run off together. It did seem like a business transaction on both sides. I think she was hoping to see what could she get out of it. Maybe she could get on "Celebrity Apprentice" and he was hoping to maybe he could get out if and he certainly, apparently he did get something out it that he wanted.

MELBER: In a sentence or two, why does this story matter now?

LIPPE-MCGRAW: I think it matters now because, you know, "the Wall Street Journal" came out, the "New York Times" has come out, everyone has come out with this reporting. And if a Presidential candidate did pay someone to stay quiet, that`s big news. And the "In Touch" interview I think just kind of blew the lid off of it once it got published.

MELBER: Get it off.

Jordi Lippe-McGraw, a reporter at the center of all this, thank you for being here.

One programming note, tomorrow night we will air this happened, sex, lies and the candidate, a top of the documentary on the Jerry Hart (ph) scandal. That`s at 10:00 p.m. eastern right after Rachel.

Ahead, following the money trail. This is my special report inside Jared Kushner`s debt and why Bob Mueller could be bearing down on the entire Trump family and in-laws.

Later, was Trump intimidated by Russia? New reporting on how far Russian operatives went to tried to prevent Mitt Romney from getting anywhere near the Trump White House.

And later, my special guest actress Stacy Dash is running for Congress. She declared today. The star of clueless will be on "the Beat." You might also remember this little awkward moment from the Oscars.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cannot wait to help my people out, happy black history month.


MELBER: Stacy Dash will be here and talk about her controversies and her mission.

That`s on THE BEAT tonight.


MELBER: Another top story developing right now. Bob Mueller`s assignment began by probing collusion and obstruction. But new reporting shows a focus on money, who has it and who needs it.

Remember in the movie version of Watergate, that hunt was captured by a simple phrase, follow the money. Mueller is certainly doing that. But there are signs he is also following the debt.

The distinction matters, because while money can leave clues and appeal to the greedy, debt can make people down right desperate. And we are seeing these new reports of who Mueller is looking at and not only whether Trump aides felt they owed Russia something for whatever reason, but also whether they were trying to abuse their government power because they owe other people, because they might need money.

Look at the heat on Jared Kushner, "The New York Times" reporting, a top U.A.E. player cooperating with Mueller and telling investigators about meetings in the White House with Kushner following those separate reports that Intel showed he was also vulnerable to debt manipulation by up to four different countries.

Democrats now pressing his company for more information on their loans and debt. So prosecutors and foreign governments clearly see this debt as a potential leverage point. And both Trump and Kushner work within real estate empires that live and die on debt. These aren`t companies like say, I don`t know, Google or Apple which are swimming in a surplus, and trying to decide what to do with their money, these are debt kingdoms. Just ask the king and his royal family.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m the king of debt, I love debt. I`m the king of debt. I`m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I`ve made a fortune by using debt.

IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: And there was a homeless person sitting right outside of Trump Tower. I remember my father pointing to him and saying, you know, that guy has $8 billion more than me because he was in such extreme debt at that point, you know?


MELBER: And Kushner is also a king of debt. Look at how he now owes though his company $1.4 billion for purchasing the aptly named 666 Fifth Avenue. Now, none of this is just hyperbole what Donald Trump was telling Ivanka about, basically having less than a homeless person. His bankruptcy showed that. So how much does Donald Trump owe right now? Well, of course, he hasn`t said. The limited disclosures that are available show about 300 mil in debt, under half that owed to Deutsche Bank which has faced its own probes over basically Russian oligarch money laundering schemes. But without Trump`s entire tax returns, no one, not me, not anyone else can say truly whether he`s running right now on billions in surplus or hiding billions in debt. Now, Trump`s comments though are pretty telling, we dug this up. He basically said once that his whole adult life has been defined so much by debt, that the one time he found himself with actual cash, it was so odd to him, he couldn`t sleep at night.


TRUMP: I don`t sleep well because I have cash, I never had cash. I mean, I was always like a little bit low on the cash because I make a great deal, it would be a great deal, and I would make another deal, a great deal, then I take the profits from that and I have it spent before the money even came in, and that`s OK too. The problem with that is that when things get bad and they always do at some point, you`ve got to fight too hard and I don`t want to do that.


MELBER: That`s okay too. Donald Trump admitting debt is his natural habitat, so his daughter`s links to this other high debt real estate family, that may not be a thing that ever bothered him, though before she met Jared Kushner, Trump was clear anyone wishing to date his daughter face long odds.


OPRAH WINFREY, AMERICAN MEDIA PROPRIETOR: And so, how are you Donald with the guys who want to date her?

TRUMP: They have no chance. They have no chance. No guy --

WINFREY: That`s another show.

TRUMP: That`s probably -- it`s just probably is. But no, she`s just -- she`s always been a very spectacular girl.


MELBER: Kushner and Trump married in October 2009. They were something of a power couple in New York. And when Jared Kushner entered the White House, he had to repay, it turned out an incredible amount of debt from that famously cursed purchase.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Kushner company is the family business has struggled to refinance its flagship property at 666 -- I`m not making that up, 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which is facing roughly $1.4 billion in debt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a deal that put Jared on the map. I think every dynasty wants to own a piece of Manhattan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a jewel in the Kushner real estate crown that`s staggering under unmanageable debt.


MELBER: They got a loan from a company that`s linked to the Qatari government, they also had sought a loan from the former head of the related Qatari fund. There are reports that Kushner leveraged his position to get some of that backing. There was also this loan from Deutsche Bank and that was right before Election Day. Meanwhile, Jared Kushner is holding these White House meetings with all sorts of foreign officials including China and Mexico which other countries that had discussions about manipulating him, and there`s more. He failed to disclose 100 meetings with foreign contacts in his controversial security clearance forms, he had to amend them not once, not twice, three separate times and of course, his security clearance has been downgraded.

Now, let me tell you that Kushner`s aides do stress that he`s complying with all ethics rules and they say he`s no longer personally involved in the deals that the Kushner company makes. But we`re seeing what Mueller is after. Did Kushner or these other people participate in these deals, or did they use their power in government to get money, to get out from debts because that could violate federal law, consider that executive branch employees are not allowed to participate in any government matter affecting their financial interests, which makes sense? Now, Kushner and his wife had initially seemed to pledge that they would avoid going into the White House at all.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People think that you`re going to be part of the administration, Ivanka.

I. TRUMP: No, I`m going to be a daughter.


MELBER: A daughter. Well, that didn`t last. Ivanka and Jared jumped in as more than family, as government advisors. They even took special titles to skirt federal laws that would ban them and family from most positions like the cabinet. Her own work has drawn FBI`s scrutiny, and if you put every other Trump issue aside, let me repeat that put every other Trump issue aside, and I`m telling you tonight, these debts and conflicts are still a big enough problem to hobble an entire administration, And Donald Trump knew that. He said as much because consider after the election, which shocked everyone, in his first press conference as President-Elect, well, he had his mind on his money and his money on his mind, bizarrely bragging that he just turned down a $2 billion deal in Dubai and arguing his family would handle the company to avoid conflicts.


TRUMP: Over the weekend I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai and I turned it down. I didn`t have to turn it down because as you know, I have a no conflict situation because I`m president. My two sons who are right here, Don and Eric are going to be running the company. They`re not going to discuss it with me. Again, I don`t have to do this. I hope at the end of eight years, I`ll come back and I`ll say, oh, you did a good job. Otherwise if they did a bad job, I`ll say, you`re fired.


MELBER: Ha, ha, ha. But this joke looks to be on the president. Everybody knows it`s hard to hire family because they`re the one group of people you can`t really fire. The New York Times does report that now Trump`s asking John Kelly to help him maybe fire Kushner and Ivanka. That report offers a clue that Trump is learning these family problems are real and maybe this time it`s a game that matters, that this time there is something bigger at play here than the usual business games.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump, a game where you deal for everything you`d ever wanted to own, because it`s not what you win or lose, it`s whether you win.

TRUMP: I think you`ll like it.


MELBER: That was the persona there, back in the day that Donald Trump used to go around the country and tell voters he would do for America what he did for the Trump brand. Let me say something that might sound surprising. Maybe that was exactly right. Maybe the Trump company, like this Kushner company, is powered by debt which works as long as they keep their debtors happy, and maybe now these people who are running the White House are taking the same approach and they`re using the entire country and our entire government to deal with their debts. And if that`s true, it would be Bob Mueller now probing just how many debts they`re accruing.

I`m joined by a special guest. Elizabeth Spiers worked directly for Jared Kushner as Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper he once ran, The New York Observer and I`m also rejoined by former Federal Prosecutor Joyce Vance Elizabeth, I took a moment to lay it all out because these are people that are widely perceived, even by their detractors as very rich. If rich means having a lot of money, being high net worth, there`s a lot of evidence they are not rich, and they are not poor, by which I mean close to zero, but that they are addled in debt. As someone who worked for Kushner, your view of all if this?

ELIZABETH SPIERS, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER: Well, I think, you know, one thing you have to consider is that they both worked in commercial real estate and that`s an important part of that industry. But they racked up such incredibly high numbers that they`re difficult to get out from under. So when you look at what the Mueller investigation might be focusing on, they`re going to be looking for meetings that Jared might have taken that would benefit Kushner going somewhere. So for example, the December 2016 meeting he took with Sergey Gorkov who`s the chairman of the state-run Russian bank.

MELBER: Putin bank.

SPIERS: Yes. And Jared explains that congressional investigators as taking the meeting because he wanted to understand Putin`s mentality toward the new administration. But when you think about that, it`s sort of like asking the wolf for their advice about how to protect the hen house. And that really doesn`t work. It`s either an astounding display of naivete or it`s just a lie.

MELBER: When you look at Jared Kushner as someone you worked with, does he strike you as someone who could easily leave the Kushner companies completely behind in this new rule or that he would still maintain a mentality and an interest in it?

SPIERS: No, I think, it would be hard. You know, he`s also very close to his family. If he still has a stake in the company, and he`s talking to them on regular basis, you don`t necessarily have to have this formal coordination. He just has to keep in mind what the interest of the company are and how those line with what he`s doing in the White House.

MELBER: Joyce, do you think it`s fair to say Mueller is following the debt?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Mueller has to be following the debt here. The problem is you have an individual with a lot of debt and he`s in proximity to decision making that could considerably lighten that debt. It`s a federal crime for someone, for an executive branch employee like Kushner to engage personally and substantially in decision making in a matter where he has a personal financial interest. So whether that means he simply benefits through the Kushner companies or he`s involved formally in the Kushner companies, if he is simultaneously working for government and simultaneously seeking loans that might get him out of trouble. He doesn`t just have the appearance of impropriety that federal ethics laws are designed to avoid, he is actually crossed over the edge. And if his participation is wilful, then he`s in federal felony territory.

MELBER: Briefly Elizabeth, do you think he could get the message and realize it`s in his own self-interest to get out of government?

SPIERS: I don`t know. I mean, I think there`s a lot of ego involved here too and that would be an admission of failure on some level, given his original ambitions for being in the office. And I feel like that might prevent him from making a pragmatic decision and leaving.

MELBER: Elizabeth Spiers who knows Mr. Kushner well and Joyce Vance, thank you both. Coming up we have an update from the Trump White House, this breaking news about outreach North Korea but first, as promised, Stacey Dash is on THE BEAT next. Her first national T.V. interview (AUDIO GAP) announcing her run. We`re back with that in just 90 seconds.


MELBER: My next guest is an actress, a famous conservative commentator and now a Congressional Candidate running for California`s 44th District, which includes Long Beach, Watts, Compton and San Pedro. Stacey Dash has starred in major movies, made a much-discussed Oscar (INAUDIBLE) and over 30 million people have watched her online as the star of Kanye West classic video It All Falls Down. She`s also widely known for her performance in the 1995 movie Clueless where she played Cher`s best friend Dionne.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s do a makeover.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No? Oh, come on, let us. Cher`s main thrill in life is a makeover, OK. It gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos.


MELBER: Everyone could use some of that. And moving from theatre to politics, Dash says she voted for Obama in 2008, switched to Romney in 2012, she now backs Trump and has made many appearances as a Conservative Commentator on Fox News which will make for an interesting Congressional contest. She`s running in a district that went 83 percent for Hillary. Here is a new pic she posted of her filing papers to run this afternoon. The primary is up against the Mayor of Compton and an incumbent Democratic Congressperson. Ms. Dash joins THE BEAT for her first T.V. interview since announcing. Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Let`s start with the district you`re running in which is as I mentioned, strongly Democratic. What is your appeal, your pitch to those 61 percent of voters who are Democrats?

DASH: Well, my appeal to them is that the Democratic Party is not the only party that can represent them and that I am going to be a catalyst for change. You know, I`m going to make sure that everyone in my district is given the opportunity to achieve their God-given right, the American dream.

MELBER: You mention the American dream, and you`re familiar with this big debate over DREAMers. I want to play for you what Attorney General Jeff Sessions is saying about a fight in your state in California about sanctuary cities. Take a listen.


JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: California, we have a problem. How dare you? How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda?


MELBER: Where do you come down on that issue, the Trump administration versus California providing more protection to undocumented workers?

DASH: Well, I think that you know, we have to respect law enforcement and we have to respect laws.

MELBER: Go on.

DASH: Well, that`s it.

MELBER: That`s it, one argument I guess would be that the people who don`t have other violations aren`t committing crimes. A lot of California legislators and leaders have said they shouldn`t be the focus of law enforcement.

DASH: Do we know that they are the focus of law enforcement?

MELBER: Let me -- let me ask you also about gun control which is a big issue as you know all over the country and especially in California. There was a state rule here that was passed that did several things including limiting ammunition sales, making sure that there are background checks for ammunition and that passed with 63 percent approval in your state. Do you support those kind of gun control measures?

DASH: I support the bill of rights. That`s what I support. You know, but I also do not like the tragedies that are occurring in our country. And I think it goes deeper than gun laws. I think it goes to moral integrity and I think that runs from family. You know, family is the key and parenting and being aware of mental illnesses and taking care of those issues.

MELBER: Because you`ve been a big supporter of a lot of conservative policies and Donald Trump, I`m curious about health care which is another big issue as you know in almost any Congressional Race especially in California. Should ObamaCare will fully repealed?

DASH: Yes.

MELBER: And what in your view then to the people who lose health insurance?

DASH: Well, they`ll get -- I mean, there`s -- of course there`ll be another solution. But ObamaCare is not working. We know that.

MELBER: What is the other solution?

DASH: Well, that`s where I`m going to go and listen and pay attention and have a dialogue, to come up with a solution.

MELBER: But you won`t -- just -- and I have to do this with all candidates. I have to ask, so you won`t tell us yet what the solution is?


MELBER: Let me ask you, then, Ms. Dash about something very controversial, which is this President`s discussion about white supremacists, about the rallies in Charlottesville. As you know, Gary Cohn is out this week over the tariff issue. The economic adviser who said he almost left earlier over Charlottesville and when Donald Trump said this.


TRUMP: I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides, I think there`s blame on both side and I have no doubt about it and you don`t have any doubt about it either.


MELBER: Was that wrong?

DASH: No, I think he`s absolutely right. There were two extreme sides. And here`s what it boils down to, our right. They had a right to assemble. Both sides had a right but they were both extremes. And here`s where I said in the beginning, we have to listen to each other. If we do not listen, there will be no solutions. It`s just a bunch of banter and noise.

MELBER: So, if the white supremacists were the hate on one side, what was the hate that would be equivalent to that on the other side? That`s what - - has enraged so many people about those comments the President made. It stands by as there was not another hate group there. It was the white supremacists in Charlottesville that organized those rallies. What other hate do you see there?

DASH: Well, no, I`m not saying that there was not -- there was hate on the other side or that I`m justifying hate on the other side. What I`m saying what their constitutional right was, they were exercising that. There should be no hate at all. Hate is not the answer for anything.

MELBER: And I agree with you on their First Amendment Rights and that is law, that is in our conversation.

DASH: And that is what the President said. He wasn`t siding with the neo- Nazis --

MELBER: Well, he said -- I just played it for you. He did say there`s blame on both sides.

DASH: There is --

MELBER: Why is that hard to say that that was wrong in the context of a white supremacist rally?

DASH: Well, because what happened? It became violent, didn`t it? So violence on either side is no good.

MELBER: When he says there are good people on both sides, good people at the white supremacist rally, do you co-sign that?

DASH: I`m not here to judge, the only one who can judge is God. Do I know every person on in the neo-Nazi party, if they have a good heart or not? No, I do not. Do I know every member of a gang if they have a good heart or not? No, I don`t. Do I know every heart of a man in prison, if he has a good heart or not? No, I don`t. I`m not here to judge.

MELBER: Ms. Dash, I appreciate you taking all the questions. I think your congressional bid is of great interest and we`ll be following it.

DASH: Thank you.

MELBER: And before I let you go, because I grew up on Clueless, it is a great film.

DASH: Thanks.

MELBER: I guess, the question I want to ask you is, and I think all people in the world can be divided with these camps, are you at the end of the day a clueless person or legally blonde person? Because I love legally blond and I know it`s a hard choice but where do you come down?

DASH: Well, I mean, come on. Of course, I`m a Clueless person. That was a very easy question.

MELBER: It`s easy because you were in Clueless. But Legally Blonde also a great movie, yes?

DASH: Yes, also a great movie. But there is no genius like Amy Heckerling.

MELBER: Well, you`re on THE BEAT. We always try to get all the hard questions. Stacey Dash, thank you for joining us.

DASH: Thank you.

MELBER: And coming up as promised, this breaking news about outreach from North Korea to the United States. That`s up ahead.


MELBER: Breaking news, and this is pretty interesting. An update on exactly what Donald Trump may have the meant when he said just within the last hour or so that there`s a "major announcement on issues with North and South Korea." So minutes from now, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, we`re going to hear directly from the White House. Here`s what I can tell you. A senior American official tells NBC News moments ago the South Koreans have delivered a letter to the Trump administration that is ostensibly from North Korea`s Leader Kim Jong-un. Now, the White House Press Secretary tells us the announcement would come here from South Korea`s National Security Adviser. This is what we`re learning according to readouts. We will know much more when we get the actual news from the White House in an announcement again billed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. More on this soon. We will be right back.


MELBER: We`re looking at live pictures here of the White House driveway and we are waiting on for any moment the South Korean National Security Adviser expected come out and give what President Trump says is a major announcement. NBC News saying the South Koreans have delivered a letter to the Trump administration from North Korea`s Leader Kim Jong-un. We will be covering this story on "HARDBALL" with a live look at what happens. That`s right now.