THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER March 14, 2018 Guest: Adam Schiff; Morgan Pehme
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I always learn something from you, Chuck. And now I learned that TV history.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Chuck Todd, coming to us from Washington.
And we join him tonight. We are live from D.C. for a very special show. We have several original reports tonight on important topics, a democratic surge in Trump country, and whether it holds clues to a break in a new wave.
News breaking today in "Vanity Fair," on how right now emboldened Donald Trump might try to sideline attorney general Jeff Sessions and get a new attorney general who would not be recuse from the Russia probe. Congressman Adam Schiff is here with me right. And he is going to speak in this next segment about that story and the House Russia probe that Republicans ended this week.
And of course, you have seen the pictures by now, students doing this important work that they say adults are not doing. Taking the lead on gun control. And I will be joined by a Florida Republican who voted for those new gun control measures tonight.
We also have more on a story that we broke exclusively on THE BEAT last night. What Roger Stone said about his owned plans to meet Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign?
All that tonight on a Washington edition that I think it is fair to call jam-packed.
But we begin with where politics now, the upset in Pennsylvania that has everyone talking. Democrat Conor Lamb now looks to be the undisputed winner in this deep red district. That`s a major shift for a place that backed Donald Trump by nearly 20 points.
Now speaker Paul Ryan reportedly told colleagues in private, this is a wakeup call for the GOP. That is the message he then ducked in public today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it is truly a wakeup call, as we understand you have told your members this morning, isn`t it also a wakeup call for the role the President should play from your opinion in the upcoming midterms?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Look, I think the President up close this race. I think you saw the public polling. The public polling wasn`t looking so good and the President came in and helped closed this race and got it to where it is right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump was on the ground in this district before the vote. That was a speech that was widely described as rambling and even indulgent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Conor Lamb, lamb the sham, right. Lamb the sham. I really feel strongly about Rick Saccone. And I know him. I feel strongly about him. He is an incredible guy. This is a very extraordinary guy. We need him. We need Republicans. We need the votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donald Trump, not alone in that push either. Mike Pence was there in the district, plus Don Jr., Ivanka Trump.
The White House clearly put their political capital on the line. And I can tell you tonight, the news is the White House learned it wasn`t worth much. Now does that mean the Trump brand is already in trouble for the midterms? Is a Trump visit maybe the last thing certain candidates will want in their districts? And could the President`s political approach actually be his own undoing handing the House and subpoena power back to the Democrats?
I don`t know the answers, but I have two people who might, the "Chicago Tribune`s" Clarence Page and "Washington Post`s" E.J. Dionne join me here in Washington.
E.J. writing revolve (ph) in Trump country should petrify Republicans. Strong words. Why?
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, this was a race where everything went right for the Democrats. Everything went wrong for the Republicans. Trump went all in and he got rebuked. The unions who went all in for Conor Lamb and they proved defective.
Conor lamb showed that you don`t have to run against Trump. He was very careful not to be anti-Trump. You could do that and still rally the strong anti-Trump sentiment that existed in parts of that distribute. And I think it also shows that the Republicans can spend a ton of money on attack ads, trying to turn someone in the case of Conor Lamb into something he is not, some kind of liberal. And then they lose the race and they say, well, actually, he was really a conservative.
I think it just shows that they -- the Trump brand is really stuck. And lastly, there are a lot of blue collar voters who have strayed from the Democrats who seem to want to come home. And Conor Lamb opened the door for them.
MELBER: Now Clarence, I don`t want to put you on the spot. But I would like to ask --.
CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: I`m always on the spot. Go ahead.
MELBER: I would like to ask for your phone if you let us - just to hold it. You walked in. I have (INAUDIBLE), but you have this beautiful grateful dead steal your face on the phone. You see this. This is the grateful dead logo. I love that.
PAGE: (INAUDIBLE) 1967. I want you to know that. In fact, a college student --.
MELBER: Well, I didn`t know you were a deadhead, but Jerry used to say, if you plant ice, you are going to harvest wind.
PAGE: That`s true. That`s true.
MELBER: And I wonder whether if there are any lessons here about what the Republican Party is --
DIONNE: He is going to go the touch of gray in the Democratic victory, if we`re going to continue the dead thing.
PAGE: Although, it has been, you know.
This is remarkable. E.J. will hit that last point E.J. made by blue collar voters, the folks who swung in favor of the Democrat in this race, where those voters who have been the swing voters for years, the white male, blue collar voters, and we - I wonders what has been happened to them. They have been voting for Republicans in recent years. A lot of them swung toward Barack Obama in 2012, (INAUDIBLE) especially around Detroit and along western Ohio.
But now, we can see there`s a lot of disenchantment out there with Trump. With the Trump magic is not there that a lot of folks were hoping with would be. And he is still campaigning to his base. His entire presidency has been campaigning to his base. Now this time I hope he is seeing that his base is not enough. This is not a country that where the base carries the whole race.
MELBER: Well, and you are speaking about what coalition politics can do when the Democratic Party does win. Alabama was powered really on the strength of extraordinary black turnout and specifically black female turnout.
PAGE: Well, also, I have to say, Conor was very picker (ph) for about not swinging too far on the left.
MELBER: Right. You are saying --.
PAGE: That`s what I`m talking about. He did not campaign against Nancy Pelosi. But when he was asked about her, he distanced himself from her. And that`s an important signal for Democrats because they have got to find a way to be able to carve that middle ground out there without alienating their own base.
MELBER: Well, speak to that point, E.J., because you famously wrote a book called something to the effect of "Liberals or Democrats only look dead".
DIONNE: Yes. They only look at. This was back in 1996.
MELBER: They only looked at. But what Clarence is talking about is a problem of the Democrat Party a new candidate`s face which is being yoked to, if I may, being yoked to some leaders that are perceived as downright sclerotic. That it doesn`t really change who is in-charge. And was that the right message that you are going to see more candidates say not only against Trump, anywhere else against to the Washington Democrats to some degree.
DIONNE: When you win by just over 600,000 votes, everything was the right message. And any movement in any direction would have probably wreck the race.
But yes, I think you are going to see in districts like that, other Democrats do what he did and say well, I would vote against Nancy Pelosi as speaker. I have a hunch Nancy Pelosi doesn`t even mind that, because she wants them to win their races. But it`s a mistake. I think it`s a mistake to just to see him as a conservative. I mean he is a really traditional new deal style Democrat. He is pro-union, pro-healthcare, pro- infrastructure, pro-Medicare, pro-Social Security. And he found that space.
It was almost a marriage of the politics of now, with the politics of about 30 years ago. And 30 years ago, districts like that were democratic. And he really harkened back to that kind of politics to pull them in. And he also, by the way, ran not only ahead of Hillary Clinton, in some of the blue collar areas, he ran ahead of Barack Obama. And that`s how much ground he needed to make up for the Democrats in that area.
MELBER: Clarence, let me read to you something our colleagues at first read were saying about how this goes back to the President who does see everything through his own lens, saying Trump put his office`s prestige on the line. In addition to that rally on Saturday, "Washington Post" suggested last week that Trump`s move on tariffs aimed at the voters in PAA (ph) team, the race matters because it matters to President Trump.
I have heard the tariff deal criticized on many substantive grounds, on policy grounds. If the tariff was supposed to help last night, I guess that`s one more ground.
PAGE: Well, remember, Trump has been campaigning against tariffs from the very beginning, of wanting to lower tariffs. I think it`s the kind of granular issue that wasn`t going to move the race this time because for one thing, economic changes, it takes a while for them to settle in.
PAGE: People aren`t ready to say, oh, we are all doing great now because of Trump`s tariffs. He is just now still talking about them.
DIONNE: And Conor Lamb endorsed them by the way, and he said next, let`s move on.
MELBER: Yes. So, I have really appreciate getting the benefit of both of your collective wisdom on set, in person which is nice. I guess my only final question now is in the grateful dead analogy, and something we do on the show is we torture analogies to the very end.
MELBER: Who is Jerry and Bob between the two of you?
PAGE: I interviewed the band, bob was a very quiet guy. I`m not a quiet guy.
MELBER: All right. You are Jerry. You are Bob or you can have pig pen, if you want to be pig pen.
DIONNE: That`s probably more appropriate in my case.
MELBER: I love seeing you guys in person. Thank you for coming on THE BEAT.
Clarence Page and E.J. Dionne.
Now, we mentioned speaker Ryan refusing to place any blame on Donald Trump, even saying maybe Trump helped. Ryan though, of course, has a history of dodging tough questions when it comes to Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: I will defer to the White House on all those questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, are the tweets growing on you? Do you get what he`s doing?
RYAN: You know, I don`t actually see them all.
I typically don`t quote or comment on the tweet of the hour.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President has said that this income tax plan will not benefit his family, he says believe me it will not. How can we believe him, though, Mr. Speaker if we can`t see the tax --?
RYAN: I don`t have the answer to your question, Gayle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The reality is Ryan could be in some trouble consider his political strategy may not be working to duck questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I mean Nancy Pelosi, you can`t have that. Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, the only chance she has got to become speaker is electing Democrats. And, you know, we don`t have a big margin. It`s just a very small -- I mean if you - they are doing a number in your state. We have to defeat Nancy Pelosi.
TRUMP: And Maxine Waters, a very low I.Q. individual. You ever see her? You ever see her? We will impeach him. We will impeach the President. But he hasn`t done anything wrong. It doesn`t matter, we will impeach him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Donald Trump`s argument. There may be the wakeup call, Democrats roaring back into power, consider they need 24 seats to retake control of the House and that would deliver with its subpoena power, the oversight committees would start doing a whole lot more aggressive oversight of this executive branch.
Now one of the Democrats who would likely be in-charge is my special guest here in studio in Washington, Congressman Adam Schiff.
Welcome to THE BEAT. And that you join us on a week where the House says they are closing down the probe, the Republicans there. You spoke out last night. Many of our viewers saw that presentation. Where do you go from here?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we are going to be compiling report on what we know to date, all the facts that we have been able to find on key issues, going to collusion, to obstruction, going to the Russian hacking and dumping operation of emails, their social media campaign. But importantly, that report will necessarily be incomplete and we will be setting out just why it`s incomplete. The witnesses that we were not allowed to bring up and the leads we couldn`t follow and what would need to be done to do this credibly and really get to the truth a lot of key, still unanswered questions.
MELBER: You talk about leads, I read your investigative update. It seems carefully written. But it had some clues, one of which was you saying the White House was unresponsive on key questions like not addressing whether recordings, memoranda or any documents at any time have existed and the White House would have memorialize conversations between Trump and Comey. And then you go on to say that you have quote "a good faith reason to believe the White House does have such documentation memorializing Trump`s conversations with director Comey.
So lordy or not, as Mr. Comey would say, what are you referring to?
SCHIFF: Well, I`m not referring to tapes. We haven`t seen any evidence part from the President`s own suggestion for whatever reason he made it that there were recordings. But there are indications that there were, at least some memorialization and discussion between the President and Comey that would shed light on the issue of obstruction of justice, enough for both myself and Mr. Conaway on a bipartisan basis, to then write (ph) to the White House and demand of those, if not recordings then memoranda.
MELBER: And sir, can you say whether you are referring specifically to the reported letter that Steven Miller helped draft about removing Comey?
SCHIFF: Certainly, if those drafts included a discussion or sheds light on meetings between the President to Comey, then yes. They would be included.
MELBER: So you would want to subpoena Steven Miller`s letter?
MELBER: Let me show him talking about this. Because this has come up in the public forum quite a bit. Here with Stephen Miller on that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you write a letter outlining reasons to fire Comey and list the Russian investigation? Is that true?
STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR: Here is the problem with what you are saying. The final draft of the letter, the one that was --.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not talking about that one. What I`m talking about the one that Comey has --
MILLER: The final draft of the letter has the same line about the fact that there is a Trump-Russia investigation that this has nothing to do with.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it was just move from the top to the bottom?
MILLER: No, look at the letter, it`s the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What more do you want to know about that letter? Is there anything problematic there?
SCHIFF: Well, certainly, we have no idea what was in the draft, that after the lawyers looked at it and they may have concluded, OK, this is problematic. Because it suggests that the President may have had an elicit motive for getting rid of Comey. We ought to see what was in the original, what was omitted.
MELBER: Can I run a theory by you?
MELBER: And I know you are careful so you will comment as you see fit.
MELBER: But from what we have learned it almost sounds like Stephen Miller worked with people there around Donald Trump and put an element of obstruction in the original draft of the letter, an illicit reason for removing Comey and then under better advice it was later removed, is that possible?
SCHIFF: Well, it is certainly possible. We just don`t know. But we see a pattern within the White House and you can see it reflected in that concoction of that false statement about the Trump tower meeting, where there was a debate going on about what to include and what to exclude and who misleading they could get away with. We asked several of the witnesses that came for our committee about those conversations of those drafts. They refused to answer the questions and tragically for us and for the public, my GOP colleagues were more than content to take no for an answer and we were not able to compel them to answer those questions.
MELBER: Right. And it would seem that scenario where the Congress has a greater interest because you are checking the executive branch`s functioning, right, which might be different than some of the national security issues where they feel you may have no business there. But if there is obstructive activity, you want one branch to oversee the other on that, which makes sense.
Well I wonder -- I also want to ask you about some of these news on Roger Stone and WikiLeaks and some of those issues, if you will stay with me for a moment.
MELBER: We are going to fit in this break.
Now, coming up, two key Trump associates respond to reporting done right here on THE BEAT. We are going to fact check the reactions. And dramatic video from across the nation, students protest gun violence, to talk to Republican lawmakers define the NRA who says the students helped change his mind.
And later tonight, Stormy Daniels` lawyer on more women who may have come forward with more claims about President Trump.
And the shocking poison attack that raises questions about why Donald Trump is not tougher on Russia.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: We are back with more from the top Democrat in the House intelligence committee. He made news this week confronting his Republican counterparts for ending the Russia probe at a time when new questions are surfacing about Julian Assange and longtime Trump advisor, Roger Stone.
Congressman Schiff back at the table.
Roger Stone is someone who is I think a difficult witness whether you like or dislike him as people have political opinions about him. Because he is known to exaggerate. He is known to insert himself. And yet there is news this week as you well know, the "Washington Post" and on THE BEAT last night, about people saying he was trying to reach Assange.
Your view of the significance of that.
SCHIFF: Well, we know that he was in communication with Guccifer 2.0. We also know he was in communication with WikiLeaks. What we ought to do if we are doing a credible investigation is subpoena twitter for direct messages that went to these particular handles or that came from Roger Stone so that we don`t have to accept and rely upon the word of Roger Stone, which I think is a hazardous thing to do.
You know, one thing that Roger Stone and the President have in common is a philosophy that you deny everything. That only suckers and losers admit to anything. And so the President of course denies collusion, but the President denies anything to do with Stormy Daniels, denies or points with Roy Moore that well, you know, you got to pay attention to the fact that Roy Moore deny ties the allegations and therefore it`s OK. If you deny it didn`t happen.
SCHIFF: That`s also the Roger Stone philosophy. And where the witness like that, you don`t rely on what they have to say, you test what they have to say and hear what the public reports of other witnesses who are saying in fact Roger Stone was in communication about stolen emails before their release. We need to bring those other witnesses before the committee.
MELBER: And Bob Mueller has not according to Stone and our reporting called in Roger Stone yet. Roger Stone has a very long running relationship with the President, which he has described a little differently over the course of the campaign. And so for context, I want to show there were times where he said we are cordial. This is all just a big adventure. We speak now and then. But as time goes on, he said he had access to all the right people. His former partner Paul Manafort. And then said he was sending quote "long memos to the Donald once or twice a week by October."
That raises the question of whether with all of that claimed communication, if he did have inside track information about WikiLeaks, which Donald Trump was mentioning over and over in the campaign, is it a credible line of inquiry as to whether Roger Stone told then candidate Trump about that?
SCHIFF: Well, it is certainly a credible line of inquiry and you know, a very similar and credible line of inquiry is would Don Jr. really go into this meeting with the Russians under the promise of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton and feel the meeting was so important that he needed to bring in the campaign manager and the President`s son-in-law at a time when they were still contesting the nomination, would he withhold that information from his father?
We endeavor to find out. There are phone records that should shed light or may shed light on that but we were not allowed to pursue them. We weren`t allowed to pursue whether in fact they were calls that were taken place around that time, whether there were meetings within Trump tower. We know that there were visitor logs. We know there are ways to try to confirm or refute some of the testimony we have heard.
But similarly with Roger Stone, there are a lot of, I think, very telling circumstances in terms of what Roger Stone appears to be predicting. John Podesta`s time in the barrel was coming, he says, shortly before the dump of Podesta emails, it would be, I think, innocent for us not to look into these things.
MELBER: Final question. Your status update that you released last night, mentioned several things that the Republicans refused to subpoena that you think would get to the bottom of some of this. If the Democrats win the house back, will you be subpoenaing all of these things?
SCHIFF: What we will do is see what the status of the investigation is at that point? How much has the Senate been able to do? How much has Bob Mueller been able to do? And has that work been done or is that work still outstanding?
Certain issues right now and no one is looking at in the Congress. I`m particularly concerned about the issue of money laundering. Were the Russian laundering money to the Trump organizations? Is this a lever they can hold over the President of the United States?
It would be derelict in our responsibilities not to find out. All of these meetings were just allegations before the investigations, and they proved to have taken place.
SCHIFF: And so, we will look at all these issues and figure out, OK, have these been investigated and what remains can be done.
MELBER: OK. Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you for coming on THE BEAT.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MELBER: Good to see you.
This is, of course, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee. We thank him for his time.
Now that report lists two witnesses the committee did not get to interview who may shed light on this contact between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks. This week, "the Washington Post" reporting Stone did talk about trying to meet with Julian Assange during the campaign.
And then the filmmaker who embedded with Stone at the time broke even more news on THE BEAT last night saying On the Record, Stone repeatedly talked about trying to meet with Assange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN PEHME, DIRECTOR, GET ME ROGER STONE: In July and in June of 2016, we -- he told us that he was trying to meet with Julian Assange. We spoke with him about the possibility of bringing our crew to London to film them meeting. As far as we know --
MELBER: Hold up. When you were making this documentary, he was telling you as a documentary journalist that he was trying to do contact with Assange?
PEHME: Absolutely. I am telling you that he was seeking to meet with Assange many times.
MELBER: HE TOLD YOU THAT. He told you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Stone is now out defending himself, he appeared on Alex Jones Info Wars channel to say this is all a joke and he posted a rebuttal to last night`s segment on THE BEAT to his Facebook page.
I`m now joined again by filmmaker Morgan Pehme. He spent five years working on that documentary, "Get Me Roger Stone."
Thanks for coming back on THE BEAT. After the news you broke last night, which was written off - which was written off, you know, because you basically added to the public record. I will read to you Roger Stone`s rebuttal to what you said on our show last night. He says, basically, you offer no proof other than your memory, never happened. Your response?
PEHME: You know, I was surprised by Roger`s Facebook post for a couple of reasons. First of all, even in that Facebook post, he said our film is great. He has never questioned the validity or the accuracy of our filmmaking or our reporting to be. And the interview that we do with him in our film where we ask him about Assange that was filmed in August of 2016. And in June of 2016 was when Julian Assange said publicly that he had more Hillary Clinton emails that he intended to release. And after that, Roger took, obviously, great interest in these emails because Roger wanted to destroy Hillary Clinton. And so in early August, late July, we were talking about the idea of going to film Roger were he to meet with Assange in London and as far as we know that never took place. And so I didn`t even say anything that is contradicted what Roger has said publicly.
MELBER: What do you mean London? You were taking preparations to potentially go to London? That`s how real the plan was in 2016?
PEHME: It was something that we spoke about from a logistical standpoint, preparing, in case Roger did have this meeting. Again, as far as we know, it did not pan out. And, so, you know, Roger was talking a great deal about WikiLeaks at that time. You can just go back and look at the record. It`s completely consistent with what Roger has said.
And we were actually surprised when he said he had communicated with Assange because we had been following him on a regular basis and we had seen no indication that that had happened and also this idea that he had a back channel which ultimately turned out, according to Roger Stone to be Randy Credico who is the a person who he has inaccurately blamed in the past for some of his shenanigans. So it seemed to not add up that he had actually connected with Assange but Roger has an adversarial relationship with the truth as we have shown in our film.
And you know, if he had misrepresented things to us, that is very possible. But, you know, it didn`t have the ring of truth to us at the time that he connected with Assange.
MELBER: Right. And he has said that when he did reference going to talk to Assange, it was a joke, that Mr. Nunberg misunderstood that as a joke. You are telling me tonight, and this is new, that you were embedded with him. He talked repeatedly about trying to meet with Assange, to the degree that you made real plans to potentially go to London if it panned out. So you didn`t think it was a joke.
PEHME: We were certainly prepared, the idea of Roger meeting with Assange was not ludicrous, but at the same time we never saw that come to pass. And Ari, as you said, you know, Roger has been involved in some of the most nefarious schemes that have had a really negative impact upon our country over the last 50 years. But he has also inserted himself by embellishment into things that he did not do.
PEHME: Whether that was the case in this instance, you know, that is very possible --.
MELBER: Right. Which is the point - I want to play one more thing because that is a point that we have discussed here. We care about what really happened and the truth, if he exaggerated falsely and looked bad but it was exaggeration. We want to get to the bottom of that.
Let me play something that he said that is on tape that is featured in your film, which continues to generate so much interest. This was during the campaign where he did claim contact with Assange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his document pertains to the Clinton Foundation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Why did you put that in your film and how does that square with Mr. Stone`s statement on Facebook or respond to THE BEAT last night that you have no proof?
MORGAN PEHME, DIRECTOR, GET ME ROGER STONE: We wanted to contextualize the fact that Roger obviously was speaking a great deal about Assange at that time. He had many different explanations for the degree to which he had communicated with Assange, but that was a real focal point of the media coverage. Roger got a great deal of traction out of that, out of the exposure. That`s part of Roger`s whole brand is to attract attention to himself. And so, you know, that was a very key part of the campaign at the time and we put that in to reflect what was the historical record.
MELBER: Well, I appreciate you coming on the show two nights in a row with all the news that you`ve had and broken. And I know that you and I spoke and I know that Roger have spoken out, I`ve interviewed him in the past. He also mentions me in that post, referred to me as a Stone hater. I wasn`t a Stone hater. The last time I had him on the show and I will reiterate for my viewer`s knowledge as well as his, his invitation remains open. Morgan Pehme, thank you.
PEHME: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Up ahead, the Mueller probe eying Trump`s inner circle. 19 indictments so far, and the leading Republican who has said the Mueller probe should end, Bob Mueller should be fired, he`s here live. Also, Stormy Daniel`s attorney dropping a bombshell on a possible deposition idea for President Trump and more women claiming relationship with the President. A lot of news there later in our hour. And Donald Trump`s attorney Michael Cohen also responding to THE BEAT he has a response on my report on hush money and I will show you a fact check on that later tonight when THE BEAT continues live from Washington, D.C.
MELBER: Democrat Adam Schiff was just telling me House Republicans are wrong to end this Russia probe prematurely. Now we return to Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz who argues that beyond the House, all Russia probe should effectively end including the investigation by Bob Mueller. Congressman Matt Gaetz, welcome.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: I appreciate you being here. Let`s start with this point. Is your view that nothing else can be achieved by the House, by the Congress that you`re in on the Russia probe and that Mueller should also end now?
GAETZ: Well, I have concerns with Mr. Mueller as it relates to bias, him in particular, not necessarily in concept of an investigation. I think a point that was missed in your discussion with Mr. Schiff is that this is an interim report, Ari. No one`s saying that if there`s new evidence that`s discovered if there`s a basis to go and conduct more interviews or request more documents that that wouldn`t be allowed under the current structure of the Intelligence Committee. It`s just that after 14 months of the Trump Presidency, it was an important time to update the American people that as we stand today, there`s no evidence that Trump or his team colluded with Russia.
MELBER: You`re saying Republicans thought, should be open to reopening this if need be?
GAETZ: Of course. If there`s new evidence that arises, you have to be able to exercise your oversight`s function. And I believe that when the written report comes out from Mr. Conaway and his team, you`ll see that it`s designated as an interim report letting the American people know where we stand today.
MELBER: You said something about the Mueller probe, and you`re a noted critic, that really caught my eye. You said it seemed to be going nowhere. And this was a little bit earlier. And I just wanted to kind of go over the record and look. Paul Manafort indicted in October, George Papadopoulos pleading in October, Michael Flynn pleading guilty in December, Richard Pinedo pleading guilty in February, followed by the indictment of 13 Russians, followed by the lawyer Alex van der Zwaan pleading guilty, followed by the Deputy Campaign Manager for Donald Trump in February pleading guilty. Do you think it still going nowhere?
GAETZ: Well, the context for my statement was as it related to collusion with Russia. None of the charges you`ve referenced had anything to do with collusion. With Manafort, it was bad business dealings prior to Trump`s campaign to the presidency. With Papadopoulos and Flynn, it was lying which they should not have done. And when it comes to are Russian troll farms and the 13 indictments, that`s no surprise to anyone, Ari. All over the world, Russia does this. It`s an attack not only in our democracy but all democracies and that`s why we got to fight against it.
MELBER: No surprise but it`s Bob Mueller issuing an indictment, and do you think those 13 Russians should be pursued and try them to the U.S. for trial?
GAETZ: Well, there is no mechanism by which we`re going to be able to do that. I do think it`s important to highlight the fact that Russia does extend its malign influence not only in the United States but around the world in elections from Latin America to the Balkans.
MELBER: I`ll give you -- I`ll give you one mechanism you`re probably familiar with. You put out the Interpol warning and you try to get any of these folks when they`re in an international airport. Would you support that? Do you want them to come and stand trial or is it for some reason you don`t?
GAETZ: No, I would have no problem with those individuals -- if they`re were to be foolish enough to be at an international airport to be brought to the United States to face that scrutiny. I mean, in a way, this is really a shadow indictment of Putin as much as anything because it highlights the extent to which the Russian government seeks to undermine democracy as an institution.
MELBER: And is that a good thing that was a shadow indictment of Mueller?
GAETZ: Absolutely. Look, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, when I travel the world and meet with our intelligence officials, they highlight for me the different tools that Russia uses to undermine elections, whether that`s bribing people, which may have happened in the 2016 campaign for all we know. Whether that`s holding things over people`s heads or whether it`s trying to use other institutions within the society to undermine elections.
MELBER: So I think one thing that`s interesting is anyone listening to you right now, hearing you say that it`s good to do the shadow indictment of Putin, it`s good to get the progress in the courts of law, if we good to pick up these people if we could as Americans, pick them up and bring them here for trial. Those are a lot of things that Bob Mueller has did.
GAETZ: He hasn`t picked up anybody yet.
MELBER: No, I mean, but he`s created the legal architecture. You can`t pick them. You can`t just grab them. At least that`s not the way America does it. So if those are all good things, why then do you want to take the source of those things, this special counsel probe and remove Bob Mueller, and how would you do that when courts have ruled against a president firing a special prosecutor for no -- for no valid reason.
GAETZ: Well, I haven`t made the argument that the President should fire Bob Mueller, I believe that Jeff Sessions should and I believe we should use the apparatus --
MELBER: Well, Jeff Sessions is recused. You know that.
GAETZ: Yes, which is quite a shame. And that recusal is not required under the law and I believe should be rescinded. But if we were to utilize the apparatus of the Justice Department to do just what you`ve described, if we were to use our tools at the State Department to highlight what Russia does, and to try to align our allies of our defense mechanisms that we should be putting in place, I think that would all be positive. It`s the --
MELBER: If you get your way -- if get -- if you were to get your way and say they have an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions or someone else who removes Bob Mueller, how do you square that with the court`s rulings on this? How do you square that with Nader v Bork?
GAETZ: Well, you know, in what respect? I guess I don`t understand the question.
MELBER: Well, that`s the ruling that came up against Nixon. Basically, the court overruled Richard Nixon`s firing of the Special Counsel, very similar situation.
GAETZ: But I don`t think the President should fire the Special Counsel. I think --
MELBER: They said the prosecutor investigating him doing that to try to remove him was illegal and they don`t serve at the President`s pleasures. So how do you square your desire to remove Mueller with that kind of court precedent?
GAETZ: Well, that court precedent dealt with the President of the United States apparently personally engaged in that personnel decision. No one is suggesting that here. I`m suggesting that the Attorney General appropriately constrain the review to collusion, which if there`s evidence of, we should all see. But we have no evidence of collusion.
MELBER: Well, respectfully also -- respectfully all suggest that there is a suggestion that the President wants to remove Mueller because the New York Times reported it and Don McGahn has not denied that there was an effort to get Don McGahn to fire Mueller, one, and then to get Don McGahn to lie about it to the Mueller probe, two, and then we got the second New York Times report. You`re aware of that.
GAETZ: Well, I have no personal knowledge of that. It`s my view that the Attorney General should seize leadership of the Department of Justice and that the President shouldn`t concern himself with such things.
MELBER: OK, let me play for you as well Rod Rosenstein who is the current boss of Bob Mueller, as you and I know. This was basically -- well let me read to what he said. "The Special Counsel is not an unguided missile. I don`t believe there`s any justification for terminating the Special Counsel." Is he wrong?
GAETZ: I think so. I think that based on the team that Bob Mueller, it was like you know, he was fishing in the Hillary Clinton fan club aquarium finding people who had defended the Clinton Foundation against FOIA request who had attended Hillary Clinton`s election night party. I think we`ve got a lot of very talented people throughout the Department of Justice and unfortunately, we chose people who seem not only to have a political bias towards Hillary Clinton but manifested that bias.
MELBER: You talk about that bias, I`ve heard about that. Let me read to you from the Trump administration. This is White House, Aide Hogan Gidley. He says, regarding McCabe and some of these other issues, "top officials of the FBI have engaged in conduct that shows bias for Hillary Clinton," similar to what you just said. Then you have the Trump DOJ letter for firing Comey which says, the FBI was biased against Clint0n and that Jim Comey was unfair to Clinton. I guess I would ask you, which is it?
GAETZ: My assessment is that Hillary Clinton had people both at the FBI and at the Department of Justice, they were paving the way to ensure that she never faced any consequences. I hold that view as a consequence of being a part of the interview of Andrew McCabe and reviewing the e-mails McCabe sent depriving the Washington field office of jurisdiction to review that matter and instead bringing it up to the head shed, where then you had a variety of revisions to the exoneration statement. So that`s my factual basis for my view that there was a pro-Hillary bias. But remember, FBI and the Department of Justice, they`re not monolithic entities. They`re made up of individuals and probably, Ari, there were people that rooted for Hillary Clinton in both of those agencies and people that rooted for Trump in both of these agencies.
MELBER: So in conclusion, you`re saying, we`re all just people?
GAETZ: Well, I think there were some people who manifested their bias improperly against the President and for Hillary Clinton. That`s why I`m pushing our leadership to advance our investigation.
MELBER: I appreciate you coming here and taking the questions. I think you`re on a little bit of a legal island because you have Rosenstein disagreeing with you, you have the court precedence in Nader v Bork which are binding here disagreeing with you, but --
GAETZ: I don`t dispute those because I don`t think the President should fire Mueller.
MELBER: But the President does because he`s been talking about that. But Congressman Gaetz, part of the reason I came to Washington is to be face- to-face with people. I appreciate you doing this.
All right, coming up ahead, will Donald Trump take action or sides after the U.K. hitting back at Russia poison attack and first, this important story, this protest today students demanding changes to gun laws. I`m going to speak to a Republican who says he`s bucking the NRA on guns, that`s back in 90 seconds.
MELBER: We are now one month out from the mass murder in Parkland, Florida. Today students from thousands of schools walked out of their classrooms demanding gun control.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This generation raising their voices to enact change.
AMERICAN CROWD: Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today? Hey, hey, NRA, how many kids have you killed today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about human life. This is about the children who have lost their lives to gun violence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The walkout lasted much longer than 17 minutes. The students flooded out of the school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This time it`s the young people whose lives are on the line, whose futures are on the line. And that`s the point they bring home.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The time is now for all of us together to stand up to the NRA.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are the victims, we are the ones that are going to die if this continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s the activism, and tonight we can show you signs this pressure is working. In fact, the Florida passed a new gun control law for the first time in two decades. But not only that, there were 67 Republican State Lawmakers breaking with the NRA to do it. The law bars people under 21 from buying guns and also bars bump stocks. I`m joined by Scott Plaitgen, a Republican State Representative from Florida who broke with the NRA to support those gun control rules. Thanks for joining me today as people are marching all over the country.
REP. SCOTT PLAKON (R), FLORIDA: Thanks for having me on, Ari. And if I could, before you start asking the questions. I wanted to share something in my life that will help shape why I am the way I am basically. On February 22, I was at -- of 2014 -- I was at my office, I got a text message from my daughter Jeannie, and she said, I`m in a code red at school. I`m so scared daddy. I tried to call, she didn`t answer. She text back, I can`t talk dad, the school is in lockdown. Everyone was screaming. In the cafeteria, the cops are speeding there. I said I`m heading there. I think I broke every traffic law to get there. She says you can`t come here, you won`t be allowed anywhere near the campus. I said I`m coming to get my hug, and she said there was a shooting, daddy. I`m so scared. I can`t stop crying. We`re in my classroom with all the lights turned off and huddled together.
In the 23 minutes, it took me to get there, I came up to the scene we`ve seen so often -- too often. Helicopters overhead, dozens of emergency vehicles, and -- like Columbine, with their faces pressed against the fences and I, was one of those parents with the face pressed against the fence trying to get any information that we could. Thankfully it was a hoax, but for 48 minutes I thought my daughter was locked up with a shooter. And unfortunately for Mr. Petty and Mr. Pollock that were up last week, who I met, there was no hoax, this was very real. So we passed legislation in a bipartisan way that we think will achieve the objective of keeping schools safe, or at least go a long way to get there.
MELBER: Well, and you`re detailing an account, that is every parent`s, I think, one of their worst nightmares, and not necessarily being able to do anything about it in the moment. You`re doing something as a legislator about it for the future, for the next shootings. As we pointed out, there`s a politics to this because the NRA doesn`t just advocate for people who own guns, it advocates for gun corporations and seems to fight any type of rule whatsoever. You broke with them here as a Republican in Florida despite having a pretty high rating for them previously. Can you say on T.V. why the NRA was wrong about this?
PLAKON: Well, I mean, we have to look at the entire bill. OK, now, you know, the under 21 was not my favorite part of the bill, clearly, but it had school hardening features in there, it had mental health advancements, SRO money, guardian programs. So we have to look at the whole bill. In Florida, we have three buttons at our desk, on this case the single bill. There`s red, green and yellow. Just like in Illinois, I know -- I heard Obama had the same buttons.
MELBER: Well, I`m going to cut in. I`m going to use (INAUDIBLE) privilege. What I`m getting at thought is you hit the red button -- you hit the red button on the NRA and a lot of folks are scared of doing that and you`re a Republican. You think that was the right way to go on this?
PLAKON: Well, I shared in my floor comments that I think that every legislator in a vote like this should have one criteria, what is the best thing to keep our students safe? There was a girl came to my office a couple of weeks ago, I think her name was Jenna, a 15-year-old, very sharp girl from same -- from Lake Mary High, one of the sharpest 15-year-olds I`ve seen, and she looked at me and said we`re just scared. And how can it be that in our country, children are scared at school, so we did -- we spent $400 million and in a bipartisan way, came together to pass this legislation. And you know, there are some things that -- we do a lot of business issues, it`s negotiating.
This I believe, and I told colleagues the only criteria is what -- well, first of all, is constitutional, second of all, what do we need to do to keep children safe and that they can feel safe. And I think that that vote -- I think that that vote did it. And you know, there are some things that are worth losing elections over. And if it involves keeping our children safe, I`d be good with that. I hope not but I think I made the right vote.
MELBER: Well, I appreciate you laying it out on the personal and political. It takes both sometimes. And I think people will be very interested in what you had to say. Representative Plakon, thank you very much.
PLAKON: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Up ahead, Stormy Daniels` lawyer speaking out today making waves talking about deposing Donald Trump and whether other women are now reaching out to him.
MELBER: Brand new here on MSNBC. Stormy Daniels` attorney talking about a possible Donald Trump deposition in this big interview with my colleague Nicolle Wallace.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: What do you think the President`s risk is for sitting down for a deposition with you?
MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: I`m not going to assume that the President of the United States if placed under oath is going to lie or perjure himself. I`m going to actually assume that he`s going, to tell the truth.
WALLACE: You are now in the line of work of defending women who have had sexual relationships with the President that he`d like to keep quite. Have more women come to you?
WALLACE: How many?
AVENATTI: I`m not going to answer that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That answer there, yes, would put more work on the desk of Michael Cohen, Trump`s long time lawyer. Now, last night I reported right here on why Michael Cohen`s payment to Stormy Daniels probably doesn`t actually violate election law. And today Michael Cohen respond to THE BEAT saying even MSNBC knows I did nothing wrong #stormy. Kind of an unusual legal hashtag there. Now, let`s be clear, Michael Cohen is correct. We did report that the payment itself probably is not an FEC violation. He`s incorrect to say that we said he never did "anything wrong."
Our report simply was not that broad. That illegal history here is still instructive. That hush payment was probably not a crime because the payment does not look like an illegal campaign donation and he`d have to prove the hush payments were common as his defense. Basically, Cohen would have to show that Trump paid money top many different women irrespective of being a candidate. That is an interesting footnote given what he just told -- excuse me, what Michael Avenatti just told Nicolle Wallace and we will be right back.
MELBER: That`s our show. I`ll see you tomorrow night live from Washington, D.C. with Senator Cory Booker and some other special guests. But right now, it`s "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.