Democrat Representative roasts EPA Chief. TRANSCRIPT: 04/26/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber.

Guests: Frank Pallone Jr. Richard Painter

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: April 26, 2018 Guest: Frank Pallone Jr. Richard Painter

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more of MTP DAILY.

The thing with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: It is a thing. Thank you, Chuck Todd.

Tonight, we are following several breaking stories. Republicans taking Trump on directly with action to try to protect Bob Mueller on the hill. It is a big one.

Also, Donald Trump`s EPA chief grilled. Will Trump stand by him?

And my Special Report tonight about what people may be getting wrong about why the Trump/Kanye bromance matters. That`s later tonight.

We begin though with Donald Trump`s defense of his personal lawyer completely publicly backfiring. Michael Cohen headed to a federal courtroom today. And Trump was trying to stick up for him, but he instead made an admission, that you probably know from watching the news, the entire Trump team has been trying to hide for months. This is about the Stormy Daniels hush payment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he has a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me. And you know from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Cohen barely did any work for Trump, but allegedly that tiny little fraction does include the infamous Stormy Daniels pay-off. Now think about three weeks ago when Trump had a completely different factually opposite claim.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make it? If there was no truth to the allegations?

TRUMP: You would have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael`s my attorney, and you`ll have to ask Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I know we say a lot of unusual things happen around here in the newsroom, but this is unusual. You are witnessing the fact-checking of Donald Trump on the Stormy Daniels/Michael Cohen relationship by Donald Trump who said three weeks ago he didn`t know about the payment and now admits in public on FOX News that Cohen made the deal.

So in a moment, we are going to turn to the man at the center of all this, Stormy Daniels lawyer, Michael Avenatti who is here on THE BEAT.

The other big development, though, in the Cohen case, a judge ruling that there will be an outside, third-party special master to review the records the FBI seized in their raid of Cohen because of all these questions around attorney/client privilege. The former judge, Barbara Jones, will be this special master. Prosecutors say the review won`t take long, and they argue, basically Trump agrees. In fact, hours after the FOX interview, the prosecutor started citing that in a new court filing, saying, thank you, President Trump. Cohen performs a quote "tiny, tiny little fraction of his overall legal work, which suggests that these materials are unlikely to contain (INAUDIBLE) privilege documents related to the President. Thank you, OX and Friends.

Now Cohen didn`t do much legal work for Trump or shouldn`t many documents the prosecutors can see. Trump also said the case is more to do with Cohen`s business and legal advice in defending his decision to take the fifth in the civil lawsuit brought by Stormy Daniels as the New York investigation moves forward.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why is he pleading the fifth?

TRUMP: Because he has got other things. He has got businesses. And from what I understand, they are looking at his businesses and I hope he is in great shape. But he has got businesses and his lawyers probably told him to do that. But I`m not involved and I`m not involved. And I have been told I`m not involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Michael Cohen does have the right to take the Fifth Amendment and you can`t take a big conclusion about that, but you can think of someone who disagrees with that proposition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If I have people taking the Fifth Amendment like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the fifth. If you are innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We turn to Michael Avenatti who is here.

As I always remind my viewers, you have a stake in this case, you are against Michael Cohen. Having said that, you have been proven right repeatedly, if folks have followed you. You predicted this exact series of events. How and what does it mean tonight?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Well, I think this is a monumental moment, not only in this case, but really in the history of the nation as it relates to the President and his relationship with his personal attorneys. This is the first time a personal attorney to a sitting President in our nation`s history, has pleaded the fifth amendment against self-incrimination.

And you know, you mentioned that we can`t draw any negative inference or negative conclusion from that, but actually we can in a civil case. Because and we are prosecuting a civil case right now. The fact-finder, whether it be a judge or a jury in our case is going to be able to draw a negative inference, which means they will be able to assume that had Michael Cohen answered whatever questions I`m ultimately going to pose to him, and whatever questions he is going to assert his fifth amendment rights to, that those answers would have been negative or would have been bad for Michael Cohen. And they can use that fact against him.

MELBER: And that makes it more likely that what? That you will be able to crack the underlying NDA.

AVENATTI: Correct. It makes it more likely we are going to be able to win on our declatory (ph) judgment action on the NDA, as well as our defamation action. And Ari, I think it also makes it more likely that we are going to get a deposition of the President. And not only does that make it more likely, but the President`s statements on FOX & Friends, and by the way, I want to encourage, if you are watching, please go on FOX & Friends every morning, because or case gets better every time you do it.

So every time he goes on FOX & Friends, he makes a statement that helps us out. And in light of the statement this morning which is contrary to the air force one statement, and you you`re your viewers, it`s also contrary to what Michael Cohen said previously, and what David Schwartz, Michael Cohen`s attorney said previously. All these statements are inconsistent.

MELBER: By Trump`s own standard, that would suggest he was lying on air force one about Michael Cohen?

AVENATTI: Correct. And what that does is it provides a foundation, a further foundation, Ari, for our efforts to depose the President and actually place him under oath and cause him to stake out a definitive position as to these issues.

MELBER: Do you think it`s perhaps more likely that you will be able to force Donald Trump to testify sooner than Bob Mueller?

AVENATTI: Absolutely. No question. I do. I do. Because Bob Mueller does not, I think, technically have the ability to force him to come to a deposition, whereas if Judge Otero, in my case, in our case, grants our motion and issues that order, that`s going to be a very powerful order, commanding him to be deposed.

MELBER: So that`s a lot of good news for your side. The procedural bad news, because I think you are fighting against it, is that they are using this special master. What does that mean to you?

AVENATTI: Well, I don`t think the special master is really a down side or a downturn for either case. I mean, this is -- the judge appointed Barbara Jones. She is a very well respected former federal judge. She has a lot of experience across many different realms. I think she is going to be diligent relating to the review of the documents. And I think, at the end of the day, the government investigators and the prosecutors are going to get what they need.

You know, one of the things, Ari, that came out of the hearing today, was that the FBI had seized 16 cell phones from the three different locations in the FBI raids.

MELBER: Pretty normal to have 16 cell phones.

AVENATTI: Yes. I don`t know how many you have. I actually have 19.

MELBER: I have 37.

AVENATTI: OK, good. So it`s not that big a number. But I mean, I almost fell out of my seat when I heard 16 cell phones, including two blackberries. I don`t know why some of you have a blackberry. The last time I had --.

MELBER: Well, some older people have blackberries.

AVENATTI: And there`s nothing wrong with having a blackberry, right.

MELBER: I don`t even know what we`re talking about.

AVENATTI: No. But the point is, is that what it appears is, is that every time Michael Cohen changed phones, he kept his old phone.

MELBER: Which means what to you?

AVENATTI: Well, presumably he didn`t erase that phone. And even if he did erase, if he didn`t erase it forensically, the FBI now has all of those phones. You could be talking about communications dating back, five, seven, ten, 12 years, with any number of individuals, Mr. Trump, Mr. Hannity, others.

MELBER: You are saying too many phones can be, as you put it earlier, a negative inference. I mean, there`s a rapper Kevin Gates who talks about the fact that an additional phone is an indication of a dedicated phone for narcotics trade. I mean, you don`t know yet though whether all those phones were for enlisted or not.

AVENATTI: No. My point is actually a little different. The treasure trove of documents just got that much larger. We are not talking a single Christmas worth. We are talking about 12 years Christmas.

MELBER: But if they are all valid, if those -- if the old evidence is valid or potentially attorney/client privileged with Hannity or Trump or anyone else, then now with the special master, you guys will never see them.

AVENATTI: Well, I don`t believe that to be true. I think they are going to go through the information and they are going to pore through it and they are going to get to the bottom of it no matter the quantity is.

MELBER: Let me read to you something more on the personal side of Michael Cohen, who is someone you have come to know in this case. A call that he allegedly placed in November 2017 where he said boss, I miss you so much. I wish I was down there in Washington with you. It`s really hard for me to be here. According to a person familiar with the call in a "Wall Street Journal" piece about the awkward exile of Michael Cohen.

Have you gleaned anything in all this time around him about the odd relationship with Donald Trump particularly given the factual discrepancies you just mentioned about Trump saying either ask Michael Cohen. I don`t know anything to Michael Cohen does stuff, but it`s insignificant.

AVENATTI: You know, I think this fits the larger pattern, Ari, of Donald Trump demanding absolute loyalty but giving none. And I think there`s little question that he abandoned Michael Cohen to a significant degree, kicked him to the curb. And now only recently is he trying to reignite that relationship. I tweeted about his tweet to Michael Cohen this weekend or what perceive to be --.

MELBER: You are tweeting about other people`s tweets, Michael?

AVENATTI: Well, I mean, you know --

MELBER: Is that a good use of your time?

AVENATTI: Sometimes it is. Actually, it`s very valuable.

MELBER: OK. I do it too, just to be clear.

AVENATTI: Thank you. But in any event, I think that you can only show disloyalty to people that are close to you, that you trust with information for so long. And ultimately, that`s going to catch up to you.

MELBER: That does it by facts.

Stay with me. I want to bring in as we often 1 do you some of our other expert panel as Nancy Erika Smith, a former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, both with extensive litigation experience.

First off the top, your responses of everything you just heard. Renato first.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, one quibble I`m going to have with Michael is that I do think Mueller could compel Trump to testify if he wanted to. He could issue a grand jury subpoena and then Trump would be in the situation of whether or not to take the fifth himself. Obviously, he could do that in a civil matter as well. I think it seems like there at least some possible in the civil case that we are going to have at least a limited stay or some period of time where that case is going to be stay. In other words frozen for some period of time, at least as the discoveries to the Trump entirely (ph).

MELBER: Well, on the point, let`s listen to Donald Trump speaking to that that potential today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he make you want to talk to Mueller and put an end to it? Does it make you want to talk to him because that is what Rudy Giuliani --.

TRUMP: Well, if I can. The problem is that it is such a -- it is such -- if you take a look they are so conflicted.

MARIOTTI: Yes. I got to tell you. He doesn`t sound like somebody is excited to talk about Mueller. And one thing I`ll say is, boy, there is a lot of great material for prosecutors and people like Mr. Avenatti in that conversation today. I do agree with him on that point.

And one take-away you really come from that conversation is, it does not sound like Donald Trump is trying to wrap his arms around Michael Cohen. It does not sound like somebody is ready to pardon Cohen. If I was Cohen and watching that interview, I would be concerned. Because he is really trying to say, I`m separate from this guy. He is a businessman on his own. Very much trying to create a distance. You know, it seems like he is more concerned about being close to Cohen than he is concerned about Cohen flipping right now.

MELBER: On that point, Nancy, did you have the impression there was a lawyer in the room with Donald Trump when he made the call to FOX & friends?

NANCY ERIKA SMITH, ATTORNEY: No, I didn`t have that impression there was a lawyer in the room. If there was, she or she should be fired.

MELBER: I didn`t either.

Well, and he has a lot of lawyers working for him including White House lawyers. And if you are going to make a call like that, in the middle of this many cases, federal and civil, why not have one of the people you pay in the room.

SMITH: Because he thinks he is the smartest person in the room and he`s not.

MELBER: What if he is alone in the room? It was a phoner.

SMITH: Very good.

MELBER: It was a phoner.

SMITH: Very good.

MELBER: I`m listening to what you are saying and responding.

SMITH: That`s right. Well, the thing that I find that we are kind of glossing over is the incredible amount of lying by the President of the United States. It`s quite shocking to see the President three weeks ago say, I don`t know anything about what Michael Cohen`s doing. And today say, oh, yes, he represented me on that Stormy Daniels crazy thing.

That`s shocking. And it`s like lost in this morass of the Trump presidency. I think he is doing it now because he wants to assert the privilege with regard to Stormy Daniels` materials. He is trying to help. He is not helping by saying he represented me in a tiny little. And I know anything about his business. None of this is remotely believable.

But the idea that he is now trying to say, well, any communications about Stormy Daniels, yes, he represented me. He was my lawyer.

MELBER: But who knew, Nancy, that Donald Trump/Stormy Daniels "a Few Good Men" moment would happen under fairly limp questioning by telephone on FOX News. I mean, they were going to court and Michael just speaks this after you, literally saying, maybe Michael Cohen doesn`t represent anyone, and who knows if David Dennison was. I mean, this was an actual legal strategy executed under oath and then under FOX questioning he goes, well, actually, yes. NO, he is my lawyer for Stormy Daniels.

SMITH: Yes, I don`t think he can remember his lines very well. And as much as FOX News tries to be (INAUDIBLE) for the Trump administration, you can`t control him.

AVENATTI: Well, I mean, that is absolutely right. I mean, the issue, Ari, is that, you know, it goes back to that bold (INAUDIBLE) what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive. And when you tell lie after lie and fabricate fact after fact, you can`t keep it straight, even if you are highly intelligent and on your game. And that`s what we have seen. I mean, he spoke off the cuff as he usually does, and he can`t remember the last lie he told, the last fact that he fabricated and this is what happened.

And Ari, you can get away with this from a political standpoint if you are running a campaign or something of that nature. I mean, obviously that`s why we are all sitting here talking about this right now. And he got away with this for a long time. But you can`t get away with it, and you this, you can`t get away with it when you are involved in litigation, because it will come back and bite you. And this is going to come back and bite him.

MELBER: And Renato, briefly, what interview do you think is most likely to happen, if any?

MARIOTTI: I actually think Donald Trump seems like he is intrigued with the possibility of talking to Mueller. I don`t know why. He should take the fifth, but I don`t think he will.

MELBER: I want to thank Renato Mariotti and Nancy Erika Smith. And Michael Avenatti who has been in the eye of the storm, thank you for coming back on THE BEAT giving us your insights.

Coming up, Donald Trump with a new threat at the DOJ. I`m going to talk to the senator who voted today to protect Bob Mueller`s job.

And probably the most controversial cabinet official right now, facing a grilling. We`ll show you the key parts.

And today`s Bill Cosby verdict, quite different from before. We have a breakdown on why later.

And yes, as promised, my report on the simmering controversy over Trump and Kanye.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Just about since Trump`s inauguration, people have been asking when elected Republicans will stand up to his blatant attacks on the rule of law. Tonight we can report several just did. This is the first time we have actually seen any vote directly rebuking Trump`s approach to the Russia probe.

Four Republican senators joined every Democrat in support of this bill. And they want to move forward on something that would protect Mueller from any Trump firing. Here was the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We must protect this investigation.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Nobody in this country is above the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we are trying to do is protect Mr. Mueller and his investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can guarantee that the rule of law exceeds conflict of interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This bill does something very specific, making sure Mueller has a clear chance to appeal any firing directly to the judiciary, another layer of protection, separate from the DOJ.

I`m joined by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, you just heard speaking about the rule of law and work on this bill. What does this mean, sir?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, it means, first of all, that a fairly significant stake has been put in the ground in the Senate, warning the President that if he were to try to obstruct this investigation through firing, that a lot of Republicans have gone On the Record and voted to put in place a measure that would protect the Mueller investigation.

So even if it doesn`t become law, today was a very significant day. We are going to continue to push forward to have this become law, because ultimately, I think in this country, we want special counsel to be largely protected from interference by the President.

MELBER: Right. You mentioned that it`s important even if it doesn`t become law. If it does not get passed by both houses and signed by the President, do you currently take the position that a special counsel, any special counsel, including Mueller, would have the right to challenge an unlawful firing in court anyway?

WHITEHOUSE: He may well have. It would be a bit of a challenge to figure out how you`d frame that. Probably the biggest risk would be that the remaining part of the investigation, you know, you can get rid of Mueller himself, and the special counsel team is still there. They still have to show up at court dates. They still have to show up to grand jury dates. And so they have work to do. And whoever gets appointed to replace Mueller, that investigation would continue. I think the biggest danger is that continuing investigation would put the firing of Bob Mueller into the category of evidence of criminal obstruction of justice by the President.

And I think that gets pretty alarming not only for the President but also for the legal counsel staff, the folks at the White House who are administering all of this. If they are not talking to their own lawyers about what aiding and abetting means and how the conspiracy laws work, they need to be more careful.

MELBER: Let me play for you the leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell on all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: I don`t think he should fire Mueller. And I don`t think he`s going to. So this is a piece of legislation that`s not necessary, in my judgment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, obviously your colleagues fear it enough to say it should be in there --

MCCONNELL: Yes. But I`m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That`s my responsibility, as the majority leader and will not be having this on the floor of the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Pretty emphatic in his rationale that he doesn`t think this will happen. You know, a lot of people think earthquakes are relatively unlikely, but they still take out insurance.

WHITEHOUSE: Let`s hope you`re not playing that quote back after an effort has been made by the President to fire Mueller.

MELBER: Fair. But does that mean this is pretty much lights out on it, if that`s the McConnell position?

WHITEHOUSE: No, I think there continues to be a lot of dialogue back and forth as the President continues to maneuver, to discredit the investigation, the conclusion that he is going to take a shot at it becomes increasingly reasonable. And the sort of, I don`t know, almost imaginary confidence that he has never going to do this looks more and more incredible.

So we have a chess piece on the board right now that can be moved to protect this investigation at the appropriate time. I think that it`s a high-risk right now, and we should move it quickly. The majority leader has more confidence than I do that the President won`t act in this way, but at least we have this piece on the board, ready to move, ready to be called up with a strong bipartisan vote and that`s a big step forward.

MELBER: Senator Whitehouse, thank you very much.

WHITEHOUSE: My pleasure.

Up next, there are grillings and then there are grillings. Lawmakers taking apart Trump`s EPA head about scandals. I`m going to speak live at the Democrat who told Scott Pruitt today to his face, it is time to resign when we are back in just 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The other top story tonight, a bloodbath for Trump`s embattled environmental chief under fire for allegations he is looting the government for private perks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the taxpayers spend $30,000 for a security detail to accompany you on a trip to Disneyland?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m unsure about that. Those decisions -- that decision was made --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes or no, did you authorize him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t express the $43,000 was appropriate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. OK. You`re not going to answer my question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that outside work at least creates the appearance of a lack of bias?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was not aware of that contract and it`s being reviewed.

Will you or your staff be subject to these penalties, yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are investigating this internally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, then I`m concerned that you have no idea what`s going on in your name at your agency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The list of your failures is long. And your wasteful spending is an embarrassment to government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER: It was rough. Now some people had enough of Pruitt`s evasions and tried a different tactic in direct questioning. Frank Pallone who helped lead the hearings stair down Pruitt and told him he is basically unfit to serve. Tip your barista because this was a roasting.

I think your actions are an embarrassment to President Trump. So much for draining the swamp.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FRANK PALLONE JR., NEW JERSEY: You`re unfit to hold public office. If I were the President I wouldn`t want your help. I just get rid of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now is that congressman, Frank Pollone, Democrat from New Jersey.

Why did you take that tack and roast Mr. Pruitt to his face?

PALLONE: Well, because there have been so many scandals and conflicts of interest that are directly impacting the EPA`s ability to function. As Scott Pruitt was saying, the President wants me here because I`m carrying out his agenda. I don`t think he`s carrying out anybody`s agenda anymore. I think he`s incapable of even functioning there. And you know, I have been very critical of the fact that he has been tearing down all the environmental protections, but at this point I don`t know how the agency can operate with him at the helm because of all the scandals and problems.

MELBER: Let`s look at something else you dug into which is the way that he`s alleged retaliated against his own staff.

PALLONE: Yes, I mean basically --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALLONE: You remove the head of the EPA office that found that you did not face direct death threats. Has it always been your practice to fire people who disagree with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, the inspector general himself has noted that the threats against me --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not answering yes or no. Look, six staffers is a pattern. I think you need to start taking responsibility.

MELBER: Sir, I wanted to make sure our viewers saw that exchange before we get your analysis. So please, help us understand what you were getting at there?

PALLONE: Well, he doesn`t take responsibility for anything. He constantly blames his chief of staff, political appointee, civil service appointees, anybody but himself. And you know, we couldn`t get any answers, really. He refused to answer anything. And again, if you`re in charge, you`re supposed to take responsibility and say, look, this is a problem. I`m going to fix it. I`m going to do something about it and instead, he just denies everything. And you know, I tell you, if it was anybody else, he would be out of there a long time ago. And I also was critical of the Republicans on the committee because for the most part, you know, they give him a pass. They weren`t really very critical at all.

MELBER: Congressman, stay with me. You mentioned Republicans, I want to bring in an ethics expert and a former Republican White House Ethics Lawyer, Richard Painter, who has been listening in. What do you think is important about today?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, the problem is that Scott Pruitt is in charge of one of the more important agencies. We have environmental crises in this country and around the globe with climate change. We`ve got President Trump trying to re-open a lot of mines that are going to cause a lot of damage to the environment. They`re repealing environmental regulations fast and furious. And what do we have? We have an administrator of the EPA who rents a condo for $50 a night from an energy lobbyist, only paying the $50 when he stays there, clearly a gift from the energy lobbyists. What does the energy lobbyists want, deregulation. So on top of all the waste of taxpayer money, the retaliation against subordinates that don`t agree with him and everything else, we have somebody in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency who is receiving gifts, pay-offs from people who want to destroy the environment and at a time when our country and the world, we are in environmental crisis. This is a very, very troubling situation. He ought to get fired.

MELBER: You lay it out. I mean, there`s a lot there. Congressman Pallone, I also want to play Pruitt`s public comments which again show a pattern of either misdirection or outright lying. Here he was earlier with a different explanation of some of these issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you go around the President and the White House and give pay raises to two staffers here?

SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: I did not. My staff did and I found out about that yesterday and I changed it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you aware of the raises?

PRUITT: Was I aware of the amount?

REP. PAUL TONKO (D), NEW YORK: Yes or no, di you authorize him?

PRUITT: There were delegations giving him that authority, so that`s a yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What did you make of that exchange, Congressman?

PALLONE: Well, first of all -- you`re asking me?

MELBER: Yes, sir.

PALLONE: He contradicts himself completely. The one thing he did admit essentially today was that he did authorize, or at least was aware of these raises and that`s different from what he said before. So clearly he, you know, wasn`t telling the truth before and he did say today that he was involved or was aware of it. So now we have him essentially lying, which you know, is just another example of why he`s got to go.

MELBER: And Richard, take a listen as well to some of the Republicans responding. I thought this was really striking, which is why we want to get it in, having now laid out the substance. I think viewers can see, there are serious questions about mismanagement, ethics, whistle-blower retaliation, and the looting of this agency for personal perks. Now, that`s -- I don`t see that really as left/right. But this was in response to Republicans saying there`s nothing here, it`s political, or even McCarthyism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DAVID MCKINLEY (R), WEST VIRGINIA: I think this has been a classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: You`re not the first person to be the victim of, for lack of a better term, Washington politics.

REP. GREGG HARPER (R), MISSOURI: It appears that it`s become a political blood sport to try to destroy anybody associated with the Trump Administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Richard, are those valid defenses?

PAINTER: No. There`s just a bunch of lap dogs for Donald Trump and I`m sure they`re getting quite a campaign contributions from some the same energy companies or the lobbyists who rent him the room $50 a night for Mr. Pruitt. I mean, this is just embarrassment. It`s an embarrassment for the Republican Party that stood up for protection of the environment under Teddy Roosevelt, established the EPA under President Richard Nixon. This is why I don`t want to have anything to do with the Republican Party anymore. I mean, they`re just a bunch of lap dogs there not doing anything. They`re not exercising their duty set forth in the Constitution. They have an obligation to exercise oversight over this executive branch and doing nothing at all for political reason. They`ll probably all get the boot or half of them, in the fall.

MELBER: Richard Painter, making the playing cards from Frank Pallone, a key driver of that hearing today, thank you both. Up ahead, we have a report on the big verdict. Bill Cosby looking at potentially decades in prison. We`re going to show you why it was different this time. But first, a political explosion over a cultural moment. My breakdown on the new backlash to the Trump/Kanye alliance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s got good taste. I have known Kanye a little bit and I get along with Kanye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Today Donald Trump called into Fox News and since it is 2018, this happened.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to get to Kanye West. He tweeted that he loves you, that you`re his brother and --

TRUMP: He`s got good taste. I have known Kanye a little bit, and I get along with Kanye. But Kanye looks and he sees black unemployment at the lowest it`s been in the history of our country.

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MELBER: Kanye has enraged many of his fans by hailing Trump and doubling down when they criticized him for it. Now he`s facing a backlash from artists, including people unfollowing him online, and it spans music, film, and journalism, everyone from Drake to Eugene Scott, Kendrick Lamar, Morgan Freeman, and Rihanna, and some are dismissing this no was another silly skirmish, a non-troversy. That`s a mistake. This story is important for politics and culture and it`s the subject of my special report tonight. Like many of today`s most searing cultural moments, the Kanye/Trump bromance was immediately met with a shaming backlash. In fact, before most people had time to even process what Kanye said, our internet and media machine was drowning out his words with criticism that Kanye even said these words. Now the critiques ranged from perfectly fair, please don`t use your influence to legitimize Trump to the vengeful. Like if you support my political opponent, you`re now my enemy regardless of your art or humanity, to the insensitive and inappropriate with people speculating on mental health. But there`s other dynamics at play here. Donald Trump actually has a long and complex history with hip-hop just as he infiltrated himself into other parts of American culture. That history still matters. And the response to this episode shows how hard a time some Democrats may have in taking on Trump in these next two elections because this fight is showing how overreacting to Trump can backfire. In other words, even if you put Kanye to the side, the story tonight is still that millions of Americans are blasting an artist for simply praising a president`s style. Now, people have every right to take that stance. But is it thoughtful, is it tolerant and is it politically effective? So let`s start at the beginning. Before Kanye was tripping off the power, many rappers did show Trump love back when he was a celebrity, associated with money, rappers name-checked him constantly. Ludacris touting meetings with Trump, Meek Mill saying he had Trump`s number on the corner, Obama endorser Jay-Z even used to plug Trump Hotels, saying, blast for me, I`m at the Trump International, ask for me. Recent Pulitzer Prize Winner Kendrick Lamar saying, I don`t want to be a dealer, I want to be a Trump. And let`s be clear, this went beyond casual shoutouts or looking for words that rhyme with bump. Some rappers were talking about wanting to embody Trump. Raekwon hailed himself as the black Trump. Young Jeezy told people, call me Donald Trump. And all of this reached a basically bizarre endpoint with Up Like Trump, Rae Sremmurd`s 2014 anthem showing people literally partying wearing Trump masks. Trump wasn`t a punchline originally in a rap. He was kind of an aspiration. So Kanye is coming out of that history even if he`s now behind the curve. And when rappers show Trump, love, he`s showed them love back. In fact, in 2005, he personally joined rappers Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo in studio at G-Unit Radio.

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TONY YAYO, RAPPER: You see who I`m sitting next to, Donald Trump. Smell the money. Smell the money.

TRUMP: Great group of people.

YAYO: Smell the money.

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MELBER: And whether or not Trump uses rap genius, he knew he was in some lyrics.

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TRUMP: I`m in more of these rap songs. You know, my daughter calls me up, she said, dad, you`re in another one. It`s like ten of them.

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MELBER: More than ten. Try over 200. That`s according to a count in 2016. And then Trump changed from a joke to birther to a divider and rappers began confronting moments like these.

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TRUMP: You are not allowed to be a president if you`re not born in this country. He may not have been born in this country.

But you also had people that are very fine people, on both sides.

Look, what do you have to lose? You`re living in poverty, your schools are no good.

One of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, get that son of a bitch off the field.

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MELBER: Nowadays, rap references to Trump are more about those moments. Kanye never got on board with that particular change and this week`s critiques of Kanye are right out of a Kanye song. I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye, the always rude Kanye, spas in the news Kanye. But if you look at what Kanye is actually saying, he`s mostly focused on Trump as a style and Trump as a media innovator, not policy. He said that explicitly when he told his fans after the election he liked Trump`s method of communication while defending that he was still pro black lives matter and pro women.

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KANYE WEST, RAPPER: That style and that method of communication has proven that it can beat a politically correct way of communication. That don`t mean that I don`t think that black lives matter. That don`t meant that I don`t think I`m a believer in women`s rights.

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MELBER: So everyone upset about Kanye`s tweets this week, this is something he said right after the election, and he had the verve to say it in person to his own fans, some of whom were jeering in that clip. And I guess it`s true, screams from the haters got a nice ring to it. Every superhero really does need his theme music. But think about it. It really was that same attitude that also moved Kanye to confront President Bush in a way that very few people in culture or politics were willing to immediately do after Katrina.

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WEST: Those are my people down there. A lot of the people that could help are at war right now fighting another way and they`ve given them permission to go down and shoot us. George Bush doesn`t care about black people.

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MELBER: Did taking that risk to say that make a difference? George Bush later said it stood out for him as a low point of his presidency.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn`t appreciate it then and I don`t appreciate it now. It`s another thing to say this man`s a racist. I resent it, it`s not true, and it`s one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.

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MELBER: You know, in a world of euphemism and people hiding behind their screens, Kanye stands up. It does not mean Kanye`s right. But this is part of his brash artistry. Now, is there a difference between standing up to Bush in that hurricane and co-signing Donald Trump? Well, many people this weekend in politics and hip-hop are saying, obviously, yes. In fact, it was the rapper Uncle Murda who took on this contrast in his song wrapping up the era news. He said, "Damn ye, the people don`t trust you. Bush don`t like black people, but you think Donald Trump do? Don`t meet with Donald Trump and talk about us, ye, you haven`t got the answers just like you told sway," a reference to Kanye`s famous refrain to the interviewer Sway.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven`t got the answers, man. You haven`t got the answers. You haven`t got the answers, Sway!

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MELBER: Maybe Sway didn`t have the answers. Maybe Kanye doesn`t have the answers. But maybe none of us have all the answers. And when Kanye is defying the public`s attempt to tell him what to think right or wrong, we`re in the place where art and civics meet. Because a free society does require space for freedom of thought and that can be endangered when groups try to control the mind of the individual even if the group has pretty good ideas. So let`s reflect for a moment on what Kanye actually wrote after this backlash. "You don`t have to agree with Trump but the mob can`t make me not love him. I love everyone." He went on, "I don`t agree with everything anyone does. That`s what makes us individuals and we have the right to independent thought." You know, love is one of those words like respect. There are people who use it exclusively only for the people who earn it. And there are other people who say they try to love and respect everyone. Kanye`s an artist. He`s talking about loving everyone, including this President. And he built on this point late today, writing on Twitter, "It`s really cool to say I hate you, but it`s not cool to say I love you. Love has a stigma." And with this President, of course, any public love or praise is appreciated for a very reason that Kanye observed long ago.

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WEST: It`s seems we living the American dream. But the people`s highest up got the lowest self-esteem. The prettiest people do the ugliest things.

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MELBER: The ugliest things. Now, meanwhile, there`s another Chicago artist, Chance the Rapper, whose father actually worked once for Obama and he`s responded to these Kanye-Trump issues this week by writing simply, "Black people don`t have to be Democrats." Remember last year when Eminem unleashed that blistering attack on Trump and he swore off his own fans if they were backing Trump, there were Trump critics who praised that rapper for taking a financial hit for his beliefs. So we should ask, does that only work in one direction? Kanye may be wrong, but he`s speaking apparently his mind regardless of profits. Now when that Eminem video dropped, the rapper Talib Kweli told us how fans can support artists, but they never own them.

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TALIB KWELI, RAPPER: It`s a miscommunication for a lot of fans, that if they buy your music, they have bought you and these fans do not own Eminem.

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MELBER: Fans love the art and the culture. The fans don`t control it. Kanye West enraged many of his fans this week. And if you listen to Kanye, if you are a fan for what he does and says, then you do know he`s always been an iconic class. He`s been hailing aspects of Trump for years and if you do go way back, so have some other people in hip-hop. Now, let me be clear, I`m not saying that backing Trump in 2018 has the moral, political, or lyrical equivalence of shouting out Trump in 2010. And I am not saying Kanye West is right. For all, we know he`s just tripping off the power. But I am saying tonight, some of Kanye`s critics are wrong and this part is bigger than Kanye. If one`s beef with Trump is that he`s intolerant and close-minded and even tribal, it is worth checking whether he`s bringing out any of those same qualities in us. So, yes, debate Kanye, but it`s pretty harsh for some people to cast him as stuck in the infamous sunken place, the hypnotic state of black marginalization depicted in that excellent film Get Out, and he and his wife were rebutting that this week. She noted he`s out of the sunken place when he`s being himself and being very expressive. And if you take that paradigm and that stand-off, then we are all left at an impasse. Politically, people opposed to Trump`s agenda, demanding Kanye get out of the sunken place. They`re basically being -- they`re basically looking at this and they`re screaming, wakeup, Mr. West! That`s the politics. But life is more than politics. It`s also culture and art which relies on broader minds. So you can yell "wake up, Mr. West," but when it comes to art, on that score, Kanye is saying he`s already woke.

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MELBER: Another important story, Bill Cosby convicted of sexual assault today. The jury finding Cosby guilty on all three counts, this was for crimes against Andrea Constand in this retrial, a big shift from the mistrial ten months ago.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a dramatic outcome to a court case that has gripped the nation. Today a Pennsylvania judge declared a mistrial in the sexual assault case against comic legend Bill Cosby. The jury was deadlocked on its sixth day of deliberations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jury is on their way back home to Pittsburgh. They were sequestered here for two weeks grueling deliberations that lasted more than 50 hours, longer than the entire trial.

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MELBER: Delivering longer than that first trial, we reported on what that outcome could mean.

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MELBER: If this jury remains deadlocked four, five, six days in, the implication is at least one person on this jury doesn`t think that Bill Cosby is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That means Bill Cosby remains presumed innocent and it`s up to the state to decide whether they want to prosecute him all over again in a new trial from scratch.

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MELBER: From scratch. And that is what happened culminating today. A prosecution and now he`s far from presumed innocent, a jury declaring him guilty.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We apparently have a verdict in the Bill Cosby retrial. Of course, this is happening in Pennsylvania. His last trial ended in a hung jury. Cosby has faced three counts of aggravated indecent assault, each carrying up to ten years in prison. These counts again all involve just one woman. They do plan to appeal this decision. He said they`re going to appeal is very strongly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 80-year-old Cosby remains free on bail until sentencing despite an argument from the prosecution that his bail be revoked because of flight concerns. That evidently prompted Cosby to lash out in court in an expletive-filled outburst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really just an amazing day, a day here. It`s a day that Cosby survivors as they call themselves, accusers of his, just didn`t think would happen. This was the last case. This was the only case that fell within the statute of limitations where it could be tried in a criminal court. So this was the last chance to get him.

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MELBER: The only chance and it was one that the jury accepted after deliberating. We want to show you one accuser, Lili Bernard delivering a message moments after today`s verdict.

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LILI BERNARD, ACCUSER OF COSBY: I stand here in the spirit of Martin Luther King who said that the arc of the moral universe is long but today it has bent towards justice. Today, this jury has shown that the MeToo, what the MeToo movement is saying is that women are worthy of being believed.

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MELBER: A judge will ultimately sentence Cosby within we can tell you the next three months and he technically faces up to three decades in prison which would be effectively a life sentence.

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MELBER: Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile just spoke out on the DNC suing is the Trump campaign and made this point on THE BEAT about a possible interview with Mueller.

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DONNA BRAZILE, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think the President owe it to the American people to sit down and say look, here`s what I know. I had no idea that Manafort was having these back room conversations or my son went into these meetings or other officials identified with my campaign. Why not just come forward so that we can get to the bottom of what happened in 2016.

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MELBER: But if you missed that interview, you now can listen to it on our brand new Apple podcast of the show. You look for the purple podcast icon, on your iPhone, click there, go to the search bar and just type in Ari Melber or THE BEAT with Ari Melber, click on it, you`ll see the show page pop up. You can find the latest episodes, download the episode by clicking the plus sign and of course we encourage you to subscribe. That`s our show, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.

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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END