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AT&T hired Cohen to advise on merger. TRANSCRIPT: 05/10/2018. The Beat wit Ari Melber

Guests: Richard Painter; Richard Blumenthal; Amy Davidson Sorkin; Ralph Nader, Michael Hirschorn

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: May 10, 2018 Guest: Richard Painter; Richard Blumenthal; Amy Davidson Sorkin; Ralph Nader, Michael Hirschorn

KATY TUR, CN CORRESPONDENT: That is all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi. You know, (INAUDIBLE) is not just a hit TV show, also great song Migos (ph).

TUR: Awesome.

MELBER: Awesome, sucks.

TUR: Awesome-tastic. The fantastic of the sarcastic can be truly fantastic. How about that?

MELBER: You are rhyming.


TUR: And you know what? I`m going.

MELBER: Always the best hand off, at least from five to six. We would go that far.

I have a lot of news for you. Tonight, Michael Cohen`s secrets are actually starting to spill out in a bigger way. And it suggests more clues as to why they were raids on his office, in his hotel room, and why Donald Trump seems unnerve. And we have some special guest on that. Also, some breaking news on that which we will get to in a moment.

The question of course is the big one. What did Trump know about all this? There is new reporting that Cohen was raising millions of dollars because of explicitly his link to Trump, not his expertise, not anything he would do by himself.

And now, breaking at this very moment, I just got this paper. "Washington Post" reporting AT&T, well, they didn`t just want Michael Cohen`s insights. What they wanted was something from the Trump administration. And that three days after Donald Trump was sworn to office, they wanted Michael Cohen`s help getting approval for their gigantic expensive merger with Time Warner. That news as we discovered Cohen`s whole pitch to perspective clients where is about again what he could through the Trump administration for them.

He said he was Trump`s lawyer. He showed up photos of them together. He talked about how often they spoke. He even asked others to share news articled that described with that word that sounds like maybe not a complement, his quote "fixer."

And when Cohen wasn`t pitching himself privately, he publicly played that how closely he would be working with Trump. Here he was actually, just two days before the inauguration.


MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: I`m going to be the personal attorney to Mr. Trump. I`m not going to be in government. But I`m going to remain technically in the same role for Mr. Trump or President Trump as I was when he was president of the Trump organization.


MELBER: That clip looks very different in the light of what is under investigation tonight. Maybe it did help Michael Cohen land some, you know, some fair amount of money. He also told an associate we are learning last summer.

Quote "I`m crushing it with regard to this money that he was raising."

And the caught Mueller`s interest. Because two of the companies that Cohen work with, Novartis and AT&T, have now confirmed new this week that they started cooperating with Bob Mueller`s investigators last year in November. And then hours after that news broke, a message from the White House.

Shut this Mueller probe now.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It has been about a year since this investigation began. Our administration has provided over a million documents. We fully cooperated in it. And in the interest of the country, I think it is time to wrap it up.


MELBER: You know, Mike Pence speaks so calmly, he can make almost anything sound reasonable for a second. But what he just said there today to MSNBC is totally inappropriate.

Whether you are Mother Theresa or El Chapo, when you are under investigation, the timeline of the investigation is not your call. It is Bob Mueller`s call. Mike Pence knows that.

But it seems like all of the sudden, with all this heat, now Donald Trump is getting back up on the record from Mike Pence, his potential successor in what may describe as an ongoing effort to turn this rules upside down and put improper pressure on the DOJ.

I`m joined now by the man who knows Michael Cohen and a lot of these players, Reverend Al Sharpton, the host of course of POLITICS NATION and Richard Painter, former White House ethics chief for George W. Bush. He is running for senate as a Democrat in Minnesota.

Mr. Painter, I begin with you on the basic question. Does Mike Pence as a member of the administration, as a potential successor and as a potential witness, have any proper role in trying to tell the DOJ when or how it wrap it up?

RICHARD PAINTER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: Of course, not. He has got an interest in this. And of course, he like it to stop now. Bob Mueller is already uncovered and that`s evidence almost certainly to jeopardize Donald Trump`s presidency. But that would probably disclose that information and that might put Mike Pence in the White House.

This investigation keeps going a little bit further. And Bob Mueller may uncover some information that`s very compromising about Mike Pence as well. So of course he would like it to stop now. He is eyeing the oval office but that`s not the way it works.

This investigation is going to go at the pace that Robert Mueller determines is appropriate and the United States House and Senate should be having investigations too in their judiciary committees. That`s what they were doing in 1973, 1974, with actually less evidence of the hack crimes and misdemeanors than what we have going on right now. But the House and Senate are not doing anything. So at this point the Mueller investigation is the only game in town.

MELBER: Correct.

On the rest of this scuffling, I want to turn to Reverend Al Sharpton. People know you for your work, for your journalism, and your civil rights record, but you are also a New York politico. And we are seeing a lot of New York figures in Rudy Giuliani where you have a long history within Michael Cohen all over this national news.

Look at the news today that Rudy has separated from his law firm over there. They say they won`t condone payments at the nature legislative made regarding Stormy Daniels. The firm (INAUDIBLE) disputed the way the quote was used but there`s no dispute that he is out. Michael Cohen is someone you know as a robust defender of Donald Trump and close to him.

What is your analysis of, a, the story line here that Cohen was selling not just his work, which is legal, but his potential ability to make things happen inside the Trump administration?

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: I think that where the danger lies, which is why you say see an intensity in the Trump allies trying to stop the investigation is that what they need to get -- they being the Mueller investigators on the southern district federal investigated, they need leverage on Michael Cohen to get him to cooperate if in fact he has some things to give on the President.

Well, if Mr. Cohen was representing to any of these companies, Novartis or AT&T, anything he could not deliver, then you are talking about he is exposed to defrauding people for their money, wire fraud, any number of things which again gives more leverage to talk about making a deal.

MELBER: Well, let`s point a point on. This new reporting breaking this hour that AT&T was under the impression they were getting help from Michael Cohen to get the U.S. government to approve a very profitable merger. Does that sound to you like Michael Cohen lying AT&T or Michael Cohen lobbying the Trump administration off the books?

SHARPTON: Well, one would have to say he was either lobbying off the books, which is illegal, or that he was defrauding one of the companies, in this case, AT&T, which gives them the leverage do come in and say, we have all this, Mr. Cohen. Now, are there things you want to tell us? Which would then cause the Trump people to say, we need to just shut this down, because they are the only ones that know whatever Michael Cohen may or may not know. Not necessarily about this particular deal, but about anything.

I think that there is, as you said in the destruction, some strange timing here on some inappropriate statements by the vice President. So I agree that he is -- have a self-interest here, but he may not be saving his self- interest. He may be being told by those like the President, we need to start a drum beat to shut this down, because they may feel they are gathering enough pressure to make Michael Cohen say whatever it is he may say. We don`t know whether that exists but clearly -- you`re the lawyer here, Ari, clearly they want the leverage, and this is could give them leverage.

MELBER: Well, I am a lawyer. And I appreciate you saying that.

SHARPTON: Not just on television.

MELBER: Richard, final thought?

PAINTER: Well, Michael Cohen is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from people all over the world who want to influence the President of the United States. He is also pressing money at the door on behalf of Donald Trump and pay offs. We know about the Stormy Daniels payoff. We don`t know how many others there are.

So the question comes up of whether this is money that is directly or indirectly intended not just for Michael Cohen, but for Donald Trump. Whether there are payments in return for access to Donald Trump. That we would think of that as bribery. But for the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States in a case involving the former governor of Virginia, McDonald, they ruled that well payment to money in return for access to the politician is not bribery. There has to be an actual quid pro quo official action. And that`s the theory that Senator Menendez got off the hook, too, on.

I think it`s tragic for our country that the message is being sent to huge corporations and the Russian oligarchs that we are open for business. Just send money to the President`s personal lawyer and you are going get access to the President of the United States.

It is corruption. It is disgusting. And most countries would define it as bribery, criminal bribery.

MELBER: Richard Painter, you dig deep as you often do and citing the U.S. v. McDonald case, which is by the way, an 8-0 unanimous decision. That as he have covered on the show. Does make it harder to prosecute corruption is an interesting piece whether Mueller has more than one road is something, of course, that we are also keeping an eye on.

My thanks to Richard Painter. A special note about Reverend Sharpton. I was just talking about his work on civil rights. There`s an important interview on criminal justice reform with the artist and rapper Meek Mill. It`s airing this Sunday. We want to tell our viewers about that. We will be watching that.

And I turn now directly to Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal on the judiciary committee.

Senator, I want to talk to you about all of it. What strikes you as most important is this.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: What strikes me as profoundly important, Ari, are two points. First of all, that statement by vice President Pence is truly chilling. It is ominous, not only as to the special counsel, Robert Mueller, but also as to Rod Rosenstein. And I have begun to think that the threat to the deputy attorney general, who controls the magnitude and scope and timing of this investigation is as dire as it is to Bob Mueller. Second point --.

MELBER: Do you think Mike Pence is implying he cosigns that kind of move?

BLUMENTHAL: It certainly indicates very clearly that he is one with the President. He has joined at the hip in feeling this investigation must be shut down. And part of the impetus, and we have seen the President`s reaction to that raid on Michael Cohen, is that Cohen is in big trouble, deepening trouble. And that means big and deepening trouble for Trump.

And what is emerging here is a picture of Michael Cohen as a key figure in Donald Trump`s relationships to the Russians. His involvement pre- election, in contacts with the Russians and now post-election in receiving a payment from a Russian oligarch through a conduit. But at the very time he is going to Donald Trump in the oval office and delivering a message about how lifting sanctions should be done. And then a written message to then security adviser, Michael Flynn about lifting sanctions on the Russians.

MELBER: Senator, stay with me. I want to add one more reporter to the mix with a very interesting piece. That Amy Davidson Sorkin, staff writer for "the New Yorker" magazine. She questions if Michael Cohen`s LLC was effectively a slush fund for Donald Trump.

And you have a turn of phase in here that`s pretty striking. Viewers are familiar with the tendency for us to discuss many developments in these stories as big or bombshells or turning points but this one does feel different because of the evidence of it, the money trail, which cannot be explained away. You don`t mind if I read you, you, do you?


MELBER: Tuesday`s revelations felt a bit like the moment in November 1986 when it was revealed that the money from the Reagan administration`s secret sale of weapons to Iran in the interest of freeing American hostages, had been diverted to, of all people, the Nicaraguan contras, which was certainly an iron-contra turning point. Explain.

SORKIN: Yes. Well, one thing that happens when you make a sale or make a deal that you are not really supposed to is you have cash and you need to put it somewhere. There`s a moment -- I think Oliver North described it as a neat idea that you can take this money from doing one thing you weren`t supposed do and use it to do something else you weren`t supposed to do. At that point there were congressional limits on money that could be given to the contras.

MELBER: And to be fair, Oliver North had a point in that two wrongs do make a right.

SORKIN: Not exactly.

MELBER: No. Not exactly.

SORKIN: But it`s an example of how money, when you have this money around, then you have the secondary problem, how you launder the money. How you get the money from one place to another. That could make you do strange things like putting money from AT&T in an account that`s also used to pay for hush agreements --

MELBER: Bingo. So you are talking about something that to the normal observer looks totally crazy. You open an account to pay Stormy Daniels in October. And now you are putting this other funds which they are claiming might be for a legitimate purpose in the secret account to pay off Stormy Daniels. It looks dumb but you are saying it might be different in dumb and might just be the bag.

SORKIN: The bag. If he`s the bag man, essential consultants looks like the bag. That it could be. Maybe there`s some semi-shady or less totally shady explanations for it. But even in the Washington of companies buying access, paying people who are close to the President, It`s not really the President`s personal attorney. And if AT&T thought that Michael Cohen was going give them some cover, what about him and his past and the President made them think this wasn`t going to end up being a humiliating transaction.

MELBER: And so, that goes to what Bob Mueller allegedly wants to ask Donald Trump.

And Senator, I`m going get your view, as well as Amy`s on this. Because of the reporting, I`m reading here from those leaked documents which, again, look different today.

This is a question that Mueller wants to ask the President. What communication did you have with Michael Cohen, as well as others including foreign nationals about Russian rea estate developments during the campaign?

So I go to you first, Amy, and then the senator. This question has a premise. And the premise is that Essential consultants in October 2016 may not have been the first off the books container. May not have been the first secret bag, to use your (INAUDIBLE), that Michael Cohen was reaching for with shady money.

SORKIN: No. I mean, Michael Cohen set this up Essential Consultants right before the payment to Stormy Daniels. Maybe he thought he had it laying around. But there`s one key thing that Rudy Giuliani said in one of the many things he said that was damaging to his client, President Trump. He said that Michael would take care of things like this, expenses for the President and that the President would make sure one way or the other --

MELBER: Somehow he got paid back.

SORKIN: Somehow, that he got paid back.

MELBER: But maybe paid by from illegal third party?

SORKIN: But who`s paying whom?

MELBER: Let me bring in -- exactly. Senator?

BLUMENTHAL: Ari, you are hitting a key area of inquiry. And Robert Mueller is following the money and he knows way more than we do. He was asking AT&T and Novartis questions back in November.

And here is part of the pattern practice. Michael Cohen raised money from the Russians way back when no one else would loan Donald Trump money. He was Donald Trump`s emissary to the Russians in trying to build that hotel in Moscow. Then he had contacts with the Russians during the campaign.

Now we have evidence of a payment from Viktor Vekselberg that led Michael Cohen to approach Donald Trump in the office about lifting those sanctions on the Russians. There`s a pattern here. And you can well understand why they want to end this investigation, wrap it up, and that`s why the Senate needs to take action to protect the investigation.

The bill is on the floor of the Senate. Mitch McConnell said there is no need for it because there will never be an effort by the President to shut down the investigation. I think Michael Pence`s recent remarks ought to end that kind of wishful thinking.

MELBER: An important point as well on the oversight, and Amy Davidson with very interesting reporting on the bag, the bagman aspect of this. And there`s an old saying in court, throw it in the bag.

SORKIN: It`s a good one.

MELBER: OK. Senator, thank you as always as well for your time and insights.

Coming up, there are details on this puzzling relationship between Michael Cohen and someone else, the original attorney for Stormy Daniels that Michael Avenatti replaced. He may be cooperating with the feds and why Trump had ratings on his mind when he came out with those freed hostages.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think you probably broke the all-time in history television rating for 3:00 in the morning, that I would say.


MELBER: What a weird thing to say.

Also tonight, Ralph Nader makes his maiden voyage on THE BEAT, and I have some big questions for him including the Mueller probe and corruption in the Trump administration. You may not want to miss that.

I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Now, we turn to one of the most controversial people in the Michael Cohen-Donald Trump investigation who is not a household name but who is cooperating with authorities as this pressure builds on Michael Cohen.

Take a look at Keith Davidson. He first entered this story on the side of women who were opposed to Trump. He was a lawyer for women involved in legal fights over their alleged affairs with Trump. Now one of them, of course, is a household name, Stormy Daniels. He also represented Karen McDougal.

So that would make him seem like some kind of Trump foe, like a Michael Avenatti, who is of course the lawyer for Stormy Daniels who has turned televised tormenting of Trump into a kind of an endless legal (INAUDIBLE) art form.

But here`s where things actually get tricky. There are serious allegations that Davidson is nothing like Avenatti and that instead of zealously advocating for these women that he claimed to represent, that he was actually, secretly trying to help Trump and undermine them.

For example, former Playboy model, Karen McDougal recently prevailed in a settlement with "the National Enquirer" company which should silence her story about Trump. And she alleges in court that this lawyer was a double agent for Cohen and Trump, violating his duty of undivided loyalty and lying to Ms. McDougal. She alleges a close relationship between him, Davidson and Michael Cohen, which involved improper and secret interactions with her opponent.

So the lawyer who is on the other side of the table from Cohen is accused of colluding with Cohen against McDougal. Davidson denies these charges. His spokesperson saying recently that he strenuously denies any insinuation of unethical or inappropriate behavior. And we can tell you the state bar has previously suspended his law license.

Consider all of that history for a brand-new leak tonight from the very man who replaced Davidson, Michael Avenatti. He reveals an email that he says shows Michael Cohen was emailing Davidson after, after the FBI raided Cohen`s offices seeking to coordinate of how they could quote "communicate." And asking about an apparent plan to work with ABC News on a story.

So that`s a lot. Bottom line, though, it`s all about switching sides. Question one, how did Avenatti get that email? Question two, did Davidson or Cohen break any laws by conspiring to silence women with these claims about Trump. And question three, which has been suspicious from the very start, if "the National Enquirer" wanted to make a deal with McDougal, why was Michael Cohen involved in the first place?

I actually asked her new lawyer about that, the one who came after Davidson. Here`s what he said.


MELBER: Why was Michael Cohen involved?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it`s the $64 million question.

MELBER: Or is it the $130,000 question depending on the case?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, 150 in ours. I mean --

MELBER: You don`t know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don`t know, no.

MELBER: Do you think it`s nefarious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course it`s nefarious.


MELBER: David`s replacement thinks it`s nefarious, it is wrong and so does the former client. And that`s not all. This is also a person who claimed to be opposed to Cohen in that huge $1.6 million settlement involving another playboy model and a pseudonym that was used by Trump another settlement but which they say refers to a GOP donor.

And that`s not all as we learn about this individual because this isn`t the first time Davison found himself talking to the feds. His role as a (INAUDIBLE) of sex tapes got him mixed up in a federal probe involving a tape of Hulk Hogan which was bank rolled by none other than Trump donor Peter Thiel in an effort to bankrupt a news Web site that Thiel opposed. Here is one local news broadcast captured Davidson`s role in that saga.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to detectives, spice boy then contacts a well-known sex tape broker named Keith Davidson from California to quote "engage in the extortion of Terry Bollea known as Hulk Hogan.


MELBER: That`s a lot.

So whatever Davidson did or didn`t do, Michael Cohen still apparently believed that it was worth trying to get cooperation from him and get in touch after the feds raided Cohen`s office. And there are allegations Davidson did some cooperation with Cohen to help Trump.

But the latest reports are that Davidson, again, Stormy`s former lawyer, is cooperating now with the federal probe of Cohen. So if you remember one thing from all this and you are keeping count, Davidson allegedly went from helping Stormy Daniels to helping Michael Cohen, to helping the feds investigate Michael Cohen which would mean he is doubling down on switching sides.

I turn now to our legal expert Nick Ackerman.

Would it be OK for a lawyer to decide to work with the opposing counsel against his client?


MELBER: Is that something that the feds can use against Mr. Davidson?

ACKERMAN: Sure. I mean, I would think there`s a criminal fraud involved. And you know, depends on all the facts surrounding it, but it sure doesn`t look good.

MELBER: Would you say that he is amounting to be the polar opposite of Mr. Avenatti who everyone has now seen in the news as quite a vocal defender of Stormy Daniels?

ACKERMAN: That`s right. I mean, as a lawyer, you owe an undivided loyalty to your client. If there`s any kind of conflict, even a potential conflict, you are obligated under the ethical rules to disclose that to your client.

MELBER: Let me read from McDougal`s settlement, because she is the other playmate here that was basically victorious, she says. And they have a statement, nothing in the agreement releases any claim that McDougal has or may have against Davidson or Cohen. What does that mean?

ACKERMAN: Well, that means that she can still sue Davidson or Cohen. She can go after them and sue them for damages --

MELBER: In a new case?

ACKERMAN: In a totally different case. That`s right. So all of this does is settle between her and the publisher, but it does not settle with Davidson or Cohen.

MELBER: So you are helping clarify a lot of what`s wrong with this, in what Davidson did. Now let`s take what the feds would want from him against Cohen and Trump. Does he know things that could be detrimental to them?

ACKERMAN: Well, very possible. I mean, if they are using for these particular matters, I mean, are they using him for other matters relating to the campaign, to the Russians? What does he know? What did he deal with Cohen on? Cohen supposedly went to Prague with three other people. Who were the three other people? I mean, I would want to be probing everything he knows about Cohen`s dealings and what he is doing on behalf of Donald Trump.

MELBER: And does Davidson have any other option here, or does he have to cough it all up?

MELBER: I think he has got to cough it all up. His law license is on the line. He is probably going to get disbarred. He is likely to get prosecuted for what he has done, double-dealing with a client. Basic fraud. So I think they have got a hold on him and he has got to cooperate.

MELBER: It`s really fascinating and he is another one of these players, there are a lot of different moving pieces and Donald Trump keeps shaking up his own legal team. But the idea that basically the predecessor to Michael Avenatti is now cooperating with the feds because he was helpful to Michael Cohen, I mean, it`s night and day and it is all happening as sort of before our eyes.

Nick Ackerman, thanks for helping us untangle some of it.

Up next, something different, Ralph Nader is here. I`m going to ask him, of course, about the Mueller probe but also his arguments about corruption in the Trump administration, the Democratic Party.

Later, why was Donald Trump bragging about TV ratings?

All of that when we are back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: Donald Trump campaigned against corruption.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton is an insider who fights only for her donors and for herself. We`re going to end the Clinton corruption and restore dignity and honesty to government service.


MELBER: Government corruption and selling access, the exact allegation dogging Trump`s fixer right now. It`s something he tried to pin on Hillary Clinton as well.


TRUMP: She put the office of Secretary of State up for sale. And if she ever got the chance, she`d put the Oval Office up for sale also.


MELBER: Trump`s defenders tonight say there`s no direct evidence he knew about Michael Cohen`s plots, but Trump`s certainly responsible for his own cabinet. His Budget Chief telling bankers that donations are the key to controlling the Trump Administration and he wouldn`t talk to people who didn`t give money, which is almost like a confession that access to Trump`s Budget Director can be bought and critics say, of course, the tone is set from the top. Consider Trump profits from his company which gets business right now from the RNC and foreign governments. One of the most experienced crusaders against money in politics, consumer advocate, and former candidate Ralph Nader says Trump`s team is too profit-obsessed to even consider the public interest. And Trump has said that kind of mindset is the problem attacking Hillary Clinton for using the U.S. government for personal profit.


TRUMP: It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins.

The Clintons set up a business to profit from public office.

Everything you need to know about Hillary Clinton can be understood with that simple phrase, follow the money.


MELBER: Follow the money. Now if Michael Cohen were a registered lobbyist with lawful clients, it could be legal for him to lobby his long-time client Donald Trump. The Feds are investigating whether Cohen`s money is dirty, though, whether it reflects a secret slush fund. And there`s a term for that kind of capital, money so dirty that people are quiet about using it. Now some people call that "shmoney" and in this Trump investigation, it`s clearly time to follow the "shmoney." I`m joined by former Presidential Candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader. He`s the author of the book Breaking Through Power: It`s Easier Than We Think. An optimistic point for people who are concerned about this corruption in the Trump Administration. What do you mean?

RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I mean is this regime is so corrupt it really is the textbook definition of it. You have Mick Mulvaney telling 1,500 bankers that when he was in Congress if lobbyists came to him and they hadn`t paid in advance, he wouldn`t talk to them. That`s extortion. He`s now trying to get rid of the publicity on consumer complaints against Wall Street and other financial firms in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and many of those companies have given him money. As a member of Congress, they`ve given Trump money as well. This is really -- it`s a breathless level of deep corruption. He`s putting cronies in these agencies, he`s taking the federal cop off the corporate crime beat. He is making vulnerable people, consumers, workers, people in the environment, shutting down health and safety protections, revoking standards, pulling off court cases that are actually ready to go, protecting deception by student loan, collectors, Navient. I`ve never seen anything like it, Ari. This is the deepest form of corruption and shutting down of law enforcement agencies and Scott Pruitt is doing the same thing.

MELBER: Which is saying something from you, given the many battles you`ve waged over your career, and you`ve waged them in different venues. You resorted to the courts, you resorted to public campaigns, you`ve resorted to electoral politics as well. What do you think are the key tools here, if you see Congress as enabling Trump? Is this really a time where it`s only prosecutors and the law that can help? What should people be focused on?

NADER: Well, several things. First of all, there`s serial impeachment candidates and of course, Republicans control Congress, but they are flouting congressionally passed laws violating them by subverting them, not shutting down enforcement, harassing civil service investigators and raising money from the very crooks they`re supposed to be prosecuting and putting in jail. Now, there are certain boundaries that will be exceeded. And Scott Pruitt is doing that. He`s misspending money. He`s been caught. He`s got 11 investigations. So personally, he may be driven out ahead of the prosecutors. But it`s really remarkable, Ari, that people cannot have the tools themselves to push these people out. These are high-level government installed crooks, and I say that clinically. They are violating their law -- oath of office to enforce the laws of the land.

MELBER: Right. You mean it, sir, literally not rhetorically. Let me ask you about something else that you have experience in. Many people are talking about what would happen if Donald Trump tried to remove Bob Mueller, which as you know itself could be against the law. I want to play for our viewers and have you watch when you spoke out and helped file the lawsuit that challenged Nixon`s ultimately unlawful removal of a prosecutor. Take a look.


NADER: The American people are confronted with a man who has consciously authorized crimes, condoned crimes, committed crimes, covered up crimes, and now has overthrown the legal arrangement which was working to prosecute these crimes fairly and with due process of law. Our founders did not oust King George III in order for us to suffer King Richard.


MELBER: In order for us to suffer King Richard. You won that case. The precedent is Nader V. Bork. Do you think it would apply and protect Bob Mueller against Donald Trump trying to remove him?

NADER: I think it would. First of all, there`s a precedent. Second of all, unless he has something nefarious on Mr. Mueller, which doesn`t seem to be the case, so he can`t fire him for cause, that would be essentially a playbook, a replay of the Nixon situation. But don`t think he`s not going to do that. I think it`s perfectly possible that what he would do because the Attorney General Sessions has recused himself so he`s no longer of use in the Mueller investigation to Donald Trump. That -- if he is cornered with a subpoena and he doesn`t want to answer the subpoena and he doesn`t want to testify under oath, in deposition, that he fires Sessions, the number two guy, and Mueller, and puts in Giuliani as Attorney General. If you think that`s outlandish --

MELBER: You think -- you think -- I just -- you think that a grand jury subpoena would push Trump over the edge and he would take the person that is supposed to defend him against this probe and try to put him in charge of the whole thing?

NADER: He`s quite capable of doing that because the alternative is worse in his mind and it will create a constitutional crisis if he doesn`t obey a subpoena and there will be an uproar in Congress, but the elections are coming up. The Republicans control Congress. They`re worried about their own re-election. So he will be left with just the Donald Trump usurpation of power. That`s going to be a big crisis.

MELBER: It`s very fascinating coming from you, because as I mentioned, you have so much experience in this, both in court and in these type of public opinion battles. And clearly, the Trump Administration and Rudy Giuliani are trying to do what they think will help them in public opinion, or at least on their side of the ledger. I also have to ask you, sir, about the long-running controversy in American politics about third-party politics, which you have been inside of. Take a look, first at some of the past assessments of your role back in the day.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nader could hurt Gore in several key battleground states. Democrats have tried to make the case that a vote for Nader is really a vote for Bush. In some Democratic circles, he`s being tagged a spoiler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al Gore would be president-elect if Ralph Nader`s name were not on the ballot.


MELBER: Now, we`re not just here to relive history. I wonder given the experience, your view, sir, of the Jill Stein component. We had a close race in 2016 and we`re putting up on the screen as you know, her margin of vote, higher than Donald Trump`s -- her votes higher than Donald Trump`s margin in key states that Trump won. Do you think that was a factor in Trump`s victory and that the left or the resistance, or whatever you want to call it have to be careful about uniting going forward?

NADER: That`s nonsense. It`s political bigotry, scapegoating by the Democrat Party. They did it in 2000 when they won`t he popular vote and let the electoral college take it from them. And the shenanigans in Florida, and the 5-4 political decision by the Supreme Court and Gore losing his home state of Tennessee, they blamed the green party and me for that, giving these delusions of grandeur. All people have an equal right to run for election as you know, Ari. And running for election is the full use of the First Amendment. Speech, petition the government, assembly. And if you tell a third-party not to run or to get out of the race, you`re telling them -- you`re telling them to shut up and I --

MELBER: Sir, I`m going to try -- I`m going to try to debate you but you`re a very good debater, so I have to be careful. But let me throw in one more question on that front. It would seem that you`re trying to move it to a First Amendment claim and say you know, the government would be sanctioning this. No one`s suggesting that. I`m asking you whether the Democrats and the resistance which is probably broader than the actual identified membership of the Democratic Party would be wise to unite against Donald Trump or should Jill Stein and other third-party figures run again next time?

NADER: I think the Democrat Party should take the third party agenda away from it. They should have a living wage, crack down a corporate crime, full Medicare for all. What do they expect to do? To have the third-party supposed to help them? Democracy is only democracy if it has competitive elections, contested election, not a two-party duopoly dialing for the same corporate dollars. It is a First Amendment. That`s where the political bigotry comes in. But you`re right, there are a lot of other things. 300,000 Democrats in Florida in 2000 voted for Bush. You`re going to blame the green party for that? The Secretary of State and Jeb Bush shenanigans, you know all about that with the ballot. You`re going to blame the green party for that criminality? That`s why I call it political bigotry. Democratic Party, stop scapegoating, look in the mirror and ask yourself why you cannot landslide. The worst, the most ignorant, the most corporate indentured, the cruelest Republican Party in history, look in the mirror.

MELBER: Well put. I wouldn`t want to -- I would want to have to battle you in court, but I appreciate you coming by THE BEAT, sir.

NADER: Thank you, Ari, pride of Cornell Law School.

MELBER: Thank you, sir, Ralph Nader, always a good time. Now coming up, what was Donald Trump even getting at when he invoked T.V. ratings instead of discussing the humanity of those freed hostages. I also have a reality T.V. pioneer and Trump critic next.


MELBER: Early this morning, Donald Trump was involved in a good thing that he turned into a really weird thing, depending on your view, maybe a bad thing and a kind of reality show. Trump was greeting three American hostages freed from North Korea and then said this.


TRUMP: I think you probably broke the all-time in history television rating for 3:00 in the morning, that I would say.


MELBER: Come on. We call that not sticking the landing. Donald Trump standing next to three people who literally, let`s be real about what they were going through, literally didn`t know if they`d ever get home again, and if they would live through their ordeal. And he turned it immediately to T.V. ratings. Now, this is, of course, as everyone has said, a reality T.V. presidency and ratings appear to be part of how he measures his job.


TRUMP: I was on 60 Minutes the other night and they got the highest ratings they have had in a long time.

I do get good ratings, you have to admit that.

I love ratings. I get so -- I mean, these other candidates, why do you always talk about ratings? Because I`m number one.


MELBER: For this special discussion, I want to turn now to a media innovator and self-described member of the resistance, Michael Hirschorn. He created the concept of celebrity reality T.V. while an executive at VH1 and created hits such as Flavor of Love, I Love The `80s and Celebrity Rehab. He also writes for The Atlantic. Who knew that your Venn Diagram of experience would be so crucial. What do you see Donald Trump doing and thinking there as a leader and as a wannabe reality T.V. character?

MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, T.V. PRODUCER: So in my old VH1 days, they would have called him a thirsty b-i-t-c-h.


HIRSCHORN: Just a little bit try-hard and I think a really smart producer would not actually describe what he`s doing. He would just accept the ratings and move on. So I find there`s a little slippage in Trump`s reality T.V.

MELBER: Slippage?

HIRSCHORN: Slippage in his reality T.V.

MELBER: The mask is dropping and he`s speaking as he would back stage about the ratings instead of actually doing the thing that is supposed to deliver the ratings?

HIRSCHORN: Right. It`s the classic Trump Administration malevolence tempered by incompetence so that we hope will save us.

MELBER: When you see that and you say that he`s thirsty, should a president be thirsty?

HIRSCHORN: Well, I think -- I think his thirstiness and his reality T.V. approach to presidenting could have really significant real-world implications, right? I think he`s potentially undermining his position vis-a-vis North Korea. He`s undermined his position vis-a-vis the entire world by pulling out of the Iran deal. So we`re heading to the point now finally where these types of theatrics are starting to really have a significant impact.

MELBER: And it goes to the mentality. Here`s Randal Pinkett, who was an Apprentice winner on how Trump looks at the world on a daily basis.


RANDAL PINKETT, WINNER, THE APPRENTICE: He had this stack of magazines and newspapers on his desk. Each of them had a post-it note. I see that each of the post-it notes was placed in the magazine or newspaper to an article about Donald, that Donald was basically reading about himself.


MELBER: Do human beings who end up in reality shows sometimes actually lose their grasp on where the show ends?

HIRSCHORN: Often. I mean, there`s nothing more tragic than a former reality star. I think he did pretty well-becoming president, but it does - - it still doesn`t mean that the story could end very badly. And I think, one of the key things about reality talent that we`ve worked with is that they often really lose sight of the distinction between reality and fantasy. So he may that he`s, in fact, getting one over on the public, he may have gotten one over on himself and not really understand what`s happening around him. It`s just pure, all enveloping narcissism.

MELBER: Is it possible that he has the wrong definition of the job, so he`s measuring it by the old job? It`s like a candidate sometimes only looks at polls and you want to say, if you`re in the office, it`s not about polls anymore, it`s about the work and the public interest and maybe what the history books will say, whether he did a good job.

HIRSCHORN: Well, he either is going to get swallowed by that, or he`s going to change the rulebook.

MELBER: Right.

HIRSCHORN: So it`s entirely possible that he`s understood something about the popular psyche that the rest of us didn`t believe was possible.

MELBER: Michael Hirschorn, a deep thinker who`s never thirsty. Thank you for being here. We will be right back.


MELBER: If you`re a big c-span fan, you know Congressman Maxine Waters is known for reclaiming her time. And this week, she did it again, debating a Republican lawmaker who was saying that the only way to make America great again is to stop discussing discrimination.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: The gentleman, Mr. Kelly, please do not leave, because I want you to know that I am more offended as an African-American woman than you will ever be. And this business about making America great again, it`s your president that`s dividing this country. And don`t talk to me about the fact that we don`t understand what happened on -- no, I will not yield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reminded to direct her remarks to the chair. The (INAUDIBLE) will continue in order.

WATERS: And I am saying that I will continue to do that. However, I don`t appreciate that you did not interrupt him when he was making those outrageous remarks. Having said that, I reserve the balance of my time. And no, I do not yield, not one second to you. Not one second. Not one second to you.


MELBER: Not one second. The debate was over an Obama era anti- discrimination rule. Congressman Waters making it very clear she`s not yielding. We`ll be right back.


MELBER: That does it for THE BEAT. I`ll give a programming note for you. I will be filling in for my colleague Rachel Maddow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. So maybe see you then, but first and foremost, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.



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