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Trump "demands" Department of Justice probe. TRANSCRIPT: 05/21/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Jerry Nadler; Tom Coleman; Sophia Nelson; Harry Litman

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: May 21, 2018 Guest: Jerry Nadler; Tom Coleman; Sophia Nelson; Harry Litman

KATY TUR, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: That was clearly written by the friends we have in D.C. not New York. New York has been wet and rainy too. We would appreciate some sun, Mother Nature. That's all for tonight.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

HI, Are.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Katy, I heard you went to the royal wedding.

TUR: I did go to the royal wedding.

MELBER: What did you get them?

TUR: I got them my presence.

MELBER: Presents TS or presents CE.

TUR: I got them a Stephanie Ruhle wiggle.

MELBER: I don't know what that is.

You have to go online. It's on my twitter.

TUR: You got to go online. It is on my twitter. She does --.

MELBER: Why do I have to go on twitter? We are on TV talking. Why do I have to go on twitter?

TUR: I could play it if they have the tape. Someone at the tape cubicle (ph). We could play it.

MELBER: This is like when people tell you to listen to the voice mail like you are talking to them when you are like we are talking right now.

TUR: Yes. Well, here is the thing. We are on television and this is a TV moment. And I'm fortunate because no one knew you were going to ask this, we don't have the tape queued up, excuse me. So I can't show you the little wiggle that Stephanie did, but if you go to twitter, you can see the wiggle.

MELBER: Is it a TV moment?

TUR: Oh, my God. We have it.

MELBER: Oh, my God.

TUR: We have it.

MELBER: Who pulled this?

TUR: I don't know who did it.

MELBER: This is incredible. I have never been more impressed with our people. What are we watching?

TUR: It's coming. Just watch. Hold on. Look, here she goes. She's losing it. Wait for it. Wait for it. There we go. The Stephanie Ruhle - - let me tell you something. If you are going to go to a wedding, have Stephanie be your date. There's nobody in the world more fun than Stephanie Ruhle. I fell in love with her this weekend.

MELBER: As people always say to me, Katy, they know we don't plan our awkward banter tosses because, well, they have seen how they go. So we didn't plan this. But that video is incredible, and mazel tov to both of you.

TUR: Mazel tov to the control room for finding it. Good job.

MELBER: All right. And you know what? It's been a minute 40, we have to hang it up right there here.

TUR: Bye, Ari.

MELBER: Bye, Katy Tur.

Moving from fun back to the news which we do around here. I want to tell you, we have what we think is a very important top story tonight. And it is about a test that's facing the justice department. And I argue to you tonight, and I think the evidence will show, it's also a story about what kind of country we want to be.

President Donald Trump is demanding, as you may have heard that the justice department use its investigative powers to pursue his partisan political agenda, a scorched earth effort that is frankly reminiscent of Richard Nixon who is of course the last President to be pushed out of office.

But let's be clear tonight. What Nixon was doing in secret, Trump is doing right here in public. Pounding the justice department in the Mueller probe. And tonight, we can report the top Democrat in Washington, Senator Chuck Schumer, taking to the Senate floor to signal that this is extremely serious. He flatly calls Donald Trump's call for this DOJ probe into Obama officials tonight quote "grossly autocratic" and says that Donald Trump tonight is, according to Chuck Schumer, leading the United States towards a quote "banana republic."

But if you do watch the show regularly, you may also notice that our news broadcast does not treat Donald Trump's tweets as automatic news. We do not report on any latest twitter insults as a kind of national event.

But when Donald Trump does do something important that happens to take place on twitter, we will show the tweet. This is one of those times. Your President, Donald Trump, calling for a DOJ investigation into whether or not the FBI or DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump campaign for political purposes, and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama administration. Trump teeing off these reports as part of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling, there was an informant who spoke to unpaid advisers to Donald Trump.

Now, the DOJ can take Trump's tweet and file it away or ignore it, politicians say all kinds of things. But Trump appointee and the supervisor of the Mueller probe, Rod Rosenstein, rushing to essentially give credence to all these and operationalize Trump's demand, announcing that the internal DOJ watchdog will look at this issue as part of a probe that's already open and that was opened specifically under pressure from House Republicans over the infamous Nunes memo, which was about why Carter Page was surveilled.

Now some legal experts say that probe, this whole thing could go nowhere. Others responding by saying this is disappointing. Take Eric Holder here who said it is all going to risk time-honored DOJ independence. That's his view of what Rosenstein is doing and what I'm reporting for you tonight.

Now, if any of this sounds maybe like an internal DOJ office dispute where the justice department is kind of investigating itself, let's remember the repercussions for the Russia probe here legally, and really for Donald Trump's entire presidency, loom large. Because it was the same internal watchdog that Donald Trump pressured into scrutinizing that Jim Comey deputy, Andy McCabe, a review that ultimately asserted McCabe was quote "less than candid" in interviews which was then used to engineer the Friday night firing of Andy McCabe. He was the first deputy FBI director ever fired in American history. He was also a potential witness against Trump in the Russia probe. And that was all the exact outcome Trump demanded including taking away his pension as more of a vindictive piece of that.

Now Rod Rosenstein has talked tough about standing up to this kind of pressure. Like you may remember, this much played answer about pressure from congressional Republicans.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: There have been people who been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time. And I think they should understand by now that the department of justice is not going to be extorted. Any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job.


MELBER: Not going to affect the way we do our job which sounds like a good answer. But tonight, we can see Rosenstein immediately responding to Donald Trump's demand to, yes, change how he does his job.

He has passed a highly controversial conspiracy theory over to now another DOJ official who is going to have to come up sooner or later with an answer to all this.

I'm joined by New York congressman Jerry Nadler. He is the leading Democrat in the House Judiciary Committee. Sophia Nelson, former counsel to the GOP House oversight committee and a former federal prosecutor, Harry Litman.

Congressman, your colleague chuck Schumer going pretty far in saying this is autocratic and a banana republic. Is that how you would put it?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY) RANKING MEMBER JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I agree. This is very disturbing. You don't do criminal investigations because the President ordered you to. The President has no business telling the justice department who to investigate. And I'm glad they didn't open a criminal investigation. Pawning it off on the inspector general is a political move, but at least they didn't open a criminal investigation. Had they done that, that would be far worse. A criminal investigation, which the President demanded, should only be predicated on evidence of a crime. And there is no evidence of a crime whatsoever here.

MELBER: But congressman, when they keep handing Donald Trump's angry tweets to this DOJ, this DOJ watchdog, technically called the inspector general, and his name is Michael Horowitz, not a household name, is he turning into something like the bag man for President Trump? Because the last time he got one of those requests, he basically found a way Friday night under a deadline to get Andy McCabe fired before that larger review, as you know, was ever completed. So it didn't even have the appearance of due process.

NADLER: No, and I think that was very bad. But I think here, the real danger is that what Trump is trying to do is to find an excuse to fire Rosenstein so as to be able to eliminate or hamstring the Mueller investigation. I think that Mueller is trying to -- or rather, Rosenstein is trying to side step that. None of this is good. But at least for the moment, we don't have a real crisis on our hands of Mueller or Rosenstein being fired or hamstrung.

MELBER: Sophia --

NADLER: And that's clearly what the President wants to do.

MELBER: Sophia, what do you think?

SOPHIA NELSON, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE GOP HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, I agree with the congressman. But I think I will go back to the question I have been asking for months now, which is what is wrong with us, the people, our elected representatives that we continue to allow President Trump to throw tantrums on twitter, to throw out these things without any facts or evidence, Ari.

And then as congressman said, Rod Rosenstein is put in this awful position, and he is in a bad position. Let's be clear about that. I don't fault him for what he did. He is continuing to send these reports or these threats or these tantrums over to the inspector general. And I think he is doing that, because remember, the attorney general of the United States has recused himself from this investigation. So Rosenstein, the ball ends with him. I mean, the buck stops with him, right?

So if he gets fired, and he gets moved out of the way, then we have a real problem. So I think what he's trying to do is keep his position so he can continue to do his job. And that's not easy.

MELBER: Yes. But who cares? I mean, I'm hearing both of you refer to that. I think by now, everyone gets that. But if it isn't this thing on a Sunday tweet, it will be the next thing. In other words, Harry, Rod Rosenstein has to decide what his lines are and know that there may be a pre-textual excuse to fire him and live with that, doesn't he? Isn't that the whole point of being an independent prosecutor in the justice department?

I leave that for your consideration Harry. And I want to play a colleague of ours, former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough weighing in on this today.


JOE SCARBOROUGH, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: What a disturbing series of tweets by the President. The President is breaching constitutional norms once again. The President of the United States ordering the justice department to investigate an investigation that pertains to the President himself. That is an abuse of power.


MELBER: Harry, do you see this as an abuse of power? That the DOJ should stand up to it?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It's definitely an abuse of power. I agree 100 percent with you, 100 percent with the congressman. It is axiomatic that the President of the United States should not be out there ordering up criminal investigations. And it's completely wrong headed to say it's somehow the Obama FBI investigating Trump. It's politicized from top to bottom.

And I have criticized Rosenstein in the past for sort of playing ball. I do want to underscore one thing the congressman said. Look, when Trump stands up and says I hereby demand a congressional investigation, that is the stuff of banana republics. But when Rosenstein diverts it to the IG investigation, and by the way, the Horowitz here is no bag man. He is a straight shooter, I think, has been proven to be.

MELBER: Was he proven to be a straight shooter by his handling of the McCabe matter?

LITMAN: Yes, so look, it's a big -- because --

MELBER: Have you ever, you know, lawyer to lawyer, I'm just asking you a tough question. I'm going to give you a second and then we will go back to congressman. Have you ever --

LITMAN: The short answer is yes.

MELBER: Have you ever seen a personnel matter handled that way on a Friday night to deny the pension of a senior director in an agency after tweets from the President without any public due process, pertaining to the rest of the investigation? I mean, what they did, and most people --

LITMAN: Nauseating.

MELBER: Go ahead.

LITMAN: Sorry. Nauseating and outrageous, but that wasn't Horowitz. That was totally Trump to run with it and cut his pension. The only quick point I want to make is --.

MELBER: I have to hang you up here, sir, because you are on THE BEAT, so we interrupt for facts. It was Horowitz. Horowitz was in charge of that. He is the person now that has this assignment. He was the one who created the report that went up to senior DOJ leadership, and he created it in isolation to assess McCabe, who also is a key witness against Donald Trump before the rest of the Clinton email probe matter was reviewed and released. Indeed, that still hasn't come out, and here we are a year and a half later. Your turn.

LITMAN: One hundred percent true. But he's not the guy who plays the henchman to lower the boom on Friday night. The thing that was really outrageous was the vindictive overreach to somehow cut McCabe's pension. I think the facts of that are somewhat troubling, and we are going to see as they come out, but I will tell you that Horowitz has a long-standing reputation. Let me leave it at that and make one quick point.

MELBER: Pre-Trump. I want to bring in the congressman. Yes, he has a reputation pre-Trump. The question now, and I put it to you, congressman Nadler, is like many other people, like Paul Ryan who said during the campaign many things about how he wouldn't support Donald Trump. We all remember, he said them in public. Michael Horowitz is maybe going to become a household name because this is a test of how he operates in a Trump justice department, congressman?

NADLER: Well, Michael Horowitz has a reputation and a record as a straight shooter for a long time. And maybe he would be a household name, but the far more important thing, frankly, is the Mueller investigation and that it be permitted to go on unhindered, and Rosenstein be permitted to protect it and so far, he's done that. And that is the important thing because what is important is that the Mueller -- first of all, I presume he is going to want to interview the President. That has to happen, with a subpoena if necessary. Then he has to issue the report. That report has to be made public. That's the important thing. And the fact that we are not actually opening a criminal investigation. That would be totally banana republic territory, and they haven't done it.

MELBER: Sophia, take a listen to Sally Yates, who of course, was briefly acting attorney general as an Obama holdover, left after a conflict over the travel ban. Speaking about all this recently.


SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: The President has just taken his all out of salt on the rule of law to a new level. And this time, he is ordering up an investigation of the investigators who are examining his own campaign. You know, that's really shocking.


MELBER: What she is getting at there, Sophia, and I think what Washington is struggling to understand is that Donald Trump is very ingenious when it comes to this stuff. So he may ask for a criminal investigation and not immediately get that, but he has already breaking down these norms and getting the people who are usually the guardians, this again, new name to a lot of people, but this Horowitz person, to deal with the things that Rod Rosenstein doesn't want to deal with and that Trump wants done. And that creates an investigative process, interviews under oath, criminal liability and other things to essentially, according to what we know, pursue a conspiracy theory that somehow the reason that FBI officials and potentially informants were involved in surveilling or dealing with Trump officials is not that the Trump officials were suspicious, which is what all the evidence suggests, but rather that there was something wrong in the deep state that was pursuing them for political reasons. In other words, 100 percent backwards.

NELSON: Look, we agree that the President's behavior for a long time has been that of an autocrat. And what they do is they break down norms and they break down institutions. I will go back again to what is wrong with us, and we have a congressman on with us.

Congressman Nadler, what is the Congress going to do to address this? It's time for you guys to step up and hold President Trump's feet to the fire. And we know that they are co-equal branches of government. There's a check and balance. If the executive is overreaching and violating the norms of what we understand to be the rule of law, as Sally Yates says, and I agree, then it's time for us to check him, don't we think? Isn't that the bottom line?

MELBER: So final question of the segment is from Sophia to the congressman.

NADLER: Well, there are a lot of things Congress should be doing, but under the Republicans. It's not going to do. Hopefully for the salvation of the republic, we will have a Democratic majority in January and then we can protect the independence of the special prosecutor. We can take various actions.

Because I agree, what the President is doing is wholly banana republic. It's wholly beyond the norms. It's eating away at the constitutional protections that we need. And Congress has to protect it. But this Congress, with the Republicans, will not do it. If the Democrats get control, the Judiciary Committee, which I presumably would chair, would step up to the plate.

Right now, the only thing we can do is try to protect the integrity of the investigation, of the special prosecutor, and make sure the report is made public. What we can do in January may be a wholly different thing.

Congressman Nadler, Sophia Nelson, and Harry Litman, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, new reports Donald Trump Jr. and another meeting at Trump tower, but not with the Russians.

Also, a former Republican congressman says it's no longer a fantasy to talk about the t word. He will join us live to explain that.

And "New York Times" former executive editor Hal Raines talking about Trump's unprecedented attacks on the company behind "the Washington Post." We will also tell you why Trump is still getting paid for, yes, the fresh cameo on the fresh prince.

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


MELBER: Here is a new one. Trump officials under fire for reports of a Trump tower meeting with foreign representatives offering help to the campaign. "The New York Times" reporting that in August 2016, this was two months after the infamous Russia meeting, Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., the policy adviser Stephen Miller were meeting from people from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, an operative who have been retained by companies that had worked for Russian oligarchs.

Blackwater chief Eric Prince helped broker the meeting along with that controversial financier George Nader. "The Times" story does not have much of a smoking gun, but Democrats saying it goes to the larger problem they say the Trump campaign was all too happy to get foreign help, which is be illegal.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If this facts are accurate, it demonstrates yet again just how not only willing but eager the President's son and the Trump campaign were to solicit, to receive a foreign help. If this is accurate, it is consistent with the other Trump tower meeting with reaching out to foreign sources for information.


MELBER: The report is certainly interesting, and Bob Mueller may hunt down whether any of those people in that new meeting or any of that affiliated money leads back to Russia. But let's be clear. As a new line of attack on the Trump campaign, at least based on the available evidence right now, this one looks like pretty weak sauce.

I'm joined by Bill Kristol, founder of the "Weekly Standard."

Bill, this is not the original Trump tower meeting. What do you make of it?

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER/EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: You are allowed to meet with foreigners. You are allowed to meet with, if you are in a campaign, you are allowed to meet with somewhat squirrely foreigners who don't have the greatest resumes and the greatest reputations for dealings in the world.

But you know what tips me off that maybe there's something here and, of course, same as the original Trump tower meeting, the lying about it. When I was in government, let's say something asked me to take a meeting. And that you should check these things out. But maybe it's someone I realized into the meeting, maybe this guy doesn't have the greatest motives, you end the meeting or you say politely I'm sorry. I can't help you with that, or whatever. And then three months later, someone comes to you from the FBI and says or six months later, did you have a meeting with that guy? You said, yes, I did, and nothing came of it, I didn't do anything wrong. And you know, you should go see what else he tried to do with other people in the government or whatever.

But that was not what Eric Prince, who seems to have been in the meeting said to Congress, right. He said, no. No connection at all with any of these people in the campaign. And it is of course famously not what the Trump family said, and President Trump himself indirectly said about the original Trump tower meeting. So I guess I have a simple minded view that if you go to the trouble of lying to Congress or to investigators or putting out fake, phony press releases about meetings you were in, there's something that happened at the meetings that you're not too happy to have come out.

MELBER: Right. So you are saying even if the available information about the meeting doesn't seem all that terrible, the response to it could be itself telling, which is sort of an investigator's sixth sense. You mentioned Erik Prince. Here's Erik Prince talking about all this.


ERIK PRINCE, I was on a business meeting back in January in the Seychelles. I had gone to see guys from the Middle East I had done business with before. They said there's this Russian guy we worked and have done some business with in the past. And you should meet him. So I met him in a bar. Chattered for 20 or 30 minutes. And that was that.


MELBER: The flip side to all of this is that the Trump folks and Erik Prince lie about all kinds of stuff, including little stuff.

KRISTOL: Yes. You don't know what to make of it. I agree with that. But this is sort of in a way, there's so many things going on. You can almost not keep track of them. But look, I don't know whether this is a huge deal or not. They clearly were happy to have foreign help. There are kinds of foreign help that are legitimate. You could have a meeting with someone who happens to be a foreigner who can tell you something useful about a public policy issue that you re adjusting in the campaign. And that's not an illegitimate meeting. You can leave with Diplomats campaigns, of do actually from countries to find out -- get their sense of, you know, get their country's point of view on foreign policy issues.

So you are allowed to have meetings with foreigners, but of course, this all happens in the context of Trump urging Russia to release the e-mails, roger stone doing his things with WikiLeaks. I mean, there's an awful lot of smoke here with foreigners meeting with the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign not being entirely candid about it. And then President Trump as President, let's just not forget this, spending 16 months obsessively trying to stop an investigation into the question of Russian influence on the 2016 election and possible, possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Why would you be so upset about the whole thing if it's three inconsequential meetings?

MELBER: Sure. Which makes tons of sense. I think you put it very well. And you have mass a lot of details on this.

I guess my last question to you briefly would be, if Mueller, though, is focused on these Middle Eastern contacts outside of Russia, do you think that puts him outside of his mandate?

KRISTOL: I don't know. I guess I haven't seen this famous memo that lays out the mandate. But no, you know, look, if he comes across illegalities of other kinds, I think he is entitled to take a look at them.

MELBER: Bill Kristol, always appreciate your insights on this. Thank you.

KRISTOL: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Up ahead on THE BEAT, the Obamas have a new job. We will tell what that is.

But first, Donald Trump and the T word. There is a former Republican congressman who is actually going there. We are going to have it out. He joins us when we are back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: Now turning to an important but clearly provocative debate about what could happen to Donald Trump.

There's a question being raised by a prominent Republican should treason be part of this discussion. My next guest is former Republican congressman Tom Cole. And he says, yes, arguing that there are questions about treason now that have been raised by the evidence that are not just quote "liberal fantasy." In fact, there's of course talk about this across the spectrum.

On the right, former Trump advisor Steve Bannon quoted in "Fire and Fury" saying that the Russian meeting at Trump tower was actually, remember when he said this, quote "treasonous and unpatriotic."

Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe has said that Trump's attempt to actually unmask the FBI informant actually verges on treason, that's new, or take Paul Krugman who says Trump allegedly selling influence to foreign powers as quote "effectively treason."

Now as a matter of law, ethics, politics, you name it, this is a very serious issue, and not a word to be thrown about lightly about anyone. Of course, that hasn't stopped Donald Trump before. He has thrown out a lot of words about a lot of people, claiming Democrats who didn't applaud during the state of the union.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were like death and un- American. Un-American. Somebody said treasonous. I mean, yes, I guess why not. Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.


MELBER: Somebody, somebody said treason. It might have been one of my two guests who's going to speak to the politics of this in a moment.

But first, we turn to Republican congressman Tom Cole and for an opposing view point, which we always welcome -- Coleman, excuse me. GOP strategist Eric Beach. He is the co-chair of the pro-Trump super Pac Great America.

First of all, gentlemen, thank you both for being here.



MELBER: Congressman, why do you raise the "T" word now before all the evidence is in?

REP. TOM COLEMAN (R), MISSOURI: I think we have a lot of evidence in already in the public record. And that's what I based an op-ed recently on, was the public record. First of all, I don't lightly use this term. As you just noticed, the President himself misuses the term. And a lot of people do. But I went to the constitution. And to commit treason a person has to be at war with the country and provide aid and comfort to the enemy.

Now, the question is, are we at war with Russia? Because the Russians were doing the hacking. And if so, then are they our enemy? I submit that because of the massive hacking and cyberattacks that were made on this country and on our election system, on our constitution, that they rise to the level of an armed attack. And an armed attack is basically what the forefathers wrote this in the constitution. They didn't know about cybersecurity.

MELBER: Let me make sure I'm understanding. You are basically saying there is a checklist, as there are for any, you know, set of legal charges, and you are saying cyber war makes for the armed conflict, check. And the evidence of collusion makes for a desire by Donald Trump personally to work with Russia during the campaign, you feel that's provable at this point or not?

COLEMAN: I think if you look at the record, and the record is that you mentioned it in reference today in today's show, the initial Trump Tower meeting, when they were going to be meeting with -- to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, as part of what they said in quotes, the Russian help, the government's help to Donald Trump so that's established.

MELBER: And let me bring in Eric just because I want to moderate and make sure we get all views. Eric, your response to this statement from someone who, as you understand, served in good graces with the Republican Party, that your super PAC may be supporting a President who is, "treasonous."

ERIC BEACH, GOP POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Yes, look, I mean, I think it's a little laughable. I mean, the idea here is you know, this isn't just a liberal fantasy, it's actually a status quo fantasy of the last 30 years. Don't forget, Candidate Trump ran against the status quo of 30 years. And so, I can understand people feeling a little bit betrayed by his victory last November. But you know, there's three points I really like to make on this. Number one, you know, we're not at war with Russia. Remember, Mitt Romney was mocked for suggesting that in 2012 during the presidential debate by other networks. And so, you know, we do have policy differences. So when President Trump lays out a vision for America, and all of a sudden, you know, we seem to be undercut by insiders without any proof, I think that's very dangerous language. Number two -- number two, you know, you got to look at where -- if we're going to go under this logic, well, you know, we negotiate with Iran, and we give cash in terms of the Iran deal. No one would suggest that President Obama had enacted treason in reaching out and aiding and abetting the enemy. Iran has said, we are much more at war with Iran than we are with Russia via Syria. So --

MELBER: So the first two points are about the nature of the conflict with Russia. I'm waiting for you to deny collusion.

BEACH: Well, I haven't seen any of this collusion. There's nothing to deny. I mean, I don't think you can make a case of collusion when there hasn't been any evidence of collusion whatsoever by Mueller or the special investigation.

MELBER: And let me ask you something, Eric.


MELBER: So let me go -- one more to Eric though. Do you see as someone who's worked so loyally for Donald Trump, do you see a kind of freak out among his opponents that they're reaching for language that, admittedly as we showed, he's used, but seems sort of extreme. Do you think that's part of this?

BEACH: No. I think there's an idea here by both the Democrats and you know, the status quo of Republican that doesn't have a vision for the future. They don't understand how Donald Trump won this election and how these midterms are playing out. They don't have a positive message and they're seeing that in some of their political strategy coming up here in 2018. I think they're panicked.

MELBER: And let me go to -- OK. And that's an interesting part of the diagnosis. Congressman, let me go to you. You hear -- you hear Eric here basically implying that you are both negative and visionless.

COLEMAN Well, I want to follow up with your question before we went to Eric, and that is how do you know that Donald Trump actually -- and I don't want to use the C word, colluded, but by his actions, you can prove treason. He suggested -- not only suggested, he called on the infamous statement, Russia, if you're listening, hack in and create a crime on Hillary Clinton's website.

MELBER: You know what, I'll pause you. We have that. Let's all revisit that evidence. Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you this. Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


COLEMAN And after that, towards the end of the campaign, knowing that these had been hacked, knowing they were being disseminated by WikiLeaks, 137 times Candidate Trump said, I love WikiLeaks. I love WikiLeaks. And then he said to the voters, go read WikiLeaks. These were all of the fake news and all of the things that the Russian hackers did. The Russian hackers themselves said that they were in this country hacking into our system because they were having informational warfare against the United States of America.


MELBER: Don't you risk painting a pretty broad brush if anyone in America who talks positively about those kinds of groups, a lot -- a lot of people have talked about WikiLeaks depending on what story they have out on a given day, that you're raising the most serious charge you can -- you can raise of treason?

COLEMAN: The president was briefed by the FBI in August about the possible infiltration into his campaign. He had been put on notice, then he goes out, talks about all of these hacked stuff, and at the same time, this is not like boots on the ground anymore or airplanes dropping bombs for war. This is how you can shut down an entire electric grid. This is how you can destroy our infrastructure by a cyber-attack. So we have to recognize that this is not the same clause in the Constitution that our forefathers wrote who had no idea about this.

MELBER: Let me take your point. You raise an important detail there talking about evidence. To Eric for a final rebuttal, the Congressman raises something that does make your guy look bad, which is he was told at the highest levels, FBI, presidential candidate level briefing, these people are trying to break in. And then what does he do? He goes out and publicly welcomes their participation in a cyber break-in. That's hard for you to explain, isn't it, Eric?

BEACH: No, I think there's just a dangerous precedence being set here by the Congressman. And your point -- your question exactly are correct, which is we can't set that standard, that logic. That logic could apply in so many different ways. It could apply to Obama during the Iran deal, it could apply to John Kerry for potentially violating the Logan Act in negotiating with Iran. So you know, let's take a step back here and I think we need to look at this very reasonably and say look, there hasn't been evidence of collusion. Yes, Russia may have tried to interfere with the election, but that's still trying to be vetted out. We should start focusing on how we prevent that in future elections for our democracy.

MELBER: Eric Beach and Congressman Coleman with a civil discussion on some big topics. Thank you, both.

BEACH: Thank you.

MELBER: As promised now, we turn to Wall Street Journal's Shelby Holliday, and Vox's Liz Plank to talk about this and also the politics of this. It's a heavy lift to go for Democrats from collusion to treason.

LIZ PLANK, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, VOX MEDIA: Absolutely, but look, and you have to agree with Mr. Coleman. You know, if Donald Trump doesn't like collusion, why did he -- sorry, if Donald Trump doesn't like treason, why did he -- why did he run on it, basically, at that conference where you know, all of the reporters remember, we were supposed to cover the DNC, and he came out at this press conference in Florida and said come on, do it, hack into our system. And he also in that press conference said that Putin would be better than Obama, again, undermining your own government. Yes, it's crazy when you go back and sort of look back at the things that he said and mentioning WikiLeaks. So, you know, there's something there. He's doing it not just in secret, but sort of out in the open.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: It's interesting. I did a story actually for Wall Street Journal on treason. The word is being used so frequently by both sides. And law professors, when you talk to them will say treason specifically was so narrowly defined because the Founding Fathers didn't want to be used as a political weapon which is other president is using it, which is how his detractors are using it. You can't just throw the word treason around when it is like you said, Ari, one of the most serious crimes you could ever be charged with.

MELBER: So you think this might be a misfire?

HOLLIDAY: But I do think it's an interesting point. You know, when you're thinking about treason and being at war with somebody, the ultimate act of war would be to overthrow a government. So interfere in an election, to influence that government and possibly overthrow the leader of that government, you know, I do understand that people want to make that case. I just -- from my experience, when you talk to legal experts, treason, we are not at war with Russia. We have not defined cyber warfare, treason is not the word.

MELBER: Right. And that's something Roger Stone of all people has emphasized the very point you're making and we just heard Eric emphasize. And you and Roger, you know, same playbook. Take a listen.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: If unbeknownst to you, there is somebody on the Trump campaign that worked with the Russians on these e-mail releases, that that would have been -- that's a treasonous act.

ROGER STONE, CAMPAIGN ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: No, actually, I don't think so because for it to be a treason act -- treasonous act, Assange would have to be provably a Russian asset and WikiLeaks would have to be a Russian front and I do not believe that to be the case--

TODD: So you think --


MELBER: Liz, I think he's saying something that's both true but also possibly revealing, and I mentioned it with Eric. It's kind of amazing that instead of them being like, no, we didn't do any of that, so it's not an issue. They're like, well, if we did it, we did it with a power that's not technically at war with us.

PLANK: Right, absolutely. And this is, you know, again, not just about this one scandal. It's a series of scandals. We all cover these stories differently in different blocks on your show, but they're all related. You know, whether it's these meetings with Russia that were secret and then they lied about it, or these payments to women right before the election, undermining the democratic process of the election, or even conflicts of interest. These are all part of the same story.

MELBER: Yes, but it's not like -- you mentioned the payments. It's not like they paid, you know, the money to the women out of the same account where they got money from a Russian-backed firm?

HOLLIDAY: Well, there's that, but I want to point out that Roger Stone --

MELBER: Oh, no, wait -- sorry, that was --

PLANK: Or the Trump organization e-mail.

HOLLIDAY: That, too, but Roger Stone's comment actually plays into Russia's handbook. They, you know, first and foremost, want everything to be plausibly deniable. And so that might be why WikiLeaks was involved in the dissemination of hacked e-mails in the first place because it's not a Russian organization. It's very hard to prove.

MELBER: Shelby Holliday and Liz Plank refereeing the debate we hosted on THE BEAT. Thank you both. Still to come, everything you may want to know about Donald Trump's financials but were afraid to ask, including how much did he get paid for that home alone cameo but something more important. Donald Trump targeting an American company, after feuding with the founder and people say it has a lot to do with the free press. Howell Raines who used to run the New York Times is my special guest next, live.


MELBER: New reports that Donald Trump is using his political power to target a company whose CEO he's been feuding with for years, Jeff Bezos, the multibillionaire behind Amazon owns the Washington Post. And now there are reports that Trump is pushing the U.S. Postal Service to double the rate it charges Amazon and some other companies for shipping. The move could cost Amazon billions. Trump reportedly leaning specifically on the Postmaster General. This is after she told him the deal with Amazon actually makes money for the United States. Trump says it is just about getting a better deal. His feud with Bezos and the Washington Post has gone public before. He calls the Post basically Amazon's chief lobbyist. The Journal reported last month that Trump seized Bezos's hand in the newspaper coverage he likes and lashes out at Amazon as a proxy. Trump has also been blasting Bezos and specifically linking him to the Washington Post since back in the campaign days.


TRUMP: Every hour we're getting calls from reporters from the Washington Post. This is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder tax wise. He's using the Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be.


MELBER: Other than Jeff Bezos, we probably have the most relevant guest you could have, the former Executive Editor of the New York Times, Howell Raines. You're one of the few people that has run one of these papers like the Post or the Times that are important to American life that the President clearly obsesses over. Based on what's known, do you view this as the President looking to get a better deal for the United States or bullying the free press?

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The latter, of course. I agree with Post Master Brennan and the former -- Trump's own former Budget Director, Gary Cohn. He's simply wrong on the numbers and this would be a devastating move for the economy. Now, what is interesting to me about Trump, he's a gift to the amateur psychoanalysts of the country because everything he does is so nakedly obvious. This is a classic case of jealousy of a particular type that really brings his neurosis to the surface. These are self-made men. Jobs, Bezos, Bill Gates, who are geniuses at finance and have great technical expertise. Donald Trump, heart of hearts, knows he's a brick and mortar guy who got his start with daddy's money. And so these kinds of people really irritate him. The other thing is, he's a classic narcissist in the sense that he values feelings over facts. Clearly --

MELBER: Don't a lot of people?

RAINES: A lot of people are not president, though.

MELBER: But you don't have to be a narcissist to be moved by feelings.

RAINES: No, fair enough, in defense of narcissists, I'll yield the point.

MELBER: I mean, isn't life -- Howell, isn't life made off feelings?

RAINES: It is. I'm a big feelings guy myself. However, the facts on this case are that the Post Office needs Amazon. Amazon has been a boon to Post Office. To cripple Amazon's retail model and the online retailers who are really growing the consumer element of our economy by leaps and bounds, is irrational.

MELBER: So you talk about the psychology. I wonder if there's also a kind of canny or from a free press perspective, even evil brilliance to this. Because in the old days, it was Nixon trying to block publication of papers like yours and you lose those cases in court. They're very public, and the paper still comes out. Donald Trump, who many people think of as a kind of a bumbling figure in government life, is clearly, when it comes to his own ego, finding other levers, because this is not getting the same attention as the Pentagon papers, but according to, I think, your implication, it's as potentially serious if he pulled it off.

RAINES: Pulled off the war on the press?

MELBER: Yes. If he could -- if he can get the federal government to economically target or bankrupt newspapers.

RAINES: Of course, it would be devastating. But the point that I would make is he's a game changer in so far as journalism goes. He reaches over the heads and around journalists in a way that no one ever has. Like many presidents, he loves press, but he hates the press as an institution. They're a natural rival. But I think there's a particular element here of Trump does not recognize what's being called constitutional norms. So the philosophical argument that I might make for a free press or that MSNBC makes in its promotion a completely foreign to his way of thinking. He doesn't understand the rubrics of American politics.

MELBER: Right. I think you make a deep point there because what we think of as accountability, he thinks of only as a personal threat, or as you said, an attack on the narcissist in chief. Howell Raines, always appreciate you being here. It's really great.

RAINES: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Up ahead, the new job for the Obamas and we go inside the financial records, more than just payments to Michael Cohen, there's a fresh presence reference buried in there. Stay with us.


MELBER: The Obama second act now includes a Netflix deal. The former first couple signing a deal to create Netflix movies, documentaries, T.V. shows. Meanwhile, the current occupant of the White House has, of course, his own Hollywood history. In the '90s he was featured in commercials selling pizza and other products. He made cameos ranging from the Drew Carey Show to of course Home Alone 2. And it turns out, we know this, he's still getting royalty checks from that stuff, all right here in Trump's most recent financial disclosure form. We have that. We got the Michael Cohen news that way. But we also learned he got several hundred dollars for his role in The Little Rascals.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, dad, it's me. You're going to be so proud of me. I'm going to win this race.


MELBER: Also got a few hundred bucks for a cameo in the Fresh Prince.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got something to tell you first. Thank you for ruing my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: what did you do?

TRUMP: Everybody's always blaming me for everything.


MELBER: Yowza. Donald Trump still collects pension money from two of the acting unions. He gets book royalties, we learned, and that's something he's always been proud of.


TRUMP: I do a book and it becomes the biggest seller. I do a game and it becomes the biggest game in America today. I do things and for whatever reason, it seems to work.


MELBER: Not quite true. He did make money from the Art Of The Deal and few other books last year, but nine other Trump books including the America We Deserve and Crippled America did not even make enough money to be reported. Now you know. Now, up next, something very special. I was asked a question I've never been asked before on the Breakfast Club. That's next.


MELBER: Ending on a personal note, I just got to go on the legendary hip- hop radio show the breakfast club here in New York. It was a thrill and honestly for me a personal honor to get to sit down with Charlamagne, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee. We talked about Trump and politics but also policy and police brutality, they had great questions.


DJ ENVY, AMERICAN DISC JOCKEY: Before you answer that, is what he did illegal?

ANGELA YEE, AMERICAN RADIO PERSONALITY: Now, Ari, I would love to hear your insight on some things that can be done as far as police brutality.

CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, AMERICAN RADIO PRESENTER: Don't you think hip-hop is the most relatable culture and genre ever?

YEE: You think it's possible that Donald Trump could get reelected, in your opinion?


MELBER: I gave an answer on that reelection. You got to watch it on YouTube if you want the see the whole thing, but they also asked me a question about music that funny enough, no one's ever asked me before.


CHARLAMAGNE: Let's see your favorite hip-hop lyric of all time.

YEE: Of all time?

CHARLAMAGNE: Any audience would have one lyric that motives you, inspires you, it's all about Ari.

MELBER: Because I've been following Jay-Z for so long, I am fascinated by the evolution from Reasonable Doubt where this young man with so much obvious genius level talent is proclaiming I never cry, but if I did, I'd cry ice. To mid-career Jay-Z where he is opening up, and you have on song Cry, I can't see the tears coming down my eye. So I had to make the song Cry. To what we have now with this fully formed entrepreneur, father, he would say sinner on 444.

CHARLAMAGNE: Actually letting tears fall.


MELBER: Real men cry. That's our show.


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