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Trump discusses his own potential guilt. TRANSCRIPT: 06/04/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Shelby Holliday, Nina Totenberg, Michael Eric Dyson

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: June 4, 2018 Guest: Shelby Holliday, Nina Totenberg, Michael Eric Dyson

KATY TUR, MSNBC REPORTER. That`s all for tonight, chuck will be back with more MTP DAILY.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Ari, I imagine when you were clerking (ph), you looked at those interns and you thought to yourself, one day I will be a newsman and one day an intern will run one of those decisions to me.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Are you channeling a sort of a hypothetical mentality that once had?

TUR: I feel like you had it. I just -- I feel it in my bones.

MELBER: Well, you know, they have the running of the bulls in Spain.

TUR: Yes.

MELBER: This is more like the running of the briefs. And I take your point digitally, it`s somewhat unnecessary at this point.

TUR: I like in a tradition, I find it amusing. The internet is ruining everything.

MELBER: Katy Tur, always with the thought to close a show.

TUR: Bye, Ari.

MELBER: Bye-bye.

The top story tonight in America is actually pretty bizarre. It makes Donald Trump sound more guilty than he did say yesterday.

And before I go any further tonight, I want you to keep in mind the following legal fact as the nation absorbs what is happening tonight. Keep in mind these four words -- pardons are for criminals.

When a chief executive pardons someone, be it a governor pardoning a criminal who served his time or a president pardoning someone before they even do their time, the pardon is granted to the criminal to forgive and forego the punishment for the crime. If you talk about pardoning someone who has not been charged, you are implying they are headed for conviction. If you talk about pardoning yourself, well, you are implying that you are headed for conviction. And Donald Trump`s own lawyer who denies all kinds of things does not deny this legal fact I just shared with you. In fact, he ruled out self-pardons in the strongest terms on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: The President of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable. And it would lead to probably immediate impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That was Sunday. Tonight, though, the White House is reeling from Donald Trump bringing up the notion of pardoning himself for this hypothetical crimes stating that he has the absolute right to pardon himself.

Again, pardons are for criminals. In the same statement claiming he can pardon himself, Trump added a question. Why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong, he asked.

Now note, Trump is not saying he won`t try to pardon himself in the future. He is just asking why he would need to. That a context for this whole bizarre set of statements is the heat on Trump as his team`s legal arguments have been leaking out over the weekend with the "New York Times" true blockbuster revealing a January letter to Mueller. They have it in its entirety, claiming that they believe Donald Trump can terminate the probe into his own White House. Proclaims that Trump can use his power to pardon to effectively end this probe.

And if that were a reference to pardoning himself, we should note, because we deal with facts here, that the justice department has long held Presidents do not have that power. DOJ internal guidance stating because of the fundamental rule, but no one may judge his own case, the question of whether the President can pardon himself should be answered in the negative.

The leaked letter also makes Trump look bad because he admits that he did dictate Don Junior`s defense of the Trump tower meeting which implies the White House was lying in its past denials.

Now I should note for you, the letter also had some reasonable legal arguments mixed in. It argues that Comey`s memory of Donald Trump`s statement about letting Flynn go is not airtight evidence of obstruction. That`s a legal and reasonable way to make that defense. There`s also some parsing of Trump`s answers in the infamous Lester Holt interview.

If all of this wasn`t enough, Rudy Giuliani also taking it further. He is openly speculating about Donald Trump`s hypothetical legal ability to shoot James Comey. You heard that right, Giuliani stating that if Trump shot James Comey, he would be impeached the next day, but not indicted. Now, that very overheated language, of course, drawing swift rebukes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is literally out of the time of his playbook, Vladimir Putin could shoot his political rival and not be thrown in jail. Erdogan can do the same thing. Except this is an America --.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A former White House ethics chief meanwhile saying we are in banana republic territory.

So here we are. So I will tell you this tonight because this is it one of those stories that feels like another boiling point. Of course, as with all things Trump, and lately with all things Giuliani, there is a performance aspect to this, to get everyone focused. On Giuliani threatening Comey, instead of all the other incriminating things exposed in this leaked document.

But there is more than just distraction here. There is a larger question about why the White House is responding to all this pressure by rolling out some of the strangest, most guilty arguments you could make about a sitting President.

I`m joined by federal prosecutor Paul Butler and Richard Painter, the former White House ethics I just cited.

Richard, how do you separate the distraction and the rhetoric and the hyperbole from what are, and this is important from the way we cover the stories on the show, what are written serious legal claims presented to special counsel Mueller`s office?

RICHARD PAINTER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I want to emphasize, this is not hyperbole and distraction. We have a former federal prosecutor, Mr. Giuliani, who has openly referred to the President of the United States murdering a political opponent and getting away with it. That doesn`t happen in the United States of America. We are not going to allow that to happen. No, we are not a banana Republican. That`s not going to happen here.

And he is just flat out wrong in saying that the President could get away without being criminally charged. We are not going to tolerate that attitude in the United States of America. And that`s why the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee need to be investigating this administration now.

We could fall to a dictatorship if we are not vigilant about enforcing the law in this country. We can`t just wait for Robert Mueller get around to his indictments with the respect to the Russia investigation. He is doing his job. He is doing it diligently. But Robert Mueller is addressing only a small fraction of the criminal violations. And the violations of the United States constitution involve in this administration. And the United States Congress is doing absolutely nothing. This is a very serious situation.

MELBER: Well, and sir, you use the word murder. Do you view this itself as an inappropriate effort to intimidate people like Mr. Comey and other potential witnesses? I mean, he is an active witness in the probe. And I hate to say this, because it feels uncomfortable regardless of one`s views, it feels uncomfortable to think about that the sitting President this way. But how would we be covering the story if the potential subject of a criminal probe in a mafia case started talking openly about the shooting of a key witness in that case?

PAINTER: We have him under indictment. That`s what we would be doing. And those are the only people that talk that way in the United States, are people who belong to organized crime syndicates, drug dealers, the mafia and the rest of them.

The people that Rudy Giuliani was supposedly prosecuting. And now we have a former federal prosecutor talking about the president of the United States murdering the former head of the FBI.

This is a very serious threat to our democracy. And this is what needs to be investigated. And this administration is going to have to come to an end or we could lose our democracy. We cannot have people talking this way and getting away with it. And this President talking about pardoning himself, it`s absurd. I mean, there`s not an instance in human history of someone pardoning themselves.

The word pardon by its very nature involves two persons or a person and a higher being. It`s a completely absurd the way they are talking about Donald Trump as if he is a dictator who can do anything he wants, whenever he wants. The founders did not create a constitution for this country so we could have a President who is a dictator, and will acts like a dictator, and a Congress that does absolutely nothing about it.

MELBER: Paul?

PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So I`m a law professor. So I was always like to hear the other side. The case that the President can pardon himself goes to the fact that the text of the constitution doesn`t say one way or the other. So it`s something that the Supreme Court would have to decide.

What the President`s lawyers would argue is that because the text is silent, it gives very broad authority to the President and says he can pardon for any federal offense. The only thing he can`t do is pardon himself out of an impeachment.

Now I do think agreeing with Richard that the arguments on the other side are stronger. They have to do with the values underlying our government, including that no person should be the judge and jury in his own case, no self-dealing and that we are not a monarchy.

MELBER: Monarchy, yes.

BUTLER: Yes. That no person, including the President should be above the law.

MELBER: What does it tell you that this is where they are driving the conversation?

BUTLER: So if they are thinking about pardoning, again to quote the President, that`s something that you do when you are guilty. Now to be sure any defense attorney is going to cover all of her bases. So I`m not mad at the lawyers. I`m not mad at the President`s attorneys for bringing this up.

But in terms of, you know, President Trump has different responsibilities. One, he is the President of the United States. He is the chief executive officer. He has a responsibility to democracy and to the rule of law. But he always puts his own private interest above.

So here we talk about norms. One reason it`s never come up before is because even if Presidents could, most of them wouldn`t consider this, because again, they view their responsibilities as higher than this President does.

MELBER: They also would seem to take more seriously, the implication of it.

Stay with me. I want to bring in Margaret Carlson, columnist for "the Daily Beast" and longtime Washington observer.

Margaret, take a listen to some of the Republicans reactions to this rather bizarre claim from the President?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were President of the United States, and I had a lawyer that told me I could pardon myself, I think I would hire a new lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that would be a terrible move. I think people would (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know where the president would pardon himself. But I don`t think a president should pardon themselves.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER TRUMP ADVISOR: If the President were to pardon himself, he would be impeached.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That I word coming up more and more not from Nancy Pelosi but from people who by all accounts, Giuliani and Chris Christie, seem to want to tell the President perhaps through the television screen, this would be the worst thing you can do. Is that how you read these references of impeachment?

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: You know, we wondered when the Senate was going to wake up. And Senator Grassley may be the indicator that they have. That the idea, you know, the idea, the framers didn`t think about a President pardoning himself, because they were fleeing king George, they did not think that an American President would even think of such a thing. And now we have one who says such a thing.

I don`t know if it`s a threat, if he`s feeling the noose tightening around his neck or around Paul Manafort. What is prompting the President to do things that are not in his interest because, you know, as I said, it may be wakening up the Senate to what`s going on here and that they can no longer be silent.

MELBER: Well, Margaret, speak to that in more detail, because it`s become pretty commonplace to reference the fact that Mueller knows a lot more than the witnesses he interviews than most other people in public life.

Donald Trump also would seem to know a lot about this, that is to say, if there is bad evidence available, he at least knows whether it exists. The context of the Cohen proceedings we`ve been covering the last few weeks is whatever`s in Cohen`s office that pertains to Donald Trump or audio of phone calls that may exist. He may have some sense of what`s on there. I mean, does that at a certain level creating the space and painting that Trump may be operating off of?

CARLSON: Well, if you say I can pardon myself, it`s an awareness of guilt of something because why would you bring it up if you`re not guilty of something? What are you running from? Why are you saying I can do it if I need to? Oh, I`m not going to, but if I need to I will, and that suggests that he knows something we don`t know.

We don`t know what Mueller knows, we don`t know what Trump knows, because we don`t know. Like on Manafort, that meeting in Trump tower, certainly Trump had an awareness there was something wrong about that, or he wouldn`t have written that statement that he did. Covering it up.

He surely knows a lot about Flynn. He`s no doubt worried about what he`s going to say. And, you know, Trump is not a person to sit still. It`s like he cannot -- he cannot wait. He must get out in front of it. And he`s -- but in the meantime, you know, Rudy Giuliani has made more admissions against Trump`s interests than Mueller.

I mean, what a lawyer Rudy Giuliani`s turning out to be, because he basically said his lawyer Jay Sekulow could get out of lying about that statement written on air force one. But Trump himself could not do it, unless he lied. And so, that`s why Trump can`t -- you know, can`t go and appear before Mueller admitting to George Stephanopoulos yesterday, because he would lie.

MELBER: Right, which was astounding. And we have a little more on that later in the hour.

Paul, all of this relates back to the subpoena, that is the pressure here. Is there in your view, a White House argument here that they can still fight it?

BUTLER: I don`t think so. The Supreme Court person in here says from the Nixon case, that you -- documents can be subpoenaed in a criminal case, it didn`t go to the President`s testimony can be require. In the Paula Jones case, Bill Clinton was required to testify in a civil case.

MELBER: Right. It`s less important.

BUTLER: It did nothing. But I think if you put that together, take it to the court, the court`s going to say that Trump should haul himself to court and testify. The thing is, if they want a quick investigation, if they are opening all these major constitutional questions, that`s going to prolong it. It is going to make you go months and months.

MELBER: And it could take it all the way to the courts just to find out what the answers is.

Paul Butler, Richard Painter, Margaret Carlson, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, I turn an expert on this entire legal theory. It goes all the way back to Nixon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And we`ll tell you how Trump`s own team may have created more exposure for Don Junior and what the Supreme Court did and didn`t say in the ruling today on gay rights.

And Bill Clinton`s Monica comments playing out in a Me Too era.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you didn`t apologize to her.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have not talk to her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel that you owe her and apology?

CLINTON: I do. I have never talked to her. But I did say publicly on more than one occasion that I was sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And my special guest tonight, Michael Eric Dyson with a new book on race and Trump`s America.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Donald Trump put his spokesperson in a tough spot today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a short time ago the President said if I had an absolute right to pardon myself. Why does he think that? And does he agree with Rudy Giuliani`s lawyer in a pardon for himself would be unthinkable to immediate impeachment?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thankfully the President hasn`t done anything wrong and wouldn`t have any need for a pardon. Once again, thankfully, the President hasn`t done anything wrong and therefore wouldn`t need one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The whole question has arisen because Trump and his lawyers have been trying this out. One lawyer struggles you may have seen on TV struggling to match his client`s position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you and the President`s attorneys believe the President has the power to pardon himself?

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: He`s not, but he probably does. He has no intention of pardoning himself, but he probably does. That doesn`t mean he can`t. I mean, that`s another interesting constitutional argument. Can the President pardon himself. It would be an open question. I think it would get answered by, God, that`s what the constitution says, and if you want to chain it, change it. But, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As we discussed tonight though, even if Giuliani claims it`s an open question, he also admits it would blow up spectacularly on Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIULIANI: The President of the United States pardoning himself would just be unthinkable, and it would lead to probably an immediate impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The last President who did consider himself pardoned was ushered out of office under that threat of impeachment. But it was the same period when the DOJ say to the President cannot pardon himself. Something Nixon never grasped, because he literally claimed Presidents could commit crimes and make them legal by the act of being President. Nixon thought the President`s power was basically above the law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what in a sense you are saying is that there are certain situations -- that plan was one of them. Where the President can decide that it`s in the best interest of the nation or something and do something illegal?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when the President does it, that means it`s not illegal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That phrase lives on as one of Nixon`s low points. Legal experts, of course, note that the weight of authority is against self-pardons including legal (INAUDIBLE) who note terms (ph) are invalid because they place a President above the law. He also notes any conservative reading of the constitution`s text reinforces that reality.

Brian Kalt joins m now. He is the author of "Constitutional Cliffhangers" which examines this issue. Also, Guy Lewis is here. He is a former federal prosecutor, worked for Bob Mueller, Jim Comey and Rod Rosenstein. Thanks to both of you for being here.

Brian, what is the clearest argument against the self-pardon?

BRIAN KALT, LAW PROFESSOR, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, there are three parts. The first part is, as Paul Butler mentioned earlier that a pardon inherently is something you give to someone else. It would be like making a donation to yourself, it doesn`t make sense, donations from the same Latin root.

The second reason is that no one can be a judge in his own case. The courts have said that in other contexts. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don`t. But if they rule against the validity of the self-pardon, you better believe that would be part of the argument they make.

And then third, looking at what the framer said when they were writing the pardon power, they debated this in the constitutional convention. They didn`t debate self-pardons in particular, but they debated Presidents abusing the pardon power, pardoning their own treasonous confederates. And when they talked about that, they said, if a President does that, if a President is among the guilty people there, and he pardons all of them, well, we can impeach him and then prosecute him.

MELBER: And on the self-judging point, I mean, you write very interestingly there are other clues in the constitution like the fact that when there is an impeachment trial, then the vice President does not preside over the Senate, a point that we are going to show here, illustrated with Justice Rehnquist taking that role during the Clinton impeachment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE: Two thirds of the senators present not having pronounced him guilty, the senator judge is that the respond ant William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States is not guilty as charged in the five article of impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: How does that rather dramatic visual illustrate your point?

KALT: Well, the chief justice presides when the President is on trial. When the vice President is on trial, the constitution doesn`t say anything about it. It says the vice President presides over the Senate with that one exception. So what I argued is that if you read that literally, that mines that if the vice President is impeached and put on trial in the Senate, that he would preside over his own impeachment. And if you think that`s OK, well, great. But I don`t think the Senate would allow that. And I think the principle that you couldn`t be the judge in your own case, even as presiding over your own case is not nearly as big a deal in the impeachment context.

MELBER: Yes, I took it more straightforward that the founders didn`t want the vice President presiding over his President`s impeachment trial.

KALT: Right, but they --

MELBER: Because they are not the same team.

KALT: Right, but they specified that in the constitution. They didn`t specify the President can`t --

MELBER: Right. That`s what I`m talking about, they specified that, which goes to the point that you don`t judge your own team.

KALT: Yes, although again, they didn`t specify that the vice President doesn`t preside over the vice President --

MELBER: Yes, you already said that.

KALT: It goes without saying.

MELBER: I feel like I`m back in law school. I`m asking you about that point, though, which is that they do say that, you know, in this case, the Clinton administration wasn`t going to judge itself.

Guy, go ahead and get in here.

KALT: Yes.

GUY LEWIS, WELL, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It is interesting Ari, because in the Nixon situation, who did exercise the pardon over his former boss? So in that instance Ford came in and pardoned Nixon for crimes really nothing had been indicted yet, in terms of Nixon himself, and pardoned him for the commission of any acts relating to the Watergate matter, so it looked --

I read something that Brian wrote. I`m not sure exactly when, not too long ago, where he said, those who claim to know the answer to this question that we are debating, in his words were pretending. And I think that was a wise statement, because the constitution does leave it open.

And what makes it difficult Ari, I think Brian will agree with this, is that when you overlay the politics of this with the constitution and the law, that`s what makes it so hard. And what makes it so divisive, and so political. And the constitution clearly, if you read the text in the constitution, the President according article two, the President can quote "grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in the case of impeachment, that`s it. That`s all it says. Everything else we`re left --

MELBER: Right. But we have the DOJ also saying, you can`t do it, and you have a body of law that is common sense, which is judges and all sorts of powers, but they don`t get to judge their own trial. That would be pretty farcical.

Guy, take a listen to Rudy Giuliani evolving over the years and contradicting himself about the whole subpoena issue which is the only reason we are talking about this, that the subpoena pressure has basically gotten its letter out in the first place. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happens if Robert Mueller subpoenas the President, will you comply?

GIULIANI: Well, we don`t have to. He is the President of the United States.

President is not above the law. It is not able to avoid subpoenas.

It`s pretty clear that eye President can`t be subpoenaed to a criminal proceeding about him.

That is as far as a criminal lawyers are concern, the President is a citizen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER: Guy, which Giuliani do you take?

LEWIS: Well, it tells you a liar. We can talk out of both sides of our mouth, sometimes it`s not a good thing.

Look. The last think that they said in a January memo to Bob Mueller, they have taken a very strong position in terms of the executives` authorities. It is interesting. You know, Hamilton`s playing right now, on Broadway.

And this is what this is about. You have Hamilton who is a super executive advocate, versus Jefferson who is a tyrant/king advocate. And that`s what the back and forth is going on right now. And it depends on really who you support politically, the constitution unfortunately is not clear on it, ultimately the Supreme Court is going to have to be --

MELBER: So Guy, are you more of a Lyn-Manuel (ph) person or more of a Diggs.

LEWIS: I haven`t seen it yet because I think --.

MELBER: You haven`t seen -- you are coming on this show making references to theater you haven`t seen?

LEWIS: It is terrible. I`m a strict constructionist. I do think that the constitution speaks in terms of granting the President some authority with regard to this kind of --

MELBER: And Brian, have you seen Hamilton? Before we go.

KALT: No, it is coming to East Lansing next year, and I have my tickets already.

MELBER: You do.

KALT: I do.

MELBER: It`s a great production with or without David and Lyn-Manuel.

Listen. When we have both of you back, I will get your top five rappers, we just don`t have time for that tonight.

Guy Lewis, Brian Kalt, thank you both.

Up ahead on THE BEAT, there are, of course, racial tensions in the Trump era. We are going to talk to Michael Eric Dyson about his new book. I`m very excited about that.

Also, Donald Trump`s lawyers insisting that he had no role in that Trump tower statement that was so misleading. But we know that`s not true. That developing story when we`re back in 60 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: The other top story tonight that leaked a letter from Trump`s lawyers admitting for the first time that Trump wrote and dictated a statement that tried to hide what really happened at the Trump Tower meeting with Russians.

Now, Trump`s lawyers buried this admission near the very last page of their letter, suggesting Trump`s team had been lying all along. Now, since the statement, President Trump dictated said the meeting was to get dirt on Clinton. Well, that was what the meeting was about but he had initially said it was about the adoption of Russian children.

Now, Jay Sekulow signed this new letter to Mueller saying Trump was involved in drafting the statement about the meeting. And Jay Sekulow had claimed the opposite saying, Trump wasn`t involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, CHIEF COUNSEL, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: I do want to be clear that president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Junior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Tonight, that statement appears false. According to a fact check of Jay Sekulow by Jay Sekulow. Now, his co-counsel Rudy Giuliani, says these shifting stories from Trump and his lawyers to illustrate why Trump should not testify, his story keeps changing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, THIS WEEK, ABC: First it was all denied and now you`re saying you dictated it.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I mean, this is the reason you don`t let the president testify. If, you know, every -- our recollection keeps changing, or we`re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joined by Wall Street Journal`s Shelby Holliday, who`s been covering this story. Is this the reason not to let him testify him?

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It seems like a good reason if you can`t get your story straight and you have recollection problems who knows what would be said to the special counsel if Trump sits down with them. This Trump Tower revelation is really important for a number of reasons, there are a lot of layers to unpack.

First of all, whether or not the president`s actually being honest with his lawyers, it looks a lot like he`s not, and that the record has to be changed over and over and over again. Also, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was caught in a tough place today because she had to answer the same question about why did you tell us Trump wasn`t involved in the drafting of that statement?

MELBER: And the adoption cover story is something that didn`t -- were that well. Trump was talking about this and that, New York Times interview he did saying, you know, he talked about adoptions with Putin, too. Take a listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: You did?

TRUMP: Russian adoption. Yes, I always found that interesting because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because that was a part of the conversation that Don had in that meeting.

HOLLIDAY: So, Trump is right. Here is where it gets really interesting. Trump and Putin spoke. As you said on that graphic, on July 7th. July 8th, he dictates the statement to -- about the Trump Tower meeting and says the whole reason that they had this meeting was because of Russian adoptions.

Now, I`ll also if you look at some of the testimony that`s been released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 6th, there`s an e-mail from Rob Goldstone who helped set up the meeting to Alan Garten, the general counsel of Trump Organization, talking about the press. The coverage of this potential story and it becoming published by the New York Times.

So, they knew that the story was coming on July 6. July 7th, Trump talks to Putin. July 8th, he dictates a statement. And then, on July 9th and 10th, between messages between Rob Goldstone and Emin Agalarov, of one of the Russians involved in setting up the meeting. It actually shows that Trump`s legal counsel is helping dictate the statements of the -- of the parties on the Russian side of this meeting.

And so, it looks like the president and his legal team are dictating not just Trump Junior statement, but the statement of other people who were involved in the meeting. And that could be a big reason why the questions that special counsel Mueller wants to ask, do revolve around this really big meeting.

MELBER: Shelby, when you put it like that it makes it sound like an international conspiracy to obstruct justice.

HOLLIDAY: I mean, the timeline is really important here. And I am not a lawyer but I`m a journalist who meticulously updates my timeline. And when you look at these things all adding up, it certainly raises your eyebrows.

MELBER: Appreciate your analysis. You don`t have to self-identify as a non-lawyer when you come on the show, you don`t have to do that.

HOLLIDAY: Well, you`re the lawyer.

MELBER: Shelby Holliday, closely watching the story for us from The Wall Street Journal, thank you as always. I want to turn to a wholly different subject and an important one. The Supreme Court ruling today in a seven to two decision, siding with the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips who refused to make a cake for a gay couple`s wedding.

He argued it would violate his own religious beliefs, the couple had said they should be able to patron a business just like anyone else.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MULLINS, MARRIED TO CHARLIE CRAIG: We were just so embarrassed and we felt rejected.

CHARLIE CRAIG, MARRIED TO DAVID MULLINS, DENVER: He simply turned us away just because of who we are instead of what we asked for.

PETE WILLIAMS, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: The majority of the justices seemed sympathetic to the baker`s religious beliefs, but concerned that a ruling for him could give businesses too much leeway to engage in discrimination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Seven justices ruling for the baker finding impermissible hostility against his religion. I`m joined by a legal eagle, NPR`s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, who I`ve been listening to all my life.

NINA TOTENBERG, LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Do not say you were in a car seat or I will personally come in strong, will you?

MELBER: I guess it all my life. I guess, well, look, all I`m saying is it`s a thrill to have you on THE BEAT, I appreciate it.

TOTENBERG: Thank you.

MELBER: Tell us about this case which is coming from as you obviously have been reporting, a court that has, on the one hand, advanced equality and rights on these issues. But today, many people feel seems to be doing something different in this narrow ruling.

TOTENBERG: Well it`s an extremely narrow ruling it`s a seven to two decision, and this was a gonzo case, it pit gay rights against religious, and First Amendment rights by somebody who disagrees that`s the way we all ballyhooed it. And the court instead, found this little keyhole way through this dilemma particularly for Anthony Kennedy, who is after all the author of every gay rights decision handed down by the Supreme Court in the last two decades. And on the other hand, is also a huge defender of the First Amendment right of free speech and freedom of religion.

So, here he is and he`s likely the deciding vote, and he finds this way through a little tiny passage through because the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had one of its seven members who disparaged the baker`s views compared them to the kind of justifications we heard for slavery at the time of slavery. And people who didn`t want to believe that Holocaust happened.

And that he said, denied the baker, Mr. Phillips, the right to have a neutral fact-finder because one of the seven members of the commission obviously wasn`t neutral, he said the justice.

And therefore, the baker, Mr. Phillips, wins this case because he was denied a fair hearing. But, then, Kennedy goes on to say that generally when there`s no hostility the states have the power and the federal government has the power to have public accommodations laws that require that everybody be treated equally, that all classes of people be treated equally.

So, the ultimate clash really isn`t decided. What`s decided is a pretty narrow question, was this man, Jack Phillips, denied a fair hearing on his case because one of the members of the commission had an apparent hostility to religious questions of religious freedom.

MELBER: So you -- your analysis is essentially, whether by strategy or by the legal requirements of the case, this was much more about the anecdote in question than any larger legal principle.

TOTENBERG: I think that`s right. I don`t -- you know, when what -- I talked to probably, seven or eight constitutional scholars today on the right, and the left, and they all basically said the same thing.

One of them said look, this could have been a dynamite case instead it`s a dud. Another said this is a punt. Another said it`s a toe in the water. The court wants to move slowly, obviously on this. And I think it bit crawled very slowly on this. And it`s a -- it`s a huge case, and there were five opinions, five separate opinions.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for seven justices, but of those seven, they disagreed about lots of other things. And only two justices dissented, Justice Ginsburg and Sotomayor, and they agreed with Justice Kennedy about many things.

MELBER: Nina Totenberg, making it plain as always thank you so much for coming on THE BEAT.

TOTENBERG: My pleasure.

MELBER: Up ahead, the great Michael Eric Dyson is here. We`re going to talk about his new book, race, civil rights, James Baldwin, the Trump era, and we might even talk music. That`s up ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: President Trump continues to stroke racial grievances across the United States. Within the last month, Trump signed a bill enabling banks to discriminate against minorities. He declared the US should consider deporting athletes who protest police brutality. And then, of course, declined to criticize Roseanne Barr for comparing Valerie Jarrett to an ape.

Survey shows that many white Americans have held a belief that the U.S. is improving on race relations, a position that is hard to maintain amidst Trumpism. And the civil rights expert in public intellectual Michael Eric Dyson, argues in his new book what truth sounds like that Trump`s ascendance shows that far from being a marginal player in whiteness, Trump is the logical extension of American ideas about blackness.

Because the white refusal to concede Obama`s legitimacy is the articulation of the deeply rooted refusal to see blackness itself as American. Now, Michael Eric Dyson joins me now to discuss these issues. His book tracing these key moments in the civil rights struggle and he explores the role of public truth in the face of white oppression. How artists like James Baldwin, brought the black experience to white America?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BALDWIN, LEGENDARY BLACK WRITER AND ACTIVIST: I don`t know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only include what they feel from the state of their institutions. I don`t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me. That doesn`t matter, but I know I`m not in their unions. I don`t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don`t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to.

Now, this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Applies today, Dyson riding the Baldwin was addressed in the nation on an outside track the white power structure on an inside track telling RFK that American politics operates to defend white interest, whiteness, an important means to express black grievance. And that resurgent white bigotry was thriving at the highest levels of the US government.

Professor Dyson joins me now. Thanks for being here.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me, my friend.

MELBER: James Baldwin, these truths you feel apply today.

DYSON: Absolutely right. I mean, in once, since the times have caught up to James Baldwin. You know, there was a time, Ari, not too long ago when people wouldn`t believe this, maybe four or five years ago where he had fallen according to one scholar, off of the syllabi of American institutions of higher education, but now he`s been brought back. Why? Black Lives Matter brought him back. The concern about black life in the midst of its vulnerable and oppressive conditions brought it back. Starbucks helped bring it back. Black people barbecuing and not being able to do so freely centered again the witness of Baldwin existential and intellectual trying to talk about the conditions of black people systemically and systematically but also personally what the price was to our own souls. So yes, he is fit for the times in which he has reemerged.

MELBER: You right. America in Baldwin`s view was split in two, not between north and south but between the powerful and the disenfranchised, the powerful maintain the status quo by sowing discord among the disenfranchised poor white folks rather than uniting with their socio- economic oppressed brothers and sisters against the rich, trained their ire on poor black folk. I suspect, Professor, having followed your work, you wrote that with the deliberate application to today.

DYSON: Mr. Melber, as the Godfather said, you know everything. So the reality is I absolutely did because I think we are seeing a repeat of that in our own era. The epics are paralleled. Mr. Trump has deliberately fastened onto the collective delusion of whiteness that somehow poor white people will be the vehicle to articulate concerns about this nation without paying attention to how they`re suffering under him. White people who are poor, who are drawn to him don`t understand that he is disinvesting in their interest in communities. It was LBJ who said if you can convince the poorest white person on earth that he`s better than the best black man, you can pick his pockets. He says, give him something to aim at concretely he`ll pick his pockets for you. And I suspect that`s what we`re seeing today. What LBJ`s logic was then is what we`re seeing manifests in Donald Trump`s cynical exploitation of working-class black people who by the way are not benefited when you put millionaires and multimillionaires and billionaires in office to make sure that the distribution of wealth will go on. I think now what we`re seeing is the contradiction that James Baldwin pointed to those 57 five years ago.

MELBER: Donald Trump was a cultural figure before he was a political figure. Culture is powerful. I want to ask you about something that`s been talked about a lot everywhere perhaps but the news which is this feud between the very popular artist Drake and somewhat lesser-known a writer and rapper Pusha T because it got racial. I`m reading here right from their back-and-forth, Pusha T saying addressing Drake confused always felt you weren`t black enough, afraid to grow it because your fro, wouldn`t nap enough. Your analysis of the role of sort of racial credential checking in this part of the debate?

DYSON: Yes, it`s very interesting. Drake is from Toronto so you got transnational blackness. You know, we talk about the diaspora. And when we look out toward Africa but also look toward the borders of our northern neighbors. And so he`s already up against the voters of authentic blackness, are you from the hood? Are you from Chicago? No, I`m from Toronto. OK, that`s different, to begin with. Then when he admitted as a biracial child that his hair didn`t behave with the same rules of curling with the anthropologists called you know, contour duplication and what we call nappy head, it didn`t happen.

So, Drake admitted that but now Pusha T in battle is trying to use that as a kind of racial bona fides, you`re not really Black enough. You`re not authentically Black. Well, what is Black? Black is as Black does. What we`ve seen James Baldwin in the Fire Next Time said race is not a reality, it`s a political fiction. It`s a projection of what we believe. So I think that in this case, if we use this as an opportunity to see that Drake is just as black as Pusha T, Pusha T is a guy we`ve only come to know recently. Those of us like you and me who are cognizant knew that he had those dope, doper rhymes to have a double entendre.

MELBER: We know Pusha back from Drug Dealers Anonymous, I mean, if that`s what we`re talking about.

DYSON: I mean, and if we`re trying to -- so the reality is that here`s the guy who was known. Your favorite rappers rapper, he was. But in terms of the marketplace, in terms of Billboard Excellence, in terms of using rap as an articulation of one`s own personal stance in the world, Drake is unparalleled. In fact, you came to my class at Georgetown and spoke on Jay-Z, I haven`t write you back to speak on Drake this fall when I teach a class biracial politics, identity, blackness, who`s really black who`s not, where we`ve seen the word that has ended up. The real keep it real blackness is often ended up in devastation and carnage, in certain forms of public pathology. What we need to have is a much more robust and nuanced conversation about what blackness is. You know, some of it is just jealousy. And the great Drake said jealousy is just love and hate at the same time.

MELBER: Wow, I think you began with a Baldwin reference, I believe you had Eclipsed reference in the middle.

DYSON: Yes.

MELBER: And the Drake reference at the end. That`s what we appear to just learn from you.

DYSON: You are the man.

MELBER: Professor, thank you very much.

DYSON: "FALLBACK FRIDAY" on a Monday.

MELBER: "FALLBACK FRIDAY" on a Monday. The book is What Truth Sounds Like by Michael Eric Dyson. And up ahead we have some developing news in the Michael Cohen case, a new court filing on what the feds are going to see and what is privileged when we come back.

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MELBER: We just got some new information in the Michael Cohen case since we`ve come on air and it is a setback for Michael Cohen. You may remember all of this vast material seized from him in these FBI raids, well we`re learning again most of them will be handed over to the feds and used in the investigation. A court-appointed watchdog basically releasing a report that shows very few documents that Cohen had been fighting to hold back will be hailed back. There were about eight boxes with over 12,000 pages, three digital devices, the prosecutors are only going to be -- basically only going to be held back from seeing 162 items that are either privileged or personal. That is an update on that special master process.

Now, I got another reminder for you. If you don`t want to miss a BEAT, we have pretty new, a nightly show podcast. You get the whole show, look for the purple podcast icon on your iPhone home screen. You click there. Go to the search bar and just -- search bar and type in THE BEAT with Ari Melber and then you`ll click and see our page pop up and you can click the air to subscribe and never miss another episode.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: We can get this over, this long nightmare for the -- for the American public over.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Or is it just beginning? Be careful with your nightmare references. Rudy Giuliani continuing to stir up a lot of talk. Now, I have a programming note that connects these two stories, actually. Tomorrow I`m very honored to say that the legendary investigative journalist who probably knows more about presidential abuse of power than most people in the country, well, he`s here. Seymour Hersh is my special guest to talk about how to uncover the secrets in journalism and in life that powerful people want to keep secret. He, of course, played a pivotal role in exposing scandals like Watergate, human rights abuses, all the way from the Nixon era to the Bush era and he will be with us tomorrow. That does it for me. I`ll see you back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" starts now.

END

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