Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: June 8, 2018 Guest: Mazie Hirono, Michael McFaul, Michael Steele, Laura Stylez, Ebro Darden, Peter Rosenberg
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much.
This is a busy Friday for Bob Mueller as he indicts the 20th person in the Russia probe. Bob Mueller making two big moves late today. He is charging a new person in this Russia probe, a Russian national linked to Putin`s intelligence services who spent years working for Paul Manafort. Mueller also adding new charges against Manafort in this new indictment. That includes obstruction and witness tampering. The new defendant is Konstantin Kilimnik who run Quebec office for Paul Manafort`s firm.
Now, the new indictments are the direct result of Mueller busting Manafort for that alleged witness tampering earlier this week. Now, when that news broke, basically everyone understood it because Mueller was asking a judge to revoke Manafort`s bail over those allegations that he was trying to get witnesses to lie for him. People have turned over text messages from Manafort and he had been trying to conceal all that effort to encrypted messaging apps.
Tonight, Mueller is not only saying those effort of tampering should land Manafort in jail before trial, as we learned earlier. Tonight, Bob Mueller is saying those efforts constitute new crimes and thus Manafort and his employee should be tried and sentenced for that criminal activity, obstruction and related conspiracy.
These charges also cut against the pretty common defense from Trump allies that you may have heard. It goes something like this. Whatever Paul Manafort did, it was all old stuff before 2016. Well, tonight`s news, these new indictments the 20th indictment in the Mueller probe, this is new stuff. This is all about things Manafort did things this year, specifically around the time in February when more heat was on him as his closest aide, Rick Gates flipped.
Tonight`s charges clearly a priority for Mueller. You can see it right there. While he shuns the spotlight and doesn`t do interviews, he does sign the big moves in this case, and that`s his signature on these new indictments. Now Manafort is the only American charged by Mueller who has not flipped.
Meanwhile, earlier today, Donald Trump batted away questions about a potential pardon for him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you pardon Paul Manafort?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven`t even thought about it. I haven`t thought about any of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Michael Cohen?
TRUMP: It is certainly it`s far too early to be thinking about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you are not ruling it out?
TRUMP: They haven`t been convicted of anything. There`s nothing to pardon. It`s far too early to be thinking about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We have several experts lined up, but we begin with federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman and Betsy Woodruff whose eyes always all over this case.
Daniel, what does it mean to go at both Manafort who has already got a stack of charges against him, but also bring in this new defendant over obstruction?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it means that Bob Mueller is continuing with his pattern of being aggressive and charging whatever it is that come to across him.
What`s really shocking about this turn of events this week and given the bail revocation motion earlier this week, this is not really a surprise to charge them. They really laid out their case in quite detail. But if you go back to the indictment, there is -- I was looking over it. And there`s a sentence in there which says that a principle for what is called company "A" got talking points from Paul Manafort about what they should say and response to any inquiries about their lobbying in the United States. And sent back on this to talking points. And then the guy writes, the principle for this company "A" writes, heaven -- we will do that, but heaven knows what the employees might say.
Immediately after that indictment is filed in February 23rd, Paul Manafort reaches out to those employees and tries to convince them to lie, to stick with his talking points, which is an outright lie. The Hutzpa (ph) that Paul Manafort has shown in the face of these charges is truly shocking. And he is using his alley as Kilimnik who has been reference in some of Mueller`s papers as person "A" who has some connections with Russian intelligence sources, he used him as an intermediary to do this obstruction. Right now, Kilimnik is in Russia somewhere and I don`t think there is much expectation to bring him here. So it is really --.
MELBER: Do you think this was inevitable that Kilimnik was going do get indicted?
GOLDMAN: Inevitable as of Tuesday or inevitable from previously?
GOLDMAN: I think there were indications previously that Kilimnik had a very close relationship with Manafort and that to the extent that Manafort was engage in some criminal activity it`s not surprised that Kilimnik is. As of Tuesday, yes, for sure, he would lumped in, but there might be more. And remember, Rod Rosenstein --.
MELBER: I will just tell you because, you know, we keep it real here. I don`t know that you can say whether it`s a surprise or not. I think all of this looks more logical as the case has laid out. But yes, if you go back a few months or a year, well, this is the year anniversary of James Comey`s original testimony about obstruction. I don`t think anyone legally journalistic or anyone else knew that we would be a year in, 20 indictments in.
GOLDMAN: I don`t think anyone had any expectation of that and we are not done. And I think what you have to remember as it relates to Paul Manafort and everyone is wondering why he is doing what he is doing, Mueller has been authorized to investigate Manafort on the collusion side as well, which is completely separate from what he is doing here. And it would not surprise me at all if further indictments of Paul Manafort come down and they involve Konstantin Kilimnik.
MELBER: It could involve Kilimnik and what Russia want to be getting in all of this.
Betsy, let me read some of the texts. As Dan mentions, this originally came out, of course, in the attempt to jail Manafort before his trial based on the argument that he is basically tampering. February 24th, he says this is Paul. Two days later, he says, we should talk. I have made clear that they work in Europe. That is significant because it goes to whether or not there was U.S. lobbying that was illegally done. And then he goes on here in the message here with person "A," which we believe is Klimnik.
Hi. How are you? Hope you are doing fine. My friend P is trying to reach this other person who briefed him on what is going on.
These are the spare lines attacks that obviously they thought either would not get seen or would spare enough that they could get away with what they are doing. Bob Mueller firing tonight and saying those are evidence of new crimes.
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s right. And I think hutzpa is the perfect word for what we are seeing with Paul Manafort in his efforts to try to shift the way that the investigation was being conducted. It really is an extraordinary revelations that we are seeing in this indictment.
Today, I believe, besides the day that he was first indicted, today was probably the worst day thus far for Paul Manafort. And that`s because today dramatically ratcheted up the likelihood that he could end up going jail.
Earlier this week, when the motion came down or that motion came down from Mueller`s team saying that Manafort appeared to have obstructed justice, initially, it was unclear on what kind of impact that would have had on Paul Manafort`s freedom especially because his attorneys would have been able to argue in court.
Look, if there`s an obstruction of justice allegation but no indictment, then the obstruction of justice charges can`t be that bad.
WOODRUFF: However, now we have this indictment. Now, we have Bob Mueller himself signing his name on the dotted line saying Paul Manafort tried to get in the way of my investigation. And that means that a judge is going to have to look at that very seriously. The judges is going to know that a grand jury signed off on this indictment. And that raises the likelihood that Paul Manafort could be incarcerated before his trial.
MELBER: Right. And pretrial detention is nothing to mess with.
I want to look at the wider implications here given all the political talk of obstruction bringing Vermont governor and former DNC chair Howard Dean and Jennifer Rubin, a conservative writer for "the Washington Post."
Governor Dean, what politicians and other political figures say is generally outside (INAUDIBLE) of the courtroom, but we would be remiss not to note that these new obstruction charges for Mueller come down in a period of time when people like Rudy Giuliani and Sean Hannity have been openly talking about obstruction as something people should just do and that the President can do and it`s quote-unquote "not a crime."
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, first of all, it is a crime whether the President can be indicted and convicted. There`s a difference of opinion on that. Mostly even scholars think he can be indicted. Secondly, this is what crooks do. I went once had a conversation with a state police officer in Vermont and I said, boy, we are talking about a case. I said this guy is really smart. And he said no crooks are smart, because they always think it`s never going happen to them. This is Trump`s M.O. He says the most outrageous things because he never thinks it is going to have an effect on him and eventually it always does. And that`s what is happening to Paul Manafort and it`s going happen to Donald Trump.
MELBER: Jennifer, on that point, there is some reporting about how Manafort views all this from his circle. With Mueller closing in, Manafort`s allies abandoned him which most people could understand. And it says her, Manafort felt quote "betrayed by two journalists who turned on Mr. Manafort informing Mueller`s team on effort to reach them. The latest in the series.
At one time, Manafort business partners have provided damaging evidence to Bob Muller. I mean, just in a basic level of amoral real politics. Put aside your obligations to cooperate with federal authorities or the legal obligation he has on a bail, you know, deal and just think in terms of legal interest, how does Paul Manafort think that he is the person that everyone should be siding with over Mueller or aka the department of justice.
JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s completely unrealistic. And I think the governor is right. Crooks tend to think that loyalty to them is absolute. Their loyalty to others is another matter altogether.
But I just want to pick up on something that Betsy was saying that I think is absolutely crucial here. First of all, there`s been much talk that not only the President can`t commit obstruction of justice, but that there is nothing there that ties Trump to any of this. And what we know already is the Trump tower meeting is out there, which he is accused of having drafted a false statement. We are finding out about other meetings that his son and son-in-law may have been involved in.
And I think these is making a point that these are real crimes. These aren`t just trifles that are somehow different, aside from the real meet of the case. These are real felonies. People go jail for them. And I think to some extent Bob Mueller is underscoring that. We now are up to 20 people who have been indicted. Five people who have flipped. And I think this is a little bit of message sending that he is very serious. We are nowhere near the end of this. And to the extent that other people are talking to witnesses suggesting testimony in someone, this is a big fat signal to those people, we are coming after you too.
MELBER: Right. And I think that is very important in terms of what Bob Mueller is putting out there. For folks that feel like, God, are they are getting away with all of it? Well, who is they? Because the campaign chair just got hit with the new indictment today as did his aide. Manafort`s Manafort as they call him. We are going to get into that a little more later in the show as his deputy Rick Gates as to George Papadopoulos and as Mike Flynn. I mean, who is getting away with it? There`s a lot of accountability it would seem.
Governor Dean, as you know, Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin`s worst nightmare. I mean, everybody knows that. And that`s just a fact that the President said today. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have been Russia`s worst nightmare, but, with that being said, Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? Russia should be in the meeting. It should be a part of it. They threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: I would say Vladimir Putin is getting a pretty good return on his investment. What this means is Trump now wants the Europeans to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Russians seized part of the Ukraine or occupying another of Ukraine killed over 10,000 Ukrainians in their attacks on Ukraine and their annexing of Ukrainian property in Crimea. And Trump wants this all to be forgotten. I would say Putin is getting a pretty good deal. He made a good buy here.
MELBER: Yes. And then you go to -- look. That`s if you believe that not only did Putin intercede the way that these other services said. But did they actually do it in a way where they owe it something back. And I guess that is the hard of the collusion inquiry.
One of the other question, Betsy, that you have been looking at, is OK, can Paul Manafort help answer that question? I don`t think we know. I mean, he is so central to so much of this that sometimes there`s (INAUDIBLE) like a Forrest Gump like quality. And you kind of feel like when he was around at the Trump tower meeting. He (INAUDIBLE) to Russia. He is always, you know, only one degree of separation away from people linked to the KGB, et cetera, you know, this intelligence services out there, and yet that`s not proof. That`s just circumstance.
And I want to read you some of the reporting and get your view on it, Betsy, on this aspect. A source familiar with the case says the indictment is brutal for Manafort. But the reason is interesting.
Quote "Paul`s problem is he doesn`t have anything to trade. Cooperating isn`t an option because he really didn`t collude with the Russians at the Trump campaign`s request.
Betsy, as you know, a lawyer would focus in on the final couple of words there at the Trump campaign`s request leaving open that he may have done something solo. What does your reporting say? What is your reporting instincts say about whether there is anything for Manafort to cooperate on?
WOODRUFF: That`s the million dollar question. And I think anyone involved in that Trump tower meeting, anybody who knows what Paul Manafort knows would likely have something to be able to proffer to Mueller and his team. Mueller has been working with everybody who will be willing to work with him. He is working with George Papadopoulos, working other folks from the campaign obit, especially Rick Gates. The fact is he clearly wants Manafort.
MELBER: I`ll let you finish, but you know, all Papadopoulos has is the latte instructions. I mean, that`s all he knows as a coffee boy.
WOODRUFF: Coffee boy, George Papadopoulos, exactly. Why would Mueller day in to loop him in on the work that he is doing? And yet, he has. So I think it is very likely that Manafort knows something that Bob Mueller wants to get out of him. I find it unthinkable that Manafort wouldn`t have access to some sort of information that Mueller would find to be evangelist (ph).
MELBER: Dan, how about that? Dan and then Jennifer. But Don, as a prosecutor, how about that for you?
GOLDMAN: Well, I think it`s complete. It is entirely reasonable to think that Manafort might be the top here, you know. As you are working your way up, you always keep going. But given what we know about Donald Trump and how he operates and given the connections and contacts that we know Manafort has and had during the campaign, given the flip in the platform as it relates to Russia and Ukraine at the Republican National Convention which Manafort was really charge of, it very well could be that, yes, there was some degree of collusion, but it`s either was somewhat isolated with Manafort or at a minimum it stopped at Manafort. That`s completely consistent with what we know so far and -- or at least not inconsistent. And so, it`s conceivable that he is the end game here.
MELBER: Not inconsistent. Dan with the big double negative. Jennifer, close us out.
RUBIN: It actually is inconsistent because, of course, there was collusion in the Trump tower meeting. When you offer dirt on your opponent and your son says I would love to have it, that is collusion. So it doesn`t stop with Manafort. The question is, how much and how secretive Donald Trump was.
MELBER: Is that collusion or is that attempted collusion if you don`t get the stuff?
RUBIN: Well, first of all, collusion, as you know, because you are a lawyer, Ari, is not a crime in and of itself. If we are talking about coordination, cooperation, an attempt to solicit something of value from a foreigner, which is actually the standard in the campaign laws, yes, it`s illegal.
MELBER: Yes. And you are putting your finger on something that`s so important here, which is the Trump defense has gone from we didn`t do anything, we don`t know about it, to we just weren`t good at it so we couldn`t pull it off to what Rudy recently said. If we did that, it would still would be OK. And as you mentioned, the federal election campaign act, as well as some other laws beg to differ.
Jennifer Rubin, Governor Howard Dean, Betsy Woodruff and Daniel Goldman on a big breaking news night, thank you for joining us.
But I want to do when we go ahead is the mystery man charged by Mueller. Why this Russian operative is, as I mentioned, he is known at Manafort`s Manafort. We are going to break down why his 20 indictment matters.
Also, these two new obstruction charges come one year to the day after James Comey`s famous testimony. I have a special report on that later.
And from mattress gate to, yes, moisture gate, Scott Pruitt is getting roasted not only by comedians and also members of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can just go on the internet, search for Ritz- Carlton lotion, he could have just ordered it without using his taxpayer funded staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We have more on that.
And tonight we are getting ready for the hot 97 radio DJ`s takeover of fallback Friday.
I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Bob Mueller indicting a new person in the Russia probe late today. This is the 20th person indicted a long-term employee of Paul Manafort with ties to Russian military services and charged with obstruction and conspiracy. His name is Konstantin Kilimnik. He keeps a very low profile. In fact, our researchers have spent a longtime trying to find reliable photos of him. There are very few on the entire internet.
He became Manafort`s Russian point man in 2005. He served as a fixer for Trump`s campaign aides and in fact, it was lied about this man, Kilimnik that led to Mueller jailing that Dutch lawyer in London, if you remember that. He also acted as a go between for Manafort and Putin oligarch, (INAUDIBLE). So a lot of lines there.
Now remember, Mueller is investigating these changes that were made to help Russia in the 2016 GOP platform. And this man allegedly bragged about pulling that off but has also denied any links to Russian intelligence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK, MANAFORT`S EMPLOYEE: If there had been any questions about my real allegiance, Yanukovych would have thrown me out of his administration. Again, you guys believe he is a pro-Russian president. But I have my own various Trump reservations about his being pro-Russian, I was working with Manafort to help the country be, you know, a normal country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m join now by the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.
As experienced as you are in the region, how significant is it to see this Russian indicted?
AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, first, Ari, I don`t know him. I want to be clear about that. I have never met him. I used to follow Manafort, and I would see him, his operations in Ukraine --
MELBER: Ambassador, we could go one-on-one if we are doing full disclosure. I don`t know him either.
MCFAUL: OK. Well, I usually do know that rest of them. I know Mr. Deriposka for instance. We could go back to that in a minute. But he was well known working for Manafort. He`s working in Ukraine, but he is a Russian national working in Ukraine. And the world of intelligence services just generally is murky. And to say that he worked for the GRU or the SVR, I don`t know that for sure. But from my general experience in the region, would he have relationships with those kind of things until region? My answer would be probably yes.
MELBER: Well, on the point, he also, in terms of what we do know, putting together the pieces, he did invoke them, telling a journalist, so that is something that could even get out, don`t show this picture of me. Of course, we put this against the non-picture there, a profile. If you show that picture, I will kill you. The KGB will kill you. The GRU will kill you as well.
Now that alone could be tough talk, but that combined with the case that Mueller is making suggests this is a pretty interesting individual.
MCFAUL: I agree. Remember, their number one client in Ukraine was Victor Yanukovych. Viktor Yanukovych was a Kremlin project. He was an ally of Putin. He was support financially in the other ways by Mr. Putin. He wanted him to win that election in 2010. And other oligarchs, Russian as well as Ukrainian by the way, both supported Yanukovych. They were all intertwined.
MELBER: When he hear this person was described as Manafort`s Manafort, was basically the key native speaker, the key operative, the key person on the ground, you can read from his profile that says after he started working for Manafort, he adopted a flashier lifestyle. He wear those expensive suits to the American television viewers that have come associate with Mr. Manafort. A lavish mansion with a pool. And a claim said he was always smart enough to get close to the money.
You know, whatever anyone thinks of this, that sounds like business. At what point does someone like this in that world do business that`s personally enriching but also do something else that could tie back to one of the issues under Mueller`s investigation which is whether this was money and also Putin goals?
MCFAUL: All the time in that part of the world. And again, I don`t know the details of this particular gentleman. Right, we need Bob Mueller to do his work and reveal that, but do those things go hand and hand generally? The answer to that is absolutely yes. Does Putin and his proxies use money to create leverage with people? The answer to that is absolutely, yes. And do people report back to the Russian government, you know, whether they are formally or not, you know, members of the government or intelligence officers? In that part of the world, it doesn`t matter. That is much more murkier. The lines are much more blurred. And I have seen that time and time again other cases that I know very well.
MELBER: Well, that`s fascinating. Something you and other experts have been educating us on that the kind of business distinctions that we see here in the United States are not really right to project and how this others that works. That indeed the cutouts and the mix used activities are key parts of these influence operations which raises the key question of what Mueller is pulling at when he pulls this thread tonight with this new 20 indictments.
Ambassador, as always, thank you for your expertise.
I now turn to Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono, a member of the judiciary committee. Thank you for joining us on a busy evening.
Your reaction to this news? What does it mean that Bob Mueller is issuing a 20th indictment and accusing Donald Trump`s former campaign chair of actively trying to obstruct this probe this year?
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HAWAII), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think the plot thickens. And that is why Mueller`s investigation which from all appearances is being conducted in a very meticulous way, needs to proceed. And only in a fake world that is Donald Trump`s world is Donald Trump Putin`s worst nightmare.
MELBER: Does it concern you that these new obstruction charges come at a time when people in Trump`s orbit including his main TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani speak openly about the idea that obstruction is OK or not illegal if it comes from the President?
HIRONO: Well, they are taking the extraordinary position that the President is above the law. And so, I think that they feel the news closing and they are just basically saying all kinds of things. I find their comments just extraordinarily dangerous. We are in a democracy after all and Trump is not king.
MELBER: While I have you, another big story we have been covering is what appears to be a widespread abuse and corruption by Scott Pruitt at the EPA which job tails (ph) with others stories you and I have discussed before. Are you concerned about this kind of corruption in the Trump administration? And what can the Senate do about it?
HIRONO: Of course I`m concerned. And in fact, when Tom Price did certain things and he resigned or he was pretty much pushed out. But the tolerance for this kind of corrupt behavior seems to rise with this administration by the day. And because Pruitt is doing certain things that basically eviscerates so many of the environmental protections. As far as Trump is concerned, Pruitt is doing a great job.
So this is yet another conflict of interest. And those kind of issues don`t seem to matter to this administration as they go about doing everything they can to enrich themselves. And of course, with President Trump, it`s all about him all the time every day, all the time.
MELBER: Senator Hirono, thank you very much for making some time for us. Appreciate it.
HIRONO: Thank you.
MELBER: Up ahead, I have a "BEAT" Special Report about key questions in the Mueller probe. It is one year after Comey`s famous testimony on the issue.
And more of what we were just discussing, people going in on Scott Pruitt, roasting when we come back in 60 seconds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA and were setting records outside. He`s being attacked very viciously by the press and I`m not saying that he`s blameless but we`ll see what happened.
MELBER: President Trump not using many details when claiming his embattled EPA Chief is doing a great job. Scott Pruitt has become the biggest liability in the Trump administration with these ethics scandals. Now criticism from Republican Senators for his grifting and his swamping, and then comes the roasting. From mattress gate to moisture gate, this is not SNL, this is Congress roasting Pruitt with props citing his odd scandals over having aides try to buy him a used mattress from a Trump Hotel and asking his security guards to drive around looking for luxury lotion that he could have ordered online.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: Your EPA Administrator supposed adult in the room is using taxpayer dollars to ask for -- and try to find used Trump mattresses.
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: He had his personal security detail paid for taxpayer expense drive around to Ritz-Carlton to try to find lotion. There is also this thing by the way known as the Internet. He could have just ordered it without using his taxpayer-funded staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, to paraphrase Lauryn Hill, Pruitt may think he`s more powerful than two Cleopatras but he`s still ready to flip it in the swamp on a dirty mattress. Democratic lawmakers want a criminal into this corruption. Pruitt is trying to keep his job but he found himself facing protests today by and I want to be fair, this is frankly something many, many politicians do have to deal with and you`ve probably seen it before. I`m talking about of course lotion hecklers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: I was there with that pastor --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Just classic lotion heckling right there. As for the rest of the culture, well, the jokes write themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TREVOR NOAH, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Pruitt sends his security detail to go and get him moisturizing lotion from a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Yes, he basically -- he basically asked his taxpayer-funded security to protect him from ashy ankles, that`s what he did.
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: Pruitt also enlisted an EPA aid to help his wife find a job with Chick-Fil-A specifically as a Chick-Fil-A franchisee. Wow, Scott, even the Chick-Fil-A cows think you should be more ethical.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Are you ready to go from ashy to classy and really dig into this story?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, RNC: Yes, acid deep baby. Let`s roll.
STEELE: I got my moisturizer. I`m set.
MELBER: Is this -- is this Washington`s first lotion scandal?
STEELE: Is this Washington`s first lotion scandal? Well, not really. There have been -- there have been some in the past that involved lotion but you know, those been more discreet than this.
MELBER: And what does it say about Scott Pruitt that the people closest to him are leaking these truly bizarre, petty, and sometimes humiliating things?
STEELE: Well probably because they`re not on the tip to get the mattress or the lotion or the Chick-Fil-A franchise so within any agency you find the staff after a while gets a little bit envious of others receiving perks that they think they should get. So here we are we find ourselves now in this mess and of course, you know the kingpin here, the President sees nothing wrong with this so that further alienates those folks who feel that they should be on the end of the largesse not just got Scott Pruitt.
MELBER: And can you as someone who does understand the Washington mind without we feel always being co-opted by it, can you shed any light for us on why if you are trying to get a mattress on it on the cheap why you`d want one from a hotel where it`s going to have a lot of different people who`ve been involved with it.
STEELE: Well, there is that. I mean, they -- again, that relates back to the other lotion scandal which I didn`t want to get into. You know, there`s this idea that people have that you know maybe someone has already kind of gotten out the kinks in the mattress and so he`d have to worry about finding that sweet spot.
MELBER: What is it going to take for Donald Trump who we do know pays attention to at least the optics of things, what`s it going to take for him to see the optics as well as the substance of this kind of grifting and swapping to say maybe he needs to move on from this particular appointee or do you see him digging in because he`s a he`s frustrated with the negative backlash?
STEELE: Look, I think that`s the big question and it`s certainly a very heavy question for the President. Right now he`s comfortable with the way this narrative is playing out. You could see the smile on his face when he when he talked about Scott Pruitt, even when he referenced just how difficult things are for him on the outside, he`s handling business on the inside. And for Donald Trump, that`s all that matters.
MELBER: But does Donald Trump know what Scott prudes doing inside the EPA?
MELBER: OK, I didn`t think so. Are you comfortable with the term moisture gate? Is that what we should stick to for this one?
STEELE: I think we could stick with moisture gate so to speak. Yes.
MELBER: Yes. My producers are telling me we`re out of time but I don`t know if that`s because we are out of time or they are just done with this.
STEELE: I think I`m probably done with this.
MELBER: It is Friday though, Michael.
STEELE: It is. It`s freaky Friday.
MELBER: Michael Steele, I don`t know that we`ll ever do another conversation like this.
STEELE: No we won`t.
MELBER: So I thank you for that.
STEELE: You got it my friend.
MELBER: Coming up later on the show, I have my BEAT special report on this one year anniversary of Comey`s blockbuster testimony and how it looks today with these new indictments. But first, it is "FALLBACK FRIDAY." New York`s Hot 97 Radio crew who had me on their show recently, they talked -- we talked politics, culture, and even dogs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So you mean like he watches that early Snoop Dogg video were Snoop turns to his dogs and back. Is that what you`re talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They get together and giggle like school girls looking at (INAUDIBLE).
MELBER: OK, I misunderstood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT and you know what that means it`s time to "FALLBACK." Oh my god, it`s a takeover. We have a very hot "FALLBACK" today, a takeover by Hot 97. The host of the top-rated morning show in the tri-state area Ebro in the Morning. Ebro Darden, a pioneer in the hip-hop industry and host on Beats 1. Peter Rosenberg also the Host of Open Late and Laura Stylez Host of the podcast Improper Etiquette.
They have interviewed everyone from Fifty, to Cardi, to the H-Bomb, that`s her -- oh no that`s Bernie, to also the H-bomb Hillary Clinton`s in there somewhere. You can also catch the 25th anniversary of Hot 97 Summer Jam. That`s this weekend. And congratulations, you guys have a lot going on. It`s your first takeover. I`m glad you`re here and let`s get to it. Who needs to fall back?
LAURA STYLEZ, HOST, IMPROPER ETIQUETTE: I know everybody saw this video. You have to have seen this video. The FBI agent who decided to go to the club and start breakdancing, he does a backflip and forgets he has a gun in his pocket.
MELBER: Here it is. This is really -- first of all, how are his moves.
EBRO DARDEN, HOST, EBRO IN THE MORNING: He looks terrible.
MELBER: Here`s the flip.
STYLEZ: Look at the gun. He`s --
MELBER: Oh, that`s the gunshot.
PETER ROSENBERG, HOST, OPEN LATE: He looks up, oh they had blurred his face now. His face in the has been blurred, Laura. That face he makes after he knows his shot, it`s crazy.
MELBER: So you think he needs to fall back rather than doing shootings at a --
STYLES: Are you kidding me?
MELBER: That wasn`t part of the dance floor, right?
STYLEZ: Why wasn`t the safety on the gun? Like, why couldn`t he just pick it up and he just didn`t squeeze?
ROSENBERG: Wow, impressive gun talk, Laura.
STYLEZ: And then yeah somebody got shot in the leg.
MELBER: I`ve heard of gun talk, but this is gun safety talk. This is so important.
STYLEZ: Poor guy.
MELBER: Rosenberg, who needs to fall back?
ROSENBERG: As the great BEAT nuts once said, take it or squeeze. What would be --
DARDEN: Darn it.
ROSENBERG: I want to catch up with Ari. Anyways --
MELBER: I mean, I think the great BEAT nut said you better watch your step.
ROSENBERG: Well done. You could do that and
ROSENBERG: Or watch out now. They also said that.
MELBER: Well, then you`re going to have to go higher pitch if you`re going to do it.
ROSENBERG: OK, mine I am going to start out with Fox News. And it`s not like -- I don`t want to start beef because I know we`re on MSNBC so I don`t want any problems.
MELBER: Speak your truth.
ROSENBERG: Here`s my -- here`s my truth though. They were so excited about the Donald Trump dis-invitation to the Philadelphia Eagles that some producer was like, I need to get footage of the Eagles kneeling so they find some stock photos of eagles kneeling. Great! Here`s the problem. No Eagles kneel during the national anthem last year. They were kneeling in prayer. I don`t know if you`ve ever seen a football game, that`s not where players line up during the national anthem.
DARDEN: It`s actually a pregame or after a touchdown.
ROSENBERG: And shout out to the great Chris Long and Zach Ertz who jumped on social media and they basically were like hey, Fox News, we need to apologize to these good Christian men who were just doing their pregame prayers and you tried to accuse them of doing something they didn`t even do. Fox News, fall back.
MELBER: There it is. I heard you have a secret "FALLBACK"
DARDEN: It`s not really a secret, we`re on your show. And I think you need to fall back and not give you a guest homework before they come on the program. I got an e-mail last night, hey, tomorrow on the show. I`m like, what is this thing? I want to visit this guy.
MELBER: You don`t like -- you know like homework? It`s a new show, you got to get prepared.
DARDEN: They got school (INAUDIBLE) and homework. You think I want a homework at 43 years old to (INAUDIBLE) with you? No, absolutely not. Ari Melber, fallback. That`s on your own "FALLBACK FRIDAY."
MELBER: That`s good. All right, I can take a fall back on my "FALLBACK FRIDAY." They`re telling me do we have -- they`re saying there`s --
ROSENBERG: Oh, there`s video? Oh, there`s video? Roll the tape.
MELBER: Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARDEN: Ari, you need to fall back. You know why I`m coming on your show this "FALLBACK FRIDAY" and you gave me a homework the night before I was supposed to be there. You fall back, sir. Plus, I have summer jam on Sunday. I don`t have time for your shenanigans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This is impressive audio-video skills that you like --
MELBER: So that`s a pre-tape that turns into the -- you know what, consider me fallen.
STYLEZ: This is the first on the Ari Melber show?
MELBER: This is the first on THE BEAT. Yes. Interestingly, my fall back is an important topic that`s been on the minds of a lot of people in hip- hop, particularly people in the Rosenberg space of hip-hop and to give context to it. I want you to go ahead and watch some video of your history with Drake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARDEN: Drake is yelling at people.
ROSENBERG: Yes, Drake yells. He was very passionate. We have a weird relationship. I told him, I was like, you`re moving away, I don`t even get professional courtesy from you. So when you go to do something if maybe there`s a world in which I would have not thought of negative -- as negatively of the video had I not felt him been weird ten times previously. But I`m a human being, I tried to DM him and tell him privately. If you don`t give me an open line to tell you those things and I then go on the radio and say here`s my opinion, it`s how it made me feel and then you call me and go how could you say that? I would have told you that`s how I felt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Drake is known by some as an emotional rapper. We see that your relationship with him is emotional.
ROSENBERG: He`s an emotional regular guy.
MELBER: (INAUDIBLE) healthier and emotional radio host but we have a special graphic here. My fallback nominee is your emotional relationship with Drake.
ROSENBERG: First of all --
DARDEN: Hey, where that photo with the tie undone, it`s terrible.
ROSENBERG: First of all, fall back on you again for showing footage where I`m wearing the same shirt that I`m wearing now.
DARDEN: Why are you always wearing that shirt?
ROSENBERG: Can I get a free shirt rag-and-bone.
DARDEN: Here`s the free shirt.
ROSENBERG: Oh look at that shirt, it`s so sick.
DARDEN: It`s terrible.
ROSENBERG: We do have an up-and-down emotional relationship, but listen, Drake is Jewish I am Jewish. Jews are emotional. We -- feelings get hurt.
MELBER: So sensitive even.
ROSENBERG: And we`ve had -- very sensitive. And we`ve had it happen many times now but I will tell you, you know, we`re actually in a pretty good space right now. I don`t see why you bringing up old stuff.
STYLEZ: Oh my god.
ROSENBERG: But, yes that`s fair.
MELBER: Well, and it goes to something that`s true in your field and it`s true in journalism which is you`re probably better at the job if you care about it but sometimes if you care too much you can lose, you`re -- the sort of the judgment that also people rely on you for, right?
ROSENBERG: Yes, absolutely. But the thing that we often or I try to say on this show all the time is on that -- on all the shows that I do, I am not a journalist. I am a -- I`m a broadcaster who tries to be entertaining and tell my opinions on music.
MELBER: But you`re not a promoter of various artists, that`s something else.
ROSENBERG: I`m not in the middle but sometimes I`m skewed and I tried to - - even in that conversation I said, I know I`m being biased because he`s hurt my feelings before and that is the least cool or tough thing I`ve ever said and there`s a long list of not cooler tough things that I`ve said. But I mean we`re human beings, right? I mean, it`s -- your jobs different. You have to get off --
DARDEN: I believe there`s got into cool and tough when you got the same shirt on the day --
ROSENBERG: Honestly we should wrap this up. Why didn`t you tell me -- why didn`t your producer? Who was it, Samantha? Who do I need to blame? Who set me up?
MELBER: No one sets you up. You`re on the news and a lot of people come on these interviews shows, Ebro, and they don`t get the topics in advance, they got to roll.
DARDEN: That`s right.
ROSENBERG: You know what, that`s a good point but can I get the wardrobe in advance? I was going to wear this in summer jam too.
MELBER: Thank you very much for the takeover.
DARDEN: No problem.
MELBER: Unlike any other segment, I can say this that we`ve ever done, Ebro, Rosenberg, Laura Stylez and again, you can catch them every Monday through Friday in New York 6:00 a.m. on Hot 97 summer jam this weekend.
ROSENBERG: I got to throw this thing out.
DARDEN: It`s terrible.
MELBER: Bob Mueller indicted two people for obstruction today. This is the fifth time Mueller`s charge or secured guilty pleas from people for crimes related to obstruction in this Russia probe. And this move comes exactly a year to the day that James Comey testified for the first and really -- well it was the only time he ever testified about another type of potential obstruction, presidential obstruction. Comey telling Congress he thought Trump tried to direct him to drop the criminal investigation of Mike Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I took it as a direction. It is the President of the United States with me alone saying "I hope this" I took it as this is what he wants me to do. Not that -- I didn`t obey that but that`s the way I took it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Well that was pretty damning testimony. Comey alleging Trump tried to commit obstruction but couldn`t pull it off because Comey would not obey. Now, when pressed on whether those conversations were an effort to legally obstruct justice, Comey was measured after all it`s up to Mueller and perhaps a legal process to decide if a president obstructs, it`s not up to a single witness in a case which is what Comey became after his firing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I don`t think it`s for me to say whether the conversation I have the President was an effort to obstruct. I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning but that`s a conclusion I`m sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there and whether that`s an offense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And the Special Counsel has been working towards that conclusion for Manafort, Flynn, Kilimnik, who I mentioned was indicted today, Van der Zwaan, Papadopoulos, Gates and many of Mueller`s proposed questions for Trump bare down on what he said and meant when talking to Comey. In the meantime, Trump`s lawyers arguing now that one, there`s no obstruction if the probe continued.
Two, Trump didn`t say the Russia probe should end and three, Presidents have the constitutional authority to fire FBI directors. Now, Trump`s lawyers also argue that even if that infamous Lester old interview looks bad because of course Trump bizarrely admitted the one thing you can`t admit about firing an FBI director that he did it with a probe on his mind. But in the same interview, Trump also said something that his lawyers argue now provides a defense to obstruction that he knew the investigation would continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very simply a great FBI director. I want to get to the bottom of everything having to do with this and many other things, so important.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS HOST: And you expect that they would -- they would continue on with his investigation?
TRUMP: Oh, yes, sure. I expect that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now that`s an interesting defense as far as it goes. And no one knows what Mueller will find or do next, just like no one knew that today Mueller was indicted another person for obstructing justice in this probe, a person currently residing in Russia who worked with Manafort.
Here`s what we do know though. In this entire year here since Comey first told this history under oath, the evidence and even advocacy of obstruction has been growing from these guilty pleas and indictments from people around the Trump campaign to the new rhetoric if you want to call it that of Trump allies and insiders saying maybe people should destroy evidence in this probe or defy Mueller because he`s allegedly going to frame people anyway. So let`s be clear.
We`re not living through normal (ph) times. People in government and public life in the United States don`t typically minimize felonies like obstruction let alone admit to specific elements of obstruction. But what Bob Mueller knows after more than four decades as a prosecutor as well as head of the FBI is that if you`re obstructing, if you`re covering up, it`s not usually because you`re innocent but they`re looking to do a little witness tampering on the side. The people who obstruct investigations typically do so because they have something to hide.
MELBER: And that`s what we call a Friday show. One more note. You can always check out our new podcast that posts nightly wherever you get your podcast. I`ll be back Monday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. But more importantly, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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