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Trump to announce pick as Democrats vow epic fight. TRANSCRIPT: 7/9/2018, The Beat w. Ari Melber

Guests: Kristen Clarke; Russ Feingold; Wendy Davis

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 9, 2018 Guest: Kristen Clarke; Russ Feingold; Wendy Davis

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Isn`t that more exciting? So America, let`s got on it toot sweet, and viva la France.

That`s all for tonight. We will be back with more tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Katy, I couldn`t be happier than to see you happy.

TUR: I am Happy. I`m rested. I`m routing for France in the world cup. I feel good.

MELBER: Are you a bigger soccer first?

TUR: I do like soccer a lot.

MELBER: I had no idea. But you are a global person. Some people I didn`t know before you are a Trump expert, you are foreign correspondent.

TUR: I was. You could say I`m a global citizen, Ari.

MELBER: Well, I will say that and maybe we will call that your middle name, if not a nickname.

TUR: Katie global citizen.

MELBER: Katie global citizen with a taste -- I`m told whenever I travel soccer is a superior sport. I know many Americans disagree but I have been told that abroad before.

TUR: Listen, I love baseball. I`m a huge baseball fan but I do really enjoy soccer, I have to say. It`s really fun to watch, especially watching it, I don`t know, in Rome in a bar.

MELBER: Right, in a bar, key word in the sentence.

Katy Tur, thank you as always. Nice to have you back.

TUR: Bye, Ari. See you later.

MELBER: Bye-bye.

We have news that might not be as joyous for many people around the country. Our top story tonight is a big one, because Donald Trump is officially right now, as you certainly know, three hours away from making a decision that could outlast his presidency that could rewrite civil rights protection and abortion laws for a generation.

We want to begin by showing you the live view here. This is right outside the Supreme Court. We are told protesters planning a massive demonstration there tonight as a counter-measure to this much anticipated 9:00 p.m. announcement eastern time for Donald Trump`s pick for the high court.

Now top Democratic senators already vowing to block any nominee he may pick that would overturn Roe v. Wade. At this moment, we can also report there are sources close to the White House saying Trump has already made this decision. No clear leaks though on who it would be but there are rumors about four finalists and two front runners tonight. Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Hardiman seen as frontrunners.

Kavanaugh has worked for the Supreme Court as a clerk as well as for GOP favorite Ken Starr. He also wrote a controversial decision against an immigrant`s right to seek an abortion in the United States.

And this is brand new, you can see a "New York Times" reporter posting this information on twitter that Kavanaugh was just spotted leaving a federal courthouse in Washington in a black sedan, accompanied by count four SUVs with security agents. That is a big clue that is a formal security (INAUDIBLE). More on that in a moment.

The other front-runner, Hardiman serves on the same appellate court as Trump`s sister. His blue collar background has said to be appealing to Donald Trump. He overturned the conviction of anti-abortion protester and has been seen as a very reliable supporter of individual gun rights. Meanwhile, the President has been hyping the run-up to tonight`s event.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe this person will do a great job. But I`m very close to making a decision. I have not made it official yet obviously, have not made it final. But we are very close to making a decision.


MELBER: There are reports that Donald Trump is also concerned about the fight that could occur in this narrowly divided Senate.

As you probably know as well, a single Republican defection could tip the balance of the court you see there and allow Democrats to block the pick. That`s assuming Democrats are united.

But get this, the last time there was one of these a situations in the Trump era, three Democratic senators backed Donald Trump. Tonight, those three you see on the screen are declining invitations to Trump`s announcement.

Meanwhile, the Democrats say they will do everything in their power to stop a bad pick.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they vote for somebody who will change precedent, it could be a career ending move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President`s outsourced his decision to the federalist society and heritage foundation. I have never seen a President of the United States make himself a puppet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if you don`t like the ways that this new justice is going to impact everything, speak up, get active and vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Monkey up the works. I mean, Democrats need to be I think a little more aggressive here. This is a mobilizing moment.


MELBER: There is a strategic question with some Democrats banking on what could be their best hope to win this fight, trying to get moderate Dems to hold the line, push voters to the polls and get at least one moderate Republican to join them in blocking any pick Donald Trump makes tonight.

I`m joined by my special panel, Brian Fallon worked for secretary Hillary Clinton`s Presidential campaign as well as the justice department under Eric Holder. Executive director of Demand Justice, a group that is spending $5 million opposing Trump`s pick is his current role, Wendy Davis, whom many remember as a Texas state senator who filibuster 13 hours trying to block a law that Kennedy ultimately struck down. I`m also joined by former Democratic senator from Wisconsin, Russ Feingold who knows a lot about these fights as well as the money that can affect them and Kristen Clarke, a president and executive director of the lawyers committee for civil rights under law.

Dealer`s choice, I could start anywhere given a lot of the expertise here.

But Senator, having been through some of these fights, I start with you. What are the stakes tonight?

RUSS FEINGOLD (D), FORMER WISCONSIN SENATOR: Well, they couldn`t be higher. And I think it`s clear --

MELBER: My apology, two senators. My fault. Senator Feingold first, then senator Davis.

FEINGOLD: Hello, senator Davis.

Listen. The stakes couldn`t possibly be higher. And what we have here is the United States Supreme Court is really changing its character. First of all, it was stolen. This whole seat was stolen, the Scalia seat. And then after that, what you have is a President who wasn`t even elected by the majority of the Americans being able to pick that replacement instead of Barack Obama. And now, you have the President picking more people when he is under investigation for probably legal activity both before and after he became President.

So what we really have here is the United States Supreme Court is becoming a kangaroo court. And the definition of a kangaroo court is a court where the outcome is predetermined.

MELBER: And Senator Davis, as we look at the Supreme Court where many activists are gathering tonight, I want to play for you a person who has become sort of the shadow President in the Trump era when it comes to these appointments. As you know, not a household name but so important, Leonard Leo, who runs the federalist society. And what I`m saying may sound like a criticism and it make Donald Trump sound like he is taking a kind of back seat but it is what he and his advisor stressed as far back as the campaign that he wasn`t going to really make these decisions himself. Take a listen to Mr. Leo playing down the threat to Roe v. Wade.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it fair to say that anyone who made it on your list is likely an opponent of Roe v. Wade?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. First of all, nobody really knows. So I think it`s a bit of scare tactic and rank speculation more than anything else.


MELBER: Senator Davis, is that correct?

WENDY DAVIS (D), FORMER TEXAS STATE SENATOR: I cannot imagine for a minute that that is correct. The federalist society has one of its primary goals overturning Roe v. Wade. And highly doubt that they would create a list of judicial - potential judicial nominees if they weren`t fairly certain that the people that were on that list where those who were gong to be a vote to overturn Roe on the Supreme Court.

MELBER: And Kristen, your view of that?

KRISTEN CLARKE, PRESIDENT/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LAWYERS CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW: I think that`s right. All of the nominees on President Trump`s short list handpicked, cherry picked by the federalist society and the heritage foundation. And we know, because President Trump has made clear over and over again that his goal is to appoint two or three justices to this court who will overturn Roe versus Wade. So there is every expectation to believe that the person he identifies as the nominee tonight is somebody who will carry out his agenda.

And so, it is time for the Senate to do its job. This fight is not over. It is just beginning. It is time for the Senate to properly and fully vet the nominee identified by the President tonight. We can`t return to a world in which the reproductive rights and freedom of women is cast aside.

MELBER: And Senator Feingold, on the latest news here as everyone is bracing for what could be this gigantic fight. I wonder your view on the significance on something we can put on the screen. The "New York Times" reporter noting just minutes ago that there is a buzz at the U.S. courthouse because Brett Kavanaugh was spotted leaving in a black sedan with four black SUV with security agents. In the Times careful phrasing, he said presumed to be secret service.

As you know, Senator Feingold, there is an expression about people who roll deep or roll with many cars. That`s any SUV is a pretty clear signal. Does that change your analysis? Go ahead.

FEINGOLD: No. I mean, look. It doesn`t matter which of the four it is,. It doesn`t matter which are 25 it is. This is a predetermined situation. Senator Bob Casey had it right today when he put out a tweet and said, I`m voting against this nominee because all of this is part of a corrupt deal made by big corporations and by the Republicans and by Trump. It has nothing to do with the merits of the individual candidate. It has everything to do with delegitimizing the Supreme Court and destroying one of the most important institutions of our country.

MELBER: Brian?

BRIAN FALLON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEMAND JUSTICE: Yes, Ari. I mean, certainly, we don`t know yet who the pick is going to be. But if it`s Brett Kavanaugh, this is somebody that fits the Trump litmus test to a tee. And I think that the case that those of use, the progressive side of things, will make against somebody like Brett Kavanaugh, just go through the issues, number one, Roe. In addition to the President`s litmus test, Brett Kavanaugh himself has given speeches praising the descent in the Roe v. Wade case.

On ACA, Brett Kavanaugh did not join the opinion upholding the ACA when it came before the DC circuit. And in fact, he gave a speech criticizing the rational justice Roberts used to uphold the ACA.

And then the (INAUDIBLE), the number three issue and the one that is probably most resonant with Donald Trump, is Brett Kavanaugh has been outspoken for the last 20 years about his view that a sitting President cannot be indicted and that the president should be able to get to cherry pick who gets to investigate him and fire them for any reason. That is probably music to Donald Trump`s ears. So I think those are the three issues you are going to hear to frame the case against Brett Kavanaugh if indeed this motorcade coming out of the DC circuit court house as any indication.

MELBER: Right. And we don`t know why he was in that situation. But we knew though that`s rare situation. You don`t see that kind of security from most federalist judges walking around or leave in court, Wendy.

Take a listen to Donald Trump in October 2016, in a statement that I know for your group and people affiliated with your organization would find chilling, which was he said basically, if he gets two to three picks, Roe goes automatically. And we are speaking here tonight, hours away from his second pick. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe?

TRUMP: Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that is really what is going to - that will happen and that will happen automatically in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.


MELBER: Contrast that to a large pro-life organization, the federalist society that has created this list that we just showed denying it. I mean, your group -- you have spoken out and been pro-choice. These other groups seem to be prolife up until the moment we have a confirmation fight and then they backed away from it when their own candidate here, now president, has said this is what he is here to do. This is pick number two in a stated public vow to overturn Roe.

DAVIS: Right. I mean, we are in a very precarious situation because as you mentioned earlier, Ari, we had three Democrats who actually went along with the former Trump pick.

MELBER: Right.

DAVIS: So what`s going to happen with them? Can we depend or rely on pressure with Susan Collins actually to reject any of these picks? The answer is likely no. And the question then becomes, what will the public response be? Will we finally understand that when we are abrogating our responsibility to vote for Senate leaders and a President who is going to place a Supreme Court that has respect in the constitutional values that have existed for decades, when we abrogate our responsibilities to do that, we lose our rights in very significant and important ways.

And it`s my hope that this will be a rally cry for Democrats all over the country, particularly moderate independent women, who for a long time, felt that this was something that was never happen. This was a right we could take for granted. And I think tonight we are going to find the answer to that. That right is no longer going to exist.

MELBER: Well, and Kris, speak to that to Wendy`s point, broadening it out to other civil rights and other forms of progress that people consider. Because justice Kennedy`s legacy, of course, among other things, is being a relatively conservative Republican who advanced marriage equality in the United States.

Obviously, we are looking at certain jurists who if they replace that one vote and that issue comes back up, it would go the other way. We know where the majority -- chief justice Roberts is. We know where the potential majority on the court is. So how do those issues figure it as well? And how does that play into the midterms if people think that you have Democrats who don`t seem to be able to stop the worst things in Washington, in their view?

CLARKE: There is no shortage of incredibly important civil rights cases that are making their way up the Supreme Court pipeline and cases that will be before the court next term, cases dealing with gerrymandering were returned to the court, voting rights cases, criminal justice.

And you are right. Justice Kennedy has been a critical swing vote on marriage equality, on fair housing cases, on race conscious admission policies in the higher contact and so much more. And so the balance of the court is at stake with this nomination.

I will say this. That this fight is not over. It`s now time for the Senate to do its job. They should not rubber stamp President Trump`s nominee this evening. We need several hearings to understand the records underlying all of the folks on President Trump`s short list. He has said over and over again that his commitment is to overturning Roe and to gutting healthcare which would impact the lives of vulnerable Americans all over the country. And it`s time for us to vote and recognize that elections have consequences in our country, not just the Supreme Court, but we have seen President Trump make damaging selections to districts and circuit courts all across our country. And so exercising the right to vote really is key.

MELBER: Sure. So Brian, on the strategy here, what do you see as the best road to actually stopping the pick?

FALLON: Well, I think that the analog situation here is the healthcare debate last year. There, too, people started off thinking that Democrats didn`t have much of a shot of stopping the appeal effort. But we did two things. We successfully united Democrats and then we successfully peeled off the same moderate Republicans that will be targeting in the Supreme Court fight.

And the ACA is actually I think alongside Rogan to be a defining issue in the consideration of Trump`s pick. I say that because, Ari, as you know, just last month the administration took the exceedingly rare step of declaring it would not be defending the constitutionality of the affordable care act in the lawsuit that has been brought by a bunch of Republican state attorney`s general down in Texas.

The judge, the district court judge presiding over that case in Texas is a former John Cornyn chief counsel, former political staffer for John Cornyn. I can`t imagine he is going to be very hospitable to an argument defending the ACA. Then in that case, it could have it just heard that case be heard by the fifth circuit, which is the most conservative circuit in the United States, so this challenge to the ACA brought by the Trump administration and Republicans state attorneys general could very well end up in the lap of the Supreme Court. We could have a third case in front of the Supreme Court.

I think as a result, you are going to see a lot of questions ask of this nominee on ACA. Trump himself said he would only nominate somebody that would rule the opposite way of John Roberts and declare the ACA unconstitutional. And the (INAUDIBLE) of this, Ari, as we know the ACA is an issue that unites our caucus and also can help peel off Collins and Murkowski.

And just tonight, Joe Manchin in indicating that he was declining the White House`s invitation to go be there for the announcement of the nominees said that the number one issue he is going to use for assessing Trump`s pic is whether that person will uphold the constitutionality of preexisting conditions. So look for this issue to be one that could perhaps unite those moderate red state Democrats in Trump won states.

MELBER: Well, that is very interesting coming from you being involved in a fight and that the notion that this is a different kind of battle between ACA, between the real vote counting going on with Roe and then the wildcard of the Muller probe and how this person might rule on things that affect existential questions in the Trump presidency. So almost impossible to predict.

Brian Fallon, Wendy Davis, Senator Russ Feingold and Kristen Clarke, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, Michael Cohen`s new lawyer is in a public brawl with Trump`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, fighting over what the truth means. And we are going to look at the new game plan for a potential Mueller interview and what Rudy Giuliani is saying about subpoenas.

Later, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is here to talk about how he will approach Trump`s Supreme Court nominee. He is on the pivotal judiciary committee.

And then, we go live to London for the latest on the Trump baby blimp and the protest against his visit this week.

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


MELBER: Donald Trump holds the record for the earliest criminal probe into his White House of any modern President. Which means the person that he nominates to the Supreme Court tonight could sue rule on whether Bob Mueller can force Trump to testify, which is something Rudy Giuliani waived away this weekend.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you banking on the fact that Robert Mueller just wont take that step, wont subpoena the President?

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: I am not. I have no idea what he is going to do. I think if he does, we can have the subpoena quashed.


MELBER: Now, scuttling any presidential subpoena would require the Supreme Court because Mueller can legally appeal that kind of ruling to the high court. Giuliani pushing a new standard as well to evade that subpoena arguing Mueller should have evidence Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is absolutely essential for the probe.


GIULIANI: We would not recommend an interview for the President unless they can satisfy us that there`s some basis for this investigation. What we are asking them for, is this the witch hunt a lot of people think it is or is there a factual basis for this?


MELBER: I`m joined now by former federal prosecutor John Flannery and "Wall Street Journal" reporter Shelby Holliday.

John, what do you think of Rudy`s lawyering at this point?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I was wondering if he is trying to build a case for Trump as ineffective assistance of counsel.

MELBER: Ineffective assistance of counsel joke right off the top.

FLANNERY: That`s what we try to deliver for you.

MELBER: Well, are we going to explain what that means?

FLANNERY: Yes. Well, when he was a junkyard dog prosecutor in the southern district of New York, he would have sees upon his own statements if somebody had said in a case, both after Hannity when he said sure. Trump paid for this woman and they funneled it through the law firm, number one.

Then over the weekend, he says, there`s really no big deal about saying go easy on my former national security advisor, who may be a witness against me, who could put me in an orange jumpsuit.

Now, out of his own mouth we have the evidence of why this is a serious investigation. Part two, he has no business expecting a prosecutor to tell him what is evidence is before there`s an interview. And the history and the law of a subpoena for the President is it gets fulfilled in civil cases and criminal cases where there`s a grand jury investigation.

MELBER: Right. Although, the president speak to the idea that there is no person above the law including the president. But as you know, there is nothing on point actually compelling grand jury testimony because they did strike a deal in the Starr case. Your ineffective assistance of counsel joke, of course, also raises the question of whether any of this would be appealable, because if you get a court to admit that a lawyer was so bad like malpractice, it can change the outcome. I don`t know if that`s Rudy`s strategy, but let me play for you what you refer to which is the discussion about letting Flynn go.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is he a good witness for the President if he is saying the President was asking or directing him, in his words, to let the Michael Flynn investigation go?

GIULIANI: He didn`t direct him to do that. What he said to him was can you --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comey says he took it as direction.

GIULIANI: Well, that`s OK. I mean, taking it that way, I mean, by that time, he had been fired. As a prosecutor, I was told that many times, can you give the man a break. You take that into consideration. You know, that doesn`t determine not going forward with it?


MELBER: Being precise and fair, do you view that as Giuliani admitting new information that Donald Trump did tell him to give him a break and that is not just a Comey accusation? Or do you see him speaking for the sake of argument in defense of that but not necessarily admitting the fact.

FLANNERY: I think you make Rudy too complicated. I think that he only has two audiences, one to tell Cohen, look, tell the truth, as long as it is our truth. And second, to talk to the alt-right to run down the investigation because, you know, Mueller is massing and coming and these guys are desperate to have some way to fight it when the indictments or perhaps the report comes down before labor day or September.

And so, these guys are just desperate and they are handling this incompetently. I can`t imagine any trial lawyer thinking this works.

And you know, the story always is, free media, you get what you pay for. And these guys aren`t even rolling it out in such a way that makes it effectively to the people who know how these things work. Any of us who has handled a case has been ever visible knows that what happens in the courtroom surprises a lot of people on the outside who are exposed to this kind of phony PR work.

MELBER: Shelby, John has lodged a concern that I made it too complicated.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I have been told sometimes that can be the problem of journalists, overthink it.

MELBER: Make it simple for us.

HOLLIDAY: I would thought one thing that was really interesting is Giuliani is very loose with his words. And he has a pattern. He has a history of going out and sort of floating these balloons for the American people for example with the Stormy Daniel payment. There was a lot of suspense, a lot of question about whether or not President Trump knew about the payment or reimbursed Cohen and he goes on television. It his job to get ahead of the story and maybe tell us a little bit about that or tell us something we didn`t know.

So in this case he could possibly be telling us that Trump did indeed ask Comey to back off of Flynn. But he was not loose with two things. The first is whether or not the President directed Cohen to make the payment. He used very careful languages, said not to my knowledge, he never said no, absolutely not. He was very careful when he said, not to my knowledge. And then the other thing was whether or not Trump would rule out a pardon for Michael Cohen. He said Trump hadn`t discussed it with Cohen but that he just couldn`t possibly ruled that out. SO those were two really interesting things from his interview in terms of what he wasn`t saying.

MELBER: And the pardon point was very significant and viewers know that from how much heat there has been on this pardon process with this President. We will have more on that actually later in the show.

Shelby Holliday and John Flannery, thank you both.

Up ahead on THE BEAT, the Trump baby blimp is getting ready to take flight over London and massive protest. And we have a live report on that with an organizer exclusively on THE BEAT later tonight.

Also, Michael Cohen vowing to fight back, his new lawyer hammering Rudy Giuliani. That story when we are back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: Breaking news coming into our newsroom right now. Republican senator Susan Collins has just put out word she will not, not attend Donald Trump`s announcement for a Supreme Court pick tonight. That is potentially significant because she is seen as one of the key vote, her defection could with the United Democratic caucus could turn and block this entire Supreme Court nomination. So we are scrambling our rundown a little bit. And I want to bring back Wendy Davis, the former Texas state legislature who has a lot of experience on this issue. Your reaction to this news that we just got.

DAVIS: Well, Air, it could be as innocent as her not wanting to appear as though she has already putting her premature approval on this person. But it could mean a lot more than that. It could mean, as Brian Fallon was saying in your earlier segment, Susan Collins, not only a person who supports abortion rights, but someone who supports the underlying premises of the affordable care act and understands the pressure that she has in her own district because of the many people there who are benefitting from that. So this could be a signal that she is considering very carefully whether this is a person that she is going to be able to approve. And if she doesn`t feel that that is absolutely the case, that may be the reason that she has decided not to attend the announcement this evening.

MELBER: And this is breaking as of 6:26 p.m. here eastern time. So literally just moments ago. And I will read you the terse statement that her staff provided.

Quote "she appreciates being invited but won`t be attending."

Again, we are obviously working off that limited information. But it certainly isn`t welcomed by the White House, which wants to create an aura of inevitability tonight. As you know, and I think our viewers have heard there`s been a drumbeat of messaging from conservatives and Republicans that this should be a done deal, that they have "the votes," that this is something where the Democrats are "powerless." In our earlier coverage tonight, Brian Fallon who was worked at DOJ and for Hillary Clinton is leading this effort, so he obviously has a dog in the fight, but he was saying no, this is like to health care -- this is like the health care vote we`re technically Republicans had a majority, but they didn`t ultimately succeed because of what happened around the country and how so-called Republican moderates reacted in the Senate. I wonder if you see Susan Collins here as putting her name out more than some of the other potential moderates for whatever reason because she also doesn`t need to put out this statement at all at 6:30. She could wait and she could bury it.

WENDY DAVIS, FORMER SENATOR, TEXAS: That`s true and it`s a very interesting what the intent was behind her decision to do that. I think that she`s wanting very much to assure the American public that she is going to be very careful and thoughtful in her decision about whomever this nominee is and appearing at the announcement may look as though this is a person who she approves of.

MELBER: Right and as you say those things are interpreted widely. I think if there is pressure that has been brought to bear up to this point on Senator Collins this is some sort of message, it`s not a vote. It doesn`t change the vote count at this point but it`s some sort of message of accommodation or that she hears people rather than barreling forward to be seen there to be a part of tonight`s event. And in that alone it`s -- it may be stagecraft but it`s stagecraft with potential political significance. Wendy Davis, thanks for being part of our ongoing coverage of this big night about the future of the court. I want to turn now to another story that we promised you before the break we are covering which is former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen having a new lawyer who is now battling with current Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Now, if that sounds a little confusing, that`s because it`s confusing but this is where we`re at. Cohen made waves in hiring former Clinton aide and lawyer Lanny Davis to be his lawyer and now in the apparent call it Avenatti-zation of political lawyering, Lanny Davis is roasting and bating his new legal opponent on Twitter writing Trump and Giuliani next to the word truth equals oxymoron. And then adding you see there, stay tuned. Giuliani today clapping back alleging that Davis lied for President Clinton. Now, Davis` original barb was responding to Rudy Giuliani saying as we were discussing tonight that Cohen should just tell the truth.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Are you concerned that Michael Cohen is going to start cooperating with the feds?

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: No, in fact you know, if he wants to cooperate. I think it`s great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you have no concerns at all about anything that Michael Cohen might tell --

GIULIANI: As long as he tells the truth we`re home free.

If he believes this is best interest to cooperate, God bless him. He should cooperate.


MELBER: DAVIS not tipping any cards about Cohen "cooperating" but there are reports Cohen`s ready to talk and kick off "the Lanny Davis era including a coming end of one of those all-important joint defense agreements. I`m joined now by former New York prosecutor criminal defense attorney A. Scott Bolden and Paul Butler former Federal Prosecutor. Paul, what does this mean?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So Ari, Lanny Davis has been booed up with Bill and Hillary Clinton for decades. He`s a 72-year-old lawyer ending the storied career, why would he take this case? My theory is this is payback. Lanny Davis believes that Donald Trump working with the Russians stole the election from Hillary Clinton.

MELBER: Well he wrote a book to that effect.

BUTLER: Yes, and now he`s representing a key witness again so far we -- Cohen hasn`t been implicated in the Russian investigation but we got to remember the steel dossier. Almost everything that`s been investigated in that dossier has been corroborated. The Steel Dossier says that Michael Cohen was the go between the Russian -- the Russians and the Trump campaign. So this is all about collusion. If Michael Cohen has information about that, that could lead to the end of the Trump presidency.

MELBER: Scott, there was also a discussion about a potential pardon and Cohen advising against it. I think we have that. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as the President or his team, anyone in his team had any conversations with Michael Cohen or his attorneys about a possible pardon?

GIULIANI: No not at all. I`ve advised the President which he understands. No discussion of pardons. You can`t bridge your power to do it. That`s something you can decide down the road one way or the other and quite honestly it would just confuse everything.


MELBER: When he says I`ve advised the President against the discussion of pardons, the benign way to read that is let`s stay away from this thing and don`t abuse the pardon power and I`m going to give anyone the benefit of the doubt but I want to be clear for viewers the more problematic way to view that is that Rudy Giuliani private practice criminal defense attorney who has no rule of the Justice Department is getting involved how -- in however which way in the potential discussion of pardons. Is that appropriate, Scott?

A. SCOTT BOLDEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it`s certainly whether it`s formally or informally. It isn`t appropriate if it`s part of their overall defense or strategy. It certainly isn`t. If it`s informally whether a lot of people that can give this president advice and counsel of who should be pardoned or who should not. The challenge here is though if it`s part of a criminal defense strategy remember that the President is a subject of this Mueller investigation then it certainly would be inappropriate. I don`t think there`s anything we could do about it but again it lends itself into sounding and feeling like the president either knows or believes that he`s guilty, he has no relationship with the truth and pardoning those who would speak against him is an option. That is dangerous.

MELBER: And so you say that. I think that`s an important critique. Then look at what Michael Cohen is reportedly saying to Vanity Fair which frankly is an outlet we know he leaks to by choice. For a year and a half, I`ve been silent. What does the silence got me, his friends say? Well, it`s ruined my business, it`s ruined my wife`s life, it`s ruined my children`s life. I`ve been a punching bag for everybody. Why am I going to continue to be silent? Scott and then Paul lightning-round briefly, what is he saying there.

BOLDEN: Well, I think he`s -- I think you have to -- if someone shows you who they are then you got to believe them and he just laid it out. Listen, he was a punching bag for Trump and the Trump campaign and even the Trump business interest when he was representing them. That`s the first thing. The second thing is I don`t want your listeners to miss this point. The decision to hire Lanny Davis lends itself to just those statements and was a conscious decision on his part not to send a message to the Trump administration although it did but it was a conscious decision that I`m prepared to fight, I`m prepared to pay some debts that I think are owed to me that I`m not going to get, and lastly that the Trump administration is not trustworthy. Lanny Davis merely retaining him is a powerful message to send to Trump before the defense or before the cooperation agreement will ever be met.

MELBER: And let me get -- and let me get Paul briefly.

BUTLER: You know, so one theory is that Michael Cohen is sending a message to President Trump, slide up at my D.M. with a pardon, tweet me outs of love, maybe that`s it again Rudy Giuliani says that he doesn`t think that Trump will pardon Cohen. Cohen says he can`t count on that so I agree with Scott, the other alternative is it`s a hey look at me now to the special prosecutor Robert Mueller. He wants some attention from him. He`s got a story to tell.

MELBER: And Paul, as you so often do you`ve raised a profound legal question as we depart. Is a pardon or a commutation viable if it`s issued through D.M. as Yo Gotti has told us it goes down in the DMs but that will have to be another segment for another time? Paul Butler, Scott Bolden, thank you both. A lot ahead including story we brought you last week the Trump baby blimp. We have new updates internationally with a protest organizer on the show tonight. But first, the fight brewing over Trump`s Supreme Court pick. A Democratic senator joins me in the middle of this showdown.


MELBER: We are back covering a major fight expected to break out tonight over Donald Trump`s Supreme Court pick. This announcement is now within three hours and I`m joined by Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island who serves on that pivotal Judiciary Committee. Thank you for joining me on this important night. What do you want to hear from the President tonight?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: That he`s going to appoint Merrick Garland.

MELBER: And if he doesn`t and he picks someone like for the names that are rumored, what is your message to him and how do you build a coalition to stop a nominee that you think is not acceptable?

WHITEHOUSE: I think that we have to look just a little bit beyond the nominee themselves and tell the story of a nominations process that is dominated by special interests that want to be reassured that they will win in court in cases that the judge needs to be amenable to the things that they want. We see just immense pressure being brought to bear in the judiciary that the committee process has become something of a joke and you see all this dark money spending as if it were a creepy political campaign. And then after the fact you get the judge on the Supreme Court and every time they make a decision if it matters to the big special interests, this so-called amicus, (INAUDIBLE) friends of the court show up and file amicus briefs that basically are the operating instructions for the five Republicans on the court telling them what these people want.

And when you put that whole story together you get a situation where you`ve got Americans walking up the courthouse steps into that courtroom who stand a reasonable chance of being able to anticipate that they will lose not because of the merits of their case but because of who they represent who they are. And that ought not to be. And the more people understand that larger story that it`s not about this one individual but it`s about a whole process by which special interests have captured the court that`s the tale that they need to know.

MELBER: And you think if that story gets out you could bring another Republican over to your side on this one?

WHITEHOUSE: I think it`s possible. I think that the likeliest case is that it builds so that in the future we don`t go down this road so readily. We cannot be in a position where we don`t take up arms and engage on this issue on the politicization of the court until there`s a vacancy on the Supreme Court. We`ve got to let the public know what`s really going on here because it`s not a healthy story, not for our courts, not for our country.

MELBER: But does Mitch McConnell ultimately get rewarded for as many Democrats in your caucus have put it stealing a seat from Obama and then not having to play by the same rules if they can ram this through.

WHITEHOUSE: Oh absolutely, absolutely. And if you look at the other cycle that he is in you`ve got a Republican-controlled Supreme Court with five justices that did the Citizens United decision which opened up unlimited political money which then fell in on Democratic Senate candidates like Evan Bayh and Russ Feingold and Governor Strickland and so massacred them so early in the race that they`re double-digit leads shrink away and they all lost and that`s why Mitch is now the majority leader. So the court that he appointed has given him and his backers the unlimited money and dark money power that has him as Majority Leader`s so the thing smells.

MELBER: Well, you mentioned -- you mentioned Russ Feingold who we also heard from tonight on THE BEAT. My final question for you, do you think there will be an up or down vote on this nominee before the midterm elections?

WHITEHOUSE: Oh well, I think they`re eager to make sure that that happens and I think they`ll move heaven and earth try to push for that. We`ll see whether they can pull that off or not. We ought not to allow them to ramrod the procedure as well as ramrod the candidate.

MELBER: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on that Judiciary Committee, thank you for spending some time with us tonight.

WHITEHOUSE: Glad to be with you.

MELBER: And we have more including up ahead Rudy Giuliani takes on the Trump baby blimp directly and one of the organizers from London joins me next.


MELBER: In other news tonight, the world waits as we are now three days away from the Trump baby blimp taking flight. A campaign that began as something of a lark, British organizers fundraising to hoist a diaper-clad Trump baby into the skies over London to troll Trump on his visit. Now that effort has begun to capture the imagination of Trump critics around the world. And tonight, we could report this baby trolling has drawn a formal response from Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who tells a British paper that it`s London`s mayor who should be ashamed over the Trump baby balloon insult and he said that basically, the problem in London is the crime is spiraling. The crime in London is higher this year than the past but no great evidence of a crime wave. Now all of this is bigger than a baby. To be fair most things are. But now upwards of 50,000 Brits are expected to protest Trump`s visit there. Some likely to be marching in the shadow of the giant baby blimp in Trump`s likeness. And as we`ve reported Trump is known to rankle at the idea he is a baby once asking Paul Manafort am I like a baby to you? Now on the trip, Trump will overnight in London and also visit his own golf course in Scotland. Street protests not the only source of opposition here either. We should note that some lawmakers spoke out against giving Trump the honor of a formal state visit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By giving this rare accolade of a state visit to President Trump the implication is that we approve of him and his policies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Regardless of why people voted the way they did a Pandora`s box of heat has been opened. These views are not to be accepted. They`re not to be tolerated.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Asad Rehman, the Director of the charity War On Want, one of the organization`s coordinating these massive protests expected in London. What is the value in your view of these international protests and what do you think the turnout will be?

ASAD REHMAN, DIRECTOR, WAR ON WANT: Thank you, Ari. Well, we expect hundreds of thousands of people to actually be on the streets in nine simultaneous protests across the U.K. just a small drop in the overwhelming majority of British people who have time and time again have rejected not just Donald Trump the person but the politics and policies that he represents. And that`s very much why he`s sparked so much anger and resistance not only his own individual policies but the fact his war of migrants, the Muslim ban, his planet-wrecking policies, he has managed to mobilize people right across the political spectrum who say this is not just simply about a man it`s about the policies and politics he represents.

MELBER: Well, as you well know he`s not the first American president to engender significant protest abroad and other American presidents have been criticized for expansionist war policies for high death tolls from American foreign policy. Is there something in your view that is specifically or explicitly worse about this president and do you think you`ll affect Americans if the protests are big enough?

REHMAN: Well, first of all, one of the reasons why we`re holding these protests is because of the special relationship the U.K. and the U.S. holds together. But our special relationship is with the people of America and is particularly with the people of America on the streets day after day of protesting against Donald Trump`s normalization of sexual violence, his normalization of Islamophobia, all of the policies that have put so many people on the streets of the United States to stand up against bigotry, hatred, and to protect human rights. And so that`s so our protest hopefully is sent a very powerful signal that that kind of politics would be normalized.

MELBER: And briefly, we`ve been covering and it`s been getting some attention the Trump baby blimp. The President very sensitive about the idea that he`s a baby. Where does that fit into these protests?

REHMAN: Well, we know that the president is notoriously thin-skinned and a narcissist, so the idea of a baby Trump flying over Westminster whilst Donald Trump has to be hidden away in country retreats because he was unable to have any meetings in central London, is a fitting testament and a very British response to Donald Trump and I`m sure it`ll get under his skin.

MELBER: Oh it`s funny you mentioned that you believe him to be -- I believe you said thin-skinned. Babies are also known for sensitive skin. Asad Rehman, thank you for joining us.

REHMAN: thank you for having me.

MELBER: We`ll be right back with some more breaking news on tonight`s Supreme Court pick.


MELBER: Another slice of breaking news here as we approach the two-hour countdown mark to Donald Trump announcing his Supreme Court pick. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican, now also confirming she will not attend tonight`s event. That makes her the second Republican and a key moderate Republican vote to say she will not attend. Senator Murkowski adding in a statement that she skipped the last such event as well for Neil Gorsuch. In any event, these are two people that Donald Trump almost certainly needs to confirm his Supreme Court pick that he`ll announce tonight, and two of them will be absent at tonight`s event. And that does it for THE BEAT tonight. Thank you for watching. I will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. But keep it locked not only for the next show but several hours of our special coverage of a momentous night in American politics, Donald Trump`s selection of a nominee for the Supreme Court. As for what`s up next, you know it is "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.



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