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Trump kicks off trip by trashing NATO. TRANSCRIPT: 7/11/2018, The Beat with Ari Melber.

Guests: Ben Hodges; P.J. Crowley; Jack Reed; Michael Avenatti; Nona Hurkmans

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 11, 2018 Guest: Ben Hodges; P.J. Crowley; Jack Reed; Michael Avenatti; Nona Hurkmans

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Now that`s what I call all inclusive politics.

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

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.

We have a lot on our show tonight. Michael Avenatti joins me to discuss his opponent`s new lawyer. Michael Cohen hiring a Clinton loyalist. And the protest leader organizing the Trump baby blimp is here. Plus Bob Mueller is filing a new motion in the case against Paul Manafort alleging he has managed to obtain VIP treatment in jail.

So a lot to get to. But we begin with a significant foreign policy development that is honestly hard to imagine is occurring in any era other than this one.

The President of the United States under cutting the most important post- World War II alliance and praising its adversary Vladimir Putin. All of this today as a way to kick off diplomatic meetings, Donald Trump in Brussels, blasting NATO allies as delinquent and then saying it`s not the Trump administration but rather Germany that is controlled by Putin`s Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Germany is totally controlled by Russia. Germany as far as I`m concerned is captive to Russia. And it certainly doesn`t seem to make sense they pay billions of dollars to Russia. And now we have to defend them against Russia.


MELBER: The pushback came back swiftly today from Americans in both parties.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: NATO is indispensable. It`s as important today as it ever has been.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To weaken the alliance is not in our interest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the President is doing is antagonizing our allies and embracing our traditional enemies and foes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin made a great investment in the 2016 election. And it`s paying off for him in Brussels today.


MELBER: A foreign experts do know there are plenty of legitimate critiques about how to run NATO. But Donald Trump`s rhetoric today goes far further. He is calling the entire project obsolete as he did during the campaign, which reinforces Russia`s interests. Putin wants a weaker NATO because that means weaker military pushback against Russia in Europe. There is also, of course, welcoming Trump hitting other NATO country for how much they pay into the alliance. Putin likes that as well.

The west created NATO in 1949 to combat arising Soviet Union. In fact, NATO has invoked the common defense just one time on behalf of the United States after September 11th. But tonight, it`s a U.S. President slamming NATO. And this is, of course, the context days before his one-on-one summit with Vladimir Putin.

We have got several guests to go through this with. But I begin with P.J. Crowley, a former secretary of state under President Obama and a former intelligence officer Malcolm Nance who wrote "the plot to destroy democracy."

P.J., what is the level of absurdity or sort of breaking with precedent here on one to ten with what Donald Trump is using the Brussels summit to do today?

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is, Ari, this is kind of like a Rorschach test. If you want to be an optimist, the essential work of the alliance continues to get done even with this antics. The NATO did, you know, far reaching forward and guidance in terms of how it will what we want to do and new and revised command structures, you know.

But NATO, while it`s a military alliance, you know, it is strength is its political unity. And this is what, you know, Trump continues to attack and continues to erode. And that just adds risk. You know, if you do at some point in time, you know, face some sort of crisis in the future going forward, you know, particularly with Russia.

MELBER: Yes. And Malcolm, I mean, the context here for anyone who has followed international politics is pretty stark because most presidents are very positive on NATO. Take a look.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NATO has been a success by any measure.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only force capable of getting this job done is NATO.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The NATO charter reflects best the attitude to the world.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The cornerstone of U.S. policy for nearly 70 years.


MELBER: How much of this is Donald Trump being the disruptor or his critics would say ignorant disruptor of that long-standing bipartisan consensus and how much of it in your view is potentially the tale of Vladimir Putin wagging the dog of U.S. foreign policy?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, I think we can start off pretty well by emphasizing the ignorance part of your surmise.

Look, this morning when he made his statements at the NATO breakfast, which is usually just a photo op, he displayed such a stunning staggering ignorance, not just of the foundations of NATO. He didn`t seem to understand what NATO was for. He didn`t seem to understand the history behind NATO. He seemed completely baffled as to how international trade was separate from NATO a defensive alliance.

And I have to give (INAUDIBLE) for trying to explain to him, very carefully, just exactly what NATO was. And so that being said, Trump went out on a limb because he tries to satisfy two masters here. He tries to satisfy his rabid base, which believes that anything he says is good and so he feeds red meat to them, no matter how benign an environment with our allies, and then he has to pay off to a center extent the person who put him in office, which is Vladimir Putin.

MELBER: P.J., obviously, diplomacy requires plenty of compromise. Take a look at John Kelly, who knows a lot about this world, noticeably perturbed, I mean, viewers can come up with their own words. I just say words a part of my job. Here he is. He doesn`t look happy. He is kind of standoffish if this was right enduring a lot of what Donald Trump was saying. And it wasn`t just us who noticed the White House felt compelled to give some sort of explanation. And they went with, of course, the most important meal of the morning.

Quote "he was displease because he was hoping for a full breakfast and they only had pastry and cheese."

Now, obviously, who among us hasn`t been in Europe that had a continental offer depending on where you were staying was not pleasing? But your view of this part of it.

CROWLEY: Well, not only, you know, I mean general Kelly looked away, but next to him, our NATO ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchinson, you know, stared off into space, like OK. Where is he going with this? And this is unfortunately what we are used to with Donald Trump. You know, there is no script. And if there is a script, he is not going to stick by it.

But you know, to Malcolm`s point, you know, Trump passes geopolitics backwards, you know. If you are a world leader, would you rather be Angela Merkel or would you rather be Vladimir Putin? Angela Merkel is politically weakened but she has real political capital and a world class economy. Putin is corrupt. His model is not sustainable. And, yet, you see with the other President. He gravitates towards, you know, the autocrats as opposed to the Democrats.

MELBER: Right. And look, if John Kelly is concerned about Donald Trump`s unscripted remarks there, I don`t think he should take it out on the pastry chef, you know. I think you have to deal directly with the people involved in the foreign policy issues. But look, I wasn`t there.

I want you all to stay with me. But I want to turn live in Brussels where I am joined by retired lieutenant general Ben Hodges. He is a former commanding general of United States army in Europe.

General, when you look at what`s happened thus far, how is it going? And do the President`s comments and approach disrupt our NATO allies?

LT. GEN. BEN HODGES (RET.), FORMER COMMANDING GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY IN EUROPE: Ari, thanks for much for the opportunity. A couple of reactions. Number one, of course, I`m extremely disappointed with the approach that the President has chosen to use with our allies. It`s added completely unnecessary stress to these very important relationships, during a challenge in time. And if we ever needed allies, it`s right now.

So I have to say, I`m very disappointed with the approach. The atmosphere here in Brussels was concern, anger, and worried and some disappointment. Although, it was interesting, the last 48 hours, all anybody could talk about was what was the American President going to do? And I can`t remember in my life, before any NATO summit, people wondering what the American President was going to do at the beginning of the summit. The commitment of the United States to NATO has always been unequivocal. The second thing --.

MELBER: Wow, just on that point, we have a little tape to play. Before you even go on to your next point, you are saying something pretty significant I would like you to expound upon, which is in your experience in service, you have never seen an administration cast this much doubt on the nature of our military alliance in the first place?

HODGES: Right. Look, the alliance, this is the nature of coalitions for 5,000 years of military history. Coalitions are tough. And our great alliance, the most successful alliance in the history of the world has gone through very tough times over the last 70 years, but we have always gotten through that. And it was always American leadership that helped keep everybody together.

So I have been in the army. I was in the army for 40 years. And I have never seen it where there was anybody that wondered, no matter what party it was or what else was going on, any doubt about the United States commitment. So that`s disappointing and it is unfortunate.

MELBER: Sure. And then the second point you wanted to raise, sir. Yes.

HODGES: Yes. The second point I wanted to make is that the narrative that the President uses unfortunately is just not right. We don`t have 30,000 American soldiers plus the world`s greatest air force in Germany to defend Germany. This is about America`s security. The economic relationship between North America and the European Union is about five times greater than it is anywhere else in the world. So it`s in our own interests that we have a secure and stable Europe.

Plus, all of our most reliable allies come from Europe as well as Canada and Australia and the United States cannot do anything without allies anymore and then finally, Europe is a power projection platform for us into Africa, the Middle East, as well as Europe and EU-Asia. So (INAUDIBLE) on airbase. You can`t pick it up and move it somewhere else. It is essential.

And frankly, you know, Germany is our essential ally. It`s the country that we need the most to be able accomplish all the things that we need to do. And it`s very harmful to our own national security strategy just to keep kicking Germany in the (bleep) all time when we need them as an ally.

MELBER: Do you think, finally, sir, that this is being done somewhat at Putin`s bidding? Or we just don`t know yet, it`s just nonsensical would be apparently based on your analysis the alternative view?

HODGES: Certainly, I don`t think this is done at President Putin`s bidding, but he has got to be the happiest guy on the planet right now seeing our great alliance, where people are wondering. Now, look, I am sure. And I love the fact that the United States Senate voted 97-2, to -- in a resolution to affirm America`s commitment. That is so important, because our European allies know that Congress represents the will of the American people.

And they also, now to be fair, they also know that under this administration, the amount of money and troops that have come into Europe over the last two years has increased. Everything --


HODGES: -- that the Obama administration promised at the Warsaw summit has actually been implemented during the Trumped administration. So the boots on the ground, the money, that`s all there. What is so disconcerting is that when our President says and does things that cause confusion, that only helps President Putin.

MELBER: Well, you are one of the most experienced people we could hear from on this matter and a measured person as well. So your comments certainly worth evaluating tonight.

Lieutenant general Ben Hodges, thanks for staying up late with us.

HODGES: Thanks, very much. And please tell Rachel I said hello.

MELBER: We will do that. I am happy to do that. Thank you. Sir.

Now we turn to Senator Jack Reed, ranking of the armed services committee. You heard the reference of course to the congressional side of foreign policy, something where you have been a leader. Your reaction, sir.

SEN. JACK REED (R), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I think General Hodges made extraordinarily sound points. It`s very disconcerting when the President attacks our most important ally, NATO. Also, NATO exists not just for the protection of Europeans, but more importantly, it`s our 40 line of defense against the Russian and the Russian malign activities.

And I`m very, very pleads at the resolution I sponsored, to most construct bipartisan support, 97-2, affirming our support for NATO. Also affirming our support for rules based international order and one of the major contributors to that international order is NATO. So it`s in our self- interests to be supportive of NATO, not superficially. And I think in an ill-informed way critical of NATO.

MELBER: So senator, how would you do that, for viewers following this? The general there talking about that being a positive statement from the United States reaffirming the bipartisan commitment to NATO at a time when the President is saying these things. How did you put something together there that didn`t lose Republicans who might worry that people would perceive this as undercutting Donald Trump?

REED: The issue of NATO with my colleagues has been very clear. They understood and they understand that the vital importance it plays to our defense. They did it not as I believe Republicans or Democrats. But they did it as concerned Americans, as representatives of the American people. And that I think is a strong message. I`m glad it`s resonating in Brussels as General Hodge suggests because that is the message I hope that will help contradict and -- the President`s message which is ill informed and impulsive.

MELBER: You say ill informed. I mean, part of this debate is about foreign policy or ideology, what countries and what alliances does America want to be in? And part of this is factual. Donald Trump`s made these claims before, as you know, and he reiterated them today that other countries aren`t pulling their weight. That the United States is being taken advantage of. Is he incorrect about that?

REED: I don`t think so. I think you have to look at the totality of the contribution. As you pointed out, Ari, the first time, the only time article five of the NATO convention was invoked was after 9/11. Europe wasn`t attacked, it was the United States but they came to our support, our aid.

NATO forces are in Afghanistan today. It`s a joint command. NATO forces have died in Afghanistan alongside American forces. They are in Iraq helping with our training mission there. They have units in the Baltics as a trip wire against Soviet aggression and the fear in the Baltics is very palpable that the Russians will try something. They fight cyber warfare. They are afraid that they will try actual kinetic warfare, something like they did in Crimea.

So this alliance is much more than just a simple two percent or x percent. It`s about shared values. It is about staying the distance and working harder. In fact, since 2014, the NATO countries, our allies have raids it by spending by $87 billion. So this is an alliance that understands we have to stay together. Unfortunately the President wants to undercut it. And in fact, as General Hodges suggested he has made Vladimir Putin very happy, because for years Putin has been trying to undercut our influence in Europe and has been trying to disrupt NATO. He sees it as a threat. He would like to go back to the good old days when Russian troops occupied half of Germany. That`s not where we want to go.

MELBER: Right. And I think you are speaking to the best, the big question it has also raised which is that in America`s interest? Was that a good thing or what kind of defense mechanisms do we want to have out there?

Senator Jack Reed, my thanks to you. I know it`s a busy day.

REED: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: For you. P.J. Crowley and Malcolm Nance, we appreciate your expertise as well.

Coming up, we turn the page, Michael Avenatti joins me on 30 rock to talk about the new claims Michael Cohen has and whether he could flip.

Also, new revelations about Paul Manafort`s life behind bars as Bob Mueller tapping his phones and using that material in a new filing tonight.

And later, I will interview the protest leader who is actually behind the baby blimp.

All that plus "Art of the Deal" co-author Tony Schwartz is here about the art of protest and whether trolling Trump really works.

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


MELBER: Michael Cohen now sending a new message that he is not Trump`s fixer anymore. Now in a moment, I am joined by one of Michael Cohen`s biggest adversary, lawyer Michael Avenatti.

But first, a little background. It is Clinton loyalist Lanny Davis who now says if Cohen could do things over again, he might rethink all his work for Trump.


LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN`S ATTORNEY: His answer was, I made good faith judgments. Hindsight is 20/20. And he is also said I want to hit the reset button. So there is a lot implied there. That he is not speaking expressly. But I think you can sum it up by saying this is a new Michael Cohen with a new attitude about speaking his mind.


MELBER: And that may be. But the new Michael Cohen still faces the old Michael Cohen`s probe, which is evident how Lanny Davis is now being quite friendly on his behalf with the feds.


DAVIS: No question that Bob Mueller is a silent submarine, no leaks, focused on the facts. This man Mr. Mueller is widely respected for his integrity, and nothing Rudy Giuliani says is going to affect his search for the facts.


MELBER: As mentioned, Michael Avenatti is my guest on THE BEAT.

Now, you have said Lanny Davis who represents your adversary in a civil case Michael Cohen is being phony. What do you mean?

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Well, here is what I mean by that, Ari. I mean, Lanny is a very good attorney. There is no question about that. He has been a very good attorney for a number of years. It appears that we finally have an adult in the room which is refreshing.

But look, let me say this. Here is my take on what`s going on, OK. You have seen a progression over the last couple months. And here has been the progression. Michael Cohen through various means has sent a message to Donald Trump, you know, I may not be in the tent. Well, that didn`t get the reaction that he wanted from the President. So then he went to next step. You know, I might actually do this, meaning, flip on him. Well, that didn`t get the reaction. So now he`s hired Lanny Davis about a week ago or so. That didn`t get the immediate reaction. He went on George Stephanopoulos. That`s an immediate reaction.

So there has been an escalation here. And so, when I say that Lanny is being phony, look, if Michael Cohen wanted to do the right thing and come clean and be the patriot and wave the flag and do all the other stuff that they are saying that he is. That he has got a new lease on life, then he had just do it. They had stop telegraphing it, OK.

They are telegraphing it not to you or me or the American public but to Donald Trump. And I mean, how many more times are they going to telegraph it until the American public is going to say this is a bunch of nonsense. The guy needs to do the right thing or not.

MELBER: There are experts, including several who have come on the show and said the Lanny Davis hired show, they are going further because you have a Clinton loyalist. You are getting ready for that public war. You are saying, not necessarily. You are saying that your view, Cohen, someone that you know about is that he would still back off all of this if he got the right assurances from President Trump?

AVENATTI: I think that`s a 100 percent correct. I think if Michael Cohen can be waived along right now and be welcomed back with opened arms by the president, be bought back into the tent, could get some help paying his legal fees, that I absolutely think that that is the direction that he would go. And I think ultimately, he is not going to have that option. And ultimately, he is going to do what I told you he was going to do back in April before the raids. I think it was on this show, the first time I mentioned they were putting a lot of faith in Michael Cohen. And I predicted that ultimately he would flip on the President. And I think ultimately that is what is going to happen.

MELBER: Do think there are any clues as to whether Michael Cohen could face arrest imminently?

AVENATTI: I think time is certainly running out. I don`t think you are going to do, this will be delayed well into the fall. I think there are a lot of different factors. I know there is a lot of different factors at play right now. So I don`t know there is going to be tomorrow or the next day or even next week. But I think time is running out on Michael Cohen.

MELBER: You are saying Michael Cohen in your view will likely be arrested by the end of the summer?


MELBER: Do you think he knows that?


MELBER: Do you think on what charges? Because there is more than one avenue based on what we have seen they are investigating.

AVENATTI: I think he has some idea what those charges maybe. I don`t think he knows definitively. But I think he has some idea. And I think she coming to the conclusion a lot of defendants in this situation come to sooner rather than later which he in a lot of trouble. And he needs to be looking towards at his, you know, his family and whether he wants to go serve decades in a federal penitentiary.

MELBER: There is an old saying in the law, enough about Michael, let`s talk about Michael. And so enough about Michael Cohen, let`s talk about Michael Avenatti. The "New York Times" with quite a lengthy treatment (ph) of you in the magazine. And there is a scholar there who says quote "we have Avenatti because the left so desperately desires, an anti-Trump, a person who can elicit the same dopamine reaction in his supporters that Trump can from his."

I can tell you there are viewers of THE BEAT that see you as a more important adversary to Donald Trump than most Democrats in Congress or even to talk about wanting you to run for office this profile. This profile is attention that you clearly are putting up with, if not courting what does this say about your potential political future?

AVENATTI: Well, Ari, let me just say this. If you are going to climb a mountain that have you never climbed before or a mountain that`s really important for to you summit, do you want a guy -- do you want a guide that says to you, you know, I don`t know if we will be able to get up the face of that mountain or do you want a guy who looks you in the eye and says, let`s go, we are going to go climb this mountain.

MELBER: Are you by analogy, something that lawyers do. I take it you are that guide in this analogy?

AVENATTI: Well, here`s what I will say. If I was going to take somebody up the side of a mountain, I would know sure I have summited.

MELBER: I don`t know if there are mountains in London, but I`m told that where are you headed. Why are going to London? Does it relate to your civil case or your larger project with the resistance?

AVENATTI: Well, I have another client that I was going to London for just by happenstance. And I discovered that I was going to be there at the same time the President was going to be there. And so, you know, I thought I would make it a very efficient trip. And so I`m going to be in London for a few days. And I`m looking forward to seeing that balloon.

MELBER: Well, there are massive protests, and as you mentioned, a Trump baby blimp that we covered on the show. Based on your knowledge of Donald Trump, do you think this blimp is likely to upset him on this trip?

AVENATTI: I do, because I think he is a baby. I think he is a child in many ways, a petulant child and I don`t think he has thick skin. And I am also going to be participating in a women`s march on Friday that is being organized that I think it is going to be a fabulous event and incredibly successful.

MELBER: Michael Avenatti, as always, good to have you on THE BEAT.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you.

Now up ahead, there is a major development from Bob Mueller alleging Paul Manafort now getting VIP treatment in jail. And news on what Manafort saying on his monitored phone calls. I have that story.

But first, London is gearing up for these big anti-Trump protests we were just discussing. The shadow of, yes, the Trump baby blimp. The organizers of that baby blimp joins me exclusively when we are back in just 60 seconds.


MELBER: Another top story tonight, the Trump baby blimps day is arriving, set to fly on Friday. This is part of wider protest that await Donald Trump when he leaves Brussels today for the U.K., where activists are trolling Trump with a new campaign to get the 2004 green day song "American Idiot" to the top of their charts.

Now, in a moment, an all-star panel will join me to discuss what this activism means. That includes co-author of "the art of the deal," our friend Tony Schwartz.

But in London, the blimp is breaking through drawing a brief response from Trump`s ambassador to the U.K.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You will be fully aware of the plans that have been approved for a balloon of -- depicting President Trump as a baby in a nappy. That`s been allowed by the mayor of London. It didn`t bother you that that has been approved?

AMB, WOODY JOHNSON, AMBASSADOR TO LONDON: It is really kind of irrelevant to what we are trying to do. And I don`t think certainly it doesn`t expressed the opinion of the British people that I have met.


MELBER: I am joined now by activist Nona Hurkmans, one of the organizers behind the Trump baby blimp.

Thank you for joining us. What are you trying to achieve with this baby blimp?

Well, with this giant inflatable Trump baby, we are trying to protest basically Trump`s policies and his toxic politics. But we are kind of trying to do that with a humorous note.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And with the humor what exactly are you trying to say about Donald Trump?

HURKMANS: Well, we went with a baby because we feel that Trumps has a lot of the characteristics of a baby such as throwing your toys out of the pram or throwing tantrums and we think that those qualities are very problematic for the leader of a nation so that`s why we decided to highlight those.

MELBER: As you know, there`s some evidence that Donald Trump himself does not want to be perceived as a baby. Is that part of your goal here is that you hope to troll or enrage him personally or is your goal more to depict him this way to affect other`s views of him?

HURKMANS: We were not aware of -- I`ve seen the quote about him saying that he doesn`t want to be compared to a baby. We weren`t aware of that when we designed the blimp. I think what we were considering when we were planning this protest is kind of what would have an effect so we`ve seen that moral outrage doesn`t work with Donald Trump he just harnesses that outrage and kind of to blame shift onto the people who he is outraging. General -- just normal diplomacy doesn`t work with him. Reasoning doesn`t work with him but he really hates being mocked so that definitely came into play when we were -- when we were designing the blimp.

MELBER: So what do you expect to happen at these protests? How do you hope they will resonate both in your country and potentially in ours this week?

HURKMANS: Well, I think one of the reasons why we protest is to send a message to people have been affected by Trump`s disastrous policies, migrants, refugees, but also people who are affected by climate change. And I guess one of the messages that we`re trying to send is that we`re still here and we`re still resisting and you know, there`s still someone on their side. And from the messages that we`ve had, it seems to really resonate and I feel -- we feel that we`ve definitely accomplished at least that goal with this protest.

MELBER: Nona Hurkmans, thank you.

HURKMANS: Thank you.

MELBER: That`s the view from abroad but let`s turn to our panel and the wider context for this Trump baby blimp. We`ve noted on the show Trump is sensitive about these comparisons. He once asked his then Campaign Chair Paul Manafort, "Am I like a baby to you? Am I an effing baby, Paul?" And we know Trump actually likes to hurl the baby insult towards others.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a bunch of babies running in our country, folks. We have a bunch of losers. They`re losers, they`re babies.

What the hell did he think? He`s like a baby.

Then he apologized like a little baby, like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby.


MELBER: Of course, little babies can`t apologize because they`re babies and babies can`t talk. Now, however absurd or juvenile this discussion may seem at times, history also shows that for many political leaders mockery can be more upsetting than traditional policy criticism. You know, journalist Victor Navasky wrote a whole book documenting how political cartoonists are so influential because they push the boundaries of polite criticism reporting that Hitler was so incensed about cartoons lamping -- lampooning him. He even secretly commissioned a book of cartoons in response. France`s King Philippe had an artist imprisoned for drawing pictures that depicted him is yes, a pear. So are the Brits on to something? We turn to our panel. Tony Schwartz, CEO the Energy Project, Vox Media`s Liz Plank who you might have heard laughing in the background and Mike Lupica, Columnist for the New York Daily News. Starting with Donald Trump, the person, will this -- not the baby blimp, will the baby blimp do you think upset him?

LIZ PLANK, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, VOX MEDIA: Yes, because Donald Trump is obsessed with being perceived as a big man and a big leader. And to a certain extent, it worked. You know, I talked to a lot of Trump supporters during the campaign who told me that they would vote for Donald Trump because he was a real man and he was a tough leader. But of course, Donald Trump is not necessarily the poster boy for a tough leader. He`s the poster boy for fragile masculinity, a man who is comfortable with himself does not need to throw himself rallies and --

MELBER: You`re saying something very important that you think this actually cuts deep into his self-perception of the kind of tough master person he wants to be.

PLANK: Absolutely. And we spent a lot of time during the campaign talking about the way that he attacked -- you know, had gendered insults for women, Carly Fiorina in her face but we didn`t really talk about the gendered insults towards other men, little Marco, crying Chuck now as a president going after Chuck Schumer for crying these things that are emasculating or not seen as masculine. He really goes after other men for not doing. So obviously it`s something that he`s afraid that`s in himself and will be exposed with the blimp and the baby.

MELBER: And Mike, I know you`re just back from the U.K., your view.

MIKE LUPICA, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Yes, I was amazed to see Woody Johnson who apparently is as good at ambassadoring as he was at owning the New York Jets. It doesn`t reflect the views of the people he`s talked to. Well, who`s he talking to? Because everywhere I went in London for a week when they weren`t talking about the World Cup, they were talking about the political situation in our country. And all I could say was we understand we have a problem. We`re trying to correct it. It`s going to take some time but please don`t blame me. I mean, blame Comey, or Bill and Hillary, or blame you know, that thug Putin but -- he is extremely unpopular in that country and you`re going to see it in these protests. And in you know that when he looks up in the sky and sees the baby blimp, he`ll be thinking of T-Pain saying he wishes he could fly away.

MELBER: Wow. Mike Lupica came prepared. I think anyone who looks up in the sky -- you don`t have to be President -- I think if you look up in the sky and you happen to see your likeness in a giant diaper-clad baby it`s going to have some effect on you which is why there`s a psychological profile to this. Donald Trump himself though has talked about how he also loves babies and so we cover all sides of this story. I want to show you. Here Donald Trump talking about babies.


TRUMP: Don`t worry about that baby. I love babies so -- I love babies. I hear that baby crying. I like -- I like it. What a baby. What a beautiful baby. Don`t worry, don`t worry. Their moms running around like don`t worry about it, you know. It`s young and beautiful and healthy and that`s what we want.



TONY SCHWARTZ, CEO, ENERGY PROJECT: Well, first of all, five seconds later in that clip he says get that baby out of here. So I can tell you having spent time around him when he had little children that he has less than zero interest in children and so that`s nonsense. Are you asking me about the blimp? I`m depressed if you are. I mean, who cares.

MELBER: Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this because you were here as an opposing voice.

SCHWARTZ: Opposed to the blimp?

MELBER: Yes, a lot of people have seen this as a way to troll him. There was a long-running debate and we`ve talked about it before on the show. How do you deal with someone who dominates attention such a juvenile way? But I happen to know that you don`t think this is the best way to protest him.

SCHWARTZ: No, I mean listen, I`m not you know, in any significant way against it. I just think it`s irrelevant and it won`t do anything. And the idea of getting under his skin is not -- is not significant. Who cares if we get under his skin? What we want to do is get under his presidency and lift him out of it. You know, I`ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that he has changed this debate around him and put it on his terms and it`s always being dragged down to the lowest common denominator and I don`t think we win. Those of us who oppose and resist him don`t win by playing the game at his level.

Listen what was clear today more than it`s ever been is that the game here is democracy, the future of this country, who it is we want to be, who we want to be represented by. It`s really big issues and they are positive, meaning whatever doubts people have about what this country is we don`t want to be under an authoritarian. Maybe 30 percent of the company -- country actually does, but 70 percent of the country does not want to live under an authoritarian. And if we can for example -- what`s a good protest? A good protest is to go to the incredibly small percentage or to go to the to the percentage, the high percentage of young people who don`t vote and get them to vote. It`s not important who is for Trump, it`s important who is against Trump that they show up at the polls and actually register that.

MELBER: I mean, I think what Tony is saying, Liz, is nap time is over.

SCHWARTZ: Yes, I mean, that`s why I didn`t want to take it too serious.

LUPICA: But here`s the thing -- here`s the thing.

MELBER: Well, speak to that because Elizabeth Warren talked about Trump`s tiny hands and then people said is that really the way to go out? I mean, this is something that the resistance has not yet fully figured out what level you --

SCHWARTZ: I agree.

LUPICA: No, I get all that. And there was a famous old boxing promoter in Boston named Suitcase Sam Silverman. He used to say every knock is a boost, OK. And I think Trump operates on that principle. But you have to admit, just even though you can`t use irony in an underdeveloped country, OK, there is some irony here in a guy who mocks everybody and everything getting made fun of. And Tony you better than anybody know how thin skinned he is.

SCHWARTZ: I do. I just have come to a point where -- you know, here`s the thing. I gave the Hillary campaign during the pre-election period a series of things that I thought would set Trump off during the debates. She used every single one of them and in every single case it set him off. Did it actually rebound in a positive way to Hillary? No, it probably didn`t. And it turned out as we now know that those people who support Trump support Trump more when you are more critical of him and less -- or at least more when you`re more critical of him.


PLANK: Yes, I think that he also really uses this idea that he`s a respected leader abroad and this will disrupt that idea and might even mess with him, not just on a personal level but mess on this image that he has and this is his obsession with control which you know even when he went to North Korea he had like a trailer video about his you know, trip there. And in every other -- even the way that he announces -- he has this obsessive desire for controlling. To disrupt that I think it is important.

SCHWARTZ: Well, let`s be clear. He is not respected abroad. The only place he`s respected are Saudi Arabia and Russia.

PLANK: But do Trump supporters know that?


PLANK: I don`t think that they do.

SCHWARTZ: You know, because we are so closeted in what we read from both sides that they don`t. But what I believe is that we are -- we are far better off making the case for what we want to see and what does resonate with the vast majority of America than we are you know, putting up blimps.

MELBER: Well, what I`m hearing is it can be great, fun, and even effective to roast him and the counter-argument being catharsis is not an electoral strategy.

SCHWARTZ: No, I mean if catharsis is emotionally refueling and renewing for the resistance, God bless. But yes we have a bigger -- we have a bigger challenge at hand which is to bring to people`s attention that this is a person who threatens in the most fundamental way the America we want to live in.

MELBER: You said a bigger challenge at hand, bigger than a baby?

SCHWARTZ: Even bigger than a baby.

MELBER: Even bigger than a baby.

LUPICA: Do you think --

MELBER: I got to go? That`s it.

LUPICA: Where are you going?

MELBER: Colloquialism, I got to go so come back.

LUPICA: You know what`s amazing? That blimp is so lifelike, you know? It`s just --

PLANK: I just (INAUDIBLE) in the back, you know. It`s useful.

MELBER: Well, that`s the side by side. Tony Schwartz, Liz Plank, Mike Lupica, we covered this story from every angle. I`m going to fit in a break and then I have the Mueller investigators revealing today, they know what Paul Manafort saying on the phone to his friends about being at prison VIP.


MELBER: Bob Mueller is out with the new filing that reveals Paul Manafort`s condition behind bars and basically talks about the feds recording Manafort`s jailhouse phone calls in order to note that Manafort is telling people he`s being treated "like a VIP with a cell larger than other inmates, its own bathroom and shower, a personal phone and workspace." Mueller is using all this to say unlike most inmates, Manafort doesn`t even have to wear a prison uniform and has figured out a workaround to basically get e-mails. He composes them on a laptop that`s brought into jail by his team and then they take it out in a laptop, reconnects to the internet and sends out Manafort`s e-mails. I`m joined now by former Federal Prosecutor Joyce Vance. What does this mean?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s certainly a fascinating flurry of motions in the Manafort case. But Ari, I think what`s going on here, this is a case of be careful of what you ask for because Manafort was complaining on the one hand that the conditions of his custody made it hard to prep for trial. And so when the judge transferred his custody to a location closer to Alexandria, we suddenly put his hands up and say no, no, I didn`t mean for you to move me. And we find out in special counsels filing that`s because he has an awfully sweet deal where he`s currently held in custody in the Northern Neck Regional Facility. That`s a lot nicer than most pre-trial facilities that federal prisoners are held in.

MELBER: Yes, it also depicts him as using the phone as much as a teenager. Manafort has a personal telephone in his unit which he can use over 12 hours a day to speak with his attorneys. Prison logs show that in the last three weeks he`s had a hundred calls with his attorneys and 200 calls with other persons. Who is he talking to?

VANCE: That`s a really interesting question. And look we don`t know. It could be investigators, it could be trying to get ready for trial, and really the silver lining to all of this special treatment that he`s receiving is he won`t be able to argue on appeal that he didn`t have the ability to prepare for trial. This is actually --

MELBER: What do you say -- what do you say to people though that are shocked that after all this, it sounds like because of who he is he is being treated better?

VANCE: It sounds exactly like this and it really is on many levels you know, shocking. Everybody that I talked to, federal prosecutors I spoke with today, no one recalls anyone receiving exactly this type of treatment. He is getting ready for trial. He should have had the opportunity and in fact, Judge Berman entered an order on her own sua sponte without having a motion prompted ensuring that he had the ability to prep for trial. This would seem to go a little bit above and beyond though.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a doozy. Joyce Vance, thanks for your expertise walking us through it. Up ahead, we want to turn to an important story we`ve been covering. The heart-wrenching damage to children ripped from their parents by the Trump administration. New reports that some don`t even recognize their parents when reunited. We have an update to this story.


MELBER: Tonight I can report that nearly 3,000 children are still alone because they have been ripped from their parents in the humanitarian crisis created by Donald Trump. The Administration has failed to unite 102 children just under age five by the deadline set for yesterday. Now, they have two weeks to bring all families together. We don`t have much information from the administration on their plan on how they will ultimately conquer this problem they created. What we are seeing and what we want to make sure to report in our news hour tonight is just how deeply damaged this kind of trauma already runs and that`s even for families that are being reunited. Take this account from the New York Times. Some children don`t recognize their mothers. In one case, a three year old girls screamed and tried to wriggle free from her mother`s embrace calling for the social worker at the shelter where she had been living. One father telling NBC his four-year-old wouldn`t even talk to him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His son was confused. He had signs of resentment. He thought his dad had left him. He was crying. He wouldn`t speak to him. He wouldn`t turn to look at him until his dad had to say you know, I`m sorry I left you but I had been working up until now --


MELBER: Those are the accounts that journalists are gathering one by one from people going through this. Another father saying his son thought he was dead.




MELBER: Why haven`t you called me? That`s not a question any parent should have to answer under these conditions. Now tomorrow, the Trump administration faces a separate new deadline to reveal how many children the administration has reunited and how much work is left to fix these problems of Donald Trump`s own creation.


MELBER: That`s our show. You can always find more of us on our podcast. If you look for the purple podcast icon on your iPhone home screen, click it. Go to the search bar and type in THE BEAT with Ari Melber. Click on the show name. You can see the show. Catch any show you missed and see our weekend podcast extras. We have one coming up with more with Michael Avenatti. And that does it for us. I`ll see back here tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Our man in Brussels. Let`s play HARDBALL.


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