Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 2, 2018 Guest: Christina Greer, Jess McIntosh, Stephanie Schriock
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: -- hunk of coal from a West Virginia mine handpicked by yours truly, clean coal, mind you because I will also throw in the paper napkin get setting up. One of a kind items, yours for $5,000, and a certificate of authenticity comes with it because, you know, we are those kinds of people. But hurry up, send in your bids today. By the way, the Volvo is mine.
That's all we have for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
THE BEAT starts right now. Ali Velshi is in for my buddy, Ari.
Good Evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Chuck. You have a great rest of your evening. Hope you make a lot of money from the sales.
This is THE BEAT. I'm Ali Velshi in more Ari Melber.
We got a big show tonight. Bob Mueller wants to interview this Russian pop star who helped set up the secret meeting in Trump tower between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Paul Manafort's bookkeeper testifies with a big revelation about his spending.
And Chuck Schumer is blasting a quote "unprecedented process" to deny Americans info on Trump's (INAUDIBLE).
But we begin tonight with an extraordinary press conference on Russia today at the White House. It might have backfired. Trump's top national security officials making a surprise appearance at the press briefing addressing threats from Russia to U.S. elections, calling the threat real and ongoing. But then struggling to explain why Trump has expressed the opposite view. Trump infamously expressing doubt about Russian interference while standing next to Putin in Helsinki. Here's the question that was put to Trump's director of national intelligence today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are saying today that the President has directed you to make the issue of election meddling a priority. How do you explain the disconnect between what you are saying, his advisers, and what the President has said about this issue?
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INELLIGENCE: I'm not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened at Helsinki.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That's not some guy. That's the director of national intelligence, admitting that he still does not understand what happened when Trump and Putin were together, and that happened nearly three weeks ago. Recall this moment from Helsinki.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have -- I have confidence in both parties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: They talked about the server, and then he went on to talk about some Pakistani gentleman, and then the next day he said he didn't meant to say would, he meant to say wouldn't.
But that is not all. Trump's FBI director also put on the spot today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would the American people believe what you are saying about the FBI when the President says that the investigation by the special counsel is a hoax, and the press secretary yesterday said there was a lot of corruption within the FBI? Do you have any respondent to those statements coming from the White House?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, I can assure the American people that the men and women of the FBI, starting from the director all the way on down are going to follow our oaths and do our jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: That wasn't really an answer to the question asked. The FBI director sidestepping the question about Trump's attacks on the Mueller probe, attacks that have been escalating as the pressure appears to escalate. The Manafort trial is under way. Reports indicating a Trump/Mueller interview is looking more likely. We will get to all of that tonight.
But let's start with the warning from Trump's very own intelligence officials, a warning that late today the White House said Trump had quote "asked" his officials to make, but not revealing why Trump asked for the statement when he asked for it, or why he has never said the clear statement that Russia interfered and continues to do so.
With me now, E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post," Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant FBI director for counterintelligence. Evelyn Farkas, former U.S deputy assistance, And the defense secretary focused on Russia under President Obama.
Evelyn, let's start with you. This is a weird disconnect. If you just - if you had no context and you just heard these intel officials out there telling you what they believed about Russia and what they were going to do about it, you would feel like we were safe and strong, but the context is the President hasn't said the same thing.
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: Yes, Ali. I mean, you need the person at the top to say clearly what all of his cabinet officials said. But there's an additional problem. Because it's fine that these cabinet officials came out, and I applaud that. They needed to do this. But they should have done this far before August. I mean, we have midterms elections coming up in a matter of days now that we're counting. So that's a bit of a problem.
But nevertheless, let's focus on the positive, they came out there.
VELSHI: Sure, they did. Yes.
FARKAS: But the President, you're right, the President needs to come out and say clearly what he knows, what he has been told about Russia, and then he needs to rally America behind, you know, essentially an all-out effort to fight disinformation in our society. And as a lot of them said today it's not just about the elections, this is ongoing attempts to interfere with America, frankly.
And Frank, this is an important point, Chris Wray made the point that stop worrying about whether a ballot was changed. We don't actually have information that ballots were changed. But the influence campaign, the voter suppression campaign, the idea that someone else is involving themselves in the elections is important. But Chris Wray said this about the social media companies which caught my attention. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WRAY: We have to have a public/private partnership in this particular threat. We're sending so much effort to engage with the social media and technology companies because there is a very important role for them to play in terms of monitoring and, in effect, policing their own platforms. We are sharing with them actionable intelligence in a way that wasn't happening before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: OK, Frank. I mean, I'm glad they are doing that. But the fact is, this is not the all-government response we were hoping for, the one that DNI Coats warned the red lights are blinking like they were in the summer before 9/11. And now I'm supposed to feel better because the FBI tells me Facebook is on it too.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Yes. So good news, bad news. Good news, we had this press conference today. Bad news, this is an incredibly complicated problem with regard to social media and has tentacles throughout Silicon Valley and through all the internet providers. And we have a President who still to this day maintains arm's length from this problem.
So, it is nice that we saw the heads of the agencies out there today, but our electoral process is under attack, make no mistake. And if we are under attack, the President should be out there in front saying I'm leading this, I'm making sure we're not having the meddling, and here's what we're doing about it and we still haven't seen it.
With regards to Silicon Valley, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and all the others, let me assure you they are still not stepping up and doing what they need to do.
FIGLIUZZI: This close to an election.
VELSHI: They are doing what they have to do when forced mostly by the European Union and England to do it.
E.J., you know, Dan Coats - Well, look, secretary Nielsen said democracy is in the crosshairs. We had the NSA director out there saying my men and women stand ready to fight whatever attack is there. But then you had Coats comes out and say we are doing the best we can to keep the elections safe.
Again, I think we are all agreed, we are glad they had that press conference. But in the end, hearing from the director of national intelligence that we are doing the best we can doesn't necessarily make me feel like we're as safe as we should be.
E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: No, that exactly right. I mean, the 2016 election happened a long time ago. We have known this was a problem for a long time. And because the President has not wanted to act, even when his top officials have said things before, this isn't the first time this group of experienced officials, members of this group have said we've got a big problem here, but the administration has chosen not to act.
And I think it's really striking that when you look at the messages that are coming out of what seemed to be they are not established yet, but what we learned this week from Facebook, what seemed to be Russian sources, they are trying to divide the country along racial lines, along cultural lines. And I think what makes this difficult is that the President's own strategy, as we saw recently, for example, in that speech in Florida where he instructed us about buying groceries with IDs, that's his strategy too.
So, I think it's like the old Kremlin-ology days where you have factions inside this administration who clearly take this seriously. It's not clear the head guy does.
VELSHI: So Evelyn, taking that point, what happened today? Did these -- the President didn't tweet ahead of time that I'm sending my intelligence chiefs out there, my security chiefs out there to say something. They went out there. The President then said he had instructed them or asked them to do so. Still without a full-throated declaration of his own that Russia did it, we know that, Russia's doing it now, we know that, and it's going to stop.
What did that represent to you? Do you think some of these chiefs of departments got together and said we need to go out there and develop some kind of all-government strategy even if the President isn't with us?
FARKAS: Yes, Ali, I think you are reading Washington pretty well. You can come join us.
I think that's absolutely what happened. I think that they are becoming increasingly alarmed that, look, they admitted today they don't know what the President talked about with President Putin in Helsinki. That must be alarming to them. I heard a lot of talk about insider talk about the President and his attitude towards NATO. We saw today coming out of Congress a draft bill, a piece of legislation that Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez put together. This is a piece of legislation addressing a lot of same issues.
So, the Senate very clearly was in cahoots, almost, you know, but basically, allied with these cabinet members. And I think there's probably a lot of discussion behind the scenes and the President maybe knows this and felt like he had to say something so that he wouldn't appear completely out of sync.
VELSHI: Frank, think back to the summer of 9/11, and all the things the FBI and the CIA and what everybody knows now they didn't know then that some, argument, may have prevented the attacks or at least could have mitigated some of it. Why would we hesitate now when the director of national intelligence says all red lights are blinking in the way they were before that summer, someone is going to be held to account for not doing the right thing ahead of the 2018 election.
FIGLIUZZI: Yes, all of the warning signs are there. And I hope that we are not holding hearings upon hearings.
FIGLIUZZI: As we did after 9/11 trying to figure out why the dots weren't connected and who is accountable. But look, Ali, I have said it. The man accountable is our President. And he needs to fully embrace the notion as Russia as threat. Why is he not doing that? Because it doesn't serve his self-interests. If he embraces the notion of Russia as bad guy, then he's in a trap. This is what he's thinking through.
If I say Russia is bad and the special counsel comes out and confirms that, and confirms campaign officials were engaged with Russia, then I'm buying into all of that, and I'm confusing my base.
FIGLIUZZI: So, he's got to stay straight on message, keep his distance from briefings like this morning and allow other people to do this work, sit back and hold them accountable if there's a mess in November.
VELSHI: E.J., the dust cloud of confusion that is the President of the United States last night said something, as you mentioned, needing id to buy groceries, I don't know where he shops, but this is also the guy who after the last election thought there was voter fraud going on in America. Set up a blue-ribbon commission that amounted to a hill of beans as well.
But what does success look like for you here for the President to come out and say, I'm actually putting real people in-charge, a tasks force, a cabinet secretary whose job it is to secure American democracy in elections.
DIONNE: Well, I'm not counting on success. I guess I have to say that. But success would have been to do this six months ago and to say we're going to take this seriously and do everything we can. I thought you were spot on in your 9/11 metaphor. Because when 9/11 happened, we did all kinds of things we hadn't done before, some of them were controversial. Some of them we still argue about. But we sure as heck took seriously the need to try to avoid another 9/11.
And what you are seeing here is we don't really seem, or at least parts of our government, don't really seem to feel that strongly about protecting our election system. And we have almost entirely fallen down on this job. And you are really seeing it come out of some of the private companies who are doing it only under pressure from journalists and others. So, we are just nowhere close to taking this as seriously as we took 9/11.
VELSHI: For some reason, influence in the election doesn't feel the same as a vote being switched, which I guess doesn't feel the same as a physical attack from airliners or bombs, and we just have to broaden our minds to understand they are all in some fashion an attack.
DIONNE: There could be a threat to our voting systems eventually. And that is real possibility.
VELSHI: We know that state election systems were hack. We know that names were given out. So, I'm not drawing any conclusions that they weren't hacked.
DIONNE: Right. I know.
VELSHI: E.J., good to see you. Thank you as always.
Great to see you.
VELSHI: Frank Figliuzzi and Evelyn Farkas, thanks to the three of you for helping us sort of this evening.
Coming up, the legal fight over Paul Manafort's jackets and how prosecutors are pursuing their case.
Plus, the secret talks about a Trump interview with Bob Mueller.
And big news about the Russian pop star who set up the Trump tower meeting and made a bizarre music video spoofing the dossier.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
VELSHI: Also, Senate Republicans reveal new plans to rush through hearings for Trump's Supreme Court nominee. I'm going to talk to Stephanie Schriock, she is the President of Emily's list.
I'm Ali Velshi in for Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
VELSHI: Day three of Trump campaign chief criminal trial, today Paul Manafort's bookkeeper testifying for hours, including that Manafort was struggling to pay his bills in 2016 as he worked for Trump for free. And Mueller's team fighting today to show jurors more evidence of the lavish lifestyle that Manafort was trying to keep up. More pictures like this. I'm going to show it to you, these, of Manafort's suits, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket. I just didn't know that was a thing. I like clothes.
And this, an $18,500 python coat. Jurors have seen a few photos, but not many. Prosecutors want to show them things like Manafort's closet, his pool house, and a flower bed in the shape of an "M" at his house in the Hamptons. But the judge is actually pushing back, saying it quote "besmirches the defendant and would engender some resentment against rich people." Certainly, do make an impression.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, he had a coat made from an ostrich, which explains the state's first witness. And is the man who did this to you in the courtroom? Can you point him out?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: All right, with me now, Tim O'Brien, executive editor of "Bloomberg View" and author of "TrumpNation." And Franklin Foer who has covered Manafort extensively for "The Atlantic." His latest piece is acting in court, "a hell of a performance by Paul Manafort about how he is acting in court.
Frank, let me start with you, because Paul Manafort's demeanor and the way he has been acting prior to the trial got him into hot water, why he ended up in jail, because there are some basic, simple rules you should follow if you are under federal government and he just didn't bother with any of them. So the idea that this trial is off to a somewhat unusual start shouldn't be surprise to anyone.
FRANKLIN FOER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC: No, of course not. I mean, the evidence against Paul Manafort is pretty crystal clear. And you see this in witness after witness, able to describe this Goldberg contraption of finances that he set up that involved extensive laundering of money from Cypress.
But Paul Manafort himself is an imagemaker, and he understands he has got 12 people sitting in a jury box and he has got to put on somewhat of a show for them. And so, the image that he's projecting to them as he flashes them smiles and as he poses at the defense table is an image of self- confidence. And so, he's posing like one of the senators that he advised before.
So, there's this dissonance between what jurors are hearing on the stand from all these other witnesses which is very damning and what Manafort is himself.
VELSHI: I do kind of love that moxie. Let me show you pictures, Tim, of Manafort's Hampton's home, and a description of what the landscaper described in court that he maintained 14-foot hedging, lawns, of water falls, flower line, tennis courts, a bed of hundreds and hundreds of white flowers, and another which had red flowers in the shape of the letter "M."
Some danger that the prosecution here might over play its hand and the idea that he is rich. But to Franklin's point, it is a (INAUDIBLE) of a financial thing. And jurors don't respond well to that, as we remember from Enron.
TIM O'BRIEN, AUTHOR, TRUMPNATION: Right. What was that "M" carved out for? Was it Manafort or money laundering or must make more money?
You know, the odd thing that emerges in this testimony today that, you know, he loses around $600,000 in 2015. He loses over a million in 2016. Yet he is continuing to spend like king Midas.
O'BRIEN: And you get the sense, like you do, about many people that tried to hitch their wagons to Trump's star in 2016. That they were - they saw him as a profit center. I don't think many of them even thought he was going to be elected president, and they saw this as a short-term way to make money. It would seem that's what Paul Manafort was thinking.
I think the other great thing about the case today is that the bookkeeper testifies. And as a journalist I love it when the bookkeepers testify because you get a fact pattern around money.
And the bookkeeper is based in southern California, even though most of Manafort's business operations are in New York, Virginia and Florida. She's at a distance. She's not seeing the transactions that are being presented during the trial. Why isn't she even though she presents -- prepares his taxes every year? And on and on. The bookkeeper's testimony today was very damning.
VELSHI: And Franklin, the bookkeeper testifies she didn't get any information about the fact he had foreign accounts, you know. So, the whole thing is a little whack. He is not making money, selling himself as an influence peddler to some remarkably rich people. What in the end is the narrative here that we are looking for jurors to take away?
FOER: I think one is the sense of impunity with which Paul Manafort operated, that he was willing to fabricate documents, he was willing to offer people jobs in exchange for loans, that he was desperate, that he was in such a tremendous hole, despite having this massive amount of money flowing to him from Ukraine.
There were memos that he wrote to Viktor Yanukovych, the President of Ukraine, where he was pleading with him to pay him more money, even though he's paying him millions and millions of dollars a year.
VELSHI: Tim, Manafort was working -- the bookkeeper also pointed out, working for free for Donald Trump while not having money.
O'BRIEN: Nobody works for free.
VELSHI: Right. So, this becomes part of the argument to the jury, right.
VELSHI: That wasn't working for pay from Donald Trump, but, dot, dot, dot. Selling influence somewhere, something else was happening because you can't support the ostrich and the crocodile or python jackets while working for free when you're heavily in debt.
That's right. And some of the court documents that have come out so far, he processed around $75 million through the business in a relatively short period of time, around 60 of that accrued to him personally. So here's somebody who has 60 million coming into his accounts, and is still going into hock. I think he was somebody who was very, very desperate.
VELSHI: So it's not that the prosecution is trying to pick on the rich, they are trying to illustrate, how does this rich guy, who doesn't have any money, spend as much money as he has, where is the money coming from?
Tim, good to see you. As always. Thank you, Franklin Foer, thank you for joining us as well.
Just ahead on THE BEAT, Bob Mueller wants to talk to this Russian pop star who admitted to setting up that secret Trump tower meeting with Russians, his father is linked to Putin. We are back in 30 seconds.
VELSHI: The other top story tonight, we are learning tonight. We are learning that Bob Mueller wants to talk to the man who set up the Trump tower meeting between Don Jr. and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. The man in question is a Russian pop star who met with Donald Trump in Moscow in 2013. His father is an oligarch, very close to Vladimir Putin. He appeared to embrace his notoriety, recently releasing, this is kind of nuts, a music video with a Trump impersonator which references the salacious Trump Russia dossier.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
VELSHI: You really got me good. He also admitted that he set up the Trump tower meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I said, listen, there's some people that want to meet you. They obviously want something that could potentially help them resolve things that you could be interested in, or maybe not, if you can spare five minutes of your time, I would be grateful. No problem. Don Jr. Being Don Jr. said of course I will do it if you're asking. I set the meeting up. I know what the meeting was about. It was about nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: He says the Trump tower meeting was about nothing. Apparently, Bob Mueller has some questions about that claim. This as news develops about a potential face to face meeting between Mueller and Trump. Now it looks like that could come sooner than anyone thought.
"The New York Times" reporting this remarkable detail, Trump wants to get in front of Mueller so he can convince Mueller that Mueller's probe is a quote "witch hunt." That (INAUDIBLE).
Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman and former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman.
Two prosecutors, (INAUDIBLE). That guy must be a prosecutor's dream. He loves to talk. He believes his own story. He made a video joking about the Russia dossier. I mean, I can imagine why Mueller wants to talk to him.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: One of the things that I learned as a prosecutor is it is remarkable how little many witnesses understand about whether what they have done is right or wrong. And I don't mean that in the sort of larger esoteric idea, but when he says that this meeting was nothing, as he did in that clip, he has no idea whether that meeting is actually nothing or whether it means something. He certainly doesn't understand the intricacies of U.S. campaign finance laws. And he doesn't understand how prosecutors put cases together.
So what Mueller wants to talk about is what were the conversations that preceded that meeting? What did you promise? What did you understand was going to be promised to Rob Goldstone who was the intermediary? What was your relationship with Don Jr.? Did you have other conversations? And he doesn't even know whether his answers are relevant or not. But he could be a very interesting witness if he agrees to meet with them.
VELSHI: Is there any chance of that happening?
NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE PROSECUOTR: I would say it's almost zero. And I also think if he does meet with them he is going to lie. I mean, he is extremely relevant. The Goldstone email of June 3rd or 4th basically says that the Russian government is backing Donald Trump for President. That they have dirt on Hillary Clinton, which we all know means the emails that were stolen out of the Democratic National Committee as Papadopoulos has pointed out.
So, he knows. He knows a lot. He was told a lot. He was told about the backing of the Russian government. He also had a conversation with Don Jr. between the time of those emails and the time of the meeting. So, there were a number of conversations that we don't know what was said. And I guarantee you he is not going to tell the truth on what those were about.
VELSHI: What's the consequence, Daniel, of a Russian national being asked to testify? He's not being subpoenaed, he's not being charged with anything. So it's not even liked a government to government discussion about whether or not he can be interviewed by the FBI.
GOLDMAN: So it's interesting. I think there is some chance. And it's because for the same reason that the sanctions against the Russian oligarchs are so devastating, is the same reason that someone like this pop star who wants exposure.
VELSHI: Wants to be in the United States, wants an apartment in New York if he doesn't have one.
GOLDMAN: Exactly. So he wants to have more of a presence and existence in the United States. And he wants to be able to either -- he clearly is the son of an oligarch, so he's got a lot of money. And if you say no, I'm not coming, and there's an outstanding subpoena for you to arrive here, I mean, to testify, that you can come in and out, you're not going to be picked up and arrested, but you will be served with that subpoena. And if you don't show up, you could be --.
VELSHI: That could then turn into a --.
GOLDMAN: Yes, exactly.
VELSHI: So, you don't want to get on the wrong side of the Department of Justice if you are someone interested in living and existing and profiting --
VELSHI: Good point. That's an interesting point because this guy is becoming like the Carter Page of Russia. He likes to give interviews, he likes to talk about it. OK, Nick let's talk about this other matter that - - the idea that Donald Trump wants to be with Mueller so Mueller -- he can convince Mueller that Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt. How's that going to go over?
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: First of all, I don't really think he wants to do that. I mean, this is a basically a you know, good cop bad cop situation. He's trying to say oh I want to cooperate. I did nothing wrong.
VELSHI: Right, Giuliani says that.
AKERMAN: Right, and then when Giuliani says you know, you can't do it, he's going to say well I had to follow the advice of my lawyers. The bottom line is he wants to meet with Mueller just like he wants to go in for a root canal. There's no way he wants to do that. And he knows that he can't go in. I mean, if he was really innocent and he really had nothing to hide, he would have gone in there a long time ago. I mean, what he has done is not the actions of somebody who was innocent and someone who has nothing to hide. He has done everything he can up to this point to avoid having to talk about this at all with the prosecutor.
VELSHI: How does it generally go over with prosecutors? Hey, you know, you have that investigation you got into me?
GOLDMAN: How much money would you pay to watch Donald Trump try to convince Bob Mueller that the 35 indictments and guilty pleas, the exhaustive and professional investigation --
VELSHI: That would rate really well. That would actually be a good conversation because maybe he thinks -- I mean, he wants you -- I mean, there are people who think they can convince you otherwise about the case that you've got all the time.
GOLDMAN: It's shocking and particularly fraudsters. I mean, they -- when you deal in meetings with you know, violent criminals, with drug dealers in particular, they know what they're doing is wrong and they're not pretending that what they're doing is right, the mobsters as well. They know they're professional criminals. Fraudsters think they can always pull a fast one even on the prosecutors and they're much more difficult to break down and get them to tell the truth then more of the hardened criminals who say I'm just a criminal. So they constantly do that fraudsters do and we're seeing a little bit of that dynamic with Paul Manafort as well. And ultimately it doesn't work and it always endures against the witness.
VELSHI: You think there's anything to this idea that Mueller -- that Trump can submit questions, Mueller narrows it down to a couple of topics and Trump answers in paper? AKERMAN: There's no way. I mean, those are absolutely worthless. I mean, I don't see that happening at all. Look, you've got a dynamic here that is different than any other criminal investigation. It's the same thing that happened with the Watergate investigation. You've got people who are very politically high up in the government. To go in and tell the truth and tell them exactly what happened you're out of it, you're gone. That's the end of your career. If you go in and you take the Fifth Amendment, it's as good as saying I'm guilty. If you go in and lie, that's what they did in the Watergate case, and all of those people got convicted of perjury as well as all the other crimes that were charged with. And you see that with Don Jr. going in talking about the Trump Tower meeting. You see it with Kushner going in and talking about various meetings. I mean, I think it's just history repeating itself all over again.
VELSHI: OK. All right, guys, thanks very much. Daniel Goldman and Nick Akerman, always great to have you here to make sense of a world that it's very difficult to make sense of. Just ahead the GOP is struggling to downplay official statements from Trump which are also known as tweets. And Chuck Schumer is blasting "unprecedented process to deny Americans info on the President's Supreme Court pick. That's all next.
VELSHI: Donald Trump's Twitter account causing more problems than ever with growing controversy surrounding his demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Bob Mueller's probe. Congressional Republicans and the White House are now scrambling to downplay his tweet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I'm not going to spend my time here in the U.S. Senate waking up every morning and responding to some tweet every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President is entitled to speak his mind.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: It's not an order, it's the President's opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: It's not an order it's his opinion. That's completely contrary to the long-held White House position that Trump's tweets are official statements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are President Trump's tweets considered official White House statements?
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well the President is the President of United States so they're considered official statements by the President United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: And no one's ever walked that back by the way. Mueller has made it clear that Trump's tweets are a key part of the obstruction probe. So while others debate, no one is paying attention, we know Mueller is. With me now Jess McIntosh, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Christina Greer Professor at Fordham University. The courts have held that the President's tweets are important in the -- in the immigration ban. Another judge has recently ruled that the President can't ban people from his Twitter account because it's a matter of public record. So at some point, whether you came into this election thinking the tweets were official or important, we must know that by now they are.
CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: They are because we also know that this President does not engage with us in a proper press conference the way all presidents have. So we have to communicate with him via Twitter and you see each tweet, he gets around 100,000 retweets or likes or whatever it may be and we also know that he wakes up at 6:00 in the morning and starts tweeting and it essentially drives the news traffic for the day right? I think a lot of Americans are concerned that -- especially when we had some tense relationships with North Korea that he would tweet something that --
VELSHI: It starts a war on Twitter.
GREER: Exactly. And not just a Twitter war like you know --
VELSHI: No, no, no, a real war.
GREER: A real war where American citizens in their lives are in danger. And so, unfortunately, we have these like lily-livered Republicans who won't stand up to the -- to the President and say listen communicate with the American people the way a grown adult should. Either you have a press conference or your official -- you put out an official briefing. But you remember when he tweeted something about transgenders in the -- in the enforcement.
VELSHI: Right, right. And that felt like policy. The Defense Department is saying we don't know about this.
GREER: The Defense Departments says, wait a minute, if you want us to do it, why is a proper letter like an adult or like a president. So unfortunately though we're not dealing with an adult, we're not dealing with a Republican Congress is actually holding their boss accountable.
VELSHI: But it's not like the President doesn't know this. The President has always expressed his appreciation for Twitter. Let's just play what he had to say about whether he would be President if not for Twitter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that maybe I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Twitter. Twitter is a wonderful thing for me because I get the word out.
If somebody says something about me, I'm able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it. I doubt I'd be here if it weren't for social media to be honest with you.
I think that social media has more power than the money --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: So on a lot of levels, he's probably right in 2018. It maybe does have more power than traditional media. He may not be here because of social media. But in the end, it plays right into his message the one that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not clarify today when asked directly is the media the enemy of the people.
VELSHI: This is his way of saying they are and I work around them and it is effective.
JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER CLINTON ADVISER: Yes, there have always been ways for -- and I feel bad that social media contains the word media because it makes it seem right they might be part of the same thing and they are not. There have always been ways for presidents to communicate directly with the American people. They could stand in the Rose Garden and make a statement. They can have a press conference which -- I mean, President Obama was famous for going on for 18 20 minutes before he took a single question and that was the outrage of the day, how far we have come. Presidents are able by virtue of being the president to communicate without a filter should they use that. So the fact that Trump uses Twitter to do that as opposed to one simply doesn't matter. The words matter because he is the president. And I think Christina made a really important point about the transgender issue. Either these tweets are attempted orders or they are nonsense. There is no opinion when it comes to the President of the United States.
VELSHI: Well, there's no category -- there's no category legally or otherwise called President's opinion.
MCINTOSH: Exactly. He tweeted that he wanted out of the G7 agreement but we finally know today nothing has happened on that.
MCINTOSH: He tweeted that he wanted that to happen but that is not something that actually sets policy in motion. He tweeted that he wanted transgender Americans ban from the military, you can't actually make that happen via Twitter. However, the President thinks he can. He uses those as orders.
GREER: Well -- see, and this is -- this is where you were spot-on. This is a president who doesn't understand the role of the presidency. And so, unfortunately, we don't have a Congress that -- a Republican Congress that it's checking him right? The Founding Fathers said the Congress should serve as a check to the President. The President is an executive branch, they are not a king, and that is not something that Donald Trump --
VELSHI: It happened in the 70s when this was happening to Richard Nixon. Members of Congress understood that continuing to back Richard Nixon was going to cost them something. That is not something Republican members of Congress understand today. And some 30 plus percent of Americans continue to stick by Donald Trump so he's not acting like a president. There are at least a third of Americans who think that's all right.
MCINTOSH: I don't think truly insidious has been happening since the Nixon presidency which is the adoption of the Republican strategy to appeal only to a very racist xenophobic base. That base is getting smaller and smaller but it is more heavily gerrymandered in and calcified. So they -- the Republicans are at -- they're at an impasse. They really do risk political -- their political lives by standing up to him. However, our democracy is at actual at stake and that is the point when you think you might want to say we have a problem --
VELSHI: Do either of you need to show I.D. when you go shopping by the way?
GREER: When I buy lettuce? Absolutely.
VELSHI: That was just a weird one. Thanks to both of you Jess McIntosh and Christina Greer. All right, coming up next, Democrats are slamming new Republican plans to rush Trump's Supreme Court pick through the confirmation process. I'm going to talk to Stephanie Schriock, President of Emily's List.
VELSHI: Today Senate Republicans revealing new plans to push through confirmation hearings next month for Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. That's despite missing hundreds of thousands of Kavanaugh's records from his time in the Bush White House, files that might not be available until October. These are documents that the Republicans themselves demanded just a few days ago. Democrats say these files belong to the American people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: What are they hiding? What are they hiding? Let's be clear, the papers don't belong to Brett Kavanaugh, George Bush or Donald Trump. They belong to the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Democrats also saying Kavanaugh's nomination puts Roe v Wade at risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: They're literally trying to punish women. Didn't President Trump say during the campaign we have to punish them somehow? He does not value women. And so every woman and man in America who cares about women's reproductive freedom and the ability of women to make their own judgments about their own body should be speaking out and fighting hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining me now is Stephanie Schriock, President of Emily's List, a national political group that supports women candidates. Stephanie, thanks for joining me on the show. Look, one great way to fight an imposition on women's rights is to run candidates and have those candidates elected and that is a strategy that you have followed and it's one that may make a lot of sense after the midterm elections. The problem is that this may happen before the midterm elections.
STEPHANIE SCHRIOCK, PRESIDENT, EMILY'S LIST: It's -- that is true. And I think that's part of what we're seeing going on today so we can't -- you know it appears now that we can't get all the documents on Kavanaugh until the end of October. Senator Grassley, the chair of the Judiciary Committees made it clear that he wants to do hearings in September still blocking transparency and refusing to give all of -- all of the American people the opportunity to see what's going on here. Why rush this? It's one month. Wait a month and then oh wait, there's an election. We can imagine why they don't want to wait a month because this election this November could change the majority in the Senate so it looks like a rush job here. But this is a huge mistake. This is for a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court. Every Senator should have access to all of these documents. I don't care which party you're in. It only makes sense to really vet and that's what they should be doing.
VELSHI: So I talked to people who say Roe v Wade is not in danger, it's established law and cases that people have seen on civil rights and affirmative action and gay rights, I mean, there are a lot of people who think he's not going to mess with that.
SCHRIOCK: Except you know, the President has made it clear when he was running and since that he was going to appoint justices that we're going to do just that to strip down Roe v Wade, to pull rights away from women and that's -- we've got it -- you know what, he's -- you know, Trump has done pretty much everything he's promised to do or he's surely attempted. I believe him again this is what he's going to do on top of a lot of other things so you better believe. Roe v Wade is already getting attacked in local courts around the country and district courts.
Legislatures that are controlled by Republicans are pushing through very dangerous laws that the courts thus far in many cases have stopped but if the U.S. Supreme Court tears down Roe v Wade and it appears to me that Kavanagh is the type of Justice who would not stand by that precedent then we've got huge problems and I'm not sure it stops at Roe. And we're talking marriage equality, how far back are we going to go? You know, Griswold was a case that allowed women to get access to birth control so I say all of my sisters and all of the men who -- we need access to birth control. How far is this going to go?
VELSHI: But this country and a lot of women elected a president who said to Chris Matthews before the election that he would criminalize abortion, not simply not support Roe v Wade. This President went much farther than that.
SCHRIOCK: Well, and you -- and the question you asked before was you know, is this really going to be the case? Is it really going to happen and you know, in the last election I think there was a lot of feelings like oh he's just saying these kinds of things. Now we know from 18 months of him being in office that no, he actually believes everything that he has said. He is actually moving forward on all of these promises that we thought maybe were just were you know, outrageous statements to engage the base. Now women across the country know what the truth is and so do men. And this is really going to be you know, it already has been motivating. There's a reason that millions of women marched across this country early in his tenure and those women keep marching. I mean Emily's List has had over 40,000 women sign up --
VELSHI: And we're going to see --
SCHRIOCK: -- to stop this guy.
VELSHI: We'll see the impact of that and the other marches that have occurred again at the ballot box and that's something you're very involved in. But Slates Legal Reporter tweeted this interesting take today on Democrats needing to fight now to save Roe v Wade later. And he said Kavanaugh is going to overturn Roe v Wade. Millions of progressives will take to the streets in protest but if they could seize on that energy now they might stop Kavanaugh and save Roe. I know in a lot of ways that's the sentiment you share because one day when a ruling happens and everybody realizes that basic rights, maybe it's Roe v Wade maybe it's other basic rights that we consider basic now in America, when they slip away everybody will take to the streets and it may be too late.
SCHRIOCK: Well, and that's -- we've got to go now and it is really up to the American people across this country. You know, women and men who care about human rights and equal opportunities have to rise up right now and talk to these Senators, share with them their personal stories, their challenges, their hopes, their opportunities that they want for their future and having access to reproductive --
VELSHI: You think that works so? You that works?
SCHRIOCK: -- among other things. And we are seeing that happen in Maine. We're seeing that happen in a lot. We're seeing that happen across the country and that pressure just got to keep building.
VELSHI: You name two states that have women senators. Does it work elsewhere where people have a very conservative base?
SCHRIOCK: Absolutely. I think it is important to talk to every senator whether you live in Mississippi or Indiana. If you live in Georgia or you live in Washington State. They need to hear what matters to you and this appointment, this lifetime appointment on the court is going to determine Roe v Wade, it is going to determine probably the powers of the presidency, it's going to determine a lot of corruption, it's going to determine a lot of regulations. This is an important thing and this is what we got to get back to these records. We need to vet Kavanaugh and our Senators, our elected officials should have total access of every document that he has been engaged with. It is their job to do a full review and I want to know what are the Republicans trying to hide here. We have got to see these papers.
VELSHI: Stephanie, I want to talk to you about women candidates. We will do that another time as we've run out of time. Stephanie Schriock is the President of Emily's List.
SCHRIOCK: Thank you.
VELSHI: We'll be right back.
VELSHI: Let's go to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The President is getting ready for a rally there any time now. They're warming the crowd up. Last night, he dropped this bombshell that you need photo I.D. to buy groceries. I wonder what he's going to say tonight. That does it for me. I'll see you again starting tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Ari is going to be in tonight for "RACHEL MADDOW" at 9:00 p.m. And "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.
CHRIS MATTEWS, MSNBC HOST: Caught in the swamp. Let's play HARDBALL.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.