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Manafort Defense rests it case. TRANSCRIPT: 8/14/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Manafort Defense rests it case. TRANSCRIPT: 8/14/2018, The Beat w Ari Melber.

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 14, 2018


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- jobs here, and that people see life in Vermont and they aspire to it.


KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: We are going to be keeping a close eye on the returns in the Vermont governor`s race as they come in tonight. And I think it is safe to say we will also be keeping a close eye on Ethan. Remarkable kid.

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

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Hi, Ari. I`m sorry. I have taken 15 seconds of your show.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: No worries. Thank you, Katy.

We have a lot of news developing in our hour right now.

Bob Mueller closing in on Roger Stone. One of his allies now concern after talking to that grand jury.

Also, Donald Trump says Jeff Sessions is not a real attorney general all based on the Russia recusal, explain why that`s so problematic.

But we begin tonight with Bob Mueller`s first criminal trial on the Russia probe and what may now be today the worst day for Paul Manafort yet. He does face the potential of an effective life sentence on those charges if bank fraud and tax fraud. And after two weeks of evidence from Mueller and 27 witnesses, today was going to be the day that everyone started to hear the other side.

When we cover trials, the beginning is usually tougher for the defendant. Because prosecutors lay out their evidence, we hear from the star witnesses, all the worst things the prosecutors found, whether it be from surveillance or a home raid or from other people. All of that piles up.

And then today in this trial would be the day the defense steps up and starts poking holes in the case. And today, Paul Manafort`s defense team didn`t do that. Instead, they rested without calling a single witness, not one.

And as we have reported, they rested without Manafort taking the stand either. Now, today the court heard directly from him for the very first time.

Judge Ellis called him up to the podium, this is a ritual familiar to anyone in court to confirm that the defendant understood. That he, Paul Manafort has a rights to testify. And the judge asked Manafort who of course does hold a law degree if he had made a decision about that right. \

And today, Manafort rose and told Judge Ellis I have decided, your honor, and the judge going through this formal process says, do you wish to testify? And Paul Manafort responded and said no, sir.

And today, Paul Manafort said there -- excuse me, his lawyer said that Paul Manafort`s strategy for all this is quite simple. They don`t think they need a major rebuttal. They don`t think they need to testify because they are arguing that Bob Mueller who in the quote you are about to see is referred to technically as the government has not put up enough evidence.


KEVIN DOWNING, ATTORNEY OF PAUL MANAFORT: Mr. Manafort has rested his case. And he did so because he and his legal team believe that the government have not met its burden of proof.


MELBER: In the U.S. legal system, nothing negative is automatically inferred from the defense declining to introduce evidence or from a defendant declining to take the stand. Those are their rights precisely because the entire burden here is on Mueller and his prosecutors to prove their case. That`s the burden on the government.

But then when you get into the details in this case, Mueller`s team argues they have achieved that through their star witness Rick Gates, through a mountain of other evidence, and through other corroborating witnesses who were granted a type of use immunity to say, yes, we helped Manafort commit these crimes.

So were we are. Tomorrow is the ninth inning of this trial. Closing statements and then the jury deliberates and decides.

There is only a few things left that we don`t know. A little one could get bigger is we don`t know why the judge met privately with the jury for two hours today, all kinds of speculation about that sort of thing. And the other one is that, of course, as always, we don`t know what this jury will do with the evidence they have been presented.

But Paul Manafort`s judgment day is coming. Is he looking for some salvation outside of this courtroom that might only come from a Presidential pardon?

I turn now to Maya Wiley, a former council to mayor of New York City and someone familiar with this kind of cases. A former Watergate special prosecutor Nick Ackerman, and E.J. Dionne of "The Washington Post."

Maya, when you look at this decision, which is I say carefully, does not something we infer anything legally negatively about, but which does look dumb given the overwhelming evidence. How do you interpret it?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNCIL TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I interpret it as the defense doesn`t have a defense. At the end of the day, what we have are a series of witnesses, even before you get to Rick Gates, an accountant -- two accountants and a bookkeeper who literally went through a process with documents, are saying false document, supported a false statement, including false statements to the IRS, but also to banks in terms of what loans they were trying to get for Manafort in order to pay and sustain his very expensive lifestyle. You have emails from Paul Manafort himself saying he did not have foreign bank accounts, right.

So it`s not even just a credibility question because unless you can mount a defense that says those folks are lying or shouldn`t be believed, or the documents themselves that are before you have been falsified or can be interpreted in a different way, you have essentially said you don`t have a defense.

MELBER: Well, let me push you. That`s a factual evidence issue, as you mentioned, that they have a lot of trouble with the facts on the books. But what about calling up witnesses to try to say, deep state, to try to say 13 angry Democrats, to try to have somebody make the case that`s been made out of the courtroom, in some way, even if it`s thin, they didn`t even do that.

WILEY: They didn`t even do that. Look, I don`t think that would have been a winning defense. But to your point, either they -- I think they had to worry a lot about what a prosecution could say going after what evidence or whatever witnesses they would pull forward to bring that. So, you know, remember that the prosecution would get a rebuttal process. That they could cross-examine whatever was put on. And I think when you start to do something that looks to a jury like you are grasping at straws, it doesn`t actually strengthen your case.

MELBER: It could be worse.

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think it would be much worse. I mean, they have really got him coming and going here. The real issue is one of intent and criminal intent because in a tax case, you have to show that somebody intended to cheat on their taxes. Well, they have got him doing that multiple years, understating his taxes in a series of years. But then even worse, they have got him doing just the opposite when he no longer has any money and he needs to go out and steal it from the banks by getting all of these phony bank loans, when he has to overstate what his income is.

So if ever there was a slam dunk case of intent, you have got it between - he has been whipsawed between the taxes and the bank fraud.

MELBER: Well, you just walked through it. Let`s go into detail. Put it up on screen. You are talking about the false income tax returns, of which there is a lot of material that the prosecutors put forward to prove that. The failing to report foreign bank accounts, which is fairly easy to prove if you can show that the bank accounts existed under his name, as Maya was mentioning, and then of course the nine counts of bank fraud. Are these all likely to come back guilty, Nick?

ACKERMAN: I would be shocked if they didn`t. Because they are not only confirmed by what Rick Gates said, but they are all confirmed by what Manafort said. He said it in emails. He said it in memos. He instructed his accountants what to do. He instructed his lawyers what to do. I mean, it is probably the strongest tax case I have ever seen. And I have prosecuted a lot of tax cases. I mean, this is pretty amazing.

MELBER: What makes it strong, that all you have is talking witnesses?

ACKERMAN: Well, you have got talking witnesses, you have got tons of documents. I mean, this is all documented straight from Cyprus into his bank accounts, into his tax returns. You have got the fact that he didn`t check off that he had these foreign accounts. You have got -- it`s a documents that actually bury him here.

It`s his own words in those documents. It`s the tracing of the money from Ukraine through Cyprus, back to the U.S., onto his tax returns where it doesn`t exist. And then you see what he does when he stops making all of this money in the Ukraine. He winds up then having to phony up bank loans by inflating his income. So doing it both ways and the documents showing it both ways and then you have got the summary evidence from the agents that the jury is going to be able to take those charts into the jury room, this is not going to be a long deliberation.

MELBER: Well, you think it`s not going to be a long deliberation, Maya, let`s dig into that. Which is, you do get holdouts on juries. Juries are people. And so, sometimes you have one or two people who kind of say well, I don`t know. I don`t buy it. They are the hardest ones to reason with if they are just big picture, I`m not so sure. I have reasonable doubt.

Walk us through what you would expect the prosecutors hope jurors will do in that jury room with the evidence. Because someone who is speaking vaguely with reasonable doubt is going to have to reason with a room full of people saying, look at these tax forms.

WILEY: Well, so I think Nick is making really important points, particularly on the tax fraud counts, because you actually have documents that Manafort -- where Manafort lied, right. Lied because we know that there are other facts about, you know, falsifying documents, knowing they were falsified. His own bookkeeper and accountants not knowing that he had these foreign accounts and having been directly asked whether he had them and being told in multiple years you have to tell us if you do.

It`s very hard for anyone to argue then to Nick`s point that there -- so that`s what a juror, if there is a holdout juror would have to confront, it`s not just about Rick Gates` credibility because there`s too much that Manafort himself has done.

I think that the -- and I agree generally this is a very strong case, I would be very surprised if there aren`t a whole lot of guilty counts that come out of this. I will say that there are some counts I could imagine some debate on. I think the federal savings bank where there`s a question -- where a juror could raise a factual question about whether the prosecution demonstrated sufficiently that the bank relied on false statements in order to make the loans.

MELBER: Right. Because it becomes of what would they have done?

WILEY: What would they have done? And so, that`s where I think the judge did the right thing by saying that`s a question for the jury. I`m not going to throw these counts out.

MELBER: Right. E.J., I want to go to the Jared Kushner of it all. Because one of the things that people around Manafort have said is, well, OK, maybe he said he was a crook but he was a crook before 2016. He was removed from the campaign. And so what`s the big deal?

And then you have the evidence that`s come up here that I will read to you where Manafort was explicitly trying to push one of his bankers into secretary of the army, an important position, after receiving the beginning of a $16 million loan and pushed it on Jared Kushner who said OK I`m not it.

Now the prosecutors are not alleging that Jared Kushner knew this was a kind of a payoff in Manafort`s mind, although that is the implication, which means even if you didn`t catch it that`s really bad as a way to staff the army -- No?

E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No. I mean, I think that part of the case is another episode of how the administration is kind of grifter city. Because here you have Manafort trying to get a loan when he doesn`t really have the financial situation that justifies it. So he goes to the chairman of the bank, creates this relationship, and then clearly tries to help him get a job in the administration. Writes a memo saying he will advance DT`s agenda.

Now, ironically, I think the defense will try to use that to say there`s nothing fraudulent here. The chairman of the bank approved the loan, and that`s why I agree with Maya that in all of this I think the bank charges may be the ones where he may get some acquittals.

But if I could, I think the defense is relying on two things. One is they eviscerated Rick Gates. They ran what you might have -- what amounts to a negative campaign against him, hoping to catch a juror to saying well, yes, there`s all this paper evidence, but can you believe this guy Gates? So it`s almost classic Trump campaign, don`t look at me. Look at the guy who is against me.

The other is that judge Ellis made a lot of side comments. He was almost like an opinion columnist at Times that were not very kind to the prosecution.

MELBER: Aren`t you an opinion columnist, E.J.?

DIONNE: And I`m an opinion -- maybe he can join this profession instead of that one. But I think that they are hoping that some of those side comments might have gotten to the jury. And again, might create some doubt in their minds that would lead them to an acquittal. Even though, as my colleagues have said, the evidence is really powerful here.

MELBER: Well, I think you make another point, which is juries are often impacted by the tone and the mood and the judge has a very special type of authority in that room. And so some of his withering distaste for things the prosecutors were doing don`t legally mean that the jurors should find guilt or not guilt, but rather he was annoyed with them and it is (INAUDIBLE) process. And a court is also an office place, a workplace like any other where people sometimes get short tempered.

As for the big question, Maya, take a look at President Trump when he was asked about a potential pardon for Manafort.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you pardon Paul Manafort?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: haven`t even -- I haven`t even thought about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about Michael Cohen?

TRUMP: I haven`t thought about any of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you are not ruling it out?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you are not going to rule it out?

TRUMP: They haven`t been convicted of anything. There`s nothing to pardon. It`s far too early to be thinking about it.


MELBER: That was June. And it was true in the traditional pardon process, it would be too early. Most people don`t use preemptive pardons, although the Supreme Court has upheld them. But it`s not going to be too early soon if this jury goes in a certain direction.

Do you think that Paul Manafort`s defense reflects some Hail Mary hope for a pardon?

WILEY: Absolutely. First of all, Donald Trump has signaled in multiple ways that he would very seriously consider pardoning Paul Manafort, one, by some of the other people he has pardoned, Dinesh D`Souza, to name a few.


WILEY: Joe Arpaio.

MELBER: Scooter Libby.

WILEY: Scooter Libby.

MELBER: For obstruction.

WILEY: For obstruction. So what he has done is set a trail of pardons that can only indicated to anyone caught up in this investigation and who may face charges that he will protect them as long as they don`t turn on him.

I think we have seen that play out in multiple ways with other people. So what I think we -- now, Paul Manafort has a problem with the pardon even if he gets it which is that state attorneys general may have criminal charges they might be able to bring for some of these transactions, depending on the state. So it`s not to say that he doesn`t have some exposure.

But I don`t think there`s any question that he must be hoping for this because I can`t figure out any other reason why we haven`t either seen a deal, a plea deal --.

MELBER: Right.

WILEY: Or some more significant defense mounted in this trial.

MELBER: And Nick, if he got a federal pardon, it would deal in this case and potentially moot the D.C. prosecution, but leave him open to federal - I mean, excuse to state prosecution?

ACKERMAN: Right. I mean, he still would be open to money laundering charges in other states where the money passed through. I mean, some - in some instances, it could be even more serious than what he is facing on the federal side.

MELBER: Well, and you have to wonder, depending on the states, if he was hiding all that money from a federal taxes, was he then going and carefully paying all the state taxes?

ACKERMAN: I`m sure he wasn`t.


MELBER: E.J., Maya and Nick, thank you all for being part of our coverage.

Coming up, there is another reason why Bob Mueller is going at Roger Stone and his associates.

Also, Donald Trump now says he doesn`t have a real attorney general. Why Jeff Sessions maybe keeping it real. We are going to speak to one of the top Russia investigators in Congress, Congressman Eric Swalwell.

And there is a controversial billionaire with a new plan to try to get younger people voting in the midterms.

And then later, something different that`s important, new data on dating in the Trump era and how the political divide may be getting more personal.

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


MELBER: While Bob Mueller has now rested in his first trial as special counsel, the one against Paul Manafort. There are new signs tonight Mueller is gathering evidence for another potential trial of a man who worked with Trump far longer than Manafort, Roger Stone.

Well, the grand jury heard from Stone associate Kristin Davis and she is saying number one, she is concern Mueller is coming for Stone, but number two, she doesn`t believe anything bad happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you come away from your session today believing that the investigators are coming for Roger Stone?

KRISTIN DAVIS, TESTIFIED FOR PAUL MANAFORT: I did. I think that there`s cause for concern based on that they just want to believe something happened, which I don`t believe it did.


MELBER: She doesn`t believe it did. Now, she is one of at least seven people connected to Stone who Mueller is interested in. New reports tonight, he is also looking beyond collusion and into Roger Stone`s alleged threats to political activists he described as his intermediary WikiLeaks, Randy Credico. That may seem familiar because Credico first aired those concerns in our interview back in May.


MELBER: Quote "I`m going to take that dog away from you. Nothing you can do about it." I`m paraphrasing. I will prove to the world you are a liar.

RANDY CREDICO, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: He`s afraid I`m going to unload on him.

MELBER: Why is he bringing your dog, who we have on the screen, why is he bringing your dog into this?

CREDICO: Because he is a sick man. He`s delusional.


MELBER: Memories. Roger Stone and his lawyer deny any wrongdoing here. And it probably would take more than only angry texts to make a full obstruction case. And Stone does do something else that`s relevant here. He follows the Trump view that just about any public fight is worth having if it`s good for attention and ratings.


TRUMP: Roger understands that I have always gotten great ratings, whether it`s on "the Apprentice" or virtually any other interview. I think that`s one of the things that`s always fascinated Roger because ultimately it is all about the ratings.


MELBER: That last clip comes from the Netflix documentary "Get Me Roger Stone."

I`m joined by the film`s director, Morgan Pehme. He spent more than five years working with Stone on that documentary project. Also joined by Shelby Holliday, a reporter for "The wall Street Journal" who has been covering this probe and of course, Roger Stone.

You know these people better than most, spent more time with them than most.


MELBER: And everyone notices the carnival aspects. But Bob Mueller has proven himself to be interested in more than the carnival. What do you think is happening at this pressure point?

PEHME: Well, you know, what we have seen is that Bob Mueller doesn`t captain a leaky ship. Anything that`s come out of the probe has come from witnesses who have appeared in it, not from the special prosecutor`s office himself.

So, you know, when the Manafort indictment came down we saw a whole bunch of stuff that we had no idea was out there come to light. And I suspect that if there is an indictment, then we are going to see a lot of pieces of the puzzle that were unknown.

We know with Andrew Miller and with Kristin Davis, these are very close, loyal friends of Roger`s, but more importantly they are people who were scheduling Roger`s appointments, had access to his email, had access to a social media accounts. They are in a position to really attest to where Roger was, what he was doing and when.

MELBER: But do you believe, based on knowing him, that where he was, was less interesting than sometimes where he claimed to be?

PEHME: That`s certainly Roger`s M.O. is that he oftentimes pretends to have a more robust role in nefarious deeds than he actually does. I haven`t seen the smoking gun yet that seems that would place Roger in a whole heap of trouble. But certainly the Mueller investigation, bringing Kristin Davis, Andrew Miller, wanting to bring all these people around Roger in his orbit before a grand jury certainly telegraphs that they`re getting closer and closer to Roger.

MELBER: Shelby, take a listen to Roger`s latest description of what he won`t do.


ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: There is no circumstance in which I intend to be pressured in order to testify against the President. First of all, I have nothing that I could say about him that would be negative. And secondarily, I`m just not going to do that. I wouldn`t rule out cooperating with the special counsel if I can be helpful in some area. But there`s no circumstance under which I would testify against the President.


SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Those two don`t really go together. I mean, he is saying he won`t testify against the President, but he has nothing to testify against. I mean, his arguments are interesting. They change from day-to-day. I would say reporting on him is a fascinating thing because he is a very intelligent, well-spoken, and tricky person. I mean, that`s what he prides himself on.

So anytime you approach him with something, for example the Podesta tweet, he has an explanation for why he sent that tweet and why it`s totally irrelevant to the Mueller investigation. I thought the most telling part of Kristin Davis`s interview. And other interviews that have given by Roger Stone`s associates is that they all say, all these people who talk to Mueller`s team, Mueller is hyper-focused on collusion. That is in stark contrast to what stone says in the press and interviews, that he`s worried about getting hammered for a financial violation or something related to his pact.

Stone is trying to spin this as he can get in trouble for some crime unrelated to collusion. While everyone around him says, no, no, no. It`s all about collusion. It is all about the messages you sent, the tweets that you exchanged, the people you were in contact with, whether it was Julian Assange or Guccifer 2.0. That`s where they are focused on.

MELBER: Well, I think you are raising an important piece of context about there the clues lead as you often do, which is, there are people who are operative in the White House, right, when they are interviewed, the implication when Sean Spicer is interviewed, is that he might know something about all of this kneecapping of the FBI, the firing of James Comey, the witch hunt, the efforts to impede the investigation, which is obstruction. And a lot of Republicans argue, Morgan, that it`s not really fair to take out a sitting President just over the way he deals with the FBI, no matter how terribly.

Shelby points out that Roger is not that. He has zero interaction with President Donald Trump. He has not been seen entering the White House. He has no government role. Everything that Mueller is looking at here goes back to what they did during 2016. Of course, you were there. And you have told us before that there wasn`t a ton of indication he was actively spinning out some Trump campaign-backed Russian collusion.

PEHME: In terms of Roger, you know, Roger was always evasive about how often he communicated with Trump the candidate. He did say that he was writing memos in, you know, very simple one-page memos so Trump could digest them. That he was submitting to candidate Trump on a regular basis.

As I said on your show, he did seek to meet with Julian Assange, Roger Stone. I do not have any evidence that that meeting actually took place. What we have seen this kind of communication with WikiLeaks and with Guccifer so far it is very -- seems very incomplete. There`s nothing there that again, indicates there was this master plan.

So, you know, it`s very, you know, I`m as fascinated as anybody to find out how this is going to play out. Because there are certainly -- we are seeing what I feel like is a corner of the puzzle, and Bob Mueller is looking at the picture on the box.

MELBER: Will there be a sequel?

PEHME: We will see how it goes.

MELBER: We are almost out of time. Final thought.

HOLLIDAY: I just think one of the things that`s fascinating is it might be how Roger Stone interacted online, the messages he was spreading coincide with what the Russian trolls were spreading, whether it was suppressing the black vote or claiming voter fraud. And I think a lot of his communications happened online. Even though he said he is somebody who conducts business by phone. He emails a lot of people. He text messages a lot of people. He was pretty active on social media. And this could come down to that.

MELBER: Right. And all the dealings with Mr. Credico who are also very recent text that go to how he approached the investigation.


MELBER: Morgan Pehme and Shelby Holliday, thank you both.

Up ahead, Donald Trump says Jeff Sessions isn`t real. We will explain in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Donald Trump has used public attacks to drive all kinds of senior people out of federal law enforcement. He didn`t personally fire the number two FBI official Andrew McCabe, or the investigator Peter Strzok who was terminated from the FBI just yesterday, but he set the scene. And he has at it again today saying his handpicked nominee, Jeff Sessions is not a quote "real attorney general," part of a long term strategy to undermine or oust him.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: An out of control, livid President called the attorney general sitting there in the oval office with him an idiot and demanded his resignation on the spot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President called him beleaguered and slammed his AG.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here again you have the President saying, asking where is attorney general Jeff Sessions in all of this? He then attacks Jeff Sessions, the attorney general by saying this, our AG is scared stiff and missing in action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does the President continue to do this? Why is he attacking his own attorney general?


MELBER: Trump wanted Sessions to stay involved in the Russia probe so he could control it and protect the President. After all, without the sessions recusal there may not have ever been a full-throated Mueller probe.

So you have Sessions, McCabe, Comey. They are all, also witnesses in this Mueller probe as well. In fact, my colleague Rachel Maddow noting the heat on corroborating witnesses is real.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Comey has backup, , right? Comey with his FBI training committed the President`s exact words he says, to writing right after that conversation happened and then he told all these people crucially at the time so they can corroborate what Comey said at the time about what happened, right? Well, it`s taken them a little while to get all the way through this list but the only one still there is David Bowdich. Once you work your way through all the witnesses who might testify otherwise, well, then, of course, you`re free to tell any story you want about what happened between the President and the FBI Director. And if all the cooperating witnesses have been picked up and blown up, who`s left to say what happened there at all? Who`s left to say otherwise now?


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I`m joined now by California Congressman Eric Swalwell who served in the Intelligence the Judiciary Committees and Michael McFaul former U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Congressman, your view of these attacks on Sessions and whether they`re part of a coordinated effort to not only get the kind of leadership he wants but as Rachel and others have pointed out to also undercut potential witnesses.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Good evening, Ari. To me, it suggests that President Trump is running out of new ideas and new ways to obstruct this investigation. He`s just going back to the old trope of attacking Attorney General Sessions. I think this is because you know, the walls are closing in, a crucial decision point awaits him. Will he testify to Bob Mueller or won`t he? And I think in desperation he`s trying to make the investigation go away.

What really worries me though, Ari, is that the deafening silence from Republicans, people who serve with Jeff Sessions who are just saying nothing and allowing this President to continue to try and obstruct the investigation and that they will do nothing to speak up and defend it.

MELBER: I wonder Ambassador how you think it all relates to the fact that Donald Trump`s only consistent vector is whether someone is being helpful or hurtful to him and his own estimation, a story that we don`t have in our rundown tonight because there`s not much to it is the ongoing Omarosa feud. But there is an overlap in the sense the Jeff Sessions has received different treatment from Trump only based on whether he`s doing things that Trump things are good for him personally, not for the country, not for the DOJ not for policy. Here`s Donald Trump`s past history with Sessions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jeff is an amazing man and working with him I know we will make these incredible strides that our country has to make in restoring safety and justice for all of our people.

He is highly respected in Washington because he`s as smart as you get, Senator Jeff Sessions.

One of the great men, one of the most highly respected men in the United States Senate.


MELBER: How does that figure into the way people view these new attacks?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, it just suggests that everything is about loyalty to the President. It suggests that nothing about the rule of law or checks and balances or the oath that all those individuals take to the United States of America, not to the President. You know, I served at the White House for three years with President Obama and two things are strikingly different. One is just how many people he`s turned against right? And when you have so many people that have resigned or he`s turned against the president, that makes everybody nervous about working for this president today.

And the second thing is you know, I remember January 21st, 2009 we all put our hands up and we took an oath to the United States of America. We didn`t take an oath to President Obama or Vice President Biden and that fundamental difference I just don`t think President Trump understands.

MELBER: And Congressman, I want to read from a Republican who makes an interesting observation about this unique role that Jeff Sessions finds himself in as a beleaguered recused Attorney General in Russia. It says, perhaps Sessions is single-handedly keeping America from falling into an unprecedented state of lawlessness. He`s fully aware the turmoil that would be caused if he resigned. Reince Priebus and others have talked about how he did consider resigning. Most people in this situation wouldn`t want to keep working and yet -- and yet he`s decided to stay.

What do you think that says about Jeff Sessions and about the limits on Donald Trump who brags and boasts that he doesn`t follow any rules, that no one can make them do anything and he is now the President and yet he doesn`t have to tweet about it? He would be able today to fire Jeff Sessions if he chose to. Clearly, there`s something holding him back I wonder what you think that is.

SWALWELL: Yes, well Ari, let`s not give Jeff sessions too much credit here because he, after all, did have undisclosed contacts with the Russians and he gets to stay and do what he`s always wanted to do which is to tear apart families, deport immigrants, separate children at the border, and prioritize the enforcement of marijuana prosecution, so I don`t want to you know give this guy a parade just yet. I also --

MELBER: Right, you`re saying that holding on to a very powerful job isn`t itself a sacrifice.

SWALWELL: Right and I also would hope that if he were fired that the Senate would not confirm an attorney general who would end the Mueller investigation. So, again, I think the reason Donald Trump is not firing him is he`s very in touch with poll numbers and popularity contests and he knows it would be wildly unpopular and it would be direct to impeachment proceedings and I don`t think he wants to go there.

MELBER: You think that although Donald Trump claims to go in directions on this, he`s actually testing, and he thinks or he`s come under the fear that to go that far to remove Sessions to try to get an unrecused attorney general to kneecap the probe itself you think would actually lead to impeachment?

SWALWELL: Especially this close to the election, yes.

MELBER: Ambassador?

MCFAUL: I don`t have a good answer to that question. It seems to me that he knows that his options of firing him, I mean, your point, Ari, he has the presidential authority to do that, that but he chooses not to suggests that he doesn`t have a plan B and maybe he`s just stuck with the current equilibrium that he`s put himself in. But the tragedy of all this, is the rule of law, is the respect for the United States government, the institutions that normally don`t behave in this way and normally a President of the United States does not talk about his attorney general in the way that President Trump does today.

MELBER: Certainly not, and so it both shows what he`s doing that`s concerned so many people and that Mueller may ultimately use as evidence and also the limits on him that something may be working if he understands there are limits to some degree. Congressman Eric Swalwell and Ambassador McFaul, thank you both. Up ahead, we have new numbers exclusive to THE BEAT on socializing and dating in the Trump era but first, there are elections tonight in four states. There`s a billionaire Democratic donor who says it`s time to do something bigger to get young people voting.


MELBER: There are primary elections in four different states today. The first results will be coming in minutes tonight. Democrats do hope to set the stage for a big night that will lead them to the midterms. They`ve got divisions of their own though, that`s what primaries are all about. There is a split with infighting over party leadership and whether Democrats need to do more to show they have a new generation beyond just being anti-Trump.

Take a look at this. There`s a billionaire Democratic donor. You may have heard of Tom Steyer. He`s pledging $10 million to try to mobilize young voters.


TOM STEYER, DEMOCRATIC DONOR: We`re in a fight to save the soul of America. In this moment of moral and constitutional crisis, why didn`t party leaders stand up?


MELBER: He`s talking about Democrats there and polls show that only 15 percent of Democratic voters really support Nancy Pelosi fully. 51 percent of Democrats -- excuse me --- 51 Democrats in the House now say they won`t necessarily support her if they win back the House in November, the fight over strategy, the fight over Trump, the fight over the future.

Meanwhile, there are untraditional candidates cropping up. Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti says Democrats need a fighter.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER OF STORMY DANIELS: What I fear for this Democratic Party that I love so much is that we have a tendency to bring nail clippers to a gunfights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has Democratic leadership been strong enough Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer?

AVENATTI: I think they`ve been strong enough but I think admittedly that it`s time for a change.


MELBER: Joining me now is a political pro, Alicia Menendez is Contributing Editor at Bustle and has been around Democratic politics. Her father Senator Menendez is running for reelection in New Jersey. Nice to see you.


MELBER: You re you are young if I may say so.

MENENDEZ: Oh, thank you. I don`t get that much anymore. I appreciate it.

MELBER: Well, and you look at this situation, Tom Steyer wants young people to run, Michael Avenatti may be laughed at by some and cheered on by others, he`s certainly untraditional. How much of the Democratic platform has to be bigger than anti-Trump.

MENENDEZ: OK, so let`s take a big step back because I think you`re right. When we talk about young people, that means something different to everyone. So Tom Steyer is going after Millennials, those of us who were born 1982 to 2000 so that`s a wide range. That`s 18-year-olds to 36-year- olds. And so I think very often when we talk about us as voters, people imagine us like running around in backpacks like children when in reality we`re starting families, we want to buy homes, many of us are saddled with student loan debt. And so those issues are no longer youth issues, those are just basic middle-class American issues and because this is --

MELBER: Not just the backpack may be a stylish sani bag.

MENENDEZ: You know, a sani if you want to. I mean this is the largest most diverse generation in American history. And so the power as a voting bloc is immense. The challenge is this is a largely transient group so you not only have to register people you have to re-register people. But Steyer`s people believe that they have districts where this could be the swing vote.

MELBER: In politics, as you know, anything under 40 is considered younger voters and the most consistent voters are seniors. And so there`s always this divide, right? One thing that I think surprises people because there`s a mythology that oh well the younger you are the more concerned you are about Donald Trump and yet look at this from Reuters over the last two years, support for Democrats over Republicans in Congress slipping by nine points. Does that surprise you?

MENENDEZ: It does in some ways when you talk about how progressive this group is. But I also think 2016 showed us that young people Millennials in particular really want Democrats to articulate what the Democratic economic platform, what their vision for America is. And so it now becomes incumbent upon the Democratic Party going into 2018 but also going into 2020 not to rely simply on Trump the villain but to have a message of their own to articulate.

MELBER: We spoke to Michael Avenatti actually in one of our podcast interviews and he talked about why he is eager to potentially run against Trump. Take a listen.


AVENATTI: I`m smarter than this guy. I have a bigger heart than this guy. And I think it -- I have a hell of a lot more courage than this guy. I don`t think there`s a chance in hell that he`d like to go up against me in 2020.


MELBER: Whether or not he runs, would you advise Democratic candidates to campaign with him during these midterms?

MENENDEZ: That is a good question. I mean he certainly has some celebrity that can attract a crowd and I think it raises the bigger question going into 2020 which is do Democrats need a celebrity kind? I mean, you can argue that Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, those are all people who are coming into 2020 with an element to celebrity. These are coming off of Barack Obama who ends up being this rock star candidate and this rock star president Donald Trump who is mostly known to the American people through his reality television show. Do people want to go back to having someone who is a legislator run for president?

MELBER: I feel like you answered a question with a question.

MENENDEZ: I did. That`s the way I do. Alicia Menendez, as always thank you for joining the table. Up ahead, something a little different but interesting. Dating in this Trump era. Political division shaping the way people connect. We`re going to have a bipartisan discussion with Liz Plank and Madison Gesiotto on THE BEAT next.


MELBER: We`re back with a look at how dating is actually changing in this Trump era political divisions as sharp as ever and I`m joined tonight for this discussion by two people with opposing political views. Liz Plank and Madison Gesiotto, but first think about how this played out when millions saw the political dating dynamic on this season of The Bachelorette. The final couple Becca and Garrett got together despite their opposing politics. Garrett had been criticized for liking controversial conservative posts on Instagram.


GARRETT YRIGOYEN, CONTESTANT, THE BACHELORETTE: It was going against what she stands for and that made it really hard on us as a couple.

BECCA KUFRIN, AMERICAN PUBLICIST: That was a major thing that we had to talk about early on at the very beginning of our relationship.

YRIGOYEN: I was really worried about it that I might lose her from that but I feel like she knew who I was as a person and that I didn`t stand behind those lies.`


MELBER: Tonight we have actually some exclusive new data on how this is playing out across the nation a year and a half into the Trump presidency. OkCupid reports they`ve seen a 64 percent increase in dating profiles that proactively mentioned politics since just last year. Another dating Web site called PlentyOfFish says 65 percent of Democrats say they will not start conversations with their political opposites. That number slightly lower for Republicans using the site about 52 percent say they won`t start those kinds of conversations.

OkCupid also notes that since Trump`s victory they`ve seen an increase, 40 percent of users who say they would prefer "similar politics" over "good sex" and 34 percent of PlentyOfFish users say they`d rather have "bad sex for the rest of their lives than date a Trump supporter." These are real news topics we just report them. I am joined by Liz Plank a Senior Producer for Vox and Madison Gesiotto on the Trump Campaign Advisory Board.

Liz, what are these numbers tell you and is it concerning that so many people are not open-minded in this way or does it make sense because it reflects their values?

LIZ PLANK, SENIOR PRODUCER, VOX: Right. I mean, I think Republican or Democrat, were all DTF, were all down to face the tax code, right? So it doesn`t really matter where we stay on the political spectrum. I think we can have conversations about this kind of stuff but this new data is similar to the data that we saw you know, even leading up to the election. I actually went to the RNC in 2016 and set up a Democrat and a Republican on a blind date.

MELBER: We pulled that in our research which I don`t think you even knew. Let`s take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you voting for a Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, probably. What about you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m rooting not for Donald Trump. I actually would be fine if my taxes were raised if it meant that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re such a goodie-two-shoes --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m just saying. Wouldn`t you -- would you really --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I get a little bit more wine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the cop tells me to do something, I`m going to do it. I have no -- I have no problems with the cops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How often do interact with a cop?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I interacted with them quite a bit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: White man are not often stopped and frisked on the street regularly.


PLANK: There were conversations that I think both of them have not had about the policies that they stand for and more importantly the reasons why they stand for them. That conversation is rare.

MADISON GESIOTTO, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: On a first date I actually am turned off if someone wants to only talk about politics with me considering it`s what I do most of the time during the day. I want to hear about what are their religious values, what are their moral values, you know what do they want in their future and hopefully, it`s not just surrounding whether or not they like Donald Trump.

MELBER: Would you be open to potentially dating across the aisle?

GESIOTTO: I would.

MELBER: Politically.

GESIOTTO: Yes, I would and I have.

MELBER: And you have and you are a pretty recognizable Trump person. If somebody looks into you at all they`re going to know you`re part of the --

GESIOTTO: Well, OK, let me say, I would and I have but when I was in law school, I got asked on a first date by somebody. I said yes. We set up the date Thursday. I have no idea his political views, obviously, he knew mine. We caught one morning to a text with a picture of myself wearing a make America great again hat from this guy saying he can`t stand for this and he`s canceling the date.


GESIOTTO: So I got canceled on. He did try to come back later and ask me to do it again. I said no at that point.

MELBER: Is it a sign though that something has changed and that Donald Trump is partly responsible for it because I think it is a fair and factual observation that he is not a bridge builder and so there`s a reaction to that where we see more Democrats than Republicans saying they don`t want to go with the other side but that`s partly because they feel quite clearly a year and a half in he is attacking the other side?

PLANK: And so it climate of fear, right? Democrats I think are just progressives generally, are less I think willing to date across the aisle and more generally even have you know, conversations with people across the aisle because they feel you know, afraid and they feel attacked as you said. And I think that`s also you know, something that I think Republicans are better at. They have a lot -- they`re happy to have conversations with people that don`t agree with them.

GESIOTTO: And I sit down and talk to a lot of people I know and friends specifically that are Democrats, it`s not that we want different things, it`s we think differently about how to get there. I think that when we don`t sit down with people that we disagree with, we never get the chance to really see those similar things that we feel we want.

MELBER: I very much appreciate you both being here. Madison Gesiotto and Liz Plank, thank you so much.



MELBER: An update on the big story that anchored tonight`s show and will be even bigger tomorrow because we are headed into a pivotal day in Paul Manafort`s trial. Closing arguments begin tomorrow which means as soon as the end of the day tomorrow this jury could begin deliberating on the fate of the former chair of the campaign of the Donald Trump presidency. Jared Kushner`s name has come up as we reported today, and tomorrow we will start to get clues as to what this jury is going to do with this very important case. We will have special coverage as I mentioned tomorrow. As for tonight, that does it for us. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.



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