Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 6, 2018 Guest: Mara Gay; David Corn; Richard Painter; Sheldon Whitehouse; John Feeley, Tony Schwartz, Alyssa Milano
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. I`m going to hand it over to you quickly but Ari, I was told today if I didn`t quote a little shaggy to you, then I wasn`t doing my job. Because as you know, everybody in the administration is singing Shaggy. It wasn`t me.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: It wasn`t me. Chuck, anytime you`re quoting Shaggy is an interesting day, I guess it depends what`s being denied.
TODD: There you go.
MELBER: Thank you, Chuck Todd.
Our top two stories on THE BEAT tonight, number one, Democrats throwing down in ways we may have never seen on the Judiciary Committee before to try to stop Trump`s Supreme Court nominee. A member of that Judiciary Committee joins me live later this hour, it is important.
Also, the other top story, you probably know what it is, these reports of an ominous boiling point inside the White House, Donald Trump being reportedly described as livid, as volcanic, as spurring a "Total meltdown" inside the White House and it`s all over the story that really sweep the nation that one of his own senior officials has gone rogue and basically chewed him out in this unusual essay, ringing the alarm bell in the pages of "The New York Times."
So take a look. At this hour, I can tell you that piece remains the most read item at "The New York Times" and across much of the internet`s news section, with everyone asking who did it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: The inside job, who wrote that blistering op-ed laying bear a president on the edge? A lot of speculation that maybe it`s Mike Pence, maybe it`s the vice president.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL: It`s easy to dismiss most of the cabinet right off the bat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A high ranking official could be one of a thousand people in the government.
SEN. NANCY PELOSI, CALIFORNIA: It probably won`t take long for us to find out who wrote it, who has denied it already, the vice president. That was my first thought.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, the essay did not reveal the kind of secret details or any of the criminality that`s associated with Watergate. But in one way it has consumed this political class today, much the way the guessing game consumed a different era`s political class about deep throat. It`s worth recalling how the actual source who was deep throat famously denied that in the paper, former FBI official Mark Felt. He loudly denied that.
And you see here the denials today, many Trump officials from Mike Pence and 20 others have rushed out these official statements, that includes cabinet members, Senior White House aides who interact with the president, even ambassadors who felt the need to say "It wasn`t me." Now, if you hear people these days in the Trump era, even on these big news nights say "It seems like nothing matters," or you hear people question whether whistleblowers or criticism or journalism itself matters, think about what`s happening right now.
This is a night where the impact is clear. These things do matter. The allegations and the arguments written out by someone concerned, and handed over to "The New York Times" are rocking Washington and maybe the nation. The president is basically calling for the arrest of an anonymous member of his own administration which the courts would almost certainly prevent as illegal. Everyone is seemingly pressing for more details, whether they liked the piece or didn`t.
And the journalist who actually knows the identity of this mystery leaker, the editor of "The New York Times" now publicly confirming they communicated directly with the author while holding back any hints.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BARBARO, HOST, THE DAILY: How many people at The Times know who their writer is?
JIM DAO, OP-ED EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: I can`t tell you. I`m not going to tell you an exact number. Let me just say that it is a very small number.
BARBARO: And have you heard from the writer since the piece was published?
DAO: I have. And I can`t really convey the --
BARBARO: Sure. I just wonder if that person was surprised by the reaction.
DAO: You know, it`s a good question, and I`m not quite sure how surprised they were.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Could imagine the intrigue inside "The New York Times" building. In a moment, I`ll be joined by someone intimately involved with that at "The New York Times."
The White House reportedly hunting for this author, and there are hints the person was not alone which, of course, is part of why this matters, that`s what they argue. "The Washington Post" separately reporting Trump aides and allies are texting each other, "The sleeper cells have awoken." Others warning that if the piece was supposed to be good for democracy, it could backfire. Official telling Politico, "If the goal was to moderate Trump`s behavior, it will do the opposite."
Now, a few Republican members of Congress have said they aren`t surprised by the anonymous report. The party`s leaders are saying, "Well, the main takeaway is this person should go."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They ought to do the honorable thing, then they ought to resign.
PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: If you`re not interested in helping the president, you shouldn`t work for the president as far as I`m concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is a fair point. Every president is entitled to a policy staff that supports their policies. But there is something bigger going on as well. Democrats today saying the real problem is that in the wave of national security crises, of military officials talking about undermining, avoiding or contradicting the president`s orders, and, of course, the serious allegations of criminality that both have been made and some proven in court, amidst all that, this Congress doesn`t hold this president accountable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The Republicans in Congress have enabled so much of the mayhem that exists in the White House to occur without any comment. Some in the White House think that by correcting this behind the scenes is a consolation, I don`t think it`s good enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As I mentioned, I`m joined by Mara Gay who`s a member of "The New York Times" editorial board and David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones. Great to have you both. You work in an interesting building right now.
MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I do, although I can confirm that --
MELBER: You`re not involved.
GAY: -- I am not one of the small number of people.
MELBER: The small number of who knows.
GAY: Right. Despite many entreaties by my mother and friends and colleagues, I do not know the answer to who wrote this.
MELBER: That`s Ms. Gay, is that right, your mother?
GAY: My mom, yes.
MELBER: I have the same question as your mom, I`m sure, what if anything can you tell us about that, and also why do you think this matters and do you think "The New York Times" knew what it had on its hands?
GAY: I think that we certainly knew what we had. One thing I will say is, I`ll take this opportunity, I`m on the editorial board. This was published by the op-ed section, we are separate. However --
MELBER: But you both have editorial in your name?
GAY: That`s true. It confuses many people but we are different.
MELBER: Because op-ed stands for opposite editorial.
GAY: That`s exactly right. Whereas the editorial board gives the opinion of the newspaper and that`s why it`s unsigned. But in any case, you know, the reason this matters is -- and I actually want to -- I think usually we want to get people on the record. So the ideal is always to have people put their names to things. But there`s been an unexpected benefit to actually having this be anonymous, I believe.
GAY: Which is that instead of, you know, picking away and dissecting the value that a specific individual would provide to, you know, if this, for example, it`s not, but if it had been Mattis, right, we would be saying, well, is he really qualified to make this statement, so on and so forth. But instead, this anonymous op-ed has become indicative of a larger, broader constituency within the White House, that it`s more than one person, right?
So the conversation is exactly where it should be, which is why are there people who are good Americans in this White House who are terrified of the president? And that`s exactly what the conversation should be. And it also gives cover to members of Congress who wants to do their job because, remember, in that op-ed, you had the writer of the op-ed say specifically, "Listen, members of the cabinet considered invoking the 25th Amendment to start to remove the president."
GAY: Now, that was over, I think, a year ago, the writer said. So, therefore, in other words, what`s wrong -- that`s in the White House. What`s wrong with the members of Congress who aren`t doing their job?
MELBER: Well, I think you just put your finger on it, right, David, which is the people closest to it have the front row seat, they`re terrified of the dumpster fire, and they`re taking these extraordinary measures. Now, David, you know sometimes I like to work with analogies to understand the wild world we`re in. You can have a debate about whether to put the dumpster fire out with a fire extinguisher or a blanket to deny it oxygen or regular old water, you know.
And so there`s been a ton of discussion about whether this was the exact right move, blanket versus fire extinguisher but the larger key point that is being backed up I think tomorrow`s reporting and "Axios" is reporting already the senior official today saying, "Look, a lot of us wish we were the writer. I hope Trump knows. Maybe he does. There are dozens and dozens of us." Let me repeat that, quote, "Dozens and dozens of us."
These are people reaching out -- and "Axios" is known as often taking leaks of a friendly sort, pro-administration leaks as well, these are people reaching out to anyone who will listen that this is a dumpster fire.
DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: But I do think that it`s incumbent on people who see a dumpster fire to come forward and say we have a dumpster fire. Not to, you know, pretend it`s not there, or not to even just make an anonymous call to the police. So I think there`s a dumpster fire, quick.
MELBER: Not to say, "Oh, well, maybe it`s a garbage candle, maybe we need light when really it`s a full-blown dumpster fire.
CORN: I mean I was interviewed today by a journalist from Poland. And he said, "Given what`s in the Woodward book, given what`s in the anonymous story, given what`s reported for over 18 months now, none of this is new, you know, Trump`s ignorance and his erratic behavior. How can this man still be president?"
I had to explain our constitution to him but the real issue here is if you think the president is a threat of this nature, you know, saying we`re going to do our best to keep him contained, I mean this guy has his finger in the nuclear button. I don`t know how you contain him other than tackling him at some point.
MELBER: Well, you raise two points. I want to play some senators --
CORN: People come forward and talk about this publicly and put their name to it.
MELBER: Right. David, you raised two points. One, which is that maybe you`ve got suitors in Poland, and us American television hosts should feel jealous. And if that`s what you`re trying to do, fine. We want you to ourselves, David.
CORN: Not my intent. Not my intent.
MELBER: Number two, more seriously, you referenced the fact that this is known. Of course, that`s a matter of I would say widespread debate. There are plenty of people in the country, we`ve seen it in the polling and in other measures who say, "Look, Donald Trump is `Different.` He`s a disruptor." But they don`t have the view. They have not accepted the conclusion that this is old news, that it`s this bad which is a funny thing -- I`m going to go to you but let me play some senators and then to you and then Mara some Senators on the Republican side saying, "Yes, we knew this."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, ARIZONA: Well, there wasn`t much new information there. I hope that more will come out publicly.
I mean I think this is what all of us have understood to be the situation from day one.
SEN. BEN SASSE, NEBRASKA: It`s just so similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week. So it`s really troubling. And yet, in a way, not surprising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: David and then Mara.
CORN: That`s true. I agree with everything they said. And we have a fossilized political culture at the moment where it`s basically impossible to convince people to believe something they don`t want to believe, which is why the only chance you ever breaking through that is to come forward publicly and say something.
Because an anonymous source, as you know, can be dismissed by Trump and others as being false, phony, not real. But if true significant players in the administration came forward and said this is real, here are examples, we need to stop this, that would put a little more pressure on those do- nothing Republicans and might sway the seven people out there in America who still are persuadable and that would be important.
GAY: Let`s just say that there are a lot of ways to do the right thing right now and step up. And I`m just glad that this person and others are in the White House.
MELBER: David Corn, I want to thank you. Mara, stay with me because I want to ask you something else.
But I`m bringing in Richard Painter. When you look at the mystery and the finger pointing, the key question is what is this person trying to accomplish. One thing they did, as my colleague Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, is expose these internal debates about the president`s fitness.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Those 25th Amendment discussions in the president`s cabinet may have been secret before but they are public now on purpose because of somebody who works at the senior levels of the Trump administration. I know you are sick of hearing the word unprecedented when it comes to this president in this administration, but that word is not being overused in this administration. It is apt.
And when the previously unimaginable keeps happening, we do need to think urgently and imaginatively about how our country comes out whole and responsible and constitutionally intact on the other side of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I want to bring Richard Painter into the conversation, Mara`s still with me. Richard, your answer to Rachel`s question?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Well, this is a dumpster fire. We`ve known that for a long time now. And we`ve had people come forward anonymously. We`ve had other people come forward and put their name to it. This op-ed simply restates a lot of what we`ve heard before. We`ve had two books written About this administration, Fire and Fury and the Woodward book Fear, lots of stories along these lines.
So I don`t think we need to know the identity of this person to know that we have a serious problem. This just reaffirms what we`ve known all along. This is a dumpster fire. It`s a dangerous dumpster fire. It`s in plain view, in plain view of the United States Congress, which insists on doing absolutely nothing about it. And it`s very dangerous.
And it`s spreading. And it`s a dumpster fire with nuclear weapons. I would think that the American people would be very, very concerned and eager to replace a Congress that wants to sit around and do nothing about it while this is raging out of control.
MELBER: And so, Richard, if you look at that, and you`re a former candidate who had served in the Republican administration and ran as a Democrat, if the Democrats do make gains or even take back the House, what is the responsible way to deal with this?
If constitutional mechanisms are not used, if the 25th Amendment, which has literally never been used and requires the cabinet, and the Mueller investigation does not lead to what you`ve stated you think is a likely remedy that you believe would be justified of impeachment, if you take those two things off the table, what else do you think a responsible Congress should do given what we`ve learned, what was in this piece yesterday?
PAINTER: I don`t think impeachment is off the table. We ought to have hearings at the House and Senate Judiciary Committee as we did in 1973 with respect to President Nixon and the goings on in his administration. This is a lot more dangerous than President Nixon. We`ve got a foreign adversary involved, the Russians, we`ve got a president with serious mental stability issues, demonstrable mental stability issues.
Whereas Nixon, I think those issues only arose in the last few weeks of his administration. It`s a very dangerous situation. They ought to be having hearings. And this shouldn`t be a Democrat versus Republican thing. And I`ve seen Democrats run around and say "Well, you shouldn`t talk about impeaching the president. We rather talk about kitchen table issues and that type of nonsense."
And, of course, the Republicans, they don`t want to talk about impeaching the president because he`s their own political party. It`s a lot of partisan nonsense going on here. And both parties ought to be taking seriously their duties, their constitutional duties and the House and Senate, to excise oversight. And that includes the impeachment clause of the constitution and yes, the 25th Amendment, even though that`s only triggered initially by the vice president and the cabinet. Congress has a role.
MELBER: Let me go to Mara briefly. What will be the bombshell op-ed tomorrow?
GAY: If I told you, I`d have to kill you. No, I really don`t know. I just think that it`s really -- this is a great reminder that anybody who has any platform to speak out in favor of the right thing and constitutional democracy, whether you be a member of Congress, a voter, a church, or someone who works in the White House, has a responsibility to do so right now, or a teacher.
MELBER: Right, yes. And I think that`s why this does feel like an important moment. We`ve seen that in the reaction. Mara, Richard, thank you both.
Coming up, Brett Kavanaugh grilled about his statements on Roe, whether he was caught misleading the Senate. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was in that hearing, joins me live next. And later, we`ll hear from the actress and activist Alyssa Milano about choice and women`s issues in this confirmation hearing.
Later, should anonymous go public? We have an exclusive interview with an announcer who did just that, resigning in protest over Donald Trump`s policies.
And also on our special show tonight, the co-author of the art of the deal, Tony Schwartz talking about Trump`s mindset and why the word "Crazy town" comes up so much. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Democrats going hard at Trump`s Supreme Court nominee today, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is about to join me live.
Today`s hearing was shaped by a revelation about Brett Kavanaugh`s positions and statements about Roe v. Wade because, in a leaked 2003 e- mail, he actually questioned a central claim he`s made this week that the ruling is settled. Let me read it to you, "I`m not sure all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law at the Supreme Court since the court can overrule its precedent." And that is basically at odds with Kavanaugh`s emphasis at least yesterday when he said Roe is a kind of a double precedent, which Senator Feinstein seized on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, CALIFORNIA: This has been viewed as you saying that you don`t think Roe is settled. Do you believe it is correctly settled?
BRETT KAVANAUGH: I thought that was not quite an accurate description of legal, all legal scholars because it referred to all. To your broader point, Roe v. Wade is an important precedent in the Supreme Court, he`s been reaffirmed many times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is a big difference, of course, if it`s a super precedent. That`s what he`s saying this week. now, the other question (INAUDIBLE) denying he spoke to anyone at a key law firm of Trump`s former attorney that was at one time dealing with it. Senator Harris said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know of a conversation that Brett Kavanaugh had with the Kasowitz Law Firm?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, CALIFORNIA: I have good reason to believe there was a conversation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you basing that on?
HARRIS: Information that I`ve received that`s pretty reliable. And I asked him a clear question and he couldn`t give a clear answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And Senator Whitehouse says Kavanaugh should recuse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAVANAUGH: Senator, the question of recusal is something that is governed by precedent an, governed by rules.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, RHODE ISLAND: What possibly greater influence could there be on who is in the seat that you`re nominated to than the nomination of the president to that seat?
KAVANAUGH: So two points, if I could, Senator. First, I`ve said already I don`t believe it appropriate in this context to make decisions and recusal is a decision on a case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As I mentioned, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is here live after a quite a day. Senator, within these hearings this week, have you seen anything that you view as disqualifying for Judge Kavanaugh to be elevated to the Supreme Court?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, he certainly hasn`t lifted any of the clouds of doubt about his candidacy, particularly that he`s being sent there as the president specifically said to overturn Roe v. Wade. And second that he`s being sent there to protect the president from ongoing criminal investigations.
MELBER: Well, Senator, let`s take each of those. You`ve been pushing hard questions. And we`re looking at live footage there as the testimony continues. On Roe, since you mentioned it, do you think he is misleading your committee when he says it`s a super-precedent based on what the new e- mail reveals?
WHITEHOUSE: I think he`s being very coy and doing his very best to leave himself room to move to overrule Roe. There is a -- it`s hard to pin him down on terms, but if you begin with precedent, and then improve to precedent, on precedent, and then go to settled law, and then finally go to correctly decided settled law. That`s kind of how the spectrum goes.
And he won`t say that Roe was correctly decided. He will say that Brown v. Board of Education is correctly decided and he`ll say that other cases are correctly decided. But he leaves himself that window to overrule Roe and he has been very slick about dodging around that.
MELBER: Let`s be direct because these things can get rather convoluted. Senator, are you saying that he is avoiding committing to upholding Roe because that would ultimately be perjury before the Senate if he then overturned Roe and made it on the court?
WHITEHOUSE: Well, I think he`s more trying to avoid that in order to give senators like Senator Murkowski and Senator Collins some room to believe that he will protect Roe and that they could be surprised later on when he doesn`t.
MELBER: Do you think he has assured Senator Collins in any meaningful way that he is pro-choice? Because the balance of what`s happened this week, and you just went through some of it, seems to suggest more that he is pro- life, which would make sense because the president committed to only appointing pro-life justices.
WHITEHOUSE: Yes. Well, the question whether he`s pro-choice and whether he`s pro-life kind of runs beside the question of how he will treat Roe v. Wade as precedent. And he has gone as far as to say that it is settled law, but he has also said in that particular e-mail that you mentioned that settled law can be overturned, all the time by the court. So the magic words that you`re looking for, that he`s really committed to defending a particular precedent, are that it is correctly decided --
WHITEHOUSE: -- settled law and he has not been willing to say that. So he`s leaving himself the opening to go back and overrule Roe v. Wade under all this pressure that`s suspicious.
MELBER: I hope you`ll forgive me, Senator. Sometimes I say pro-choice because when we get into what`s correctly decided and the day it was decided, it`s too close to law school and too far from plain language but I know what you mean.
I want to turn the other point that you have been pressing and that a lot of Americans are concerned about and the dovetails with the ongoing scandal about people inside the Trump administration saying they are concerned about his fitness for office, which, of course, matches whether there were crimes committed in the office. Take a listen to Senator Coons who pressed as you did on these Mueller issues today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. COONS: I`m interested in your understanding of the Constitution and whether or not it prohibits restrictions on the president`s ability to fire a special prosecutor at will?
KAVANAUGH: So the Supreme Court said, and so you`re asking my views, my views are what the president says that in other words, I follow the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Does that concern you? Why can`t a current Appeals Court judge simply say that obviously, the president cannot fire the prosecutor investigating him without cause?
WHITEHOUSE: It would be good if he could say that, but he didn`t. And that`s, I think, part of the problem. He comes to us with a record that runs from him saying that you can`t indict a sitting president. And hypothesizing that United States versus Nixon, the subpoena of the president case, was wrongly decided, to then, in front of us, saying that United States versus Nixon is one of the great fore cases of history.
And it`s really hard to work through somebody who has taken such a broad array of positions on the same issue. And when you try to pin him down, he just talks about precedent, rather than trying to narrow the range of arguments that he, himself, has made over time.
MELBER: Senator Whitehouse, I know this is an extraordinarily busy time for you and your committee. I appreciate you stepping out to speak with us tonight on an issue that I think concerns a lot of Americans.
WHITEHOUSE: Thanks. Happy to do it.
MELBER: Thank you, Senator.
Also, I want to let our viewers know about a programming note, Kamala Harris who`s been on the news as we`ve shown tonight will be on the "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" tonight. That`s 9:00 P.M. Eastern, of course.
Now, in 30 seconds, we come back to discuss Donald Trump`s volcanic eruption and the fallout.
MELBER: The anonymous "New York Times" has sparked a debate about whether it`s better to fight against Trump from the inside or going public on the outside. Well, let`s turn to that with a very special guest, John Feeley started a diplomatic corps for 30 years. He was the ambassador to Panama until he left his post after Donald Trump`s infamous defense of both sides violence regarding Charlottesville.
Now, in a new piece, he writes that officials like Mattis and Kelly are signaling to the Congress and the American people that Trump is wholly unfit for the job. I`m joined now by former Ambassador John Feeley. Tell us why you left, what you did and what you think of this style of protest anonymously while staying on the job?
JOHN FEELEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO REPUBLIC OF PANAMA: Sure, Ari. There`s a couple of things that I think you have to take into account. Number one, I was a career official. This individual has given into every indication that he or she is an appointee, not a career official. I attempted to leave quietly. The only reason that I came out and spoke the way I did first in a Washington Post editorial and then subsequently on other media platforms is because my confidential letter to the President was leaked by the administration. Once they leaked it they became the owners if you will, of the public narrative regarding my departure and it was at that point that I personally decided that as a private citizen, not as a government employee, not as a personal representative of President Trump serving overseas that I was going to push back and I was going to write my own narrative and voice my own criticism as an American citizen.
What you`ve got here with the letter where they eat the op-ed in the New York Times is something that`s very, very different. I think you can read it one of two ways. And I frankly I`m not sure exactly which one is correct. We`ll know in -- at some point. It`s clearly a cry for help. It`s clearly as I wrote in the editorial that I published today with Univision, it is clearly signaling, hey there are those of us inside here who know this is not normal behavior. We get it and we`re doing everything we can to stop. At the same time this also -- and it could be as I said, it could be that sort of blink coding to folks, please do something. Congress, do something. Robert Mueller, do something. We`re trying to prevent bad decisions but with what we`ve seen in the advances from the Woodward book and from that op-ed, it`s bad.
MELBER: Do you think it`s constructive this type of move?
FEELEY: I do not believe that it is. I think that as many have said on other -- in other places, putting your name to it is I think always more impactful. That said, what this could be, this is my other thought, it could be somebody who`s trying to position him or herself on the right side of history.
MELBER: Well, let me -- let me push you on the -- let me push you on the empirical claim.
MELBER: And I say it with all due respect as I try to show (INAUDIBLE) with respect but I think you might agree and our viewers might note that your name is not as well-known as this op-ed which is anonymous. And so when you say the op-ed has less impact and signing your own name has more impact, you with your public service and your service to this country which is respected are a corollary which is why I want to talk to you tonight. You didn`t get as much attention, you just explained how if anything they were trying to dog you. But isn`t there a lot of evidence that this is having at least a bigger initial impact?
FEELEY: Well, Ari, there`s no doubt that whoever wrote this and put it in the New York Times knew that they were going to get a lot of play. There`s also no doubt that I was an ambassador. I was one of X. I was not that close to the president. And you`re a hundred percent right that I wouldn`t get anywhere near the attention that somebody who sits in the White House or professors to sit in the White House we get. Mine was a reaction to my letter being leaked. This is a proactive cry for help and I think that`s a big difference.
MELBER" Yes certainly a big difference. And as you say it also goes to the emergency level as depicted in this piece. Mr. Ambassador John Feeley, thank you for giving us your insights tonight.
FEELEY: My pleasure.
MELBER: Now we turn to "STATE OF MIND" with friend of the show Tony Schwartz, of course the Co-author of Art of the Deal. He says today he has "never seen Donald Trump who he knows quite well better than most, look more "terrified and desperate."" Now we have seen Trump rage at those who he feels have been disloyal in any way and this goes back before politics. In the 80s when he was touring his recently purchased Plaza Hotel, he was ripping doors off an armoire he didn`t like accusing the staff from trying to make him look bad or more recently berating Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe raging in the Oval Office.
Sessions would say -- and this is a man who`s been through hard edge politics, denied a judgeship, it was "the most humiliating experience in his decades of public service." Tony Schwartz, what are we witnessing well we`re witnessing?
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, ART OF THE DEAL: Well, we`re witnessing what happens to a deeply, deeply insecure person who is terrified above all else of seeming weak and vulnerable, being a position where he is weak and vulnerable, and reacting. And that reference to being terrified and desperate was looking at his eyes during the session where he spontaneously began to talk yesterday at the White House when he was in front of the sheriff`s and he was holding some copy of The Times piece. And it just seems to me and I`ve been saying this to you now probably for six months or so that this is a progressive process.
MELBER: And you know, narrate for us what you see here.
SCHWARTZ: Well, it`s very hard to see it.
MELBER: He`s holding the paper. They can rerack it. He`s holding the paper though, I think you`re honest and he -- there was no strategy, there was no discussion --
SCHWARTZ: No this is an impulsive thing. He`s picking it up. He`s looking at -- he looks out of sorts. He turns back to the sheriff`s. It`s like can you believe this stuff? He just is -- this is a man -- what I`m thinking about today is this is a man who has built a life around having no relationships. And now the chickens are coming home to roost. There are no relationships and what he`s realizing, you know, this is a very I know a guy who now has reason to be paranoid.
MELBER: Well, this also goes to something we have reported as a factual and journalistic matter that there are valid criticisms of basically taking this move while in government service. And if this president had paused for an hour or spoken to his advisors, they might have come out and focused on that number one, focus number two, on the argument that this reveals part of what they claim is unfair about the federal government, that there are people working against him, but it doesn`t seem, Tony, that he was in the presence of mind to do any of that and instead we get rage, we get all caps treason.
SCHWARTZ: Exactly. Let me say just so -- I`m taking a slightly different perspective than I think you`re getting from a lot of your guests, nonsense about this notion that it was somehow wrong for this person to write this piece anonymously. Who gives a damn? What`s important about that piece is that it got written. What`s important about that piece is that there is someone in the White House with daily contact -- who has daily contact with Donald Trump who`s saying this guy is unmoored. This guy is crazy. Everything else pales in comparison to that and let`s stay focused on that and stop parsing the argument of whether it`s a good thing or a bad thing because --
MELBER: But you know why we`re focused on that mystery.
SCHWARTZ: I don`t.
MELBER: Because we`re deeply superficial and easily distracted.
SCHWARTZ: It is easy to lose sight of the heart of this which is you`ve got a man in office who is unfit to be president. He`s mentally unfit, he`s emotionally unfit, he`s ignorant, he is despotic, and we are continuing to have him. And we have we have him in a position where somebody who is on the verge of being accused of a whole series of crimes, I believe, I think that`s what will happen with Mueller, is in a position to change rule of law for the next 40 years through Kavanaugh.
MELBER: Right, through Kavanaugh. And you`re talking about a void, take a look at Donald Trump saying he`s afraid of people who are smarter than him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can`t have great success without having really good people around you. Never trust them too much because all of a sudden things will start to happen that you`re not going to like and you understand what I mean. You always have to be on top of them and you have to be smarter than they are. I hear so many times, oh I want my people to be smarter than I am, it`s a lot of crap. You want to be smarter than your people if possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARTZ: It`s a lot of crap. You want to be smarter than people if it`s possible and I`m not -- and it drives me absolutely nuts.
MELBER: And that is I think what scares him when these people are anonymous, they have more government experience, some of them are military, and he`s looking at this right now and he is having a reaction. Tony, as someone who sat with him, as part of our series, it`s always great to get your insights. Tony Schwartz, we`ll be seeing more of you. Up ahead, Kavanaugh confronted directly with that e-mail that ignites the Roe debate, a new turning point today. Actress Alyssa Milano has leaved -- a led a fight on this and she joins me next.
MELBER: An important surprise today hit Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He was grilled over this newly revealed e-mail about overturning Roe vs. Wade. In it he wrote I`m not sure all legal scholars refer to Roe as settled law of the land at the Supreme Court because it can always overrule its precedent as I was just discussing with Senator Whitehouse. Now, abortion access is at the center of so many protests of Kavanaugh which includes actress and activists Alyssa Milano. She joins us in a moment.
Now, in this confirmation hearing, the judge was pressing on a case about a pregnant immigrant teen who was detained at the U.S. border seeking an abortion. Kavanaugh dissented in that controversial case saying she didn`t have a right without matching up with a sponsor. Now, take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: But Judge, the clock is ticking.
KAVANAUGH: It is.
DURBIN: The clock is ticking. A 20-week clock is ticking.
KAVANAUGH: And I --
DURBIN: She made the decision early in the pregnancy and all I described to you and the judicial decisions, the clock is ticking and you were suggesting that she should have waited to have a sponsor appointed who she may or may not have consulted in making this decision.
KAVANAUGH: Again, this is -- I`m a judge, I`m not making the policy decision. My job is to decide whether that policy is consistent with law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: If you listen that closely, Kavanaugh claiming he was following the law but of course that court ruled that the law was the teen could get an abortion. Milano has been highlighting this problem. Here she isn`t a video speaking on behalf of that very teen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALYSSA MILANO, ACTRESS: I`m Jane Doe. When I was 17, I crossed the border. I was 17 when I was detained. I was 17 and soon I would learn that I was -- I was pregnant. After they examined me, I asked for an abortion. The Trump Administration tried to stop me. Brett Kavanaugh tried to stop me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: She`s been campaigning against Kavanaugh with former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and wrote in Elle Magazine Kavanaugh must be stopped. Now, right before I left Washington while covering these hearings, I was able to interview Milano and I began by asking her why spotlight this issue.
MILANO: It`s not just about Kavanaugh, it`s not about Trump, this issue is about my daughter, this issue is about my mother, this issue is about the health care of the underprivileged, the marginalized, the people that that live in low-income communities, because really it`s those people that are that are going to be affected most by this. You know, Trump made a promise during his campaign that he was going to appoint judges, Supreme Court judges that would overturn Roe v Wade which has been the law of the land for the last you know, over 40 years and we have all entertained this idea in this presidency regardless of their they`re trying to push this through, regardless of the fact that they served 40,000 pages of documents only hours before the hearing were to start. And I don`t know in any other court that that would be permissible.
Time and time again I feel like we are entertaining the absurdity of this presidency and one of - one of these key issues for me and I think women across the country, again, especially women in low-income and the marginalized is this issue of getting access to safe abortion. Kavanagh only has 37 percent of the American people. So not only is this a bad choice that that Senate is making but they`re making a choice going against what the American people feel and that`s the third --
MELBER: Well, Alyssa, you mentioned that. Let me -- let me put -- I just want to put to your point some of that data on the screen for viewers. You mentioned Kavanaugh support around 37 percent. Donald Trump in a range of polls has about 40 percent or 35 percent range approval. And then Roe v Wade as I think you know is actually up at 64 percent. And that goes into the next thing that we wanted to ask you about which is activists have been protesting a Kavanaugh, some of them dressed up like The Handmaid`s Tale costumes and I know you did that as well. You posted a photo on Twitter. We saw these activists outside the entire festivities or rally or hearings. And for those who haven`t read the book, we want to show a clip from the series.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You girls will serve the leaders and their barren wives. You will bear children before them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only one who can make the world better.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Better.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better never means better for everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Culture drives these policies and politics. Explain to us or for our viewers who might even be less familiar with that novel why you`re putting it in this perspective and why gender equality seems to be such an issue that people are concerned about in the context of Judge Kavanaugh.
MILANO: Well, I think for a number of reasons, first of all, if we take this presidency as a whole before he was elected, you know, we had 18 women come forward saying that he had sexually harassed or abused and maybe assaulted them. And then we have systematically watched this president and the administration rolled back or attempt to roll back women`s rights.
And it`s heartbreaking and it`s sad and I think we`re feeling that in the courtroom with the protesters and I think that we`re really getting a glimpse into the corruption and how these major corporations have really taken precedent over the American people and I`m hopeful that things will change because I am an optimist but it`s been a very trying time for anyone in the position to use their voice to affect positive change because ultimately what I do and my passion is to be the voice of those that have no voice.
MELBER: Well, I`d have to imagine that many people watching would understand and share some of those feelings and you said a little earlier you don`t do this full-time. Of course, the building behind me was supposed to be responsive to all the people who don`t do this full-time, to citizens. And so using your falling, your platform to reach a lot of citizens is why we wanted to hear from you on this Kavanaugh fight. Alyssa Milano, thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
MILANO: I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
MELBER: An important discussion and next, there is new tonight a Trump immigration move that could have allow for longer detention of children. We`ll bring that to you next.
MELBER: For decades, the United States has applied a humanitarian rule to protect undocumented immigrant children. They cannot be in prison for more than 20 years. Today, the Trump administration is moving to cancel that rule. This is very important news. It would basically allow the government, the Trump Administration to lock up children and their parents indefinitely. The Administration doing this with a proposed rule to the Department of Homeland Security extending the potential detention of children well beyond 20 days and depending on the case it could be months. The Trump Administration is not offering an outer limit either, instead saying they are unable to estimate how long detention would be extended.
This is chilling given the administration`s past efforts to ramp up child detention and separation at the border which turned out to be a self- inflicted humanitarian crisis ripping more than 2 1/2 thousand children from their parents on which courts have now ordered this administration to clean up. Now, to be clear tonight, the Administration`s last crackdown backfired and it was paired down by the courts. But that was not before thousands of lives were impacted. We bring you this story, this rule change, this potential indefinite rule of children so that you know what the Administration is up to and we will bring you updates on whether the courts have the final word.
MELBER: This week Washington has been consumed by disturbing reports coming from inside the House so to speak. The accounts in the Woodward book, deeply sourced to Trump Administration officials and of course the new Op-Ed from a senior official saying Donald Trump is effectively a dangerous, incompetent, amoral menace. But there are other stories going on. Consider that tomorrow, the former Trump aide who kicked off the entire FBI Investigation into Russian collusion, George Petropoulos will be sentenced for what he pled guilty to, lying to the feds. We`ll be covering that.
Also tomorrow, Randy Credico, you may remember from THE BEAT, he has alleged back-channel WikiLeaks, although there`s been a lot of intrigue about that, he as we first broke on this show will be testifying before the Mueller grand jury. And I want to tell you about a special interview we`re doing on a story that went viral. Former Cosby Actor Geoffrey Owens is my special guest on THE BEAT tomorrows to talk about class in the Trump era and how he was treated by among others Fox News. We`ll see that tomorrow. That does it for the show today. HARDBALL is next.
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