Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 13, 2018 Guest: Cathy Fleming; Daniel Goldman; Mike Quigley, Richard Blumenthal, Darryl Mills
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Live coverage all night long. You can also follow our coverage of the storm online at nbcnews.com/florence. That`s all we have tonight for MTP DAILY. Our MSNBC breaking news coverage though continues right now with "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER." Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck and thank you.
We are also, of course, covering this hurricane`s path tonight. We have reporters up and down the coast.
Plus, our other top story tonight, new reports Paul Manafort reaching a plea deal with Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Now, that would have huge ramifications for where the Mueller probe is headed. Our legal experts are all over this along with the U.S. Senators. We will bring you that important news coming up this hour.
And later in the show, we`re also going to dig into news with implications that long outlived the bombshells in this Bob Woodward book or controversial "New York Times" op-ed. Today, Democrats scoring a procedural victory in delaying Donald Trump`s march to another lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and why one Senate Democrat is calling the FBI. So we have all of that on THE BEAT tonight.
But we begin with millions bracing for Hurricane Florence. Right now, torrential rain and winds gusting up to 120 miles per hour. That`s battering the Carolina coastline, bringing warnings of life-threatening storm surges. And I want to go right to Joe Friar who is in Jacksonville, North Carolina, braving the elements to report. Joe, what can you tell us?
JOE FRYER, WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, Ari, just as the afternoon continues goes along, the winds continue to get stronger, the rain is picking up and this is the scene that`s going to be playing out for the next two to three days because of how slowly the system is moving through. Now, to set the scene where we are, this is Jacksonville, North Carolina. It is not right on the ocean like some of the other reports that you`ve seen but there`s still concern about the conditions here.
Why is that? Well, you can see we are still on a river. Take about a 20- mile trip that way then you will hit the ocean. So the river feeds into the bays which then feed into the water. And even though we are not right directly where the beaches are, the word storm surge still carries some weight here. They`re concerned that the waters could rise up to seven feet here. That`s just how dangerous the storm surge is. Even if you`re not there right on the coast, the waters are going to rise.
So they`re definitely concerned about this river which floods during a normal storm. Pretty much this area where I`m standing they fear is going to be under water. The question is how much is it going to be under water. You`re not just talking about the storm surge. You`re talking about two or three days of consistent heavy rain and nowhere for that rain to go. These rivers are going to overflow.
It`s not just the situation here. You can travel another two hours into a place like Fayetteville, they`re concerned there. People have been packing up their belongings and putting them up on the second floor of their homes. They saw it two years ago with Hurricane Matthew. It was way inland where they started to see heavy amounts of rain that caused flooding. There was just nowhere for the water to go. Some inland areas here in North Carolina could see anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of rain, isolated parts could see up to 2 feet.
So along the coast, there`s clearly concern especially because this storm is just going to be churning over the coast. But really throughout much of North Carolina, they`re worried about just how much water is going to be coming down over the course of many hours, Ari.
MELBER: Thank you, Joe. We turn now to Gadi Schwartz who`s in Radio Island, North Carolina. Gadi, what are you seeing?
GADI SCHWARTZ, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Yes. Right now, we`re seeing these winds continue to hammer this area. Wind I think gusting around 60, 75 miles per hour. But they`re still not as strong as they`re going to get tonight. These are the types of winds that`s been battering this area since about 11:00, 12:00 (INAUDIBLE) direction. But these are not as bad as a hurricane force winds that we`re going to be seeing tonight going 100 miles an hour.
Periodically, we start losing complete visibility in this area. It`s almost like we`re in a plastic bag. This wind is extremely powerful. In fact, when the wind starts whipping up this rain, it hits your face. It`s pretty painful. But again, the worst of all this is going to be happening tonight around 11:00. The worst of the winds and we`ve got the storm surge coming up, and we`ve also got high tide. So that`s going to be the end where the tide for this whole area and we`re going to be bunkering down, too.
We`re on the fifth floor of this building that we`re nearby but we`ve already seen reports of storm surge affecting boats which is just across the bay here. And storm surge coming in and surrounding some homes there. We`re also losing power periodically and this whole area is expected to lose power a little bit tonight. And this could be going on for another 24 hours. Ari, back to you.
MELBER: Gadi, if you can, what is the speed of the winds that you`re dealing with there and how much worse would it get when it`s at its peak?
SCHWARTZ: When it`s at its peak, we`re not going to be able to be out here. These are winds, tropical force winds that look really bad on TV but this is something that when we chase storms we`re used to being in. When it gets to about 100 miles an hour, that`s when we`ve got to fall back and get behind some concrete barriers. We`ve established some fallback zones.
But when it gets that bad, you`re not really able to stand up. We just started seeing debris flying around, a little bit of debris flying around but they`re mostly palm fronds. We make sure that we`re downwind, we`re upwind from those palm trees. (INAUDIBLE) Down from where I`m standing, you may see some of these palm trees start blowing over.
In a while Ari, we`re going to see the wind shift directions. So right now they`re going that way with the Atlantic. But if we get the backside of this storm, we`re going to see those wind shift directions and go the other way. So it`s going to be pushing a lot of the structures and the trees that have been pushing this way in the opposite direction. A lot of this stuff is getting loosened up and the ground here is wet. So we`re going to see a lot of this come down with the storm surge. Right now, that`s the number one concern. Ari.
MELBER: Gadi Schwartz, as we say throughout this coverage, thank you and please stay safe. You mentioned the precautions your team will be taking.
We turn to Tammy Lighter on the ground in Myrtle Beach there by the coast. Tammy, what can you tell us about what you`re seeing and evacuations?
TAMMY LEITNER, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Hey, Ari. Myrtle Beach has had yet another day to prepare. Things are relatively calm here. The surf is pretty flat. There`s a mandatory evacuation in order. We know that about 60 percent of the residents have evacuated. For those who have chosen to stay, everybody has their own reason.
We spoke with one small business owner today, Robert Mills. He tells us he wanted to evacuate his family, but he can`t. He owns a pet store, and he felt an obligation to stay and save as many of those pets as he could. He spent the last four days moving all 200 of those pets from his pet store to his home where he thought it would be safer. He has rabbits. He has guinea pigs, birds and he`s going to hunker down throughout the hurricane with all 200 pets, his three kids, his wife, his brother, and his mother. He says he has enough supplies to get him through the next week.
And officials are saying that even though this hurricane has downgraded, people still need to take it seriously, that there will be no emergency personnel, no emergency services once the winds kick up past 60 miles an hour. So they are warning people even though it is only a category 2 at this point, they still are advising people to get out. Ari.
MELBER: Thank you, Tammy, and we appreciate that story. A veritable Noah`s ark on wheels there. Wishing everyone safety, yourself as well.
We now turn to more of the coverage from our NBC reporters in the field. Kerry Sanders, who has been through a share of this, is live in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Carrie, what are you seeing?
KERRY SANDERS, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, I feel like we`re in the middle of where Gadi is and where Tammy is. We`ve had strong gust but nothing like Gadi, at least yet. But I know that that`s coming just because when we look at the radar, we can see what`s happening.
Let me take you out here to the Atlantic. If you take a look out the Atlantic and you can see sort of the roiling Atlantic Ocean, the waves breaking. You can see the direction of the waves are breaking and that`s because the wind in the counterclockwise motion here is coming across and causing those waves to break down the beach, breaking down towards the south. But that, of course, will change as the storm continues to move.
I`m sort of curious, and I guess we`ll get a better word on where this eye ultimately is going to come ashore. But as we look at the radar loop, it certainly looks like we`re going be right on that eye wall or pretty close to it where we have those 100, 110 miles an hour winds. The greatest concern here as in so many other spots, of course, is the storm surge.
Storm surge predictions have gone down now to 11 feet but 11 feet can still be deadly. That water comes in and goes certainly over the first story of homes and first level of buildings here. And for those residents who have decided to stay put, and there are some here, the police were out telling people you`re not allowed to go roll around on the streets and take a look at anything. You`ll have to stay inside.
Before the curfew began, even before the winds began, the police have retreated now to their department. They`re not going to answer 911 calls. They`re hoping that there will be none, but they`re not going to put themselves in jeopardy to try and help somebody else, Ari.
MELBER: Kerry Sanders, thank you very much. You mentioned the storm surge. Let me turn to Garrett Haake in New Bern, North Carolina where the surge is a big part of the story here. We`re already seeing some of that behind you. What can you tell us?
GARRETT HAAKE, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Yes. Ari, we actually had to abandon the live position we were using for most of the day today because the surge was coming up so fast. We were worried if we stayed there much longer, we`d be trapped there for the duration. A couple of feet in a few hours just off the Neuse River which is now about two blocks behind me but really has made its way into the city of New Bern.
Folks who have lived here for a long time say this is actually fairly typical that you get the river jumping its banks coming into the city. When you get these big storms, what`s not typical, though, is these conditions right now. We`ve barely had a drop of rain here. We`ve had maybe an hour where we`re in one of those bands and got a good bit of wind and rain.
All of the water rise that you see behind me, all of what pushed us a couple of blocks off the waterfront today was because of that storm surge, not because of the more than a foot of rain that we`re expected to get overnight. So in that sense, some of the worst is still yet to come. This is a town that`s pretty historic. You`ve got a lot of these houses that were built even in the 18th century. The house you see right there was built in 1790. A lot of these folks who bought these old houses know how well they stand up in the storm are nevertheless getting out of here because we`ve got that storm coming tonight and it`s going to hit at night.
It`s hard to describe to people who haven`t been through one of these how much more difficult, more dangerous and more terrifying it is when you`re going through the storm in pitch black. And I think that`s what we`re leaning into tonight given how little of the storm we`ve seen so far other than the surge, Ari.
MELBER: Garret Haake wrapping up our coverage from live in the field. Thank you. And again, our thanks to all of our reporters.
Now, we go indoors. NBC meteorologist has our final report on the weather here, tracking the storm and what comes next. Bill?
BILL KARINS, METEOROLOGIST, NBC NEWS: Ari, we just had great examples of what we`re dealing with the storm and kind of the timeline. We started there in the Radio City, Ari. If you`re not familiar with the Radio Island, it`s right between Morehead City and right between the Beaufort area. And that`s where it`s going to hit the hardest tonight. That`s where they`re putting the records storm surge after about 11 P.M. to midnight or so.
Highest they`ve ever had, worst in Hazel back in 1954, which is the water level of record for that area. So this is only the beginning. We`re just getting past the low tide. Now, we`re heading towards the high tide tonight. And it will be dark and those water levels are going to get higher. And the power, Ari, is already starting to add up, 66,000 people now without power in Eastern North Carolina. A lot of them are in that in core direct county where we had Gadi out there blowing by the docks right there.
So the storm itself is located right here. It took a little jug to the north. It`s amazing, it`s only 28 miles from the northern eyewall to where we showed you the live pictures there near Morehead city and the Radio Island area, the 28 mile. That`s it. That`s why it started looking so rough and that`s probably some of the strongest winds right now. From Cape Lookout to Morehead City, it`s pretty been rough too. I just saw a wind that`s 71 miles per hour in Havelock which is in between New Bern and Morehead City here right along around the Panaco South (ph).
Now, where we saw Kerry Sanders down here, towards Wrightsville Beach in the Wilmington area, you`re just starting to get into some bands. Your worst will arrive overnight and then tomorrow morning, that`s when the storm is going to be where Kerry is located.
So here`s some of our current wind gusts map. We`ll continue to watch this. Now, there`s a gust of 63 in Havelock. Once you get in the 60 miles per hour range, that`s when you start getting people knocking out their power. Up to 48 New Bern, just starting to freshen up a little bit. Camp Lejeune near Jacksonville, 49. Cape Hatteras gusting to 64 and offshore Bodie`s we`re now getting up there at hurricane strength there just off the coast.
So the latest update from hurricane center, winds are still at 105, a very healthy category 2. What`s interesting is we have this at the satellite imagery. The top of the clouds and the thunderstorms are the coldest. We`ve color tabled those to kind of identify it because the higher the clouds are in the sky, the stronger the thunderstorms, the stronger the storm.
And look at these burst of thunderstorms just to the north of the eye. So that`s the first time it`s shone any signs of intensification or trying to organize. In the last 24 hours, the storm has been weakening. Now, it`s trying to tease a little bit on some of that warmer water. We don`t think it`s going to have a big explosion in intensity, but it could go up a couple of notches, just a little bit.
So the hurricane center has it pretty much going west from here on out. There was a jog to the north over the last hour or two and every jog to the north potentially puts the Beaufort, Morehead City area all the way back down to Emerald Isle in the northern eyewall as we go through the overnight hours.
I was hoping to avoid that for our friends there in Carteret County but now it`s looking possible. You could be right on that northern eyewall regardless of Camp Lejeune. You`re going to go through that northern eye as we go through the middle of the night. And then eventually the western eye will head into Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, the North Topsail area as we go throughout the early morning hours` tomorrow.
We were at the 13 feet. We`ve taken it down just a little bit, but still, a storm surge is 7 to 11 feet. That`s going to cause a lot of destruction, especially because we`re not going to just get one high tide cycle coming up later on tonight, we`re going to have another one that we`re going to go through tomorrow morning because the landfall may not even be until noon or so or maybe 10 or 8 or 9:00 A.M. to about noon in the morning. That`s kind of the time estimating it around Wrightsville Beach.
So numerous high tide cycles. The water continues to pile up. We`ve got the inland flooding concerns, too. And then, Ari, as we go throughout the weekend, once the storm kind of fizzles out to a tropical storm or tropical depression on Saturday, we still have up to 20 inches of rain. Look how far inland, all the way to Florence, 20 inches of rain in a short period of time is going to cause record river flooding in some areas. And we`re going to deal with flooding right through Sunday, right into Monday on some of this river.
So we`re going to get the destruction tonight, all day tomorrow of the storm surge and some wind damage. And then we`re going to have to deal with the record river flooding and houses along the rivers getting flooded out, Ari, as we go throughout the weekend. So, you know, water is always the most deadly with all of these hurricanes and that is our fear with this one, what the water is going to do.
MELBER: Bill Karins tracking all of it for us in a busy time. Thank you very much.
Now coming up, there are this brand new reports. Paul Manafort reaching a plea deal with the Special Counsel Bob Mueller. If that sounds new to you, that`s because it`s breaking this evening. A huge development for the wider collusion probe.
And later, a new mystery that could impact the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. Why did a U.S. Senator on the Democratic side just make a referral to the FBI? I`ll be joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal on that. And we will, of course, later in the hour keep you abreast of everything happening in the Carolinas as millions brace for hurricane Florence.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Breaking news in the Russia probe. "ABC News" is reporting this evening that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort has reached a plea deal with Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Now, it is not clear what is in that deal, which means we don`t if there`s any cooperation ¡nvolved. "NBC News" has not confirmed.
This is a breaking story from "ABC" but this would reportedly entail Manafort copping a guilty plea, which would stop the second trial. All of this is currently on the books. He was, of course, convicted of eight counts in the first trial that was brought by Mueller`s team. Now, the reports are that this new agreement could be announced as early as tomorrow when there was a scheduled hearing.
"ABC" saying that Manafort and his team spent over four hours today with key prosecutors from Mueller`s team. And they note that they, "Spotted the team arriving in a dark SUV Thursday morning," that`s on the Manafort side pulling into a "Secret entrance out of public view at the building where Special Counsel Robert Mueller is based."
I am joined right now by two former federal prosecutors Cathy Fleming and Daniel Goldman,
Cathy, what do you make of this news and what does it mean if Paul Manafort is cutting a deal but is not volunteering incriminating information to the special counsel?
CATHY FLEMING, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, we don`t know yet what the deal is. We don`t know what he`s pleading guilty to. We don`t know if forfeitures are involved. We don`t know what the terms of the agreement are going to be.
There are lots of good reasons to cut a deal even if you don`t cooperate including stemming the bleeding. You don`t want to spend the money on a trial. You don`t want to have your dirty laundry exposed. You don`t want to have to go through all of what you have to go through in a public forum, but it`s certainly an interesting next step. And it`s not the end of the line I suspect even for Mr. Manafort.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I agree. I think there are sort of two angles here. The only way for Paul Manafort to get a sentence reduction from what he`s going to get in Virginia is either through cooperation or through a pardon. If he takes the path of not cooperating and negotiating a plea agreement, and there are good reasons why he would want to do that and why Bob Mueller would want to do that, then we`re looking down the road toward a pardon.
And we have to wonder what kind of conversations Paul Manafort`s lawyers have had with Rudy Giuliani and Trump`s lawyers pursuant to what`s called their joint defense agreement where they can share information about the investigation.
MELBER: Well, that`s the other news that broke tonight, Dan. Walk us through that. Rudy Giuliani revealing for the first time that they are in cahoots, that they are sharing confidential information between the Manafort side and the Trump side, that they even spoke after Manafort`s guilty conviction. Because while joint defense agreements can be fairly common, one with a president under these circumstances is dramatic.
GOLDMAN: And it was sort of foreshadowed or signaled, Ari, right around the time that the first Manafort trial started. Because that`s when Rudy Giuliani`s tune changed from no collusion, no collusion, no collusion to collusion is not a crime. And I think the reason is they got wind through Manafort`s lawyers of what Rick Gates had told the special counsel because the special counsel had to turn over to Manafort`s lawyers all of Rick Gate`s prior statements before he testified at that trial. So but this is --
MELBER: Which to be clear, I just want to hammer the point you`re making. You`re saying that the staff that went to Manafort as a defendant with his rights was more than the Trump folks would have known separately?
GOLDMAN: Yes, I think that`s exactly right. So Rick Gates meets with the special counsel, tells them everything he knows, but no one sees that until there`s a trial. And that`s why Manafort got that information, and all of a sudden right at that time Rudy Giuliani`s tune changed. But the thought that they are discussing the potential pardon for Paul Manafort or there are signals, there may not be a lot of legal recourse, particularly if Paul Manafort is not cooperating against Donald Trump.
And so Donald Trump is therefore not obviously and clearly pardoning someone who has incriminating information about him. But this is a shocking and startling turn of events if it is true that there is any discussion. And Rudy Giuliani`s statement in the report today where he said that a guilty plea would not change the calculus for the president. A, means that they`re thinking about it and perhaps discussing it. And also, B, runs afoul of any rational reason that you would pardon someone if they`re admitting their guilt.
And let`s not forget, Ari, one more thing. Tomorrow, when Paul Manafort goes and enters a guilty plea, he has to admit to the crimes that he is committing. That`s going to be a significant event.
MELBER: So Cathy, if you look at this, it`s very easy to see what Trump and Giuliani are getting out of this. If they`re getting confidential information and they`re getting someone who`s resisting, giving up the basic facts that Mueller is seeking on the cooperation side, so what would Manafort get out of this?
FLEMING: Well, Manafort is obviously getting some support somehow. It is also -- and I agree, it`s a great question as to whether there were any discussions as to whether there could be a pardon in the offing. And let`s put aside, there have been some public hints about that people have speculated that some of the messages that have come out have been, "I feel bad for the guy. This is sad. This is a tough thing on his family." Those are pretty obvious hints at least or people have interpreted it that way.
One of the things that I think is interesting, this isn`t the first joint defense agreement that apparently the team`s been involved in. They were involved in one with Michael Cohen until he decided to flip and then they withdrew from that one. And I don`t know, who knows, maybe they`re involved in one with Roger Stone`s people. Maybe they`re involved with some other people.
We don`t know because generally, you keep it secret when you`re in a joint defense agreement. Every joint defense agreement I`ve been involved in, one of the conditions of the joint defense agreement is you keep it confidential and you don`t disclose to anyone that you`re in a joint defense agreement.
MELBER: So Cathy, extend that analysis because you`re putting it very artfully and fairly. Another way to put it a little more assertively would be that Rudy Giuliani seems to leak against his own interests. There may be a lot of cats in his bag since he leaked on Hannity, the original information about reimbursing Michael Cohen, which of course later was confessed to by Cohen as part of a crime. He let this cat out of the bag today during a hurricane for no apparent reason. Do you think this is just sloppy lawyering or something more?
FLEMING: You know, I would hope that there`s method to madness. I always hope lawyers have method to their madness. And perhaps he`s trying to say something to the world about we know what`s going on, and therefore we`re going to do it. But I cannot imagine why he would let out that there`s a joint defense agreement because if I`m a prosecutor in this one, I may think to myself, "Gee, maybe I`m going to litigate what the scope of that joint defense agreement covered."
Because even though it does cover -- and it`s a great thing for defense lawyers to be able to engage in a joint defense agreement. You`re able to share privileged information. It gives you a tiny bit of a fight back against the government who has a huge amount of power against defendants in criminal cases. And it`s a good thing to do but it`s not unlimited.
And if you`re in there, if there`s a lot of speculation, you may be able to. If you`re a prosecutor, you may be able to go in and litigate what the scope of this is and what was discussed. And that may turn out to be just an awful thing for everybody involved in this. So I cannot imagine why somebody did this and let it out of the bag.
MELBER: Right. And that somebody being Rudy. What I want to do Cathy and Dan is ask you to hang with us throughout the rest of the hour because we`re coming back to this story.
Right now, for the breaking story, I want to turn to an elected official Congressman Mike Quigley who is on the pivotal house intelligence committee. Sir, your reaction to this report which as I mentioned NBC News has not independently confirmed but "ABC News" reporting tonight that there is a plea deal now reached between Donald Trump`s former campaign chair Paul Manafort and Special Counsel Mueller, that it can be rolled out as early as tomorrow`s hearing. Your reaction?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, D-IL: My reaction is we have now heard the president call this a hoax and a witch hunt for the length of the investigation. Apparently, tomorrow another witch bites the dust. His chief campaign chairman, his personal attorney, and his foreign policy chief will have all pled guilty. Pretty serious stuff.
I guess my second reaction is I thought this morning when I read about the joint legal agreement between the Trump legal team and the Manafort legal team was Manafort was showing he was still loyal, sending a message to the Trump team, "I`m still with you. I didn`t do the Cohen thing of implicating the president. You know, I went to trial, I took one for the team." I think perhaps currying favor to try to get that pardon potentially.
This confuses that just a little bit because it`s hard to imagine an agreement that doesn`t involve some cooperation. And usually, cooperation is all or nothing at all.
MELBER: When you look at this and you look at some of the way people have handicapped it, I`m reading from some of the other sourcing here today in the coverage of the joint agreement, one prosecutor said, "There`s not much more Manafort can do to avoid a life sentence short of getting a pardon." Another attorney who represents a witness in this case telling "Politico," "Well, if Manafort takes the plea, he`s just adding to what for him and his aides is effectively a life sentence."
Do you see and does the intelligence committee care about whether this is just a matter of convenience for Mr. Manafort given the convictions he already has or whether there is something more that the special counsel is going to get out of him?
QUIGLEY: I would hope that the -- I would assume that Mr. Mueller has done such an amazing job that it all leads to finding out what took place. If you`re asking me what the priority is of the Democrats on the House Select Committee on Intelligence is to find out exactly what the Russians did, who worked with them, who conspired with them, and how to prevent it in the future.
I would like to think we learn a lot more. I would believe that the Manafort trial would have told the nation a lot more about how people like Mr. Manafort and others in the Trump financial world were laundering money. I think that is the great unknown, we barely scratched the surface on how money laundering took place and whether it was in cooperation with the Russians. There`s plenty of clues. Deutsche Bank was fined over $600 million for illegally laundering money with the Russians. They were the bank, the loan bank financing the Trump financial world for the last decade.
MELBER: Congressman, if the Democrats do retake the House, do you view any negotiations for pardons or potential pardons that are issued by this president pursuant to the Russia probe as something to investigate?
QUIGLEY: I think that pardons have to be taken by anybody, the American public in the intelligence community as an attempt to blunt a criminal investigation and also as an element of obstruction of justice. So, I think if the House flips and we take nothing for granted, what we should do is analyze the situation and see what still needs to be done. What hasn`t the Mueller team done? What isn`t part of their mission? What do we still need to find out and let`s get to the bottom of that?
MELBER: Congressman Mike Quigley on this breaking news, thank you for coming on THE BEAT. In 30 seconds, I will be back with Senator Richard Blumenthal live on Manafort and the other big story, Democrats saying they`re making progress on holding Brett Kavanaugh accountable. We`re back in 30.
MELBER: Welcome back. The other big story tonight. ABC News reporting and this is for the first time, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort has reached a plea with Special Counsel Bob Mueller. As I mentioned NBC News has not confirmed this report yet. It`s all unfolding right now and I`m joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, a former prosecutor who serves on the pivotal Judiciary Committee relevant to this and the Judge Kavanaugh news which we`re going to get to in a few minutes. First, your reaction to these reports which would have been shocking if you think about this a year or two ago, a campaign chair having been convicted now cutting a deal. Your reaction?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It would have been shocking just a year ago. Remember that Paul Manafort was in effect tampering with witnesses. His apartment was raided by the FBI because there was the prospect of his destroying documents. Now there is the potential for his cooperation which in my hope, at any rate, would be involved in any kind of plea agreement. A trial often serves a public education function. And so, the public really needs and deserves some public airing of what he did and why he did it and the special counsel would be well served by his cooperation because he knows a lot about Russia collusion as alleged against the President of United State.
MELBER: Well, Senator, on that point, the Cohen plea process involved a brief but rather frank assessment of someone very close to Donald Trump explaining in his own words how he committed crimes with Donald Trump although as you know, the question of what else the feds are going to do with the bigger part of that is open. Do you think it would be a good thing then if Paul Manafort does confess to some of whatever it is that`s in this plea agreement tomorrow on open court or are you concerned that this is all a bid by Manafort who we learn today isn`t an active defensively with Donald Trump to not have what you called the public education function of that larger trial this was going to be the more Russia-related trial?
BLUMENTHAL: We`ll see what happens in the actual playroom. But obviously if it involves some reference and substantiation to the claim that the president is an unindicted co-conspirator, that he`s implicated in serious wrongdoing, that goes to the legitimacy of his president, it will be further strong evidence and support for the special counsel at a time when the president is increasingly overt in his desire to shut down that investigation, his sycophants and surrogates in Congress are threatening both the special counsel and the Attorney General, and the prospect of the Attorney General losing his job is a further threat to the special counsel. So anything that supports the Special Counsel`s investigation is being welcomed.
MELBER: I want to broaden out to thinking about this with President Trump and of course the midterm elections that are hanging over all of this because Michael Moore who of course is a noted critic of the president was on with my colleague Chris Hayes last night. One of the points he made that`s even broader than the so-called witch-hunt attack on this is whether the current occupant of the Oval Office has the requisite respect for the rule of law as a foundation of American democracy or does he have a different mindset called from business or something, even more, a pseudo- authoritarian that doesn`t really care about that.
I`m curious at that broader level given how much you work on these issues what you think. Take a listen to how Michael Moore put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: I think that we have someone in the White House who has no respect for the rule of law, who dislikes democracy by an incredible degree, which doesn`t make them really any that much different from other billionaires or CEOs because their businesses are not democracies. They rule by fiat, they decide, they make four calls. and they don`t like having anybody else having a say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLUMENTHAL: Comparing Donald Trump to the normal CEO I think is an insult to the American business community because my hope is that the ordinary CEO has more respect for the rule of law than Donald Trump. In fact, he has nothing but contempt for the American judiciary, for the rule of law, and for the principles of democracy that are so threatened because of his chaotic and erratic administration.
And I asked Judge Kavanaugh directly about these attacks on the American judiciary in the confirmation hearings, I was deeply and gravely disappointed by Judge Kavanaugh`s failure to denounce and condemn these attacks on the independent judiciary. And when the history of this error is written, Ari, I believe that heroes will be our independent judiciary and our free press who have done so much to defend our democracy despite the continuing content for the rule of law demonstrated by our president.
MELBER: Well, and I think we have that and that`s the other big story. There are these written questions that are part of the process right now. He was asked in addition to what happened in the hearings as you mentioned, he was asked in a new round of written questions. Do you believe the investigation is -- that is currently being overseen a special counsel is a "witch-hunt." And Judge Kavanaugh writes back. This was in response to your side`s questioning. Well, sitting judges and nominee should refrain from commenting on current events and political controversies. Senator, do you think that he is being deliberately daft or cagey there?
BLUMENTHAL: He`s being evasive. He was evasive in the hearing. In fact, he was seemingly misleading. And that`s why today in the Judiciary Committee meeting, I moved to adjourn that meeting so that we could get the documents. Time and information are absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, so disappointingly, my Republican colleagues are rushing to judgment and regarding this responsibility as a rubber-stamp, not the real advice and consent that we need.
And those evasive and seemingly misleading responses from judge Kavanagh make all the more necessary that we have access to the millions of pages of documents that have been concealed and hidden. Put aside the committee confidential issue. There are millions of pages of documents from his service as staff secretary to President Bush that are directly relevant to the most instructive period of his professional life.
MELBER: Well, and on that -- on that, Senator, the question of transparency as you know, your colleague making waves today, Senator Dianne Feinstein, has said publicly she`s got information from an individual that she thinks is relevant to the nomination but she sent it to the federal authorities. Now, she`s not elaborating at all on the nature of this, and as we do around here I have to mention NBC News hasn`t confirmed anything about the details of what might be in that secret complaint. The White House is pushing back and I want to give their side.
They say this is an 11th-hour attempt to delay Kavanaugh`s confirmation. Now, you were successful in delaying today`s vote by a week out of the committee. Do you have anything to add to Senator Feinstein`s a rather opaque statement?
BLUMENTHAL: All I can say is that Senator Feinstein received information from an individual who strongly requested confidentiality and declined to come forward. She honored that request and nonetheless referred it to federal investigative agencies specifically the FBI for investigation. But --
MELBER: But Senator, do you -- do you know -- did the Democratic side of the committee of Senator Feinstein receive that while there were still time to raise it in the hearings?
BLUMENTHAL: What I can tell you is that Senator Feinstein respected the request for confidentiality. I learned about it literally last night and we have appropriately she has done so referred to investigation.
MELBER: What about the White House concerned though that it does seem late, that the judge isn`t getting an opportunity to address this in the hearings where that type of vetting is supposed to occur?
BLUMENTHAL: I think we need more information in documents on the issues apart from this one wholly separate from the information that Senator Feinstein received from that individual. And we ought to have another hearing.
MELBER: Fair enough.
BLUMENTHAL: And the judge ought to come forward to answer the questions that are asked of him.
MELBER: Fair enough. And I want to get you as well on the other big issue. We`ve covered a lot of ground and I appreciate you being generous with your time. Before I let you go, Roe v Wade continues to hang over this nominee and why he worked for a pro-life administration in a political-legal capacity in the -- in the Bush Administration before he was a judge, Federalist Society, pro-life credentials which many people would say, OK fine, then be honest about it. But there is an increasing view that under the questioning of you and your colleagues, he effectively tried to hide that.
I want to play for you a Bill Press who I`m sure you know, a journalist who`s covered five different confirmation hearings. Here`s how he put it on THE BEAT regarding Kavanaugh`s statements to your committee under oath about Roe. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL PRESS, RADIO HOST: He lied. I think he dissembled, he lied all the way through it. I mean look, let`s face it. Let`s just be honest. He is an anti-Roe v Wade vote and he will be on the Supreme Court. I think know that five justices can overturn any given law and he would be a fifth vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Final question, your reaction. Did Judge Kavanaugh lie and is the anti-Roe v Wade?
BLUMENTHAL: He was certainly seemingly misleading in his answers and clearly vague and evasive ambiguous in response to my questions about a memo that he wrote which said that Roe v Wade can be overturned. Those are his words. And also said there are justices on the Supreme Court who would vote to overturn. He potentially is the fifth vote to overturn or at least chip away at Roe v Wade in a way that undermines that long-established precedent and undercuts women`s health care and reproductive rights. I hope that my colleagues will do more than simply rubber stamp this nomination.
MELBER: Senator Richard Blumenthal from the Judiciary Committee on a busy night, thank you for being with us as part of our coverage of those stories. Up ahead, we take a turn back to the storm that is bearing down on millions of Americans and we go there live.
MELBER: Welcome back. You`re looking at live footage, rain and winds from hurricane Florence slamming the Carolina coast. Over three feet of rain is expected in some places. Officials encouraging, of course, everyone to follow government orders and evacuate in those key areas. Now, I am joined by phone by the Mayor of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina Darryl Mills. Florence expected to make landfall in Wrightsville by tomorrow morning. What are you seeing and what are you telling your constituents?
MAYOR DARRYL MILLS, WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA: Well, we`re encouraging everyone to honor the evacuation which most have. The residents have been excellent about getting off the beach boarding up their houses. I`m actually getting ready to do a ride around the beach right now with the park ranger and member of the Board of Aldermen so I can give you a most immediate update here in just a few minutes. We have a checkpoint at the end of motorway bridge to get across to our beach and we`ve got to get through that. We have to stop. Police have to verify we`re authorized to do this and we are approaching the chip or right now.
MELBER: Understood, sir. So, we can let you go, a final brief question. Do you have a sense of what percent of folks are following these evacuation orders?
MILLS: Well, I would say well in excess of 95 to 98 percent. We`re good. I mean, we`ve been through this. Most of us are longtime residents. We`ve seen a number of hurricanes. We know the drill. We`ve got the procedure down. And we`re on the beach now and all you can see are boarded up houses, shops, there`s no one on the street at all, no cars, it`s just the authorized vehicles monitoring the beach, making sure people are honoring the evacuation and that there`s nothing inappropriate going on.
MELBER: Well, Mr. Mayor, as we say around here, if you`re good, we`re good. We are rooting for everyone down there. And you said you`re going through the checkpoint so we will let you go and get back on the job. Mayor Darryl Mills, we can hear him on the job and busy at work out there, our thanks. Up ahead, we take a turn to a report on something very important that you may not have heard about yet today. The humanitarian crisis of course, that got a lot of attention at the border based on Donald Trump`s policies, new reports tonight it is worse than many thought, children stranded. We have the details next.
MELBER: New reports tonight. The number of detained migrant children in America has skyrocketed to its highest point ever. This is of course under the Trump administration. Nearly 13,000 miners are currently being held in shelters across the nation. Now, that is five times greater than a number of children that were being detained just a year ago. The New York Times reporting an essential detail as we all make sense of this and reflect on of course a whole season of border crises; these new numbers are not caused by an increase in the actual raw number of children who are crossing the border into our country.
They are instead the result of a range of Trump policies which includes zero tolerance and scaring adult migrants from even being able to do what any parent would want to do, pick up their own child because those individuals fear immediate crackdown deportation. And the kids being held at these more than 100 centers around the country are in a range of conditions and desperation. Some of the centers were told are nearing capacity.
The Trump administration, however, announced plans this week that it will triple the size of facility in Texas that is known as one of the infamous "tent cities" which of course suggests the White House is not looking to lower these numbers anytime soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see construction crews are at the shelter as we speak. Back in August though, the shelter had about 400 beds. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say the shelter will expand to have a capacity of 3,800 beds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Trump administration also has a plan to pay the Mexican government $20 million for deporting up to 17,000 Central American people who were in Mexico in an undocumented manner so they would be cut off from potentially ever reaching the United States. And in this account which we credit the New York Times reporting for, the writers point out that there is something of an irony here in Donald Trump having run on a pledge to have Mexico pay for a crackdown in the name of a wall. On this particular policy beyond the humanitarian questions, it is Donald Trump`s administration with a new plan to pay Mexico. We`ll have more on this story and we`ll be right back.
MELBER: And our special coverage continues on "HARDBALL" right now.
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