Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: October 17, 2018 Guest: Bill Kristol, Evelyn Farkas, Christina Greer, Dorian Warren, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Anyway, tomorrow, meet the midterms road trip takes us to Vegas, baby. We`ll see you live from Beer Park on the strip tomorrow, 2:00 p.m. local, 5:00 p.m. in the East. And if you`re in Vegas and want to join us live, please do come early. First 50 people in the door get the sweet swag that the first 50 people here got, and it`s really good. You can drink a beer out of it.
We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY live from Vegas.
"TH BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts a little late. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER: Good evening, Chuck. It looks like fun and we like your odds. Those watching in Vegas, hello to everybody out there. And hello to you at home watching.
There are a lot of fast-moving stories tonight. Donald Trump signaling his own midterm jitters. He`s not predicting a win, instead announcing that if Republicans lose the House, it`s not his fault.
We also have an update to a story we`ve been covering on THE BEAT, Mueller getting new leads from Michael Cohen. Trump now claiming Cohen is lying under oath and why the feds were meeting with him as recently as today. Donny Deutsch live with us later on that.
And then the one and only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is on THE BEAT tonight on the 50th anniversary of his boycott of the Mexico City Olympics. We`re going to talk about activism and, of course, the Trump era.
But our top story tonight is the alleged execution that has elevated now into a full-blown foreign policy crisis for President Trump. The alleged Saudi kidnapping, interrogation, and execution of the U.S. resident, "Washington Post" Columnist Jamal Khashoggi has now taken a turn. This is new today with Donald Trump going full double-down defense of the Saudi Arabian regime.
And that is, of course, amidst new gruesome reports about what the Saudis allegedly did to Khashoggi. Now, a warning before I go any further. The account is disturbing. What experts say -- this is important. This is the context for the mounting pressure within this country and across the world on the Trump administration to address Saudi Arabia`s alleged actions rather than cover for it.
So here are the details. A senior Turkish official confirming that Turkish Media reports on information that "The New York Times" has recounting audio recordings showing the Saudis severed Khashoggi`s fingers during the interrogation while he was still alive. This taking place within the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul according to the reports. Then they beheaded and dismembered him. And as they did it, a doctor of forensics who was part of the team told the others to listen to music to ease the tension in that room.
Saudi officials still deny involvement. Nine of the 15 suspects, though, have history working with the Saudi government, including the man in this photo here who frequently traveled with the Crown Prince. He was in Houston this year as you can see.
Now, Donald Trump is certainly not the first U.S. president to coddle Saudi Arabia despite actions against U.S. interests and values. George W. Bush was classifying portions of the 9/11 report that investigated the financial ties between the Saudi regime and those hijackers. Or take the Obama administration. They didn`t let their public criticism of Saudi policy prevent the largest weapons sales by the U.S. to that country on record.
But Donald Trump is going way further now, comparing this alleged torture and murder in the embassy to his own American Supreme Court pick. Look at this, brand-new. "You know, here we go again. You`re guilty until proven innocent. I don`t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh, and he was innocent all the way." Trump also casting doubt on reports of the audio evidence of this killing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not send the FBI in to figure all this out?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he wasn`t a citizen of this country for one thing, and we`re going to determine that. And you don`t know whether or not we have, do you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I --
TRUMP: No, but do you know whether or not we`ve sent the FBI?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you sent the FBI?
TRUMP: I`m not going to tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ask for this audio/video intelligence?
TRUMP: We have asked for it if it exists. We have asked for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: If it exists. Well, Trump fanning the flames of a kind of conspiracy there suggesting the audio has been wildly reported but may not exist. Well, his Secretary of State was far more blunt when it comes to this alleged torture and murder. He said straight up, "The Trump administration doesn`t really want to discuss the facts."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did they say that Mr. Khashoggi was alive or dead?
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don`t want to talk about any of the facts. They didn`t want to either and that they want to have the opportunity to complete this investigation in a thorough way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Kicking off our coverage, Bill Kristol, founder and editor-at- large of "The Weekly Standard" and Jason Johnson from "Theroot.com".
Bill, when you look at this response, as I mentioned, not the first time the U.S. has given the Saudis a pass on things that are very objectionable. But this does seem of another order.
BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Oh, yes. Sending the Secretary of State there almost as a supplicant. He`s yakking it up with the king and the crown prince and the state department`s spokeswoman is putting it on Instagram, I think it was, photos of herself as kind of a happy tourist in Saudi Arabia.
I mean it`s terrible. I mean what`s happened is really awful. It requires a serious response in my judgment. A serious administration would be having meetings about different grades of response and discussing that, not trying to deflect and really participate. I mean Trump is part of the Saudi cover-up at this point and they`re sort of working together --
MELBER: You would go that far? You think he is an active part of this cover-up?
KRISTOL: I say he`s an active part of trying to figure out how to minimize any damage to U.S.-Saudi relations, how much -- how little can the Saudis admit and get away with it? Can they blame junior officials? I mean he`s laying the groundwork for the most minimal kind of concessions by the Saudis and now I think for the most minimal actions by the U.S.
Now, look, if you want to make -- some people want to make a policy case that this is awful, what`s happened. Saudis have done other awful things. They`re fighting Yemen but we have national interests at stake, et cetera, et cetera, and let`s have a policy debate.
But that`s not what Trump is doing. Trump is just trying to muddy the waters enough. It`s very much like what he does with Mueller and the domestic policy so that he doesn`t have to do much because he doesn`t want to do anything. He really doesn`t want to do anything, I think, in return for this ghastly murder. They seduced, they lured him to the consulate there, murder this man in the most gruesome way, and Trump doesn`t want to do anything about it.
MELBER: Right. And to state the obvious, Bill, although it`s part of our job these days, there is nothing tough in foreign policy or the world stage about letting another country get away with, as you put it, the gruesome murder of a U.S. resident and journalist.
KRISTOL: Right. And a leading dissident in that country, in a place that`s allegedly liberalizing. But, of course, it`s similar to his attitudes towards Putin, towards China who`s got a million Uighurs and their concentration camps. To say that human rights aren`t a priority anymore is such an understatement.
We don`t even seem able to act in a sort of dignified way. If we`re not going to act on behalf of democracy human rights and decency, sometimes you can foreign policy I suppose and people can do that. But then act with a certain kind of dignity and decency, don`t send the Secretary of State over there to yak it up with the King of Saudi Arabia.
MELBER: Jason, as you know, there are many, many stories where we report out the total quiet and quiescence of Republican elected officials in the phase of things they long said they were against when Donald Trump does them. We`re also fair and we report out what we find when we find it. And we did see, and I want to play several Republican elected officials breaking with the Trump administration over this. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Where is the body? Why wasn`t the family notified? Why have they spent the better part of eight or nine days saying they didn`t know anything about it?
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think the Saudis murdered him.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This guy is a wrecking ball. He had this guy murdered in a Consulate in Turkey and to expect me to ignore it, I feel used and abused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THEROOT.COM: I mean I do declare, Lindsey Graham feels used and abused and again. Here`s the problem. A lot of Republicans will criticize Trump and they won`t do anything. They won`t hold up any policy. They won`t enact any sort of changes. While they are still running the House and Senate, they will not do anything to really hold Saudi Arabia accountable.
You have to remember this is a situation where you have several bad actors. I mean we have Turkey who they had, you know, officials over here beating American protesters a year ago and the president didn`t do anything about it. They have their own bad history with journalists.
So, you know, you have sort of a feckless Republican party that will complain. You have several bad actors who have been emboldened by this president. And what concerns me and what should concern any journalist or anybody who cares about American democracy and decency and honesty is this will not be the only time this happens.
I mean Jamal Khashoggi was a permanent resident, but this will end up happening to Americans. This will end up happening to other countries who have journalists who were allied with. Because when the president of the United States has basically declared war on the press in the United States and specific news outlets, other dictators will be perfectly comfortable in engaging in these kinds of activities because they know there`s no consequence.
MELBER: It makes a lot of sense when you lay it out like that. Although, it`s certainly discouraging. Both of you stay with me.
On the diplomacy, we want to now turn to an expert we rely on many stories, Evelyn Farkas who is deputy assistant defense secretary.
Before we get to what`s wrong with this, being familiar with some of your analysis, I think you might echo some of what we`ve heard on the morality. I wonder if you could just walk us through at a geostrategic level why is Saudi Arabia considered so important to the U.S.?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, Ari, Saudi Arabia has always been important to the United States because, of course, historically we`ve gotten the bulk of our oil from Saudi Arabia, not just us but, of course, our allies.
So it was important to have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia. They helped us regulate the price, especially when supply fluctuated. They`ve been helpful to us, of course, in the context of dealing with Russia and other oil suppliers. However, many people point out that they did put the squeeze on oil prices. They put them low, which hurt our shale oil production. So it`s a double-edged sword with the Saudis.
We have come to rely on them supposedly for counterterrorism help. Although, of course, if you look at 9/11, all the perpetrators of that and Osama bin Laden himself was Saudi. The Wahhabi branch of Islam is coming from Saudi Arabia so the Saudi government over the years has essentially allowed their clerics to spread a very fundamental version of Islam worldwide, which has caused problems for the world.
This current crown prince, who is ruling essentially while his father was still on the throne, but essentially running Saudi Arabia, said he was going to reform that and we like that. But the reality is that Saudi Arabia is a little less important, should have been less important to us today.
And so just to wrap up, under the Trump administration, it became more important. Saudi Arabia became more important because the Trump administration said in the geostrategic context of the Middle East, we are going to throw our weight towards Saudi Arabia because we hate Iran that much. And the two countries are at loggerheads. They`re rivals. It has to do with religion and geopolitics.
So we threw our lot in too heavily with Saudi Arabia. It`s better for the United States not to do that, to be more of a balancer, if you will, in the region. I think writ large, the only ally we really have is Israel there, hard fast in the Middle East. So we made a calculated mistake.
And this guy, the crown prince, was frankly speaking unreliable. And what he has done makes it clear that we should not be working with Saudi Arabia as closely as we have thus far so long as he remains the heir apparent and running the country.
MELBER: Right. And so listening to your very right and sort of sobering briefing on the history makes one question how this president makes big decisions. I mean so much of what he does gets attention for the ways that it breaks norms, that it is depressing, that it is outrageous, the insults. But here we are dealing with something at a far greater level, which listening to you makes quite clear.
Does Donald Trump in your view have any method for reassessing this bet? I mean you`re saying they put a big bet down on Saudi Arabia instead of Iran. Obama famously was trying to warm relations with Iran and going in a little bit of a different direction. Is there any reassessment? I mean how many people, to put it bluntly, have to be tortured and killed in extrajudicial killings before the administration says, "Gosh, these guys are drunk with power, we need to check them more?"
FARKAS: There should be a reassessment. The problem I think is fundamental at the highest level, not the cabinet but the president. He doesn`t understand the value of, essentially values. He doesn`t understand that you can gain power and influence by standing up for human rights, by having a firm policy against extrajudicial, extraterritorial killings of journalists.
Because, again, as Jamal, I believe, said, you know, this is going to happen again in another country. You know, another autocrat is going to kill another journalist because the United States is not standing up for the principle. And the rest of the world will notice and we will lose influence and power.
MELBER: The rest of the world will notice. And Jason, the rest of the world will hear the power, authority, and leadership of the United States siding with what looks increasingly like blatant lies. And I don`t use that word every night. I use that when we could prove it. I want to play for your analysis, Jason, how the president sided with Putin`s lies and now with what really looks like Saudi Arabian lies. First, the Putin denial. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think that the United States has been foolish. I have President Putin. He just said it`s not Russia. I will say this. I don`t see any reason why it would be. President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
The King firmly denied any knowledge of it. He didn`t really know. Maybe -- I don`t want to get into his mind, but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNSON: Yes. Because 15 rogue killers came in a Saudi plane and managed to get into the embassy. You know, Ari, what this really speaks to is the fact that the president is completely in the pocket of any other dictators in the world because he admires their ability to basically kill or tacitly allow the death of anybody who criticizes them.
I don`t think the president ever got on the phone with anybody in Saudi Arabia. I don`t think he read any sort of NSA analysis to come to that decision. He basically said, "I don`t care. It was a brown journalist. He`s not an American. And I`m perfectly happy with our relationship with Turkey. And I`m perfectly happy with our relationship with Saudi Arabia."
MELBER: I just want to be clear about what you`re saying. You think it might have been different if it was a different person?
JOHNSON: Oh, yes. Yes. I think there is a possibility. Look, I`m not going to name any particular news networks, but I suspect that if this was someone who was an American who was born here, of a different color, and perhaps representing a news outlet that the president was more happy with, he may have a very different opinion about how serious this is and whether or not Saudi Arabia should be held accountable. And everything in his behavior suggests --
MELBER: Right. I want to be clear. On the one hand, you`re making a hypothetical, right? So it`s an allegation that`s hypothetical.
JOHNSON: Yes, yes.
MELBER: But on the other hand, as you and other experts have pointed out, we are talking about a president who degrades and attacks journalists in the most extreme ways and talks about them as "Enemy of the people" inside our very country. And here we are dealing with the execution of someone affiliated with one of those outlets, "The Washington Post."
JOHNSON: Exactly, exactly. And I don`t think this president -- again, he clearly is not a fan of journalism. He is not a fan of journalists in the United States, and he`s not going to do anything about this. And here`s, I think, a bigger issue that we have to remember about this. Journalists come to America just like scholars, just like businesspeople because they think this country will protect them because they think we`re the lands of the free.
There won`t be journalists, there won`t be investigators around the world who won`t come here now because they see how this president allowed this to transpire.
MELBER: I think it`s an important point to consider.
KRISTOL: He also wasn`t just a journalist.
MELBER: I`m over time. So briefly, Bill.
KRISTOL: Khashoggi is considered a dissident. Trump has no sympathy with dissidents, whether it`s in Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and that`s terrible, I think. He`s on the side of the dictators against the dissidents.
MELBER: Dictators against the dissidents. And as you say, Bill, he was someone who had that history which makes him different than a totally independent reporter. But as Jason was saying, taking the protection that the United States typically affords people to speak their mind, the First Amendment.
My thanks to everyone on the panel. A lot of important stuff. Bill, Jason, and Evelyn.
Coming up. There are new developments. Michael Cohen talking with the feds today as Trump claims his lawyer fixer was actually only involved in P.R. Donny Deutsch joins us on that.
And later, why Beto O`Rourke came out swinging Ted Cruz in the hottest race in the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS SENATE CANDIDATE : Senator Cruz is not going to be honest with you. He`s dishonest. It`s why the president called him lying Ted and it`s why the nickname stuck because it`s true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: As they say in Texas, booyakasha.
And later, Obama jumping back into the midterms talking to young voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA: Elections, by the way, aren`t boring. You know what`s boring? Scrolling through endless photos of your dinner on Instagram. That`s boring.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Too many food photos of well-known party fall.
And later, my special interview tonight with a man who embodies the role of the athlete activist, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is here on THE BEAT to talk about justice and sports in the Trump era. We`ve got a big show.
I`m Ari Melber and we`ll be right back.
MELBER: Twenty days is a lifetime in politics. We all know that. But Donald Trump did strike a pretty pessimistic tone about his party`s chances in the upcoming midterms saying, "If Republicans lose the House, that`s on them," and it`s not a referendum on his presidency. Now, Trump thought if Republicans would win, he would be happy to claim credit.
So the new spin does tell you where his head is at and that doesn`t mean Trump`s prediction`s correct, any more than all the other political and polling predictions that have turned out wrong. But look at this, a GOP document leaking tonight that shows their own operatives secretly say the election does boil down to how voters feel about Trump.
My next guests know their way around elections. Dorian Warren is president of the Center for Community Change Action which is focused on turning out the more sporadic voters. They`re knocking on millions of doors in states like Nevada, Florida, and Michigan, right in the field. And Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham and a friend of THE BEAT.
I want you both to listen to how Donald Trump spin shows that he is backing off attempts to Trumpify the midterms.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A vote for Marsha is really a vote for me and everything that we stand for. A vote for Cindy is a vote for me. A vote for Steve is a vote for me. A vote for David is a vote for me and our agenda to make America great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Changing his tune.
CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Yes. Well, I mean I think this is fascinating just because Trump has never represented the Republican party in his mind. Trump represents Trump. And so even though we`ve had a unified government for the past almost two years, that`s a Republican Senate, Republican Congress and a Republican presidency, at the end of the day, the only person Trump really cares about is himself.
So he`s saying well if you all don`t win, that`s actually not my problem. And so now we`re going to start seeing some Republicans in particular districts saying, "Well, actually, it is our problem. Aren`t we a collective?" And that`s actually not how Trump views his presidency. That`s not how he views the party either.
DORIAN WARREN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR COMMUNITY CHANGE ACTION: You know, I think he`s actually both right and wrong. So he`s wrong in the sense that, you know, many, many voters who are mobilized and enthusiastic see him and the Republican party as one and the same. So he`s tied to the party and the party knows it. They may tear that with him and they knock the line in.
But where he is right is that voters who are going to turn out and probably shift the politics in the House in particular in terms of the Democrats, they`re not turning out as just some knee-jerk reaction to him. They`re turning out around an affirmative vision around healthcare, around immigration, around criminal justice reform.
So it`s not just some knee-jerk -- Kavanaugh as well by the way. But it`s not just some knee-jerk reaction to Trump himself. It is a wholesale rejection of the vision and from where we see voters that are most enthusiastic, they are moved by what they can vote affirmatively for in terms of an agenda that will change their lives.
MELBER: What does it tell you that there is this weird pre-spin, that he is of the working assumption that they`re going to lose seat if not the whole House?
WARREN: Oh, this is what he`s best at, right, is the pre-spin to make everybody else respond to him and respond to the message. So it`s actually what he is, he is a showman, right? He`s actually gamed it out a little bit, like how can I win either way. If he already knows, I`m sure he`s getting data, not that he reads it but I`m sure some of his staff are getting data about how bad it looks in so many states and the high probability he`ll lose the House.
GREER: Well, and remember, he did this right before the election when almost everyone in the country thought that he would lose, right? He was already planting the seeds that this is a corrupt, illegitimate election, there`s been widespread fraud, you know, everything is turned against me. So he was already putting that out there.
MELBER: You make a great point doing a throwback, which is that he was talking that trash going into the election day, which may have messed with people and thrown people off their game, and then they did win the electoral college.
WARREN: Right, which I don`t think he was prepared for or many people in his orbit.
MELBER: You don`t think Donald Trump was prepared to become president?
WARREN: No, I don`t think.
MELBER: I didn`t know he felt that way.
WARREN: Right, I don`t think that.
GREER: But I think in this moment, he`s sort of planting the seeds because just in case it is a shellacking like we saw in 2010 as Obama called it and he`ll be totally embarrassed. And as Dorian said, it will be a mandate that so many millions of Americans are saying I reject these racist, anti- Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiments that you have been, you know, putting out across the country. He does not want to sort of have to face that. So he can say, you know -- I mean, Ari, I already thought we were going to lose --
MELBER: He doesn`t want to face it but Republicans are shocked about messages that put R on the same page. We showed the leaked document that they say it`s about him. His own White House adviser, now in exile, Steve Bannon, told us the midterms are all about Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: This up or down vote on President Trump, you know, this election is going to come as a referendum on him. He permeates the entire political culture. I think the opposition party media and the Democrats succeed in one thing. I think they did get a do-over to 2016, and I think this is his first re-election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I never thought I`d agree with Steve Bannon but on this point, he`s absolutely right.
WARREN: Yes. He said -- what was the term? Trump infuses the culture --
MELBER: Permeates the culture.
WARREN: Permeates the culture. Absolutely right. This is a referendum on him but he didn`t go far enough. It`s a referendum on him and the entire Republican party and their governing agenda. That`s what the referendum is.
MELBER: Right. And that`s what apparently Republicans say now would be a bad thing, which is pretty interesting.
My thanks to Dorian Warren and Christina Greer for coming to THE BEAT.
Ahead, in 30 seconds, Michael Cohen meeting with the feds today. One of Cohen`s longtime friends is here when we`re back in 30.
MELBER: Federal prosecutors met today with former lawyer Michael Cohen again, which adds to the 50 hours he`s spent with them already. And that apparently has Donald Trump nervous. The president going out of his way to accuse Cohen of lying under oath when he said Trump directed him to pay Stormy Daniels.
Now, this is actually a telling attack because with other people cooperating with the feds, Trump has distanced himself saying someone is a coffee boy or he barely knows Paul Manafort. But Trump thinks Cohen apparently knows enough that the content of his testimony must be discredited. Trump also suggesting the man that he credited as a lawyer for over a decade is now a P.R. person who only did small legal work.
Now, Cohen did do P.R. for Trump. But note that his guilty plea wasn`t about P.R. It was about the legal work negotiating that gag order contract for Stormy Daniels, which Cohen paid for in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for office, which we know was Donald Trump. And he admitted he was the David used in that contract and admitted he made the payments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the payments?
TRUMP: Later on I knew. Later on. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn`t come out of the campaign. They came from me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Or take another lawyer who does legal and P.R. work for Trump admitting the same thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: That was money that was paid by his lawyer. The president reimbursed that over a period of several months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Donny Deutsch is a friend of Michael Cohen`s and an MSNBC contributor. Thanks for being here.
DONNY DEUTSCH, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: Thanks. What happened to Rudy Giuliani by the way? Where did he go?
MELBER: What do you mean?
DEUTSCH: He just disappeared.
EL-You mean why is he not on television?
DEUTSCH: He`s nowhere. He just --
MELBER: I think they`re using the pre-election quiet period to keep Rudy quiet. It`s good to see you.
You`ve spoken to Michael Cohen, and you`ve spoken about this on air. He`s back with the feds today. What do you see is the important part of the story?
DEUTSCH: The important part of the story is that Donald Trump is frightened and that`s obvious. You know, there`s something that Donald Trump may have forgotten about. There`s an actual audiotape of him really telling Michael what to do, directing Michael. But this is Donald Trump, the sky is not blue, it`s green. There`s no reality to realness.
Michael is very clear on where he is right now. Michael wants to be on the right side of history. Michael is doing everything he can to help the Mueller investigation. What is also an outright lie, because I dealt with Trump, the Trump Organization, Michael for 10 years through business, through television. Michael was Donald`s right-hand man.
DEUTSCH: Other than his three children and probably more so than Eric Because Eric was much younger, there was never an interaction I had with Donald about anything where Michael was not involved. Michael was a consiliary. He was his adviser. So to say he was his P.R. man is an out and out lie.
Donald understands that right now -- and I do not know this, but he is in there probably corroborating every serious issue because Michael was there front and center. And so at this point, Donald needs to do everything he can to discredit him, but it doesn`t matter. Facts are facts. Tapes are tapes. And this is just lie number 4740 for the -
MELBER: Well, it`s good that you have a count off the top of your head.
DEUTSCH: OK. "The Washington Post" does that, I read the Washington Post and that`s what happens.
MELBER: Did Michael Cohen go to Prague for Trump?
DEUTSCH: No, I would -- by the way, he said no. I have to believe that. I think it`s been -- they`ve looked at it every which way. I am not you know with Michael all the time, but what Michael has told me and everybody else is --
MELBER: Now -- you just went from sounding like a T.V. guest to like here in a deposition.
DEUTSCH: Well, you know, you asked if me if --
MELBER: You have said that that`s my understanding of the --
DEUTSCH: My understanding -- you know, I don`t believe he did. He says he hasn`t and you know --
MELBER: Let me -- let me put it this way and I`m not giving you a hard time. I wouldn`t --
DEUTSCH: Yes, you do that and that`s OK.
MELBER: Do you think that Michael Cohen knows things that relate to alleged collusion?
DEUTSCH: Yes. Yes. I think that it would be hard for Michael to be in the position he`s in and not understand -- you know, I think look Donald Trump knows what Michael Cohen did, where he was, how I knew, so there -- that`s why he`s frightened. So I believe if there was collusion, I think Michael would know about it. He`s spending a lot of time with Mueller and in a very cooperating way so I do not know this from Michael but I would be shocked if at the end of the day we are not looking at both obstruction of justice and collusion from 40 different angles and I`m sure Michaels in a position to help out if that`s the case.
MELBER: Which is interesting coming from you given the unique perch that you have. Now, as you know, if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn`t have a problem talking to former Federal Prosecutor Dan Goldman who`s here to help interrogate you.
DEUTSCH: I -- you know, I`m on the other side of this table here and so --
MELBER: You have nothing to hide right? You`re free to leave at any time.
DEUTSCH: I -- you know, I just -- I was nowhere near --
MELBER: But if you do you`d be in big trouble. What questions are on your mind for Michael Cohen or Donny?
DAN GOLDMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are a lot of questions for Michael Cohen and what`s interesting is what we learned today that it sounds like it was the Southern District of New York prosecutors who were meeting with Michael Cohen. And what seems to be happening here is that Cohen is splitting time. He`s spending a fair amount of time with Bob Mueller and going through the collusion and maybe some of the obstruction of justice and maybe more because there`s a lot that occurred that Michael Cohen was involved with after the election.
But then he`s also spending time with the Southern District of New York which is not going to be involved in the collusion aspect but may very well be involved in exactly what Donny was talking about, Michael`s role as sort of a consigliore for the Trump Organization. And you can bet that the prosecutors in the Southern District are downloading Michael Cohen about everything that he knows about anything related, anything the nefarious related to the Trump Organization.
MELBER: And his utility to both of those probes reduces his jail time.
GOLDMAN: It will likely will. He does not yet have a cooperation agreement although that could follow. He pled guilty just straight-up to the crimes that he was charged with including as you mentioned the Stormy Daniels and the Karen McDougal payments, but he is cooperating about all sorts of other things. He may ultimately have to plead guilty to more crimes if he was involved and more. He may not, but regardless this cooperation, this meeting is providing evidence will be helpful to reduce his sentence regardless of whether he gets an agreement or not.
MELBER: Another question just about Michael state of mind, not necessary what he knows is he`s publicly now embraced the Democratic Party going into the Midterms. Is that really the best idea? Wouldn`t it be better for him to just back off of all politics and say he`s going to be factual and leave it at that?
DEUTSCH: You know, let me answer to it. Let me answer it the literal way it`s probably best. But you have to listen this is a guy that every day is getting punched and can`t really punch back you know. And it`s just I think an emotional way of him saying you know what, I`m not on that side. I may have started out there, I made a big mistake, I went to work --
MELBER: What is he trying to say though? Is he trying to say that he basically does not think Donald Trump belongs in office and that`s why the Democrats --
DEUTSCH: He`s absolutely -- look, a lot of the country feels wrong. He probably feels more wrong than anybody because he was loyal to this man. He was loyal for this man for a long time. He feels violated. He feels the country has been violated. He wants to make a statement that beyond obviously doing what he needs to do was right for himself and his family, he wants to see this country in a different place.
MELBER: So what does it say to you that the man who spent as you put it this much time doing everything with Donald Trump, knows him so well, knows him behind the scenes, thinks it`s imperative to get him out of the White House.
DEUTSCH: He has seen a transition. You know, I remember a real turning point for him was after the Helsinki meeting so he always knew Donald was a certain con but he was very loyal to him and he believed in him. He has seen a very different guy in the last 18 months. You know, he said to me many times because at the beginning I said Michael, how could you be loyal to him? This is not the same guy. This is a different guy. So I don`t think he ever thought he`s working for choirboy but he has seen a very different morphing into a very different character. But I think he`s giving them a real permission to kind of go into a different place.
MELBER: Well, as Dan Goldman will tell you, you don`t have to stay and that`s what makes sure that we`re not on the wrong side of a custodial interrogation situation but I`d love for you to come back later in the show and talk about ads since you`re such an ad guy.
DEUTSCH: Ari, whatever you want me to do, I will do.
MELBER: How do you feel --
DEUTSCH: I`m cooperating,
MELBER: How do you feel about the custodial interrogation joke?
GOLDMAN: I think it was very good and I think three viewers got it.
DEUTSCH: Yes, but I`m with you.
MELBER: The fact that you thought it was good and it was silent tells you what a low bar us lawyers have for humor. But if you`re watching this show, you know that already. Thanks to both of you. Donny, I`ll see you in a minute. Up ahead, these Midterm ads that you got to see including Barack Obama winning in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do you remember those hearings where members of Congress we`re asking Mark Zuckerberg questions like they`d never used the internet before? It`s because they haven`t. Here`s your chance to vote for people who actually know what the internet is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And later, NBA legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaking out on race and justice in the Trump era. I`m very excited to have him here on THE BEAT for the first time.
MELBER: Athletes make tough opponents for politicians as Donald Trump has been learning. And advocating civil rights in the field has a rich history. It was 50 years ago this week that Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists at the Mexico City Olympics to put the mistreatment of black Americans in front of the whole world.
My next guest continues that tradition. Basketball Legend Kareem Abdul- Jabbar also known for activism and intellect off the court. And in a new essay today he recounts skipping those Olympics as a protest teaming up with Muhammad Ali and others to advocate an end of the Vietnam War and many of today`s athletes cite his example and continue the path. You have LeBron James wearing the I can`t breathe t-shirt which drew attention to the police strangling an unarmed man in New York Eric Garner, or of course Colin Kaepernick who ignited a presidential-level debate over his protests of kneeling during the national anthem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh and LeBron and Kevin, you`re great players but no one voted for you. Keep the political commentary to yourself or someone once said shut up and dribble.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: I`m not sure why it`s so hard for so many NFL players to understand why Americans don`t want to see the flag and the National Anthem disrespected on Sunday, on game day.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn`t be playing, you shouldn`t be there. Maybe you shouldn`t be in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We are honored to welcome Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to THE BEAT. He started a new action of his own memorabilia with some of the proceeds going to the Skyhook Foundation which helps kids in need. Thanks for coming on the show.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, NBA LEGEND: Well, thank you for having me, Ari.
MELBER: You look at this history that you`ve been involved in and now writing about, what do you see as the and what`s important for athletes and fans to do right now?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, the legacy is the incredible legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. That`s what we`re dealing with right now. The problem set Colin Kapernick was trying to call attention to are the same problems that black Americans were dealing with immediately after the Second World War when you know, the Civil Rights Movement really took off and gained steam.
MELBER: And in you`re -- in your new essay, you compare this to 68 which was of course a big year for activism in a lot of ways reading a little Kareem to Kareem for you to build on. You say, outspoken athletes of today face the same hostility from good people who are just ignorant of facts, from those who are terrified of the gradual Browning of America and from those who profit from social disparity.
Can you speak a little bit about that because in this polarized time, I couldn`t help but notice in reading that you are definitely clarifying that there are plenty of as you put it, good people who might have an initial negative reaction and it seems like you`re trying to dialogue with them.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes, I am because what I don`t feel that they understand is the athletes who were taking a knee during this play of the National Anthem we`re trying to bring attention to a problem. The fact that black Americans are killed unnecessarily at a ridiculous rate and they were trying to bring attention to that problem. They were not trying to disrespect our country or the flag or our military. What they want to call attention to the fact that America is not walking it like it supposedly talks it and that is what the issue is all about.
MELBER: Right. And so, how do you also square that with the kind of status that some fans and some Americans seem to want to hold athletes and specifically black athletes in. And we played some of the clips there and I think it`s a range but when you hear this idea that athletes somehow should stay out of politics, well, all of us in America are welcome to engage in politics but as we just showed there`s this rich history. What do you make of that kind of view or even that kind of discrimination?
ABDUL-JABBAR: I think that`s absurd. You know, Bill Bradley certainly didn`t pay attention to that edict, Tom McMillan, another former NBA player whose run for office and had plenty to say about our political situation. The fact that we have a certain profession does not mean that we can`t have opinions on very important issues that are being discussed nationally. And you know, whoever suggested that LeBron keep quiet, they didn`t know what they were talking about.
MELBER: And then you have in Donald Trump someone who used to make a big deal out of his relationships with prominent black Americans, certainly prominent celebrity Black Americans and then just totally flipped his message when he went into racist birtherism and then 2016 campaigning. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look at my African-American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest? Are we going to work on our ghetto spot? Do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose? What the hell do you have to lose?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`d say in contrast to some of the folks you address in your new essay, Donald Trump according to many civil rights leaders is not worth dialoguing with at least at this time. So what do you say to people about that and how to make impact?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, we have to do what we can do to change the situation. We have a lot of work to do. We have to register people to vote and we have to understand what the issues are and appeal to Americans on the basis of the issues that they all hold common. That`s just common sense, that that`s the way the American political system works, and I believe that`s how we will get past this moment.
MELBER: Let me close with some of the good stuff as well. I want to hear a little bit more about what you`re doing with your foundation which sounds really positive and we also while we got you here on sports wanted to know what you think about LeBron going to the Lakers. Could he ever be the top three or best ever basketball player? Do you want to weigh in on that long-running debate?
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I`m really thrilled that LeBron is coming here to Los Angeles to play. He brings a whole lot to the table not just on the court, off the court, his leadership, and I`m sure that he`s going to be a very positive addition to the Laker team. But you know, as far as my auction is concerned, I`m working with Golden Auctions. The auction stops on October 27th and if people want to know about how they can get a piece of my career, they can go to a goldenauctions.com and they can find out all about it.
MELBER: That`s fantastic. I only wish I got to have you here in person but I know you had a busy schedule. I appreciate you making time for us out in California, Kareem.
ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, anytime, Ari. It`s great to see you and continued success with your show.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and we`ll mention the new book Mycroft and Sherlock also available in stores. Next up we have news that`s breaking literally or in the Russia Probe. Bob Mueller`s team now asking Paul Manafort for information about guess who, Roger Stone. We have that new story when we`re back.
MELBER: Breaking news right now in the Mueller probe. ABC reporting tonight that Bob Mueller is now pushing Paul Manafort for information on Roger Stone. And that`s not all. New reports from Mueller`s boss deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein who is you probably know if you watch the news, he rarely gives interviews about the Russia probe. But tonight, he`s out defending the probe in a new interview with The Wall Street Journal. Take a look. Rosenstein saying the Mueller investigation is appropriate, independent, and he`s going to ensure it stays that way.
On these breaking stories I am rejoined by Donny Deutsch and former Federal Prosecutor Dan Goldman. Dan, the news that Mueller is keying in on Roger Stone through Paul Manafort who is not only his former business partner and foreign lobbying but Stone help bring Manafort to the campaign originally to deal with what they worried would be a delegate revolt at the convention.
GOLDMAN: When someone cooperates with federal prosecutors, all bets are off. And we talked about this with Michael Cohen turning against his former boss Donald Trump and maybe other former colleagues of his, but Paul Manafort is giving the Bob Mueller and his prosecutors absolutely everything that he knows right now, and that of course will include anything that he knows about Roger Stone who against -- you know who Mueller has been circling around for quite some time now.
So it`s not a surprise at all given that we know that Mueller is focusing on Stone and we know Manafort now is cooperating and giving everything he has, but that was a huge break for the -- for the investigation because if anyone knows about collusion in the Trump campaign, you would have to think it`s Paul Manafort.
MELBER: On the flip side, is it possible that Manafort could help Stone by saying truthfully with his own bacon on the line, yes, Roger exaggerates a lot of stuff and he exaggerated the collusion with Russia and then when we talked about whether he had anything, he had nothing.
GOLDMAN: I an op-ed in the Washington Post that said exactly that. The best thing about Paul Manafort cooperating is that we will very likely now get to the bottom of whether or not there was collusion. We don`t know but Paul Manafort probably does. And if Roger Stone is right and he has been publicly stated over and over again that he did nothing wrong, if he`s right, then that`s what Paul Manafort will likely say.
MELBER: I look to you for the law, I look to you for the narrative. I`m holding this literally hot off the press breaking here, Rod Rosenstein going to The Wall Street Journal at this point in time independence and appropriateness for a Mueller. This is a man Rod Rosenstein who recently was being talked about as being ousted.
DEUTSCH: Yes, it`s a very interesting. You know, as of -- once Kavanaugh hit all the -- all the Russian investigation kind of took a back seat. And obviously as we get close to the Midterms, two weeks, six days out, there`s nothing Mueller is going to do officially. It`s so -- it`s why all of a sudden -- as you see, Rod Rosenstein has an interview with The Wall Street Journal to say it`s not witch hunt. We already have how many indictments, how many guilty pleas including his campaign manager, including --
MELBER: Do you think he`s putting the marker down for further action?
DEUTSCH: I think what you`ll see over there it`s two and a half weeks is things like that coming out reminding the American public, reminding the voting public of how this is going on, how real it is and how imminent what`s coming. Obviously, there will not be any indictments between now and Election Day but I find it fascinating and to your point a marker or a stake in the ground, and I not only will there be this stake in the ground, there were three or four other things, pieces of news that come out unofficial about the investigation as we get closer to --
MELBER: As we get closer because Rod Rosenstein doesn`t need to talk to major newspapers, one with a little bit of a conservative bend at the Journal to say hey, Mueller stays independent --
DEUTSCH: Not only that, that this is not a witch-hunt. He needed to say that. We kind of all know from this point --
MELBER: My last question has a short answer. Is Donny free to go?
GOLDMAN: Donny, you are free to go but you must come back.
DEUTSCH: Thank you, counselor.
MELBER: There you have it, Donny Deutsch and Dan Goldman on the breaking news. We have one more thing. We`ll be right back.
MELBER: We promised one more thing worth waiting for before letting you go, and here it is. A new political video for the Midterms from President Obama aimed squarely at young people who should get out and vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The last presidential election turned out fewer than 100,000 votes in three states. More people went to Coachella. Look, when it comes to something like dancing with the stars, people actually think their vote matters. But a vote in November`s election actually does matter. By the way, you wouldn`t let your grandparents pick your play list, why would you let them pick your representative who`s going to determine your future? This thing has something called Google. You can`t use Google to figure out which candidates on your local ballot think the earth is flat and climate change is a hoax. Google is super easy to read.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What does Obama`s shade look like? It looks like that. That`s all our time. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END