Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: November 8, 2018 Guest: Nick Akerman, Michael Steele, David Laufman, Jerrold Nadler, John Podesta
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you.
We have developing news in the Mueller probe tonight, including an interview with a top prosecutor who ran this probe and served in the Obama Justice Department. Also, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is on THE BEAT tonight for his first interview since the election. He`s already making moves to protect Mueller against Trump`s new acting attorney general. We are going to get into it live.
And later in the show, my first breakdown of what I think Tuesday meant, why the Blue Wave is so large, and why some are intent on making you think otherwise. But we begin tonight with the man who is quickly becoming the most famous lawyer in America and one of the most controversial, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. He is this Mueller critic who Donald Trump has tapped to run the Mueller probe.
And breaking right now, we just got into our newsroom. I want to show for you to be able to hear with your own ears this audio that`s been unearthed of Whitaker, this is Trump`s new guy, denying that the Russians interfered with the U.S. election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: The left is trying to sow this theory that essentially Russians interfered with the U.S. election which has been proven false. They did not have any impact in the election and that has been very clear from the Obama administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What you heard there sounds a lot more like a political partisan than a nonpartisan prosecutor who would be dealing with a probe that has now determined the Russians did interfere and is also trying to determine whether they had American help. Now, sometimes on this show, we reach for classic pros to understand what`s happening all around us.
Tonight, we turn to a saying often attributed to Oscar Wilde, "A true friend stabs you in the front, not the back." And that is one way to look at Whitaker because he was Jeff Sessions` right-hand man throughout his tenure at DOJ. In fact, they`d go to meet Trump at the White House together where Whitaker would quote, "Smile knowingly and nod to Trump as he complained about Mueller" according to new reporting out in "The Washington Post".
And now, this looks like a prelude to Whitaker nabbing his boss`s job. In fact, you can see him right there. He was the last person to shake Jeff Sessions` hand as he departed the DOJ last night. Proverbially, stabbing him in the front taking over his job.
The other breaking news tonight is reports that Whitaker was publicly prejudging the outcome of the Mueller probe, announcing that he thought the truth is there was "No collusion between Trump and Russia". Again, something that is under open investigation. It could be true that there was no collusion.
In fact, Bob Mueller might find that for everyone but he could find something else. The question is whether this is the right man to oversee that given what he said. But I can tell you, critics say tonight it is those kinds of comments that make Whitaker unfit to oversee a probe that hasn`t answered that question. Democrats also warning they`re going to use their new power to investigate no matter what this administration tries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It is a break the glass moment and I`m hoping that all of my colleagues will rise to the occasion.
ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We will fill in the gaps of the Russian investigation. We will conduct all of the investigations that the Republicans were unwilling to conduct.
REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: We make sure we hold Donald Trump and his administration accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Today, top Democrats leaning to the power they will official y take in January. They`re demanding the preservation of all materials here related to the firing of Jeff Sessions. That includes documents, memos which they could then use in their own probe or investigation. And top Democrat Jerrold Nadler`s leading the effort. He joins me tonight.
Meanwhile, Rod Rosenstein back at the White House for the second day in a row today. No, we don`t know exactly why he was there. He bailed on a planned speech in San Francisco that was supposed to be today. Now until yesterday, Rosenstein was the only thing between Mueller and Trump because the now departed attorney general did this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaign for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was March 2017 which began the Rosenstein era for this probe. He was the one approving Mueller`s big moves. He announced any indictments. And now today, we`re on the first full day of what is the Whitaker era. He would step out on that dais there if Mueller indicted more foreign nationals, not Rosenstein. And that`s a striking contrast given how the two men have spoken about the fundamentals of this Russia probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, UNITED STATES DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Department of Justice is not going to be extorted. We`re going to do what`s required by the rule of law.
WHITAKER: I think what ultimately the president`s going to start doing is putting pressure on Rod Rosenstein who is in charge of this investigation.
ROSENSTEIN: The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.
WHITAKER: So I could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn`t fire Bob Muller but he just reduces the budget so low that his investigation grinds to absolute -- almost a halt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Grind the investigation to a halt. That is the new acting attorney general. What you`re looking at right now are live pictures that we`re getting in right now, 6:05 p.m. on the East Coast in Times Square. When people talk about what would the public do if this goes further, if this turns into a way to kneecap Mueller, if this turns into a potential constitutional crisis, many experts say, "We`re not there quite yet but we are there with people in the streets."
What looks to us based on our reporting and what we can see, what you can see on your screen as peaceful marches, these are part of a plan for marches around the country to "Protect Mueller." And you could see from our sky cam there just how far back they go in New York City. You always have a mix of people who are walking around and get caught up in a March to the people who are planning the March. But what you`re looking at in this live shot of Times Square New York, obviously, all the way far out in that packed skyline is people marching right now to protect Mueller.
We`ve got a lot on our show as I`ve mentioned. So let`s get to our experts. Watergate Special Prosecutor Nick Akerman and Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York City. And RNC Chairman Michael Steele who knows his way around a good march. Don`t you, sir?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN: RNC: Yes, indeed. Oh, yes.
MELBER: Oh, yes.
STEELE: Oh, yes.
MELBER: It is interesting, Nick Akerman to see that out in the streets. I make the distinction that people there say they want to protect Mueller. They don`t say at this hour and we`re not reporting any action from Whitaker yet. But what do you think is incumbent on the Justice Department and these professionals who are in the Justice Department who have a new boss when you see someone who has effectively said in public that there`s nothing left to do in this probe? If there was no interference, that`s false, no collusion, that`s a no.
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Well, first of all, you`ve got somebody who should absolutely recuse himself from having anything to do with this investigation. He has taken a very hard stance on what he believes this investigation is about. If there`s anybody that`s got bias and already has formed an opinion before he`s even become attorney general, he has no business having anything to do with this investigation.
You need to have an attorney general who is out there that is fair and impartial and will weigh the evidence and look at whatever the evidence turns out to be as a result of this investigation. I mean you won`t even put this guy on a jury if he tried to -- if he came here for the Manafort jury pool --
STEELE: Sure, you wouldn`t do it.
AKERMAN: -- you and the government would have kicked him off in two seconds.
MELBER: Nick Akerman saying this guy doesn`t even pass a jury scene which is many Americans will know is a lower standard than being acting attorney general. We will go back to some of these street shots when we have them so viewers understand we`re talking about the controversy around the new attorney general. We`re seeing some of these marches in New York and elsewhere. Maya, your view?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: I agree with Nick. And I think one of the things that`s so disturbing about what the -- what Matthew Whitaker has said is he made statements about whether or not there was the commission of a crime without access to all the evidence and information that Bob Mueller has. So you`re prejudging an investigation in the absence of having all the facts.
He should be going directly to the office of ethics and asking whether or not he should recuse himself. But I agree with Nick, it`s very hard to imagine that he shouldn`t -- he also has a relationship with Sam Clovis who is essentially someone who has been talking to the Mueller investigation --
MELBER: But on the comments, do you see anything that is directly disqualifying from his public statements or can he argue, "I was providing analysis on television about the law," was something both of you were doing. And if you go back into government service, you both served. You say, well, now I have a new obligation.
WILEY: Well, here`s the point. Under the ethics code, it`s appearance of impropriety. It`s not just whether in fact you have a direct conflict of interest. But I think in a case like this, that is going to the heart of the integrity of our electoral system and whether -- and a campaign that essentially prevailed and has -- and the president has -- is now the president of the United States. The question becomes, does it create the appearance that any of the decisions that Whitaker would make are being made for inappropriate reasons? It`s actually important to our system that we not have the appearance of the fox guarding the hen house.
Michael Steele, Nick Ackerman puts it at about a 10 saying this guy shouldn`t be on the jury. Maya, I`m hearing about an eight. Where are you?
STEELE: I`m about a nine. I think for the integrity of the very Justice Department that he`s now in charge of, with these types of questions and the body of evidence, the video, as well as audio evidence, of his views and his positions. And yes, I get the story, you know, this is when he was a private citizen. He was opining as an analyst and, you know, a political pundit type situation.
Given the sensitivities of this, given the already vexing nature of this, you`ve got people on the streets as you`re showing, Ari. I think the important thing is to, if nothing else, just say, "You know what, I don`t need to touch this particular aspect of what the Justice Department is doing. There are other things that we need to continue on and making sure the institution run smoothly. I will focus on that."
Everybody is going to be watching every little scintilla of effort that he puts towards anything related to this hearing, this process by Muller. And I don`t know if he can withstand the scrutiny long term, let alone short term.
MELBER: Michael, listen to Whitaker talking about what kicked this all off with Rosenstein which was Jeff Sessions being too close to the investigation to oversee it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITAKER: The reason he recused himself is not because there`s anything for him to hide as it relates to the Trump campaign and ties to Russia. As a lawyer, if there is an appearance of impropriety and as soon as the, you know sort of the outrage from the left occurred, you know, he knew as a lawyer that that is an appearance of impropriety because there are people suggesting that he did something wrong. So he has to -- you know, it becomes like he has to recuse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You know what Whitaker sounds like right there, Michael.
STEELE: He sounds like Maya.
MELBER: He sounds like Maya.
STEELE: He`s made her point. He just literally made her point. And so if -- beyond everything else that the broadcasts are playing, play that sound bite over and over and over again because it goes to the core of the argument that applied to Jeff Sessions and now applies to him.
MELBER: You know what we`re going to do Maya?
WILEY: What are we going to do?
MELBER: We`re going to do -- you know, Michael`s using an old legal DJ trick. As soon as you see that Jamaican dancehall, Michael, they say hit it again.
STEELE: Hit it again, baby.
MELBER: Hit it again, baby. We`re going to rerack that sound of Mr. Whitaker because it is actually, as you just said and as Maya intuitive, before we heard it, it -- and we`re just getting all this sound because everyone`s going through his archive, his record. He was talking about the appearance of impropriety.
You have a president here who said what he wanted was someone who would not be recused so they could protect him. That is elicit goal in the first place. So first to Maya and then to Nick. Let`s listen again, rerack to Whitaker, the new acting attorney general on why one should recuse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITAKER: The reason he recused himself is not because there`s anything for him to hide as it relates to the Trump campaign and ties to Russia. As a lawyer, if there is an appearance of impropriety. And as soon as the, you know, sort of the outrage from the left occurred, you know, he knew as a lawyer that that is an appearance of impropriety because there are people suggesting that he did something wrong so he has, you know, it`s a conflict, he has to recuse.
WILEY: And what Matt Whitaker knows because it`s been public is that many people in the public believe he`s even only in the position to interfere with Robert Muller`s investigation. That appearance, whether or not it`s true, that appearance in and of itself is a significant impediment to him serving in that role.
And the idea that we would be as a public looking at every little decision he makes, because of the fear that he would not be making decisions independently of whether or not he was protecting Donald Trump personally which is not the job of the U.S. attorney. That in and of itself is just so outlandish that he would serve without recusing from that. I don`t even know what to say about that for that reason and he himself has made the argument.
AKERMAN: He already thinks it`s the appearance. I mean it`s impropriety, period. He should not be deciding anything to do with this Russian investigation after having made the statements that he would cut out the money, cut off the funding. He thought the whole thing was bogus, that there was no conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
I mean we know exactly what Donald Trump did. He did the same thing he did in picking Kavanaugh to be on the Supreme Court. He looked for somebody that would basically be a get out of jail card free. Now, he`s got two cards out there. He`s got Kavanaugh and he`s got this new acting attorney general and that is just improper. It`s not even the appearance. It`s improper.
MELBER: Two cards in the deck and it raises the question what happens when you`re holding two aces and Bob Mueller`s holding what? We don`t know. We don`t know what he`s holding. I`m going to turn to another -- briefly Michael.
STEELE: I was going to say he`s probably holding two jokers but that`s another deck.
MELBER: Well, Joker`s wild, right?
MELBER: I don`t know even what that means because I don`t know anything about cards. Don`t tweet me. No, tweet me if you want.
Michael, Maya, and Nick thank you very much.
I turn now to another special guest that we were telling you about tonight. Now, when Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller in 2017, the investigation in the foreign interference in the election had been up and running. But when it first began, this was back before the election of course, in the summer of 2016 and many different people were in charge then. Loretta Lynch was attorney general. James Comey running the FBI. Chuck Schumer doing oversight. Andy McCabe was deputy FBI Director.
All of the agents working on the probe though reported up to the Justice Department where there was a key official named David Laufman. Now, he`s a former federal prosecutor who led the DOJ`s Counterintelligence Division dating back to 2014. Now, he was on this job until this February. And on that time, he helped oversee two of the most significant investigations that you`ve certainly heard about, the Clinton e-mail probe and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election up until Mueller was named the special counsel.
So we`re talking about someone with extraordinary insights into everything that happens inside the powder keg of the DOJ, especially right now. I`m pleased to say David Laufman joins me right here on THE BEAT. Thanks for being here.
DAVID LAUFMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF DOJ`S COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Good to be with you, Ari.
MELBER: Let`s begin with what we`re reporting out and some of the sound the viewers are just hearing for the first time which is that Trump has picked someone to be acting attorney general who publicly said that Russian interference did not even occur. What is your reaction to that?? Is he wrong and does that affect his ability to oversee this probe?
LAUFMAN: Well, I associate myself with the views of your previous guests, that at a minimum, there is a horrible appearance here that in and of itself should cause Mr. Whitaker to request an ethics opinion, to tee up the process for obtaining an ethics opinion to assess whether he has an appearance that is disabling and as to which he should recuse himself.
But as a practical matter, we all know that`s not going to happen. And the reason he was handpicked for this job was because, unmistakably, he gave a commitment to the president that under no circumstances would he recuse himself. So we have shaping up the potential for some kind of an ethics civil war within the Department of Justice, ethics officials on their own undertake some analysis of whether the AG -- acting AG should recuse and he refuses to submit to that opinion.
MELBER: So what you`re saying is number one, the normal process is to request it. That`s what happened with Sessions. He got the advice to step aside and he did. Number two, you`re saying if this individual does not recuse -- and I`ll put up on the screen. Your supposition I think is widely shared and there`s some reporting to back it up. Donald Trump has told people, "Whitaker is loyal, would not have recused himself from the investigation." That`s according to multiple officials who spoke to "The Washington Post" today. That`s new reporting.
So you`re saying that if that doesn`t happen, there could still be the ethics effort to push this up. How would they do that and would that be good for the probe and good for the country I guess?
LAUFMAN: Well, it`s possible that ethics officials within the department and the ethics process is centered in the deputy attorney general`s office, in Rod Rosenstein`s office, that they could self-initiate some process even if Mr. Whitaker and his office did not request it. That would be unusual. Usually, it`s the individual himself. In this case, Mr. Whitaker who would request it or at least acquiesce in the undertaking of that ethics analysis. That doesn`t seem to be in the cards right now.
So it`s -- there`s no reason to believe that he`s going to recuse himself. We don`t know what continued role Mr. Rosenstein is going to have in the Mueller investigation. So I think that`s something to watch closely and carefully. But look, the Department of Justice writ large needs to enjoy public confidence in its impartiality, in its integrity, in its independence. Nowhere is that more essential than an investigation as sensitive and high profile as this public confidence needs to be at its zenith in the department`s handling of this investigation. And there`s no way we can get to that point with Mr. Whitaker in the position he`s now been given.
MELBER: That`s strong words coming from you. Finally, and briefly, if Mueller moves forward for example on future requests of the indictments, would he need Whitaker`s assent?
LAUFMAN: Well, he`s going to be reporting to Whitaker. And so one of the Regs that apply, he`s going to have to socialize with the Department of Justice any substantial decisions or actions he wants to take. So if there is charging decisions that he wants to make, that he hasn`t communicated yet to the department, as they`re going to have to go to Whittaker.
If there are litigation decisions that have to be made, whether to contest through the use of the courts, efforts to avoid contempt citations, for example, Mr. Stone`s associate, that`s going to have to be socialized with the Department of Justice. When a report is transmitted to the department, how is that going to be resolved? Who`s going to decide whether the report in whole or in part goes to Congress or is made public in whole or in part? All those things that we care critically about now all roads point to Mr. Whitaker and how he`s going to handle that.
MELBER: Well, you just laid it out. Those are all the big things remaining. David Laufman, with your extraordinary experience, I appreciate you giving us some insights on THE BEAT.
LAUFMAN: Thank You, Ari. Good to be with you.
MELBER: Coming up, we fit in a break and then we turn to Congressman Jerry Nadler. He`s already flexing new political muscle demanding answers on the firing of Jeff Sessions. He would be the chairman in January of the Judiciary Committee.
And later, my report on the midterms, the facts that show there is a growing blue wave and what it means for the Trump era. And later, my live interview with one of the power brokers in Washington, John Podesta, subpoenas, elections, and all of the above in the Mueller probe.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Congressional Democrats flexing their new power tonight and warning of a Saturday Night Massacre, making a bold and in your face move to protect the Mueller probe and demanding an emergency hearing on Sessions` replacement Matthew Whitaker.
Now, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Jerry Nadler joins me in a moment. What he`s been asking for is that Whitaker should recuse, saying it`s "Wholly inappropriate for him to oversee Mueller because he has this well-documented hostility putting the investigation at grave risk." Two sources also close to Whitaker tell "The Washington Post", "He has no intention of doing that."
Nadler and Democratic leaders sending another letter to officials demanding they preserve the key documents that are relevant to Mueller in the firing of Sessions and you can see there on your screen a lot of different officials put on notice, they say, "We remind you, concealing, removing, or destroying the documents itself could constitute a crime."
Congressman Nadler, thank you for joining me tonight. You`re in the middle of it. You`re not waiting. Why did you come out swinging and put so many officials on notice? And what happens if he does not recuse, Mr. Whitaker?
REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, we came out right away because the president is creating a constitutional crisis that`s a moment of peril for our country. His actions fit a clear pattern of interference in attempting a sabotage of the special counsel`s investigation. And we think it`s very important that the president be put on notice that he is not above the law. And the American people will not tolerate his trying to act like a tyrant in a manner, not like a president.
MELBER: This was what the president said about you and your colleagues` investigations yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want to do things. You know I keep hearing about investigations. They can play that game but we can play it better. Because we have a thing called the United States Senate. They can look at us, then we can look at them, and they`ll go back and forth. And it will probably be very good for me politically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You view that as a threat to use the Senate to investigate you, your team, your staff?
NADLER: That`s a threat to use the Senate to interfere with the operations of the House. I mean they can investigate anything they want. They`re not going to find anything. But the fact is that this is the president trying to abuse his power to prevent not investigations but to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty of being a check and a balance on the administration and upholding the president and the administration accountable. That is our constitutional duty.
The Republicans who are in charge of the House and the Senate have been derelict, either silent or complicit in the face of administrative actions to sabotage the special prosecutor. And they`ve been derelict by not doing their duty. We are going to do our constitutional duty. If the president thinks that`s intolerable, well the American people I think are going to tell him that he is not above the law and that he can`t act that way.
MELBER: Congressman, as we`re speaking here, in your native New York as you may have heard but it`s brand new, it`s 6:26 p.m. on East Coast, we`re watching a fairly sizable procession of what are being called Protect Mueller protests. They`ve been peaceful up to this point, working their way down Times Square.
And I wonder what is your message to those protesters when people say they`ll be ready to take to the streets when a red line is crossed? In your view, how would we know when or if Mr. Whitaker crosses such a line?
NADLER: Well, Mr. Whitaker crosses the line the moment he accepts the job and doesn`t recuse himself. And we know he`s not going to recuse himself because the only reason he was appointed was to sabotage the investigation. And we know that because the president`s only criticism which he expressed for months of Attorney General Sessions was that he did recuse himself, that he didn`t sabotage the investigation. He had no other criticisms of him.
So the president obviously was not going to appoint someone who would repeat Sessions` sin of not recusing himself. He put Whitaker there because Whitaker has expressed extreme hostility to the investigation because he has prejudged the issue and because he obviously is prepared to do what the president wants which is to subvert the investigation. I will tell you that if Mr. Whitaker does this and for that matter the president`s attempts, these are all further evidence of a conspiracy to obstruct justice.
MELBER: Strong words. I also want to ask you while I have you, given your mandate with the Judiciary Committee and given another mass shooting today in America, in your committee or with Speaker Pelosi if she becomes Speaker, do you want to see gun control legislation as a Democratic priority or is that not on the top of the to-do list?
NADLER: Well, I can only speak for myself at the moment but I think that`s one of our priorities. And in fact, I`m sure it will be one of our priorities. It won`t be the only priority but it will be a priority for soon enough. It is -- we`re seeing these mass murders increasingly frequently and only in the United States, only United States.
When you look at gun -- the number of victims of gun violence, in Great Britain, in England, in Japan, it`s in the -- it`s under 100 or it`s 150. Here, it`s 33,000. Our people are not 10,000 times as mentally ill as people in Western Europe or in Japan and we must have reasonable regulations. We don`t want to take people`s guns away but military-style assault rifles are not to be in civilian hands. We ought to have proper background checks. Those are very moderate steps and the House I`m sure will take them.
MELBER: Congressman Jerry Nadler on a range of big issues tonight and you`re busy with the committee and your work already underway, I appreciate you making time for us on THE BEAT.
NADLER: Well, thank you.
MELBER: I mentioned earlier in the show, I`m going to speak for the first time about this blue wave and my take on what has just hit America when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Now to my special report on this blue wave that just hit America. It is large, it is a broad mandate for Democrats and a rejection of Trump. Broader the many D.C. pundits appear to realize and this matters because the actual public support can shape what happens next. There`s only one national race last night for the House where Americans in every state voted.
The Senate, not a national race, most of its members not up for re- election. The states that did vote on senators have about 75 percent of the population you see there in overall. Did you know that more people in those races backed Democrats by 15 points overall? It`s the smaller states that went Republican that get the same number of senators under our Constitution.
Now, then, in the race that I mentioned where every American can vote, the House, Dems winning decisively. At this hour a six percent edge over Republicans. Now when past presidents have lost the House, they admit it.
GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at race by race it was close, the cumulative effect, however, was not to close. It was a thumping. I said that the elections were closed to cumulative effect --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is at -- yes, it`s at thumping.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like they -- like I didn`t last night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump refusing to do that and he may keep lying about the results and using bluster to distract from this loss and trying to overwhelm the coverage of the Democratic victory with other moves like ousting his Attorney General after the election. But that`s Trump. What about everyone else especially these self-declared experts on our elections? The fact is, this week, more Americans chose Democrats than Trump, just like they did in 2016 showing a consistent preference for Democrats and against Trump. This blue wave in the House was historic and I don`t mean historic as like a debatable adjective, I literally mean historic in the sense of history.
Take a look at Dem results in the past 40 years. This is the number of seats they won in every race when they won any seats. And right here, this is what they just won this week. You are looking at a projected 35 seats, the largest gain for Democrats in four decades which is more seats than the so-called thumping in 2006, headlines were blaring that that was a wave of voter unrest and Democrats rested control from Republicans. It`s more than any other election since the Democratic wave against Nixon who was historically unpopular because of his criminal presidency.
That is a big headline this week even if some people don`t want you to know it. And the D.C. pundits who underestimated Trump before he became president through the electoral college, they may have noticed this. Now they`re overestimating Trump, they`re under estimating this blue wave, and pundits keep talking about this divided result. The Washington Post called this a split decision, that`s one angle that Fox News has seized on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was not the blue wave that a lot of people predicted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Big picture, David Gregory. The fact that there`s this divided result.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve got you know, divided government which is a very American reality situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Voters were not divided this week. Most chose Democrats. It`s that simple. But D.C. cliches can overwhelm simple facts like cliche that American politics zigs and zags and presidential races. You`ve heard about that? The idea that our electorate is a kind of a presidential pendulum and we hear so many declare America is divided and centrist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: America the country is as divided it has been in 150 years since the Civil War.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever happens, whoever wins, whatever the people want, I don`t think they`re going to get because people are so frustrated in this country.
MELBER: But Americans have not been going back and forth when deciding which party should win the White House. Voters prefer to Democrat for president in six of the last seven presidential races. Here`s the popular vote margin in the 90s, big and blue with Clinton as president, the 2000s voters preferred Gore than Bush did win the popular vote in o4, and voters prefer to Obama twice in a row and preferred Clinton last election when Trump did win the electoral college.
You see what you had up on the screen with all that blue. That`s not a zig and a zag. It`s mostly zig. This fact is staring us in the face even if it doesn`t fit that D.C. pundit narrative. It`s obviously also much bigger than Trump. When the American public votes for president, it`s not a center-right country. More people pick Democrats most of the time. And in the legislative branch, the Senate is not a direct democracy, it is weighted towards small red states.
Meanwhile, politicians have rigged the House, they use gerrymandering so they pick the voters instead of the voters picking them. Remember when the electorate went peek Barack in 2012, Americans voted to reelect him by about a four point margin and they voted to back Democrats for Congress by about 1.2 points. But those rigged gerrymandering -- gerrymandered districts overruled that big blue popular preference you just saw. And then the very politicians who rigged that outcome come out and they claim they won popular support. Cue the self-interested swampy pabulum about yes, divided government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The American people have spoken. They`ve reelected President Obama and they`ve again re-elected a Republican majority in the representatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was 2012 the American people did speak. They said they wanted Democrats to run the House, instead they got Boehner. Now none of this changes the practical fact that the GOP held the house in 2012 under the rules when they got fewer votes where the Trump is president despite getting fewer votes. Any lawyer can tell you, if you control the rules you`re more likely to win. But when all these pundits and experts march across your screen, they aren`t talking about who won. We already know that. They are declaring what the people want, what you want as voters and what has a mandate and whether real America backs Trump, or Clinton, or Boehner, or Obama, and they`re shaping what this system we live in perceives as possible.
So why do fact-free cliches about divided America endure? Well, a lot of people including those of us in the media, we live inside the rules of our politics and it gets uncomfortable for some when we have to admit that this system in our Constitution is not a democracy, that the person who comes in second can end up running the country. And the people who win more votes millions more votes they go out and give speeches and get lectured about how to handle their loss gracefully when they actually won more support from voters. In this gap between what Americans vote for and what the elected branches do, this goes beyond candidates.
Take an example we all know about that`s relevant tonight. Nine out of ten Americans support gun background checks. The Senate rejects those checks because the Senate is not responsive tonight out of ten Americans. It`s tilted towards tiny states. Now, when that happens as a reality, you don`t stand back and say well I guess the American people don`t want background checks after all. We must be a center-right anti-background check nation, golly. No, obviously the takeaway is the Senate does not reflect the public`s view. It is blocking that. And if that`s so clear, why do so many people act like Trump had more support in 2016 or Boehner side one in 2012 or this week`s giant blue wave, what you`re looking at, a 40 year high wasn`t as big as it was.
Well, I think partly because this is politics so there are powerful agendas behind the propaganda and second it`s human nature to want the plot to make sense. So Al Gore has to be a loser even to many Democrats because considering the opposite that the wrong guy took charge and we`re living in an alternate universe, that`s too much for some people to bear. We are living right now through an era of tremendous Civic strain. I think we have too much politics in the sense of endless spin and battle and way too little democracy in this sense of the popular will shaping what our government actually does.
That is an uncomfortable dynamic to say the least which is why when you bring up the popular vote try it at a party, people end up fighting about whether Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were great candidates. Maybe they weren`t, but that has nothing to do with the growing democracy deficit in our country which is not about personalities. A system that repeatedly overrides the voters` preference, you`re voting preference is likely to stoke division and eventually if that continues to undercut its own legitimacy.
A big reason America is especially divided is that the voting opposition to Donald Trump was larger than the support for Donald Trump from his first day on the job. He entered the White House with the lowest support of the voting public of any president in history. A trend that continues on to this week with what we showed you tonight, a 40-year record blue wave in the House. Some of these factors are unlikely to change. The founders did deliberately make the Senate undemocratic. But some other factors have to change. If voters want the House of Representatives to be Democratic and not be a rigged gerrymandered public farce.
And as with so many crises in the Trump era, the first step on all of this is getting our facts straight. That`s my take on the election. Coming up, I will be joined by a Democratic power broker. Former Clinton and Obama advisor John Podesta, his first live interview since the election right here on politics investigations and a lot more straight ahead.
MELBER: Welcome back. Former Clinton Campaign Chair and Obama official John Podesta joins me now and I want to begin with the blue wave we were just discussing, John, 35 seats, the largest returns in 40 years. Why do you think that happened and do you think as with some criticisms of the -- of the coverage of the Clinton campaign in 2016 for whatever reason, D.C., the pundits are underreporting that blue wave.
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, Ari, you just did a great job before the break in laying out what the real facts were, and I think you asked the question why I think it was a rejection of the way Donald Trump is governing this country. His job approval is low for this point of his presidency. I think people wanted the appropriate checks and balances put in place in Washington and I think when you think about those -- the fact that we had a 40-year high in switches in the House combined with seven governors flipping, it`s eight state legislators flipping, you know, it was quite a night for Democrats.
MELBER: Well, let`s revisit -- on your point --
PODESTA: And against -- and against a gerrymandered background as you pointed out, so it`s even harder.
MELBER: You talk about the rigging, let`s -- we`re going to put the screen back up because you are part of that history. You were in Democratic politics at a very high level. When we put the -- we`re going to put the 40 years back up, you were there in the 90s, you worked with Obama, he obviously galvanized a lot, look at 08. What do you think -- I mean are you basically giving credit to whatever the Democrats and a lot of new candidates, a lot of young women candidates that we`ve been covering, whatever they did on Tuesday was bigger than what was going on partly when you were running things.
PODESTA: Yes -- no, I think absolutely. I think you saw it virtually the day after the inauguration with the women`s March. It`s continued on. There`s just tremendous enthusiasm in the field. People are you know going door to door. Election night was especially sweet for me because my daughter was re-elected to the Dublin California school board --
PODESTA: -- whom I support. And you see candidates going out particularly these younger people a historic number of women getting elected. A lot of those switches in the house were first-time women candidate.
PODESTA: So you know, it`s an -- it was an amazing night and it`s full of enthusiasm to take our country back from the chaos that this President is causing, his complete disregard for the Constitution as is evidenced by his appointment of Mr. Whitaker.
MELBER: Donald Trump is effective at certain things. He`s more effective than some people initially realized. But the notion that he is a political mastermind was really undercut last night. This is the first time we`ve seen him trying to work with the difficulty of Midterms. As I mentioned, you`ve been through it. Rachel Maddow was speaking about that record and how a lot of his hand-picked Midterm candidates failed. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Presidentially endorsed Katie Arrington, lost that seat. Trump endorsed Senator Dean Heller last night lost his reelection race. Trump endorsed candidate Danny Tarkanian, he lost that race. He announced his full and total endorsement in that primary for Kris Kobach who`s lost the Kansas governorship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Some of those were red places where the people that Trump opposed might have done better. Do you think he miscalculated?
PODESTA: Well, you know, look, I think he was a mixed bag. I think he activated some people in the reddest parts of the country and maybe in a few races that helped, but I think in most of America and across America, not just in very blue places but in Oklahoma and Texas, you see switches in the House particularly in suburban America, people are just I think fed up with the division that he shows in American politics. And their only outlet for that was to vote for candidates that they thought would restore some balance in Washington and again to fulfill the solemn constitutional responsibilities of oversight in the House of Representatives.
MELBER: And they`re telling me I`m over time, but in a sentence or two, what`s the difference in your view between winning a White House race and winning the school board race?
PODESTA: Well, in the case of my daughter, she was able to knock on every door in her district. I think in the White House you got to project the future in a way that is really intermediated by the media. Let`s --
MELBER: Personally meeting with every voter would be hard in one of those a national race.
MELBER: Mr. Podesta, I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT tonight.
MELBER: From Sean Hannity apologizing to his own colleagues over his attack on people covering that event to the White House pushing out these new false lying doctored videos. There`s an important story this week on the fusing of Fox media machine in the Trump White House.
MELBER: Now to the developments on important story this week that you may have missed with everything else going on and we`re showing you this not because it involves a news competitor or a media competitor but because it involves the degradation of news and facts by your White House.
Over the past few days the Trump White House has been unveiling the official public results of what is effectively a corporate merger with Fox News and an assist from Alex Jones conspiracy site Infowars. Look at this video. The government Press Secretary Sarah Sanders paid by your tax dollars circulated it and it would seem to show a CNN Reporter attacking there this White House intern. But CNN and other analysts have taken the video and they say this was doctored to make it look more aggressive and different than the actual original factual video. Infowars created it.
This comes days after Sean Hannity and other Fox personalities took the stage to officially campaign an in-person endorsement of the Republicans and Donald Trump at the Midterms and they publicly said they wouldn`t do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: By the way all those people in the back are fake news.
The one thing that has made and defined your presidency more than anything else, promises made promises kept.
Mr. President, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Hannity had told everyone who listens to him he would not be taking the stage which shows you what he thinks of his own followers. A Fox spokesperson afterwards said this appearance was a "distraction" that has been "addressed." It was no distraction. It was the core of the pre- Midterm event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have a few people that are right out here and they`re very special. They`ve done an incredible job for us. They`ve been with us from the beginning also. I`m going to start by saying Sean Hannity come on up, Sean Hannity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That is what everyone saw. And the official White House pool report from that event notes that afterward Sean Hannity high-fived another government paid worker Bill Shine. He`s the White House Communications Director, he was also Sean Hannity`s longtime boss at Fox News.
MELBER: Tomorrow is Friday and I want you to know we have a special "FALLBACK" with legends like George Clinton, Carole King, and our own Harry Smith. That`s tomorrow on THE BEAT. Don`t miss it. As for right now, it`s "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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