Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: November 13, 2018 Guest: Juan Cuba, Kendall Coffey, Patrick Murphy, Elizabeth Koh, Guy Lewis, Russ Feingold, Joseph Geller
KASIE HUNT, MSNBC HOST: For sure, except for two things. He`s uniquely, unabashedly American and he`s made in China.
That`s all for tonight. Chuck will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. You can watch me on Kasie DC every Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" live from Miami starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Kasie. We will be thinking about that bear paradox. Thank you very much.
We are coming to everyone live tonight right here in Florida. Again, legal fights suddenly thrown this recount into turmoil. Here`s the breaking news. Senator Bill Nelson has now officially filed a new federal lawsuit to try to extend the recount that`s going on. The pitch battle in the state of Florida passed the Thursday deadline that you see in state law.
Now, there`s no response yet from his opponent in the Senate race Rick Scott. If there is, we will be bringing that to you live this hour tonight. We are here on the scene where workers have been recounting some of the more than 8 million votes cast in Florida.
MELBER: We are here at the Miami Dade elections department. This is where another batch of important recounts have been occurring all day. We`ve been inside reporting. And now, I want to take a moment and speak with Juan Cuba, Chair of the local Democratic Party. Thanks for talking to me.
JUAN CUBA, CHAIR, LOCAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: What do you want to see come out of this recount?
CUBA: I just want to make sure that every single vote is counted. Now, we had millions of people come out to vote and we make -- we should make sure that every single one of them is counted.
MELBER: That was the push today in front of the elections board there and Juan is here live now to talk more about this process in a moment. I also want to show you though more of our new reporting. Because we went inside the building you just saw, in the elections department. You can see here. This is the actual room today where workers are counting the ballots that were flat. So you can see the workers in action.
MELBER: What we`re looking at right now is the seals being broken on these boxes of preserved ballots and the recounting underway. We heard an elections official giving that briefing and they`re using these machines to do this recount mechanically of many of the early vote ballots. This is the same room we saw earlier that was waiting for this to start. The process goes forward. And if there is a manual recount, it is those over and under ballots that will ultimately be recounted by hand if that`s triggered at the end of the manual recount.
MELBER: The impact of those ballots expected to reverberate in Washington and it`s back in D.C. where we`re also seeing the most diverse, most female freshman class in the history of the House. Some of the pictures here of them arriving for orientation. New members include the first female Muslim- American member of Congress, the first Native American woman in Congress, and as you may have heard, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
She made a big splash attending a protest right outside Nancy Pelosi`s office. So there in D.C., there is the new numbers show the magnitude of the historic blue wave. Democratic House candidates, well, the counting continues and here`s the result, 7.3 million more votes total now than Republicans nationwide. That`s the national vote margin of about seven points and that continues even as some of these key results including Florida are not fully resolved. Now, the Democrat running for governor here, Andrew Gillum is holding an event at this very hour as the midterm continues to unfold in dramatic fashion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: A week after election day, Florida`s 67 counties are racing to complete a recount of more than 8 million votes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lawyers for both sides are fighting it out in court.
STEVE KORNACKI: A federal judge in Georgia last night had potentially open the door to an unknown number of ballots, probably somewhere in the thousands, provisional ballots being considered.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST: President Trump wanted Jeff Flake out of office in Arizona.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, now he`s got a Democrat there instead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kyrsten Sinema becomes the first woman ever to serve as Senator in Arizona so it`s a very big deal.
KYRSTEN SINEMA (D), SENATOR-ELECT ARIZONA: It won`t be easy and it won`t happen overnight but we can work together to meet the challenges our country faces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Let`s get right to it live with my panel. I`ve got Juan Cuba here. He`s Chair of the Miami Dade Democratic Party and was out in front of that building as I mentioned, former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, an experienced federal prosecutor who has worked on these type of Florida cases. And a former Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy. He`s on the transition team for Nikki Free who`s raised for agricultural commissioner is the third recount going on in this state. He also tweeted this week that his absentee ballot was not counted because of an invalid signature match.
I want to get to that because it shows this could happen to anyone including people who`ve won elections, then not having your vote counted when you try to vote in the election. But Kendall, the big news here is Bill Nelson, the Democrat, who is trying to hold on here and get back some votes looking for more time. Does it mean something that he`s filing this suit right now and does he have any chance of winning in federal court?
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, he`s got a very good chance of winning. It`s a basic principle that you can have different standards for manual recount of votes in one Florida county in another. So simply stated, you can have voters in Bay County happens to be Republican getting their votes recounted because of the markings they made, maybe not filling out the oval but writing the word yes, making other markings that are designated by Florida law is establishing voter`s intent. And then deny that to voters in Palm Beach County because their system isn`t getting it done by the deadlines.
And by the way, the premise, the principle that you can have different standards in different Florida counties was established by the Supreme Court 18 years ago when they shut down the recount in Florida saying that it was unconstitutional to have different standards in different counties.
MELBER: Bill Nelson making waves here because up to this point in that race, it had been only the Republican governor who had been filing cases. Congressman, I want to play a little bit of Senator Nelson. This is today, him talking about Rick Scott, his opponent. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Mr. Scott cannot oversee the process in a fair and impartial way and he should remove himself from the recount process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congressman, where do you see this going given your experience in this state?
REP. PATRICK MURPHY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well, it`s always fun to watch Florida politics and especially these recounts and leave it to Florida to have these problems. To the senator`s point though, it`s the fox watching the henhouse. You know we saw the same situation unfolding in Georgia recently.
If the roles were reversed and it was a Democrat in the same situation, I think we`d be having the same argument here. Democrats shouldn`t be overseeing their own election count, right. This goes for both sides and it`s just for transparency and faith in our electoral process.
MELBER: Why was your vote not counted? And what does that tell you about Florida?
MURPHY: It`s hard to believe. I mean I was quite frankly shocked when I, you know, logged online to the Palm Beach County supervisor of election website and said, "Invalid signature". I go to click the button to, you know, appeal it basically and it said, "Oh no, you would have to turn that paperwork in Monday the 5th which is the day before the election."
So not only did my vote not count but there`s nothing I can do about it. Come to find out there are tens of thousands of people in this situation and what`s even worse is we have volunteers, and bless them for the work they do, but these aren`t like forensic experts, these aren`t signature experts doing this. And the fact that we`re having this conversation in 2018, in the air of, you know, blocked chain and biometric technology that`s out there and we`re talking about volunteers looking at signatures and election in Florida coming down to 0.2 percent, 0.1 percent, we can do better than that.
MELBER: And Brenda Snipes in Broward County where we were last night which was a whole different scene. I mean we`re in Miami Dale tonight and it was much more orderly, there`s fewer people outside. It`s just different. But Ms. Snipes has been targeted by Republicans. She made some news here deciding that she is going to, she says, after this recount a step back and resign from that post. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENDA SNIPES, ELECTION SUPERVISOR, BROWARD COUNTY: It is time to move on to someone else, maybe one of you guys out there who are steeped in the election business. I think I have served the purpose that I came here for which was to provide a credible election product for our voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congressman, when it comes to Florida having all of these issues, is it about the people in office mostly in your view or is it just the way that elections work here and the rules?
MURPHY: It`s a combination. No doubt about it. We can do better. You know some of this does start with the lack of funding for these offices. We have a tremendous amount of growth in Florida, something like a 1000 people a day are moving to Florida. We need to make sure we are continuing to fund these agencies so they have the staff. We have to make sure that they have the correct, you know, data, they have the correct ballot box and the technology necessary to handle this sort of growth.
But also the management. In many cases, it appears that we could do better. And it`s not just here in South Florida, right. Let`s not forget about Bay County right up in the panhandle. It`s certainly not the victims of the storm fault but Rick Scott specifically said, "Do not allow people to vote by e-mail." Lo and behold, the supervisor election there allowed people to vote by e-mail. So we need to make sure that these supervisors of elections are following the letter of the law and I believe we should have a consistent letter of the law there.
MELBER: Juan, you look at Florida as a place where there was a lot of turnout. And this is something we`re seeing across the board. Some of these stories of election night don`t really become clear until later. And so the turnout for a midterm election was 49 percent.
You have to go back to 1914 to find that high of a turnout which was literally before women suffrage, before women were allowed to vote in this country. As someone who`s been a part of driving turnout for your party who`s a Democrat in Florida, that`s got to be heartening. What do you think is the reason it was so high? Is it only reaction to Trump and will it continue?
CUBA: We had historic turnout here in Miami Dade. I think part of it was Mayor Gillum. He was a candidate that not just ran a traditional political campaign but he really inspired a movement, inspired millions of people to get engaged. And I think that was a big part of it. I think one thing to point out, Ari, is that the State Department of Elections had election observers in the Broward County supervisor of elections` office and saw no fraud.
So this whole thing of trying to create conspiracy theories about Broward County is just another attempt by Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump to undermine the ultimate results of this election once every vote is counted. And I think it`s because they`re nervous what it might say.
MELBER: Well, that`s what`s so interesting that Scott did and some of our guests argue this. He did appear to want to get the counting to stop, to freeze up to voting machines. Although now again, we have the Democrat Nelson trying to sue tonight. So, you know, it`s hard to tell which person is more nervous. It is razor-thin.
We were in there for this reason to do the reporting. We didn`t see any voter fraud and none of the election officials that we spoke to had that as a concern based on what they`re seeing.
Panel stays with me here as part of our live Florida coverage. I want to hit another part of the recount process that we also got to see up close today. Election workers were holding up these ballots for inspection. This is the process.
You see the woman in the middle there and they`re holding up these ballots side by side as the monitors who are representing both parties are able to examine them. This was in the realm of duplicate ballots where it was not able to be read by the machine. And so you would duplicate the ballot and make sure both sides could sign off on that and that was the room we were inside today.
In our coverage, I want to bring in Elizabeth Koh, staff writer for the " Miami Herald" in Tallahassee as we try to get our arms around all of this. How is the recount going there and across the state and your view if you have one of what it means that Nelson is asking for more time?
ELIZABETH KOH, STAFF WRITER, MIAMI HERALD: Well, thanks for having me. Obviously, the recount process is underway. I think at least 25 counties now have completed their recounts for the second unofficial returns which are due Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Obviously, there are some counties like Broward and Palm Beach that are having more issues as you and your team are probably aware. And that`s something that remains to be seen if they`ll meet those deadlines. The Palm Beach County supervisor of elections has expressed some concern that she won`t meet the Thursday deadline but, of course, official returns from those counties are due Saturday.
MELBER: And what happens do you think if we get into the hand manual recount of those over and under votes?
KOH: I mean I think that`s going to be an incredibly difficult process for some of these counties. Like you mentioned earlier at the top of the segment, Senator Bill Nelson has sued today in Tallahassee to try and delay that Saturday deadline for which the hand recounts should they be ordered which is likely into these statewide races. He`s sued to try and delay that deadline so that they have more time to finish them.
MELBER: And how in your reporting do you think Florida from the grassroots level of citizens up to officials, how does Florida feel about being back in the middle of one of these? I mean it`s literally a triple recount.
KOH: I think everybody is feeling particularly tense. I doubt people are feeling more tense than Governor Scott and Senator Bill Nelson is judging by these lawsuits that each of them have filed the situation here in Tallahassee at least is nervous in some of these cases. But it`s pretty clear that in at least one race for governor, some things here in state government are still continuing to move on a different track.
Ron DeSantis who is currently the presumed governor-elect given the status of that recount has been trying to pull together a transition team. But it`s pretty obvious at least in the Senate race that both sides are still really fighting to see who is the winner in that count.
MELBER: And Congressman, whiting out the panel here while I have you. Just more broadly, we`ve been talking to a lot of people not only about the turnout but why it broke so decisively for Democrats in the House races. Health care is the main thing I`ve heard. You`ve served in Congress. Is that your view?
MURPHY: Yes. You know Republicans are trying to paint this image of Democrats as talking about impeachment and just obstructing. That`s exactly the opposite of what Democrats are trying to do. They are trying to extend an olive branch and talk about how do we solve health care right? How do we get the Affordable Care Act right? How do we make sure we protect those with pre-existing conditions compared to the Republicans that are trying to repeal it? How do we pass meaningful infrastructure reform? How do we pass meaningful, you know, reform with taxes for the middle class, not just the top one percent?
So they really want to get things done. That is going to be their message. And voters saw that overwhelmingly. We saw a seven percent increase there with the votes or seven percent, you know, margin of victory across the board. That is a huge win. If it wasn`t for the gerrymandering and Citizens United extreme amount of money that Republicans have, Democrats would have the majority for, would have had and will continue to have it for years to come.
MELBER: And you`re not in Congress anymore but you still sound like a congressman. You look like a congressman.
MURPHY: Don`t ask the question. I`m not going back.
MELBER: You`re not going back?
MURPHY: No. But never say never.
MELBER: You`re wearing a flag which anyone can wear for any good reason but it feels to me like you might run again.
MURPHY: Well, look, I enjoyed my time. There is no doubt about it. I was humbled to serve, you know, the State of Florida.
MELBER: Enjoy right now. Enjoy right now.
MURPHY: Exactly. I`m finding other ways to serve. I ran for the Senate unsuccessfully and I`d love to have an opportunity to run again but right now, with the divisions we see and the gridlock and the hatred, it`s really tough to think about.
MELBER: Well, there is that. And I think we hear that with the mixed signals we`ve got. On the one hand, a whole wave of new candidates who are excited to get involved. On the other hand, we don`t have to repeat a dark time in politics that has some people saying, you know, why put yourself or your family through that.
I want to thank you for being here and thank you. What we`re going to do is fit in a break.
So again Congressman Patrick Murphy, Elizabeth Koh, thank you. Kendall Coffeey stays with me.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has been huddling with his lawyers prepping. We`re told the actual written answers for Bob Muller and there are signs that Mueller`s quiet period is about to end in a big way.
Also, Roger Stone says Mueller is trying to, "Frame him". And Democrats filing a new lawsuit to try to block Donald Trump`s new pick to be acting attorney general from actually having power over the Russia probe.
And later, we have a report on how Republicans in Florida are dusting off part of the playbook from that messy recount in 2000.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT live from Florida on MSNBC.
MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT. We`re live in Florida tracking this recount but we also have you covered on a lot of national news that is breaking tonight in the Mueller probe. NBC News reporting that Donald Trump met with his legal team this week yesterday and Trump seem reportedly very close we`re told to completing written answers to those all important questions from Bob Mueller, the special counsel. These could be submitted as early as this week although potentially later.
Now, the answers are allegedly about the Russian interference questions, not the probe into potential obstruction by Trump or his officials. All this comes amidst a time that a conspiracy theorist that you may have heard of Jerome Corsi has been making new waves. He says now publicly he thinks Mueller is going to indict him.
Now, you may have heard. He`s an associate of Roger Stone. Mueller has been investigating whether either of them had the kind of advance knowledge of WikiLeaks plans to release hacked material that could be a crime or whether they misled investigators about that. Of course, he says that the reason that he thinks he`s going to be indicted is for giving false information. We do know that`s something Mueller has indicted others on but he also denies ever having had advance knowledge about that hacked material.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME CORSI, ROGER STONE ASSOCIATE: I`m going to be indicted. That`s what we`re told. I anticipate being indicted for some form or other of lying under the perjury trap. And by the way, I think my crime really was that I dared to support Donald Trump, President Trump
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Mueller`s interviewed about nine associates of Stone, not Stone himself and Stone has been reacting to the Corsi developments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, TRUMP LONG-TIME ALLY: Look, perhaps they have squeezed poor Dr. Corsi to help frame me in some, you know, perjury train. He has his own demons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I want to bring in former Federal Prosecutor Guy Lewis who worked with Bob Mueller, James Comey, and Rod Rosenstein at the DOJ. And back with me, Kendall Coffey who on addition to being a Florida expert also happens to be a former federal prosecutor. So we get double time out of you.
Guy, when you look at Jerome Corsi, he could either be lying which is something he`s done in public a lot like lying about Barack Obama or he could be panicking and sort of saying what he`s worried about which is that he`s going to get indicted on false statements.
GUY LEWIS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So Ari, here is what they`ve done with Corsi. They`ve sat down with him for 40 hours and agents and prosecutors have gone through-line in Chapter, question, answer, question answer.
MELBER: Now, as Kanye says, "I`m a let you finish" but you don`t need 40 hours to get Jerome Corsi to lie.
LEWIS: That`s right. That`s right.
MELBER: He does about half an hour.
LEWIS: Well, maybe after 15 minutes. So they -- you know -- and so what has happened is Mueller and his team have now called and said, "You are going to be indicted." So that`s coming. He knows it. His lawyers know it.
MELBER: Why does Mueller do that? If you`re right, if -- which fits with what Corsi says, I just want to be clear, we don`t treat him as a very credible source. But if that`s right, why would Mueller do that?
LEWIS: Great question. So Corsi -- this is Prosecution 101. Corsi is the little fish, Stone`s the bigger fish, and Trump is the biggest fish. Corsi is the connection to Stone. Stone had personal interaction with Trump. You flip Corsi on Stone, you try to flip Stone on the president.
MELBER: So you were in Florida. I would say Corsi is sort of maybe the bottom feeding fish. And Kendall, Roger Stone is like the little bird inside living off the alligators, you know, tooth decay. And that Trump may or may not, because I never prejudge an investigation, Trump may or may not be the alligator.
COFFEY: Well, and -- but for sure, we all agree that Corsi is seen as a stepping stone to Roger Stone. And you`re ironically positioned outside the Miami Dade supervisor of election`s headquarters --
MELBER: It feels ironic, I agree.
COFFEY: -- you remember it`s the headquarters 18 years ago where Roger Stone supposedly masterminded the Brooks Brother riot that suppose --
MELBER: Say more about that. We discussed this on the show last night but for folks who don`t know, I mean we`re looking at a video Roger Stone now which is almost two decades on as a Trump consigliere. But long before Donald Trump was considered a politician, you`re saying he did what out there?
COFFEY: Well, what Stone supposedly did is mastermind the Brooks Brothers riot. People kind of storming the hallways that cause the Miami Dade canvassing board to shut down the recount. It never got started again. The rest we know is history.
So the big question, and can Corsi provide a key that unlocks the door, was Roger Stone also pivotal in this election as a go between Guccifer, between WikiLeaks, and the Trump campaign? This investigation needs to get to the bottom of that because in many ways, that`s the biggest question of all.
MELBER: And in all fairness -- I`ve said this before, in all fairness to the other individuals on the Trump campaign and the president, if the facts that Bob Mueller finds is that those things happened in an isolated way, in a rogue way, and they weren`t fed back to top of the campaign, that would be good for those individuals.
COFFEY: Well, and the only -- but the only way to get there is to get a case against Roger Stone. Stone is clearly has --
MELBER: Do you think he`s pivotal?
COFFEY: He`s pivotal and he`s telling everybody he thinks he`s going to get indicted --
MELBER: So maybe --
COFFEY: -- that he thinks he`s going to get framed.
MELBER: You always reserve the right, of course, to tell the anchor on THE BEAT that he`s wrong. Maybe he`s more than a little birdie.
COFFEY: Well, he`s pretty good sized fish. If you look at --
MELBER: Big fish.
COFFEY: -- the colorful --
MELBER: OK, not a birdie.
COFFEY: -- the controversy, the color of Roger Stone, this guy has been a very high profile operative for many years.
MELBER: So that`s going on one track. On the other track, Guy, you have new reporting about Michael Cohen. This is from our colleagues at CNBC and they say he`s heading back down to Washington, talking to Mueller again. We know we already reached this agreement. We know he talked to Mueller previously. What does that tell you again as all these things seem to be happening now post-election?
LEWIS: Ari, look, Mueller, I`ve known him a long time. He`s like the Robo Cop of prosecutors. The guy does not give up. So he will keep hitting these guys. And look at the building blocks that he`s created so far. He`s indicted, what, 12, 13 Russian nationals who were spies who hacked John Podesta`s e-mail.
Kendall`s a hundred percent right. Supposedly, those were the e-mails that Stone was talking about and that were released -- obtained clearly illegally, and then released before the election. This all didn`t just pop out of the sky and happened. There was a coordinated effort and it`s going to play out in a criminal court is my guess.
MELBER: On the presidential interview, Guy, I don`t want to get too law school in here.
MELBER: We`re out in Florida. It`s a balmy evening. But there`s this word interrogatories.
MELBER: It refers to when lawyers exchange written questions and answers and they`re pretty worthless. Would you agree?
MELBER: Lawyers think they`re worthless.
MELBER: Because they`re written by lawyers instead of the client. You can`t catch anyone. There`s no Perry Mason moment. Why would Mueller be, at this juncture, relying on what are essentially very fancy written questions interrogatories with the president? Is it a prelude you think to some higher pressure?
LEWIS: You`re a hundred percent right. So it`s a prelude. He`s got him in front of him. He`s going to look at him. He`s going to say these are inefficient. He`s then going to issue the grand jury subpoena to compel the president to come in and ask -- answer questions in the grand jury. And he can stand up in front of a federal judge when it comes down to it and say, "Judge, I`ve tried everything in the book to get straight answers and I just had got this."
MELBER: So this is important and I`d like both of your views on it. You`re saying the fact that they have taken a process of written questions and answers from the president doesn`t tell you that that`s enough. It just tells you that might be a strategic move to then later put more pressure on.
LEWIS: Ari, Bob Mueller is crossing his T`s and dotting his I`s just like he has been throughout this case.
COFFEY: Exactly. He`s got to really wrap this up. He`s got to find out what if anything Roger Stone is going to tell him. And the best way to do that is to make the strongest possible case against Roger Stone and see if he will come forward and cooperate. And the other thing that Guy is describing, going to have to sooner or later issue a subpoena on the president if Mueller`s going to do this the way a prosecutor would want to do this.
MELBER: Right. Well, as Guy pointed out, under the law, Robocop has subpoena power.
LEWIS: That`s it.
MELBER: This is what we`re going to do, we`re also going to talk more about -- I`m glad you mentioned the Roger Stone thing because we have more on that later in the show. It`s a fascinating history. I want to thank Kendall and Guy. I want to come back to you more on some of those big issues.
What we`re going to do next, we`re going to fit in a quick break live in Florida. Then we look at the blue wave with former Senator Russ Feingold when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: We`re reporting for you live tonight from Florida. But we want to broaden out again nationally. Look at this blue wave the Democrats say is sweeping the nation. "The New York Times" reporting that Republicans are fearing the losses would damage morale and deal a blow to the party in Florida and beyond if the Democrats can work up a national impact.
House Democratic leaders are saying today that their first vote will be on a wide-ranging bill to actually strengthen democracy itself, something we`ve been talking about amidst these recounts. The provisions? Well, let me show you the basics.
Restore part of the Voting Rights Act which was knocked out by the Supreme Court. Remove the power of state lawmakers to gerrymandered districts, something that is widely opposed across the political spectrum. Require candidates to release, guess what, their hidden tax returns. Trump obviously. And then overturn, if they could find a way to do this, the Supreme Court Citizen United ruling.
The last part is something our next guest knows all about, Democratic power player, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He led the landmark campaign finance legislation with the late Senator John McCain. That of course was limited by citizens united. Thanks first of all, for coming on the show at a busy time. Second, I want to I want to start with this. You were widely known as being part of the wing of the Democratic Party that said run big, take on corporations, take on special interests, and if that means they call you liberal, or lefty, or progressive, so be it. You`re your friend and another late senator friend of yours Paul Wellstone called that the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. When you look at Tuesday, do you think that`s an endorsement of that approach for Democrats?
RUSS FEINGOLD (D), FORMER SENATOR, WISCONSIN: Well, first of all, Ari, you`re down there in Florida where it`s nice and warm and you`re talking about alligators and I`m up here where it`s about 15 degrees in Wisconsin. But the political climate has greatly improved here and it`s because people came together not just liberals, not just conservatives, not just Democrats and Republicans, and they finally said we`re tired of the divisiveness up here in Wisconsin over the last eight years.
And I think Wisconsin with our new governor and our new state officers has shown that this is a template for the way to change things in 2024, for the way to relieve ourselves of this awful Trump administration. So I`m excited about it and of course, I am a progressive and I lean toward those progressive views but I think the House bill that you just described really is about not a particularly ideology but it`s about good government. It`s about restoring the legitimacy of our government whether it be voting rights or making sure people release tax returns, campaign finance, these aren`t partisan issues. They weren`t partisan when I was working with John McCain. And so I think it`s very wise for them to begin with this.
MELBER: So let`s focus on -- Senator, let`s focus on two pieces there. You mentioned voting rights and you mentioned the gerrymandering. The state I`m in, this cannot be overemphasized, is a place where every big political race here was so tight we are in recounts, we might be headed at double recounts, Thursday. And yet on the question of whether people who`ve committed an offense should still have voting rights ran away with it 60 percent. The gerrymandering depending on how you ask the polling, as you know run 70, 80, sometimes 90 percent that Americans say yes, we should pick the vote -- we should pick the politicians, the politicians shouldn`t pick the voters.
So when you see Democrats say that`s their first priority, are they going to be able to tap into that in the Trump era or do those issues risk being polarized by this toxic environment?
FEINGOLD: You know, I don`t think it`s a polarizing issue. You know, here in Wisconsin, we did have a good night but we made no progress in our state assembly and state Senate because of gerrymandering. It was the case from Wisconsin which unfortunately the Supreme Court did not rule properly on that proved that actually, we lost races where we should not have lost them, it`s only because of partisanship and the same thing in many other places in the country.
So focusing on this is about fairness, it`s about making sure that the legislators and the governors when they do the reapportionment in a couple of years realize that they`re going to be watched very closely for not creating this unfairness. How can you have a person like Tony Evers become governor of Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin wins her Senate seat by a wide margin, we win the state office and yet no change in the legislative races. That`s basically cheating and I think that`s the kind of thing the American people will realize is wrong and it`s only one of the many good government aspects of what the House bill is about. I think it`s a good strategy.
MELBER: Take a listen to Mitch McConnell saying that if Democrats use their new power to fixate on President Trump it`ll be the same mistake that Republicans did with President Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We impeach President Clinton, his numbers and went up and ours go down. And we underperform in the national election. So the Democrats in the House will have to decide just how much presidential harassment a thing is good strategy.
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MELBER: Is that right?
FEINGOLD: No. Replacing Donald Trump in 2020 is what it`s all about. That`s what we have to do. And it`s really for two reasons. The American people want the rule of law restore. We have a President has no regard for the rule of law when it affects him. Secondly, he is completely disrespectful to the American people. He talks to people in the most demeaning way and is frankly outrageous. And I think the American people are sick and tired of it particularly in the Midwest. Look what happened in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, he`s in deep trouble.
And these people weren`t voting against the economy, the economy is in good shape. They were voting against the fact that Donald Trump does not belong as president. That having him as president is really a national emergency. And if we make sure that that is the key that we`re going to replace the president with somebody who`s capable and decent and respectful of the American people, that`s going to be the winner in the Midwest because those are Midwestern values.
MELBER: Yes. Well, the data and the Rust Belt certainly was a shift. Former Senator Russ Feingold who has worked on so many issues, thanks for joining me tonight.
FEINGOLD: Good to be with you.
MELBER: We have a lot more right now. I want to show you guys the new lawsuit that threatens Donald Trump`s controversial pick for attorney general, the Acting A.G. Matt Whitaker he replaced Sessions. Whitaker already under fire for many of his public statements that attacked the Mueller probe. Now, the State of Maryland filing a big lawsuit arguing that a federal judge can actually immediately remove Whitaker as A.G. saying the appointment itself was unlawful and asking that the judge declare that Rod Rosenstein is the Acting Attorney General. For this story, I want to bring in former Watergate Special Prosecutor Nick Akerman and down here in Florida with me none other than yes Guy Lewis, right there. There we go. There is your camera.
Nick Ackerman, we`re having a lot of fun. I wish you were down here, man.
NICK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I wish I was there too. It`s very cold up here.
MELBER: I don`t know anything about that. Let me start with you and then we`ll go to guy. Viewers of THE BEAT are accustomed to Nick Akerman saying if there`s a development that might hurt Donald Trump`s approach to the law it`s a good thing and it`s going places. But I want to press you, sir, do you admit tonight that it is a long shot to get a state lawsuit here to interfere with the president`s power to appoint someone?
AKERMAN: Well, this isn`t a state lawsuit, this is filed in federal court.
MELBER: Federal court but it`s by a state.
AKERMAN: Right, it`s by a state but it`s very important. I mean, the issue they raised is a very significant issue. Under the federal rules when an officer, a federal officer resigns who`s a defendant or a party in a case, the other part that has to be replaced. And what this lawsuit is saying is that it has to be replaced with somebody who can actually be an attorney general otherwise whatever actions this person takes in the course of the lawsuit are meaningless, that ultimately this person Whitaker cannot act as Attorney General because it`s a violation of the Constitution, he`s a principal officer that has to be approved by the U.S. Senate and it also doesn`t comport with the Attorney General, the U.S. Justice Department vacancy law that the next person in line would have to be Rosenstein.
MELBER: But Nick, isn`t this suit unlikely to prevail in the end in federal court?
AKERMAN: I`m not so sure about that. I`ve read this brief and it sits some pretty sound law. I think that the question is who substitutes for Jeff Sessions. He was the prior party in this lawsuit, the defendant. So the question is, is the proper party now in place. It`s not so obvious to me that this lawsuit is not going to go anywhere.
MELBER: OK. Let me bring in Guy Lewis. Guy, when you look at what Mr. Whitaker has said and done, he does not look like the kind of person who is prepared to fulfill the oath of the nonpartisan independent administration of this probe in the Justice Department. He would have to recant many of the things he said which our viewers are familiar with. So that`s a problem. But that doesn`t mean that any suit that`s filed against him is the right solution. What`s your view of this case and its likelihood?
GUY LEWIS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Look, Ari, I think you`re right in terms of they`ve got a tough road to hoe up in Maryland. I know Matt. Matt and I worked together under the Bush administration. He`s a good man and he`s a -- he`s a hard worker.
MELBER: He might be a hard worker. Do you know -- I know you`re building to your "however," do you know why as a good man who has a law degree he says the court should be inferior which is flatly contradicted by the most canonical Supreme Court precedent of Marbury?
LEWIS: Look, I don`t know. I haven`t talked to me about this specific issue, but I think he might --
MELBER: Kind of a big issue.
LEWIS: Big issue. I think he might cite our favorite precedent which is Hamilton the musical. Alexander Hamilton wrote years and years ago that the president should have not unchecked but certainly broad powers to make these appointments. Yes, with advise and consent of the Senate but we`ve got an unusual situation here where there`s a vacancy and I think overall, Ari, the Supreme Court who may decide this case would defer to the President of the United States.
MELBER: Nick, I feel like what guy is saying is enough to make you as mad as if somebody taxed your whiskey.
AKERMAN: Well, I could be. But I really think that if you read the appointments clause of the U.S. Constitution, it`s absolutely clear that the Attorney General has to be -- go through in a confirmation process with the U.S. Senate. You can`t just appoint anybody in the Department of Justice who has not been confirmed to go into the acting position. Also you`ve got a law that`s been around for a hundred years that basically sets up the line of succession in the Department of Justice. It doesn`t mean you can take some low-level assistant like Whitaker and throw them into this position to make momentous decisions that affect our everyday lives, our Justice Department, how the laws are enforced. This is a chief law enforcement officer of the United States. This is somebody that has to go through the Senate confirmation.
And what Trump obviously did here was to try and avoid that. He just tried to pick somebody who he thought would give him a get out of jail card free, and that`s what he did here. And I think it`s so obvious that this is a prime case, if the Supreme Court is really going to make the appointments clause of the U.S. Constitution means something and interpret it in terms of the succession law for the Department of Justice, this is the case.
MELBER: Well, we welcome the range of debate and views here and I think we got some of them. Nick Ackerman, always a pleasure to see you next time as they say -- as they say on Passover, next time in Florida.
AKERMAN: I wish.
MELBER: And Guy Lewis, thank you as well. Coming back up, we go back to the Florida fight. A GOP dirty-tricks as I mentioned with Roger Stone in the 2000 recount. I got a Democratic official who saw that Brooks Brothers riot firsthand.
MELBER: Welcome back to Florida where Republican officials are now attacking the recount with protests, lawsuits, and there been as you may have heard false claims of fraud. But this playbook actually goes back a long ways it`s only more mainstream now. The New York Times said of the tactics strikingly similar to what extreme GOP activists did in the 2000 Federal recount.
In Miami back then, GOP operatives seized on a false rumor to stage what became known as the Brooks Brothers riot.
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AMERICAN CROWD: Let us in! Let us in! Let us in! Let us in!
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MELBER: What you`re witnessing there ultimately shut down the recount right here in Miami and it never started up again. The man who reportedly orchestrated that riot was Trump`s longtime fixer Roger Stone.
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ROGER STONE, CAMPAIGN ADVISER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: When some of my operatives reported that two of the Democratic commissioners were attempting to take a sheaf of ballots remove them from the counting room, this is what sparked the so-called Brooks Brothers riot. I said flood the hall and don`t let them shut that door.
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MELBER: Don`t let him shut the door. I`m joined now by Florida State Representative Joseph Geller on the ground here. He was actually a Democratic official at the time in 2000. And in the HBO film recount, he`s actually the guy chased down the hall by these Brooks Brothers rioters.
REP. JOSEPH GELLER (D), FLORIDA: That`s right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GELLER: Hi, I`m the lawyer with the recount. I need a sample ballot, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s got a ballot.
GELLER: No, it`s a sample.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He stole a ballot. He worked for Gore. He`s a lawyer for Gore and he steal the ballot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A start earn but not a moment most people in civil society and democracy want to have happen. What are you thinking as you watch all this today?
You know, it is strikingly similar. Fortunately so far it hasn`t gone to the point that it did in 2000 but you know, the way people were inciting possible violence the way that they`re telling lies about fraud, it`s scary and it looks like you know if things don`t go right it could happen again the way it did in 2000 where they did succeed in shutting down the counting.
MELBER: What does it tell you that at that time the rules of politics in quotes were that Republican senior officials and certainly candidate Bush kept that big distance from that right? He didn`t talk at all like the way Roger Stone talks. And today we have a president whipping up false voter fraud fears on Twitter before this thing even plays out.
GELLER: Well, it`s absolutely shocking. I mean, to see the governor of this state standing at the door of the people`s house, the governor`s mansion, and using it as a prop to tell untruths about what`s going on, that`s just disturbing. I am heartened though by what Circuit Judge Jack Tuter said yesterday when he looked there and said there`s no evidence of fraud and said both sides, both sides but ramp it down and that`s what needs to happen. We need to respect the of law, and the most important thing is we need to get every vote counted, every lawful vote.
MELBER: And that goes to the wider big news tonight that Democrat Bill Nelson is filing suit trying to get more time. Everyone who Washington D.C. has their eyes on that because more time could help the Democrats potentially if the votes are there, win this seat. But do you really think he`s likely to get that time?
GELLER: I do. You know, the shocking thing to us in 2000 in the face of all these delay tactics that the Republicans used, we kept saying this is ridiculous, sooner or later they have to count all the votes. Well, it turned out we were wrong. Had they kept counting, the result would have been different. We need to count all the votes and yes, I`m optimistic that the courts are going to recognize that these arbitrary time frames are just not enough time for instance for Palm Beach County. They need some time. Let`s get all the lawful votes counted.
MELBER: And brief -- and briefly with your history with Roger Stone, what do you think seeing him now say that he`s afraid he`s going to be indicted?
GELLER: Well, I don`t know Mr. Stone personally to speak of but what was done in 2000, whoever did it was despicable, they tried to pass this off on local activists, it was not -- these were people that were congressional aides. We can`t tolerate that in a free society. We have to put a stop to that and this time we have to make sure all the lawful votes get counted.
MELBER: Representative Joseph Geller, thank you so much. What I want to do next is tell you the FBI has some new numbers that are very important we`re going to bring you those on hate crimes next.
MELBER: One more story we want to bring you tonight. The FBI out with some sobering news about tracking hate and hate crimes in America. The feds reporting in 2017 there were more than 7,000 separate hate crimes committed. That is an increase of 17 percent from the prior year alone. Now, what`s happening within these crimes? Well, the feds say 60 percent of the hate crimes target a person because of their race or ethnicity, another 21 percent based on religion, 16 percent based on the person`s sexual orientation.
Now, the FBI report also notes that anti-Semitic crimes rose by a sizable 37 percent. That is the raw data, but in the specific statistics, we all know this comes just weeks after a gunman murdered 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and after a gunman killed two African-American shoppers allegedly targeted for their race at a supermarket in Kentucky. We know that because according to the feds, that person first tried to enter a black church to commit the crime. Now, the FBI says these hate crimes in America have increased now for three years in a row.
MELBER: Some more news coming out of Washington. Departing Republican Senator Jeff Flake now says he is going to try to bring his bill to protect Robert Mueller from Trump administration interference to the Senate floor tomorrow. Now, we are told Mitch McConnell still plans to block it. Flake says, quote, "We can bring it back again and again."
We wanted to give you that update. "HARDBALL" starts now.
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