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Chief Justice Roberts slams Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 11/21/18, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: John Flannery, Christina Greer, Dorian Warren, Michael Conway, Anderson .Paak

KATY TUR, MSNBC ANCHOR:  That's all for tonight.  We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.  "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. 

Ari, I've got a hot Thanksgiving tip for you. 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  What's that? 

TUR:  Pie is now healthier than salad. 

MELBER:  Is that true though? 

TUR:  Yes.  It's 100 percent true. 

MELBER:  OK.  Because we deal in truths here even on the holidays. 

TUR:  You -- fine.  You know what, go test it out.  Go eat some romaine lettuce and let me know how that goes. 

MELBER:  The only thing better than a long slow news toss is a to be continued toss, which means the next time I see you we can compare Thanksgiving notes if you're open to that. 

TUR:  I have multiple pies for my Thanksgiving that I will be making tomorrow so we can. 

MELBER:  Great.  Have a great Thanksgiving, Katy Tur. 

TUR:  You too, Ari.  See you later. 

MELBER:  As for the beat, the news is not stopping for Thanksgiving, you may have noticed.  We have a lot going on for tonight's show. 

The chief justice of the Supreme Court condemning a sitting president.  Striking new details on Trump's refusal to talk to Mueller and why that interview got cancelled after -- this is new -- a date and location Camp David were set. 

We're going to get into that later as well as more fallout from that bombshell "New York Times" story that Donald Trump tried to illegally prosecute his enemies.  As I said last night it's a very important story. 

Also later this blue wave we've been reporting on it is getting bigger as more ballots are counted. 

But we begin with something truly unusual.  A sitting chief justice of the Supreme Court, a lifelong federalist society conservative, rebutting a sitting president.  Justices typically speak through their rulings.  They avoid any debates that could seem partisan.  But today it is clear John Roberts has had a enough.  And speaking as a judge, as a conservative, as an appointee from the same party as Donald Trump, Roberts is weighing in. 

Not to add partisan fuel to the fire.  His whole career suggests he doesn't believe in that.  But rather to use his nonpartisan perch to tell Americans tonight as they get ready to gather around their holiday meals that Donald Trump was wrong.  Dangerously wrong when he reacted to another federal judge who acted to block Trump's asylum ban by saying this. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, you go to the Ninth Circuit and it's a disgrace.  And I'm going to put in a major complaint.  Because you cannot win if you're a case in the Ninth Circuit.  This was an Obama judge.  And I'll tell you what, it's not going to happen like this anymore. 


MELBER:  This is important.  Trump's doing two things right there.  First, he is trying to redirect the topic away from his major and quick loss in court in that immigration case and away from the real reasons for it to attack somebody else.  And we know that.  We know that routine from a lot of his political work.  But second, this is the legal part.  He's falsely suggesting that federal judge ruled against Trump as some sort of partisan, not on the merits of the case. 

Now that appears to be false.  I can tell you tonight there's no public evidence, Trump hasn't offered any, to impugn the judge's political approach to the case.  And this sounds a lot more like what Trump actually does himself.  Trying to distort the legal processes of our country to attack his political enemies.  And everything I've just said is straightforward.  Any objective reporter could say it.  Most lawyers would say it. 

But tonight let's be clear.  It's not just another observer or any lawyer but the most powerful judge in America who you see on your screen.  A man with a lifetime tenure which means he can outlast Trump.  He also may have the final word on the Mueller probe.  And here it is today.  Justice John Roberts saying, quote, "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.  What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges." 

He goes onto say, "They do their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.  That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."  That's a Thanksgiving message if you've ever heard one from the chief justice. 

Now let me tell you something I know from being a lawyer but you've probably observed from watching plenty of news coverage of the Supreme Court.  These justices, regardless of how they rule or who appointed them, they tend to speak quite carefully.  They don't pick political fights.  But sometimes they do draw a line.  Especially to defend the independence of the court against those who would corrode our rule of law, try to bend the justice system from independence toward something yes, more authoritarian. 

Now why is Roberts acting now?  I was thinking about this today on this holiday week.  Obviously this isn't the first or the second or the third time that Donald Trump has lashed out at our independent judiciary nor is it the first time that concerned citizens have asked for our leaders, particularly those in position like Roberts, to stand up, to rebuke this president, to use their independence, their nonpartisan authority, against his corrosive partisanship. 

So why now?  Well, this is a week where it has become undeniable that Donald Trump is not making simply some sort of rhetorical attack with regard to misusing the Justice Department or learning on the job as president.  Donald Trump is literally trying to get his domestic opponents indicted while his lawyers are demanding an end to the probe into his White House, while also installing a staffer as now acting attorney general who has criticized the Mueller probe repeatedly and pushing to campaign to basically oust and potentially prosecute another witness. 

That's Jim Comey's former deputy, and this is a tweet from one of his lawyers today, saying, "Look, we're seeing a different standard that now applies to the president's enemies."  All comes after reports that Trump of course also tried to fire Bob Mueller as recently as December. 

Take it all together.  Any one of those things could be an element of the crime of obstruction.  But together a prosecutor or in our system a Congress could find that all of those things are grounds for much more, which is why Trump's own lawyers, we reported last night, thanks to the "New York Times," warned him of impeachment over just some of that and why any process to hold Trump accountable may wind up before, yes, the Supreme Court, which brings it's all full circle because that is where tonight at least one justice is not waiting to take a first punch on behalf of that institution but is instead moving first for judicial independence and clearly against Donald Trump. 

Those are my thoughts.  I'm eager to turn to our panel.  Maya Wiley joins me, former counsel to the mayor of New York City, Mara Gay, a member of the "New York Times" editorial board, and Malcolm Nance, a terrorism analyst for MSNBC and the author of "The Plot to Hack America: How Putin's Cyber Spies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election." 

Maya, you know how careful John Roberts is.  You also know how he happens to be on many legal issues on the more conservative side of jurisprudence.  What does it tell you that he's speaking out this way now? 

MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO NYC MAYOR:  It tells us that Donald Trump has really crossed the line for Justice Roberts.  It's not a new line for him as you've said, Ari.  I mean, remember, this is the Donald Trump that attacked a federal judge for making a ruling based on his Mexican heritage and suggesting that somehow he was not able to make independent decisions because of his Mexican heritage.  So it's certainly far from the first time I'd say Donald Trump's attack on an independent judiciary are second only to his attacks on the news media. 

And I'm really wondering what the interview process is looking right now for the White House turkey in terms of how it's going to be pardoned.  I expect that there's a long list of questions about its loyalty to Donald Trump. 

MELBER:  You know, I hadn't thought about that.  And Maya, you often bring ideas we haven't fully processed.  Original ideas.  You think there might be a corrupt approach to the turkey pardon? 

WILEY:  I think the turkey is going to have to demonstrate that it will violate the Constitution in order to save its life. 


MELBER:  You know, as is sometimes the case these days, I don't know whether to laugh or shed a tear for our republic. 

Margay, take a listen on the serious side to the prior examples that Maya mentions that I mentioned as well that didn't bring this response from Justice Roberts where Donald Trump goes after judges.  Take a look. 


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Your thoughts about the judge's decision to delay the XL Pipeline? 

TRUMP:  Well, it was a political decision made by a judge.  I think it's a disgrace. 

A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel.  You don't think this was done by a judge for a political reasons do you?  No. 


MELBER:  Mara? 

MARA GAY, MEMBER, NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD:  You know, it's really dangerous because, listen, I'm extremely grateful that Judge Roberts has come out and said what he said.  I think it's incredibly important.  I think that what's disturbing is that, you know, we have one incredibly powerful statement from the chief justice but that has to go up against time and time again the president of the United States impugning the court and the nation's institutions. 

And that creates a narrative over time where a lot of Americans, especially those who are in the president's base, start to just not have faith in our institutions.  And that's really where the most damage is done.  It's just kind of a gradual chipping away, sizzling away really of faith and institutions.  And that's when we're kind of primed to not trust one another.  It's when we're primed to see our political opponents as enemies instead of fellow Americans. 

And I think, too, you know, when the president tweeted this afternoon in response to the chief justice, it was another disturbing response again on Twitter, surprise, surprise, from the president.  And, you know, started talking about the piece of -- the president essentially said, sorry, Chief Justice, sorry Roberts, these are Obama justices as though Barack Obama was an illegitimate president or the millions of American who is voted for him are illegitimate.  It's wrong, it's dangerous and unfortunately it continues. 

MELBER:  Malcolm, given your expertise both in how other countries do this in ways we usually try to avoid, and obviously the Donald Trump's beefs are very carefully selected.  They are not random.  They are with the institutions that actually have power.  We in the media have some type of influence and power.  We try to exercise it responsibly. 

Judges have a lot of power.  They have life tenure in the federal system and obviously the intelligence community that you are formally a part of has a type of power and fact-finding that he resents.  Take a look at Donald Trump again going after some of those institutions that clearly concern John Roberts tonight. 


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER:  Should James Comey be locked up? 

TRUMP:  What he did was criminal?  Should he be locked up?  Let somebody make a determination. 

I am going to ask my attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to look into her crimes. 

Comey is leaker and he's liar.  He is guilty of crimes.

  She should be in prison.  Special prosecutor here we come.  Right? 


MELBER:  Malcolm? 

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  What you just saw there is a litany of activities and words designed to fundamentally destroy the foundations of American jurisprudence, American politics, American law enforcement, American intelligence.  Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the state, you know, I'm going to frank a phone country right now, the (INAUDIBLE).  The state is me.  And he views himself as the single and sole arbiter of what is constitutional, what is white and what is American.  And that's where we have a danger. 

You know, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Number One that there would be a ruler who commences as a demagogue but ends as a tyrant.  I think we're at the tyrant point now. 

MELBER:  So that's Hamilton and de Gaulle? 

NANCE:  Yes.  De Gaulle at the same time. 

MELBER:  Maya, does that beat -- does that beat the turkey or does the turkey still -- is the turkey still a stronger metaphor? 

WILEY:  Turkey still in trouble.  And I'm sticking with the turkey.  I will say James Madison, James Madison is also the one responsible for drafting the impeachment language in the Constitution.  And so we should quote him as well and he's also one that's very near and dear to the Federalist Society. 

MELBER:  Mara, do you have a turkey thought before I bring in the congressman? 

GAY:  No, I just -- you know, if I were a turkey, I would not want to be anywhere near President Trump.  Actually wouldn't want to be anywhere near him in general. 

MELBER:  Unless, although, if you knew the right people, if you're a turkey that knows Kim Kardashian -- 


MELBER:  You're better offer under this system. 

GAY:  Good point.  Good point. 

MELBER:  I'm not saying it's a perfect system. 

Everyone, stay with me as we mix -- we're mixing the light and the dark.  Not unlike the meat at a Thanksgiving -- 

GAY:  Mix the meat, Ari.  Mix the meat.

  MELBER:  The light in the dark. 

Everyone, stay with me.  We're going to bring in a congressman.  So I'm going to have to be slightly more formal. 

Congressman David Cicilline, member of the Judiciary Committee, co-chair of the Democratic Policy Communications Committee. 

Congressman, I am not going to ask you to weigh in on some of our turkey talk.  But I will ask you to weigh in -- 



MELBER:  Unless you want to.  But as a member of the Judiciary Committee, just walk us through how unusual it is.  Have you ever seen, for example, a chief justice do this to a sitting president, stand up in this way?  What does that tell you and what is your committee going to do with all of these issues we just laid out --  I don't need to repeat them -- that are ripe for oversight in January?. 

CICILLINE:  Well, I think it's obviously very unusual.  I've never seen anything like this at least in my memory.  And I think it's very significant.  I think it demonstrates the grave concern that this chief justice has about the president's language and actions.  And it's a fundamental misunderstanding of this president who doesn't really respect the independence and integrity of the judiciary.  He tries in the same way he tries to diminish the judiciary, he tries to diminish a free press. 

These are important institutions that hold elected officials accountable.  And I think we have -- as the chief justice said, we have to be very thankful right now because our democracy is being really tested.  And I think the independent judiciary has been very important to upholding the rule of law and to demonstrate we're a country of laws, not of men, and that no one is above the law. 

And I think the chief justice statement I hope will give some of my Republican colleagues some backbone and allow them to weigh in and condemn these efforts to undermine the independence or integrity of the judiciary. 

MELBER:  Well, Congressman, one of the big questions is how other people are going to deal with what has been exposed about this president.  You know, we're learning about the patently illegal attempt to get enemies prosecuted on a week when Matt Whitaker is now the attorney general and the question is whether he would be more down with that than some other people. 

I'm going to show you what he'd said before he was in that position which was that the Trump DOJ if there would be one could re-open the Clinton case.  Take a look. 


MATT WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Long story short is there's plenty of evidence here to support a criminal charge.  I think -- you know, I think anything under the Espionage Act which is the criminal section could be justified here. 

And I could imagine in this world that we live in that a Trump administration could open this case and relook at these charges however petty that might seem to some. 


MELBER:  Is that wrong?  Should he be the acting attorney general and what, if anything, is your committee going to do about it when you take charge in January? 

CICILLINE:  Yes, it's dead wrong.  He should not be the acting attorney general.  He was yanked out precisely because he's the political hatchet man for the president.  This is part of the president's ongoing efforts to do two things.  To undermine or stop or impede the investigation by Mr. Mueller or to stop it completely, and to continue to promote this idea of prosecuting his political adversaries. 

That is counter to our tradition in this country.  We don't lock up political opponents.  We beat them at the ballot box.  This conversation that the president had about trying to prosecute his political adversaries is reminiscent of the enemy's list of Richard Nixon.  It has no place in our politics.  Mr. Whitaker does not belong as acting attorney general.  He's not Senate confirmed.  He didn't meet the succession requirements of the statute.  He's disqualified from that position in terms of overseeing the Russia investigation because of his opinions on it already and the positions he's taken publicly. 

This is a terrible mistake.  The first thing I hope the Judiciary Committee will do once in Democratic hands is to bring Mr. Whitaker before the committee and find out exactly what happened with the firing of Jeff Sessions and how Mr. Whitaker was hired and what conversations took place with the White House and with the president, and really expose how completely inappropriate his appointment is and unconstitutional. 

MELBER:  And Mara, before I let you go, I'm curious as we widen out from just the law, as a student or observer of Donald Trump, what do you think about the counterproductive risk he's taking.  He is beefing with John Roberts, someone he can't fire who could have the final word on the Mueller probe, efforts to subpoena Trump and other big important questions? 

GAY:  I mean what's really scary about this president is that he continues to not just push the law but also push norms thereby forcing Congress, almost just challenging them, daring them to stop him.  Politically it's very difficult even under a Democratic -- with the Democratic House.  It's going to be very difficult to spend the time to actually subpoena and hold accountable his administration because these Democrats promised voters and every one promised voters that they would focus on health care, on jobs. 

And that's really very important.  The problem is that the president is forcing their hand and the Congress is going to have to make a very difficult political decision and Donald Trump is making their jobs much harder. 

MELBER:  I want to thank -- we're over time but go ahead. 

CICILLINE:  I just want to say, Ari -- yes, just quickly, you know, Democrats are going to be able to do both things.  We're going to drive down health care costs, drive down the cost of prescription drugs, raise family incomes, rebuilding the infrastructure of our country and take on this serious corruption in Washington.  We can do all of that, move forward on that agenda, while we're still fulfilling our responsibilities under the Constitution to doing meaningful oversight and hold this president account. 

WILEY:  Can't wait to see it. 

MELBER:  Right.  Well, and that's why I wanted to have you as part of this discussion because you're giving a little context to what Mara is identifying which I think is a real tension here. 

My thanks to Mara Gay, Malcolm Nancy.  Maya, stay with me later on the show.  And Congressman, because we're over on time, we just didn't get to those turkey pardon issues with you.  Maybe next time. 


CICILLINE:  Good enough.  Happy Thanksgiving. 

MELBER:  Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. 

Coming up, there are new reports of what Bob Mueller actually told Trump's lawyers about why he needed to talk to Trump about the Comey firing. 

And later, we're going to break down the emergence of Don McGahn as witness numero uno it seems on the obstruction issues.  What he knows from his time in the White House and why he had some Trump aides so nervous. 

Also progressive star Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez coming out in support of guess who?  Nancy Pelosi.  That doesn't hurt. 

And later, I have a very special Thanksgiving interview with the one and only Anderson Paak.  You see him right here.  We're going to talk music, activism and it's up on the roof. 

I'm Ari Melber.  You're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC. 


MELBER:  Breaking news tonight from the Associated Press.  Donald Trump actually ditched a planned face-to-face Camp David meeting with Bob Mueller.  The AP reporting the date was even set.  This is new tonight.  They say it was going to be on January 27th.  Donald Trump, Bob Mueller, but it was called off. 

Now Trump would have just returned from a two day trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  We know that from matching the timeline and he would have been preparing for his State of the Union just days later. 

Now this whole new report sheds light on what is the real story here.  The back and forth between Donald Trump as the client, his lawyers representing him, and Bob Mueller's team.  Scrapped, though, the whole meeting when Mueller told them this.  He needed to know if Donald Trump had, quote, "corrupt intent" when he fired James Comey. 

Why would that be such a scary question?  Well, tonight Mueller also wanted this interview, it was scrapped and one former lawyer fired off a searing letter on Donald Trump's behalf saying not only was the meeting cancelled but they questioned the entire authority of Bob Mueller. 

Now we learned this of course as Donald Trump's current lawyer had some revelations that he put out today about the back and forth with Mueller in the written questions. 

John Flannery is going to get into that, and former federal prosecutor Maya Wiley back with  me. 

John, I wonder what you think of, A, the fact that they got as far as a Camp David plan to do the interview.  B, that it's leaking now.  That looks to me like Trump's side leaking and trying to make him look tough like he was ready to do an interview that he backed down on.  Three, since I know you're a good lawyer, you can handle multiple part questions.  Rudy Giuliani saying that if they do come back with a Mueller subpoena, they will refuse to cooperate with it, John. 

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  And then they're cooperating now?  Let's take it backwards.  Rudy Giuliani has never cooperated.  This has been a kabuki dance from the beginning in which he pretends that Trump really wants to speak when he knows unlike Cobb and Dowd from the beginning who said, oh, we trusted them, we believe them, and so we thought we would just give a million documents and 20 different witnesses from the White House. 

But going back to the first thing which is the defense that he doesn't have the authority to talk.  I have the order in front of me.  And the second part of it says any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation like, say, obstruction? 

MELBER:  Yes. 

FLANNERY:  And the first part of it is any links and-or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.  So again, the nonfactual president that we have is again contradicted by the facts, the document, the law.  And I believe that if he does answer any question even in print, and I know some people don't think interrogatories are helpful at all I spend six hours on Monday -- 

MELBER:  I don't. 


FLANNERY:  Well, and they sign at the bottom.  And you have the lawyers having him write things that they are reviewing when they don't know the truth any better than Dowd did or anybody else has ever been in this case because you can't trust what he says unless he admits to something.  So I think that they are making a case for Mueller's subpoenaing him.  Because they -- Mueller can certainly say I've done every alternative way I could to get at the facts and I couldn't.  And they told us these things and they weren't true.  Please put down their challenge to this subpoena. 

That's what I think we're going to see.  If Mueller thinks he needs anything else, that's what I think he'll do. 

MELBER:  So, Maya, John is making a couple of legal points there.  Number one, that these written answers are, in his view, not worthless, although everyone knows they're weaker than sitting down and doing a real interview.  Donald Trump knows that that's why he's blustering he was willing to do the real interview.  So interrogatories, the written questions are generally weaker. 

Number two, Mueller may have a strategy to exhaust remedies between no judges like before then saying I need to subpoena him.  Number three, Maya, I want your view as well on another leak we have tonight.  Giuliani showing a little leg, as they say, and saying that one of the questions was about whether Trump knew at the time in 2016 about his son meeting with the Russians at the tower or the Russian hacks. 

So I definitely want your view on what that tells us as well as anything else that John mentioned. 

WILEY:  Yes.  And I think let's start with the fact that Donald Trump has never wanted to answer questions on obstruction of justice and why would he when he publicly stated on television that he had the Mueller investigation in mind when he fired James Comey, which means that suggests corrupt intent.  So he has a very hard time answering questions around obstruction that don't either re-enforce that he had corrupt intent or get him on perjury.  So he's got a problem and he knows it.  And that's why his lawyers are keeping him from that line of questions. 

I think secondly we should not -- on the interrogatories we should not believe for a minute that Donald Trump drafted those answers and his lawyers just somehow looked at them later and tweaked it because he had these vulnerabilities, because it was going to be so important that he answer them in a way that would make it very difficult to have a definitive answer which is why interrogatories are usually not very helpful. 

MELBER:  Right.  And let me -- let me go do John.  I see John is itching to get in.  I mean, that's why viewers will remember when Jared Kushner made his public statement that he hadn't, quote, "relied on Russian money," every lawyer in America said, oh, yes, we know that trick.  That's not a statement that he never took Russian investments or got paid by Russia, relied become a giant loophole you can drive a truck through. 

John, final word. 

FLANNERY:  Well, the thing that interested me that I want to supplement is that the question that they were objecting to was during the campaign when he was a private citizen running for president whether or not he knew about that meeting that day.  And there is a phone call and the question is since it was blocked, was that a conversation between Don Junior and dad about this very meeting.  And it's impossible to believe this is such a control freak that there isn't some technological wizard in the Mueller camp that has figured out exactly who that call was to.  And that's the reason why perhaps a decent lawyer would not want them to answer that question having nothing to do with the obstruction which is a different story.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  And we don't -- we don't know.  We know that the call looks suspicious or as they say in the movie the Fugitive it looks hinky, but we don't know whether that call helps or hurts Trump.  You don't know, John. I would never use hinky but if I was in Mueller's office right now I'd be fanning through my files and looking that up.  But I have a feeling that given what you can do with technology these days, they know who that phone call was made to.  It's hardly they don't. 

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  And let's look and see if we hear any leaks about whether Don Jr. is going to be interviewed.  Because we --

MELBER:  Right.  And also --

FLANNERY:  I  think indicted is the word.

WILEY:  Well, I agree but where's the interview?

MELBER:  Where's the interview.  Right?  And he's someone that you would expect given where the questions are they would go to.  I got to fit in a 30-second break.  Maya and John, thank you as always.  When we come back, Democrats breaking through another Midterm record today with new counting.  We'll be back in 30 seconds. 


MELBER:  The other top story tonight.  Forget Trump, how about the people taking charge in Washington.  Democratic opposition to Nancy Pelosi was small, we've been reporting on that and it does appear now to be crumbling further.  This comes as the blue wave has been tabulated to be even larger than originally thought.  Here's the story.  New ballots counted in House races revealing Democratic candidates now have an 8.7 million vote edge nationwide over Republicans.  Now that is a larger margin than any national return in a Midterm election this period since 2000.  There that includes since their Tea Party victory on the Republican side.

At the same time, Democratic leadership picture is also coming into focus.  I want to update you on this.  One of the new stars of this Congress, incoming Congress-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announcing her formal support for Nancy Pelosi as speaker and one of those 16 Democrats that we told you about had signed that letter opposing Pelosi, Brian Higgins, he's now reversing himself and that comes after another potential rival to Pelosi, Congressman Marcia Fudge said she's out of the running entirely. 

Pelosi announcing Fudge will chair guess what, a new Subcommittee on elections.  That agreement with Fudge is one of the several types of strategic deals that Nancy Pelosi knows how to make.  That's what keeps her in charge, it's also what many Democrats say has made her so effective.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I think Nancy Pelosi when the history is written will go down as one of the most effective legislative leaders that we -- this country has ever seen.


MELBER:  I'm joined now by Christina Greer, Political Science Professor at Fordham University and Dorian Warren President of the Center for Community Change which actually worked on the ground with several progressive groups including the Florida effort that we've been covering to restore voting rights to ex-convict, so a lot to get to.  Christina, I'd begin with you.  You look at Nancy Pelosi on her way here, I am reminded of another boss also with Florida roots, Rick Ross, who talks about his ascendance and he says I said I was the boss and nobody made a sound.  It was almost uncontroverted.  Is that what's happening we're seeing here heading into the January vote with Pelosi?

CHRISTINA GREER, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY:  You know, when I was growing up, Ari, and I would get a little froggy, my dad would just look at me and he'd say you better ask around.  And that was his way of just letting me know that like he's got friends and I think that's Nancy Pelosi.  I keep telling my students, I've been saying this for years, she is Nancy D'Alessandro from Baltimore.  She is not a you know, a Wallflower from wine country in California.  She is the one who architect - - was the architect in many ways behind the passage or the health care bill.  She's the first female you know, majority leader ever in the history of our nation.  She's not new to this, she is true to this. 

And so the fact that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Marcia Fudge and lots of folks are falling in line quickly and quietly, lets us know that Nancy Pelosi knows how to get things done.  And if she's doing it within her own party, we know that this is how she's going to move forward in the next two years possibly more.

MELBER:  So you're saying she is the boss.

GREER:  She is the boss.  I wouldn't -- I wouldn't cross it. 


MELBER:  Dorian, I'm going to extend Professor Greer's analysis here to something we have on tape which is ask around.  We'll ask constituents.  One of these members of Congress who was flirting with trying to oppose Pelosi got an earful recently from constituents.  Take a look.


REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  The majority of Americans want this change.  The majority of Democrats want this change.


MOULTON:  I just think there are amazing leaders in our party.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This feels like such a slap in the face. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I almost feel like I'm targeted.  I'm old and I'm a woman.  Don't you realize that this hurts people?


MELBER:  Strong passion there at least from some grassroots citizens, Democrats, saying no, why would you slap in the face as they put it at Pelosi when she's leading the victory?

WARREN:  The grassroots is on fire on the Progressive and Democratic side of which many Democrats are benefiting from even the moderate ones and they will continue to be on fired.  And it's not just an anti-Trump fire, it is a thirst for affirmative policies that will change people's lives.  And so that's why you see all these policies that have been branded "socialists" in the last ten years or so now getting all the support even in red places. 

Think of Medicaid expansion in three red states or the minimum wage increase at the ballot in two red states.  The polling around Medicare for all has been just increasing.  So there's fire and hunger at the grassroots which is why you see increased turnout, yes on both sides but especially among infrequent voters of color on the progressive side.

MELBER:  Christina?

GREER:  Well, I think also you know, we have to remember this is all happening the shadow of Kavanaugh, and there are a lot of female voters who's definitely feel like we're in a moment right now where if you have a talented woman who's clearly shown that she knows how to do her job and has done it well.  The fact that so many people in her party and so many Republicans are calling for her to sit down, I think that there's some age demographic -- there are some age issues and some gender issues as one of the constituents said that's really resonating with some voters.

And I also think that you know, when you see the new bench that is a lot of women of color but also just a lot of women, you know, in the Democratic Party, I think that there are certain issues that women constantly fight for and Nancy Pelosi, because she's been around for quite some time, has been the leader.  And then so I think, these next few weeks will show us the future in the face of the Democratic Party that's incorporating what Dorian was saying the real grassroots supporters which have been people of color and women of color in particular.

MELBER:  Well, and that's such an important point.  It also speaks to there is a lag as that power enters the Congress.  The -- we've been reporting on this.  The median age of Congress has just dropped by a decade.  It is the most gender-diverse Congress in American history and so we're going to see I think over time that lag catch up as those people take positions and socialize within the Democratic caucus, within the entire Congress.  So Christina Greer and Dorian Warren, thank you and Happy Thanksgiving. 

WARREN:  You too.  Thanks, Ari.

GREER:  Happy Thanksgiving, Ari.

MELBER:  Coming up, the lawyer from Trump's inner circle who could actually turn into his biggest headache.  What the former White House Counsel knows and what he's telling Mueller next.


MELBER:  In that New York Times bombshell this week, it was Donald Trump's former White House Counsel Don McGahn who reportedly was the key person stopping Trump from trying to order the illegal prosecution of his opponents Hillary Clinton and a key witness in the Mueller probe James Comey.  Now, Bob Mueller would presumably know that but Donald Trump doesn't know what else McGahn has dished out.  As he was leaving the White House, he did clash with Trump and Trump reportedly blamed him for Mueller's entire appointment. 

Now, Trump doesn't know what else McGahn has told Bob Mueller but he was directly involved in nearly every key decision that Mueller is probing.  The firing of Mike Flynn, the firing of James Comey, Jeff Sessions decision not to recuse which Donald Trump pressed on, these other attempts to fire Bob Mueller, and now add of course the new report that Trump wanted to prosecute Clinton and Comey. 

McGann's is reportedly cooperating extensively over 30 hours of interviews and Trump doesn't know what McGahn has told Mueller's team but everyone agrees McGahn was in the center of everything. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The counsel of the President is a appointed position directly answerable to the President.  It is the primary legal adviser to the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that involves you and just about everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Unfortunately yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  It's hard for you to say I didn't do it.


MELBER:  I'm joined by Michael Conway, a special guest who wrote part of the final report to the U.S. House recommending Richard Nixon's impeachment.  Thanks for being here.  When you look at this reporting, is the attempted investigation of political enemies, Clinton, and Comey worse than the original Comey firing from a legal perspective, from your vantage point in terms of congressional oversight, and do you think Don McGahn has detailed all of that to Mueller?

MICHAEL CONWAY, FORMER COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Sure.  Don McGahn was at Ground Zero.  He's seen all these things firsthand.  He's an eyewitness.  He'll be Mueller's most important witness.  And in this case, there's no privilege.  He's not Donald Trump's personal lawyer, he's the White House lawyer.  He's the government's lawyer, and he's met with Mueller many times for many hours as you indicated, Ari, and there's a good reason for that. 

If you go back to Watergate, John Dean was a neophyte lawyer.  He wasn't an experienced partner like Don McGahn was.  He got brought into criminal activity and when he realized that he was going to be scapegoated, that he was going to be the one who was going to be blamed for the cover-up, he went to the prosecutors.  Richard Nixon did his best to keep the prosecutors from hearing Dean's testimony.  He talked to Assistant Attorney General Peterson who was ahead of the criminal division and said do not give Dean immunity.  Because he thought if Dean didn't get immunity, Dean wouldn't talk. 

MELBER:  Your point there is other than the audio tapes -- other than the audio tapes, John Dean as White House Counsel was one of the most incriminating things against Nixon.

CONWAY:  His testimony in the Senate committee was amazing.  He had such detail and he said he wasn't sure at that time that could be corroborated.  The tapes came out and corroborated his versions sometimes verbatim. 

MELBER:  So to that point, McGahn would be potentially the new Dean with the same job.  Here was John Dean talking about all this week.


JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  I had to channel a little of Richard Nixon.  I think he'd tell this President he's going too far.  This was a sort of stuff of a banana republic.  This is what an autocrat does.  This is a level that Richard Nixon never went to where you went after somebody's personal wellbeing by a criminal prosecution.


MELBER:  Based on your knowledge of how the House interplays with an investigation, what do you think House Democrats should do to preserve the independence of Mueller with regard to all this material but also eventually get the McGahn material out to the public if you think that's a worthwhile goal.

CONWAY:  Absolutely.  Well, first of all, they should put a subpoena before -- to McGahn.  He's now a private citizen but put a subpoena to the White House asking that his notes be preserved, ask that they be turned over.  Hopefully Mueller will write a report.  But one thing Mueller can do is assuming that he's not blocked by now Acting A.G. Whitaker, he can release his information to the House Judiciary Committee which I assume is going to be very interested in knowing about this.

MELBER:  So those 30 hours that we're reporting on are all private right now, you're saying the content regardless of what Mueller finds vis a vis Donald Trump, the content from this White House counsel could go to the House and then go public.

CONWAY:  Absolutely.  That's the decision that was made by Leon Jaworski that information about the President should be given to the house and that they could do that again, Mueller could do that.  Mueller could also turn that information over to state prosecutors

MELBER:  Well, Michael Conway, you know, Sean Diddy Combs always says I don't got a talk it because I live it.  You don't -- you don't have to talk it because you did live it but we appreciate you talking about it and giving us some expertise tonight. 

CONWAY:  Well, I appreciate talking turkey with you.

MELBER:  Talking turkey and have a good one on that score.  Coming up, we take a turn of something we're all thankful for, the music sensation Anderson .Paak right here you see him with me on the roof.  We're going to get into a big conversation and his timing before he debuted on SNL.


MELBER:  Elderly people are way more real?

ANDERSON .PAAK, MUSICIAN:  Are you kidding me?  The words.

MELBER:  The words?

.PAAK:  Yes.



MELBER:  We're back on the roof and I'm joined by Anderson .Paak, an artist working with a coalition of people on criminal justice reform.  His new album is Oxnard.

.PAAK:  Yes.

MELBER:  Great to have you.  You've worked with people like Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre.  Thanks for being here on the roof.

.PAAK:  Yes, Lord.

MELBER:  It's a little cool you got the right jacket.  You're doing this criminal justice work.  Why is this important to you?

.PAAK:  Oh man, it's hugely important.  It affected my family, affected my mom.  My mom did seven half years.  You know my pops did 14 years.  There's millions of people that shouldn't be in prison doing a lot of years that they shouldn't be doing.  And because there's no attention being put on this on the topic so anything I could do to help you know, as a musician even if it's just offering my time showing up to the title thing and playing a show, I'm down for it. 

MELBER:  Yes.  And you've got success now.  You're working with some of the biggest acts.  You were homeless for a time.

.PAAK:  Yes.

MELBER:  How did that affect you?

.PAAK:  They just gave me like -- gave me the chops that I needed, you know, gave me a story.  Like it's dope that nothing happens super overnight for me because I would have probably be a real jackass and not know how to appreciate things when I get them.  Honestly, I feel the music more than people that you know have more of a story.

MELBER:  Maxine Waters as a Democrat has a bill that would give more funding to emergency rental units to homeless families, try to get the kids off the street.  Do you think it's important that we see people who happen to be homeless as people?

.PAAK:  Yes.  I think it's got to put money to you know mental illness, you know, things that start before you know, you're actually homeless.  What happens before that, you know.  There's nobody to really put enough attention to what they have going on mentally so I think you know, investing into that you know, is a good thing, you know. 

MELBER:  You got the video for The Season/Carry Me/The Waters. 

.PAAK:  Yes.

MELBER:  We basically see Donald Trump come up out of pot trash.

.PAAK:  Yes.

MELBER:  What are you saying there?

.PAAK:  I'm just trolling like how he trolls.  He's one of the best trollers, so why can't we throw him back, you know.  Like that's always man.  He's funny looking and he does like horrible things so it's like you know, I feel like why not show them back.

MELBER:  Now, Trump's tax cut 83 percent of the benefits go to the wealthiest people.

.PAAK:  Right.

MELBER:  That might benefit you and some people you're working with. 

.PAAK:  Yes, it's crazy because yes, this -- at this stage I'm at now, it's like damn, some of the things that he does, it actually benefits me because I'm in a different tax bracket now.  And it's like, but that's still don't mean -- you know what I'm saying?  It's still -- it's still like a lot of other people that is not living that way.  You know what I'm saying?

MELBER:  Would you trade your tax cut back to get rid of Trump? 

.PAAK:  Hell no, but I will definitely you know, do what I can to like you know support the people that are on that other side of the fence.  You know, there's a lot of different things that he is supporting that I'm not with, you know.

MELBER:  I think it's fair to say well, you've overcome more than not just the typical musician.  You've overcome more than a lot of people ever have to deal with.  And so it's interesting that you say, I can do anything but move backwards, the hardest thing is to keep from being distracted.

.PAAK:  Yes.

MELBER:  What does that mean?

.PAAK:  Man. just staying out of trouble, man.  You know, getting caught up.  You just got to stay focused and just like stay on the path of what makes you happy and what keeps you building, you know.

MELBER:  One thing about hip-hop is it's always exploring historic influences and so Wu-Tang we're into the Kung Fu film, Scarface was into the movie Scarface.  You're really into all these old surfer movies and surfer culture.  Where did that come from? 

.PAAK:  I'm from Ventura County.  I'm from Oxnard.  Some of the best surfers, some of the best skaters, you know.  It's just the environment I was from.  And I want to bring people into that environment with the music.  Surfing is such alike I think, it just goes so hand-in-hand with life, you know.  It's the hardest thing to catch a wave.  That's life, man.  Some people go down on times but you don't get back up, get on it, and then if you catch one, you just ride it out, enjoy it, you know.  So it's like, that's like catching a hit record, you know what I'm saying. 

MELBER:  Anderson .Paak, thanks for coming through it.

.PAAK:  Yes, Lord.  Thank you, bro.  I appreciate it.

MELBER:  Thank you.


MELBER:  Some of the worst things we've heard about Donald Trump's attacks on the rule of all this week are known as we've emphasized by his White House Counsel.  And the question is whether Don McGahn will ever publicly testify the way another White House Counsel once did.  Take a look.


DEAN:  I began by telling the President that there was a cancer growing in the presidency.  And if a cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it.  I also told him that it was important that this cancer be removed immediately because it was growing more deadly every day.


MELBER:  We'll be waiting and watching when the new Congress convenes.  I want to wish you all Happy Thanksgiving and tell you that this Friday we'll have a special Thanksgiving edition of our show and a very special "FALLBACK FRIDAY" --




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