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Trump's legal hell week. TRANSCRIPT: 1/11/2019, The Beat w. Ari Melber.

Guests: Michael Steele; Anthony Brown; John Flannery, Tom Colicchio, Lisa Treyger

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 11, 2019 Guest: Michael Steele; Anthony Brown; John Flannery, Tom Colicchio, Lisa Treyger

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, that`s all we have for tonight. Maybe this will give us the timeline back, who the heck knows?

We`ll be back Monday though with more MTP DAILY. And if it`s Sunday, it`s "MEET THE PRESS" at NBC. My guest this Sunday, Ted Cruz, Tim Kaine, and a former Senator Claire McCaskill. We have a lot to say about how the Democrats should take on President Trump.

"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Only one quick question, is it my imagination, Chuck or is your show getting trippier?

TODD: Well, only a dude from Seattle would know about trippiness. That`s all I`m saying.

MELBER: I`m just feeling the vibes, it`s Friday.

TODD: You`re feeling it, man.

MELBER: Yes, I`m feeling it, dude.

TODD: All right, dude

MELBER: I loved it and a lot of people were talking about that on the internet. That clip was incredible.

TODD: Unbelievable.

MELBER: Chuck, unreal, except real. Chuck, we`ll see you soon.

Tonight on THE BEAT, we are covering a lot of developing stories. Thank you for joining us.

This has been in many ways Donald Trump`s legal week from hell. What will Michael Cohen spill in front of Congress? Meanwhile, there`s also Rudy Rudy Giuliani with a suspicious new gambit. We`re going to get into all of that.

And I have something that I believe is important and I want to share with you tonight. We`ve been working on it all week. It`s a special report on how the Senate could force Donald Trump`s pick to lead the DOJ to actually make sure in a binding way that he protects Mueller. It all comes down to some hearings that are next week. I`m going to get into that later in the show.

But we begin tonight with President Donald Trump breaking record that will put him in a sad place in the history books. Tonight, he will become the president overseeing the longest shutdown in U.S. history, ever, 21 days.

That will happen tonight as there are no signs of Trump getting a check from Mexico in time to stop this from happening tonight or any signs that Trump agreeing on a solution with Congress tonight. They`re at a session this weekend.

Now the reason that most shutdowns end by now, just a few weeks in as you just saw there is we are now hitting the point where things start to really hit the fan. Eight hundred thousand U.S. workers are missing their first paychecks. So three weeks in, that`s a first.

Let`s show you a paystub that was obtained here by "The Washington Post" from an air traffic controller. You see right there the zero dollars in net pay. And otherwise employed families across the country are now tackling problems. They say, some of them, are caused by the Trump administration. Short on rent, trouble with mortgages, can`t pay bills for food and medicine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC FEIN, ANCHOR, NBC5 DALLAS: Thousands of federal workers will not get paychecks today because of the shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight hundred thousand federal workers are seeing their bank accounts go lower and lower as the shutdown drags on longer and longer.

KIM MASK, SINGLE MOM IMPACTED BY SHUTDOWN: I am a basket case. I literally don`t know how I`m going to provide for my kids.

DAVID WORLEY, FEDERAL WORKER: I`m starting to get scared. I`ve been a Trump supporter. I think he`s done a lot of wonderful things, but this is not one of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The last person there obviously a Trump supporter hurt by Trump, his words. Now, even if the government were to reopen tonight, the workers you just heard from there, the people who are suffering, and that is a tiny drop in the bucket of how many people are suffering. As we go through these stories, we report them for you.

Those people aren`t going to get paid again for two more weeks. So some people are getting desperate but Donald Trump, well, he`s only worried, it appears, about one government worker, himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re showing many of the people that aren`t getting their check, they get it. They`re going to get it soon. I don`t need this.

Look, I could have done something a lot easier. I could have enjoyed myself. I haven`t left the White House because I`m waiting for them to come over in a long time. You know that. I stayed home for Christmas. I stayed at the White House for New Year`s and New Year`s Eve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you tweeted Christmas Eve, all alone, where`s Chuck and Nancy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: After Donald Trump quashed the compromise plan from a group of Senators including Republicans, there`s been no other movement on anyway to bring this very manmade American crisis to an end.

Now, there are the reports that Donald Trump was looking into whether he could somehow use the declaration of national emergency to get the money that he promised would come from Mexico. You may have heard about that because he`s been kicking around this week.

It was diverting -- mean diverting these potential disaster funds which are supposed to go to actual disasters already enumerated by Congress like Puerto Rico recovering from Hurricane Maria and it would be taking that money. But late today, we can report that Donald Trump now says that`s not the course he`s taking yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Now, the easy solution is for me to call a national emergency. I could do that very quickly. I have the absolute right to do it but I`m not going to do it so fast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Stop right there. Sometimes what is important in these weird periods is what is obvious. He`s talking about how he might declare an emergency later. If you can delay something or schedule it or decide later whether or not it exists, it`s probably not an emergency.

We have been talking about that point today. I wrote it up on the internet as we do sometimes and actually the folks that run dictionaries, dictionary.com, they joined in on the conversation.

They wrote this, "An emergency by definition is sudden and urgent. It`s usually unexpected and it requires immediate action." If you needed a dictionary for this moment in history, now you have one.

I`m joined by RNC Chair Michael Steele, an NBC News Analyst Howard Fineman to get into the shutdown problems.

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR: Brilliant, baby. Brilliant.

MELBER: Well, baby, sometimes you need a dictionary. Does the president need one, sir?

STEELE: That and a whole lot more. He needs more than a dictionary. What he needs now is to apply common sense to the situation. Because there are, in any number of areas around his desk, maybe outside the hall, he can follow the trail up to the Capitol, clues, and opportunities for him to end this.

The Democrats and at least eight Republicans in the Senate have offered various strategies and opportunities for this president to move off of this space. To at least put three quarters, if not more, of those federal employees back to work so they can get their paychecks as they focus on the national emergency that he has claimed exists at the border with Homeland Security and other security agencies.

So there are the solutions but that`s not what this is about, Ari. And the way you walked into this segment is exactly the reason why. It`s not an emergency. If you can put it off, baby, if you can postpone it, then, guess what, that`s like having -- know that your appendix is a problem, you know what, I`ll wait.

No, if it`s an emergency, you go take care of it. That`s not what he is doing.

MELBER: Howard?

HOWARD FINEMAN, ANALYST, NBC NEWS: Well, Ari, it isn`t always the case that the president is the one blamed for the shutdown. I`ve been around a longtime covering most of these shutdowns. I remember when Newt Gingrich, the speaker then, the Republican speaker of the House was blamed and it helped Bill Clinton a lot.

But in this situation, for a whole host of reasons, the polls clearly show that the onus is on the president. Partly because of what you so brilliantly said about, what emergency? But also because I think you`re going to see in the coming days and after everybody doesn`t get their check today -- we`re not talking about just 800,000.

We`re talking about maybe 2.5 million people or more directly affected like that. We`re talking about half a million to a million contractors and their families. We`re talking about some states and places where this is a huge, huge deal.

And the dynamics of it now are putting the onus on the president. It`s going to continue that way. I think Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats know that. And so the weight is going to grow on Donald Trump`s shoulders.

MELBER: The weight is going to grow. And Howard, as you say, this is real talk, real people, real lives. I want to play some of the reaction. We led our broadcast with the facts including some documentary footage from local newscast about where this -- how this is playing out over the country.

Here`s some of the national pundits who may be more out of the loop than you two but some of them minimizing what is happening out in the country. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS STEWART (R-UT), HOUSE APPROPRIATION COMMITTEE MEMBER: It`s a partial shutdown and something that again I know is disruptive but it`s not the end of the world.

TIFFANY CROSS, CO-FOUNDER, MANAGING EDITOR AND CURATOR, THE BEAT DC: I don`t think that the American people have much sympathy, unfortunately, for bureaucrats and some paper pushers in Washington D.C.

You can shut down half of the government agencies and literally, it would be years -- if it were not for the media, it would be years before the regular person, the normal average working American would even know that the department had been shut down in terms of how much it affects their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Michael, that`s a talking point. Well, that dog hunt as they say.

STEELE: No. What that comment tells you is just how blind and deaf that dog is because the fact of the matter is --

MELBER: And then do I feel sorry for the dog.

STEELE: Well, you should because --

MELBER: The dog has a lot of problems.

STEELE: Right. And top of the blind and deaf is also dumb. Because what it has done is it is projecting outward some scary vision and view of what a federal worker is and what a federal worker does, who accesses the system among the citizenry that these bureaucracies exist as these little mini castles and fiefdoms that act on to themselves.

No, to Howard`s point, they`re real people that need the services that are provided, who need the information that these agencies have available to them and most importantly need their paychecks that they get from the work that they do within those agencies.

So that kind of thinking, again, it`s like, take years before you`d know that that agency has been closed. No, apparently, it took about 24 hours.

MELBER: Yes.

FINEMAN: Ari, I was actually outside of the beltway the last couple of days in my hometown of Pittsburgh and on the local news last night, one of the lead stories was about the thousands, many thousands of people in Pittsburgh who rely for part of their rent or housing on Section 8 Housing Payments. Those are stopping because they don`t have any people to process them.

A small example but a real example that leads the local news in Western PA. And that`s going to be multiplied by a thousand all over the country. Because you`re talking IRS.

You`re talking about ATF. You`re talking about, not only people getting checks but you`re talking about safety and health, food safety, air safety. I mean, this is a more dangerous, an objectively more dangerous time to be flying with a lot of disgruntled, unpaid, overworked, and worried people at ATF and at TSA.

MELBER: Well, when you say that, Howard, it makes me think a little bit about the debates about health care in this country where you famously had the cries of government hands off my Medicare. And then you had the sort of learning curve as health care got out there. And obviously, there are legitimate debates to be had about how to do health care or how to do the size of government.

But the notion here, we just played some of the sounds, the notion that this is no biggie and you don`t need any of this open and the federal government doesn`t really do anything good, it doesn`t affect regular people`s lives or Trump voter`s lives or whatever.

I wonder, Howard your view of what does it look like two or three paychecks in? Does this actually get those people realizing just how much government is woven into modern life whether you like it or not?

FINEMAN: No, of course. And even the Trump administration understood that when they made an exception for processing IRS tax refund checks. I mean they weren`t about to let that go by the wayside. Economists -- reliable economists estimate that we`re talking already about $3 to $4 billion worth of damage to the overall economy. That`s just in the first couple of weeks.

If people don`t get their paychecks in the weeks ahead, that`s going to multiply and it`s going to affect air travel. It`s going to affect agriculture. You say it`s a partial government shutdown. That`s true.

It`s not the bulk of the Pentagon for example. It`s not Social Security and Medicare right now. But there`s still a whole lot of government that we need to make things work. And I think what people are really upset about is this is probably the most glaring example of a phony issue that resulted in real pain.

In other words, the balance between the reality and the pain is completely out of whack. This is a completely manufactured crisis as you pointed out at the top.

MELBER: I got to get to another guest but Michael, briefly.

STEELE: Sure. No. I think Howard just nailed it. I mean that just sums it up right there. I mean this is a phony crisis, one that clearly you can delay and people are paying for it in a real way. And I`m hoping that members of Congress and others really put pressure on this administration to get off the dime here and recognize.

Maybe that`s a little bit happening because he`s sort of backwarding, just a little bit backtracking on this idea of the emergency call in the first place we`ll see.

MELBER: Well, right. For a guy who`s not known for backing down in public, he backs down in private all the time. He settles cases all the time. He doesn`t like complication but he usually pretends to be tough. He`s not even pretending anymore to be tough on that, quote unquote.

What I learned -- and I`m going to turn to a congressman. What I learned from Howard tonight is the facts on the ground may actually really rattle this White House as we go into this paycheck territory. What I learned from Michael Steel is I`m never going to ask you to walk my dog when I`m out of town, not a dog person.

STELLE: No, I am. But the dog has got some issues.

MELBER: That particular dog.

STEELE: He`s got some issues.

MELBER: You reached a judgment call about the dog. And by the way, for viewers watching at home or joining us late, no actual dogs were hurt in this segment. The dog was a metaphor.

Michael, Howard --

STEELE: He`s tied at the hydrant.

MELBER: -- thank you both. I get Michael Steele back later in the show. I turn now I promise to Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown, the son of immigrants he likes to note. He`s also a U.S. Army Veteran that served in Iraq.

First of all, Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight.

REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D), MARYLAND: Ari, it`s great to be on and this has been a tough several weeks for federal government employees, federal contractors. And, you know, President Trump just has to open government. He`s claiming a crisis at the border. The only crisis that exists, Ari is there`s a crisis in the oval office.

We have a president whose abusing power and shutting down the government and then trying to use that as leverage to fund a wall that experts say is not only ineffective but everyone says it`s too expensive and just impractical. So we`ve got a crisis and it`s at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

MELBER: Well, Congressman, on that point, you`re both a member of the majority party now in the House. Also, we mentioned your military service.

What is your view for people watching at home that may think the government should reopen but they like something about the idea that a commander in chief may need to declare an emergency or go to the army core of engineers and those things that we`re hearing about? What is your response to that? What is wrong with, in your view, what the president could be proposing, what his advisors are reportedly exploring here with the emergency talk?

BROWN: First of all, the facts don`t support a case that there is an emergency. Often, the president talks about drug smuggling. More drugs come through legal ports of entry into this country than across the southwest border.

The president talks about a crisis in terms of the number of undocumented immigrants in this country. But more undocumented immigrants are due to visa overstays than from crossing the southwest border.

So the president talks about the number of terrorists and it was an alarming number that he`s trying to scare the American people with, saying 4,000 terrorists have come across the southwest border where in fact the Customs and Border Protection Agency has said that that number is six.

MELBER: Right. Well, Congressman, let me press you then on the distinction. Is your view that he`s wrong on the facts so there`s no emergency like that here or that he`s also basically rolling on the powers that he has because other people have pointed out if any president can say, "Oh, when I don`t get funding from Congress for what I want, I`ll just take it from somewhere else." Then that seems to blow a hole through the whole separation of powers.

BROWN: Yes. So I`m saying that the first threshold question I think that needs to be asked and answered is, is there -- and this will be challenged in court if the Congress is unable to pass a resolution to invalidate a President Trump declaration of a national emergency. But I think the threshold question is, is it a national emergency? I don`t believe the facts on the ground support that.

In terms of the authorizations that the president would use, the idea that you would use Title 10, that`s military construction dollars, when right now we have a deferred maintenance and backlogs on aircraft hangers, on military family housing, on child care for military families, and shipyards.

I have been a member of the Armed Services Committee for the last two years and I`ve been hearing from a parade of generals how difficult the readiness issue is because of the backlog and military construction. And the president is talking about taking $5 billion from a program that`s already under stress. That would create a national security issue therein and of itself.

MELBER: Right. You`re saying that the proposal he`s got, what actually potentially create bigger emergencies than what you say is not an emergency to begin with. We`re heading towards history tonight. But not the history that most presidents want to make, the longest shutdown ever.

Congressman Brown, thanks for making time for us.

BROWN: Ari, thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up, there are new details on why the Trump world is so worried about what some are calling Michael Cohen`s potential John Dean moment coming before Congress next month.

Also, Rudy Giuliani now suggests Trump might rewrite parts of the Mueller report himself before you ever get to see it. And I have a special breakdown of a new important parallel between what held Nixon accountable and what lawmakers could do to force Bob Mueller`s next boss to do the right thing next week in the Congress. And an update on the health of Ruth Bader Ginsberg is in our broadcast tonight.

And then later, a very special fallback Friday which includes the world debut of very our own Beat wine glasses for MSNBC moms everywhere. I`ll explain later.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Donald Trump`s allies may hope the shutdown drama is detracting from some other bad stories but well, here are those stories. A veritable legal hell week for Donald Trump. A new indictment of the Russian at the Trump Tower meeting. New headaches for Paul Manafort. And now Michael Cohen ready to tell all in public. Cohen`s lawyer saying he will be like John Dean when he talks next month.

Meanwhile, on the other side, the Watergate vet argues Cohen is actually still deeply flawed, a suspicious witness who only spoke up after he was cornered. Now when this story broke, Michael Cohen`s lawyer broke his side`s view of it first on THE BEAT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN ADVISOR: I know that Mr. Cohen wants to be voluntary, wants to be truthful. His days for lying for Donald Trump being directed to do a crime, paying hush money to corrupt the presidential election which he did at the direction of Mr. Trump, those days are over. He`s now committed to telling the truth and we`ll work with the other committees to answer your question to be voluntary rather than to be under a subpoena.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s the plan. Former Federal Prosecutor John Flannery joins me now. Let me put it to you like this.

What do you say to people who would be critical of you and say you had no use for Michael Cohen two years ago and now you want to embrace him? What`s the difference?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the difference is you catch your crook with a crook. That`s the fate of it. It`s kind of interesting to compare him to John Dean. John Dean was kind of white shoe and this guy is kind of thug-like. And I`d hope that we go into some new material when he gets to testify up and to including what happened with the Russians.

MELBER: You make a very clear point that I think can get lost on people which is in criminal cases, criminals end up providing pretty important information.

FLANNERY: Absolutely.

MELBER: That`s true down in Brooklyn for El Chapo right now and it may be true in this case. My point is about cooperation. I`m not comparing the potential defendants obviously. I wouldn`t do that.

So what do you think Michael Cohen would bring to the floor there in the Congress that is new?

FLANNERY: Well, the thing that we don`t go into is the 30 years of associations with New York organized crime and Russian thugs and the relationship of Trump to those people. And we have some of that here and we have, right up until after Trump is elected, we have Mr. Cohen is apparently going to trade favors and he thought he was going to be in the administration.

We haven`t had him talk about any of those things so to have him unplugged talking to us I think would be something. Also, there`s a question of him leading others by his public statements so that they might testify falsely before the House committees.

MELBER: Well, that -- you just put your finger on it. I spoke to Lanny about that last night which is their allegation is the White House was actively in on his crime now confessed of misleading Congress. That means other people could be aiding and abetting.

FLANNERY: Absolutely.

MELBER: Take a listen to the tapes. Now, some of the famous tapes, this relates to things in New York that he probably could testify about. They`re not explicitly Russia. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend, David, you know, so that -- I`m going to do that right away. I`ve actually come up and I have spoken --

TRUMP: Give it to me and --

COHEN: And I`ve spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what do got to pay for this? One-fifty?

COHEN: -- funding. Yes. And it`s all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because -- here, you never know where that company -- you never know what he`s --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I`m all over that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Is it important that that description thereof using a third party, this corporation to pay off things, campaign related, that no other charges yet have come? Could they?

FLANNERY: Yes, they could. And the primary suspect is Individual-1 sitting in the west wing. That`s about the only person that hasn`t been snared for this. And also, the entire device suggests a method of operation that they ascribe to Mike Cohen as a fixer for Trump. That is we`re going to set up phony corporations in order to conceal how we`re transferring money.

And then even on an international level, we have Jared Kushner looking for a secret back channel that nobody has ever told us it hasn`t happened. We assume it must have happened but nobody knows exactly how it is. It wouldn`t be a very good back channel if we all knew where it was.

But the communications and the coincidence of this administration with Russian wishes suggests that all of these guys were doing things that lead us to the danger that we`re in now. We have a president who`s given a new term to -- a new meaning to the term stonewalling if you will.

MELBER: No kidding. It`s fascinating, especially from someone with your experience to break it down. John Flannery or as I know you`re known the Robert Redford of Washington.

FLANNERY: Is that how I`m known?

MELBER: Is it? You tell me.

FLANNERY: No, no. I`m known as the guy that hangs out with Ari.

MELBER: Well, I think the first one sounds a little bigger but you can go with either.

FLANNERY: Oh, no, no, no. You`re the expansion team. I`m with you.

MELBER: All right. John, we appreciate your legal expertise as always.

Let me tell you what we have ahead because we have a lot more on the show. First of all, chutzpah, Rudy Giuliani wants to edit Bob Mueller`s report before the world sees it.

Also, an important update on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg`s health.

But up next in 30 seconds, my special report on Trump`s attorney general pick and a Nixon era fight that could change everything when we`re back in 30.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Now my special report tonight. Bob Mueller will eventually finish his investigation, potentially as soon as next month. And Mueller`s boss, Rod Rosenstein signaling he will leave the DOJ soon once Mueller is done.

But the final decisions about Mueller`s work will soon be in someone else`s hands. Not Mueller, not Rosenstein. So even as President Trump rages about his wall and this battles over the shutdown, keep your eye on what else Trump is doing that he`s not tweeting about tonight. He`s trying to put the future of the Mueller probe in the hands of William Barr.

And next week, even as this shutdown may certainly grind on, these Mueller questions will come to a head at a Senate confirmation hearing for Barr. When a new attorney general is appointed during a criminal probe involving the president, it tests our system.

The founders knew that. Our constitution is built to hold politicians accountable, not let them cancel out the rule of law or separation of powers just because the heat is on. And that is why next week`s confirmation hearings are crucial. It`s no accident that a congressional branch has the final say on this crucial appointment. The Senate not only decides whether to approve the Attorney General, it can require that this Attorney General under oath will back up Bob Mueller. And we know that because it`s happened before. This is very important.

President Nixon appointed former Pentagon Chief Elliot Richardson to be his Attorney General in 1973. And according to James Doyle an insider who worked on the Watergate prosecutor staff, Nixon cast Richardson is a symbol of integrity to save the administration in a time of crisis. Richardson was nominated to run the DOJ at a crucial time for Watergate. The question was whether the DOJ would really be allowed to probe into that White House.

Now, today Barr`s nomination comes at a crucial time for the Russia probe. The question is whether the DOJ will really allow Mueller to follow the facts he finds. Now, back in `73, the Senate didn`t simply vet Richardson. It used those hearings as a high stakes opportunity to extract a binding arrangement under oath to protect the special prosecutor`s Watergate probe, demanding that the Watergate prosecutor would get final authority which Richardson initially objected to saying, he needed the ultimate responsibility for matters in the DOJ. And the Senate stopped him right then and they said they wouldn`t even hold a hearing until he committed to more independence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of the Judiciary Committee greeted Richardson with smiles and handshakes, but the friendly greeting was deceptive.

PHILIP HART (D), FORMER SENATOR, MICHIGAN: We have to create the appearance of objectivity and fairness in this investigation whether he had an independent prosecutor or not, but who would buy it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No more hearings will be held until Richardson names a special prosecutor acceptable to the committee with guidelines guaranteeing his independence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That was key pushing Richardson to commit to one appointing that special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. And two, respecting his independence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLIOT RICHARDSON, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: Cox will have full independence as far as I`m concerned. He has been given or will be given upon his appointment for authority to investigate all aspects of the Watergate cases.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if in Senator Byrd`s words this trail leads into the Oval Office at the White House?

RICHARDSON: Well, as I replied then, the trail should be followed wherever it leads.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, the Senators didn`t know that trail would lead to a White House with a secret taping system, but they knew enough about the Constitution to use the Senate as a check against Nixon`s attempt to knee cap the DOJ. Democrat Robert Byrd said Richardson was confirmed on the assurance he would not intervene in the probe on Nixon`s behalf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT BYRD (D), FORMER SENATOR, WEST VIRGINIA: The forthright answer by Mr. Cox and by Mr. Richardson to the sharp questions from committee members assured us as well as we can be assured under these circumstances that the -- that the prosecutor will have full and complete authority and that Mr. Richardson will not attempt in any way to intervene.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Those assurances to the Senate mattered, helping to later protect how the DOJ ran that Watergate probe. In the same book I mentioned, Doyle recounts how behind the scenes when Richardson dealt with Watergate, he cited his commitment that had been made to the Senate. Now, that`s the precedent that hangs over next week`s hearing on Bill Barr because later when Nixon defied the special prosecutor`s requests famously for the Watergate tapes and demanded Richardson fire the prosecutor, well Richardson actually had two reasons to stand up to Nixon. One, he thought that order was wrong.

But that`s always a debatable thing between a president and an Attorney General. More importantly, two, Richardson already pledged to the Senate that kind of order was wrong and that was not debatable. It was black and white and under oath. So as you know, as everyone now knows, he famously quit in protest setting off the constitutional crisis of Nixon Saturday Night Massacre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON: My own single most important commitment to this objective was my commitment to the independence of the special prosecutor. I could not be faithful to this commitment that also acquiesce in the curtailment of his authority.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country tonight is in the midst of what may be the most serious constitutional crisis in its history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Many remember that. Now, some people look at the record and nowadays say well things don`t work like that anymore. But if you think that, you may not be paying attention because the Senate can make them work like that. In fact, it was in the very early days of the Russia probe the U.S. Senators did Jeff sessions on the probes independence and he did make a pledge similarly to the Senate and upheld it.

In fact, it was the single act that led we now know to Rod Rosenstein being in a position to appoint Bob Mueller in the first place and which forever burned the Sessions-Trump relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are dealing with an investigation that involves the Trump campaign. Would you recuse yourself as Attorney General?

JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: I would review it and try to do the right thing.

I have accused myself in the matters that deal with the Trump campaign. I should not be involved investigating a campaign I am involved with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Next week, the Senate decides how it will press Jeff Sessions replacement. Now, some Trump allies say that because Barr is a respected experienced prosecutor and he is, there isn`t a whole lot more they need to do. Some Nixon allies in the Senate made the same argument about Richardson`s appointment. You can see these echoes already.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richardson has proven worthy of his trust in many posts and he ought to be trusted.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: There`s a high opinion of Mr. Mueller and has no reason for Mr. Mueller to stop doing this job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: But history teaches the opposite. And this is so important for next week`s hearings. The Constitution is not based on trust or opinion. Attorney General Richardson was pressed into a pact that people hoped would be unnecessary but it was necessary. And now when it comes to the DOJ, let`s be clear, Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon, he`s way worse, more openly hostile to rule of law, more disrespectful of the FBI agents who risk their lives.

Nobody knows where Mueller is headed exactly but next week`s hearing could decide where he`s allowed to go. And if he`s allowed to hold Mueller back or keep the report secret, and history shows today`s Senators should do a whole lot more than ask hard questions next week. To uphold the law they have to get the same kind of public commitment that the Senate got in the Nixon era.

Trusts may be enough when the times are normal but not in times of stress. Mr. Richardson knew that as did another student of the law Mr. Sean Carter who once said Trust is a word you seldom hear from us, a drought will define a man when the well dries up. Well, folks, the drought may come soon. Droughts bring stress. And when Mr. Richardson faced one he pledged to combat the stress by reaffirming his pledge to uphold the law even as he stood next to the man he would later hold accountable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON: This is a time of course when the institutions of our government are under stressed if there are flaws there in ourselves and our task must be won therefore not a redesign but a renewal of reaffirmation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: There`s a saying these days Giuliani going to Giuliani and it`s happening again. Donald Trump`s gaffe prone lawyer says he wants to actually review the Mueller report before it comes out. He also says Mueller is not God which is true, and that Trump should be able to correct the report which is not legally true, at least not in advance. Rudy, yes, being Rudy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: -- challenge the legitimacy of the entire investigation. Maybe a special prosecutor, a special counsel never should have been appointed.

This is a totally illegitimate investigation. He`s sitting on top of a totally illegitimate investigation. We have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules.

It surely looks like an illegitimate investigation. Well, you could describe in a lot of ways, a hoax. It`s a witch-hunt.

Is it political or is it a real law enforcement investigation?

It`s totally garbage investigation. This is a completely tainted investigation. This has become a witch-hunt. Crimes now have all been committed by the government. They have committed numerous violations.

That should be investigated fully. You want to go the special counsel, get one for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Michael Steele back in the house. I`m going to ask it like this, what did I just see?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, RNC: A whole lot of crazy that makes no sense. If you actually -- if you actually think Robert Mueller is going to say why don`t we send this over to Rudy Giuliani and have them take a look at it before we send it to Congress or you know, release it to the public or whatever. It just -- it doesn`t even strain credulity any longer. It becomes laughable.

And again, if the President`s team wants to be serious and are supposedly taking serious these efforts by the you know, investigative team of Mueller, the prosecutions, the convictions and the cooperation that`s already happening around him. You cannot have your counsel of which I assume Rudy Giuliani is playing that role go out and continue to make the kind of statements that the montage you just showed you know, afford that. You just can`t do that because this is serious and they need to take it seriously. You just can`t -- there`s nowhere in the process does it say that Mueller is going to give you the document so you can correct it.

MELBER: Well, he knows -- look, he knows better. I had a report the other night, I will get Rudy credit, it just happens to be much older Rudy.

STEELE: Right.

MELBER: But decades ago he had over 4,000 convictions as a top federal prosecutor in New York which means he more than anyone knows how wrong he is about this process right now.

STEELE: Yes. And that`s the part that is so galling because I can assure you that when a defense attorney went to you know Mr. Giuliani, the lead prosecutor, the state`s attorney, the guy who`s got all the all the weapons and said, can you let us see that document before you submit it to the court so that we can correct it? He would have laughed at him the way we`re laughing now.

MELBER: You don`t think John Gotti would have gotten the Rudy reporter earlier?

STEELE: I think -- I don`t think God he got that report early, no, no.

MELBER: Growing up (INAUDIBLE) didn`t involve Rudy Giuliani just handing out special evidence --

STEELE: No, no. It didn`t happen.

MELBER: Yes. Michael Steele, thank you for joining us twice within the hour.

STEELE: You got it my friend.

MELBER: Yes, sir. Now, up next, some very special one. Who needs to fall back? Tom Colicchio, Lisa Treyger, and Harry Smith along with something special for MSNBC moms next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT and you know what that means. It`s time to fall back. Joining me tonight, we have Lisa Treyger here, a comedian starring in the Degenerates, a Netflix special and she has her own Comedy Central album Glittercheese and performs late night. Also, the one and only Tom Colicchio, a Judge on the Emmy Award-Winning reality show Top Chef, also the winner of eight James Beard Awards, wow, including one for outstanding chef. He just opened a new restaurant, Small Batch in Long Island. And my colleague, Emmy Award-Winning NBC Correspondent Harry Smith who`s interviewed world leaders from former President Obama to Prime Minister Thatcher. Great to have you all here.

HARRY SMITH, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Look at that.

LISA TREYGER, COMEDIAN: So cool.

MELBER: Who needs to fall back, Lisa?

TREYGER: Anyone that`s hating on the Fiji Water Girl, quite of an enemy to me. She`s amazing. She`s an unknown actress holding water bottles so she took attention from you when you`re a movie star. Maybe you don`t deserve to be a movie star.

MELBER: Yes, these photos are going around the internet.

TREYGER: I just love her so much. I love her attitude and I like that none of the celebs care about promotions when they get free dresses and nice jewelry.

MELBER: For me, it brought to mind the infamous other recent Fiji news which was when the rapper, Lil Pump performed on SNL as a Fiji Water Bottle. Who can forget that? Harry?

SMITH: It is -- it`s a connection in the culture, right? And it`s like -- it`s like a competition with Perrier.

MELBER: Perrier, yes, that`s Perrier Kanye. Who needs to fall back?

TOM COLICCHIO, CHEF: Well, there`s -- a lot of people needs to fall back this week but I`ve got to give it to the wall. If there`s a ton of people swarming over the border, which there`s not. But let`s just say he`s right --

SMITH: Versus 15 years ago.

COLICCHIO: Right, right, exactly, yes. So we`ll give him that, OK. How does building a wall that`s going to take 11 years to fix that problem? If there`s an emergency, you need to triage. Triage shouldn`t take 11 years.

MELBER: Well, I heard that if -- it may or may not exist and it can be delayed or rescheduled, it may not be an emergency.

COLICCHIO: It may not be, who knows.

SMITH: I think it should be GoFundMe.

MELBER: Which has been out there. Harry, who else needs to fall back?

SMITH: These idiots going into national parks and doing horrible, horrible, horrible things. The one that`s made most of the headlines is Joshua Tree. The Joshua Tree is this most magnificent plant. It`s kind of related to the yucca, right, agave. And people have been going in, they`ve run them over. They`ve chopped them down. There are people in that world who think the plant, these trees should be protected. Because of climate change, thank you very much, has change its ability to reproduce.

So all of a sudden there`s nobody out there at the gate, people run in there, they`re driving around in the desert where there`s no roads, where - - in four-wheel drives. It`s just -- it`s beyond despicable. National parks, one of the great -- it`s the foundation of our country. This land is your land, this land is my land.

MELBER: Harry dropping some bars quoting a song.

SMITH: Thank you very much. Well, that`s your -- that`s your jam.

MELBER: Who else needs to fall back?

TREYGER: Bernie Sanders fall back. Your year was 2016 and it really wasn`t. Please get away from us.

SMITH: Whoa, whoa.

TREYGER: I just think it`s like fetch. It`s not going to happen. He also -- i think you`re disheveled, you`re unlikable and your pushy and I don`t think you should be leading anybody. If you couldn`t control your campaign and what your employees were doing and harassing and paying women unfairly in your campaign, I don`t know why you would lead a country or think you can. And we saw with the flipping of the House and everyone voting. Everyone is really excited for young female candidates, especially women of color, and we need men to get as excited about women as women are. And that`s the only way to do real change and I`m kind of sorry guys, but I`m just like sick of old white dudes, like go away.

SMITH: OK.

COLICCHIO: Let`s go.

SMITH: I guess that is the queue.

MELBER: Tom, because you`re here for those eagle-eyed MSNBC viewers may have noticed. In place of our mugs we actually have something brand-new launching today, and for that we`re breaking out for the first time ever a little wine. These are brand new BEAT wine glasses.

COLICCHIO: Nice. I feel honored.

MELBER: I`ve heard from many viewers who call themselves MSNBC moms or #MSNBC Moms, have you heard about this, Harry?

SMITH: Oh yes.

MELBER: And so sometimes I`m told that around this hour which is evening on the East Coast for men --

SMITH: Absolutely.

MELBER: -- a glass of wine gets on court. So now we have and you can actually get these from the MSNBC store, BEAT Wine Glass.

SMITH: Can I ask you a question?

MELBER: Please.

SMITH: Will this be a regular thing now on "FALLBACK FRIDAY?"

MELBER: That depends on what happens in the next 45 to 60 seconds. Please take your wine.

COLICCHIO: That`s a health form my friend.

SMITH: Let me tell you.

MELBER: Are you kind of a heartthrob to all these moms?

MELBER: I can`t -- I have no idea but I will say this. Tom, as a -- as our resident scholar of wine and cuisine, what do you think of this?

COLICCHIO: The glass is really nice. I love the blue etching. It has your name on it I guess so -- the wine -- the wine is quite nice.

MELBER: What would you say -- would this pair well with anything say a cooked goose or a Congressional oversight?

COLICCHIO: A cooked goose would be perfect.

MELBER: Chef? Top Chef.

COLICCHIO: Judge`s table, gin and tonic under my table.

SMITH: Ding, ding, ding.

MELBER: Really?

TREYGER: I knew it.

MELBER: Now, how do you -- I mean, I wouldn`t do the news with a whole lot of wine, although we`re doing it in your honor.

TREYGER: Yes, because it was deliberate for so long.

COLICCHIO: One or two. I don`t have to read anything and we`re not on a time constraint. We just go and go, and so you know --

MELBER: Well, can we toast to both our chef, our comedian, our journalist, and the MSNBC Moms out there. THE BEAT glasses are available. So a very special "FALLBACK FRIDAY." Thanks, everyone.

SMITH: Hear, hear.

COLICCHIO: Thanks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: An update out of Washington on the health of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Supreme Court has actually formally announced that there are no remaining signs of cancer for her and further treatment is needed after surgery three weeks ago on her lung. The Court Spokesman says the recovery is on track. Good news to everyone there. She will miss oral arguments next week for rest but will be working, simply working from home.

As I mentioned, we wanted to get you that update. That does it for THE BEAT. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is next.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END