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Trump nixes Pelosi trip. TRANSCRIPT: 1/17/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Nick Akerman, Mara Gay, Lanny Davis, Christina Greer, RobertTorricelli, Katie Porter, Pearl Kim, Jahana Hayes, Deb Haaland

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Shutdown.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Are you doing it?

MELBER:  We may get to it.  I want to ask a senator about it I think.  But you know --

TODD:  So the Ari Melber show featuring FTAT, period. Cardi B, you are automatically number one in Spotify.

MELBER:  Well, and as you know, Chuck, Cardi B says, "Be careful with me.  It is not a threat, it`s a warning."  And we could use fewer threats in Washington.

TODD:  And a lot more warning.

MELBER:  See you, Chuck.

As mentioned, we`re going to get into all of that.  A big show tonight.  You have also Donald Trump`s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaking out.  This is new.  He made news earlier.

But now, late today, he`s walking back those collusion comments.  He`s being getting crushed.  I`m going to get into the part of that that matters.  Crushed is also the exact words that a frustrated Donald Trump has used to describe how the shutdown is hurting him with new heat from Pelosi and, yes, Cardi B.  We`ll get into it.

Also, new freshmen members of Congress and new women taking charge on the Hill.  Tonight, we have our first update on the several first-time candidates I spoke with during the midterms, four of them, including three who are now in Congress, will be on THE BEAT tonight.

But we begin with a bag of cash, a boxing glove, and a bunch of potential campaign finance violations all committed to allegedly help Donald Trump.  This is quite a caper.  And unlike some of the big stories these days, the core points here are not disputed.

Donald Trump`s guilty lawyer Michael Cohen opening up now about things he says he did for Trump, like spending money to try to rig polls online.  Now, the timing is key as I`m going to explain tonight because this could be the beginning of the process of Michael Cohen publicly coming clean for things he did for Trump that we didn`t know a whole lot about and that was not necessarily charged in court or that still could be charged in court.

Cohen prepping, of course, for this high-stakes testimony to Congress.  Testimony that itself top Democrats have cited as something that Trump may be already trying to illegally interfere with, with those public threats that appeared basically targeting Michael Cohen`s family.

People have been buzzing over this story all day but I can tell you tonight on THE BEAT will be the first time we hear reaction from Cohen`s legal advisor, Attorney Lanny Davis.  He joins me in a moment.

Here are the details.  Cohen hiring a small I.T. firm.  This was before the 2016 campaign and the "Wall Street Journal" reports that basically, the idea was he promised $50K to a man who ultimately got a lot less because Cohen surprised him with a blue Walmart bag containing roughly $12,000 in cash and randomly a boxing glove that Cohen said had been worn by a Brazilian mixed martial arts fighter.

This is sort of a leave the glove, take the cash kind of moment.  Cohen is confirming the core details here, though adding only a distinction that he says, "No, the money was paid by check."  Now the feds know all about this because it is among the services that the Trump Org reimbursed him for.

And Cohen now says, let`s be clear, this was all directed by and for the sole benefit of Trump, adding he regrets his blind loyalty.  And that is a theme that Cohen hit in his only interview since his sentencing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP`S LEGAL COUNSEL:  First of all, nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Trump, of course, publicly called for more scrutiny of Cohen`s father-in-law which several chairs in the House warn could be criminal witness intimidation.  New reporting also showing that intimidation could be working.

Cohen reportedly worried about threats to his family before his appearance to Congress.  Now Donald Trump is arguing basically that Michael Cohen is not credible and is just out to lie about Trump.  Donald Trump`s also publicly threatening Cohen`s family, a sign that Trump is apparently afraid of what Cohen will say.

And then you have Cohen`s side arguing, this is not about what he says, it is about evidence and what he knows.  Now people can debate who has the better argument between these two.  But I want to be clear about what we`re learning.

Tonight`s news scores one round for Cohen.  This new story is not about unprovable allegations against Trump, it is about evidence.  It`s about financial records.  It`s about alleged bags of money.  It`s about the kind of proof that lands a story in the "Wall Street Journal," a paper owned by "Fox News" parent company.

So whether or not there was explicitly a bag of cash by the end of this caper, the Trump Organization was reimbursing Cohen, with records on paper, and allegedly lying about it to the IRS.  There is that old saying, "Show me the receipts."  Well, today, it looks like Michael Cohen has some receipts.

I want to begin with former Watergate Special Prosecutor Nick Akerman and Mara Gay, editorial board member for "The New York Times" and then we will turn to the Cohen side with Lanny Davis who joins me which I am very interested to get to.

But I`m also interested in both of you.  What is the legal part of this that matters because the "Wall Street Journal" in some sense is giving us boxing gloves and bags of cash that are basically overlapping with some of what we saw a hint to that in the original criminal information which is like an indictment against Cohen?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  No, it`s really you have another series of campaign contribution violations that most likely were not reported as they should be.  In addition to that, you got Donald Trump or he`s involved in these campaign violations just as he was in the payments to the two women.  But he`s also involved in trying to intimidate a witness, which is witness tampering.

It is a 20-year felony under the criminal code.  The idea that he is trying to scare Michael Cohen out of testifying is just an outrage.  And Cohen rightfully is concerned that the statements that Donald Trump is making are going to put his family in danger.

MELBER:  You`re talking about the danger.  I mean, Mara, there have been investigations into other individuals.  Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, people in and around the White House.  If Hillary Clinton publicly threatened the family members of people that were supposed to testify, do you think that would be a passing one-day weekend story?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Ari, it is remarkable because there is so much.  It is hard to focus on just how horrific each new piece of news really is.  But I think we`ve known for some time now the kind of operation that the president ran as a candidate, which is really that of a mob boss in some ways.  But we`ve known that.

I think what is new is the more evidence we get, the harder it is to believe that the president himself was not aware of or if not directing some of this behavior.  And I think today`s story in the "Wall Street Journal" was a good example of that.

MELBER:  Yes.  And when you say that, that goes to some of what we just showed, which is Cohen has said this broadly   Now, we`re getting specific details.  And then you get the fact that there are the receipts, which shows the Trump Org was paying for some of this stuff.

And how can I put this?  The Trump Org is not known to be super generous with its payments.  It is actually a kind of a dead beat company when it comes to a lot of contractors.  That`s been documented.

So what does it tell you that when he comes in and says, "Here, I`ve got this receipt.  I made a payment back me."  And they`re like, "Here you go."

GAY:  Yes. I mean I would be looking into, if I were an investigator, maybe how much more work was done that wasn`t paid for.  Because we know that the Trump name doesn`t really have a great record of actually paying its debt.  So this could only be the beginning.

MELBER:  So one of the things that the Watergate tapes were fascinating on, as you know because you know so much more about it than we do, was Richard Nixon musing about where to get this money, we can get that money.  A million dollars is a lot but we could get it.

AKERMAN:  Do you know where they got it?

MELBER:  What is --

AKERMAN:  They got it from her comeback.  He`s the guy who -- he was Nixon`s personal lawyer.  It is history repeating itself.

You have got another lawyer, a personal lawyer for the president of the United States basically being a bagman for the president, going out and raising cash that is used in the campaign that is not reported as it should be during the course of the campaign.

I mean it is remarkable.  Even the kinds of stunts that they are pulling her just are echoes of Watergate.  You had Charles Colson who is the counsel to the President Richard Nixon.  They were plotting in the White House to send somebody up to New Hampshire to sucker a guy in who was a state representative in Maryland to go up and do a write-in campaign for Ted Kennedy.

MELBER:  Let me ask you both, Nick and then Maya -- excuse me, Mara, about the overlap also in what can sometimes seem small or tawdry, segretti (ph), right.

AKERMAN:  And that`s where the money came from.

MELBER:  Was doing stuff that was like they took the shoes of campaign staffers.  And earlier on, there were defenders of Nixon who said, "What is this?  This is shoe-gate now?"  I mean somebody couldn`t get their shoes at a hotel.  It sounds more like a prank.

When you look at the smallness of Regan Paul for the drudge report, what do you say to people who look at that and say, "Whatever that may be, this is not, remove the president felony kind of stuff"?

AKERMAN:  It may not be.  But what it does tell you is the mindset of the president that is involved, the pettiness, what he`s willing to do.  The fact that he`s a micromanager just like Richard Nixon was in terms of overseeing what was going on.

And there is no reason why if he was micromanaging what was going on in New Hampshire, trying to set up Musky who was the Democratic frontrunner, that he wasn`t also micromanaging the break-in to the Watergate Complex.  Just like Donald Trump, I am sure, was micromanaging the break-in that occurred at the Democratic National Committee and the release and staging of those stolen documents.

GAY:  I mean I think corruption is an extremely insidious thing and it can be very easy to just say, " Oh, well it is $12,000.  What is that in the scheme of things?"  But really, the spirit of our campaign finance laws are at the heart of how we function as a democracy.

So if you are violating them, you really have shown that you have no respect for our democracy or the rules of the country or the rule of law and you are not fit to be president.

MELBER:  And that is, I think, what people are weighing as you look at this, again, against the backdrop of a shutdown that shows some Republicans turning on the president.

Both of you, hang with me.  I`m going to go one-on-one with Lanny Davis and may come back to you.

Mr. Davis, thanks for coming on THE BEAT tonight.

LANNY DAVIS, LEGAL ADVISOR TO MICHAEL COHEN:  You`re welcome, Ari.

MELBER:  What are we to make of this story and is this the end of what Michael Cohen could detail or are there more stories like this?

DAVIS:  Well, the only thing I`ll address is the "Wall Street Journal" story and Mr. Cohen this morning acknowledged that under the direction of Mr. Trump, as he was previously directed to make the payment to Stormy Daniels by Mr. Trump.  Mr. Trump directed him to rig an election -- excuse me, a poll result.

Does anybody see the hypocrisy of a man who spent most of his campaign in 2016 accusing the Democrats of trying to "rig an election" while he directs his counsel to pay money to rig a poll?  The hypocrisy is just pretty apparent.

MELBER:  You`ve seen the response separately, not under your control from chairs of important committees in the House, accusing the president of potentially getting close to witness intimidation for, take a look, for this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He should give information maybe on his father-in-law because that`s the one that people want to look at.  Because where does that money -- that is the money of the family.  And I guess he didn`t want to talk about his father-in-law.  He`s trying to get his sentence reduced.  So it is pretty sad.  You know, it`s weak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Has that an impact on Mr. Cohen as we`ve seen reports about?

DAVIS:  Very much so.  He is very concerned, as is his family.  That a bully in the bully pulpit named Donald Trump calls out a member of his family and he`s also called out other members of his family using the White House platform on a national television show.

So let me be very clear here.  This is a definition of witness tampering and intimidation and could be obstruction of justice.  But more than that, if there is one thing -- at a time of this shutdown and the worst polarization in my lifetime in this country, if there is one thing that can bring Trump voters and anti-Trump voters, Democrats and Republicans together, it is to draw the line that family is out of bounds.

I want to hear Republicans say that to President Trump tonight, tomorrow, family is out of bounds.  You`ve gone too far.

MELBER:  And your view -- you`re saying --

DAVIS:  And I`m challenging them to do that.

MELBER:  You`re saying in this interview tonight, Lanny, that as Mr. Cohen`s adviser, you view what the president is doing already as illegal tampering?

DAVIS:  There is no question that his threatening and calling out his father-in-law who "has all of the money".  It`s not only improper and unseemly for a bully using the bully pulpit of the presidency, but the very definition of intimidation and witness tampering especially a witness about to appear before a congressional committee, to tell the truth about what he knows about Donald Trump by definition that deserves a criminal investigation.

But I can see maybe Trump people would disagree with that.  But no Trump voter, no Trump supporter in the United States Congress can disagree with me that calling out family members, no matter what is out of bounds.  And that is why this is the one purple moment that this country hasn`t had since Trump has been president that can bring us together and say to Mr. Trump, Democrats and Republicans, "No, you`ve gone too far."

MELBER:  This comes at a time when the Senate is assessing an incoming potential new attorney general.  Do you from your dealings with Mr. Cohen and others view the president as trying to make good on this threat?

I mean people watching at home, are they to take away the conclusion that the president would if he could try to get the DOJ to what?  To retaliate, to investigate Mr. Cohen`s family to keep him from testifying truthfully before the Congress?  Is that what`s on the table here?

DAVIS:  Well, I think this is aimed directly at Mr. Cohen to frighten him and his family.  And he has certainly engendered understandable fear for their safety, that a president of the United States should mention a man`s father-in-law who is about to testify.  I just think it is so out of bounds that it doesn`t involve politics, it doesn`t involve whether you are pro or anti-Trump.

There is genuine fear and it has caused Michael Cohen to consider whether he should go forward or not.  And he`s not yet made a final decision.

MELBER:  Consider.  I mean he was announcing that he was going to do it.  And you and I spoke to that effect.  Are you saying tonight that the testimony may be off?

DAVIS:  I would just say the exact words that he`s considering whether to go forward in light of the concerns about his family.  My guess is that he won`t let a bully silence him.  But I can tell you that he is still considering whether to do this or not.

MELBER:  Have you spoken to him about it today?

DAVIS:  Yes, I have.

MELBER:  So you are saying that on the one hand, you view this as criminal, the president taking what you are calling criminal conduct to intimidate a witness, to obstruct, but that that may work, quote-unquote, that he may respond by giving into that?

DAVIS:  I didn`t say it would work.  I would say right now that Michael`s concerns for his family`s safety are genuine and every American can understand when somebody with the power of the presidency uses those powers.  This is not the first time he`s attacked Michael`s family, that there is a line that everybody in politics, left, right, and center will draw, that family is out of bounds.  And Mr. Trump has gone over that line.

And again, I`m asking everyone watching, we have a GoFundMe site, michaelcohentruthfund.com.  This is unacceptable, left, right, and center.  The one thing we can come together on in this very divided country in the middle of a shutdown is to tell Donald Trump you shall not attack somebody`s family, to try to intimidate him in telling the truth.

MELBER:  Have you conveyed these concerns to Chairman Cummings or any of the other committee chairs?

DAVIS:  Yes, I have.

MELBER:  Interesting.  The other part of this, I want to ask you about is Mr. Cohen`s dealings with these federal prosecutors in New York, which, if the rest of the country didn`t know about it, I think they`re starting to hear about the aggressive reputation of this office.

It is the office that has given us ex-prosecutors that we know like Rudy Giuliani and James Comey and Mary Jo White and Preet Bharara.  You have been walking the line with them.  We had one of their former U.S. attorneys amidst the same group that I just mentioned, David Kelley, who was SDNY U.S. attorney.

And so as I do here, I report things and I put different questions to different people.  I put to him some of what you and Mr. Cohen have suggested about that office and whether it was potentially unduly harsh to Mr. Cohen.  I want to play for you for your response what he said.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  They treat everybody the same.  And if you want to come in and cooperate, you better give up everything you ever did.  If you stole a candy bar when you were a kid, you better tell them about that.

And if you don`t want to tell them about it, well, it`s not going to work out so well for the corporation and that is an ironclad rule there.  And if you bend it for Cohen, you have to bend it for everybody, and they are not going to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  His view is they did this the right way and they would have been bending to give Cohen any less because he says it wasn`t full cooperation.  I give you the benefit of responding.

DAVIS:  Look, I`ve never doubted the sincerity of the prosecutors.  They made the call that a three-year sentence was justified when there are people who have not paid $18 million and $20 million in taxes, rather famous people such as Floyd Mayweather.

A very small percentage of tax violations are criminalized.  They are usually settled civilly.  The bank so-called false statement was made on a home equity loan that was covered 10 to 1 by equity over the loan value.

I`m simply saying as a matter of judgment, the judgment was disproportionate to the actual crimes that Michael Cohen has pled to and has acknowledged he`s guilty of and that is my difference of opinion.  But still, respecting them and the process that they went through.

MELBER:  Very interesting hearing from you and hearing you outline tonight, Lanny, the way that Mr. Cohen views those threats and the context you`ve had both for him and the chairs.

DAVIS:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Thank you.  And my thanks to Nick Akerman and Mara Gay as well.  Thanks to each of you.

DAVIS:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Coming up, Donald Trump now says no plane for Nancy Pelosi.  We`re going to break down the new petty spat while Pelosi throws some shade of her own.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER:  Maybe he thinks it is OK not to pay people who do work.  I don`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And Giuliani got Giuliani.  Trump`s TV lawyer now tonight cleaning up that spin on collusion.  Also tonight, my breakdown of Mitt Romney reversing himself on Russia.  And later, Cardi B getting in on the shutdown.  Why it matters and we`re going to catch up with some of the winners from our panel of midterm women candidates.

That is tonight on THE BEAT.  We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Everyone has their favorite dance move.  You`ve got the robot or the twist.  We all remember the electric slide.  Teach me how to Dougie.  There`s all kinds of dances.

But tonight, I think we need to formally recognize one of the wildest dance moves of the Trump era.  It involves going back and forth, sometimes quickly and then slowly, it is called the Giuliani.  And it starts with a big spinning backflip.

Here is Giuliani reversing himself to say maybe there was collusion, just not by Trump personally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP`S LAWYER:  I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign --

CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN:  Yes, you have.

GIULIANI:  I have no idea -- no I have not.  I said the president of the United States.  There is not a single bit of evidence the president of the United States committed the only crime you could commit here, conspired with the Russians to hack the DNC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Then part two of the Giuliani is another spinning backflip reversing the reversal and notice from a dance perspective how that puts your feet back in the position where you started.

So after many headlines and hours of coverage, late today, Giuliani goes back to the broader defense of no knowledge of any collusion on the hack. So the president`s lawyer went from saying basically nobody was murdered to saying well, if somebody was murdered, my client didn`t do it.  A big difference.  To now saying forget all of that, nobody was murdered.  No collusion.

Malcolm Nance has spent 35 years working in counterintelligence, the author of The Plot to Destroy Democracy, How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America.  And he knows a lot about this case, both on the national security and the legal wrangling and the TV lawyering.  What do you think of the Giuliani?

MALCOLM NANCE, TERRORISM ANALYST, MSNBC:  It is not as good as the Dougie.

MELBER:  No.

NANCE:  But I think it is closer to the Macarena.  If anybody knows the original Macarena song as it was sung in Spain where I lived, it was two old guys singing this song about a young woman and who was being thoroughly ignored by the young woman.

So this is Rudy Giuliani.  He`s an old guy, comes on television, and he just spouts off what he wants to say.  And last night, I was dumbfounded when he came out and said he never ever said that anybody had any collusion and then qualified it within the Trump campaign, and then narrowed it down to in coordination with Russian hacking.  So it is an amazing dance.

MELBER:  It is amazing and it goes to what people try to understand and we all spend time doing it, which is there have been deliberate strategies where sloppy Giuliani put something out.  Like he did on Stormy Daniels on live T.V. because they needed to get it out.  But what do you think?  Was this that?  Or was this just the flipping?

NANCE:  Well, you know, there are two schools of thought that have been debated all day today.  Is Giuliani doing a very strategic sort of disinformation campaign himself, where he knows that something is coming down the pike and that he wants to get it out ahead of time and then qualify it to protect his client Donald Trump?

If so, that would be amazing.  He`s done it at least one time before.  But I`m not sure.  I think, as you call it, the slippery Giuliani is just a way of putting as much dirt in the air as possible so that you have to blink your way through it.

MELBER:  Right.  And what do you think about whether he is really in touch with the president?  I mean are we seeing just a public improvisation or are we seeing actual client representation?

NANCE:  Well, you know, I certainly wouldn`t -- I would defer to you as to whether that was good client representation.

MELBER:  But I`m deferring to you.

NANCE:  All I know is -- yes.  But in my perspective, this is a disaster.  I mean he is actually implicating people within the campaign now.  Does he know that someone is about to get in trouble and he`s going to throw them under the bus?  Is the next thing that he`s going to say is well, the first family may have conspired or colluded with Russia but it wasn`t my client, the president of the United States.

This shifting -- it is not even a shifting of goalposts, right.  He`s in a field of goalposts and he`s going in front of each one and trying to defend them.  I`m not even sure he knows what he`s doing.  But if he does know anything, he should know that some of the coordination that happened between Paul Manafort and his office, he had better hope that the special counsel didn`t get a judge to say that they were going to waive that attorney/client privilege due to the crime fraud exception that a lawyer is participating in a criminal cover-up.

MELBER:  Yes.  You mentioned the goalpost.  If you dance too much around the goalpost, you can get a flag for end zone celebration.

NANCE:  Red flag.

MELBER:  Red flag.  Coincidentally, you could also get a red flag for terrible jokes on live television.  Kind of jokes that are they really jokes or just a waste of time.  My apologies.  Malcolm, always good to see you.

NANCE:  My pleasure.

MELBER:  Trump says he`s getting "crushed" by the Democrats on the shutdown.  That is an interesting leak.  Also getting crushed by Cardi B.

All of that when we are back in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  The other top story tonight, Donald Trump taking away Speaker Pelosi`s airplane, Trump telling her he`s postponing her trip on this military jet scheduled for Brussels and Afghanistan because of the shutdown and then he adds she could fly commercial if she wants or maybe not into a war zone.  This, of course, is a response to Pelosi, who said she would reschedule his State of the Union.

Now, today, all of this pettiness back and forth, more shade at the man accused of often stiffing his own employees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  I`m not denying.  We said let`s get a date when government is open.  Let`s pay the employees.  Maybe he thinks it is OK not to pay people who do work.  I don`t.  And my caucus doesn`t either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Trump recently tells aides, that "we`re getting crushed on this shutdown."  The polls show some of that.  Trump`s overall approval rating is now down seven points in the past month.  Even worse with his base, 10 points down among Republicans, seven among white men without college degrees, down 18 points among suburban, and down another 24 points among white women without college degrees.

Gallop notes, Donald Trump is now the first president in history to never reach any majority approval, not for a single day during his first two years in office.

With me now former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli.  He served during five government shutdowns including 1996 which had been the longest.  That`s a Trump record as well as the whole unpopularity thing.  Fordham University Professor Christina Greer joins me as well.  What do you think of what I think you have to admit even though I know that you were supportive of some of what Speaker Pelosi does, what do you think of this increasingly petty part of the spat?

CHRISTINA GREER, PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY:  Is it petty though?  I mean --

MELBER:  It`s petty.

GREER:  Well, I don`t know.  I think Nancy Pelosi is trying to make the argument that you know, we`ve got 800,000 federal employees to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of other Americans who are out of work because of the shutdown and this President needs to read the Constitution in which it says that he must you know, present to the American public his agenda.  But she`s saying you know, for either national security reasons or the fact that we are in the middle of a shutdown, he needs to either wrap this up, talk to me McConnell since Mitch McConnell could end this shutdown if he wanted to.

MELBER:  Or he could hold votes.

GREER:  Yes.  He could do his job, how about that?  Because that`s what we`re paying him to do.  And so I don`t think it`s actually petty.  I think it`s part of a much more larger conversation Nancy Pelosi is trying to force the President to have since he didn`t get his money for his wall when he had two years of unified government.

MELBER:  Senator, when you served in the Senate, there would be votes from time to time on these sort of matters to reopen the government.

ROBERT TORRICELLI (D), FORMER SENATOR, NEW JERSEY:  What I don`t understand about this is why no one is coming up with creative ideas.  But I`ve seen these kinds of intractable problems we had with Reagan with Social Security funding, we had it within her range nuclear weapons, we had it with the budget problems with Gingrich which led to the previous.  But everyone is just taking their positions and appears to me they`re hardening their positions.

MELBER:  Yes.  It`s getting -- it`s getting harsher.

TORRICELLI:  And since it`s never going to come from Trump, I am kind of surprised at Nancy Pelosi and Chuck are not throwing out their more creative solutions to try to get past this.  leadership is not going to come from the White House.

MELBER:  And the pressure on Trump though does appear to be having an impact.  It`s widespread as the shutdown grinds on.  Senator, you represented New Jersey.  I want to play someone who represents the Bronx.  Cardi B weighing in on this Trump shut down.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDI B, RAPPER:  Trump is now ordering as it summonsing federal government workers to go back to work without getting paid.  Our country is in a hell hole right now.  All for (BLEEP) wall.  And we really need to take this seriously.  I feel like we need to take some action.

MELBER:  Is she right?

TORRICELLI:  Of course, I was going to say the exact same thing. 

MELBER:  The same way.

TORRICELLI:  The same way.

MELBER:  She is right that I think most Americans sitting back right now is saying this isn`t just a problem over an issue, it`s a problem of the governance of the country.  One thing that I think Donald Trump is going to understand why these numbers are falling is most Americans don`t look to these three branches of government.  When the government is not functioning, there`s our precedent.

And the President responsible for making the government function.  They don`t look at it as you and I might with these co-equal branches.

MELBER:  Right.  And that goes to Mitch McConnell which you raised earlier.  Putting aside what one thinks about I`ll cancel your speech, I`ll cancel your plane, OK we`re in the cancel wars.

GREER:  (INAUDIBLE)

MELBER:  Here we go.  One of the star new members of Congress, Congresswoman AOC as she`s often called is out there leading the charge --

GREER:  From the Bronx.

MELBER:  Also the Bronx, here we go, it`s a Bronx night, also leading the charge though and saying look this isn`t just Donald Trump again.  This is a Senator Mitch McConnell.  The Democrats arguing he`s MIA.  Let`s take a look at that for your analysis.  Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK:  We`re here doing our jobs.  We have voted repeatedly over and over again to reopen the government.  He`s not in the cloakroom, he`s not in the capital, he`s not in the Russell building, he`s not on the floor of the Senate, and 800,000 people don`t have their paychecks.  So where`s Mitch?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREER:  She`s demystifying the process for the American public.  So, so many Americans are saying OK, it`s the President`s fault, which it is.  But Mitch McConnell has really been the gatekeeper on this.  So what Congresswoman Cortez -- Ocasio-Cortez is saying, it`s like listen, Mitch McConnell, you could do your job and bring your colleagues to the table and vote and so we can actually jumpstart the government.

Mitch McConnell hasn`t done that because he also knows that the vast majority of people don`t know that that`s what he`s supposed to do.

MELBER:  Well, that`s such an important point and that you have new blood, new members, all this energy, and we have more of that later tonight, telling people how it works because if you`re in charge, why are you hiding?  If this vote was good enough before the government shutdown, why isn`t it good enough now?  And are you really -- Majority Leader, if you`re not running this like cardio --

TORRICELLI:  And it`s evidence that this is really -- this is really Trump`s party.  That these Republicans Senators know better.  They are scared to death of primaries.  They`re not going to get on the other side of Donald Trump on this.

MELBER:  And that`s I think -- I said something we disagreed about the petty thing, but I think we can all agree the Senate does not report to the President.  It`s supposed to hold its own votes.  And as the government stays close, I think that is going to stay important as people see that.  I got to fit in a break.  Senator Torricelli, Christina Greer on a Bronx night --

GREER:  I`m a Queens girl but --

MELBER:  You`re a Queens girl.  All right, ride in, everybody.  She`s a Queens girl.  Up ahead, Mitt Romney facing a test on Putin and he failed.  I`ll explain why.  And the epic return.  2018 first-time women candidates are back on THE BEAT.  I`m very excited.  That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sparring with Trump as she leads a Congress with more women than any in history.  In his Trump eyes, 2020 rivals, the first three people announcing committees to run against it are all women building on the historic wave of women who ran for office for the first time.  We spoke with eight such first-time candidates from both parties on THE BEAT during those Midterm races.

REP. DEB HAALAND (D), NEW MEXICO:  There`s never been a Native American woman in Congress.

PEARL KIM (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE, PENNSYLVANIA:  There has never been a woman of color elected into Congress in Pennsylvania.  And in addition to that there`s actually never been a Korean American female elected into Congress in the history of the United States of America.

REP. JAHANA HAYES (D), CONNECTICUT:  Connecticut as well has never sent an African-American woman to Congress.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D), CALIFORNIA:  I understand what it`s like to juggle childcare try to save for college and so I very much want people to vote for me because I am a woman.  It`s part of who I am.  It`s part of my identity. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  What happened in those races?  Well, tonight we are checking in on several of those very candidates.  Some lost while three of the candidates won and are beginning their terms in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES:  Today, we made history.

HAALAND:  We`re picking our numbers in a lottery to find out which office we`re able to (INAUDIBLE).  So wish me the best of luck.

PORTER:  I`m happy and excited to start work in about 15 minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Here on THE BEAT, we`re happy to welcome back guests from that night.  Now Congresswoman Katie Porter from California and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes from Connecticut as well as Congresswoman Deb Haaland from New Mexico and from Pennsylvania candidate Pearl Kim who despite losing a race in November says you were still going to work on these causes that matter to you.  Thanks to all of you for coming back for this update.

HAYES:  Thank you for having us.

HAALAND:  Thank you for having us.

PORTER:  Thank you for having us.

KIM:  Thank you for having us.

MELBER:  It`s like the eight box --let`s go around and talk about what it meant to win your race or again in your case what it meant to have this battle and look back on it now that we`re in a new Congress but the government shut down.

HAYES:  Well, for me, I mean, it was everything.  My race was won against all odds and my race I think was a reminder for people that everybody has access to this process.  You know, we`re all equal in this process.  I didn`t have the money, I didn`t have the support, I didn`t have the backing, yet here I sit as a member of Congress.

MELBER:  Congresswoman?

PORTER:  No, it`s been amazing.  I feel like I`m studying history.  I`m making history.  And to be part of a class of other history makers I think is really incredible.  For the friendships that we`ve already built are those that are going to serve our country really well for years to come. 

MELBER:  What struck you looking around because they do the orientations in this with the incoming classroom.

PORTER:  Well, the orientations I think it was you know, the diversity, the colorful -- just literally the colors both of the diversity of the representatives but also just our clothes.  So there was hot pink, there was red, there was lime green, there was yellow, and then I wore neon pink and I don`t think I had the most shocking outfit even.  And so I think just the energy that we bring and I think women think about power differently.  I think we think about power and a more collective community ornate ways.

MELBER:  What did you learn and what do you say to young women and girls who saw you run and lose.  What do you say to them about continuing the fight?

KIM:  Well, first of all, I just want to congratulate all the women that won here.  I`m so excited to see such a diverse Congress as well and the platform was absolutely incredible and I`ve had women approached me, survivors of both sexual assault and cancer just informing me how I inspired them during their battles or just in their path towards healing.  And that is something certainly I have no regrets about.

MELBER:  The Republican Party did not bring in many women through this class but they also lost seats.  What do you say to your fellow Republicans about the rural diversity here in fielding candidates around the nation.

KIM:  Sure.  Well, I think it`s important to continue that pipeline of women and diverse candidates as well and I think it`s really important as well to make sure that we don`t have space for individuals like Steve King.

MELBER:  Congresswoman?

HAALAND:  Sure.  Well, of course, we still have a ways to go before you know, we have an equal number of women in Congress and in the Senate so we`ll keep striving for that.  But I feel like just having this time with my fellow women in Congress, you know, we`re really about rising people up, raising people up and that really shows in the work we`ve been doing so far.  I just came from a meeting about equal pay for women, just a few minutes ago.  That`s still an issue right.

We`re still going to champion those issues.  We still want to make sure everybody has health care.  We want our children to have a quality public education.  So those are the things we`re fighting for.

MELBER:  You mentioned Steve King which is right-wing bigotry.  Nancy Pelosi throughout her rise has also talked about left-wing sexism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  When I was running for office, the comment even a progressive San Francisco was well who`s going to be taking care of your children.  We need many more women in Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAALAND:  I`m from New Mexico.  We`ve had a lot of women already we have a woman governor right now.  We -- I feel like -- you know, I actually didn`t feel disrespected in that manner.  However, it was a challenge for me by nature of my you know, we`ve never had a Native American woman in Congress so a lot of folks didn`t think I could raise money.  They didn`t think I could win.

HAYES:  In 2018 when I was campaigning, I had some people who supported me but were concerned you know, who`s going to help you with your children or will you be able to travel back and forth and I really just kind of double down on the fact that we are a modern family and I have a husband and I have extended family and it takes a village.

But I even saw it where some of the new freshman members when we were putting in our committee assignments and some people felt like I`m not seen as aggressive enough to speak up on some of these exclusive committees and just really trying to reassure people that you know, I may seem quiet at times but I have the tenacity to do this work and I just had to remind her let your work speak for you.  You`ve already done this work.

So I think to Katy`s point, we view power and leadership differently.  You know, it`s not always about the loudest or the most aggressive woman or the person in the room sometimes but we can have the same outcomes and people have to begin to be able to receive that and understand that we can have women in positions of power and in true leadership.

MELBER:  Well, and aggressive is a word that relates to style.  Congresswoman Porter assertive and accountability relates to governance.  You`re doing a lot with Wall Street, with accountability with financial services.  How does that relate to your mission if you`re going to -- and Wall Street is very male-dominated by the way.

PORTER:  No, I mean, my career has been all about holding Wall Street accountable, about calling some of the biggest banks in the country to account, to right wrongs that they`ve committed against everyday Americans.  But on the campaign trail, I didn`t get to talk about that work very much. 

MELBER:  Really?

PORTER:  By far and away the most common question I was asked by the media was what is it like to run as a woman.  I`ve never run as a man so I don`t know and I really struggle with how to answer that one.  And then this the most common question I got from voters was what`s going to happen to your children when you win?

HAYES:  Just thought of something else.  Even when we came in for the first week of orientation, the first time we convene down the Hill, so many in the freshman class were mistaken for interns or for staff even as I walked through many people address my husband and he says she`s the member.  Even on the Hill, I saw so much of that with this class because it`s just so different than what people are used to.

MELBER:  Right.  And what people are used to does relate to trying to negotiate with this particular president over this shutdown.  This came up also in a more recent Speaker Pelosi clip as she`s discussing this with my colleagues of Anna Guthrie and whether Donald Trump fears women in power which includes you guys and gals if I should say.  Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  I hope you recognizes that a new day is drawn in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You said in August, you thought he might be afraid of you and afraid of the women that are coming --

PELOSI:  Oh well, I don`t know if he knows how to deal with women in power and women with strength but we`ll see.  Let`s hope for the best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  She said that then.  You can hope for the best but how do you get Donald Trump given that you have the power now in the House to come back to the table to reopen this government?

HAYES:  This is not an autocracy.  We have separate but co-equal branches of government.  And I think the more people hold leaders accountable for their action as well as their inaction, the more results we`ll have.

PORTER:  We`ve seen groups of women each day for the last couple days lead fellow freshmen men and women members to walk to the chamber and to walk into Mr. McConnell`s office and to ask him to vote.  And we were offered water, coffee, or a piece of chocolate, and what we wanted is an -- is an open government and that`s what America wants.

MELBER:  I would love to have each of you back as we said during the campaign, and this was a bipartisan discussion.  I appreciate each of you for it.

KIM:  Thank you.

HAALAND:  Thank you.

PORTER:  Thank you.

HAYES:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Pearl Kim, Congresswoman Porter, Congresswoman Hayes, and Congresswoman Haaland, thanks to each of you.

HAALAND:  Thank you.

MELBER:  We`ll keep doing that.  But coming up, Mitt Romney`s hypocrisy on Putin and Trump a reversal you need to know about next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Witness the most famous freshman Senator in D.C. right now.  Mitt Romney making a huge splash with an op-ed that was all over the news when he criticized Donald Trump and promised to be a check on Trump including explicitly on Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH:  It`s important for the leader of the free world to point out that nations that kill members of the media, that did not tolerate dissent, are not the nations that we`re going to align with and that Vladimir Putin has been a very unfortunate and awful leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Tough talk.  And this week a Putin oligarch has been lobbying to cut sanctions with support from Russia friendly President Trump.  It seems like a time for Romney to buck the White House he has been warning about Russia for years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  This is to Russia that this is without question our number one geopolitical foe.  They fight every cause for the world`s worst actors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And Romney took heat for that.  He even doubled down.  He staked his presidential candidacy on what he said was a principle of standing up to that foe, Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.

ROMNEY:  Russia I indicated is a geopolitical foe.  I have clear eyes on this.  I`m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  So what happens now when Romney finally gets this chance to use those clear eyes on Putin?  You see him there presiding over the vote he`s stuck with Trump voting to block any effort to address these sanctions on the Russian oligarch.  This is actually one of his very first votes as Senator.  Take a look.  We found this at Russian state T.V. covering the news.  You see Romney in the top row celebrated by that foe.

Senate Romney can talk a very big game on this but this was his first test to Senator, a chance to take action to confront Russia and he folded.  He backed Donald Trump.  He did exactly what he said he wouldn`t do when it comes to Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY:  I have clear eyes on this.  I`m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  I want to share something with all of you.  We recently showed you Trav B. Ryan, a self-declared BEAT fan who wrote a whole song about the show.  And then I asked you for songs that describe the Trump era in your opinion.  And a lot of you have been sending them in.  Let`s share a few.  Jocqueline from Indiana says Phil Collins` Land of Confusion.  In Washington, Rod says, Johnny Cash`s cover of the nine-inch nails song, Hurt.  That`s how some are feeling.

Meanwhile, Tucson`s Linda goes for Barbara Streisand`s Don`t Lie To Me.  Susan suggests Marvin Gaye`s Mercy, Mercy Me.  I hear you.  Phylis recommends Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie.  And Lisa went full pop.  Ariana Grande`s Thank You, Next.

Well, that`s how some people are feeling politically.  I want to thank all of you for these submissions.  You can keep sending them our way.  E-mail Ari@MSNBC or #BEATNIKBARS on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.  As you just saw, we read what you said.  I love seeing the different genres and we`ll keep sharing some of the songs in the weeks ahead.  That`s it for THE BEAT.

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