IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Democrats play hardball to protect Mueller. TRANSCRIPT: 1/29/2019, The Beat w. Ari Melber.

Guests: Lloyd Grove, Richard Farley, Mark Thompson, Melissa Murray; Maya Wiley; Howell Raines; Richard Blumenthal; Carlos Curbelo

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 29, 2019 Guest: Lloyd Grove, Richard Farley, Mark Thompson, Melissa Murray; Maya Wiley; Howell Raines; Richard Blumenthal; Carlos Curbelo

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And I have covered him. He certainly would seem to enjoy part of this spectacle today.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: And that -- which is why I`ve -- it is -- part of me thinks, as "The New York Times" wrote, he`s too obvious of the suspect. If you were watching the drama, you would be, like, "Oh, that`s too obvious."

MELBER: Yes. I`ve heard that theory and it`s actually one of his possible defenses, right?

TODD: It`s the best defense he`s got.

MELBER: I agree. If you get to trial and you get past people who follow this in and out the way we do, the way your viewers do, at trial, a jury comes in and says, "Well, maybe this guy just sort of messes around a lot and that`s sort of the way he wiggles out."

TODD: Maybe.

MELBER: Maybe.

TODD: Maybe. Yes, I don`t know. I sometimes worry he`s too available and that`s why he seems like the center of the story.

MELBER: The Zelig theory, right? Zelig?

TODD: Yes, exactly. There you go.

MELBER: Interesting. Well, Chuck, thank you very much. Nice talking with you.

TODD: Thank you, boss. Yes. Now, I took way too much time.

MELBER: We`re good. We`re good.

TODD: OK. All right.

MELBER: I`ll see you.

Welcome to this episode of THE BEAT. We`ve got a couple of things we`re going to get into. Number one, Democrats playing hardball today. They`re using their congressional power to deny a key Trump vote in this battle to protect any potential Mueller report. Senator Blumenthal is here with me live later in the show.

Also, new backstabbing inside the White House. Now, we don`t always do palace intrigue stories on THE BEAT. But when enough tea is getting spilled, we will do them. That`s later in the hour.

And also moving beyond Trump drama, there are signs that the Democrats new pre-primary may actually turn on candidates` positions on AOC. And this is not just pundit hype or some op-ed. This is actual billionaires looking downright shook as they pronounce the name of the Bronx Progressive that you`ve come to know and her tax plan.

So I`m going to get to all of that. But we begin with what Chuck and I were just discussing, which is this scene, mayhem, the Roger Stone tour hitting D.C. today. You can see him arriving, swarmed by the media and protesters, protected by police.

And he was greeted with what you hear, these competing chants. Roger Stone did nothing wrong, as well as lock him up. Trump`s longest-serving adviser pleading not guilty to all charges.

MELBER: It`s something else. This is the sixth ex-Trump aide indicted. The scene far more intense than the past five though. Protesters waving signs that spelled out "traitor" in big orange letters. Parent Stone supporters with signs of their own like "Christians support Roger". And things even got madder at one point. We spotted a man with a wig waving a sign that said, "This is a sign."

Other people were waving Russian flags, a collusion reference. Though, let`s be clear, Stone is not charged with conspiring with Russians. Others brought a stereo today to blast The Beatles` Back in the USSR and the Russian national anthem.


CROWD: Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up.


MELBER: This was a wild scene outside. This was a big legal development. And this was a thing, as discussed, that Roger Stone seemed to relish. He seemed to like being back in the spectacle.

But the man who has unloaded so many paragraphs in recent television interviews had few words at the actual arraignment. Now, that is typical for this kind of hearing. We`ll show you Stone answering, "Yes, Your Honor" to three questions and saying "I do" when asked if he would follow the conditions of his release today.

Now, Stone left out of a totally different exit after the hearing, where we showed you all that crowd as he entered. And then there was a whole crowd of people basically running after him during his departure.


CROWD: Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up. Lock him up.


MELBER: You can also see his car trying to make its way through that same crowd. And Stone would go on to make much longer remarks, calling into conspiracy theorist Alex Jones` radio show. Jones` site Infowars is actually involved in part of the 2016 controversy. It`s not accused at this day of legal wrongdoing, but Stone, of course, making the provocative claim here that he faces some kind of legal lynching.


ROGER STONE, LONG-TIME TRUMP ALLY: This is a lynching. This is a legal lynching of me because I appear on Infowars, because I`m friends with Alex Jones, because I support Donald Trump and I supported him for president, and I still support him. Because I helped take down the evil queen, the foul-mouthed, short-tempered, self-centered kleptocrat Hillary Clinton.


MELBER: Even trying to play defense, you can see, of course, how Stone`s tenancy to exaggerate gets him in trouble. Taking down Clinton is part of what he`s accused of lying about. Stone also contrasting in his argument how his convicted former business partner, Paul Manafort, took a very different tack than Stone plans to take in battling Mueller.


STONE: It`s interesting that Paul Manafort`s attorney did not oppose the gag order in court. I can`t even understand that, but then he didn`t mount much of a public defense.


MELBER: So you have all these developments right now in the Mueller case grinding on. And then you have Donald Trump facing legal pressure on many other sides. In fact, one knowledgeable former U.S. attorney, who knows the law, who knows Trump better than most, saying today there is a legal problem for Trump that`s way bigger than Mueller.

Here is what Chris Christie just told MSNBC`s Nicolle Wallace.


CHRIS CHRISTIE: I think that the Mueller investigation is not the president`s biggest problem and that the Southern District of New York investigation has always been much more dangerous and have much more hazard to it than does the Mueller investigation.


MELBER: Let`s get to it. Maya Wiley is a former civil prosecutor in that Southern District of New York. Howell Raines, former executive editor of "The New York Times," and NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray. All of you with New York experience. You, of course, a southerner at heart.

But Roger Stone who is a New Yorker and a Floridian, he`s both, but it`s a very New York story. I wonder what you think of the intersection of his legal situation and this pandemonium that he`s leaning into.

MELISSA MURRAY, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: This is peak Roger Stone. This is a guy who loves the bluster. He was doing the most all weekend long. And what we saw in the courtroom was a more subdued Roger Stone.

Again, not a typical of most criminal defendants, but a very different Roger stone. And I think we`re going to see more of him doing things on the steps of courthouses and less of him doing things inside courtrooms.

MELBER: And Howell, I want to play for you Roger discussing the gag order. I mean publications like the one you ran, " New York Times", they live off characters like this. Also do investigative reporting. Also do, you know, foreign reporting but this is something that gets ink for a reason. And I will say that someone who has tried to scrutinize all of this and also tried to do it fairly, I think Mr. Stone has a very legitimate legal point in what he says here, which is that in this environment, he wants to defend himself in public. Take a listen.


STONE: Sooner or later, the government will move to gag me. But if I have a right to remain silent under the constitution, I also have a right to defend myself. And I make a living writing and speaking, speaking here on Infowars. So they would be depriving me of making a living if I`m entirely gagged. So we will oppose that."


MELBER: He contrasted to Manafort and he makes two arguments. One is the right to speak. And two, if speaking is how he makes his living in a long trial, this could be debilitating.

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Your -- this is a perfect point to make on this day when Roger is exactly where he likes to be, in the center of things. I met him 39 years ago here in this city, Ari. And the thing that I think is most apt to this discussion that a gag order is not accidental that he mentioned Paul Manafort, his former business partner.

And it`s important to remember as we watch Roger perform, he`s much smarter than Paul Manafort, always has been. Once, when he and I were together, Roger kept the Nixon, Reagan, Bush accounts and Paul Manafort was playing footsie with the Filipino dictators.

So here`s what I think we`re going to see play out. Roger is not going to roll over. He worshipped Nixon. He respects Trump as a fellow New York trickster and con man. If he has something that he can trade to Mueller, he will trade. He will make a deal.

And whether or not he`s able to make that deal, he won`t screw up the way Manafort did, by trying to trick Mueller, going back on his plea agreement and so forth. It`s a very intriguing moment in this most unusual American life.

MELBER: It`s certainly fascinating, Maya. Because you look at this battle of personalities, Mueller and Trump are very different individuals, and they`ve been quietly in a way circling each other without much direct contact. Although they fascinatingly had one meeting after the Comey firing that someday we may learn more about, historians may write about.

And now you have Mueller and Stone circling each other. And Mueller knows, as we do, exactly who Roger Stone is. So he knows that he`s going to get this much more public brawl.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER CIVIL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, look, the reason that Roger Stone is in the hot water that he`s in is because he lied in response to direct questions where he knew that there were e-mails and texts that would undermine his statements.

This is a man who has literally-- this is a public record. You know, this isn`t one of those trials in which we don`t know what the evidence is going to be. Remember, in the Manafort trial, there was a lot we learned in the course of the trial.

In this case, because there are e-mails and text messages that have been made public, we actually know that Roger Stone games the public court. He games it. He takes it and uses it to his advantage, despite whatever the facts are. So, you know, as the self-described, you know, trickster, this is someone who is in hot water because he has refused to tell the truth and we know that from the e-mails.

MELBER: And Melissa, listen describe his legal defense. He made a very provocative claim about legal lynching, which is highly offensive. And then he goes on to try to cast himself really as this outmatched victim. Take a listen.


STONE: I`m going to be meeting with my team of lawyers this afternoon to start plotting legal strategy. I`m an unarmed man at this point in terms of the resources to fight the taxpayer-financed platoon -- four platoons of Ivy League, left-wing, smart-ass lawyers who want to lock me up for the rest of my life.


MURRAY: So lynching, I mean this is straight out of the GOP playbook. Anytime someone runs into hot water, it`s a high-tech lynching. It`s a legal lynching. These people need to go down to Alabama and see Brian Stevens` museum where we really actually would learn about lynching and the violence that black people all across the south really experience.

But this is not a lynching. This is the justice process working, and probably working too slowly for most Americans.

MELBER: Is there -- we haven`t touched on this much and you mentioned that. I know you`ve been involved in that museum as well. Is there something that relates to how unaccustomed some of these individuals are at this stage in their career, the lives they have lead -- led I should say, in Republican establishment at the tactics that -- some of these tactics I should say are heavy-handed, but they are used every day in cities across America. So if you think they`re heavy-handed why did you only discover it when you`re 66 and dealing with this problem?

MURRAY: Well, it seems like Roger Stone really hasn`t had to answer to anyone for a long time. I mean he came out on Saturday morning wearing a beret and a t-shirt that says, "Roger Stone did nothing wrong." And clearly, he`s not getting any advice from anyone sartorially.

This is a guy --

MELBER: Howell, that was a sick burn.

MURRAY: Was it a sick burn?

MELBER: And it`s generally the rule, the only person who can get away wearing a beret is if you`re French or you just got back from a semester abroad and you`re --

MURRAY: Wear your Black Panther and then you can talk about lynching and wear the beret.

MELBER: That`s a double there. Venn diagram. We found the beret-lynching diagram there.

MURRAY: But this is not a lynching. He`s not outmatched. He has endless resources. He`s had the White House on his side. I think that Howell is right, that he knows he`s expendable to some degree and that if Trump had an opportunity, he would sell Roger Stone down the river. And that`s sort of what he`s trying to deal with right now, making calculated guesses about what`s going to happen going forward.

WILEY: Roger Stone does not have a neutral history with communities of color. And I think we should say that because he`s not only co-opting a phrase. I will say that my father was on Richard Nixon`s blacklist because he was a civil rights activist. So the very man that he even reveres was often quite on the other side of those who are fighting for basic rights against a very very big government using taxpayer dollars.

I think what is happening here is that Roger Stone knows how to spin a message despite the very clear facts that there`s a very strong case and a lot of evidence in the court that, in the public sphere, not just in the court, that shows that statements he made are the opposite of the evidence.

And remember, there`s also witness tamper. There is actually threats against, in this case, Randy Credico and we even have Jerome Corsi publicly stating that he was asked to lie by Roger Stone. So what Roger Stone is doing where there are very strong facts is he`s deflecting and he`s deflecting with terms that are very incendiary.

MELBER: And so Howell, now I have to ask you one of those questions before we go that is very 2019, but I never could have predicted, which is to analyze a picture that Roger Stone has posted of his back tattoo of Richard Nixon on Instagram, which is a real thing, and a back tattoo imagined on Mueller`s back with the caption, "If you`re outraged at the Gestapo tactics of Robert Mueller, go to" and then he`s plugging his defense fund. This is going to be, if there`s no gag order, what it`s going to be like for a while.

RAINES: Yes. That`s classic Roger Stone. He`s a candid demagogue. He`s a candid racist. He thinks if you`re white, you should be a Republican.

And it`s important that we listen to him, what he`s saying because he still is a very effective con man. And he`s negotiating right now in public with the president of the United States, in my view, as someone who has known him for almost four decades.

He says, "I`m going to tell the truth. That`s a threat to the president." And I think he does not expect to get a pardon, but I think he does expect to deal -- to make a deal. He will make it if he`s got something he can give Mueller. And the one thing I would say at this point of this circus is don`t forget this guy will turn on Trump.

MELBER: Well, I don`t want to speculate because we try very hard to stick to it. And you mentioned as a journalist the value in reckoning with these people. We learned about some of these things before Mueller indicted him because we`ve been talking to the witnesses.

What you`re outlining though is the third way that people don`t realize always exist, which is some of these people can flip in a big way on people outside of Trump and his family. And that could be a landing point, depending on what the evidence is.

So as you say, if we`re witnessing him using Infowars to negotiate in public, that`s something else. But you also called Roger Stone a racist. You`ve referred to his positions. He has a very controversial history.

I will reiterate something I`ve said privately to his lawyer and him which is, I`ve interviewed him before, he`s welcome to come back on and answer all of that. Everyone is welcome to answer the things that are said here, the charges that are made.

Maya Wiley, Howell Raines, and Melissa Murray, thanks to each of you.

Coming up, a fallout from this bombshell on THE BEAT. How Stone wanted to allegedly use WikiLeaks to distract from the body blow of Trump`s embarrassing "Access Hollywood" tapes. Senator Richard Blumenthal is here with reaction.

And Trump campaign threatening NDA lawsuits, left and right after a new tell-all book exposes "vipers in the White House". Rev Sharpton is here to get into it.

And the billionaire squaring off against Progressives over how much to tax the rich. The debate that may be an early driver in this 2020 race.

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


MELBER: Roger Stone pleading not guilty today to Bob Mueller`s charges that Stone lied to investigators about his 2016 outreach to WikiLeaks and tampered with witnesses. Stone arguing the whole case is political and does not allege collusion.

Then look at this headline in today`s "Washington Post", Roger Stone wanted WikiLeaks dump to distract from "Access Hollywood" tape, Mueller witness says. That allegation does edge towards kind of an attempt to collusion.

And "The Post" headline is based on the same witness Mueller relied on for Stone`s indictment, Person 1, the conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi that we interviewed about the Stone allegations before Mueller used them in this indictment. And again, last night, when I pressed Corsi on whether Stone was trying to reach WikiLeaks to time the release of the e-mails, he gave an answer that does sound bad for Stone. And our interview is, of course, now the basis for "The Washington Post" story I just showed you.

Now, I`m joined by U.S. Senator and former Prosecutor Richard Blumenthal. Senator, thanks for being here. Let`s take a look together here exactly at Corsi`s allegation against Stone.


MELBER: Do you have evidence or observation that suggests that Roger Stone sought WikiLeaks` help in timing the release of the e-mails around the "Access Hollywood" tape?

JEROME CORSI, ROGER STONE ALLY: I can`t prove that at all. I mean I had one call from Roger, as I recall it, Roger disputes this, on the day that WikiLeaks did begin in October dropping the final e-mails on John Podesta in which Roger was essentially saying we`ve got this timing issue as the Billy Bush tape is going to be released and we`d like to have Assange begin releasing e-mails now.

MELBER: Stone said that to you?

CORSI: That`s my recollection.

MELBER: And you -- did you tell the Mueller folks that?

CORSI: Oh, yes. That was the --

MELBER: And were they interested in that?

CORSI: Absolutely.


MELBER: Senator, whatever one thinks of Jerome Corsi, Mueller is relying on his testimony. And here, you have Corsi alleging Stone wanted to influence the timing of the leaks. Is that legally important?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Very, very important. In fact, that interview was really a blockbuster. Number one, it added support to the indictment of Stone which shows, for the first time in court document, coordination between the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks and the Russian dump of documents that were hacked.

Number two, it shows the motive for that timing, which was in effect to distract from "Access Hollywood". And another point in that interview that was tremendously significant, not really mentioned just now is that Corsi said he`s told Mueller everything that`s in the indictment and told you. And that`s very significant because it`s probably reflected in the indictment and what Mueller knows. So this is a piece that`s coming together in that mosaic.

MELBER: Yes. And that`s a Mueller witness basically dropping the dime on Roger Stone which explains some of the drama between them. I want to get your response on something which was some pushback on Twitter to something that you posted about this.

WikiLeaks under their formal Twitter account responding to this and saying what kind of senator provides an unquestioning platform for an Infowars 9/11 conspiracy theorist with a history of lying and then conceals established facts demonstrating the opposite. They say the tape was moved to the day of WikiLeaks` publication, not as part of some coordination.

So that`s also interesting. A lot is happening right now. That`s WikiLeaks responding to you on Twitter. What do you say to that?

BLUMENTHAL: What I say to that is it`s not about me. It really is about what the special counsel knows and can prove about WikiLeaks coordinating with the Trump campaign and using Roger Stone as an intermediary, a conduit, someone very close to Donald Trump personally. And then in the indictment, an outreach from someone directing a senior official to contact Roger Stone.

So again, the pieces of this mosaic are coming together. And they involve also, let`s remember, Donald Trump Jr. messaging with WikiLeaks at almost exactly the same time, October of 2016 saying, "What`s this I hear about a Wednesday document, Tom?" There are more pieces coming together.

MELBER: It is fascinating, as you say, with more coming out. Stay with me. I want to bring in a former colleague of yours. Republican Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo.

Congressman, you`ve got the senator here and you`ve heard people in the Republican Party appearing to move the goal post from no collusion and collusion is bad, to no collusion by the president or maybe collusion is OK. What`s your view of where we`re at and where the party needs to be?

CARLOS CURBELO, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well, that`s right, Ari. I think Rudy Giuliani a couple weeks ago was the first to kind of give the signal that, now, the last line of defense for the administration is to say that the president did not personally collude.

And no surprise that a couple of weeks later we see this Roger Stone indictment which is big news but also isn`t surprising. We know Roger Stone here in Florida. He`s lived here for quite a while. He has been known to cross the line. And it appears, he did it again.

And with regards to his comments about this being some kind of legal lynching, it`s not. This is due process. Mr. Stone has not been convicted. He has been indicted. He will have the opportunity to make his case in court or to cooperate with the special counsel.

So we`ll see what happens. I think it`s too early to start drawing any conclusions. I think we cannot say for sure yet that Roger Stone was an agent or acting officially as an agent of the Trump campaign. But, obviously, this is big news. And I think we`ll be hearing more about it.

MELBER: Do you think, from what you`ve learned, that it`s possible that the prosecutor`s theory is that Roger Stone is the linchpin, the go-between to coordinate that release on behalf of the Trump campaign in a way that benefited them?

CURBELO: It`s certainly a major possibility. And it`s been a reason why Roger Stone for a long time has been a major person of interest, both for the special counsel but also during my time in Congress for the Congressional Investigative Committees.

So certainly, I think we`re going to be reading and hearing more about this. And, again, for us, the fact that Mr. Stone is in the middle of it all, is not at all surprising.

MELBER: Yes. Senator, let me read also from something you`re pushing now, while we have you because of a lot of talk about how Mueller would finish up. You`ve got a new piece of legislation that would require a public report at the end of the probe or within two weeks if the counsel is fired, transferred or resigns. The "AP" reporting on that effort.

Let me put it to you this way. On the one hand, a lot of folks would say that sounds like a reasonable idea and a transparent one. On the other hand, does introducing legislation like that suggest that Bill Barr`s, you know, attempt to kind of have it both ways, was right? Are you conceding that maybe no public report is required under the current rules?

BLUMENTHAL: There may well be a requirement under the current rules under some circumstances, but it accords a lot of discretion, the rule that William Barr cited in his written responses just a day or so ago, a lot of discretion to the attorney general.

We`re trying to make it clear and compulsory so that -- William Barr is not the judge. The statute requires a report to be done, and that report to be disclosed directly to Congress, and no basis for concealing or censoring that report.

The public has a right to know. It`s a very simple principle. The public paid a lot of money for this report. They deserve the results. And the idea that William Barr should be the judge or anyone else really goes against that principle that unites Senator Grassley and myself. It`s bipartisan legislation for a bipartisan principle. And it`s a special counsel who, after all, is appointed, remember, in only the most serious and significant circumstances of a violation of public trust and the public has a right to know.

MELBER: Senator Blumenthal and Former Congressman Curbelo, thank you, both.

CURBELO: Thank you, Ari. Have a good night.

MELBER: Meanwhile, "Politico" high jinx, a Trump tell-all exposes backstabbing and even chaos in the west wing. Trump resorting to a familiar threat.

We`ll be back with all of it in 30 seconds.


MELBER: The Trump White House on edge tonight over two new books spelling the tea and a lot of secrets. Former Trump Adviser Chris Christie and former Staffer Cliff Sims who says working in the White House require working with vipers who display venality, stubbornness, and selfishness. He blasts one as a literal cartoon villain and says another plunged a knife into someone`s back, twisting it with relish.

Team Trump now threating to sue Sims for violating an alleged non- disclosure agreement. Now, Trump`s done that to several other former aides, including Omarosa who is currently an arbitration with Trump over his lawsuits although you may have noticed it hasn`t exactly stopped her from speaking in public. And when you asked Trump`s team about these secret contracts, they often sound pretty secretive.


HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I can`t speak to anybody else. What I can tell you is I`ve never seen one in this White House. I`ve never been asked to sign one in this White House.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`m not going to get into the back-and-forth on who has signed an NDA here at the White House.

MELBER: Did you sign an NDA regarding your campaign experience or your White House experience?


MELBER: Did you?

BANNON: Yes. I think -- I think everybody had to sign that NDA.


MELBER: Let`s get into it. "POLITICS NATION" Host Reverend Al Sharpton who leads the National Action Network is here and The Daily Beast Lloyd Grove who has reported on Trump`s use of NDA`s. Good evening. A little bit of nervousness there at the White House, Rev. What do you think of the secrecy and what do you think of what`s really coming out in these books?

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Oh, well, I think the secrecy is how he operates. We are talking about a president that we are told spent hundreds of thousands of dollars telling mistresses to be quiet. So secrecy is a way he did his private business here in New York. Clearly, he`s operating that way in the White House.

I think the most interesting thing for me, one book clearly talks about the disarray in the White House and the disorganization which is a real risk to the public because we`re not talking now about his private business. But when you have former Governor Christie saying that he came in and said Flynn is fired now this Russian thing is over, a lot of people reacted to that what does it mean. But I think we`re missing the point.

He did not say isn`t this an outrage that somebody might have been doing something with Russia or they got to get to the bottom. He`s talking like a guy that got away with a crime. OK, it`s over with now. I mean, if Christie thought he was helping him there, I hope he never helps me because he`s saying -- he`s in fence saying, all they wanted was this over. It`s done. We gave a fall guy.

MELBER: So help understand how they works because you are -- I think our viewers know, you`ve around some VIP situations and you`ve been around it for a while. What does it mean when Chris Christie writes in the book that when he first sat down with Trump for dinner, he`s telling us the Trump insisted on ordering for him and ordered scallops, and Christie`s allergic to scallops but he felt dominated. Is this a VIP thing where then you get back at them later? What is this?

SHARPTON: I mean, it is "I`m in charge. I`m in control." I`ve seen that entertainers do that. And --

MELBER: You have and for other people --

SHARPTON: Only one or two.


SHARPTON: Well, I`m not going to do that on T.V. You going to blow my book one day that Lloyd is going to write about. But if you`re very insecure you`ll let people do that. But if you stop say hold it. If you invited me to dinner, I`m going to have dinner that I choose.

MELBER: Well, now you know what I got to ask you. Did James Brown ever order for you?

SHARPTON: James Brown and I used to eat very similar meals. I`ll leave it like that.

MELBER: See, you learn -- you learn something every time with the Rev. Lloyd, you have reported on the on the secrecy and you look at this, the reliance on NDAs, the willingness to sue people, it`s not an empty threat. Obviously, I`m reminded of Pusha T, the musician who famously said the money count is the only moment of silence because hush money balances all this drugs and violence.

Basically, one of the best Pusha T lines about an NDA if you can think of one. The hush money here hasn`t worked the way it`s supposed to. Doesn`t that kind of stick out as the obvious practical error even before you get to the ethics?

LLOYD GROVE, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I defer to you on the legal aspects of all of this but it seems to me kind of silly that somebody who`s not working for Donald Trump, he`s being paid by the taxpayers would be -- that this NDA would be in any way valid.

MELBER: Yes. A lot of experts say it`s not.

GROVE: Yes. And I got to say, Cliff Sims book which is very entertaining --I`ve read a bit of it now -- is devastating to Trump. I know he wants to sort of play both sides and say I really like the guy, but what are the accounts that hasn`t really gotten a lot of attention is that the first thing Trump did when he was inaugurated was spent hours and hours redecorating the Oval Office and the West Wing. That was his main focus.

MELBER: And what does that tell us?

GROVE: The guy likes redecoration.

SHARPTON: And the guy likes the optics of foul not really went in there with a mission to get something done. This man likes the trappings of foul. If you look at his businesses, he owed everybody. He didn`t do very good business deals but Trump`s name on everything. He is a guy wants the appearances of foul and success. He doesn`t want to do to work and he doesn`t want to really advocate on behalf of the people he tells them that he will be doing that.

MELBER: And Christie is also using this to question Donald Trump`s judgment. One of the oldest mistakes that people who have less problems and Donald Trump also make which is to give into the instinct to hire your family to be nepotistic. Here was Christie on that and hiring family today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why does President Trump continue to listen to Jared Kushner.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: I don`t know. It makes no sense to me. And listen, I have say this to you. Like this is part of the issue about having family work for you, right? I mean, I`ve always said, look, I never wanted any members of my family working for me because if I had a fire him, I`d have to also sit with him at Thanksgiving and that`s a really uncomfortable thing.


MELBER: I mean Christie is definitely trying to use the book tour to continue to push back at Jared Kushner which has got to upset the President.

GROVE: Well, that and push back at every -- I mean the book is really mistitled. It should really be called If Only They`d Listen To Me. He goes after Bannon, he goes after Paul Manafort, he goes after Jared, obviously, a lot, and anyone else that had a disagreement with him.

MELBER: Yes. And just to be clear, you never let James Brown order for you.

SHARPTON: He never ate --

GROVE: I would have. I would have if I`d met the man. I`m sure he had a great cuisine.

SHARPTON: But it explains why I`m the hottest working man in civil rights because I had the same guy.

MELBER: How about that? I mean, we know -- I wasn`t even making a reference to how healthy you look. Al Sharpton might be one of the most healthy people in this whole building despite a punishing work skip.

GROVE: I suspect he`s not eating James Brown meals these days.

MELBER: I read that you only have toast and then you don`t eat all day.

SHARPTON: I have a salad and I would one slice of toast.

MELBER: One slice.

GROVE: That`s very --

SHARPTON: That`s not James Brown, that`s I did after he left us. I left eating all of that with him.

MELBER: One slice of toast but he won`t spill any tea.


SHARPTON: Unfortunately, the President didn`t teach that to Mr. Christie.

MELBER: Yes. I think --

SHARPTON: He`s spilling tea all over the place.

MELBER: You know what, we`re going to leave it there. It`s a real news show. We have to -- at some point, thank you, Lloyd Grove, Rev Sharpton, incomparable New York experts. And be sure to check out of course "POLITICS NATION" weekends 5:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. Up ahead, Donald Trump says everyone wants to work for him. We have a special report showing his problem even filling the jobs.

But first, AOC, Senator Warren and a fiery debate over something that matters, income and equality, billionaires clapping back. That`s next.


MELBER: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is having one of the most impactful first months in office of any new member of Congress in a long time. You can tell from reports tonight some Democrats are threatening her now with a primary challenge and from how two billionaires with decades of experience in public life are name-checking her proposal to tax people who make over ten million and similar proposals.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, CEO, STARBUCKS: I don`t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America.



MELBER: Michael Bloomberg served as a Republican. Now he says he`s thinking about running against Trump as a Democrat, while former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz saying he may run as an Independent and he`s blasting Elizabeth Warren similar tax plan as ridiculous. Another senator running for president though sounding closer to the warm position at her Town Hall last night.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Part of it is that people at the top one percent, people who are making $10 million a year who have $50 million a year, they need to pay more taxes.


MELBER: And as for that billionaire, Howard Schultz, he`s hearing it from protesters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t help elect Trump you egotistical billionaire (BLEEP). Health care is a human right! Health care is a human right!


MELBER: Let`s get into one of the Democratic Party`s biggest battles with views from across the spectrum. A man who literally represents Wall Street, Attorney Richard Farley, Author of Wall Street Wars: The Epic Battles That Washington Created the Modern Financial System, and Mark Thompson, a former activist and political organizer who hosts Make It Plain on Sirius XM radio. He`s broadcast from every Democratic convention since 1992.

Mark, I begin with you. A lot of fire on the left from moving beyond the Trump discussion and trying to fix all of this wealth at the top and a lack of perceived accountability for Wall Street.

MARK THOMPSON, HOST, MAKE IT PLAIN, SIRIUS XM: I mean, picking up from where 2016 left off, we have to honestly give Bernie Sanders credit because in his campaign he began to move the discussion in this direction. Now, Elizabeth Warren is picking it up, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and then obviously Kamala Harris on last night.

And I think that what Howard Schultz and Michael Bloomberg, but particularly Howard Schultz is doing, I don`t think he`s helping his case. This is where the Democratic Party is right now. This is where the base is. This is where the party is most progressive and I think people are ready to embrace it. They want to see a change.

Wages are not what they ought to be. People are not doing well who are in the middle class. In fact, the middle class has become not only the working class but in many respects the working poor. So this is going to I think dominate the campaign over the next year.

MELBER: Richard?

RICHARD FARLEY, AUTHOR, WALL STREET WARS: If it dominates the campaign -- if taxes dominates the campaign, we lose the election as Democrats. He who or she who has the most creative ways to tax the voters is not going to be the next president of the United States. Now, you have to bifurcate the issue between going after Wall Street which is very popular in large part because people think that the system was unfair and they gain their wealth unfairly.

I don`t think the Democratic primary voter not to mention their election voter is most concerned about making sure that rich people per se pay more taxes. I think they want more opportunities for himself and they want to know that the system is not rigged against them.

MELBER: So let me push you on that and then get Mark`s rebuttal. As a policy matter, everyone could debate the right tax rate.

FARLEY: ~Sure.

MELBER: When you say we can`t do that, that kind of language, we`ll put the marginal rate up on the screen.


MELBER: There was a period of time as you know where America and politicians got elected during that period to had a much higher rate and it has gone down. You view of this act --

FARLEY: Except --

MELBER: You view of this activist because of progressive reforms --

FARLEY: You had a headline rates --

MELBER: -- that then were wiped out by Wall Street reform.

FARLEY: You had a headline rate in the `90s at one point in time, except nobody paid it because you had a vibrant industry of tax shelters and ways to make sure that rich people didn`t pay the highest marginal rate. So if you look at the amount of income that was actually taxed at those rates, it was nominal.


THOMPSON: But it was still on the books. But I would say to Richard`s point, the rich I think are both in and not in either or because the debate since 2016 has been about the top one percent of earners and it`s also been about Wall Street itself and quite frankly has also been about people wanting to have an opportunity.

So I don`t think this is the -- this is the beginning and the end of the debate. I think this is just one part of it. The tax part is a part of it. And you know, it gets somewhat complicated and not very sexy. But when you get into the issue Wall Street, when you get into people having other opportunities, let me also mention, Howard Schultz took on three women today. I mean that`s impressive unto itself.

And the other reason that`s important not just because they`re women but because what do we know about women today. I think we`re at a point where over 50 percent of the major breadwinners and households or the heads of households are women.

MELBER: But he would argue he`s taking on their ideas. Richard?

FARLEY: I`m not sure this is a gender issue. I think -

THOMPSON: No, let me be clear. I`m not saying it`s -- I`m not saying he`s -- what I`m saying is these are women running for office appealing to an issue that women are concerned about. Women represent that working class that`s struggling. That`s all I`m saying.


MELBER: I think the concern is less about -- again, I think there`s been a conflation between the one percent and tax policy and whether or not those are the one percent got their fairly or not.

MELBER: Yes, but also you`re doing an analysis. What about this? Because this is what Elizabeth Warren is running on. I`m going to put up the Oxfam numbers that are just wild. You have basically 26 people super-duper billionaires and they have as much wealth as half the world. Is it good for Democrats to run or any party to run and say maybe we want to fix that a little bit.

FARLEY: Yes. And I think -- absolutely. But I think the way you fix that is you show how you`re going to get more wage growth and opportunities for people who are not earning what they should have been earning if the increase in wealth over the past generation have been distributed fairly as it had been on 30 years after World War Two.

MELBER: Well, final thought -- we`re out of time -- Mark, your thoughts about what we`ve heard from this -- from this Wall Street Lawyer Democrat.

THOMPSON: Well, again, I would just again say, it`s all of the above. The argument that you`re making about how --

FARLEY: If I were advising Elizabeth Warren, it`s a crowded field. You have a limited amount of oxygen. I would not be using up my oxygen talking about taxes.

THOMPSON: And we got practically two years. We`re almost two years so we got plenty of time.

MELBER: So we`ll revisit it but right now we are out of oxygen. Richard Farley and Mark Thompson, thank you both for an interesting and pleasant debate. A 2020 note, I want to tell you Senator Sherrod Brown is on "HARDBALL" tonight. That`s going to be interesting. Up next, my special report on vacancies and turnover in Trump`s government and who`s steering the ship.


MELBER: Now to a report on President Trump`s staffing problems. It all starts with this. Through two years, the Trump Administration now has a turnover rate of 65 percent in executive office positions compared to 24 percent for Obama,33 percent for George W. Bush. Translation, people are trying to get out of these jobs at record-breaking rates.

They`re entering as well at a slow pace. Today, the Trump Administration presides over a 22 percent vacancy rate. That`s for what they call these top managerial positions. In the agencies, this is a Trump theme. In year one, he confirmed 150 fewer candidates than positions that Obama had and a 190 fewer than George W. Bush. You see him lagging right there.

Now, in the past week, Trump has made we want to note 100 plus new nominations but there are notable opening still. The president who rails all about undocumented immigration does not have an assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Hello! He did just nominate someone for the post, critics say, finally.

The president who also has denied about Russians interfering the election has six empty seats on the Federal Elections Commission. There are six seats. Trump has also left many ambassadorships vacant. At the end of his first year in office, he nominated 33 percent fewer ambassadors than President Obama.

Today, when it comes to representing America or call it America first abroad, over 40 countries have no U.S. ambassador working to represent Donald Trump`s vision. For a while, Australia was one such country and the former Australian Prime Minister said this was an insult.


KEVIN RUDD, FORMER PRIME MINISTER, AUSTRALIA: But for Australia, I think it does indicate that at least from the view of the Trump administration we have seen as something as a second-rate ally.


MELBER: Australia did get a U.S. ambassador. We reached out to the White House for comment on all this, have not heard back. But do remember, of course, a famous campaign promise.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know the best people. I know the best managers. I know the best deal makers.

I have the smartest people in this country lined up.

I`m going to get the best people for the job.

I have great people working at the White House. They don`t get enough credit. I have some tremendously talented people.


MELBER: There`s a lot going on but keep your eye on the ball. The new data we just showed you shows instead of great people, in many cases, President Trump has often no people at all.


MELBER: A programming note that may interest you. Stacey Abrams who of course ran that very close race for Georgia governor last year has been selected -- we can report -- to give the Democrats televised response to President Trump`s State of the Union. Chuck Schumer announcing this decision today. Abrams propelled into the national spotlight during her race. She did ultimately lose but it was notable to the Democrats because it was the closest Georgia governor`s race they`d had in decades.

All the way back to the 60s, she closed ultimately within two points of what would have been Georgia`s first female and first black governor. That response, of course, will be Tuesday. You can catch it on any news network including MSNBC.

That does it for THE BEAT. I`ll see you back here at 6 p.m. Eastern but don`t go anywhere because as you know, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.