Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 19, 2019 Guest: Bill Kristol, Ed Rendell, Juanita Tolliver, William Tong
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the space force leading the way. We have some very bad players out there and we were a good player.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Well, CGI really helps him there, doesn`t it? So there you go. So what happens next? Where do we go from here? Watch this space force.
That`s all we have for tonight. The puns are gone too. We`re back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening from L.A., Mr. Melber.
ARI MELBER: Nice to see you out there, Chuck. Good evening to you too.
And we have a big show tonight. Our top story, two different pieces of breaking news in the Mueller probe. A federal judge is considering jailing long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone before trial based on provocative messages that Mr. Stone sent which could violate the brand new gag order he just got in the case. You can see and you can remember the chaotic scenes of him coming and go from court. This move shows mounting heat on Trump aides in the Mueller probe.
And it comes amidst a second piece of news tonight. "The New York Times" breaking another clear bombshell. Revelations about what the paper calls Donald Trump`s two-year war on multiple investigations into his activities and presidency. This report details Donald Trump`s extreme and potentially illegal efforts to thwart federal investigators and they say they know it started just weeks after he took office.
Now, before I go any further, let`s be clear. If the themes here in this big report which has the White House nervous tonight, if the themes are familiar, given Trump`s public tirades against the FBI and rats and people who cooperate with law enforcement, that familiarity does not make this news tonight, this story normal or OK.
Tonight, legal experts are weighing in, saying the "Times`" account is chilling. We`ll speak to several in a moment. But let me give you the facts. Donald Trump reportedly inappropriately pushed his acting attorney general to override Justice Department policy to install an ally to take over a federal probe in New York which was looking into Trump`s own payments to women as well as any liability for his 2016 campaign.
"New York Times" revealing for the first time, Trump`s own White House lawyers were also separately so worried about what they viewed as false statements made about his firing of Michael Flynn, they put together an entire confidential memo detailing the White House`s own falsehoods, and yes, lies.
The report also looks into how Trump`s efforts go beyond Twitter tirades and a more secret set of strategy sessions, trying to get congressional Republicans to use their power on the Hill to attack or undermine Mueller.
Now, the New York investigation is especially crucial. As we`ve reported on this very show, federal prosecutors there are famously independent. Their work can outlast Mueller on the timeline and they were the prosecutors who threw the book at Michael Cohen and have, of course, this open probe that involves that "National Enquirer" drama that everyone has heard about.
Well, "The Times" is reporting that Trump tried specifically to get DOJ to get a loyalist to take over the probe. This was as the feds were bearing down on that hush money trail that dates back to 2016. The account specifically as Trump called his own new Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker who`d replace Jeff Sessions and pushed for a Trump ally, a lawyer named Geoff Berman to take over that probe.
Now, Berman was seen as so close to Trump, he`d already recused himself from the New York probe, a kind of a New York echo of Jeff Sessions` decisions that so angered Trump in the original Mueller case. Now, that was the request. That`s big on its own.
This "New York Times" report though is that Whitaker refused. And you may know from following this kind of stories, that`s the kind of leak that would obviously benefit Whitaker who just left his post as acting A.G. It benefits him more than it would benefit Donald Trump. And then the report notes again against Trump`s interests that he "soured on Whitaker".
But what does not help Whitaker is that he just denied that Trump ever pressured him like this under oath earlier this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW WHITAKER, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: At no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel`s investigation or any other investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, the key language is any other investigation. Tonight, Democrats are saying the report is "very concerning" and it is a reason they want Whitaker to at least clarify his testimony. "The Times" raises the concept of "perjury". We can`t report yet whether the House views it that way. That`s yet to be determined.
Now, only Donald Trump knows where he may have legal vulnerability and where he may not. It is possible that he has no vulnerability anywhere in the country. Totally possible. But this story links with something that we`ve reported earlier on this show when documenting the legal pressure points of those prosecutors in New York.
They have jurisdiction over Trump`s business and some of his campaign which is why it was so striking that Trump took that unusual step of personally interviewing the very lawyer the "Times" now reports he wanted in charge of this probe. Just like Donald Trump took the unusual step of personally interviewing the now famous lawyer Preet Bharara who originally held that post when Trump took office, that was in that Trump Tower meeting which had no precedent from any presidential transition in history.
It brings me no joy to tell you that these are the cases we`ve been following, that this is the office we`ve been following. It just happens to be what the "Times" is zeroing in on tonight. None of this is normal.
And the "Times" makes that explicit, writing, "Donald Trump`s attempts to defang the investigation has been voluminously covered in the news media to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. And in this piece tonight, they go on to say, "Fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who`s attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no president in history."
Like no president in history. This is real stuff. It comes right now as a new attorney general is overseeing Bob Mueller. Like no other president in history. We should note that Donald Trump`s own allies who know about the law say the key investigation he would need to control, the dangerous one, was in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER FED PROSECUTOR: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`ve got some very special guests to break this all down. Maya Wiley, former Counsel to Mayor of New York who also serves as a civil prosecutor in that very division, the Southern District. Bill Kristol, director of the move defending democracy together, as well as former RNC Chairman Michael Steele.
I`m going to move in a row, starting with Maya. When you see the office where you used to work back in the headlines from this "New York Times" report and the effort to get Whitaker to do it, what comes to mind? And is this itself potential elements of intent or obstruction?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Well, first of all, what comes to mind is exactly what you said, Ari, which is that this is not normal. And we have a sitting president of the United States who is behaving as if he has committed a crime. Whether he has or not, we don`t know, but his behavior is the behavior of someone who has something to hide.
And what`s important here, and one of the things that I think all of us who have worked in a U.S. attorney`s office are proud of are the independence of the offices. In other words, career public servants who just work very hard to get at the facts. And in this case, we expect nothing less.
MELBER: What does it say to you that Mr. Berman who may not be a household name but was the person that was personally interviewed, as I emphasized, both recused meaning followed the rules, but also that Donald Trump thought it would help him to get Berman back in charge?
WILEY: So the important thing here is that Berman has recused and has recused himself. And if he cares at all about his reputation, he would not fall subject to any pressure from Donald Trump to endanger his own career because he has made clear that he cannot serve in that role.
It is outlandish that a president asked, although, with this president as you pointed out, we have a lot of history of this, looking for people who will protect him, not protect us, not protect the country, but protect him personally. And that`s what we`re hearing out of this news story.
MELBER: Bill Kristol, this is very real. Mr. Whitaker was pressed on it under oath as I mentioned. Let`s look at the exchange. This was February 8th, very recently, talking about this very New York probe. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), FLORIDA: Did you ever have any conversations with the president about firing or reassigning any personnel, U.S. attorneys or others who work with the Southern District of New York?
WHITAKER: Congress --
DEMINGS: With the president or anybody, anybody at all. I want to know whether you talked to President Trump at all about the Southern District of New York`s case involving Michael Cohen.
WHITAKER: I am not going to discuss my private conversations with the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Bill, how do you read that answer?
BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Well, you could say that`s just, you know, he has some right to not discuss conversations with the president. That`s a version I guess of executive privilege. You could also say he was being careful not to lie, but also not to offend the president who was still acting attorney general then.
His other answer, you could argue is carefully wordsmith so perhaps not to be a flat out misstatement or false statement. So, but look, the Congress obviously needs to call Mr. Whitaker back and see what the truth about all of this is.
And it does fit in, the biggest point to make is the obvious one, if it is such a pattern of this president not wanting the truth to come out about a host of matters, but maybe most centrally the 2016 campaign and Russia but also what he did as president with respect to everything from Michael Flynn to the firing of James Comey to conversations he had with Whitaker to conversations he had with Michael Cohen.
I think we will know because of Mueller and because of the Southern District of New York. But I mean the degree to which he -- if you just step back from the trees to the forest and as we`ve discussed before, it is so hard to do with this president. There`s so much stuff and every day is something new, you just sort of forget, can`t even remember what were the things that went on three weeks ago.
The absolute consistent red thread running through everything is he does not want the truth to come out about a whole range of his own dealings and has gone pretty far, not as far as some of us fear he might go yet and tried to prevent the truth to come out. Which final point, maybe Congress should do a couple of little things like make sure they get access to the Mueller report and so forth that they can do more here to help preserve the institutions which so far have managed to resist most of the efforts it seems by the president to corrupt them.
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Yes. I think Bill largely hits that right on the head. And just to sort of encapsulate the president`s mindset here, I think it is all that insular time that he has with himself imagining all of his enemies coming at him from these various angles.
And then believing that he can use the institutions of government as a cajole to block and break and sort of push back those folks that are coming at him, whether it is Mueller, whether congressional investigations. And certainly trying to find friends who will go out and be his mouthpiece, who will protect his interest, to Bill`s point, his self-interest here. Not the overall governmental interest, not the overall national interest, but his own personal interest.
And I think that`s what has animated and pushed this president to the point, to Maya`s first point, that he looks guilty, he acts guilty, he sounds guilty. And whether or not all of that is true remains to be seen on what Mueller and the Southern District come to the table with.
MELBER: Right. And when you mention all that, I mean Michael, as head of the Republican Party, you dealt with people at the White House, right?
MELBER: You would deal with presidents sometimes.
MELBER: Because you`re an important guy.
STEELE: Well --
MELBER: But that`s not my main point.
STEELE: Just a guy in a room.
MELBER: My main point is, in that role, you have a visibility that`s different than the legal side which is just the what the heck is going down. When Cory Lewandowski, I want to read from this article, is one of the most loyal Trump people you could find, even after he got fired and mistreated.
And then you have Trump even called his Former Campaign Manager Lewandowski over the Fourth of July weekend, patriotic, asking him to pressure Sessions to resign. Lewandowski was noncommittal and never acted on the request. Number one, Michael, the "Times" takes its sourcing seriously.
MELBER: The report is there are two people on that call. Number two, have you ever had a president or eye level person ask you as a political guy on the side to get involved in the removal of the attorney general?
STEELE: No. It is so outside the box. It is certainly for someone like Cory who is a campaign guy. He`s a political guy. He`s not an administration guy. He`s not a government official. He`s not someone connected to legal counsel`s office.
So what Trump ultimately was looking for, Ari was a political solution to what he saw is a legal problem and what he saw as an administration problem. So he figures, all right, fine, let`s just going to put it all in the same box. I will have Cory make the call on Sessions to get Sessions out of the game.
And the fact of the matter is as Cory rightly understood, I can`t do that because number one, that`s not my role. And number two, that then puts me in an incriminating position subsequently.
MELBER: Yes. And I don`t mean any -- I think you nailed it. I don`t mean any disrespect to Cory Lewandowski who I had on the show and who I`ll be willing to interview again. But look, what are you doing if what you`re doing is too Trumpy for Cory Lewandowski?
KRISTOL: You know, Ari --
MELBER: That`s a lot. Go ahead, Bill.
KRISTOL: Yes. I mean you were struck by the same thing I was I think which is what`s the sourcing for these stories. We have two phone calls at least in the "Times`" story, the Trump-Whitaker phone call which presumably nobody else was on and then the Trump-Lewandowski phone call.
We now know about both of those phone calls to the disadvantage of Trump and to the advantage of Whitaker and Lewandowski. It makes me wonder, and Whitaker just left as acting attorney general, maybe he told other people who told the "Times", that is quite possible but he did choose to tell other people that.
So it does has a slight feeling of the rats leaving the sinking ship here, honestly. I mean when you get these kinds of stories where an awful a lot of people who were close to Trump, this isn`t --
MELBER: But you`re calling them rats, you sound like the president.
KRISTOL: That`s terrible. That was terrible, OK. So small furry animals leaving the sinking ship.
MELBER: Hamsters maybe? I don`t know, who are lovable. What are we looking for?
KRISTOL: Hamsters are very -- I like hamsters. So I mean that just strikes me as maybe things are changing in the sense that people are worried now about where this is all going and --
MELBER: Which brings --
KRISTOL: -- they`re distancing themselves.
MELBER: Which is so important, it brings me back to Maya Wiley. And maybe we`ll call them cowardly bunnies which are lovable fury animal but bunnies also have an obligation to cooperate with law enforcement if they could talk.
Look, I am stretching. The point is I`m going to read one more thing before we go for your analysis which fits with Bill`s point. Shawn Spicer in this leak here according to falsehoods about Flynn, "Mr. Trump orders him, say that," something that wasn`t true about the Flynn firing. But was that true, Mr. Spicer presses, according to the "New York Times`" account.
Say that I ask for his resignation, Mr. Trump repeated. And in the same account -- and again, we`re 15 minutes into the show and we`re not done with all the bad things in this story from the "Times" there, another, to Bill`s point, another furry leak if you want to call it that that suggest someone is trying to say, hey, whatever happened there about falsehoods, about Flynn, I wasn`t really trying to do it. I was caught on the wrong side of it. What do investigators do with all of this?
WILEY: Investigate. And with this, I mean what`s interesting about this, Bill`s point about Matthew Whitaker is he had briefings from Mueller`s team, right. I mean he says he knew what was going on with that case.
And he goes before Congress and says something that later if he is leaking it, to Bill`s point, he`s leaking something that makes him sound inconsistent with testimony he made before Congress, so there`s -- all I can say is there are a whole lot of folks who have a lot to worry about in terms of their behavior.
And some of that will be reputational. Some of that could be criminal. And if people are in the process of trying to now protect, at minimum, their reputations who have some sense of what`s coming down the pike, that tells us something.
MELBER: Right. Well, what you`re --
WILEY: And there are furry creatures involved.
MELBER: There are furry creatures involved. But it tells us that people have a reason here, as Barr takes over, to further get out ahead of things on these calls. Look, you don`t have to know as much about Washington as Michael and Bill know to decode the leaks of two people at a phone line for a story that`s terrible about Donald Trump.
I`m going to fit in a break. Maya, Bill, and Michael, thanks to each of you.
STEELE: All right.
MELBER: Coming up, Roger Stone has now a new hearing about the gag order. A judge might be angry and might even jail him. also, we`re going to breakdown choices that are before this new boss for Mueller, Bill Barr, and what Trump insiders are saying about how this probe ends with some news.
Also, today, Bernie Sanders jumps in the race saying 2016 ideas are now driving the entire debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: All of those ideas, people say, "Oh, Bernie, they`re so radical." All of those ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And later, I have a state attorney general suing Donald Trump and using his own words to challenge the wall money. I am Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Bernie Sanders is back. the self-described Democratic socialist jumps to the 2020 race officially today. He joins the most diverse Democratic primary field ever. And we should note, he got 13 million votes in the 2016 primary but has a different challenge of trying to stand out in these candidates and adopt -- some of them adopting positions like his.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: In 2016, many of the ideas that I talked about, Medicare for all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making public colleges and universities tuition-free, all those ideas people said, "Bernie, they`re so radical." In over three years, all of those ideas and many more are now part of the political mainstream.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Sanders is also jostling, of course, with Senator Warren for the progressive economic wing. She introduced a universal child care proposal which would be backed by a wealth tax this week. Meanwhile, Senator Harris who`s backing Medicare for all says she rejects the socialist title.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bernie Sanders jumped into the presidential race today. You said that you are not a Democratic socialist.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I am not. I support capitalism. It, in theory, is something that requires competition that will allow us to be better and evolve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And then you have Senator Klobuchar who`s breaking with Sanders and Warren on the key issue of college tuition for free.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, HOST, CNN TOWN HALL: Would you support free college for all?
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I am not for free four-year college for all. I wish if I was a magic genie and could give that to everyone and we could afford it, I would.
LEMON: We`re on a college campus, you know. Many of --
KLOBUCHAR: I know that but I got to tell the truth. I mean we have this mounting --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I am joined now by former Pennsylvania Governor and former DNC Chair Ed Rendell who knows his way around the primaries and Juanita Tolliver of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Good evening to you both.
JUANITA TOLLIVER, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: Thanks for having me.
ED RENDELL, FORMER GOVERNOR AND FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Good evening.
MELBER: Governor, you are the kind of person who is perceived to have underestimated Bernie Sanders in the past and probably is still against him. What is your response and what`s your assessment of him this time?
RENDALL: Well, I think Bernie Sanders has to be taken very seriously for the simple reason as you stated, he got 13 million votes before. And people who vote for you once have a tendency to come back and look at -- give you a strong look the second time.
Can he hold most of those voters from Kamala Harris, from Elizabeth Warren, from Cory Booker? That remains to be seen. He had that far-left progressive lane of the bar all to himself in `16. He`s got to share it now but don`t underestimate Bernie Sanders.
MELBER: Yes. And one of the things that`s interesting, Juanita is while he is different than many other candidates, he often takes it from the establishment, particularly before he ran, they did not see him as someone who would give Hillary Clinton any kind of challenge. And afterward now, there`s a lot of talk from the Progressive wing of the party included that maybe it is not his turn.
Look at the grassroots support as measured in one -- it`s not the only measurement but in one measurement which is grassroots, small dollar donations. Senator Harris did about a million five in the first day. Klobuchar about a million in the first two days.
We`re reporting tonight, he`s hit that in a matter of hours. He has a lot of grassroots donors ready to fund him however long he wants to run.
TOLLIVER: Yes. I mean let`s also remember, he has been building that e- mail list for years across campaigns, including 2016. So honestly, I would be shocked if he wasn`t putting up those types of numbers.
But as far as it not being his turn, we have to remember that 2018 yielded election results that put a lot of women, people of color into positions that they hadn`t been elected to before. So what we are hearing from the electorate which is becoming more female and more non-white is that they`re hearing from candidates who look like them and speak to them in a way that they can really connect to and turn out to vote.
MELBER: So, in your view, is that a problem based on basically something he probably can`t change which is his own identity?
TOLLIVER: I mean --
MELBER: Or is it kind of a home state problem where for really decades he has been focused on the issues of a state that honestly doesn`t look like the rest of America and he hasn`t exactly engaged on some of those issues, including Black Lives Matters and Civil Rights. Those were issues that were tough for him at times last time.
TOLLIVER: Yes. I think he`s got a lot of work to do, especially with his interview in the Vermont Public Radio calling for a nondiscriminatory society which let`s be real, most of these candidates have faced discrimination based on their identity.
So he`s going to need to do a better job reaching out to voters. I think females and black women in particular who I think have been alienated or feel to some degree alienated from his candidacy throughout his time in `16 and in present day. Let`s not forget reaction to his decision to kind of undermine Stacey Abrams being selected to give the Democratic rebuttal after the State of the Union. And that didn`t go over well with people of color.
MELBER: You mentioned that quote. It caught our attention too. Let`s play that for both of you. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation, or their gender, and not by their age. I mean I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Juanita, break that down for us.
TOLLIVER: Honestly, he is asking the public to say ignore candidates` experience, ignore their gender, their race, their age, like -- and everything that builds them into who they are today and informs their perspective about how they would lead. And it`s just -- it is a little absurd coming from him. So I honestly am curious to hear how voters react to this.
MELBER: Governor, what do you think? Because this is again a time where what he is saying, people can understand what he is trying to say. But at the same time, there was a lot of celebration in the Democratic Party, including in the House partnership that he benefits from, saying wow, it was good to get so many women candidates running for Congress and it helped build the majority. Why is that, in his view, potentially a "discrimination issue" as he put it now in this primary field?
RENDELL: I think he was saying don`t discriminate against someone just because they`re old in terms of years, judge them based on their energy, their ideas, their passion, things like that. And I think that`s a good point.
But look, there`s no one I think who says I`m going to vote for someone because they`re this or that, they`re this ethnic background, they`re this sex, they`re this orientation. We should all be looking for people who are qualified to lead, whose positions on issues are things we agree with. That should be the overwhelming fact.
MELBER: And let me ask you, governor --
RENDELL: And I would vote for a woman over --
MELBER: Well, I got you. I got you. But before I let you go, I also want to ask you, do you think Bernie is fundamentally correct that he did move the whole party to the left or is that a bit of aggrandizing that all candidates see because they see a party in their image no matter what?
RENDELL: I think if you look at the election results from 2018 and you look at them really deeply, the party did move to the left. Most of those 41 new congressmen were centrists, slightly left of center people. The seven governors who unseated Republicans were centrists.
So I don`t think the party`s moved to the left. But give Bernie credit on some of the ideas like $15 an hour minimum wage. He was the first one to propose it. It`s being adopted by states all over the country. Bernie was a forerunner in many categories. Does that mean he should have our nomination this time? No. Let`s see what he says, let`s see what he does.
MELBER: Yes. And he`s got a big list and a lot of money, whether you agree with him or not. He is going to be reckoned with. Governor Rendell and Juanita Tolliver, I suspect we`ll be discussing this again. Hope to have you both back.
TOLLIVER: Looking forward to it.
MELBER: Thank you.
RENDELL: Thank you.
MELBER: Now, still ahead, some big news later on the show on Roger Stone. He could face jail time for potentially violating his gag order. It`s an important story.
But first, we have a top official pushing a new suit, taking Trump to court over the emergency wall order when we`re back in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: Today, President Trump tried to exude confidence about the, "national emergency" he`s declared, despite a new lawsuit that he`s facing against 16 different states.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think in the end we`re going to be very successful with the lawsuit. So it was filed. It was filed in the Ninth Circuit, and I actually think we might do well even in the Ninth Circuit because it`s an open and closed case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is he right? Tonight, William Tong, the Attorney General for Connecticut is here. That`s one of the 16 states suing Trump, citing his own words as part of their case. The lawsuits say the President`s own admission shows this declaration is, "not necessary." And it even references the infamous moment from Trump`s big press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn`t need to do this but I would rather do it much faster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by the Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. Now, you didn`t need to do this either so I appreciate you making time for us.
WILLIAM TONG, ATTORNEY GENERAL, CONNECTICUT: Thank you.
MELBER: Thanks for being here.
TONG: Thanks for having me, Ari.
MELBER: If Donald Trump in your view, lies all the time, is that fair to say?
TONG: I think he has a tenuous relationship with the truth.
MELBER: OK. Then what`s the big deal, whether he said this or not because you wouldn`t rely on his word for other things. Why does it work so well now?
TONG: Because you know, he is having a presidential temper tantrum. We`re used to that. But the problem is this time he is trampling the constitution and stomping all over it. And if you want to start a constitutional crisis, this is how you do it.
The President is usurping Congress` power. He`s breaking the law. Article 1 Section 8, Congress has the power to levy taxes and appropriate money. And the President stepping in and saying no, I`m going to do that, even though Congress has said no, you can`t build the wall and we`re not going to fund it.
MELBER: I think that makes a lot of sense when people hear you put it like that. Is this basically the argument that you can`t take money Congress didn`t appropriate, which is different from whether or not it is an "emergency."
TONG: Right. We talked about the separation of powers and rule of law and why that`s important. And this is an example of why that`s important. Because we expect Congress and the President to conduct themselves according to the constitution and follow the rules and when they don`t do that, they trample the constitution and the breakdown the constitutional you know, bounds that bind us together.
And so, what`s happening now is you are seeing a breakdown of our democratic institutions and our government and that`s a grave risk to the United States.
MELBER: As you know and I think our viewers know, these kinds of cases are not settled in the court of public opinion. But it is interesting to look just generally at where the mood is. And emergencies are the kind of thing people can get excited about just like we have seen the rally around the flag effect where presidents in both parties initially benefit from any big overseas adventure at least at first.
We`re not seeing that here. When you -- when you poll this national emergency here, we`re finally getting some first numbers. 36 percent approval, 61 disapproval, what does that tell you?
TONG: Yes. It tells me that people know this President has manufactured a crisis. There`s no national emergency. We know at the border we have the lowest level of illegal border crossings in almost 45 years. We have more border agents than ever in our nation`s history. Sot this is just made up, manufactured to cater to racist and hateful fringe and fulfill a campaign promise.
And what he is doing is perverting a very important law, the national emergencies law that Congress implemented to control presidential power and to limit presidential power so presidents don`t do what he is doing now which is to seize the power of the purse from Congress and do something he`s been prohibited from doing.
MELBER: Tough words from a State Attorney General. We`ll be watching the case. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
TON: Thank you so much, Ari.
MELBER: What we`re going to do next is get into the new danger facing Roger Stone, potential jail time for the gag order we have been covering. That`s later tonight. And a major Trump ally predicted -- look at this -- Mueller will be gone soon. It`s important. We`re going to dig into that next.
MELBER: A bombshell report from the New York Times is shaking the White House tonight. New evidence the potential obstruction with accounts that Trump tried to put an ally in charge of the New York probe into hush money payments. The report looks like it was weeks in the making and it comes on the first week that Bob Mueller`s new boss is on the job.
Attorney General Bill Barr begins overseeing a probe into the person who yes, nominated him. You can see it right there in the White House, wasted no time in dialing up at least some intrigue. As an official, answered a question about Mueller by noting the White House is taking a lead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Mueller? Where on earth is the Mueller report? Two years in, where is it?
MERCEDES SCHLAPP, DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, WHITE HOUSE: Well, I mean, that`s for obviously the -- now we have Bill Barr in place as Attorney General. They`re the ones that are taking the lead from the White House --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Critics say the White House cannot take the lead on a probe of people in the White House. Trump allies say Barr is simply going to oversee Mueller through normal procedures. But another pronouncement from a well-connected Trump ally is causing even more concern. American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp touted Barr`s new job by posting this.
"Muller will be gone soon. There will be a rather immediate Barr effect on DOJ, FBI, and Mueller. If no evidence of collusion is demonstrated to the A.G., then it will come to an end soon.
Well, tonight I`ll be joined by perspective on all of this by former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks, but we begin with the author of that provocative statement Matt Schlapp. Good evening and thanks for being here.
MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: Thanks for having me on, Ari.
MELBER: What is this Barr effect you speak of?
SCHLAPP: I think Bob Mueller and Mr. Barr have worked with each other for decades. They have a high regard for each other. And I think Mr. Mueller realizes that he`s got his equal as essentially his manager. And I think one of the things the A.G. will soon do because it`s his responsibility to do is get read into what Mr. Mueller has in terms of the underlying charge of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin`s government. And I think he`s going to want to see that information.
MELBER: When you say Barr effect and Mueller gone soon though, what are you -- what are you getting at?
SCHLAPP: You know Mr. Barr. He`s a highly regarded former attorney general, a lawyer of high regard and he`s going to manage this situation effectively. And the bottom line is a special counsel was called because there was a charge of collusion.
Now the Senate until Intel committee has come forward and said there`s no evidence of collusion. Some of NBC`s own reporters have said the special counsel has talked to over 200 different folks and finds no evidence of collusion.
MELBER: Sure. Well, the Special Counsel is not done and the Senate -- I booked you on your Mueller comments. The Senate, we all know about that. But you are saying something very provocative. You`re saying it on a night that the New York Times is reporting that Donald Trump may have allegedly illicitly tried to kneecap investigations that are open.
And so I`m asking you when you say Mueller will be gone soon, are you saying that Bill Barr may do something that Trump wants to end the probe or are you just saying and I`ve had you here because I want your views, are you just saying you think there`s no collusion and that`s all he`s going to find?
SCHLAPP: Take a breath. No one is saying that anyone is going to do anything untoward. We have a special counsel because there`s a charge made of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. If there`s no evidence of that collusion, it would be logical for the Special Counsel`s probe to come to an end soon. That`s a simple statement.
I think you can agree with that statement that a special counsel that`s impaneled for a particular reason, when they find no reason that they should have ever been impaneled, they might come to an end.
MELBER: So let me press you on that.
MELBER: I take your point that it would be logical if that thing, call it election conspiracy isn`t found and sooner or later yes, too close -- there`ll be a closing of the probe. There`ll be the declination and all that which means you`re not charging. But when you say Mueller gone soon because of Barr, you do understand that got people`s attention because it sounds like you`re saying something`s going to change because Barr. You wouldn`t imagine a Barr if Mueller is just being done researching.
SCHLAPP: I believe that one of the things that is not well understood about a special counsel is that they`re not extra-constitutional. There are too many people that believe that a special counsel is a fourth branch of government who is not reportable to anybody. That is a fallacy. It`s constitutionally incorrect.
MELBER: I think that`s fair.
SCHLAPP: And so it makes sense the attorney general --
MELBER: I didn`t get to learn about a fourth branch --
SCHLAPP: OK, well, I`m not charging you.
MELBER: Let me -- let me play one more thing --
SCHLAPP: Let me just finish real quick.
SCHLAPP: The Attorney General`s job -- one of his many jobs is to have the special counsel read him in on where he is in the underlying charge. It`s a simple statement.
MELBER: But Barr statements -- look, hey --
SCHLAPP: And if there`s no --
MELBER: Matt, Barr effect sounds a bit like he`s going to do something because of Barr. Let me play you on Lou Dobbs --
SCHLAPP: No, what it sounds like is that --
MELBER: Hold on. I`m going to play Matt to Matt. You should enjoy that. Here`s something you said on Lou Dobbs we also wanted to press you on.
SCHLAPP: Do you watch Lou Dobbs?
MELBER: Take a look.
SCHLAPP: Do you watch Lou Dobbs?
MELBER: Watch it.
SCHLAPP: This is good, Ari. This is good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOU DOBBS, HOST, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: Why is the establishment in Washington D.C. not screaming for the arrest of Andrew McCabe.
SCHLAPP: Look, I`m disgusted by it and I guess there`s only one person who can do something about it and that`s Bill Barr. He`s either going to do this or he`s not. And I`d be greatly disappointed if he doesn`t. And I think --
DOBBS: Well, why the hell isn`t the Republican Party`s standing up and demanding his arrest?
SCHLAPP: Well, I think the reason is because they don`t want the controversy of actually taking the deep state on because they might become its next victim.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I wanted to make sure to give you a chance to address that. Can you really stand by that and say number one, Bill Barr should go demand the arrest of this individual without seeing where the prosecutors and the line investigators find? And number two, people are afraid of talking about the deep state. As you may know, there`s a lot of talking about the deep state. People don`t seem that afraid. I give you your rebuttal.
SCHLAPP: Well, OK. So let`s just start from the beginning. You have the number two person at the FBI who became the acting FBI director who started a counterintelligence investigation focused on the President of the United States. He then went to the Hill and he briefed Republicans and Democrats on the fact that the FBI was investigating the President of the United States. I think all of that is alarming and I think there should have been a few legislators that raised their hand to say this is not the appropriate role.
Then the FBI decided to talk to the Deputy Attorney General to talk about the 25th Amendment. They had a whip count and where different cabinet secretaries were on potentially removing the President of the United States from office. This is a disgusting abuse of power. I think --
MELBER: Let me -- let me agree with you.
SCHLAPP: This should be an investigation -- this should be an investigation on that.
MELBER: Let me agree with you. We could do it at the same volume.
SCHLAPP: Am I talking too loud?
MELBER: I think, Matt, if it`s proven that they were whipped counting, I think that would be outrageous. I don`t think it`s a crime though. I don`t think you can arrest someone for that, do you?
SCHLAPP: I do think McCabe has committed great abuses of his power. I don`t know what all the statutes say, but I think that we should look at each and every step he took. We have never seen this kind of abuse coming out of the FBI and there needs to be consequences for this disgusting and corrupt behavior.
MELBER: I think -- I think what I hear you admitting is that it may not be arrestable as Lou Dobbs said in the leading question. We do watch. But I think --
SCHLAPP: You watch Lou Dobbs. I think this is awesome. We have made news tonight.
MELBER: But I think you make a fair point which is why I like to make sure we get everybody`s views in here. You make a fair point that some of those allegations would be disturbing under any presidency, right, if you had agency officials trying to whip count on the 25th which is not for that purpose. So Matt --
SCHLAPP: And, Ari, let me raise to one more thing.
MELBER: Well, I got to get to Jill Wine-Banks. Real quick. Real quick.
SCHLAPP: Mr. McCabe`s wife also -- you`re allowed to have spouses involved in politics. I do too. But to have him lead the investigation on Trump who had just beaten Clinton who he called off the dogs on, I think also raises great questions about the FBI`s understanding of what conflicts of interest can look like.
MELBER: Well, let me let me close with a left-handed compliment. There are people who might not want to hear what you have to say because of the way it makes them feel, and some of what you said I think was wrong, but I think you are worth hearing from. Mr. Schlapp, thank you.
SCHLAPP: And I watch your show, believe it or not.
MELBER: I`m happy to learn it. We`ll have you back. I`ll see you again. Now for another perspective, I turn to former Watergate Prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks. Your views of both what Mr. Schlapp said and what he didn`t say which was a little bit walking away or walking a different line from the Barr effect announcement.
JILL WINE-BANKS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it`s interesting that you were able to push him to get away from that because it certainly did sound like his original statement was Barr will make a difference just because he`s there. And that is a danger that we face during Watergate was they`ll sort of fear every day of would we be fired. Would president abuse his power in some way? And that`s what I`m sure that the whole Mueller team is now worrying about every single day.
There are so many things that Mr. Schlapp said that I do not agree with. I don`t think that he has made a valid point at all. I think that we have a situation where the prosecution has done a very good job of looking at facts. And facts matter. The counterintelligence investigation was based on information that the FBI had that they had to act on.
I also don`t think that the Mueller investigation goes away even if they cannot link the President himself to any actions with the Russians because his campaign clearly was involved with the Russians, and that`s enough to keep it within the jurisdiction that he has been set up to have.
MELBER: And what is -- let me ask you. What is your view of the effort to personalize every FBI decision? Because I report on the FBI, they make mistakes like other institutions staffed by humans. But what you heard from Schlapp -- and he`s an influential Trump ally -- is the idea that if McCabe or someone did something once wrong, it calls into question the entire counterintelligence investigation. What`s your response to that?
BANKS: This is the same thing that Donald Trump has been doing since day one during the campaign and certainly since he was inaugurated is he`s blaming everybody other than himself. And he does make it personal. He has accused Mueller of having a conflict of interest which clearly does not exist. He`s blaming McCabe because his wife was a Democrat running for office in the state of Virginia and that he took money from an ally of Hillary Clinton which had nothing to do with the investigation.
And my understanding is that McCabe didn`t actually supervise the investigation while she was running for office. I`m not sure about the facts of that. Those are things that we need to know, but it does not create an automatic conflict of interest. As prosecutors we all look at the facts are. We don`t have an innate bias to do something.
BANKS: And from listening to McCabe. He`s a pretty credible witness even despite the fact that the I.G. found that he had some dissembling in talking about what he had done in terms of allowing people to talk to the press. So even taking that into account, I would say he has presented himself in a very credible way and that we need to pay attention to what he`s saying.
MELBER: Very interesting. And I think the notion that we have to still reserve judgment about what Bob Mueller finds and what happens within the Barr tenure here. I mean, the "Barr effect" makes it almost sound illicit and you had a Mr. Schlapp seeming to walk away from that a little bit but we have to see with the transparency that he referred to in his hearing and everything else what we actually get. I think a reminder for all of us. But Jill, we wanted to get your view on his view. Thank you for joining us tonight.
BANKS: Thank you.
MELBER: There is news in the Roger Stone case. He could actually face jail time before anything else happens in this trial. It`s all about whether he allegedly violated his gag order. It`s an important report coming up next.
MELBER: New tonight, Roger stone could be sent to jail because of an internet post perceived to be a potential attack on the very judge overseeing his case. Judge Jackson has now ordered a brand-new hearing. It`ll be Thursday to determine whether Stone has now violated his gag order in to see "whether the conditions of his release should not be modified or revoked in light of the posts on his Instagram account."
The post has stone saying the fix is in on what he calls a "show trial" and has an image which some critics say looked like crosshairs. Stone denies it. He also submitted a formal apology to the court. I should tell you we discussed this very issue Friday on THE BEAT when a former prosecutor predicted Stone would get into this kind of trouble over the gag order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Roger Stone cannot help running his mouth and he`s going to get on T.V., he`s going to anger Amy Jackson, the judge and she is either going to hold him in contempt, detain him, or impose a full-fledged gag order on him. And it`s probably going to take a week for that to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Less than a week, part one has happened. He ran his mouth. What happens next with the judge decides, we`ll be bringing it to you on the court hearing on Thursday.
MELBER: That does it for THE BEAT. We`ll be back tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END