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Dems warn Barr: release Mueller report. TRANSCRIPT: 02/25/2019, The Beat w. Ari Melber.

Guests: David Frum, Joe Neguse, Shelby Holliday, Elie Mystal, Mara Gay, Bernard-Henri Levy

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 25, 2019 Guest: David Frum, Joe Neguse, Shelby Holliday, Elie Mystal, Mara Gay, Bernard-Henri Levy

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.

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

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Katy. Thank you very much.

We have a lot of stories developing tonight. Democrats now are having a public ultimatum on the table for Donald Trump`s new attorney general, make this Mueller report public whenever it comes or they`ll bring Mueller in himself to testify to the House.

And what New York prosecutors are learning from Michael Cohen and why the New York probe could be a bigger threat to Trump than Mueller himself. Also, AOC clapping back tonight as the right launches new attacks on her.

But we begin with the Democrats` new warning to Donald Trump`s new Attorney General Bill Barr. They`re telling him, look, either hand over Mueller`s report when it`s ready or they`ll hold hearings with Mueller himself.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, we will obviously subpoena the report. We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress. We will take it to court if necessary. And in the end, I think the department understands they`re going to have to make this public. I think Barr will ultimately understand that as well.


MELBER: These new Mueller subpoena threats come after Schiff and the chairs of five other key House committees already told the Attorney General, Barr, that they want this report to be made public without delay. This is part of what has very clearly become an effort to ratchet up public pressure on Bill Barr before this whole thing is even wrapped up.

On Friday, he also gave his own hint of how he might handle all this pressure with that unusual late Friday announcement from the Justice Department all about Mueller`s end game. He put out officially that the report would not come this week. Translation, Bob Mueller will keep working through this week.

Now, remember, that alone was striking because, under Jeff Sessions or Matt Whitaker, we barely heard anything about the Mueller probe. But this is Bill Barr`s DOJ now and he is willing to at least give the public a hint about the timing that Mueller has.

And also, all of this raises the possibility that the Democrats will push back by forcing his hand, by saying in advance, look, we`ll subpoena him, making this whole Mueller report debate somewhat moot. That is if they can get the innards of what would be in the report out of what they think Mueller would testify to.

Now, put all that against the backdrop of Bob Mueller himself. If you`re watching the news, you already know he has always chosen to be more discreet rather than less, every time anything has come up. More discreet than even was legally required.

Now, if Congress subpoenas him and Mueller decides that he does want to share details because the investigation is over, you can just imagine the spectacle we would have. You look at the precedents here and there are some.

There was Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who took his message public at a press conference at a key inflection point in that probe. He wanted to explain why the Nixon White House was in his view wrong to fight him on requests for documentation and tapes.

There was also when Ken Starr famously used a public appearance. This one, more like what Schiff is talking about, facing Congress to talk about his case against the then-sitting president, saying that Bill Clinton had repeatedly lied.


KEN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: At least six different occasions, the president had to make a decision. He could choose truth or he could choose deception. On all six occasions, the president chose deception.


MELBER: That`s Ken Starr. He used his appearance. Mueller, though, no stranger, of course, to testifying before Congress. And he has always used his certain Muelleresque style when asked to preview where investigations might lead.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I will pull no punches in terms of where that investigation would lead, and we would go down any path that would lead to evidence on individuals, organizations or otherwise.


MELBER: Any path, that was Mueller describing a different probe. But we know the path on this one already has led to 37 indictments, including of six different aides to Donald Trump. Now, whether that path included collusion or false leads on collusion or good leads on collusion, everybody wants to know, and very few people obviously do know.

Now, if this Trump DOJ tries to bury anything, the key news tonight is Democrats are saying they`ll call Mueller himself to tell the world about what he found on this path.

I want to bring in two experts on this, former Federal Prosecutor Joyce Vance and "The Atlantic`s" David Frum who served in the White House as a Bush speechwriter.

Joyce, how do you read what the Congress is doing here to try to put some parameters around any decision Bill Barr makes?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Congress is absolutely right here. And I find Representative Schiff`s comments to be very persuasive. In the normal case, when DOJ doesn`t indict someone who is under investigation, it`s because they don`t have sufficient evidence to sustain those charges in court. That`s the assumption that we can all draw when a mayor or a senator who is under investigation isn`t indicted.

That`s just not true with Donald Trump. If he`s not indicted, the best we`ll be able to say is it`s because DOJ policy says he can`t be indicted. Congress is the one who has to make that decision about whether there is accountability. They need the evidence that`s been collected by Mueller to fulfill their constitutional obligation.

MELBER: Right. And that`s where the limits of the Starr precedent are, because he was operating under different rules that had a more formal transmission to Congress on the idea that they would deal with anything they deemed a high crime.

The distinction you draw I think is quite significant. Rod Rosenstein was sort of dancing around it when he spoke about the normal rules for non- presidents, shall we say. This was just today. Take a look.


ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The guidance always gave my prosecutors and the agents that I worked with during my tenure on the front lines in law enforcement where if we aren`t prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against the American citizens.


MELBER: What`s your response to what he`s doing there?

VANCE: I think the dilemma of being Rod Rosenstein right now is no matter what you say, people are going to read what is tea leaves for the Mueller investigation are. It sounds to me like Rod is simply stating the fundamental principle that animates all prosecutions. I don`t think that he had some message to the American people about the Mueller investigation there.

We all know he reacted very strongly to Jim Comey`s detailing of the Clinton evidence in public, but Clinton is not President Trump. We know that that distinction is that Trump is unique because unlike any other individual in our society, he can`t be indicted while he is president. So the normal rules just can`t apply.

MELBER: David, we`re now in this interesting period of a kind of an end game because I don`t think that Bill Barr could come out on Friday and say, well, the Mueller report is not coming out this week, unless he had some idea of when it would come out. That`s not a statement you would make if you were a year away from it coming out with all the open investigative leads that would imply.

And so we`re in this interesting end game, and everyone is thinking who`s going to do what. Ken Starr, who is the precedent we were talking about before came on THE BEAT and talked about why he actually thinks it`s good to talk, which would mean more from Mueller soon. Take a look at that.


MELBER: Was your more public strategy better than Mueller`s or is he right to be so discreet on this probe?

KEN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: It`s a judgment call. I really don`t think it`s right or wrong. But I had a vision --

MELBER: What`s the better course?

STARR: I think the better course is greater public information than we have been having. But that`s Bob Mueller`s determination and have I the greatest respect for that determination as well as for him as a person.


MELBER: David?

DAVID FRUM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPEECHWRITER FOR GEORGE W. BUSH: Special prosecutors seek prosecutable offenses. This is a drum I`ve been banging since early in 2017. There is a real risk in this highly legalistic culture that we look to Bob Mueller to do things that is really up to Congress to do.

You know, it`s not a crime to have a lot of gambling debts or to owe a lot of money to shady banks. Those things aren`t illegal. But you wouldn`t give somebody a security clearance if those things were true of them.

What we may find and what I have been warning for now close to two years is that we will find that there is a nexus of connection between Donald Trump and his family and Russian interests that for any other person would disqualify them from holding a position of trust. But that may not rise to the level of actually being illegal because the laws were not written for presidents who skirt the law. The laws were written on the assumption that presidents want to obey the law and be honorable.

So I welcome Congress coming in because we have a political determination to make, that Mueller will be the first step to. We`re not at an end game. We`re at the beginning of the game. We`re going to find about what crimes if any were committed. But we have security considerations that are bigger than any crime.

MELBER: Well, when you put it like that, I mean I think you raise such an important point. I think viewers know exactly what you`re talking about because the notion that someone committed felony acts is different from whether they are a clear and present danger with the power that they have.

You can roughly analogize to when investigators sometimes find out information that might not be chargeable yet but poses the kind of threat that they call in and act on. This is very different if the threat, as Andy McCabe argued, was coming from inside the government, inside the White House, and that hasn`t been proven yet.

But then walk us through, David, how that would work in the eyes of Bob Mueller, that he would find something bad enough that wasn`t chargeable and he would -- how would he want to get to it the House?

FRUM: Well, and again, I`ve been warning about this for two years. Bob Mueller being such a by the book person and doing the right thing for a prosecutor. If a prosecutor comes across something that is not a crime but just discovers something damaging or something that would show you to be a person unworthy of trust, it`s the prosecutor`s duty to help you keep it secret because you haven`t broken the law. The powers of a prosecutor are so awesome.

But if the prosecutor discovers -- has discovered things that are relevant to the question of does Donald Trump have obligations to Russia, that even though not criminal, should concern Americans that the security of the country is not in good hands, it`s going to be Congress` job.

Congress` -- and we`ve all welcomed so long as Devin Nunes was in charge of this investigation, Congress let Bob Mueller do everything. But with more responsible hands in Congress, now Congress needs to step in and not delegate this whole job to Bob Mueller.

MELBER: Both of you, hang with me. You`re speaking a lot about Congress.

I want to bring in Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse who is on the Judiciary Committee, the very committee that had Ken Starr come and address it in 1998, some of the historical archive we`ve just played which added to the public`s understanding.

Can you say tonight that you definitely want that to happen with Bob Mueller no matter what or that that decision on your committee on the Democratic side is yet to be made?

REP. JOE NEGUSE (D), COLORADO: Well, look, Ari, first, thanks for having me.


NEGUSE: I want to say I agree with David`s point that I don`t think we`re at the end game. I think we`re at the beginning. It`s important for Congress to start to reassert its oversight responsibilities.

And so for me, I agree with Chairman Schiff and the other four chairmen who have essentially told the attorney general that he has an obligation to make the Mueller report public and that he has an obligation to transmit those findings to Congress.

To the extent he does not do that, I think we need to be prepared to subpoena the report and yes, to potentially subpoena the special counsel to come before the Judiciary Committee to testify in front of the people`s House and ultimately, tell the American people his findings and the evidence that he has gleaned over the better part of the last two years.

MELBER: So you`re in a position that most of us are not, which makes it extra interesting. If you did have Mueller there, what would you want to ask him?

NEGUSE: I don`t want to prejudge the outcome, Ari. There are a number of questions that I`d like to ask him.

MELBER: But congressman, that`s what we want. We want you to -- not for (INAUDIBLE). We just want a hint.

NEGUSE: Look, I mean --

MELBER: I think -- don`t you think Mueller hearings would be of wide interest to the American public?

NEGUSE: I think they would. I mean you said it best, 37 indictments, 7 guilty pleas. Clearly, this investigation is a serious importance to the American public. And fundamentally, I`m going to turn you, Ari to our rule of law in the United States.

So there are a litany of questions that I think Congress be prepared to ask and would want to ask of him. But again, my hope is at the end of the day that the attorney general will listen to the American public and to the five House Committee Chairman that have communicated to him to say listen, at the end of the day, this report needs to be public. So let`s cross that bridge when we get there, so to speak.

MELBER: Congressman, stay with me. David, I wanted to show you one other piece of reporting for "The New York Times" in their report on evidence of obstruction. They also showed that Donald Trump had been attacking the probe in all sorts of different ways. And you go up there to around the Manafort conviction, and that was where he peaked. This is not just tweets but all public statements basically.

But recently, this year it has dropped a lot. And Donald Trump is a man of any given moment or news cycle, David. There are people who viewed that "New York Times" reporting as an indication that right or wrong in the last month or two, he has gotten it in his head that maybe he is in the clear.

FRUM: Or maybe he is doing something else, has bumped up against some limits. The story of the past two years has been the American legal system has proved itself quite robust to President Trump`s attacks. But unfortunately, the elected bodies like the old House of Representatives and the present Senate have been very willing to protect the president.

But the thing that we`re going to -- and this is where I welcome so much the congressman`s intervention. Look, if Russia saved Donald Trump from financial ruin at various points along the way, that`s not necessarily a crime. They might have violated a money laundering statute.

But assuming they complied with all the technicalities, the fact that he owes them everything, that`s not illegal. That`s just interesting.

MELBER: Congressman, how would you handle something like that? I`m not even sure that you would say that alone is a high crime that would be impeachable and yet if the debt is still there and have been hidden all this time, you certainly would have security concerns about any president in that situation.

NEGUSE: Yes. I mean I think we would trust the very capable counsel that we have retained and the folks that are on the Judiciary Committee staff in terms of judging criminality and so forth. But I think it`s --

MELBER: Congressman, you just told us you`re a lawyer. What do you need a lawyer for?

NEGUSE: Well, look, I will say this. This goes back to the point that Joyce made around the importance of getting this report out into the public square. Because of the Dixon memo back in the Watergate era that essentially pines or intimates that a president cannot be indicted, it makes disclosure of the report of the special counsel`s report and of the evidence underlying that report that much more important.

So I think we`re in very unique territory here and I can`t deliver that point enough. So I again don`t want to prejudge the outcome before we have an opportunity to do it.

MELBER: Sure. I think you raise an important point and that`s what Joyce and some of our other expert scholars have been saying is yes, you may have president -- it`s not law but it`s DOJ guidance that you can`t do this indictment.

But if that`s the case, that would seem to create an exception from the idea that you normally don`t release information, because otherwise, it would be a dead-end. And that`s not necessarily what the founders had in mind either.

We`re going keep an eye on all of these constitutional issues. Congressman Joe Neguse on the Judiciary Committee, thank you so much for being here. David Frum, thanks. Joyce, stick around. I want to bring you back later in the hour. Thanks to everybody.

Now coming up, Michael Cohen says he`s got a story to tell. New clues on what he will reveal to lawmakers. Do you know that it starts tomorrow?

And why Donald Trump wants to keep lawyers close at hand long after even when the Mueller probe is over. Legal troubles just beginning. We`ll explain.

The new lawsuit drops claiming that Donald Trump kiss his own staffer, someone who worked for him without consent during the campaign. The White House denying that tonight.

Meanwhile, AOC weighing in on just why the right-wing seems so obsessed with her.

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


MELBER: Michael Cohen is bringing receipts. Donald Trump`s former lawyer turned Mueller witness begins two days of congressional testimony tomorrow. Now tonight, the news is he`ll be arriving with evidence, bringing documents to show what some are calling chilling details about Donald Trump.

Now, Wednesday, Cohen goes under oath in public with the cameras rolling on what a Democratic congresswoman is billing as a time for Cohen to become the John Dean of the Trump era. Cohen`s lawyer pledging fireworks today.


LANNY DAVIS, LEGAL ADVISER TO MICHAEL COHEN: You`re going to hear impersonal front-line experiences of memories and incidents and conduct and comments that Donald Trump said over that 10-year time period behind closed door that to me when I first heard Michael tell me all this, even as much as I knew about Trump that was negative was chilling.


MELBER: Chilling. Cohen says he has the documents and the lawmakers have the questions.


REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Step one is to re-ask him the questions that he felt he needed to lie to us about. There is always some question here about whether Michael Cohen feared retribution for his testimony.

SCHIFF: What other light can he shed now that he is cooperating on issues of obstruction of justice or collusion. What more can he tell us about the Trump Tower New York meeting?


MELBER: "The Wall Street Journal`s" Shelby Holliday joins me for what is a big week. Michael Cohen finally talking.


MELBER: What do you expect?

HOLLIDAY: He has this triple header lined up in an interesting way because he goes to the Senate Intelligence Committee, then he has that public hearing as you mentioned with House Oversight and then he is behind closed doors again with the House Intelligence Committee.

Lots of different questions, lots of different topics here. And think about all the things Michael Cohen knows about. He knows about not just the hush money payments, he knows about Trump`s inaugural, Trump Foundation, Trump Organization, perhaps insurance claims, tax compliance. He knows a great deal about Donald Trump.

And he`s actually kept a lot close to the vest. If you think about it, we`ve heard some things in dribs and drabs either from Michael Cohen talking to reporters or from Lanny Davis talking to the press. But when you look back to when we found that Michael Cohen was pleading guilty to the Trump Tower Moscow deal, lie -- the lies to Congress about it, a lot of that was new information to us.

So that begs the question, what else does he know? What else can he drop that we just simply are totally in the dark about and that could be very relevant not just to Mueller`s investigation but to these Oversight Committee hearings as well?

MELBER: Well, he has really only spoken once in public since this all went down and he is getting ready to report to prison. Here is how he sounded when he was describing Donald Trump`s dirty deeds.


MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP`S FORMER LAWYER: Here is the truth. The people of the United States of America, the people of the world don`t believe what he is saying. The man doesn`t tell the truth and it`s sad that I should take responsibility for his dirty deeds.


MELBER: That`s the narrative from Cohen but Mueller`s made it quite clear that he is not going get into that stuff. So at the end of the day, if this is Michael Cohen telling stories that are chilling but ultimately about bad stuff that is consistent with what people knew about Donald Trump, do you think it makes a big difference?

HOLLIDAY: Well, we don`t know what he is going to say behind the closed doors and what he is essentially cleared to say. We think he`ll definitely be asked about a lot of these things, with respect to Russia, with respect to other aspects of Trump`s life. You can`t control the questions that Congress asks, so Cohen -- it will be up to Cohen to decide how much he wants to share.

MELBER: Well, and this is -- he`s got a lot to say.

HOLLIDAY: And he`s got a lot to say.

MELBER: Omarosa who was around him, said basically, he also spent time with the kids, and that`s something that could really upset Donald Trump if --


MELBER: -- if he catches any of this coverage when it hits on Wednesday. Take a look at that.


There is no question that that big red line for Donald Trump is his children, particularly Ivanka. And once Michael Cohen starts sharing details that may actually implicate them, you will see him truly become, well, unhinged.


HOLLIDAY: I think that`s a great point. And going back to the Russia investigation for a minute, if he is asked behind closed doors about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, he could be asked about his conversations with Trump`s children. We know Ivanka expressed interest in the Trump Tower Moscow.

He talked to various Trump executives. We believe those are families members. But he could also be asked why specifically did this deal fall apart on June 14th. That`s the day the DNC came out and said we`ve been hacked. Their cybersecurity company attributed to Russia.

There is a lot of mystery. Even though we know a lot from Mueller`s filing, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding that Trump Tower Moscow deal. But Cohen also knows the kids in other capacities as well. Like I said, the foundation, the Trump Organization. He holds the key to a lot of dirt that could be spilled on Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is out of the country right now.


HOLLIDAY: What else will be freezing themselves?

MELBER: That way, we`ll see whether he finds a way to keep tabs on it.


MELBER: Shelby Holliday, thank you as always.

Meanwhile, there is a former Trump campaign staffer suing him alleging that Donald Trump kissed her without consent. There`s going to be a report on that this hour later tonight.

But first, Donald Trump making a move with his legal team and it reveals clues on where he sees the peril when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Now, the Justice Department has now publicly confirmed that Bob Mueller`s probe will stretch past this week at a minimum. Tonight`s news is that Donald Trump is already asking his own lawyers to stay on for months or years, well beyond the expected end of the Mueller probe. And why?

This is why, to brace for a "legal hellscape" posed by open probes in the Southern District of New York, the famously independent office that was once led by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Now, Mueller passed the Cohen case to those independent prosecutors who Trump ally Chris Christie says pose special peril.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: The Southern District of New York investigation is monumentally more perilous to the president than Bob Mueller ever was or ever will be. They have two tour guides, George, and no restriction on where they can go.


MELBER: Today, Donald Trump Jr. claiming those same New York prosecutors are actually reaching past real crimes to fixate on just trying to get Trump.


BRIAN KILMEADE, CO-HOST, FOX & FRIENDS: Is Chris Christie wrong that the Southern District --

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: Well, no. But I`m not saying they`re not going to try. Listen, their dream in life -- this is -- as political as it gets, their dream in life is to try to find something to get Trump. I mean that old Stalinist tactic. Show me the man, I`ll show you the crime.


MELBER: OK. But Michael Cohen himself admitted to campaign-related crimes that were supposed to help Donald Trump. You don`t need Stalinistic tactics to notice that the related probe involving the "National Enquirer" company also features now public allegations of other real crimes like alleged blackmail and extortion.

Trump has been concerned enough about all of this to pressure the DOJ to install a loyalist to take over the case in New York which was reported by "The New York Times" in an effort to sideline the acting prosecutor in charge, a man who`s not really nationally famous, but whose work already got Trump`s attention.

His name is Robert Khuzami and he has charged terror plots, and bankers, and insider trading and most recently he was the face touting, yes, when you think about this week`s news, he was touting the flipping of Michael Cohen.


ROBERT KHUZAMI, DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I came into the enforcement division, brought a record number of cases arising out of the financial crisis. I think 60 or 70 CEOs, CFOs, and high-ranking corporate officers.

The Patriot Act has helped our Homeland Security team dismantle terror cells from New York to Oregon.

Today, as you heard, Michael Cohen plead guilty to eight felony charges. For that, he is going to pay a very, very serious price.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Elie Mystal, editor of Above the Law and hosts the podcast Thinking Like A Lawyer, also a former practicing attorney and he`s also written for "The New York Times" and "Daily News" and knows all about these New York legal issues.

And then back with us, our expert former Federal Prosecutor Joyce Vance. Thanks to both of you for being here.

Elie, how important is this New York case and the man we just looked at that many viewers may not know by name because he hasn`t raised to that level yet, but he could. It`s Khuzami.

ELIE MYSTAL, EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW: Khuzami is not a political appointee. He`s a career prosecutor. He is a man with the institutional competence to see this through long after the Mueller probe goes away. Look, SDNY is the bear, and the Trump Organization is like Leonardo DiCaprio. And this time we`re not sure the bear is going to let him go.

There is significant jeopardy up and down the Trump Organization from these people who, again, have - they`ve spend their careers sassing out and fighting financial crimes. While -- and this is what Chris Christie -- I can`t believe I`m agreeing with him, this is what Chris was trying to say. While Mueller has a very limited scope, right, he`s supposed to investigate Russia and maybe get obstruction of justice, SDNY investigates crime.

MELBER: Whatever they find in New York. You`re saying in this theatrical analogy, Khuzami is the bear, the prosecutor?

MYSTAL: Yes, his office is the bear.

MELBER: And Donald Trump is Leo?

MYSTAL: At best. He better hope he is Leo. He better hope he has the wiliness, right? And Don Jr. --

MELBER: Let me ask you this. If he is Leo, what about "Catch Me If You Can?" Is he maybe a con man in "Catch Me If You Can"? How many Leo characters is he is what I`m asking here?

MYSTAL: Exactly. Well, in that case, Khuzami is Tom Hanks, right. No, look -- and Don Jr., I mean his stuff, he`s -- Don Jr. is the guy who wanders into the middle of the movie and asks what`s going on. He is completely out of his element and he has no idea.

I`m trying to be funny because it`s so maddening what`s going on. But Don Jr. has absolutely no idea that he is the weakest link. It`s Don Jr. and Eric and Ivanka who, to my mind, are going to be the first, the first people over the falls in terms of what SDNY is investigating and what have you.

MELBER: That goes to the overlap with Mueller and then I`m going bring Joyce in on this but you look at Don Jr. and the reports that he hasn`t talked to Mueller yet. What does that tell you?

MYSTAL: That tells me that he`s a target. When you don`t interview the -- and Joyce can speak to this as well. They don`t interview targets. And so the fact that they have not brought them in for questioning yet suggests to me A, that they`re targets and B, and this is another thing that I know this is -- people are very worried about this, I don`t see how the Mueller probe even says nothing of SDNY ends until you talk to all of the children.

Because either you need an indictment of those children or you need them to come and tell them -- tell SDNY on well or what they know.

MELBER: I want to get you in a segment sometime with Howard Schultz because I feel like you might drink even more coffee than him. That`s the -- that`s the amount of energy I`m getting off you.

MYSTAL: Yes. I would also like to talk to Howard Schultz in one of these days about what he can do with his billions.

MELBER: Joyce, let me play for you what the former federal prosecutor in charge of that office David Kelley said because there`s all this attention you just heard Trump Jr. bad-mouthing the office. Now they have at times been criticized for just how aggressive they are. Take a look.


MELBER: Let me ask you about a criticism that`s been lodged against the current district that they have a New York taste for going after high- profile defendants. Your response.

DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I don`t buy that. I don`t think you go after a case you know just for the sake of being high-profile. Often the case is if it`s high-profile, it`s good because it sends a message to the public that you`re doing -- that there`s no one above the law, that the rule of law stands strong.


MELBER: Joyce your view of this pivotal office and the new reporting that Trump wants to keep his lawyers around just for that.

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Southern District of New York has the reputation for being aggressive. They also have the reputation for being smart and for ensuring that justice gets done. And if they have to play a role in this sort of passion play, I`d set them up to be the Avengers. They`ll do the right thing here. I`ve never known and I mean this seriously, the Southern District of New York to go after people out of a sense of vendetta.

What they do is they investigate allegations of criminal conduct. They do it very well. And you can`t expect the defendants who are on the receiving end of their work to be lauded about that.

MELBER: To like it, yes.

VANCE: Of course they brought criticism.

MELBER: That`s a fair point. Do you have one more reference before go? One more cup of coffee before the road if you will, Bob Dylan.

MYSTAL: Well, you like verses, what, in short in matters quasi- international and criminal whose money is the modern of a modern major- general.


MYSTAL: That`s what I got for you.

MELBER: Wow. You know, the thing about doing the news in 2019 is you just never know what`s going to happen. Elie Mystal and Joyce Vance, thanks to both of you. Former Trump campaign staffer is suing today alleging that Donald Trump kissed her without consent during the campaign. We have a report live from the White House which is trying to deal with that tonight.

Also next, right-wing media going big back to the playbook against Hillary Clinton to attack yes, a new woman in power AOC and she`s responding. We`re going to show you what she`s saying and where she said it. That`s next.


MELBER: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is making waves and drawing attacks from today the Murdock own tabloid the New York Post which expended great effort suggesting something somehow nefarious about AOC choosing a rental in D.C. in a Lux building with gold-plated amenities, a rooftop infinity, pool cycling studio saunas, and even a golf simulation lounge.

The article raising the notion that AOC might not even reside in the Bronx District she represents anymore which she disputes today adding that she relocated to a new apartment in the Bronx. Now the fixation on a freshman`s residential choices shows the conservative energy vilifying a new woman in power. Critics noting that conservatives seem to be testing out the same kind of personal insult strategies deployed against a Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you have in Ocacio-Cortez are Latin American values. Instead of us assimilating them, they are assimilating us.

ED ROLLINS, CHAIRMAN, GREAT AMERICA PAC: The little girl who wants Reagan -- pre-Reagan economics.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: O-scary-o or o-crazy-o.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- Cortes doesn`t have any mental capacity to actually reason.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: This 29-year-old Congresswoman doesn`t seem to know much about anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong all came to power promising the same kinds of things that Ms. Ocasio-Cortes is promising.

LIMBAUGH: She is approaching in her own mind goddess-like status.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we dismiss Ocacio Cortes and socialism right now, it`s at our own peril.


MELBER: We should note not all the attacks are as personal. Fox also criticizing her use of government funds to pay her aides a living wage 52k a year calling that communism on display. But either way, AOC argues these attacks actually are proving her relevance. She was explaining this in a new Showtime interview with fellow Bronx residents Desus and Mero.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK: In a weird way, that stuff is validation that you`re doing something real? Because if you`re just flying under the radar you know, trying to get your check like not rock the boat, then what`s the point of being in politics? Like what is the point of doing things if you`re just trying to maintain a status quo that doesn`t help people?


MELBER: I`m joined by Mara Gay from the New York Times. She`s really got them going.

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, NEW YORK TIMES: She does -- she is. Yes. You know, so many of the attacks on the Congresswoman I find to be completely out of right field just sexist, racist, outrageous, inappropriate. What the New York Post story did today is something different that we would call accountability journalism. And it`s actually it does matter that you do live in the district that you represent.

And honestly it seems like this is kind of a lot of nothing and she does live in the district. My actual point of concern is that the Congresswoman has yet to address these claims appropriately I believe to members of the press particularly The Post.

MELBER: Explain.

GAY: So she actually tweeted earlier today saying, I do live in the district. In fact, I just Instagrammed a post last night in my new apartment.

MELBER: Yes, this her tweet. "I`m not going to disclose my personal address or tell people when I move. Sorry!"

GAY: That`s right. Now, of course, no one expects her to tweet out her address.

MELBER: Right.

GAY: But there is traditionally a very important relationship between members of the media including The Post and elected officials. And that`s something that they could have kind of dealt with privately and she could have at least just responded to --

MELBER: So I mean, you make an interesting point that notwithstanding calling out a bunch of what we showed and what`s wrong with those type of attacks, she and this is becoming more common in our internet politics is seizing on this as another fight and not you`re saying in your view doing enough to deal with the serious part of engaging the press about yes, a public official`s residents is an issue because they have to live in the district, etcetera.

GAY: That`s right. And let`s remember that the Congresswoman actually ran her campaign in part based on the idea that former Congressman Joe Crowley didn`t really live in his district in all practicality and really hadn`t spent enough time there. So this is a relevant question.

MELBER: Right.

GAY: And you know, yes, The Post is conservative and they may not always be fair to her but it`s a fair question and it`s one I believe that she should respond to in kind and not just ignore press inquiries and then tweet at will on you know, about your comment. I mean, this is -- this is actually not the first time --

MELBER: Does that remind -- does that remind you -- does that remind you of someone?

GAY: It reminds me of two people. One would be Donald Trump and the other would be Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

MELBER: Well, look at you spitting hot fire. The headline here New York Times -- New York Times reporter backing up the New York Post for accountability journalism as you put it. That`s very interesting. We also wanted to play in addition to what we consider sort of the baseless attacks which is keeping an eye on the politics. There are a lot of Democrats who served their time who in various ways questioned her opening salvos. Take a look.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: There`s nothing there. It`s an idea.


MCCASKILL: And there`s no meat on the bone.

MELBER: Does it say something that she has them so shook, so scared about the deal?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, it`s not really her, with all due respect.


BLUMENTHAL: I`m a co-sponsor.

MELBER: Someone in your seat immediately get sort of this much attention and is it overdone?

JOE CROWLEY (D), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK: Well, I think part of it is because she beat me. I was important enough that people actually took note of someone beating me.


GAY: I think they`re a little jealous, to be honest. Listen, the congresswoman is very smart. She has a lot of ideas and she was duly elected and she has every right to take the party as far Left as she sees fit. That`s what her constituents elected her to.

MELBER: I think it`s revealing to hear you say several things that are not easily caricature because there`s nuance here but that`s why you have -- why we have you here Mara Gay. Thank you very much.

GAY: Thanks for having me.

MELBER: I`m going to fit in a break but then we turn to a live report from the White House on important story tonight. A Trump staffer actually suing Donald Trump alleging basically kissing without consent and saying she wants to take him to court. Also Spike Lee says 2020 is now a choice between love and hate and echo do the right thing while Donald Trump attacking him. I`m going to get into all of that with a very special guest, something very important next.


MELBER: America is again grappling with our problem of white supremacy in this nation. Spike Lee winning this Oscar for the movie BlacKkKlansman based on very real-life events involving the Ku Klux Klan. And it`s easy to forget Spike Lee`s Oscar for an iconic film about racism was nearly twenty years in the making.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is one film missing from this list that deserves to be on it because ironically it might tell the biggest truth of all and let`s do the right thing.

SPIKE LEE, DIRECTOR: The 2020 president`s election is around the corner. Let`s do the right thing. You know, I had to get that in there.


MELBER: Today Donald Trump injected himself and last night`s happy moment by accusing Lee of "racism" and attacked that again exposes more about how Trump sees the world than anything about his target. Lee used BlacKkKlansman and other movies to tackle hate, bigotry, and anti-Semitism, problems that are resurgent in America and Europe which require political and cultural reckoning which is relevant to my next guest.


MELBER: I`m joined now by one of the world`s leading public intellectuals Bernard-Henri Levy or BHL as he`s commonly known, a philosopher, an author, a journalist, a filmmaker. He`s advised presidents and leaders across Europe in the Middle East. He`s the author of count him up 28 books including the most recent The Empire and the Five Kings: America`s Abdication and the Fate of the World. Thanks for being here.


MELBER: I`m very happy to host you. You are someone with a true international following and so my first question to you is international in nature. Take a look at something that our viewers have seen in America that you`ve written about around the world rising anti-religious bigotry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not the white Christians that are causing any trouble, it`s the Muslims that are causing the trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That`s what we believed in. That`s why we voted for Donald Trump.

AMERICAN CROWD: Jews will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at -- if you look at both sides, I think there`s blame on both sides.


MELBER: Is this all happening in the Western world for the same reasons or different? Why and what`s going on?

LEVY: (INAUDIBLE) There are very different things in this little film. On one side, you have anti-Semitism which is a plague, which is coming back all over the world, in Europe, in the rest -- in America, and in the rest of the world, including in America. Remember Pittsburgh, the dead of Pittsburgh, the tragedy of Pittsburgh means that even here in this safe haven which is America for Jews, there is anti-Semitism.

MELBER: Why does this kind of bigotry as you put it try to deny history? It`s one thing to say, oh something happened a long time ago, let`s move on let`s deal with today. That`s a political debate. And it`s another thing to claim as we see in various parts of the world the Holocaust didn`t happen or a given act against a given people didn`t happen. Why is that in your view a seed to this bigotry?

LEVY: The problem that there is -- this is also one of the theses of this new book of The Empire and the Five Kings. There is an attack -- an attack, a massive attack today on the very idea of truth. The difference between truth and lie, the difference between expertise and opinion is more and more invisible.

MELBER: So to be -- I`m going to let you continue but to be clear, we`re not saying that people trafficking in fake news are the same as Holocaust denial, but you`re saying there is a spectrum to be concerned about because they don`t want to deal with reality.

LEVY: Absolutely. Plus the conspiracy theories, Plus Mr. Trump when he says you have your facts we have ours. You have your reality, I have an alternative reality. All that makes blend of nonsense which is a real element. That at least is my thesis for this new anti-Semitism.

MELBER: You have such a style about you. I mean, you`re an intellectual, you`re a writer, but you look great. Do you have any secrets for us here in America? We can always use a good French style tip.

LEVY: I think that Americans are great too. I admire your -- the tailoring of your coat also.

MELBER: No, but this is a nice -- a very nice look and the shirt, is it an all French material I assume? You can shop at home?

LEVY: Yes. But what is yours, it is not Chinese material, is it?

MELBER: I buy it here but I don`t know its origin. It`s a great question.

LEVY: It`s a real question. Because very soon if we don`t have a real plan together, America and Europe, very soon our shelf, your shelf, and my shelf will be made in China, and we will have more and more unemployment in this sort of industry in the Western world. That`s why the question of China is a serious one in the Empire of the Five Kings.

MELBER: It`s also -- I`m very happy to end on a point there regarding global jobs. Bernard-Henri Levy, your first time on THE BEAT, I hope we have you again.

LEVY: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you very much. The book is the Empire and the Five Kings.


MELBER: Interesting stuff. And then up ahead as promised, we go to the White House for a story of a former Trump staffer alleging he kissed her without consent. Why she`s suing? We`re live at the White House next.


MELBER: In other news tonight, a former Trump campaign staffer is suing Donald Trump for alleged misconduct. Alva Johnson alleges that Donald Trump went up to her out of the blue and kissed her without consent right before a rally that was occurring in Tampa, Florida. She says this was right in front of other campaign officials.

Tonight, the White House says the entire accusation is "absurd on its face." We also should note that the two Trump supporters who Johnson had said witnessed this alleged interaction, now they`re saying they never saw it. Now, in May 2017, Johnson had praised Trump in a radio interview.


ALVA JOHNSON, STAFFER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: He is more incredible in person than I think then you would even think as you see him on T.V. He`s just the nicest guy. He treats everyone as if they`re part of his family.


MELBER: That was about two years ago. Now, her lawyer says this entire time gap in these issues were partly because she was forced into a non- disclosure agreement. So a lot of information here on both sides. We wanted to go right to the White House where NBC`s Kristen Welker has been reporting out this story. Kristen, what do we know tonight?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ari, look, several women have accused citizen Trump before he got into politics of misconduct in terms of his behavior. This is really the first woman to come forward and allege that there was some type of inappropriate behavior that happened during the campaign.

Alva Johnson as you just laid out alleging that candidate Trump kissed her without her consent. You see this video her. This is of this August 2016 campaign event. She shot some video inside the R.V. at the time where this sort of smaller gathering happened outside of the campaign event and she says that`s when that kiss happened. Take a listen to what her lawyer had to say about that.


HASSAN ZAVAREEI, LAWYER OF ALVA JOHNSON: She started to realize that he was trying to kiss her. She moved her head aside just at the last minute. But even with her baseball cap on and making evasive maneuvers, he still managed to kiss her on the corner of her mouth.


WELKER: And we just want to underscore what you had said, Ari. The fact that she says two people witnessed that, they dispute that including Pam Bondi who`s, of course, the former Attorney General of Florida who told me in a statement today as a career prosecutor and attorney general, had I seen anything improper, I would have taken action. I was with the president in the R.V. and these allegations are false.

Of course, the White House also disputing these allegations. A lot of folks wondering why did it take her so long to come forward. I put that question to her attorney. He says look, part of the reason was because of that non-disclosure agreement that you talked about but then he says they`ve been working on this case for eight months --

MELBER: Right. And as you know, we`re about out of time, Kristen.


MELBER: But we`ll keep an eye on the story. We did want to fit it in. Thank you for the reporting from the White House.

WELKER: Thank you.

MELBER: I can`t steal from "HARDBALL." THE BEAT is over.