Mueller racking up indictments. TRANSCRIPT: 3/18/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Juanita Tolliver, John Carlin, John Flannery, Patty Kuderer

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST:  For us this evening.  Chuck will be back at the chair for more MTP DAILY tomorrow.

In the meantime, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

Quonochontaug, Ari. Quonochontaug.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Great to see you, Katy.

TUR:  You too.

MELBER:  We are coming on air right now during a surge of activity for Democrats running for president.  And that`s not based solely on candidates hitting MSNBC tonight with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand facing voters in the Michigan town hall with our own Chris Hayes and Cory Booker appearing in Iowa to take questions from Chris Matthews.

Those are certainly high profile appearances in our neighborhood, yes.  But then there is also Senator Elizabeth Warren campaigning at a Mississippi town hall that will be televised by another network.

And a new candidate on the scene taking the lead in the fundraising primary, Beto O`Rourke raising $6 million in his first day on the trail, as you may have heard by now, that`s more than everyone, which is reshuffling early ideas about who the front-runner may be, as Joe Biden keeps popping up with signs that he wants to be wanted.

That`s not a song reference.  That`s just how he feels, and makes a claim that may, according to some, be hard to back up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`m told I get criticized by the new left.  I have the most progressive record of anybody running for the -- anybody who would run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  The most progressive.  Well, as we dig in to what we think looks like perhaps the biggest 2020 campaign we get, let`s do it BEAT style, with some facts and evidence.  If this race is going to be ideological as Biden and standards have somewhat been arguing, how do the candidates` records stack up?

Note that Senator Sanders is saying any liberals in this race are effectively following him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Virtually, all of the ideas that we campaigned on are now supported by a majority of the American people and an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Independents.

So if we take the Democratic presidential field, you`ve got candidates now who sound like Bernie Sanders.  So why do you need to run?

SANDERS:  Well, maybe the more appropriate question is why do they need to run.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Why does anyone need to run?  Everyone is welcome to run.  It is still a democracy.

Now this debate is obviously just getting started.  Sanders points to economic issues, where it is certainly true he has been out front.

But we want to begin tonight with this.  The wider picture is a lot more complicated.  On choice and women`s health, there is actually broad agreement.  Every member of Congress right now running for president in the Democratic Party has a matching equal, hundred percent rating from Planned Parenthood this year.

Same on the environment.  Hundred percent ratings for most, and a close 94 for Beto O`Rourke.  Then there are the issues of human rights and civil liberties which have become so vital during a Trump administration with its policies on immigration and free speech and a lot of other liberties.

And here the congressional Democrats all dip a little bit together.  Scores in the 80s from the ACLU.  Amy Klobuchar coming in below around 64 percent.  Or take guns, an issue that often turns on which state people are from and which everyone has been thinking about in the last horrific days.

Senator Sanders has moved towards gun control.  And tonight, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand making some news, saying that she owns her move towards gun control, going from being a Democrat with an NRA A rating to an F.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND:  Now, on guns, I should have done more.  I regret actually not caring about other communities.  My community didn`t have the gun violence that other parts of the state had, and in fact, the biggest issue for upstate New York was hunting rights.

And my mother didn`t just cook the Thanksgiving turkey, she shot the Thanksgiving turkey.  So I came from a different lens.  But what I regret is I should have cared more about ending gun violence in other places.

And so the first thing I did when I became a senator was met with families who lost their loved ones to gun violence.  And when you meet a mother or a father who has lost a child to gun violence, there is no way you will ever not answer them directly and say I will do something to end gun violence.  And that`s what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Her argument there being the answer starts with listening, sometimes listening to voters and constituents.  So take it all together, if you grade this preprimary stage by money, Sanders and Beto are in the lead.  If you rate it by Joe Biden`s new ideology frame, a lot of candidates have claims to being the most liberal from Warren to Harris to Booker.

And if you rate it by who`s doing the best with the voters?  Spoiler, I can`t tell you the answer because it`s too early to tell so we won`t try to.

I`m joined now by our power panel right here in Washington, D.C.  Eleanor Clift, Washington Correspondent for "The Daily Beast".  Juanita Tolliver, campaign director for the Center for American Progress.  And Heidi Przybyla, NBC`s national political correspondent.  Good to see all of you.

ELEANOR CLIFT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST:  Good to see you.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC:  Good to see you.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Thanks for having us, Ari.

MELBER:  What jumps out to you on policy?

CLIFT:  Joe Biden is saying he has the most progressive record.  The key word there is record.  He is looking back on a career of 30 years in the Senate and his involvement in the White House and saying that he actually got things done.

He was key player on guns in the `90s with the Brady Bill and the assault weapons there.  He has called the Violence Against Women Act his greatest legislative achievement.  He works with anybody.

He was good friends with Strom Thurmond when Thurmond was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  It was Biden who delivered the eulogy at Thurmond`s funeral.  He knows how government works.  Democratic government is the art of the possible.

MELBER:  So you`re making the distinction that he is talking about the most progressive results --

CLIFT:  What`s his --

MELBER:  -- not the most progressive person.

CLIFT:  Yes, exactly.  I think he`s clearly not the most progressive person in the field if you`re going to define that by who`s for every aspect of the green new deal or who`s going to call themselves a Democratic socialist.

Obviously, he is not in that category but he does have a record of performance.  And he would know how to be president.  And he`s got to demonstrate that he can beat Trump that I think is still the most defining characteristic that the Democratic voters want.

MELBER:  So on that, before we turn to some of the other features here, take a listen to what we`ve heard from several of these candidates on the economic populous front.  I don`t think Delaware, the home of where corporations for a reason gives you that mantle.  But we`re hearing this again from multiple candidates, not just Senator Sanders but economic populists like Warren.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I am a capitalist.  Come on.  I believe in markets.  What I don`t believe in is theft.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA:  I support capitalism.  It in theory is something that requires competition, that will allow us to be better and evolve.

SANDERS:  That`s what Democratic socialism means to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRYZYBLA:  They`re not running away a hundred percent from this socialism label, like you saw with Bernie Sanders because a lot of the ideas that they`re running on, like Medicare for all, which all of these candidates which you just showed support, aren`t seen as socialism by Democratic voters.

And do you view Social Security as socialism?  Do you view Medicare as socialism?  So I think that the Democrats are wise in not taking that bait.  And so you`re not seeing them having this kind of gag automatic reaction to that label.

But at the same time, I think it was Joe Scarborough, who on this network, tried to trap Hicken -- was it Hickenlooper?

TOLLIVER:  It was.

PRZYBYLA:  -- on the question about capital -- are you a capitalist?  At the same time, don`t reject that label either, because no system is pure.

MELBER:  Who knew that was a trap?  I mean the Democratic Party of the 1980s and `90s that was burning their ACLU card and embracing DLC economic capitalism wouldn`t know that you`d ever be denying that.

PRZYBYLA:  Right, right.  Well, now I think the real test for the Democrats is going to be how they distinguish themselves on policy because they are pretty much all in the same buckets here on running.

Bernie is right.  They`re running towards a lot of the issues that he embraced, like Medicare for all.  Not free college education, but a green energy plan, Medicare for all.

And you`re seeing like with these candidates Beto, who have a lot of the sizzle, they`re not really there yet on the policy in terms of how they`re going to distinguish themselves.

MELBER:  I want to get into some of the big distinctions that are already emerging in the field.  Before we get to that, we do have to check the box on the money, because the money matters, even if it shouldn`t.  So a lot of folks look at this system and say gosh, the money in politics is a big problem.

But we hear over and over from Democrats they don`t want to unilaterally disarm.  They want to go up against Trump.  They want someone who can play in every way from Twitter to the bank account.  So walk us through, because I know you`ve been looking at this for us here at NBC what`s going on with the money race right now.

PRZYBYLA:  Right.  Well, Beto came in with this earth-shattering number, this number that was higher than even Bernie Sanders earned, and that earned him kind of the front-runner label.  But I think the key distinction here is where did that come from exactly.

It`s getting a lot of hype right now that, wow, he really exceeded expectations here.  And that means he`s in this game for the long run and he is.  That means more staff, more advertising, more buzz.

But at the end of the day, how far is that going to get him if it`s just a handful of donors and it`s not really indicative of this groundswell of grassroots support that you`re seeing, for example, with Bernie Sanders, who has a lot of small donors.

MELBER:  Well, and Barack Obama had a lot of small donors.

PRZYBYLA:  Right.

MELBER:  It`s often depends on how people feel about the candidates.  I mean this is pretty remarkable, the comparison here at NBC News, $6 million on day one for Beto.  Obama in the entire first quarter had $26 million, three months.  And during that time, of course, there were many other distinctions about Barack Obama.

PRZYBYLA:  It is a massive amount of money and I am not pooh-poohing that.  But at the same time, I think that we -- just like we rushed maybe a little bit too much collectively as the media to say that he had a horrible roll- out, we can`t say yet exactly what this is indicative of until we see more data, more numbers.

Ari, just a week ago, he was down by half in the polls in the Des Moines Register poll in Iowa that he -- because of his tour.  His kind of soul- finding dental visits cross-country tour had kind of put him back on his heels.  So I think we still need to acknowledge that this is a massive sum of money, but we also need to find out --

MELBER:  You mention the dental visits.  Eleanor, I think some of that was unfair.  Who can forget Teddy Roosevelt`s famous cavity fly by G.  I mean everybody remembers that.

CLIFT:  Right.

MELBER:  Really turned the bull moose party around when you saw the plaque in the molars.  I`m kidding.  It`s ridiculous.

CLIFT:  Too much information and --

MELBER:  TMI.

CLIFT:  I guess, definitely.  And I think O`Rourke has a different way of campaigning.  He has not hired a bunch of consultants.  And for the last, what, 40 years, campaigns have been run on the backs of all of these consultants.

And I like the fact that he is trying to find his own way.  He is doing it a little bit too much in public.  So he gets --

MELBER:  Right.  And it`s --

CLIFT:  -- the rap of being too like airy-fairy or --

MELBER:  Look, Eleanor and I are huge Dave Chappelle fans.  I think that`s well-known.

CLIFT:  Absolutely.

MELBER:  I was honored when he came on THE BEAT.  He`s famously talked about when keeping it real goes wrong.  And that can happen in many different ways.

CLIFT:  Right.

MELBER:  I think for Beto that has happened in a couple of ways.  And the people who are sympathetic to him say, but this is the thing, it`s more raw and it`s more real, and it`s coming out as he thinks it through.  And other people say we want more from a president.

For your analysis, because I know you have been looking at this, we have some of those moments stacked together.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETO O`ROURKE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE 2020:  I just got a call from my wife Amy, who is back in El Paso, Texas, where she is raising, sometimes with my help, Ulysses, who`s 12-years-old, Molly who is 10, and their little brother Henry who is 8-years-old.

STACEY WALKER, HOST, POLITICAL PARTY LIVE:  Recently, you drew some criticism for a mark you made about sometimes helping to raise your kids.

O`ROURKE:  It`s absolutely valid criticism.  I`ll be much more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOLLIVER:  He is hearing the criticism and he is having a positive response to it because it is true.  If you want to celebrate the fact that your wife takes on a larger share of parenting your children than you do, then celebrate her and the work and energy that goes into it.  Don`t say oh, I sometimes pop in kind of flippantly.

And also recognizing his white privilege in "The Vanity Fair" article when he`s like I`m born to be in this.  What other candidate could say that and keep us -- and still be taken seriously?  I think to Eleanor`s point, like he is going on the fly here and it`s not being received well because my reaction as a woman, knowing what the women candidates are likely up against, knowing that the coverage is not nearly as forgiven, he has been given multiple chances here, that people of color and women are not typically afforded.

And so I`m looking for him to clean up his act, be more thoughtful about his language and really find more constructive ways to discuss his privilege and more constructive ways to celebrate his wife if that`s his goal.

MELBER:  I think that`s what -- and I think it also goes to the sort of we just talked about the money primary, we talked about the ideology primary.  There is also the invisible primary of what makes for someone who can incredibly run for president in the eyes of whoever the established are.  And I think everyone at this table plays some role in that, however responsibly we try.

CLIFT:  What is the moment that is going to reveal them in a way that is memorable?

MELBER:  And does being unemployed and having come close in a race, is that enough for a young woman candidate, according to -- that contrast.  And I want also for your analysis to play in the same token the Trump test that Seth Meyers did.

This is a joke, but it`s like a serious joke because it goes to something where there is so much concern about Donald Trump`s conduct.  And yet if that becomes a sort of biased or reflexive attack on Donald Trump, it doesn`t apply to anyone else, that`s not necessarily positive for democracy, or by the way journalism.

So Seth Meyers makes this joke for all of you but starting with Juanita.  Take a look at the point here.

TOLLIVER:  All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH MEYERS:  Now, in the run-up to 2020, we here at "Late Night," we`re going to try really hard and we`re going to ask ourselves, would we make fun of Donald Trump if he said that so let`s see.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Because every word was pulled out of me, like by some greater force which was just the people there.  Everything that I said, I was watching myself being like how am I saying this stuff, where is it coming from?  Yes.  No, Beto, that was --

MEYERS:  Weird, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOLLIVER:  No, Seth Meyers got it right.  We would definitely make fun of Donald Trump for saying that.  And a lot of things that Beto had said fallen to that category right now, unfortunately.

I think on the flip side of that is he is figuring this out and really living through his privilege of ability to do that.  Again, he`s got to clean it up and really get hard on facts, hard on policies just like female candidates would.

PRZYBYLA:  Yes, I think we`re already making fun of him, right?

MELBER:  Well, Seth Meyers is making fun of him.  I`m just playing it.

TOLLIVER:  We`re reacting to Seth.

PRZYBYLA:  A number of other cuts like that, but I think to your point, yes, he`s got to get a little bit more specific about what the policy is.  And I think that also we`re going to watch.  It`s not just this one data point of the money.

Again, a huge amount, but let`s see what kind of crowds he draws.  Let`s see what he does in the polling, if he is able to recover from that halving that you saw in the Des Moines Register poll.

CLIFT:  Yes.  Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins in "The New York Times" did very snarky columns takedown.  And he reminds me a bit Gary Hart back in 1984 I guess it was.

MELBER:  Where`s the beef?

CLIFT:  Where`s the beef, exactly.  And Gary Hart also had, when he subsequently ran, he went out to the Colorado out in the mountains somewhere and had this sort of very naval gazing announcement everybody made fun of.

MELBER:  Although maybe -- and maybe the point is --

CLIFT:  But Gary Hart was really substantial.

MELBER:  This is generational, that Gary Hart was a sort of new age post- hippie intellectual.

CLIFT:  Right.

MELBER:  And Beto is being cast as -- and again, we`re still learning, we`ll see how it goes.  He is initially being cast as a sort of searching millennial.

CLIFT:  Right.And we don`t know if there is anything really down there that he has found.  So that`s what we`re looking for.  I didn`t mean that exactly like how it came out, I hope.

TOLLIVER:  I mean exactly because none of the female candidates could possibly come out here with no hard concrete policy proposals, with no hard facts that they`re really taking to drive their campaign.  He is like I`m born to be in it but doesn`t have a clear message --

MELBER:  Right.  And I have to fit in a break real quick.  It`s a cross between born to run and not all who wander are lost.  That`s where I led but we`ll --

CLIFT:  That`s straight out of the Old Testament.

MELBER:  What we`re going to do is fit in a break.  I would love to have all of you back for this conversation.  And maybe when I`m back in Washington, we`ll do it the same three and see where the race is ahead.

Thanks to each of you.  Heidi.

PRZYBYLA:  See you again soon, Ari.

MELBER:  Juanita, appreciate it.

TOLLIVER:  Nice to meet you.

MELBER:  Good to see you as well, Eleanor.

CLIFT:  Always fun.

MELBER:  Always.  Let me tell you, as mentioned, 7 p.m. tonight, that`s literally the next hour, Eastern, Cory Booker, Chris Matthews, Iowa.  You don`t want to miss that.  And then at 8:00 p.m., Chris Hayes hosting this town hall with Kirsten Gillibrand in Michigan.

We have a lot more on THE BEAT, including my special report on what Bob Mueller has achieved and what could be left in his to do box.  And have Mueller`s former chief of staff on set.  That`s next.

Later, lawmakers pushing to get Donald Trump off the ballot entirely.  We`ll explain that it involves forcing his tax returns to come out.  We actually have the senator leading the effort.

Also, Rudy Giuliani weighing in on whether Donald Trump banned him from television.  I`ll give you a hint.  The comment he gave was not televised.

And AOC breaks down how a Trump cabinet official says, she says, may have broken the law.  She does it on Instagram with the census and a potted plant.

All that coming up.  I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching "THE BEAT" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  The Mueller probe just capped one of its most eventful weeks ever.  A long sentence for Paul Manafort, topped by new state charges against him that the president can`t pardon.  A new trial date for Roger Stone, news that former Trump Aide Rick Gates is still helping multiple investigations, all these developments come against a backdrop of pundits speculating Mueller is about to finish.  Who knows.

But as Trump allies increasingly argue that whenever Mueller does finish, if he doesn`t do something major to take out Trump, then this was all some sort of desperate pointless fishing expedition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS:  So the Mueller fishing expedition is now on day 561 and now desperate for any dirt on Donald Trump.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX) HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Mueller is desperate.  He doesn`t have a case he can make.

LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE:  The collusion case died.  So now they`re on to the so-called obstruction of justice case against President Trump.

ELIZABETH MACDONALD, HOST, FOX BUSINESS:  If there is no evidence of a crime, and if this is all based on some type of counterintelligence investigation in search of a crime, then the special counsel needs to end.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  There are basically two arguments there and they`re both wrong.  First, the idea that Mueller hasn`t achieved much, A.K.A witch hunt.  And second, if Mueller`s not going to take out Trump, then they argue it doesn`t matter what any Mueller report says.

That`s why Donald Trump`s now boasting he told Republicans to "play along with releasing any report".  He is assuming such a report won`t push for indicting or ousting him, and that could be the case.  But these arguments are wrong and the actual record is our special report tonight, because this witch hunt claim gets Mueller`s results exactly backwards.

This is actually one of the most effective investigations of the White House in modern history as you`re about to see.  And the other argument is something rare as well.  It is a way of looking at the Mueller probe that Trump supporters and Trump critics actually have in common, evaluating this probe primarily on whether it gets Trump or not.

Boosters of Trump saying if it fails to do that, it was this sort of distraction.  People in the resistance sometimes eye every Mueller action as a potential step towards getting rid of Donald Trump.  But the fact is the special counsel`s legal assignment is not to go after the president.

In fact, after Trump suspiciously fired James Comey, the DOJ appointed Mueller to investigate links or coordination between the Russian government and Trump associates.  That means starting with people around Trump, not starting with the president, and then following the facts.

And then when investigators did find criminal leads on Manafort, the DOJ authorized Mueller to investigate that, along with some other things that remain redacted.  So that`s the mandate.  And we should care a lot about how it`s going.

So forget the predictions tonight.  If you look strictly at the facts and the results thus far, what has this special counsel achieved?  The answer is one of the fastest, most effective special counsel probes in history.  One of the toughest stances on foreign election interference taken by a U.S. prosecutor and a demonstration of some of the highest crime rates of aides to any modern president in the shortest time.

That record regarding Trump advisers does happen to look bad for Trump, even if Mueller`s ultimate findings don`t add new evidence against the president.  So here is the record tonight.

Mueller found and charged specifically 12 Russian perpetrators involved in the hacks against the Democrats.  He deployed details indictments to expose the Russians` tools and tactics in order to reduce their impact on Americans in the future.

Mueller exposed how Russian interference continued on through 2017, including brazen efforts to try to smear the very special counsel probe into Russia`s acts by attacking Mueller.  Now that`s something Americans should care about as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans.

And then when Mueller found crimes well beyond his jurisdiction, he took the evidence and handed it back to the places they occurred like with Michael Cohen whose interaction with Mueller`s team sparked his journey from Trump fixer to maybe the most damning insider ever to testify against Donald Trump in public.

Now some experts note that division of labor continues in cases Mueller didn`t technically hand off.  The DOH has these this Russian espionage and spying cases ongoing.  And then you get to the indictments of all these people who are so close to Trump.

Beyond Cohen, there was his top campaign adviser and first national security adviser Mike Flynn.  There was the campaign adviser who first heard about the stolen e-mails, his longest-serving Political Adviser Roger Stone, Trump`s Deputy Campaign Chair Rick Gates now helping several investigations.  And, of course, Paul Manafort, who holds the now dubious distinction of felony convictions in Virginia and D.C. while awaiting this new trial for felony charges in New York.

Just take that all in, because it`s a lot.  And that`s before you even get to the president or anything else that Mueller does in the future.  It`s a lot of crime.

In fact, it`s 37 different defendants charged by Mueller.  And while some await trial and are presumed innocent, no one has faced down Mueller in this probe and been acquitted yet.  This is serious stuff.

We`re not talking Missy Misdemeanor Elliott here.  We`re talking Jayo Felony.  And for all the talk about whether judges let Manafort off easy, let me show you more the record tonight because he still got one of the longest prison sentences in any White House probe.  His nearly eight years approaching the records from Watergate.  He could face additional time on top of that in New York.

Now, these frequent comparisons of Trump and Nixon do something important that I also want to flag for you tonight.  They lower the bar.  Why only compare the current president to the one president busted for crimes on tape driven out of office?

Now there is one reason which is the factual similarities.  Watergate and the Russia probe began with thefts to benefit one side in an election.  No one knew Watergate was going to go all the way to POTUS.  No one knows where this digital break-in of the DNC will lead until the probe is over.

But to more broadly assess this probe involving Trump, we`re going to do some homework for you with other administrations.  Nixon holding the record of 12 aides charged in Watergate.  He was in office nearly six years.

Clinton saw three associates charged from Whitewater after about eight years in office.  Obama went eight years with no criminal probe and had no top aides indicted.  And Trump, just over two years in, and as see, as you see on that scale there, already on quite a pace, indictments of six former advisers.

What you see on your screen is pretty damning.  The Mueller probe resulting in Donald Trump having effectively the highest rate of indictments for his aides than any president ever, and he just got started.  And this is true no matter what comes in any later Mueller findings.

This is a damning fact.  So damning, in fact, that while former President Obama famously avoids discussing his successor much, even he has weighed in to note that Donald Trump`s crime rate far outpaces the Obama advisers` crime rate of zero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  In Washington, they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team.  Nobody in my administration got indicted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That may sound like a political comparison that drew cheers but it`s actually what`s known as facts.  Facts.  And these facts bring us back to Mueller`s results.

He`s done all this in just under two years thus far.  Now, indictments aren`t the only metric to judge I should say a criminal probe.  A good prosecutor`s got to know when not to charge.

But for anyone still claiming this is a witch hunt, look at this comparison of roughly indictments per year.  Special prosecutors like Fitzgerald and Starr indicting far fewer people per year, having run a longer time than Mueller.  Facts.

Now, Mueller has already produced one of the most effective far-reaching probes into the White House in history.  That`s true even if he disappoints some people by never making Trump testify or unloading legally on the president.  And it`s also true even if he disappoints other people by finishing his work in a way that does put new legal heat on the president.

So in a way, right now is a pretty good time to take stock of the facts, because they`re worth keeping in mind whether you like how this probe ends or not.  As for what comes next, now Mueller is operating at this important stage, I will be joined by Bob Mueller`s former chief of staff and an ace Washington prosecutor when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  To continue our special reporting on the Mueller probe and what might be coming next, I`m joined by former federal prosecutor John Flannery who is Special Counsel to three Congressional investigations and the former Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel to Bob Mueller when he ran the FBI John Carlin.  Thanks to both of you for being a part of this discussion.

JOHN CARLIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, BOB MUELLER:  Thanks, Ari.

MELBER:  What do you think of what Bob Mueller has achieved regardless of one`s views on Donald Trump?

CARLIN:  We should be proud as Americans but also alarmed at what he`s been able to show us has occurred.  He`s brought as you`ve said, over 30 indictments, but what he`s also done in a historically short period of time is shown an international conspiracy involving hundreds of millions of dollars in trained operatives to undermine our election, to put corrupt cash into the campaign manager of one of our major parties, people have pled guilty to having contacts that they didn`t report at the level of the national security adviser to the United States.

And importantly, it`s not just what Mueller has done and revealed, it`s the wheels he`s put in motion that have allowed other prosecutors and investigators to follow up.  So while he revealed and indicted over 12 people, millions of dollars laid out how to companies tried to exploit social media and undermine the 2016 election.  You`ve already seen another prosecutor`s office pick up the baton.  My former division the National Security Division in the Eastern District of Virginia, they`ve shown that the Russian activity continued to 2018.

MELBER:  Right.  Which is -- which is so important.  To put it in other words, shout out National Security Division.

CARLIN:  That`s right.

MELBER: You`re familiar with non-partisan shoutouts.

CARLIN:  They`ve done a great job --

MELBER:  They`ve done an important work, you`re saying, while again, I want to make this point clearly.  On the one hand, it`s bad for Donald Trump that there`s been so many indictments.  We heard President Obama talk about that.  On the other hand, this obsession with whether the end game hits Trump does seem to miss out on what Mr. Carlin was just laying out.

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, I think what we`re doing is we`re trying to keep a bad player, Mr. Trump honest, by having the pressure that we`ve had.  And you can`t say that birds with the feather don`t flock together.  I mean, he`s he sits at the center of a crime syndicate.  And to say that he has nothing to do with it it`s a bizarre statement.

And whatever else Mueller has that we don`t know about, the one thing that we do know is the transparent efforts to obstruct at every point in this investigation, the investigation itself of him and of his confederates.

MELBER:  So the best thing you could say about that is that it was elements or evidence of obstruction waged to protect them and not himself?

FLANNERY:  That`s the best.

MELBER:  And the worst thing you could say is the theory that he actually is covering up something worse.

FLANNERY:  Well -- and when you consider for instance Don Junior`s statements that he rewrote which cover up his son because it covers up him and my belief.  And we see that where the money flows when we talk about Cohen, the money flows to Trump.  None of these other people get the money on the Trump Tower.

And what Russia wants in terms of sanctions, who can give that?  The president, not any of his aides.  And when we had backchannels set up by his associates and friends, who was that for?  And we have the Seychelles meeting, we have the meetings with Kislyak, and we have the president doing high fives after he fires Comey.

These are undeniable questions.  And when people like on Fox make fun of oh what`s obstruction of justice.  Obstruction of justice is an abuse of power.  It is consciousness of guilt.  And whose guilt is it about?  Is he protecting Manafort?  Is he protecting Flynn?  No.  He`s protecting himself.  He`s protecting what he did.

And we see at every stage.  We have the most immoral president perhaps in American history particularly because of the foreign influence of Russia that has compromised our ability to sanction Russia, has compromised our international trade, has compromised our alliance with Europe.  This is perhaps the darkest hour.

Now some of us are going to be terribly disappointed if Mueller doesn`t find something.  But it is hard to believe that a prosecutor of Mueller`s testing and experience would come to the end of this and not have something to say about these terrible offenses, not be imagined enough to find a way to pin the tail on the donkey the fellow in the West Wing.

CARLIN:  Look, it`s our job to follow up on what he`s already made public.  And it`s incredible that we`re not doing more with what`s been laid out in terms of the actions that Russia has taken to interfere with our democracy and democracy around the world.

MELBER:  I suppose -- I suppose where John`s concern reaches your national security emphasis is whether those Russian actions appear or suggest our link to the President himself and what does -- what does Bob Mueller do about that if he were to find that.  As his former chief of staff, what would he do?

CARLIN:  Regardless of even whether there can -- he`s going to follow the facts where they lead and he`s going to declare what his fine the findings are.

MELBER:  Meaning if he thinks there are findings that Congress should really deal with, he`ll find a way to make sure Congress has them and leave it there?

CARLIN:  He`ll report as per his mandate and there are many tools for which Congress can then obtain that -- obtain that information.

MELBER:  Do you think if you find something to -- because John is partly outlining the use or abuse of money and debt to have leverage over a sitting president, which is you understand I think everyone`s learned is we`ve all been learning about this stuff, that might not be an act of felony.

But if you or the national security division and Bob Mueller in a different year found that about anyone else who worked at the White House, you`d go right to the White House and say we got to fix this.  The problem here is how do you go to the White House if it`s from the top?

CARLIN:  It is true.  When we saw counterintelligence threat, then you`d go usually, in brief, the relevant official at the White House or in Congress to say here`s what we`ve seen, here`s the threat, you should remediated.  But this is what -- gardeners have what`s in the report, they`ve have already done it right?

FLANNERY:  Well they did in this case when they went and said about Flynn, what do they do, they shut down the Acting Attorney General and they kept Flynn there.  And only when the pressure became enormous -- and I`m sorry to interrupt you John, but that`s when they got rid of Flynn.

CARLIN:  That seems right factually in terms of what happened with Flynn, but what we`ve seen here is they`ve already made it public not just to the White House, but to the entire American people what it is they`ve seen through indictment, after indictment, after indictment.  And it`s already time then for us to act both either through the vote or through elected representatives to say here`s what we need to do to combat the Russian threat.

And there`s been so much focus on what`s going to happen next.  It`s great.  You took the time to focus on what we already know and what we should be doing now.  We don`t need to wait for more information to take action to protect us.

MELBER:  We learn so much from both of you during this pivotal state with much that we still don`t know.  John Carlin and John Flannery, our two legal Johns here, thank you so much.

CARLIN:  Thank you.

FLANNERY:  Thank you.

MELBER:  I really appreciate it.  Up ahead, we have an exclusive interview with the state lawmaker on plans that are being voted on to force Trump to either release his tax returns or be shut off at key ballot in a key state.  Or later, what does one freshman star AOC have to do with potted plants and the census in holding Wilbur Ross accountable?  All of that later in the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Now to something you don`t see every day but you might be seeing more.  New members of Congress have been using social media in ways we just haven`t seen in government before.  You may recall day one, they were showing people around the Congress sharing selfies with other brand-new members of this new Congress or jokingly responding to questions and having fun.

It`s all been used as a megaphone as well to deal with critics and even trolls.  But we`re also seeing the power of this way of talking to people go well beyond a casual encounter here or there.  Take a congresswoman you probably hear about by now, AOC who`s been using social media to basically first win one of the biggest upsets in modern Democratic history taking out a member of leadership.

But now as a member of Congress, she will basically use these platforms to go live and talk to her own constituents and others about all kinds of issues.  Now, these videos are not just an indulgence, they`re actually a direct line for her to talk to constituents and to disintermediate around criticism or even the media.

You can think of it as a 2019 version of, yes, the famous fireside chats.  The difference here is that it`s even more organic and live.  Which brings us to a new AOC video where she basically uses Instagram to live broadcast, this is like using social media to do live T.V., and she was talking while repotting a plant over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK:  I have never repotted a plant before.  This is a really big milestone for me to have not killed a plant.  You can see how crowded this guy has been.  I`m sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  So that`s your normal green thumb Sunday part.  But then she uses this same video to get deeper into an important exchange she says she had with the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who`s dealing with a big battle over trying to get the U.S. census takers to press people on whether they are citizens.  This is a big hot question.  And during the hearing, AOC was grilling Ross` attempt to push the census question forward and potentially ignoring binding guidelines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  What we don`t have is the required report to Congress.  The question I have is why are we violating the law to include any question whatsoever in the 2020 census?

WILBUR ROSS, SECRETARY OF COMMERCE, UNITED STATES:  I believe she is out of time, Chairman.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:  The gentlelady`s time has expired but you please do answer the question.

ROSS:  I don`t have any need to respond, sir.  I will take up with counsel the suggestions that have been made by the congressperson, and we will get back in due course on the record.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That`s Secretary Ross sounding kind of OK but kind of stonewalling.  I don`t need to respond, I`ll talk to my lawyer, we`ll talk to you later.  And that`s where many congressional inquiries might die.  But AOC was using this video and yes, the somewhat fun element of the plant to try to draw more attention to many people about Ross` actions and how it could affect regular Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  What they`re trying to do is add a citizenship question to the U.S. census to scare immigrants out of answering the census that will consequently cause your community to have less congressional representation.  Wilbur Ross is trying to rush this process through.  As a result, it looks like they`re breaking a lot of laws.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And then the congresswoman does something that you really can`t do during those brief five-minute Q and A sessions during the hearing itself.  She tells people, her viewers or constituents what they can do to take action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Do not get scared out of answering the census.  We need to get -- we need to make sure that every single person in this country, your aunts, your bodega guy, like everybody needs to fill out the census, because if not, then your community is not going to get the school funding and a large amount -- large amount of other resources that it needs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Large amount of resources.  You know, what struck us looking at this was candidates also typically need many resources to ever reach hundreds of thousands of voters in the first place.  They raise money from donors and by T.V. ads.

The grassroots model here which a lot of new members and younger members seem to be using is relevant to our politics.  AOC has over three million people following her social media accounts which means she can potentially reach millions and use this to expose what she calls the Trump administration`s effort to manipulate the census and hurt certain communities.

AOC was also invited, we should note, to teach a social media class to other members of her Democratic caucus.  Republicans also looking at getting in on this policy debates on the Green New Deal and Republicans efforts to defend Donald Trump, and of course the tax returns.  All of these issues are now playing out in a fundamentally different way on communication AOC being one of the newest members to drive it.

As for Twitter where we often know about the President driving the news cycle, AOC has a lot more interaction as you can see than many other leading people including former President Barack Obama.  Another sign that these platforms aren`t just platforms, although it`s easy to kind of diminish them because they look fun or there`s a passing moment, AOC seems to understand that you can use those passing moments to drive people back towards things that are in her view important and may not even be getting attention from the Congress or the press.  And that`s something that goes well beyond a green thumb Sunday.

So we wanted to show you that.  Now turning next, we have a promise that President Trump made long ago about his tax returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My lawyers, they say don`t do it.  You don`t release your returns until the audit is complete.  When the audit is complete, I`ll do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  He never did.  And coming up next, the state lawmaker who is trying to force Donald Trump to either release his taxes or face a very sad political outcome of losing a spot on the ballot.  And later, breaking news on that from the governor of that state next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Breaking news tonight.  Washington Governor and 2020 candidate Jay Inslee has just confirmed to THE BEAT that he is backing a state bill that would actually result if passed in kicking Donald Trump off the ballot in his own state unless he releases his tax returns.  Governor Inslee`s team saying he`s supportive of this new bill and this is not a theoretical.

I`m joined now exclusively by this sponsor the bill, Washington State Senator Patty Kuderer.  Thanks for being here.

SEN. PATTY KUDERER (D), WASHINGTON:  Thank you for having me.

MELBER:  I know we got you hooked up here basically I think initially through Skype because this is important.  You just had progress in getting this partly passed.  And now tonight, what is your reaction to this news that Governor Inslee is on board?

KUDERER:  Well, I`m very happy about it.  It`ll make it easier to get it through the House so it`s good news.

MELBER:  What would your bill do?

KUDERER:  Well, the bill would require a president and vice presidential candidates to release the last five years that they filed at their tax returns.  And remember, this has been information that we`ve had for the last 40 years that candidates have voluntarily provided at first.  A lot of us use that -- many of us use that in vetting our candidates and it`s vital information now in knowing what are the connections that these candidates have.

Now, remember, the President is very different from other elected offices.  I mean, this is the office with your finger on the button.  This is the office that does trade agreements with foreign countries.  You know, this is the office that commands a military.  I think it`s important for us to have that information so that we know exactly who were voting for.

MELBER:  So if this passes the other house in Washington State, it would go to governor Jay Inslee who`s now said tonight he`ll support it.  That means unless a court intervened, any candidate in the general election who didn`t release their tax returns would automatically be removed from the ballot.  So if Donald Trump continues the way he ran last time, that would apply to him.

What if Senator Sanders or someone else is running and doesn`t comply enough with this bill?  Do they also get kicked off the Washington ballot?  Could you have a situation where multiple candidates aren`t voted on in Washington State?

KUDERER:  Of course.  But I mean, not voted on the ballot.  You do remember, we still have writing capability.  Lisa Murkowski won in Alaska like that.  So it`s not like you couldn`t vote for that person if they wanted on the ballot, but yes, I mean, they wouldn`t physically be on the ballot if they don`t provide their tax returns.

MELBER:  It`s a very interesting --

KUDERER:  And it`s really isn`t --

MELBER:  Go ahead.

KUDERER:  Yes, this isn`t a Democratic or Republican issue, Ari.  You know, this is really an American issue.  This is a national dialogue that`s going on around the country.  We have 26 states that are looking at doing this and I`m very proud of the fact that we`ve introduced this legislation and that it`s moving forward.

It shows that Washington continues to be a leader in election reform, you know.  I mean it just builds on what we did last year with expanding access to democracy, the same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, you know, we have --

MELBER:  Let me fit in one more question which is if Jay Inslee is the nominee and stands to benefit from this, is their argument he should actually recuse himself from signing the bill?

KUDERER:  Well, I don`t know how you benefit from it.  If you`re a candidate for president and this is our law, you either comply with the law or you don`t.  And for those who decide --

MELBER:  I just mean, if he -- if he ended up running against Trump.

KUDERER:  Yes -- well, you know, I mean, he happens to be the governor of our state and I think he`s doing an excellent job.  And you know, he`s looking at the legislation not just for 2020, he`s looking at it going into the future.  And this is going to set a precedent, I hope, for other states to follow suit because we can we can`t -- we can`t exactly expect Congress apparently to act on this.

And like I said, this breaks 40 years of tradition where we`ve had this information and come to rely on it.

MELBER:  Washington State Senator Patty Kuderer with a bill that`s making some news, thank you.  And we will be right back.

KUDERER:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: You know, there was one prosecutor Donald Trump called after his election, Preet Bharara.  He was also, as you`ll see right here, the one prosecutor who refused to resign when Trump demanded he go, and he was the fired.  He is my guest tomorrow at 6:00 PM. Eastern on THE BEAT, a big discussion of law and justice in the Trump era.  I hope he`ll join us.

And go anywhere.  "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews and a special edition with Senator Cory Booker is up next.

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