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

Eric Holder on Criminal Justice Reform & Manafort. TRANSCRIPT: 3/27/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Simona Mangiante, George Papadopoulos, Eric Holder

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST:  Perhaps former President Richard Nixon said it best.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Sock it to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  Get it?  Sock.  Yes.  OK.

That is all for tonight.  We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.

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

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

We have a ton to get to in tonight`s show.  Two Mueller witnesses join me together for the very first time discussing their thinks to a suspected Russian spy and why all the lies if there was no conspiracy.  I`m going to put the questions right to them.

And also, for the first time, Eric Holder will talk to us about criminal justice reform and family separations, an interview we haven`t aired yet.

But we begin with breaking news.  Tonight, we have evidence of a possible breakthrough on the future of the Mueller report itself.  Attorney General Bill Barr will testify before the House.  This was announced moments ago by Chairman Jerrold Nadler himself.

He says he spoke to Barr and Barr has now begun describing new aspects of the Mueller report calling it "very substantial" but he didn`t know exactly how many pages.  Barr telling the top Democrat he won`t meet the Tuesday deadline to turn the report over to committee, but they will get it in, according to Barr, a matter of weeks.

And we`re seeing this battle turn to how Mueller`s findings will come out.  You may recall Ken Starr when he sent down those boxes and boxes of evidence, he was operating under a different law.  But the bottom line was the findings, everyone remembers, were going to the House.

Now, as I`ve explained and we could put this up on the screen, what that meant was that Congress was in charge of not only the big decisions but the narrative.  And so through key moments, it was Janet Reno not exactly in charge the way Bill Barr would want to be.  It was, of course, the Congress dealing with this.

Janet Reno was not resolving the questions on obstruction.  That`s a point Senator Chris Murphy is now making as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT:  Just imagine if Ken Starr had handed that had report to Janet Reno instead of Congress and Janet Reno, the president`s attorney general had handed a four-page memo to Republicans to Congress.  Do you think that that would have been acceptable?  How do you think that would have gone over?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Another point that`s going around on the Internet, a California law professor says, "Look, imagine if the Starr report had been provided only to Janet Reno who then read it privately and published a four-page letter based on her private readings stating her conclusion that Clinton committed no crimes?"  That`s from Professor Orin Kerr.

Now, a key person -- this is why the Internet lets everyone talk about it quickly, a key person from that probe also weighing in.  Monica Lewinsky replying to the hypothetical scenario saying, "If f-ing only.  And she certainly experienced plenty of what happened in that investigation.

The bottom line is we are now seeing a few days into the workweek that a four-page letter isn`t going to cut it for Congress to make an informed judgment about what the president did.  And so we`re seeing lawmakers and Jerrold Nadler here pushing on this tonight.

And it makes you think of something that the R&B star Aaliyah once sing about.  You may recall her song about a four-page letter that she wrote to get out her feelings.  She needed the letter to express herself.  Four pages only.

But this is a lot bigger than just someone`s feelings, even someone as important as the attorney general.  This is ultimately about facts.  Congress will need more than the four pages, at least that is what we`re hearing from some of the Democratic leaders.

You may remember Aaliyah said, this was all about what she was going through and her father told her, "Be careful who you choose to love."  Well, the Democrats still trying to be careful thinking about whether they put too much love or faith in the Mueller investigation.  But they won`t know any of that, they`re saying, until they get the results, the evidence from the Mueller investigation.

That`s enough Aaliyah.  Let`s get to our experts.  Maya Wiley is the former counsel to the mayor of New York City.  She also served as a civil prosecutor in the SDNY.  And Michelle Goldberg, a columnist for "The New York Times" who has a new piece pointing out that while there is no criminal collusion, that`s what the evidence showed according to Mueller, there is plenty of corruption and plenty more to get into.

What is your reaction to Nadler pressing Barr, getting this date -- that is breaking news tonight, a date for testimony, that Barr still won`t say how long the report is?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Right.  Which is astonishing.  I mean this a fact that is within Barr`s ability to get obviously.  And the important thing about the page length, right, is that it shows you when Barr releases whatever he is going to release.  It will basically show you how much is missing, which is merely important information.

Can I just say I have watched the last few days this whole thing go down with such open mouth astonishment at the way the media, the way kind of everybody is so quickly capitulated to this frame that was put forward by the Republicans?

They have sort of clearly decided in advance that they were going to declare case closed and anybody who questions it is a conspiracy theorist and you Democrats put way too much faith in Bob Mueller.  I mean maybe.

But the idea that anybody should put any faith in this four-page summary by a guy who was chosen explicitly because he already said that he thought the obstruction inquiry was bogus and has a history of covering up Republican scandals, I mean it is just astonishing that anybody would give credence to what they are doing.

MELBER:  Well, isn`t this a problem with Washington and the media and the Internet which is overreaction, overreaction?  We`ve reported since Friday, and I have a breakdown of this later in tonight`s show, that when you finish a probe and you have no further indictments on conspiracy, that is a significant point and we`ve been reporting that.

And that is good news for the White House.  That is separate from all the other stuff that would be in the report including the obstruction analysis which we do know according to Trump`s own Justice Department, Maya, does not exonerate.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER CIVIL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  Right.  Yes.  What Michelle said.  I mean this is -- the point here is there have to be a public accounting.

And if as the drumbeat that has been beating around the sort of highlight that has been interpreted by Attorney General Barr to the public about the findings in the Mueller report, which as a lawyer which I see cannot establish conspiracy or coordination with Russia, to me, then the question is how close did you get to the evidentiary line?  Or are you really, really far from the evidentiary line of being able to show conspiracy?

That is something that the public has to know.  And saying that you could not establish it does not tell us whether it was exonerated.  Especially when in a different part of the letter, you use the word exonerate.

MELBER:  And what does it mean to you that Barr is making these choices?  Because he can do this.  He is within his lawful authority.  But it seems like it could be a tell.  For example, we`ll put up on the screen, we know the length of the past reports.  The Starr report in 400s of pages.  Iran- Contra, 500 some.

Mueller, a question mark.  And when we learn tonight that Nadler`s best effort to press a person who has subpoena power over, was to "say it is very substantial."  Does that sound to you like over 100 pages?  Why hide this?

WILEY:  I think Michelle called it.  There`s no -- first of all, that is a fact.  That is a simple fact that technically you can do a freedom of information act request on to say just give me the answer to this fact.  And as a legal requirement, they have to tell you the answer to that fact.

And I think Michelle is right.  The only reason not to share that fact is because you are trying to make -- you are trying to obfuscate in some way rather than being transparent.  Remember at his confirmation hearing he said, "I believe in transparency.  I think we should be as transparent with the American public as the law will allow."

MELBER:  And what we`re hearing --

WILEY:  That would be the page count.

MELBER:  Right.  And we don`t have the page count.  What we`re hearing -- I just got an update from the control room from our Hill reporters, according to what Nadler has been putting out is that he now may be in possession of a further briefing from Barr on the agreement or on the expectation of not releasing it.

So they both may know the page count now but we don`t.  The American public doesn`t yet.  And this goes Michelle, also to the question that I`ve been posing.  We have talked to witnesses and fact witnesses and players in this probe from the start.

And some of them are controversial.  And some of them are habitual liars.  And sometimes people say to me why even talk to them.

Well, this is one of those times this week where we look I think pretty thoughtfully on the money for having talked to them this whole time because it gave us insight.  It gave us a sense of what they were doing.

Some of them may have lied for no reason.  Some of them may have been arrogant.  Today, Mark Corallo who was on the team and often on the Trump side talks about what he saw which was acts that really made him panic, he says, because they were so close to obstruction even if it was for no good reason.  Meaning even with absent conspiracy.  For your analysis, listen to this new from Mark.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK CORALLO, FORMER TRUMP LEGAL TEAM SPOKESMAN:  I pointed out that the statement was inaccurate and that there were documents, that I understood there were documents that would prove that.

Hope Hicks replied to me when I said look, there are, you know, there are documents.  She said, "Well, nobody is ever going to see those documents," which, you know, made my throat dry up immediately.  And I just -- at that point, I just said Mr. President, we can`t talk about this anymore.  You got to talk to your lawyers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLDBERG:  Well, to me, the question is whether -- is what Hope Hicks told Mueller, right?  I mean if Hope Hicks lied to -- she kind of said that she was going to lie.  If she actually did lie -- I mean, we know she lied to reporters.  If she actually lied to investigators, then why hasn`t there been a criminal referral for her?

And so again, I think it is why we learn not just about -- it is so crucial that we learn not just why Mueller decided not to pursue obstruction, whether it was just because he thought that it should be left to Congress which is the proper place -- that is the proper place for these things to be adjudicated.

But then we get all the meat, like all the details, all the things that he was weighing when he considered whether or not an obstruction charge might be warranted.

WILEY:  Yes.  I keep getting stuck on this point that that -- when you hear that clip, it is really hard to understand why Robert Mueller did not say for political reasons I think I`m not the person, I don`t think this is the process for resolution because we couldn`t indict anyway.

MELBER:  He may have said that.

WILEY:  Right.  And that`s my point which is very very different from -- this goes back to your Barr -- Attorney Barr question is this is why we can`t just have a filter of Attorney General Barr.

MELBER:  The Aaliyah filter.

WILEY:  The Aaliyah filter.

GOLDBERG:  But I think they`ve successfully, at least for now, created this political sense that this is -- that Democrats, this has been a big embarrassment for them and if they kind of keep litigating this, it`s going to seem like they are grasping for straws or they`re kind of going down rabbit holes.

And so I think that they have successfully created a disincentive to actually get to the bottom of what happened.

MELBER:  Right.  I`ve got to fit in a break with everything going on.  Michelle Goldberg and Maya Wiley, thank you both.

Coming up as promised, I have a Special report on what we know and what we don`t know about the Mueller report.  Some people are calling it confusing.  We`re going to get right down to the facts.

And then my interview with two Mueller witnesses who got married during all of this brought together by what they describe as an alleged spy who has since vanished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  You both met this Mifsud character who is now missing in action.  And they don`t really believe you guys?

SIMONA MANGIANTE, WIFE OF GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS:  We end up thinking that we killed him.

MELBER:  As a journalist, I`ll ask, did you have anything do with his disappearance?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That is tonight.  And as if that wasn`t enough, Attorney General Eric Holder is back.  Our discussion that has not aired before about criminal justice reform, family separations, and what Democrats can do he says to make democracy more fair.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  All right.  Let`s do this.  You and me.  Let`s get into the question that has been riveting the nation this week since Special Counsel Mueller finished his probe on Friday.  How does this end?

Comedians have started saying the punchline is that all of this is really confusing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE:  All I know is I haven`t been this confused about an ending since the series finale of Lost.  I really - I don`t know what -- it is kind of funny though.  Half of America is upset that our president didn`t collude with Russia.  Seems like we should probably be happy about that, shouldn`t we?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Kimmel captures two points there.  It is a good thing for America that there was no chargeable election conspiracy.  And yes, for some, things may seem confusing.  This is actually way more opaque than the show Lost.

If Mueller`s report is the season finale to Lost, then Bill Barr`s letter is like the TiVo description of Lost`s last episode.  How confusing would that be?

Which goes to the most important thing about understanding Mueller`s findings.  We don`t have them yet.  But like any special counsel probe, we`ve always known there are two main legal mechanisms to assess what Mueller found.

Indictments, which show where there was evidence enough to charge people criminally and the Mueller report.  Now tonight, as of this moment, outside of DOJ, people have only one of these things so far, the indictments.  And they reveal everything Mueller found that he could criminally charge.

So when the probe ended Friday, we knew anything that had not been charged was not getting charged by Mueller.  And that is a point we reported upfront Friday and throughout this busy weekend for legal news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  He did not find chargeable collusion conspiracy.  There was not a collusion election conspiracy.  It is time to acknowledge there is no chargeable collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That was all weekend and that was good news for Trump and for the nation.  And we know that from the indictments.

It also undercuts Trump critics who were insisting there was maybe a collusion conspiracy before the criminal evidence was in.  It does not legally undercut any of the previous extensive work done by Mueller who busted a crime spree by Trump advisors ranging from Trump`s lawyer and top campaign officials to his longest-serving political adviser.

Mueller is so effective his work has already resulted in Trump having the highest rate of indictments for his aides than any president ever.  This fact co-exists with no chargeable conspiracy.  So the crimes charged on your screen are a reminder of why it is odd for Trump fans to celebrate a lot about the probe this week.

Trump busted for hiring more crooks than most presidents ever do in two full terms.  And that is just the American side.  Mueller also indicting 12 Russians, exposing tactics, both for accountability and to educate the public, an operation that the sitting president would still go on to deny.

So if you take what we know from the indictments, there are still these major questions that remain that are mysterious like why so many lies if there was no conspiracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, MORNING JOE:  Why would Donald Trump lie About Russia?  What was the press to report on when all these lies were tumbling out of the mouth of all of these Trump aides?  They lied about the Russians nonstop for two years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Nonstop lies, according to one of my colleagues there.  And he makes a very good point.  Mueller`s finished, so it makes you want to ask these people around Trump why were you lying?

I did that exact thing.  I asked that question when we had the first person ever convicted in the Mueller probe on, George Papadopoulos, last night for his first MSNBC appearance ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Do you understand why people watching this find this to be hard to believe you because, during the probe, you were downplaying all these Russian contacts?  Now, there is no chargeable collusion and people are thinking, why did you play it down?

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, FORMER TRUMP AIDE:  I tried to explain it.  I was trying to distance myself from my I guess stupid activities and I didn`t want to involve other people.

MELBER:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  OK.  For some lower level people, the lies were to cover their "stupid activities or mistakes" or try to keep their bosses out of it.  That is some people.  For other Trump associates, lying to the government seemed second nature.

When I pressed Mueller witness Jerome Corsi about his original plan to help Roger Stone mislead Congress, he admitted their original attempt.  They were going to lie.  And he said he ultimately told Mueller`s investigators the truth about that lie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  How did they react to this other defense that you made on behalf of Roger Stone which is you agreed to help Roger mislead Congress about how he found out about Podesta?

JEROME CORSI, LONG TIME TRUMP ALLY:  Well, see, in fact, that was the first -- there are two rounds of this that I went through.  Round one, I openly discussed that with them and admitted it all because it was true.  I was telling the truth.

MELBER:  You were telling them the truth about a lie?

CORSI:  No.  Well, OK, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Yes.  He admitted to lying.  And then there are the more senior Trump advisors convicted of obstruction crimes like lying to investigators or Congress which were linked to cover-ups related to Trump.  Think of Cohen or Manafort.

Michael Cohen lying to Congress about things that weren`t indicted in this probe such as how he and candidate Trump sought business in Moscow and lied to the public about it right during the campaign.  Cohen also misled Congress about -- or misled I should say the public about things that were crimes.

Michael Cohen misled the public about what he later confessed to, a campaign finance crime.  Now, until we see the Mueller report, we don`t know what Mueller found about other things that people may have tried to cover up.  Again, separate from what we do know which is no chargeable conspiracy.

For example, what drove Trump`s glowing embrace of Putin in Helsinki, backing up Putin`s denials for the evidence of meddling that Mueller was showing in these indictments.  What drove Trump to brief top Russian officials about firing James Comey when they had their weird oval office meeting with no U.S. press?

Why did Trump personally dictate the statement that misled the public about the infamous Trump Tower meeting?  Those things sound like potential evidence of obstruction of justice because those things are potential evidence of obstruction of justice.

Trump`s own attorney general concedes they are evidence of potential obstruction of justice.  Because in the very little that he did release about Mueller`s report, he still told the world, A, Mueller included evidence of obstruction against Trump.  And, B, Mueller concluded in writing that Trump was not exonerated on obstruction.

So to repeat the legal situation we are in, based on what we know, this week, no chargeable conspiracy, open case on obstruction.

A former prosecutor who Trump tried to cultivate in his home jurisdiction of SDNY, Preet Bharara, he cites this record to note that Mueller clearly found substantial evidence of obstruction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREET BHARARA, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  With respect to the second part of the Mueller report on obstruction, I think that is where there is some troublesome language in the letter.  It is clear that Bob Mueller found substantial evidence of obstruction.

Almost by definition, there is substantial evidence if you think it is such a close question you can`t make a decision about whether or not the president committed a crime.  Bob Mueller made it clear to say this does not exonerate the president.  So that raises a lot of questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Substantial evidence.  Like Trump pressing Comey not to investigate Mike Flynn who later confessed to a crime.  Like Trump firing Comey with a written false reason.  Then Trump confessing the real reason was Russia.

Like Trump attacking Comey`s replacement McCabe and driving him out of the DOJ or Trump attacking Mueller`s entire probe or discouraging people from cooperating with law enforcement or calling them rats.

Or praising criminal defendants who didn`t testify honestly.  Or talking up the pardon power in the middle of the probe.  Or asking White House staff to fire Bob Mueller, something Nixon famously tried as well.

People do jail time for far less than that.  Ask Michael Cohen or ask Paul Manafort in whichever jurisdiction you want.  So the special counsel already probed that, and uncovered other secret obstruction evidence, and wrote it up in his report.

Anyone telling you they have a view of that evidence without access to the report is not worth listening to.  That includes Trump defenders who are already claiming an exoneration on obstruction that they didn`t get even according to Trump`s own attorney general.  But it also includes Trump critics claiming they know that Mueller threw the book at Trump on the obstruction case so they know how it should end.

Now, I`ve heard some people say this part can be confusing.  That`s one way to put it.  Another way to put it is you just can`t write a book report for a book you haven`t read.

So these remaining holes and questions are not confusing defects in this process.  They are the process until Congress sees the report.

So before Friday, no matter what was charged or not charged on conspiracy, let`s just have some real talk.  It is not like legal experts were waiting around to study a few partial selective quotes from the report.  And no one ever even knew Barr would take this approach to selective quoting.

Now, Barr can lawfully do that as I`ve mentioned in our reporting throughout.  Like it or not, the attorney general can share his views with Congress and the public and everyone can see them.

And his views matter.  He is the attorney general.  He oversees the special counsel probe.  But for learning what Mueller found over his 22-month investigation -- again, there are these two sources, the indictments and the report.  Not the indictments, the report, and a weekend letter from a Trump appointee.  It`s the indictments and the report, period.

So the theme this week doesn`t actually have to be confusing.  I think it`s more like waiting.  Waiting for the report.  And the bottom line here is that with Mueller ending the probe with the 37 indictments, he closed the door on a chargeable conspiracy.

And as I`ve noted during the whirling of news since Friday, I`ll say it again because I do think some things are worth repeating, in an era when there is so much talk about who should stand up for facts or principles regardless of political pleasure, a sentiment often aimed this day understandably at Congressional Republicans, this is a time for people to acknowledge no chargeable conspiracy.

Even if that doesn`t agree with the given political angle or sentiment, it is a time to acknowledge Mueller`s findings and analysis on obstruction also only can be assessed when we get them, which is why this is actually clearer than the season finale of Lost.

Maybe it`s a little bit more like a great line from the Social Network movie where the Facebook founder character says, "If you were the inventor of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook."  There was no chargeable conspiracy.

And on obstruction, the way to understand Mueller`s findings is to wait until we see Mueller`s findings.  I wanted to share that with you and the world as we all think this through this week.

Now, up ahead, I have a lot of things we`re excited to show you.  Our interview with former Attorney General Eric Holder, what he calls a civil rights issue of our time tonight.

And first, our interview with these married Mueller witnesses about a spy mystery and why they tell me that they might name their baby after, guess who, Bob Mueller when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  The Mueller probe is over.  The Mueller report will go to Congress within weeks.  And some Mueller witnesses are talking.  From James Comey weighing in tonight to George Papadopoulos who famously pitched the Trump- Putin meeting and who helped spark the Russia probe by talking to a diplomat about a conversation with an ambassador, this diplomat, about, yes, Clinton stolen e-mails, setting off the investigation.

He also conferred with Professor Joseph Mifsud who was investigated as a potential spy for Russian interest and who has since disappeared.  The plot thickens further when you realize that that alleged spy Mifsud became the link between Papadopoulos and his wife, Simona Mangiante, who Mueller also interviewed.

Tonight, on THE BEAT, we turn to both of these witnesses.  Thanks to both of you for sitting down with me together.

PAPADOPOULOS:  Thanks, Ari.

MANGIANTE:  Nice to be back.  Thank you for inviting us.

MELBER:  We spoke during the probe.  Now, we are here after seeing Bob Mueller find that there was no chargeable collusion conspiracy.  Was that something that you expected all along?

MANGIANTE:  In the beginning of this investigation, I was very confused.  I didn`t know exactly what to expect and I could not exclude that any collusion took place.  Once --

MELBER:  You were open -- early on you were open to the idea that who knows what they will find?

MANGIANTE:  Yes.  And I always had as a direct witness involved in the investigation interviewed by the FBI, I always said that there were many professionals doing a very accurate job.  I mean they really did because they knew me naked.

I mean everything concerning my work in Europe.  They knew everything.  So my perception was that they were very accurate.  And probably this report is the result of such accuracy from my point of view.

MELBER:  There was this individual, Mifsud, that we`ve heard a bit about.  We wonder whether the ultimate Mueller report will detail what was going on with him.

It appeared early on, George, walk us through this, that you and him were talking about a crime.  I don`t think that is in debate.  The question was the fruits of that crime, the hacking of the Clinton e-mails.  Explain.

PAPADOPOULOS:  Yes.  So about -- so how did I meet Joseph Mifsud?  Well, she actually knew him for years before I first met him.  So I don`t know -- but -- so I met him in Rome. I think I mentioned it earlier.

MELBER:  Through Simona?

PAPADOPOULOS:  No.  Through this lady named (INAUDIBLE) who was the FBI`s counsel in the U.K. quite frankly.

MELBER:  So is it a coincidence that both of you met Mifsud separately.

MANGIANTE:  Yes, it is.  And it`s why I always thought that his interest in me was more legitimate.

PAPADOPOULOS:  I know where you`re going with those.

MANGIANTE:  Our life is full of old coincidences and --

MELBER:  Do you understand people look at this and they look at the two of you and now you`re married and you both met this Mifsud character who is now missing in action and they don`t really believe you guys?

MANGIANTE:  We end up thinking we killed him.

MELBER:  As a journalist, I ask, did you have anything to do with his disappearance?

MANGIANTE:  No.  That`s not -- but the fact that he disappeared is a highly suspicious and it confirms my intuition that he`s definitely linked to some sort of intelligence.  No human can --

MELBER:  He`s linked to somebody`s intelligence.

MANGIANTE:  I think Western today.  I`m pretty confident to say it`s Western intelligence.

MELBER:  Now, here`s the thing about that the idea that.  The might be a spy who`s up to no good is one conclusion.  Do you have that view of him?

MANGIANTE:  Yes, I do.

MELBER:  Do you?

PAPADOPOULOS:  I do. 

MELBER:  Then the idea of who he is a spy for, or is he a double agent, or is he tricking people, if the spy is good, by definition you`re not supposed to know who he`s working for.

MANGIANTE:  That`s true.  But --

MELBER:  So is it possible that he`s a spy for Russian interests?

MANGIANTE:  Well, I never excluded though I provided with some factual argument related to his the known connection, public connection which are link campus Italian government, Clinton`s, which lead me to believe that the lists that had no interest whatsoever to help Trump winning the direction.

I knew Mifsud for years.  I met him at European Parliament where I was working for the socialist group, so I come from a very different background than George.

MELBER:  When did you start to suspect he could be a spy?

MANGIANTE:  When he hired me for the London Center of International Law Practice.

MELBER:  So you knowingly work for him while thinking he might be a spy.

MANGIANTE:  Well, I started to perceive all things going on and that`s why I left after three months.  And today I definitely see that this London Center was a cover-up.

MELBER:  When did you start to think he might be a spy and when did you two realize you`d met him independently?

PAPADOPOULOS:  So I started to think there`s something off about the guy.  He`s up to no good.  I don`t characterize him as a spy exactly, but maybe just somebody with inside info because he was very well-connected around the world, at least that`s what he told me.  So I started to see that around the time he told me about the hacked e-mails.

MELBER:  Too well-connected for a random professor?

MANGIANTE:  That`s my perception.

PAPADOPOULOS:  Just like Stefan Halper was also this professor at Cambridge who was also very well-connected as we later find out.  So it`s a story of a lot of decoys, cover-ups, a lot of disinformation out there.  But I will say Mueller did give us a golden nugget about Mifsud during my sentencing memo -- or was it my -- yes, the sentencing memo where he stated that George Papadopoulos was under the impression that Mifsud was a Russian agent.

He never categorically described Mifsud as a Russian agent.  He left it to my discretion basically saying that this guy was fooled into believing Joseph Mifsud was a Russian agent.  It`s public.  Just -- you could look at it.

MELBER:  Well, let`s get into it.  Mueller didn`t want to tip his hand at that juncture so he`s referring to your belief which might go to your actions but he`s not saying either way.  And you`ve said that Mueller operates professionally.

I mean, Simona, I`m going to play for you when we talked about this during probe and you were both Mueller witnesses.  You basically said they were honorable and factual.  If they`re factual and honorable, then they can`t also be entrapping you.

MANGIANTE:  I would like to answer this question first because I had an experience with the Mueller team.  They never made up fantasies as many journalists do all the time about my Russian origins, my accent, and my spy role in this you know, the spy wife.  No.  They were always very professional, very factual.  All their concern were more than legitimate because as I said, many coincidences.

I happen to finish working for Mifsud who was the one starting the Russia gate and then marry George Papadopoulos was the one who this information was delivered to, right.  And I do it in a very specific moment. 

MELBER:  This is --

MANGIANTE:  I deliver to --

MELBER:  You guys realize this is weird right?

MANGIANTE:  It is super weird.

MELBER:  Super weird.  OK.  At least we can all agree on that.

PAPADOPOULOS:  It`s a bizarre world.

MANGIANTE:  He want to call our son (INAUDIBLE)

MELBER:  You`re going to -- you want to name your future baby --

MANGIANTE:  Joseph Jr.  No I`m not joking, but I understand it`s now it`s very odd and I respect their work and their interests because of course, I come from a police background --

MELBER:  That`s what we got to call it.  I mean, if you respect their work and they`re not entrapping your husband --

MANGIANTE:  But then -- but then when I started to look into this case, I started to notice a number of discrepancies.  And so as far as they were honestly concerned by me, they were concerned to know how much I knew Mifsud, how much I knew about Mifsud or if I was working with Mifsud.  That`s my question today.

MELBER:  So this brings us back to something that you still haven`t answered as best I could tell.  When did you talk to each other and realize you independently met Mifsud.

PAPADOPOULOS:  I was working on the campaign.  I think it was July of 2016.  So two months after that, she`s then working for this London Centre for International Law Practice where I had left about five months before, and I contact her.  I`m like, hey, you`re working at this place.  You know, I thought she was hot, then I said you know what, you`re getting this please but I want to ask you something about this Mifsud guy.  There`s something off about him.  What do you know about him?  Because I was trying to have suspicions.

MANGIANTE:  And I remember I had just -- I mean, I really -- in the beginning, I was trying to understand that not Mifsud because at the time and my view was a professor, very well connected, that he had occasion to meet many times before.

MELBER:  So you too would not have met, fell in love, and got married without this now missing potentially alleged spy?

MANGIANTE:  That`s true.  It`s correct.

PAPADOPOULOS:  He`s our cupid.  What can I say?

MANGIANTE:  That`s why I want to name our little Josepha and I`m sorry if something happened to him.

MELBER:  Well, as they -- as they say in the business, this is why you watch.

PAPADOPOULOS:  This is why you watch.  That`s awesome.

MELBER:  George Papadopoulos, Simona Mangiante, good to have you on THE BEAT.

PAPADOPOULOS:  Thanks a lot, Ari.  We -- I like that.  We love that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER:  Well, that was great.  And we have more.  Former Attorney General Eric Holder, our interview airing for the first time next and what his passion is, what he`s devoting himself to, and what he said Republicans tried to do to Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  And now we turn to my exclusive interview with former Attorney General Eric Holder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER:  You have worked in and out of office on the issues of racism, criminal justice, and reform.  We`ve talked about this before as you have with many people.  Let`s look at something you said to me in our 2014 interview about mistakes in that field.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  We heard I think a little in need the war on drugs and going too far.  With regard to some of the sentences, it`s time to pull back just a bit.  We need to have proportionate penalties and the ability for a recognition that you can make a mistake, rehabilitate yourself, and then come back and be a productive citizen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  You call it smart on crime, we`re five years later how far along do you think America is on those reforms, halfway, less than halfway?

HOLDER:  Well, you know, I`d say that we should be in a much -- we should be further along than we actually are.  The reality is that many of the reforms that I`ve put in place as Attorney General were dismantled by -- you know, by Sessions, Jeff Sessions.

MELBER:  Yes.

HOLDER:  And that has put a real -- I think a real impediment to the progress that we should have made.  Now the first step back has certainly been passed.  It is only a first step.  It doesn`t go nearly as far as what we did in the Obama Administration.

MELBER:  Can I ask you something I think you may not answer?  I wonder whether you look at that and you think, six years you were pounding the pavement to try to get bipartisan solutions.  How do you feel about it happening now?

HOLDER:  Well, you know, it`s interesting because it was a bipartisan issue.  I mean, I remember having a meeting in my conference room who I had representatives of the Koch brothers, the Tea Party, along with the ACLU, and Center for American Progress, and everybody was on the same page.

And we couldn`t get Congress to do that which was appropriate in which they have now done at least in part with regard to the first step back.

MELBER:  Is that because the Republicans just didn`t want you to succeed on that?

HOLDER:  A couple things.  I think there was that.  They didn`t want Obama or Holder to succeed and beyond that.  They liked the issue of being able to say the Democrats you know, soft on crime in spite of the fact that many of their supporters were in favor of the reforms.

MELBER:  I want to show you the federal incarceration rate which is dropping as you may know down in 2016 to a rate of 860 from 1,000 per 100,000 adults.  Does that mean that there`s less punishment but the racial injustice is persist?

HOLDER:  It certainly means that we are bringing our incarceration down and more in line with the rest of the industrialized world.  You know five percent of people in the world live in the United States of America and 25 percent of all the people are incarcerated around the world or incarcerated here in the United States of America.

You know, I think we have to do look at those numbers and see whether or not we`re making progress on the racial front.  You know, the rate of incarceration is down.  I`d have to look at some statistics and see whether or not that imbalanced -- that racial imbalance that we saw certainly in the federal system where similarly situated defendants, a black defendant would get a sentence was 20 percent longer than white counterparts and see whether or not that in fact has changed.

MELBER:  When you look at the cash bail system in the United States, it seems to punish the poor and minorities who are presumed as innocent as anyone else.  You know the stats but I want to make sure people see.  African-Americans more likely to have to pay cash bail and African American defendants tend to receive bail amounts that are 10,000 greater than white defendants.  How can that still be going on in America?

HOLDER:  Well, there -- let`s start from a basic.  Race is still a prime determinant in this country.  We`ve not gotten to the place where we need to be when it comes to dealing with all things racial.  Bobby Kennedy in 1962 I believe it was held a conference on dealing with a bail problem.  We did 150 years later.  We call it a bail symposium to deal with this issue.

We here in Washington D.C. in our local system only detain people on two bases.  One, you are danger to the community or you are not likely to reappear for your next court appearance.  That should be the standard, not your economic ability to come up with a cash bond.

MELBER:  I`m thinking about the judges who assess to Paul Manafort.  And as you know, people who said oh, well, one of the judges was good and the other wasn`t, but both judges assessed him as this sort of courtly grandfatherly figure.

Judge Jackson said that he didn`t seem likely to reoffend when Manafort had reoffended after his charges.  And I thought, would any judge -- again, I don`t want to single a single judge out, but would those judges be as likely to say that about a first-time young black male offender?

HOLDER:  You know, I don`t want to talk about the judges -- those judges in particular but I do worry that judges like everybody -- all other Americans carry with them implicit biases and especially in the criminal justice sphere.

MELBER:  How do you fix it?

HOLDER:  Well, you certainly have to have training.  You have to make people aware over the fact that they do carry these biases and make them understand that you know, if you see an African-American defendant in front of you, that`s going to probably trigger things in your mind unconsciously, subconsciously.

And you`re perhaps going to treat that person differently than somebody who shows up in a tie and has you know a great lawyer that they have paid for even maybe cut that person a break that you wouldn`t otherwise give to a Hispanic or African-American defendant.

People have to be just aware of that.  And then that training has to -- has to continue.  But then these are the kinds of things that all of us as Americans have to deal with because we all carry this racial baggage.  I think the younger generation to a lesser degree than people in my generation but it is still there.

MELBER:  In our limited time left, I want to do redistricting.  You`re taking all of this experience you have and you`re focused on redistricting, why?

HOLDER:  Redistricting happens every ten years, it will happen 2021.  If you care about reproductive rights, if you care about criminal justice reform, if you care about health care, if you care about protecting the right to vote, stopping voter suppression, all of those things ultimately are dependent on who is in our state legislatures.

Then we have these gerrymandered state legislatures.  You look at Wisconsin for instance.  Democrats got 54 percent of the vote, get only 36 percent of the seats in the Wisconsin State Legislature.  That overly Republican Wisconsin state legislature does a whole variety of things, tries to shorten the number of days that people can vote, takes crazy positions when it comes to reproductive rights, doesn`t pass gun -- sane gun safety measures.

So if you care about those individual issues, my job is to try to make people understand that they are directly tied to redistricting.

MELBER:  So to you this is bigger than any of those other policies as you mentioned because it`s underneath all of them.

HOLDER:  It`s the foundation for all of those other concerns and it is from my perspective.  This whole question of making sure that everybody has the opportunity to vote and that their vote gets counted in an appropriate way, that`s the civil rights issue I believe of our time.

MELBER:  There`s a lot of talk about America being a leader in as a "democracy" in the 1800s when women and African Americans couldn`t vote.  What kind of democracy is that?

HOLDER:  Well, that`s exactly right.  That`s what I hear these things about let`s make America great again.  I think of myself, well, exactly when did you think America was great?  It certainly wasn`t when people were enslaved, it certainly wasn`t when women didn`t have the right to vote, it certainly wasn`t when the LGBT community was denied the rights to which it was entitled.

MELBER:  Does that phrase echo as discrimination in your ears?

HOLDER:  It takes us back to I think an American past that never in fact really existed in this notion of greatness.  You know, I mean, America has done superb things, has done great things, and it has been a leader in you know, a whole range of things, but we`re always a work in process.  And you know, looking back make America great again is inconsistent with who we are as Americans that our best where we look at the uncertain future, embrace it, and make it our own.

MELBER:  It`s very interesting hearing you put it that way.  Attorney General Eric Holder, thanks for coming on THE BEAT.  I love talking with you.

HOLDER:  Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MELBER:  And ahead, we turn to a very important story Donald Trump`s Education Secretary rebuked an uproar over a proposal to literally gut the funding for the Special Olympics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  News tonight on the Trump administration`s proposal to defund the Special Olympics.  This is coming one day after Education Secretary DeVos struggle to defend the idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN:  Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut Madame Secretary?

BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, UNITED STATES:  Mr. Pocan, let me just say again, we had make -- we had to make some difficult decisions with this budget.

POCAN:  Again, this is a question of how many kids, not about the budget.

DEVOS:  I don`t know about the number of kids.  I also know that I --

POCAN:  OK, it`s 272,000 kids.  That`s -- I`ll answer it for you.  That`s OK.  No problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Those are some numbers and this is what we know.  The plan would have eliminated every penny of Special Olympics funding from the federal government.  That`s $18 million.  It`s a program in which 3 million Americans have participated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m proud of my girls because of the people that they were becoming.  They don`t see difference in anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Pure joy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I love the excitement, total laugh.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Definitely a personal experience.  I`ve got McKenna who`s my daughter, seven months old and she`s got Down syndrome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think everybody should experience these Olympic champions for themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Everyone should experience those Olympic champions according to people who`ve participated.  It`s a nice sentiment we wanted to show you.  And the fact is the Trump administration doesn`t agree with that goal in their proposed budget.

And that could have been where things landed.  But the update tonight is there is a sliver of bipartisan news here.  Today, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached an agreement to continue the funding for the program.  The Trump administration`s budget reveals their view of spending priorities and this news tonight on this issue reveals Congress` priorities.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  I want to tell you about one more thing before I go that we are excited about.  Tomorrow we will be joined for the first time as a presidential candidate by Senator Kristen Gillibrand.  She`s released her tax returns.  She says Trump should do the same.  We`re going to get to all of it.

And I will be joined by Mueller witness Randy Credico, Person Number Two, a key witness in what is still the looming trial of Roger Stone.  We`re going to talk about everything he knows and why he says he has ideas about what is in the Mueller report because he was in the grand jury room.

That`s it for us.  "HARDBALL" is up next.

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