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Eric Holder talks 2020 democrats. TRANSCRIPT: 4/1/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Daniel Alonso, John Flannery, Julian Epstein, Neal Katyal, EricHolder

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST:  Be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.  But first, that newsletter you got to sign up for.

In the meantime, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.  Ari, I read the "MEET THE PRESS" newsletter formally first read every morning.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Best way to start the day.

TUR:  Just FYI.

MELBER:  Best way to start the day.

TUR:  I do genuinely do that because I think it`s a good framing.  I`m not just selling it because I`m sitting in this chair.

MELBER:  Do you ever read anything still in print, like a print newspaper or no?

TUR:  No, I don`t.  I have it on my phone which is awful because I like it in my -- I like holding a newspaper in my hands much more than I like reading it off my cell phone.  You learn so much more.

MELBER:  I do a print -- yes, I do a print newspaper every morning, all seven days.

TUR:  That is why you, Ari Melber, Are the best.

MELBER:  Always nice to see you, Katy.

TUR:  You too.

MELBER:  We have a lot of ground to cover tonight.  The House Democrats escalating the standoff over whether people in Congress or around the nation are going to see Bob Mueller`s findings.  They have a new plan to specifically force the attorney general, a plan to subpoena him for the full unredacted report.  We`re going to get into that.

And the man who wrote the special counsel rules will be here.  He has begun to sound a sort of an alarm.  He says that Barr has been deeply troubling in the way that he has handled at least the obstruction issue.

Neal Katyal is here and we`re actually debuting a new special that will be appearing on THE BEAT.  I`m going to tell you about that and why we`re excited about it later in the show.

Then there is this bombshell whistleblower who says the Trump administration has actually mishandled at least 25 different security clearances, all raising questions about national security and Jared Kushner, who has been in a lot of hot water over clearances.

But we begin with this fastball tonight from House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, anticipating that Mr. Barr over at DOJ will not meet the Democrats` deadline set for tomorrow to release this entire Mueller report.  Now, Barr has said, of course, that a redacted version is coming this month, or starting tomorrow -- starting today I should say, mid-April.

Now, today, Nadler said a vote for Wednesday that would move forward to subpoena the whole thing and any other related evidence that Mueller gathered and documents from five former Trump White House officials.

Now they`re making explicit one issue on his mind, obstruction, saying that they want information from these five individuals you see on your screen.  That includes Don McGahn who according to "The New York Times" helped prevent Donald Trump from committing what would have been an element of obstruction, the attempted firing of Bob Mueller himself.

And Hope Hicks involved in conversations about responding to reports on the Trump Tower meeting.  Her own colleagues have said that she was trying to hide evidence at least at one point in the process.

And then you have Bannon involved in the talks with Trump in the run-up to firing Comey.  That`s an act that Bannon always claims he opposed from the start.


MELBER:  Walk us through the day he was fired.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER CHIEF ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP:  The day he was fired I see it on T.V. like everybody else.

MELBER:  What did you think?

BANNON:  I thought -- I said I thought it was a big mistake and I thought it would lead to a special counsel.  I mean I was pretty -- I think everything I said at the time basically worked itself out.  t was going to lead to a special counsel.


MELBER:  It did lead to a special counsel.  And Nadler saying that is part of why they want the hear from these specific people, including ultimately Bob Mueller.  Now, Donald Trump`s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney says that Mueller intended for Barr to intervene on obstruction.


MICK MULVANEY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Mr. Barr gets to handle this.  That`s how the law works.  What you saw here is simply Mueller saying, "You know what?  I`m going to let Barr call this one."  He had plenty of evidence to say on collusion absolutely not and he actually punted over to Barr.  Again, that`s the way the system can and does work.


MELBER:  It`s certainly one way the system can work.  The claim though by Donald Trump`s chief of staff that they know what Mueller did, that he "punted" without having seen the report leaves open a lot of questions unless they`ve been briefed by Barr.

Now, tonight, the absence of the report appears to be in its own way an attempt to try to frame what is in the report, and that is before anyone has actually seen all of Mueller`s findings.

I`m joined first by Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York City and a civil prosecutor from SDNY.  And Daniel Alonso, a former federal prosecutor and also a former top official in the Manhattan D.A.`s office.  And we will turn soon to some other Washington experts.

But beginning here, Maya, it does seem like the country has had a speed course in how the DOJ deals with these things.  And the big question is what does it mean that Bob Mueller did the analysis on obstruction the way that Barr says he did?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER CIVIL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  I think it means we need to see the full report because the bottom line is you have a special counsel for the purpose of some degree of independence in making the process, not a political one, but a legal one.

The attorney general obviously under the Regs has the power to decide what is turned over, what is made public or whether to keep it confidential.  But in this instance, if you have the special counsel, the person that the public is looking to be the nonpartisan to not represent anyone else`s interest but the interests of the people, and then he punts, you kind of want to know who`s spinning the football.

DANIEL ALONSO, FORMER CHIEF OF CRIMINAL DIVISION, U.S. ATTORNEY`S OFFICE EDNY:  Yes, I agree with Maya.  It was surprising to me that the special counsel, whose entire job is to be a prosecutor and make a prosecutive decision, decided to punt, as Maya puts it.

And I think that we don`t know why that is.  I don`t think Mick Mulvaney knows why that is.

MELBER:  What is the special counsel under these rules in your view supposed to do if there is a lot of evidence of obstruction, but the policy is not to indict a sitting president?

ALONSO:  I think you`re supposed to write that but that`s not what the attorney general says that Mueller said.  He said that Mueller did a little bit of this, a little bit of that, on the one hand, on the other hand, and then he decided not to make a decision and therefore left the vacuum where the attorney general --

MELBER:  But what decision would that be if you write that out?

ALONSO:  If you write that out, the decision could be you could imagine it being either hey, there is not enough evidence of obstruction, or hey, there is enough evidence and under ordinary rules, I would indict this person but there is this policy that says you can`t indict a sitting president.

I could also imagine hey, this is a really big decision to say that or to decide to charge a sitting president in the absence of that policy and leave that to the attorney general.  I can see that as well.

WILEY:  Yes.  And I agree with Dan.  What you can say is this one`s close to the line.  It`s Congress` call whether or not they think a sitting president should be subject to some sort of process, and certainly make publicly available to the public what in fact they found.

So the idea here that the attorney general might hide behind, say, Rule 6(e), which is the rule that says you keep grand jury materials secret, would hide behind that in order, in this case, after saying he was for transparency to keep the public from seeing the evidence that Robert Mueller saw that led him to say, "Eh, you decide."

ALONSO:  Well, I would gently push back on Maya on Rule 6(e).  I mean I don`t think the attorney general has the authority on his own to decide that Rule 6(e) material that`s grand jury material which is secret by law, can`t be turn over to Congress.

He needs a court to do that.  And it`s not clear that a court absolutely has the authority to do that.

WILEY:  OK.  So, Dan, you`re right.  The process is that the attorney general seeks a court order.  There is a precedent for this.  It`s called Richard Nixon.

It`s also called Hastings.  Remember Alcee Hastings?

MELBER:  Sure.

WILEY:  Federal judge acquitted of a crime.  And yet there was a release of grand jury material for the purposes of oversight.

So why in this case there would not be sufficient public interest for a court to say yes, we`re going to find that in this case.  I mean yes, it would be up to the court.  But an attorney general that says they`re in favor of transparency would seek the ability to do it.

ALONSO:  And I think I`m willing like Benjamin Wittes wrote today that we can get the benefit of the doubt.  In other words, let`s see what he redacts and let`s see what he says his plans are in terms of seeking a court order.

I mean I think there are arguments against the court granting the order notwithstanding the president that Maya cites.  But I think that there`s a very good argument they should grant it.

MELBER:  Do you think Bob Mueller wrote the report in such a way that it would be easy to segment out the grand jury material?

ALONSO:  We once spoke about that, you and I.  And the issue is I would think they were.

MELBER:  I`ll never forget it.

ALONSO:  If they`re being smart, they would do it that way, right?  They would write it in a way that it can be cleaved.

This is the grand jury information.  This is not so it can be relatively quickly redacted.  That would have been what I would think they would do.

WILEY:  And at a minimum, knowing the witnesses, because Congress does have the ability to call witnesses that were called before the grand jury as Representative Nadler has done, to say tell us what you know about obstruction.

MELBER:  What does the end game look like on a redaction fight?  I mean if Barr holds the line and a redacted report comes in, the big question is, was it redacted in a fair way or was it redacted to simply protect Donald Trump and other individuals?  What is the end of the line on that?

They -- a subpoena fight could take a very long time, but you could subpoena Bob Mueller, and he has some need and interest to show up and say well, were these fair redactions or not?

ALONSO:  Well, Mueller could answer those questions to the Congress.  What he couldn`t do is say what`s under the black tape, right?  He is not allowed to do that any more than Barr is.

MELBER:  But can he give a judgment about whether it seems required or not?

ALONSO:  Well, this is a gray area.  I think different people think of it differently.

MELBER:  Actually, Dan, I think it`s -- I would say a black area.

ALONSO:  I would say yes.

MELBER:  I just want to be clear that`s a redaction joke.

ALONSO:  It`s a redaction joke that only a lawyer could love.

MELBER:  Right.

WILEY:  I`m a lawyer.  I loved it.

ALONSO:  I think that he could be asked, "Mr. Mueller, are you familiar with the redactions?  Do you believe they are fair, yes or no?"  I think probably he could answer that question.  I don`t think he can say what`s under the black tape.

WILEY:  I agree with Dan.  And I think if I`m Robert Mueller, I would feel very uncomfortable sitting in that seat because he is obviously for whatever reason made a decision to pull himself out of what may be a political fight.

ALONSO:  Right.

MELBER:  Well, I think it was also Dan who a long time ago said to me the action is where the redaction is.  Do you remember that?  It was a terrible joke you made.  I think you made it.

ALONSO:  I`ll never forget it.

MELBER:  Full circle, kumbayah.  And America waits because really, everything that`s happened up to even tonight is actually waiting to see what`s in those hundreds of pages that Mueller wrote up.

Our thanks to both you for your expertise, Dan and Maya.

We turn now as promised in Washington, former Federal Prosecutor John Flannery, counsel to three different congressional investigations.  And Julian Epstein, a top lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee during the Clinton impeachment, also dealt directly with the independent counsel`s team.  Good to see both of you.

Flannery, you don`t need to make a redaction joke, if you don`t want to.

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I won`t.  I won`t.  And not with Mr. Epstein here.  We know each other too well.

MELBER:  It`s a personal call.  I want to dig into the congressional side with you.  I just had two experts on a lot of the underlying legal questions.

On the congressional side here, what do you think of the way Jerry Nadler is doing this thus far?  He has clearly come out pretty aggressively, John.

FLANNERY:  I`m a hundred percent with him.  And you have to wonder why the four-page press release that we got from Barr couldn`t wait until they had presented a report that we could have immediately.  They talk about transparency but they didn`t do anything to accomplish it.

And the letter that was sent in response to Nadler`s request that he produce it immediately, one of the categories is they`re concerned about the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.  Give me a break.

What is that, a catch-all to put more black stuff on the page and to redact?  I don`t think that`s clear and transparent.

And as for 6(e), you have to ask yourself, since so many people were interviewed and not called to the grand jury, how much of a report has to have 6(e) grand jury material?  And I would say a limited amount.

And if they were going to make it transparent, why couldn`t they go to a court before this point, before that four-page letter, and get an order to release whatever material they needed to so that the public, the House, and the Senate could see what exactly they were doing.  So I --

MELBER:  This is a point you`ve been exploring from really the dawn of this process.


MELBER:  From when we had you on as an expert over that first weekend.


MELBER:  You have been basically arguing that Mr. Barr`s priorities, even if they`re within the technical rules, have appeared more designed to get a jump on the narrative to push, as you put it P.R. rather than a deeper consideration of the underlying legal questions.

FLANNERY:  Yes.  Well, it`s very interesting that they decry Democrats asking for information about a report that`s not been disclosed and calling them political when that four-page letter is nothing but political.  And it was nothing but a campaign ploy so that the -- our thief executive could go on the road and claim I`m cleared when it doesn`t even in Barr`s language say that.

MELBER:  Well, I`ll hit one point on that and turn to Julian.


MELBER:  The ending of the probe without indictments on conspiracy does show that he was, whatever word you want to use, not implicated in, cleared on, not criminally charged with conspiracy.  That`s an important distinction which is separate from -- with the rest of whatever is in the report.

I`ll let you rebut because I see you want to but I want to bring Julian in first.  So coming back to John in a minute.  Julian, your views on all of the above.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  So I just think there are some important facts that your first guest kind of alighted over that really need to be put on the table here.

In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee got most or all of the grand jury material during the Nixon impeachment.  Leon Jaworski petitioned Judge Sirica and all the grand jury material was provided to the House Judiciary Committee.

In 1998, during the Starr investigation, we received all of the grand jury material.  We received witness testimony.  We received videotape.  We received all sorts of grand jury material.

We received it in early September.  We spent -- we had a team of investigators that spent a month going through it and figuring out, making recommendations to the members what of the grand jury material should be made public and what should be kept secret.

So there is ample precedent for this.  The notion that Bob Barr can win a legal fight here I think is very, very unlikely.  What I think Beryl Howell would do in a case like this if Attorney General Barr is not willing to do what previous attorney generals have done, particularly in a momentous situation like this where the situation involves the president is the House Judiciary Committee would go and try and compel a subpoena.

It`s a lengthy process, but I think the merits are all on the side of the House Judiciary Committee.  And to the extent that there are issues for retaining 6(e) privacy, most of the reasons for privacy evaporate after an investigation.

Sometimes there are some reasons to maintain privacy.  One reason would be national security.  Another reason might be people`s personal privacy, their bank records.  Another reason might be ongoing other proceedings.

But if there are those concerns, the judge can accommodate those concerns, the Judiciary Committee can accommodate those concerns by doing things like viewing some of the information in camera, having some agreement from the committee not to release public information.

So the precedent is overwhelmingly on the side of the House Judiciary Committee here in terms of getting the 6(e) material and then using some type of process to make sure that stuff that shouldn`t be made public, won`t be made public.  But the court can grant it, and I think the court would be likely to grant it.

It`s just the question for Barr is do you want to pay me now or do you want to pay me later?  Do you want to do it the easy way that`s consistent with precedent?

Or do you want to do it the hard way that is going to make you look like the cat who swallowed the canary, trying to cover something up for a president that is viewed deeply suspiciously by a majority of the public?

MELBER:  Well, John, I mean isn`t that the point that if the redactions are spare and reasonable and well placed, they`ll look one way?  If it feels like a 400-page report is being significantly cut down through, you know, Swiss cheese of different redactions, some that are relevant to rules like the grand jury stuff that we just talked about, and some that are just sort of broadly made up like we just added categories, or it really depend what`s in there ultimately when this report comes?

FLANNERY:  Well, you know, Chair Nadler has framed it that if you`re not giving it to us, then that`s obstruction, and it doesn`t surprise us.  And I think that the backup of the committee, if they issue, as I expect they will, the subpoenas for the certain named individuals that center around the Comey firing, it`s like a first slice going chronologically from the beginning of our discovery of misconduct if you will by Trump and his acolytes.

And so I think that that`s an important segment.  And we do know that they have notes that were supplied to the special counsel during the investigation, and none of those are subject to privilege because it was waived by Dowd and Cobb when they were advising the president and the campaign how to go forward.

So it seems to me they have no ability to block either those witnesses or the documents that they have.  And that will be very helpful.

And then I also wonder if we wouldn`t do better summoning some of the people who were assistance special counsel in the investigation who actually interviewed these people outside the grand jury to tell us what they found.

MELBER:  You`re talking about Mueller`s prosecutors, right.  I think a lot of this comes down to whether this is done in a way that people can have some public confidence in which case the pressure builds on Democrats looking like they`re trying to do a do-over.  You don`t need to redo all those interviews if the fruits of it are handled responsibly.

Whereas Barr is seen as doing a deeper kind of dodge, the question is what are you hiding?  If you have nothing to hide, why are you hiding?

I`m going to fit in a break.  Julian and John, thanks to both of you as well.

Coming up, there is a whistleblower now warning about issues with security clearances for over two dozen Trump officials.  Democrats pressing on Jared and Ivanka and our deep dive into what Donald Trump`s attorney general is doing.  How does it relate to the rules and what is he improvising?

I have a very special guest who will debut a brand new series here.  The man who actually wrote the rules for the special counsel, Neal Katyal.

And later, Eric Holder opens up about the 2020 Democrats and what it`s like playing basketball with Barack Obama, parts of the Holder interview that we`re airing for the first time tonight.

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


MELBER:  House Democrats are not waiting on Attorney General Bill Barr to decide which parts of the Mueller report he wants to release, instead voting this Wednesday to press ahead and subpoena the full report.

There is intense scrutiny on how Barr has run this process over the 10 days since Mueller concluded his probe.  Some of Barr`s actions were required under DOJ rules, like notifying Congress that first Mueller finished his probe, and second, that the DOJ never formally overruled Mueller during his work.

Other actions by Barr, some of the more controversial aren`t required by the rules nor forbidden by them, like releasing these four quotes that everyone has been discussing from the Mueller report, or Barr adding his own conclusion about obstruction.

Now, these are pretty serious questions, but Barr`s apparent effort to go beyond what Mueller found to apparently help Trump has also become a new punch line on "SNL."


ROBERT DE NIRO AS ROBERT MUELLER:  On the charge of obstruction of justice, we have not drawn a definitive conclusion.

AIDY BRYANT AS WILLIAM BARR:  But I have and my conclusion is Trump`s clean as a whistle.

ALEC BALDWIN AS DONALD TRUMP:  Free at last.  Free at last.

DE NIRO:  In conclusion, it is my hope that this report will be made public, with a few redactions.

BRYANT:  Hello, redactions.

BALDWIN:  We`re going to black out everything except the words no and collusion.


MELBER:  Now, no skilled attorney general is going to ever Announce a cover-up.  The emerging fight here is shaping up to be about redactions and what the rules do and don`t require if there is a dispute over what Barr releases and what he holds back through redactions.

If there are no rules requiring Barr to turn over the entire report, what can Congress do to get it?  We need an expert on high stakes litigation and these actual DOJ rules to answer these questions.

And I`m thrilled to tell you we have that expert tonight.  Former DOJ official Neal Katyal who wrote the special counsel rules, argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court as President Obama`s acting solicitor general, and who joins us tonight as a new MSNBC legal analyst for the launch of a new special series on THE BEAT, Opening Arguments with Neal Katyal.

We`re going to do that when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER:  Welcome back to THE BEAT.  And as promised, tonight`s debut of Opening Arguments with MSNBC legal analyst Neal Katyal.  Thank you for leading this new series here on THE BEAT.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL:  Thanks.  I`m excited to be here.

MELBER:  Let`s start with the big question.  When you see the fight over how Barr is proceeding, his ability to do redactions and what the rules require, what`s important here?

KATYAL:  Well, I think what`s important is that Barr going well beyond the rules.  He is kind of improvising on his own in lots of important ways.  He is kind of like I mean freestyling and in ways that I think are really damaging.

You`ve talked a little bit about this already on your show tonight.  So Mueller says he can`t decide whether or not there is obstruction of justice or not.  I won`t exonerate, do not exonerate effectively.

And Barr takes it on himself to say oh, no, I`m going clear the president.  So that`s one thing.  Another thing, the redactions that you`ve been talking about and that we just saw the "SNL" skit about.

I mean Barr provided four little quotes from the Mueller report, not even one complete sentence from it, and it raises suspicion.  I mean it`s like those movie reviews which is like you see on the poster, greatest movie ever, but the full quote is "this is not the greatest movie ever" or something like that.

I don`t know what to make of this.  But I do know that Barr wrote a very tendentious memo back last summer.  And so that does, I think, raise the concerns among the American public what does this report say and when can we see it?

MELBER:  I didn`t know Neal Katyal would bring a Rotten Tomatoes analysis to what Barr may be doing.  But it, I think, makes it clear to people that`s a question of why those quotes and what.

"The New York Times" has responded to all of this with a big deep dive looking at how maybe Barr is shattering what had been norms since the Watergate era.  And I want to put on the screen some that I know you and I were discussing in preparation for tonight`s reporting.  Walk us through what we`re looking at here.

KATYAL:  Great.  So I think one way of thinking about the American legal system is that there is different ways we constrain our government.  One is the constitution.  Another is laws passed by Congress.  But a third and maybe the most important are constitutional norms and etiquette.

They`re not actually written down in a formal legal rule.  They`re how presidents behave.

So presidents don`t fire attorneys, general, or FBI directors who are investigating them.  Presidents don`t interfere with criminal prosecutions at the Justice Department and say prosecute my enemy or don`t prosecute my friend.

And special prosecutors and attorneys general turn over their reports to Congress in full.  That`s what happened in Nixon.  That`s what happened in Clinton.

And here we`ve got something else.  Last week, Barr wrote this letter, this four-page letter to the Hill saying well, there are going to be a whole bunch of categories of things I`m not going turn over.

And he started with two categories early in the week.  He wound up with four.  Next week, we might be at 8 or 16 or whatever.  And --

MELBER:  And that`s the part where you say that`s not based on the rules that you wrote or other DOJ requirements.  That`s just him kind of broadly telling people here are more reasons why I can hold things back.

KATYAL:  That`s like Barr being like a member of Freestyle Love Supreme.  I mean he is freestyling on his own.

He is not following the rules.  He is not following traditions.  And that`s the worrisome thing.

MELBER:  And he`s also seized on the process of telling Congress things to advance, as "SNL" was joking, apparently Trump`s agenda.  And with that in mind, I want to play for you some other of your former DOJ colleagues and other legal experts, former federal prosecutor now in the Senate on a very basic question which is, has Barr even satisfied the rules you wrote, requirement, to say everything about who was charged and not charged?  Take a look at people saying he hasn`t.


MELBER:  There is a requirement under the rules that Congress should be notified about the decisions about who to charge and not charge.  Does that requirement still have to be met by the attorney general?


MELBER:  I don`t really see much discussion of who he declined to charge at all.  Your view?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D):  No way has he satisfied that obligation to explain fully the facts, we`re talking about facts and evidence behind this declination.


MELBER:  Has he satisfied that requirement in the rules yet?

KATYAL:  He hasn`t yet.  But I think that`s -- he`s only written, given us this four-page, I guess he doesn`t call it the summary, non-summary, whatever he wants to call it these days.  But he could, of course, fulfill that in the course of time by turning over the full Mueller report with all of the people who weren`t prosecuted, were prosecuted and the like.

MELBER:  Because he seemed to draw on that requirement.  Indeed, he footnotes to it in the first letter, making it seem like he is now doing something under these rules.

In fact, there are very interesting case examples including people who`ve been at this table like Mr. Jerome Corsi who was given a draft indictment by Mueller`s team that he might be charged.  We now know it ended with him being declined to be charged.  Under the rules that needs to be explained somewhere to Congress.

KATYAL:  I think it does need to be explained.  I think he could do it when he submits the Mueller report in fall.  So far all he`s done is kind of almost a trickle down.  He`s treated -- let us know a couple of things and then cleared the President of obstruction which is not the way the rules are supposed to work.

And that`s one of the many reasons I think Congress is absolutely right to say by April 2nd, that`s tomorrow, turn over the full report.  You can`t be playing ducks and drakes and releasing selectively some quotes here in some quotes there.

MELBER:  The other big question I have for you is one that I admit maybe hard to answer.  But I`m curious, Neal, do you think that that discussion of who Mueller chose not to charge, is that an itemized list that Barr currently has whether it`s people that we would expect to be on it like Mr. Corsi because there was literally a draft indictment, or people that may have not been on it.

There was a lot of speculation about Don Junior.  He was in a meeting many criticized him for.  But is that a list of names somewhere in DOJ right now?

KATYAL:  I think there almost has to be.  From the standpoint of anything that Mueller really looked at, I think he`s got to give to Barr.  I mean, the idea that it would like to sit in a file cabinet somewhere for no one ever see again I think is very unlikely when we`re dealing with someone like Mueller who by all accounts is one of the most experienced, careful prosecutors around.

MELBER:  As -- in the spirit of the new series we`re doing with you, I want to go big and into history and look at NBC`s report 1974 when you had another case resolved just how much the executive can hold back.  Many people see it as obviously a high point for a nonpartisan constitutional ruling forcing the release of the Nixon tapes.  Let`s take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good morning.  The Supreme Court has just ruled on the tapes controversy and here`s (INAUDIBLE) who has that ruling.

It is a unanimous decision, Doug, 8-0.  Justice Rehnquist took no part in the decision ordering the President of the United States to turn over the tapes.


MELBER:  Do you expect anything to go to the Supreme Court where you once argued many cases in this Mueller report battle or is it not on pace to do that?

KATYAL:  Well, first of all, just watching that warms my heart because that is the American constitutional system at its heart, at his greatest.  The Supreme Court saying, Mr. President, you did something wrong.

And yes I do think if Mueller -- if Barr tries to suppress pieces of the Mueller report, I think the Congress will subpoena.  It will go to the court ultimately to the United States Supreme Court and yes, if there`s hidden information in there, if it`s seen that they`re trying to protect the president from -- and his reputation, I think the Supreme Court won`t hesitate to say this Mr. President goes too far.

MELBER:  And John Roberts who you`ve studied, he would come down on that how?

KATYAL:  I think -- I think all of the justices just like in Nixon could rule against the president in such a circumstance.

MELBER:  Fascinating hearing that from you.  And I`m glad we`re going to get to do this regularly.  Neal Katyal, my special guests tonight.  And I want to tell viewers starting tonight, you can actually go to, to see this discussion and other legal series work we`re going to do here with Neal on THE BEAT.

Up ahead, former Attorney General Eric Holder goes lightning round and talks about this video of him hooping as well as his views of the 2020 candidates.  That`s only on our show tonight.  But first blowing the whistle on what some are calling a national security scandal.  25 different security clearances in doubt atop of Obama aide who dealt with that very issue joins me next.


MELBER:  President Trump is on defense tonight over lacks national security practices.  A whistleblower alleging security clearances went to over 25 people who shouldn`t have had them.  Now, this is news right now because that whistleblower Tricia Newbold took a major personal risk by briefing Congress about all this.  Her warning implies the risk to the nation could be even greater.

She says, Trump aides got clearances even though the process flagged their problems including vulnerability to blackmail, foreign influence, conflicts of interest, personal conduct that was concerning, financial problems, drug use, and even alleged criminal conduct.

Now, access to classified information is generally a judgment call for the president.  No one is saying he broke the law here.  The law grants him wide authority over Intel.  Instead, Democrats are saying this was a terrible judgment that could hurt U.S. national security and it`s an issue the President has largely ducked by denying he`s even involved.  That`s what he did when he was facing claims about mishandling Jared Kushner`s clearance.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials, the career veterans?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No, I don`t think I have the authority to do that.  I`m not sure I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You do have the authority to do that.

TRUMP:  But I wouldn`t.  I wouldn`t do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You never ordered this?

TRUMP:  Jared is a good -- I was -- I was never involved with his security.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by Chris Lu who actually served as an aide to Obama arranging over 100 security clearances during the presidential transition alone.  He was also counsel of the House Oversight Committee, and the one- and-only Swelenor, Eleanor Clift, a longtime Washington expert, now a Correspondent for The Daily Beast.  Good to see both of you.



MELBER:  Chris, given what you know about all this, what`s your assessment of this allegation and the level of the problem?

LU:  Well, let me just tell you this.  At the end of every security interview that investigators do, they asked people to questions and this is not only your friends, your colleagues your neighbors.  Is this person susceptible to blackmail and do you have any reason to question their loyalty to the United States?

The fact that there are 25 individuals working in the White House for whom you cannot answer that question definitively should be deeply troubling regardless of your party.  As you know, this is access to the nation`s highest secrets, secrets that have been gathered at great financial costs and great human costs as well.

And so we want to make sure this information only goes to those people who have passed all of these tests.  And the fact that this president is politicizing this process is deeply troubling.

MELBER:  Eleanor, take a look at what we`re getting from the whistleblower here.  The allegation that the supervisor she was working with repeatedly mishandled security files and approved unwarranted security clearances, walk us through what it takes for someone who was such a long-serving federal employee to take this sort of measure.

CLIFT:  Oh, I think this takes extraordinary courage for her to come forward.  And this was a hearing that was held privately behind closed doors on Capitol Hill at 8:30 on Saturday morning.  She has been an employee for 18 years.  She has no record of insubordination.  She obviously is deeply disturbed by what she sees is going on.  And she also reports that she was retaliated against.

She suffers from a form of dwarfism and so they would deliberately put files out of her reach.  I mean you can`t make this up, this sort of needless cruelty.  And I think she is you know alerting the proper authorities after she tried to make the case to the White House Council then Don McGahn and other officials.  She then did what she`s supposed to do as a whistleblower and she`s entitled to whistleblower protection.

And this is not a trivial matter because apparently, the White House has waived various rules.  They don`t check credit histories anymore and your fear under a lot of pressure if you owe a lot of money, that could open you to bribery.  These are legitimate courses of inquiry.  But it goes to the sort of the unitary style of presidency that this White House thinks that if the President does it, that means it`s OK, and he is the ultimate decider when it comes to security clearances.

But this is really abuse that goes wider throughout his administration as to the quality and the credibility of the people he surrounds himself with.

MELBER:  Well you just -- you just nailed it, the quality of the people.  There was much talk, Chris, about the best people.  One of the things that we`re all learning about here for those of us who aren`t you know experts on it the way you are, is sort of what it means to even get to the rejection stage.

This reporting showing the number of rejections that overruled itself was unprecedented.  In fact, it happened only once in the three years preceding this official`s arrival.  Break that down to us in plain English.  Does that mean that there usually aren`t this many people with this many red flags even in the running of her access to Intel?

LU:  Well, exactly.  You know, before you put forward these people`s names for some period of clearances, there`s a certain amount of vetting that`s happened.  I was cleared three times during the Obama administration.

And let`s also say this.  Had I not received or had I been denied a security clearance, I suspect -- in fact, I`m confident that President Obama would not have overruled the career process.  They would have either kicked me out of the White House or they would have found a job for me that I could have done without a clearance.

And what`s important to understand here is also the context.  I mean, this is a president who`s used an unsecured cell phone, who`s disclosed classified information to a -- the Russian Foreign Minister, and who`s tried to politicize this entire process.  You`ll recall that he`s revoked the security clearances of his political opponents as well.

So this process of all should be immune from the political process.  I was in the White House for four years at the period of time when this woman was here.  I wasn`t aware of her.  I didn`t really know of her office and that`s a good thing.  Political appointees should not be involved in this process.

MELBER:  So Chris, what do you think it really boils down to?  It`s hard to understand this type of scandal.  I mean, there are other scandals where you say oh there was mixed motivation, there was a financial conflict.  Here it just looks like a kind of a brazen refusal to deal with the negative information that comes back.

Of course, as I understand it, that`s supposed to protect the White House, the executive department.  The research is done on the -- for them as the client.

LU:  Right, exactly.  It`s both incompetence but it`s also reckless disregard for the process as well.  And we`re talking about national security secrets.  We`re talking about things that other foreign governments spend a lot of time and money trying to get access for.  And you don`t want that information going to people who could potentially be compromised.

MELBER:  Eleanor?

CLIFT:  Right.  He wants the people around him who he wants.  He has no respect for government norms and traditions.  He thinks that`s all bunk.  And Jared Kushner when he filled out the initial forum, didn`t list any foreign contacts.  He had to redo his form dozens of times because he had many contacts.  And the president says he`s a fine young man, he`s my son- in-law, I know him, therefore, he`s OK.

So I mean, we shouldn`t be surprised because this really is reflective of the way this president operates on every level.  He wants what he wants when he wants it.

MELBER:  Eleanor Clift putting it well and Chris Lu, my thanks to both of you.

LU:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Coming up, how does the former Attorney General Eric Holder feel about the wide range of Democratic candidates?  We`re going to get into that as well as his hoops.  That`s coming up on a special edition of the "LIGHTNING ROUND" airing for the first time with Eric Holder.


MELBER:  Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder does not do many interviews and he certainly made news in our BEAT interview last week saying Attorney General Barr was wrong to release selectively parts of the Mueller report, also criticizing the MAGA slogan which drew a specific rebuttal from the vice president himself.

We covered so much ground in this interview that I could tell you there are parts that have not aired yet including Eric Holder weighing in on 2020 candidates like Kamala Harris and recounting personal parts of his relationship with former President Obama.  So here is more of that interview.  This is airing on the beat for the very first time.


MELBER:  You, Barack basketball.  Let`s take a look.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  I`m from New York City, the home of basketball players like Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius "The Dr. Erving."  The President is from Hawaii.  He`s a good ball player.  He`s got a real good left hand.  He has the ability to drive.  He`s 10 years younger than I am.  He`s in better shape.  He`s still my boss.


MELBER:  How often would you beat him when you play?

HOLDER:  We actually never played and I think probably because I could talk you know a lot of smack like that never want to get out there and get my feelings hurt by this young left-hander from Chicago.

MELBER:  I think we have some of this though right here.  This is you shooting.  Tell us about this jay.

HOLDER:  San Francisco.  Look at that.

MELBER:  Tell me about the form?

HOLDER:  In a tie, shoes, look at that swish.  I still got it.  PS 127 East Elmhurst, Queens, that`s the man.

MELBER:  That`s the man.  So you know what, I got to ask you.  Can you go right?  Because people think you can only go left.

HOLDER:  I can go right and left you know, both in basketball and politically.

MELBER:  All right.  Lightning round which is something we do around here.  We asked for one word if you can.

HOLDER:  Sure.

MELBER:  One sentence if most.


MELBER:  And we`ll tick through a couple topics.  Number one is big, America in a word or a sentence.  United States of America.

HOLDER:  United States of America a work in progress and a great nation.

MELBER:  The Justice Department.

HOLDER:  Morale low, will be better, will be great again.

MELBER:  Bill Barr.

HOLDER:  Disappointed but hopeful -- disappointed but hopeful.

MELBER:  Bob Mueller.

HOLDER:  A patriot, a great American, did his job as well as he could.

MELBER:  Chief Justice Roberts.

HOLDER:  I`m hoping he`s an Institutionalist and not a partisan.

MELBER:  Bernie Sanders.

HOLDER:  You know, I want them to be -- I want him to fully embrace the Democratic Party.  He`s going to be a force.

MELBER:  Kamala Harris.

HOLDER:  The future and maybe even the president, could be a true groundbreaker.

MELBER:  Is she your favorite right now?

HOLDER:  I like Kamala, I like some other folks as well.

MELBER:  Joe Biden.

HOLDER:  A great vice president, could be a great president, a good man, he`s not too old.

MELBER:  Elizabeth Warren.

HOLDER:  A real intellectual, distressed that she has maybe not gotten the traction that I think she deserves given her intelligence and her dedication.

MELBER:  Cory Booker.

HOLDER:  Really, really good guy, really dedicated, down-to-earth, taking an interesting tack in appealing to our better angels when I think the energy of the party might be in a different place.

MELBER:  Mitch McConnell.

HOLDER:  Has done a whole bunch of unpatriotic things, has really been a force for polarization in this nation, history will not be kind to -- will not be kind to him.

MELBER:  Beto O`Rourke.

HOLDER:  I think a huge upside, a huge upside, a potential upside to him.  We need to see whether or not the charisma is matched by the substance.

MELBER:  Last two.  Donald Trump.

HOLDER:  We just got to survive these next 22 months or so.  I think he is in danger of being the worst president in the history of the United States.

MELBER:  Barack Obama.

HOLDER:  History is going to be extremely kind to Barack Obama.  I don`t say this because I was his friend or I was his attorney general.  I studied American history over time.  He is -- the estimation of him by historians will rise.  It`s already begun.  He is going to be a top five.

MELBER:  Top five.

HOLDER:  Top five.

MELBER:  Like top five MCs but for presidents.

HOLDER:  There we go.

MELBER:  Attorney General Eric Holder, thanks for coming on THE BEAT.  I love talking with you.

HOLDER:  Thanks for having me.

MELBER:  I really appreciate it.



MELBER:  Democrats have been dialing up pressure over Trump Attorney General William Barr for how he`s released portions of the Mueller report.  Meanwhile, comedian John Oliver has a related question.  Just imagine for Mueller`s findings and his 37 indictments all came out at the same time.


JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN:  Just for a moment try to imagine that they came out at once and there was a single headline that said Russia confirmed to interfered in election and President`s campaign manager, lawyer, multiple advisers convicted of crimes, and Trump and his team lied about business with Russia, comma, contact Russians.

And may have committed campaign finance violation to cover up an affair with an adult film star shortly after her wife gave birth and which he also attempted to continue but ended up sitting next to the adult film star in a hotel room and watching shark week because all of that happened and we know it in one way or another as a result of Mueller`s investigation.


MELBER:  The point there being it`s not just what you know, but when you know.  On the Trump side, the chief of staff for this president has a new argument, saying, look, Mueller intended for Barr to reach the decision he`s already announced on obstruction.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  What you saw here is simply Mueller saying, you know what, I`m going to let Barr call this one.  He had plenty of evidence to say on collusion, absolutely not.  And he actually punted over to Barr.  Again, that`s the way the system can and does work.


MELBER:  These are the outlines of the fight and we`re going to get into it much deeper tomorrow with people directly involved.  Congressman Eric Swalwell from the Judiciary Committee, Senator Angus King from the Intelligence Committee both join me on a special edition of THE BEAT tomorrow that we are looking forward to.

That does it for us tonight, though.  "HARDBALL" is up next.