CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: It`s already up now so don`t miss it. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Chuck ToddCast. It could just become an
TODD: Thank you, sir. I know.
MELBER: I`ll see you --
TODD: That`s my fear. That`s my fear.
MELBER: Well, as Mr. T used to say, you brought that on yourself if everyone around the office calls you Chuck ToddCast. As long as we all subscribe though, we`re going in the right direction.
TODD: I would prefer just Mr. T but that`s OK.
MELBER: Mr. T. Thank you, Mr. T.
TODD: Thank you, sir.
MELBER: Tonight`s the first night I`ll be using it.
On our show tonight I will tell you, Donald Trump has found himself on the wrong side of yes, two federal laws tonight. First, Democrats invoking a federal tax law to force the IRS to hand over Trump`s taxes. The congressman leading that fight joins us later.
And today, both parties voting to rebuke Donald Trump`s military policy in Yemen citing a different law, the War Powers Act. We have that story later tonight as well. It is important.
And we begin with what is clearly an inflection point in the unfolding of the Mueller investigation. The first public splintering of the Justice Department against Mueller`s team. Because the news tonight is that for the very first time, whatever private or heated debates have occurred between Mueller`s team and their supervisors at the Trump Justice Department in the past, now we`re seeing some spill into public view for the first time.
"The New York Times" and other outlets reporting that top people on Mueller`s team disagree with Attorney General Bill Barr`s efforts to what they see as downplay their evidence in key findings on Trump. "The New York Times" quoting second-hand sources who say that Mueller`s investigators have strong evidence against Trump and that Barr was not totally accurate in his rush to release quotes and his own opinion in his now famous letters to Congress.
Now, there may have been private disagreements during 22 months of the probe. If they`re private, we still wouldn`t know about them and Rod Rosenstein was in charge for most of that period. But we never really saw daylight between Mueller`s office and the DOJ during that time.
Today, we`re seeing a high stakes rift go public right after Mueller turned in his report and before Congress has obviously seen any of it. So in the spirit of thinking about where we`re going, before I go into a few more of the details of why Barr`s approach is in question, is under fire tonight, I want to you consider where we are in the timeline on the substance, not the D.C. messaging, but on substance.
Bob Mueller worked for almost two years, issuing 37 indictments, and handing in a nearly 400-page report. And right now, we are currently in the waiting period between the DOJ getting that report, that happened, and the DOJ deciding how to share it or some of it with Congress and potentially the public.
So on substance, these few weeks right now may ultimately look like the blink of an eye. Because whether it is two weeks or four or six, the rules always provided for this time. This gap period between Mueller finishing and Barr dealing with Congress.
But then you have this D.C. messaging, where the attorney general has decided to seize on this very waiting period as his time to strike out in public, to release his series of letters, to describe what he calls parts of Mueller`s findings, and then what he admits, and credit to him for admitting it, Barr using this waiting period before others have the evidence to go well beyond what he says Mueller even found and announce his own views in public, whipping up reactions across the nation.
Now, as we`ve reported on this show, from the very day Mueller finished, those reactions are mainly to Barr and how the probe ended. Not to Mueller`s report which no one outside the DOJ has, of course, seen.
So when you take that all together, this waiting period, it makes it more notable and maybe more telling than it is right now during this waiting period when not everyone has the same evidence and facts and findings that we are hearing Mueller`s investigators reportedly decided they had to speak out now. They couldn`t wait longer to address what they see as Attorney General Barr`s mischaracterizations of some of their work.
So 22 months of the probe and basically, no leaks. Two weeks of Barr describing the probe`s findings and now there are signs of leaks, at least linked to Mueller`s team. Of course, Barr rushed to clear Trump by claiming to describe the report even though -- and I`ve said this before, I`ll repeat it again tonight. Even though the best news for Donald Trump isn`t even in the Mueller report as far as we know. It is in the fact that Bob Mueller finished his probe without charging a conspiracy. We know that without seeing a report.
It is Mr. Barr`s apparent reaching on the report`s other alleged content, his need to issue his own view on obstruction, that has begun to draw so much pushback. Mueller`s investigators, and here`s where I`ll get into a few more of the details for you, say they found that it is more troubling for Trump, what is in the Mueller report than Barr has implied.
One source stressing that Barr issued his own letters even though there were independent summaries already "prepared for different sections of the report", provided each section could have been released immediately or very quickly, done in a way that minimum redactions would have been necessary and the work would have spoken for itself.
Now, what I just read to you is a very specific leak. That is someone who "The Washington Post" has deemed credible, who claims to know details about the still-secret contents of this Mueller report and how they say it was thoughtfully prepared so DOJ could release findings that Mueller wrote, not so that Barr could reframe them in his own series of letters.
Now, these new reports are saying Barr`s refusal to use those prepared summaries and substitute his own letters is suspicious. And House Democrats tonight say they`re not having it.
Judiciary Chair Nadler who just got that subpoena vote for the Mueller report itself now responding to these "recent reports" to demand Mueller`s prepared summaries be publicly released as soon as possible. Now, that`s a lot. This story could rest right here with a pending fight over one, Barr`s letters, and two, the full Mueller report and three, the possible existence of these Mueller summaries that Barr allegedly pocketed.
But that`s not all. I have one more thing before I get to our guests. Because after Barr`s letters, on March 22 and March 24 and March 29, Barr is back out today with something new. It is not a formal letter but it`s a statement.
And it says Mueller`s report to Barr was stamped confidential on "every page", implying that basically, this is on Mueller. And stressing that Barr is working with Mueller on appropriate redactions to the report so that it can be released to Congress and the public.
Notice that basically when Barr is facing this reported criticism from Mueller`s team, today in that new statement, Barr is name-checking Mueller. Seeming to both blame him for these decisions that we do know Barr made. I mean, agree with him or not, these are Barr`s decisions, he is the boss.
So he comes out today and he seems to blame Mueller about his decision to release those four partial quotes from the report. But then he also hugs Mueller as a source of authority and credibility apparently for this coming redaction fight.
Now, I don`t have all the answers for you. I never do. I tell you what we know and I try to tell you what we don`t know.
So I`ll tell you that for whatever reason -- I don`t know the reason tonight. But for whatever reason, Bill Barr wants you and everyone to know, hey, I`m still working with Mueller. Even as he also disputes these reports that he overrode Mueller to the great concern of Mueller`s team.
And that brings us here to the final splinter tonight. Because while Barr invokes Mueller for credibility, and while President Trump recently reversed his attacks to say Mueller acted honorably after the probe was concluded, another lawyer who works for Trump is breaking with his client and breaking with Attorney General Barr to blast Mueller`s team for what he calls sticky, unethical leaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: It makes the point that we`ve been making for two years, despite all of the media reports about how holy and sanctimonious the Mueller team is. There are a bunch of sneaky, unethical leakers and they are rabid Democrats who hate the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I want to bring in Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York and a civil prosecutor in SDNY. And NBC`s Heidi Przybyla, our national political correspondent. Good evening to both of you.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Good evening.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Good evening.
MELBER: What do you think of what Barr is doing and do you believe he`s trying to play both sides of Mueller?
WILEY: I think he`s trying to play both sides of Mueller. I think he`s trying to do it. And what I give him credit for, because we know from his unsolicited memo to the White House about obstruction, is that he has a very specific view both of executive privilege and of obstruction of justice. He stuck with it.
That summary and that decision that he and Rod Rosenstein say they made in that summary on obstruction is based on his interpretation of the law. And that -- so in that sense, he`s being very consistent.
But the point about the confidentiality stamping is silly. And the reason it is silly is because the rules actually say that the report is confidential and goes to the attorney general as a confidential report. So, of course, it is stamped at the bottom confidential across it, by definition.
MELBER: Let`s build on that. When they talk about ranger games, this feels a little bit like lawyer games. We have the new Barr statement. He keeps writing statements and in the news, that`s always interesting.
But It begins in a somewhat surly, lawyerly tone. Every page of the confidential reported provided to Barr on March 22 was marked may contain material protected under grand jury rules. It is the implication that Mueller made me do it this way. You don`t buy that?
WILEY: No, because it is really typical for that kind of stamp to exist whenever you have the potential to have material you would withhold. All that means is -- it doesn`t mean it should be. It doesn`t mean it has to be.
And usually, remember that one of the reasons Congress has a right to say come and tell us, show us the report, tell us what privileges you`re inserting because they should have the ability to understand, are you saying it`s executive privilege? Are you saying it is privacy? Are you saying it`s grand jury?
So you would be indicating in that what kind of privilege might attach. But that`s -- once we heard in the leaks that Mueller was given an attorney general who said publicly that his interest was in transparency and having as much of this publicly available as possible.
Frank Figliuzzi who worked for Mueller said I would be surprised that he didn`t prepare the report in a way that it could be very quickly made public because he understands what material would have been withheld.
PRZYBYLA: Well, that`s the reporting too out today is that the intent of the investigators was that those summaries would be made public and it would boggle the mind that such professional team of investigators wouldn`t have that ready to go after 22 months of investigation.
But I can tell you, Ari, that I talked just hours ago to a staff member who had been briefed by one of the lawyers advising the Judiciary Committee. And they are giving Barr more time here. They`re giving the courtesy of more time but they fully expect this to go to court.
The question here is whether, with one of the most consequential documents in modern history, the American people and Congress are being given as much information as possibly they can be given or as little. And their take on that -- on this right now, given the classified redactions, which could very well be done by Congress, given Barr`s refusal to go and get that court paper, that authorization to release the grand jury material, is that the verdict is that we are going to be given as little information as possible.
And while yes, Barr is operating under a different statute than Ken Starr, there is nothing in there that says that he can`t give this information out. And so they`re expecting to get something that is less than adequate. They hope that they`re going to be surprised and that they`re wrong. But this is what they`re preparing for right now.
MELBER: Well, and isn`t it Barr`s problem that people are paying close attention? There are all sorts of games that people in public life play. And the experts like to invoke their expertise and hold it over everyone.
But as we like to say around the newsroom, I may be slow but I`m not dumb. It`s an old newsroom saying. So it may take a couple of days but people are still watching and reading and listening.
And so to believe Barr, you would have to believe that this expert team led by Bob Mueller, who ran the FBI, who was a prosecutor, who`s by the book, just sort of made these really random sloppy endings, that they did not have a plan for how things could be revealed.
"The Washington Post" and others and your team, and Ken Dilanian is going to join us in a minute, reporting, no, there was a plan. Again, legally, that doesn`t mean A.G. Barr has to follow it but the notion that they had no plan, they had no summaries, they had no way to help with the transparency process, you would have to be pretty dumb to think that was the ending.
And likewise, the obstruction claims, there is a lot of interesting evidence, inference, that Mueller was very thoughtfully trying to put together the evidence. Not that he was just waiting around like oh my God, all of a sudden, Bob Mueller doesn`t know what suit to wear and what hat to wear and how to fit it. He can`t make decisions.
And then you look -- before I bring in Ken, I want to ask you, Heidi, from your reporting about the notion as well. And we should always keep this in mind. If you ever remember Free to Be You and Me.
WILEY: I love that.
MELBER: It`s an album I grew up on. People are people. And Mr. Barr is a person. And as a human being, he also, according to "The New York Times," and I think your reporting reflects some of this, appears concerned about the way he is now being covered in his job. And "The Times" reports that Mr. Barr has shown flashes of frustration and chafed at how the news media and some lawmakers had characterized one of his letters.
PRZYBYLA: Well, I`m sure he is. But I don`t know how this could have been anything but expected. And I`ll tell what wave two of this is going to be. We`re already seeing today with this reporting, what never happened during this investigation is happening now, Ari, which you nicely laid out in your opener, which is the leaks.
So if this information is inadequate and the investigators feel that their work is not being accurately represented in whatever the final product is that`s given to Congress, I would expect more of that and I know Congress expects more of that.
MELBER: I think you put your finger on it. I mean Andrew Weissmann, or whomever, there are people who worked for Mueller who may have a shorter fuse than him. He may have a longer fuse but people are people.
This is a theme I`ve made up in the middle of our conversation but I`m going to stand by it. He has a fuse too. And so as you say, there may be a court battle, there may be more characterizations, there may be more new Barr statements but if Mueller`s fuses a cliff and he conveys lawfully to the Congress that it might be a positive, good idea for transparency for him to testify, he can get all this back out in the open.
PRZYBYLA: This is about constitutional authority. Make no mistake. Even if Barr is going to make a determination here that there was nothing that rose to a crime. The Congress`s jurisdiction is to meet out whether there was wrongdoing here and to --
MELBER: Right, the high crime.
PRZYBYLA: High crime. Well, exactly.
MELBER: And there may not have been.
PRZYBYLA: And there may not have been but that`s separate from reviewing what was an attack on our democracy and deciding whether there were things that the president or his team did that fall just short of criminal but are extremely wrong.
MELBER: Right. And that`s a lot of blowback that Barr is dealing with. Hang with me.
I want to bring in Ken Dilanian for another piece of this. Because as we`ve reported, we do know, even though without the report, that Mueller concluded there was no chargeable conspiracy. That`s the collusion issue.
But the new reporting at NBC says that the Mueller report did include detailed accounts of the Trump campaign contacts with Russia and some members of Mueller`s team say their findings paint a picture of a campaign whose members were manipulated by a sophisticated Russian intelligence operation.
As promised, NBC`s Ken Dilanian, part of the team that broke that story, joins me now. Good evening, sir.
KEN DILANIAN, INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Hello, Ari.
MELBER: What did you find?
DILANIAN: Well, this should not be terribly surprising frankly for those of us who have paid close attention to this investigation over the last two years. A lot of this was in plain sight, right.
But what I`m being told is that while the Mueller investigators don`t have a problem with the way Barr characterized the lack of a conspiracy because that`s what they found, no criminal conspiracy, they say there is a lot more than just that one sentence that describes the Russia collusion part of their findings.
They`re going to lay out the vast array of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. They`re going to explain the context of it. They`re going to explain how the Russians went about interfering the election.
They`ve already laid out some of this in public indictments. And the one thing that`s not clear, Ari, is to what extent, and I`m sure it will be to some extent, this will be classified. And therefore, we may not see the full picture.
And there`s also counterintelligence investigations that will live on, that have been already passed on to FBI field offices and U.S. attorney`s offices. Because counterintelligence is not just about solving crimes. It is also about mitigating influence. I mean it`s --
MELBER: Sure. And that`s fine. I think the point though where the Trump folks have a point, as we`ve reported, is there was an exhaustive probe into whether there was a criminal conspiracy to benefit from Russia or its associates. And the way that it ended showed no chargeable conspiracy.
In your reporting, is there other things here that suggest bigger problems in the way that Barr put it or we just don`t know yet?
DILANIAN: No. no problem with the way Barr characterized that. Mueller himself concluded there was no chargeable, criminal conspiracy.
But let`s think about what else is possible there that would be very detrimental politically to the president and his team. The notion that they were essentially useful idiots, dupes of a sophisticated covert Russian intelligence operation.
We already saw that the president`s son was willing to take a meeting and accept incriminating information from the Russians which is something that was abnormal in the history of American --
MELBER: But let me -- to push you on that, that`s known and out there.
MELBER: So when you have reporting that suggests people around Mueller are concerned about how it is coming out in the last two weeks, it is not that Bill Barr erased everyone`s memory of the Trump Tower meeting. I mean he may be good but --
DILANIAN: That`s right.
MELBER: -- he`s not Men in Black good. I mean people remember that and they can do what they want about it. Is the concern then -- or I guess let me re-phrase. Why is this coming out now?
DILANIAN: I think, well, the way it was characterized to me is that you guys are all focusing on the one line that there was no criminal conspiracy. But there is a lot more here that maybe will be troubling to the American public that should be explored about what the Trump campaign did, what the Russians did.
DILANIAN: This will be consequential. Some of it will be classified. But stay tuned, essentially, was the message I got.
MELBER: Got it.
DILANIAN: This is in the report and you should pay close attention to it.
MELBER: Stay with me, Ken. Maya, I want to play one more thing as we look at this fisher which is pretty striking. And that is the relationship, long-running professional between Barr and Mueller. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Essentially, the president wanted to know, he said, "Oh, you know, Bob Mueller. How well do you know Bob Mueller?" I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and how well the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this is all over and so forth.
And he was interested in that, wanted to know what I thought about Mueller`s integrity and so forth and so on. And I said Bob is a straight shooter and should be dealt with as such.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you have any feeling that this relationship now is being tested with the statements we`re seeing? My rule of thumb is if this is what`s in public, whatever is behind the scenes would be more, not less than this.
WILEY: Absolutely. I don`t think there`s any question that there`s some testing of relationship. If you`re Robert Mueller and think about what Mr. Giuliani`s kind of public statement in response to this was, right, where sort of says, well, if, if this was so mischaracterized, you would have Bob Mueller coming out and making a statement.
And I think that that really misunderstands the longstanding relationships between two people. Where he -- but also to his attention to the institution and to the process where he understands how much attention is being paid here.
He may not -- he may have several reasons why he`s not coming out and making public statements. Both to the integrity of the process, to not wanting to make the narrative so pitched and so negative, and wants to let Congress play it out.
And because he may have respect for Barr despite the fact that this is putting them each in a very complicated situation --
MELBER: Right. And that`s --
WILEY: -- in terms of their relationship.
MELBER: That`s why we`re in such an interesting point aided by your analysis and the reporting from Heidi and Ken and some of the other reporters we quoted tonight. A very interesting time. Potentially consequential. My thanks to each of you.
Coming up, let me tell you viewers what we have. I`ve got a lawmaker who`s demanding Trump`s tax returns to reveal what the IRS chief also said about all of this before he was on the job. Later, lawmakers targeting Donald Trump`s foreign policy with a Nixon era law that can constrain presidential powers. Actually, one of the first times we`ve ever seen this.
And Trump acting down on, yes, that big P.R. move trying to say he would close the border. We`ll also discuss what should America`s security priorities be? I`m thrilled to tell you, first time guest on THE BEAT, Obama`s Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano is on THE BEAT tonight.
We will be right back.
MELBER: Sometimes a national punchline can tell you what everyone agrees on and despite all the disagreements about Trump, "SNL" has done a few skits playing up the idea that Bob Mueller`s team is so tight-lipped, even when he does talk, he doesn`t leak much actual info.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us a sense of where it is heading?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, obviously, I can`t discuss particulars of an ongoing investigation. But yes, we`re good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And now, here we are with something a little different in the real news. Reports that people around Mueller`s team are leaking, that his investigators disagree with Barr`s depiction of Mueller`s findings and that there`s still secret evidence on obstruction was, and this looks like a leak, was "alarming and significant".
I`m joined by former Federal Prosecutor John Flannery and "The Daily Beast" Betsy Woodruff. Good evening,
John, what does it mean that there are apparently leaks?
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what it means is there is no avenue for people to contradict the misdirection given the nation by Barr. And when you don`t have a remedy, you know that old expression at law school, where there is a wrong, there is a remedy and there`s not always.
Well, this Justice Department has been taken over by Barr, anybody else touches the redaction strategy and makes this false claims against a supposed friend in a kind of craven way, saying, well, he put confidential on each page.
So what you have is I think the beginning of a drama. In terms of -- the truth is going to come out and it`s going to come out first by maybe these conversations. We`re going to see this document one way or the other with or without Barr, with or without maybe a court approving it.
When we had in the past people like Sirica who released grand jury testimony and people took the Pentagon papers, this is another category in a constitutional crisis in which the country wants to know the truth and will know the truth.
And it will either happen in a normal process or however is necessary, I believe. Because it is too important to the health of the nation.
BETSY WOODRUFF, REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: I think part of the reason that we`re hearing rumblings from within the Mueller probe now rather than a month ago is just the result of the laws of physics. Many of the prosecutors on the probe who until recently were working full-time in the Mueller`s actual physical offices, sequestered away from the rest of the world, have now gone back to the previous posts that they had at DOJ.
And, of course, if you spent the last, upwards of two years working on Mueller`s team, everyone is going to ask you, what did you find? And one thing I can tell you from conversations with people in the DOJ and very close to Justice Department officials, is that they are just as curious as everybody else
MELBER: Well, let me --
WOODRUFF: -- about what Mueller`s investigators were up to.
MELBER: Let me draw --
WOODRUFF: Mueller`s investigators are getting grilled.
MELBER: Let me draw you out on that because what we have is a story broken by "The New York Times." And then to use the industry term, matched or followed upon by other publications including " Washington Post" and NBC.
So, at a certain point, do you view this as something that was being deliberately put out? Are you saying it might still just be a scuttlebutt, not a coordinated effort to rebut Barr?
WOODRUFF: I don`t want to speculate on motives of sources who spoke to other outlets. What I can tell you is that I know for a fact that people who previously worked on the probe who now have gone back to their prior jobs are facing lots and lots of questions from their friends and from their colleagues within the Justice Department about what exactly they did over the last, almost two years.
WOODRUFF: And the results of that, of course, is that conversations are happening and things are percolating out.
MELBER: John, I wonder if you would engage with me. Betsy is being very careful, which we appreciate.
MELBER: I would observe that as someone who has reported on legal stories, there are times when prosecutors, current and former, are asked by everyone, all kinds of things that are of intrigue and they`re tight- lipped.
MELBER: And while I`m not, to be clear, I am not confirming anything tonight right now. I would ask you whether it looked to you like something more of a drumbeat here.
FLANNERY: Well, consider the fact that they had friends and associates outside the office for 22 months, and their discipline was almost monk-like in terms of keeping their mouth shut. And the only time we hear anything is when they have reason to believe the nation is being misled by Barr.
And I think it is a good example of why it is the First Amendment, the freedom of the press and the freedom of the speech, this is how we correct government excesses. And that is, in my opinion, what`s happening. And you`re asking whether it`s coordinated, I think I think these people were such that as former prosecutors and prosecutors as assistant special account counsel and as lifetime litigators, that they can`t -- some part of them cannot stand to have the work that they did for the nation misrepresented by Barr who`s doing the business of Trump rather than the business of the nation.
MELBER: Oh, and that`s --
FLANNERY: That`s how I see it.
MELBER: And that`s why this is not just a round robin about leaks. This is about whether or not the underlying issue is that the distortion, the misrepresentation, these allegations, powered something that was a break from past practice. And to remind everyone about that we -- not only SNL, Betsy, but we have a highlight reel of all the no comments that you tend to get when you and I have been covering this for so long. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, ANCHOR, MSNBC: If you`re the spokesman for the Special Counsel`s Office, your job is to never say anything.
SHEINELLE JONES, ANCHOR, MSNBC: No comment from the special Counsel`s Office.
CHRIS HAYES, ANCHOR, MSNBC: The Special Counsel`s Office basically never says anything ever about any story ever.
ALI VELSHI, CO-ANCHOR, MSNBC: The Special Counsel`s Office declined to comment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Special Counsel`s Office is declining to comment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): The Special Counsel`s Office declined to comment.
MADDOW: The Special Counsel`s Office almost never makes public comments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And so Betsy, the final question is whether any of this looks like a prelude to what Congressman Schiff and others have said, is a very likely ultimate outcome, which is hearing from Mueller under oath to the Congress.
BETSY WOODRUFF, JOURNALIST, THE DAILY BEAST: I think there`s no question. There`s no question that tons of members of Congress are extremely keen to hear Mueller talk about his investigation. And his investigation would be in the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee, which does oversight of the Justice Department.
Bob Mueller worked for the Justice Department. That means the product of his investigation fits squarely in that committee`s jurisdiction. I would frankly be surprised if they don`t try to bring him in for testimony at some point in the coming months.
MELBER: Right. And that`s why again, this relationship we`re tracking between him and Barr -- they both have cards to play. Barr has more cards, he is the current Attorney General of the United States. But Mueller does have cards in his deck and what we know is, in the past, he`s known how to play them. Betsy and John, thanks to both of you.
FLANNERY: Thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: And in 30 seconds, we come back with a major bipartisan rebuke of Donald Trump today with shades of Nixon. First, we`re going to speak to the Democrat leading the charge to get Trump`s tax returns, when we`re back in 30.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Democrats are coming out swinging tonight. They`re not waiting. They`re putting this marker down, right now. And I`m reporting this for the first time on MSNBC. They intend to request the returns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was one of the big stories we were breaking on election night 2018, when the Democrats took back the House. Sources were already telling us that they wanted to lay down a marker that the Democrats would pursue Trump`s tax returns under law that empowers a key House Chairman Richard Neal to demand them and that`s without any wider vote in the Republican held senate.
Today, that Chairman began dismissing President Trump`s first defense on this that the IRS should hold back his returns, while Trump claims they`re still under audit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NEAL, CHAIRMAN OF THE TAX-WRITING HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: There were a series of other options going forward that we will explore but we`ve already began to think about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you considering subpoenas?
NEAL: Well, that`s something that we would have to consider down the road.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you make of the President yesterday, saying that he`s still under audit?
NEAL: Well, I mean, the IRS is pretty clear on that, that you can release your tax forms even if you are under audit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me now is Congressman Bill Pascrell who serves on the Ways and Means Committee and has been a big part of the push to get Trump`s taxes. Good evening, sir.
REP. BILL PASCRELL (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, NEW JERSEY: Hi Ari, how are you?
MELBER: I`m good. I saw your Chairman there, you know, he`s a pretty even keeled person the way he talks.
PASCRELL: On target, he`s always on target, methodical --
MELBER: Well walk us through what he`s on target about in your tonight.
PASCRELL: I`m sorry.
MELBER:` Oh, I said walk us through what you`re just saying. You think he`s on target?
PASCRELL:` I think he`s methodical. I think he`s done the right thing in sending the letter that we are able to do under the law, 6103. It`s in the Code, read it. I asked the President to read that and with all due respect. And he has definitely laid out Richard Neal.
Basically what has happened and what will happen. He sent a letter to the IRS. So when the president says this evening, that he is not going to comply. It doesn`t matter what he says. The letter was sent to the IRS. We`re asking the IRS which has never refused anything in this case, under this law in the history of this country, since 1924.
We`re asking him to give the documents to the committee. They will be held respectfully. We need a committee vote if everything or anything is going to be let out, and under the law, and then we`ll see.
We also want to put the facts on the table and I want to know if the President of the United States will start here, Ari. We want to know if the President of the United States has paid his fair share like you have, and like I have, and like to every American face. That`s the first thing we need to know.
Now, this is not going to be simply looking at a 1040. That`s only a simple document. These are hundreds and thousands of pages that this President, because he has extended business dealings, which is all illegal to do something like that, depending on what`s in the details. But he can do that, but we want to know what`s in those details about his financials.
MELBER: Right, and you`ve been pressing on this. I know that you`ve long said -
PASCRELL: Two years.
MELBER: You`ve been leading on it and I remember, I interviewed you about it a while back before. Your committee, you know, had subpoena power here, had the gavel, had the power to invoke it under this law.
Now everyone knows in Washington, one of your best friends is Steve Mnuchin, right?
MELBER: No, I must have gotten confused. Well, let`s look at a little highlight reel of you giving him a bit of a hard time in oversight hearing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASCRELL: Mr. Trump claimed he would -- President Trump, he would not personally benefit from the tax cuts in the tax bill of December of 2017. How can we know without seeing his tax returns?
STEVE MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Well, I`m not aware of the President`s financial situation other than what I read and.
PASCRELL: Apparently nobody is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Apparently nobody is. What are you getting at there? And how much of this is about transparency, which would be oversight for the government? And how much of it is about giving the person, the opposing party this President a hard time? Is that really a good news to your Chairman`s power? Some people are criticizing you guys for that.
PASCRELL: Ari, I believe in transparency my whole political life. And the first thing I did on February 1st of 2017 was to write a letter - write a letter to Kevin Brady, who was the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee at that time since Republicans were in control up until just a few months ago.
And I said, Why don`t we do this together? Because this is the first President since Richard Nixon that has not submitted his taxes of the last four, five, six, 10 years, or whatever.
MELBER: But it was never really an issue for Nixon, right? I think, that worked out fine.
PASCRELL: Well, we got $500,000 more into the revenue because she was holding back on some taxes. And he said, "Well, we got to find this out because I want people to know I`m not a crook." And of course, you saw the rest of that drama and what happened.
MELBER: Do you think you`ll have to go to court, in the 10 seconds we have left?
PASCRELL: No, I think that we sent it to the IRS. The IRS has to stand up tall. Now if the IRS has anyone interfere with what they`re going to do, then we`ll have another problem.
This is not over by any stretch of imagination. I said from the beginning, let`s put it all on table. We can exonerate the President very easily. What is he hiding? And that is the major question, Ari. What is he hiding? And for the Republicans to say that this is rummaging in privacy? They have a very short history in up here. Because they went after 51 people if you remember when they were going after Miss Lerner when she was the head of the IRS --
MELBER: Yeah, I do remember that issue.
PASCRELL: Yeah. And they used this very law. They used this very law.
PASCRELL: See, look, we`re all equal. That means something. So, Ari, you better pay your fair share, and Pascrell, you better pay your fair share. I wonder if the President does it, then we`ll find out if there`s any conflicts.
MELBER: Do you refer yourself in the third person, but without the honorific. I mean, you earned that title? I would think you`d address yourself as Congressman Pascrell.
PASCRELL: You don`t know me then.
MELBER: I know you a little -- I`ve interviewed you about this very topic. It`s very interesting to see what the committee`s doing. And Congressman, you`ve been serving for some --
PASCRELL: And you know what, Ari, this is like the other three, Congressman of the judiciary, oversight, et cetera -- and Schiff, Nadler, and Cummings, they`re doing a fantastic job. This is the a political witch hunt on the part of the Congress of the United States, these are dedicated people.
MELBER: Right and I asked you that because we hear that from a lot of Trump allies as you know in this show we have Trump allies, we have Trump aides when they come on, we have your perspective. So Congressman Pascrell, I`ll use the honorific. I always enjoy talking to you. Thanks for coming on.
PASCRELL: My honor.
MELBER: Yes, sir. Up ahead --
PASCRELL: Thank you.
MELBER: Congress is now using a Nixon-era law in an important review to Trump on foreign policy. And later Obama`s homeland security secretary`s on "The Beat" and talking a lot of border patrol, when we come back.
MELBER: It was 1973, the Watergate scandal brewing, but like so many other political wrestling matches from that era, between the Congress and the White House, we look at it tonight with new meaning. Not about Nixon`s law breaking, but about the way he used power. even abroad.
There was a congressional vote to rein in how a president can use power and military power abroad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN CHANCELLOR, ANCHOR, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: The Congress of the United States in a historic action, today made effective a limitation on the powers of the President to make war.
TOM BROKAW, ANCHOR AND MANAGING EDITOR, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: It`s psychological victory for Congress. It proves to the members that they can take on the President and win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And that divided in sour time Vietnam, Congress was saying, it`s time to take back some of the power that Executives in both parties had seized. But it turns out that hasn`t been used very much until today. Because it all began with a bipartisan vote in the Senate against Donald Trump`s approach to a Saudi Arabian lead military fight in Yemen, basically, trying to stop what he was doing.
And then today, House Democrats lead this vote and they were joined by 16 Republicans to fortify that effort and pass the same more powers measure. And this is actually, get this, "Today, the first time the U.S. Congress has ever invoked," what you just saw a moment ago. That famous 1973 War Powers Resolution Law, which requires the president to consult with Congress before entering the U.S. in overseas military conflicts. Congress enacting that law over, of course, as I mentioned, the handling of the Vietnam War by Nixon and other Presidents.
Now many Republicans sided with Democrats on the War Powers vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILLIAM MAILLIARD (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, CALIFORNIA: The sequence of events that`s occurred has shaken the credibility of the President and therefore his support with the public, which is in turn felt in the halls of Congress.
REP. WILLIAM DICKINSON (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, ALABAMA: Those of us who stood with him in the past will continue to stand with them in the future when we`re convinced that he`s right. But I think in this one instance, he was not right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: A Republican saying their Republican President wasn`t right in that instance. Well tonight, Trump, like Nixon also getting this kind of rebuke from Republicans over military policy. This measure would cut off U.S. support for our involvement in the Yemeni Civil War. It would end the sale of arms, some of the sharing of Intel. It would be a way to actually stop Donald Trump`s approach, and many say undo friendship, to and with Saudi Arabia.
During the campaign, Trump boasted about his business contacts there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Saudi Arabia, and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He liked them so much that he made his first foreign trip as President to visit the King of Saudi Arabia. And this pushback from Republicans did begin in 2018 after that killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump refused to meet the senate deadline to identify Khashoggi`s killers and issue sanctions with the Saudis believed to be behind it. Trump stood by them. U.S. Intel gave them the responsibility for Khashoggi`s death.
Now tonight, all eyes are on what the President will do facing this bipartisan review. Remember, because Republicans have controlled so much of Congress, in two years he`s only issued one veto, which was required in his view and the senate stood up to him over what they saw as an abuse of power and that national emergency invocation at the border.
If Donald Trump steps up and goes and vetoes this resolution today, it would be his second veto ever, this time after a bipartisan rebuke over his use of power past the border.
Either way, we are seeing an escalation between a President who wants things he is way and a Congress which at times on a bipartisan basis is standing up to him. So we wanted to tell you about that. When we come back, a very special guest.
MELBER: We are thrilled to welcome a first-time guest on "The Beat." Former Homeland Security Secretary during the Obama Administration Janet Napolitano. Also of course, the former Governor of Arizona and currently the President of the University of California. She also has a new book out. Are you getting the sense she`s busy? It`s called "How Safe Are We? Homeland Security Since 9/11." Thank you for coming on "The Beat."
JANET NAPOLITANO, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Oh, thanks for having me.
MELBER: I`ve watched your work, both in law and government for a long time on the homeland front. What is the greatest threat right now?
NAPOLITANO: I think it`s threefold. Cyber Security, for sure. The impacts of climate change for sure. Mass gun violence for sure. Those would be my top three.
MELBER: When you look at the list you just gave us, you did not list immigration in the southern border. Why not?
NAPOLITANO: Because I don`t think it is an imminent threat. I think it`s an issue - an issue to be managed. The border is a is a zone. It is the most frequently traversed land border in the world. We have driven illegal migration down to decades - decade years lows.
MELBER: The difference between you and the Trump Administration and the use of ICE is not like you guys weren`t doing deportations. You were doing a lot of deportations.
NAPOLITANO: That`s right.
MELBER: But what is wrong with the way they`re doing it now, in your view?
NAPOLITANO: Well, it`s who is being deported. Under the Obama Administration, we really prioritize in terms of those in the country illegally who are trying to enter the country illegally. But who had also committed other serious crimes under the Trump Administration, anybody in the country illegally is fair game, no matter how long no matter what their track record, no matter their employment history, their family history, et cetera. It`s an indiscriminate use of the police power.
MELBER: So let me get you on the President declaring a national emergency. And a lot of people talk about this stuff. You know it, you`ve walked the walk. You also used emergency declarations in your authority as governor.
NAPOLITANO: I did.
MELBER: .to patrol the border and use funds on the border? How is that different from what the President now says he wants to do?
NAPOLITANO: Well, first of all, the condition of the border in the early 2000s was much different than the condition of the border in 2019. In the interim, we`ve added thousands of border patrol agents. We`ve added all kinds of technology, ground center sensors, tunnel detectors --
MELBER: I think that`s true but I would respectfully push you and ask, even if you feel that way, perhaps the President`s drawn a different conclusion. Is he exceeding his authority here?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think he`s exceeding his authority in part because, (a) there`s no real emergency now, but (b) he is avoiding the appropriations power of the Congress. The Congress has appropriated funds. The President is unilaterally deciding -- I`m going to reach into this appropriated fund and put it on the border.
MELBER: The last thing I want to do is fun.. Are you ready to have some fun?
NAPOLITANO: I`m always ready.
MELBER: You are the type of government official who is so stern and careful in your public life, that you`re actually hard to impersonate. Did you know that?
NAPOLITANO: I`ve been told.
MELBER: Yes, you`re pretty no nonsense and we saw that when you were at DHS. But SNL took a shot. I`d like to revisit this with you since I have you here for the first time. Kristen Wiig, who`s so talented doing the Napolitano.
NAPOLITANO: Let`s see it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTEN WIIG, AMERICAN ACTRESS AND PRODUCER: I`m potential Attorney General Janet Napolitano. I grew up in Albuquerque.
PAUL RUDD, AMERICAN ACTOR AND PRODUCER: Hey, Janet, what do you think we should do to border security legislation?
WIIG: Let`s revamp it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You didn`t give her a lot to work with, did you?
NAPOLITANO: That`s pretty thin.
MELBER: I mean, she seems almost normal, like she just seems like another normal person saying words.
NAPOLITANO: Yes, yes that`s pretty funny. I hadn`t seen that before.
MELBER: I appreciate you coming on "The Beat", Janet Napolitano. And the book is, "How Safe Are We?"
MELBER: That does it for THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER. Thanks for watching.
"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END