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Top Democrats demand Trump's financial records. TRANSCRIPT: 4/5/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Elie Mystal, Christine Quinn, Paul Butler, Gene Rossi, BasilSmikle, William Tong, Aisha Moodie-Mills

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  We`ll just have to leave it to you to decide.  Is it Stevens or Buttigieg?  But one of those two men will be joining me this weekend.  Utah Senator Mitt Romney will also be here.  Don`t miss it.  Fascinating show, Buttigieg and Romney, because if it`s Sunday, it`s MEET THE PRESS.

That`s all we have for tonight.  We`ll be back Monday with more MEET THE PRESS daily.

And "THE BEAT" with Yasmin Vossoughian, who`s in for Ari, starts right now. 

Good evening, Yasmin.

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck.  We`re going to be watching Sunday, that is for sure.  Thank you.

I`m Yasmin Vossoughian, in for Ari Melber, everybody.

Tonight, President Trump is on the border.  We`re going to talk to an attorney general suing Trump over his immigration policy.  And Joe Biden is raising eyebrows with new comments about the 2020 race and a joke about giving hugs.

But we`re going to start with Democrats in Congress ramping up the pressure with probes into Trump`s taxes and business dealings.  Today, the president`s lawyers told the Treasury Department that his taxes should not be released to Congress and Trump himself claimed the law was on his side.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Oh, I don`t know.  That`s up to whoever handles it.  I don`t know.  Hey, I`m under audit but that`s up to whoever it is.  From what I understand, the law is 100 percent on my side.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  So obviously, Democrats in Congress don`t agree with that.  But in any legal fight, they`re going to face Trump allies in key positions at the IRS.  "The New York Times" reporting with a top lawyer at the IRS has ties to the Trump Organization, putting him in place was a key priority for the president.

The probe into Trump`s finances extending beyond his taxes though, his accounting firm reportedly will give 10 years of Trump documents to Congress once they do get a subpoena.  And the Capital One Bank also saying they`ll hand over Trump documents as well.  This is all veering into territory that Trump once said was a red line for him.


SCHMIDT:  Mueller was looking at your finances and your family`s finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?

HABERMAN:  Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP:  I would say yes, yes.  I would say yes.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  Joining me now is Elie Mystal, executive editor of "Above the Law".  Christine Quinn, vice chair of the New York State Democratic Party and former New York counsel speaker.  And Howard Fineman, an MSNBC, news analyst.

Howard, I`m going to start with you on this one.  Trump starting the week out saying that he was exonerated from the Mueller probe altogether because of the Bill Barr letter, as we all know, four pages which actually turned out to summarize 300-plus pages.  Still waiting on that one.

Now, it seems as if the president is trying to hide his finances.  What has happened here?

HOWARD FINEMAN:  Well, I think it is clear that the four-page letter from Barr did not do what probably was intended to do which is to open and close the case, far from it.  I talked to one of the key leaders on the Democratic side in the House right after the Barr letter came out.

And they said it was going to be full steam ahead with the Investigative and Oversight Committees that the Democrats control in the House.  And you`ve got five of them going after different parts of the Trump story.

The point here is that impeachment aside, the American people and the Congress need to know in essence financially, and businesswise, who Donald Trump is.  We still really don`t know.

That is key to understanding foreign influence if any.  It is key to understanding illegal contributions, perhaps.  It`s key to understanding his business and so forth.

And a full part of Donald Trump is going to come out one way or the other.  At least that`s what the House leadership intends to have happened.  And that`s the tone of things right now as we end the week 10 days or so after the Barr letter.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Elie, if we were having this conversation a year or so ago, we would assume that Bob Mueller had Donald Trump`s taxes in his hand.  He knew the finance because if he was looking into Russian collusion or alleged collusion or if he was looking if there were any ties between Trump Organization and Russia, Moscow, Vladimir Putin, he would be looking if there were any money exchanges there if he had any business interest in Moscow.  We cannot assume now that Mueller had any access to Trump`s taxes or his finances.

ELIE MYSTAL, EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW:  Exactly.  But the House Judiciary Committee -- the House Ways and Means Committee is going to get access.  When Trump says the law is 100 percent on his side, he is 100 percent wrong.

As Jules from Englewood might say, nobody asked Donald Trump a thing.  All right.  This is not his call.  It is Steve Mnuchin`s call.

The law is very clear here.  It says that the Treasury secretary will furnish tax returns of any American citizen upon written request from House Ways and Means.  So nobody really cares what Trump and the Trump lawyers have to say about it.


CHRISTINE QUINN, VICE CHAIR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY:  And Mnuchin could try to disregard that.  He could read it differently, as they seem to read many things differently like the Constitution in the White House.  But at the end of the day, that is a case when taken to court by the House Democrats, they will win.

Because you`re right, it is clearly stated in the law.  It is not interpretable.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Well, let me just get down to the nuts and bolts of this.  So it is based on this 1924 law from what I understand, right?  Elie, and I know that you have this on your phone, this tax law ready to go.  And tax laws are very difficult to understand.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  OK.  So it`s based on 1924 law.  So anybody could see, in Congress, could see my taxes if they wanted to see it, right.  So now, you`re saying the decision goes to Steve Mnuchin.  It`s going to go to the Treasury Department to actually make clear if whether or not we can see the president`s taxes.  Why would Steve -- am I wrong?

MYSTAL:  Yes, because it is not that Steve Mnuchin has the authority to make it clear for us to see it.  Steve Mnuchin has the --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  For Congress to see it.

MYSTAL:  For Congress.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But why would Steve Mnuchin agree to this?

MYSTAL:  Why wouldn`t he?  It is the law.  But he doesn`t have --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But he`s a Trump appointee.  Why would he agree to this?

MYSTAL:  He could be held in contempt of Congress if he doesn`t follow the law.  I mean they can literally go overtake his office and arrest him if he doesn`t follow the law.  The law couldn`t -- as complicated as tax laws are, this one is very clear.

Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee of -- on Ways and Means, the chairman shall furnish such a committee with any return, return information, specified upon request.  That`s as clear as it gets.

FINEMAN:  Yasmin.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Yes.  Go ahead, Howard.  Go ahead.

FINEMAN:  I was going to say that that law sounds very antique.  It`s from 1924.  But if it gets to the court, the legislative history will be important.

And the history is that that grew out of the famous or infamous Teapot Dome scandal in the early `20s that involved the administration at that time.  So there is an argument to be made that far from it violating executive privilege, the law itself grew out of at least superficially analogous situation a century ago.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  OK.  So we know and we`ve heard from the president over and over again the reason why he has not released his taxes as of yet, he doesn`t want to is because he has been continuously audited for a decade.  Not necessarily sure who he`s audited for exactly but he says he`s been audited for a decade.

So I want to play you guys a sound bite from the president talking about his audit.  And then we`re going to follow it up with something that Charles Redick had to say, Trump`s IRS commissioner.  Let`s watch.


TRUMP:  You don`t release your returns until the audit is complete.  When the audit is complete, I`ll do it.  They`re under audit.  They have been for a long time.  They`re extremely complex.

 Nobody turns over a return when it`s under audit.  When the audit is complete, I`ll release them.  I`m not going to release any tax returns because as you know they`re under audit.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  So are they or are they not under audit?  Here`s what Charles Redick had to say, Trump`s IRS tax commissioner -- IRS commissioner.

He said this, "Would any experienced tax lawyer representing Trump in an IRS audit advise him to publicly release his tax returns during the audit?  Absolutely not.  Elie.

MYSTAL:  OK.  So A, he`s lying.  He`s probably not under audit.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Why would he say that?

MYSTAL:  Michael Cohen has said that as far as he knows, Donald Trump`s taxes are not under audit.

QUINN:  And it is the longest audit in history of Christendom if he`s actually still under audit.

MYSTAL:  Right.  So A, he`s lying.  B, he`s lying more because he`s certainly not under audit for the taxes that he filed while he was president, right?


MYSTAL:  C, if you look and listen to what the IRS guy is saying, he`s talking about in a theoretical sense.  If somebody was under audit, you wouldn`t be advised to release your taxes.  Not Trump is under audit and I am advising him not to release his taxes.

And D, and again this is an important point, nobody is asking Trump to release taxes.  Nobody cares what Trump thinks about his taxes.  Nobody is asking him to release them publicly.

We`re simply asking him to follow the law and to provide -- the government is asking the government to look at information that the government has already --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  OK, hold on.  I want to play what Michael Cohen did


VOSSOUGHIAN:  -- at the state testimony in which Elie just referred to and then I`ll let you weigh in.  Go ahead, guys.


MICHAEL COHEN, LAWYER TO DONALD TRUMP:  What he didn`t want was to have an entire group of think tanks that are tax experts run through his tax return and start ripping it to pieces and then he`ll end up in an audit until ultimately have taxable consequences, penalties and so on.  I presume that he is not under audit.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  And then he`ll end up in an audit.  And then he said I presume that he is actually not under audit.

QUINN:  And he would know.  He would know, A, if he was under audit.  B, he probably was in the room when they had conversations about how are we going to get around presidential candidates releasing their 10 years of taxes.

So if there is somebody who knew, he is the guy.  There is really little question about that.

FINEMAN:  Yasmin, can I make another point here?

VOSSOUGHIAN:  You certainly can, Howard.  Go ahead.

FINEMAN:  Yes.  I was going to say you`ve got to step back just a little bit.  The habit of presidents releasing their tax returns go back to Richard Nixon and it has been true every time since.

But the thing about Donald Trump is we`ve been already been saying, we don`t know who he is really until we know who he is financially.  This is the first person of this kind to ever be elected president of the United States, a guy with a global and local big, big business who on paper is worth billions of dollars.

We don`t know who the president is in a real sense until we know his financial profile.  One way or another, we`ve got to get it, I think.  And that`s what the House Democrats are trying to do.

With the accounting records, with the tax records, with the what`s in your wallet request to Capital One.  I mean that`s what they`re going to get.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  We`re not endorsed by Capital One.

FINEMAN:  Yes, I know.  I know.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  I got to put that out there.  I`m going to have legal calling in any moment.  Howard, so what is Congress going to do with these taxes if they do get a hold of them?

FINEMAN:  Well, if they do get a hold of them, their first challenge will be to keep them under lock and key, they`ve got to do if they do it, number one.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  That`s critical.

FINEMAN:  Absolutely critical because if it leaks, then ball game as far as Trump is concerned politically.  But then they have got to use that as part of the picture.

As I say, with the work product of the accountant, with the bank records, with the flow of money.  The question here is, there may not be a criminal conspiracy.  There may not be a criminal conspiracy to collude or cover up.

But we have to know what influences there are that make this president make the decisions that he makes.  And that`s really what we`re after here.  And also, for the sake of history, we have to know whether impeachment is ever involved or not.

QUINN:  And I think --


QUINN:  That`s -- he`s absolutely right, right.  That`s the fuller sense of who the president and the people around him are, right?  We don`t know what is in Mueller`s report but we do know it looked at Russia.  And it probably looked at investments that the Trump Organization or Trump has had.

That we need to know because that has influenced.  Maybe I`m not -- and we can`t say it`s a criminal influence but it has an influence just to him as a person.  And we need to know that.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  I just quickly want to ask you this because I do have to wrap, Christine, but you have been in New York City politics for quite some time, the New York politics for quite some time.  If you`re a New Yorker, you have known Donald Trump for a very long time.  What could he or what do you think he is hiding?  Why does he not want to show his taxes?

QUINN:  That he was phony baloney developer.  He never really developed much in this town.  He just sold his name to things.  He doesn`t want people to know that the emperor has no real estate clothes on.

MYSTAL:  Fake billionaire

QUINN:  Fake billionaire.

MYSTAL:  He`s a fake billionaire.

QUINN:  Fake billionaire

VOSSOUGHIAN:  There you go.  Elie Mystal, Howard Fineman, thank you.  Christine Quinn, you`re going to stay with me.

QUINN:  Yes.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  Up next everybody, Michael Cohen tells Congress he has more evidence against Trump as he tries to delay going to prison.  And Joe Biden jokes about the personal space controversy and then tries to explain the joke.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  By the way, he gave me permission to touch him.  All right.

It wasn`t my intent to make anyone discomfort.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  A bit cringeworthy there.  Plus, we`re going to talk to a state attorney general suing Trump over his border policy.  And new reports tonight that Trump is already planning for the memoir he`ll write after leaving office.

I`m Yasmin Vossoughian, in for Ari Melber.  And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.  We`ll be right back.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  Welcome back.  Michael Cohen out with a new pitch to Congress.  He says he has more dirt on Trump and he`ll give to it Democrats but he wants their help keeping him out of prison.  Cohen`s lawyers say he just got access to his files back after the fed seized them last year and he`s just started going through the 14 million files, including e-mails, voicemail messages, and recordings.  And guess what, he needs more time.

But with 30 days left before he surrenders to prison, "time is no longer a luxury that he is capable of."  The lawyers also submitting a memo summarizing the evidence Cohen`s already provided, including his claim that Trump encouraged him to lie to Congress by using code language.  Cohen`s team hoping the Democrats will tell New York prosecutors how helpful he has been.

So they`d either cut his jail time or postpone the date he has to report to jail so that he can keep helping investigators.  But Donald Trump today said he`s not worried about anything that Michael Cohen has.


TRUMP:  No, they`ve already got it.  It`s old news.  He lied numerous times during his last testimony.  They`ve had that for many months.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  With me are two former federal prosecutors, Paul Butler, and Gene Rossi.  Welcome to you both.

Paul, I`m going to start with you on this one.  Does Michael Cohen actually have anything?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, it`s hard to say.  We should first note that Michael Cohen is no hero.  He pled guilty to committing conspiracy to violate the election laws, to help Donald Trump get elected president.

We`ll never know how much of an impact that had on the outcome of the election.  But apart from any collusion with Russia, this failure to play by the rules to get Trump elected, cast Trump`s presidency into the legitimacy of Trump`s presidency.

And he also pled guilty to lying to Congress.  So it is hard to understand why he thinks that Congress is going to try to give him a break now.  So he says he has all these e-mails, voicemails, attachments, and images.  Why didn`t he show that to Mueller?  Why didn`t the Mueller team find it?

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Well, we don`t necessarily know if that`s the case, that he didn`t show that to Mueller, Gene, do we?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, that`s a good question.  If the agents and the investigators did not see the 14 million files, then that`s malpractice and it was probably hidden somehow.

If they did look at those documents, and now Cohen is saying, hey, I may be able to shed some light on this.  Then I think all Mr. Cohen is doing is pushing back his report date of May 6 to the Bureau Prisons.

But I will say this though, if the agents did not thoroughly peruse and go through those 14 million files, I can`t believe that`s in his computer and his phone, and they find any documents that corroborate, support, and buttress what Michael Cohen the perjurer says, then that is very bad news for the president of the United States.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Gene, do you think this could have been a strategy from Cohen`s lawyers to roll these things out as we got closer and closer to his deadline of reporting to prison?

ROSSI:  I don`t want to second-guess defense attorneys.  I now am a defense attorney.  I do want to say -- I`m glad I got you laughing.

I do want to say this.  If the agents did thoroughly go through the 14 million files, and Michael Cohen now finds a smoking gun, or a Gatling gun and those documents corroborate what Michael Cohen says, this could add rocket fuel to the investigations in D.C., EDVA, and the Southern District of New York, possibly, or it could be a nothing burger.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  So, Paul, you are also a federal prosecutor.  Do you actually think that Mueller`s attorneys, that the SDNY, that the D.C. Courts, that nobody is going, has gone through these 14 million files?  Do you actually buy that, that they haven`t seen every single thing that they got from Cohen in that raid over a year ago?

BUTLER:  No, Yasmin.  I don`t buy it.  In part, because the Southern District prosecutors at Cohen`s sentencing refused to give him credit for substantial assistance.  Mueller was a lot more happy with how Cohen cooperated than they were.  And in fact, they said that he wasn`t entirely forthcoming.  He refused to tell everything that he knew.

When I was a federal prosecutor, I interviewed a lot of witnesses from prison.  So there`s no reason that Cohen, while he serves his time, can`t continue to cooperate.  This is a Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of criminal procedure, if he continues to provide substantial assistance, even from prison, his sentence could be reduced.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Hey, Gene.  There is this question though with regard to Democrats and Michael Cohen and that do they feel as if they owe Michael Cohen something?  If you look across at some of the headlines out there today, from "The New York Times," House Democrats demanding six years of Trump`s tax returns from the IRS.

"Daily Beast", Elijah Cummings seeking 10 years of Trump`s financial records.  "Politico" House Dems asking Capital One for docs on Trump`s sprawling businesses.  Much of this was spurned as we talked about in my last segment by Cohen`s testimony with regards to Trump`s taxes.

ROSSI:  Well, I worked for the Department of Justice for 30 years.  Eleven of those years, I did 30 tax trials.

And the thing about tax returns is you can`t call them snitches, you can`t call them rats, and you can`t give them a pardon.  So when those tax returns are analyzed and perused and Michael Cohen did provide the committees some red flags and loud gongs as to what possibly on the returns is false.

And I want to go back to July of 1974.  The Watergate Committee of the House Judiciary Committee, they voted on impeachment articles involving President Nixon`s alleged cheating on his taxes.  They didn`t approve them but cheating on your taxes is a big deal.  Just ask Al Capone.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Paul, I want to circle back though to this Cohen thing because obviously, he has this looming deadline in three weeks or so.  And he did provide a lot of information in that testimony that Gene is just referring to.

What could actually happen here?  Do we see Congress granting him more time to provide them with more information?  Because we do know that Congress is certainly investigating the president right now and we know that Michael Cohen has a lot of documentation with regards to the president and a lot of history.

BUTLER:  Yes.  So what Michael Cohen is trying to do is to stay out of prison.  Again, he didn`t come clean until he got caught.

And now, what he`s doing is asking Congress to write a letter to the prosecutors asking the prosecutors to give him credit for substantial assistance.  Even if Congress is willing to write that letter, there is no guarantee that the prosecutors would go along with it.

So this is kind of a Hail Mary pass.  You can`t blame him for not wanting to go to prison.  But at some point, he`s going to have to pay his debt to society.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  Paul Butler, Gene Rossi, thank you to you both.

Ahead, everybody, Trump at the border today as 20 states sued to block his wall money.  One of the attorney generals suing joins us live.  But first, Joe Biden makes revealing comment today on what his campaign might look like.  We`ll be back in 30 seconds


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  Now, this is a picture, everybody, 2020 Democrats in full force, speaking at Reverend Al Sharpton`s National Action Network Conference, all trying to stand out from the crowd.

But the big news coming from someone who is not officially in the race yet.  Joe Biden appearing to go off script during a speech to union workers, making light of complaints from a growing number of women who say that his close physical contact made them feel uncomfortable.  Watch this.


BIDEN:  I just want you to know, I had permission to hug Lanny.  I don`t know, man.  By the way, he gave me permission to touch him.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  So today, a former White House communications director for Barack Obama, Jen Palmieri, writing that she saw Biden show physical affection for both men and women and that Biden "wears his emotions on his sleeve."

After the speech, Biden dodging direct questions about when he`ll announce but giving signs of what kind of candidate he would be.


REPORTER:  Mr. Vice President, you said two weeks ago that you were the most aggressive person in the Democratic Party.  There`s a lot of candidates in this race.

BIDEN:  No, I said Liberal.  I didn`t say progressive.  The vast majority of the members of the Democratic Party are still basically liberal to moderate Democrats in the traditional sense.  Everybody asks, you know, what kind of Democrat?  I`m an Obama-Biden Democrat.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  Back with me, someone who knows the Democratic Party very well, Christine Quinn, and joining me is Basil Smikle, former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party.  Great to have you guys on to talk more about this.

As I`ve been teasing this throughout the show so far, we`re 26 minutes, and you have been sitting with me this entire time.  And every time I talk about Biden, I see you out of the corner of my eye shake your head.  So here`s your chance, Christine.

QUINN:  Why, Joe?  Why did he possibly, for any reason, make both of those jokes?  And I think Vice President Biden had been responding to this controversy well.  He was saying he was willing to listen.  He understood the times had changed.  And he was presenting himself, I thought, in a fairly contrite way that was genuine.

And maybe he made those jokes because he was nervous, his first time out since all of this.  I don`t know but they were just mistakes that he should not have made and that are really not helpful to him moving forward.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  We`ve been not necessarily hearing a lot, Basil, from the Democratic Party on all of this as they`ve been asked.  Everybody from Kamala Harris to the House speaker as well who`s been asked about this.

It seems as if when everything went down with Al Franken, the Democrats drew a line in the sand that they had a very low bar with regards to anything like this, whether it be something that made someone feel uncomfortable with a hug, all the way up to sexual assault, or sexual harassment.  Now, it seems like they are wavering.  Go ahead.

BASIL SMIKLE, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY:  I don`t know that there`s -- I don`t know there`s a waver in part because I think there are a lot of people that felt that the trigger on Al Franken was pulled too quickly.

And the truth is we`ve got a lieutenant governor and a governor in Virginia right now that a lot of folks had said should probably leave office.  And what are they doing?  They`re staying in office and they`re pretty resolute about that.

Amidst a lot of people saying that they should have done that differently and made a different decision.  So I think right now everybody is just trying to sort of be careful because of Joe and who he is and who he has been for the party.

And I think Christine is right, is absolutely right.  He`ll do something that`s awkward, then he`ll seem to connect with everybody and then do something awkward again.  In all of those instances, that`s Joe Biden.  He runs from sort of the avuncular embracing and empathetic person and an appropriate person.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And he is a guy who inserts his foot in his mouth all the time, which we know very well about.

SMIKLE:  And I think we sort of look at that as saying, my God, like why would you do that?  That is a misstep in sort of the campaign parlance.  But the average voter is looking at this and saying well, what`s the context here, compare him to the person that`s in office?

QUINN:  Well, that`s unequivocally true.  I mean we have Joe Biden struggling here with changing times and a guy who is very like was said, heart in his sleeve compared to a president of the United States who is on tape talking about grabbing women`s genitals and being able to grab and kiss.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But if fighting gets in the way, is he going to fight like that is my question.  Is he going to go back to the president?  If the president attacks, is he going back to the president and say, well, look at you, look what you`ve been accused of.

QUINN:  Look, Joe Biden may put his foot in his mouth at times.  He may be awkward but he is one hell of a fighter.

SMIKLE: He is not a shrinking violet.

QUINN:  He`s a guy who comes from working-class Delaware and nobody`s going to output that.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  I can`t help but think puzzled that the way he could stop all of this is if he announces that he`s running for president.  Why is he waiting?

SMIKLE:  I don`t think it will stop.  I also think maybe there`s a --


SMIKLE:  Yes.  Maybe the strategy is he waits a little while, number one, to see how all the other candidates have done financially.  And Bernie`s got, what, $18 million.  So at some point, he`s got to figure out, can I even match that?

Because if the former vice president of the United States, the Obama-Biden Democrat that he says that he is can`t outrace Bernie Sanders, that`s telling in and of itself. So, I think waiting to see what everybody comes up financially, giving himself the time to raise some money have a good -- and maybe by the time he actually announces, one or two people fall out. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  What do you make of Biden saying that he`s not a progressive, he is a liberal; he is an Obama -- Obama-Biden Democrat. 

CHRISTINE QUINN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF WIN AND FORMER SPEAKER OF NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL:  Well, I think it`s interesting because he`s saying he is a Liberal, like he believes most Democrats are, which I think probably most Democrats define themselves as progressive but that`s kind of him standing in the place of I`m more of a general election candidate.  I am a moderate Liberal Democrat, i.e. I can beat Donald Trump.  But then to say he`s an Obama-Biden Democrat is leaning to the left and to the progressive side.  So, I think he is, clever wording, trying to straddle both sides of the fence. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Because we have been asking this question so far as we started cover the lead-up to 2020 is: are the Democrats going to vote for someone that they believe in?  Or are they going to vote for someone who can beat Donald Trump or can they vote for a candidate who has both? 

QUINN:  Well, I think -- right, that`s important.  We can`t assume they aren`t one and the same.  But recent polling indicates that Democrats more than anything, want a candidate who can beat Donald Trump. 

SMIKLE:  Yes, absolutely.  And you know, going back to the question about Liberal, I think in his mind, and from his experience, he is a very Liberal Democrat.  Based on, perhaps, an older coalition of white working-class people of color, and sort of the -- 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But is that what the progressive, young Democratic Party?  Is that what they want, the way that you just explained it?  That`s not necessarily a good thing. 

SMIKLE:  No, but that`s what`s interesting, because if you go back to 2018, we talked about the growth of the Democratic Party and how we had such an expansive party, and it was a big, tremendous sort of -- we were doing much better than Republicans in that regard, that we had depth.  And if you look at who is actually growing the party, to them, I think he`s more of a Moderate than a Liberal.  So, his challenge is to do two things: one, bring white working-class back to the party, because they`ve been leaving the party for at least a decade.  And Obama, sort of, changed the coalition a little bit.  So, he has to reform that substantially and be able to bring in a lot of the new voters that got engaged for 2016. 

QUINN:  And you know, I also think the Obama reference, which by the way, why wouldn`t you mention Obama -- President Obama all the time, if you could?  If you were his vice president.  But I also think that`s a kind of a clever hit, in a way to Bernie, because that`s a way for Vice President Biden to connect -- and he`s always done in the African-American community.  But to remind the African-American community whose back he had, President Obama, Bernie, we saw in the last primary, had terribly -- terrible challenges connecting with the African-American community.  And we`ve seen recently in the elections, in the mid-terms that who (INAUDIBLE) the Democratic Party on their back, African-American voters particularly African-American women. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And why -- quickly, why that`s critical? 

SMIKLE:  Because South Carolina, California, huge African-American vote early in the process now.  So, engaging the African-American community is going to be paramount. 

QUINN:  Engaging the African-American community, but we cannot forget about engaging the women as well. 

SMIKLE:  Absolutely.

QUINN:  Correct.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And how is Joe Biden going to address the female voter?  Especially considering some of these gaffes that he`s made. 

QUINN:  Well, I think he needs to be direction them, right?  First of all, I think he needs to stay words "I`m sorry" more full-throatedly than he has.  But I think he just needs to be direct to say I`m listening, I`m growing.  He doesn`t need to make any more jokes about it. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  OK, I got it.  OK.  Christine Quinn, thank you guys so much.  Still ahead everybody, 20 states with a new move to stop Donald Trump`s border wall.  I`m going to talk to one of the attorneys general behind the lawsuit.  And later, Trump already plotting to write a tell-all about his presidency, and the details -- they`re starting to leak.  We`ll be right back.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, this might not be the greeting Donald Trump wanted.  Arriving at the southern border in California today just hours after the state`s attorney general and 19 others filed a motion to stop Trump from funding his border wall.  In a moment, I`m going to talk to a Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who is helping drive this lawsuit.  California`s attorney general arguing that Trump`s declaration of a national emergency to justify his wall is a "misuse of power."  Trump trying to brush critics aside today, boasting about a two-mile long fence. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I`m heading to the border.  We`re building a lot of wall, we`re going to show you a section, and a lot of things are happening -- a lot of very positive things are happening. 


VOSSOUGHIAN:  So, there`s even a plaque as you see right there, calling it this time first section of Trump`s wall.  Now, there`s one problem.  It was actually built in the 1990s and plans for an upgrade came during the Obama administration.  Joining me now to talk all about this: Connecticut`s Attorney General William Tong.  William, good to talk to you.  So, let`s start with this: what is today`s motion that you filed?  What`s the goal with it? 

WILLIAM TONG, CONNECTICUT ATTORNEY GENERAL:  So, we filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the president from hijacking $1.6 billion of money that Connecticut and many other states are depending on for -- in Connecticut`s case, state police, equipment, training, operations.  He`s taking money that Congress said is for the states, for law enforcement, and he`s spending on it a border wall for a national emergency that doesn`t exist. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So, from this motion that I`m looking at here, this preliminary injunction, it`s not going to be seen in court until May 9th. 

TONG:  That`s right.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  -- or heard in country until May 9th.  Which means, we have about four weeks until then.  Does that mean that between now and May 9th, the president can begin to access that $1.6 billion in emergency funding? 

TONG:  Well, that`s what`s so dangerous.  Because, he`s the president of the United States, and he`s in control of the executive branch and he`s doing something that he`s not lawfully permitted to do.  That`s why we`re facing a constitutional crisis, because the constitution says that Congress shall have the power to appropriate money and the president is just saying, I don`t care.  I`m going to go ahead and take that money, hijack that money that Connecticut earned, by the way.  You know, our law enforcement participated in joint, state, and federal law enforcement exercises.  And so, we earned this money from the treasury forfeiture fund, for example.  And its hundreds of thousands of dollars that Connecticut depends on to keep our residents safe. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  After we went through that prolonged government shut down, the president then declared this national emergency, and he predicted that this was going to get -- that this was going to happen, that he was going to be eventually sued.  Let`s take a listen to his prediction. 


TRUMP:  We will have a national emergency and we will then be sued and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn`t be there.  And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we`ll get another bad ruling and then we`ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hope any we`ll get a fair shake, and we`ll win in the Supreme Court. 


VOSSOUGHIAN:  Very sing-songy.  It takes you back to that moment.  How is this going to go?

TONG:  Yes, it doesn`t sound like a national emergency, does it, right?  He is predicting all of this delay.  He said in that press conference that he was going to go play golf.  And that he didn`t have to do it this way.  And then, one thing to keep in mind, is that Congress agrees.  A majority of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, both agreed that there`s no national emergency. 

So, how this is going to go is we`re going to into federal court, led by my friend, Attorney General Javier Becerra of California.  We`re going to make our case and we feel very good about our chances to show that this president is abusing his power.  He`s overstepped the constitution and the National Emergencies Act, and there is no basis for his building a border wall with money he`s not entitled to spend. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  If this does ends up in the Supreme Court, because it may very well end up there, are you concerned about that considering the president`s two most recent appointees? 

TONG:  No, I think it`s pretty clear that the National Emergencies Act was put in place to limit presidential power, so that presidents don`t just go off and spend money willy-nilly whenever they feel like it. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  You think the law solemnly supports your motion?

TONG:  I do.  I do.  And I know that 19 other attorneys general -- there are 20 of us in all.  We feel very confident.  Just this week, four more states joined us: Massachusetts and three others.  And we feel very strongly about our position. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Talk about where this money is coming from with the national emergency?  I know some of the money that it is actually coming from drug enforcement. 

TONG:  Right.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Which is interesting concerning the fact that Trump has said, the president has said that he`s trying to build this border wall in order to keep drugs out of this country.  And yet, the money that he`s taking from -- that he`s taking from with regards to this national emergency to build this wall is the money that is used in law enforcement. 

TONG:  Yes, purports to be a tough on crime, strong on national defense, tough on, you know, drug abuse and illicit drugs president.  And yet, you`re right, he`s taking money, treasury forfeiture money, drug inter- addiction money and of course, military construction and military spending money that all of the states depend on.  And the federal government depends on to keep Americans and people in Connecticut safe.  And so, the ironies don`t even begin to confound us, right?  That he`s taking this money that we need for law enforcement here in Connecticut and across the country.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  Attorney General William Tong, thank you so much. 

TONG:  Thang you.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  I appreciate it.  Coming up, everybody, Trump`s reportedly already planning a tell-all book to settle scores.  That`s next. 


VOSSOUGHIAN:  Welcome back.  Trump is already plotting his tell-all book.  A source telling The Daily Beast: Trump "keeps talking about the scores he plans to settle with Trump eager to get it started and promising it`s going to be explosive."  Spilling on his foes in the media, the Democratic Party, non-loyal Republicans, law enforcement, and even individuals in his own administration.  A source claiming to be a friend of the president saying he once heard Trump say, "that will go great in a book."  Something he also said in public. 


TRUMP:  I happen to know some United States senators.  One who is on the other side, who`s pretty aggressive.  I`ve seen that person in very bad situations.  OK?  I`ve seen that person in very, very bad situations.  Somewhat compromising. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You just said some senators are not angels and you`ve seen some of them --

TRUMP:  I would say some of them, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Compromising situations. 

TRUMP:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Could you tell us who and exactly what situation --

TRUMP:  No, no, I think I`ll save it for a book like everybody else and I`ll write it, OK?  I`m not giving it to you. 


VOSSOUGHIAN:  OK.  That`s quite a tease.  Aisha Moodie-Mills is a Democratic Strategist and a Fellow at Harvard Institute of Politics.  Good to see you, Aisha.  Thanks for joining us on this. 


VOSSOUGHIAN:  When are we going to read this book?  What do you make of it? 

MILLS:  Are you going to read this book?  Becomes the question.


MILLS:  Like who`s going -- I`m not going to read this book. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Are you not?

MILLS:  I would not -- I`m not going to read this book and I certainly wouldn`t spend $0.05 on this book.  I mean, look, it`s absolutely ridiculous that this president is already plotting, again, how he`s going to use his current position to try to make some money.  Because what he`s trying to do is he`s really trying to gin up his book deal, and how many, you know, seven-figure deal or whatever it is so that he can come out with yet another way that he will use this opportunity that he has, when he`s supposed to be in service to the American people, to actually make a buck for himself.  I mean, this guy is so unethical and immoral that I don`t even know why we`re shocked by this at this point.  But none of this is a surprise. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  I don`t think anyone is necessarily shocked by this considering the fact that when he went into office, he already had some books out there.  Of course, all of us know "The Art of the Deal," because it`s been mentioned so often because he`s the ultimate deal maker, as he says.  So, I don`t think anyone is necessarily shocked by this tell-all book.  But he has made it seem as if he really wants to settle scores here because I think it is unprecedented -- and you can correct me if I`m wrong, but with so many books coming out of the White House, especially from the former staffers that have left the White House the first two years of his presidency like Cliff Simms, like Omarosa, they`ve both written books, obviously, that the president has not necessarily been happy about.  And then, there is the Michael Wolf book as well, talking about Steve Bannon`s role in the presidential campaign (INAUDIBLE) to 2016 as well, and what took place in those first year or so of the White House with all of them in place.  So, it seems as if this is very much about the president trying to settle scores. 

MILLS:  Of course, this is what it is.  You know, what`s interesting about this is the precedent is so focused on trying to take down people, and try to like bring out other people`s dirt that he`s actually just looking like a fool and doesn`t even realize it.  I am so interested to see what exactly dirt out of his own swamp he thinks he`s going to be able to reveal.  I mean, this is -- when he says, oh, it`s very, very bad and I`ve seen that person in a very compromising situation, you have to wonder if he`s bluffing, if there is anything of substance behind his very, very and big, bigs, and huge, huges. 

And so, I think that the public is probably going to be a little bit intrigued just to see if there`s any real dirt that comes out of this.  I doubt it.  There has -- much has been said about the fact that, you know, people wonder if Donald Trump is blackmailing folks, if he`s got something on somebody, which is why, you know, it seems like he is indeed Teflon Don.  I wonder if he did, if he would actually reveal it a book, though.  I mean, it just doesn`t make sense to me. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Could that be the title?  Teflon Don? 

MILLS:  Teflon Don?  It could be.  And look, you and I are saying it right here.  So, I expect a cut in the book deal if that`s what he names it. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  I doubt you`re going to get that, my friend.  Jeffrey Lord told Daily Beast this, and you remember Jeffrey Lord, he was actually surrogate for the president in the lead up to the 2016 election.  He said, that we need this book for historical record.  Now, juxtapose that to what David Frum, from The Atlantic said on Twitter.  He said, "This will be the first presidential memoire to top the fiction bestseller list." 

MILLS:  Precisely.  To have this for the "historical record", given that nothing that Donald Trump says is actually true or fact, the history will just be that this is the administration of just lies and deceit.  So, I totally agree, this will be like a really great fiction book, and the movie around it would probably be comedy. 

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  Aisha Moodie-Mills, on a Friday evening, thank you.  Back with one more thing everybody on Trump and the National Enquirer.  We`ll be right back. 



SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  As we march towards 2020, we must do it with a spirit that recognizes that part of the strength of who we are as a nation is that by our nature, we are aspirational. 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It gives me no pleasure to tell you that we have a president today who is a racist.  I wish I did not have to say that.  But that is the damn truth and we got to say it. 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We come to this moment at a time when the stakes are beyond high.  When the very soul of our nation is in jeopardy.  When we face the fight of our lives. 


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, those were just some of the key moments from Reverend Sharpton`s Conference earlier today.  One of the biggest days for 2020 so far at this early point in the primary race.  And also, before we go, a quick programming note: Ari Melber is hosting MSNBC`s "HEADLINERS" this Sunday night with a special look inside the National Enquirer -- the tabloid magazine that protected Trump while consistently roasting his rivals, especially during the 2016 campaign.  Their cover stories had quite a range.  Once claiming that Ted Cruz`s father was linked to JFK`s assassination, to even claiming Hillary Clinton had just six months to live.  The tabloid ran 18 cover stories alone on Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential run. 


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Along with silencing negative stories, the National Enquirer used their platform to knock down Trump`s opponents. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Donald Trump weaponized the National Enquirer in a way that had not been done. 

MELBER:  During the GOP primaries, the Enquirer ran a succession of false, hit pieces on Trump`s rivals. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was no way this thing was going to be a clean fight and it proved to be every bit as disgusting and tawdry as everyone had expected. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There was a cover that showed her looking so pale and wrinkled that it was like a zombie had appeared, you know, overlayed with her face. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Every time you see that headline, that says that Hillary Clinton has a health issue or that Ted Cruz`s father was involved in the assassination of JFK.  Overtime that begins to grind away at you and it bring you to a place where you might have more doubts than you thought you would have by the time you pull back the curtain and to go into the voting booth. 


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, be sure to watch "HEADLINERS" this Sunday at 9:00 P.M. Eastern right here on MSNBC.  And one more note everybody, Ari is actually moderating a special panel on the Mueller report this Monday right here in New York City.  He`s going to be joined by New Yorkers: Jeffrey Tobin, "The View`s" Sunny Hostin; and Leading Impeachment Lawyer Ross Garber.  That`s this Monday, April 8th, 8:00 p.m. at the 92nd Street Y. 

All of the information is at  That`s going to be pretty interesting stuff.  That does it for me.  Ari will be back here Monday night, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now, everybody.