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Barr defends 4-page Summary. TRANSCRIPT: 4/9/19. The Beat w/Ari Melber.

Guests: John Flannery, Michael Steele, Richard Painter, Jonathan Chait,David Oyelowo

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.

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

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck.  Thank you very much.

We are tracking several big stories on THE BEAT tonight.  Donald Trump`s Treasury secretary admits that he has discussed the president`s tax returns with the White House while they`ve put out a big show of potentially defying federal law.  There`s also new attacks on the Judiciary with Donald Trump saying America now has the worst laws on the planet.

And tonight, I have some words for Stephen Miller, Donald Trump`s long-time aide who is playing a big role on immigration but has, I`m going to show you tonight, he has some problems with the very civics questions that immigrants actually have to tackle and answer when they become citizens of this nation.  I`m going to get into all of that tonight.

But I begin with Donald Trump`s Attorney General Bill Barr, putting out real timelines today, under oath to the Congress saying he will release some version of the Mueller report within a week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES:  My original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands within a week.  I`ll be in a position to release the report to the public.  I think it is important that the public have an opportunity to learn the results of the special counsel`s work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Now, this release, of course, is the center of maybe one of the biggest fights of the Trump presidency.  Because Barr has said he`s going to make up his own mind about redacting all sorts of things from the report.

Now, the House Democrats, who you may recall, have already said they`re willing to subpoena the whole thing.  They want the full report, no redactions, including this important grand jury material which is sometimes referred to as 6(e) under the federal rules of procedure.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  We intend to redact information.

REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY):  Will we have the complete report?

BARR:  You mean the unredacted report?

LOWEY:  Mm-hmm.

BARR:  No.  What if they just want to see report take classified information?  I can envision--

REP. ED CASE, (D-HI):  We have an Intelligence Committee for that.

BARR:  The Congress doesn`t get 6(e).

CASE:  This is what drives the public crazy when they see something like this.

BARR:  We will color code the excisions from the report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  You heard that right.  It is color coding excision time.  What you see on your screen is something we`ve gotten used to.  The sometimes very large black box redactions in all sorts of filings in the current era, things that Mueller was often redacting because he was not done with his probe.

Now, what we`re hearing tonight here, brand new from the attorney general, is that Barr may take the Mueller report and turn it into, yes, taste the rainbow, a veritable rainbow of redactions.  So we`re going to get a whole feel of what that looks like.  We don`t know.  I don`t think we know exactly which colors go for which.  I`m voting pink for 6(e).

Now, all levity aside, Barr also made other headlines today with some statements that sounded conflicting.  Because he claims his office did not give the White House a heads up about his four-page summary of Mueller`s report.  Then he corrected and said well, Trump did have reason to know it was coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Was the president or anyone at the White House alerted in advance of your letter`s release?

BARR:  The March 24 letter, I don`t believe so.  I checked with my staff and was told that just before the letters were out, we did advise the White House counsel`s office.  We notified them before we issued them.  I think it may have been read to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  The letter may have been read over the phone, he mentions.  There is earlier reporting about that but this is significant because you have the attorney general testifying to Congress under oath in penalty of perjury about these notifications.

In an era of a lot of nothing matters and who cares and what`s really going to happen, this is another example of how the Congressional oversight process, the under oath testimony matters.  We`re learning very specifically about what Barr did and didn`t do, how he kept Donald Trump who is, of course, impacted by all this in the loop.

And one more thing we`re going to show you which is, what Barr really meant about all of his name-checking of Bob Mueller.  If you`ve watched THE BEAT coverage, you may know that from day one, we noted that there was a lot of lawyerly dancing going on, Barr trying to invoke Mueller in all sorts of ways that would seem to redound to his benefit as an attorney general working closely with this celebrated special counsel.

But here again, why it matters under oath, we see under questioning Barr revealing Mueller himself did not play a role in drafting any of those letters from Barr which at times mentioned Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  Mr. Mueller`s team did not play a role in drafting that document.  Although, we offered him the opportunity to review it before we sent it out and he declined that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  He declined.  That`s something I want to ask our talented panel about.  Michelle Goldberg from "The New York Times," Michael Steele from the RNC back in the day, and John Flannery from federal prosecutorial offices.  Great to see all of you.

John, right out of the gate.  Your interpretation of the stated fact that Mueller declined to review a letter that he could not control from Barr.

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, you`ve said it.  He couldn`t control it.  He didn`t want to approve it.  He didn`t want to give it any sanction.

And so the Da Vinci of deception continues with his multicolored proposal.  And you talk about the colors.  The grand jury testimony, on the one hand he says, a direct result of a question about the ACA, the Obamacare, that why don`t you trust the courts?

Well, he`s not prepared to trust the courts because he doesn`t want to lose control of what a court might do which is to do a Sirica and to release the material.  So I think if we want to straighten this out, sure, subpoena Barr.  But I think we should be going straight to the court and asking them to release it for all the reasons that these things have been released in the past.

MELBER:  Now, Michael, you know that John Flannery is fully loaded, herby fully loaded as the saying goes, when he says Sirica, referring to the judge who famously oversaw the Watergate case and did get the grand jury material released.

Now, what do you think of the Washington politics of this, Michael?  Because Barr has very adroitly done a lot of Mueller flirting if you want to call it that.

But I will credit it under oath, as he should be, he is accurate.  He does not flirt to the point of saying, "Well, Mueller really was in on this" because he was asked a direct question and he caused it up, actually no, Mueller is a smart lawyer himself said, why am I going to get pulled into something that I can`t really control?  You want to know what I think, read my report.

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN:  Right.  And I think that that`s the essence of this.  But here`s where the Washington story starts.  And it`s been fascinating to see how people respond to it, Ari.

Everyone is caught up with the speed with which all of this is occurring and that`s the ruse.  We just put this stuff out here very quickly but it belies what is released.

So the speed of releasing stuff is one thing.  What they are releasing is the important stuff that matters.  And so folks have kind of gotten fixated and caught up in that.

And I think what you`re seeing now, and to the point that was just made, there are workarounds.  You can go about getting what you need from the Mueller report because we`ve seen how this has played out in prior history.

So this is not some big Machiavelli difficult thing to do.  You just go to the court and say, "Hey, we would like to have this report fully available to the American people.  The 6(e) section of the grand jury testimony, we have no problem with that being made public --

MELBER:  Well, and Michael --

STEELE:  -- and move on from there.

MELBER:  -- isn`t that what Bob Barr -- Bill Barr wants?  I mean at the end of the day, I heard, I don`t know if you heard this.  I heard the whole report is really good news for Donald Trump, total exoneration.  I heard maybe some parts that are written in caps that it is actually just a series of Trump tweets.

If it is as good as Donald Trump and Barr initially said, why are they hiding it?  I present that for your analysis and Michelle`s under the category of obvious questions on THE BEAT.

STEELE:  Well, yes, right, because none of which you just said is true.  That`s why.  And the fact of the matter is -- the fact -- and this is where Mueller was pretty slick about it.  He is like, OK, here it is.

So now, the political pressure is not on Mueller.  It is on the administration.  And in particular, the attorney general to do right by this because you have aggressive, an aggressive oversight function taking place simultaneously that is putting that pressure, added pressure on the attorney general to get this right out of the box.  And as you saw the day from the testimony, he had some difficulty at various times doing that.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  You know I think that what they`ve been able to do -- one of the great hopes for the Mueller investigation was that it would give us some sort of common set of facts, right.  That it would provide some clarity in the midst of this phantasmagorical derangement that we`ve all been living in for the last two years.

And they`ve already sort of ensured that that won`t happen.  First, by the way they rolled it out with this extremely both misleading summary that they then said was not a summary and I think quoted something like 24 words of actual Mueller text in this document.

So they`ve -- and allowed sort of this fictitious narrative to take place, this fictitious narrative to get legs, something that apparently so distressed members of this Mueller team that have never leaked, that finally led them on leak because this kind of pushed them over the edge.

And so what they`re going to do now is sort of dribble it out in a way that again will kind of confuse people, will shape the narrative to Trump`s advantage.  Hopefully, eventually, through litigation or some other means, this whole document will come out.

But I think by then, there`s going to be so much confusion and so many, as Kellyanne Conway makes the alternative facts, that Bill Barr has really exploded any chance of creating a sort of consensus about what happened in the way that the Nixon impeachment led to a consensus about what happened in Watergate.

MELBER:  Well, I think you make such an important point.  You`re talking about facts which we draw from evidence and information and you`re talking about time.

And I think Bill Barr understands where Washington and true detective meet.  Because time can be a flat circle in the beltway where yesterday`s conventional wisdom is today`s expertise until and unless something replaces it.

And he is a master of that.  And again, I`ve said this before.  I`m going to say it again as part of our coverage.

We have no evidence that he has broken any DOJ rules, let alone laws.  We are talking about the transparency, the ethics, the honor if you will, of his handling of a very important thing, which is an investigation that touches on the White House and what that means for America.

We`re not saying that the evidence shows he broke the rules.  With that in mind for your further analysis, on the flat circle if you will, to your point, let`s take a look at him on the exoneration today because he`s pressed on this under oath.  This attempt that he made to cherry-pick references to shape views, as you say, before we had the report.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL):  Can you elaborate on what is meant by does not exonerate the president?

BARR:  I think that`s the language from the report.

CRIST:  Right.  I understand that.

BARR:  That`s a statement made by the special counsel.

CRIST:  You cannot opine after having read the report yourself, why it reaches that conclusion that it does not exonerate the president.

BARR:  That`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Almost down to a whisper, Michelle, but an interesting exchange and it is telling, no.

GOLDBERG:  Well, and one of the things that I think we`re still not clear about is whether it doesn`t reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice because the evidence wasn`t sufficient or because DOJ regulations say that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

And so this evidence would be a matter for Congress to evaluate, right.  And if this is a matter for Congress to evaluate, that makes it all the more urgent and all the more sort of shameful that they would then try to circumvent Congress in getting this information.

MELBER:  Flannery.

FLANNERY:  I think that we should replace the flat circle with a sphere and it should be mauve.  But I think that -- and so far, as they say, this is grand jury--

MELBER:  What is a mauve sphere?

FLANNERY:  A mauve sphere is the redaction element of one of the colors.

They might choose --

MELBER:  Oh my God, that`s incredible.

FLANNERY:  Michael, did you get -- I didn`t --

STEELE:  I got it.

MELBER:  Flannery, that`s a joke right over my head.  Seriously?

FLANNERY:  Well, you started with it your flat circle.  I mean come on.  But the thing -- the color of the portion of the redaction which may cover the whole page, and we don`t like New York basic black apparently, could be chicken yellow because he has the option to go to the court and he`s not going there.

Is he afraid they`re going to rule the right way which is release this stuff, particularly after the charade that he`s put on about the -- his summation of the report, except for the fact that he gave his opinion about the report which is, don`t worry about it, this guy didn`t do anything, he didn`t obstruct anyone and rely on my memo of a year ago.

Which if you read the cites and so forth, they don`t support the propositions in the memo.  A first-year law student in legal method would get a D for what he wrote. But because he is accepted in the elite of the alt-right Republicans and those who support Trump, it`s given credibility and they pass him on from the Senate for this position and he does exactly what we expect him to do.

I know that you think that he`s doing well.  But I think the fact that we`re talking about how he`s trying to deceive us tells us he`s not doing that well.  I hope the day of reckoning comes soon.

MELBER:  And you understand what I`m saying.  As a journalist, I`m trying to hold DOJ accountable as part of my job.  I`m also noting that within the rules, Michael, he has clearly taken aggressive communications positions.

And it is important to distinguish that, which is as I say lawful but questionable from, say, potential obstruction that we`ve seen where people have literally been convicted of lying to the FBI or the president calling people rats.  Barr is not in that camp.

I give the final word to you, Michael.  Flannery has taken us here to be -- I hate to say it.  No, I don`t.  Flannery has taken us full circle.

FLANNERY:  If you can bear to hear the truth you`ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.  That`s what we`re dealing with.

MELBER:  Shakespeare?

FLANNERY:  Kipling.

MELBER:  Kipling.

MELBER:  Michael, we`re full circle because we`re talking about tasting the rainbow of redactions.

FLANNERY:  That`s the best I can do.

STEELE:  Look, look.  We, as they say, we end where we began.  And the fact of the matter is, all this boils down to the simple truth that at the end of the day, Barr has the ultimate power and control.  And that is the ability to redact, whether it`s pink, mauve, purple or yellow.

The fact of the matter is he has established a narrative at the time of the four-page release.  He is now continued that narrative and will continue that narrative at the time of the full document release.  And the truth will lie within those colored redacted parts.

MELBER:  Right.

STEELE:  And that`s the nub of this.  And unless he goes to a court and gets that judge to say release the whole thing, we will forever live in his interpretation of complete exoneration of the president.

MELBER:  I think you put it very well.  And skilled lawyers can interpret their way far afield from what the underlying evidence might say.

STEELE:  That`s right.

MELBER:  That`s literally what they build careers on.

STEELE:  That`s right.

MELBER:  And the question then is with this rainbow of redaction which is, is it funny ha ha or is it funny cover-up?  And is it going to look like Flannery`s bowtie where there is a little bit of white and a lot of other colors covering up what the evidence was.

I`m going to take a break.  Flannery, Steele, Goldberg, like a law firm.  My thanks to each of you.  We`ll have you back as we really get the answers from Barr within a week, his new timeline.

STEELE:  All right.

MELBER:  Thanks to you guys.

FLANNERY:  Right.

MELBER:  Next, I turn to my special report, my words for Stephen Miller tonight.  I want to share them with him and you.  That`s next.

Also later in the show, Trump`s Treasury secretary revealing something about Donald Trump`s taxes hours before the deadline to vault them over.  And we`ll explain how Donald Trump is moving from open attacks on judges, to yes, on trying to undermine the actual laws themselves.

And tonight, something different.  My conversation with award-winning actor, David Oyelowo about justice, art, and is a portrayal of MLK.  I`m looking forward to that.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  President Trump just ousted his Homeland Security Secretary, seeking even harsher tactics than her policies that literally split children from their parents.  He is also ousting the head of the Secret Service and his own nominee around ICE.

Trump is also on his third chief of staff and he just got rid of his sixth communications director.  It`s a White House with record turnover.  But one Trump aide is still there from day one, a main driver of the hardline immigration stances that are shaking up Trump`s team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, CO-HOST, MORNING JOE:  President Trump reportedly handing the reins of his immigration strategy to hardliner Stephen Miller.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR:  Led by White House Adviser Stephen Miller.

KASIE HUNT, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  Stephen Miller is definitely re-empowered here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Stephen Miller is said to be the driving force behind these very dramatic changes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  On immigration, Stephen Miller is essentially Donald Trump`s Donald Trump.  That sounds sort of intense.  Consider that Miller broke with other Trump aides by cheering the role out of the travel ban.  A court rejected onslaught of policy chaos that even immigration hardliners thought could have easily been better managed.

He also wants to eliminate human rights in China and American birth rights citizenship and protections for refugees who are literally fleeing murder and rape and genocide abroad and also limit America`s reception of immigrants in general.

Now, while Trump`s departing Homeland Security chief has suggested that she was pushing for Trump to follow the law on child separation, Miller does not even publicly acknowledge the legal or ethical problems of that narrowed policy.

He said splitting families was a simple decision by Trump to have his zero- tolerance policy for illegal entry, period.  Simple, period.

Now, look, there is a legitimate debate about immigration policy.  There`s nothing automatically suspect about supporting, for example, a reduction in the number of annual migrants.  Any nation without open borders will have some limits but for a taxpayer-funded government employee to defend the human rights violations and the family separation policy as simple, as an easy call as a policy, that he likes, even though it has been rebuked as partly illegal by the courts and inhumane by experts across the spectrum.

Let`s be clear.  That is chilling.  Now, that is how Miller sees things.  And he`s been pretty clear about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER FOR POLICY FOR DONALD TRUMP:  Our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions that the powers of the president can protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  False.  The president`s powers are always open to being questioned by the co-equal branches of government.  It is one of the most vital checks in our Constitutional system to protect liberty.

Now, tonight, given all the attention on Miller, let me put it in a way Mr. Miller might understand.  Here are the current civics preparation materials from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under Trump.

And here`s one question that immigrants can prepare with.  One that Mr. Miller apparently needs to study.  What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?  Answer, checks and balances and the separation of powers.

Law-abiding immigrants study that material on their path to citizenship.  Maybe Mr. Miller needs to start studying it too.  And as he consolidates power over immigration policy, let me help with a little lesson tonight.

It is those checks and balances that`s have set back President Trump and Mr. Miller`s agenda or at least the illegal parts of it.  Consider the courts repeatedly blocked in the early division versions of the travel ban, and shut down the family separation policy, ordering Trump`s DHS to unite those families and freezing Trump`s plan to stop legal protections for minors who came here, the Dreamer Program.

Or just this week, those judges who enraged Trump by rejecting his attempt to keep asylum seekers stored if you will in Mexico.  Now, those legal facts are worth keeping in mind as a check on Mr. Miller`s rhetoric.

Because when he proclaims the president`s powers cannot be questioned, he is not only giving what I can report to you tonight as a failing answer on a citizenship test.  He is playing himself, drawing attention to the very lack of power that both he and Donald Trump have exposed in their overreach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLER:  Our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Indeed. They`re not only questioned by the courts, as I`ve just shown.  The other lesson for Mr. Miller tonight is, they`re questioned by a co-equal branch of government including Donald Trump`s own Republican allies in Congress who say Mr. Miller is not effective.  Here is ranking Republican Chuck Grassley today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA):  I don`t see a lot of accomplishments that an adviser in the White House has accomplished for the president on immigration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Here is one of Trump`s most fervent setting allies calling Miller out as a guaranteed failure if he`s involved in immigration policy on the Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we`re going nowhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Nowhere can be a hard place to find but it may apply to some of Miller`s work.  He was removed from the process of writing a travel ban because of the way it went down when he was in charge.

He was one of only a few Trump aides who reportedly pushed to fire James Comey.  He was a key voice pushing for the government shutdown that backfired on Trump and did not win wall funding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLER" We`re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall, to stop this ongoing crisis of illegal immigration.

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST, FACE THE NATION:  And that means --

MILLER:  This is a very -- if it comes to it, absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Even after all those problems, Trump is still giving Miller plenty of chances, telling him in a room full of people, "You`re in charge of immigration" and he`ll play a big role in picking Trump`s new nominee to lead ICE and he`s still pushing for what they say will be a total border shutdown and trying to get Trump to reinstate, yes, to reinstate this family separation policy, telling other officials they need to get in line on the issue.

And one possibility for why President Trump puts Miller in charge of all this is that he thinks he is one of the few people who may do what Trump wants regardless of what the law requires.  I showed you why he thinks that when you look at what Mr. Miller talks like.

His last Homeland Security Chief made a big point of trying to get the message out there that she wouldn`t do that.  Trump reportedly calling Secretary Nielsen when she was at home, early in the mornings, demanding she take more action to stop migrants including doing things that were reportedly illegal like shutting down all protected asylum, whatsoever.

When she would say there were limits on what she could do by federal law, and these core arrangements and, of course, international law, Trump would be infuriated.  Now, what you`re looking at there is kind of a leak that may be designed to make Nielsen look good on her way out but it is also in an article that is fact checked.

So if that is part of what Trump was doing and pushing for, well he wants someone who believes that he can do whatever he wants and not be questioned.  And what we see here is why Mr. Miller is so ascended.

The courts in this country though as we`ve reported time and again, they do question the president.  Especially when the president pushes policies that are either illegal or have no justification or rational basis and fact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MILLER:  That`s the story we should be talking about and I`m prepared to go on any show, anywhere, anytime and repeat it and say the president of the United States is correct one hundred percent.

Well, you just repeated -- you just made those declarations but for the record, you`ve provided zero evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That was an exchange on a different policy but it`s important because Miller ultimately, as the journalist there noted, has zero evidence to back up what were then Donald Trump`s claims of voter fraud.  And then Miller said after that interview he would go "anywhere, anytime to defend the evidence."

I should mention, I invited him for an interview, any time, in any city back when he made that statement I just showed you.  He declined.

And today, I re-extended an invitation for him to join us here on THE BEAT.  We`ve, as you may know, hosted all kinds of people from all kinds of perspectives.  That invitation is open to talk through the facts but I can`t wait to talk to the facts until he comes, anytime, anywhere.

The larger point here is not Mr. Miller`s apparent anti-bluster or these televised checks that he writes and cannot cash.  The larger point is the attempt to run the federal government at times like a weapon against immigrants, to try to run the federal government to build presidential powers that the Constitution forbids.

And that`s why we observe tonight as Mr. Miller consolidates apparent power that his own statements and his own record show he couldn`t even pass something that so many immigrants pass every year, the basic core parts of our American civics test.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Turning to another story.  Trump`s Treasury Secretary making some news.  Take a look.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL):  Has anyone from the White House talked to you about this decision?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY, UNITED STATES:  To me personally or to other people within my department.

QUIGLEY:  Well, you personally first, and to other people second.

MNUCHIN:  I have not had any conversations with anybody in the White House.

Our legal department has had conversations prior to receiving the letter with the White House General Counsel.

They have not briefed me to the contents of that communication.  I believe that was purely informational.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That is Donald Trump`s Treasury Secretary talking about the legal discussions to try to get Trump`s taxes.  And he says the process is supposed to be walled off from White House interference.  I want to get right to it with Jason Johnson from the Root.com Richard Painter former chief White House Ethics Lawyer for George W. Bush.

Richard, how do you view the legal and ethical obligations of the way the Trump administration is responding to what would appear to be a lawful request under federal law for his tax returns?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER:  Well, this is pathetic.  He should have turned over the tax returns before he was elected.  Every other president has publicly disclosed his tax returns, candidates for president disclosed their tax returns.  And he promised the voters he would disclose his tax returns.

Now he`s using the White House Counsel and the Treasury Secretary to conceal his tax returns not only for the American people but from Congress.  And this is in a situation where there are very serious concerns that the President is taking money from foreign governments, profits, and benefits from foreign governments in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

There are three cases that have been brought against the President in the federal courts.  Two of them seated beyond a motion to dismiss and on to discovery.  And there is a serious concern in Congress and in the federal courts that this President is taking money from foreign governments in violation of the Constitution.  That information is in those times tax returns almost certainly.

MELBER:  And Richard, you`re involved in one of those cases.  Do you think that the House Democrats use of this law is an even stronger legal tool than the attempts of discovery in those cases to get the returns?

PAINTER:  Well, it should move a lot more quickly because they should subpoena those returns with a vote from the full house and demand compliance with the subpoena and then take that to the courts on an expedited basis.  We have a serious situation here where our president may very well be taking money from foreign governments in violation of the Constitution.  That on top of the Russia investigation, the Mueller report which also decently publicized as soon as possible.

So yes, this needs to go on the fast track.  And the president is obstructing the congressional investigation and using the White House Counsel and the Treasury Secretary to do that.  It`s pathetic.

MELBER:  We know where you stand.  I mean, Jason, Richard mentions the counsels and the way that this all becomes a very elaborate, strategic, bureaucratic fight.  And there`s a view, Jason, as you know, that some critics of Donald Trump say he`s very clumsy and blustering.  I want to point to some reporting which was done in the New York Times including by Maggie Haberman about how he actually seemed to laser focus on getting the council, the lawyer for the IRS in maybe because he had this on his mind ahead of time.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  The president called Mitch McConnell and in the course of the conversation said that he would like him to fast-track the IRS chief counsel his confirmation vote, and that it was a top priority even more of a priority than getting Barr confirmed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He wanted the IRS counsel to be one of -- to be sort of his confirmation to be expedited earlier this year, even ahead of Attorney General William Barr when that seat was open.  This is something that`s on his mind --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  A good reporting there.  I mean, Jason, what does it say that he was looking more at the IRS lawyer than the Attorney General United States as a confirmation probe.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT.COM:  I mean this president has left dozens of positions open, Ari.  We don`t have a head of ICE.  We don`t have head of Homeland Security.  But he wanted to make sure there was going to be somebody there to cover his taxes.

Trump is -- look, Trump is defending his taxes like a high school search engine, you know, search history.  He just doesn`t want anyone to see what he`s actually been doing with his money over the years.  And the problem is this.  At some point, it`s going to come forward.

As we sort of discussed last week, Mueller probably had access to this information so as many times as the President tries to play whack-a-mole and stop this, someone is going to get access to his tax returns.  He`s not going to be able to keep this hidden.  So the larger question is what is he afraid of?

MELBER:  Right.

JOHNSON:  We know he`s probably doing something illegal or is getting a little bit funny but he must have been worried about something bigger.

MELBER:  So take a listen to him of what`s he afraid of.  He sounds a little unnerved.  Here he was, Donald Trump today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have bad laws and so we`re fighting the bad laws.  We have the worst laws of any country anywhere in the world.  We`re bucking a court system that never ever rules for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  In a lightning round, a sentence or two from first Jason then Richard.  What goes through your mind when you hear a president speak that way about the rule of law?

JOHNSON:  I mean, this is a president who`s been ruled to be behaving illegally by the court 65 times since he got into office.  Of course, he doesn`t like judges especially if the judge has happened to be Brown.

MELBER:  Richard?

PAINTER:  This president has no respect for the judiciary even as a candidate.  He attacked a judge in a federal case in which he was a party saying the judge was Mexican-American and so, therefore, the judge is biased against him.  He has repeatedly attacked the federal courts.  He has zero respect for the judiciary.  And you put that on top of his attitude toward immigration in nutjobs like Stephen Miller running around the White House, this is a very bad situation for our country.

MELBER:  And I`ll mentioned as I do journalistically, Mr. Miller has been invited on before.  The invite is open.  He could come on alone.  He could come on with you Richard if he wants to debate any of this.  The water is warm --

PAINTER:  I`m happy to talk to him.

MELBER:  -- as they say journalistically.  Jason and Richard, thanks to both of you.  Up ahead, a night show, Attorney General Barr says don`t call it a summary.  So what is it?  Journalist Jonathan Chait joins me on THE BEAT next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Attorney General Bill Barr today sparring with Democrats.  We took issue with his letters describing what Mueller found.  Just as LL Cool J famously warned people don`t call it a comeback, I`ve been here for years.  A protest which actually acknowledges people thought it was a comeback.

Well, today Barr was reiterating his protest to recent attacks on his letters describing the Mueller report saying, don`t call it a summary.  I`ve been here writing letters that try not to be over or under inclusive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  I suspect that they probably wanted you know, more put out but in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize because I think any summary regardless of who prepares it not only runs the risk of you know, being under-inclusive or over-inclusive but also you know, would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should have wait everything coming out at once.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  We should be waiting for everything to come out at once.  I`m joined by New York Magazine`s Jonathan Chait.  Good evening to you.  Don`t call it a comeback and don`t call it a summary, OK.

JONATHAN CHAIT, WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  I won`t.

MELBER:  Now, I have to quote something for your analysis.  Bill Barr, "below I summarized the principal conclusions set out in the special council report, the Mueller report."  Jonathan?

CHAIT:  Yes.  It`s pretty -- it`s pretty astonishing that he would contradict himself that way by saying like you just pointed out that it`s a summary then saying it`s not a summary.  And it`s even more astonishing to me that he would justify the way he presented this information as if it was a completely neutral attempt to not have anyone draw any conclusions until the real thing was out when the result was so obviously at odds with that that you can`t think that it was anything but his design.  What he put out was very exculpatory in its framing.

Now we don`t really know what the underlying report had.  But what he put out enabled Donald Trump to go out and say was I`ve been exonerated, no collusion, it`s all a witch-hunt, and then he shut his mouth after that.

So you know, I think Barr teed it up for Trump in a pretty obviously deliberate fashion.  So for him to just throw up his hands and say, no judgments here, we`re all waiting for the facts, it just doesn`t square with what we`ve seen.

MELBER:  And as a student and reporter of the ways of Washington, is there any value do you think to doing the thought experiment of if a different person did this?  I mean, Barr is new.  He does have credibility as I`ve reported with the Washington legal establishment.  And yet if a Whitaker or Sessions did the exact same stuff, would it play the same way?

CHAIT:  That`s a really good question.  I mean, I think honestly Barr is one of the most fascinating and mysterious figures in this whole episode.  You can pick out different pieces of evidence from his background to paint a different kind of picture about why he`s doing this at all.

You could say well, you know, he helped cover up Iran-Contra and then he wrote a secret memo to Donald Trump`s cronies basically saying why he can`t commit obstruction of justice and he`s just there to protect Trump.  But you could also say well, look, he`s friends with Robert Mueller.  He`s an establishment Republican.  He`s there to uphold the rule of law.

We really don`t know why he`s in this to begin with so we really don`t know why he`s doing what he`s doing so far.  But his actions over the last two weeks I think tend to tip the scales a little more toward the cover-up protecting Trump interpretation.

MELBER:  And that`s the final question for you.  You may remember the famous line about someone giving good meeting?

CHAIT:  Yes.

MELBER:  You know, I think it was yes, I think it`s an old Annie Hall reference but at the strategic level, does he give good hearing.  I mean, he seemed to go through today and again have his way with it.  He`s almost explicitly understated in responses to as you say serious questions about alleged cover-ups.

CHAIT:  He`s a good lawyer.  And you could sort of read in the cleverness and evasiveness you could almost save the way he phrases his very careful responses.  You could read into the way he wrote his letter about Mueller of leaving a lot left unsaid and leaving you curious what -- so what`s between those blank spaces that we have to wait and find out.

MELBER:  Well put.  Jonathan, thanks for stopping by The BEAT.  Good to see you.

CHAIT:  Thank you.

MELBER:  I appreciate it.  Coming up, I will be joined by the Golden Globe- nominated actor David Oyelowo about films confronting politics, social movements, and his depiction of MLK.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  You know something we keep hearing?  This idea that right now America is more polarized than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It`s not just that the two sides and the left and the right don`t agree, it`s that they so vehemently disagree.  As -- I`ve never seen it in my what, 50 years of being a reporter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because in my lifetime, I`ve never seen this country divided like this,  This is astounding to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  There`s no question the Trump era has deep political divisions.  But is it really the worst ever or even in living memory.  We have so many periods of important upheaval in recent memory including the civil rights era which of course was met with violence and terrorism against Black Americans.

Well, tonight I`m joined by the Golden Globe-nominated actor David Oyelowo who memorably played MLK in the Oscar-nominated film Selma.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The President don`t want us to march today.  The courts don`t want us to march.  But we must march.  We must stand up.  We must take the massive demonstration of our moral certainty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  David joins me now.  He has a new project Les Miserables.  Thank you for coming on THE BEAT.

DAVID OYELOWO, ACTOR:  Pleasure.

MELBER:  When you look at that portrayal that you did and you obviously have to study the history to try to live it.  What do you think of how often we hear that we`re more divided right now than ever?

OYELOWO:  Well, it`s obviously really saddening.  It`s actually genuinely surprising.  I remember when we did Selma, we literally finished that film and then all hell broke loose in Ferguson while we were in post and while we were actually doing press.

I remember being here in New York and having to stop some of the press we were doing in terms of taping because Black Lives Matters was literally in its inception.  There were -- there were protests outside, the likes of which we hadn`t seen for 50 years.

MELBER:  Let`s look a little bit at you in Selma and this was the rap scene which I know is emotional.  Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Together we believe that what the illusion of supremacy has destroyed the truth of equality can nourish.  Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hold your applause.  Hold your applause until I`ll it`s a picture wrap for David Oyelowo (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  It`s a little backstage.  Where does the acting stop then and what looked like real true emotion from you begin?

OYELOWO:  Well that was such a long journey for me.  It was a seven-year journey between reading the script for the first time and actually making the film.  And in that time, I spent a lot of time looking at Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, studying the history of this country, why the civil rights movement culminated in that way in terms of the acquisition of the Voting Rights, and to be perfectly frank how that then got and is continuing to be eroded since acquiring it all the way back then in 1965.

So -- but also people lost their lives for this cause.  And I`m a tiny drop in the ocean of showing what Dr. King did and that movement did and who he was and what they represented.  So it was just -- and everyone in that project was so dedicated to the cause of what you saw there was an outpouring of emotion born out of all of that.

MELBER:  What did you study to try to understand what moved Dr. King who famously did so much of this in his 20`s leading the nation?

OYELOWO:  Well, of course, I studied him and the movement.  And I spoke to a lot of people who knew him.  But the thing that really moved me was the fact that he wasn`t actually as special as everyone likes to think.  And what I mean by that is he was very fallible.  He was very flawed.  He was very conflicted.  He was very unsure at times, even insecure at times, and yet he did it anyway.

MELBER:  Before I let you go, tell us about Les Miserables.

OYELOWO:  Well, a very different character from Dr. King.  Javert who people will mostly know as the antagonists within that story but you know, unlike the musical, what I was afforded in this is the opportunity to bring real context to that character.

He actually was born in prison to criminal parents and hates that side of his own past and transposes it onto Jean Valjean which is why he pursues him so obsessively.  That`s something that people don`t really get to understand looking at the musical.  So we get to contextualize this sort of fastidious pursuit of Jean Valjean, Javert engages it.

MELBER:  And I saved the easiest question for last.

OYELOWO:  Right.

MELBER:  How did you develop this line of being in really cool historic films?  We have The Butler, The Help, MLK, I assume other people would love to be in this lane.

OYELOWO:  You know what, I can`t say that it`s something I sort out, but it`s something I`m very grateful.

MELBER:  It just happens this way.

OYELOWO:  It just happened this way.  And honestly --

MELBER:  You weren`t like, I need to go from Lincoln to MLK and just speak for America`s high points.

OYELOWO:  You know what, that would be very presumptuous of me being from the U.K., let`s face it.  But that was part of also what went into my preparation for Selma.  I was in Red Tails as a Tuskegee Airmen.  I was at a unionist soldier in Lincoln.  I was in The Butler as a butler`s son.  I was in The Help as a preacher before I went on to play Dr. King so that was all part of my training as well.

MELBER:  Fantastic.  Really neat stuff.  I think a lot of people are interested in your process, your approach to these films that are not truly meaningful for a lot of people, David.

OYELOWO:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Thank you for coming on THE BEAT.

OYELOWO:  Thanks for having me.

MELBER:  As I mentioned, the miniseries is Les Miserables and it premieres this Sunday, April 14th, on Masterpiece on PBS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  That does it for our show.  I`ll be back here tomorrow night 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  We`ll have more coverage as Bill Barr faces the Senate.  Don`t go anywhere right now.  "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