ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. I will share an echo those congratulations to our colleagues and congratulations to you for finishing an hour of live television. You know, it`s harder than it looks sometimes and congratulations to you, sir.
KORNACKI: Well, I gave you 10 seconds earlier, although we`ve gone past it now so I was going to give you a little gift there but --
MELBER: Well, it`s like in Congress when they say, you know, reclaiming my time, I`m, happy to reclaim back that time for, as you said, Kelly O and Andrea and a hearty congratulations to them.
KORNACKI: There you go.
MELBER: Thank you, Steve. THE BEAT is you able to tell, live from Washington tonight. We have some special reports for you in the show. Later tonight, I dig into the key evidence from the Mueller report that gets downright bizarre. How Donald Trump`s aides were so worried about his potentially illegal obstruction, their view, not mine, that they had an elaborate plan to trick him out of trying to firing Mueller by manipulating what the president saw on television.
And 20202 news it`s not our top story because there are so many other things happening but later tonight we`ll tell you what we know about Joe Biden declaring he`s running for president today again.
We begin though with President Trump vowing to fight all the subpoenas starting with protecting one of his longest serving and frankly most controversial aides, Stephen Miller. The White House is now ordering to resist to subpoena to testify under oath about the Trump administration`s immigration policies.
Miller was of course behind the ousting of the homeland security officials who advised Donald Trump that some of his immigration orders would not be lawful. The White House trying block Trump`s own lawyer, meanwhile, Don McGahn, from telling Congress probably what mostly he`s already told Bob Mueller.
So as you can see here, some of this stems from the high stakes of the fallout of the Mueller report and the evidence. It`s only been out one week. And it`s about this fight whether future testimony will build on a case against Donald Trump for obstruction. What that means for his presidency. That`s definitely part of this.
But keep in mind a lot of the rest of this fight now is totally independent of Mueller. Democrats have been running the House for just about three months and they`re using the new powers to scrutinize the administration that has been riddled with ethics issues, which themselves drove record breaking turnover among the staff and cabinet officials, and with other topics that are obviously overdue for congressional inspection after Trump largely got a pass when the GOP was running the House.
So when you hear your president, Donald Trump argue that government officials should defy Congress, it`s not actually just red versus blue or Mueller related. It`s also about whether your elected officials are able to hold to Federal Government accountable as envisioned in the constitution.
You know, these checks wouldn`t work very well if cabinet officials refused to even talk with Congress or flouted every request to appear or every subpoena when it gets to this point. All of this recently arose in a fiery exchange between Chairwoman Waters and Trump`s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who unlike his boss wanted to try to emphasize that he said he wasn`t openly flouting the obligation that he has to testify the Congress. Although he did complain about some of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), FINANCIAL SERVICE COMMITTEE CHAIRWOMAN: I have the gavel at this point. If you wish to leave, you may.
STEVE MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: If you wish to keep me here so that I don`t have my important meeting, and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here. You`re instructing me to stay here and U should --
WATERS: No. You just made me an offer.
MNUCHIN: No, I didn`t make you an offer.
WATER: You made me an offer that accept it.
MNUCHIN: Please dismiss everybody. I believe you`re supposed to take gavel and bang it. That`s the appropriate --
WATERS: Please do not instruct me as to how I am going to conduct this committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Snap. I am joined by someone who I will not be instructing how to act any which way but who I welcome for her insights. Eleanor Clift with The Daily Beast. Former federal prosecutor John Flannery is also here. I`ll get to you later. I don`t have anything smart to say to you right now.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: OK, sure.
MELBER: And Matt Miller, who was really at the nexus of these issues. We often think of him for the analysis you`ve given on the Mueller probe but a former official in the Obama justice department under Eric Holder. You also dealt with what the Congress can and can`t ask for and how that supposed to go in orderly process.
MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I`m surprised.
MELBER: A little bit. So we have a great panel. Eleanor, when you look at that exchange there and you think about, that was actually a higher bar for Mnuchin than the president is occupying right now in this town. In that exchange, however fiery, Mnuchin was physically there and dealing with Congress. Now we have tonight the president saying, we`re going to defy it all.
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I felt a little sorry for Secretary Mnuchin until I learned that the important official that he had kept waiting was the interior minister of Bangladesh. And that person should not take precedent over the Congress. And I think Maxine Waters felt disrespected and I think now we have a clash between the two branches of government.
And the Congress feels disrespected. And they feel that they`re an equal branch of government and they`re going to push this as hard as they can and the president will push as hard as he can. So it gets, the referee will be the third branch of government and the president seems to think he can go to the Supreme Court and stop it all. That`s not how it works.
The subpoenas will be issued, they will be defied. Then the Democrats will go to court and the court will decide one way or the other and this may well reach all the way to the Supreme Court. The thing is that takes a long time. I don`t see, Trump is a very weak legal case. Especially with Don McGahn who has -- can`t claim executive privilege. Don McGahn doesn`t work for the government anymore. He is going to be worried about his own legacy and I see he is the John Dean of this situation. And he really has the ability to make the Mueller report come alive. And educate the American people as to what is really going on and what went on in that White House.
So this is -- I don`t think this is a legal fight the president can win. I think he`s overestimating how he has packed the Supreme Court. He`s done a pretty good job. On this one, I think he loses. It grinds the clock down. And that is what he is intending to do.
MELBER: Matt, what portion of executive requests the administration (ph) received to your knowledge, do they roughly, what portion would they accept and try to work on and what would they fight, you did home some fights?
MILLER: 90, 95 did accept. I mean what typically happens, look, no administration likes oversight. It`s not an enjoyable process. But you are supposed to submit to it. So when you get a document request, usually it doesn`t escalate to a subpoena. Subpoenas from Congress are usually very rare because --
MILLER: -- administration when you get a lawful document request, you send over the documents. When you get a request for testimony, you send witnesses up to testify. It`s very rare that you get subpoena, and then even when you get a subpoena, there`s an accommodation process --
MILLER: -- between Congress is that the Administration where you work out what you`re going to turn over. And I think what the Trump administration is doing, it`s actually riskier than they suspect in that. The courts don`t like the intercede in these fights. They want two braches, two coequal braches to work it out amongst themselves.
And so the Trump administration by just being so flagrant in denying everything I think is risking the courts getting involved much earlier, much more quickly and much stronger on the side of Congress than would otherwise happen if the Trump -- with the administration was at least showing a modicum of good faith. They`re not doing that. They`re stone walling everything. That may have an impact in the courts.
MELBER: Right. And that goes how the courts review what the purpose is. The purpose, John, in a lot of the Mueller-related issues which is why apparently the White House is afraid of what Don McGahn would say under oath --
MELBER: -- afraid that he`ll tell the truth, is that the president allegedly could have had corrupt intent. And so I wonder we`re a week in to the Mueller report. And so still just sinking in. I`ll bet you on the show, the most purchased book on Amazon right now. The general public is actually still figuring out what this was.
And so if we can speak plainly, I saw Judge Napolitano here on Fox News. I`m going to play this for the viewers. Talk about the fact that there is a real thing about how you don`t just indict a sitting president. Some will disagree but that`s a real thing.
MELBER: Do you know what there isn`t? There isn`t a thing that the president doesn`t commit crimes by being president. And so Napolitano was very stark. Take listen and say, the evidence of criminal intent in the Mueller report shows that Donald Trump effectively did the things that provide the evidence for these crimes. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: When the president asked Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, to get Mueller fired. That`s obstruction of justice. When the president asked his then White House counsel to get Mueller fired and then lie about it, that`s obstruction of justice. Ordering them to break federal law to save him from the consequences of his own behavior. That is immoral, that is criminal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLANNERY: A strong statement. I agree with it. Maybe everybody on this panel would. To look at what Nixon did, it`s almost like Trump wants to emulate every strong man and past offender of good sense, good government, and his hero in this case is Richard Nixon. Article 3 of his impeachment was exactly obstructing requests from the Congress and withholding documents and information.
And Matt knows this better than I do. But in the fast and furious litigation, there was a case by Judge Jackson who analyzed whether or not certain documents should be produced during the Obama administration about that.
And one of the key elements of that was that justice had produced so much public information. It was hard for them to say that they didn`t need to produce it under certain variety of objections they made. And it`s a complicated set of cases but it goes on from there.
By contrast, we have Trump in a position in which everything has been given to this special counsel. They waived attorney-client privilege. They waived the executive privilege. They waived the Fifth Amendment privilege. It`s out there in the report and it defies imagination that they could go to any court and say we shouldn`t get this. This is an abuse of power given what we`ve seen. We already have the case made. And gentleman like Judge Napolitano are making it again.
So I think that -- when we get to the stage where we go to court, which appears to be inevitable, we should ask for expedited proceedings on their frivolous objections to producing the material.
I also think that Congress should seek the alternative path. For example, McGahn might appear himself, despite what the White House wants. And there are other witnesses who would. So I think you operate on parallel tracks and you do something that didn`t happen in the Starr investigation. You call real live witnesses like McGahn and some others, you know, Bannon and so forth, who are identified as telling us what was done to obstruct the investigation.
MELBER: And you wonder whether there is a Mueller effect here. Because what comes through the Mueller report was that if Donald Trump`s aides carried out what he wanted, he might not be president right now. I mean he owes a huge, huge thank you letter to some of the people that he`s had the worst falling outs with. Priebus, McGahn and Bannon. Which tells you about those early days.
And so if you want to call that the sort of the Mueller effect, the president eyeing his own criminal liability. Does that explain why Stephen Miller is not being allowed to testify because my understanding, in my conversations to Stephen Miller suggests he would be eager to go have a fight with Democratic members of Congress in a televised manner?
CLIFT: I think the Stephen Miller objection to have -- having Stephen Miller testify has more to do with his policy positions. I don`t think they`re looking a Miller to add more fire and fury to what already appeared in the report. I think it`s about policy.
And so, this president --
MELBER: So why not go defend it? In other words, If Miller wants and it Bannon and some of the other old guard would say, absolutely go have a debate on immigration on Congress.
CLIFT: Right. Yes. But he`s going to be asked.
MELBER: Who`s holding him back?
CLIFT: But he`s going to be ask about the policy making procedures in the White House. And more on the fact that this president has no impulse control. That he makes these decisions without consulting with anyone. I mean that will come across. And I think that`s going to disturb the American people as well.
CLIFT: That there is no system of government, really.
MILLER: I can think of two reasons why you wouldn`t want Stephen Miller go to testify if you`re the White House. One, you don`t want to set the president if we send one witness up when you`re trying to stone wall everything else, all of the sudden it looks pretty hard to get a reason why you`re not sending other witnesses.
The second is, every time he appears on television, it is a public relations disaster for the White House. And I think, you know, they do make the point that White House aides actually don`t usually testify.
MELBER: I`m going to push out that. Is not that eye of the beholder? In other words, isn`t it when he had a big fight with an anchor on another network, on CNN, some people walk away from that critical of Miller and some people in the (INAUDIBLE) say great, of course, he should take to it an anchor.
MILLER: That`s absolutely true. But you notice he`s not on TV very often. Those appearances are very infrequent. Not the person you see sent out to the Sunday shows very often. It usually happens when there is a policy so debased that no one else would go out and defend it. That`s when Stephen Miller shows up.
FLANNERY: But the same weakness with him. The weakness is that he has been on talk shows. They`ve issued statements. The president himself has talked about all these things. How can you in this court and say we just don`t want him to appear under oath and explain --
MELBER: If you often do, John, you make great points. I have one more bit of housekeeping before we got -- I mentioned at the top of the show. We have a lot in tonight`s show. When I start off the show, as viewers may know, we often have the box. I`m not so good at math but there, it`s right there. Tonight`s box refers to the fight over subpoenas, all the president`s subpoenas which of course for many eagle-eye viewers is a reference to all the president`s men and we have the film version of it, which means we have -- do you see it, John, we have -- take a look, we have the Robert Redford, look over here.
FLANNERY: OK, OK, I`m looking at it. OK, I see it.
MELBER: We have the Robert Redford. We didn`t plan this. We started with our all the president`s subpoenas reference then someone pulled that photo, and then we thought, oh my god. Looks good on you.
FLANNERY: He was right about Nixon. And I would hope he do a movie and be right about Trump. But he`s the actor. I do law.
MELBER: Are you comfortable with him playing you?
FLANNERY: I`m comfortable with the guy who looks like me. Who is a real actor playing me. I`m happy with that.
CLIFT: Living proof that there`s such a thing as body doubles, right?
FLANNERY: Yes. Well, for years, they thought I looked like a Kennedy. And I said all Irish look alike. In recent years I --
MELMBER: Before your head gets too big --
FLANNERY: There`s no assessment happen --
MELBER: I believe Eleanor Clift is cameoed --
MELBER: -- as herself. Is that correct?
CLIFT: I have.
MELBER: She cameoed. Have you ever cameoed yourself?
FLANNERY: Well, a couple of times I`ve appeared in films, yes.
MELBER: Oh yes? All right.
CLIFT: Actually playing oneself should be easy, but it`s evidently the hardest thing in the world. Because that`s what presidential candidates have to master. Authenticity.
MELBER: You`re talking about something near and dear to my heart. Because that`s something musicians and artists deal as well which is your authenticity is who you are and you`re sharing that with people.
MELBER: But the more you share it on the repeat basis, the harder is to maintain yourself.
CLIFT: Right. So you have to find some deep reservoir of pain that you have to touch upon or just write yourself a note, smile, have fun. This is just television.
FLANNERY: I think you have to just, you can`t overthink it, you know. I mean my view when we come here, there are things I might like to say if you didn`t ask me about it. But my view is I listen to the question and I react to all this talking. That`s just this side of what acting is.
MELBER: Well I have one more question for Matt Miller. And that is what the hell are we talking about?
MILLER: I don`t know. I got lost. I started to feel unworthy. I don`t have an actor you`re comparing me to and I`ve not played myself in a movie.
CLIFT: Right. But he`s perfectly at the juncture of legality and politics. Our legal issues in politics.
FLANNERY: You`re so courageous. I mean it`s yours afterwards. You see a movie like the one Redford was in. And it was all settled at that time.
MELBER: Right. As you say the hero worship comes later and the actual way they (INAUDIBLE) it was Judge Surrick (ph). It was law enforcement and of course, some of the reporters who were involved. The print reporters digging it up.
On that fitting note, we`re going to fit in a break. My thanks to Eleanor Clift appearing as herself.
CLIFT: All right.
MELBER: John Flannery and Matt Miller. Coming up, we have a lot in the show in politics. Joe Biden is running for president for the third time. I`m going to show you some of his annucement video and dig in to all of it.
Also, Bob Mueller exposing how White House aides had to manipulate television to try to stop Trump from his own impulses. A new reporting on Donald Trump`s legal fights and how it`s not always the bluff, not always the bluster you have to watch.
Later, $5 billion. Mark Zuckerberg and his company paying it up. We`ll explain why that matters.
And at the end of the show, I have a very special announcement about what you see on the screen. All that tonight. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Tonight Washington is on edge over how far President Trump will take his tough talk on defying Congress and subpoenas. Trump`s history does show lots of bluffing that led to folding. Remember the Trump University fraud case?
(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a case I could have settled very easily but I don`t settle cases very easily when I`m right. I don`t settle cases. I don`t do it because that`s why I don`t get sued very often because I don`t settle. Unlike a lot of other people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But he settled. Donald Trump settled that very case he was talking about for $25 million after the election. It`s not just in business lawsuits either. Donald Trump spent months bluffing about his supposed courage that he was ready to face down Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?
TRUMP: 100 percent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you --
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But he wasn`t glad, everyone of course now knows Trump`s legal strategy was actually to run from Mueller. The Mueller report noting they offered an interview for a span of over a year and he always passed. The president declining. And then there is of course the most absurd one of all. You almost don`t bother mentioning. That Donald Trump`s personal catch phrase, imagine, a tough boss who tells people when they`re toast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Kevin, you`re fired. Kings Hill, you`re fired. Ian, you`re fired. Terrell, you`re fired. Jamie, you`re fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You`re fired. But as president, we had countless reports that Donald Trump struggles to say those two words to his own staff. He asks others to handle it for him and including on the biggest one of all, asking his lawyer Don McGahn to fire Bob Mueller and that tick helped Trump in the end because McGahn now famously refused.
So as Washington tonight girds for the subpoena wars that Donald Trump says he`s launching, it is worth keeping in mind that the facts are that Donald Trump often talks like he`s tough, like he`s ready for the legal fights, like the use a common parlance, he wants the smoke. Sometime he makes it sound like he wants all the smoke.
But in many of the big cases, Trump University, testifying to Mueller, firing his own staff, Donald Trump don`t want the smoke.
To paraphrase Gucci Mane, why you flexing, Donald? You don`t want no smoke. Keep on taking these pictures, holding these straps, but you are a nonsmoker.
I`m joined now by David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief from Mother Jones. I put the question to you. Does he really want the smoke?
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well I don`t know what Grandmaster Flash would say about this but I think what we`re getting to, the smoke, is maybe existential smoke. We`re not talking about, you know, I`m glad you brought up the Trump University because that`s what I was thinking about, too. I never settle. He settled that case. He`s settled lots of cases over the years. He has paid hush money as we know.
But what we`re seeing now, when it comes to getting his tax returns, when a punt come to putting Don McGahn on the congressional stand. Emoluments and everything is it`s underway. But this is an existential crisis for Donald Trump. And I think he realizes it.
We also have a lot of people say in the last couple weeks that he may be vulnerable to criminal charges when he`s out of the office as well. And, of course, New York State attorney general, the Southern District, there`s a lot going on there.
So I think in some ways, he may be fighting not just for his political life. He may be fighting for his freedom. In those instances, he may, you know, to use another gangster term, he may be willing to go to the mattresses. He`s already said, he`s basically ordered Mnuchin don`t release my taxes. That showdown comes in a couple days actually, right? And not to submit to any congressional requests.
I think you and I talked about this a couple weeks ago. There is a constitutional crisis that`s basically unfolding, and whether it`s about taxes, whether it`s about congressional testimony or getting the full Mueller report. At some point a court is going to order him to do something. That he doesn`t want to do.
And at that point he`s going to say, no, make me. Then what happens? What happens?
MELBER: Well, I mean, I`ll answer your question may have been rhetorical.
CORN: But please answer it.
MELBER: Well, I`ll try answering part of it which is if it`s something that involves the other lawful employees of the United States, one of the positives that the Mueller report shows is people going ahead and following the rules. In the same way that the travel ban can only be enforced by thousands of people in the United States and we know when that Trump ordered it, there were questions about it.
MELBER: But the government employees followed it. And as soon as the court order, it began in Brooklyn and then many others remember and people remembered, that blocked the temporary injunctions, those government employees stopped enforcing it. So, I think it`s depends on others, that`s the good news. You raised a deeper question of like the Nixon tapes. What if it depends on the president?
CORN: What is it depends on him? Let`s play that out. If, you know, the administration blocks the request for his tax returns, and it goes to the court, and the court says you can`t do this. What does Steve Mnuchin and the IRS commissioner do then in do they say sorry, Mr. President, I have to turn it over?
MELBER: Oh, yes, that`s what I mean. If it`s up to them --
CORN: Yes, I know.
MELBER: Do the tax returns exist over here, they could be held in contempt --
CORN: They could be held in contempt.
MELBER: -- which is different to say from something that`s privately held.
CORN: And then so he then starts firing them? Or does he throw up his hands and let it happen? There`s a lot of, you know, the decision --
MELBER: Or does he cave like he caved in other times.
CORN: Like he might cave. But I think a lot of the things that are coming down the pike here are things that really get to whether he can survive as president and whether he has some tremendous legal vulnerability, or maybe involving family members.
MELBER: So I didn`t -- I`m going to a break but I didn`t get your full answer. Does he want the smoke or does he not want the smoke?
CORN: Well he wants the chaos. He wants the chaos. And sometimes there`s smoke in chaos. Sometimes there`s fire. Sometimes this is a lot of quiet. But I think, you know, on some things, I think he`s going to dig his heels in. I think he has no choice.
MELBER: David Corn, always nice to see you especially in person here --
MELBER: -- in Washington.
CORN: In Washington.
MELBER: Coming up in 30 seconds, my report on a wild and bizarre incident of an apparent attempted Trump obstruction that Mueller probe that actually played out its critical portions on live television. We`re back in 30.
MELBER: Today marks one week out since the Mueller report was released. And right now the battle lines are about whether you`ll learn everything that`s in it. Top Republican like Mitch McConnell telling people already to move on. Bill Barr saying everyone should just rely on his press conference instead of perhaps reading the actual findings from Bob Mueller.
While Democrats are talking up hearings to probe the facts, Americans are actually still reading the report themselves. It has been the most popular book on Amazon since it came out. That`s pretty unusual for a 400-page government report.
In fact, the Mueller report is so exhaustive, it`s so detailed, it`s actually so studded with facts and quotes and all kinds of stories. I don`t think it is possible to digest it all in a few days. And we`ve been reporting out different parts of it on this show so you can make up your own mind about the evidence.
And tonight we present to you another absolutely wild story from the Mueller report that actually answers one of these recent mysteries. What was this all about?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS ANCHOR: Is President Trump prepared to let the special counsel pursue his investigation?
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, NEWSMAX CEO: Well, I think he`s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he is weighing that option. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Trump insider Chris Ruddy who runs Newsmax, seeming to dish on the very thing that might hamper or end his good friend`s presidency, a massacre of try to fire Mueller. So why would Ruddy go on TV to do something that seem to undercut Trump? Because the Trump White House asked him to.
Donald Trump`s team was trying to save Trump from Trump. And the Mueller report documents that Trump`s top aides, Chief Of Staff Reince Priebus and Adviser Steve Bannon, tried to stop President Trump from ousting Mueller saying his arguments to do so were ridiculous. They feared that Trump was not listening. That he did not believe their warnings that all of this would back fire or Chris Christie`s warning that firing Mueller was the one thing Trump could do that would lead Republicans in Congress to abandon him. Mueller quote that as well.
So get this, Bannon and Priebus hatched a plan in June 2017 -- this is just about a month into the probe -- and they meet with Ruddy who you just saw on your screen and tell him their concerns. Ruddy offers to publicize Trump`s plan to fire Mueller, and that, of course, would seem credible coming from a trump supporter like him.
Priebus agrees noting the plan might avoid another blow-up like the one that followed the termination of Comey. So to stop Trump from trying to fire Mueller, his own aides, and the top loyal supporter plot this televised sort of test run of the plan to give Trump just a taste of the backlash and try to trick him into backing down.
The Mueller Report detailing on how on the very day of the White House meeting I just described, Ruddy goes off to this respectable public affairs program -- keep in mind everything you`ve just learned as you watch this PBS clip again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is President Trump prepared to let the special counsel pursue his investigations?
CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: Well, I think he`s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he`s weighing that option. I personally think it would be a very significant mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Thanks to Mueller, we now know what was really going on there. Ruddy telling America you guys, he`s really going to try this and then adding his own concern there as an afterthought. Now, Ruddy, did not say this was part of a White House plot to stop Trump from his own desperate aides in that interview. He just said hey, Trump wants to do it and boom, cue the headlines.
There you see it. Serious outlets, Trump considering firing Mueller. The legal and political world assessing whether this new disruptive president would Saturday Night Massacre himself in his first half a year on the job. And if you watch the news you may remember Ruddy`s gambit, it was everywhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- Christopher Ruddy. And he told PBS that the President is considering possibly firing the special prosecutor Robert Mueller which would be a bombshell of epic proportions if it actually happened.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: I mean, it gets more and more a rapid version of Watergate. Chris Ruddy, his colleague, perhaps his surrogate are now putting out the word, Mueller your life is limited here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An action Chris Ruddy is pushing back as well. He just sent me a text a few minutes ago where he says that Sean Spicer didn`t deny my claim that the President is considering firing Mueller.
MELBER: What you just saw is what Priebus and Bannon wanted, a crisis in the language Trump understood. Not a substantive crisis or on the ethics or the Constitution of crisis, on air. The White House reacting by saying Trump did not intend to fire Mueller while claiming that he could. And the Mueller report notes Ruddy`s testimony that Trump was angry that he basically told on him.
So the plan worked. A box Trump into his own denial buying time at the very moment that Trump`s aides were most concerned his anger might lead him to destroy his own presidency. So why am I telling you this tonight? One more interesting story to be sure from the Mueller report but what does it reveal.
One, Trump was pretty easy to play. Two, Mueller handles evidence fairly. The report doesn`t use this pretty absurd story to malign all the participants. It notes the evidence that several these people were trying hard to stop obstruction of justice. And three, this story, this corroborated report evidence from Trump`s own highest serving aides shows that at least some of the time this White House is not operating as a rational organization.
It`s not operating as a place where plans are logically debated and then decisions are reached on the merits. What I`m saying to depart for a moment from the dry language of the Mueller report is that at times the depiction from Trump`s own aides testimony under oath is a White House that runs like a scary, vengeful, irrational dumpster fire of the logic with a totally broken deliberative process salted with secret plots to try to save the boss from his own ideas that are not just terrible but a potentially criminal according to the judgment of his own most loyal aides.
Remember, the only reason we these set of facts is because this happened to be the subject under criminal investigation. Is this how the White House decisions are made on security or foreign policy or the economy right now? Those are chilling questions and they are broader than the important but narrower facts that Bob Mueller was authorized to probe in the first place.
I`m joined by former Federal Prosecutor Seth Waxman who understands exactly how these type of facts are uncovered. Thanks for being here.
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thanks for having me.
MELBER: What does it mean that Mueller put this story in the report?
WAXMAN: Well, I thinks it just shows that he`s looking at a group of individuals that were willing to go to all sorts of lengths to save the president from himself. This story kind of plays like a bad episode of Veep. You know I mean they`re out there, they`re running around, they`re trying to manipulate the president without him knowing, and then the enlist one of Trump`s own friends to get out in the press and basically leak a potential Saturday Night Massacre so Trump could get a taste of what this is going to be like if he fires Mueller in the coming days.
MELBER: What do you think those witness interviews were like? Would the - - would the Mueller folks have been skeptical at first because they reached this conclusion this is actually what went down, but if someone at first said oh yes, I talked about Trump firing Mueller that you wouldn`t necessarily assume that they were trying to stop that?
WAXMAN: Yes. And I think as a former federal prosecutor, if I got in a room with someone and they shared that with me, I`d have reservations. But then we see what Trump was doing publicly telling Lester Holt you know, out in the open you know, I got rid of -- I got rid of come because of the Russia thing.
So I think when these prosecutors got into the room with these various witnesses, they were ready to accept those kinds of vignettes because they were just were a pattern and practice of what they saw Trump doing everywhere kind of all mounting towards a massive case of obstruction of justice.
MELBER: The television part of this obviously gets a little meta because we`re talking about it on T.V. And we can disclose that if Donald Trump has made television even more relevant in this era, OK, so be it. But take a listen to some Fox News hosts also echoing this view that basically what Donald Trump does is respond to T.V.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So let me be clear Mr. President --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the next thing the President should do is beside pushing tax reform which I think the plans are out there, is struck to in some infrastructure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked the President to blink the lights on an off if he was watching. Now clearly he`s watching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a video effect. We didn`t actually do that. Anyway, we`re just have a little fun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How does that work in what Mueller is looking at because we`re interested in some of the stories and as I said, what they tell us more widely about how this White House was running at least at that time. But he`s got a narrow brief. What is he taking from this story?
WAXMAN: Well, he`s looking at obstruction of justice. And so when you try to impede or effect a law enforcement investigation, that`s what prosecutors try to decide. Have they come dangerously close to impeding that investigation, that`s an attempt to obstruct.
So you know, if you trip a police officer who`s running after to catch a bank robber leaving the bank after he steals the money, that`s obstruction of justice. Whether the cops catch that bank robber down the street really is irrelevant to the question of whether the obstruction took place.
So you know, what Mueller is looking at is a whole bunch of people in various contexts doing things that are trying to prevent the president from obstructing, sometimes they were successful, other times they weren`t and that`s all the evidence that goes into a report that at its height arguably or at least you know, in my opinion clearly makes a case for obstruction.
MELBER: You do think Mueller made the case?
WAXMAN: Yes, I do. I may have wished that he`d gone a little further in a sense --
MELBER: How many -- how many incidents do you count that has strong evidence?
WAXMAN: You know, I`d say between seven and eight, nine, somewhere in -- when I was a prosecutor, if I had that kind of evidence you know, I would have brought those cases. And I`ll tell you --
MELBER: I`m at five --
MELBER: Because I don`t count Comey firing based on my reading of what Mueller found. I`ve heard people say six, you`re up to eight. We`ll have you back to go through some of them because part of the idea of rushing this is not right. What we have to do is just process the evidence and see where it goes. Seth Waxman, thank you as always for bringing your expertise.
WAXMAN: Thank you.
MELBER: A lot more in the show. Later tonight I`m going to talk about how Mark Zuckerberg is bracing for a huge multi-billion dollar punishment for Facebook`s attack on your data. But first coming up next, Joe Biden, he`s in the race. There`s all kinds of pressure and he`s making some phone calls. More news that was filling out late into the evening on Biden jumping in. That`s next.
MELBER: Former Vice President Joe Biden is in. Biden making his official announcement with a video. He doesn`t talk up progressive policies like some candidates who`ve talked about Medicare for all, or the economy, but rather confronts Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In August of 2017, we saw Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open. He said there were "some very fine people on both sides." Very fine people on both sides? If we give Donald Trump eight years from the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation. That`s why today I`m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joe Biden is certainly one of the most famous names in here and he served as vice president. But as we get into this race that already has a lot of people running, one of the questions is where does he fit in? These early declarations of who the hypothetical frontrunners are often proven wrong by the actual voters.
And what do voters said about Joe Biden that`s worth remembering? In 1987, he dropped out after an alleged plagiarism scandal. He was in the race about three months. He ran in 2008 that didn`t make it far past the Iowa caucus.
So consider one comparison to another candidate in the field. Biden did not win a single state in his most recent presidential run in 2008. He also got less than one percent of the vote in the Iowa caucus. Bernie Sanders in his most recent race for president won 23 states in the primary.
I`m joined by Juanita Tolliver from the Center for the American Progress Action Fund and E.J. Dionne from the Washington Post who`s been reporting on Biden since that original run back in 1987. Look at that.
E.J. DIONNE, WASHINGTON POST: God help me.
JUANITA TOLLIVER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: That`s a lot of shady, Ari. I`m like, do you have to do that?
DIONNE: And I`m young enough to be President. I just want to say that.
MELBER: I think if -- I think if you`re alive, you`re young enough to be president.
DIONNE: You`re right. I think that`s --
MELBER: Potentially, and the voters over the side who`s old enough. Only the Constitution decides you have to be over 35. After that, it`s open season. I want to ask you about this point that there is a lot of awareness of Joe Biden, but there`s also a larger question here at this juncture of whether he really is popular in the Democratic races when in his recent runs, he hasn`t gotten very far.
DIONNE: Well, you know, there`s somebody else who ran three times. The first time not fully, the second time completely, and he won the third time and that was Ronald Reagan in 1980 because he lost to Nixon on the floor of the convention. He entered late. He lost to Gerald Ford, then he won again. So there`s precedent for what Biden is doing.
MELBER: Well, I want to push back on you while we played political history which is fun. Reagan won States. Reagan had a following going into the convention. Biden was out as we just showed quite early.
DIONNE: No, that`s right. And Biden, a lot of people have said the best day for Joe Biden in his campaign is the first day, and so that`s the knock on him. I think he`s got a couple of things going for him. One is not the endorsement of Barack Obama but the imprimatur of Barack Obama who picked him as vice president. That`s a big deal in the Democratic Party.
MELBER: Do you think -- I`m going to press you on this. Do you think political appeal is a transferable property? In other words -- and I mean in both parties, does the MAGA crowd get really excited that Mike Pence is just like Trump because he picked Mike Pence.
DIONNE: No. I don`t -- it`s not a question of whether it`s transferable. I think it`s a question of having a blessing from somebody an awful lot of people in the party respect is a big deal for Joe Biden. And I think that video today -- and look I think he`s got some real problems here. People on the left to the party don`t want him. There are younger people in the party that don`t want him. There are people who will get a diverse field - --
MELBER: I think -- I think if Obama -- I think if Obama endorsed him tomorrow, that would be huge.
TOLLIVER: But Obama is smart. He`s not going to do that.
MELBER: But if Obama doesn`t endorse him which is widely expected to be the case, he`s going to let this play out, then what Biden was, was helpful to Obama back in the day. It`s not -- it`s not necessarily that he holds that transfer.
TOLLIVER: That`s exactly right. But there is some reality here that he is massively popular because of his affiliation with Barack Obama. Now is he going to be able to ride that for 18 months into November 2020, absolutely not. He`s going to have to carve out his own lane and really position himself as a presidential candidate which he has not to your point, Ari, done with a solid track record.
But you`re right, Barack Obama is smart enough to stay out of this for now. But he has been an access point for Biden to engage audiences who they have vastly different appeal, right? Barack Obama, people of color, communities of color, African-Americans really flocked to him, and this is why Biden was selected as his running mate of really attracting older white male voters in key states.
And so that balance is something that I think Biden is going to have to grapple with as he really starts to run this race in his own lane.
DIONNE: Can I just --
MELBER: Let me -- let me some -- let me play for your -- and I`ll get you in on the Obama thing because that`s been discussed. Let`s put that up. Let`s take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President, you said two weeks ago that you were the most progressive 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 Moderate Democrats in the traditional sense. Everybody ask me what kind of Democrat, I`m an Obama-Biden Democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIONNE: Obama-Biden Democrat doesn`t sound bad. Here`s what I think he was trying to do today and we`ll see if it works. I think the video was very effective. He didn`t talk about I`m Joe Biden who appeals to white working-class people in Scranton. He actually began with Charlottesville positioning himself on a completely different issue.
But I think what he was trying to do with that is not occupy a lane, but occupy a position above the field. And what you`re going to see if that works -- but what he`s saying is you need somebody experienced like me to take this guy on and to transition the country out of this. If he`s got an argument, I think it`s going to be as a bridge figure to the next generation, a phrase by the way that Nancy Pelosi used when she ran for Speaker the last time around.
Now again, we`re going to find out if it works, but I think it`s got some appeal and there are moderates in the Democratic Party.
TOLLIVER: But even in looking through that video today, I was like who is he attempting to appeal to? One, the message seemed as though it was targeted to a general election audience versus a primary where he has 19 people competing against him. Also, the message was Trump is unfit. This this seems to be something for people who previously voted for Trump who could be drawn to his corner based on that message.
So what I would definitely also caution here about that video was take care of with Charlottesville. It was a raging emotional incident that many Americans still have open sores about. So that could have played into this as well and I`m really excited to see how polling tracks people`s reactions to it especially communities of color.
MELBER: Yes. And I think confronting Charlottesville is vital. As a matter of political courage it is not a high bar. It is literally something that everyone with a heart or a c0onscience has already was supposed to confront. It`s what Republicans, some spoke out against the President on in one of the only cases.
So it also as you said, at a the political interpretation there is, oh it looks like a general election message even though again, no shade, I`m sure he and like many of us was appalled by that and wants to speak up against it. Both things could be true. I got to fit in a break.
DIONNE: He picked an issue that about 99.5 percent of Democrats agree on. He was choosing not to differentiate himself from the --
MELBER: Well, oh no, you said, 99.5, also high, pizza. He was in a pizza parlor. My understanding is pizza is very high.
MELBER: Very high favorability ratings from what I understand.
DIONNE: So the Ari video will be with pizza. I look forward to it.
MELBER: Well, it would be -- I look forward to -- I would -- we`ll have pizza with any candidate.
TOLLIVER: Can I get a slice?
MELBER: Wasn`t it Drake who said, take my heart, we can share it like the last slice.
TOLLIVER: Oh, that`s a good one. That`s a good one.
MELBER: I think that`s right.
DIONNE: That`s for close on the video.
MELBER: All right, we go to fit in a break. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A million dollars isn`t cool. You know what`s cool? A billion dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Facebook founders dreaming big in the social network but a dose of reality in the billions tonight. Facebook faces a $3-$5 billion fine from U.S. regulators, all about the allegations the company violated your privacy. This figure is now disclosed. We know about it because it`s from Facebook`s latest financial filing although we have not been able to confirm it yet with the FTC.
The potential $5 billion fine represents when it`s all taken in one percent or less of the total value of Facebook stock. Wall Street was actually relieved the fine wasn`t even larger. Facebook stock rose almost six percent today. But the larger point, there are consequences when your privacy is violated.
Up ahead a special announcement about Wu-Tang Clan coming to THE BEAT.
MELBER: And there is one more thing I wanted to tell you about tomorrow on THE BEAT. The legendary Wu-Tang Clan is here. You can see them doing research with their beat, no cards. This was for filming the show. You can call it two-thirds of the bestselling hip hop in the world.
I`ll be joined by Ghostface Killah, RZA, U-God, Cappadonna, Masta Killa, and Inspectah Deck. Here we are throwing out the Wu. This is something we just filmed that we`re going to present to you tomorrow. It`s all part of a "FALLBACK FRIDAY" take over. Don`t miss it. It`s tomorrow on THE BEAT.
Now, that does it for me tonight in Washington. But don`t go anywhere, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Biden`s big hoorah. Let`s play HARDBALL.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END