STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And THE BEAT with Air Melber starts right now.
Good evening to you, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. And thank you so much.
We begin tonight with breaking news.
The breaking news on this Friday evening, a new Mueller-related story and this calls the judgment and performance of Bob Mueller`s boss, Rod Rosenstein. It is a new story hot off the presses of "The Washington Post." And it accounts for a time when Mr. Rosenstein was trying to save his job. You may remember "The New York Times" account about him wearing a wire. You see the headline in the post. I can land the plane. How Rosenstein tried to mollify Trump to protect Mueller and save his job.
The Post reporting, it is Rosenstein made that desperate effort or at least try to resign with dignity. He began by one account, getting teary eyed as he had a call with President Trump. But right before that, you will see right here. It says he had a meeting with Trump`s chief of staff and he tried to diffuse the volatile situation over the reports that he may have talked about wiretapping the President. He told the President, look, I`m on your team.
Now this is something that we should know Bob Mueller never did. It is something Jeff Sessions never did. The Post reporting that Rosenstein used his access to Trump to try to mount his own career survival with Trump`s like legal liability saying that Mueller and the investigation of Russia`s interference in the 2016 election would be resolved. And he told the President, he would make sure that Trump would be treat fairly.
The Post quoting sources who described this, and I`m reading here from the account, he says, Rosenstein says I give the investigation credibility, quote. And this is the quote a lot of people are talking about. I can land the plane.
Now the bottom line is, that Donald Trump, according to this new blistering account in the "Washington Post" left that meeting telling folks that he felt that Donald Trump felt, that Rod Rosenstein was on his team.
Now, this story tonight is more than palace intrigue. This is a story about how the entire Mueller probe was wrapped up. About whether Rod Rosenstein was the right person for the job or according to another person who is quoted in this story, someone you may have heard of him, MSNBC Matt Miller says they chose Rosenstein was just too tweak stand up to Trump.
And one more point before I go out to our panel on this breaking news. Rod Rosenstein, according to the "Washington Post`s" account, also tried to assure Trump near the end of the road that he was not a quote, "target" of the probe.
Of course, if you have heard about the Mueller report, it deeply investigates and probes the criminal evidence against Donald Trump on a range obstruction cases, meaning as a normal citizen, he certainly would be considered something in the area of a potential target.
Rosenstein does deny aspects of the story. He said in a new statement, and that`s how you know it is a big story because Rosenstein speaking on the record. He says in a new statement that he just told Trump what he tells everyone. That he would try to resolve this probe fairly and expeditiously.
But telling people who are the subject of the probe that you are not a target would seem to go beyond what Mueller had done and what Mueller wanted. It also raises fresh questions about some of the big mysteries in this case. Maybe Donald Trump wasn`t feeling that much heat to sit down for an in-person interview with Bob Mueller if he thought Rod Rosenstein was his employee and on his team.
Let me get out to our great guests tonight. I am joined by Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor, Katty Kay from the BBC and Matt Miller who as I mentioned is not only a former DOJ official under the Holder-Obama administration, but also as quoted directly on this piece, the "Washington Post" wanted your view and so do we, Matt. What does it all mean?
MATT MILLER, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CHIEF SPOKESMAN: Look. I think there is no way to look at this action by the deputy attorney general other than inappropriate unethical. I don`t know how many times we have talked in this network for the last two years about how the fundamental rule at DOJ, when it comes to investigations involving the White House, you do not talk with the President or anyone involved with the President. Anyone who works for him about, the investigations. There is supposed to be bright line.
And here you have the deputy attorney general not only talking about the investigation but giving the President assurances about the investigation. And what makes it so much worse is that he is giving those assurances in the context of a time where he is pleading and begging for his job. Trying to hang on to his job. And so, if you are the President, you know you have the deputy attorney general at your mercy. And the deputy attorney general is making assurances.
And I think, you know, the quote I have the story that you were referred to, I think he is just been a weak deputy attorney general all along. And there are times many our history this would be fine. But this is a time -- .
MELBER: Weak? Weak, Matt? And you say weak, Matt, do you mean weak as a view? Some people are strong, some are weak? Or you mean to the pint of being inappropriate in his oversight of the probe?
MILLER: Weak that in that he allows the President first and then later Bill Barr to push him into doing things he should not do and I will give you some examples. Obviously writing the Comey memo when we now know because we read the Mueller report, he knew that the President was firing Comey for other reasons. Letting himself be used as the pretext inappropriately to fire Jim Comey when he should have stood up for the department. He was weak then. He was weak when he asked the inspector general to investigate a Trumped up charge by the President that there was no evidence to substantiate, adding fuel to the claims that Republicans on the hill, the President were making about some conspiracy and some coup at DOJ. And he was weak when he allowed his name to be used with the attorney general in that letter the attorney general sent and in that press conference to mislead the American public about the results of the Mueller report.
We need him to be strong throughout this investigation. Yes, he protected it to some extent, but I think he was always telling himself, I can make these little compromises. I will do this. I`ll take these little steps to the President wants to protect the investigation. And that is not what you are supposed to do. You say Mr. President, this is wrong. If you want to fire me, you can fire me and you will pay the political consequences for it.
MELBER: Gene, are you as concerned as Matt?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Matt Miller hit the nail on the head. And the sad thing about this whole process and what we are hearing, Ari, is there is a huge cloud over the department of justice and the rule of law is now taint.
Here`s my main complaint against Rod Rosenstein. And I was very complimentary of him when he was appointed. And I worked with him when he was a U.S. attorney. He is telling a potential target, not just a subject, a potential target, because the President is an unindicted conspirator in New York. He is telling the President he is going to land the plane for him.
And this goes back to what Michael Cohen said. They talk in code. And was Rod Rosenstein basically telling the President, I have got your back? And by saying that, Ari, and you hit a key issue. By telling the President that, did that embolden the President of the United States to basically give his finger to Robert Mueller and give 37 I do not recalls on written answers and say I`m not going to testify under oath?
MELBER: Gene, do you see those as linked? Because we always want to be clear here.
MELBER: Mr. Rosenstein has every right in his capacity as Mueller`s boss to state his views or even to disagree with Mueller on investigative calls. That would be On the Record, though. In other words, if they ever disagreed, as folks I think may recall from all of our reporting on the rules, Congress would be notified about that.
Do you view this as more inappropriate because it has the potential appearance, not of a good faith disagreement about the probe, but a private, but a private what lawyers are calling in, you know, a side bar between the guy running the probe and the guy who is the potential target of the probe which undercuts Mueller`s actual litigation positions?
ROSSI: What I`m saying is it is highly inappropriate, and Matt is right, for the basically, the head of the department of justice to meet with the President and discuss the progress of an investigation, essentially, did he that, and talk about the President`s status.
Can you imagine if President Barack Obama were in the same shoes as Donald Trump and Loretta Lynch or her deputy got on a plane and basically begged for their job back? The Republicans would have impeachment hearings for God`s sakes.
MELBER: Katty, landing the plane tonight is a pretty controversial phrase. Take a listen to someone else who used the same phrase as he auditioned for his Trump job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has anyone in the White House seen any of the report?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I`m not going to, as I said I`m landing the plane right now. And, you know, I have been willing to discuss my letters and the process going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Yes. Did it make you wonder whether there was a memo going around DOJ that the way to satisfy the President is to use this phrase, landing the plane.
KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS WASHINGTON ANCHOR: I have another questions coming out of this story. One is why Rod Rosenstein is so desperate to keep his job? He comes across in this story as almost groveling to the President to try and keep his position as deputy attorney general. And questions I think Congress is going to want to ask. What exactly do you mean by phrase, landing the plane? Especially in the context to the fact that you are in a conversation which you are also reportedly have said that you are on the President`s team.
And why are you having this conversation six months before Mueller actually submits his report? Does that suggest that you had already formed your conclusions about the report? And that you could have that report be favorable to the President? I think that question is very worth asking Rosenstein.
And it is so ironic that there we have Rosenstein last night in New York, slamming the Obama administration and praising President Trump for the rule of law when we know about President Trump asked him to change his version of what happened over the firing of Jim Comey.
MELBER: Like the good reporter you are, you are all over the details. We have that. So let`s play that and get your analysis of it. This was Rod Rosenstein making other waves, as you say Katty, last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Some of the non-expense passes from breaking news today would not be worth the paper it was printed on, if anybody bothered to print news these days.
One set of questions that I get from reporters is, is it true that you got angry and emotional a few times over the past two years? Heck, yes. Didn`t you?
Some critical decisions about that Russia investigation were made before I got there. The previous administration chose to not publicize the full story about Russian computer hackers and social media trolls and how they relate to Russia`s broader strategy to undermine America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAY: Yes. I mean, look. It was a news worthy speech because there was Rod Rosenstein being so defiant. And in several instances, again, a little bit doing what I think we are hearing him having done in this Post report which is speaking in a way that he knows he is going to carry favor with the president, talking about the fact that in journalism, the rules of evidence don`t apply. That`s pretty rich coming from an administration where the "Washington Post" has accounted several thousand incidents of the President not actually telling the truth.
It happens in Trump`s world that people seem desperate to curry favor with him. Almost to the degree they seem afraid of him and the impact he can have on their lives.
MELBER: Matt, I wonder if you can walk us through the Washington part of this. Because I think what I hear from people, when I talk to viewers sometimes, is people say why is everyone so desperate to hold on to these jobs for just a little while longer? Or so worried about how they are going to end the Post account. I have dwelt the legal details.
But others details in there that are just sort of juicy are Rosenstein allegedly telling other White House staff, not the President. Look, I will resign if I need to over this "New York Times" account about alleged wire. But I don`t want to be fired by a tweet. I don`t want to go out with a tweet.
Matt, you may recognize clearly, Rosenstein, a big fan of classic Cypress Hill basically saying, I`m not going out like that. But why would someone care so much about whether they go out with a tweet or not? I would think there were so many other more important matters of integrity that were tested rather than whether the President was in artful in firing him had it happened that way.
MILLER: It is the question that, you know, has baffled I think me and obviously you and lots of other people about not just Rod Rosenstein but everyone in this administration that they seems so worried about the President`s attacks on them rather than doing the right thing and then letting the American people judge whether they have done the right thing or not.
I thought all along when Rod Rosenstein was being pressured by the White House, first on the Comey firing, then all the times the President was attacking the investigation, attacking the justice department when h ha`s talked to them about it privately. Rosenstein said privately to the President, Mr. President, I`m not going to talk to you about this investigation. If you want to fire me, fire me.
When he attacked him publicly, Rod just stood up for the department and said, you know what, we don`t conduct spying operations here. We don`t conduct coups. We are not trying to overthrow the government. We are conducting lawfully predicated investigations.
If the President wanted to fire him, that would improve Rod Rosenstein`s reputation because he would have been shown like Elliott Richardson during Watergate, Mike William (ph) reconciles, the deputy attorney general that did he the right thing and stood up to a President. And Rod Rosenstein never got that. I think his legacy will be thought because of it.
MELBER: I think you put it very intelligently.
And Katty, I wonder, and such a student of Washington whether you agree. Because look, James Comey is controversial for many reasons. He doesn`t have a perfect record. We have reported on some of that. I don`t think most reasonable law enforcement experts, legal experts, and people who follow the news, frankly, blame Jim Comey for the unceremonious way that Donald Trump fired him. A man who had security because he walked around serving his country.
I think people whatever they think of Mr. Comey`s tenure, viewed that as a reflection of Trump, not Comey. Why would that not apply to Matt`s the excellent summation here to Rosenstein?
KAY: Right, which is the twitter argument, right. That he clearly was referring in this reporting to Jim Comey and the way that Jim Comey was fired.
The conundrum with Rosenstein, the whole way through this is being how he tried to balance keeping President Trump happy and yet at the same time acting to try to protect the special counsel and the investigation and not have to fire Bob Mueller. And I think a lot of us thought there were points before and against Rod Rosenstein`s handling of this whole affair.
Between last night and today`s reporting in the "Washington Post," I do think it gives a slightly different interpretation of the way - and you know, Matt is suggesting that he is, you know, picked up on this all the way along.
MELBER: Which is what?
KAY: But I think we see a different interpretation of the way Rod Rosenstein handled himself which is that he was desperate to keep Donald Trump happy above all to the extent that he puts himself in what must be a certainly precarious position saying I`m on your team over this. And having this conversation that he should not have been having if he was an independent deputy attorney general with the President, talking about him being a subject and the sematic subject and talking with the dispute later.
KAY: But having the conversation he had, is clearly inappropriate.
MELBER: Very well put. I mean, both of you are so convincing.
Gene, I want to land the plane over this conversation with you, if you will. But I don`t mean it in the obstructionist sense of the word. And that is I want to close with the part of this that seems so unnecessary which is we have been very careful to point out in our coverage that while part one of the Mueller report shows great problems in our system and terrible judgment, it doesn`t show according to Bob Mueller, chargeable criminal offenses.
And part two is ultimately, if you follow the constitution, Congress` judgment to make. So far, six days out, the Mueller report, excuse me, eight days out of the Mueller report, they are not exactly racing to immediately remove the President.
Given all that, can you explain, Gene, why with that arguably good news for the White House, there was all these other efforts to put the thumb on the scale to overdo it, to mischaracterize, from Barr to now Rosenstein to the private claims about the target, why do all that when as I just fairly reported, there is a reasonable case for why it was not that bad to begin with for them and they didn`t mean to even do this to say nothing of the integrity questions that Matt and Katty so eloquently stated.
ROSSI: Well, I can say that very simply based on 30 years with DOJ. If Donald Trump`s last name were Smith, and he was a private citizen, based on the conduct alleged in volume II of that report, he would have been indicted on campaign violations and also, obstruction of justice. And I agree volume I doesn`t have conspiracy where have evidence of a conspiracy. Although there is evidence of aiding and bedding. Volume II is a statement about the conduct of the President of the United States. I`ve said this before. Volume II is a reprehensible statement about the conduct of the President of the United States, and I have said this before, volume II is like the movie script for Godfather Four.
MELBER: Godfather four, yet to be produced in your view.
MELBER: As a film. Yes.
Katty, do you have a, what is the best version of a godfather movie in England, do you know?
KAY: I think we just have to throw Brexit in at some point, right. We have our own dramas going on. I think the critical thing now is where this goes with Democrats, where this goes with Congress, how they manage the process of subpoenaing the White House and whether the White House is in some way persuaded to cooperate and the American public gets to hear more of what was behind this investigation. And of course, the big issue, which is what where it speaks about, the Russian meddling is still going on. And that`s the overriding concern.
MELBER: Right. And whether over time, the DOJ is a place that looks more like Rod Rosenstein 2.0. I mean, 1.0 was as Matt mentioned writing a false memo to try to defend the President`s firing, which he later admitted was false. Rod 2.0 was appointing Mueller. Then Rod 3.0 was saying we`re not going to be extorted. We are up to 4.0 or 5.0. But unlike Apple products, Rod Rosenstein`s later iterations according to at least the "Washington Post" get worse, not better. And so the question is, what does Barr look like in a DOJ with a President who may think he is getting away with these things? I think that is what each of your comments go to in a bigger sense of it.
Matt, Katty and Gene, thanks so much for being on "THE BEAT" on this Friday evening.
MILLER: Thank you.
ROSSI: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Now, let me tell what you we have coming up because there is a lot more in this show. Number one, we speak live to a member of the judiciary committee on this blockbuster story and landing the plane as well as what happens if Donald Trump`s aides continue to defy Congress.
And then something I am so excite for, I hope you will stay with me, from volume I and II to 36, chambers, the Wu tang Clan, six members on THE BEAT tonight. We are up on the roof with a lot of talk about.
MELBER: Welcome back to "THE BEAT with Ari Melber."
We have been covering a story that broke in the "Washington Post" late this afternoon. Reports that Rod Rosenstein, assuring him he was not a target of the probe and leaving Donald trump at the impression that Rosenstein was quote "on Trump`s team."
What will Congress do about this kind of information? Well, I`m joined right now by a member of the Judiciary Committee, Congressman David Cicilline.
Thanks for joining me. Your reaction to this news?
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI), HOUSE JUDICIARY: My pleasure. Well, this is obviously very explosive reporting. You know, Rod Rosenstein, a lot of us wondered why he didn`t recuse himself initially, because he was a witness really in the Jim Comey firing. We thought it was odd that he wasn`t fired after that reporting was revealed that he talked about the 25th amendment. Now I think we have a better understanding.
Here is someone who is trying to please the President, trying to reassure the subject or at least if not the target, the subject of an ongoing investigation. Completely inappropriate. And I think it is an example again of the power of the President to really corrupt these department of justice officials who take an oath to the constitution. They don`t take an oath to the President.
We saw what happened to Jeff Sessions when he refused to cave to that. I think Matt Miller is right. I think Rod Rosenstein turns out to be a weak person. He wasn`t able to stand up to the President, to maintain the independence of the department if this reporting is true. And that`s very disappointing. It raises lots of questions about the decisions he made. First to stand with the attorney general at a press conference where he observed him. Misrepresenting facts to the American people with the report. He added his name to the letter, the four-page summary, which misled the American beam the special counsel`s conclusions.
So it raises a lot of questions about what was shared with the President. What promises were made to the President? What did he say to convince the President he was on the President`s team? I wish instead he has said, look, I`m on the team of the people of this country and the constitution, Mr. President. I cannot discuss an ongoing investigation with you. But he didn`t do that.
You have to wonder why was he so desperate to keep his job rather than to stand up to the President and maintain the independence of his position and the department of justice.
MELBER: I think we can actually put up on the screen for a demonstration what you mentioned because that press conference with Mr. Barr and Rosenstein was just eight days ago. It may feel to some Americans like ancient history by now. But as you say, the report is still being process by your committees and others. The press conference there between Barr and Rosenstein was a presentation to the American public. And we are looking here on our screen at Rosenstein during the presser. And there was a lot of commentary about this being his sort of final chapter.
Some alleging that he looked pain or like almost quote-unquote "hostage." He spoke about this last night actually and addressed it and has said what was he supposed to do? His job was just to stand there. Do you think that ultimately, it is important to your congressional inquiries in the House to get to the bottom of how Mueller was overseen and whether there was undue pressure on him based on what we are learning? Or do you view this as ancillary or in the rear view of your probes?
CICILLINE: Oh, no. This isn`t ancillary at all. This goes to the central question of whether or not the department of justice supervision by Rod Rosenstein in particular, in any way, shaped this investigation. Shaped the conclusions that Mr. Mueller drew or shaped the collection of any evidence.
So I think as a result of this reporting, we have more questions, not less. And it gets back to the central issue. Congress has a responsibility to follow the facts wherever they lead us. To get the full report for Mr. Mueller. To hear from all the witnesses who contributed to evidence contained in that report so we can make an informed decision about the next steps.
The President has indicated his intension to block or tried to impede congressional oversight. We are going to have to litigate some of this but the committee is determined to get to the facts. No one in this country is above the law including the President. And we are going to do whatever is necessary to get information and testimony under oath from witnesses so we can make determinations fully informed.
MELBER: As you mentioned earlier, there was this account of being desperation. That Rosenstein was trying to clean up what had been reported out in the "New York Times" about, as you mentioned, the prospect of the 25th amendment and the prospect of wearing a wire, which he did not do. There is no report that he did that.
But he is nit -- it turns out from our reporting, and I think you probably know, sir, he is actually not the only long serving law enforcement official who thought that Donald Trump`s attempts to cultivate him where so inappropriate, that he considered either defying Trump and not even talking to him, that`s one way, or when calling it back when getting in-touch, wiretapping or taping or recording him in some way.
Preet Bharara who was ultimately dismissed confirmed that to me in his own separate case. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: We actually considered, and it sounds not as crazy as it did back then, because now we know about Michael Cohen, according to the President, and Omarosa. We considered it. And we have competing --
MELBER: You considered what?
BHARARA: Taping the President in their phone call.
MELBER: You considered recording the President, if you had called him back?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What does it tell that you so many seasoned and I should say nonpartisan officials were considering those measures?
CICILLINE: Well, it says what the report reveals that the President was directing people to do things that they knew were either unethical, improper or maybe illegal. He was fortunate that most of the time they didn`t do it and that`s how he was saved. But the idea that they felt a need to record him says something about what they believed about the President`s instructions. That they weren`t inappropriate.
But you know, we need is people to stand up in those moments and defend the rule of law. Defend the constitution, defend the independence of the department of justice. And I think what Rod Rosenstein did, if it`s true that reporting, is incredibly disappointing.
MELBER: And David Cicilline, do you view as a final question, yes or no, the likelihood the House will have impeachment hearings is, yes, it`s likely or no, it is unlikely?
CICILLINE: We are going to have hearings immediately that will help us answer the question about whether or not we should proceed with impeachment if the evidence supports it. But we are going to have a series of hearings. We are going to bring in the witnesses who provided testimony to the special counsel.
Interestingly, Ari, they`re not 12 angry Democrats. It turns out most of the evidence contained in that special counsel report comes from the president`s own administration officials or former officials.
So I think it is important we hear the context of the testimony, if he`s under oath so we can make an informed judgment.
MELBER: Well, sir, not to make light of it but you read the footnotes of the Mueller report and it`s like a cross between the MAGA rally and a CPAC panel.
CICILLINE: Yes, I mean, it`s -- if it weren`t so serious and if its consequences weren`t so great, if it weren`t such attack on the rule of law and on our constitution, it would be funny but it`s not. And we`re going to approach it in a very serious way. But we have a lot of evidence collection to do. We need to see the full report. We need to see all the supporting materials. And we need to hear from these witnesses under oath before the committee so the American people can also understand exactly what has happened.
MELBER: Understood. The way you approach it and also the point you make which goes to what is damming evidence. Damning evidence is not criticism, it`s not third-hand accounts, it`s what Mueller seem to gather that what Trump seems afraid of which is people who were in the room with him and largely politically loyal to him, although apparently some of them according to Mueller told the truth about what was going down. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
CICILLINE: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
MELBER: Definitely. I appreciate that. We have a lot more in this show including the great Jennifer Rubin from the Washington Post explaining her column that`s making waves and why she says there are still important methods to hold the Trump administration accountable. And then I keep mentioning it because I`m very excited about it. A group that has sold 40 million albums worldwide, 25 years in the game, Wu-Tang Clan on the roof of 30 rock in New York with me when we come back later this hour.
MELBER: If President Trump got the clean book of health he claims that he got in the Mueller report, it`s hard to understand why he`s saying things like this today at a speech to the NRA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With all of the resignations of bad apples, they`re bad apples, they tried for a coup. didn`t work out so well. And I didn`t need a gun for that one. Trying for an overthrow and we caught them. We caught them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Trump also slamming his own lawyer Don McGahn. Democrats are demanding far more details from the report on the record. Trump denies one of Mueller`s biggest revelations which is corroborated that Donald Trump according to his own aides and evidence at the time asked his counsel Don McGahn to oust Bob Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I never told Don McGahn to fire Mueller. If I wanted to fire Mueller, I would have done it myself. It`s very simple. We had 18 people that were Trump haters. That includes Mr. Mueller. He was a Trump hater.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Mueller did not actually say that. What he reported was that McGahn said it under oath. Now, these attacks are part of the wider strategy. Two Trump associates telling the New York Times Donald Trump thinks the only way to protect himself from impeachment is to attack and undermine not only Bob Mueller but his own White House Counsel Don McGahn.
I`m thrilled to bring back to the program Jennifer Rubin who is a conservative columnist for The Washington Post who studied many of these issues and she`s writing Trump is "cynically defying the law by refusing to work with Congress to get to the truth which he claims exonerates him." Let`s start there, Jennifer. Explain.
JENNIFER RUBIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, it was only what, a year ago? No, it was last week that Donald Trump was saying he`s been exonerated, completely exonerated. And now, of course, he`s claiming there`s a coup.
We went from him saying that Mueller was doing a great job, had done a fine job, and that he accepted the report to this. And the problem with this is that the context of that second volume of the Mueller report makes out a very clear case in my view of obstruction.
And unlike the Barr/Rosenstein spin, Mueller didn`t say he was refraining from making that call because there was insufficient evidence, he very clearly said he was refraining from making that call because it was Congress`s job to do. And this is why the president now is freaking out. This is why he`s trying to McGahn from testifying.
This is why in another context he`s having his Treasury Secretary defy Congress`s right to get his tax returns and they are stonewalling, stonewalling, stonewalling. You`ve studied the Watergate hearings and you know that that was one of the bases for which Richard Nixon was going to be impeached before he resigned, his non-cooperation with Congress.
Now, a president has a right like any other citizen to raise legitimate legal defenses and objections. For what Trump is doing, there is no legitimate argument. Don McGahn spent over 30 hours with the special counsel Mr. Mueller. So whatever executive privilege they had was waived more than 30 hours ago.
Likewise, the President keeps talking about the conversation. That again waived the privilege. So there is no basis by which he can legitimately keep McGahn from testifying. And frankly, I don`t think McGahn should listen to him. He doesn`t work for him anymore. He can go into Congress and testify to whatever he likes. And he should because otherwise, he`s in trouble.
And this is one of the difficulties I think we`re running into is that Trump still gets people to do his bidding. He still is getting witnesses to not cooperate, to not go forward, to not tell the truth. He is still getting his Treasury Secretary, not to turnover tax returns when the statute plainly says they shall provide it to the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
So I think Congress is going to have to put on their collective thinking caps and figure out how to break on this really -- there`s no other word for it but obstructionist behavior in order to preserve the legitimacy of Congress as a co-equal branch, the legitimacy of its investigative powers, and the legitimacy frankly of the DOJ itself.
So I think we are now in uncharted territory. We`ll see if Congress is able to get a contempt proceeding, if Congress is able to get persuade these people to cooperate. And we are now really coming to I think a position of a real face-off between the executive and legislative branches.
MELBER: Well you lay it out there so well as you did in your piece which is what made us think of you. And as you say with Chairman Nadler saying they will take the contempt of power seriously and potentially jail aides who defy these requests, some of those big battles are ahead and they`re not just about Mueller. Jennifer Rubin, thanks for joining me on a Friday night.
RUBIN: My pleasure.
MELBER: Always good to see you. Up ahead, if it`s THE BEAT it`s the Wu- Tang Clan, 36 chambers. We`re up on the roof talking about their new project of Mics of Men, the future of hip-hop, and some politics on the roof up ahead.
MELBER: Time now for a special takeover edition of "FALLBACK." Joining me now are six members of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan, U-God, Inspectah Deck, Cappadonna, Masta Killa, Ghostface Killah, RZA. You`ve heard of them because they`ve sold over 40 million albums worldwide and recently had a district named after them in the hometown of Staten Island.
Their new project is a documentary of Mics and Men coming to Showtime and it looks at their old stomping grounds around the city.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I grew up on a crime side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn`t (INAUDIBLE).
RZA, RAPPER: The black, red, yellow, brown, white all rocking with us. These five families become our wings.
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MELBER: They`re also back on tour right now celebrating the 25th anniversary of their debut album and one of my favorite albums of all time in any genre and to the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers which of course went platinum.
Now, why are they called Wu-Tang Clan? Let me show you the answer.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The name of the group, where did that come from?
RZA: Well like Wu-Tang, that represents a sweet style of rhyming and clam means family.
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MELBER: Let me say I am so excited to welcome each of you here. Thank you for being here, Wu-Tang Clan.
MELBER: We`re going to get to some of your fallbacks. RZA, Gladys Knight, let`s talk about the good old days.
RZA: The good old days.
MELBER: She said it, you said it, what does this project mean to you and your colleagues?
RZA: I`ll say a good a chance to look back on our past and see what we are today. This documentary is very nostalgic, very reflective. You know, I think it`s a great tribute. You know, I think a lot of people don`t get a chance to be talked about a document until after they die, you know.
We`re living and we get a chance to see it and our children get to learn about the struggles we went through and the music that we created that brought us out of that struggle.
MELBER: When you look around right now, what or who needs to fall back?
GHOSTFACE KILLAH, RAPPER: What they need to fall back on is the food. This food is messed up, all these GMO.
U-GOD, RAPPER: GMO stuff.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH: GMO is in food. You know what I mean? Like you know, they`re making it -- it`s like everything is cloned nowadays. So it`s like I don`t even know what to eat like you know I mean? I`m looking at the watermelons, they got no seeds.
U-GOD: They got no seeds on the watermelon.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH: They got no seeds, no black seeds. You know, I got bananas. You know, bananas are like this big. I`m like yo, I`ve never seen those bananas like that. Get this out of here.
U-GOD: What I would like to fallback is this damn gun violence stuff, man. This gun stuff is out of control. You know, senseless people you know, get -- well, we get -- you know, black -- put men in the -- in the hood, we get shot at record numbers right now. So if I want to say something about that, that`s what --
MASTA KILLA, RAPPER: Yes, you got to talk to the ATF on that, man. Pharmaceutical markets, they control -- which don`t specialize in health and healing people, only keeping you sedated and drugged up which leads to your demise in the end anyway.
INSPECTAH DECK, RAPPER: I think -- I personally say this is -- this little war going on sublimity in the hip-hop culture, it`s like a young head old head type of thing. I think -- I think the young head should fall back with that old head business, you know what I`m saying. Because one day you`re going to be right here bro.
MELBER: If you`re lucky you`re going to become an old head.
INSPECTAH DECK: If you make it through, you might be old head. Old head, you know, is we got -- we got a coin that term and make more -- got to mean more now, you know. Like old head is a -- is an objective to make it to now, you know.
MELBER: Do you think some of the -- what you call young heads, the young artists, do you think they`re coming into success too quick and they don`t necessarily have all of the legwork and time to reflect that maybe you had coming up?
INSPECTAH DECK: Sort of, yes.
U-GOD: We don`t know the role they took though to get there.
MASTA KILLA: Yes, I don`t know their role but I think right now --
GHOSTFACE KILLAH: When they come in as 16 or 17.
INSPECTAH DECK: Yes, they`re coming into a sound where the money was already created so the level was fair.
GHOSTFACE KILLAH: Yes, now they got the easy platform. Like he said before, we was in -- we was at 15-passenger van slobbering on each other like wrestling. You know what I mean? Doing the legwork, going the radio, doing this, doing the colleges and you know what I mean, go like really, really on. Now it`s like you could just say whatever.
RZA: I think that Islamophobia got to fall back on that man. You know what I mean? People you know, if you pay attention, the word -- this word means peace. How are you going to have a phobia against peace? You know what I mean. If you go back and you look at the synagogue, this is where the people come to pray and worship. How are you going to attack and shoot up a place like that where the people are most vulnerable. You know what I mean?
If you look at these churches burned down in Sri Lanka, you know I mean? It`s like this is a place that a tsunami hit, you know what I mean? And people -- many people change to that today from all forms of life, and here now this is a place of worship.
Now, I don`t care if you build yourself you know, a straw hut for worship, that`s what it`s for. It isn`t for somebody to come you know, I mean, and then destroy that and this story to people inside. So you need to fall back on that.
MELBER: RZA, let`s take a look at something you said on Election Day 2016.
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RZA: I`m not going to you know, hire a painter to cook my dinner, you know what I mean? I`m going to hire a chef. And even though you know -- so to me, Hillary is that Chef for our country.
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MELBER: RZA, we`ve now had about two years of the Donald Trump presidency. Were you right? What do you think?
RZA: If America is a country that`s about freedom, justice, equality for the people, is there the country that wants us to grow to be the best that we can, solvency of every individual, every man they have, that then we pledge. We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
If this is that kind of country, right, then Hillary Clinton would have been a perfect president for us at that time during that election. But if America is a corporation and America is just a big company, yes, then Donald Trump is a good guy to run it.
MASTA KILLA: Exactly, because he`s a businessman.
MELBER: Since I`m in the news, I`ll push you on that. Do we want our society to be run like a for-profit corporation or more like something that includes everybody?
RZA: I think for the -- for the -- I think for the long term, it`s better to run it for something that includes everybody because -- so we`ll just go back to when the food is genetically modified, OK, there`s no chance no randomness, there`s no chance for -- there`s no chance for that -- for that wildflower to grow something new that becomes even more prosperous, right. It`s now cookie cut, right.
It`s now every day is so controlled, right, it`s so controlled that the option of randomness doesn`t happen. And if you don`t have a random, right, the Y chromosome itself is random, brother. Think about that for a minute. Go to science to know the Y chromosome is.
The point being made is that -- is that we you know -- you know, it`s like we`re country for the people. I took a pledge and I was a kid, man. You took it, you took it, you took it. Our President had to take it. It was all part of our school. And it said that this is one nation under God indivisible. So that word indivisible means we can`t be divided.
I can`t call you white America, you can`t call me black America, you can`t call him Asian American, Latin America, it`s American, baby. It`s indivisible. So how come you`re divided? But if you`re dealing with a company and the corporation, yes, we got departments. We got everything that divides everybody and sends it around. And that`s the hustle, that`s the hustle. I don`t care who was the president. My community has not changed much.
MASTA KILLA: That`s right.
RZA: Chicago has not changed much in our communities no matter who`s the president, bro. There`s still violence, there`s still drugs, it`s still poverty, and it`s still the same promise that`s going to be something different and it has not changed.
MASTA KILLA: Exactly.
RZA: So that`s -- so for us, we got to do what we got to do on our own, you know what I mean?
MELBER: These were excellent "FALLBACKS" and I`m not just saying that as a fan. I want to give a special thanks to Wu-Tang Clan, the new project on Showtime. Thank you so much for coming on THE BEAT.
U-GOD: Check it out.
MELBER: And we`re not done. When we come back, the vault Lindsey Graham owning himself when it comes to stonewalling congressional oversight, and that is back in just 30 seconds.
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SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It`s your job to tell us what we need. It is your job to comply with the things we need to provide oversight over you. The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day that he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress.
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MELBER: The power from Congress. You are looking at a member of Congress, Lindsey Graham but it was in 1980 -- 98, I should say, talking about presidents who defy subpoenas from Congress. Obviously, a hot topic right now as Donald Trump has taken the unusual position that they won`t comply with basically all kinds of oversight from House Democrats.
We`re going to be seeing a lot more of what people said about this when the parties in the jerseys were reversed given how much talk there is about consistency in Washington. We`ll be right back with one more thing.
MELBER: Thanks for joining me on the show we were especially excited about. Ari Melber signing off. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
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