STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: And that`s all for MEET THE PRESS DAILY tonight. "THE BEAT" starts right now. Stephanie Ruhle is in for Ari.
Good evening to you Stephanie.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Mr. Kornacki.
We have got a lot to cover. I am Stephanie Ruhle, in tonight for my friend Ari Melber. And get ready, we have got a big show tonight.
Joe Biden just delivered a speech attacking Trump`s lies at his first campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Also, former Department of Justice insider Neal Katyal is here on the obstruction probe.
And the NRA in crisis. With the New York attorney general launching an investigation into the group`s money.
But we begin this evening -- I almost said this morning -- with this breaking news. Mueller`s former boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein officially resigning. He just sent his resignation letter and will leave the Department of Justice May 11. And this comes as a legal showdown is looming today.
House Democrats escalating the pressure on Attorney General Bill Barr to testify this week. Barr now threatening to skip Thursday`s testimony on the Mueller report before the Judiciary Committee. Barr now objecting to Chairman Nadler`s plan to have committee lawyers question him.
Barr`s office saying, "The attorney general appeared -- agreed to appear before Congress. Therefore, members of Congress should be the ones doing the questioning." Chairman Nadler speaking out today and getting blunt. They will subpoena Barr if they have to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY) CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The attorney general is afraid to subject himself to questions where he can follow up that may indicate a lack of confidence in his own position. And more to the point, we have to get to the bottom of these issues. That`s why we`ve called him in.
And it`s not up to the attorney general to tell the committee how to conduct his business. If he doesn`t show up on Thursday, we`ll have to go to subpoenas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Chairman Nadler telling Barr he does not get to pick how the committee questions him, and there are growing questions about how specifically Barr handled the Mueller report, specifically clearing Trump on obstruction of justice.
A Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee calling Barr "a paid federal public defender for President Trump". Former Deputy A.G. Sally Yates saying if Trump was not president, he would likely be charged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I`ve been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years, and I can tell you I`ve personally prosecuted obstruction cases on far, far less evidence than this. And, yes, I believe if he were not the president of the United States, he would likely be indicted on obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Joining me now, NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray and former federal prosecutor, my dear friend Joyce Vance.
Melissa, to you first. It`s not a surprise but your thoughts specifically on Rod Rosenstein resigning today and sending that very complimentary letter to President Trump.
MELISSA MURRAY, LAW PROFESSOR, NYU: My first thought was whether President Trump had written this resignation letter himself. It was incredibly complimentary. But this is not unheard of. It`s certainly not unheard of for this administration where there has been a revolving door of people coming in or out.
The real question is how long -- how was it that Rod Rosenstein was able to last as long as he did, two years, a pretty long tenure in this administration.
RUHLE: Well, maybe he did because he was singing the tune President Trump wanted him to. Joyce, your thoughts. I mean for Rod Rosenstein to sort of close the letter with a wink and a nod, thanks for always putting America first, we know that`s President Trump`s jam.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein is certainly speaking the president`s language in this letter, his close-out letter with the administration. Often though, federal officials when they`re resigning are provided with some sort of a template or a form. And the expectation is that they`ll follow along with that.
We don`t know if that`s the case here. And certainly, Rod Rosenstein could have said whatever he wanted to say in his resignation letter. This makes it pretty clear that he resigns as someone who is firmly in the president`s camp during his service.
RUHLE: Well, someone else who appears to be firmly in President Trump`s camp is Bill Barr. That is why Congress wants to talk to him. Specifically, the Judiciary Committee. What actually happens if Barr skips the hearing? I mean we can talk about what he should do, what is precedent, but it`s like Real World MTV. What happens when they start getting -- stop being polite and start getting real? He didn`t have to be polite.
MURRAY: No, he doesn`t have to be polite. He can refuse to attend. Congress can then turn and use their enforcement powers contempt to be able to subpoena him to come in.
But again, usually, this goes back and forth as a kind of negotiation between Congress and the DOJ. And that can be really protracted which dulls some of the momentum that the Democrats are hoping to get out of this entire process.
They want to use this to gear up for what might be an impeachment investigation. And Barr basically can stonewall them on this by refusing to appear and make it a lot harder and eventually perhaps kick this to the courts.
RUHLE: So back and forth is exactly what President Trump, or maybe Bill Barr is looking for, running the clock. It`s what the president did with regard to releasing his taxes on the campaign trail. You`ll get them. You`ll see them, I promise.
And then he wins and Kellyanne Conway is straight out the gate. Well, that issue has been litigated. Nobody cares. President Trump won.
That seems to be the agenda here. Is it going to work, Joyce?
VANCE: You know, it`s an interesting question because this president really is a master of kicking the can down the road and hoping he won`t face consequences until some point in the distant future, if ever. But the neutral arbiter here will be the federal court system.
And one wonders if the federal courts might not reach a point where they say enough is enough. It`s not as though Bill Barr has a legitimate reason here for not showing up to testify. He`s just saying the executive branch objects to the way that the legislative branch is conducting its business.
There`s no constitutional basis for saying that. We may find the federal judge who decides that this attorney general needs to show up in court --
RUHLE: The non --
VANCE: -- rather show up in Congress.
RUHLE: The non-experts out there have said, "Well, listen, Bill Barr has said he will sit down, he will answer Congress` questions but the issue is staff lawyers." And Jerry Nadler explained why he thinks it`s so important for staff counsel to do those follow-up questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADLER: We will what the most effective way of asking questions are and that`s what our decision is. We`ve seen many witnesses, filibuster for four and a half minutes and then give a nonresponsive answer the last half minute. And then you can`t follow up because the next question, they have a different question in mind.
So enabling staff counsel to question the witness for half an hour makes it much more effective at getting the answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Your thoughts?
MURRAY: Well, I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and I think Chairman Nadler is exactly right. The oscillating five minutes back and forth makes it really hard to develop a line of questioning and to follow up and really elicit the kind of information that would be helpful if you are trying to mount an impeachment investigation.
So Dick sending this over to professional lawyers who can actually sit on this for about 30 minutes seems to be a more productive avenue, but that`s exactly what the president does not want.
RUHLE: So there we go. It seems to be more productive, Joyce. We know that Christine Blasey Ford underwent that when she testified and she has a lot less experience than Bill Barr does. But realistically speaking, could Democrats be overplaying their hand here?
VANCE: You know, I don`t think that they are overplaying their hand. I think what they`re going to create is a picture of an attorney general who is, frankly, frightened to face professional questioning. Everyone knows that Congressman Nadler has amassed a very competent, qualified experienced legal staff.
Any of those people would be well qualified to question the attorney general. And this is a sitting attorney general. This, as you point out, is not someone who`s never faced questioning before.
If he cannot defend his behavior and the administration`s reaction to the Mueller report for 30 minutes, then he should be ashamed. It with his obligation to appear in front of Congress and to answer the questions this committee poses in whatever form they choose to pose them.
RUHLE: Joyce, it`s pretty tough to be ashamed at a time of shamelessness. I want to share a bit of Hillary Clinton herself reading the Mueller report to me. If this doesn`t turn into a podcast, I don`t know what should. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally. The president slumped back in his chair and said, "Oh my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I`m [bleep]."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: I mean that is better than celebrities reading mean tweets about them. Is it too -- I mean that`s amazing. But is it too soon to be joking about this, given the context of the Mueller report and how so much of it has been mischaracterized and so many people around the country don`t really know what`s in there.
MURRAY: Well, maybe it`s not too soon for Hillary Clinton who really is sort of the person who has benefitted the least from all of this. But it is interesting to have it read by one who was so invested in it. And it does take on sort of --
RUHLE: Still hurt by it.
MURRAY: Still hurt by it. It takes on this sort of the level of high drama but this is what we`re living in. I just spent the whole last week in Spain. And we went from site to site. They kept talking about the rise of Franco and the rise of nationalism.
And honestly, it sounded a lot like what we`re seeing here in the United States. So for me, it seemed incredibly familiar and there is a precedent here that we ought to be mindful of.
RUHLE: It`s also a reminder, though. Everyone who says Trump did this to us, how did we get here? The rise of populism is all over the world.
RUHLE: Trump is just one part of it. Melissa, Joyce, thank you so much. You know I love kicking up any show with some smart women. And let`s continue on that trail.
I want to bring in Congresswoman Karen Bass, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. Congresswoman, I want to start with Rod Rosenstein`s letter of resignation.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA), CHAIR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS CHAIR: Yes.
RUHLE: It says that he is grateful to Trump for "the opportunity to serve and for the courtesy and humor he displays in their personal conversations." What are your thoughts on that?
BASS: Well, it`s very interesting. I think that he was very disappointing, especially the way that he handled things at the end with Barr standing behind him as he had the press conference.
So it will be interesting to see whether he comes before our committee and what he has to say now that he will not be an employee of the Department of Justice.
RUHLE: All right. Let`s turn to Bill Barr.
RUHLE: If he is not acting in good faith, if you are in a position where you`re dependent on good faith and appropriate behavior, what can you possibly do about it? I mentioned it before, tongue and cheek.
RUHLE: But we are living in a time when there is no shame.
BASS: Exactly. There is no shame. And this administration has conducted itself with a complete disregard to the rule of law.
And so what my concern is that we issue a subpoena. He ignores the subpoena. We go to court.
He gets a court order and ignores that. I think that would really be a problem. But his refusal to come before our committee because he doesn`t want to be questioned by outside attorneys, there is absolute precedent for that.
So that is not the reason to refuse to come. I think it`s going to be interesting to see whether or not this is going to be the general behavior of this administration.
RUHLE: Well, it seems at this point that that is going to be the general behavior. You clearly want the staff lawyers to be asking questions.
RUHLE: If that option is not available too, if Barr is saying my way or the highway or I`ll see you with a subpoena, what are you going to do?
BASS: Well, I think it`s going to be really important for us to take this through the process completely because we can`t allow the precedent to be set that when we call someone before our committee, that they then want to define how their appearance is going to be on those terms.
So I think it`s very important that we take a stand. But you know the other thing that I think is so important during this process is that we have to make sure that we educate the U.S. public as to what is going on. Because the president`s narrative, of course, is presidential harassment because there has been no oversight and investigation in the first two years of his presidency.
It`s important for the public to understand that this is our Constitutional duty, our Constitutional responsibility, the checks and balances on the administration is the way our government works. But we do know that the commander in chief has very little understanding and very little regard for the institution.
RUHLE: But he`s not alone. There is a whole lot of Republicans --
RUHLE: -- as well who know all about the three separate and equal branches of government but they`re standing with the president here, are they not?
BASS: Well, not only that. I mean they also spent the first two years not doing their Constitutional duty. I think that`s absolutely right. But at a certain point in time, when the U.S. public gets tired of this, and when it`s actually compromising their ability to get elected, I won`t be surprised at all if they abandon him.
You know, we know that the reason why the attorney general held that press conference was so he could set the narrative and really, to dissuade people from actually reading the report.
RUHLE: OK, but the issue is, Congresswoman --
RUHLE: -- he may have had bad intentions, but he was successful in getting the outcome that he wanted, wasn`t he?
BASS: Well, I don`t say he was successful just yet. I think time will tell. We are going to have these hearings with or without the witnesses but I am hopeful that they will comply.
And whether they are there or not, it`s really incumbent upon all of us in Congress, all of the Democrats and the Republicans that are willing to take the American public through this process so they understand exactly what we`re doing and why we`re doing it.
RUHLE: When people elect their lawmakers, they`re certainly hoping they will do the right thing. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining me.
RUHLE: Karen Bass.
BASS: Thanks for having me on.
RUHLE: See? I told you I like starting the show with strong, strong women. Ari Melber`s team did me right.
Coming up, Joe Biden gives the kickoff speech to his 2020 campaign, offering his alternative to Trump-oh-nomics. Maybe zeronomics is better.
Also, President Trump, his new low when it comes to avoiding the truth. Also known as lying. And subpoenas are flying at the NRA with the gun`s lobby finances now under investigation.
All of that, plus Neal Katyal. He is here to talk about Bill Barr, Robert Mueller, and what is really happening at the Supreme Court. I am Stephanie Ruhle in for Ari Melber. And you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is only president -- is the only president who`s decided not to represent the whole country. Everybody knows who Donald Trump is.
And I believe, I believe in hope. They know who we are. We have to let them know who we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Joe Biden today holding his first official campaign rally, speaking in Pennsylvania, hitting Trump for lies and making a very targeted pitch on the economy, specifically aimed at the middle class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The country wasn`t built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs, and hedge fund managers. It was built by you.
The middle class is hurting. It`s hurting now. It`s well past time that the minimum wage actually be a minimum of $15.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Biden also getting the endorsement of the country`s largest Firefighters Union, and early primary polling has him at the head of the pack.
And yet check this out. The majority of Democratic voters, 54 percent are still undecided. That might be a good thing. They have time to look at a whole lot of people.
Today, I spoke to former RNC Chair Michael Steele who said Democratic voters have a simple choice in this primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR: Do you want to be a woke or do you want to win?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Joining me now, NYU Professor Cristina Beltran and former Internet Director for Hillary Clinton`s 2008 campaign Peter Daou, also the author of Digital Civil War, Confronting the Far Right Menace.
Cristina, when I look at Joe Biden and his message today, he went straight after Trump where it hurts the economy. President trump won on a populist economic message, saying to the country, "The economy doesn`t work for so many of you, I`m here to solve that." Then he wins.
Now, he has completely flipped the script. And with the same exact economy, even a more exaggerated one, he now calls it great every day of the week and doesn`t really get challenged on it.
When he spoke in Wisconsin, he didn`t talk about the economy. He didn`t talk about the Foxconn Plant, because all those big plans aren`t working for those voters. Is Joe Biden hitting them in the right place?
CHRISTINA BELTRAN, NYU PROFESSOR: I think it`s a pretty effective move at this point. I mean certainly -- and it`s bothering Trump which is really interesting, right. It`s fun to watch Trump.
What he always often does is he just sort of articulates this image like, well the stock market is doing great. But the stock market, there is such a dissonance now between what the stock market is doing and what real regular Americans are feeling.
But I think the interesting question for Biden is going to be given his long history with -- people used to call him the senator from MBNA, right. He has a long history with credit card companies. And so I think one of the things that`s so interesting about Joe Biden is he literally represent, he sort of embodies the last 40 years of the Democratic Party`s politics.
And so he is sort of a placeholder for a whole set of debates around where does the party want to go? Does it want to go in a kind of more left direction? Does it want to sort of figure out how to keep and maintain white voters while growing its young electorate, the multiracial electorate?
So he`s had really interesting, what he says and his own history are going to be in a dialogue with each other in a really interesting way.
RUHLE: Well, then this takes you right back to what Michael Steele said today to Democratic voters. Do you want to be woke or do you want to win? If you watch "Fox News" at night, they`re not talking so much about Joe Biden. They`re not talking so much about Pete Buttigieg.
They are painting a picture that Democrats are the far, far left. And your choice is capitalism as it stands or absolute socialism. And that is not what Joe Biden`s message is.
So when you look at this and when you look at the Democratic electorate, what direction do they need to head in, woke or win?
PETER DAOU, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN AIDE: See, I want to reject that entire false dichotomy.
RUHLE: There you go.
DAOU: Because if you think of what it means to be far left, you want universal health care, you want fewer shootings in schools, you want people to be able to have a living wage, affordable college. If you talk about what`s far right, it`s bigotry, it`s racism, it`s neo-Nazis marching.
So this whole notion that we have to worry about whether Democrats are moving to the left, let`s ask ourselves why Republicans are moving so far to the right, which they are.
RUHLE: Yes. But do you not have to ask that question yet until you get to the general? While you`re in the primary, how difficult is it? When you look at what Democrats are talking about with regard to Joe Biden`s conduct and Anita Hill, he did apologize to Anita hill but she said that wasn`t enough.
Clearly, that`s become a hot topic for Democrats. But if Joe Biden or any other candidate on the left makes their way to the general, no Republican would ever bring the subject up given who president Trump is and what he himself has done.
BELTRAN: Right, right. But I think we can`t even really have this argument base on what the side of Trump is. And we have to know like the right is going to pin whoever gets this nomination as a socialist, as a far-left radical.
I mean the attack on whoever gets this gig is going to be fairly hostile and aggressive. And so I think at the end of the day, what there is happening right now, I think it`s actually really healthy for the Democratic Party to have a real reckoning with where do we want to go? What is our relationship to democracy and capitalism?
How are we thinking about these questions of racial justice? What is our history with the banks, with corporate power, with policing? Those are -- we shouldn`t be afraid to have real conversations about the -- I mean that`s what primaries are for. It`s to have serious arguments about the direction of a political party.
And I don`t think it should be framed in this sort of well, it`s identity or the mainstream. That isn`t really what`s happening. We`re having a really serious conversation about where have we been, where do we want to go.
I think one of the interesting questions for Biden and Trump is it going to become too much about just Biden and Trump versus us? It`s going to be about the future, about climate change.
So one of the things that`s going to be interesting for Biden, because he literally does kind of embody the last 40 years of the Democratic Party is are we going to spend all our time talking about the plagiarism? Are we going to spend all our time talking about Anita Hill and the Crime Bill?
Or are we going to talk about where we want to go and is he going to be able to kind of turn the conversation to the future and also kind of remind people I was Obama`s wingman? How is he going to be able to kind of forge that combination of a conversation?
RUHLE: If we do that, if we go through everything Joe Biden or anyone else running who is an elected official, if we go through every decision, every vote, everything they said over the last 40 years, isn`t that going to take us right back to the last election, where President Trump didn`t have to answer for any of that because people just said well, he was a private citizen, and we went through everything Hillary Clinton did.
So if this happens again in the next election, doesn`t that say man, experience, that`s a negative thing?
DAOU: The way I see it is that we have so many false dichotomies out there. One of them, for example, is that going after Trump is different from pushing issues.
DAOU: But going after Trump for Democrats, Progressive, leftists is going to defend the rule of law. And that`s just as important as promoting policies too. And one other thing I want to say, Stephanie is that leaders lead. Moral leaders lead. They move the electorate with them.
And one of the complaints I`ve had -- I`m a Democrat but the complaints I`ve had against Democrats for 20 years is you poll and you ponder and that is not a way to lead. You can move the public toward Democratic and Progressive issues if you lead and you have a courage of your --
BELTRAN: Yes, I always think you have to expand the terrain of the sayable. Once you actually start talking about issues, the public is a dynamic institution. The public is dynamic. It`s not this static thing.
And the kind of polling and pandering and keeping your finger up for the win doesn`t really acknowledge the way that leadership does actually always shift the debate and expand the conversation. It`s just plain to where we are.
We also need to expand the electorate, right. We need the grow the voting. So we really have to -- we shouldn`t just be talking about the fish that we can catch. We have to grow the amount. We have to grow the fish.
RUHLE: How do you address the poll and pander tendency at a time when we live in social media? When there was the "New York Times" poll out this month that the actual Democratic electorate, what they want, what they need is far different from what social media would tell you.
DAOU: Well, I`ll give you a perfect example is impeachment. I`ve argued very forcefully that if any president ever should very be impeached, it`s Donald Trump.
But public polling actually is a little bit dicey. It`s not 100 percent. But my argument is, look, you don`t always lead by following polls. You don`t lead by what the public wants. And you certainly don`t lead by what happens on Twitter.
RUHLE: But isn`t that poll --
BELTRAN: Right. (CROSSTALK) politically right, legally right.
RUHLE: When we ask the public, we`re not asking the right question. They`re saying they don`t want impeachment because they`re given the option do you want him impeached or do you want people to work on policies that will help you live a better life?
RUHLE: Is that why they`re saying they don`t want to --
DAOU: Thank you. The framing is so critically important. If you look about just about every major debate, I talk about individual civil world in my book which is coming out to tomorrow and thank you for showing to it the audience, the problem we have here is that we talk about issues that are all on the far right`s turf.
When we talk about immigration, we talk about should we be caging babies? When we talk about guns, should we be arming school teachers? All these conversations are on the terrain and turf of far-right messaging and narratives.
Democrats have to learn to bring the conversation back to common sense. Everybody wants clean air and water. Nobody wants schools -- kids to be shot in schools. These Progressive Democratic issues are solid and strong and have large majorities that favor them.
But Democrats do not know how to, too often. Not all Democrats. I don`t want to paint with a sweeping brush. But they have to learn how to move that conversation back to common sense.
BELTRAN: Right. It`s not just about consumptioning. I think there is a kind of consumer logic when we talk to voters as opposed to a civically -- like you civic -- you want to engage in civic education, right.
And I think the other thing, and this is why a really good healthy primary is important is that there is a debate in the party of whether or not we`re about restoration and kind of getting back to normal, or whether there is actually something fundamentally broken in our politics right now and broken in our democracy.
And so we need to have a real conversation about what do we need to fix, what do we really need to repair? What do we really need to deal with?
And those are different kinds of conversations and those shift the debate. Because it`s not about -- it`s about whether or not what we have is actually broken, which led us to the election of Donald Trump.
RUHLE: Maybe it`s time to create a new normal. Thank you both so much. Great conversation. Cristina Beltran and Peter Daou whose book is coming out tomorrow.
Ahead, Neal Katyal is here on Bill Barr`s threat to cancel testimony and what it reveals.
But first, Donald Trump even telling more lies, more often than ever. And we`ve got the numbers to prove it. We`ll be back in 30 seconds. Get ready for this big number.
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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Leaders who feed fear typically are also ones who avoid facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Barack Obama this weekend taking a thinly veiled jab at Donald Trump, twisting facts, perhaps thinking about things like this.
According to "The Washington Post," Donald Trump has now made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. And he looks to be lying more frequently than ever.
Between last Thursday and Sunday alone, across five different appearances, Trump managed to make 155 false or misleading claims. And look at this. During Trump`s first year in office, he averaged close to six false or misleading claims every single day.
That number rose to almost 17 in 2018. And so far this year, he`s at an average of 22. I want you to think about that.
The false claim that Trump makes the most is about his border wall. Like the time he said he got funding even though he did not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just so you know, we`re building the wall anyway. We`re doing whatever we have to do. The wall is being built. It`ll continue. It`s going at a rapid pace. The Rio Grande, it`s happening. Go check it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: With me now, the Root.com`s Jason Johnson who`s also a Political Science Professor. Jason, you and I can talk all day long about the number of lies, it`s absurd, it`s obscene, but here`s the real issue. The President is saying more and more things that are not true, it`s then getting repeated by the conservative media, and that then gets repeated by millions of people at home. So what can be done?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT.COM: Well, the first thing is if you`re not sort of right-wing state media, we have to make sure that we don`t pander to the president`s lies. No more of these headlines where President Trump uses disputed facts or President Trump repeats debunk claim. No, just call the guy a liar, right. Call him a liar every single time. That`s what the media`s responsibility is.
We have to make sure that this sort of -- and I said this. I teach journalism. The idea of hearing both sides is not the pursuit of the truth. So pursuing the truth is the first way to stop Trump. The second thing is Democrats will run against him, politicians who will run again him need to call him a liar at all times. Do not give him an excuse for repeating things that aren`t true because people are attempting to be polite.
RUHLE: And the average person at home has listened to the President who for the last two years while he`s been lying 10,000 times has called us fake news, fake news, fake news, and those things people say well, politicians always lie.
JOHNSON: Right. Now, here`s the catch. And Stephanie, this is again the role that we play. There`s a different level of lying, right. Like all of us lie. I could call my mom right now and say yes, I`m coming home for Mother`s Day, right. That may be a lie, right. But the lie is --
RUHLE: Hold on. Time out. Are you really not going to go home for mother`s day?
JOHNSON: I`m going home for Mother`s Day. I`m going home for Mother`s Day. But --
RUHLE: It`s more of you`re lying when she calls, you don`t pick up, you tell her you were working and you were really just watching T.V. O.K., I got it.
JOHNSON: Exactly. Yes, I was watching Game of Thrones.
RUHLE: There you go.
JOHNSON: So -- but the catch is, there are lies that the public expects from politicians and we need to distinguish what Donald Trump does from regular lying. When Barack Obama says you can keep your doctor, he may have not known that that was fully true. When George Bush said, hey, we`re done in Iraq. He knew that was not the case.
Donald Trump lies about things that can easily be confirmed. He lies about his crowd size. He says that parents give their children abortion pills when they`re crossing the border because they expect them to be assaulted by coyotes. He says that women getting abortions murder their children with the assistance of doctors. These are things that can be easily disproven.
So it`s our job to make sure that we say hey, look, this is not your run- of-the-mill political lies. These are not normal and they`re dangerous and endanger people`s lives.
RUHLE: A good way to do it would be to show up on Fox News. Seeing the increase in the amount of lies the President is telling, should the Democratic Party revisit their decision not to host a primary debate on Fox?
JOHNSON: You know, Stephanie, there`s a whole lot of mistakes that the DNC has made this year stopping people --
RUHLE: They can change this one.
JOHNSON: Yes, exactly. Change this right now. Everybody should be willing to go everywhere. If you are a Democrat, you are running for president in 2020, there are voters at Fox. Not a lot, but there are voters at Fox. I think that they should be willing to go there and speak truth to power. You have some Fox pundits who have slowly but surely been saying things like yes, maybe the president obstructed justice. Yes, maybe the president is lying about the wall.
So you have to be willing to take the truth anywhere. If you only take the truth to that same crowd of believers, you`re not changing anybody`s mind.
RUHLE: Listen, you might have Fox hosts who are terrible. But if you show up and you`re speaking to them face to face, you can knock down their lives you`re in real time. Jason Johnson, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining me. Still to come, the NRA reeling rocked by power struggles besieged by a new probe, now facing new criticism from the President himself. But first, Neal Katyal is here to talk about Bill Barr threatening to cancel his testimony before the House Judiciary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): We have to get to the bottom of these issues. That`s why we`ve called him in. And it`s not up to the Attorney General to tell the committee how to conduct this business. We will decide what the most effective way of asking questions are and that`s what our decision is. We`ve told him we expect him to show up on Thursday and we`re going to conduct the inquiry as we`ve said we would. If he doesn`t show up on Thursday, we`ll have to go to subpoenas/
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler on attorney General Bill Barr`s threats to bail on his Thursday hearing because Democrats now want the committee`s lawyers to asking questions too. With me for "OPENING ARGUMENTS" is former Solicitor General Neal Katyal who actually wrote the special counsel rules and he`s now an MSNBC Analyst.
All right Neal, if your Bill Barr, risk management is the business that you are in. And while it might be the right thing to do to take questions from lawyers, if you don`t have to, why put yourself at risk?
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Stephanie, first of all, it`s great to be here with you tonight subbing for Ari. It`s awesome to see you.
KATYAL: And look, I think the basic thing is you`re the Attorney General of the United States. Your job is to uphold the rule of law, to provide information to Congress. And it`s like Bill Barr woke up today and he were a few days ago when he decided to not testify before Congress and say like you know, I`m jealous about President Trump being the coward in chief. I want to -- I want to wrestle that title away from him.
I mean this is not the way attorneys general behave. It`s not the way cabinet members behave. It`s not even the way private citizens behave. Just think about Christine Blasey Ford`s testimony last year before Congress in which she did for hour after hour answer questions from the -- from committee staff and not from the members of Congress. So you know, what Barr is doing here is cowardly and it`s also deeply undemocratic.
RUHLE: OK, but that`s a subjective assessment. And while I might agree with you, Democrats can`t traffic in subjective. They have to ask -- they think they have to demand that Bill Barr do what he`s legally obligated to do. And if he`s legally not obligated to do this, are Democrats only -- are their only other option is to subpoena him because that`s a game they don`t want to play either?
KATYAL: So, two things. Number one is I think he is legally obligated.
RUHLE: Oh, you do.
KATYAL: And we have a cabinet secretary after cabinet secretary that testified. So you can go look at Iran Contra where the Attorney General Meese testified and where Secretary of State Shultz testified. You can look back at Watergate where CIA Director Schlesinger testified. You can look at the Whitewater hearings in which Michael Chertoff led these witnesses.
And by -- when I say testified, I mean testified and answered questions by committee staff, not by members of Congress. And all of these circumstances, committee staff led these. And so I think if Nadler goes to court, he will undoubtedly win.
And I also think if Congress wants, they have other options available to them. For example, the House of Representatives can defund the office of the Attorney General, cut Barr`s funding, cut his staffs funding. Look, if these people are not going to play by the way that the Justice Department has traditionally operated in this country, if they`re going to hide the truth from the American people, then I think all of these options should be on the table.
I mean, Bill Barr is not acting like the Attorney General of the United States. He`s acting like the coward general of the United States.
RUHLE: Damn. All right, let`s turn to the Supreme Court. Last week President Trump tweeted this. If the partisan Dems ever tried to impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Help me understand this. Why would the Supreme Court have any role in impeachment?
KATYAL: It doesn`t. And the Supreme Court has been very clear. There`s a precedent called Nixon versus United States which says quite clearly we the Supreme Court have no rule in impeachment. So President Trump can try I guess and go to the Supreme Court. I think he would lose 9 to nothing.
But I think the deeper point is the way in which he`s talking about the Supreme Court as if it`s his court and his Justice Department acts that way and tries to rush things to the Supreme Court, blows off the lower courts. There`s a whole culture around this White House when it comes to the Supreme Court and lower courts which we`ve never seen in our lifetimes. It`s a very dangerous and corrosive thing.
RUHLE: President Trump learned the hard way that there are three separate but equal branches of the government. The judges don`t work for him, Congress doesn`t work for him. Does he believe that the Supreme Court justice has worked for him specifically because two of them got their seats on his watch?
KATYAL: I mean, the genius of our founders was to provide life tenures so precisely so that the Supreme Court justices could rule against the person who appointed them. I had the privilege of being Elena Kagan`s deputy. And when the health care case came up before the ObamaCare case, she ruled against President Obama on a key piece of it.
So you know -- and that`s a long tradition. It goes back you know, to our founding of justice doing that. And so I think it`s absolutely wrong for the President to think that the Supreme Court is in his pocket particularly on something like impeachment. I mean, there is no sitting justice who would even entertain these arguments that he`s trying to advance in that tweet.
RUHLE: I need a little Supreme Court education. I know you argued a case this month. What happens now? Give me that the technicals. How do the judges come to a decision and what goes on behind closed doors?
KATYAL: Yes, the cool thing about Supreme Court is actually --
KATYAL: -- is the one institution of government that works -- everything too. But -- so after you go and argue the case, the justices will meet in a conference and you know, they -- it`s a very collegial group of people. They all shake each other`s hands and that`s a lot of handshakes. I can`t do the math but it`s like nine factorial or something. You`re the Wall Street person, you can do it but it says a lot of handshakes.
And then, afterwards, they go and discuss the case. And they do it in order of seniority. Nobody can speak twice until everyone speaks once. And then they have a respectful debate and dialogue. And then afterwards, people are assigned to write opinions, a justice in the majority if there`s a dissent, a justice and dissent. And then they go back and forth with the drafts.
They share everything with each other. They`re not trying to hide the ball or trying to have any log rolling or anything like that. All nine are just simply going in and saying what`s the best answer? How can -- how can I cast a vote that`s the best reading of the Constitution in our laws?
RUHLE: Respect, decency, civility. That`s what we like. I wish that was contagious in Washington. Neal, thank you so much. Neal Katyal, I really appreciate you joining me tonight. And you can go to msnbc.com/opening arguments for videos of all of THE BEAT segments with Neal.
Just ahead, the New York Attorney General launched a probe into the NRA`s money.
RUHLE: The NRA is in crisis and here`s how you know it is bad. Trump of all people telling the gun organization to get its act together and get back to greatness fast. Those are the President`s words. They cast emerging hours after Trump`s speech at the convention on Friday. New York`s Attorney General launching an investigation into the organization`s finances and issuing subpoenas.
The NRA is Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre accusing NRA President Oliver North of extortion after North reportedly tried to oust LaPierre. Now, North will not seek a second term and will step down warning members the financial investigation is a clear crisis for the NRA.
Joining me now is Shannon Watts, former -- Founder of Moms Demand action for gun sense in America and President of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Michael Waldman. Michael, I`ll start with you. What do you make of this chaos inside the NRA? Is this real chaos that could weaken the NRA or is this just infighting?
MICHAEL WALDMAN, PRESIDENT, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: It looks like real chaos, although of course, they have real supporters who vote. But it`s been said that every great movement starts as a cause and becomes a business and ends up as a racket. And it really does seem as if there was huge amounts of money and scamming and $200,000 going to Wayne LaPierre`s wardrobe. I could have gotten him a better deal on his wardrobe than that. And this is not going to lead to operational strength for them.
But we all know it`s not their money but the ferocity of their voters. But I think that even that is changing the politics of the gun issue are really shifting in a way they have not in a long time I think.
RUHLE: So it`s not just the money, it`s the power of their voters. I don`t know, 200 grand, maybe Wayne LaPierre shops with Paul Manafort. He was voted, Shannon, unanimously, re-elected today as the CEO. So if that is the case, how chaotic can things really be?
SHANNON WATTS, FOUNDER, MOMS DEMAND: Well, you know, we`ve seen this time and again which is when -- the NRA should back down or come to the middle, instead they double down. They`re in real trouble. The NRA is no longer a gun rights organization, they are a faltering business led by unscrupulous executives with dwindling profits.
And the NRA`s days as a political powerhouse are dwindling. And the fact that they`re not able to change course and clean house just proved that point.
RUHLE: Even if their voters all vote a certain way, could they be in legal trouble? The New York Times reporting the NRA`s affiliated charity, the NRA Foundation transferred more than $100 million since 2012 to the NRA. It also lent the NRA $5 million in 2017. Donations to the NRA Foundation are tax-deductible. We have to remember that while the NRA`s are not.
Let`s say they use their tax-exempt status in the state of New York, can they just move elsewhere to a more gun friendly state, let`s say Virginia?
WALDMAN: It`s really hard. I mean, they`re a national organization. We know that New York State for example shut down the Trump Foundation because of tax irregularities. You can`t really do business nationwide if you`re not able to do business in New York where`s so much of the country`s banking and other systems exist.
And it`s not unheard of for something that looks completely impregnable, it looks completely strong to just fall apart. But we don`t know -- because it`s so opaque, we don`t actually know their finances. But they certainly look like they are scared of a real audit. That`s even scarier than --
RUHLE: Than President Trump`s audit? Let`s talk about other reporting from the NRA. In 2017, their membership dues, Shannon, plunged $35 million and it lost another $35 million in gifts and contributions. What does that tell you? And couple that with the changing views on common-sense gun laws in this country, what does that tell you?
WATTS: Well, for the long time, the NRA has been trying to sell guns, more guns to fewer people, to a demographic that frankly, is aging out. And so what we`ve seen them try to do is pass laws that force guns into schools or on to college campuses or into public spaces. And that was not a public service announcement, that was actually a marketing ploy meant to put their agenda forward of guns anywhere for anyone any time, no questions asked.
And they would have been successful had it not been for a grassroots army of women and mothers who said not in my community. You will not do this. And we have given them a real run for their money, so to speak. And as a result we see that opinions around this issue are higher than ever for common sense gun laws.
And because of that, the gun lobby doesn`t represent its members anymore. In fact, the leaders seem to think their membership is very dumb by misspending their money. The real value of gun owners is now represented by organizations like Moms Demand action, and not any longer the NRA.
RUHLE: Shannon, do you worry that success you`ve had could change? Today, we`ve spoken all day long about the funeral service that`s going to happen in Southern California after there was another shooting at a house of worship over the weekend, and a lot of organizations, houses of worship, mosques, churches, temples are now talking about different security measures.
WATTS: Well, you know, the security is different than the conversation we should also be having, which is how do we keep AR-15s out of the hands of 19-year-olds? And that`s really part of this agenda, right? If more guns and fewer gun laws made us safer, we`d be the safest country on earth.
And yet we have 300 million guns in the hands of civilians, too few gun laws and the highest gun rates of any developed nation. So that`s the issue we need to focus on as a country. We need to focus on how to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
RUHLE: Thank you both. A really important conversation. Common sense gun laws. Shannon Watts and Michael Waldman. We`ll be right back. You know what you`re watching. It`s THE BEAT.
RUHLE: Finally before we go tonight, we have to end on quite a sad note. American Director John Singleton passed away today at the age of just 51, two weeks after he suffered a massive stroke. Singleton`s debut film is well-known, 1991`s " Boyz n the Hood," which he wrote and directed. This film made an immediate cultural splash, earning Oscar nominations for both best original screenplay and best director for Singleton himself.
He then went on to make "Poetic Justice," "Higher Learning," and so many more. Voices across the film and entertainment world are expressing condolences this evening. Ava Duvernay saying simply "his film helped for me." John Singleton made a huge impression and an impact on so many of our lives.
That does it for me this evening. I will see you tomorrow morning bright and early at 9:00 A.M. and, again, with my partner, Ali Velshi, at 1:00 P.M.
And now, I hand you off to my friend and colleague, Chris Matthews. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END