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Dem threatens Trump JR. TRANSCRIPT: 5/9/19, The Beat with Ari Melber.

Guests: Guest: Matt Miller, Katty Kay, Juanita Tolliver, Glenn Kirschner, David Mandel, Frank Rich, Common

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck. I`ll tell you on the show we have people from "Veep" where art sometimes imitates life. I don`t know if you`ve caught this season at all but sometimes it feels close.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  I have.  Oh my God, I have.  I feel like Hillary Clinton when she was with Rachel was watching that most recent episode.  And I`ll just leave it at that.

MELBER:  You know what, sometimes it`s less is more.

TODD:  I don`t know if that`s a spoiler.

MELBER:  Less is more.  I know the no spoiler`s rule and maybe we`ll get into it in the interview.  Chuck Todd, always good to see you, sir.

TODD:  You got it, brother.  All right, brod.

MELBER:  Thank you.

Now, Donald Trump Jr. has been threatened with jail time if he were to completely defy this new subpoena he received from the United States Senate, a bipartisan one at that.  We should also tell that you Donald Trump laughed when supporters called out openly for the shooting of undocumented immigrants, something we`re going to get into on tonight`s show.

And as I was just discussing with Chuck, it may sound like an episode of "Veep."  Well, tonight, I have two of the show`s creators, a discussion we are excited about.

And that`s not all, because before I get into the top story, I want to tell you that by the end of this hour, you will hear from an Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy-winning musician, Common.  We`re going to get into a lot on the roof.

But I begin tonight with something you don`t hear every day because you almost never hear it.  The speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States declaring this country is now in a "constitutional crisis".  Speaker Pelosi saying we are now at that point because of the way the Trump administration is dealing with the criminal evidence against the president contained in the Mueller report.

Trump also, as you may have heard, demanding all sorts of people in his inner circle, simply defying the subpoenas and the request for information and evidence.  Speaker Pelosi says this is not the end, this contempt vote that is rattling Washington and the White House.

She says they are prepared to hold other officials in contempt.  And as you may know, when you go down the org chart, the less important people are way more likely to end up in a real jail cell if they have legitimate contempt proceedings against them.

Now, Donald Trump trying to stop Mueller from, of course, breaking his silence.  And this is interesting.  The president going pretty off script in an event that was billed as a discussion of medical billing.  Trump making a new case that seems to conflict with his own old arguments about why he didn`t obstruct justice.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  At the end of the testimony, no collusion, no collusion and essentially no obstruction.  Of course, a lot of people say, "How can you obstruct when there was no crime?  When there was no collusion?  How can you possibly obstruct?"

I tell you, but it`s worse than that.  It`s not only was there no crime but the crime was committed on the other side.  So we`re protecting against the crime committed on the other side.


MELBER:  Essentially, no obstruction.  When you`re talking about a felony, it could be obstruction, it could be grand larceny, it could be a violent felony.  You don`t really ideally want to be using the qualifier, essentially, to say why you didn`t do it.

And this may show, this may be a mistake, it may be a tell, it may be a moving of the goalpost.  Whatever it is though, the president is clearly concerned that Bob Mueller is going to go in there and say something more than total exoneration and now his message starts to shift.

Now, as you know from watching the news, we want to keep you up to speed.  What Bob Mueller did in his careful report was not actually issue a legal conclusion on obstruction.

He basically said, here`s all the evidence.  And he noted explicitly that when it comes to the president, a special case, the Congress will ultimately decide whether and if to do anything about it.

Then, of course, Attorney General Barr decided no, we`re not going to give this to Congress yet.  And he went and famously announced his personal conclusion.

So we`re at this inflection point because Democrats are saying, OK, given everything that`s happened and now that the report is done, it is time to hear from Mueller himself.  And then you have Donald Trump for the first time ever in his presidency this week exerting executive privilege.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler saying, all of this requires more fact-finding.  And if they want to hear from Mueller, the testimony day could be delayed but they`re going to hear from Mueller.  Now, Trump also used his remarks today to try to again undercut Special Counsel Mueller.


TRUMP:  Bob Mueller is no friend of mine.  We had somebody that is in love with James Comey.  They like James Comey.

They were very good friends.  Supposedly best friends.  Maybe not but supposedly best friends.  You look at the picture file and you see hundreds of pictures of him and Comey.

And with all of that and other things, he wanted the FBI job.  I don`t know if anybody knows that.  But as you know, he was considered for the FBI job, wanted it.  And the day after he didn`t get it, he became the special counsel.


MELBER:  There`s a lot in there.  I`m not going to spend all our time fact checking it but there are not hundreds of documented images of these two appearing together.

Whether or not they`re in love is a matter of the human heart.  I`m not even going to bother.

But as for that other piece of evidence that Donald Trump claims to have that Mueller wanted the FBI job, if you`ve read the Mueller report, you may know, totally false.

The fact-finding and the conclusions in the report note that the White House asked Mr. Mueller as a courtesy to give Donald Trump views of the FBI during the tumultuous period where he was trying to find a new FBI director, and Mr. Mueller agreed to do it.  And it was not a formal job interview.

That`s important because you`re seeing again, Donald Trump balancing his two messages.  One message is this is over, don`t worry about it, total exoneration.

But today, maybe under the pressure, maybe under the cracking, maybe under the contempt vote, maybe under the fear that Bob Mueller could soon break his silence, Donald Trump hitting his other message.  Going back into things that have been disproven by his own aides and by the record to impugn Bob Mueller which makes you wonder, why is Donald Trump so worried about Mueller breaking his silence.


REPORTER:  Mr. Barr told lawmakers that he didn`t have a problem with Mr. Mueller testifying.

TRUMP:  I`m going to leave that up to the attorney general as to whether or not.  I think to me it looks like a redo.


MELBER:  Leave it up to the attorney general.  This is the attorney general who, of course, is under pressure for contempt for one issue.

It`s not other stuff.  It is hiding parts of the evidence from the Mueller report.  It is refusing to turn over those documents.

And that brings us to the other thing I told you about that again, if it feels like there is so much happening, there`s so much drama, there`s such extreme language.  Well, we are hearing from public officials who have been careful along the way, they`re using extreme language because they say the president is acting in extreme and potentially unlawful ways.  They`re saying we`re now in the "constitutional crisis".


REPORTER:  Do you agree with Chairman Nadler that the country is currently in a constitutional crisis?

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Yes, I do agree with Chairman Nadler.  It is a path that is producing results and gathering information.  And some of that information is that this administration wants to have a constitutional crisis because they do not respect the oath of office that they take.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by Katty Kay, Washington Anchor from "BBC News", Matt Miller to the Justice Department under the Obama-Holder administration, and Juanita Tolliver, director campaign to the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Matt, when you see it all laid out there, the president`s need to raise his other defenses and water down some of his older claims about obstruction in an unrelated event, and the pressure on him and Attorney General Barr and what the speaker is saying, what do you think is actually happening here?  And do you agree that we are actually at a crisis or is it not that time yet?

MATT MILLER, FORMER SPOKESMAN, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE:  I think how the courts respond to what`s happening, whether they`re able to respond quickly, is going to determine whether we`re in a crisis or not.

I think where we are right now is we`re seeing a complete breakdown of the constitutional order.  The fact that the White House is not just refusing to turn over documents on one thing.  If it were just not turning over documents on the Mueller report, well, that`s unacceptable.  It might -- it could be something that could be worked out over the usual course of business in the courts.

But it is not just that.  It is the House`s investigations into family separation.  It`s their investigations into the administration`s failure to defend the Affordable Care Act.  It`s issue after issue where they`re just refusing to turn over any documents that get you to the point where the normal constitutional order has broken down.

And I think if the courts allow that to go on for an extended period of time, if they take their usual course of action, which is to allow the White House to drag this out for months, if not years, that I think, yes, we are in a constitutional crisis.

And I think what -- the speaker said something very interesting today, which is they`re not going to bring this resolution of contempt up right away.  They may wait and see another committee do the same thing.  There may be other cabinet members held in contempt.  They may try and force other subpoenas.

And I think what they`re trying to do potentially is put together a litigation strategy where they go to the courts and say, well the point I was just making, which is it is not one thing.  It is everything.  And if you don`t step in and make this administration change their behavior immediately, a constitutional crisis is upon us and congressional oversight may be dead forever.

MELBER:  Yes.  You put it starkly.  And Katty, the attorney general has shown himself to be willing to really push the limits.  He was at a departure ceremony, a celebration of sorts for Rod Rosenstein.  There are any number of ways to deal with that, you certainly don`t need to get into your own legal problems if you don`t want to.

This is how he dealt with it.  And I want to show this to viewers.  The attorney general of the United States speaking in public here in the wake of this historic vote of contempt by the Judiciary Committee.  Take a look.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES:  In those days, the deputy job was a lot different.  But I`ll tell you now, the attorney general job is a lot different also.  You like records.  This must be a record of attorney general being proposed for contempt within 100 days of taking office.


KATTY KAY, WASHINGTON ANCHOR, BCC NEWS:  Yes.  A funny thing to make a joke about, right?

MELBER:  For an attorney general.

KAY:  For an attorney general who is facing a contempt charge.  There are multiple debates amongst constitutional scholars about whether we are in a constitutional crisis in the moment or whether we get to the point when a court goes through the process, issues an order, the White House then defies it.  And would that actually be the moment of a constitutional crisis?

So there is some kind of debate about whether we`re there or not.  I think the issue for the White House is whether they are overplaying their hand, as Matt is suggesting, by defying demands on every front from Congress.

And then the issue I suppose for the Democrats, on the other hand, is whether they risk overplaying their hand by asking for so much that they weaken their legal position as well.  This has to go through the courts.

And the question, as we`ve seen in precedent on this in the Bush administration, is whether we actually get to a resolution when Donald Trump is still in office.

MELBER:  Yes.  And Chairman Nadler is very clearly driving this with all the legal sophistication that he has.  I mean it is so fascinating the way these relationships sometimes transpire.

Because Donald Trump and Jerry Nadler have dealt with each other.  They understand each other.  I believe in a certain way -- although you wouldn`t know it recently.  I actually believe in a certain way they privately respect each other`s hustle.  They are tough New Yorkers.

So Donald Trump knows deep down exactly who he`s dealing with.  And that Nadler has a plan beyond one vote, one hearing, and that Mueller, of course, looms in the background.

With that in mind, take a look, Katty, at Chairman Nadler saying what they can also do today.


REP.JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Eventually, we`ll hear from Mueller because we will -- if we have to, we will subpoena him if we have to.  I certainly hope it doesn`t come to the necessity to subpoena him.


MELBER:  What does it tell you that there is now such a concern over Mueller talking?

KAY:  That phrase that Donald Trump used today in that kind of slightly long rambling spiel that he gave talking incessantly, I`m not as convinced perhaps as you are that that word essentially cleared of obstruction means that Donald Trump is really backtracking.

I wouldn`t be surprised if Donald Trump goes to the next campaign rally and the headline is no collusion, no obstruction.  It is possible that he`s there.

MELBER:  Well, let`s talk it out because I think you raise an interesting counterpoint.  To me, I`m wondering whether when he controls the overwhelming narrative of the report, he is comfortable in the no collusion, no obstruction landscape.

And he thinks -- and he may be right.  He`s quite cynical.  But he thinks that if Barr and their echo chamber on television say this to enough people, that`s more or less the end of it.

And that if Mueller has a made for T.V. nationally broadcast presentation of the evidence, even for that crowd, the no obstruction whatsoever, doesn`t seem to hold as well.

KAY:  Yes, I mean whatever Trump said today about this is effectively Barr`s decision, there is no doubt that Trump does not want Mueller to testify.  What is in this for Trump, to have Mueller, the person who has the ultimate respect and who is the author of the report come out and say, actually, the president`s definition of whether he was cleared of obstruction was not my definition.

And to say that to the American people, and it would be blockbuster viewing, get out the popcorn, everybody would be watching that particular moment.  So there is no vested interest in the president having that moment.

The White House does feel there is still an interest for them in having Democrats launch impeachment proceedings, that that is still --

MELBER:  Right.  And some of them may think that fight is good for them.

KAY:  They think that fight is still worth having.

MELBER:  Which is, again, that`s just the politics.  So you have both sides talking about politics instead of the serious constitutional obligation.  Juanita, what do you think of all the above?

TOLLIVER:  I think honestly when he has his next campaign rally, Trump is likely going to be saying, well, what is collusion, what is obstruction, and muddying the definition further.

Because what he understands is his base probably will not dig into that nuance.  They probably already don`t believe Mueller.  And so he`s just going to double down on that.

And this is straight out of his playbook.  Like he showed earlier.  He is already criticizing Mueller.  He is already throwing false accusations out there about his reputation, trying to sully his name as well because he knows that eventually Mueller is going to testify and he`s going to blow the lid off of everything that Trump has been hiding, leveraging executive privilege to do it.  And now laying a blanket statement that none of the people associated with him should respond to subpoenas.

MELBER:  And Juanita, what did you think of Bill Barr`s handling of the contempt issue today?

TOLLIVER:  Come on.  If this is a joke in his mind, that says a lot about his character and what he really believes as he is supposed to be the top law enforcement officer for the American people.  This just double downs on the fact that he is really right alongside Trump working as his personal defense attorney on all of this.

MELBER:  Let me just push Matt on this who served for the only other sitting attorney general who was held in contempt.  Matt, although I think the tone was different, there are plenty of folks who would say that you and your boss basically worked very hard to discredit any effort for contempt.

Even though ultimately, it did result in, and I`m simplifying but a somewhat average ruling that disclosed evidence.  How do you respond to that?

MILLER:  Look.  I think they`re very different.  Not to go back in time to fast and furious but it was a very different thing then.

By the time Holder was held in contempt, the Justice Department had turned over nearly 8,000 pages of documents.  They made multiple witnesses available for interviews.  It was really one set of documents that they were trying to hold on to.  And as you note, they eventually lost in court.

That`s very different --

MELBER:  Well, I would call it a mixed decision.  Go ahead.

MILLER:  Mixed decision but for the most part, lost.  It is very different than what`s happening with this Justice Department where they are refusing to turn over anything.  They are refusing to make witnesses available.

It is very clear that the president is going to exert executive privilege over Don McGahn`s testimony.  And as for Bob Mueller, I think it is pretty clear the attorney general is already blocking his testimony.  He may eventually testify.

But the House wants him next week.  They`ve been asking for him for a while.  It is pretty clear I think at this point that it seems unlikely to happen.

At some point, it is I think obvious that they don`t want any witnesses to come forward.  Because as you point out, there are a lot of things Trump doesn`t understand.  I think sometimes intentionally doesn`t understand.

But one thing he gets is television.  And he knows that if Bob Mueller comes up and testifies, if Don McGahn comes up and testifies, suddenly those dry words in the report that most of the American public don`t read, come alive on T.V. and that`s a problem for him.

MELBER:  And that`s where all the serious constitutional legal stuff intersects with how people learn things and make up their minds.  It is the same with debates.

And everyone knows in campaigns, you try to lower the expectations -- you try to raise the expectations on your opponent in the debate because of the way it`s going to play.  Well, if this is where it ends, you could argue that Barr did a lot of spins that worked.

I think the concern is they`ve actually changed the expectations game.  People hear out of Mueller`s mouth, five plus more felonies.  And the way that evidence is presented, the expectations game may boomerang on them.  So it`s like that`s why we`re in this high stakes game.

I`m going to fit in a break.  So I want to thank Katty, Matt, and Juanita, each of you, for your expertise tonight.

TOLLIVER:  Thanks, Ari.

MELBER:  Thank you, guys.

Coming up, we have a top Senate Democrat now giving this red hat warning for Don Jr. if he defies his subpoena.  We`ll tell you what it is.

Meanwhile, his father coming to his defense.  Donald Trump`s first response to yes, the subpoena of a presidential family member.  That`s a big deal.

Then this bizarre and disturbing moment at a Trump rally, real-life politics colliding with the HBO series, "Veep."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What the hell are you doing?  Yellow?  Seriously?  Yellow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get in the car.


MELBER:  We`re going to get into all of it.  This Sunday is "Veep" series finale.  Two of the show`s creative minds are here, my very special guest.

And then later, I`m going back up to the roof because I have the one and only Common on THE BEAT tonight.  Please don`t go anywhere.  I`m Ari Melber.  We`ll be right back.


MELBER:  A U.S. senator warning Donald Trump Jr. that if he ducks a congressional subpoena, he could face time behind bars.  Meanwhile, his father, the president, spoke at length today in defense of his son.


TRUMP:  We found no collusion but I was very surprised to see my son.  My son is a very good person.  He works very hard.

And frankly, for my son, after being exonerated, to now get a subpoena to go again and speak again after close to 20 hours of telling everybody that would listen about a nothing meeting?  Yes, I`m pretty surprised.


MELBER:  Donald Trump, of course, has vowed to fight all the subpoenas.  Not just those for his family but he addressed all of it.


REPORTER:  Fight that?  Should he fight that subpoena?

TRUMP:  We`ll see what happens.  I`m just very surprised, I really am by it.


MELBER:  I`m joined by former Federal Prosecutor Glenn Kirschner who worked for Bob Mueller at the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney`s Office.  Good to see you.


MELBER:  Let`s start in the fairest possible way.  I reported the day the Mueller report came out that it clearly did not present much criminal evidence against Donald Trump for the infamous -- Donald Trump Jr. for the infamous Trump Tower meeting.  And in no other way did it seem to suggest that his testimony before that investigation was essential or needed.

So what do you say to people had look at all that, including the president, who I just showed say what is it about?

KIRSCHNER:  So first of all, here `s what I`ll say, Ari.  And I agree with your characterization when you go through the Mueller report but let`s focus for a moment on the June 9 Trump Tower meeting.

We just heard the president say at a press conference earlier today that Don Jr. was telling everybody, who would listen, what that meeting was about.  And yet, I don`t want to get down into the weeds but let`s look at Volume I, page 117, where Bob Mueller sets out the truth about whether Don Jr. told everyone about that meeting.

I`m going to put my glasses on because I`m old.  But it says that the office of special counsel spoke with all of the participants, and there were eight of them, in the Trump Tower meeting.  Except Veselnitskaya and Don Jr. who declined to be voluntarily interviewed by special counsel.

So frankly, the president saying that Don Jr. told everybody everything they wanted to know is hogwash.  He wouldn`t even talk to special counsel about that meeting.

MELBER:  What is in your view the priority of the United States Senate reviewing whether Donald Trump Jr. lied, misspoke, or mischaracterized something that in this instance though, Bob Mueller, not only -- again I want to be clear, not only did not find the criminal evidence of a crime but didn`t find it necessary to force Junior to testify.  As you know, he forced plenty of other people to testify.

KIRSCHNER:  Well, let me answer your second question first.  We don`t know if Bob Mueller tried to force Don Jr. to testify because on page 117, that passage that I just read, right after that, Ari, it is blacked out.

I can tell you what is probably --

MELBER:  Yes.  But we know that he reached -- you`re right but he did reach his conclusion.  He did not say that that prevented him from doing so on that --

KIRSCHNER:  I agree.  He reached a conclusion based on incomplete evidence.  He did the best he could.  But I`ll bet under that redaction, Ari, it said that Don Jr.`s lawyer said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if subpoenaed to the grand jury.

And now, fast forward, here we are.  And you asked the question, what does the committee now want from Don Jr.?  I think they want all the information to determine the extent of Russian involvement and interference.

MELBER:  Right, which goes to their oversight power.  As you said, you bet.  How much will you bet, Glenn?

KIRSCHNER:  I will bet at least $1.50.

MELBER:  Will you bet all your old pictures of you and Bob Mueller that we show sometimes?

KIRSCHNER:  I will not give those pictures up for anything.

MELBER:  I heard people want those signed pictures but they want them more signed by him than by you, man.

KIRSCHNER:  I don`t disagree.  But my signature and four bucks will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

MELBER:  I`m kidding.  I would love your signature just like your analysis.  Glenn, you`ve been in the room, you`ve been there, and you are quick with the facts and the details.  We always appreciate it, sir.

KIRSCHNER:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  Thank you.

Up ahead in the show later, we have Grammy-winning musician rapper and activist Common.  He`s on THE BEAT for the first time.  Very exciting.

But in 30 seconds, Donald Trump echoing an episode of "Veep."  The executive producers of the show joining me.  We`re back in 30.


MELBER:  Our next story is not about the poet Oscar Wilde, though it does involve him.  He famously wrote that life imitates art far more than art imitates life because "a self-conscious aim of life is to find expression."

That`s clearly the case on HBO`s hit political series "Veep" which has been teeing off cruel political absurdities for seven seasons.  It`s now approaching its finale in a Trump era with realities that could have come from the show`s creators.

Including Frank Rich and David Mandel who join me for a special discussion right now tonight.  Now, just last night, the president engaged with crowd chants at a rally that blatantly echoes a "Veep" scene that aired this week.


TRUMP:  But how do you stop these people?  You cannot.  That`s only in the panhandle you can get away with that.

JONAH RYAN:  But the other real killer is diseases.  And how do these diseases get into America?  Immigrants.


RYAN:  Yes.  Well, we don`t have to kill all of them.  I mean there are some good immigrants.  Beyonce.


MELBER:  Jonah did not seem to know Beyonce was born in Texas, just as Trump didn`t seem to know Frederick Douglas died back in 1895.  "Veep`s" new season depicts Selina Meyer`s angling for foreign help in the election, the role of course played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus whose role has led her to hanging out with none other than President Obama, a self-declared fan of the show.

She also hooked up with then-VP Joe Biden for a parody video that had them cruising Washington in the yellow Lamborghini, breaking into the west wing which Biden is now eyeing in real life.  And then more broadly, Dreyfus` character has had a keen eye for the beltway`s unearned arrogance.


SELINA MEYER:  I`m used to dealing with angry, aggressive dysfunctional men, i.e., men.

No glasses, make me look weak.


MEYER:  It`s like a wheelchair for the eye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You hired the biggest bastard in D.C.

MEYER:  Oh, yeah.  Well, I`m fluent in bastard.  OK.  It`s one of my languages.

Number one.  Congresses, I`m sick of taking your [bleep].  OK.  Number two, number one again.


MELBER:  I`m joined by two executive producers of "Veep", Frank Rich and David Mandel.  What a time to have you here.



MELBER:  Did the president`s rally remind you of your show?

MANDEL:  Yes.  I mean I don`t know how to say this.  We sit in that writer`s room.  I spent the last years of my life trying to come up with things that are impossible to happen.

Like what is the craziest thing I can think of that shouldn`t ever happen?  And they`re happening weekly at this point.  And it is unsettling actually.  I don`t know what other word to use.

RICH:  I would point out that Jonah seems somewhat to the left of Trump and that he didn`t think all immigrants should meet their doom.

MANDEL:  But it wasn`t just the, shoot them.  It was also we had a huge Florida run and he was in like Panama City, Florida.  We sort of keyed in on Florida being the state most likely to go for Jonah because of its -- I can`t remember if it was the mix of deadbeat dads, deadbeat moms, it was a long litany of crazy people in Florida.

MELBER:  Deadbeats?

MANDEL:  Yes, exactly.

MELBER:  Let`s look at Jonah talking about how he has to defeat not only his critics but his own staff.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know who else thinks that I don`t have the intelligence or the tenement to be President, my very own campaign staff.  That`s right.  They have been trying to stop me from becoming president.  Yes, no, let him have it.


MELBER:  Is Jonah Trump?

MANDEL:  No.  Jonah is not Trump the show has always and dare I say maybe even a touch more so in my sort of tenure.  The show was originally created by Armando Iannucci and I took over after the fourth season.  We`ve always looked to real politics.  We`ve always looked to real history.  If you look back to my first season in the show, we did sort of our version of the tie.  You know, we did our version of the Florida tie.  We did a Nevada recount.

So we`ve always looked to the past.  Right now we`ve been trying to look at what`s going on because things have been changing so much, and so obviously we`re closer to it, but that`s something to show --

MELBER:  Very close.

MANDEL:  Yes, I obviously --

MELBER:  Very close --


MELBER:  Very close.  Frank, I would ask you a different question --

RICH:  Yes.

MELBER:  With a different clip.  Is Jonah Joe Donnelly?


JOE DONNELLY, FORMER SENATOR OF NEW YORK:  For the most part, I`m an easygoing guy, but not when Mike Braun keeps lying about my record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Selina Meyer thinks she can jump our prosperity.

DONNELLY:  The liberal left wants to chop defense spending.


DONNELLY:  No way.  I`m about giving our troops the edge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Someone is chopping back.  Jonah Ryan will chop President Meyer down to size.

DONNELLY:  I`m Joe Donnelly and I approve this message.


RICH:  I mean, this guy looked at what we did.  I mean, because we were first.

MANDELA:  I think he`s Jonah.  I think that`s the answer to that one.  Jonah is not Joe Donnelly but Joe Donnelly may be Jonah.

RICH:  Exactly.  And you know, get back to the overall you know, these crazy coincidences or people reading stuff into it, before we were even on the air, Breitbart having seen that Julia was a Democratic contributor announced that we were doing a show attacking Sarah Palin, and that Selina Meyer was Sarah Palin.

MANDEL:  Oh, it`s back --

RICH:  Back at the beginning.  And we keep anticipating stuff.  Early in the show, we anticipated the -- you know, the server scandal, the Hillary Clinton`s server scandal but she`s not Hillary Clinton and -- but you know --

MANDEL:  But then later she became Hillary Clinton.  Actually, I would argue, if anybody`s Trump, Selina is Trump.  I mean not that anybody is Trump, but people like her like very easily go like woman Hillary, man Trump, so -- but she`s horrific and despicable in many similar ways and sort of holds grudges and has sort of a you know, a very sort of a hair- trigger temper and that kind of a thing, but --

RICH:  And pretend to like her family and -- and she doesn`t give a lot to charity, I don`t think.

MANDEL:  Doesn`t give a lot to charity, I think.  Invokes God when she feels it serves her own purposes.

RICH:  I had to look at the index of our own memoir to find out her own position on abortion.

MANDEL:  Not fond of her own children and never pays taxes.  But other than that --

RICH:  Although we have never done a tax returns story --

MELBER:  So is there this overlap because you`re telling human stories and politics is full of simply extreme humans or is this something specific to the -- to the political class?

MANDEL:  I think it is -- to me it`s specific to where politics is these days.  It just -- it just -- it has happened where we do try and tell stories about humans but I do think as we do our research -- you know, we meet at the beginning of every year.  We have sort of -- we sort of have these wonderful consultants from, by the way, both sides of the aisle because I do think it`s very important to say that while Julia may give to you know, democratic causes as might I, as might Frank, the show itself goes out of its way to never mention party.

We don`t -- there`s no Democrat, there`s no Republican.  We mix up the colors the red and the blue.  We mix up the issues.  But you know, we do our research.  And so a couple of years ago, this is just an example, we were looking for our sort of 50 mile -- 55 mile per hour kind of issue, kind of like a la Reagan and we landed on daylight savings.

Wouldn`t that be a silly stupid issue for politicians to take very seriously?  And the reason we did it was because we were told yes, once in a blue moon, someone brings it up, you know, so we did it.  Then about a year later, people started doing it for real.  And you just kind of go, what`s happening?

MELBER:  And Frank, you wrote a lot about this very tendency in political life and political media towards entertainment when you were writing for the New York Times.  Right after Bush famously landed the Mission Impossible carrier you said, Bush is an incumbent who for all his unease with a teleprompter knows his message and is exploiting T.V. more cagily than any president in history.

RICH:  Yes,  And he actually for that mission accomplished show, he used former T.V. news producers and not just from Fox to stage it, and to make sure the lighting was right, and to make sure that the aircraft carrier was turned in such a way that you wouldn`t see there was only a couple hundred mile -- not even that far, a couple of miles from downtown San Diego, that it looked like it was in the middle of the Pacific you know, landing, about ready to you know, bomb Tokyo or something but instead --

MELBER:  So how do you contrast that to what Trump does?  I mean, I guess he would use a meme of the plane without actually getting in it.

RICH:  Yes.  He couldn`t be bothered to get in the plane.  And he`s used to you know, being an NBC star personality for everything sort of he`s just suited up and settled under the set.  And Bush also was -- I mean, it`s not like --

MANDEL:  But he would tell people he was in the plane.

RICH:  Oh he would.  He would.  Although we have to say Bush gave the impression when he landed in that plane that day that he had been you know, flying solo flying --

MANDEL:  Yes, in Vietnam.

RICH:  When in fact, he never left the Texas Air National Guard.

MELBER:  So you`re talking about the size of the lie but the lie persists.  Frank -- go ahead, David.

MANDEL:  I was just going to say -- and look, I was no great fan of Bush but it`s the -- it`s that thing that you know the Washington Post is quite good about charting these days, the frequency of the lies.  I mean, we`re up to like five a day, you know, whereas we used to be used to one every month or so or one every -- even if it was one every week.

It`s that frequency it`s just -- I just -- what was it today with the you know, it`s with the New York Times and the taxes today.  It`s sort of like I`m really smart, that never happened, the Mueller report exonerated me, the Mueller report is 100 percent exonerated me, you can`t see the Mueller report.  I mean, it`s just like what do you do with that?  And it does start to feel like comedy right or dialogue.

MELBER:  Yes.  And that`s sort of we land where we began yeah but slightly more depressed.


RICH:  Slightly?

MELBER:  David Mandel --

MANDEL:  A lot more depressed.

MELBER:  A lot more -- excuse me, a lot more depressed.  And Frank Rich, great to have you both here.  As I mentioned Veep season finale airs this Sunday on HBO.  And up ahead my interview with an Oscar Emmy Grammy-winning musician Common.  We`re going to talk politics, why he took on Trump at the Oscars and a whole lot more.  That`s next.



MELBER:  Tonight on the roof I`m joined by world-famous artist and musician Common who`s won an Oscar an Emmy and is a 20 time Grammy nominee including winning Grammys for his work with Erykah Badu and John Legend including for the song for the movie Selma.  And you may know him from his impact on everything from music, to movies, to policy, and politics.


BEYONCE, SINGER:  -- reminding us all once more of the glory of music.  Ladies and gentlemen John Legend and Common.

COMMON, RAPPER:  The movement is a rhythm to us.  Freedom is like religion to us.

She talked to me.  You won`t be talking to me.  I thought, she asked me how I`m doing.  She asked what`s going on.  Where were you at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was a poetry reading at the White House.

Progressive rapper Common who was the subject of Fox News Channel`s latest exercise in fits of hissy, he performed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He always wins.  Everything we do together, he wins.  If he didn`t win, I would be surprised.


MELBER:  And Common`s new memoir is Let Love Have The Last Word.  You once said if rap was Harlem, you`d be James Baldwin.


MELBER:  You must have mentored, you`re an author now.

COMMON:  Wow man, I mean, I`m not authoring at that level.  I say that.  But I do -- I am very grateful and inspired that this book is out and that I was able to tell a lot of my truth or write a lot about my journey to love better and love in a greater way for myself, for my loved ones around me, for strangers for the world, you know.

I think it`s -- you know, it`s something that in my life I want to from my experience is be able to tell my experiences so they can -- it can help others.

MELBER:  One of the experiences is you explained you had something that happened to you that you think you repressed and then it came back to you.  Tell us about that.

COMMON:  Yes.  So at one part of the book that I talked about being molested as a kid when I was around the age of nine, it`s almost like one of those memories I don`t know exactly every -- you know, like pinpoint every detail of but I do remember what happened.

It was something that I didn`t actually even think about or talk about or I tucked it away in my memories for such a long time until I was doing a film called The Tale that was based -- that was dealing with sexual abuse.  And I was like -- in a scene with Laura Dern, and we were talking in between scenes and I was like wait, I think this happened to me and it hit me at that moment.

MELBER:  So you`re on a movie set acting?


MELBER:  And that took you into your own emotions to say wait, I actually went through this and I haven`t thought about that in how long?

COMMON:  I hadn`t thought about it since it happened.  It was like one of those things I had forgotten.  And I think that human beings, we deal with things in different ways.  And I would like to say as people that are -- that are survivors that have been through a lot more difficult situations than mine and I -- and they have to allow themselves the time that it takes to go through that process and I have compassion for them.

For myself, my experience has been about like me tucking it away and now having to deal with it in a way that`s like how can I forgive and move forward.  How do I, when I talk about this also do it from a place that it`s like man, this is for other people`s healing too.  Like this isn`t just about me.

The greatest purpose of it is like OK, if I`m telling my story, I believe that someone can -- will relate to it, somebody might be going through a similar trauma and say man this is -- I can talk about this now.

Because me talking about it has helped me and I feel as an artist, as somebody who`s in the public eye, we always show how great -- you know, like we like OK, you won Oscar, you want -- you know, you got these Grammys, you do -- but we also have to -- I feel like it`s my duty to show my flaws too or show my fear.

MELBER:  And that you`re struggling with certain things --


MELBER:  -- even as you have this other acclaim.

COMMON:  Exactly.

MELBER:  Someone who doesn`t have as much acclaim as you, I think it`s fair to say, is the current President.  You might be more popular than him.  And you know when you get up on the award stage and you mess with him, you know that bothers him.  We`re going to take a quick look at some of that.


COMMON:  A president that trolls with hate.  He don`t control our fate because God is great.  When they go low, we stay in the heights.  I stand for peace, love, and women`s rights


MELBER:  Why was it important for you to say that?

COMMON:  Well, it was important for me to say that because I feel like I`m a voice for a lot of human beings across our country, a lot of human beings that are being overlooked, a lot of human beings that are being ostracized and felt like they should be less than because of either color or religion or whatever, their sexual like choice, like if they may be from the LGBTQIA community.

Like it`s a lot of like just pushing people aside in a way, and I and I need to speak up.  I`m a person that I have to speak up if I see any injustice or somebody treat -- being treated less than where a whole society is being treated less than and I just decided I needed to speak up.

MELBER:  Did you think he`s going to hear about this?

COMMON:  I mean, it was the Oscars.  I felt that you know, like yes, he`s going to hear about this and I -- you know, I was ready for whatever he wanted to deliver.  It`s cool but I`m not --

MELBER:  That`s not your purpose.  But do you know why or have a theory why he seems so bothered by these things?  I mean, he responded to Jay-Z during the campaign.  Everyone knows who follows this, the right-wing attacked President Obama when you were at the White House for art, for poetry.  The President has responded to other celebrities.  What is it about this cultural power that gets this reaction?

COMMON:  I think for probably the president now, a think a lot of that seems to be ego, you know, or wanting to be liked.

MELBER:  So we talked about the book, we talked some politics, can we talk to some music.

COMMON:  Yes, sir.

MELBER:  You did a very controversial song with Lauryn Hill.


MELBER:  And in it, you and she in the song discuss an abortion.

COMMON:  Abortion, yes.

MELBER:  And you have the line $315 isn`t worth your soul.


MELBER:  You say, knowing you`re the best part of life, do I have the right to take yours?


MELBER:  What was that song about?  What does that mean to you?

COMMON:  That song was very personal because at that point in my life I was -- me and my partner had an abortion and it was -- and it was heavy.  You know, I got to ask a lot of questions about how do I feel -- you know, should somebody be able to have an abortion or should someone have you know, should we allow that.

I remember having those discussions but one of the great discussions I had was a person who was a fan skew me, came up to me after the show and was like man, Common, that song Retrospect For Life, it made me have my child instead of having an abortion.  It may --

MELBER:  It changed their life --

COMMON:  It changed their life essentially.  It was able to bring a life in the world essentially instead of that person decided to have an abortion.  So I felt -- I felt like that was actually a thing that really helped make me realize that music is really powerful and can change lives, and can really help shape things and made me want to use the microphone for a higher purpose, for better reasons.

MELBER:  That`s amazing of someone weather whatever the decision is coming to and tell you that.  And that -- and we know music shapes the way people look at the world.


MELBER:  Before I let you get off this roof --

COMMON:  I love this roof, man.

MELBER:  Let`s finish a few sentences if you will, since you are a poet.  Hip hop scares some people because --

COMMON:  Because it`s the voice of Black and Latino youth that they in proximity of, they haven`t been proximate with them so they don`t understand or don`t choose to try to understand.

MELBER:  In 50 years, people will say hip-hop means --

COMMON:  Has been an amazing outlet for us to understand what -- where America was in the most pure way these voices showed us.

MELBER:  And Common has a lot of careers but if you picked one, it would be --

COMMON:  It would be hip-hop artists.

MELBER:  To the end.

COMMON:  To the end.

MELBER:  I really appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.

COMMON:  Yes, thank you, brother.  Thank you.

MELBER:  Thank you, Common.

COMMON:  That was great.


MELBER:  And one more thing, a surprise appearance at Rosenstein`s DOJ reception, next.



KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT:  He took the recommendation of Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  No one can question Rod Rosenstein`s credentials.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  That attorney -- deputy made the recommendation.  The President made a swift and decisive action and let Director Comey go.


MELBER:  That was exactly two years ago today when Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.  As you saw, the stated claim is it was a recommendation from then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who not only recommended firing Comey, but then decided there needed to be a special counsel, hiring Bob Mueller in part to investigate the firing of Comey he was involved with.

That sounds like a lot.  Well, consider that tomorrow is Rosenstein`s last official day on the job and he got this reception today where we saw both Bill Barr and his predecessor, Jeff Sessions.  Rosenstein has been not only there for every twist and turn of the investigation, he is part of why there was a special counsel investigation.  And not all the questions have been answered.

Tomorrow on THE BEAT, I have a special report on all of this.  I wanted to let you know about that.  And when we come back, one more thing involving Curb.


MELBER: We have a special fallback tomorrow at NBC News, Kate Snow and comedian, Sussie Essman, from, Yes, Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I hope you join us again tomorrow.

Right now, it`s "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.