Dems subpoena Mnuchin. TRANSCRIPT: 5/13/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Richard Stengel, Bill Pascrell, Mara Gay, Christine Quinn

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  No, he`s right.  And I mean the polling does not give you a lot of clarity on this one.  I`d have to say, right.  Ben Weiss, Susan Del Percio, Rashad Robinson, thank you for being with us.  That`s all for tonight.  We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.

And "THE BEAT" starts right now.  Yasmin is in for Ari tonight.  Good evening to you, Yasmin.

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Steve.  Have a good rest of your night.

I`m Yasmin Vossoughian, everybody, in for Ari Melber.  Big show tonight to say the least.  I`m going to talk to a Democratic congressman telling Trump`s Treasury secretary hand over Trump`s tax returns or you could face jail time.

And the stock market tanking as Trump`s trade war with China escalates.  The DOW dropping over 600 points, its biggest single-day fall since January, a possible gut punch to the world economy that could weaken Trump`s political standing here at home.

And tonight, Trump faces a crush of investigations and talk of potential contempt votes for his attorney general, his Treasury secretary, and his former White House counsel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Should Don McGahn be held in contempt of Congress?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t know anything about what`s going on.  I can tell you that there has never been anybody so transparent as the Trump administration.

And it was no collusion and no obstruction and we`re wasting a lot of time with that stuff.  But the Mueller report came out.  It was a very good report for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And a date for Mueller to testify is not set.  The Democrats say it`s going to happen.  And tomorrow, a judge is expected to decide whether Trump can stop his accounting firm from turning over records to Congress.

And there`s so much more.  "The New York Times" compiling a list of 29 probes related to Trump from the feds looking into hush money payments and Roger Stone to state and local investigations going after the Trump Foundation.  And as mentioned, Congress from possible obstruction of justice to security clearances, increasingly angered by Trump blocking requests for information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  These additional acts of obstruction, a president having obstructed the Justice Department investigation, now obstructing Congress does add weight to impeachment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So that is the dynamic tonight, right there.  Democrats talking impeachment as Trump appears to play with fire on trade, which may be why this Watergate-era quote from "Time Magazine" is blowing up on social media tonight.

Quoting the Nixon strategy for fighting possible impeachment which called for "The president`s aides to answer every attack.  Always emphasizing that one, economic problems are far more important to most Americans than the Watergate affair."  Now, that article, by the way, was published just four days before Nixon resigned.

Joining me now to talk all about this, William Cohan, a special correspondent for "Vanity Fair."  He is a former investment banker and has written best-selling books about Wall Street.  Mara Gay, member of the "New York Times" editorial board.  And former RNC chair, Michael Steele.

William, I`m going to start with you on this one.  I`m considering that you were a former investment banker and you were part of Wall Street.

WILLIAM COHAN, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, VANITY FAIR:  Oh, boy.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So usually answer this question for me, the DOW closing 600 points down, dropping 600 points.  Is this just a fluctuation in the market sore or is this a predictor of a more long-term downturn?

COHAN:  Well, you know, I think it can be both.  Trump is Mr. High Data President.  In other words, things that he does have a big effect one way or another, big swings one way or another.

Don`t forget, after he was elected, everybody thought the market was going to collapse.  And instead, it went from 17,000 to 26,000 when it hit its peak earlier, a couple of weeks ago.  And now it`s fallen off again because his rhetoric has heated up again.

You`ve issues with the Mueller report.  You`ve got issues with Congress, as you just outlined.  So there are definitely problems in the real economy, driven by -- I don`t want to get too technical, but people mispricing risks and the fed keeping interest rates too low for too long.

Just when Jerome Powell last fall started to raise interest rates, what happened?  Trump jawboned him down, convinced him not to raise interest rates, and once again the risk of being this price, people taking too much risk as they did prior to the financial crisis in 2008.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Michael, we know that the president has made promises on being tough on China.  Is he willing to take a hit on the economy?  His calling card to 2020, what he can hang his hat on when it comes to the elections in 2020 in order to look tough on China?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, RNC:  I think by his calculation, he doesn`t believe he will take a hit.  As he is saying to a lot of his core supporters, I still have your back, you know.  All these things that are going on are all part of the grander plan if you will.

And, in fact, the president was even quoted as pretty much saying this isn`t a party.  You`re not going to have to pay for this.  The tax that this tariff represents is not something you will be burdened with, farmers, manufacturers, retailers, when the truth is far from that.

And I think that`s something the president is going to have to reconcile.  But in his world view right now, he`s got China a little bit on the ropes.  He is still mainlining his base with his rhetoric.  And to William`s point, churning the markets.

He likes where things are right now.  It`s positioning him for his upcoming G7 Summit meeting with Putin and folks like that.  So he feels good.  The rest of us are nervous as hell --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  He feels good.

STEELE:  -- but he feels good.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And this actually -- this conversation came up with Dan, our EP on the show, which is this, does the president thrive, Mara in chaos?  He is blocking investigation after investigation.  He is encouraging the attorney general to block subpoenas.

Steve Mnuchin has blocked a subpoena.  He is making sure his tax returns are not released, encouraging his son not to go forward with that subpoena that has been issued towards him.  And now you have China and the tariff talks.  Is he thriving right now because of this chaos?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  I don`t know that he is thriving.  I would question that.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But off of what Michael just said, he likes where he`s at.

GAY:  I mean, listen, this is a president whose instinct is to go on the offense.  He doesn`t like to be cornered into a box.  Even if he is cornered, he acts as though he`s not.

I mean certainly, he likes chaos.  He thrives on chaos because if you -- if he sits still long enough, he is probably afraid that people are going the actually see him for who he is.

And so the reality is that he is facing 20 plus investigations and that his administration is still extremely beleaguered.  I think his chances at reelection are -- it`s going to be an uphill climb for him.

And I think the trade is a smart issue.  The problem is the markets don`t like instability.  And there are a lot of unintended consequences with trade.

So something that might help one part of the base may not help another.  One state gets help, another state gets hurt.  And I think, you know, frankly that this sense of populism that voters are interested and can just as easily be captured by the Democratic Party by folks like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

So I don`t think that that`s ground that the president owns.  I think he is at least on topic for once.  So I`m sure some people around him are relieved.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Let`s bring back this Nixon strategy from 1974, this quote from "Time Magazine", and it called for the president`s aides to answer every attack, always emphasizing that economic problems are far more important to most Americans than the Watergate affair.  Michael, why is he risking the economy when he has so many investigations right now out there?

STEELE:  Well, I think probably because as we`ve seen with the president, that is the ultimate distraction.  To distract from those 20-plus investigations that are going on out there.  You look at how the president from the very beginning started the Mueller investigation, started with the mantra of no collusion.

No one had talked about collusion.  This was his invention.  This was his creation to kind of put this in play.  There is no legal document saying this is what we`re going to look at.

So the president takes the impending narrative of doom, this investigation represents, the success of the economy, and he manipulates those as he would in a particular situation to get the biggest bang in the moment for what he`s trying to achieve.

Right now, this idea of the economy being what it is and doing what it`s doing doesn`t bother him.  It doesn`t bother him as much because it helps him in other spaces.  And as long as he has that pipeline to his base, and they`re still 80, 90 percent behind what he is saying and what he is doing, he is going to feel much more comfortable than if that number drops to 70 percent or 60 percent.  Then, he has to worry.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But when you have prices being increased on a good that you`re buying on a daily basis, that your base is buying on a daily basis, William, when you have farmers that are suffering whose products are not being bought by China, that is going to create a problem with your base eventually.  That`s going to have effects across the country.

COHAN:  It`s already started, right.  We know that people -- I mean he can say all he wants that the Chinese are going to have to pay for these tariffs.  But, in fact, it`s the American consumers who are going to have to pay for these tariffs one way or another.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Which Larry Kudlow agreed with on "Fox News" over the weekend.

COHAN:  Reluctantly.  You could see the pain on his face as he had to admit that and then he quickly tried to take it back but --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  I mean to a certain extent, you question whether or not they`re actually buying what they are selling, whether Larry Kudlow is buying what he is selling or the president is actually buying what he`s selling or if he`s just speaking to his base because he wants to be tough on China.

COHAN:  We`re dealing with a very Orwellian president, if I may.  I mean things -- I mean the Mueller report was great for us.  The economy is doing great.  The Chinese are going to pay for the tariffs.  Mexico is going to build the wall.  I mean the farmers are doing great.

STEELE:  It`s always someone else.

COHAN:  It`s always something else.  It`s not me.  It`s other people.  But you know what?  It`s all catching up with him.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Is it, though?

COHAN:  See, personally --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  That was like silence.

COHAN:  I don`t know.  Personally, I think it is.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Silence, wow.  Go ahead.

COHAN:  I don`t know.  (CROSSTALK).

STEELE:  I don`t think it is.  I don`t think it is catching up.  You know why?  Because at the end of every scenario that you`ve outlined there, and even at the end of the investigations that you listed, you get a big, from the public, so what?

You know why?  Because there are no consequences so far.  What have been the consequences to this president for anything he said, anything he`s done?  I mean, so, you raised tariffs 60 percent or 20 percent, whatever.  It doesn`t matter.

So you have a Charlottesville moment.  What`s the consequence?  As long as there are no consequences for what he says or what he does, he continues to perform as he does.

GAY:  I think that you make a really good point.  However, I would say that the circumstances under which president Trump won election in the first place in 2016 were extraordinary for a number of reasons.  And one of those reasons was because the majority of the country that did not vote for him, many of those Democrats and others did not actually believe that he could win.

And I think this time around, given the turnout we saw in the midterms, it`s going to be much harder for the president to win reelection because there are a lot of people who are going to come to the polls that did not come to the polls last time.  And his base has a ceiling.  His base has a ceiling and he is advantaged by an electoral college map, no doubt.  But I think he actually is in a much weaker position.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Let`s talk about quickly -- we only have two minutes or so left but let`s quickly talk about some of these investigations that I listed at nauseam at the top of the show.  There is 80 plus document requests at this point.  The president is blocking every request that he can.

And it seems as if the strategy from the White House`s point of view is to run out the clock here, William, will they succeed in doing this?

COHAN:  It`s not going work.  It`s not going to work.  He can run out -- he can spend more time getting this information to Congress, the people who need it.  But the fact of the matter is Congress is an equal part -- a branch of this government, they are entitled to this information.  They are going to get the information.

If you or I did not provide our tax returns if the --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But how long is it going to take is the question?  That`s the real question.  Is this going to bleed into 2020?  Is it going to bleed past 2020?

COHAN:  It could.  I hope it does bleed into the 2020 electoral protest.

STEELE:  It will bleed to 2024 at this point because there are no consequences.  You and I --

COHAN:  Well, there are going to be consequences.  There are going to be consequences.

STEELE:  If we ignored a subpoena from the United States Congress, do you know what we would be doing right now?

VOSSOUGHIAN:  You`re put in jail.

COHAN:  Right, we would be in jail.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Jail.

STEELE:  We would not be on this show.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Right.

STEELE:  But the problem is --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Maybe you would be though.

STEELE:  Boy, do I have a story to tell.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  We`re going inside the prison with Michael Steele.

STEELE:  But again, the Congress has to step into that role.

COHAN:  Yes.

STEELE:  And exact a price.  If they are in a coequal branch of government, what is the price they`re willing --

COHAN:  Michael, they`re doing that.  I think they`re in the process of doing that.  They`re being deliberative and they`re showing themselves to start doing that process that they`ve been holding back.  I mean don`t forget, they just got elected last November, right?  They just got the power last November.

The Mueller report came out, what, a month ago.  I think they`re beginning to do --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So Mara, is it time that Nancy Pelosi jump ship here and she goes straight for impeachment?  I mean is that the type of thing, Michael Steele, that you`re talking about for consequences to these actions?

GAY:  I mean I actually think -- I believe that the Democrats are on the road to what looks to be impeachment.  And the clever part --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But what does that even mean here, on the road that looks to be impeachment?

GAY:  What it means is that they`re building a case.  They`re building a very deliberate, smart --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  A paper trail?

GAY:  Not just a paper trail.  They`re building a case against the president.  And at some point, they will get to the moment where they can make the decision to pull that trigger or not.  But all the pieces are there, all the ducks are in a row.

And that`s the way you do this.  And Nancy Pelosi understands that.  I mean she has the experience to know how to get this done the right way.

STEELE:  Yes, a different narrative.  They need a new narrative between now and September.  After that, impeachment falls off the table, in my view.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  William Cohan, Michael Steele, thank you, both.  Mara, you`re going to stick around for me.

All right.  Coming up, everybody.  Why Trump`s own economic advisers don`t even agree with him on his trade war with China?  Plus, the subpoena fight to get Trump`s tax returns.  We`re going talk to a lawmaker who says the Treasury secretary could face jail if he doesn`t turn them over.

Also later, the president`s new praise for an authoritarian leader who is cracking down on immigrants and freedom of the press.

And Bernie Sanders and AOC team up on the Green New Deal as Joe Biden seeks a middle ground on climate change.

I`m Yasmin VOSSOUGHIAN and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.  We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Welcome back.  Breaking news, everybody.  Trump`s tough talk against China backfiring.  China striking back today by raising tariffs on $60 billion of American goods.

And here is the result.  The markets free-falling on Trump trade fears.  The DOW tumbling more than 600 points today.  Trump`s own economic adviser forced to admit that Trump is wrong when he says that Americans won`t be paying for a trade war.  Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER:  In fact, both sides will pay.  Both sides will pay in these things.  And, of course, it depends --

CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS SUNDAY:  Well, if it`s a tariff on goods coming into the country, the Chinese aren`t paying.

KUDLOW:  No but the Chinese will suffer GDP losses and so forth.

WALLACE:  They may suffer consequences but it`s U.S. businesses and U.S. consumers who pay, correct?

KUDLOW:  Yes, to some extent.  I don`t disagree with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And Republicans in Congress now also forced to support policies they once opposed.  Senator Lindsey Graham roasted on "SNL" for it over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Let`s try Lindsey Graham.  After opposing tariffs for decades, why do you suddenly support them from President Trump

Chuck, listen, when you have a president who`s a financial genius and a business Jesus like Donald Trump, you just got to trust him.  This man has lost 100 times more money than I`ve ever made.

So you`ve done a complete 180 on the president even after calling him a jackass during the campaign.

GRAHAM:  Chuck, listen, I`m a man of convictions and principles unless he can help me and land a--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  A billion dollars over the decade according to his 1990s tax returns.  Joining me now, John Harwood, CNBC`s editor at large.  John, welcome to you.  Thank you so much for joining us on this.

JOHN HARWOOD, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNBC:  You bet.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  What is happening here, John, because you have the president persisting on China, and then you have Kudlow basically saying, look, the Americans are going to see the brunt of all of this, trying to explain his way out of this.  What`s the endgame here for the president, do you think?

HARWOOD:  It`s not clear he has an endgame.  And we`re in this comical position where one of his advisers goes on television and says one plus one equals two, and that amounts to a break with Donald Trump.

Everybody knows that consumers pay for those Chinese tariffs.  It`s not China paying money into the U.S. Treasury.  It may hurt them but it also hurts Americans.  And that`s the risk for President Trump.

Everybody agrees that confronting China, challenging China`s trade practices is a good idea from the standpoint of the American economy, but not the way this president is going about it in a very erratic manner, sometimes talking about, well, we`re close to a deal.  And then other times, throwing down tariffs, making it difficult for the Chinese to come along with them.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So how does the president, John, stand tough on China to fulfill these campaign promises that he put out there in the first place?  Because we all know that there are issues when it comes to trade with China.  How does he stand tough on China but still look out for the American consumer?

HARWOOD:  Well, you could do it if you were going to have a more comprehensive strategy and engage our allies in helping the United States pressure China but that`s not what this president has done.  He has been attacking our allies on trade as well.

But I think this is a situation where the president risks dampening the economy that`s been a big benefit to him.  And anything that weakens the president economically, that weakens how people feel about their own pocketbooks is politically dangerous for him for the reasons that your guests talked about in the previous segment, which is that the Democrats may be on a slow roll to impeachment right now.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So let`s go with that for a moment.  Because the president has persistently hanged his -- he can hang his hat on the economy up until this point.

He has talked about the GDP growth.  We had 3.2 percent GDP growth a couple of weeks or so ago.  But if the economy begins to weaken because of these trade negotiations, could the Democrats look at this as a moment to pursue impeachment proceedings?

HARWOOD:  Well, I think Democrats are likely to head in that direction in any event, but the resistance to that course becomes weaker the more people feel anxious about the economy.  Anything that drives down the president`s approval, drives down the feeling of security that Americans have economically is something that hurts the president.

And, you know, this is a president whose approval ratings, to begin with, are in the mid-40s.  They`re not particularly strong.  And the weaker they get, the more difficulty that he`s got.

Our economy has been slowing down even before we knew that these additional tariffs were going to be put on.  Yes, it was strong in the first quarter, but most economists think it`s going to be slower in 2019 than it was in 2018.

A trade war is something that it doesn`t turn around the economy overnight, but it could be something that further weakens and further decelerates that growth and conceivably could even help tip us into recession.  We`re not there yet, but this is something that is definitely not helpful to the economy, to the markets, or to the president.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, John Harwood, good seeing you, John.  Thank you.

HARWOOD:  You bet.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Coming up, everybody, in 30 seconds, Trump praises another authoritarian leader today.  We look at that pattern next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REPORTER:  Are you concerned about democratic backsliding in Hungary after this prime minister?

TRUMP:  Well, people have a lot of respect for this prime minister.  He is a respected man.  And I know he is a tough man but he is a respected man, and he has done the right thing, according to many people on immigration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  A respected man.  So President Trump today responding to questions about his support for the far-right leader of Hungary, whose regime has cracked down on immigrants and dramatically reduced freedom of the press.  This is just the latest example of what some critics allege is Trump`s embrace of global autocrats, praising their policies and their pageantry.

"The Washington Post" reporting that Trump is essentially taking over the traditional July 4th celebration, arranging to speak at the Lincoln Memorial.  The "Post" says it`s all part of Trump`s multi-year effort to host a national celebration for himself and for his supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I do want to say that I was your guest and one of the greatest parades I`ve ever seen.  To a large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July 4th in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue.

I don`t know.  We`re going to have to try and top it.  But we had planes going over, we had a lot of military might, and it was really a beautiful thing to see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And while Democrats push oversight of this administration, they`re "bringing their letter openers to a gunfight", according to a column by Charles Blow in "The New York Times."  Blow writes this, Trump may well become the first American king, lawless and unaccountable by an overall political paralysis.

I`m joined by Nick Confessore, political reporter for "The New York Times" and Richard Stengel who is undersecretary of state in the Obama administration and the former managing editor of "Time Magazine".

Richard, I`m going to start with you on this one.  Why is Donald Trump so enamored with global autocrats?

RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE:  Well, it seems like he is starting a kind of autocrat`s club of which he is the president.  He is both the cause and a symptom of this turn to the right for nationalism.

And, in fact, Steve Bannon, of all people, said that Viktor Orban was Trump before Trump.  Remember, Viktor Orban, who President Obama wouldn`t meet with said when there was the immigration crisis, and immigrants from Syria, Muslims were crossing Hungary, he said, "I`m going to put up a wall."  He put up the barbed fence.

He said Europe must remain Christian.  Our country must remain Christian.  He has said publicly he wants to be an illiberal democracy, which is a euphemism for a dictatorship.  We shouldn`t be meeting with a man like that.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So you bring up Orban.  Here`s an "NPR" headline.  Outlets strive for independence in Hungary where most media back the government.

Nick, here`s what it says.  Orban`s government and its allies have systematically taken control of roughly 90 percent of the media outlets here.  The network of outlets is churning out narratives praising Orban for holding back migrant invaders and vilifying his government`s critics.

NICK CONFESSORE, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Apparently.  And it sounds like "Fox News" to me.  It`s essentially the president has a lot in common with Orban in terms of what he wants or expects or relishes most in politics.

He wants strength, authority, respect, and no naysayers.  And Orban has done in Hungary what can`t quite be done here in the U.S. but there is a connective tissue on policy here obviously.  And as Rick said, has to do with immigration, and hardline policies, and hatred of the press.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Let`s talk about accountability, Richard.  How do Democrats hold the president accountable when it comes to meetings, especially with autocrats like this, especially when you have meetings with Putin going on, when you have meetings with Kim Jong-Un?  None of which have been documented.

The president has gone so far as to rip up notes that were taken by a translator with Vladimir Putin so that the press wouldn`t get ahold of it, so the public wouldn`t necessarily understand the exchanges that were going on between these two leaders.  How can you have checks and balances in that type of system?

STENGEL:  It`s hard.  It`s a very good question.  I mean the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a note to the president before he met with Viktor Orban saying you must ask him about the decline of democracy in Hungary and express alarm about that.  Obviously, Trump either didn`t get the memo or he certainly he doesn`t believe it.

I mean -- but I wonder, I mean these notes -- the Federal Records Act mandates the keeping of notes in this kind of meetings.  They could be subpoenaed.  They could be requested by these committees and --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So why is the president just able to have these meetings without notes being taken?

STENGEL:  Well, we don`t know that there are no notes being taken.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But there is nothing being made public, nonetheless.

STENGEL:  No.  And that`s what I mean.  So they can subpoena notes that may or may not have been taken, that may or may not become public.  I mean I think -- and that happened in the Obama administration.  That happened in many other administrations.

By the way, of course, in every traditional administration, there are note takers, there are translators that then is then circulated to the NSC and other people at the state department.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So does that need to change?

CONFESSORE:  Well, if the president has systematically dismantled the state department bureaucracy.  The apparatus of statecraft.  What has filled the void is the White House and a network of private lobbyists with ties to Trump who work on behalf of foreign governments like Viktor Orban and parties in Albania and elsewhere.  And they are hired to fill the vacuum and lobby for things.

And, in fact, this visit today was the product of weeks and months of lobbying by paid personnel, Americans working for Orban.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Richard, what about Trump, the president calling for investigations into his political opponents?

STENGEL:  Well, that`s just -- I mean that`s authoritarian textbook 101.  I mean that`s the kind of thing Viktor Orban does.  That`s the kind of thing Stalin did this.

I mean this is the most -- that is the most abject manipulation of our system that there actually is, for a president of the United States to call for the Justice Department to investigate his opponents.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So we have persistently asked for checks and balances from the Democrats.  What about the checks and balances that need to come from the president`s own party, Nick, from the Republicans?

CONFESSORE:  Well, you know, it`s actually --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Would that not be a stronger message to be sent when you have checks and balances coming from your own party versus the opposing party?

CONFESSORE:  It certainly would be but what we`ve seen on issues like trade, for example, that the party is unwilling to challenge the president, even on their own cherished first principles.  He is starting a trade war with China and slopping terrorists.  This is a party that is fundamentally a free trade party and there is barely a whisper of dissent in the Senate on these issues and its President Trump`s party now.

RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER MANAGING EDITOR, TIME MAGAZINE:  And didn`t you have a guest on earlier saying that he had talked to every Republican that he talked to in the Senate, not a single one objected to the use of Trump`s use of the term that a coup had been organized against him.  The fact that the Republican Party -- there`s not a single Republican to say that`s extreme.  Look, it may not be great what happened but it`s not a coup d`etat.  That doesn`t happen in the United States.

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  So not to circle back to the conversation that I`ve been having the rest of the show, but it goes back to the economy.  If the economy stumbles, Nick, could the president lose support from the Republicans that he has so long had the support for the last two years from the Mitch McConnell`s of the world who understand that the base loves the economy that the President has claimed responsibility for building.

CONFESSORE:  I`m not sure, actually.  Look, in 2018, the economy was a very good and the president`s party was routed and destroyed.  I think we`re entering an era now where the economy is not a good indicator of partisan politics.  Partisans will disregard good economic results from the opposition when it suits them and people aren`t voting that way anymore.

What they`re tied to is the narrative being spun about the opposition and the president is a very good spinner of narrative.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, Richard Stengel, thank you.  Nick, stick with me.  All right, ahead everybody, Bernie Sanders and AOC rally for the Green You Deal tonight as Joe Biden gets hit for a reported middle ground on climate change.  But first I`m going to talk to a Democrat who says if Trump`s Treasury Secretary doesn`t hand over Trump`s tax returns, he could face jail.  We`ll be right back.

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VOSSOUGHIAN:  And we`re back with Democrats threatening jail for Trump`s Treasury Secretary if he does not fork over Trump`s tax returns.  Congressman Bill Pascrell has been leading the fight for Trump`s taxes.  He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee which just hit Treasury Secretary of Mnuchin with the subpoena.  The deadline to comply, this Friday.

Now, in recent days, The Times getting a hold of Trump`s tax info from the 80s and 90s revealing over $1 billion in business losses.  With me now Congressman Bill Pascrell.  Thank you so much for being with us, Congressman.  I very much appreciate it.  Good to see you.

REP. BILL PASCRELL (D-NJ):  Good to see you.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Is Mnuchin going to comply with the subpoena?

PASCRELL:  I doubt it.  I doubt it.  You have a total shutdown of any responses that are tangible to the article one branch of government.  So there is a law, 6103.  Everyone is picking up that word anyway.  And there are the second part of the tax code that I`d like to refer to is 7214 which defines the penalties if you don`t listen to what the law says, if you don`t follow the law.

The law says you shall hand it over to the proper authorities when requested.  That`s what the law says.  You didn`t write it.  I didn`t write it.  But that is the law of the tax -- that is the law of the land.  It is the tax code of America.  If they ask you, they ask me, this is what we have to comply with.  If you don`t like the law, change it.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So the last time someone didn`t comply with -- someone was holding contempt of Congress and they were put in jail was back in the 1930s.  If Mnuchin does not comply here with the subpoena, how far are you willing to go?

PASCRELL:  Well, we`re not only talking about Mnuchin and Rettig, who is the head if the IRS who has become -- we don`t hear anything from a Rettig.  He`s not following him through his job.  But you know, Richie Neal, our Chairman sent both of them this subpoena.  They have to come up at the paperwork on his taxes.  We`re not asking the President to give us his taxes.  We asked the IRS which is what the law says.  And we`re going to follow through on this.

Now, if they say no, then Mr. Neal is going to have to make the decision he`s listened to counsel so far, no reason to believe he will not after that his next step and how far it can take this in terms of the penalties.  The law is clear.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So what are the next steps --

PASCRELL:  Will the Justice Department follow the law, your guess is as good as mine.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Well, Congressman, to you.  What are these next steps sound like?  You heard Michael Steele I`m sure at the top of the show saying that the Trump administration needs to be held accountable.  What are the next steps look like for you if they do not comply?

PASCRELL:  I believe that the Justice Department should first find the two persons that we`re talking about Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Rettig and I would increase the penalties as -- and by the way, if they say no all the way, then I put them in jail all the way.  That`s the law of the land.

I don`t want to act as judge and jury here which the Trump administration has done many times on.  But I`ll tell you what the law is.  The law is on our side and I can`t wait.  Mr. Trump has proven that he`s in the list of androgen, he`s in the list the Putin, he`s in that same list with (INAUDIBLE), and with Duterte as well. 

And what they believe is that there is a king here.  They believe they`re kings of their country.  We don`t have Kings in America.  And when the Trump base --and I said this the other night.  When the Trump base understands that they`ve been had and they`ve been taken to the wash and that everybody needs to pay their fair share of taxes, we now see from 20 years ago that the president wasn`t paying its fair share of taxes.

And I`m telling you, I get darn angry when I know in my town people don`t pay their property taxes and that means I have to pay more, same on a federal level.  If they don`t pay their taxes, they don`t pay their fair share, I throw the book at him.  That`s what I would do and let the courts decide whether innocent or guilty.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So as you just said, there is evidence suggesting the president has abused this country`s tax laws.  What specific evidence, Congressman, are you referring to?

PASCRELL:  I`m referring to what we`ve already known in the reports by the New York Times last year and the Washington Post which were certainly defined and no question in my mind that the there is evidence there at least to ask the questions.  First of all, the president is the president of the United States but he`s not over --- he`s not above the law.  I`m not and you`re not.  We pay our fair share of taxes.

I don`t know what the President does.  That`s why in the last five decades every president has provided his -- the documents about what his taxes, not just a 1040 but the paperwork that follows with it.  This president has more business deals in foreign countries.  That may be a road map or may not be a road map to doing what he pleases to do in foreign countries putting our country at risk, putting him in jeopardy, compromising him.

If he`s compromised when we negotiate or discuss anything or negotiate with other countries, then we are in very deep, deep trouble.  Let me tell you something.  If they say no on Friday and if they ignore this as has been done in the past, then we do have a constitutional crisis.  And I`ll tell you, I only speak for myself.  By Friday night, I`d be willing to begin impeachment process and I haven`t said that in two-and-a-half years.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  For who?  For who?  Impeachment process for who?

PASCRELL:  Mr. Mnuchin -- Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Rettig.  We`ll start there.  I said we`ll start there.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, so if you do get access to the President`s tax returns at one point or another before 2020, and you find that the president has abused the tax laws in this country, you find that his organization has abused the tax laws in this country, what`s your plan from there?

PASCRELL:  Which seem to me that impeachment is proper and we should discuss it, and let the evidence on the table and have the House vote and then hopefully go to the Senate and they`ll make up their mind as well.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, Congressman Pascrell, thank you so much.  I appreciate you joining me tonight.

PASCRELL:  You`re welcome.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, coming up everybody, climate change becomes the big new debate in the Democratic Party with Bernie Sanders throwing down the gauntlet to Joe Biden.  That`s next.

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VOSSOUGHIAN:  Tonight, Bernie Sanders and AOC headlining a rally on the Green New Deal in D.C.  Sanders` appearance with AOC tonight coming as he criticizes Joe Biden`s positions on climate change.  Reuters reporting that Biden`s team is seeking a middle ground solution.  The Biden campaign saying their plan was mischaracterized but we can see an early litmus test emerging on this policy issue.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT):  Joe talks about a middle road for climate change.  Well, I think you know, that climate change is an existential threat to our planet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And Governor Inslee saying we cannot go back to the past.  AOC calling the Biden plan a deal breaker, Sen. Gillibrand saying we need solutions that are bold.  Climate change is just one of many issues dividing the moderate and progressive candidates in the race as contenders also debate Medicare-for-all and what to do about tech giants like Facebook.

Nick Confessore and Mara Gay are back with me, and I want to bring in Vice Chair of the New York State Democratic Party Christine Quinn.  Weigh in for me on this Bernie and AOC team that we -- that we`ve seen in the public sphere in the last couple of days or so.  What are your thoughts on them combining their powers, their forces?

CHRISTINE QUINN, VICE CHAIR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY:  Well, look, they`re a powerful team.  There`s no question, right?  I mean, they both have an enormous number of followers, they are far reached.  Their supporters are unbelievably loyal to them.  So the two of them teaming up which is kind of reteaming up because remember, she was part of his first presidential campaign, I think it packs a real punch.

And the Green New Deal is attracting a lot of support so this will only help with that and I --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Do you think it`ll do him well in the run up to 2020?  Do you think AOC packs power to teaming up with Bernie Sanders?

QUINN:  AOC packs power.  There`s no question about that.  Now whether --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Well, voting power.

QUINN:  Well, look, whether or not she is endorsing Bernie Sanders is a different question.  And I think if she is smart which she is smart, she`s going to think long and hard about how she uses her endorsement to move the issues she cares about the furthest.

So look, I think this is good for her most important issue, the Green New Deal and she`s using everything she can and every way she has to help that, but she is going to be one of the top must get endorsements in the presidential race and really all New York City and state races for quite some time.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Nick, let`s talk about the climate change discussion that we`ve been having where you have Biden coming out with this middle ground climate change policy and then you have basically AOC saying it`s a deal breaker.  He`s saying Bernie is saying it`s not far enough.  First of all, is there a middle ground for climate change and does this indicate how far left the party has gone?

CONFESSORE:  This whole thing is absurd.  You have three rival candidates who were attacking a plan that has not been seen -- that no one knows what`s in it, which just shows the change that Biden has wrought on this race.  He`s the first candidate to enter who has enough power of his own and popularity of his own to not be badgered and pushed into adopting things.

The Green New Deal is not a litmus test in any voter is mine except for a small handful.  It is something that activists are pushing as they should, as they have a right to do.  We have not seen by Biden`s plan yet and there`s no evidence that he`s failed some kind of a test on climate.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So are they feeling threatened by Biden right now, Mara?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Absolutely.  I mean, listen.  They want to talk about something that`s bad for Joe Biden theoretical -- in some theoretical universe of left-wing activists, and that`s why everyone is piling on.  I mean, that`s kind of ruled I don`t know, 12 in politics right, is that you go for the biggest guy in the room, and that`s what we`re seeing happen right now.  But there`s a lot of runway to get.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Christina, it also seems like there`s a fight for the middle, right?  There`s a fight for the progressive left amongst the Bernie Sanders and the Elizabeth Warren`s of the world, and then there`s beginning to -- there`s a fight for the middle emerging which is the Biden, which is the Kamala Harris, which is the Cory Booker.  We even heard Kamala Harris walk back her stance on Medicare for all which she was pushing just a couple of weeks ago.  Let`s take a listen to that and then I want you to weigh in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, HOST, CNN:  Will you support the Bernie Sanders bill which essentially --

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA):  I support Medicare for all but I really do need to clear up what happened on that stage.  It was in the context of saying let`s get rid of all the bureaucracy, let`s get all of the ways --

TAPPER:  Oh, not the insurance companies?

HARRIS:  No.  That`s not what I meant.  I know it was interpreted that way.  What I meant is let`s get rid of the bureaucracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So, is that what she actually meant or is she walking it back?  Is she walking back her support for Medicare for all and for what Bernie Sanders is putting out there?

QUINN:  Look, I can`t tell you what was in her head when she spoke.  I can tell you it`s not a good look.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But is she trying to walk towards the middle?

QUINN:  I think she`s trying to walk something back that she either on purpose got caught in and then realized oops it wasn`t such a good thing, or by accident in the heat of a moment got caught in.  But that kind of having to -- you know, say to a reporter hang on, let me be clear, I am now walking something back is not a good look for a candidate, nonetheless somebody like Senator Harris who`s really being looked at and being looked at in the context of you know, things like Iowa, who`s going to be number three.

So I think she needs to be careful moving forward.  And look, is there a fight for the left, is there a fight for the middle?  There`s a fight for every single person who`s a registered Democrat.  They`re fighting for everyone.  There`s 20 candidates.  Everybody is fighting to get a slice of anything.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But Mara, the question is what is the smarter political calculus, what is the smarter political path.  Is it to be on the progressive left or is it to be the center?  Because the question is when you`re going up against a candidate like Donald Trump, the incumbent president, they are going to be fighting for these swing voters, the people that voted for Trump but weren`t necessarily on board with him but felt like he was the better choice than Hillary Clinton.

GAY:  You know, I`m actually -- I`m not sure that`s the only pathway.  I mean, I think that the bigger question to my mind is who can motivate the Democratic base, the voters that actually didn`t show up to the polls in 2016?  The number of voters in this country who is undecided is extremely small.  And so you really need to -- if you`re a Democrat, you need to motivate the base to come out.

And of course, you should fight for every vote and of course, you need to go into states like Michigan which I believe is a Democratic state at heart.  And you need to go into states like Pennsylvania.  You know, in Michigan, I think it was 20,000, 30,000 votes that Trump won.  That`s an unacceptable result for the Clinton campaign.

Those states can be won.  And I think that`s what you focus on.  You focus those swing states, not necessarily the Trump voter right, and then you focus on the base.  And whoever can get there will win.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But isn`t there a different tactic when it comes to the primary election, Nick, versus when you`re in the general?

CONFESSORE:  Absolutely.  And look, half of Democratic primary voters are moderate, half of them are over 40.  And I think that if you`re amiss in this campaign and are saying to yourself who can I peel off votes from to get ahead in this pack, is it the Biden folks or the Bernie folks.  It`s probably the Biden folks because you`re betting that that that Sanders has a pretty unique relationship with his voters.  He has a lock on a lot of them, and they are not going to switch up.  You`re better off trying to grab some of the people who right now are for Biden.  It`s a very long campaign.

QUINN:  Now, it`s interesting.  I agree with everything that`s been said, but it`s interesting to me as you look at polls and I talk to voters.  People say this is important to me, that`s important to me.  We see in the polls.  But overwhelmingly people say in polls and to me personally what`s most important is that we win and I`ll take somebody who isn`t 100 percent on all of my issues.

And that`s a kind of resounding refrain that I think is different than most Democratic primaries at this point in the process.

GAY:  And I think that makes people in the Democratic Party more likely to be moderate.  And I don`t know if that`s the right answer, but that seems to be the way this is playing out.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Let`s quickly talk about Elizabeth Warren visiting this district in West Virginia that primarily voted for Trump.  I mean, she was told I believe, by the police chief in the area and what she was visiting that she was in Trump country.  She was waiting into Trump waters there.  But she --

QUINN:  How wonderfully public servant he is.  He serves and protects the Republicans who are for Trump.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  But this -- there is an opioid epidemic happening in the area in which she visited and she went there specifically, Nick, to talk about the opioid crisis and it resonated it seemed.  There`s a lot of voters in that area.  Sure was maybe just a couple hundred people that showed up to this West Virginia town where she spoke, but her message about the opioid epidemic, addressing them personally on a very personal level --  I believe the police chief in this town actually lost his own brother to opioids if I remember correctly.  She addressed the issue very personally and it resonated.

Do you think that this is -- I mean of course it`s a smart tactic because the opioid epidemic it inadvertently affects everybody across the country.  But is this a smart tactic politically to go into Trump country and address people on a very personal level like the opioid epidemic?

CONFESSORE:  You can`t win votes they don`t ask for and you can`t win in places you don`t go to.  So it`s smart in that sense.  But I think she is making the argument and taking the strategy that if I go to these places that are theoretically hostile to left ideas, explain my ideas in person, say here`s why I think it can work for you, she can attract some votes, she can win some hearts and minds.

And it`s always about politics, it`s always how strong the candidate is, how strong the ideas are.  But I think she realizes that`s her way to win if she can do that in the long term as the nominee.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And it speaks to what Mara was just saying which is showing up.

QUINN:  Right.  And it also shows she`s tough.  People can say that no one likes you here, it could be dangerous, this, that, and the other thing, and she doesn`t care.  She cares about people who are dying from opioid addiction and that`s a good thing from a female candidate.

GAY:  I mean, you`ve got to get the numbers down just to be tactical for a moment.  You have to get -- even if you lose, if you`re a candidate and you lose a county, you still want to lose by less than you -- than you know, a blowout.  And that`s part of the strategy here as well.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, Nick Confessore, Mara Gay, Christine Quinn, thank you guys all.  I appreciate it.  We`ll be right back, everybody.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  That does it for me.  Ari will be back tomorrow and I`ll see you back here tomorrow morning on "FIRST LOOK" at 5:00 Eastern.

END

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END