Sen. Cory Booker joins The Beat. TRANSCRIPT: 5/15/19, The Beat w. Ari Melber.

Guests: Vivian Figures, Ilyse Hogue, Laura Bassett, Robert Torricelli; MaraGay; Cory Booker

CHUCK TODD, HOST, MTP DAILY:  New episode of the Chuck Toddcast and get it wherever you get your podcast.  Leave us a decent review, will you?  That`s all for tonight.  We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.

"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now, where for the next five hours, Ari --

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Yes?

TODD:  One-sixth of the entire Democratic field will be outside MSNBC.

MELBER:  That`s right.

TODD:  One-sixth.

MELBER:  That`s a newsy thing to have newsy interviews, one-sixth.  And in your case, five out of five stars.  If I were better at math, I would link the two but it`s outside of my skillset.

TODD:  All righty.

MELBER:  Thank you, Chuck Todd.  As mentioned, we have a lot to get to tonight.  2020 candidate Senator Cory Booker is here at 30 Rock on a clash between Donald Trump and Congress, as well as this new Alabama bill that you probably heard about, trying to basically ban all abortions.

So we`re going to get into that with Senator Booker and a panel of experts later tonight.  The whole showdown is over whether Roe V. Wade, as we know, will stand.

Later, new signs that Donald Trump`s business empire is struggling because of its association with the Trump name.  So we`ll get into all of that.

But we begin with the White House stonewalling congressional investigators today and laying out opposition to really basic requests for evidence and documents.  This is a sweeping new letter that I`m going to show you from the White House.

It shows Donald Trump is defying the House Judiciary Committee`s basic oversight request and claiming that Congress should not investigate.  Kind of an attempt to rewrite the Constitution.

Now, the man who replaced Bob Mueller`s star witness, Don McGahn, is basically firing off this letter, here it is, to Chairman Jerry Nadler, telling him how to do his job and claiming the appropriate course here would be for members of Congress to discontinue the entire inquiry.

And there`s also a bit of a Trumpian tone here.  As the letter says that these probes which, of course, have only begun under Democrats in the past few months, already in the view of the Trump White House, exceed Congress` authority and they amount to harassing opponents and pursuing a do-over of the Mueller probe.

The White House is also referencing a potential executive privilege claim without actually stating whether they`re going to do it.  Chairman Nadler fired back today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  The White House is making the outrageous claim that a president cannot be held accountable in any way to the American people.  We will subpoena whoever we have to subpoena.  We will hear from Mueller.  We will hear from McGahn.  We will hear from a lot of other witnesses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Some of this may sound familiar.  Some of it may be exhausting but that`s kind of what the Trump White House is betting on.  The people will get exhausted and move on.

The battle line here is quite important.  It`s whether in the United States, lawfully executed subpoenas from the U.S. House of Representative are going to mean something or not.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump`s Treasury secretary is hinting today that he may defy relatedly a different subpoena, this one over the president`s infamously hidden tax returns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  How do you plan to respond to Chairman Nadler`s subpoenas?

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY:  Well, we haven`t had an official response yet.  I think we have a few more days.  We will comply with the timing of it and I think you can pretty much guess how we`re going to but we haven`t made a decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  The key here is to separate the bluster from the action.  Because the congressional pressure in other ways is already working despite the bluster that you also hear from this White House.

Consider that the president`s own family member, Donald Trump Jr., has now backed down from his attempt at a subpoena war.  He`s agreed this week to testify.  And the Democratic senator who was part of that winning battle saying today, there are no compromises in the testimonial plan for that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Senator, are you happy with the scope of the agreement with Don Jr.?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA):  We`ve made no compromises with any of our witnesses.  Anyone that was reporting otherwise ain`t telling the truth.

REPORTER:  Is there anything that`s off limit during this interview with Don Jr.?

WARNER:  We`ve made with all witnesses -- with all the witnesses, we have not set parameters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I am joined on all of this by former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli.  Our New Jersey Senator caution is high tonight with you.

ROBERT TORRICELLI, FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  I hear that.

MELBER:  And Cory Booker later.  And, Mara Gay, a "New York Time`s" editorial board member.

Mara, what strikes you as important, distinguishing between all of the noise and the fact that some of these investigations are proceeding and they are apparently working at least getting witnesses in?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, I think that what you`re seeing is that the Democrats have actually been disciplined for once.  They had a strategy which to go full-court press on these subpoenas, to not let up, and it`s actually working.  So I think if I were Nancy Pelosi, I would be feeling pretty good about myself today.

MELBER:  And yet Senator, you are here because of your distinguished experience.  Most people haven`t been in the rooms you`ve been as a U.S. senator.

But I`m also going to hold it against you a little bit because as you may know, there are a lot of people, particularly in your party, who are frustrated with the way that the party elites and senators and ex-senators are acting.

And I`m going to give you an example for your pushback, for your analysis, sir.  Chairman Nadler said last week it is a constitutional crisis and the speaker echoed that.  And then today, he says but let me take off the table, it`s very unlikely, that we would even consider moving towards impeachment.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER:  It depends what comes out and what we learn.  It depends where the American people are, whether they want to go that way or not.  I don`t want to make it sound as if we`re heading for impeachment.  Probably we`re not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you really believe that?  Probably we`re not?

NADLER:  Probably but I don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Is that the right substantive answer now?

TORRICELLI:  So I`m going to frustrate you because the lawyer in me and the politician in me have kind of two different answers here.

MELBER:  It sounds like you`re frustrating yourself.

TORRICELLI:  I am.  You know there`s a reason why this government has lasted 240 years, unlike every other nation on earth.  And it is the founding principles of this Constitution.

You simply cannot maintain democratic government in the United States if the Congress of the United States cannot exercise oversight and bring a cabinet official to answer before the Congress.  This government will not endure.

So the issue of bringing the attorney general forward is, to me, uncompromising.  The politician in me says I understand everything that Congress is doing.  I could not be more sympathetic but it is the remedy.

The remedy for all this is, the party must win in 2020.  So if I were Nancy Pelosi, I would bring these chairs together and say here`s what we will pursue publicly because we have a responsibility to the country and the Constitution.  Here`s what we will not.  Here`s what we will do silently through the courts.

We want the American people to get the message we`re defending the Constitution but also that their needs are our priority.

MELBER:  So let`s lay it out.  This is -- they called you the torch.  So this is the torch test for you and then Mara.  If you let stand multiple obstruction crimes in office, for those who believe that there`s substantial evidence to that, Mueller among them, what precedent does that set?

In other words, wouldn`t it be better if the Democrats` view was they didn`t meet the bar on impeachable offenses, didn`t say that deal with the heat and move forward?  But what I`m hearing from -- more them than you, but I think a little bit from you if I`m not mistaken is, we need to win in 2020 so we`re going to put aside this substantive constitutional question of whether this type of conduct will stand?

TORRICELLI:  Well, but there`s a conduct I would suggest to you cannot stand.  I mean even if it jeopardized the 2020 election, you can`t change the fundamentals of American government, that the Congress does not do oversight at the executive.  Or we will lose control of executive power and no longer have a democratic government.

That is uncompromising even if it means 2020.  What I disagree on is I think the obstruction issue was lost in the Mueller report.  He did not make a case for it suggesting it, hinting at it, saying there might be evidence of it, did not, in my opinion, fulfill his responsibilities.

MELBER:  You would have wanted him to say, while we can`t formally indict the president, he did things that are indictable, period.

TORRICELLI:  Either he did or he did not.  This idea well, I can`t tell you because you can`t indict a president, no one said you`d have to conclude whether we`re going to indict a president.  You were asked to conclude, to do an investigation.

The proper answer was there is evidence or there is not.  In my opinion as a lawyer, I don`t think there is.  But in any case, we can`t spend the next two years litigating it.  We got to get on and win election.

MELBER:  And you could respond to the Lawyer Torricelli or the politician Torricelli, whatever you choose.

GAY:  Well, I would just say that members of Congress don`t need Bob Mueller to tell them whether the offenses laid out or the behavior laid out in that report are impeachable -- is impeachable.  And that`s because it`s actually up to Congress because this is a political question, that`s not a legal question.

MELBER:  I agree with that.

GAY:  Right, right.  And so certain behavior is just not acceptable for an American president.  And that`s for Congress and the American people.

MELBER:  So how much do you think this comes down to the actual leadership style and guts of these political figures?  And not what we get -- what we just maybe get lost in is all the other stuff.

Because the Republicans -- what everyone thinks of the Ken Starr history, the Republicans clearly knew when the report came out what they want to do.  And to your point, they exercised their judgment because they released it and moved toward what they wanted to do immediately.

GAY:  Yes.  I mean I think the central question -- and I haven`t seen all of the polling I`m sure that folks like Nancy Pelosi have.  But the central question politically is, can the Democrats win if they move forward with impeachment?  Can they win in 2020?

And it seems to be the prevailing view among senior Democrats that they cannot.  I`m not entirely convinced that that`s the case.  Especially because the American public is so deeply polarized.  There are so few voters in between who the Democrats are going to be fighting for.

But I don`t know and I`m not sure that that`s -- that that presents -- in other words, just because you`re going to lose an election doesn`t mean that you don`t have a job to do right now.  The Democrats are in a tough spot.  I completely agree with you but they have to fulfill their duty to the American people.

And a majority of Americans are not with this president.  So it does kind of beg the question, what are they holding out for?

TORRICELLI:  Well, in my experience, other than people like us, you get about five minutes of the American people`s attention every day.  With us, it is about 24 hours.  Most Americans, you get about five minutes.

What I don`t want is a year from now that after watching for five minutes a day, the American people are convinced that Donald Trump for border securities, for confronting Chinese trade practices, he`s for dealing with Iran, he`s for dealing with a strong economy, and Democrats are for impeachment and subpoenas.

I wouldn`t compromise for a minute as I made clear on constitutional responsibilities.  But unless Nancy gets some discipline among those chairs, we run that risk.  And the remedy, winning an election is lost.

GAY:  I think there`s a way to walk and chew gum at the same time.

TORRICELLI:  It can be.

GAY:  But that`s a very hard line to walk.

TORRICELLI:  It`s discipline.

MELBER:  What`s interesting here, you`re criticizing Mueller.  Are you going to make a 2020 endorsement?  Are you endorsing your home state senator?

TORRICELLI:  If I would have vote today, I would, of course, vote for Cory but I like a lot of them.  We are blessed with a strong --

MELBER:  Who else do you like?  Cory, you have a home field bond with.

TORRICELLI:  Do you know what really makes me feel good about the races is that one candidate who has done the most homework, done the most work, take the most detailed positions, Elizabeth Warren has been rising.  I love to see voters reward someone who is doing it right.

MELBER:  Do you think she`s -- in your political view, is you think she`s rising partly on the agenda because she, every week, is showing the voters exactly why she`s running.

TORRICELLI:  Because she`s been serious about it.

MELBER:  Interesting.  I won`t ask you for an endorsement as a reporter.  Senator Torricelli and Mara Gay, thanks to both of you.

Now coming up as mentioned, Cory Booker is here at 30 Rock.  We`re going to get into it.  The Supreme Court and, of course, these questions on obstruction.

Here are the 25 men behind this new controversial bill banning most abortions.  I could tell you, as of tonight, it was signed into law just moments ago.  Protests across the country, concerns about whether Roe will stand.  We`re going to go live to Alabama this hour.

Plus, later, new evidence that the Trump presidency might actually be undermining the Trump brand.  I`m Ari Melber.  You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Breaking news, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has just signed a bill effectively banning abortions across the entire state.  This is the strictest abortion law now in the nation, near-total ban, no exceptions for rape or incest.

It also criminalizes performance of this procedure by doctors.  They could even face up to 99 years in prison under the way it`s written.  The sponsors openly say the idea is to get this in front of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe.

Now, I just sat down with Senator Cory Booker.  We turn to that interview now.

I saw today, you said it is important for men to have this conversation.  What do you mean?

SEN. CORY BOOKER, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, more than this conversation.  It is important for men to lead on this issue with women because this is an assault on human rights.  This is an assault on the basic fundamental ideal that you can control your own body.

And we know from Alabama`s letters from a Birmingham jail by Martin Luther King, where he said very pointedly, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  Well, this is that case.

And this should be, and I think those of us who are running for president, has a chance to affect the national conversation.  But all men, we need to lead on this issue with women and demand that people get off the sidelines.  This is an existential fight for the right and liberty to control your own body, your economic freedom, to be able to make your own reproductive choices.

MELBER:  And this was a central issue in the fight you and your colleagues waged over Brett Kavanagh.  Take a look at the way he spoke about Roe during those hearings.

BOOKER:  Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT KAVANAUGH:  Senator, Roe V. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court.  It is an important precedent of the Supreme Court and reaffirmed many times, precedent on precedent, which is an important precedent of the Supreme Court that has been reaffirmed many times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Do you view his statements as a commitment to strike down this law?  If it becomes law in Alabama?

BOOKER:  President Trump said point blank, I will put people on the court who will overturn Roe V. Wade.  Nothing he said there convinced me that that was not the intent.  And part of the --

MELBER:  Since you`re mentioning receipts, let`s play them for your point because this is central to the fight.  Is this the goal or not?  Let`s look at it, as you say, what Donald Trump promised.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Do you want to see the court overturn Roe V. Wade?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that`s really what`s going to happen.  And that will happen automatically in my opinion because I am putting pro-life justices on the court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOOKER:  So when somebody tells who they are and what they`re going to do, believe what they say.  And this is one of those instances where he`s now put two or three justices in the court that I think the states are now seeing this as an opportunity to try to move these to the courts.

But we are not helpless in this fight in the face of extreme injustice.  We must organize and we must do the kind of things that New York did which was enshrining Roe V. Wade, kind of fought that in law.  And we could actually do that in Congress by passing a bill that protects women`s reproductive rights and make that the federal law of the land.

MELBER:  I understand the genuine earnest care you have with this issue.  You are also running for president and there`s politics here.  The Supreme Court did use this to overturn Roe before the presidential campaign.  Do you think that would help the Democratic nominee, whoever it would be?

BOOKER:  There are issues that I will not look at through a lens, regardless of what I was doing.  I think we all have an obligation on this one to just think very fundamentally.  Does a woman have the right to control her body or do politicians have to dictate to her?

Do you know how extreme this is?  It literally says in the cases of rape and incest, that a woman, it is still illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion.  And so this is outrageous.  This is an assault on human rights, human dignity, freedom to control your body, which has been a fight going on from the founding of this country.

And I cannot in any way sit comfortably while this is going on.  And this is a time in American history that mandates all of us to stand up and get involved in this fight.

MELBER:  Yes, it is extraordinary to see and obviously, one of the biggest stories of not only today but potentially this year or this era if it is something the Supreme Court wants to weigh in on.

What I want to do is fit in a quick break but have you stay.  Would you stay with us?

BOOKER:  Yes, I want to talk a little bit about how these issues are all interrelated.

MELBER:  Great.  And I want to ask you about some of your comments on Barr and Mueller and a lot more.  So what we`re going to do is do just a 30- second break.  And when I come back, more with U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate Cory Booker.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  And I am back, as promised, with U.S. Senator Cory Booker running for president.  I want to continue our conversation but also bring in some other items first, which is you have been clashing with Attorney General Barr.  He now has said there`s going to be another review of the origins of the Mueller probe.

In your view, is it possible that that could be productive?  Or is that a bad idea to begin with?

BOOKER:  You know this is somebody who has lost credibility in his position and I`ve called him to resign.  He`s been acting more like Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, more like a Rudy Giuliani than the independent head of the Department of Justice.

And what frustrates me is that anybody who takes a fair reading of that report with its redactions sees misconduct rife within this administration.  Literally, lies and deceits, even ordering Don McGahn to try to manufacture evidence to cover up what could be a trail of towards obstruction.

Even on the election side, you have a state adversary, a foreign adversary who is literally breaking the law, attacking our election systems, and they greeted that with seemingly glee and a willingness to do things that even my colleagues have said they would resolve.

MELBER:  So let me ask you this.

BOOKER:  Yes.

MELBER:  Did Donald Trump obstruct justice?

BOOKER:  I think what we need to do right now is answer that question and there is a process in doing it.  And that means we should get the unredacted report.  Mueller should be coming before the Senate Judiciary Hearing in open hearings and we should look at the underlying documentation.

MELBER:  Based on what is public though, do you have a view that that looks likely or unlikely?  As you know, there are other people in this race, other talented lawyers like yourself who said yes.

BOOKER:  I believe right now I have a job to do.  And that should be to continue the investigation.  That`s the responsible way to do it.  And when you have a --

MELBER:  Let me press you on that.

BOOKER:  Yes.

MELBER:  Because you`re so smart.  I worry that you`re using your intelligence to move us away.  You just said you have an investigation to do.  But as you know, when we go look at the Constitution, it says the investigation is done and you are actually in the position of the Congress making a judgment.  You are the decider because we Don`t indict sitting presidents.

So when would you be able to decide?  The Mueller report is long, it`s detailed, and many scholars have said it shows criminal intent by the president.  Or do you just think it does?

BOOKER:  No, no.  First of all, if you really want to get specific, I have a role in the United States Senate which is the jury after impeachment has been passed by the House, articles of impeachment passed by the House.

So right now, you have Nancy Pelosi saying let`s continue this investigation and go where the facts lead us.  And then if they pass articles of impeachment that the Senate sits in as a jury.

MELBER:  So you`re comfortable just waiting on that?  If the House doesn`t impeach, that`s it?

BOOKER:  I think the Senate Judiciary Committee has a role and a responsibility.  Right now for Barr not to even be cooperating with the House`s documentation, subpoenas, this is a real problem.

We have a constitutional conflict right now that I think actually will be going over to the courts.  But for me, this is not a time for politics.  It`s a time for sobered examination of the facts.

MELBER:  Copy.

BOOKER:  And continue to go there.

MELBER:  I want to get you on some other items while I have you.

BOOKER:  Yes.

MELBER:  We have seen gun deaths reach a multi-decade high last year.  You`ve spoken out about that, not only in terms of gun control but suicides, the guns.  Why is that an important part of this for you?  How do you fix it?

BOOKER:  You have to understand that to live in an inner city black and brown community where I literally have shootings in my neighborhood -- last week, someone killed with an assault rifle on my block.  When you say we`ve reached a decade`s high in our lifetime, we`ve had more people die from gun violence in this country than all of our wars, revolutionary war, through world wars, through North Korea, through Vietnam, combined.

And suicides, every day we have about a hundred people murdered.  It`s about a two to one suicide to homicide.  And we`re not giving enough focus to suicide deaths in this country.  And still have this almost a resignation that again we are helpless to stop them and that`s just not true.

MELBER:  And you think those are people, some of them if they had the help and not the ready access to a weapon, that might be a life saved.

BOOKER:  Exactly.  And we know that again from the data and the evidence on states that have taken action to try to make sure we are cutting those deaths.  And that means everything from taking people at high risk for suicide and suspending the rights to have weapons during a limited period of time with due process.

It needs things as simple as having safe storage laws so that those guns are easily accessible, a family gun isn`t easily accessible by a young person who wants to commit suicide.

MELBER:  Yes.  And it is such an important issue and one we want to track, how these candidates are dealing with it.  It is one of the great security challenges and life challenges in America right now.

Now, before I let you go, I want to hit with you the lightning round.

BOOKER:  OK.

MELBER:  Fast answers, one word when possible.

BOOKER:  OK.

MELBER:  And other candidates -- yes, we made that just for you.  Other candidates have done this.

BOOKER:  OK.  I`m afraid -- with you, I`m afraid.

MELBER:  Your dream running mate, living or dead.

BOOKER:  I will not answer that question.

MELBER:  It could be someone who`s no longer with us.  Elizabeth Warren answered it at this table.  She said Teddy Roosevelt.

BOOKER:  At this table, she said her dream candidate was to resurrect the corpse.

MELBER:  She didn`t put it like that.

BOOKER:  I`ve watched too much sci-fi to know.  Even everybody --

MELBER:  She didn`t say that.

BOOKER:  If you watch Pet Cemetery, where you`re going is dangerous territory.  Don`t do it.  You watch a movie in my neighborhood.  We`re yelling at the screen.  Don`t do it.

MELBER:  So you`re passing.

BOOKER:  I am going to press the pass button but you will find out when I`m the nominee of my party --

MELBER:  OK.

BOOKER:  -- who my running mate is.

MELBER:  When you need to chill, your favorite T.V. show or Netflix?

BOOKER:  I am a sci-fi addict.  I will watch even reruns of good sci-fi if I have to.

MELBER:  Like?

BOOKER:  I am trying to give you the most -- I am embarrassed to tell you what I had the other night that I turned to a series.  How do you get me to admit this?  The series is Supernatural.  Yes, it`s sort of sci-fi hard-ish which is the reason why I say please don`t resurrect.

MELBER:  Are you more Star Wars or Star Trek?

BOOKER:  I am a sci-fi person.  If you`re forcing me to choose and to stand in one universe, I will stand in the Star Trek universe.

MELBER:  I would -- I could buy that with you.

BOOKER:  Yes.

MELBER:  Yes.  Star Trek is -- I don`t know if I`m going on make a huge mistake.

BOOKER:  Yes.

MELBER:  Nerdier?

BOOKER:  I think -- look, maybe I`ll just say that the people I respect from Cisco to Picard, great ball leaders in the future.

MELBER:  Amazing.  If we open just Spotify, what would be the most played?

BOOKER:  Right now, I am stuck in a loop of, a little bit old but Chance the Rapper.  I`m just You`ve Got a Problem With Me?  I`ve been listening to that.  I`ve been hyper-listening. I don`t know why that`s speaking to me right now but this music --

MELBER:  It`s speaking to you because you feel like if one more label tries to stop you?

BOOKER:  I don`t have the dread head there to meet you in the lobby.  But this morning, I woke up, and I have a great list.  I should make it public, gospel.  I just love gospel.

MELBER:  We`d love to hear that.  I would love for every candidate to put out their list.  When you`re working out, the music that pumps you up.

BOOKER:  I actually will listen to lots of different things.  I actually have -- Spotify makes this for runs.  Spotify makes this for weightlifting and they range everywhere from gospel to hip hop to -- I`ll admit it.  I -- Les Mis.  I`ve got some --.

MELBER:  I could see you with the Les Mis.  You`re a renaissance man.  One word answers on some people and then we`re done.

BOOKER:  OK.

MELBER:  Bill Barr.

BOOKER:  Resign.

MELBER:  Lindsey Graham.

BOOKER:  Praying for him.

MELBER:  Bob Mueller.

BOOKER:  Come before Congress.

MELBER:  Joe Biden.

BOOKER:  National servant.

MELBER:  Elizabeth Warren.

BOOKER:  Great partner and ally on my favorite legislate -- some of my favorite legislation.

MELBER:  Donald Trump.

BOOKER:  One term.

MELBER:  Senator Cory Booker, always great to have you on THE BEAT.

BOOKER:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Hope you come back.

And up ahead, a Trump Organization making quite the admission, their problem is Trump.

But first, a lot more.  I was just discussing with the senator, this new threat against Roe V. Wade, an anti-abortion bill in Alabama.  We go live to Alabama with a lawmaker and several pro-choice experts next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  News breaking this hour.  Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signing this bill that effectively bans abortions statewide.  It is now law.  As we were just discussing with Senator Booker, Roe v Wade under fire here.  This fight could go right to the Supreme Court which has new members appointed by Donald Trump.

There are these protests that we`re seeing for what would now be this total ban on abortion, no exceptions for rape or incest unless the courts intercede.  This law is also controversial because it would put doctors in jail for up to 99 years depending on how it`s enforced.  Alabama Republicans have said their motivation is to overturn Roe v Wade.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What this bill is designed to do is to go to the Supreme Court and challenge that particular precedence.

REP. TERRI COLLINS (R-AL):  My goal with this bill and I think all of our goal is to have Roe versus Wade defeat -- turned over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  The governor says the sponsors of the bill believe it is time once again for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this matter and that this may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur.  That`s a new statement we got just this hour.  And this is something a lot of people are noticing.  We wanted to show you the 25 male senators, all 25 votes cast in favor from who you see up on your screen.  That`s who`s making this set of decisions.

Now, one of those senators got into it with a colleague who happen to be female challenging him over a provision in this bill that states that a woman could end her pregnancy as long as she doesn`t know that she is pregnant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLYDE CHAMBLISS (R-AL):  And I`m not trained medically so I don`t know all the proper medical terminology.  There`s some period of time before you can know that a woman is pregnant.

SEN. LINDA-COLEMAN-MADISON (D-AL):  How do you define "is known?"

How do I define?

LINDA-COLEMAN:  It`s in the bill.

Well, if you don`t know, then you`re not known to be pregnant.

LINDA-COLEMAN:  I guess that`s the typical male answer.  You don`t know what you don`t know because you`ve never been pregnant.  You can`t get pregnant.  You`ve never been pregnant.  You don`t know what it`s like to be pregnant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That was a debate.  What I can tell you as of this hour is this bill is now law, state law.  Today, several Democratic candidates for president speaking out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It`s nothing short of an attack on women`s basic human rights and civil rights.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Women`s healthcare is under attack and we will not stand for it.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  What they did in Alabama, what they did in Georgia is unconstitutional.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They`re trying to overturn Roe versus Wade.  That`s wrong and we will fight back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, do you think they`ll succeed in this?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I`m now joined tonight for our special coverage by Alabama State Senator Vivian Figures who was one of his six individuals and one of two women who voted against this bill last night, Ilyse Hogue who is President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, as well as Reporter Laura Bassett.  Thanks to each of you for being a part of this discussion.

I suppose we should start with what does this mean for Alabama today?  What just changed for individuals there?  To Vivian.

SEN. VIVIAN FIGURES (D-AL):  Well, OK, thank you.  Thank you for inviting me to be on your show.  Let me say first of all that I reached out to Governor Ivey today.  I called her office, left her a message saying that I wanted her to put an executive amendment on that bill.  She could have done that, at least the amendment dealing with the exceptions for rape and incest.

She did not call me back.  I put it in writing and had it hand-delivered to her office.  She did receive that message and she received that letter before she signed that bill.  So she a woman could have put that amendment on that bill at least.

That bill is full of ambiguity.  There are so many -- there are so many questions in that deal in terms of what does it really mean for doctors, doctors who are OBGYNs in Alabama who don`t do abortions but who may do a procedure that would be considered getting rid of a fetus or whatever.  So it`s going to be a lot of problems down the road.

MELBER:  And when you look at this, what happens now?  If no court intervenes, then what happens to any individual Alabama who might want to have this procedure?

FIGURES:  Well, first of all, the bill does not go into effect until six months from today.  So what will happen then, how they will enforce it, I do not know.

MELBER:  Ilyse?  Same question.

ILYSE HOGUE, PRESIDENT OF NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA:  Yes.  I mean, we`re seeing these bills, bans sweep the country.  And I think they all have a singular goal, Ari, and that is to gut Row and criminalize abortion.

What I find really ironic and the familiar feeling as a woman of being gaslighted is not six months ago we were being told we were hysterical for suggesting Roe was vulnerable during the Kavanaugh nomination, and yet you have the Lieutenant Governor of Alabama actually saying it`s because of the justices that Trump has put on the court that they are actually trying to overturn Roe and criminalize abortion nationwide.

It will certainly be sued.  It will have to go to the Supreme Court.  But right now, Ari, the most important thing is that they have awakened a nest of energy and activity, unlike anything we have ever seen before.  My phone is going nuts.  People wanting to know how to get involved.  They understand that while the pointy end of the stick today is Alabama, that this is all of us.  We are all in this together.

And so we`re organizing because there are actually more people that believe in reproductive freedom and justice in this country then there are the people like the 25 male senators in Alabama that voted in favor of controlling women, punishing us, and putting our health in danger.

And we`re going to organize our folks.  We actually just launched stopthebans.org where we`ll be unfolding, organizing plans, nationally distributed actions over the next week.  So please go to stopthebans.org and signup to get more information.

I think we`re --

FIGURES:  Let us not forget -- let us not forget --

MELBER:  Well, Vivian, let me -- Vivian, let me do this.

FIGURES:  I`m sorry?

MELBER:  I was just going to say, let me bring in Laura and then go back to you.  I`m conducting here, so first Laura and then back to Vivian.

FIGURES:  I`m sorry.

LAURA BASSETT, FREELANCE JOURNALIST:  It`s just amazing to me.  We`re going back to the -- to the 60s.  I mean, we used to be in this place in this country where abortion was illegal and women did go over the border to Mexico.  They did have unsafe procedures.

And I`ve reported in Kenya and I`ve reported in Ireland and I`ve reported all around the world in places where abortion is illegal even in cases of rape and incest.  I talked to a 16-year-old rape survivor in Kenya who had to have an unsafe abortion and she nearly died.  And her father had to sell all of his cows in order to pay for her emergency medical procedure, and then she couldn`t finish high school.

So this is happening already around the world and we are now going back.  Some states are trying to go back to a place where it was just a lot more dangerous for women.  They call themselves the pro-life movement but what these policies do is they literally kill women.

And so I think that Alabama is just the first, Louisiana is moving a bill today, Georgia, Ohio.  We`re going to start to see a wave of these.  Republicans are emboldened under Trump and under a Kavanaugh Supreme Court.  And I think that the election is going to be a referendum on how people really feel about that.

MELBER:  Vivian?

FIGURES:  Yes, I just wanted to say let us not forget, these are not just men who are doing this to two women.  There are women who are involved in this as well.  It was a woman who sponsored that bill Terri Collins out of the House of Representatives in Alabama.  It was the other four to five Republican women in the house who signed on as co-sponsors.

And this is not a Democratic or Republican thing.  I had people calling me from all over who were Democrats, Republicans, black, white, men, and women.  But I agree with the other panelists that this has just opened up a firestorm of energy for women and men who want to get involved and see that a change needs to be made in electing people into these offices who have more of a heart to listen to women and to fight for our bodies not being a part of the laws.

Because there`s no law on the book that says a man is mandated to do anything with his body and it shouldn`t be for a woman either.

MELBER:  And you put that very forthrightly.  You`re also putting it in a way that reflects a lot of the understanding of what many people have said looks like an unfair approach even before you get to the fact that it would appear, what`s happening in your state would appear to violate obviously the current precedent that does protect this choice by women.

Ilyse, with all of that in context, let`s look at where this all came from in the current presidency because it was Donald Trump who didn`t reflect that level of understanding.  It made a very famous set of statements that even he walked back when he said, oh well, not only would you want to criminalize this and make it illegal, but you would want to criminalize it to the degree that women would be punished.  Take a look.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  For the woman.

TRUMP:  Yes.  There has to be some form --

MATTHEWS:  A fine, imprisonment for young woman who finds herself pregnant?

TRUMP:  It would have to be determined.

MATTHEWS:  What about the guy that gets her pregnant?  Is he responsible under the law for these abortions or is he not responsible for an abortion decision?

TRUMP:  It hasn`t -- it hasn`t -- different feeling, different people.  I would say no.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Ilyse -- and just for viewers before I go to your analysis, I just want to remind everyone that remarkable statement, we`ll put on the screen, Donald Trump had to walk away from it during the campaign.  He said oh, I didn`t even mean that.  But what do you think it means to see Alabama teeing this up for the Supreme Court with Trump`s nominees now, judges.

HOGUE:  Yes.  I think Trump was -- you know, I always say out of the mouths of babes, right.  He didn`t come from the anti-choice movement so he wasn`t versed in their signal talking and where they know they`ve stepped over the line.  So he may walk it back in words but he certainly hasn`t walked it back in deeds.

And that spirit with which he brought about punishing women, we`re seeing lived out on the national stage now with jail time being put in place in several of these bands.  And one of the things that I find really sinister about what we`re seeing in the anti-choice movement in the last several years epitomized by Trump is that we`ve moved from an anti-choice movement that sort of views women as victims which was already horrible enough especially in the ends that they were using but to women as perpetrators.

And that gives you an insight into not what is just Trump`s mentality but what is driving these people which is that women are to be you know, we`re suspicious and that we do not deserve the right to be in control of our own bodies and our own lives.  And the only unfortunate thing is they`re in the minority.  It`s a radical minority.  They`re about to learn just how in the minority they are.

And part of the reason that they`re going for broke with bills like Georgia and Alabama is because they know they`re on the wrong side of politics on this.  And we will show them that really clearly in the coming days, in the coming weeks, but all the way through 2020.

MELBER:  Well, and Laura, speak to that because Ilyse is talking about the public views and as Vivian just mentioned, there are certainly views in both parties, are certainly women who we just heard are part of fighting for this in Alabama, although they are the minority.

BASSETT:  Right.

MELBER:  Look at -- when you break down the polling very generally, and you ask folks, should this be legal in some circumstances.  When you put it that way, Gallup nonpartisan, it`s overwhelming.  It`s not 50-50 issue there, it`s 80-20.  What does that tell you about Ilyse`s point about the strategy here which is if anything running headlong into that public opinion and seeking refuge in potentially a Supreme Court stalked by Donald Trump?

BASSETT:  Right.  I mean, we forget that Republicans have tried this, right, like they started doing these personhood laws proposing them in 2012.  Mississippi rejected one, Colorado voters rejected one, it was decided that these were too extreme.  The Governor of Ohio vetoed a similar heartbeat bill to the one that`s passing now deciding it was too extreme, and then voters overwhelmingly re-elected Barack Obama with a massive gender gap, the biggest one that had ever happened.

And I think that was in part a big reaction to the big wave of abortion restrictions we were seeing in the states after the Tea Party took over.  And so things changed a little bit in 2016, but I think now we`re sort of going back to this aggressive anti-abortion stance on the -- on the part of Republicans.  People don`t want to see all-out bans on abortion particularly without exceptions for rape and incest.  It`s like a tiny fraction of the country that would support something like this.

So Republicans going all in on this, even the -- even the sponsor of the Alabama bill said this isn`t even what I want for Alabama.  We`re just trying to make this as extreme as possible to challenge Roe.  I don`t think that`s a good election strategy and I think it is going to bite them next year.

MELBER:  Right.  And as you say, if there is one point of continuity here, it is everyone in Alabama acknowledging effectively what was just passed, what was just signing a lot tonight is not currently lawful under the Supreme Court.  I mean that alone, whenever on any issue you have that as the stated goal, you have to take obviously a very close look.

I want to thank a State Senator Vivian Figures for walking us through this, given your knowledge the issue there on the ground, Ilyse Hogue, and Laura Bassett, thanks to each of you.

BASSETT:  Thank you.

HOGUE:  Thank you.

FIGURES:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  Coming up, a story I mentioned earlier in the hour.  Did you know that the Trump Organization now says they have a problem which is why they`re taking down signs like this, and the problem is the word Trump.  We`ll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER  The brand is not strong because for the first time a Trump Organization representative is publicly admitting what many people have thought that Donald Trump`s own name has become so toxic to so many people, call them voters, or consumers, or whatever you want, but it`s hurting business.

Take a look at this.  Trump`s prized Doral Golf Resort in Florida in steep decline as business problems mounting, the Washington Post noting.  In the two years going into 2017, that resort far less profitable, operating income fell 69 percent.  And this Trump Organization representative admits that the resort is severely underperforming and they say that it is because of "the negative connotation associated with the Trump brand.

This news comes as we learn the Trump Tower also is now ranked, and this is a business thing not a political thing, as one of the least desirable so- called luxury properties in all of Manhattan.  Bloomberg says the Trump name became a problem, condo sales selling at more than a 20 percent loss.  And then you have familiar sites like this.

The Trump name literally getting pulled, dragged, whatever you want to call it, but removed from its plot -- excuse me, prime place, I should say, atop so many buildings.  So we can take a final fact check.  We dug up a quote from Donald Trump who said "I lost massive amounts of money doing this job as president.  This is one of the greatest loses of all time he said.  Fact-check, true.

Now, before we go.  The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has some new strong words about Donald Trump`s Attorney General and the Constitution when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Today, the White House issued a sweeping refusal to turn over documents to congressional investigators telling lawmakers they shouldn`t be doing this investigation, saying maybe they don`t have oversight authority to look at the President`s conduct.

Well, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler is hitting back.  Here`s how he describes the showdown.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  They are refusing all subpoenas and they`re telling private parties don`t give information to Congress.  They are trying to say that Congress representing the American people can`t get information and therefore can`t function.  The effect of that whether the President realizes it or not, I don`t know, but the effect of that is to make the president a monarch, to make him a dictator.  That is the biggest constitutional crisis and that`s what we`ve got to fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Now, that may sound quite different from what Bill Barr has been saying and Nadler has an explanation for that as well.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER:  They welcomed it, they wanted it, and they tried -- and they coordinated with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Despite Bill Barr saying over and over --

NADLER:  Bill Barr, he`s just a liar, and he`s just representing the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  He`s just representing the President.  That is a concern we heard more and more from not only Democrats, but legal experts that Mr. Barr is acting more like a Rudy Giuliani at the Justice Department instead of like someone who would independently run the Justice Department.  It`s a story we will obviously keep our eye on.

Now, I want to tell you one more thing before I go.  Tomorrow on THE BEAT, a programming note, we are thrilled to tell you, Sherrilyn Ifill will join us to discuss why so many Trump judiciary nominees won`t say under oath whether they even agree with Brown v Board that stopped racial segregation in America.

Also on the program, a friend of THE BEAT, Tony Schwartz co-author of the Art of the Deal back with us tomorrow 6:00 p.m. Easter as always.  That does it for me.  But don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" --

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