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Dems subpoena Trump Confidante Hope Hicks. TRANSCRIPT: 5/21/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Steve Cohen, Tom Steyer, Julian Epstein, Margaret Carlson, GlennKirschner, Paul Rieckhoff, Sherry Boston

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  All right.  Alexi, Michael, Maria, thank you all.

That`s all we have for tonight.  We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.  That I promise.

"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.  Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  You know, Chuck, Hillary `07 sounds like a Sean Connery, James Bond kind of reboot.

TODD:  It does.  You`re right.  Hillary `07.

MELBER:  Hillary `07, her majesty`s secret service or something.

TODD:  Hillary `07, this time, it`s -- never mind.

MELBER:  You know we can work this out.  We have time until the election.

TODD:  We do have time.  We do.  We do.

MELBER:  Thank you, Chuck.

TODD:  Especially in the summer months.  Thank you.

MELBER:  We have a lot to get to on THE BEAT tonight.  There is a lot of news late today, new subpoenas, brand new for two Trump aides at the center of so much alleged misconduct.

Also, hundreds of rallies outpouring across America right now.  There is a wave of emotion, of activism, of energy, and even some civil disobedience regarding this new state abortion bans.  I`m going to get into that in the show.

And then later, by the end of the hour, I`ll talk to a Mueller insider about these reports that Mueller is now in active negotiations to testify.  But how?  Well, we`ll explain.

But we begin with this pressure, new, on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Because some top Democrats in her caucus are now privately lobbying her to begin impeachment proceedings.  You heard that right.  This is new reporting about an effort that actually seems more credible because it is not posturing, it is not press conferences, it is reports, dribs and drabs of them, that are breaking into public view.

All of this comes as former White House Counsel Don McGahn refused today to comply with a lawful subpoena for his testimony which is pushing some top Democrats over the edge.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Our subpoenas are not optional.  Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance.  Let me be clear.  This committee will hear Mr. McGahn`s testimony even if we have to go to court to secure it.


MELBER:  Late today, Democrats issuing these new subpoenas to key players, Hope Hicks and Don McGahn`s chief of staff.  But the pro-impeachment caucus is basically arguing that the best way to get action on all of these subpoenas is through an impeachment probe.

Now, here`s this new reporting I`ve mentioned.  "The Washington Post" states that at least five members of Pelosi`s leadership team pressed her in a closed-door meeting, this was last night, asking to at least let the Judiciary Committee begin impeachment proceedings.

And then later, in another meeting, Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, who you just saw at that committee hearing, making the same case.  "The Post" noting, this marks the "first time that the chairman and the top rank and file lawmakers have lobbied Pelosi to begin impeaching Trump."

And over at "Politico", they report on the members` frustration and vented about the White House repeated stonewalling, bluntly urging Pelosi start the impeachment process.  One source describing the conversations as "long and very emotional."

This is a lot of reporting in more than one outlet and it tells us that after those private talks, there are more and more Democrats -- this is not just out in the country.  This is not just out in the debate.  This is the people that Pelosi relies on to keep the caucus together.  They are all now pushing her on impeachment.

And today, what we are seeing is it`s spilled out in public.  We just showed you the reporting on all of those tense meetings last night.  But take a look at another chairman, Elijah Cummings, getting so much closer today.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:  Where do we end up when we do that?  That`s the question.  And I`m still mulling it over.  I`m going to talk to my colleagues when I get on the floor in a few minutes but I`m getting there.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-CA):  I believe that we have come to the time of impeachment.  I think that at a certain point, this is no longer about politics but this is about upholding the rule of law.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI):  If Don McGahn doesn`t testify, it is time to open an impeachment inquiry.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  His campaign chairman is in prison right now.  Don`t tell me there is not enough to discuss and debate impeachment.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Yes.  If there was an impeachment inquiry, I would support it.


MELBER:  The last person you saw there is Tennessee Steve Cohen who is my guest live right now.  He`s one of the members who`s making this case for impeachment in these private meetings with Speaker Pelosi last night.

I will note that so far, let`s be clear, the speaker is not barging.  She is saying Democrats are actually beginning to win some of the procedural fights against the White House.  Including, of course, late yesterday when a judge was ruling against Donald Trump`s accounting firm and ordering them to hand over financial documents to Congress.

Pelosi is saying they can pursue that strategy.  All of this, we can now report, will come to a head and it seems, tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. in Washington.  High drama because Speaker Pelosi will be huddling with the entire Democratic Caucus to discuss the state of the investigations and what are increasingly private and public calls to begin an impeachment probe.

I`m joined now by Congressman Steve Cohen from the Judiciary Committee.  I know you`re in demand.  I appreciate you being on THE BEAT tonight.

COHEN:  Good to be with you, Ari.

MELBER:  What do you see is important coming out of those meetings last night?  Do you see more members of your caucus saying, based on what the White House has done, it is time to begin impeachment proceedings?

COHEN:  They definitely are in the Judiciary Committee.  And the Judiciary Committee`s got the members who care most about justice, most about the rule of law, and have within their charge to preserve the Constitution.  I`m the chair of the sub-committee on the Constitution which Jerry Nadler was for many, many years.  And he has also a specific reference for the Constitution.

MELBER:  Can you take us inside those meetings?  I know there are aspects of them that you`re going to keep to yourself.  But, obviously, they`ve spilled into the "Washington Post" and other outlets.

Our viewers are wondering, what is going on?  Is this a real good faith debate?  Could you move the speaker?  What was going on there in those meetings?

COHEN:  The Judiciary Committee as a whole is for at least an inquiry of impeachment as discussed by several members.  And I don`t think any member -- there might have been two members that were particularly close to Speaker Pelosi that`s kind of were not on board.  But most, I would say 80, 90 percent of the committees on board to go forward.

MELBER:  Ninety percent.  So I mean right there, that feels farther than we were recently.  You`re telling us tonight, 90 percent of the Judiciary Committee including the chair want to at least begin proceedings and they`re pushing the speaker on that now?

COHEN:  Well, I can`t speak for the chair but I know that the committee is in that position.  And it`s because most of us are lawyers, we have the Constitution in our heart and most of us have probably had more interaction with the Mueller report and with the facts than most of the rest of Congress because it has come to us.  And we wanted to prep for Barr and prep for McGahn --

MELBER:  If I ask you a question about that, would you try to answer me honestly?

COHEN:  Always, swear to God.

MELBER:  Well, sir, do you think the majority of members of Congress have read the Mueller report?

COHEN:  No, I don`t.

MELBER:  And do you think that itself is an impediment to having a factual discussion of what that evidence portends?

COHEN:  I think it is.   I think if you read the Mueller report, you will see that the only reason he was not -- Mueller didn`t recommend an indictment for Mr. Bad Example, the president, was because the Justice Department has a policy that you cannot indict a sitting president.

He made it clear that he was going through the traditional means and that that was one of them.  And that therefore, they could not.  He couldn`t defend himself if he said he should be indicted.  And he thought fair play would say that it was to defend himself which you do in a court of law or you do in an impeachment hearing but you don`t in a statement from a special counsel that cannot be acted upon.

So he did everything but say the man has committed obstruction of justice and would be indicted but for the fact he`s president, just as Individual- 1, he is an unnamed co-conspirator in the Southern District of New York for Michael Cohen actions to get campaign money against the --

MELBER:  So when you walk into this meeting tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., what is Speaker Pelosi going to see?  When she looks out on a caucus that obviously supports her, that re-elected her to this position that has incredible faith in her which means in her judgment but appears to increasingly disagree with her view that you should not even start the proceedings.  Especially given what you`re calling a stonewalling, what Chairman Nadler is saying defiance.  What is she going to see in this meeting tomorrow morning?

COHEN:  Well, it`s 90 percent I would say the Judiciary Committee.  But the Judiciary Committee are kind of a special breed and the whole caucus probably is not there.

She`ll still see a majority of the people that will follow her lead.  And it is difficult to stand up and speak to the speaker in a meeting and question her positions.  It is difficult.  It was difficult for me to get up and share a policy.

But at a certain point, you`re elected and you`ve got a certain age and you`ve got a responsibility to speak truth to power and that`s your job.  And that`s what I did.  But I did feel some other people around me didn`t have that comfort.

There was another member who did speak up and he is in leadership and I admire him for doing it.  But some of the other people were kind of -- you could see they were jockeying for position.  So it will be an interesting hearing, and who stands up and speaks out and what happens.

MELBER:  Well, that`s striking.  And I appreciate your candor and you making the time.  Congressman Steve Cohen.

COHEN: You`re welcome.

MELBER:  Thank you, sir.

COHEN:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  My next guest is a progressive billionaire.  His name is Tom Steyer.  You may have heard of him because he`s been leading the outside effort to impeach Donald Trump since at least 2017.  He`s got a new million-dollar ad campaign calling on Democratic leaders to impeach.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here`s a message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  For leaders of the Democratic Party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  For over two years, this president has broken the law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And nothing happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You told us to wait for the Mueller investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And when he showed obstruction of justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now you tell us to wait for the next election.





MELBER:  Is your campaign starting to win over people?

TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEED TO IMPEACH:  Well, Ari I think our campaign has represented a huge part of America for a year and a half.  We have more than 8 million people who signed our petition and specifically come out and said this president has obstructed justice, been corrupt, and should be removed from office.

MELBER:  Well, let me rephrase my question.  Are you winning over the people who have the votes to begin an impeachment inquiry in the House?

STEYER:  Well, I think two things are happening, Ari.  One is we`re going directly to the American people because we believe in the power and wisdom of the American people.  But I think that the people in the House, the Congresspeople, are watching this president who has clearly obstructed justice and clearly taken payments illegally as president.

They`re now watching him show utter disdain and contempt for them.  So his new tactic on obstruction of justice is an absolute defiance of their right to oversee his administration, for their right to actually perform their duty under the Constitution.  So they`re very much feeling it personally because this president really is trying to himself a king.

MELBER:  Well, it`s interesting to hear you put it that way because you`re talking about the actual interaction between the way the White House is -- and this is a fact.  It sounds like a criticism but it`s actually a fact, defying more lawful requests for information in any White House in American history.

And you`re saying, what do the Democrats or the House as a governing body do about that?  Because wasn`t the argument a couple of weeks ago, well, let`s see -- Speaker Pelosi said let`s work through these other channels.  Do you think that your argument for an impeachment probe has actually been strengthened by the fact that those other channels are meeting with open defiance from the Trump White House?

STEYER:  Ari, I don`t think there`s any question about it.  I think that if this president doesn`t believe that there is going to be some recompense, that there`s going to be some cause to his defiance of the law, of the Constitution of the American people, then he`s going to only get worse.

In fact, the idea that they can work through normal channels -- he has declared that he will not be subject to regular channels, that he is above the lawful.  He expects to do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants and he really doesn`t care what Congress has to say about it at any time.

MELBER:  And we have been covering this as the top story as many outlets are tonight because it is feeling like a push for impeachment.  We just had a member of the Judiciary Committee say 90 percent of his committee wants impeachment.  Speaker Pelosi who has the respect of her caucus, obviously she just got re-elected in that internal vote, is now facing this open pressure.

I want to both reflect the other views in the Democratic caucus as you know and also bring one on to join you.  Before I bring one on, let just play a very loyal Speaker Pelosi lieutenant pushing back on all of this, Congressman Jeffries.  Take a look.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), CHAIR, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS:  Well, I disagree with the notion that a growing number of the House Democratic Caucus want to jump straight to impeachment.  We also recognize that we are a separate and co-equal branch of government. We have a responsibility to serve as a check and balance on an out of control executive branch.  The caucus wants to proceed methodically in that regard.


MELBER:  That`s the defense, a methodical view.  And joining us is also Julian Epstein.  He was the top Democratic staffer on the House Judiciary Committee during the famed Clinton impeachment and he is also warning his fellow Democrats to proceed quite carefully.

You just heard what Mr. Steyer said.  He`s been a leader on this.  What do you mean by being careful?  What is the argument for Democrats against doing what my guests, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Steyer, have said tonight?

JULIAN EPSTEIN, FORMER CHIEF MINORITY COUNSEL TO HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Well, I think the White House bag dab Bob legal strategy of just obstructionism and strong arm in Congress is actually potentially more illegal than even the things that were uncovered -- the obstruction that was uncovered in the Mueller report.

And I think it`s unacceptable and I think it certainly makes a legal case for impeachment stronger.  But I mean to the people argue that impeachment is just a legal question and if the president has broached the line, that it simply kind of -- it`s the dutiful camp, what I call the dutiful camp, who just believe that there is a legal question.

If you answer that legal question, if he`s crossed -- if he`s breached that, then you go forward with impeachment.  I mean I respect that point of view and I respect the people who are on that side.  But I also think it`s wrong.

I mean if you look at the way impeachment was designed, and particularly if you go back to the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65, it is designed as not just a legal question but also a political question.

And the politics are not there yet.  I think the legal benefit that you get from opening an inquiry is very, very marginal.  I think the courts are making it clear right now that they have little patience for the games that the White House is playing.

But in terms of whether move forward with impeachment, you basically have three audiences that you have to persuade.  You have the Democratic Caucus and the House that you must persuade.  You have the general public that you must persuade and then you have Republicans.  So you have those three different audiences.

MELBER:  I don`t want to oversimplify you because you`re a brilliant speaker but I think --

EPSTEIN:  Well, let me talk to my point --

MELBER:  -- I hear your argument but I`m going to moderate because it`s something I do here.  I think you`re basically boiling down to the argument that this would eventually lose so don`t start.  Is that right?

EPSTEIN:  No, I`m -- not quite the argument I`m making.  I`m saying you have three audiences.  The people are for impeachment are opening up a process, haven`t even persuaded their own caucus yet.  They haven`t even persuaded the Democratic Caucus so --

MELBER:  We`re having a debate -- but my debate with what I`m trying to moderate here for you and then for Tom`s response is what is your substantive argument against, is that they don`t have enough public support yet?

EPSTEIN:  I think that there is not enough public support.  I think the Democrats are not together so I`m not sure where it leads you.  And I think in terms of, you know, the legal argument, sure there is a legal argument there.  We can go -- kind of go back and forth on that and on the type two authorities.  It is not quite as definitive as I would like it to be.

MELBER:  I feel you on that.

EPSTEIN:  But this president --

MELBER:  Let me get Tom.

EPSTEIN:  I think this president has acted contemptuously.

MELBER:  I feel you on the points you`ve made.  Let me get in Tom for rebuttal.

STEYER:  Well, we`re not making a legal point.  We`re making a point about what is right and wrong and what we want to have happened is to bring in the American people directly.  To say that the American people don`t support impeachment enough before they`ve had a chance to see the evidence through a series of televised hearings doesn`t make any sense.

In fact, what we need to do is have those hearings, bring all of those people, Mueller, McGahn, all of them, in front of the American people so we can see how corrupt this president is, how corrupt his administration is, and the kind of obstruction that he`s engaged in so that we, the American people, can come together across party lines, across geographic lines, and be sickened by what this president has done.

MELBER:  Right.

EPSTEIN:  But Tom, you`re not making an argument for impeachment.

MELBER:  With the limited time we have -- I`m going to get you in.  I don`t want to put words in Tom`s mouth but he is making a little of the Rabbi Hillel argument, if not now, when?  Your brief response to that before we go.

EPSTEIN:  I don`t think he`s making an argument for impeachment.  I think he is making the argument for process.  He`s making the argument you should have investigatory hearings, lay the facts out on the table and let the American people decide.

That`s different from saying jump into impeachment.  He actually made the opposite argument that he says he`s making.

STEYER:  Just to be clear, that is exactly the opposite of what I`m saying.  What I`m saying is this president has clearly breached the criteria for being impeached, that it is urgent to hold him accountable.  That if, in fact, you do not hold him accountable, you are normalizing his criminality, his corruption, and his obstruction and you are failing your duty to the American people and the Constitution of the United States.  That`s actually what I`m saying.

MELBER:  And it is very interesting hearing you two reckon directly with each other.  Some of these conversations are privately happening in the House.  Both of you have extensive experience.  And Mr. Steyer has been pushing this for some time so I think we benefit from hearing it.  It is a tough question, obviously.  Julian Epstein and Tom Steyer, thanks to both of you.

EPSTEIN:  Thanks for having us.

STEYER:  Thanks, Ari,

MELBER:  Absolutely.  Now, coming up, what did Speaker Pelosi say about the first Republican to actually push her on impeachment?  We`re going to get into that later.

Also, new reporting on what are now secret negotiations leaking out in the "Washington Post" about Bob Mueller`s testimony and will it be public?

And then, such an important story tonight, these national protests about abortion rights.  We have an exclusive with a D.A. who says she will not enforce what she sees as an unconstitutional law limiting choice.  Only on THE BEAT.  That`s later tonight.

And then, Donald Trump pushing to pardon convicted war criminals.  I`m going to break down why this is a precedent-breaking problem for any commander in chief, another important story on what is a packed show.

I`m Ari Melber.  You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER:  The new impeachment debate breaking out among some Democrats in Congress is partly in response to this, these kinds of scenes, doing something about the empty chairs, empty witness chairs.  Trump`s former White House counsel is openly defying a lawful House subpoena.

And now, that same committee is applying new pressure with the subpoena to Hope Hicks, a Trump confidante and a Republican lawmaker have now said Trump did commit impeachable offenses.  So pressed about all of this and whether to consider the probe, take a look at what Speaker Pelosi has done here, trying to basically brush aside much of the debate with a broad reference to patriotism.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI, HOST, MORNING JOE:  Doesn`t it put more pressure on you that Conservative Republican says the threshold for impeachment has been met?





PELOSI:  Well, we haven`t -- we`re not -- this isn`t about politics.  It is not about passion.  It is not about prejudice.  It is not about politics.  It is about patriotism.


MELBER:  It is about patriotism.  But the problem with that talking point would seem to be that those arguing that the president violated the Constitution and should not get away with it have a rationale for doing something.  And it is also, they say, called patriotism.

To dig into this, I have the politics editor for the "", Jason Johnson, and "Daily Beast" Columnist Margaret Carlson.  Good day to both of you.



MELBER:  It`s getting lively, Margaret.  What do you think of this debate?

CARLSON:  I heard Jason last night.  And I often say, what would Jason do?  But I slightly disagree with him.

My heart is with Jason but I believe Democrats should go the Pelosi route and follow impeachment by other means, which is to continue the investigations, hope that the courts are still functioning despite being packed with McConnell judges.

And as the court did today, rule in favor of subpoenas and witnesses showing up so that these investigatory hearings proceed and they can be televised.  Tom Steyer was making the point, well we need these televised impeachment hearings in order to educate the public.

But there is nothing that says -- I mean certainly, Ari, you`re very influential.  MSNBC wouldn`t be covering the oversight hearings.

MELBER:  Well, I think part of it is the question of, who is actually compelled to testify in a reasonable amount of time, which is separate, Jason, from whether the underlying issue is satisfying or not. And there are certainly people who look at this and say with no underlying crime, it is not as bad as Watergate.  There are those who view that and there are others who say it is worse than Watergate.

In other words, the substantive part.  Take a listen to Kamala Harris on the substance.  This was in our interview last night.

JOHNSON:  Right.


HARRIS:  These were indictable offenses and -- but for the office of legal counsel`s opinion, they would have been charged.  So we need to have Bob Mueller come and clear that up for the American public.


MELBER:  Jason.

JOHNSON:  Yes.  Look, that makes clear sense to me.  And Ari, look, I`m in favor of impeachment.  I`m in favor of impeachment hearings.

And you mentioned in the last segment sort of the classic quote, if not now, when?  Well, I`ll give you another one.  If Nancy Pelosi can`t do it, it can`t be done, right.

Like she is one of the most powerful speakers we`ve had.  She has a number of people in her party and her base, they are saying this needs to get done.  There is no reason to (CROSSTALK) the process.

MELBER:  There is a 50 Cent song by that name but he`s not the only person, of course.  He is the --

JOHNSON:  I figured this.  I figured you`d catch up.

MELBER:  Were you embedding a secret 50 Cent Easter Egg?

JOHNSON:  I was embedding that Easter Egg.  I did not want to give you a spoiler beforehand but I figured you`d pick it up.

MELBER:  You thrill -- you delight me, Jason.  Go on.

JOHNSON:  Thank you.  So the idea is that Pelosi really needs to take a look at what her base is saying throughout this situation.  And I don`t really think that Watergate is the best example.  I think a lot of these Democrats are afraid of what happened with Clinton back in `99, that somehow there`s going to be a backlash.

But here`s the difference, Bill Clinton`s approval ratings were at 66 percent.  His job approval was 66 percent before impeachment hearings.

They went to 72 afterwards.  That`s not the case with Donald Trump.  The Democrats are playing with a very good hand right now.  They need to begin this process.

MELBER:  Margaret.

CARLSON:  You know Trump wants to be impeached so that he can treat this the way he treated the Mueller report and brand it as an exoneration.  If people like Jason knew that not only would the Senate not convict but that Trump would win re-election, would they still be in favor of impeachment?  Trump --

JOHNSON:  Yes, of course.

MELBER:  We don`t know that but let me -- let`s let Jason respond and then you`ll respond to him.

JOHNSON:  Yes, of course, because it is still your obligation.  Look, do police say, hey, I`m not going to bring in this drug dealer because I know he`s got a good lawyer and he`ll get off?  No, you do your job anyway.

And at the end of the day, we don`t know what happens in 2020.  We don`t even know who the competition is going to be.  But we do know this, if the Democratic Party abdicate their constitutional obligations and basically says we don`t feel like dealing with this because Nancy Pelosi doesn`t feel like she has the clout, you will alienate and frustrate your base.

MELBER:  And what if that drug dealer`s lawyer is already doing a three- year bid?

JOHNSON:  Exactly.  Now, we know he`s going to go down the garbage, right?

MELBER:  Strictly hypothetical.  I promise, Margaret, her turn.  Go ahead.

CARLSON:  Yes.  I know you have a lyric for this, Ari.  But let me say if the idea that you`re abdicating your responsibility when you`re dealing with an amoral institution that has completely abdicated its responsibilities, and that`s the Senate.

You`re engaging in a futile act.  That`s F-U-T-I-L-E, not feudal.  And you end up, you`re going into something.  And you`re courageous and you`re brave to do something that is absolutely futile.

MELBER:  Well, there is a lyric for that, Margaret.


MELBER:  Which is Jay-Z said, "Mama always told me don`t argue with fools because people from a distance can`t see who is who."  You`re saying why do something that requires the cooperation of a foolish Senate.

CARLSON:  And it requires a lot of explanation of who is who to the public, to the voting public.

MELBER:  If we had an air horn sound, I would hit it.  Jason, final thoughts.

JOHNSON:  I got to tell you this.  The same thing happened in 1999.  The Senate would be forced to justify not looking at the articles of impeachment, the pass in the House.  That would actually be more damaging for them.  Democrats can`t keep operating off of what they think will make Trump happy.  They`ve got to do what Constitution require, what their base requires, and what simple notions of justice require.

MELBER:  And I`ll say just listening to both of you, I feel the same way I felt at the end of the first discussion, which is torn by really well made and interesting arguments.  So it is actually fascinating that the Democrats having pushed to this level, we`re now hearing from so many people, and that is a sign of a tough call but also an interesting debate, especially given the unusual precedent that the Congress is dealing with.

My special thanks to Margaret and Jason.

JOHNSON:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Thank you both.

CARLSON:  Good night.

MELBER:  Bob Mueller reportedly now in high stakes negotiations over his testimony and would it even be public.  A Mueller insider joins us on this very question in 30 seconds.


MELBER: New reports tonight on high stakes negotiations over whether and how Bob Mueller would testify about his famous probe.  Sources now saying Mueller might limit any testimony that goes beyond the Mueller report to be conducted in private.

Now one source says it`s Trump`s DOJ not Mueller that is quote resisting a televised hearing.  Now as we wait to see whether or not Mueller`s testimony would be public and what it would entail, consider of course when he`s testified in the past.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL, RUSSIA PROBE:  I will pull no punches in terms of where that investigation would lead, and we would -- I go down any path that would lead to evidence on individuals, organizations, or otherwise.


MELBER:  I`m joined by Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor who worked for Bob Mueller directly in the D.C. U.S. Attorney`s Office for several years.  You see them there together.  Thanks for coming back.


MELBER:  How do you view this new reporting about the negotiations?

KIRSCHNER:  You know, it doesn`t surprise me that because Bob Mueller is still a DOJ employee that Barr may be continuing to put his thumb on the scale against an appearance or if reluctantly he has to agree to an appearance by a DOJ employee that he wants it to either be behind closed doors or not televised because I think he already knows by virtue of that scathing letter that Bob Mueller authored rebuking Barr`s sort of ridiculous characterization of some of the findings in his report.

I think Barr already knows that when and if Bob Mueller testifies publicly, he`s going to wow the pub with facts and with authority and with the precision.

MELBER:  So when you -- when you read that Post reporting, you are giving more credence to the sources saying it`s Barr, DOJ holding them back not Mueller saying hey, I can`t talk about much in public.

KIRSCHNER:  I am, Ari.  But here`s what it also made me think about.  Listen, as prosecutors, when we investigate a case, and when we present it to the grand jury, and when we ask them to vote out an indictment and then ordinarily we proceed to trial, of course, here we can`t because of the ill-advised OLC memos saying you can`t indict a criminal president.  We don`t then sit down and talk about really in any setting what all of the witnesses said and what all of the evidence is.

So it doesn`t surprise me if Bob Mueller`s instinct might be listen, it`s all in the report.  In fact, when Barr says no collusion, no obstruction, Bob Mueller could simply point to the report and say it`s all in here.  I never said no collusion --

MELBER:  That`s an important point because doesn`t that also go to an implicit criticism of the way some Democrats are approaching this which was debated by some of our panelists earlier in the hour which is if you`re calling Bob Mueller in to do something, like we got this report, we want to explore potential impeachment, whether that be of the President or other officers the United States, or some other act, isn`t that different than saying Bob Mueller come do Reading Rainbow with us and read us your report?

KIRSCHNER:  Exactly.  Bob Mueller could take the principal position, look folks it`s all there 448 pages of it.  And look at the way he concluded, Ari, volume two.  Could it be any more transparent or frankly any more powerful -- and if I could just read it briefly -- this is how Bob ended volume two which was chock-full of obstruction of justice by the president.

He said the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person including the president accords with the fundamental principle of our government that no person in this country is so high that he is above the law, period.

I could see Mueller taking the principal position that folks, it`s all there, and to have me regurgitate what I`ve put in writing or testify in a hearsay fashion about what the witnesses said that led me to this conclusion is not what you need.  What you need is the witnesses.

MELBER:  I think that -- I think that has been an implication up and down in his approach thus far.  He`s not going to rent a plane and skywrite the line you just said over the -- over the blue skies the Congress.  He doesn`t want to do a dramatic reading that is not who he is in his style.

And unless and until he was being called in a different capacity, for example, to help present a case if the Senate were trying a case, it`s not clear what the show-and-tell would do which is why that Post reporting that goes to this negotiation is so interesting.  Glenn, as a Mueller insider, Mueller-ologist, we appreciate you coming on.

KIRSCHNER:  Thanks, Ari.  I appreciate it.

MELBER:  Thank you, sir.  Up ahead, turning to a whole different set of stories.  These protests erupting nationally over state anti-abortion bills.  And we have a BEAT exclusive, a .D.A in Georgia vowing not to enforce that bill.

But first, Donald Trump exploring pardons for war crimes on the advice of a Fox News anchor.  Veteran Paul Rieckhoff is here next.


MELBER:  New details tonight on Donald Trump`s reported plan to pardon several people accused or convicted of war crimes.  A New York Times sources two U.S. officials saying Donald Trump is now requesting official paperwork for pardons that he would issue by Memorial Day.

Now if you think any of this sounds unusual, that`s because it is.  Very few presidents ever try to overturn convictions for war criminals because among other reasons, presidents don`t want to look like they support war criminals.

One of these soldiers, for example, is on trial accused of horrific murders of unarmed individuals.  Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher facing charges of killing an unarmed man and a young girl with sniper rifle, basically a sniper rifle attack that occurred in Iraq as well as stabbing a teenage captive to death and firing a machine gun aimed at civilians.

Now, as Gallagher`s own platoon, not outsiders who basically reported this string of conduct saying they saw him commit "shocking acts in Iraq.  Now, Gallagher`s lawyer insists he`s innocent.  The others for example, are a private contractor that was already convicted of first-degree murder that Trump my pardon, and a marine charged with "urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters."

A pardon in any of these cases would be a radical departure from the way most American presidents across party and history have ever dealt with anything touching on war crimes.  A bipartisan consensus not a red or blue issue, a belief stated by our military leaders and by our political leaders that if nothing else, the military has to stand for higher values.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights.

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We must recognize that the internment of Japanese-Americans was just that a mistake.  Here we admit a wrong.  Here we reaffirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.


MELBER:  That is what it looks like when a president takes responsibility for acts that even taken in military emergencies were deemed a violation of law or human rights.  So many are asking why is Trump considering this right now?

Well, a little context, absurd as it may sound is one of the other random pardons that Trump seized on came after his meeting with Kim Kardashian.  This one comes after lobbying by a Fox News anchor which would explain this reaction on Fox and Friends as that person praises Trump`s move in front of the camera.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I can`t stand that headline accused of war crimes.  They`re not war criminals, they`re warriors.  This is very heartening for guys like me and others in the service who look at the previous administration.  You had a culture of coddling and not defending the warfighter.  Trump has done a total 180 on it.


MELBER:  There is a 180 here.  It is the 180 against the tradition for generations.  As mentioned, presidents of both parties and military leaders publicly committing to the rule of law which means acknowledging and accepting when the rule of law finds in what are obviously quite rare cases that war crimes have occurred.

Joining me now for this important discussion is Paul Rieckhoff.  He founded Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.  He hosts the podcast Angry Americans and served as an army first lieutenant and platoon leader in Iraq.  Thanks for being here.


MELBER:  What do we need to know about this?

RIECKHOFF:  Here we are.  Like I`m having a discussion with you on television trying to explain to the president what pardoning war criminals is a bad idea.  I mean, this is a new moral low for us at a time where it seems like bad stuff is coming out every day.  Perspective I think that people lose here is the military has rules.  The military has courts.  The military has the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

This is the ultimate insult to our military to have a president jump in, the commander-in-chief jump in and say you know what, I don`t care about what you say, I don`t care about what you rule, I don`t even care if you`ve found a decision yet, I`m going to blow it all up.

So it`s really a disrespect to our military, it blows up our world standing, and we`re supposed to be the good guys, right.  When we go into places overseas, we`re in 40 percent of the world, we`re usually greeted as the good guys because we abide by the rule of law and the Geneva Convention.  This throws all that out the window.

MELBER:  Yes, and you say that and I want to read from more the admittedly dispiriting reporting about some of these crimes which I mentioned are rare but when busted, the New York Times talks about how it was this one individuals comrades who reported the killings and were initially told well, the Navy might not look kindly on rank and file team members making allegations against a senior commander, and their careers could be sidetracked and their elite status revoked.

And yet -- and this is where I think there is a silver lining amidst the horror.  And yet those soldiers said no, we represent something else.  And there is as you said the Uniform Code of Military Justice and there are rules and they took whatever career risk.  And the system, in this case, appeared to work because it`s got a trial.  And as I mentioned in this one instance is his trial will proceed and we`ll see what happens.

The notion that the president would intercede to override that and then say that`s pro-military, your reaction to that is well.

RIECKHOFF:  These are not liberal reporters who are testifying against this guy.  These are -- these are six other Navy SEALs, right, who would put themselves out there and I think really are showing what soldiers should do, what our troops should do, be courageous, abide by the law, honor that warrior code.

For the president to come in also, let`s play devil`s advocate here.  The guy hasn`t even been found guilty yet, right.  Let`s let this run its course.  And then if he wants to make a statement about it, fine, but respect the rule of law within the military --

MELBER:  And what do you think -- I know you don`t -- you don`t like to speak for too many other soldiers but you did lead a soldier`s group, a veterans group.  When soldiers hear that Donald Trump wants to pardon someone who was convicted of urinating on other dead soldiers, does that sound pro-military to them?

RIECKHOFF:  No.  There`s nothing about this that`s pro-military.  I mean, he wants to do this on Memorial Day which would be the ultimate thumb in the eye of our military on a day that should be about honoring those have we lost for generations.

So outside of a few radical fringe elements and maybe people who are personally connected to these people, I haven`t seen anybody defend this.  On moral grounds, on legal grounds, on ethical grounds, this would be rock- bottom for us as a nation morally and for our military, and would shatter us for decades.

If the world sees it our president lets people go when they break the law in a place where discipline and good order is essential, it`s unprecedented.

MELBER:  Yes.  You know, it`s our job to put words to these stories, and when I first read this I thought, there`s no words for this.  Paul Rieckhoff, we learned about these issues a lot from you.  I appreciate you coming back on THE BEAT.

RIECKHOFF:  Thanks, Ari.  I appreciate it.

MELBER:  Thank you, sir.  Next, we take a turn to a whole another story, these nationwide protests over the new state abortion bans.  We have a D.A. who`s making news tonight on THE BEAT saying she will not enforce what she views as an unconstitutional law, next.


MELBER:  Tonight, this wave of anti-abortion laws sparking over 500 protests across the country organized flooding statehouses, courthouses, city streets.  You`re looking at it.  This is all happening now and it`s trying to both stop the passage of abortion legislation in a range of states.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Fight this, fight this, and let the legislators know that we will not stand for this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The choice of when and whether to have a family is deeply personal.  It is not a decision that any politician should exert themselves into.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is my body.  This is my right.


MELBER:  Protests breaking out after Alabama passed a law to ban nearly all types of abortions in the entire state including potential jail time for doctors who perform the procedure.  Eight states have passed these types of restrictive laws just this year alone.  Many say it is an effort to get Roe v Wade overturned immediately by a Trump altered Supreme Court.

Now, Georgia is one of the states making it now illegal to receive an abortion once a heartbeat is detected.  Now, for an exclusive tonight, I am joined by DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston who is vowing not to prosecute anyone involved with abortions despite this new law in Georgia.  Good evening.  Thanks for joining me about this.


MELBER:  Your obligation is to enforce the laws.  Explain to us why you`re taking this position and also why you maintain that your view would be itself lawful.

BOSTON:  Well, I took an oath as District Attorney to uphold the law and that`s both state law and federal law.  And right now the Supreme Court under Roe vs. Wade has decided that we have a fundamental right to privacy.  And so as a district attorney, I believe it`s my obligation to make sure that I do not enforce the law in Georgia that I believe is unconstitutional under the United States Supreme Court.

MELBER:  Does that mean that your potential goal would be to create a sort of a potential legal safe haven in your jurisdiction in contrast to the rest of the state for this procedure?

BOSTON:  Well, obviously, I`m only the district attorney in DeKalb County so I can only speak for my jurisdiction.  But I want to continue to protect the citizens of DeKalb County.  And I believe that enforcing this law and ultimately prosecuting women, mothers, doctors, nurses or anyone that that aids in an abortion, I believe that the laws passed in Georgia is unconstitutional and very ambiguous and that I have an obligation to protect the citizens of my community.

MELBER:  I want to ask you a parsing question but I think it matters to people`s lives and I think our viewers will be interested in it so forgive me in advance.  But legally, are you taking the position then that unless and until the Supreme Court clearly upholds this new law you won`t enforce it or are you taking the position that even if the Supreme Court ultimately blessed this law, you would decline to use your prosecutorial power to ever enforce it?

BOSTON:  Well, I will say this.  As prosecutors we have discretion to make decisions about the laws that we prosecute.  For example, in Georgia, it`s still against the law to commit adultery.  And I`m certainly not spending my time prosecuting people for adultery.

I believe that my community has spoken and I believe that there are many crimes in my community that stand far and more important than what`s happening honestly in the bedrooms of DeKalb County residents.

As a woman and a mother, I have grave concerns about this type of law here in Georgia and everywhere.

MELBER:  It`s very interesting when you`re laying out -- I guess my final question, I`m curious, are you hearing reaction from this either pressure in government or public reaction?

BOSTON:  I`ve heard a lot of reaction for my community.  I`ve gotten emails and phone calls and tweets, and I can tell you overwhelmingly what I`m hearing from the women and men in my community is thank you for standing up, for speaking for being a voice, and for ultimately saying that I have no intent of putting people in jail and saddling them with felony convictions for seeking a medical procedure and choosing really how they want their families to be.

MELBER:  District Attorney Sherry Boston, very interesting.  Thank you for explaining your thinking to us tonight.

BOSTON:  Thank you.

MELBER:  I really appreciate it.  I want to tell our viewers, tomorrow Democrats will be holding this pivotal meeting on impeachment and pressure on Pelosi and we`ll get into one more thing when we come back.


MELBER:  There is a lot going on in Washington tomorrow and I will be there along with THE BEAT.  Speaker Pelosi holding a closed-door meeting with her entire Democratic caucus.  We`ve been told Democrats will be bringing up the impeachment debate, maybe pressuring her.  I`ll also be interviewing a key player in all of it, Intel Chairman Adam Schiff.  This part of the Center for American Progress ideas conference.  We`ll be asking him a lot of questions and I will bring you any news he makes on THE BEAT that night. 

Also in New York tomorrow, a federal judge hearing arguments about Trump`s attempt to prevent two major banks from releasing his financial records, a follow on the case that he lost already.

Now, that does it for THE BEAT tonight.  But don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.