Trump bails on meeting as Pelosi blasts him. TRANSCRIPT: 5/22/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Juanita Tolliver, Sheila Jackson Lee, David Corn, Neera Tanden

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  That`s it for tonight.  I will be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY but it`s "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER".  It`s good to have you in Washington, Ari.  Welcome.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  It`s great to be here, Chuck.  Thank you very much.  And good evening to everyone watching from home.  Here we are in Washington on a wild day that continues to reverberate right now.

Let`s begin with a number.  Three.  It took exactly three minutes for the president to storm out of a meeting with congressional leaders claiming he could not discuss infrastructure policy unless Congress halted its work overseeing the executive branch.

Democrats say Trump entered the room in full stunt mode, refusing to shake any hands and then turned his very angry departure into a chance to lash out in public going to the Rose Garden to release a live tweet storm, vowing to essentially shut down the government until Democrats finished their investigations.

Now, this clash is full of theater to be sure but it`s theater against a substantive backdrop.  Democrats holding a hastily called meeting this morning where Speaker Pelosi faced down party leaders asking her to begin an impeachment probe.

Pelosi trying to provide in rhetorical offense what they currently lack in action on the House floor, launching this accusation against the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Would you believe that it is important to follow the facts?  We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  A cover-up.  That is what Trump responded to during the three- minute meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Instead of walking in happily into a meeting, I walk into looking at people that have just said that I was doing a cover-up.  I don`t do cover-ups.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That is false.  What everyone thinks Congress should do or not do with the Mueller report, it is a very serious evidentiary document.  And it shows Donald Trump and his aides lying.

Sometimes in the form of felonies and obstruction like the cases of Manafort, Flynn, and Papadopoulos and sometimes in ways that were not charged like lies to cover-up the Russia dealings or Trump`s demand that his lawyer, Don McGahn, lie about Trump`s potentially illegal attempt to get Mueller fired.

Now, I mentioned that last line not as another example or just a fact check.  I mentioned it because it is part of the core of today`s clash and this Trump meltdown because it`s the White House`s defiance of lawful subpoenas for McGahn`s testimony that has Democrats pushing harder for an impeachment probe.

And that`s the context for what Trump did today, turning the Rose Garden into a kind of a theater for a one-man shoe reenactment of Donald Trump`s own greatest hits from his Twitter feed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I`m the most transparent president probably in the history of this country.  This investigation or whatever you want to call it with Bob Mueller, there was no collusion, there was no obstruction.

Jerry Nadler who has been an enemy of mine for many years.  This whole thing was a takedown attempt at the president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And then Trump quoted himself threatening Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  So I just wanted to let you know that I walked into the room and I told Senator Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, I want to do infrastructure.  I want to do it more than you want to do it.  I would be really good at that.  That`s what I do.

But you know what?  You cannot do it under these circumstances.  So get these phony investigations over with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Now, this was all orchestrated.  We can report that for you tonight because the podium was literally decorated with planned talking points.

So as to saying, the poster you see there have been floating around the White House for a while.  Trump also brought props and handouts which Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seized on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER:  It`s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the president`s part.  It was manned.  He went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And we should note, Donald Trump has, of course, previously threatened to also stop all work with Democrats if these investigations continue.  And then he did back down with previous threats.

It is Speaker Pelosi`s investigations and her comments that clearly so enraged Donald Trump and she may yet upset him again this new comment wrapping up today`s entire weird, unusual, angry clash.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  He just took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that.  In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Praying for him.  Now, if Speaker Pelosi`s words got Trump so livid, how will he take this news breaking late today as we come on air that after their clash, after all this drama I just showed you, a big victory for Pelosi`s strategy.

A judge ruling against Donald Trump and backing House Democrats` subpoena for Donald Trump`s bank records.  And let`s be clear tonight, unlike Don McGahn or Bill Barr, Trump has no power to stop banks from complying with these lawful subpoenas for his financial secrets.

Even for the Trump era, I got to tell you, this was quite a day in Washington.  If this day were a duet, the Pelosi Democrats sound like the musician Vick Mensa who famously crooned, oh, you mad, huh?  Oh, you mad, huh?

And Donald Trump sounds a bit like his favorite rapper on that same song, Kanye West, who plaintively responds to Mr. Mensa, there go another lawsuit, in court so much, man, I should have went to law school.

With me now, Heidi Przybyla, NBC News correspondent.  Eleanor Clift, Washington correspondent for "The Daily Beast".  And Juanita Tolliver, campaign director for the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Do you think Donald is feeling a little bit like Kanye and wanting more legal experience to deal with all this?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND:  I mean let`s be real, he has a full team ready to go.  I`m sure this decision will be appealed just like the previous one related to his accounting firm.

But this is ridiculous.  And I need us all to take a moment to lament the fact that our commander in chief is throwing temper tantrums that ultimately put Americans at peril.  American teammate promises too on the campaign trail to move forward.

MELBER:  Now, let me ask you.  Do you think this was a tantrum or as parents often say, a tanty?  Or do you think it was fake anger to distract?

TOLLIVER:  I think it was a little of both, right.  Like Pelosi`s words definitely hit a nerve with him.  We know how he feels about being called out in public.

But clearly it was planned, the podium, the handouts, everything.  He had no intention of walking into that meeting and discussing infrastructure today and that came through.

ELEANOR CLIFT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST:  Pelosi has an uncanny ability to get under Trump`s skin and he doesn`t know how to respond.  He hasn`t even come up with a nickname for her.

And I think what he did today, he really enforced this, her strategy.  She can tick off a number of wins that the Democrats are getting by moving methodically through the courts.

And the president, as you said, he does not have control over the -- well, he does have control over some of the courts but not the ones that are going to be deciding here.  And the fact that it was a set-up job, saying that the Mueller probe costs $35 million.  In fact, it was $25 million and the Treasury actually made a profit because of all of Paul Manafort`s surrendered assets.

So I think the president really is on a losing course here.  And I think Pelosi`s strategy has been bolstered at a time when she was really under some stress from members of her caucus.  And she makes the point often that the unity of the Democratic Caucus is her leverage.

And so keeping everybody together, it`s been -- she`s done a masterful job.  And she ticked off today at Center for American Progress Ideas` meeting, all of the wins that each of the six committee chairmen have gotten.

They haven`t made the headlines and it`s to her eternal frustration that the Democrats have actually passed legislation having to do with the problems in this country from drug prices to gun violence.  And she did blame the press a little bit saying we are obsessed with when impeachment is going to start and we`re not paying attention to what`s happening.  And we should be putting pressure --

MELBER:  Do you feel --

CLIFT:  -- on Mitch McConnell.

MELBER:  Do you feel obsessed?

CLIFT:  I feel obsessed about pretty much everything these days.

TOLLIVER:  Very Mariah Carey.

CLIFT:  But I think it`s -- she said it is fine to internally strategize.  But the Democrats need outside mobilization and they need to put the spotlight and the heat on Mitch McConnell who is the one man he calls himself the grim reaper.

He is blocking all of this legislation.  So it would be nice to pay a little attention to that as well.

HIEDI PRZYBYLA, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  This is going to play into her strategy because just hours before that, there is a real disagreement and a growing number of Democrats, it`s not just Progressives, Ari.  If you paid attention to what the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said a couple of days ago, he was also sounding like he was ready to go to the impeachment inquiry lane as well.

And this morning, the members laid out their arguments on both sides.  And then you had the tantrum and you had these two court rulings because this was the second court ruling this week that was in favor of Democrats strategy.

She`s been saying this past of couple weeks to these restless Democrats, please, will you please wait and let the court process work its will and we will have victories.  And the Democrats who have been restive about this have that, no, we can`t wait, that`s going to take years.

Well, we`re seeing now that actually some of these are moving pretty quickly.  And so I think she`s able to hold the line in terms of the defections growing to a critical mass at this point.

And as far as the tantrum goes, well, he`s now written his name on whatever lack of progress there is on legislative goals.  But to your point in the opener, this was all choreographed.

And it was not just choreographed from this morning when the president went off in a tweetstorm.  It has been actually choreographed from a couple of days ago when the president himself said that infrastructure was not his priority.  He was really frustrated by the fact that he himself couldn`t find out how to pay for his own plan and that he wanted to focus on NAFTA.

So like Nancy Pelosi said, he was looking for some kind of an out on infrastructure and this was convenient timing as well.

MELBER:  Yes.  And you know how they say like no spoilers.  So no spoilers for the rest of the Trump era however long it last but he doesn`t have that many moves.  And I`m going to take my ball and go home and not do anything.

Or if you want to put it substantively, take the governing process hostage and hurt the American people and the citizens and everyone who relies on the government to do certain things.  Is one of his moves that he tries out and folds on?  Take a look at him right after the election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Do you expect that when the Democrats take over the chairmanship of all these important committees, you`re going to get hit with a blizzard of subpoenas on everything from the Russian investigation to your cell phone use to your tax returns?

TRUMP:  Then you`re going to -- if that happens, then we`re going to do the same thing and government comes to a halt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Government comes to a halt.

TOLLIVER:  And this is something that we`ve seen Senate Republicans already have a strong negative reaction to.  Senator Graham was saying, we need leadership, the country needs leadership right now.

And so they`re really trying to send that signal to Trump, don`t do this.  You`re going to throw everybody under the bus right now.  And honestly, this could be a pivot point where you see Senate Republicans come out against him even further.

PRZYBYLA:  The timing also.  I`m sorry, it`s just ironic.  We`re talking about another spending knock down drag out fight that`s going to have to be resolved by September.

And, of course, the parallel here is the shutdown previously which the president also said I`ll take responsibility for the shutdown and that didn`t work out too well.  So here we are in another scenario where they actually need to talk and work together in order to keep the government together.

TOLLIVER: (CROSSTALK) America`s loss.

CLIFT:  It is obvious, he`s the one who is the obstructer now.

TOLLIVER:  Yes.

CLIFT:  He just took ownership.

MELBER:  You see him as the obstructer.  And also, I wonder if this cuts against one of the conventional wisdom -- articles of conventional wisdom we hear so much in this town which is oh, you`ve got to get people down to the table.  And the "good old days" when everyone hung out together.

And I think there is room for that when both sides want to operate in good faith and that is a great thing with that as a prerequisite.  When you don`t have good faith, going to the table is not only a waste of time because it was a lot more than three minutes to get there and do this and leave.

But it also would seem to undercut the substance.  Reading from the "New York Times" coverage for your analysis, Eleanor, they said Pelosi and Schumer arrive at the White House.  Trump was loaded for bear, walks in the cabinet room, did not shake anyone`s hand or sit down which is always a sign that your meeting is starting weird.

CLIFT:  I don`t think he had a chair.

TOLLIVER:  Yes, he didn`t have a chair.

MELBER:  After just three minutes, he left the room before anyone else could speak.  At what point does that validate the arguments of whatever you want to call it, Progressives, Hardliners, et cetera who say no, he doesn`t get free meetings, you don`t go sit around with Trump and be effectively a prop for his tanty.

CLIFT:  I remember there was a lot of pressure on President Obama to go make nice with Mitch McConnell.  And he said, half-jokingly, at the White House correspondence dinner, getting all this advice, I should have drinks or dinner or play golf with Mitch McConnell.  He said, "Why don`t you try that?"

MELBER:  You have a beer with McConnell.

CLIFT:  Right, exactly.  Exactly.  And, you know, I just -- the personal relationship with Trump can work with Schumer and Nancy.

I mean he calls it Chuck and Nancy.  He can get along with them.  He didn`t have a way to pay for $2 trillion infrastructure package.  They don`t have any serious legislation in this White House.  They don`t have any of the normal government operations.  So --

MELBER:  And what`s -- by the way, I don`t mean to be unserious, we have a lot of serious stuff in this show.  But what is the deal with infrastructure like always being seen like who`s seeing pulp fiction?  Is infrastructure the light-filled briefcase?  It means whatever it wants to mean?

TOLLIVER:  It shines on you.  You never see it but you know it`s there.

MELBER:  And you leave whenever you want because you never get to see inside it.

TOLLIVER:  Exactly.

MELBER:  At what point do you stop going to infrastructure meetings?

CLIFT:  Well, it is like plastics back in the day of the graduate.

MELBER:  The graduate.

TOLLIVER:  A new job in plastics.

CLIFT:  Everybody wants infrastructure improvement.  Everybody sits in their car frustrated.  People worry that bridges collapsing.

It is a popular and much-needed issue.  And if you travel to Beijing or you travel to where supposedly third world countries and their airports are better than ours.  You understand this disparity that is really --

MELBER:  Well, everybody wants to find their purpose but that took Dustin Hoffman some time.

CLIFT:  That`s true.  The Democrats would like to find their purpose sooner with government money that would fund jobs.  And Trump would like to have partnerships with his buddies in the real estate world.  So it`s two different approaches.

PRZYBYLA:  The problem is that the history of transformative infrastructure projects in this country like the inner state highway system under Eisenhower, they`ve all had a federal spending nucleus.  This president and his handlers are fundamentally and philosophically opposed to that.

And by the way, all the money has already been spent at wars and tax cuts.  And so they don`t have anything that they can offer.  They just don`t.

TOLLIVER:  And he is really shooting himself -- yes, yes.

MELBER:  Let me fit in a break where you get to stay.  Heidi, thank you for being part of our A block and our reporting tonight.  Appreciate it.  Juanita Tolliver, as I mentioned, stay.  So we`ll come back to you.  I got to fit in a break.

But coming up, Donald Trump losing this subpoena fight for his Deutsche bank files.  Let me explain what that means.

New York State with a new law out today to get part of Donald Trump`s tax returns.  And new reporting from inside that room where Pelosi faced down her own caucus members demanding an impeachment probe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  He`s engaged in a cover-up and that could be an impeachable offense.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MELBER:  That`s not all.  I`m in Washington because I sat down with the head of the Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff and he made some news, including I want to talk to Bob Mueller`s old boss and Trump`s attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  I hesitate to call him the attorney general.  He is really more the personal attorney of the president.  Bill Barr has all the duplicity of Rudy Giuliani without the good looks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  We`ll explain the context for that one and a lot more when we come back.  I`m Ari Melber.  You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Let me put it like this, it`s not every day the speaker of the House privately meets with the majority of the members of the House to debate impeaching the president.  But that is how Speaker Pelosi began her day today in response to what began as private and then was increasingly public lobbying by at least some Democrats for an impeachment probe saying that`s the best way to confront increasing White House stonewalling.

Now, today, some Democrats clashed with Pelosi.  Sources tell NBC News that while the speaker reportedly used the time largely to let her members make their case, her office also released these principles.  Follow the facts, no one is above the law, and the one that apparently upset the president, accusing him of the most significant cover-up in modern history.

Now, what was the debate in the room like?  We don`t know.  It was obviously off the record.

But there are clues leaking out.  One member saying that having an impeachment inquiry doesn`t change a darn thing.  Pelosi responding, nothing.

Another member reportedly openly talking politics.  Speculating that if they do impeach, that would make it harder, not easier, to beat the president.

Now, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee serves in the Judiciary Committee and today, she launched this resolution which we have here, brand new, authorizing the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise impeachment power.

Congresswoman, thank you for joining me on a busy evening.  What does this mean and how is it different from a formal impeachment probe?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  First of all, let me say that it is extremely healthy that people who represent the people of the United States of America engage in a very important debate and discussion on the question of the rule of law and the Constitution.

I`ve dug deep into the House rules, the manual of practice, and certain provisions allow certain types of resolution.  This is a resolution of investigation which the language says that the House instructs the Judiciary Committee to investigate to determine if it should utilize its powers of Article I, Section II, Clause five.

So it triggers.  It is a two-step which I think brings all thought processes together.  But the importance of it is this.  It gives the imperator of the seriousness of the purpose.

It has the House vote on the question of investigation.  And since 1900, the Congress has entrusted the Judiciary Committee to do its investigations.  This does not preclude any other committee from continuing its investigation.

And further, the successes that we recently had in the court decisions, which we know the president is going to appeal. it gives greater strength now in parallel to the court decisions, the individuals receiving the subpoenas and the calls to testify know that the House of Representatives has directed the Judiciary Committee to do this work.

MELBER:  So this is less than a full impeachment probe.  Although as you say, it could lead to or trigger that.  Did you run this by the speaker in advance?  Did you get her blessing?

LEE:  The good news is that the speaker respects all members and we use a deliberative process.  Certainly, we have provided her with the information about the resolution.

That is both protocol and respect and I respect the speaker and I respect leadership.  And so we provided them with that information.

MELBER:  And I respect that and I respect what you`re saying.  I guess what I`m asking respectfully is, can you tell us, is this something where you and the speaker are in sync?  I want to give you a chance to respond to some of the reaction to this which some people are saying, oh, is this Speaker Pelosi`s way to offer something less than the full impeachment probe which, as you know, was at issue this morning?

LEE:  We`re not in sync and it is not something less than.  It is just a two-step.  And it does not preclude someone`s inspiration on their own viewpoint.  But I think that it speaks to the enormity of this House and Congress.

We don`t know whether there`s any Republican member that would join the idea of investigation.  We have not coordinated this.

She has only received information out of respect, we have not had any coordination because I think that she respects members` deliberative thought to come out with ideas that would work.  This will work.  This is a resolution of investigation.

MELBER:  Let me run something else by you because as mentioned, you`re on this very pivotal committee right now.  This was a colleague of yours estimating how many of you and your members are for an impeachment probe in our discussion last night.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE COHEN:  The Judiciary committee as a whole is for at least an inquiry of impeachment.  That`s an 80, 90 percent of the committee is on board to go forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Is that right?

LEE:  That`s probably true.  And the resolution of investigation does not negate that but it provides a two-step process so that if this were to go to the floor, there would be members who have different political perspectives than I would have who would be willing to say, you`re right, a resolution of investigation with the strength of the House of Representative, both voting for it and directing the Judiciary Committee, I can support that.

And then we make the Determination which will ultimately, as you well know, the articles of impeachment are the prerogative of the House floor to vote on.  We act as a sitting indictment committee, meaning the Judiciary Committee.

But the language of the resolution begins by saying, it instructs the Judiciary Committee to investigate by way of the House of Representatives to determine if we are utilizing our powers of Article I, Section II, Clause five.  That is, of course, another constitutional policy.

MELBER:  I have about 30 seconds.  I want to get out one other thing.  So we just did the Constitution.

I`m just curious, as a member of the Congress, what was your view of the way the president acted and treated your Speaker Pelosi in that putative infrastructure meeting that was not today?

LEE:  Historic moment that I`ve never seen in the last five decades.  If you read your history books, let`s put it that way.  Certainly, have not seen in the last two presidencies.

It is unacceptable because all of us are in rooms with people that we vigorously disagree with.  But we continue the discussion and infrastructure is a lifeline of America, both in terms of the energy of the economy.

As you well know, Eric Ford has laid off 7,000 persons.  Some people who are just shy of retirement.  And an infrastructure bill might put an infusion of energy into the economy and help save jobs.

But you don`t mix apples and oranges.  The investigation is one.  And I`m sure Speaker Pelosi would be willing to discuss with him the investigation, her position on that, that an investigation should go forward and he can offer his perspective.

But that kind of behavior, and that kind of disrespect, if you will, to an equal branch of government, or maybe one that`s more equal, article one, our Congress which has the task of representing the American people no matter who they are, Republicans, Democrats, Independents.

And then, on the other hand, the executives who we should acknowledge and respect.  But that has to be a two-way street.  And I`m saddened by what happened today because we are doing what the Mueller report provided, Volume I and Volume II.

Volume II said I have nine matters that may be obstruction, I am leaving it to the Congress.  We have no other task and no other way but to proceed with the investigation.  And I encourage members to look at the resolution of the investigation it does provide the opportunity to investigate and to move to the next step.

MELBER:  I want to get you on that as well.  Congresswoman Jackson, thank you so much.

Still ahead, I turn to my new interview with Adam Schiff on Bill Barr and many other related issues.  But first, in 30 seconds, a federal judge rejecting Trump`s efforts to keep financial records secret.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  That other news rattling the Trump White House tonight, a federal judge issuing a ruling backing the Democrat subpoena for Donald Trump`s banking records, rejecting his effort to halt it.  So unless a higher court steps in, this means Trump is getting crushed on multiple fronts.

Judicially, this is the second straight court law for Trump`s effort to defy subpoenas.  Legislatively, New York State lawmakers passing a new bill today requiring Congress to get his state returns upon request.

And then there`s the executive branch which Donald Trump runs but doesn`t completely control within our system of government.  Well, it turns out, the experts at the IRS contradict the administration`s claim that the Treasury secretary can just ignore congressional requests for tax returns which was a hot topic at his hearing today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Did you discuss the memorandum with anybody inside the White House, outside the White House?  I`m referring to legal counsel.  I`m referring to lawyers.  I`m referring to advisers.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY:  Well, let me be clear.  The only person I`ve discussed that memo with is my general counsel on the car ride over here who is sitting behind me.

REP. JENNIFER WAXTON (D-VI):  You are at least aware that the conclusion of that memo directly contradicts the conclusion that you`re relying upon?

MNUCHIN:  No, I actually don`t believe that`s the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me to discuss, David Corn from Mother Jones and Eleanor Clift back with me.  What does this mean?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES:  Well, the big picture here, I don`t know what the rap terminology would be, Ari.

MELBER:  Comas would be the rap term.

CORN:  But the circle is closing in on Trump on multiple fronts.  He likes to say, again and again, I`m the most transparent president ever.  Well, he`s actually the least transparent president ever, goes back to not releasing the tax returns, and he has. We heard about this before the election, couldn`t make it a big issue.  $300 million in loans to Deutsche Bank, a foreign institution that`s been in trouble for you know, not quite money laundering but doing funny things with Russian money and up against U.S. regulators.

MELBER:  And not funny, ha-ha.

CORN:  Not funny, ha-ha.  And so the conflict of interest there is gigantic.  And so whether it`s looking at Deutsche Bank, looking at his taxes, he has 552 LLCs limited liability corporations on financial disclosure form.  We know nothing about any of them.  I mean, we don`t know --  we know very little about his finances overall and how he supported himself, and even now because he hasn`t given up the Trump Organization with money from overseas.  And so --

MELBER:  And you wonder why they`re looking at Steve Mnuchin today who is supposed to worry about the financial system writ large and everyone`s 401(k)s and the Stock Market and the financing and the monetary policy to some degree, looking at him today looking like the only thing he needs to do is defend Donald Trump`s personal interest, the tax returns.  This is in the hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALMA ADAMS (D-NC):  So do you think the American people have a right to know what`s in those tax reform -- tax forms.

MNUCHIN:  No, I don`t.

ADAMS:  Do you know what he`s hiding?  I mean, he didn`t want anybody to seem them, certainly not --

MNUCHIN:  I don`t think he`s hiding anything but --

ADAMS:  OK, so you don`t know.

MNUCHIN:  I don`t know anything about his tax rate.

ADAMS:  All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CORN:  Well, he is hiding something.  He`s hiding his tax returns every major presidential candidate has put it out.  We have the tax returns for the Clintons because they both ran at different points in time, I think going back to the 1970s in the public record.  He keeps saying that he`s been audited.  Well, then, give us the taxes from ten years ago.  Oh, but you can because the New York Times did a story showing that his whole family avoided taxes to the tune of $400 million.

I mean, Mnuchin -- eventually this is going to hit a wall, right.  This would go through the court system and a judge will decide whether this phony argument of the White House that you can`t ask for this stuff is real or not.  And they will order -- probably order Mnuchin or they are IRS director to produce the tax returns.

MELBER:  Well, and you say --

CORN:  And what happens if they say no?

MELBER:  You -- yes, you -- well, it depends how many sources there are because you can also go to the outside auditors and these other mechanisms.  I mean, Eleanor, David says it`s going to hit a wall.  And one of the beautiful things in our system I believe is that wall is parchment and the Founders gave this a lot of thought, and that`s why there is more than one branch.

And we heard today from several members of Congress who said Bill Barr is starting to cooperate more a little bit with the Intelligence Committee and Donald Trump is clearly having his own version of reaction that the multiple third branch, judicial branch rulings enforcing the subpoenas is putting heat on the Trump administration.

ELEANOR CLIFT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST:  Well, I think these cabinet officials plus the individuals on the outside who no longer work for the government at some point their own self-interest is going to come into play.  I`m not saying they`re all going to do a Michael Cohen and flip but I think they`re not going to stand undivided in protecting this man.

Now, I want to go back to what Congresswoman Lee said.  She is suggesting that there is going to be a floor vote in the House.  That would be partisan lines, maybe Justin Amash should get one Republican.  And this is political war.  The country is so divided and you cannot wage war in a democracy if you do not have public support.

And these court rulings, this step-by-step squeezing of the administration is going to explain to the American people what is wrong with this president and why he should not be in office.  I don`t -- that may take into 2020, I don`t know, but I think that step-by-step approach is what Nancy Pelosi is advocating and I think it`s beginning to pay off.

And I`m so looking forward to understanding why he didn`t want us to see his tax returns.  I`d like to also know how much money he personally made because of the tax cuts that he pushed through.  I mean, there are wonderful little pieces of information here that can be politicized and weaponized I have to argue --

MELBER:  There are millions of little pieces, perhaps.

CLIFT:  Right, exactly.

MELBER:  If not -- if not, a billion.  It depends who you believe.  Eleanor Clift and David Corn, thanks to both of you.  And David tweets about this every day, right?

CORN:  Almost -- yes.

MELBER:  Almost every day.

CORN:  Not on the weekends.

MELBER:  Every weekday.  It would be good to see the tax returns.  When we come back, we go in a different direction, looking at the echoes of the Nixon era in some of Donald Trump`s threats, and my interview with Intel Chair Adam Schiff, news on Bill Barr and whether Rod Rosenstein will testify and why that already made headlines.  We`ll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  For all the stonewalling, delaying, and outright defiance of subpoenas by the Trump White House against this Congress, this morning actually began with take a look, an unusual headline.  Bill Barr`s DOJ saying it agrees to share some Mueller evidence with the House Intelligence Committee.

The New York Times noting that DOJ responding to that subpoena is a sharp contrast to their clash with Democrats on other committees like Judiciary.  So that apparent breakthrough came after pressure from Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff making him quite the newsmaker today.

And Schiff actually opened up about those negotiations and a lot more when I interviewed him this morning at the Center for American Progress annual conference.  He also unloaded on Mr. Barr right out of the gate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  I hesitate to call him the attorney general.  He`s really more the personal attorney for the president.  But you see the argument --

MELBER:  What do you mean by that?  You don`t think he deserves the title anymore?

SCHIFF:  No.  I think -- I think Bill Barr -- bill Barr has all the duplicity of Rudy Giuliani without the good looks and a general likeability of Rudy Giuliani.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I`m joined by the Center for American Progress` Juanita Tolliver.  What did you think of that rather -- for Schiff very strong language about Barr?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND:  Very strong but very clear.  He doesn`t think he deserves the AG title because Barr has demonstrated he plays for an audience of one who was Trump.  We saw that in the congressional testimony he`s offered, we saw that in his summary of the Mueller report which Mueller`s team says he mischaracterized.  So the evidence is there.

MELBER:  Yes.  And it`s interesting because he is actually doubling down on that heat while getting a concession that judiciary hasn`t gotten yet.

TOLLIVER:  Got a concession but only after a court ruled in favor of Democrats.  We saw that with Trump`s accounting firm where the judge ruled that they must release Trump`s financial records.  So I think Barr saw a signal there and knew he needs to give in a little bit.

MELBER:  Yes.  You make a great point that it`s actually in his own self- interest if he doesn`t want to get a worse loss in public.  There`s something else I want to ask you about is I discussed the whole rod Rosenstein saga with Congressman Schiff.  Now, I`m not just mentioning this because I interviewed Schiff, it`s actually made news already as you right -- see here on the screen.

These are some of the headlines that came out of what Adam Schiff told me here about making Rosenstein potentially testify.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF:  You know, I think James Comey came probably very close to the accurate critique of Rod Rosenstein.  He just wasn`t strong enough.  And you know, someone made the observation and I don`t recall who the writer was that power doesn`t corrupt, it reveals.  It reveals who you are.  And I think for Bill Barr it has revealed who Bill Barr is.  I think for Rod Rosenstein, it has revealed who Rod Rosenstein is.  And I think Rob simply wanted his job too much and was willing to make too many accommodations to give -- to keep that job.

MELBER:  Do you think the Congress should call or subpoena Mr. Rosenstein to further explain that very controversial memo which is the origin of the Mueller probe in a way?

SCHIFF:  I think he should be brought before both the Judiciary Committee as well as our own committee and we are taking steps along that regard.

MELBER:  Well, now, I have to ask, what are those steps?  Have you -- are you telling us today that you have requested Rosenstein testify to the House Intelligence Committee?

SCHIFF:  I`m not prepared to comment --

MELBER:  Would it be reasonable to infer you`ve already requested a voluntary interview with Mr. Rosenstein.

SCHIFF:  This does feel like a deposition.  You know, it would be more than reasonable to infer that I think it`s fully appropriate for him to come and testify before Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I`m sorry that it felt like a depo.

TOLLIVER:  Way too harsh, Ari.  I mean --

MELBER:  The headlines we showed were the bottom line of what we want to give viewers the full context but not just us but reporters have inferred from that, that yes, for the first time he`s confirming they want to get Rosenstein testifying.  Why would that matter?

TOLLIVER:  Chairman Schiff was very clear about the fact that they`re taking steps because they want to dig into a couple of things around his role in writing the memo that resulted in Comey`s firing, what he knew at the time he wrote it.

I think even looking back to his change in cooperation when it was a Republican-led House, and now Democratic-led House when he previously released over 800,000 documents.  So there`s a lot to dig into.

MELBER:  I want to turn to another issue that you know, some people say oh, never compare anything because it`s a new era.  I think it`s the opposite because part of my job which I try to do is not just fold and normalize.

 So if another president say Barack Obama was confirmed to in the New York Times be considering pardoning convicted war criminals charged with murder, convicted of war crimes, convicted of -- and I`ve said this on our show before I`ll say it again, of "urinating on the deceased bodies of other soldiers."  I don`t think it would be a side story or a mentionable.  I think it would be one of the biggest scandals for weeks.  I think there`ll be whole committees opened up just in looking at that. 

And so with that in mind, obviously the Congressman discuss a lot of issues, I also pressed him on this report that we`ve been covering on our show, and this was his response to those potential pardons for war crimes.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHIFF:  The damage it would do I think would be incalculable.  this is basically a President`s message about everything.  If you say nice things about me, if you have my back, I will have yours.  The law be damned.  And it is just part and parcel of the most serious attack on the rule of law and our democracy certainly in my lifetime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOLLIVER:  Look, one thing that Representative Schiff made very clear here was that there are limitations to the President`s power to pardon.  He does not willed that without any type of course correction.  And I think Representative Schiff has already introduced legislation to try to reel that in.  But there are only a few boundaries that they can set.

It`s still very troubling that the president operates in this way of have my back, I have yours.  It`s a signal that he sends out numerous times so it`s good that they`re on top of that.

MELBER:  It is not normal to have a president looking at by a Memorial Day deadline pardoning convicted war criminals without a review, without any sort of process that might say, here`s one that maybe we got wrong, but just know he wants to do it because as we reported, as Daily Beast reported, the Fox News hosts have been telling him to.  Juanita, great to have you.

TOLLIVER:  Always great.  Always great.

MELBER:  (INAUDIBLE) the show.  Good to see you.

TOLLIVER:  Yes, thanks for having me.

MELBER:  Up ahead, Speaker Pelosi accusing Donald Trump of this cover-up and this epic face to face clash, and then she sat down to explain it all for an exclusive interview with my next guest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  This president is obstructing justice and he`s engaged in a cover-up and that could be an impeachable offense, the cover- up is frequently worse than the crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Today, Speaker Pelosi enraging President Trump accusing him of that cover-up, doubling down at the Center for American Progress during an interview with the organization`s CEO former Obama and Clinton official Neera Tanden who joins me live right now after a big day.  Thanks for being here.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Yes, that`s right.  Yes, lots of news.

MELBER:  Did you know when you scheduled this that Speaker Pelosi would be leaving a three-minute meeting at the White House that some have called a (INAUDIBLE) meeting to address your conference.

TANDEN:  No, we scheduled this actually months ago with her.  So I want to send my personal thanks to Donald Trump for having a tantrum that engendered a lot of news and interest in the Center for American Progress which it isn`t generally what his focus is, so I`m grateful.

MELBER:  What do you think was important about that that you learned from her today?

TANDEN:  I think that the most important thing I think is you know, there`s a big debate around impeachment and how they proceed.  I think it`s important that she -- I mean she really talked about the offenses he`s had and how they could be impeachable offenses.

What I thought was also really interesting is she really walked through the jurisdiction of all the committees and where those cases are.  And it`s trying to lay -- I think you know, what she`s really trying to tell people is she`s depending on the rule of law to work for these courts to actually force the hand of the president.

MELBER:  People know you from CAP.  You served in the Clinton and Obama administration, you have a lot of experience.  The Barack Obama administration was relentlessly investigated on some issues that involve serious things.  There were people who lost their lives in Benghazi and other issues that turned out to be nothing like allegations that the IRS was targeting people.

I covered that and turned out, in the end, they weren`t.  And Barack Obama never took the position that the people`s business or governance would have to stop even though some of those did prove unfounded.  Here`s what Speaker Pelosi said to you about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI:  He came into the room and said that I said that he was engaged in a cover-up and it couldn`t possibly -- couldn`t possibly engage in a conversation or an infrastructure as long as -- as long as we are investigating him.  Now, we`ve been investigating him since we took majority so this is nothing new in that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That`s how she put it and for your analysis, we did check and even during the darkest days of Richard Nixon will show the legislation that actually did happen.  Some of it that would be considered even senator left today protecting endangered species.  They worked on the budget, bipartisan, the War Powers Resolution which was a reaction to the overreach of Vietnam.  What`s your analysis of how that applies?

TANDEN:  You know, what I thought was fascinating about the President`s response was I actually served in the Clinton administration during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment.  And if you remember, Bill Clinton was famous for trying to compartmentalize.

And what that really meant was he was trying to do the work of the people, working on childcare, working on patient`s Bill of Rights, a whole range of issues.  His goal was actually to communicate to the people, the opposite of what Trump is saying.

His goal was to say despite these investigations of me, I am still your president, I`m still focused on your problems.  And if you remember that kept his approval ratings up during all of the scandal.

MELBER:  And before I let you go, what do you think`s the most important thing then for Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to legislate before this next election?

TANDEN:  So I think the most important thing is Donald Trump is communicating to the American people that he doesn`t care about the public issues.  I think he`s actually going to weaken his hand on the impeachment issue because he doesn`t -- there`s nothing else he`s going to get to.  There was nothing he`s really focused on instead on himself.

MELBER:  And what should they pass?

TANDEN:  And I think the most important thing for her is to continue the oversight because Donald Trump is demonstrating that it is getting to him, that he`s worried about his poll numbers, that he`s worried about public approval collapsing.  She has the upper hand and leverage.  And I have to say in my interview with her right after this event, she really felt like she had the upper hand against Donald Trump.

MELBER:  Yes.  It was striking and I saw more than one news channel to say nothing of Twitter keeping a close eye on what was her first remarks after (INAUDIBLE) I think is what it`s called now which happened to be your comment.  So whether that was great scheduling or luck, as we say, a very interesting --

TANDEN:  It was all a master plan.  I`m sorry, did I not say that earlier?  It was all a master plan.

MELBER:  Neera Tanden, always great to talk to you.  thanks for being here.  Up ahead, we have one more news that you may not have heard about.  A new charge against attorney Michael Avenatti relating to Stormy Daniels when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  One more piece of news we wanted to report for you tonight.  Federal prosecutors in New York filing brand-new charges against attorney Michael Avenatti.  They claim that he stole almost $300,000 from his former client Stormy Daniels and that Avenatti was suing "fraudulent documents to divert earnings from Daniel`s own book deal into his bank account.  Avenatti has now been accused of more than three dozen crimes.  He has denied all of these charges.

Now, that does it from me.  I will see you back here tomorrow night 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  But don`t go anywhere.  "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

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