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Nancy Pelosi: we want to see Trump "in prison." TRANSCRIPT: 6/6.19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Juanita Tolliver, Margaret Carlson, Jason Johnson, Mike Lupica, TomColeman, Michael Wolff


Good evening to you, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Steve.  Thank you very much.  We have a special show tonight, including the Republican civil war.  Trump attacking his own party over tariffs.  And a top conservative says the party is now effectively a Trump "cult."

And then the story that has every Muellerologist (ph) is fascinating right now.  These new secret memos from inside the Mueller probe which allegedly go into all kinds of details.  It`s all part of a clear indictment of Trump world from the pretty famous author, Michael Wolff.  I have a lot of questions about this and I`m going to put them to him as he makes his first ever appearance on THE BEAT.  That`s in tonight show.

And also later tonight, I want to tell you, I have a special report for you that we have been working on.  This is about a brand new story that relates to Trump`s immigration policy turmoil.

It involves the President`s recurring nightmare, which involves Never Trumpers, it also involves Ted Cruz, and it also involves some pretty bad news for Mitch McConnell.  And I can tell you honestly, we don`t think you`ll see that story anywhere else.  That`s tonight as well later in the hour.

But we begin with the House Democrats on offense hitting hard against the Trump teams effort of what they call stonewalling these open obstruction probes.  Plus, the new release of a voicemail that reveals Donald Trump`s own lawyer, criminal defense lawyer trying to get a heads up on whether Michael Flynn had "evidence" that would implicate the President.

Now, Democrats are pressing ahead on their aggressive plans in all of this as they face what they call a stonewalling because they`re going to hold Attorney General Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn in contempt.

And that`s not all.  There`s this new report here that they`re going to grant other committee chairs the power to go to federal court to enforce any subpoenas.  That could be the Mueller report, it could be evidence from Barr, it could be future subpoenas.

So it`s another way that we`re seeing the escalation of this inner branch war even as the larger question over whether the impeachment questions, the impeachment debate winding up or winding down.

Now, here`s a clip, also new, Speaker Pelosi, she`s dialing up her rhetoric telling senior Democrats that while she may not be for impeachment now, she wants to see Donald Trump in prison.

Pelosi showing that it was unlikely that impeachment is coming any time soon, she is the House speaker, she controls whether that would become real, she wants Democrats to focus on some sort of longer term alternative.  You have the Justice Department policy that you cannot indict a sitting president, we`ve heard a lot about that and it`s also being contested.  2020 Dems are running against that.

And then separate from whether they repeal that policy, if a Democrat does defeat Trump, what you have here is the speaker of the House openly suggesting that after his presidency, maybe he should be prosecuted, maybe he should be jailed.  That is tough talk.

Trump responding in kind on a Fox News interview.  This was part of the at war cemetery discussion, part of the Normandy 75th that we`ve been covering today.  Take a look at this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Nancy Pelosi, I call her nervous Nancy.  Nancy Pelosi doesn`t talk about it.  Nancy Pelosi is a disaster, OK.  She`s a disaster.  And let her do what she wants.  You know what, I think they`re in big trouble.


MELBER:  Of course, if the Democrats are in big trouble, that raises the question of why the Trump administration, the White House are stonewalling in the first place.  Why not just get this over with and provide the witnesses?

Now, in the Mueller report, you have evidence of potential parts of obstruction.  And you have, as we`ve reported previously, the discussion of what Trump`s lawyer said when dealing with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn`s lawyer.

Now, this was in a very stressful hot time.  November 2017, reports were out that Flynn was going to leave his joint defense agreement and make a deal with Mueller.  And today for the very first time, that voicemail is out.

Now, we knew about this because it`s part of Mueller`s evidence.  Now you can hear it for the very first time.


JOHN DOWD, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER:  Hey, Rob, this is John again.  Maybe I`m sympathetic, I understand your situation, but let me see if I can`t state it in starker terms.  It wouldn`t surprise me if you`ve gone on to make a deal with the government.

If, on the other hand, there`s information that implicates the President, then we`ve got a national security issue.  We need some kind of heads up.  Remember what was always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and all that still remains.


MELBER:  I`m joined by the Center for American Progress Action Fund Juanita Tolliver, "Daily Beast" Margaret Carlson, and "The Root.Com" Jason Johnson.  Good evening to all of you.

Margaret, you`ve been covering a lot of these different characters over the years.  Rarely do you get that kind of private recording.  What do you read from it?  What do you hear in the atmosphere?  As I mentioned, we knew the outlines from the report.

MARGARET CARLSON, THE DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST:  We did but hearing it like that, it`s chilling.  It sounds like something that could be in the sopranos where you say, you know, you were our friend but you might not be our friend anymore and it would create a national security issue.

You know, the whole -- all of the times that the White House has tried to dangle favors, pardons, anything to keep people silent is a disgrace.  And now they`re doing it by ignoring subpoenas and forcing Democrats in this case.  And I don`t think they need to do it through impeachment.

I think the tools that Democrats need are available to them by other means, through the Judiciary Committee, through Oversight Committees, to -- and to use the contempt method if they don`t -- if the subpoena -- if that`s how they have to enforce the subpoenas against people who are really not under Trump`s control anymore.

Don McGahn had his heroic moment as you`re reading the Mueller report.  And I assume he would testify, but he`s been intimidated by Trump into not testifying, the same with Hope Hicks.  So, we have to hope there`s a branch of government left.

The Senate is a-moral, not going to do anything.  Don`t count on them.  They`re never going to impeach.  But the judicial branch, there are judges who will still do the right thing.

MELBER:  Juanita, take a listen to Senator Warren.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA):  Donald Trump as president, delayed, deflected moved, fired and did everything he could to obstruct justice.  If he were any other person in the United States, based on what`s documented in that report, he would be carried out in handcuffs.


MELBER:  Is this the new Democratic message instead of them actually doing what one would do if you thought someone should be carried out in handcuffs, which is go forward with the congressional remedies?

Senator Warren is at least consistent because she has come out for impeachment.  If Nancy Pelosi believes this is criminal conduct justifying jail, then doesn`t it justify an impeachment probe?

JUANITA TOLLIVER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR:  Well, I think what Nancy Pelosi`s strategy here is ultimately, let`s be strategic, let`s get it right the first time, because once she`s opened that flood gate with impeachment proceedings, there is no taking it back.

And what Pelosi is fully aware of is that, sure, there might be success in the House but the Senate is a graveyard.  As we`ve seen, for any bit of positive legislation that House Democrats have put up, Mitch McConnell has made it very clear they`re all DOA.

The other thing about Senator Warren`s statement that really springs true is no one is above the law and that includes President Trump, even though he has obstruct --

MELBER:  So let me press you --


MELBER:  Let me press you on that, because you`re in Washington.  You`re dialed in.  I`m not saying cop is the same thing as Speaker Pelosi.  We`ll invite her on as well.  But as you --

TOLLIVER:  You definitely do that.

MELBER:  -- as you articulate some of the analysis and the rationale, doesn`t the counter argument become, is this the Democrats` version of lock her up?  I mean, there was a judicial legal process.  We`ve covered it extensively.  It did not result in an indictment, whether you like it or not.  The next step would be, does Congress want to deal with it.

And if the speaker doesn`t want to go that route, she has every right to explain that.  But if she doesn`t want to go that route and then she is making prisonesque, jailesque references, does she risk, I ask for your analysis, does she risk getting close to a lock her up kind of frame where you`re using the impugnique (ph) of criminal conduct without actually responsibly dealing with the evidence?

TOLLIVER:  Well, I think going back to what she said about whether of not she wants to deal with it, I think she is dealing with it.  I think she`s just not moving as quickly as some would want because she`s outlying that the premisism which -- in the conditions in which she would like to move forward is with, one, a lot more buy-in from the general public and awareness and, two, some bipartisan support.

So I think she`s dealing with it as they ramp up committee chairmen and women`s ability to file suits against people who -- and hold people into contempt of Congress who choose to not appear and abide by subpoenas.  So, it`s being handled.  It`s just not being handled in a way that I think with the urgency that a lot of people want to see.

MELBER:  Jason, do you see a risk here of this turning into lock him up?

JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT.COM POLITICS EDITOR:  Yes.  And it`s just as silly, Ari, as lock him up because it`s also a chant that they`re not willing to go through with.  Everybody knows that Donald Trump really wasn`t going to try and lock up Hillary Clinton.

And essentially what you have Nancy Pelosi saying is we have a monster here and you can use holy water and you can use garlic, but don`t use the silver bullet even that we got him in the chamber.  Literally in our chamber, the House chamber, we`re not going to use a silver bullet that`s out of disposal.


JOHNSON:  It doesn`t make any sense and it makes her leadership sound weak.  Look, I`m down here right now.  I just saw a speech by Maxine Waters.  She led the entire audience in a chant of impeach 45.  The base wants to see this process.

Nancy Pelosi is speaking against her own base and speaking against her own leadership at this point.  There is no strategy behind it.  It`s certainly not one that a lot of people are agreeing with.

MELBER:  Juanita, you want to get in?

TOLLIVER:  Yes.  I`m saying, she`s not -- she`s just saying, let`s not jump to that silver bullet yet.  There are still some foundations of things that need to happen here and so she`s just moving strategically.

JOHNSON:  No, no, that`s not strategic, because as what she said --

MELBER:  Jason and then Margaret.

JOHNSON:  -- we`re not going to -- yes, as she said, well, we can`t do it until the Senate happens and we can`t do it until we get the public involved.  Every single logical person who knows anything about history is saying, you can`t get the public involve until you begin impeachment proceedings.

We don`t have to go back and repeat the whole Nixon rule again.  You can`t get the public involved.  She is constantly moving the goalposts in ways that don`t make sense to anybody.  You can still impeach him without him being removed.  That`s the Senate problem.

And putting them on the line and making Republicans have to say during a -- right before an election year, this is why I want to keep a president who is engaging in possibly illegal activities in office, that`s the greatest campaign slogan you can have for 2020 and she`s denying that to this country.

CARLSON:  Hearings that are televised will get public buy-in.  The idea --

JOHNSON:  Exactly.

CARLSON:  But I think those hearings can be done, the Judiciary Committee hearings, Oversight Committee hearings.  Look what Trump did with the Mueller report.  He exonerated himself.  He had to help a William Barr who is -- you know, this is the part of the movie where you find out that the police captain is on the take.  So Barr did everything he could to help Trump make that case.

So the public or at least a portion of it, thinks that Trump was found innocent by the Mueller report.  He said no collusion and I was exonerated.  Imagine what he`ll do if the Senate relieves him of impeachment.  If it doesn`t convict him of impeachment, what he will do with that?

He will have been a martyr and he will be -- he will declare himself innocent.  And that will not help anybody.  If you know that you -- that adds -- I mean, it makes it worse for Democrats going into the election to have Trump have that in his pocket.

JOHNSON:  Yes, that`s not going to be in his pocket.  He`s going to say that no matter what.  Donald Trump has been caught doing all sorts of inappropriate activities and he will still exonerate himself.

And if you want to talk about the dirty police shift, here`s what we learned from all cop films, right, the departed.  If you take too long, the hero ends up dead, right, they end up dead at the end of the movie because they weren`t aggressive enough when they needed to be.

This doesn`t have to be about what Donald Trump is.  This is about what the constitutions of responsibilities are of the House.  What the responsibility -- what the constitutional responsibilities are of the Senate, this sort of tepid nonsense on the part of Democrat where we can`t do this because Trump is going to flip in another way.  Has no one been being paying attention to this guy for the last three years?  He will make up and lie.

MELBER:  I thought what we learned from the departed --

CARLSON:  So, Jason, if you know --

MELBER:  I thought in the departed we learned that if you have the top floor apartment in the best building in Massachusetts, it doesn`t make sense on a cop`s salary.

JOHNSON:  Right, exactly.

MELBER:  I`m going to go --

JOHNSON:  It`s that, too.

MELBER:  As moderator, I`m going to go Juanita and then Margaret and then we`re out of time.

TOLLIVER:  Yes.  I honestly think with all of the departed analogies aside, there is some value to the fact that the public needs to be brought in here.  And I`m talking about, sure, the echo chamber of Twitter is loud.  You got progressive folks on the left really pushing here.  But Pelosi sees the big picture and I think we got to stay at the course.

CARLSON:  So if you can fast forward and see that impeachment only emboldens Trump and makes him stronger, would you still be for impeachment?

JOHNSON:  It won`t do that, so I`m in favor.

CARLSON:  I`m asking my friend, Jason.

JOHNSON:  Yes, it`s not going to embolden him because he`s emboldened anyway, so you should go ahead with impeachment.

CARLSON:  There`s more emboldenment in him.  Look at him on D-Day, you know, taking after --

TOLLIVER:  Completely uncouth.

JOHNSON:  This is who the President is going to be.

TOLLIVER:  Completely uncouth.

MELBER:  Well, I`m going to fit it a break because we have so much in the show.  What I appreciate is such a fulsome no holds barred exchange of views with people having a very different ideas about what to do next on a central constitutional question.  So we listen and learn.  Margaret, Jason, Juanita, thanks to each of you.

TOLLIVER:  Thanks, Ari.

CARLSON:  Thank you.

MELBER:  I really appreciate it.

JOHNSON:  Thanks, Ari.

MELBER:  Interesting conversation.  Coming up, this moment of truth for Republicans opposing Trump on immigration.  John Boehner throwing shade.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But I want to talk to you about what`s happened with the Republican Party.

JOHN BOEHNER, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER:  There is no Republican Party.  There`s a Trump party.  The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.


MELBER:  Taking a nap.  And then as I mentioned, I have a special report for you tonight.  Donald Trump looking for an immigration of hardliner, why it could blow up in his and Mitch McConnell`s faces?

Then later, controversial reporting on this behind-the-scenes fights in the Mueller probe, Michael Wolff makes his first ever appearance on THE BEAT.  He has a new book.  He has controversy and he says he`s got secret Mueller memos.  All of that on the show tonight.  We`re looking forward to it when we come back.


MELBER:  President Trump moving ahead on his trade war and he says the critics that he`s gotten from this, including on the Republican side, are wrong.


TRUMP:  We`ve told Mexico, the tariffs go on and I mean it, too.  And I`m very happy with it.  And a lot of people, senators included, they have no idea what they`re talking about when it comes to tariffs.  They have no absolutely no idea.


MELBER:  No idea.  Donald Trump saying to everybody, look, you can`t really stop me.  The question is what the Republican Party does.  Now, we have evidence to look at.  What we have seen to be clear, whether you think it`s good or bad, is the decline of what was known as the Republican Party.  This is sort of a Trump party now or a MAGA party, one where people struggle to stand up to Trump.

Long time conservative icons like George Will call it a Trump cult.  Or take former House Speaker John Boehner, whatever you think of him, this is a man who knows the Republican Party intimately.  He dealt with the factions and the Tea Party.  And now he says, look, folks with Trump, there ain`t no Republican Party.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But I want to talk to you about what`s happened with the Republican Party.

BOEHNER:  There is no Republican Party.  There`s a Trump party.  The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.


MELBER:  Taking a nap and that`s on a stage.  Boehner knows that`s going to be heard.  For whatever reason at this point, he`s willing to just say it.  Then there are the reports we`re hearing, you can believe them as credible or not, but reports of what these Republican members of Congress say in private.  Take listen.


REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA):  Look, I have Republican colleagues who, when we`re not in a hearing or not on the House floor and when we talk about the President, they roll their eyes.

When they tell me privately that they are deeply disturbed but they don`t feel like they can say anything, I find that very troublesome.


MELBER:  I`m joined by columnist and host of "The Mike Lupica Podcast," Mike Lupica, also a best selling author.  The new one is "Batting Order."  And former Republican Congressman Tom Coleman.

Congressman, do you think that this current Republican Party has lost its way?  And when they say they might stand up to Trump on the trade war, is that real?

TOM COLEMAN, (R-MO) FORMER CONGRESSMAN:  Yes, they`ve lost their way and they never find their way back.  And I doubt if they stand up to Trump.  If this thing is settled, it`s going to be then settled in the back rooms of the Capitol or offsite at the White House somewhere and it just won`t happen.

However, I have thought long and hard about what`s wrong with the Republicans and I kind of think they`re like the munchkins in the Land of Oz.  They`re really afraid of the wizard until they drew back the curtain and found out it was just a guy with a microphone.  And I think we have a lot of that going on here.

So, you know, in the "Wizard of Oz," we had the scarecrow who needed a brain, we had a tin man who needed a heart and a lion who needed courage.  So the Republicans need to take their cue from there.

They need to use their own brains instead of letting Trump think for them.  They need to follow their heart and do what`s right.  And finally, they need the courage to stand up to this want to be dictator and find out.  And I think maybe the Congress is going to pull that curtain and they`ll find out that the guy behind the curtain is just an overweight loud mouth.

MELBER:  Well, laying it out there.  Mike Lupica, we`re not in Trump tower anymore.

MIKE LUPICA, VETERAN COLUMNIST AND AUTHOR:  No.  And, Ari, you know, there`s an Eminem song --

MELBER:  It`s a Dorothy Kansas reference.  You got it, right?

LUPICA:  No, no, no.  There`s an Eminem song about guts over fear, the time is near, OK.  So, are these guys talking a good game?  Because there`s another line in that song about how an angry man`s power will shut them up.  And Boehner is another guy talking a good game now.

But if were still in Congress, I wonder, would he have turned into a quisling like Mitch McConnell or would he be saying the kinds of things that he`s saying now?  Because, Ari, when he says these things now, he sounds like a guy who is outside the bar saying, yes, I want to fight you now.

MELBER:  Congressman?

COLEMAN:  Well, I mean, I know John Boehner.  I know him fairly well and I know how frustrated he was when he was speaker, you know, privately and what he felt about some of his fellow colleagues in the Republican conference.

So, John doesn`t have anything to lose now and so he`s saying what he thinks and, yes, there are some things you can`t say when you`re speaker of the House and you`re the party leader.  But he doesn`t have that mantle anymore and I think what he`s saying was really in his heart about it.

MELBER:  Yes.  And, Mike, I`m going to play some of the Republicans who are making noise on this particular issue.  Take a look.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Well, there is not much support in that conference for tariffs, that`s for sure.  I think it`s safe to say, you`ve talked to all of our members, we`re not fans of tariffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I think it`s a mistake.  In my honest opinion, it is that the short-term gain is not worth long-term pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a lot of Republicans, you know, it`s a tax.  It`s a tax borne mostly by consumers.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY):  We actually may have enough to overwrite a veto on this.


MELBER:  Mike?

LUPICA:  Where are these guys been?  I mean, someday they`re all going to be asked, you know, what did you do in the war, Daddy?  They`re now finding their voice as this guy is talking about tariffs that they don`t like.  Ari, he sounds like a loan shark.  They`re going to go up 5 percent and then another 5 percent.

He sounds like a guy talking about the big, OK.  And now this is -- of all the things he`s done, this just finally offended these guys.  I mean, talk about getting religion pretty late in the church service.

MELBER:  Well, that`s -- and that`s what striking why we`re digging in on this is this isn`t the appearance of a conflict.  There`s a lot of clash here and you saw the President just hammering them.  So we`re going to what happens.  It`s going to matter a lot to American consumers and working if these tariffs are implemented.  Mike Lupica and former Republican Congressman Tom Coleman, thanks to both of you.

COLEMAN:  Thank you.

MELBER:  We have a lot more in the show.  Michael Wolff, his first ever appearance on THE BEAT, a very interesting book.  I read the whole thing.  We`re going to talk about it.  I think there`s a lot in here including what he calls the Trump psychodrama that you might want to hear tonight.

But up next in 30 seconds, Donald Trump`s search for an immigration hard liner hitting serious trouble.  I`m going to tell you why it matters in 30 seconds.


MELBER:  News tonight, Donald Trump search for a hardliner on immigration policy and this may dredge up nightmarish memories for Trump.  It involves one of the things that he detests most, rejection and criticism and this from his own adopted party.

And for the full context, it helps to remember Donald Trump`s rocky path to the Republican nomination when party leaders blasted him as a fraud and fake conservative.  And the leader in this effort was Senator Ted Cruz who came at Trump from the right.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX):  But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time.  Donald, you`re a sniveling coward.  Leave Heidi the hell alone.

This man is a pathological liar.  He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.  A narcissist at a level I don`t think this country has ever seen.


MELBER:  Cruz fought Trump all the way to the convention debating the rules, poaching delegates to stop Trump this effort that was all planned to stage some sort of humiliating floor vote there.

Now to lead the spear knuckled campaign, Cruz tapped this guy, Ken Cuccinelli, a former attorney general, pugnacious enough to take on that long shot assignment, challenging his own parties planned nominee, and RNC leaders, and GOP congressional leaders, basically his whole party, all to stop Trump and try to make Ted Cruz the nominee.

Now, bucking Republican leaders may sound like a kamikaze mission for a Republican official and candidate who might want to run again but this is sort of Cuccinelli`s thing.  He was out there attacking John Boehner, calling him hostile and saying he betrayed the Republican Party.  And during the RNC, he launched this attack on Mitch McConnell.


KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Mitch McConnell doesn`t represent Republicans.  He`s the least favorably considered senator in America among Republican senators.  I mean, he is loathed among by the Republican grassroots, loathed.


MELBER:  Cuccinelli blasting the most powerful Republican in office and his turn against Trump was widely seen as a real effort at the time.  Reporters covering him as the leader of the floor fight for a last-ditch effort to derail Trump`s nomination.  It involved backroom negotiating at the convention, theatrics, and even talking some kvetching about how the party rules were unfair.


CUCCINELLI:  He violated the rules in the run up in the convention.  It`s geeky stuff, right?  But they didn`t give the committee members the contact info of each other, which the rules call for.  Look at one of the amendments, it`s petty.


MELBER:  Cuccinelli also stressed this was about more than rules, insisting while the convention approach, this was a key moment, that Trump was not even a conservative and this may be like reliving a recurring nightmare for Donald Trump.

And this formulation by Cuccinelli is kind of a recurring claim because he likes to say he`s the only conservative, not Trump, not McConnell, and that comes up again in a moment.

Now, at the convention, you know Cuccinelli did not prevail because, well, Ted Cruz is not president.  But do you remember how it went down?  It started with the kind of prop work that only a lawyer turned candidate could love, credential games that were too much for even Donald Trump Jr.


CUCCINELLI:  I`m very sorry, but I`m not going to do this again.  I am not going to do this again.

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP:  The same group of four people running around.  They wait for a camera to (INAUDIBLE) and they take their credentials and try to dramatically throw them on the floor.  They look like idiots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You`re talking about Ken Cuccinelli.  Are you calling him an idiot?

TRUMP JR.:  I`m saying this people look like idiots when they`re doing that.


MELBER:  After that loss, Cruz marched out and he told the delegates voters, conscience.  Trump then stormed the convention floor and Cruz would ultimately contradict himself later because he took that risk on stage but then buckled to Trump.

And how about his hand picked leader of the stop Trump convention revolt?  Where is he now?  Any guesses?  Is he backing another Republican primary challenger to Trump?  Maybe Governor Weld?  Is he working in Washington to advocate the true conservatism that he said Trump lacked?  Or is he vying for a job working for Trump?

Yes, Cuccinelli is now set to be Trump`s nominee to run the immigration system.  "Washington Post" reporting Trump`s plan to tap Cuccinelli extends the purge of leadership at DHS.

And this is where we`re at.  Donald Trump purged his own appointees because they weren`t conservative enough on immigration.  He is planning to replace them with someone who said Trump is not conservative enough.

Now, maybe the president figures handing the keys on immigration to a former Trump critic sends a message.  Maybe next Ann Coulter will run ice.  As for Cuccinelli, he`s explained to his Trump conversion with pragmatism.


KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, VIRGINIA:  Look, are we really happy with everything that happens on Donald Trump presidency, no.  But are we going to be unhappy with everything that happens in the Hillary presidency, oh yes.


MELBER:  This isn`t just a story of Donald and Ken because even if they evolved towards each other, what about all those Republican leaders in Congress who clashed with Cuccinelli.  After all, he`s pen pals with Mitch McConnell.  He wrote the majority leader an open letter calling for his resignation citing his failure of leadership, saying you are the swamp, you don`t even show up for work, and America is too good for you to lead it.

So how is Trump`s plan to appoint Cuccinelli playing on the Hill tonight?  Well, Politico reports Republicans ready to quash him.  They say this looming fight is the climax of those Republicans years-long battle with Cuccinelli and his organization which tries to oust GOP incumbents.

Now, politically this puts McConnell and his team in a tough spot.  Do they oppose both Trump and a self-described Conservative on this immigration issue?  Obviously, they don`t want to be seen doing this over personal beef and putting their political squabble which you wouldn`t even know about unless you`re kind of a Senate politics junkie putting that above the nation`s immigration policy.

So do they have some other reason to explain opposing their pen pal nemesis, Cuccinelli?  No.  In this political piece that`s out about all this, Senate Republicans say, yes, it`s all personal.  This is about what Cuccinelli said about them.

So I just want to pause on this.  This is 2019 for you.  Politicians don`t even pretend they`re making these decisions on the merits.  Immigration policy is important but not as important as what you said about me, they might argue, or as important as you backing a different Republican in the past election. 

I don`t want to be too high-minded but I do want to say this to you tonight.  This is supposed to be a democracy.  It`s not going to work well if the punishment for opposing someone in an election is never allowing them into public service.  So there may be logical objections to Ken Cuccinelli.  There may be many of them.  That`s just not one of them.

Now, McConnell controls the Senate floor.  He could deny anyone a vote.  Just ask Merrick Garland which McConnell recently celebrated complete with a double standard.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Let me tell you this.  If I`m still the majority leader the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper.  None of that stuff is going to pass.  None of it. 


MACCALLUM:  So Republicans might marinate in this as another bare-knuckled arena to flex their power, but on this one, McConnell may actually fail because the White House is prepping to do an end run around him and install Cuccinelli in an acting role avoiding the fight with the Senate GOP.

Congressional Republicans have already seated a lot of power to Trump.  They surrendered oversight or funding powers that might restrict this reliance on the acting secretaries.  In fact, I want you to know right now there are temporary acting leaders in post at the Pentagon, Homeland Security, Budget, even Trump`s own White House Chief of Staff and dozens more in senior acting roles across the government, about just over a dozen more.

So maybe Senate Republicans don`t care about any of this until it hits home and they want to keep Ken Cuccinelli out of government because he was mean to them.  Maybe only in this petty Washington game do people realize that seating these unitary powers of the president, any president won`t work well in the long run. 

And now McConnell may be hoisted on his own proverbial political petty petard procedurally bludgeoned by Trump`s tactic.  And Trump can use these powers to help McConnell`s nemesis while he just has to look on.

Now, I could leave it all there and people who dislike some of those folks might enjoy that but I have to tell you one more thing apart from the politics.  A man who would assume these acting powers and this end run around the Senate is not exactly known for being restrained or conservative about federal power.

Mr. Cuccinelli has advocated deploying war powers for domestic and border activities like patrolling migration and it was that war footing he invoked before Trump was ever in office accusing Obama of an invasion of immigrants.  He backed something that could literally be unconstitutional trying to end the American tradition the people who are born here are citizens and he once compared immigration policy to pest control.

This is the person that Senate Republicans oppose for other reasons.  And this is the person who if you haven`t heard about it because there`s a lot going on, this is the person who Donald Trump wants to put in charge of our entire immigration system.  If that took a long time to go through, it`s because it matters and we need to know the history to know where we`re going.

Now, I want you to stay with me because after the break has promised, the best-selling author Michael Wolff is here on the beat for the very first time.  He`s going to detail a lot of what he says is chaos and infighting at this White House.  Good to have you here.  When we come back.


MELBER:  Why didn`t Bob Mueller sue Donald Trump to get that interview?  Why wasn`t Bob Mueller clear in his public conclusions?  My next guest says that his new reporting may reveal some of the answers which are not in the written Mueller report itself.

Best-selling author Michael Wolff says he`s talked to a host of Trump world people, also obtained secret memos from inside Mueller`s team including research on what would happen if Trump tried to fire Mueller or pardon people or pardon himself.

All of it is in the new book Siege, a sequel to his blockbuster Fire in Fury which you may remember it sold over four million copies around the world, earned a threat of a lawsuit from Donald Trump, and was associated with the removal of Steve Bannon from the White House, not your typical book.  How are you doing?

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, SIEGE:  I`m great.  Thank you for having me.  Your first time on THE BEAT.  You got a lot of stuff in here.

WOLFF:  And I`m delighted to be here.  I`m happy to have you here.  You`re also a controversial author, we`ll get to that.  But let`s start with what you say you found.  Secret internal memos that no one else has ever gotten before which explored the potential limits on the Mueller probe.  Explain.

WOLFF:  All of these memos, if you read through these memos, you come up with one conclusion which is that the special counsel is a very, very fragile construct that they could be -- it could disappear any moment.

The memos are a series of -- series of questions.  Can the President of the United States unilaterally fire the special counsel?

MELBER:  And let`s read the answer because it was clearer than some of other things Mueller has said.  Here`s the answer according to your reporting.  "The President could fire the special counsel directly, and you say that was the Mueller office conclusion.

WOLFF:  Right.  So that was different from -- you know, remembers all of that discussion that you had to go through Rosenstein as a set of layers and the special counsel, this memo concludes not necessarily.  One of the other interesting things is what happens to the work product of the special counsel if the special counsel is fired.  And the answer is on is unclear but it might well be in the memo describes that it could just be tossed away, shredded, gone.

So there`s a very -- reading through this, you come again to that conclusion that they were aware at every moment of the day.  And remember every moment of the day pretty much Donald Trump is threatening them.  They`re aware that this could -- that this could result in ineffective constitutional crisis and rather the mother of all constitutional crises.

MELBER:  And to your point, Donald Trump also is doing in public what past presidents would only do in private.  He is musing and tweeting about pardoning himself or others.  In one of the memos you say you obtained, you say Mueller`s office concluded the president can pardon his family members or close associates even for the purposes of impeding an investigation.

One of our experts, when we covered this news that you broke, said this sounds like people in Mueller`s office trying to explain why they weren`t more aggressive.

WOLFF:  And I don`t know if that`s what it was, but I`d rather look at it just by what I have.  If this is the situation, if the special counsel is as exposed as this, then perhaps if you`re Bob Mueller and if you see your job as defending the institution rather than first prosecuting the president, well I think then you might well say better to give Donald Trump a pass, a slight pass on this --

MELBER:  So there`s --

WOLFF:  -- rather than risk him going nuts.

MELBER:  This is fascinating because there are the memos and then there`s a larger depiction in your report.  The memos as you know some people may still not believe you.  The larger reporting, I read the whole book left me with the impression that your collective account was that for all of the basically the excitement around the molar probe as you just put it, the fragility that was actually inside it, a great deal of consternation or even legally required weakness.

WOLFF:  I came to the conclusion that one of their missions primary missions became not to be fired, not to be closed down.

MELBER:  Is that a mistake?

WOLFF:  I don`t know.  I mean, I think that -- I mean, I guess you know, in a world in which you would -- you would say here`s the alternative, Donald Trump literally creates a -- as I say, the mother of all constitutional crisis, you know, end of the world style, or you know, you run this out.

I think Bob Mueller probably thought, again I`m reading into what he might have thought since he`s a sphinx, that Donald Trump will pass.  A couple of more years have Donald Trump versus a crisis in the government like we have never seen.

MELBER:  And so that -- when you say it that way, I think people do understand that interpretation because Mueller certainly seemed like someone playing by the book and not trying to overshoot or be too aggressive with the president.

WOLFF:  No, I mean I`ve always thought it`d be interesting to see if there was someone else in this -- in this role rather than Bob Mueller.  Like I thought -- I thought, what if in a different world an alternative universe Ruby Giuliani had been the Special Counsel.  No doubt in my mind he would have indicted that son of a bitch.

MELBER:  So that`s quite a line.  So this goes to another paradox in your reporting.  And your first book as I mentioned was quite influential and had a lot of detail and backroom detail in it.  In this book you seem to -- you seem to sketch a paradox where on the one hand Donald Trump and his team are inexperienced and often undisciplined, but the other hand when it comes to self-preservation Donald Trump is quite canny and you show that -- you basically show he got where he needed to get eventually with the Mueller probe and rattling Mueller.  Is that right?  Is that your view?

WOLFF:  Yes.  And one of the things about Donald Trump which everybody in his circle repeat -- pointed out to me again and again and again is that he`s been in litigation for 45 years, almost non-stop.  I mean, his whole life -- I mean, his really whole life is not -- it`s not real estate in business it`s fighting -- it`s fighting legal battles.

MELBER:  He spent as much time in court and T.V. as Judge Judy.  Those are the two places he went.

WOLF:  You know, it`s literally him running lawyers in a way that is either absurd or possibly brilliant.

MELBER:  Was he underrated?

WOLFF:  I think that Donald Trump`s version, his approach to this, this asynchronicity -- you know, one of the things I sort of toggled between is this -- is the story of Donald Trump, Richard III, Shakespearean like that or is it the Beverly Hillbillies go to Washington.  And I kind of think that there isn`t that Beverly Hillbillies things.

He`s you know, Mueller and the whole -- the whole institutional establishment approach this in conventional ways.  And here`s Donald Trump doing things which they have never seen.

MELBER:  Right.  Because your book with all of the Mueller reporting lands at an interesting time where the country now eight days ago saw Bob Mueller speak for the first time, and is trying to understand how someone who was rated so high ended this way and Donald Trump who on law and ethics and many other issues according to a lot of Americans has rated so low.

I`m a little bit reminded of Sean Carter, Jay-Z, sure you know of him, who rhetorically asked would you rather be overpaid or underrated?  And the question is was Mueller in some sense overrated for this job?

WOLFF:  I think you know, there`s -- Steve Bannon at one point after the Mueller report came out, he said -- Bannon kind of leaned in and said to me never send the marine to do a hit man`s job.

MELBER:  Wow, which seems to really resonate with what they were worried about Mueller was going to do and what some people legally said he didn`t do which is as you say land that legal killer.  Will you stay with me for a second?

WOLFF:  Sure.

MELBER:  I`m going to fit a break.  We have a lot more including why Mr. Wolf says he has the goods and the receipts to show it`s all a psychodrama at the White House when we come back.


MELBER:  A new book roiling the White House by author Michael Wolff.  It depicts chief of staff John Kelly saying this about the president.  He`s out of control, nobody can even carry this anymore.  What impact does Donald Trump`s approach to life and human relations have on these people who give their careers and part of their lives to him?

WOLFF:  You know, I mean, I think it`s the overriding factor in this -- in this White House.  I mean, I think you can in a sense put aside policy.  You know, I mean, I think it used to be we worried about him because he`s a far right-wing.  He was a despot.  He was -- all of all of that which may well be true.

But the real bottom line here is that he is first thing that he treats his staff terribly.  They don`t know how to work with him because he`s he can`t focus, he can`t absorb information.  He can`t do -- he doesn`t really have any of the skill sets of a president of the United States.  On top of that he regards them all as expendable.

And in fact, the entire -- the entire class that entered with him in January 20th, 2017 is virtually gone.  The class that replaced them is virtually gone.

MELBER:  Right.  And then -- and then you have the people who works with you.  You report that Senator McConnell view Donald Trump as "the stupidest person he`d ever met in politics."  His wife Elaine Chao regularly mocked and mimicked Trump as a set piece they performed.

WOLFF:  I think I can go -- I think I can go further than that.  It`s that anybody in the last three years who has come into direct contact with Donald Trump understands that there`s something wrong here, something broken in him, that he is a vile and ludicrous figure.

MELBER:  And what has broken within him?

WOLFF:  I`m not sure I can go there but I would say it has probably has something to do with 45 years of just craving attention and spending every waking moment in your life trying to get attention.

MELBER:  Is he a contestant --

WOLFF:  (INAUDIBLE) something from you.

MELBER:  Is he a constant or is he deteriorating in your view?

WOLFF:  I`m not going to -- I`m not going to go there.  In a way, I found him -- I used to speak to him when I was at New York Magazine in late 90s, early 2000s.  He used to call me up a lot because -- to complain about what had been written about him or more often than not, when something was not written about him.

And I thought he was -- he was -- he seemed crazy to me then but amusing, you know, because who cared.  So to me, that is the same person except he`s been transformed into the president of the United States.

MELBER:  I got a fin a break.  I should mention, the Justice Department as we`ve previously supported has contested parts of the book.  The White House says you were pushing lies and fantasy.  And you`ll come back, we`ll talk about all of it.  Again, Michael Wolff, a very interesting read, thank you.  The book is Siege: Trump Under Fire.  It`s out now.

And when I come back, news that could lead to a different contempt vote after this.


MELBER:  Breaking news tonight before we go.  New from Bill Barr`s Justice Department, they are rejecting a demand for documents from the Democrats in the House Oversight Committee.  These were subpoenas about getting material on those very controversial citizenship questions on the census.

This can set up a different contempt vote for Mr. Barr.  The full House is scheduled to vote to hold in Barr contempt next Tuesday already.  That was all about the scuffle over the full unredacted Mueller Report.

Before we go, I also want to tell you our guest tomorrow.  We have former General Counsel for the FBI, Jim Baker and a special fall back, the king of funk, George Clinton joins Pulitzer Prize Winning journalist and humanitarian Nick Kristof.  I`m excited to have them on together.

Now, that does it for THE BEAT.  Again I`ll see you at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.  But don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.