STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: And that`s all for tonight. We will be back Monday with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. And "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Steve. It is Friday night right here in THE BEAT. And I`ll tell, we have some special stuff tonight. Later, the former FBI general council at the center of the Russia probe is on THE BEAT for the very first time. And then later, the news that Fox News may not want you to see, an anchor fact checked in real-time.
And later on in the hour, I can tell you, I`ll be joined by Pulitzer Prize winning "New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof, along with naturally, Rock `n` Roll Hall of Famer George Clinton, leader of Parliament Funkadelic.
But we begin with the Democrats in the House showing what they mean by a new phase in oversight of Donald Trump. House Intel Chair Adam Schiff announcing today he`ll hold a public hearing next week on the counter intel implications of Mueller report. Powerful oversight committee chair also announcing a separate vote to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress.
The House is also going to hold a vote on former Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn on Tuesday as people want to know the implications of the Mueller report.
Now, all of this that I just mentioned goes out of the Judiciary Committee which is also going to be busy Monday with its first full obstruction hearing about the Mueller report. And that`s not all, tonight, Judiciary Committee is starting to tell the world about more witnesses who will provide expert testimony to inform the committee, the Congress, and I guess the public about whether Donald Trump committed criminal activity in office.
So in addition to Watergate Counsel John Dean, the committee will hear from former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance and Barbara McQuade, legal experts known for their extensive prosecutorial experience. Both are also legal analysts at MSNBC.
And the new witness (INAUDIBLE) to come as Democrats are bearing down how and if they will ultimately make the ultimate former prosecutor testify, Bob Mueller. And in the meantime, Speaker Pelosi continues to dial up her rhetoric against Trump are also tamping down impeachment talk.
And the President hit right back after this news that she told colleagues she would rather see Donald Trump in prison than impeached.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think she`s a disgrace. I actually don`t think she`s a talented person. I`ve tried to be nice to her because I would have liked to have gotten some deals done. She`s incapable of doing deals. She`s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Couple points here, one, there are people concerned that Nancy Pelosi is verging on a lock him up style of attack, which would echo Donald Trump. Others point out that Donald Trump is literally the last politician in the world who can complain about that kind of political treatment.
But the deeper and substantive question, which I`m about to turn to with our guest, is this. Does talking about the President`s potential criminal conduct, even if supported by evidence, serve as a valid substitute for what other experts and many Democrats have said, including on this show, it`s time for, which is the question of whether it is time for impeachment?
I`m joined tonight by Basil Smikle, former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party and an allied of Nancy Pelosi, and Peter Daou, a progressive activist and internet specialist who served as internet director for Hillary Clinton`s 2008 campaign. Good evening to both of you.
BASIL SMIKLE, NY STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Good to be here.
MELBER: You know your way around these issues. Speaker Pelosi who you support and worked with, and you`ve run a state party. You are a person who has actually balanced all the interest in New York State party has plenty of liberals and progressives who always want to be -- or often want to be confrontational. But you say Pelosi has this right.
SMIKLE: I say what she`s doing, to use the word tamp down, and I think that`s exactly where we are. If you look at her statement a few weeks ago when she said that President Trump was goading her into impeaching, goading Democrats into impeachment, that specific word and that language sends the message to me that she`s not going to just take the bait automatically, that she wants to find a way to create this narrative for the American people.
Not just about laying out why Trump shouldn`t be in office, but doing it in a way that also protects all of those Democrats that flipped seats last year because that`s really important. If we have the ability and if we`re hearing more from, and I think we are starting to, hear more from those members of Congress because they`re, you know, they`re going to be the ones that are probably the most susceptible to some of these issues.
SMIKLE: If they start to support this, then I think that trigger is pulled.
PETER DAOU, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN AIDE: OK, respectfully, and I respect you greatly, I disagree very, very strongly about this. Look, Ari, this is not a time for half measures. We are facing a threat that we`ve never faced before, certainly within our life times and that`s an autocrat as a president, somebody who has no respect for a rule of law. So this is not a time for dithering.
I don`t want to impugn the integrity of Speaker Pelosi or Representative Nadler, who`s been my rep for many years as a long time New Yorker. But, they are failing colossally at this point. This is a moment where we rise to the challenge and there has to be accountability.
If there is no accountability, and that means impeachment, then we are normalizing everything that has happened in the past two and a half years. Every child that was stolen from a parent, every single transgression, every time Donald Trump disgraced the office, we can`t do that. It is on Democrats right now because that`s where impeachment starts.
MELBER: And you`re making an almost moral case. Do you think the politics back you up?
DAOU: I think the politics doesn`t really matter. I think at this moment in history we have to look at what the constitution demands of us and that is that we cannot have a lawless and corrupt president getting away with it. And every time we say we`re going to wait longer, we`re basically saying nothing he has done to date rises to impeachment yet, which is absurd.
SMIKLE: So, you know what`s interesting, I don`t disagree with anything you said. And, you know, I spent all of 2016 talking about how morally corrupt --
MELBER: Let me make a joke at your expense and then we`ll let you continue.
SMIKLE: OK, sure.
MELBER: Spoken like an establishment Democrat.
SMIKLE: No, no, not at all. I spent all of 2016 --
MELBER: You do this -- let me explain, I`m not just giving our time, you do disagree and Speaker Pelosi seems to want it both ways. Prison is more severe than impeachment. She is jumping to use the rhetoric of Mr. Daou, if I can use you as a standing, you are an expert and the guys here. She uses Mr. Daou`s rhetoric without the substance. You say you agree with Mr. Daou, but you don`t.
SMIKLE: I say I`m going to push back on your push back, because I actually don`t agree with that aspect of it. I`d rather see him in prison than impeached, because I don`t think you can have it both ways. I think you do actually have to pull the trigger on impeachment and you have to do it soon.
My point is I don`t know that she has adequately, because she`s the one that has to do this, she hasn`t adequately laid out the case and created that narrative to present to the American people. Do I think it`s there? Yes, but I don`t think she`s done it and you can`t have it both ways.
You can`t say I want him in prison or I want him impeached because what`s going to happen, and you`re right, what`s going to happen is if we don`t pull this trigger soon, what the narrative that`s going to be written about us is that we are slow to the punch, we`re not actually doing our job, and that`s going to hurt us more than anything else.
But, I do understand what she`s trying to do here, which is balance all those interest that the issue is that it`s probably not happening quickly enough for most.
DAOU: But here`s the contradiction in that point. She`s blocking the impeachment, the speaker and House -- the Dem leadership, it`s not just the speaker, because those who believe that it should be done and disagree with her, there`s a little bit of a good cop, bad cop going on, well, Representative Nadler on set but she doesn`t want it.
The fact is, you know, the -- Representative Tlaib, Ilhan Oman, many others, Elizabeth Warren have said it`s time for impeachment, even a Tea Party Republican like Justin Amash can see the writing on the wall.
I don`t understand why Democrats actually are now politicizing it. Because the more you play this back and forth, the more you`re turning it into a political calculus. The fact is, just simply with -- not even with Mueller, Ari, fundamentally when a president says the fourth estate, the media, are the enemies of the people, right there he has violated his oath to protect and defend the constitution because that`s a violation, that`s an abusive of the First Amendment.
MELBER: And, Peter, are you tired of Democratic leaders saying what they stand for isn`t popular rather than trying to make what they stand for popular?
DAOU: I`ve been doing this for 20 years and I`ve known you a long time. I`ve been fighting this fight the whole time, back from the Patriot Act, the Iraq war. The Democratic Party leadership needs to change.
And I`ll be perfectly frank, and I`ve floated this and I`m actually seriously considering. I`ve been a long time upper west side resident of Manhattan, and I`m considering running to primary Representative Nadler. I respect him.
DAOU: He`s been quick progressive. Yes.
MELBER: I know you, but I didn`t know that.
DAOU: And the reason is --
MELBER: I mean, people would argue that Chairman Nadler more than Pelosi has been trying to push forward with what you`re talking about.
DAOU: That`s what`s being said. However, just like many other Democratic politicians who have been willing to step up in the House and say, look, whatever the speaker says, I believe that it should happen now. And the reason I said that, and I`m only considering it, and I`m considering it because I want to walk the talk. I can`t just say we should do this.
MELBER: Do you think Basil will endorse you? He usually works with the incumbent.
SMIKLE: Well, I like Jerry Nadler.
MELBER: I`m going to bring in --
MELBER: I`m going to bring in --
SMIKLE: I should check.
MELBER: I`m going to bring in a reporter. Both of you stay, but I want to bring in a reporter who has an eye on Trump on this, Francesca Chambers, White House Correspondent of "The Daily Mail" back from the European trip with Donald Trump.
And I want to play a little vintage Trump of why I make the point at the top of the show and some things bear repeating. He is literally the last person who can complain about lock him up and, yet, Basil just outlined the concern that that particular point where Speaker Pelosi may not be a good idea. But take a look at the history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: She should be in prison.
She should be in jail for what she did with her e-mails, OK. She should be in jail.
Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and gone to jail for what she did.
She gets special treatment under the Justice Department.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Lock her up. Lock her up. Lock her up.
TRUMP: Lock her up is right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: How is the latest attack playing over in the White House based on your knowledge and reporting? And what kind of Donald Trump did we get coming back from this trip?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, THE DAILY MAIL WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ari, I was there at the cemetery yesterday in the Normandy region when President Trump just went on the attack on Nancy Pelosi. And so just to give you a little bit of context about that, he`d landed, he`s doing this interview with Fox News, and first time he brought up Nancy Pelosi, he wasn`t asked about her.
The second time he brought her up, though, he had been asked about those impeachment comments and he just said that it was disgusting and he really let loose on Nancy Pelosi.
Now, comparatively, Nancy Pelosi was also at that same exact event yesterday. She did not bring up Donald Trump, specifically when she was talking to her colleague, Andrea Mitchell. And when I spoke to her, she didn`t bring him up either. But I think it`s worth pointing out that neither I, nor Andrea Mitchell directly asked about her.
MELBER: And what do you think, as a reporter who`s on THE BEAT, what do you think of this talking point that Donald Trump`s folks claim he wants to be impeached?
CHAMBERS: Well, Nancy Pelosi says that President Trump is goading Democrats toward that. But certainly, President Trump and the White House believe that they can win in 2020 fair and square against any Democrat they could face and that includes Joe Biden who is currently seen as the frontrunner.
SMIKLE: Well, yes, Joe Biden has seen as the frontrunner, number one, and the polls bear that out. And there are a number of Americans that actually think Donald Trump is going to be reelected. I`ve talked to a lot of Democratic voters that have said that. And I think, again, that`s the challenge that Nancy -- someone like Nancy Pelosi has.
It`s not necessarily me saying that I think he -- that I think Democrats haven`t put up a good rationale thus far. But if you`re going back to your earlier statement, if you`re trying to manage a party apparatus, there are so many things that you have to balance, and balancing trying to elect a Democrat to -- for the White House, trying to make sure that you hold the House where it is or gain more seats and even try some -- win way to flip the Senate.
Those are just a lot of things to have to balance, but I do think we need to make a decision soon quite frankly, because if we don`t --
MELBER: And, Peter --
SMIKLE: -- that`s the peril for us, not making a quick decision.
MELBER: And, Peter, your old boss, Hillary Clinton, has largely stayed out of this.
DAOU: Yes. Well, whether it`s Hillary Clinton or President Obama or former President Bill Clinton, I think it`s on every Democrat who has been fighting Republicans for the past 20 plus years to face up to the fact that we are losing, we are failing, and the far right is taking over this country.
And I look at my own activism for 20 years and I`ve been fighting to fight. But I look at myself and I say, how did we get here? We need change. We need change at the top of the Democratic Party, because we`re at a point now where we have pretty much a lawless president. We have an attorney general who`s a PR guy for the President. Subpoenas are being ignored.
For example, it`s not just impeachment, there`s another thing and you`re a very good attorney yourself, they are able to do -- they`re able to actually arrest. There is the inherent contempt power lawyer. Democrats could actually arrest those who are defying subpoenas.
DAOU: Use your power.
MELBER: And that`s been written about with (INAUDIBLE). Real quick.
SMIKLE: I would tell you, I actually think we should start doing that because even in the Nixon impeachment articles, not responding to subpoenas was part of the argument. And if there -- if we`re not at that point, if we`re not getting that information, I actually think there should be some harsh with that --
MELBER: Right, and that`s fascinating to take the temperature here to hear your (INAUDIBLE), your respectful debate at a time when as we`ve been reporting at the House next week, it`s going into the first hearings on the potential obstruction by the President of the United States.
In any other world, those might be called impeachment hearings, that`s not what they`re calling them, and holding these contempt votes. Basil, Peter, and Francesca, my thanks to each of you. I`m talking quick because we have a lot more in the show.
A key FBI insider who was there at the beginning of the Russia probe and says Mueller`s testimony could be a turning point. And later, Fox News trying to blame the press for something Donald Trump himself did. We have the fact check. And Senator Lindsey Graham golf and John McCain, it`s something you have to see to believe.
And then later tonight, the one and the only funk legend, George Clinton, with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nick Kristof for a very special fallback Friday. I`m Ari Melber, you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: President Trump returned today from his state visit to the U.K. where he broke from diplomatic protocol to attack both British officials who are there and Americans opponents back home.
Now, during this trip, which was supposed to focus on commemorating D-Day, an activity that Trump himself says he delayed in order to do an interview with Fox News, the kind of appearance that obviously he could do from Washington or New York.
And the notion that Trump help delay a gathering of 12,000 people for this single interview was apparently embarrassing enough that Fox News Anchor Laura Ingraham who conducted the interview assured her viewers that true thing did not happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Some of you may have heard or read that President Trump supposedly held up the entire D-Day ceremony in order to do this interview with me. That is patently false, fake news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Patently false. Well, as Scooby-Doo used to say, ruh-roh, because Ingraham solemn assurance to her audience was undercut by the President himself who just minutes before actually admitted, he held up the ceremony because of the Fox interview. As the old saying goes, congratulations, you played yourself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INGRAHAM: Some of you may have heard or read that President Trump supposedly held up the entire D-Day ceremony in order to do this interview with me. That is patently false, fake news.
TRUMP: These people are so amazing. And what they don`t realize is that I`m holding them up because of this interview, but that`s because it`s you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Because of this interview. You just witnessed a Fox News anchor being fact checked on her own show by the President, a source her viewers may find credible which does not mean that Trump was often credible on this trip considered that he took the brazen step of trying to deny those large protests against his visit despite the pictures and video of the crowds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Even coming over today, there were thousands of people cheering. And then I heard that there were protests. I said, where are the protests? I don`t see any protest. I did see a small protest today when I came, very small. So a lot of it is fake news, I hate to say. And I didn`t see the protesters until just a little while ago and it was a very, very small group of people put in for political reasons. So it was fake news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Are these falsehoods the most important story is in the world? No. But should they become so normalized that they`re beneath commenting on or fact checking? No.
Credit to the many fact checkers like "The Washington Post" which reports Trump is now broken the record for the most lies in office, over 10,000 claims, which range from important topics like immigration and investigations to bizarrely trivial topics like denying he ever called the Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tim Apple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have so many companies coming in. People like Tim, you`re expanding all over. You`ve really put a big investment in our country. We appreciate it very much, Tim Apple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tim Apple. Donald Trump doesn`t distinguish between the little slip-ups, the mistakes, the little lies, even, and the big ones, because to do that would actually involve some proportionate fidelity to the truth.
But the fact checkers have documented Trump`s whole strategy, and this is important for you to remember, is to destroy public truth. Not to just twist it, which many politicians have done in both parties, but to try to build an alternative rhetorical and visual universe where the truth itself doesn`t exist for some people.
Now, when I say that it sounds like a criticism, it`s actually not. It`s an observation. It`s what he says he is doing himself. It`s what he openly tells his supporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Just stick with us. Don`t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.
And just remember, what you`re seeing and what you`re reading is not what`s happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Wow. Trump admits he doesn`t want people to believe their own eyes. As Maya Angelou famously advised, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. And that`s the challenge here. Trump has shown everyone he stands against the truth, so believe that which requires not believing him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And just remember, what you`re seeing and what you`re reading is not what`s happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: When we come back in 30 seconds, the accountability for some of these lies and the back lash on the right that`s undercutting Trump`s bluster on Mexico.
MELBER: Today marks the last business day before President Trump`s threatened tariffs on Mexico are supposed to kick in. And today, he`s signaling he might back down on Monday`s planned tariffs, announcing, "good chance of deal to avoid them."
This potential waffling comes after unusually loud Republican push back against these tariffs, headlines like this. Republican senator says that tariffs could wipe out the tax cuts completely.
Or take Trump loyalist Lindsey Graham who left no doubt saying tariffs on Mexico are a big time bad idea. That`s kind of usual, right? Trump loyalist Lindsey Graham shooting out at Trump idea, but let`s put that back up. Take another look.
This tariff critique is from, right there you see on the bottom, January 26, 2017. That was Trump`s first week in office. Graham apparently testing out what it might be like to stand up to a new president and doing so on his long time mentor John McCain was also challenging Trump on certain topics.
Now it is, of course, Graham defense Trump on just about everything, including this exact tariffs that he opposed, as I just showed you, in 2017. Conservative author George Will just told us a theory for why this is happening on the show this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE WILL, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Remember, he was, Lindsey Graham, was the Lindsey Graham people thought was funny and interesting as long as John McCain was around to keep him on the right leash. McCain is gone and the leash is gone and this I am afraid is the real Lindsey Graham.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And that`s despite Donald Trump`s renewed attacks, of course, on the late senator. Graham waived these types of attacks off in a new Bloomberg interview saying, "I don`t like what he says about McCain, but when we play golf, it`s fun." This is not your typical Washington story, even at a town known for shifting alliances.
I`m joined by two local experts, "The Daily Beast" Eleanor Clift and "The Atlantic" David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush. And folks, I want to first see how far Graham has come. So let`s take a look at this record we put together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He is a race baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn`t represent my party. He doesn`t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.
He doesn`t have the temperament or judgment to control himself when he gets mad. This is kook land.
He has disparaged women. He has an 80 percent disapproval rating among Hispanics. At the end of the day, he would be the most flawed nominee in the history of the Republican Party.
I think he`s a kook. I think he`s crazy. I think he`s unfit for office. He is not a conservative Republican. He is an opportunist. He is not fit to be President of the United States.
Come to South Carolina and I`ll beat his brains out.
You know, run for president but don`t be the world`s biggest jack ass.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s the reaction you`re getting to calling him jack ass now repeatedly?
GRAHAM: A lot of people, you know, are offended. The jack asses are offended. So all I can say is that, you know, I`ve had it. I`ve had it. Come on, I`ve had it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: It`s like a trip down memory lane. And you feel from Lindsey Graham, but he sort of represents in extreme form where the Republican Party is. I think there may be a part of Lindsey Graham`s brain of what he`s trying to do is to do some good by corralling Donald Trump. One of the things people like Lindsey Graham say is you don`t know how much worse it could be if it weren`t for me on issues like NATO.
ELEANOR CLIFT, THE DAILY BEAST WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think Lindsey Graham enjoys being in the game. He has said he likes feeling relevant and I`m sure he`s able to justify the fact that he`s turned into a complete toady for the President. The word in Washington is that when they buried John McCain, they took Lindsey Graham`s spine and that`s in the casket as well. Once McCain left --
MELBER: Are they saying that at parties?
CLIFT: Well, parties are not generally when this topic comes up. But when --
MELBER: You`re going to the wrong parties.
MELBER: I talk about Lindsey Graham at every party I go to.
CLIFT: At every part you go to. It`s basically an aside that people will say when Lindsey Graham makes his latest capitulation to the President. You know, he is facing a Democratic challenger, Jamie Harrison, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and he`s got an endorsement from Luke Skywalker. So the force is with him. Luke Skywalker, meaning the actor, Mark Hamill.
But I think there`s going to be a spirited challenge to Lindsey Graham, but he`s not worried about a Democrat. He has made his peace with the Republican Party, which is basically Trump`s party, and he is basically saluted to every position that this President takes. But the trade issue is a bridge too far for many Republicans.
MELBER: For many. I mean, that`s want I also want to turn to, to your point, Eleanor. I mean, Stephen Colbert, of all people, was explaining or reminding everyone what these tariffs are. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, CBS HOST: Everyone is going to feel these tariffs, OK. Our top four agricultural imports from Mexico are beer, avocados, tomatoes and tequila. Trump is putting a tariff on summer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLIFT: Yes. And you`ve got Joni Ernst in Iowa, Chuck Grassley at Iowa, senior Republican, they don`t like it. You`ve got Ted Cruz opposing. Generally, they talk loudly but they don`t follow through.
If they do follow through this time, if they actually push back from the Senate, this could be a test vote for impeachment because if they can get 20 Republicans to join all 47 Democrats to push back on tariffs, they could override the President`s veto.
So, I think he`s playing a dangerous game here, which is why he may well back off. And -- but if you call him on it and say he`s bluffing, he could follow through. Calling him a bluff, calling his bluff I think is really infuriates him.
And I suppose he can go after Bette Midler in the middle of the night. Maybe that makes him feel good. But I think he`s running out of, you know, arrows on this particular subject.
FRUM: The thing that is so ominous about this and it`s ominous for the country, is the proposed tariffs on Mexican exports are Trump`s bad answer to a real problem, which is there is this extraordinary flow of so-called asylum seekers across the -- from Central America through the Mexican landscape into the United States.
The United States does need Mexican cooperation to stop this. These are not bonafide asylum seekers. If the -- if the trend continues at the rate of the first half of the year into the second, you`re going to have one percent of the whole population of the northern -- three northern countries Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador come to the United States. It`s obviously unsustainable.
MELBER: Well, in agreement -- in agreement to your -- part of your point, David, I mean, logical things can come out of logic even if that`s a paradox. One of the things that apparently Mexican delegation was discussing was whether they would process some of the folks going into their countries as a point of asylum instead of the United States which is something that Obama officials and others struggle with. I guess --
FRUM: That`s right.
MELBER: Right. So I guess --
FRUM: But we need -- but we need Mexico`s cooperation.
MELBER: And do you need to do that by Twitter threats or would there be a more logical policy process?
FRUM: Here`s the problem. See, what you need above all is from Mexico to harden its southern border with Guatemala which is a much more -- which is a much smaller border obviously, much more patrolable, much more defensible. The income gap between Guatemala and Mexico is much greater than the income gap between Mexico in the United States. You need Mexico inside.
Mexico, unfortunately, has its own Trump, that Mexico does not have a very responsible president at the moment. And when the United States pokes in this way, it -- Mexico also has politics. It also has nationalism. And that`s resource for President Obrador who is as unhelpful a person for his country as Donald Trump is for the United States.
MELBER: David Frum taking shots through analysis. Eleanor, I`m going to go to you. My final question to you is if we brought an out though something you gestured at earlier, Lindsey Graham fully folding. But as I showed, there were some other Republicans to be clear who said this was too much, this was too far basically because of The Colbert point, because it`s avocados, beer, and a domestic tax is how it could be felt.
CLIFT: It affects the American lifestyle at the start of summer. And you know, if President Trump wants to be blamed for killing summer, maybe the Democrats can go after him for that when he accuses them of killing Christmas. I don`t know. We can fight the seasons.
MELBER: I heard -- I heard stealing summer is as dangerous as the Grinch of Christmas, I don`t know. Who was it -- who was it that school`s out for summer, David?
FRUM: If that`s a pop culture question, I pass. You have to ask someone else.
MELBER: We throw it out to Twitter as we sometimes do around here. Eleanor, and David, thank you so much. Still to come, speaking of pop culture, the king of funk himself George Clinton joined by New York Times Nick Kristof. But first, my first BEAT enter interview ever with the former top lawyer inside the FBI. We`re talking Mueller impeachment, Barr, and a whole lot more. He was in the room and he`s on THE BEAT.
MELBER: The House Judiciary Committee is holding its first form of Mueller report hearing next week. Everyone`s waiting to see if Mueller himself will testify and the Attorney General is also doubling down on what he publicly admits is an investigation of the investigators.
Now when you take these things together, there is actually one person who knows all of this firsthand, the origins of the Mueller probe, his name is James Baker, the former FBI general counsel. He was there when the Russia probe started which later, of course, became the special counsel Mueller probe.
He was a top FBI lawyer at James Comey`s side up until Comey`s firing. He`s one of the few lawyers to work at the time what lawyers call contemporaneously as Comey continued to be more alarmed by Donald Trump`s behavior to write down conversations that later became criminal evidence including the infamous loyalty pledge. And that`s one reason this man`s name keeps coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: He says he told the general counsel of the FBI James Baker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now know call me sent the draft to his deputy director Andrew McCabe, general counsel James Baker.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was tweeting about James Baker the former general counsel.
MARIA BARTIROMO, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: He tell us why this James Baker news is important.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): James Baker was the top lawyer at the FBI.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: -- was based on testimony by now a former FBI general counsel James Baker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Joining me for his first interview on THE BEAT is former FBI general counsel James Baker, now Director of National Security at the R Street Institute, a non-profit policy research organization. Good evening to you.
JAMES BAKER, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, FBI: Hey, how are you. Thank you.
MELBER: I`m great. As we -- as we all remember, you were a man at the center of it and for a long time weren`t speaking because of that. When you look at it all told and the Mueller report mostly out in redacted form, what should Americans bottom-line understanding be of what Bob Mueller found?
BAKER: That the Russian Federation poses a serious threat to the United States to our security to this -- the to the security of our elections that as he described it the elements of the Russian military and intelligence forces. Were engaged in a concerted attack. That was the word that he used, that Director Mueller used, and attack on our political system and we should be very, very alarmed by that.
So look, we started an investigation to ask the question about what the Russians were up to and Director Mueller answered that question and he found that the Russians posed a significant threat and he also found that certain persons in the United States, some of them connected to the Trump campaign had interactions with the Russians that ultimately did not amount to a criminal conspiracy but they were questions that needed to be answered and it was illegitimate in my opinion, a legitimate investigation from the get-go.
MELBER: Everything you just said is about volume one. You didn`t say anything about volume two, the analysis of the President`s potential criminal obstruction. On balance as the Mueller, reports show that Donald Trump committed criminal activity in office or not in your view?
BAKER: Well, so he refrains -- obviously as we all know now, he refrains from making that kind of a conclusion. And as -- the way I think about it is even if the conduct described in volume two with respect to obstruction isn`t technically a criminal act that can be indicted at this point time, it sure --it certainly should be unacceptable in the United States. The pattern of corruption that you see --
MELBER: Was it -- I mean, was it criminal obstruction in your view?
BAKER: In my view, he certainly lays out several instances that meet all of the elements that provide a sufficient factual basis, I think for all of the elements of the crime of obstruction as it`s articulated in federal law today.
MELBER: And what do you say to viewers -- because I talked to our viewers from others who say he had that Baker guy on. He was in the room. He`s so informed. He`s so responsible. He`s so smart. Why didn`t he say yes when you asked if it was criminal obstruction? Is there a reason why Mueller and you and many of these people who we have respect for the integrity and the public service don`t just say yes because that seems to be where -- as we had in these hearings next week, the country -- part of the country, people are asking well yes or no, a binary question.
BAKER: I`m not answering that question specifically because I take Director Mueller`s point about trying to accuse somebody of a crime in a situation where A, I`m there I don`t know all the evidence. I`ve read the report but I don`t know all the evidence that stands behind that. But B, the person in question here would not have an opportunity -- the president, would not have an opportunity to clear his name in a court of law.
I think that was a prudent decision by Director Mueller. It makes sense but anyway, that`s where I would -- I would leave it at this moment.
MELBER: Mr. Barr, the new Attorney General has talked about investigating the people who began all this presumably or probably including you. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: We shouldn`t be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale. And so I`m not saying that happened but I`m saying that we have to look at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that the right approach for the sitting Attorney General to sort of publicize that suspicion without offering evidence or without waiting to see what the evidence shows especially given that there`s already an internal I.G. process etcetera?
BAKER: Well, look, I mean, the Attorney General needs to be confident that we did an appropriate job. I understand that. He needs to have confidence what the intelligence community and the law enforcement community at the FBI was doing. And I welcome the review.
If the review is done fairly, if it`s done professionally, if it`s done it in apolitical way and it serves to instill confidence in more Americans about what it is that we did, then fine, I`m OK with it.
MELBER: Can I -- can I press you on that? And this the first time we`re talking and --
BAKER: Sure -- no, go for it.
MELBER: I say this just in the substance not impugning the view you put forward, but what you`re describing is it kind of a by-the-book, the process will work, and in the end, everything will just work out. And I wonder whether is there a part of you that ever questions whether that old model which can work, doesn`t in an environment of selective disclosure, of Twitter attacks by the president, accusing people of being rats, maligning people like yourself, maligning Mr. McCabe who you serve with, denying him his pension in a very unusual manner, going after people`s family, going after Mr. McCabe`s wife.
I mean I think our viewers remember some of this. And saying that the idea that when you guys in law enforcement take on the tough assignments of investing the powerful people and it triggers an investigation into you that could last two ever long and cost however much, that itself could have a chilling effect on the hardest thing to do in law enforcement from some of the sources I talked to which is -- which is to investigate big people no matter where the facts may lead.
BAKER: So look, on the one hand, I want there -- I want the American people to be confident in the FBI and I want them to be confident in us, the people that made these decisions under very difficult circumstances. That`s number one, number two is I know we didn`t do anything wrong. And so I feel confident that after a thorough review, if it`s done as I said professionally and fairly, that will be --
MELBER: So you`re not worried about this sort of the public side of it, the way they use stuff.
BAKER: Well, no. I`m worried about -- I am worried about the effect long- term on institutions like the FBI with respect to the number, and volume, and intensity of the public statements that some officials have made with respect to us you know, references about a coup, treason, sedition, these type of things. They`re unwarranted, they`re not supported by the facts. It`s inappropriate and it serves to undermine the institution.
I do worry whether it will result in people being -- people in the institution today being nervous about you know, going after hard cases and doing the right thing. It is -- it is worrisome. I agree with you on that for sure.
MELBER: Well, James Baker, really interesting getting your perspective given all your experience. I appreciate you come on THE BEAT. I hope you`ll consider coming back.
BAKER: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you.
MELBER: Thank you, sir. Up ahead, the New York Times Nick Kristof joins Parliament Funkadelic George Clinton on a very special "FALLBACK FRIDAY." Don`t miss it.
MELBER: And now to a very special edition of "FALLBACK." Joining me now, the king of funk himself, we are just living in his empire, rock and roll hall of famer, Grammy winner, George Clinton, who has led the bands, of course, Parliament-Funkadelic and collaborated across genres from Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Tupac, to Kendrick Lamar. His work has been sampled in hundreds of songs that you know. He`s now on tour for the final time through this November on the one nation under a groove tour.
And another groovy friend of THE BEAT, New York Times Journalist Nick Kristof who serve as correspondent all around the world from Los Angeles to Beijing, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and expert on humanitarian interventions and human rights across the globe. Thanks to both of you for coming on together.
NICK KRISTOF, JOURNALIST, NEW YORK TIMES. I`m delighted. I`m trying to learn some funkiness here.
MELBER: Some of the funkiness can be shared, right? Funk is the --
GEORGE CLINTON, MUSICIAN: Yes, you can see it.
MELBER: This is a dream for us. George, who needs to fall back?
CLINTON: I must say the major record labels and publishing houses you need to fall back on blocking the recapture of the intellectual properties of the artists over the years. You know, you get -- you get to recapture your songwriters after a certain amount of years. They started to block those recaptures so they need to fall back on that, you know.
MELBER: And can I double down on your fallback?
CLINTON: Please do. I think and I`ve learned a little bit of music from the great musicians that have come on the show, they also these industry leaders need to fall back on taking advantage of young artists who are so eager to get a shot that they sometimes will sign almost any, they don`t know what they`re signing.
CLINTON: That`s exactly -- you said it just like I wanted to. I didn`t know I have that much time. But that`s exactly what I`m saying. And even after you get to the point where you need to recapture the music, they jump in and block that, all these artists that you say just signed those papers that they didn`t know what they were signing. They need to fall back on that.
MELBER: Nick, what`s on your mind?
KRISTOF: This summer marks the 30th anniversary of China crushing the tenement democracy movement protesters. And I was there on that Square when that happened. It haunts me. And the fact that China now won`t even allow a mention of June 4th of that date or of the democracy movement to just try to erase that history, it is time for it to the fallback and honor some of those students and workers I saw who fell on that square that night.
MELBER: One of the things that cynical people say is well, who cares in other countries especially people in charge they can do what they want. But why is it you say that actually some of these authoritarian regimes do care about the words and images that go around the world about them?
KRISTOF: I mean, one measure of how much China cares is that any T.V. in China is showing in this MSNBC right now is going to have this section delete it because they censor anything that can come into the country that refers to Tiananmen, to the massacre there the -- what they`ve done to the internet underscores that.
And you know, we`ve seen in other countries in Taiwan and South Korea massacres later become studied and become overturned and at some point that is going to happen to China, and I`m going to see a memorial go up in Tiananmen Square to those courageous students of 1989 and I -- that`s the story I really look forward to covering.
MELBER: Well, amen to that. In a way, both of you are today talking about free expression which is a human right and is so important to human beings. My fallback is a little lighter. Now, you remember Bob Marley. You used to talk about songs of freedom?
CLINTON: Yes. What`s that for?
MELBER: Well, we`ve got something going on with the Trump administration that if you haven`t heard about, you got to hear about. You know, fossil fuels are controversial. People think about environmental protection. And the Energy Department under Donald Trump, look at this, is now trying to rebrand fossil fuels as molecules of freedom.
Trump administration rebrands fossil fuels as molecules of U.S. freedom, Energy Department trying to rebrand gas. This is a little Orwellian I think and it reminds me of freedom fries.
CLINTON: Yes. That was -- wow, that was good.
MELBER: Do you remember that?
CLINTON: I was being (INAUDIBLE). Freedom fries.
KRISTOF: Trying to reframe fossil fuels, I mean, that is quite a stretch.
MELBER: And I know this is a branding president, and I know that some of his supporters said oh, he`s going to do for America what he did in business, right. But if what you do in in business or policy is just try to hide things with words instead of dealing with them, that`s not going to last.
KRISTOF: You can produce carbon emissions or you can rebrand fossil fuels.
CLINTON: Well, if you go into bankruptcy a thousand times, that`s the nice brand.
MELBER: You don`t think he was as good at business as he says.
CLINTON: No, no, there are many bankruptcy.
MELBER: What else is on your fallback list?
CLINTON: Well, you know, I`m a painter. I like to paint. And they got this robot, this thing that`s going to become a new thing in here.
MELBER: Yes, he`s artificial intelligence and he gives real painter some people say a run for their money.
CLINTON: Yes, I mean, that -- he need to fall back because see, I paint, I painted my shoes, I`m just not getting into the art. And they going to make robots to do that? They doing everything else?
KRISTOF: They`re writing new articles.
MELBER: This is -- you get -- you get into a deep place. Can artificial intelligence make art, George, do you think?
CLINTON: I`m sure they can do anything you can think about. I`m thinking this can be done. Pretty much somebody will find a way to do it. And intelligence, it`s copied on the computer. I`m sure they`ll find a way to do it. It`ll be accepted. I`m waiting on the hologram to come and take my place now.
MELBER: A little Coachella hologram for you?
CLINTON: Yes, you know what I`m saying. Now, you going to have robots, you get robots taking your love ones from, you mate, they got all kind of robots in store for you.
MELBER: Let me tell you something. Nick is a little bit like some musicians where he`s a big shot but he also has a big heart, and you don`t always see that together.
CLINTON: Yes. But it works -- it works like that in the funk.
MELBER: What`s this?
CLINTON: This is the new one here.
MELBER: Oh wow. All right, these are your -- and this is everybody in the band too?
CLINTON: Yes, all the different band members.
MELBER: That`s fantastic.
MELBER: Which one should we give to Nick? I`ll give you one.
KRISTOF: To make you a little funkier.
MELBER: Give him one of them.
CLINTON: Which one is for you? Which one do you want, Nick? You pick it.
KRISTOF: Well, this is pretty funky? How`s that?
CLINTON: Well, you pick the funky one. He got funked. I would love to get you another one.
KRISTOF: I like that.
MELBER: All right, George and Nick, thank you.
CLINTON: Thank you.
MELBER: And we will be right back.
MELBER: One last thing we want to share, and it is a fun thing for a serious and good cause. This is a challenge that we are doing on social media. It`s called the reason for freezing challenge. You`re supposed to eat something very cold. Take a look at NBC`s Craig Melvin who nominated me. Here he is taking the challenge himself on Monday with colleagues at the "TODAY SHOW." And it`s called freezing to raise awareness about metastatic breast cancer which currently has no cure.
It`s raising awareness and raising funds. So you can join us this weekend. You can do your own challenge and post it online with the #ReasonForFreezingNBC. Now that does it for us. I`ll be back here 6:00 P.M. Eastern on Monday. "HARDBALL" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END