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Key Democrats Pelosi and Nadler face pressure. TRANSCRIPT: 6/10/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Melissa Murray, Elie Mystal, Michael Wolff, Steve Cohen, MarianneWilliamson

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. Thank you very much. As Steve mentioned, that hearing continues. We are going to bring you the live updates from it, including some very special coverage tonight.

This is quite a Monday to start the week. There was this wild scene today. Watergate star witness John Dean in those hearings I mentioned that are still continuing. He laid out why he basically thinks, although he used careful language, that the sitting President is a criminal. We`ll get into that.

The Justice Department also folding; this is a story that we`ve been covering a lot. You may think what was ever going to happen, was AG Barr ever going to back down? Well, he did, handing over new Mueller documents to the Congress, so there`s a lot on that we`re going to get into.

And that`s not all, because Donald Trump himself has backed down completely in his threatened trade war with Mexico, so your avocados will stay at roughly the same price. We`re going to break down later in the hour what I think you need to know, what I think reporters need to know, to prevent overreaction to these kind of antics next time.

But we begin with this show of force from Democrats. The Justice Department, as I mentioned, they`re caving here. They`re going to give the Judiciary Committee new evidence from inside the Mueller probe. These are documents and other investigative findings.

Now this deal comes in a very specific context. You could call it a political fire, you could call it inner-branch negotiations, whatever you want to call it, it`s all about the Democrats threatening to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in criminal contempt of Congress.

Now it`s not exactly clear from the information we`ve been reporting out today, including our Hill reporters, what the DOJ will particularly hand over. So we don`t have a list say of the evidence numbers. What we do have is this, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who`s not exactly known to be a fan of Mr. Barr or roll over for him.

What Mr. Nadler says is this is a good outcome and he says he is getting "interview notes and first-hand accounts of what he views as misconduct by the Trump White House." Democrats say, "It`s a breakthrough in their investigation," and because of that, because they say they`re getting something that Attorney General Bill Barr initially flatly refused to give, because they say he is folding, they`re now holding off on that full criminal contempt vote of the sitting Attorney General.

They also are negotiating further, saying there are other documents and other types of testimonies they want, including obviously testimony from the star witness according to Mueller, former White House Counsel Don McGahn.

McGahn is refusing, so the Judiciary Committee will move forward today and it questioned this other man who held of course famously the same job, John Dean. There were other witnesses, including two prosecutors you have seen probably if you`ve ever watched this show before on THE BEAT, you see them they`re getting sworn in. Judiciary Chairman Nadler arguing this hearing is the beginning of dealing with what Mueller found.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): We have a responsibility to do this work, to follow the facts where they lead, to make recommendations to the whole House as circumstances warrant, and to craft legislation that makes certain no President, Democrat or Republican, can ever act in this way again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And John Dean arguing there are clear parallels to the President that he famously turned on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: In many ways, the Mueller report is to President Trump what the so-called Watergate roadmap was to President Richard Nixon.

I certainly hope Don McGahn is a key witness before this Committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s where the other side the contempt fight is, because Barr clearly gave up things he didn`t want to, to avoid his contempt vote. McGahn still faces one.

The Republicans were not focused on what McGahn may know or why their Committee wouldn`t want to hear from someone so central. They were focused - take a look at this - on John Dean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): This committee is now hearing from the `70s and they want their star witness back.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): --plead guilty to obstruction of justice and now coming in to enlighten the Judiciary Committee on obstruction of justice.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Do you believe if we turned the lights off here and maybe lit some candles, got out a Ouija board, we could potentially raise the specter of Richard Nixon?

DEAN: (LAUGHTER) I doubt that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Snap and credit for the Ouija board burn. That`s a reference some people may enjoy, and you could make your points however you want, politicians certainly do.

The substance though also matters here. Democrats are digging in not on those kinds of references, they certainly weren`t warring with most of the witnesses in such a personal way.

They used today`s hearing in front of the nation under oath to dig in to what Bob Mueller says was so important that he found, like when Donald Trump tried to potentially illegally pressure his White House Counsel, who`s still fighting the subpoena to testify, to fire Bob Mueller himself and McGahn, for reasons we only know about from this investigation, refused.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Understanding the circumstances, was Don McGahn`s decision to ignore the call to get Mueller fired, and McGahn`s reaction to resign reasonable, appropriate, commendable?

DEAN: Yes.

COHEN: Mr. Dean, understanding your history as someone who was in a similar position but chose differently, what do you think Don McGahn was afraid of and why did he feel the need to protect both his Chief of Staff and other advisers?

DEAN: Well I think he`s somebody who learned from history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Are we all going to learn from history? The Congressman you just saw questioning that witness is here on THE BEAT tonight, he joins me momentarily.

I want to begin with our analysis though with law professor Melissa Murray, who`s also a clerk to Judge Sotomayor, and Elie Mystal, editor of the website, Above the Law, and a writer for The Nation magazine. Good to have you both here.

ELIE MYSTAL, EDITOR, ABOVE THE LAW, AND CONTRIBUTING WRITER FOR THE NATION: Hey.

MELISSA MURRAY, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: Thanks Ari.

MELBER: What do Americans take away from today`s hearing, the very first on the Mueller report?

MURRAY: This is a public education hearing designed to bring before the American people all of the evidence laid it out in a way that`s comprehensible and contextualized within history. John Dean is basically saying this is almost exactly like Watergate. It`s not quite exactly like Watergate, we don`t have the tapes, we don`t know President Trump`s MO, but there are a lot of parallels.

And just as impeachment was appropriate there, John Dean is laying the case that impeachment might be appropriate here as well.

MELBER: Right, which was interesting to hear, you just said John Dean a couple of times, and this in some ways has become a perhaps unnecessary political proxy debate over John Dean himself. Elie, now I don`t know if you ever used to watch The A-Team.

MYSTAL: Yes.

MELBER: But there were times--

MYSTAL: I pity the fool, I got you.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER: There are times when Mr. T would say, you brought this on yourself. And this is now a part of the politics of it today. Listen to the President trying to make it all about John Dean.

MYSTAL: Oh I thought you were going to--

MELBER: I am, I am.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER DAOU, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is not a time for dithering. I don`t want to impugn the integrity.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Dean has been a loser for many years, John`s been a loser for a long time, we know that. I think he was disbarred and he went to prison. Other than that, he`s doing a great job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: There we are. You may weigh in now. Yes, we were going to that.

(LAUGHTER)

MYSTAL: Yes, John Dean has stood up for what was right in America. After committing some crimes, he reformed himself or redeemed himself, and that makes Trump think that he`s a loser.

Look, I agree with Professor Murray that this is a bit of a public education hearing. This is like a pre-impeachment hearing without the I word somehow for performative stuff.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean I don`t know, I think I would have preferred Tom Hanks reading mean tweets as opposed to John Dean. If it`s just going to be a show, let`s get some professionals, right.

(LAUGHTER)

At what point do Democrats like stop with the stunt and get on with the game.

MELBER: I think you put it well. I mean I`m going to put some headlines up and some of this relates to guests we had in the show last week, but it`s also broader than that, which is the pressure from the Democratic base and a lot of citizens and a lot of legal experts about whether they`re going hard enough.

Criticism punctuates Nadler`s leadership of the Trump probe.

Impeachment-hungry ex Clinton-aide eyes primary takedown of Nadler himself; it was an unexpected moment, but one that occurred on THE BEAT where a guest said he might run against Nadler and it`s making headlines beyond THE BEAT.

How much in your view does that go into the politics of this? Because Republicans often lead by saying, you could get something worse than us, you could get the Tea Party or the more fringe bag or whatever it is. Do you think the Democrats, in addition to the serious legal issues, this is a Congressional activity, this is politics, do they need to have a political message about you`re lucky you`re getting Nadler, it could be worse?

MYSTAL: Yes, they need to have a strategy here which I don`t fully understand. Now if we read the tea leaves, we are to understand that Jerry Nadler actually wants to do more and he`s being pushed or blocked by Nancy Pelosi in terms of how much he can do.

And so there`s clearly some mixed messaging going on within the Democratic Party and there`s not within the Republican Party.

MELBER: And do you (inaudible) do you give Chairman Nadler some credit on that because there are members of Congress, he is one, AOC is another, who have been quite clear at saying in their view the evidence shows the President committed a crime, now what do you want to do about it.

MYSTAL: Right. I think Nadler is doing as best he can within the structure of Democratic leadership. And at some point, that`s the structure that needs to break, so that we can move forward in a more aggressive fashion.

MURRAY: It`s not just educating the public. I mean, some of this is educating members of your own caucus, right. So there are Democrats who are much more moderate and much more focused on what`s coming up in 2020. And I think part of this is showing them like this is not that hard, the case is easy, here`s John Dean who`s been there done that, telling you that follow these breadcrumbs, we all know where it leads and it`s an orange jumpsuit.

MYSTAL: But it wasn`t just - I mean as you pointed out, it wasn`t just Dean, it was people like us, it was cable talking news like--

MURRAY: Well, nobody listened to that.

MYSTAL: --that was also like trying - it`s almost like you know Joyce White (ph) like went down to DC to be like, could you guys please listen to what - Joe Vance (ph) actually went down to DC and asked these people to please listen to what - the actual Mueller report.

The stat came out today, only 3% of people have actually read the Mueller report, and that`s why you need Bryan Cranston who just won a Tony to go down there and read it to them.

MELBER: You`re really pushing this hard.

MURRAY: You can get it on Audible, like you can listen to the Mueller report on Audible. America should just do that - do that.

MELBER: Yes, I think I think you also raised an interesting issue which we`re going to get into sooner or later when we hear back from these panelists, some of them are well known for television. Full disclosure, some of them provide analysis on MSNBC.

There is a higher bar of them going and testifying under oath, which is different, and they testify there for the same reason they`re on MSNBC, which is the underlying expertise they have.

MYSTAL: Yes, and I like them, I think that`s good, I think it`s good for people to be informed. What I need from Congress is action, right, and this is - and the whole part of this hearing, I mean we talked a little bit about the contempt and oh now--

MELBER: You want action - let me put - can I cede my first question to the Congressman to you? Would you - should you want to do that?

MYSTAL: Absolutely.

MELBER: Since you`re feeling strongly, Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, who`s on the Judiciary Committee and backs impeachment, I know you agreed to interview with me, would you be willing to also take a question from Elie?

COHEN: Sure.

MELBER: You sir have been forceful and you back impeachment, and I think Elie is talking about some of your colleagues and he`s so into it, I`m going to let you go first, what do you want to know?

MYSTAL: What is the thing in the Mueller report that you are still waiting for before you can move forward with this--

MELBER: Or you and your colleagues.

MYSTAL: --you and your colleagues are waiting for, before you can move forward with impeachment.

COHEN: I think you have to ask my Speaker, who I think the world of, that question because I`m there, I think Nadler is pretty much there, most of our Committee`s there, but you can`t do it without the Speaker.

MELBER: And so, when you put it that way, walk us through that, Congressman, what is the substantive and political activity that goes on, because the nation`s watching, you`re holding this hearing today, it`s still going - we showed clips and we`re going to show more as it goes - and you`re educating the public. But ultimately, what are you and your colleagues saying to as you put it Speaker that you - is your leader that you respect?

COHEN: Well, I think that it would be beneficial to us because of our oath of office to bring impeachment. I think he deserves it, I think he`s committed impeachable offenses. I think it would get - politically it would get our base out and it`s - I think this election of 2020 is about your base coming out to vote. That`s beyond the imperative of responding to your oath and acting on it.

And I also think that the Senate, while they won`t convict, I think that the - if the hearings come up and having impeachment hearings or impeachment inquiry, we`ll be able to get more witnesses which Trump`s trying to stop us from getting, McGahn and possibly even Barr, but certainly Mueller and Hope Hicks and the lady Donaldson to come before us, that the case will be made and more people before impeachment.

And by the time they get to the Senate, they won`t vote to impeach him, but the Republicans who don`t like Cory Gardner who probably won`t and Collins and McSally, they will be toast, because even the red folks in their states will vote against him for staying with Moby Dick when he`s going down to the bottom of the sea.

MELBER: You put it - you just put it quite clearly and succinctly. I haven`t heard other members of Congress at least put it that way, the notion that the pressure only goes against the Democrats, you could never win the Senate. You`re saying the pressure may go very much the other direction, although as we`ve pointed out, obviously a constitutional matter has to be adjudicated on something beyond bare-knuckle politics, but that`s part of the debate.

I wonder what you think of the significance of Attorney General Barr, who is nothing if not a muscular proponent of his available authorities, folding today on something that I would argue - I`ve covered - he legally could continue to fight?

In other words, it would be perfectly lawful for the Attorney General to maintain the position that he`s not going to give the underlying Mueller docs, it appears as you say Chairman Nadler`s assertiveness worked and he`s getting them. Does that in your view say anything about the power of pressure that your party could continue to use?

COHEN: Well, we`ll have to see what the documents involved.

MELBER: Right.

COHEN: We have an opportunity this week each member of the Judiciary Committee to go and view them and I`ll be doing that. I`m afraid that they`re not going to be as much as we`d like them to be.

The main documents that I want to see are the ones before the grand jury. Those that - the questions and the answers that were intended to produce indictments and proof to convict people of crimes.

MELBER: Interesting.

COHEN: That`s what we need to see and also not just obstruction, but also in "collusion" which we all know is not the right legal term, but could be in an impeachable term with Russia. And Mueller made it clear that there were like a hundred and something instances of the Trump campaign and the Russians getting together and talking and communicating et cetera, and they had - and Trump did his excuse for his son like Don Jr. wasn`t in school today.

Well, Don Jr. was there because he was interested in adoptions, which was a big lie, and if he lied about that meeting, why did he lie about it. He lied about it because they didn`t want us to know the real reason for that meeting.

MELBER: Interesting.

COHEN: There`s a difference in the burden of proof, which I brought out with the - in the hearing today and in questioning Joyce. Mueller had to deal with guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For an impeachment, you only deal with basically a preponderance of the evidence.

And there`s a big difference, because Mueller didn`t have a guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and a conspiracy with an overt act. That doesn`t mean that the information he has in that report doesn`t show that there was collusion, and collusion to a preponderance of the evidence and it`s certainly an obstruction of justice.

MELBER: Well, when you lay it out like that, you`re also reminding viewers who`ve heard Mueller speak about the lane here between what he did with his role and what he handed off, because he made it clear in his brief remarks this was handing it off to the non-criminal process, not the higher standards you mentioned, but whether and if Congress wants to do something about it.

On those documents, I want to read these to you and then get Professor back in, Chairman Nadler, with regard to what you said you just want from DOJ says he`s most interested in Trump`s attempts to fire Mueller, the request to McGahn to create a fraudulent record denying the incident, and the efforts to get Sessions to undo his recusal.

Are those of interest to you or what else do you want to know from these new materials you`re getting?

COHEN: Is that me or the Professor?

MELBER: You, and then I was going to have the Professor get in after you.

COHEN: Well, I think those are the main points we wanted to see, and I think Barbara McQuade said them out well that it was - the issue about McGahn - him telling McGahn to fire Mueller and then to ask Sessions to recuse - reverse his recusal, and the fact he asked him to give false testimony and put a memo in to say he never really did that.

These are direct obstruction of justice and nobody can look at that and see anything but obstruction of justice. The President`s guilty of that. And I think we had a successful hearing, it`s just how many people saw it, I don`t know. It should have been on MSNBC, should have been on CNN, it should have been on Fox, and not just on C-SPAN 3.

MELBER: Do you think we the media made a mistake there in not covering it?

COHEN: I definitely think the media did and I think all three of the major stations should have - C-SPAN 3 doesn`t have the coverage, there was important witnesses, people who are knowledgeable and experts and their testimony and their opinion should have been heard.

MELBER: You know, our tradition on this show is we seek input from all sides and we take constructive criticism, so you got to state your view of that on the record. The final thought or a question from Professor.

MURRAY: I just want to know what exactly are you going to find here, what`s the smoking gun for you, because I worry that you`ve perhaps overplayed your hand for the American people in saying this is breakthrough evidence, when in fact maybe it`s not the smoking gun that you`re hoping for? What do you need to see in order to make this go forward?

COHEN: Well I don`t know if there`s a smoking gun, I think the Mueller report is a smoking gun, it`s a cannon. It`s just nobody read it, nobody looked at it, it`s like you know if the tree falls in the forest nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

The Mueller report is there, it`s clear that he obstructed justice, and if we got to see all the redacted testimony, you might also see collusion. The problem is people didn`t read it, Barr was able to poison the people`s minds with his three and a half page synopsis saying no collusion, no obstruction, and then he gave his opinion in a press conference two hours before it`s released.

They effectively got the Trump team to buy the malarkey that they were putting out, which was not what the Mueller report was about. The Mueller report is a smoking cannon.

MELBER: Congressman Cohen, really appreciate you making time on a busy night, where the hearing`s still going and you`re in a busy place in the Congress, and you`re giving us your views and your thoughts, appreciate it.

COHEN: You are welcome, Ari, but Heidi Schreck should be the one, not - she didn`t win the Tony last night, but she`s the constitution and she should be the one to talk about--

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: You are talking about her Broadway show?

COHEN: Yes, I`ve been at the show, she`s great, great show.

MYSTAL: Good show.

MURRAY: It`s a good show.

MELBER: Well we`ll let her know, we`re a day late for the Tonys, but quite topical Congressman Cohen, Melissa Murray, Elie Mystal, I learned a lot from each of you, a fascinating exchange. We have a lot more in the show as I mentioned.

The Mexican government outright fact-checking Donald Trump`s claims. We`re going to explain why he folded. I`m joined later by author Michael Wolff who`s actually studied these dynamics much to the rage of some in the Trump White House. We will also speak to one of the Democratic Presidential candidates who is out in Iowa this weekend, I`ll tell you who later, and we have an update on a surprising Donald Trump pick for the border agenda, a story we`ve been all over.

And that`s not all, a formal Watergate prosecutor will join me today with more from today`s testimony, including we`re going to show you new footage unaired of what happened in that important hearing, so stay with us.

I`m Ari Melber, you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: President Trump caved on his threatened tariffs on Mexico and now he is claiming the reason is apparently a secret agreement with Mexico, which doesn`t in fact exist, and Foreign Minister of that country saying flatly there is no secret deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE KERNEN, CO-HOST, CNBC`S SQUAWK BOX: Can you go into exactly what else was part of that deal that you haven`t really outlined yet?

TRUMP: We purposely said we wouldn`t mention it for a little while. It`s going to be brought up, because it has to be brought by their legislative body, it`s got to take - be taken to a vote so we didn`t bring it up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s Donald Trump phoning in his defense, which is also a lie, that happens from time to time. But it`s important to understand this one, because it had huge market shaking consequences.

Trump`s claim now that there`s a secret deal is of course response to the fact that he very publicly folded after saying that there was going to be tariffs on Mexico starting today, Monday. And Trump had been threatening this, a move that economists publicly warned would if implemented be effectively attacks on you, which also separately caused a freak out on Wall Street for related reasons and then triggered a rebellion for many Republicans in the Senate who usually put up with just about anything Trump wants to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, there is not much support and not enough confidence 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.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Yes, I think it`s mistake. My honest opinion is that the short-term gain is not worth the long-term pain.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): For a lot of Republicans, it`s a tax, it`s a tax borne mostly by consumers.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Take that all together, it sounds like bad news for the President. So he needed a way out of his own bind. On Friday, Donald Trump announced no tariffs after all, and then he started lying about the reasons. He said Mexico agreed to get tougher on immigration, deploying 6000 National Guard troops throughout the country, and expanding a program to let asylum seekers remain in Mexico.

I say lie because you can put true things in a way together that become misleading and this is where the fact-check comes in. The New York Times reports Mexico had already promised to take most of those actions already previously with the U.S., months ago even, which suggests it was for nothing.

A fake crisis that Trump tried to create and then got himself in the hot water over. It`s familiar because this has happened before. There`s Trump`s attempts to invoke widespread crime, when crime rates are low for his own ends or rebrand the NAFTA trade agreement without any actual changes that would help workers, or declare national emergency on the border, diverting funding normally something conservatives are opposed to all for what, for a wall that he promised you, you would never have to pay for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Believe me, Mexico`s paying for the wall, okay, that`s it.

If I win, if I become President, Mexico will pay for the wall.

And by the way, Mexico will pay for the wall, they will pay for the wall, that I can tell you.

(APPLAUSE)

Mexico`s going to pay for the wall, they don`t know it yet, they don`t know it yet.

(APPLAUSE)

They are starting to have a very good idea, but that`s okay.

And Mexico`s going to pay for the wall and they`ll be happy to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Mexico is going to pay for the wall. But they never did, unless - to be fair, unless there`s a secret deal to do so.

I`m joined now to get into this mess with best-selling author Michael Wolff. He went deep inside Trump world, he`s spoken to dozens if not hundreds of people for his two books. The new one, Siege.

His first book you may remember on the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, sold over four million copies and earned him an SNL impression. Nice to have you back.

MICHAEL WOLFF, AUTHOR, "SIEGE: TRUMP UNDER FIRE": Thank you for having me.

MELBER: You became very influential, some might even say famous, because you got so close to these people and you seem to find things other people may not have. You`re here today because we`re looking at this classic Trump situation that you can`t just dismiss because it was going to affect people`s lives and jobs, it was going to affect the markets, it was going to affect international relations, until it wasn`t.

What do you see as important coming out of this folding?

WOLFF: Well, step back a second here, because I think you have to see the context of how this unfolded. And we sort of see this as though Trump had a had a plan, a master plan, and even now it`s a master plan that even that he had to retreat from.

MELBER: Well, I`ll let you keep going, but anyone who can humiliate themselves like this obviously is a master strategist.

WOLFF: Well, there was no plan. (LAUGHTER)

I mean it - literally the tariffs on Mexican goods, 5%, 10% like a loan shark going up came out of his mouth, nobody knew about it, nobody in the White House knew about it, nobody in the Republican Party, they didn`t know about it because it did not exist until it came out of his mouth.

At that very moment, it became a kind of sort of policy or hot potato policy or everyone saying what are we going to do with this policy. The Republican leadership rejected it, it will meaningfully impact the economy in a way that will hurt not only ordinary consumers, but hurt the Republican Party.

How do we get out of this? So Donald Trump effectively says this is how we`ll get out of it, I`ll lie about it. We`ll go in, we will say that we got a deal, everybody wins. Nothing changes, everybody wins.

MELBER: Except for perhaps the American consumer and citizen.

WOLFF: Well, the American consumer isn`t - nothing changes. I mean I think it`s like the North Korea thing it reminds me of. Let`s go North Korea rocket man, they`re going to - we`re going to go to war with them, we`re going to - they`re going to bomb us, whatever that whole thing was. Okay, no we`re going to make peace with them, I`m going to go there. Did anything change? Literally not one thing has changed.

MELBER: So when you put it out like that, I feel torn, I want to ask it this way. Is this then in your view a story of reality ultimately winning or is it a story of an endless series of frustrating waste of time that if you completely ignored reality might lose, because we just showed what it took to stop what Republicans and economists and others said was a bad idea?

WOLFF: I think it was never going to happen, so we`re in a situation in which the reality is Donald Trump`s reality. There`s the reality in which life goes on and policies go on, international relationships go on, and then this blip in which Donald Trump successfully at least for a moment describes reality in an altogether other way.  But because it`s not real, if that were -- if that were to go on, if that were to work out, if he were to actually levy tariffs, then reality would explode and everyone would see that Donald Trump has no idea what he`s doing.

But we don`t get that far.  This is like in in North Korea also.  We don`t get that far.  Nothing changes except Donald Trump`s rhetoric.  Literally - - nothing is here we could all go home nothing would change.

MELBER:  I have to stay for half an hour --

WOLFF:  But this is --

MELBER:  I tell you what.  Will you stay with me -- what I`m going to do, I`m going to fit in -- because I love some of what you`re saying and it`s interesting.  Let me fit in one of our super short breaks and you stay with me, OK.  We`ll be back with Michael Wolff in 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  I`m back with bestselling author Michael Wolff who was breaking it down dropping science as we say about why today is important.  Today was the day that Donald Trump pledged and promised and told everyone Mexico was going to finally face the music and the medicine and they`re not at all whatsoever, and he`s folded.  And you were explaining to us that that is partly because he was always going to fold.  It was never going to happen.

I want to advance our conversation to another area that when I report on him, when I was out there, his voters, many of them really believed which was he was going to be used skills he used for Trump Inc. for America.  He was going to get these new jobs and often it was the same dance that we just showed whenever there was an announce deal, it was stuff that wasn`t even new, it was already going to happen anyway.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I was just called by the head people at Sprint and they`re going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States.  They`ve taken from other countries.  They`re bringing it back to the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  The same thing.  Is there an antidote to all this?  And if you were right in your central claim that this was all going to fold anyway, does that mean that everyone we just showed media included, media, Wall Street, the Republicans in the Senate should all have just waited him out?

WOLFF:  Yes.  I mean, I think that that`s -- and I don`t know how to do this.  But I think it would be very significant if at some point you just called the bluff fear.  Do the tariffs.  Please do the tariffs. 

MELBER:  Or -- because we wouldn`t in the press say it quite that way but to translate what you`re saying, we would say the day the tariffs are actually implemented is the first day we`re going to cover them that way.  Now, traditionally with presidents, their credibility does get some deference.  They`re the president.  You`re saying go to a no credibility somewhat completely.

WOLFF:  I mean, I think you have to look at this.  In every situation, there is no credibility.  It is all a lie.  It all is make-believe.  And he would have you of course think well, this is -- this is a lie in service to a greater negotiating point.

MELBER:  Or a secret deal.

WOLFF:  Whatever, yes.  I`m going to do this, I`m going to say this.  And even if I`m lying, I`m using that to pressure them for a deal.  And the point is -- and this has now been some -- you know, the time story was good on this.  This is -- this is amply documented at this this point.  It is not I`m using a lie for these purposes, I`m just using a lie and I get nothing out of it.  Nothing changes. 

The status quo remains.  The only thing that`s different is that Donald Trump can say I got a bit -- I got a secret deal.

MELBER:  Right.  It is pure performance and you say that the -- what we think of as the accountability checks, the market does tell us something, the political clues have a lot of noise in the signal but there`s a signal there, and you`re saying even they are still at this juncture overreacted by not taking this central lesson.

WOLFF:  No.  Remember, he goes -- he goes to North Korea, everybody is impressed.

MELBER:  Right.

WOLFF:  Impressed.  But he goes there and he returns with nothing.  Nothing changes.

MELBER:  Well, as the old saying goes.  Did you like it?  Did you have fun?  Do you get that reference?

WOLFF:  I do.  I do.

MELBER:  It`s a reference to Fred Armisen playing you.  And we learn from you because you are so bottom-line about what`s happening in this world, a world that political journalist and others have struggled I think fairly.  We have struggled to always understand.  The new book is Siege: Trump Under Fire.  The Author is Michael Wolff, the show is THE BEAT.

And when we come back after a quick break, a conservative lawyer testifying in the obstruction probe now blames Mueller and is here.  Later, Oprah`s spiritual leader actually surging out basically outperforming other more famous candidates.  Did you know that?  We`ll explain why.  She joins me tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Don`t call to come back.  But as widely debated from the president out to the progressives today, John Dean 45 years after Watergate was back testifying about criminal acts by a president.  Democrats say whistleblower John Dean was the right person to have today and he says he actually does see parallels of the obstruction between Watergate and what Mueller found about Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  I think there is evidence incidentally in the report of collusion.  There have been a number of well- done articles that draw on the different contacts between the Trump people and the Russians and make a fairly strong case for collusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Democrats` star witness they`re trying to reopen or uncork that debate.  And there were others as mentioned on tonight`s show, a former federal prosecutor who was there for her expertise but we should note, of course, full disclosure is also a legal analyst for us Joyce Vance.  And she testified under oath that there was a potential indictment for Trump based on these findings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  The facts contained in that report would be sufficient to prove all of the elements necessary to charge multiple counts of obstruction of justice.  I would be willing to personally indict the case and to try the case.  I would have confidence that the evidence would be sufficient to obtain a guilty verdict and to win on appeal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I`m joined now by another Watergate figure, former Assistant Prosecutor Nick Akerman.  Nice to have you here.

NICKK AKERMAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Nice to be here.

MELBER:  We mentioned the full disclosure because these are -- some of these witnesses are effectively colleagues and you know them as well.  Having said that, if you put on your lawyer cap, what do you think was the key evidence that was presented today?

AKERMAN:   Well, I think the key evidence was putting together what was in there on the obstruction count so that the public would understand it.  I think the more the public understands what`s in that Mueller report, the more dangerous it becomes for Donald Trump.

I mean, there really is a lot of information in there.  There`s essentially three crimes that we`re dealing with.  It`s obstruction, it`s the deal with the break-in to the Democratic National Committee, and it`s the use of social media to suppress the Clinton vote.  And there`s evidence on all three of those areas.

The ones that personally relate to Donald Trump are the obstruction of justice.  We know that because it`s all laid out there and the legal underpinning for it.

MELBER:  And part of that was in the way the Democrats got witnesses to draw on what we know from the Mueller report about what Donald Trump wanted out of his Attorney General, what he got, and what he did to change that.  The idea being that there was corrupt intent in what he wanted.  Take a look at John Dean laying that out today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA):  Do you believe it is the role of the Attorney General to protect the president?

DEAN:  That certainly wasn`t the case during the Nixon presidency.  This is a sort of unprecedented view from Mr. Trump as to what the Attorney General should and should not be doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AKERMAN:  The Attorney General during the Nixon era was Elliot Richardson who was above approach.  He is the one that appointed Archibald Cox to be Special Watergate Prosecutor.  He refused Richard Nixon in his order to fire Archibald Cox.  And he was somebody that Cox relied on whose ethics and propriety were never questioned for a moment.

He was always the lawyer of the people.  He was -- had a resume that was absolutely stellar.  His public service from being governor of Massachusetts to various cabinet positions in the Nixon administration, he was always considered an absolute star and somebody that you could rely on.

MELBER:  Right, which is such a contrast here now.

AKERMAN:  Not even close.

MELBER:  Now, you`re not the only federal prosecutor around here you know.

AKERMAN:  I realize that.

MELBER:  You know John Malcolm?

AKERMAN:  I don`t know him but --

MELBER:  A federal prosecutor in the Republican administrations who laid out a very clear case for why you don`t have to like what Donald Trump did, you don`t have to agree with it, you don`t even have to think it`s the kind of thing that is worthy of a president, but that time and time again he had the right and that Bob Mueller didn`t land the plane to use their terms.

I want to play -- we`ve got some of the best strongest things that he said today and for our viewers who we understand all points of view here, for your analysis, take a listen to John`s testimony today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MALCOLM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  By not making a traditional prosecutorial judgment with respect to the obstruction of justice allegations, Mr. Mueller failed to fulfill that duty.  By not doing so, the Special Counsel put the Attorney General in the difficult situation of having to make that decision.

The president has legitimate -- perfectly legitimate reasons to be exasperated by the cloud hanging over his presidency from this investigation and for wishing it to come to a speedy conclusion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AKERMAN:  First of all, Bob Mueller had no idea that by not taking a position that suddenly the Attorney General would stick his nose into this thing and exonerate Donald Trump when in fact the evidence is so clear that he did attempt and endeavor to obstruct justice on at least a different occasion.

MELBER:  Do you think John quickly makes a fair point that by leaving it up in the air they can`t be so mad that the Attorney General also stated his view.

AKERMAN:  Well, the problem is you never expected it.  There`s been no reason for the Attorney General to state his view.

MELBER:  That that was out of bounds.

AKERMAN:  Yes, that was out of bounds.  That was not his job.

MELBER:  Right.  And to your point, many argue that well, Ken Starr finished his work.  Janet Reno didn`t then redo it, you know, that there was other precedent.  Lawyers like precedent.  Nick Akerman, always good to have you.

AKERMAN:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Up ahead, Democratic candidates storming Iowa three weeks ahead of what will be the very first debate.  Up next, you will hear for the first time on THE BEAT from a candidate who is in Iowa this weekend and who has made the competitive debate stage.  And then a new move from Trump tonight that Mitch McConnell will not like ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  We`re now about three weeks away from the first time Democrats running for president will take the debate stage.  It`s here on MSNBC.  And things are clearly heating up out on the trail.  Consider this weekend alone, 19 yes 19 candidates all made it to Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`m running for president because we can`t take four more years of Donald Trump.

MICHAEL BENNET (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Trump is the star of his own three-ring circus in Washington.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The American people do not want a president who is a liar, a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a religious bigot.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Donald Trump is the worst president in the history of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And now this Wednesday is also the deadline for candidates to qualify for the debates.  Governor`s Bullock and Hickenlooper have not made it yet and they have represented entire states as Democrats, while another name less known in politics has made the debate threshold both in polling and fundraising.

Marianne Williamson, a motivational speaker, author of 13 books, founder of two nonprofits.  Her work made her a frequent guest on Oprah where she`s known too many Americans.  And now right now, you`re going to hear for her -- from her for the first time ever on the beat.  I just caught up with her.

And given how she`s out performing as I mentioned some of these governors already in qualifying for the debates, I asked her what her approach will be on that big night.  Here`s a little part of her answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`m going to do in the debates what I do every single day on the campaign trail, and that is to do my best to speak as authentically, as fiercely, and as honestly as I can the issues that I believe America needs to be looking at.

We need to take a far more honest look at what is really happening in this country.  I`m not out to score some cheap points with other candidates.  I`m not running against anyone, I`m running with everyone.

MELBER:  And you know how to sell -- and you know, how to sell books like some of these candidates because you`ve already sold a lot of books.

WILLIAMSON:  Let me tell you something.  If I wanted to sell books, I`d be on a book tour right now.  I`d sell a lot more books.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That`s a fair point.  She`s earned the right to be confident about that.  We also talked about why she`s running for president and what it means to have her school her approach to progressivism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMSON:  I`m running on a conversation that the political status quo is not having.  We have millions of American children that we`re not taking care of.  I`m talking about the fact that even though we aren`t talking, we need to be talking about our health care system.  The truth is it`s more of a sickness care system.

What we`re not talking about or all the chemical policies, environmental policies, food policies, agricultural policies that lead to chronic illness that Americans should not be experiencing in such large number.

MELBER:  New York magazine assessing your candidacy and says by any measure you`re the most rigorously progressive candidate in the field and you wrap your progressivism in a spirituality instead of the socialist of materialism that we`ve heard about.  Is that right or how would you put it?

WILLIAMSON:  Well, I think it is -- it is true about my progressivism and it is also true about the fact that I believe that the biggest problem in America is that we have swerved from our moral Center.  And this has corrupted our government.  It has hijacked our value system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Strong words.  And then on a lighter note, we did a little bit of what we`ve done with just about every candidate when there`s time, a lightning round.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Your dream running mate living or dead.

WILLIAMSON:  Well, I can`t say because she might not want me to say that she would be my dream running mate.

MELBER:  Is this an Oprah reference?

WILLIAMSON:  Oh no, no, no.

MELBER:  Most important thing you learn from Oprah since I think you brought it up elliptically?

WILLIAMSON:  To speak as honestly as you can and as lovingly as you can and to value where other people are.

MELBER:  Yoga is important because.

WILLIAMSON:  Because I`m 66 and --

MELBER:  Musician Common who`s also been with us on THE BEAT has said that the book you wrote A Return to Love inspired his own memoir.

WILLIAMSON:  Well, I`m honored.

MELBER:  Why is it important for people to understand their own stories that seems to be an essence as part of this spiritual quest you`ve talked about?

WILLIAMSON:  Because the only way you can speak authentically is if you`re speaking from the grounding of your own being.  And you can`t speak from the grounding of your own being if you -- if you don`t inhabit it.

MELBER:  And finally, if you weren`t a Democrat you be a --

WILLIAMSON:  Democrat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Democrat.  In a democratic primary, apparently that can be one of the toughest questions to push on.  We wanted to show you that as we`ve been trying to have all kinds of candidates on THE BEAT.

And up ahead, I have something else that we`ve been talking about.  Donald Trump attacking an -- tapping an immigration hardliner for this very important role.  We did a special report on the problems and challenges to him.  I`m going to tell you what`s happening with that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Donald Trump today did a new appointment.  Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is now, if you haven`t heard, formally the Acting Director of Immigration Services in America.  Quite a turnaround from 2016 when as we`ve been reporting, Cuccinelli backed Ted Cruz all the way to try to derail Donald Trump at the convention, said Donald Trump wasn`t a Conservative, blasted his economic record, and then turned as well on Republicans in the Senate like Mitch Mcconnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN CUCCINELLI, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, VIRGINIA:  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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, but --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Mitch McConnell signaled he would stop Cuccinelli from any Senate confirmation vote for this job.  Today`s appointment though is Donald Trump saying, sorry, Mitch.  And here  is an end-run around McConnell`s entire caucus.

It is a reminder how this Senate`s well documented quailing in the face of President Trump can ultimately backfire on them too.  The president who accrues nearly uncheckable powers may use them very broadly and obviously against, yes, Republican Senators` preferences.

Some food for thought as Mitch McConnell`s nemesis now takes over America`s immigration program.  We wanted to bring you that update to that story we`ve been covering on THE BEAT.  And that does it for me.  Thanks for watching.  We`ll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. But don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

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