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Vic Mensa interview. TRANSCRIPT: 6/17/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Juanita Tolliver, Katty Kay, John Flannery, Bill Kristol, NealKatyal, Valerie Plame, Vic Mensa


Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good (COUGHS) evening Kasie.

HUNT: Can I offer you some covfefe, Ari?

MELBER: It could happen to any of us, the best of us. My heart goes out to Mick because coughing shouldn`t be that big a deal. Nice to see you.

HUNT: Nice to see you too. Have a good show.

MELBER: Thank you. We have a pretty good show I would argue tonight, let me tell you why. Coming up in this hour, legal experts say Donald Trump`s now officially abusing executive privilege for secrecy and we are thrilled.

We have Neal Katyal here later tonight for opening arguments, probably the perfect guest for that. Later, Donald Trump clearly still on defense over embracing collusion and now the famous CIA agent at the center of a different White House probe, Valerie Plame joins me tonight on that as well, very interesting perspective.

And then at the end of the hour, a huge music video that`s taking on Donald Trump family separation policy. Musician Vic Mensa will be here exclusively to explain why he`s deploying his considerable influence to attack Donald Trump. This is first TV interview about this immigration video. So we have a lot.

But we begin with a new move that is rattling the Trump White House which has built its stonewalling strategy around executive privilege, invoking it to stop testimony of say star witnesses for the Mueller probe like Don McGahn. Now here`s the thing about that strategy, you know that I try to keep it real and accurate and fair with you.

Well, here`s the thing. The executive privilege strategy, it might look secretive, it might even look a little guilty but invoking White House privilege for the White House counsel, that can be totally legally valid. It at least creates a legitimate fight in court which can take a lot of time.

But the news tonight is a little different. Democrats hatching an end run around that potentially valid strategy. Now they`re going to continue to contempt votes and the court battle over McGahn to be sure but they`re also turning to put the heat on witnesses who never worked in the White House and does have no claim to White House privilege, zero, including convicted felons Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, trying to get their testimony.

Plus advisers like Corey Lewandowski who we know dished to Mueller and Chris Christie. Now hearings with those famous names might put more pressure on Trump who is turning the conversation away from collusion in the Russia probe until he famously played himself in this new ABC interview and the rest of it, parts that hadn`t aired as of last Friday have just come out.

And they feature a very kind of who`s on first routine about the Mueller report which of course found no Russia conspiracy as a criminal matter but did not ever use the lens of collusion.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you trying to say now that there was collusion even though he said there is no collusion.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, HOST, ABC NEWS: He didn`t say there`s no collusion.

TRUMP: He said no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He said, he didn`t look at--

TRUMP: George, the report said no collision.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you read the report?

TRUMP: Yes, I did and you should read it too. 


TRUMP: You should read it too, George.


MELBER: You should read it too. I`m joined now by former federal prosecutor, John Flannery. Washington Anchor for BBC news Katty Kay. In the Center for American Progress Action Funds, Juanita Toliver.

Katty, everyone should read it. I think the President makes a fair point there. What do you think of both the new strategy that we`re seeing, the Democrats are and what Donald Trump did or didn`t get out of what was a pretty mammoth interview that keeps making news.

KATTY KAY, BBC NEWS WASHINGTON ANCHOR: The Democrats being frustrated, the White House is stonewalling so they are looking for other avenues to try and get the information that they want in order to be able to push ahead with their investigations of the President.

They`re going to be dismayed by the fact that the White House Deputy Counsel, I think it was last week said that actually maybe executive privilege doesn`t just apply to the President and people who have worked in the administration, implying that perhaps these other people, people like Gates and Manafort, Chris Christie, Lewandowski--

MELBER: But then where does it end?

KAY: I know - where - whatever the slippery definition is that you happen to want to put it on that day, if you were sitting in the White House at the moment, it seems like.


JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what I see is the White House is - their strategy is lie and delay and to make up legal theories that will fit delay. The trouble on the House side is whatever theory they use, why aren`t they in court.

I mean a week ago, we had them get the ability by resolution to go in and force a subpoena. Why would a litigator have that in court the next day after they had the authority? The trouble is both sides have delay and both sides are not joining the issue of impeachment and I always say that because in the court when they have the fight, they need that as part of their fight to justify the demands that they`re making.

MELBER: So let`s - let me give you both of those points then John. Number one, with regard to how they`re doing, Politico basically makes the argument the Democrats say the House Foreign Affairs Committee is amassing documents on allegations regarding retaliation of the state department and they`ve secured wins in a number of fronts, aids and lawmakers alike say that`s from the under the radar support they`re getting from certain Republicans.

As well as Nadler arguing that they got the breakthrough, they got the full Mueller report, they got Bill Barr to compromise. How do you put those claims against what you`re giving them is less than A grade?

FLANNERY: Well, it feels like the submariners are having these private victories that nobody in the public knows about it and it`s not reducing those among us who say why aren`t you doing the ultimate thing?

It`s like you`re dragging your feet. It`s a slow walk to saying what, we can`t impeach and we won`t do anything at the end. So it it`s not persuasive, not persuasive to me or anyone who follow such investigations on the Hill.

MELBER: Well, you have some agreement for AOC on John`s point, Juanita, take a listen to what she`s saying about Pelosi. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how real is that progressive frustration that Speaker Pelosi has said at least so far and she seems to be really holding the line that she`s not ready to do that.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I think it`s quite real. I believe that there is a very real animus and desire to make sure that we are - that we are holding this President to account.


MELBER: Juanita.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: Yeah right, there is clearly friction within the Democratic caucus on how to proceed here and what I think Nancy Pelosi on the same day shared was that this is still a divisive issue and the public needs more education, the polling backs her up on this, right?

Like among - while there`s great support among Democrats, only 27% of the country according to NBC poll is actually ready to move forward, whereas there`s far more support for conducting investigations and getting additional information.

MELBER: Yeah and their so called examples there are the support for Nixon`s removal increased as the process played out, going forward. Now, Katty, as you know, Donald Trump is a famously obsessed with history, a real history buff.

KAY: Well, what are you suggesting there Ari?

MELBER: Well, take a listen. Maybe he`s only interested in self- preservational historical lessons but now that the Mueller thing in his view is done, he had a take, a hot historical take on what is to be learned from the Nixon Saturday Night massacre, take a look.


TRUMP: Robert Mueller had a total--


TRUMP: I never - I didn`t say that. Article 2 would have allowed me to fire him but I wasn`t going to fire, you know why? Because I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody and that didn`t work out too well.


MELBER: Katty, fact check, true.

KAY: Yes, I mean interestingly you also had then John Dean on the Hill last week saying that the Mueller report was the equivalent of the Watergate report for Trump as it was for Nixon so another perhaps fact historical reference to the President has not drawn up.

The issue for Democrats is like you still only have 66 Democrats who have come out and said that they are in favor of impeachment and Nancy Pelosi knows that she also has to listen to the - look ahead to 2020, to holding the House and there are going to be, what?

25 to 30 House seats that are held by Democrats, that the Republicans have their eye on in districts that Trump won and those are the Democrats was are saying on a regular basis to the leader, if we go ahead with impeachment without a guarantee of conviction, then we may as well hand over the House and potentially, the presidency to the Republicans. So she`s listening to both, she`s hearing loud and clear from AOC on the Sunday shows and some of those progressive voices are very loud.

But make no mistake that she`s also hearing from those moderate Democrats in red districts who are saying this is a real problem for us and look at the Iowa polls. The top 10 issues that voters in Iowa care about do not include the Russia investigation or impeachment.

MELBER: Well, Katty, you know some people wear their emotions on their sleeve. It`s a thing. John Flannery wears his right across his face and he is--

FLANNERY: No, I do really.

MELBER: And he is in severe disagreement with the points you raised which I think are methodical and factually based but John, I give you a chance to emote because I could see you disagree.

FLANNERY: Well, let`s try the deliberate approach. First of all that Mr. Trump cares at all about history is a lie because he`s already been doing precisely what Nixon did and that`s what we have to get used to except when he makes an admission, we don`t have anything to rely on.

And I`m putting my stock and trade in the facts and the law and the oath of office that our representatives took and are not acting upon. That`s it. It`s that simple and for people to predict what`s going to happen in an election when they fail their oath of office now and expect they`re going to take the oath of office again and tell the public that they can rely on them, those Democrats who say they are for impeachment are talking true, to fact, to law, to oaths and that`s what we need to do.

MELBER: Katty and then Juanita.

KAY: Yes, I mean I guess, the question will be whether the public opinion polls shifting, we saw that spike in Democrats by about 10 points in favor of impeachment over the weekend. Whether those people then stop calling them members and you start getting members becoming more than 66 and that number starts growing because the public is also growing in favor of impeachment.

TOLLIVER: Yeah, I think a key thing here and we`ve heard it from some of those front line Democrats is, this is not an issue that`s being talked about at home but Trump`s efforts to obstruct our investigations are concerning and do prompt issues that need to be considered.

And so what I think especially hearing from someone like Katie Porter out in California is that she is definitely listening to - listening to our constituents, she`s also reacting accordingly to Trump obstructing investigations by raising a light on that even further.

But make no mistake those front line Democratic candidates in Trump held districts are definitely keep an ear to the ground with their constituents because that`s what they have to answer to for all this.

MELBER: Right and that sort of becomes a classic political bank shot where every reference to what those folks want becomes a reference - those members becomes a reference to what they want in their districts so it becomes a circular thing that Flannery was getting at which is okay, who`s leading where public opinion goes?

Obviously it`s fair to say there`s a wide set of views on both sides even within just the Democratic caucus. Juanita, Katty and John, thanks to each of you.

FLANNERY: Thank you.

TOLLIVER: Thanks Ari.

MELBER: We`re going to fit in a break and then coming up a shakeup in Trump`s re-election campaign already, all because of news he said initially "didn`t exist" and Neal Katyal is here on some of the Trump-Nixon echoes on executive privilege and what might backfire.

Later as I mentioned, at the top of the hour very excited to have Valerie Plame, former CIA official discussing how spies overseas may respond to Donald Trump literally embracing collusion and then at the end of the hour, my exclusive interview with the artist behind this controversial music video showing American kids in cages to take on Trump`s ongoing immigration policy.

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

MELBER: Here`s a Trumpian question. Can you fire people for leaking information that does not exist? Trump has been on defense over Trump campaign polling that he insisted doesn`t exist.


STEPHANOPOULOS: We`ve all seen these reports, there were 15 out of 17 states, you spent 2 million on polling. You`re behind 15 out of 17 states.

TRUMP: Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don`t exist. Those polls don`t exist. You mean I`m losing in 15 of the 17 states. Those polls don`t exist. I just had a meeting with somebody that`s supposed to and I`m winning everywhere.


MELBER: Now the Trump campaign is firing its own pollsters over those very leaks which suggests those polls did exist. Now when the topic is polling you can say, well, this is embarrassing maybe but kind of trivial. But what about bigger issues cropping up like this news that officials chose not to brief President Trump on a classified operation against Russia`s power grid. Why?

Well, there are reports those officials did not trust Donald Trump with the material in fear he would leak and discuss it with foreign officials. I`m joined by Bill Kristol, a conservative journalist and former Republican White House official who directs the group Defending Democracy Together.

Which part of this to you find potentially significant?

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: I mean, Donald Trump knew that those polls existed of course. I think firing some of his pollsters was a signal that don`t leak, you know, to his campaign staff and to White House officials that you`ll be fired if you leak which isn`t - if you know, if you leak things that Donald Trump doesn`t want you to leak, which is probably from Trump`s point of view useful.

You mentioned Nixon in the earlier discussion, maybe think about things, we`ve all talked about Trump thinking about next, the lessons you to be learned from Nixon`s management of Watergate. But you know what strikes me about Trump?

I think he`s probably has study a little bit as far as he can study things and Nixon`s behavior in 71-72, Nixon took a lot of decisions to get himself re-elected, economic decisions, foreign policy decisions, it`s little unfair maybe to say they were only for re-election but he had a very re- election focused White House.

One thing I think Democrats aren`t thinking enough about honestly if I can give them some advice is the things Trump can do as President that will help him, that may help him get try to get re-elected, he will use the entire panoply of powers that the federal government. Policy powers, executive orders, jawboning the Fed, foreign policy things, I think to try to get himself re-elected.

He will be unscrupulous about it. It`s something that people should really be attentive to in the House and in the media I think.

MELBER: That`s interesting, you put it that way. I want to show another part of that ABC interview because they did get a lot of access. You have spent time in a White House behind the scenes. Most people never see that world and I`m sure there are things you could - you could give us insights about.

I wonder what you think of Donald Trump`s role and apparent savviness in how methodically, that is about a moment that obviously people making fun of but I`m interested in it for what it reveals about him as a television producer, first and foremost, the coughing.

I want to show the whole thing, it`s entire so people can see he is laser focused on the TV visuals that are going to come out of this moment. During a time when we know they were there for 30 hours. Take a look.


TRUMP: They`re after my financial statement, the Senate, they`d like to get my financial statement. At some point I hope they get it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You`re going to turn it over?

TRUMP: No, at some point I might but at some point up they get it because it`s [Coughing] fantastic financial statement. It`s a fantastic financial statement. And let`s do that over, he`s coughing in the middle of my answer.


TRUMP: I don`t like that, you know.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You`re the Chief of Staff.

TRUMP: If you get a cough, please leave the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll just get a shot and I`ll come over here--

TRUMP: You just can`t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to change the shot.


TRUMP: Okay, you want to do that a little differently, then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we just changed the angle. Yes, thank you.

TRUMP: So at some point - so at some point, I look forward to - frankly, I`d like to have people see my financial statement.


MELBER: When you were in the White House, did you ever see a President directly engage a videographer that way and try to reshoot a scene?

KRISTOL: No, I mean, I guess staff might do that occasionally. It`s - it doesn`t say much about him as a person, the way he treats Mick Mulvaney. But you know, look, he`s his own producer, director, executive director, whatever and you know, we can all make fun of it and deplore.

And believe me, I deplore it that the President of United States is doing this. But you know he`s had some success of this in the past, I suppose both before he was President and as President.

MELBER: Does he show more guile? I mean, there`s a caricature of him by some of his opponents that he is absolutely clueless and what I observe there is someone who is literally he starts by re-doing the line, then decides no, let`s reshoot the whole thing and takes control in a way that shows quite a bit of attention to detail.

Some might even view it as a little devious.

KRISTOL: No, totally and this in a way ties with the point I was trying to make before, you know, he attacks the Fed chairman, where everyone normal says Gee, he shouldn`t do that, it`s a responsible. Anyway you appointed that chair but if the effect of it is to have Powell be willing to reduce interest rates or not raise rates or probably reduce rates in fact if the market seems to wobble a little bit.

He knows what he`s doing, that`s what Nixon did incidentally in 71-72 and I just think a lot of issues there`s - yes, there is more guile than we think, it doesn`t mean he`s playing 3 dimensional chess, it doesn`t mean that he`s thought everything through, it doesn`t mean that he`s not impulsive and all that but he is focused on getting himself re-elected.

It`s all about the re-election. You just see that`s the only thing he cares about which is dangerous. We have 18 months of this President unless he`s impeached and removed. 18 months of an actual President here who`s conducting policy - foreign policy, economic policy, and so forth, entirely doing it.

I mean, everyone does it a little bit but entirely doing it through the screen of whether it helps him personally, helps his odds to get re- elected.

MELBER: Bill Kristol, dropping science, thank you. It`s always good to have you.

KRISTOL: Thanks Ari.

MELBER: We have a lot coming up including later in the hour this hit song, taking Trump on over the claim that their detention center are "summer camp" but first Neal Katyal says Donald Trump is abusing his power and is dangerous including for future Presidents when we`re back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Donald Trump made news in this 30 hour ABC interview. He said, he`d accept foreign election dirt. That made a lot of ways but he also discussed briefly some decisions he`s making now that could impact his successors. Now that`s a lofty topic to be sure although in this case, he was referring to redesigning Air Force One.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a surprise from the President. The first look at an updated air craft, a new look for Air Force One that he designed himself.

TRUMP: Here`s your new Air Force One and I`m doing that for other Presidents, not for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s scheduled to arrive in 2024, the exterior getting a makeover with a new red, white and blue paint scheme. A departure from the iconic blue and white.


MELBER: But Trump could have a larger impact on future Presidents that will be beyond plane design like the edges of executive privilege. Now my next guest warns the President`s - that Trump`s actions will set - could actually hinder other Presidents no matter the party. Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal has argued dozens of cases for the Supreme court and he leads our opening argument series.

Nice to see you again.


MELBER: You write about this today in the New York Times in a piece is making waves arguing that by abusing the privilege power, there`s a danger here that is more than a present danger. What do you mean?

KATYAL: Well, so executive privileges IS this concept Ari that goes all the way back to the founding, the idea that President should have some zone of secrecy around them to have confidential deliberations in decision making and I wrote this piece because it`s easy to see a lot of Trump`s abuses in the short term.

Things like him lying, you know defying Congress and all, you know obstructing justice and things like that but there`s some subtle long-term effects of the things he`s doing and one of them is with relation to executive privilege. I mean, I`ve been in two different administrations and I would say you know, particularly President Obama was really careful to make sure that he wouldn`t have invoke executive privilege unless absolutely necessary.

He only invoked it once in eight years even though many years yet Congress opposed to him in terms of being from the opposite party and one reason he did that and was so sparing was because he knew if he became extravagant in the use of executive power then it would bind future Presidents, courts would push back, Congress would push back, the public would push back.

And I think unfortunately, Donald Trump`s profligate use of executive privilege is going to lead to those things.

MELBER: And some of our viewers maybe accustomed to hearing you and as they are with so many experts discussing Donald Trump`s questionable choices in judgment but I don`t think that comes from a Trump obsession. A, it comes from sometimes the questions we put to you and B, the era we`re in.

Your New York Times article talks about what you viewed as overreach by President Clinton, tell us a little about that.

KATYAL: Yes, exactly so President Clinton invoked executive power a bunch of times and why he invoked executive privilege bunch of times and I think that you know once he started doing that, the courts really pushed back on him, he couldn`t use it for things that actually had a better basis.

He used it for things that were personal like the Lewinski investigation, trying to block his aides from testifying and now you see Donald Trump doing exactly the same thing same thing saying McGahn can`t come before Congress, can`t testify and last week starting with - startlingly, Trump said, I`m good invoke executive privilege on the census.

And there`s this whole debate which is now before the Supreme Court about why the Trump administration added this question to the census about citizenship. The Census Bureau`s own statistician said this would really depress minority voting. There now some documents that have come out which say this was a Republican plot all along.

I don`t know if it`s true.

MELBER: Documents from a dead man`s laptop.

KATYAL: Exactly and who knows whether it`s true or not, that`s what after all Congress is supposed to get to the bottom of and here you`ve got the President saying, I`m not going to tell you and a judge, a federal judges has said, yeah, it sure looks like the Trump administration has been lying and then the President invokes executive privilege again.

It looks like to cover up wrongdoing not for something else so it looks something out of the Nixon play book.

MELBER: So I`m curious while we have you, I happen to know a lot of folks on the Hill listen keenly to both your analysis but also more you know - more self-interested way how you handicap their various legal strategies and nobody has you know, the full - the full picture necessarily but we have a sense of what they`re doing now because they`ve telegraphed and Politico has this big piece that was - we were discussing little earlier on the hour, an end run around Trump`s executive privilege assertions.

Dems calling witnesses who never worked in the White House. This sort of skips over the whole debate, it does not obviously resolve the court battles over the people who did work in the White House. What do you think of their strategy here?

KATYAL: So it`s partially good. So look, executive privilege is a weak claim if you`re trying to assert it on behalf of people who never were in the government in the first place and that`s what that Politico article says, the Democrats are going to try and do.

But you know, look, Trump abuses every privilege in the same way you know, it`s kind of like King George, you know, it`s like take a legal concept and then stretch it beyond all recognition and that`s what you have Trump doing.

And so you know, I don`t think that that`ll obviate the court fight and I think ultimately the Congress is going to have to fight in court and also have you know, open impeachment proceedings because it`s the only way to really guarantee quick answers on these bogus executive privilege assertions.

MELBER: Well and hearing you say that is really interesting that you think they have the validity to this strategy but the very sober if I may, the very erudite Neal Katyal is telling the House Democrats through television, that`s fine but it won`t resolve the bigger issues and you might need an impeachment probe to do that legally which I think is it to me at least and I think that some of our viewers, pretty fascinating.

Neal, thank you as always for being here.

KATYAL: Thank you.

MELBER: If you want to hear all this back and sometimes these things are even better on the second play when you get all the details, arguments will have this segment tonight with Neal as well as all of our past discussions in this series.

Now we have a lot more ahead. Donald Trump`s endorsement of collusion for 2020. Well, a key Republican Congress getting on that bandwagon and I`m joined live by former CIA officer Valerie Plame and later tonight, an exclusive sit down with the artist pushing this provocative new video that shows Americans in cages to take on Donald Trump`s child separation policy.


MELBER:  You don`t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing and you can see the political winds as some Republicans in Congress feel the need to echo Donald Trump`s embrace of foreign collusion.


REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT):  It depends on who it is and the circumstances and how credible it is.  There might be valuable information that comes from one of our allies.  If they look at it and it`s credible, I think we`d be foolish not to take that information.


MELBER:  Here we are.  Or take a former CIA director and head of diplomacy of the United States Mike Pompeo who basically ducked and then got defensive.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is accepting oppo research from a foreign government right or wrong?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES:  Of course, you know, you asked me not to call any questions today ridiculous.  You came really close right there.  President Trump -- President Trump has been very clear.  He clarified his remarks later.  He made it very clear even in his first comments.  He said I do both.  He said he`d call the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said maybe I do both.  He said maybe I do both.

POMPEO:  Trump has been very clear that he will always make sure that he gets it right for the American people and I`m confident he`ll do that here as well.


MELBER:  Joining me as a BEAT exclusive Valerie Plame.  You may remember, she served in the CIA for two decades and did a lot of things we don`t know about.  Then her identity was leaked to the public in the midst of a Bush- era political scandal.  She is also we should mention running for Congress in New Mexico.  Thanks for joining me.

VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA AGENT:  Thank you for having me.  It`s a delight to be here.

MELBER:  Hey, we`re delighted too.  You bring a lot of different experience and of course, are putting yourself forward as a potential policy maker.  On this issue, what did you think when you heard the President`s first comments and the way this has played out where if we want to be as fair as possible, he did try to walk some of it back.  But now we`re treated to the Sunday show defense by people who are presumably -- a former CIA Director would presumably have some beef with this.

PLAME:  Who should know better?  Ari, this is not hard.  It is not difficult.  I think Mayor Pete put it pretty well when he said look, it`s happened.  It`s not theoretical.  You would call the FBI immediately.  The Russians sought to undermine precious part of our democracy which is our elections.  We still haven`t really gotten to the bottom of that.  And I really don`t, and none of the American people really understand what has Congress done to prepare for the 2020 elections and make sure nothing like this happens again. 

To hear the Secretary of State Pompeo laugh this off as though what a -- what a foolish, ridiculous question is absolutely horrifying that he would be so dismissive of this.  This goes to the core tenets of who we are as a democracy that we believe that our elections are secure.  And whether it`s Russians or anyone else that are seeking to undermine them we need to feel that every vote is counted in every vote matters and is not manipulated.

MELBER:  A lot of the reaction understandably was in the realm of oh my God, I can`t believe he said it.  I mean he literally went from no collusion to pro-collusion.  I mean, that is really something.  But that`s all in the realm of the kind of domestic reaction.

Given your work, I wonder what you think of the intelligence aspect of this.  Do other governments try to use information warfare propaganda to mess with us?  Does this in your view open us up potentially to more of that unnecessarily?

PLAME:  Of course.  But let me be clear.  When you serve overseas in any capacity, you don`t serve as a Republican or is it Democrat, you serve as an American.  And to hear Trump continually denigrate FBI and CIA professionals, I think his latest term that he threw out for the FBI we`re lowlifes, I find this so -- it`s humiliating to have a president use of sort of terms about professionals in national security.

They are working to truly keep us safe every day.  I could tell you this, what the Trump administration has said and done and his lack of credibility makes my former colleagues jobs in the CIA oversees that much harder.

It puts them in harm`s way and it just makes our credibility and our relationships with foreign allies that much more difficult to sustain and norture.

MELBER:  Quick question before I let you go on the candidate front.  What issues are you hearing about most out on the trail?

PLAME:  I am running for congressional district three which is the whole upper third of northern New Mexico.  It`s my home.  the things that I hear that worry people the most are access to health care, the whole gamut of women`s issues across the board, of course, opioid epidemic is as bad here as it is across the rest of the country.  And we want to know of course how do we -- New Mexico has a lot of sun and a lot of wind.  How do we use that and turn it into a renewable resources.

So as I travel all around the district which is actually huge, I listen carefully but those are the issues that I`m hearing most about right now.

MELBER:  A lot of sun and a lot of wind, I like that.  It`s sounds physical.

PLAME:  It`s all good.  And there`s no reason why we can`t be a world leader in these renewable energy issues.

MELBER:  Well, that`s fantastic.  Given your experience in your service, it`s interesting.  And we appreciate you joining us on THE BEAT, Valerie Plame.

PLAME:  Thank you very much.

MELBER:  Thank you.  Up ahead, it may be one of the most controversial things Donald Trump has done across the spectrum, immigration policy though is now facing a kind of a cultural backlash with this hit song going viral about American kids in cages.  Musician Vic Mensa is my exclusive guest to talk about it next.


MELBER:  Democratic Presidential candidates are gathering for a major liberal forum today.  Reverend Barber co-hosting The Poor People`s Campaign Presidential Forum.  MSNBC`s own Joy Reid will be there.  The candidates are expected to tackle poverty, inequality, and discrimination on immigration which is already a huge issue for Democrats on the trail.


KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  On the issue of immigration, he has also defined who we are morally and who we say we are to the world.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The humanitarian crisis created by this president through cruel policies like family separation.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The America I see values basic human decency, not snatching children from their parents.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It`s a disturbing picture.  There are all on concrete floors in cages.

SEN CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is a moral vandalism on the ideals of our country.


MELBER:  A moral vandalism -- you know, of the many controversies of this Trump era, perhaps no policy has drawn more condemnation than family separations and the caging of children including this news story about Trump officials who spit up this four-month-year-old child from his parents.  This is the youngest child separation that we know about ever.  His parents say he was different when they were united about half a year later.  This is documented a new footage from the New York Times.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I remember just him like hustling this head up under my chin.  Like I knew from the next he was going to be gone.


MELBER:  He was different.  These are now common stories 13,000 migrant children under detention now, numbers that have the Trump administration increasingly looking for new places to hold them now even turning to a military base that once served as a Japanese-American internment camp.

Now, while protests and court rulings have beat back some parts of these policies, Donald Trump is doubling down hiring hardliners to replace border officials who he thought didn`t defend him and these policies enough such as former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS):  Are we putting children in cages?  I just want you to admit that the cages exist.


REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN (D-NJ):  Does it differ from the cages you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside?  Is it -- is it different?


WATSON COLEMAN:  In what sense?

NIELSEN:  It`s larger, it has facilities, it provides room to sit, to stand, to lay down.

WATSON COLEMAN:  So did my dog`s cage.


MELBER:  It`s larger than a dog`s cage.  Now, Trump replace her with Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan who planned to install former - - immigration former chief and Fox News analyst Tom Homan as the head of ICE, and they also tapped Ken Cuccinelli to run immigration services, doubling down while still trying to spin and lie about the children who are held in cages.

These images and stories have proven too much even for this administration which is why the former Homeland Security Director claimed they were larger than cages for animals and it`s why another Trump official insisted under oath that these detention centers are basically a "summer camp."


MATTHEW ALBENCE, ACTING DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ICE:  The best way to describe them is to be more like a summer camp.  These individuals have access to 24/7 food and water, there`s basketball courts, there`s exercise classes, there`s soccer fields that we put in there.


MELBER:  It`s beyond Orwellian for the government to tell you criminal detention is actually summer camp and the administration is clearly struggling with the reality of these policies.  More than any others, we`re seeing the culture react and condemn this kind of policy and the spin defending them, a development that may not only be bad for Donald Trump politically but could spark a wider effort to reform immigration policy and how children are treated.

Now, this story is in the news tonight because of that baby in detention and because of the 13,000 other children and for another reason because of the worldwide premiere of this new music video.  The kids you see on your screen are actors and they may not look exactly like many of the kids in detention but they are kids just the same, humans just the same.

This is footage from a provocative new video by the Chicago musician Vic Mensa rebuking the Trump administration by taking its words literally.  This new song is called Camp America because Trump officials tell us this is just like any camp American parents might send their American kids to.


ALBENCE:  The best way to describe them is to be more like a summer camp.


MELBER:  Like a summer camp.  Now, let`s see a short part of this new music video which is already being dubbed shocking, provocative, and bold.


VIC MENSA, MUSICIAN:  So much fun, you lose count of the days playing hide and go seek inside of your cage.  Daddy love you, so he sent you away to Camp America.

Weƒ_Tll be living it up, not giving a (BLEEP), splitting you up, then we put you in cuffs, then we shipping you off, yes, you could get lost at Camp America.


MELBER:  You could get lost in Camp America but would you want to.  Now this new video ends by reminding everyone there are 13,000 immigrant children in custody.  It asks, what if it was your kid -- what if it was your kid, an interesting question.  Vic Mensa is that artist and well, I`d love to discuss this with him, and he`s here for an exclusive.

MENSA:  How are you doing?

MELBER:  Vic Mensa, thanks for being here.

MENSA:  Thank you for having me.  Why are you tackling this in your music right now?

MENSA:  I think like the rest of the nation and the world when I saw those comments by Matthew Albence who`s now Director of ICE saying that these immigrant detention centers which we actually are referring to as immigrant prisons because that`s really what they are, our prisons, were more like a summer camp than a prison which is you know, asinine on so many levels, but also creatively it inspired me because I feel that the duty of art is to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.

And this is a situation where you have a lot of people way too comfortable about atrocities that are being exact upon children, then you have a whole other side of the nation that is very disturbed by this.  You know what I`m saying?  So musically I wanted to marry these worlds.

And being that my father is gone in immigrant and I have you know -- that I owe my existence to immigration, I think that the fear of immigration that has existed in American history from the first day, I just find it to be wrong.

MELBER:  Yes, and as you say, immigrants can come from anywhere.  Human rights are important because they`re universal.  But you didn`t just write the song, you`re behind the video that people see is as you say quite disturbing but also quite a choice.  Why is it mostly white children that you imagine in those cages?

MENSA:  Yes.  So as I -- as I was coming up with the concept, I wanted to display the situations that are really happening in these immigrant prisons where kids have reported being tortured with plastic bags over their heads, families have reported being left with no option but to drink toilet water, kids have been sexually assaulted, all of these things that are obviously just human rights violations but I looked over because they`re done to people of color and they`re done to immigrants that are poor and are coming from war-torn countries.  None of those things would be allowed to fly were if America`s prized white children at stake.

MELBER:  That`s powerful when you put it like that.  And so you were hoping that people watch this video and they feel how?

MENSA:  I`m hoping that people watch this video and they think about how immigrants are treated in this nation, they think about how people of color are treated in this nation, and also that we can make the through-line, the tie-in from these immigrant prisons to mass incarceration, you know, because let`s not forget that this is not really a new issue or a new occurrence.

50 percent of the kids that are detained in America, American children are black children.  We have a history of Japanese internment camps which they just turned one of those into an immigrant prison.  We had American-Indian boarding schools where the sexual violence was rampant and cultural genocide existed.

It`s like this is all tied into -- it`s tied into kids being detained in Palestine, its overall xenophobia.  It`s just kind of dictating the way that our world is working right now.

MELBER:  You put that so -- in such a strong way.  I want to ask you kind of a funny question which is coming out of hip hop.  How do you feel both being a messenger for that pain as you say it`s coming out of even your own family experience, telling people you`re an immigrant, and a country that is both fascinated by those stories but also often scared, scared of the black male story or scared of what`s happening in that in the inner city?  How do you see like the way you`re playing that roll out?

MENSA:  You know that my role has always been an empathetic role, and I have empathy for others even if I don`t personally experience what they experience.  And I think that when you start to make a human connection, when you see people as numbers and statistics, then it could get lost.  You can forget that we`re all human beings.

I think that`s what happens with Chicago off the times and I`ve seen Chicago be used as a media scapegoat for Black Milk, criminalization or criminality, and look at Chicago.  Remember when Trump used to love to say that?  He`s like, don`t look over here, while I`m robbing American people, look at Chicago, you know.

And so, nobody feels like to be marginalized as just a number or a statistic.  And that`s what I feel is happening in our border right now is that a lot of people are just being marginalized into numbers, when no, these are actual human beings.  And what`s happening to these kids is scientifically proven to have adverse effects to their development as they grow.

MELBER:  Right.  Which is why human rights experts are telling us this is literally abuse.  You mentioned Donald Trump.  Let`s play a little bit of Donald Trump and some of the interaction he has as you know, with the culture because he is fixated on aspects of Hollywood and music.  Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We don`t need Jay-Z or Beyonce, we don`t need Lady Gaga.

EMINEM, RAPPER:  Instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada, or these horrible tragedies and he`s bored and would rather cause a Twitter storm with the Packers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Women`s March this weekend -- and you hear Madona - -

TRUMP:  Honestly, she`s disgusting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It`s disappointing and it`s hurtful.  This is the leader of the free world speaking like this.


MELBER:  Do you think artists and celebrities have a special way of getting his attention?

MENSA:  Well, you remember, rap used to love Trump.


MENSA:  Trump was practically a rapper at a point in time.  Like Trump was partying with all the rappers.  I mean, there were still songs being made about Donald Trump up to life 2012, `13 --

MELBER:  It used to -- it used to go on G-Unit Radio.

MENSA:  -- you know, right before he was like Obama`s -- no, I don`t know, American Muslim.  And that`s when all of us were kind of like -- you know, and I feel like we started to tiptoe away.  But obviously Donald Trump is - - he`s a reality T.V. star.  That`s what -- that`s what he`s doing now on the highest level possible.  And I mean shows in the job that he`s doing as far as you know, policy and legislation, it`s like it`s just not what he`s built for.

MELBER:  Not what he`s built for.  I see on your shirt, we could show here, Camp America, Best Summer Ever.

MENSA:  I want to shout this out because I did this shirt in collaboration with an organization called Kind which is Kids In Need of Defense.  So you can go to my Instagram Vic Mensa on Instagram to find a shirt or  All proceeds will be donated to legal defense for immigrant and children.

MELBER:  Vic Mensa, shine a light on an issue that a lot of people care about.  I hope you`re going to continue to get responses.  Thank you for coming on THE BEAT, man.

MENSA:  I appreciate you for having me.

MELBER:  Absolutely.  I appreciate you being here.  And when we come back, it is Pride Month.  There is a major human rights bill with LGBTQ issues that is now facing blockage in the Senate.  That important story when we come back.


MELBER:  This is Pride Month and many activists are talking about the Equality Act which bans discrimination.  Pelosi led the House to pass the bill in May but says it`s stuck in the Mitch McConnell graveyard which you see right there.  Well, today, the act is getting a new push from one of the most stringed artist in the world, Taylor Swift, with a new song that gathers friends to shout out the GLAD Organization to call out people who peddle discrimination in tweets.


TAYLOR SWIFT, MUSICIAN:  Say it in the street, that`s a knockout.  But you say it in a tweet that`s a copout.  Why are you mad when you could be glad?  You could be glad.  Sunshine on the street at the parade but you would rather be in the dark ages making that sign must have taken all night.


MELBER:  This is conscious music and it`s also something else.  This is legislative organizing.  Taylor`s top five songs online have over seven billion views.  When she pushes something, people hear it.  At the end of this new video, it has Taylor Swift urging people to sign a petition backing the Equality Act.  And after 11 hours today, I can tell you, this new video is already the number one trending video online on YouTube with over 10 million views in these first 11 hours.  And that legislation drive has over 241,000 signatures.  Wow.

That`s it for us.  "HARDBALL" starts right now.