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Democrats to grill Trump aide. TRANSCRIPT: 6/18/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Victoria Defrancesco Soto, Anibal Romero, Matt Miller, John Feal,Barbara Lee, Tom Coleman

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK FOUNDER:  But I guess if you argue with climate change, you can.

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Reverend, I had a feeling you would have something to say about that issue today. Good to see you.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

TODD: Thanks for coming on and sharing your views, it`s always good to see you. And don`t miss the Rev this weekend or on any weekend on PoliticsNation, every weekend there.

That`s all we have for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Chuck. Thank you so much. We`re tracking several new stories right now. Donald Trump threatening immigrants as he formally kicks off his re-election bid. Later Trump`s Justice Department intervening in an unusual way in Paul Manafort`s case to protect him from detention at the notorious Rikers jail.

And later, Jon Stewart absolutely torching Mitch McConnell over 9/11 funding. It is an important story and I`m thrilled to tell you we have a special guest that rises to the level of the issues in that story later in the show.

Also Democrats tomorrow planning to grill one of Trump`s closest aides Hope Hicks so we have a lot of that when we get through the entire episode of THE BEAT if you stay with us but we begin with a day that only comes once in a President`s tenure, the day a sitting president announces a bid for re-election.

Now this development itself is obviously not any kind of surprise. People knew Donald Trump is running again just like they knew Obama was running again. But even in this untraditional era, this is actually a very traditional marker. It is a moment for a President to ask the nation for support and to show where he stands.

Is he doubling down on his original campaign or changing gears. For Trump, well he`s formally declaring his re-election bid on the same issue he began with. Targeting immigration and in this new statement threatening to deport millions.

And let`s be clear, when it comes to this President, he makes no pretense of separating the political operation from the governing because as his campaign launches on slamming immigrants, his administration, his government is trying to evict entire families from public housing based on a trigger of one member of the household allegedly being undocumented.

He`s also trying to tighten rules for asylum border screenings and of course continue to detain more than 13,000 children who are unaccompanied largely because of the government`s own choices and now resorting to using a military base that was once deployed as the Japanese internment camp.

So before even stepping on stage tonight, we can show you right here, Trump is already drawing headlines for the message. An immigration crackdown obviously echoing his very first remarks after he descended that escalator. You remember him going right down the escalator to introduce himself to the world as a presidential candidate and explain his priorities at Trump tower.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When Mexico sends its people, they`re not sending their best. They`re bringing drugs, they`re bringing crime, they`re rapists and some, I assume are good people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s how he started his bid for the White House. Now today`s rally, we had a reporter catch up with some Trump supporters and they believe he`s on the right track.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got your ICE-ICE baby shirt on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re hoping that he`ll reinforce original campaign promises of building the wall and keeping the illegals out. I lived in Arizona the past 11 years. We see it every day. The illegals coming across. They`re trash, they`re diseased. These people aren`t interested in assimilating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn`t lie, I know you`ll say he does. He doesn`t. He doesn`t. He`s done his promises and he`s building the wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So that`s the view from the Trump base in Orlando but they don`t speak for the whole city. Take the Orlando Sentinel, major paper that`s mostly endorse Republican candidates for President in the past 60 years including Romney in 2012. Well, that papers making waves tonight with this unprecedented pre-emptive strike declaring they endorse not Donald Trump for 2020, writing, "we`ve seen enough, enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption and especially the lies told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expedience or opportunity."

Now Trump doesn`t take that kind of criticism well. Today, he`s lashing out against negative feedback including a poll from Fox news that shows opposition to his economic policies and also shows him trailing against Democrats.

Now, look, it is too early for most polls or even these endorsements to indicate much of anything about a race that`s so far away. But Donald Trump is clearly betting that the road to 2020 runs through the past. This is a made for TV candidate who literally plagiarizes another President`s campaign slogan from the eighties and pass it off as his own.

Who is now re-launching in 2020 quoting himself from 2016. And says there`s a lot of quoting going on. I`ll note that the Trump`s derivative messaging from his own campaign to Reagan 84 where the `Make America Great` slogan came from is a little bit like reboots and remixes that lean heavily on the past.

In fact it was Pastor Mase who once said, "We take hits from the eighties but do it sound so crazy. Wasn`t that the question for voters, does this sound crazy? I want to bring in Jason Johnson, Politics Editor for The Root and Victoria Defrancesco Soto, professor at the University of Texas.

Jason we`d be remiss if we didn`t note that the Donald Trump plagiarizes Reagan for `Make America Great` and I don`t know if you can technically plagiarize yourself but he`s certainly quoting his greatest hits from the last campaign, will it work?

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: It`s going to work at least initially because all he`s going to be talking to is people who like his old hits but like most people in concert at some point they want to hear your new music and that`s what Donald Trump`s going to end up running into next year.

Look, this is somebody who`s approval rating is always hovered around 42%- 43%. He cannot rea - he can`t be re-elected at 42%-43%. He`s got to find a way to actually expand his base and if all he wants to do is throw people out of the country and continue to pick fights on Twitter.

I don`t see that how that`s going to help him against almost anybody he`s running against next year.

MELBER: And Victoria, there is no greater expert on what animates Trump`s base and Ann Coulter who may surprise some people tonight by saying that there are problems that are just hidden because of the polarized environment, folks aren`t going to admit it.

Let me read for your analysis what she says, "A lot of wingers," that`s her term, "are desperately hanging onto Trump as flotsam in a tsunami. So loads of Trumpsters that are beside themselves," she says, "but almost none of them will say so publicly. I think the issue is: How many voters who voted for Obama or didn`t vote and then came out to vote for Trump are done with him?"

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: To begin, that is some flowery language Ari. You know, when it comes to Trump`s base though, I see it more as feeding the beast. So I don`t know about having hidden pockets here-there but it`s really about giving this base something that they can chew on continually.

He might soften up on immigration as he gets into the general, something that he did in 2016 but he`s going to continue give then titbits because as Jason said he can`t win with the base alone. He needs to figure out a way to also bring those moderate Republicans who are going to pinch their nose and hopefully both for Trump as far as his campaign sees it.

So he`s going to keep that core message but at the same time you know, let up on it, as he gets into the general is my crystal balling here.

MELBER: Yes and Jason, some of the worst data for him is not any of these hypothetical head to head matchups. We don`t actually cover that much because we don`t see a lot of evidence that they project much. But rather in some of the slipping in of all places Fox news poll, about what do the people who are affiliated with his coalition, with his base, white voters who didn`t go to college, what do they think now, couple years in about, how Trump`s economic policies are working?

Take a look at this very basic question when you ask those particular voters, they call them whites with no college degree, who do Trump`s economic policies help? People with more money, 45%. People like me, you can barely see the red register at the bottom of your screen, 5% Jason. In other words almost no voters who would be in that coalition, whites without a college degree actually say or believe right now today Trump`s policies help them economically.

JOHNSON: So this is the thing Ari and I`m going to love saying this and Vicki, we went to grad school together. She`s going to get at me for saying this but this is the truth. Economics doesn`t drive why people vote. The biggest lie and analysis is that people vote their pocketbooks.

No, they don`t, they vote their hearts and then they rationalize it later with their pocketbooks. How many times are we going to see articles and polls that say people who are suffering in Ohio and suffering in Indianapolis and they`re losing jobs and are losing jobs to Mexico and are losing jobs to China but they`re still going to vote for Trump because at the end of the day, he makes them feel good.

You don`t buy that new car because it`s fuel efficient, you buy it because you like the commercial and you tell people you bought it for fuel efficiency so even if the economy goes down, Trump`s base is going to stay with him. The people he`s going to lose or the folks in the margins in Cobb county and the suburbs of Pennsylvania who are like, I voted for the guy because I thought he`d be different from Hillary but he`s really been more of a swamp than she was.

MELBER: Well, Victoria at the risk of going you know full Richard Hofstadter here Jason is saying it`s status politics, not interest politics. You might be the most decorated academic on the panel. Enlighten us.

SOTO: Hardly. No, look, I`m agreeing with Jason here with the base. It`s aspirational politics. He`s selling a brand and people want to be like Trump. They want to you know be rich and famous and they feel that aspiration. It`s marketing 101. But where I do see the pocket book being a really big considerations are for those Country Club Republicans who are - they may not like trump in terms of his social policy, his moral policy.

They don`t like the guy, he cheats at golf, they just don`t like him but for their pocketbooks and their business books, they feel that he does work so I think that we need to parse out the electorate between the base, the no college whites and the Country Club Republicans.

MELBER: Well and the other limit on this obviously which I don`t think Jason is disagreeing with is how is the economy doing? In other words, how much will people put that stuff aside unless they`re in a serious recession. Suddenly they`re thinking, maybe a little bit more about it. Both of you stay with me. I want to bring in another guest and another point here, which is Trump`s rhetoric on immigration obviously is in relief to the way he lives his life, what many call his hypocrisy in his businesses.

Consider how many Trump properties have both hired and then fired employees who worked there for years and were undocumented and many who say of course, their bosses knew.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gabrielle says President Trump spoke with him during his years at the club and suspects the president also knew there were undocumented workers on staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot like be sure about that but like he got to know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think the President must have known?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He must know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s from some of our NBC reporting and Anibal Romero represents the man you just saw on your screen as well some other workers who say they were fired from Trump businesses. Now you`re in Orlando today. What is your view of all of this and should it matter to voters if Donald Trump ran a private business that did the very thing he says he`s against in public policy?

ANIBAL ROMERO, REPRESENTS UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS FIRED FROM TRUMP ORG: Well, yes, of course it should matter. First of all, it`s a federal crime to knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and what we now know, we didn`t know a few months ago, based on what my clients are saying is that possibly hundreds of undocumented immigrants have been working for the Trump organization, not only in New York and New Jersey but now we hear of undocumented workers at the winery in Virginia.

And this is something that the American people either some Trump voters are choosing to ignore or do not want to focus on because I think the important part here is that they`re 11 million people, undocumented immigrants who are living in the United States, employers are taking advantage of them and unless we have comprehensive immigration reform, many more businesses are going to continue to hire undocumented immigrants.

MELBER: But is your core point, this is like a bad thing and Trump did it in business or this is kind of an unavoidable thing in our economy so of course he did it.

ROMERO: Well, look, 11 million people are living here. 9 million people are part of the work force. Unless we have comprehensive immigration reform, employers are going to continue to higher them. We know it is virtually impossible to remove 11 million people from the United States.

Last night when Donald Trump tweeted that he was getting ready to deport people from the United States, the first thing we thought about was maybe he`s doing this because he knows his workers, people who worked at his house were coming to Orlando to shine a light on the problem.

MELBER: But you`re not - you`re not saying that itself is some terrible thing. You`re just saying it`s hypocrisy.

ROMERO: It`s absolute hypocrisy, absolutely.

MELBER: Victoria, what do you think about this. I mean it is it is rare to have as we all know someone who`s had as many employees and done as much public business as Donald Trump. I do think it gets lost on voters, it can get very confusing. He lies a lot about his business, his business are opaque and secretive and then you have stories like this that clearly cut against the perception around the businesses.

SOTO: It speaks to the larger lack of getting it the real root cause of immigration to this country which is demand. Folks want to hire undocumented persons, folks have the desire to do so, they need to do so for their businesses and so that`s why folks come over. But instead what Trump has done is try to attack illegal immigration through building a wall, through saying that government funded housing programs can`t accept undocumented or mixed status families.

So he`s tried to do everything except going at the real root cause of undocumented immigration for the vast majority of undocumented immigrants and he`s part of this problem. If we start with him, if we start fining him the fines that we should be fining employers then the numbers of undocumented people would go down.

But I think he`s - it`s much easier to distract and try to do these other operations of dealing with undocumented immigrants.

MELBER: Yes, well, it`s fascinating and Anabil giving the - you have people whose lives are so profoundly affected in ways, I`m sure they wouldn`t imagine when they started working there, they`re working for someone who was going to run for office to try to stop the thing they say he was literally doing. So really appreciate you joining a broadcast Anabil and Victoria and Jason stays with me so stick around. I got to fit in a break but coming up, Donald Trump won`t admit, he was wrong about as you may have just heard earlier in the hour.

The innocence that was actually proven about the Central Park 5. Also Donald Trump`s Justice Department intervening on behalf of all of all people, convicted felon, Paul Manafort and new details on how Democrats are going to question, Trump aide, Hope Hicks under oath.

And then later a special guests as promised who is directly involved in this important fight, Jon Stewart has waged now against Mitch McConnell on 9/11 victims` money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Honestly Mitch McConnell, you really want to go with the we`ll get to it when we get to it argument for the heroes of 911? Listen senator, I know that your species isn`t known for moving quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We`ll be joined by 9/11 first responder who had an emotional moment with Stewart in Congress that you see there. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Consider that Donald Trump announces his re-election campaign today with the worst prosecution record of any first term President. Convictions or charges against his longest serving adviser, his National Security advisor, his deputy campaign manager plus two top aides who are already in prison right now. Michael Chen and Paul Manafort.

Now most politicians would avoid doing just about anything to bring these stories back up, let alone appear to interfere to help these convicted felons but Trump`s Justice Department just interfered in convicted felon Paul Manafort`s prison assignment.

Well, Bill Barr`s top deputy contacting New York authorities to a letter that may help shield Manafort from New York`s notorious Rikers Island prison. You know a Times headline tells a story. Manafort seemed headed to Rikers. Then the Justice Department intervened.

The story notes several odd things here, wardens typically deal with this, not the number two at DOJ and the, "most federal inmates facing state charges are held on Rikers." Now, legal experts tell us this whole arrangement unusual, unprecedented.

Manafort`s team, for their part, they argue this case is not like most other inmates so these comparisons they say, don`t really matter. Now we`ve done several reports on the horrific conditions at Rikers on THE BEAT. The allegations of systemic inmate abuse, staff negligence.

There was a beating of an inmate to death. In fact, I press the former top federal prosecutor for New York about these conditions and he told us it may be time to simply close Rikers rather than even try to reform it.

And today we have the Trump DOJ suddenly taking an interest in protecting an inmate from Rikers as the Trump administration proclaims it`s interesting criminal justice reform and hosting Kim Kardashian at the White House just last week as the President goes into re-election mode and all this can obscure something that`s really important.

When and how do they care about who`s in jail? What about inmates who are not named Paul Manafort because this concern about Manafort`s prison experience is for a convicted felon. Thousands of people at Rikers haven`t been convicted of anything. They`re simply awaiting trial. They are presumed innocent. They just don`t have the money for bail.

The federal stats show often those people, a majority of inmates are just awaiting trial. So where is the Trump DOJ`s concern for all of them? On this story, I bring in Matt Miller who worked at the DOJ under President Obama and Jason Johnson, back with us.

Jason, your view on what this kind of story reveals.

JOHNSON: It reveals the inherent corruption of this administration and the dishonesty in our public discourse about prison. Well, look, Rikers is a problem. Rikers has also been abusive but let`s be clear, Paul Manafort was not going to be engine pop. He was not going to be white lyrics on toilet paper about his first day out and how his family got popped and locked up, right?

He was going to be protected in a way that the vast majority of the people in that prison never were so for the fact that this administration will intervene and prevent him from even that level of consequence from the crimes that he`s committed, indicates not only did they not care about criminal justice reform but they see themselves and everyone associated with them as above the law.

MELBER: Take a listen Matt, to what Trump was saying when he got the news about Manafort`s prosecution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I feel badly for him. I think it`s a very sad situation and I saw that just a little while ago and certainly on a human basis, it`s - it`s a very sad thing. I feel badly for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Matt, what do you think having worked on these issues?

MATT MILLER, FMR CHIEF SPOKESMAN, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: I mean with respect to the to the President`s comments look, I think law - you know, when he talks about law and order, he`s always meant law and order for people that don`t look like him and don`t look like his friends, that`s always what he`s meant.

With respect to what the department did here, it`s incredibly unusual for the Deputy Attorney General to do this. I don`t remember a Deputy Attorney General when I was there, ever intervening on a specific inmate`s issue.

I talked to other former alumni of Deputy Attorney General, - Deputy Attorneys General`s office, no one could remember a DAG having done this and look, it`s not so much the question of whether he should be at the Metropolitan Correctional Center where he is now which by the way, I`ve been to.

It`s not club fed, it`s not a pleasant place either or Rikers island. The question is, should it follow the normal course of action, should the bureau of prisons have decided the issue the way they do for every other inmate who raises this or should have been escalated all the way to the number 2 official at the department.

And look, if the new Deputy General wants to you know, receive inmate petitions and act every time and be the decider every time an inmate wants to make a request for where he or she ought to be housed then fine but he`s just going to do it for the case of -

MELBER: Exactly.

MILLER: I think it tells you a lot about his priorities.

MELBER: Exactly and if he`s so concerned about the idea that the detention at Rikers is rough, this is a federal government. You need to have policies to deal with that at a systemic level, not just for friends of Trump, be they convicted felons or not.

And that brings me to the other reason we want to get into this is, we`re not new to the Rikers discussion here. Rikers is one of the most horrific prisons in the world. And it is a place that I want to repeat this for viewers, it is a place that is holding many people who are innocent, presumed innocent legally.

They`re only there because they`re poor and so as I mentioned earlier, I want to play a little bit of Preet Bharara on when we got into this on whether it`s time to even close this prison. Take a look, Jason.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PREET BHARARA, FMR U.S. ATTORNEY: The prosecutor must care about the prisoner in the same way that the rich must care about the poor and the healthy must care about the sick. If that`s the kind of world we want to live.

MELBER: You`re saying it may be time for a New York`s leaders to consider closing Rikers?

BHARARA: Yes, and I think people are discussing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s coming from a prosecutor who literally fills prison so that`s bigger than just you know, a criminal justice reformer. And so Jason, how do we square this with again, I`m not saying this to be negative.

If Kim Kardashian was being invited at the White House for reforms that actually dealt with the whole system then even people who are critical of Trump might say okay, well, there`s something coming out of it but how do you view it, when it seems so clearly slanted?

JOHNSON: Right, and Ari, this a key point for centrists and liberals out there who are like, well, look at all the things that Trump has done with criminal justice reform. You got to give him credit for that. This is a President who not only is more concerned about Paul Manafort who is actually convicted of a crime, not being in a bad place.

Remember, this is a President who takes innocent people at the border and says they can be put in former naval bases and former basss that were used to intern people you know, from Japan. He has no problem with taking innocent people and putting them in cages and putting them in metallic blanket that look like hot pockets.

So the idea but this President picks and chooses when people have to suffer, picks and chooses whose concerns and whose crimes and whose innocence should be treated properly by his federal government is indicative of his racial bias, his policy bias and the blind eye this entire administration to a lot of human rights.

MELBER: And Matt, while I have you as our DOJ person before we go, Hope Hicks testifying. Your views on what`s important that could come out of that.

MILLER: I think very little to be honest. Look, the White House just sent a letter in the last few hours saying, they`re going to try - they`re going to block her if she accedes and I assume she will as other White House staffers from talking about anything from her time at the White House.

They`re even going to try to assert executive privilege over her time during the transition which is completely unprecedented and there won`t even be a kind of public shaming which can be important in these instances because it`s all done behind closed doors.

They`re going to release a transcript, I suspect we`ll see very little. Look, we already know what she has to say, anything damaging she had to say, we`ve already seen in the Mueller report so this was a little bit of kabuki theater already and I think it`s going to be very disappointing in the end.

MELBER: I`m going to add Matt, we keep a list here, I`m adding Matt Miller to the list of people including Brian Fallon, he worked with the DOJ and Neal Katyal, we`re hearing - no offense, we`re hearing more and more sober establishment insiders basically call out what they`re seeing in the Congress as insufficient which I suppose means, you`re leaning towards something bigger than hearings, Matt.

MILLER: Look, I think they`re doing their best. They have a - you know, they have a very tough run. They`re finding that they can`t enforce their subpoenas, they`re going to court, it takes a long time, they don`t have a lot of options. You know, and the only option they do have, impeachment doesn`t have a support from majority of that caucus right now.

So in the meantime, I think Chairman Nadler just in a very difficult place where he`s kind of caught you know, between two sides.

MELBER: And Jason, I`m going to let you respond to at some future episode of THE BEAT.

JOHNSON: Yes, I know.

MELBER: At some future episode of THE BEAT. I could just see him feeling feelings. Matt, in our second segment. Jason in our first and second segment, my thanks to both you.

JOHNSON: Thanks Ari.

MELBER: Got to fit in a break but as I mentioned, we got a lot of good stuff including an important story. Jon Stewart absolutely hammering McConnell about delaying his vote for money for 9/11 first responders. I have an exclusive guest ahead on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Comedian and now maybe activist Jon Stewart is back at it blasting the most powerful Republican in Congress for what he says is just playing politics with 9/11 victims and "slow walking a vote on this fund that you may have heard about all this controversy."  The feud began when an emotional Jon Stewart was testifying on the Hill calling for action/

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN:  A filled room of 911 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress.  Sick and dying they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.  Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity, time.  It`s one thing they`re running out of.

Why this bill isn`t unanimous consent and a standalone issue is beyond my comprehension.  It`ll get stuck in some transportation bill or some appropriations bill and get sent over to the Senate where a certain someone from the Senate will use it as a political football.  They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility.  18 years later do yours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Do yours.  That certain someone from the Senate that Jon sort of referring to is someone you may have heard of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Stewart also called out McConnell directly by name and rebuked what he saw as his lack of compassion.  McConnell has famously said he`s the grim reaper that he can bury just about any bill.  But now he says he doesn`t understand why Stewart was "bent out of shape."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  We`ve never failed to address this issue and we will address it again.  I don`t know why he`s all bent out of shape but we will take care of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.  Members have a lot of things going on at the same time and it sounds to me like he`s looking for some way to take offense.

There`s no way we won`t address this problem appropriately.  We have in the past and we will again in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  That`s one explanation and depending on where you come in and what altitude, it might sound reasonable.  They`re busy.  They`ll get to it.  Well, Jon Stewart didn`t take this sitting down.  He`d already finished of course his testimony but he is someone who has many offers to speak.

I can tell you he happens to turn a lot of them down.  On this issue, he`s using his platform so he went on television last night on The Late Show and told McConnell what he thought about his remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  I`m not been out of shape.  I`m fine I`m been out of shape for them.  These are the first heroes and veterans and victims of the great trillions of dollars war on terror and they`re currently still suffering and dying and in terrible need.

You know, you would think that that would be enough to get Congress` attention but apparently, it`s not.  I didn`t know that they were busy.  I`m so -- I`m so -- I`m -- oh boy, now I don`t even know what to say.  I`m so sorry.  I didn`t mean to interrupt them with their jobs.

Honestly Mitch McConnell, you really want to go with the "we`ll get to it when we get to it" argument for the heroes of 9/11?  Listen, Senator, I know that your species isn`t known for moving quickly, but damn, Senator.  You`re not good at this argument thing.

Basically, we`re saying you love the 9/11 community when they serve your political purposes but when they`re an urgent need, you slow walk, you dither, you use it as a political pawn to get other things you want and you don`t get the job done completely.  And your answer to that charge is yes, duh.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Jon Stewart is quite the communicator and he has been publicly advocating for 9/11 first responders since the beginning standing with them and advocating for them.  And over the years he`s also forged a relationship with a responder named John Feal.  He was a demolition specialists at Ground Zero.

He had part of his left foot amputated after an 8,000-pound steel beam fell on him at that site, spent 11 weeks in the hospital.  He`s had nearly 40 surgeries.  He`s worked with Stewart for all these years and actually was by his side on Capitol Hill during this hearing last week.  And tonight right now he`s here on THE BEAT live for an exclusive interview when we`re back in just 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Welcome back and I`m here with John Feal, the 9/11 first responder I was just talking about who was working with Jon Stewart at this hearing last week.  Thank you for being here.

JOHN FEAL, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER:  Thank you for having me.

MELBER:  What is this fight about right now?

FEAL:  This fight it`s not just right now, this is the last 18 years of our lives.  And Jon in his testimony took in five minutes what we`ve been feeling for the last 18 years, the pain and the frustration, the agony, the loss of life, people losing everything, houses, cause.  Jon was a master.  He mastered his craft in articulating our pain and suffering.

MELBER:  When we see the delay, you`re working on the issue, who is responsible for this delay in Congress?

FEAL:  There`s no fact this Republican leadership and that`s not me singling out Republican leadership, this is just fact.  I`ve been doing this longer than anybody, 15 years.  2010 Republican leadership, 2015 Republican leadership, and again Independent, Liberal, Republican, Conservative, Democrat, I don`t care what your affiliation is.  But when you put tribal loyalties in front of humanity we have a problem with that.

We have gone over 1,700 meetings in 15 years.  We met with everybody.  And the fact is that when they say they`re compassionate towards us, they`re compassionate towards giving us five years, whatever politically expedient for them, they`re compassionate.  But we want is a 71-year bill to coincide with the health care that we got passed in 2015.  We want to be left alone.

MELBER:  Right.  You don`t -- you don`t want a funding mechanism that brings you and as we see Mr. Stewart and everyone back every so often to have to deal with Congress if the point is you all served at 9/11.  This is undisputed, and the Congress says they want to fund and support these 911 service members first responders or victims.  Then then why does it keep coming back and forth?

And Senator Schumer, of course, represents New York as well as being McConnell`s counterpart of the Democratic Party.  He talked about this.  He name-checked you.  I`m curious of your response.  Let`s take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  Leader McConnell and the Republicans have delayed this process as long as they can.  They`ve limited it.  We asked for permanence a while ago.  And let me tell you Jon Stewart and particularly the leaders Feal and others have tried to keep this as bipartisan as possible but they can`t because it`s leader McConnell in the Republican Senate blocking full -- the full needs of the people who rushed to the towers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  John?

FEAL:  Yes.  You know, I watch that you know, and sometimes I`m dismayed and I have a good relationship with Senator Schumer.  All three of them Pelosi, Schumer, and McConnell should get in a room and say let`s do what`s right.  They have a chance to take our worst day, our worst week, in months after 9/11 to make it their finest hour right now to truly come together and make this a bipartisan effort.

But yet they continue to put politics in the way.  You know in 2015, Mitch McConnell had a meeting with me and three of my guys, a firefighter, a police officer, and a warden from corrections, all sick from 9/11.  We were escorted to his office by four guards with AR-15 like we were terrorists.  That`s not compassionate.

So I implore Mitch McConnell to meet with us again.  Let`s get this over with.  Don`t go on summer recess because if we go on summer recess, about 500 to 800 people will have their rewards cut because he that`s what the average per month that the DOJ at the BCF who were doing a great job.  But these people are losing everything.

I just had a cop who`s supposed to get 500,000 for an award, he got $14,000 and he`s already in debt.  So this is real.  The pain and the struggling is real and you cannot play politics.  We don`t have to put up with it.  We put up with it in 2010, we swallowed it in 2015, but this time is different.  We`re in the mood for a fight.

If we have nothing to lose anymore, then let`s do it.  But we come in peace until we`re not able to have peace anymore.

MELBER:  Yes.  You lay it out and when it comes to the way Mitch McConnell and other politicians do politics in Congress, Stewart was very knowledgeable.  I mean, his show is as good as any it`s slicing through this stuff.  He points out the part of the problem is treating it like a political football because they say oh well, this is a 9/11 thing so we can lever it put it in other bills, get other stuff passed.

And so McConnell seems to be saying hey, this is business as usual, this is how we do things, it`ll get done eventually our way.  And what steward and you seem to be saying is that`s the whole problem is Mitch McConnell`s business as usual.

FEAL:  Congress and the Senate is a dysfunctional body.  And I`m not saying anything that most of America doesn`t agree with me.  These are people that promise to fix yesterday`s problems today maybe tomorrow.

MELBER:  Right.

FEAL:  We don`t want that anymore.  We want a straight up and down bill, put us on the floor, and let them vote yes or no, so we know who is a true patriot and who is not.  It`s that simple.

MELBER:  Right.  And enough with mixing it with everything else as you say up or down and then that`s it right, and that`s what`s being held back.  I want to before I let you go, I want to play a little bit of something we remember Stewart right after 9/11.  Because I had people who well outside of news and politics reach out to me after watching his testimony here last week, and he from what I understand from you, he`s walking the walk.  He`s working with you guys on this.

Let`s look at him after 9/11, a time when we thought about well, what do we do as a nation coming out of this.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWART:  Any fool can blow something up, any fool can destroy, but to see these guys, these firefighters, these policemen, and people from all over the country literally with buckets, rebuilding, that is -- that`s extraordinary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  You`ve done things most of us don`t know about, don`t experience or have the courage for.  Walk us through what`s important given what you`ve been through that we take from this as a people, as a nation, and also the relationship you have with him because we`ll put on the screen as I mentioned, the embrace.  You`ve worked with him a long time, the embraced you had last week.  Tell us your thoughts.

FEAL:  Well, I`m going to try not to cry.  You know, Jon`s biggest fear all week was failing everybody that was sitting behind him, the 9/11 heroes, the survivors of Lower Manhattan, the cops and firefighters.  And when we did embrace, I said Jon, you no longer have to fear ever failing us.  You didn`t fail us in 2010, 2015, and certainly not today.

You know, we`re not surrogates for Jon Stewart.  Jon Stewart`s a surrogate for us and Jon has served the 9/11 community.  And I like to think his passionate plea to help those who suffer restore humanity not only across our country but in D.C. where it needs it the most.

MELBER:  So when you were hugging -- that embrace was you telling him he`s OK.

FEAL:  Yes.  Again, it was like watching -- it was watching a perfection.  If it`s just -- it was graceful to watch him do what he does and nobody does it better.  And I`m blessed to be able to work within the 911 community, now in the veteran community.  And I`ve never been so humbled and blessed to have that in my toolbox.  I have Jon Stewart, such a great natural resource and the most humble A-list celebrity I`ve ever met where there`s no yes-men, there`s no entourage, and he just cares.

MELBER:  Yes.

FEAL:  Every time he comes back to D.C., he knows everybody`s name.  Everybody who has a nickname, Jon wanted a nickname, Jon wanted to get embedded with the teams, Jon wanted to learn the issue, and just -- he just wows me.  Oh I`m bored by his compassion.

MELBER:  Well, you`re talking about service, you`re talking about leadership, and it`s a reminder to all of us what we could learn from the people who`ve been there.  Mr. John Feal, I appreciate you coming around.

FEAL:  Thank you for having me.

MELBER:  I really appreciate it, sir.  Thank you.  And we will be right back,

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Now an important fight between Congress and the Trump White House over who has the power to send America to war.  A group of Democrats with some Republicans are on the verge of passing a new bill to limit Trump`s war powers.  Backers say it`s a chance to finally curtail military powers that grew under Bush and then kept growing under Obama and Trump.

The House may vote as soon as tomorrow on this measure.  It curtails these powers that Congress originally gave President Bush for a single goal getting al-Qaeda and Bin Laden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Track down Bin Laden and destroy his organization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He will be working every day to top the evil of September 11th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To say it in a way that perhaps Osama bin Laden might understand we are coming after you and the fury of hail is coming with us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  There was unity on that but Bush invoked the same bill for potential actions over 11 different countries his successor added nine more including places that had no tie to 9/11.  And the overreach here began with Bush but the Pentagon and presidents in both parties tend to hold on to major powers not just give them up.

President Obama even said he was receptive to limiting this mandate but that, of course, didn`t happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We may be drawn into more wars we don`t need to fight.  I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF`s mandate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Now many Democrats say that repeal is overdue especially with Trump in office and his aides now look at this, invoking this mandate to justify potential attack on Iran without Congress.  When this law was first passed, Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the only lawmaker to vote against it.  Tomorrow the House is scheduled to vote on her amendment to limit the war power and Trump`s power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA):  The 2001 AUMF has, in fact, become a blank check for war.  We have abdicated our responsibility.  We`ve been missing in action.  We have a job to do for the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  And I`m joined now by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Democrat from California and former Republican Congressman Tom Coleman from Missouri.  Good evening to both of you.

TOM COLEMAN, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, MISSOURI:  Good evening.

LEE:  Good evening.

MELBER:  Congresswoman, you`re clearly concerned about this and you appear to be making progress.  What would your amendment do specifically to limit President Trump`s War Powers and what happened next?

LEE:  Thank you very much.  First of all, my amendment would repeal the 2001 authorization to use military force which I voted against in 2001.  This authorization has been used and misused not only by Republican president but by unfortunately by a Democratic president, now the Republican president and it couldn`t be used forever unless we repeal this.

Any president could use this as the basis to use force and to go to war.  Our troops need to know that members of Congress have their back.  We do not need to send them in harm`s way without authorizations.  And we have just been missing in action.  We haven`t done our job and it`s time for us to debate and come up with new authorizations if in fact, we`re going to send our troops into harm`s way.

MELBER:  Congressman, as a Republican, how do you see this?

COLEMAN:  you know this is an 18-year resolution.  That`s 25 percent of the Congress was there at the time to vote on it.  75 percent of this Congress hasn`t seen it before.  40 different times it`s been utilized since 2001.  We`ve had things like drones developed, we`ve had cyber warfare that`s happened.  None of these things were thought of when the resolution was initially passed. So it`s going to have to be updated and you`re going to have to have one reauthorized.

MELBER:  So congresswoman, this seems to us like a big deal.  That`s why we wanted to interview you about it.  I don`t think it`s gotten a ton of attention.  Certainly not the kind of attention at the original debate in `01 and `03 on the other war resolutions.  Walk us through what you do next because you have a vote coming up on the amendment, then what?

LEE:  The authorization to repeal the AUMF, the Authorization to Use Military Force is in the defense appropriations bill.  We were able to put that in the bill as it moved to the floor.  And I just have to tell you, this is an important first step because we have to go back to the drawing board and if in fact, we`re going to send our young men and women into harm`s way and if we`re going to use taxpayer dollars to fight wars, we must definitely have an authorization for those wars.

MELBER:  Right.  Just so we understand --

LEE:  But let me finally say that we have eight months after this --

MELBER:  I want to get you on --

LEE:  -- to come up with a new one.

MELBER:  Well, I do say that we want to get you on the details of the plan.  When you do that, if you get that vote in the House, is the goal to put this before the president so he vetoes it to send a message or do you think there`s a chance you would join up with the president here?  Do you have any hope for unity on this issue?

LEE:  Well, I hope that the president would sign this.  I`ve been working on this with some Republicans for many, many years.  This is the right thing to do.  He should sign the bill that would repeal the 2001 60 word resolution that has authorized unauthorized wars.

MELBER:  Congresswoman Lee and Congressman Coleman, thank you both.  An important discussion.

LEE:  Thank you.

MELBER:  And thatƒ_Ts not all.  Congress is up to new reporting on what Democrats want to grill Hope Hicks on behind closed doors tomorrow when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  She`s a little shy, but that`s OK because she is really, really talented.  Hope, say a couple of words.

HOPE HICKS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE:  Hi.  Merry Christmas, everyone!  And thank you, Donald Trump!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  You can`t argue with holiday greetings.  That was one of the rare times that Donald Trump`s long-time aide Hope Hicks spoke in public.  Now, tomorrow, she`ll speak in a whole different way, and Democrats have a lot of questions.  She is the first Trump staffer when you actually think about it to actually testify to the House Judiciary Committee in this obstruction probe.

Democrats want to ask about five specific incidents in the Mueller report, plus those payments that Trump made to Stormy Daniels which ultimately were a confessed crime by Michael Cohen.  A White House lawyer will sit in.

Democrats say they will require a formal indication of executive privilege if the White House has any hope of preventing Hicks from speaking, shall we say, speaking her truth.  And that does it for me.  We`ll have coverage of that and a lot more tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  But right now it`s "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.

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