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Judiciary releases transcript of Hicks testimony. TRANSCRIPT: 6/20/19, The Beat w/Ari Melber.

Guests: Paul Butler, Julian Epstein, Jack Jacobs, Brittney Cooper, MarcLotter

KASIE HUNT, MSNBC HOST: A very difficult situation of course for all of us. Eugene, Adrian, Jennifer, thank you all very much for being here. That`s going to be it for us tonight. Chuck is going to be back tomorrow with much more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. But right now "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.`

Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Kasie.  Thank you very much. We have several major stories in tonight`s show. So thank you for joining us. We just received a transcript of Hope Hicks congressional testimony, the first Trump aide to testify ever in this obstruction probe.

And though she does duck many questions, she also talks collusion so we`re going to get to that. Meanwhile in a case that Bob Mueller referred tonight, I have it right here, the DOJ is actual exploring jailing Roger Stone, remember him? For allegedly violating his gag order.

This is brand new. This is a Mueller referral and it`s interesting because it shows that while Trump`s DOJ leadership have been intervening to help the Trump adviser Paul Manafort avoid prison in New York, the rank and file prosecutors who filed this, just now they are trying to put a different Trump advisor Stone in prison.

We have that later in the hour. There also I should note, and you may have heard because it was just being discussed of course on MSNBC in the last hour. Breaking news, these escalating tensions amidst reports that Iran shot down a U.S. drone. That`s obviously an important international story. We have a report on it later on THE BEAT tonight so there`s a lot going on.

But we begin with the transcript from the Hope Hicks testimony. Chairman Jerry Nadler points to 155 separate questions that he says she just defied, just declined to answer. Many circle these obstruction issues and potential criminal evidence against President Trump.

Like what did she know about why he fired James Comey and why he interfered in the prosecution of former aide Michael Flynn. And things on the Hill are clearly heated about all this.

Nadler is invoking and explaining the Mueller report to this day while there are others accusing the Democrats of wishing Donald Trump was a foreign agent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The President`s willingness to again welcome prohibited foreign assistance is indeed shocking. The President may be willing to describe the lessons of the Mueller reports but we are not.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R- GA): Democrats are not only disappointed, they`re angry, angry the President was not a Russian asset it seems. Imagine disliking a President so much that you wish he were a foreign agent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Meanwhile, we should note these calls for impeachment in the House are going a bit. Since last night there are four more lawmakers who have joined this list of House members who back impeachment or some sort of impeachment probe. One of them Congressman Sean Casten appearing on Morning Joe saying that he actually regrets even having to take this position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Should there be an impeachment enquiring against Donald Trump?

REP. SEAN CASTEN (D-IL): So with great regret the answer is yes. This wasn`t why I came. But the daily assaults on the constitution, what we know Russia did and the the failure of the President to allow us to do our job has I think made this a necessity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As mentioned this number of lawmakers in this impeachment caucus has now risen to all the way to 71. I want to get right to it with Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor of New York City, a civil prosecutor for the Southern District.

Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor as well. And Julian Epstein, a former chief Democratic counsel to House Judiciary Committee and well versed in these kind of probes. Welcome to each of you. Paul, what do you take from Hope picks and a lot of the non- answers.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Eight hours, a 150 times she said, I`m not going to answer that question. This extraordinarily - the broad claim of absolute immunity which doesn`t exist in the law, it`s her decision. She could have said my responsibility is not to Donald Trump. It`s to the American people  and to the rule of law and so I`m going to answer your questions.

But instead she lawyered up. She had six different attorneys there, two private attorneys, two from justice - one from the Justice Department and two from the White House to make sure that she would not incriminate Donald Trump.

We now learn she`s talked to - she said 5 to 10 times since she let--

MELBER: You raise a profound, legal question and I hate to make a lawyer joke. But how many lawyers does it take to advise you just say no comment because I`m going to read to you an actual thing that sounds like a joke but it`s not. This is Chairman Nadler in the transcript saying, during this time that she was working where in the West Wing did you sit in relation to the Oval office?

This is a brand new transcript and Paul, she gets a reply interjection, during that time where in the West Wing did you sit in relation to the Oval office and one of those lawyers, you mention Paul says, I`m going to object here Mr. Chairman, what does that tell you?

BUTLER: Again, the only question she answered about her time in the White House were was it sunny or cloudy on your first thing at work and where did you eat lunch. She wouldn`t answer any other questions. The crazy thing is she`s one of the stars of the Mueller report, her name appears in that report 100 - 183 times.

So she spilled the beans, the Trump administration has waived any privilege that they might have, remember the day before the Mueller report was released to the public, that redacted report, Bill Barr, the Attorney General trooped over to the White House. He gave the Mueller report to Trump`s attorneys.

Do you guys want to exercise any privileges? They said no.

MELBER: Right and yet Maya, there is other interesting stuff here. I would understand someone watching says okay Ari, what else are you going to talk about other than gosh, she dodged a lot of questions but the Democrats have an argument here that comes up on a lot of investigations which is even when you don`t get everything you want, you still can get something.

And I thought this was pretty striking for whatever reasons, self-interest or otherwise that Nadler is putting out and Politico is reporting on this. It said Hicks breaks with Trump when it comes to his defense about embracing collusion, "Hicks knew Trump`s statement was troubling, understood him to be serious and she knows him. She also made clear that even she knew foreign assistance should be rejected and reported to the FBI."

MAYA WILEY, FORMER CIVIL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I completely agree with you that this is very significant. I think it goes back to why she has five attorneys including a Department of Justice attorney and White House attorneys is because she has the ability and she has in the Mueller report done tremendous damage to the defense that this President has tried to mount.

He has said publicly and I think the hearing today that the House Judiciary Committee made also made this abundantly clear that he is very much wants foreign interference in our elections and would not tell the FBI and she is essentially - yesterday, the day before the hearing which they reminded us of these George Stephanopoulos statements that the President made, just the day before said, yep, he wanted that.

He wanted the information. Yes, we knew it was wrong and remember that in the Mueller report she says - she says, I tried repeatedly on the Trump tower meeting with Don Junior to tell - to tell the President this is bad and he was like, don`t tell me, I`m just going to go on the other and don`t talk about it, don`t share it.

So that also goes to the question of obstruction and this is one of the reasons why she wasn`t answering questions despite no valid legal assertion of privilege.

MELBER: Julian, people I think around the country have been fascinated with what we learned of the Mueller report but also wondering where is the accountability and as you know, there`s a debate about how the House is exercising its investigative and oversight functions. You`re someone who`s been in those rooms, who`s seen the hard calls, who understand how it works, not just at a distance where people say, well, you should just, you should be like Perry Mason.

Make them admit it, walk us through your view with your intimate knowledge of how this works of both what we`re learning from the way the Democrats are doing these hearings thus far and what you think of the criticism we`ve heard that they shouldn`t let Hope speak in private, that they`re not getting enough fast enough.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, FMR CHIEF MINORITY COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, it`s a tricky area because the law is somewhat undefined. The Supreme Court made clear 1974 in the Nixon case that there`s no such thing as absolute immunity so Hope Hicks can`t March in the way she did yesterday and simply claim that she doesn`t have to answer any of these questions.

There is a limit, a possibility that the White House could invoke executive privilege on a limited subset of questions but there`s no way that executive privilege can apply to events that occurred before the President became President, namely Russian interference during the 2016 campaign.

There`s no way executive privilege can be invoked when it comes to questions about did she ask Michael Flynn not to testify, did she try to work with Corey Lewandowski to go to Sessions to limit the scope of the inquiry. Those are just things that no court would recognise as falling within executive privilege.

Now what the courts have said, what the Supreme court intimated and then what the DC circuit court said in 1997 is that there does have to be an accommodation process, you do have to make an attempt, Congress has to show good faith attempt to get the information at once.

The White House has to make a good faith attempt to give them everything that Congress  want, except for if there`s a good faith invocation of executive privilege. Jerry Nadler`s going through those steps that he has to do, it`s exactly what the Judiciary Committee did in 2007 with Harriet Miers and the Karl Rove case where they had Harriet Miers and Karl Rove coming and testify behind closed doors.

They released the testimony that was on the firing of U.S. attorneys so Jerry Nadler is - did what I think he needed to do he wants to prevail in court which is to show he`s in good faith, to show he`s not necessarily trying to create a media circus, he`s trying to get information, that`s very, very important for his legal case.

So I think what he did was the right thing. What the White House is doing is they`re not in good faith, they`re thumbing their nose at the process, there`s no serious lawyer in this town who believes there`s anything that amounts to anything close to absolute privilege and they`re just saying you know, come get us, force us to do this, force us to comply in the courts, we think we can run the clock and it`s a bad faith effort.

I think it`s bad politics on their part because what they`re going to do is keep this issue alive in the summer and into the fall and whether or not Democrats get to the impeachment question, this is just not good politics for Donald Trump to keep it in the new every day.

MELBER: As you lay out, the strategy has to deal with more than just what "might look tough." In the moment it is as you say in the Miers and other President figuring out what`s also going to play well in court if they`re going to get courts to back up this other branch which is important because Trump turns everything into a body slam.

You know, you got to make him do it. You mentioned impeachment. I want to play the new pressure coming from Tom Steyer, viewers may have heard of him. He`s a billionaire, he`s a liberal Dem and he`s still beating his drum for impeachment as the numbers pick up little by little. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM STEYER, BUSINESSMAN: Congress and that means both parties must put their own political interests aside and focus on what`s right for our country. If we can`t trust them on this, how can we trust them with our nation`s biggest challenges.

America will move forward as soon as leaders stop acting on their own interest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You`re there in Washington, the Congress is a political body. Do you see that kind of - this kind of stuff as moving the needle or as we head towards the debates in the summer you think the impeachment question is kind of just going away?

Who are you asking Ari?

MELBER: You Julian.

EPSTEIN: Look, I think there`s a very strong moral case for impeachment. I think this President is kind of a combination between a bond villain and Mr. Magoo. I think there is a legal case for impeachment that`s relatively strong, it`s not slam dunk, but it`s a relatively strong case. The political question is you know, if you`ve got two-thirds of the Democratic caucus, who do not want even sign up for an inquiry, not even impeachment but an inquiry.

And if you`ve got 60% of the public that thinks that the President committed crimes but only 40% wanting to even go as far and as simple as question that, go for - see Congress start an inquiry, you`ve got an almost impossible situation to manage. The worst thing the Democrats could do right now is try to put an impeachment inquiry resolution on the floor and have half of them go shout.

MELBER: Right and have a divide, I take that.

EPSTEIN: And that`s a big political win for Trump.

MELBER: Which could divide the party. - so I want to bring my lawyers in, pardon me, Julian but yes, I think that`s a fair point. Before I let you two go here on sat, we have again, we`re just getting this as we go, this is pretty interesting. Page 37, we just got the transcript where Chairman Nadler asked some questions that you would think you`d want your clients to be able to answer.

Is Mueller`s report accurate? Objection. Is the report inaccurate? Objection. Did you tell the truth to the special counsel, I mean that`s a legal obligation? Objection. Chairman Nadler says objection? Let me restate the question, did you perjure yourself to the Special Counsel and you have Hope Hicks` lawyers saying, same objection.

BUTLER: It`s un-American, it`s illegal, it`s more obstruction and cover up but here`s a relationship between this and impeachment so we know that the Trump administration`s strategy is to run out the clock, to just wait until the election is over until all the dirt comes out.

Eventually, the Democrats will prevail. She will be forced to answer a question like did you tell Mueller the truth. There`s no protection for that. And here`s the relationship with impeachment. If there is - if there are impeachment hearings then Congress can ask the court to expedite these rules.

MELBER: Right, raise it, Maya, do you think you`d want your clients to be able to say, I didn`t commit the crime of perjury.

WILEY: I do, I think. Federal question.

MELBER: It`s a real question.

WILEY: Because this is insane.

MELBER: It`s 2019. I ask silly questions sometimes.

WILEY: So there`s a hail and a fail. The hail is Nadler`s trying to get this testimony and information, the fail is it`s behind closed doors and the American public could not hear the refusal of a former White House staffer to the President refuse to answer the question about whether she lied to the Special Counsel.

MELBER: Right, and that you laid out pretty strong right there, Maya Wiley, Paul Butler and Julian Epstein, thanks to each of you. When we come back, I`ve got to stories that are breaking Donald Trump. Looking at potential retaliating against Iran for the new footage you see on your screen, there are this reports of a U.S. drone shot down.

Federal prosecutors tonight saying Roger Stone has violated gag order again allegedly. They want immediate hearing and possible jail time and later, the Trump administration in court saying, it has the legal right to deny soap, blankets and tooth brushed to children in detention centers despite a court order otherwise.

It`s an important story, we`re going to bring it to you on THE BEAT. And then there`s this, the Pentagon briefing Senators on UFO sightings after this navy video comes out. We got a lot in this the show. I`m Ari Melber, you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT I`m Ari Melber. I mentioned on top of the show, tonight`s show is a little different partly because there`s so many things going on. In a few minutes, we`re going to dig into something you may have heard before but might really, really matter tonight which is the Trump Justice Department saying, Trump`s former longest serving adviser Roger Stone has broken his gag order again.

This is what I`m holding and that they might jail him before he faces trial, that`s a big deal in a Mueller related referral.

And another important case that involves the Trump administration fighting a court ruling that they have to provide toothbrushes and blankets to migrant children in detention. If you haven`t heard about that, it`s new and we`re going to get into it tonight. So we have all those stories coming up including Roger Stone in a couple of minutes about three minutes.

But I want to bring you up to speed on the other big story that is international in focus. Donald Trump saying he may retaliate against Iran after it shot down a U.S. drone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They made a big mistake. This drone was in international waters clearly, we have it all documented. It`s documented scientifically, not just words and they made a very bad mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How will you respond?

TRUMP: You`ll find out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to go to war with Iran.

TRUMP: You`ll find out, you`ll find out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President--

TRUMP: Obviously you know, we`re not going to be talking too much about it. You`re going to find out. They made a very big mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The United States has released a video of this drone strike, this is according to the Pentagon and can`t make that much sense of it but I`m about to have an expert weigh in, Iranians claim this was all above Iran.

The U.S. says no as you just heard the President mention, it was international airspace and in a sign of the import of this, senior congressional leaders went to the White House late today to visit directly with the President for a briefing. Joining me now is Retired Colonel Jack Jacobs, a medal of honor recipient.

Good evening to you.

COL. JACK JACOBS, U.S. ARMY RETD, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: Good evening Ari.

MELBER: What do Americans need to know about what`s happening in this story?

JACOBS: Well, they don`t know anything because nothing has been divulged and I think not much is probably been divulged to congressional leaders either. I don`t think that the President`s made a decision yet on what retaliation if any there is going to be.

But it`s least likely to be a military retaliation of some kind. I think if there`s going to be anything done at all, it`ll be either economic or use some sort of cyber means but I don`t think that the President wants to get involved in anything that has to do with shooting in the - in the gulf for- -

MELBER: Right and with an escalation base over the incident, we`ll put this footage that we got back out, if an American see something like this, it immediately feels dramatic just that we have it but from your view as our military expert, what does it mean when the Pentagon releases this?

What if anything do we take from it?

JACOBS: Well, certainty that when we said that it was over international waters that it was you know, we have the capability of isolating and locating things within less than a meter. So we knew exactly where it was and that`s demonstrable.

I think the thing to remember is that the President actually doesn`t want to get involved. And he`s being moved to do so however by the likes of  his National Security Advisor and as a result it sounds like he`s digging his heels in when he says that we`ll do something but not right away and it`s not the end of the world.

We can conclude, he thinks it`s not end of the world, if something doesn`t happen right now. I think the interesting thing to perceive is why does it happen in the first place. I think there is a break and has been for some time between the Republican guards on the one hand and the Mullahs on the other, I think it`s interesting if you think that Rouhani is a liberal in contrast to the Republican guards.

And furthermore, why we didn`t shoot back at the launch site immediately? We knew exactly where it was and I think it`s because we don`t want to get involved. There may be some conflicts on the gulf, I think there`ll be some engagements with Republican guards in small boats or their or their cronies in there, surrogates but I don`t think we`re going to do anything serious on the mainland of Iran.

MELBER: Some facts and some sober analysis as we`ve come to expect from Colonel Jack Jacobs. Always appreciate you making time for us, Sir.

JACOBS: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you. When we come back in just 30 seconds, the story I`ve been telling you about. Why the Feds say Roger Stone might have to go to jail before his trial when we`re back in 30.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: News in the Roger Stone criminal case. Federal prosecutors tonight say Stone has broken his gag order allegedly again. This famously bars him from talking or posting or  communicating publicly about his case and they say, this wasn`t like a one-time thing or 2 or 3. They list eight examples including an online post that they say, they basically say his defense team, "exposed the intelligence community, the prosecutors are calling for a new hearing on whether Stone has broken basically the terms of his release.

Meaning what keeps him out of jail awaiting trial. Now this judge for whatever reason has been somewhat hesitant to put Stone in jail, the way many other defendants are treated around the country. In fact even after he posted a picture of the judge herself next to what many interpreted as cross hairs, she provided him a second chance.

All of this comes of course in an interesting time because the Trump Justice Department, at a higher level not these line prosecutors who are going after Stone tonight but at a higher level intervened unusually to try to keep Paul Manafort out of a prison in New York.

If these were any other defendants or if it were actually literally Manafort`s case, we ask, would the treatment be equal which is what is required under our system of justice.

I pop that question to two very capable analysts. Watergate special prosecutor, Nick Akerman who has been battling Roger Stone in that court rooms for decades and Rutgers Professor  Brittney Cooper, good evening to both of you.

BRITTNEY COOPER, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Good evening.

NICK AKERMAN, WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Good evening.

MELBER: Do you think on the law, Mr. Stone, A, has violated the order and B, should be incarcerated prior to trial?

AKERMAN: A, he has violated the order. There`s no question he`s violated it. I think this judge has given him enough rope so we can hang himself and B, yes, I think he`s going to go to jail and he won`t go to Riker`s island because he`s going to be in a federal prison but you now will have Manafort and Stone in prison who are two extremely significant people in this entire Russian investigation, that know the scope of what went on.

Manafort who lied about what went on and the question you`ve got to ask is will the 7.5 years that Manafort is now serving on top of what will become state prosecutions and Stone, who is also going to get hit pretty hard because these violations are pretty--

MELBER: So on page one of this new order and folks watching, there`s so much going on as I emphasise on our show tonight. People may not have heard about this, at other times, this would be the biggest story in the world. If there was a long - if the longest serving Obama adviser was awaiting obstruction charges to trial and then violated the gag order, I mean you could imagine.

So but it`s the Trump era but when it says on page one, the Justice Department, that the court to consider "modifying" the conditions of release does that mean in plain English go to jail?

AKERMAN: Yes, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to jail.

MELBER: And finally before I turn to Brittney, you say, oh, he`s going to jail this time. A lot of folks look at it and say, well, didn`t he do this before and he wasn`t incarcerated?

AKERMAN: Yes, but he was given such a stern warning the last time. The judge put him on the witness stand, she basically read him the Riot Act, she redid the order. I mean, he is two strikes, he is now up to three strikes and he`s out.

MELBER: What do you think when you look at a story like this?

COOPER: I think that the brazenness with which Trump`s comrades continue to flout the rule of law should alarm all Americans and I think you`re right, you`re asking the right question which is would any other American defendant get this level of treatment?

The challenge is that many Americans and even our legal system is not calibrated to see a very prominent white men as being a fundamental threat to democracy, even though they keep violating standard and procedure and law over and over again.

MELBER: Let`s get into that because Nick and I have spent time around these court rooms and judges especially but a lot of people in this space, think of themselves as very well versed on these issues they`ve talked about the inequities, they`ve talked about bias.

This judge for a time was kind of a folk hero of some on the left for cracking down on certain things in contrast to a different judge who was lighter on Manafort and yet, you`re saying something that often is revealed sometimes as - I want to call it unaware bias.

COOPER: Sure.

MELBER: This judge doesn`t think they`re going soft on Rogers Stone and yet we have covered and I`ve done the stats on this show, cases in other parts of country, Chicago and elsewhere where you don`t get a stern second chances Akerman quoted. You get no second chances.

COOPER: Well, look, we can compare this, think about Trump`s rhetoric this week when he was asked about the Central Park Five and he basically said that even though these men had been exonerated because of DNA, that he didn`t believe them, that he thought that they should still be locked up.

He didn`t think that they deserved the settlement that they got from the city of New York as contrasted to his friends who all seem to be part of a growing and voluminous crime syndicate but yet, because of his power and influence and also because of Judge Amy Berman Jackson`s desire not to be seen as biased, that`s part of the reason that she`s going so soft on Stone.

She the woman, he has targeted her and part of the way the Trump campaign wins the public is that they say that this is a whole sort of witch hunt against them and so everyone is stepping really lightly, this is Mueller not wanting to say that the President committed crimes.

This is Jackson not wanting to be over eager in locking up Stone because everyone wants to give the appearance that they`re being objective but the end result is that these men, very prominent white men, continue to have a level of leeway within the legal system that any other defendant, particularly defendants of color will never ever get.

AKERMAN: Well, that certainly goes for Manafort. I mean the idea that the Deputy Attorney General interceded to get him out of Rikers island and put him to Club Fed is absolutely outrageous. I have never heard of it, it is always the Bureau of Prisons that makes that decision.

It`s not the deputy Attorney General. Somebody put the fix in for Manafort to be taken out of Rikers Island and I think the Congress ought to be investigating exactly why that happened.

MELBER: You think that`s inappropriate?

AKERMAN: I think it`s totally out of the normal course as an assistant U.S. attorney, when I had somebody put into jail, I would talk to the Bureau of Prisons, I might make a recommendation but I would never direct that--

MELBER: And I think Brittney, you`ve given us a lot to think about especially the point when a judge is literally targeted, says final chance, and then appears to do something that judges don`t usually do which is get afraid of executing their own power.  This is the power the judge has and so it`s fascinating seeing again the Trump Justice Department.

We`ve said these stories are complex.  It`s not that the fix is in up and down the DOJ.  Nick says there may be problems in the Manafort case and yet here it is, the line prosecutors, nonpartisan apparently, saying nope we mean it and maybe Mr. Stone will have to await trial in jail like a lot of other people do because of poverty.  Nick and Brittany, thanks for being part of this discussion.  We wanted to give it some time

BRITTNEY COOPER, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY:  Thank you.

MELBER:  I appreciate both of you.  Still to come, the Trump Justice Department going to court to fight an order that they`ve provide blankets, soap, and toothbrushes to migrant children.  It`s a story that we are all over because it is important.  I`m going to show you why it matters and do some fact checking when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Donald Trump is in the middle of rolling out the launch of his re- election campaign and it`s more than that big Florida rally.  There`s been interviews on Fox, ABC, now Telemundo, an online push that hauled in a record-breaking 25 million and courting the print media that Trump often attacks like sitting for this new cover of Time Magazine where Trump proclaims his whole life is a bet laying out a case for a second term pointing to the economy, his base, and his political instincts while a huge field of Democrats are running against Trump pointing to his record- breaking lies in office, his stumbles on national security, and his policies on immigration and civil rights.

Now, how is this whole race shaping up?  We like to go to primary sources on this show and now we turn to a top aide on Donald Trump`s 2020 campaign, Strategic Communications Director Marc Lotter, a veteran of the Trump Whitehouse and the 2016 campaign.  Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

MARC LOTTER, STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP`S 2020 CAMPAIGN:  Thank you for having me.

MELBER:  Is Donald Trump core 2020 pitch any different from 2016?

LOTTER:  I think absolutely.  If you remember, any time you`re running for -- on the outside you for in office, you`re asking voters to put their faith in you that you`re going to execute on the things that you said you were going to do.  In this case, 2020 is going to be built much on promises made, promises kept because the President has kept his promise to the American people to raise wages, bring manufacturing back, renegotiate bad trade deals and also deal with the immigration crisis on our southern border.

MELBER:  Yes.  You mentioned a lot of economics there.  I`m curious what you think about a Fox News poll here where they asked basically white voters without a college education what they think of Trump`s economic policies.  And take a look basically, only five percent say they help people like me.  Do you know why those folks don`t trust Trump on economics and is that something you`re trying to change?

LOTTER:  Well, I think oftentimes the economic data takes a while for the people across the country to actually feel the difference in their pocketbooks and in their confidence.  But we have seen just from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we have record low unemployment for people without college degrees.  This research shows that paychecks are going up faster for people at the lower end of the economic scale than they are going up for the people at the higher end.  And so as that becomes more -- 

MELBER:  But you would -- but you concede -- you don`t -- you`re not fighting the data.  You concede of that five percent number is really low for you.

LOTTER:  I haven`t seen the data.  I haven`t seen all the methodology behind it.  I`m just saying that it`s traditional that the polling on the economy trails the economic indicators.  We saw that back --

MELBER:  OK, I hear you -- I hear your argument there.  Let me -- let me play something from this -- from this launch.  Donald Trump talking about one of those promises draining the swamp.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Many times I said we would drain the swamp and that`s exactly what we`re doing right now.  We`re draining the swamp.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  I`d like to get specific with you on how do you prove that because we`ll show here when it comes to the Trump lobbyists connection and this is well documented, a lot of lobbyist, 182 who have worked basically in the Trump administration and his lobbyists or a wider thing if you talk about that you know, the Washington swamp.

Take a look at the overall spending.  In 2016 it was $2 billion, roughly.  It`s jumped up in the Trump era over $3 billion.  So by that metric, it doesn`t look like the swamp is very drained, right?

LOTTER:  Well, I would point to one of the first things the president did when he entered office was to issue an executive order that forbids people like me who is it who is a senior position in the White House from leaving and going directly to become lobbyists.  So things like that to start that process.

He`s also cleaning out in terms of eliminating a lot of bureaucratic positions that don`t always necessarily need to be filled so we`re reducing the size of the federal government, reducing the regulatory burden.  It`s a long process.  The swamp has been ingrained for a very long time and I think that`s also what one of the things that the president will fight to keep doing in a second term.

MELBER:  Well, I guess -- I mean, that`s part of the question right.  Is -- does you have to fight it because there is still a swamp and it`s getting worse from the numbers I show like more spending or is he fixing it?  Which is the answer right now?

LOTTER:  Well, the lobbyists spending, that is something that goes on.  You know, obviously, that`s made by corporate decisions and who they`re hiring as lobbyists.  What we can do though is try to reduce the influence of people going immediately from the administration into lobbying cashing in that way and also just reducing bureaucratic tape, reducing the federal workforce, modernizing it trying to eliminate agencies and things that are duplicative and really trying to reform government in a longer sense.

Again, it can`t be done overnight.  In many cases, we need help from Congress to help in some of those areas.

MELBER:  Well, yes.  I mean, that`s why I put the numbers -- that`s why I pressed you on the facts.  182 is nothing to do with Congress or corporate spending.  It has to do with all of these lobbyists that are hired by Trump that are around Trump.

Going through a couple of these issues in the time we have, I also want to talk about the way that the president looks at immigration.  He`s talked a lot about it in the most stark terms like an invasion.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  This is an invasion.  When you see these caravans starting out with 20,000 people, that`s an invasion.

We`re talking about an invasion of our country with all types of criminals and gangs.

People hate the word invasion but that`s what it is.  It`s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people and in many cases and in some cases you have killers coming in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  This is as you know, a big -- a big claim, sir.  Do you happen to know where the U.S. falls in terms of the countries that have the most refugee population?

LOTTER:  No, I don`t know this.  That`s off the top of my head but I can tell you --

MELBER:  Would you -- let me ask you this way.  Would you -- would you say it`s the U.S. is high like where we top five?

LOTTER:  I wouldn`t know overall but I can tell you --

MELBER:  Would you say -- I just -- and then I will let you -- I always let people go so I`m going to let you have your turn.  But just because there`s so much talk it makes you sound like it`s so bad.  Would you say we`re top ten?

LOTTER:  Again, I don`t know the stats of the top of my head --

HAYES:  All right, let me put it up to the viewers and then I`ll give you your turn just because the facts matter.  You look at who has the most refugees.  We`re not top five.  We`re not top ten.  We`re hundreds of thousands below tenth.

And so I wonder at a certain point do you think that Donald Trump has been hyping and exaggerating the immigration numbers to scare people rather than dealing in the facts -- you seem to mention, you didn`t you admit you don`t know that fact.  I give you time to respond.

LOTTER:  Well, I think, first off is let`s talk about what we`re actually talking about here, not refugees.  We`re talking about a flood of illegal immigrants coming into our country.  Right now, we are on pace to have a larger population illegally enter our country than Atlanta and Miami Florida combined.  That is over a million people.  It would be the tenth largest city in the country if it continues the way it was going.

And just today I saw a stat out that said in just two of the caravans, one of them late last year, one of them a short time later, there were 1500 people that were taken into custody that had U.S. criminal backgrounds including for sexual assault, murder, assault with deadly weapons --

MELBER:  Well, look, I mention the refugee part because it`s important.  Crime is bad.  I think everyone can agree on that.  But if you want to go broader and talk about all migration, we could do that we have the receipts here.  I`ll put up on the screen the overall migration.

Now there are undocumented people trying to come into the country.  But when you say it`s really bad, we can look over the decades.  This is over all border crossings since 1980.  You don`t need to be a statistician to look at this on the screen and see that the current recent era both under this administration and the most recent one is far lower than a recent times in American history.  Do you acknowledge that fact and is it a problem that Donald Trump doesn`t seem to get it?

LOTTER:  Well, no, I think what you`re -- what you`re doing is you`re -- it`s not the same situation now that it was in the 1980s.  In the 1980s --

MELBER:  No, sir, it`s not.  It`s lower migration -- it`s much lower migration.

LOTTER:  Well, let`s have -- let`s have an intellectually honest conversation about this.  Those numbers at that time were primarily in most cases three quarters or more were single men from Mexico seeking to come here for economic reasons.  The laws were written to address that fact.

If someone comes across from Mexico, they can be immediately sent back across the border.  What we have now is that two-thirds of the people who are coming across are not from Mexico, they`re from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Northern Triangle --

MELBER:  But far fewer people --

LOTTER:  They`re family units and our laws are not --

MELBER:  Yes, and that`s a humanitarian crisis that a lot of people say was been compounded by family separations and other measures.  But, sir, it`s fewer people.  I could put it back up on the screen.  You said different population types, different family groupings.  You do acknowledge it`s fewer people and the president seems to claim the opposite.

LOTTER:  Well no, it`s -- I think he`s talking about how our laws are not written to deal with the current problem as it is.  The overall numbers are one thing, the type of numbers are absolutely very important.  Because right now today if someone comes across and counts in one of those numbers, they`re from Mexico, we can send them right back.  But we`ve got to talk about what the real problem is.

There`s something now going on called child recycling where people are coming into this country with a child who`s not their own provided by a cartel, provided by drug runners so they can fake family ties, get in here, and then they get the kid back and do it all again.

MELBER:  Marc, do you -- do you really -- you`re bringing up something else.  Do you really expect people to believe that the Trump 2020 campaign is concerned about the welfare of those children when the explicit policy was to separate them from their parents?  In other words, yes, you said let`s have a good faith discussion but that the whole issue is the Trump administration has explicitly advocated policies to separate, isolate, and punish the child population.

LOTTER:  But that`s -- now that -- come on now, Ari, you know better than that.  That policy started under the Obama administration.  We actually are under court orders that we cannot hold a child longer than just a few weeks.  I think it`s 28 days if I go off memory.  And in many cases, the adults can be held longer where you can`t separate them from the child.

MELBER:  I`m going to -- I`m going to pick which things to focus on.  If you -- if you want everyone -- and I want people to hear from you directly and respectfully.  If you want everyone to believe that the Jeff Sessions zero-tolerance policy was something you were forced to do by your predecessor, you know, you`re going to have to carry that water by yourself.

I got to ask you about one more thing and I don`t mean to say the most obvious kind of toughest question for last, sir.  But Donald Trump assured everyone including his base that he says is going to be key.  He promised them one thing about the wall.  You know what it is.  He promised them that somebody else would pay for it.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Believe me, Mexico is paying for the wall, OK.  That`s it.

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

And by the way, Mexico will pay for the wall.  They will pay for the way.  That I could tell you. 

Mexico is going to pay for the wall.  They don`t know it yet.  They don`t know it yet.  They`re starting to have a very good idea but that`s OK.

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  As president, Donald Trump has fought hard shut down the government and even used executive powers to seize funds to make Americans pay for the wall.  Do you think that`s sort of the toughest broken promise for the re-election campaign?

LOTTER:  No, absolutely not.  Because right now Mexico is doing more to secure our border than the United States Congress and led by Democrats in the House of Representatives.  Mexico is actually starting --

MELBER:  But they`re not paying for the wall.

LOTTER:  They are paying for by sending 6,000 troops down to the border to protect their southern border to stop the migration of people --

MELBER:  But them sending their military -- them sending their military to places is not them paying for the wall.  I guess this is the question and I`ll leave you with a final word because I always try to give my guests time and when we`re going over on time.

LOTTER:  I appreciate that.

MELBER:  Donald Trump promised Americans and particularly those MAGA supporters you`re not going to have to pay for the wall.  He`s making them pay for the wall.  Is your closing argument on that, it`s OK, it`s a broken promise he didn`t fulfill everything, or is your closing argument on that a bald-faced lie claiming that Mexico`s paying for the wall which you know is false?

LOTTER:  Well, what I can tell you is the walls being built 400 miles of it.  We`ll be done by next year.  And when you look at the amount of money that Mexico is paying to keep asylum seekers on their side of the border rather than the U.S. border, they`re providing them education, they`re providing health care, they`re sending their troops down to their southern border, protect -- and they are patrolling their transit lines up to the north to try to stop these caravans.  Mexico is paying a lot for our southern security and that --

MELBER:  But not the wall.

LOTTER:  I would call it a virtual wall.

MELBER:  That`s your closing argument.  They`re paying for a virtual wall.

LOTTER:  I would say they`re spending a lot of money to protect our southern border while Democrats continue to drop the ball and let Mexico do more than they`re willing to do.

MELBER:  Well, look, as I mentioned, I mentioned to my viewers, we make time for people here.  I granted you your time.  I really appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.  Marc Lauder from Trump 2020, I hope you come back.

LOTTER:  Thank you.  Absolutely.

MELBER:  Thank you.  And we have an important fact check when we come back.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Donald Trump`s DOJ lawyers are claiming under oath that this administration has the authority to deny detained children soap, toothbrushes, blankets.  Now, this case is only in court because the judge already ruled that when the government detains people, they must provide sanitary conditions including allegedly possibly soap.

So these court hearings, now they`re often dry and summaries can be even drier.  Consider where we`re at as you hear this opening paragraph of a summary of Trump`s case from courthouse new service.

"The Trump administration argued the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid overcrowded cells despite a court settlement agreement that requires detainees to be kept in safe and sanitary conditions."

All three judges appeared incredulous during the hearing.  Incredulous.  Those frigid floors are documented.  Children huddling on the floor for warmth and those words are just the summary.  Here`s how the judges actually sounded in court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Are you really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn`t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleep on the concrete, and you got an aluminum foil blanket?  Are you saying that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And too crowded to lie down which they also said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.  It wasn`t you know, high-class melted soap.  It was so and that sounds -- that`s part of safe and sanitary.  Are you disagreeing with that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you don`t have a toothbrush, if you don`t have soap, if you don`t have a blanket, it`s not safe and sanitary.  Wouldn`t everybody agree to that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  The judges pressing these Trump officials on the legal obligation to provide those quote safe and sanitary conditions which of course to find the lives of over a thousand unaccompanied migrant children in detention right now.  We should note six have died in custody since the Trump policy began.  The judges also press these Trump officials to commit to safe and sanitary with no loopholes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you don`t have a blanket, it`s not safe and sanitary.  Wouldn`t everybody agree to that?  Do you agree with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I think it`s -- I think those are -- there`s fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe of sanitary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not "maybe," "are."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Wow!  That`s not your usual federal court hearing.  The DOJ doesn`t send its lawyers to an appeals court unless they have a priority to dispute.  They are appealing a decision that they oppose, a decision requiring Trump officials honor safety requirements that they clearly don`t want to meet for these children in their custody.

Now, these judges are nonpartisan and they`re suggesting in court that history shows the Trump administration should and will lose this case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I go back and consider whether you really want to continue this appeal.  There doesn`t seem to be a lot left of it considering that life is so moved on by it.  It just feels like we`re litigating ancient history at this point.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  The Pentagon is holding classified briefings on UFOs for interested members of Congress.  Politico broke the story that briefings came after these reported encounters by the Navy in the New York Times.  We covered them on THE BEAT as well.  DOD also has released 2015 video pilots were wondering what they were seeing.

No one in DOD is saying that these are extra-terrestrial but they are saying pilot safety is important,  and they`re taking it seriously and that they`re briefing members of Congress.  We have a new statement here I just got from Mark Warner.  He says I was curious about these press reports.  Anything that involves pilot safety is important to me so this is a very real thing happening on the Hill.  We wanted to get that UFO update in for you.

That`s THE BEAT.  "HARDBALL" starts now.

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