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Trump administration launches legal fight. TRANSCRIPT: 6/24/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Barbara Res, Mara Gay, David Frum, Neal Katyal, Christine Greer,Malcolm Gladwell, Jacob Weisberg

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  That is all for us tonight. Chuck will be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. And the "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. Thank you very much. Tonight, Donald Trump`s best people`s claim seems to be demolished by his own internal documents. We`ll explain.

We are also two days away from, yes, this first primary debate, which everyone has been talking about. Tonight on the show you`re going to hear from, among other things, some of Obama`s debate guru, his debate coach who I just talked to. We`re going to get into what he says, these candidates need to be ready for.

Also fallout today from a video showing Trump lawyers arguing against soap and toothbrushes for detained kids, it`s a story we`ve been all over, because it matters. Well, tonight we bring in Obama`s former top lawyer Neal Katyal all for opening arguments.

But I begin with the Donald Trump whiplash, a sudden policy change after days of bluster. Now there is real news tonight and it is about Iran. But I want to take a moment to walk through a wider context, because we`ve seen the same pattern in play on those big promised ICE raids that the President walked back.

For the raids it was a governing threat time to add heat to his 2020 kickoff, using the power of ICE and the Feds to basically hype his own campaign rollout on immigration. Now then by this weekend Donald Trump all but admitted that was essentially a head fake, part of this pattern of head fakes.

And this is important to understand the Iran news tonight, because sometimes you have a President literally creating the appearance of a problem so that he alone can solve it. Now it often begins with some kind of tough talk, than a reaction concern over the public plan announced by a President, but often in the end it doesn`t happen.

So there was the Iran strike, you remember that of course, there are these ICE raids that were canceled this weekend or more recently there were those Mexico terrorists - tweet, hype, but then fold.

And it`s more than simply playing for distraction something that Donald Trump has been doing as long as he`s been an entertainer, because often I want to point out to you tonight the message itself can be the political payoff.

Donald Trump`s base wants to hear about ICE raids, about people being round up, so he gave them days of that message and perception. He may have already decided nothing was going to actually happen, but he gave his people some of the politics they wanted to hear.

Now if you watch THE BEAT, you may know, we have an explicit news policy of trying to avoid some of the distractions. We don`t cover for example random tweets. We have a much higher bar for ever putting a Trump tweet on the screen for you. We try to focus on what`s actually happening.

But, of course, if a White House is marching towards war with Iran and there are leaks about that really happening or mass arrests of people in America, well that becomes much harder to ignore out of hand even if you know about what I`m calling this head fake pattern.

Now to the news, Donald Trump announcing today what he is calling hard- hitting sanctions against Iran and then he says it "Would have happened anyway". Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran has been a very dangerous player, very bad player. They`re a nation of terror and we won`t put up with it. I would certainly send troops if we need them.

Iran made a big mistake. They made a very bad mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How will you respond?

TRUMP: You will find out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you willing to go on war with Iran?

TRUMP: You will find out.

TRUMP: I`m not looking for war. And if there is, it`ll be obliteration like you`ve never seen before.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: The Americas "Half-Cocked" President says he was "Cocked & Loaded" for a strike on Iran last night. But he called it off at the last minute.


MELBER: "Cocked and loaded". This is a President who knows about narrative, who knows about staging and casting, and he`s trying to cast himself as the hero for calling off the very thing that he started. He is the one who threatened that air strike, although of course, there was a down drone, that`s a real thing to deal with. But he was the one talking about escalation.

Or now take the ICE raids with this frame in mind, Donald Trump was the one who vowed to carry them out. Here`s the head fake.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President promised massive immigration arrests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The new plans for a large-scale ICE enforcement operation.

TRUMP: --they`re going to start next week, and when people come into our country and they come in illegal, they have to go out. They will be removed from the country. It starts during the course of this next week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President pulling back on that order to start those deportation raids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump says, it`s because Democrats asked him for the delay for negotiations.


MELBER: And there`s more evidence of the bluster coming to an end with no action. On the Mexico tariffs there was a lot of tough talk. There was a countdown to this punishment. It all ended, of course, with a head fake for a deal that Mexico and others said was largely already in place, meaning not a result of the threats.

So Trump gets the red meat to the base, then knowingly not acting on the planned threat. Now a lot of people, let`s be clear, think it`s a very good thing that we`re not at war with Iran today or there wasn`t an extra strike.

A lot of the humanitarians and other immigration folks we talked to say, "If these ICE threats didn`t happen, that`s a good thing". And in the markets there was a lot of people excited that there weren`t new tariff wars.

But what are we to do with all of this, especially when you have a President deliberately stoking chaos and fear to position himself to be the one to relieve it, but of course only momentarily. I can tell you that the President on the ICE raids is asking Congress to act within a few weeks or he says he`ll act again. Is that another head fake?

We bring in my experts Mara Gay from the New York Times Editorial Board and Barbara Res, a longtime Trump Organization executive and the author of "All Alone on the 68th Floor". Good to see you both.


MELBER: What do you think we should do with this? And when you look at even those three topics, do you think they`re all pure head fakes.

GAY: So it`s hard to know, because of course, the President does sit in the White House and does have the ability to start a war just with the stroke of a pen, and that`s a little bit terrifying to me.

But I do think that this presents an opportunity for Congress and then secondarily for the Democratic candidates to look like the adults in the room. Right now it doesn`t seem that there is one in the White House and so there`s a political opportunity there.

But I also think, look, listen this is Congress`s job to stand up and actually call for stability. Iran - this is not an issue to be playing with going to the brink and coming back, same with the ICE raids. It`s fear- mongering.

And I think to understand the President and his actions, you really need to understand that he sees everything, or appears to, through the prism of what works for him politically. So I think as you pointed out, Ari, this is really about throwing red meat to the base. And so--

MELBER: Do you think there was a chance he was going to do any of these things?

GAY: I don`t know. I really don`t know. And I think that - again the important part - the important thing is for Congress to demand better from the President and that he proceed with caution.

MELBER: Do you know Barbara?

BARBARA RES, FORMER TRUMP ORGANIZATION EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: Do I know. Yes, I was thinking about this. When it comes to the ICE thing, I think maybe that was a head-fake.

On the war or the striking in Iran, I`m not so sure about that. I think he might have wanted to do that and then somehow got scared of doing it, and this is how - he needs someone to blame when mistakes are made, and so far the mistakes have been bad mistakes. But they haven`t been something like starting a war.

I think he wanted to do it, and then he got sort of faked out himself, and that he had no backup for who he was going to blame when it didn`t happen or when it did happen. Because when you think about it, he said it was only a single manned drone. Well, he acted like he just found that out.

I mean, I know that days before - everybody knew that. And he said, "I found out that we were going to kill 150 people". This is the first thing you ask, "What`s the cost of this strike?" So I think he maybe wanted to do that, and I think at the end he sort of got scared out of it.

GAY: He`s not really a hawk when it comes down to it action. I mean he`s big into bluster and carrying a big stick, but he mostly talks a big game.

RES: Well, historically, I mean, yes, he`s been a big threatening, absolutely there`s no question about it. But he is - he will do things that are really spur of the moment that will be outrageous. He will do them if he`s allowed to do it.

MELBER: Well, and this goes to what I think diplomats around the world are trying to understand, right. Is - where is the grand strategy or is he an improviser? And to the extent that he`s improvising in a way that scares people, there are arguments, Barbara, well, that could be a good thing?

There are other countries in the world that are led by people who are scary, better to be feared than loved and all that. Do you do you think that he`s sort of improvising his way into what you would call a foreign policy or that gives it way too much credit?

RES: First of all, you know people say strategy with him like it`s like two go hand-in-hand - Donald Trump and strategy. I never saw that. I mean, I saw reacting more than strategy. But, no, I think that he - I go back to what I was saying. I think he may wanted to do a strike and sort of backed out of it.

GAY: I mean, my concern is that the United States seems to be increasingly going it alone and I think combined with Brexit and just chaos in the European Union, I mean the Western Alliance is in a very delicate position. And that, actually I believe, is the best way to contain threats and to promote democracy around the world, and the President is not helping.

RES: No, I totally agree with that. I think the biggest mistake he made was backing out of the deal that the United States made in good faith. I think that was terrible mistake--

MELBER: Well, Barbara he had an obligation to back out of that because Obama made it.

GAY: Right.

RES: That`s absolutely right.

MELBER: You can`t do anything that Obama did.

RES: But that was a really bad step. And--

MELBER: Do you think he came to any independent judgment - I mean, the quorum - I`m making a joke. But the premise of my joke is dead serious, which is, it seemed that from what we learnt from people around him, it was - Obama made this deal, so I`m against it.

RES: I truly believe that. I absolutely believe that.

MELBER: Which is a is bonkers way to make foreign policy, no?

RES: Well, it`s terrible. But I do believe that. But he also likes being this big bad guy. He absolutely likes that. And he`s told me more than once, "You like to be liked, you should be liked, you should be feared", you know, that kind of thing.

MELBER: Right.

RES: And he just have that attitude.

MELBER: Did you miss by the way?

RES: I miss him. He`s in my face 24--

MELBER: It`s True. He is here. Stay - both panelist stay with me with me to broaden the conversation of what do you do if, as we`re diagnosing there, is obviously some head fakery. But as one of our guests just explained, sometimes it might be real and accidental.

I bring in the Atlantic`s David Frum, who also worked in a White House himself as a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Good to see you.

Hey here. Thank you.

MELBER: What do you think we, and I mean collectively, not that there`s any particular team, but we as a society and those of us who are in the press, should do about all this? Because people are obviously frustrated with the pattern, but for the reasons stated, it`s not all a 100 percent ignorable.

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: It`s - well, you can`t ignore it as a citizen. But the world is taking the President`s measure - credibility is credit, and when your credit is gone, you have to take cash.

Look, this whole crisis on the border that is happening right now, is a result of the President`s loss of credit. The United States saw in 2017 a plunge in unauthorized border crossings, because people in Central America and Mexico too, but Central America is now the main source of unauthorized migrants to United States.

But took a look at Donald Trump and said this guy seems scary. He seems to mean it. We`d better be careful, and so you saw a huge reduction in this - in the kinds of border crossings that had spiked in the summer of 2014. That returned a little in the summer 2016 - big drop-off.

By the early part of 2018, the word had gone out in Central America, nothing`s changed. In fact, the Americans are weaker than ever. And so border crossings began to rise in the second half of 2018. And are now moving at a rate that is the fastest rate of unauthorized border crossing since the peak of the 1990s.

MELBER: You know who agrees with you?

FRUM: 1 percent of the population of Central America is on the move.

MELBER: You know who agrees with you? Former DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson, who I saw speak this last week and the point you raised. He said, basically, Donald Trump`s bluster on immigration bought 6 to 18 months or whatever - some period--

FRUM: Yes.

MELBER: And he said, the problem with that is it`s not policy, bluster can scare in the moment, but in the long run, people will see and feel - especially when it comes to migration, what is actually being done on the ground, David.

FRUM: Yes. And it also destroys your ability to do things. So Donald Trump wasted his year blustering about a wall that would be completely irrelevant to the problem even if you could build it in something less than a decade, even if you had the money.

He failed, in the time when he had majorities of Republicans in both Houses of Congress, to act on the measures that would have tightened up the asylum system so as to cut off the temptation to people to undertake these incredibly hazardous journeys with children with the results that we now see.

United States lured people in with weak enforcement, put them at risk and now is holding some of them - most of them are being released into the interior of the United States. But that is the result of Donald Trump`s bluster. And the Iranians are reacting the same way, the North Koreans.

Look, I come from the political Right, and the mark or message for a generation has been, weakness is provocative. Weakness attempts people to push the United States in ways in, which the United States will ultimately not go, and Donald Trump is the most provocative and the most weak of all Presidents.

GAY: I would just say, the reason that many of these people - these migrants are coming to the United States is that because they are desperate and that they are fleeing an incredible - incredibly violent experiences whether through domestic violence or just the lawlessness in some of Central America. You`re shaking your head, but I mean--

FRUM: I am. Because the crime - the evidence--

GAY: The evidence--

FRUM: The homicide rate in Central America has dropped by about two-thirds since - it peaked in about 2011 and 2012, and it`s been declining ever since. The rate of the migration has nothing to do with levels of violence in Central America. It is entirely--

MELBER: Let me moderate a little to give - I will give Mara chance to rebut. I mean, the reason why I mentioned Jeh Johnson is, he`s no fan of Donald Trump. He has a similar theory that there was a depression, now with all social science you have multiple variables. So I don`t know that we`re going to resolve this by the commercial break. But I`ll give Mara a rebuttal.

GAY: I just want to say that the reporting that we and many other news organizations are doing on the border shows - actually talking to these individuals, these human beings, shows that they want a better life and that many of them are fleeing violent situations, whether that be gangs or just violence in their own families, and a failure of their own states to protect them from it.

So there`s no reason to litigate this really and there`s nothing wrong historically with the United States of America welcoming refugees and immigrants to our shores, that`s what we`re supposed to be about.

MELBER: David, you want to - anything briefly before we go?

FRUM: The asylum system is not supposed to be a response to trouble in people`s societies. It`s a response to persecution. That is the authorities are coming for you. There`s something - because of something you can`t control, that`s a benign personal characteristic, your state is persecuting you. That`s what asylum is for. It`s not - it`s that`s not how you solve the problems of the world.

And to go back to the President, I mean, the President sent very tough, fierce messages in 2017, and indeed he reduced the flows of migration through growling. But the world has taken his measure, and they`re taking this measure in Iran, they`re taking this measure in the Korean Peninsula. That he is he is a he is provocative and he is weak both at the same time and that`s a very dangerous combination.

MELBER: Right. And I think what I`m hearing - and where you guys overlap is on looking at the limits of Donald Trump`s rhetoric and how it worked. What you`re debating, which could be an endless debate, and one we welcome here, which is how many variables account for some of those shifts.

But one thing we did establish that is demonstrable is that Barbara Res doesn`t miss her old colleague and boss, Donald Trump, because you feel like he`s all around you.

RES: Absolutely.

MELBER: We have fun and I`m not afraid of silence. Barbara Res, Mara Gay, David Frum, thanks to each of you - important topics.

FRUM: Thank you.

MELBER: We`re going to fit in a break. As I mentioned, we have a lot tonight in tonight`s show. Neal Katyal, the one-and-only, is here to do the law and the fact check of Donald Trump`s claims about the immigrant children who are being moved out of facilities that are unsanitary, and what the administration is fighting to do to deny them blankets.

Also, we break down these new leaks of Trump documents revealing warnings or red flags about who we wanted to bring it to the White House. And inside secret debate prep process for these candidates on the road to Miami, we`ve got some key insights from some key insiders.

That, and tonight, first time on THE BEAT, the one and only Malcolm Gladwell, excited for that. I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: And now some revelations about Donald Trump`s first White House staffing decisions which provide context about many of the staffing problems he`s had, including such a high turnover rate.

What`s new here are over a hundred background documents that leaked out of Donald Trump`s transition to AXIOS and it shows what Trump was warned or his staff was warned heading into these big decisions of hiring, internal research with red flags about many people you may have heard of.

Apparently, Donald Trump, either ignored or disagreed with these flags. Take Scott Pruitt who ultimately lost his job heading the EPA after ethics complaints. It was during a transition that he was flagged for "Allegations of coziness with big energy companies" and this research came right after Donald Trump won the presidency, in part of course, by promising this.


TRUMP: We`re going to get the best people in the world.

We`re bringing in the greatest people.

We`re going to use in our best people. We`re going to make - we`re going to be so smart.

We need our best people. I know the best people.


MELBER: But Trump`s own aides were flagging the reasons they were concerned in their own writings that they didn`t think these were the "Best People". And that reportedly Donald Trump was in the loop, President-elect Trump, reviewing many of these documents before he would sit down face-to-face for interviews with these candidates, but of course, made some of these hires anyway.

For example, Donald Trump`s team was writing down their concerns about Rudy Giuliani and he was under consideration for the big job, a Secretary of State. They even drafted a 25 page document going through business ties and foreign entanglements. We don`t know if that held Giuliani back from the State Department, but we do know he went on to a different domestic oriented job as Trump`s personal criminal defense attorney.

Or take Tom Price, Donald Trump`s team identified criticisms of his ability to manage, a House Chairmanship that was haunted by "Dysfunction and division". Of course, Trump put him in charge of America`s health care, which often had a lot of problems and he faced accusations of impropriety and misusing charter flights and a whole lot of other stuff that we`ve covered throughout the Trump era.

Now, these documents were prepared after the man originally running the transition team was removed Chris Christie, and he is now blasting the very team that led that transition effort in his wake.


and then what happened

FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Well, on the Thursday, I guess, after the election I was fired. He didn`t have the very best people in front of him to be able to make a full and fair decision about.

So in the end, this is a monumental staff failure that failed the President, and as a result, failed the country.


MELBER: Now that`s not a Trump critic you`re listening to, that is an early endorser, who of course, was in charge of transition, saying full stop, not the best people and failure.

Now, as always, we report out what we`re hearing and the White House has responded to this. I want to show you their response which focuses on the idea that Donald Trump has assembled, in their view, "An Incredible Team".

But Donald Trump staff has been riddled with rapid departures, a turnover rate that is much higher than his predecessors in both parties. He`s had trouble filling those holes that are then created. 693 senate-confirmed positions are in place now at this point in their presidency. You can see many other Presidents were much higher, including Obama, Clinton et cetera.

Now, Donald`s opponents have pounced on these staffing favors. Now the leaked documents show there were also criticism, not just from opponents, but people who wanted in on the team, Mick Mulvaney, who of course is now Chief of Staff.

Well he had previously said Trump was just "Not a Very Good Person". Ryan Zinke was flagged for calling Trump literally, "Defendable". Nikki Haley, the oppo on her was that "Trump is everything we teach our kids not to do in kindergarten". Or Rick Perry, who said Trumpism is a "Toxic mix of demagoguery mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to Perdition".

These were also the things that they were gathering to learn about these people as they considered hiring them. Now Trump knew about this, the lobbying ties. The documents show 10% of the red flags around Trump involves lobbying connections, potentially problematic if your goal was to drain "The Swamp".

And take a look at the impact, 182 officials cycling between Trump staff and lobbying jobs since he came into office. Now this is something I recently raised when we had the chance to interview with Trump campaign official. Take a look.


MARC LOTTER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN COMMS DIRECTOR: Well, the lobbyists spending that that is something that goes on. Obviously, that`s made by corporate decisions and then 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. Again, it can`t be done overnight. In many cases, we need help from Congress.


MELBER: They need help, Donald Trump`s campaign basically saying this isn`t part of Donald Trump`s own decisions. Trump himself denies there`s any vetting issues saying that, after the Acting Defense Secretary resigned after reports of his involvement in an alleged domestic incident his family, take a look at this.


TRUMP: We have a very good vetting process and you take a look at our cabinet and our Secretary is very good. But we have a great vetting process.


MELBER: A great vetting process. Now those look like just words, again, because what`s important here is not just the criticism or the observation or the ideological differences which are a part of every administration`s debates.

The point tonight is, Donald Trump`s own people warning him, "Don`t do this. It conflicts with your stated values and everything you ran on". And in many cases Donald Trump saying, "No, will do it anyway".

Now next in 30 seconds I`m joined by Neal Katyal on the Trump DOJ and its fight to deny detained children`s soap and blankets when we`re back in 30.


MELBER: President Trump often argues that he is not moved by press reports or criticism, but that`s his words. If you watch what his administration does, time and again facts and pressure do shift things.

Today, Trump administration on defense over its treatment of my grandchildren, and it`s acting to remove 300 from a Texas federal facility that had horrific conditions, 10-year-old children taking care of sick toddlers, because there was no one else to, untreated flu and lice outbreaks.

And on this program we`ve reported on the Trump DOJ going to court to argue that they want to be able to legally deny those very kids, who are in detention, soap, toothbrushes, blankets. Now few politicians in any party want to be seen supporting that kind of position. But it is factually the current position of the Trump administration.

Vice President Pence just conceded that "Of course, children should be provided toothbrushes and blankets". And then he goes on to try to pretend he doesn`t know that he and his boss are doing the exact opposite.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Are toothbrushes and blankets and medicine, basic conditions for kids? Aren`t they a part of how the United States of America, the Trump administration, treats children?


TAPPER: Well, the lawyer was arguing--

PENCE: I can`t speak to what that lawyer was saying.

TAPPER: We have money to give toothpaste and soap and blankets to these kids in this facility in El Paso County right now.

PENCE: Of course, we do.

TAPPER: So why aren`t we?

PENCE: My point is it`s all a part of the appropriations process. Congress needs to provide additional support to deal with the crisis at our Southern border.


MELBER: Now turning to Former Acting Solicitor General, Neal Katyal, who has argued dozens of cases before the Supreme Court and leads our opening arguments series. And Neal, I want to get right into it.

Take a listen to that very Trump lawyer who was just referenced getting grilled on this in court. And this clip, not only we hit it on THE BEAT, it`s also gone viral online.


WILLIAM FLETCHER, UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE: If you`re putting peoples into crowded room to sleep on a concrete floor with an aluminum foil blanket on top of them, that doesn`t comply with the agreement.

I mean it may be that they don`t get super thread-count Egyptian linens. I get that. But the testimony that the District Judge believed was, it`s really cold--

I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.

A. WALLACE TASHIMA, UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE: 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? You - do you agree to that?

SARAH FABIAN, GOVERNMENT LAWYER: Well, I think it`s - I think those are - there`s fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary--

TASHIMA: Not maybe, are?


MELBER: Neal, there is layers to this. I want to hear all of your views. One thought that came to my mind is, even good lawyers can struggle if the position they`re asked to defend is basically empty, immoral, indefensible. I wonder what you thought of what we learned from watching that.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Yes.  I mean, I thought that that struggling was the least that should have happened there.  I mean that was a horrific policy decision by the Trump administration to say that safe and sanitary conditions don`t include toothbrushes, don`t include blankets, forcing people to sleep on concrete floors with only a sheet of aluminum foil over them as a blanket, saying that sleep is not part of a safe and sanitary condition.

I mean all this stuff is horrific and you know, I do think that the Trump administration deserves all the condemnation that they received in the wake of that.  These are not -- you know, even the Geneva Conventions require prisoners of war to get toothbrushes and soap.

I mean, the idea that we can`t do that or what the vice president said the appropriations process prevents it, that`s just flatly wrong and the idea that he would laugh and talk about this stuff is so unbecoming of a President of the United States.

You know, coming from this administration which can find money anywhere.  They declare emergencies for all kinds of bogus things like building a wall.  But when it comes to finding toothbrushes for five-year-old children who need it they can`t find it, you know, that just so implausible to me.

Any third grader can read the federal budget and find the dollars for this without resorting to all their crazy executive power schemes which they do for things like the wall.  But to come from this administration it`s, Ari, well, a little bit rich.

MELBER:  I also want to get your sort of views, in fact, check on the Trump claim that he`s got to do this stuff because of either past precedent or past presidents.  Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`ve ended separation.  You know under President Obama you had separation.  I was the one that ended it.  Now, I said one thing.  When I ended it, I said here`s what`s going to happen, more families are going to come up and that`s what`s happened.  But they`re really coming up to the economics, but once you ended the separation.  But I ended separation.  I inherited separation from President Obama.


MELBER:  Neal?

KATYAL:  Oh my God, where to begin?  So the idea that he ended separation, I mean, right now these are separated children.  That`s what these stories are about.  So I don`t know what you know, what kind of facts he`s getting but nobody thinks that`s right.  And the idea that he inherited this from Obama is flatly wrong.

You know, I think the President, President Trump has separated over 3,000 children in the course of his administration.  No other president came even close to that.  President Obama basically came in and recognized there were two different goals of our immigration system here, one is humanitarian, to protect the children who are separated, the other is deterrence, the idea that if you do too much for them, then they`ll come in.

And he quickly realize that deterrence was just a bogus rationale, that these people were fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries and deterrence wasn`t going to work and so he moved to a humanitarian policy spending billions of dollars on shelters and things like that to make sure that these children would be treated safely, not all the time but I think far better than Trump.

Trump has made it his kind of raison d`etre to say absolutely not.  I`m going to focus only on deterrence, the one thing we know doesn`t work.  And so he is said in his policies that we`re going to make things as horrific as possible so that these folks won`t come.

And by the way, Ari, that hasn`t worked at all.  We`ve had record numbers and you just heard one of your guests talking about this, record numbers of people trying to come because deterrence doesn`t work.  The only thing you can do here is try and be humanitarian.

And you know, this is a president that separated a four-month-old baby from their parents who`s you know, six children have died just in September in custody of these folks.  If you go back a decade, not a single child died.  So inherited from Obama, I don`t think so.

MELBER:  And lastly, briefly, it`s the cameras in the courtroom that made that clip go viral.  What do you think that tells us about transparency and in the court system because sometimes people don`t even know what`s going down?

KATYAL:  Yes.  It`s so important.  And you know, people say a picture is worth a thousand words.  But when it comes to the law, a picture is worth like ten thousand words because law frankly makes most people`s eyes glaze over when we talk about consent decrees and declaratory judgments and the like.

And I think when you see that clip and you see the cold hard truth of what the Trump administration is arguing, boy that really resonates with the American public.  And this is all because this court of appeals in San Francisco televises its arguments and so that`s why we`re all able to see it.  Most federal courts don`t.

The U.S. Supreme Court tellingly there are no cameras in that courtroom even though these are the people`s courts.  And so I hope that we use this as an illustration of really the power of the digital world and you know, we now think in terms of pictures and video, Instagram and the like, YouTube, we don`t think as much in terms of a cold transcript.

And if you just listen to that DOJ lawyer and watched her, you have come off very differently than if you were reading a cold legal transcript.  And so -- yes.

MELBER:  Yes, I think you make a great point.  And the judges, I mean, judges, of course, are quite careful and there would be many arguments that wouldn`t become viral precisely because you wouldn`t even know where they were going.  Here though, the sheer human gasps from people who are judges but are also people about --

KATYAL:  And Ari, I`d say one thing.

MELBER:  Yes, go ahead.

KATYAL:  One of those judges was Wally Tashima who actually had been interned in a Japanese-American camp at the age of seven during World War II.  And you could tell when you were watching him that --

MELBER:  Yes, we`ll put that backup.

KATYAL:  -- that experience seared, seared him.  And when you have these reports that are going on like today`s the New York Times -- New Yorker report on Saturday showing that you know, children are having to take are of other children.  Ten-year-olds taking care of two-year-olds and three- year-olds because nobody else will, and eventually the ten-year-olds get bored so no one`s taking care of the two-year-olds.

I mean, these are not the things that our country has stood for and these are human beings.  And what this administration is doing is such a grave human catastrophe.  They deserve all the condemnation they`ve gotten.

MELBER:  Neal Katyal, I appreciate your expertise and your clarity. is where this and our past discussions with Neal are.  Up ahead, some of the largest stories that Donald Trump tries to hide.  I have a special guest.  But first, on this road to Miami, anticipation building what Obama`s debate guru just told me and a lot more with Christina Greer next.


MELBER:  You know what it is.  We are two days out from the first primary debates of 2020, hence, the big music.  The stage of Miami is set for all 20 candidates over two nights.  So what are the keys to success?  Let`s get right into it with Professor Christina Greer from Fordham.  Thanks for coming in.

CHRISTINA GREER, Always a pleasure.

MELBER:  I just got to sit down for this with Obama`s debate coach.


MELBER:  He`s a pretty good debater.  Here`s what he said about his best advice.


BOB BARNETT, DEBATE EXPERT:  The key piece of advice that we always give -- and I`m not the only one in this club, there are a lot of us who help the Democratic candidates over the years including some great people, is be yourself, because if you`re anything other than yourself, the camera recognizes that.  Try to have fun.  Try to interject humor.  It`s not easy.  Self-deprecating humor, that`s a big home run.


MELBER:  Do you think there are people who can conquer that on night one?

GREER:  I think there`s some but we also know that that`s a very gendered perspective.  I don`t know if that works as well for female candidates.

MELBER:  Because?

GREER:  Just because self-deprecating seems, less prepared, less responsible.  We know that American citizens view female candidates very differently than --

MELBER:  So you think the way these things are scored, it`s much harder as you`re saying for some women candidates to "get away with jokes" the same way like them.

GREER:  Exactly.

MELBER:  The punishment is more.

GREER:  The punishment is more and you have to be careful because you can`t be too aggressive because then it`s you know, you`re erratic and histrionic whereas men can come off as strong and you know, sort of assertive and leaders.

So I think that some of these characteristics that are seen as positives and men are definitely penalties for a female case.

MELBER:  I think it`s a great point particularly when you think about the powers-that-be to tend to "decide these things."  Mr. Barnett, of course, has advised many women candidates and Hillary Clinton as well, but he says that`s his catch-all advice.

Since we did speak to a bunch of folks as part of our Miami ramped up, I want to show you a bunch of the highlights.  Let`s take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The knives are going to come out early.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Keep an eye on de Blasio.  He is used to the rough-and- tumble of New York City media.

AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST:  We`ve got to watch Tim Ryan because I think he`s going to try to come down a centrist lane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would keep an eye on Amy Klobuchar who`s got to do something to starter campaign a little bit of energy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There`s an 11th person that doesn`t have a podium and it`s not Steve Bullock, its Donald Trump.

BARNETT:  The wise decision would be to basically ignore and the other people on the stage and take it to the president.

SHARPTON:  You`ve got to be prepared policy-wise but you also have to come out and show your authenticity.


GREER:  So I think for these candidates to be successful, they have to do three things simultaneously.  One they have to introduce themselves to the American public.  We`ve been talking about them for months at a time but the vast majority of Americans have no idea most of these people are in the stage.

Two, they have to talk about some sort of policy and sort of what`s your hook, what`s the issue that`s going to resonate with voters and possibly donors.  And then three, you have to choose how much you want to talk about the invisible candidate who is Donald Trump.

I`m curious to see how many people will attack Elizabeth Warren because of the group that`s there on Wednesday.  She`s clearly the front-runner of those ten.  So I think you know, the Thursday night will be a different conversation with whether or not candidates choose to attack Biden, Trump, and also introduce themselves.

But Wednesday, you know, they have a limited amount of time because we`ll talk about them Thursday morning.  And then Thursday afternoon, we start talking about the candidates Thursday evening.  So there`s a slight disadvantage I think for the Wednesday night candidates because we`ll be gearing up for sort of the varsity team on Thursday.  At least that`s what it seems because there`s Biden, there`s Bernie, there`s Kamala Harris, there`s Buttigieg, there`s Beto all on the same stage.

MELBER:  Basically what you`re saying is it`s hard out here for a candidate when there`s nine others on stage.

GREER:  Yes, that`s what exactly what I`m saying.  Always a pleasure.

MELBER:  It feels like it`s been kind of a weird show today and I don`t know why.  Monday?

GREER:  I don`t know.  It`s --

MELBER:  It could be -- yes, it could be my fault, I`m not sure.

GREER:  Well, Miami will help.  Miami always help.

MELBER:  Yes.  Miami always helps any which way.

GREER:  Ask Missy.  Missy loves Miami.

MELBER:  Ask Will Smith.  We`ve been quoting welcome to Miami.

GREER:  Yes.

MELBER:  Christina Greer, I`ll give you a second handshake because I felt lately talked -- you know, when you say double goodbye.  Coming up, some of the biggest stories that sometimes are overshadowed especially in this media environment.  Well, the great Malcolm Gladwell says reporters can do more than talk and tell stories they can fix some of our greatest problems.  That`s next.



MELBER:  The Trump era has certainly upended American politics, reshaped the news, and the president`s reality T.V. antics can divert public debates away from the priorities that we actually know Americans want addressed.  Historically that`s focused on big-picture items like jobs, safety, crime, war, and lately at the top of that list dissatisfaction in government, something people think is worse right now.

But here`s a big question.  If people think Washington, the government, are broken, who can even lead this conversation.  And if these are really complicated challenges, they sound like it, does that mean that discussing them requires complex and difficult conversations?

Well, my next guests are tackling exactly these questions and they`re pretty famous and pretty smart.  And they argue the answers can be found in clear empirical and lively discussions on their new podcasts Solvable.  Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and digital journalism pioneer Jacob Weisberg are tackling what they say are the world`s complex yet solvable problems.  It sounds great and thanks for coming on THE BEAT.



MELBER:  Jacob, I`ll start with you.  You`ve been in our show before.  People heard you speak clearly and simply this sounds more complicated.  What is the point and how do you get it done right?

WEISBERG:  Well, it`s very simple.  It`s the question of what are the biggest problems in the world and who are the people who have the most interesting and inspiring ideas about solving them?  And I will say as a journalist you know, we focus on the conflict and we focus on the negative most of the time.

I think when you look -- when you take a longer perspective, you see the tremendous progress made over the last few decades in these intractable seeming problems like malnutrition, disease, maternal mortality.  So much in the big picture is getting better.

And so this show really is about a little bit about what`s been accomplished already.  But if we look forward to the next half century, what can be accomplished?

MELBER:  I love it when you put it that way.  And Malcolm, in covering politics, there are tons of debates over things where the disagreement is over what is good and bad.  Homelessness is a problem.  We want to live in a society where people don`t have to be homeless and we are a richer nation than so many others and we have an intractable homeless problem.

This is what you zero we`re not in the very first episode.  What have you learned in your -- in your journalism here about solving homelessness?

GLADWELL:  Yes.  So it`s -- homelessness is a beautiful example of what we`re talking about because if you walk down the street and you asked people if they thought homelessness was something that could be solved, my guess is that they would say no that, it`s just one of those things that`ll always be with us.

But in fact, I so -- I thought this is a wonderful place to prove the opposite.  People working in that world every day who see the problem in the front lines are more optimistic today than they`ve ever been.

MELBER:  So they have -- they have found roads towards improving this thing that is you say --

GLADWELL:  Not just improving.  Roseanne will tell you -- Rosanne Haggerty will tell you individual communities can eliminate homelessness.

MELBER:  All right, well, let`s take a brief listen to you and her talking about this.


ROSANNE HAGGERTY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS:  Why are we not connecting the dots in more effective ways?  It`s up to us to coordinate and be accountable for a result.  You begin to realize that it`s many different problems and many different resources can come into play to solve them, and that in no one community is the numbers so overwhelming that once you see the problem clearly are you unable to solve it.


MELBER:  And are you able to solve it when you look at the local brakes?  There`s places like in Utah and New Orleans, they`ve actually tried to beat it.

GLADWELL:  We had this realization about a decade ago that it is cheaper to deal with homelessness than to ignore it.  But by zeroing in on the specific idiosyncratic nature of the problem in each community and understanding that changes over time, she says all of a sudden what looks like a problem that`s with you forever, we could make that problem go away.

MELBER:  Jacob, you were just saying that there`s also the belief in the optimism here.  We`ll put the polling up for your analysis.  When you ask people straight up is things better than they were 50 years ago.  I think surprisingly you get a total split of 41 percent roughly saying worse today, 37 percent saying better today.

WEISBERG:  Yes, I think, Ari, we`re just a little sick of the intersection of negativity and ignorance.  This is about a different intersection, the intersection of expertise and optimism.  And they look very different at that intersection.

MELBER:  I love that, Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg.  And the podcast is Solvable online right now at or wherever you get your podcasts.


MELBER:  Wherever you get them, but we do have one more thing.  It involves a novelist, a playwright, and BEAT wineglasses when we come back.


MELBER:  Democrats are calling out Donald Trump`s approach to Iran as erratic and risky.  Many are advocating foreign policy built on the party`s record from the last time it held the White House or the party`s diplomatic breakthroughs from past administrations like when President Clinton dispatched diplomat Richard Holbrooke to make peace in the Balkans leading the famous Dayton Accords Peace Treaty.

Now, Holbrooke died while tacking Middle East diplomacy in the Obama State Department, and drew many tributes.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That is also the story of Richard Holbrooke.  He made a difference.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He was a hurricane of eloquence and energy and force.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He left an indelible mark on this department, on our country and on the world.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, he has done it.  And a large share of the credit for his accomplishment goes to Ambassador Holbrooke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We meet today to receive a final status report from Ambassador Holbrooke, whom we all admire and to whom we are all grateful.


MELBER:  Now, all of that was nine years ago.  Holbrooke is the subject of a book by author George Packer.  You know, we could spend a whole topic on this hour which is what we`ve decided to do.  Instead of a quick T.V. segment, we just hosted George to discuss Holbrooke, his relationship with Obama and the Clintons, and what we might all learn about him about the world and also life.

It is part of a new series we are doing where we break out THE BEAT wine glasses, which I love, a toast to the MSNBC moms out there.  And we try to go a little deeper with special guests.  This podcast is up right now on THE BEAT podcast section.  It`s called "UNCORKED" with Ari Melber, an occasional podcast with good wine and good people.

George opted for Pinot Grigio in this episode.  If you have ideas for people that we should have on in this uncorked format, you could tweet us @thebeatwithari or if you`re more old school, just e-mail me  that`s "UNCORKED" with Ari Melber on apple or wherever you get your podcast.

Now stay tuned for "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews up next.