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Mueller's return reignites impeachment debate. TRANSCRIPT: 6/26/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Joaquin Castro, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Erika Andiola, Alicia Menendez,Jay Inslee, Tom Perez

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I will be back in a few hours for the actual Democratic debate. Our special coverage begins at 7 o`clock, which simply means we have the great music starting to play at 7 o`clock. But you still continue to get some special debate preview coverage from my pal, Ari Melber. THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck will be watching big night for you, big night for the country. I am Ari Melber. I`m here live this evening from Miami, thrilled to be with you.

We are, as you know, now three hours away from the first democratic debate of 2020 where the candidates will face off on their vision, the border crisis and a new topic thrust back into the news, the return of Robert Mueller, as House Democrats announced, he will publicly testify before Congress on July 17th.

You know what this does? It reignites the party`s clash over obstruction and whether to open an impeachment probe. Tonight voters are likely to see the Democrats internal battles over this big issue, because while Nancy Pelosi and most of her House Caucus do not back impeachment, of the 10 candidates debating tonight, seven do back impeachment hearings.

Many see the push for Mueller`s public testimony as the last effort to make that happen.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have called on the House to initiate impeachment proceedings.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would support impeachment proceeding beginning now.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that this President should be impeached.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a moral obligation now to investigate this President.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That`s the last straw. They should begin impeachment proceedings.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No President, not Donald Trump or anyone else, is a king.

BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to hold those responsible, accountable and the only method that we can do that is for our Representatives in Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.


MELBER: That`s what the debate sounds like, a preview of what may come tonight, a big issue. I`m joined now by Congressman Joaquin Castro, who is here tonight supporting his twin brother Julian Castro who will be on that very stage. Congressman Castro serves on the Intelligence Committee which will be a part of the questioning of Bob Mueller.

I`m also joined by former RNC Chairman, Michael Steele and Democratic Strategist, Aisha Moodie-Mills. Good to see each of you.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Good to be with you, Ari. Thank you for having us.

MELBER: First question to you, is it important that Bob Mueller testify before your Committee? What do you want to hear from him and will it come up tonight?

CASTRO: It`s absolutely critical that he testify. Of course, he put his report out, but there are a lot of Americans that have not read the report or sought out the report. So I see this as part of the process, him coming in front of the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee to tell us about the report.

And for me, I`m specifically looking at the 10 instances of obstruction of justice that he laid out against the President. Because I think that`s most likely to be the subject of an impeachment inquiry.

MELBER: Do you think that that will be a point of distinction on this stage tonight, tomorrow?

MELBER: Perhaps, I don`t know where everybody is in terms of opening an impeachment inquiry. There may be of various opinions over there. In Congress I`m somebody that has said that we should open impeachment inquiry, because I think there`s a greater cost to the country of doing nothing, a greater cost to the rule of law of not opening impeachment inquiry. So I hope that we do have a lively to debate on that.

MELBER: Let me press you one more thing before I bring in our illustrious panel. This is, as you and others have emphasized, it`s about facts, it`s about the criminal evidence against Donald Trump, and what, if anything, Congress wants to do about it.

But you and I both know there`s also politics here. Do you hope, given your position that more 2020 candidates tonight and tomorrow will push for this, because you don`t even have right now a majority of your caucus agreeing with you on even starting an obstruction impeachment probe?

CASTRO: I hope that they will. I`m a member of the Intelligence Committee, so I sat through those dozens of interviews where all of this information came out, a lot of the same interviews that Bob Mueller did with the same witnesses.

And I believe that most of all this is about standing up for our democracy and standing up for the rule of law. So I absolutely hope that our candidates will be for opening impeachment inquiry.

MELBER: Should I ask you who you hope wins today?

CASTRO: I think you know the answer to that.


CASTRO: Although, I`m glad to be in the audience rather on stage.

MELBER: Just the feeling I had. Aisha take a listen to Bob Mueller himself offering the explanation for why this had to be, what Adam Schiff characterized last night as an unfriendly subpoena. But also what provides, I think, pause to some Democrats about what you`re going to get from him. Take a look.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. We chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. And the report is my testimony.


MELBER: Does that give Democrats some pause for what they`re going to get out of this hearing?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think it would be interesting if he actually got up there and just kind of opened up this entire report and start reading from, and said why don`t you go to Section 2 page blah, blah, blah.

But here`s the thing. I think it -- I think it doesn`t really matter, because having him in his own voice -- whether he is reading verbatim what he already wrote or whether he`s having a new conversation, explaining what he wrote is, what the American people need to see.

They need to understand methodically what`s going through his mind in a way that them reading it themselves is never going to give us the full energy of that. So if it`s just forcing him to kind of say, "Well, like I said on Page 932", the fact that he and his own voice is saying it, I think is going to be a powerful optic, and a powerful visual for us to be able to hold on to.

MELBER: Michael Steele, I`m curious what you think about how this all plays out. You were someone that understands Washington, but claims not to have been completely corrupted by it.


MELBER: And here we are in Miami, and it`s easy to get distracted by next thing.


STEELE: But Bob Mueller`s reemergence clearly hangs over tonight and tomorrow night`s debate and Donald Trump is someone who doesn`t like other people upstaging him on television.

STEELE: All of that`s true and I think for the candidates tonight and tomorrow it will be a matter of how do they contextualize this whole emerging story with Mueller -- this new emerging story with Mueller. It`s certainly against what we already know.

And for the President, however, this is a moment where, again, he doesn`t want to necessarily share the limelight, but this will be one of his "Pimp My Tweet" moments where he`s going to get out there and he`s going to be going at it all over the place. But the American people have to understand and appreciate that this is not that moment.

For the first time we`re going to actually hear the man deliver in his own words what he wrote. This isn`t Bob Barr contextualizing and telling us what to think and feel about what it is we`ve read or understand.

It is Bob Mueller himself who`s putting, not just his experience on the line, but giving us the nuances, and that`s going to come out of the questioning, I think. That`s why they`re -- for the Democrats and -- because we know the Republicans are going to play, build the wall around Trump, we know that.

But for the Democrats this is not about gotcha. This is about explanation and digging into the essence so why Mueller did what he did and why he didn`t do some of the things he should have.

MELBER: Why he didn`t do what you say you should have been what a lot of people say, well, if it`s substantial evidence in five or more incidents of the crime of obstruction then why did it end in a way that left so much -- I think good faith and obviously exploited misinterpretation.

Can you get Bob Mueller -- do you think in this hearing -- by you I mean, your Committees.

CASTRO: Right.

MELBER: To tell us what he meant by substantial evidence. Did substantial evidence mean, the President did bad things, but at the end of the day we don`t do much with just evidence. We have a higher criminal standard when prosecutors investigate.

Or do substantial evidence mean, "Hey, you are the sitting President, you repeatedly subverted the rule of law in a way that any other person would have been charged for". Do you think you can get that answer out of Mueller?

CASTRO: I think that we can get his understanding about what that means. And it -- one what an important part, as Michael said, is the back and forth and the questioning that will go on.

And even if he was just reading different parts, I think the questions will elicit significant and important pieces of this report in a way that you`re just not going to get if you just you know throw up a few hundred page report and say, "Hey, guys go ahead and read it".

MELBER: Do you think that the Chairs handled this well or should they have gotten him in front of this Committee far earlier, because as you know, Michael mentioned, the Bill Barr knows it all. There`s a lot of Americans who have the vague sense. Maybe it`ll change in these debates, maybe it will change in the hearing. But I have the sense that this is now sort of passed.

CASTRO: Yes. No, I think that that, both Adam Schiff, my Chairman and Jerry Nadler, have been very judicious. I think they`ve tried to follow legal processes. But I`m glad they finally have Robert Mueller coming to testify in a few weeks.

MELBER: OK. You should take a listen to the President today who -- and this is rare for him -- seemed a little bit at a loss for a counterpunch on this issue and sort of just said, "When will it ever stop?" And I think, again, if you`re not following this every day you`re not in it.

When will it ever stop? It hasn`t started. Bob Mueller barely speaks. Take a look.


REPORTER: Will you try to block Robert Mueller from testifying?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t know anything about it. I just heard and my only response to Mueller is, does it ever stop? After all of these years and times and people, does it ever stop? This is a diversion. But I ask you this, does it ever stop?


MOODIE-MILLS: So let`s be really clear who he`s talking to. He`s talking to his audience at Fox News, so that that`s going to be the soundbite that the Americans who are following him get, where they`re saying, "Oh my god, this is going to be a witch hunt". Will it ever stop, will it ever stop?

I think that you know it`s not him being at a loss for words. I think it`s him doing a good PR and spin. And I say this, because I have met now three different people who were strangers who have said to me.

"Aisha, I have no idea, one; what was actually in the Mueller report that there was any question about whether Trump did anything that had any of propriety to it? I had no idea I`d never heard this before." And two; I feel like this is all -- like, kind of over so, why are we still talking about it?"

And it`s because of those talking points that become soundbites that his people see, that he`s using really thoughtfully, that he`s able to continue to own a lot of the narrative and Democrats aren`t necessarily owning in the way that they should.

STEELE: Bill Barr reminds me, when it comes to this report and how he presented it to the country, your teenage son who comes in at a midnight and you ask him how you`re doing? He says, "Fine dad, I just had a little fender-bender, but it`s all worked out". You go out in the morning and the fenders gone.

So what you report, what someone tells you and then what you actually see in here is a big difference, and that`s what Mueller means on July 17th. For the first time the differences are sort of cleared out and you get to hear unobstructed what he thought, what he knows, how he perceived it and that threatens with the President`s narrative.

And what you`re going to see, while the President in Fox and others are already starting to tout it, you know there`s nothing here, when does this end? Well, yes, it doesn`t end on the 17th, it actually begins, because now the American people will be tuning in and listen and hearing for the first time in real-time.

MELBER: And that goes to the final thing I want to press to Congressman on. When you look at tonight`s debate, big picture, should your stance on impeaching Donald Trump of obstruction be a litmus test for the Democratic Party at this point, given how strongly people feel about the way in this party people feel that the President has led and subverted the rule of law and is there a consequence for that?

Or to paraphrase, you remember, Da Brat, great female rapper. She talked about things being so "Funkdafied". And there is a concern that the Democratic primary has become so Trumpified -- that that`s actually problematic, and they need to get out there move on beyond this impeachment debate and show a vision. Where do you come down on that?

CASTRO: Well, you know my brother, of course, who`s running for President, Julian Castro, has said that he wants to start an impeachment inquiry. I don`t know that it should necessarily be a litmus test, because even Democrats have different opinions on that. And of course, Democrats in Congress have different opinions on it.

But it is interesting to be able to question tonight the candidates about what it would mean to start impeachment inquiry and also whether they believe that it means upholding the rule of law and protecting our democracy.

MELBER: Yes. Congressman, thank you for being here, I really appreciate it.

CASTRO: Thank you.

MELBER: And as I say to all surrogates and all family members and all candidates, we wish everyone good luck.

CASTRO: Thank you.

MELBER: Good luck to you and your family tonight. Aisha, thank you for being here -- here in Miami -- big night (inaudible) Miami. You know what that is?


MELBER: OK. We`ll get into that later and the Chairman, I`d like you to stick around, because I want to do a special thing at the end.

STEELE: Yes, absolutely.

MELBER: If you will stay with us as part of our live coverage. We have a lot more, including a very serious story that is obviously gripping the national conversation right now. The humanitarian crisis, which is a very real issue, and obviously hangs over the debate, candidates visiting this facility where the Trump administration continues to detain immigrant children amidst allegations of abuse and mistreatment.

Later, my exclusive interview on this hour with a contender who`s going on stage tonight Governor Jay Inslee. We will talk to a man who made tonight happen, DNC Chairman, Tom Perez.

All that, plus, a look at how candidates are getting ready. Cory booker, well, he says you got to get swell before you get smart, he`s lifting weights. We`ll show you some of that. This is real -- this is all real stuff happening.

And then, as I mentioned, with Michael, a special look inside the debate hall and why debates matter, because they turn on what voters actually see. I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT`s special coverage of the first democratic debate live in Miami. We`ll be right back.



WARREN: We do not lock people up for political ends, which is what the President of the United States is doing here.


WARREN: -- and we will fight it with everything we have. Thank you all for being here all this time.


MELBER: It`s Senator Elizabeth Warren today, protesting what is the nation`s largest facility right now under the Trump administration`s policy, detaining migrant children. Over 2,000 are there. It`s Homestead, Florida. It`s 35 minutes from where we are right now where the debate stage that Warren will march on tonight and we expect, of course, that to be a possible topic.

Amy Klobuchar also there before this debate. Immigration, of course, is what everyone has been talking about this week in the nation, including spurred by this, heartbreaking image. Now warning, this is graphic.

- Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez seen here with his 23-year-old -- excuse me 23-months-old, I should say daughter, Valeria. They drowned as they were crossing the Rio Grande River, a brutal reminder of the dangers migrant families face.

Pete Buttigieg will be on the stage tomorrow saying this.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are no words for -- there are no words. And this is the -- supposed to be the greatest country in the world. And the shocking thing is that part of what makes that possible is fear. As if we have something to be afraid of from a child fleeing violence.


MELBER: I`m joined now by Alicia Menendez, Co-Host of PBS`s Amanpour & Company, as contributing Editor at Bustle. And Erika Andiola, Chief Advocacy Officer for --


MELBER: RAICES. I want to make sure I got it right -- non-private group that provides legal services to immigrants right here in Texas.

So given the work you`re doing with RAICES and what we`re seeing and a lot of Americans now getting another view of this. These immigration debates have been going for a long time. But that photograph, the inability of the administration to really even say words out loud to explain why they want to deny children soap, blankets. Walk us through what you`re seeing and your views about what should matter on that debate stage tonight.

ERIKA ANDIOLA, RAICES, CHIEF ADVOCACY OFFICER: Yes, of course. Well, what we`re seeing is what had already been seen in previous administrations in previous years for sure. We have seen a record number of deaths. We have seen a record number of children right now who are being imprisoned. I mean, you can`t call it otherwise.

We are seeing that there`s more and more people who are dying at the border, but also they are dying in actual hands of Border Patrol agents. And so detention centers are blowing up with people. That they`re exceeding numbers of people in detention.

And what I would hope is that we get on this stage a statement from every candidate who are actually acknowledging what was happening under also an Obama administration -- right --who created this machine that was handed over to Trump, so that he could make it even bigger and stronger.

And so I want to make sure that I don`t want any more Obama type of actions on immigrations and I really hope that folks today can address that and that it will be a different type of environment.

MELBER: Are you saying they are the same or merely this built on a blueprint?

ANDIOLA: I would say that -- you know that -- the way that we always say it is that, Obama created a big strong immigration enforcement machine that was taken by Trump and that was made even bigger. Right?

And so to me or to us in the immigrant communities, is really trying to figure out what are they going to do different? Are you they going to stop detention for of immigrants, are they`re going to stop the treatment of children in this way at the border? But even deeper how are we actually going to solve the problem?

People are fleeing for a reason, right? What are they doing to stop the problem?


ANDIOLA: And not recreating another -- I guess, Obama administration, I keep saying that, because he was a Democrat and today we have a democratic debate.

MELBER: Well -- and Alicia, Erika makes such an important and nonpartisan point, and even broader then immigration, this comes up often, with executive power. If all you say as well, you might trust the person you like more with a war power or a detention power or a very aggressive deportation approach. What happens when someone else even takes it over and goes even further? What do you think the Democrats need to do on this issue tonight?

ALICIA MENENDEZ, CO-HOST, PBS`S AMANPOUR & COMPANY: I want to say that someone like Erika has been ringing the alarm on this going back as long as I have been following this issue. And I think that there are a lot of people who did not follow in her lead and think that it would lead us here.

So part of what you`re going to see on that debate stage tonight are candidates who have proposed -- only two of them that have proposals are on the stage. So Julian Castro was the first out the door with it.

He came out with it in April, People First Immigration plan. The big thing there is decriminalizing crossing of the U.S.-Mexico. Beto O`Rourke also from Texas has a plan. There are some differences between their plans, but both largely comprehensive. Tomorrow night we`ll hear from Kamala Harris who`s the third candidate who has it.

But the big thing I hear from advocates and perhaps you`ll agree or disagree with this is a question of prioritization. Right? It`s one thing to say, "I care about this and I want to be the opposite of Donald Trump". It`s another thing to say, "This is going to be the number one, number two issue in my administration".

And an a tightrope for Democrats to walk, especially when they see the polling numbers saying that what people are most of that about is the economy, is affordability and knowing where to prioritize than an issue like this.

MELBER: What does it say on the sheer politics that the Democratic Party`s first debate is here in Florida?

MENENDEZ: Well it says a few things. Florida is must-win for Republicans. Right? So Democrats have a pathway to victory that does not run through Florida. But if you want to win Florida as a Democrat, then you need to make sure that you are winning the Latino voter in Florida.

Now, there`s no one Latino voter in Florida. There are a lot of people, who like Erika, are directly impacted by immigration, and immigration enforcement, people who live in communities that are affected by it see it as an attack on the community at large.

But they`re also Venezuelans for whom Venezuela is the major issue. There are Puerto Ricans for whom the recovery is a major issue. So there`s no one silver bullet message that breaks through to a Latinos.

MELBER: Yes. And as you`re both speaking, our viewers who are watching our special debate coverage may see something that you don`t see as much, which is behind you -- the security, the scrum, the media, because of the candidates here.

We saw the DNC Chair doing a big live press conference basically with reporters behind you and we have a candidate who`s about to join our program, so that`s what folks may be seeing behind you, I just wanted to mention for context.

When you look at these two nights, do you see something that comes out of it that moves the Democratic Party? Because you or someone who`s saying -- if I hear you right. You don`t think enough of the Democratic Party -- certainly not the Biden-Obama wing, as you see it, is where you want them to be on this issue and on what is becoming a humanitarian crisis.

And people are saying, whatever our level, you let it X number or X times two number people. What do we do with human rights and due process to these people? When you look at that photograph, are we doing as a nation everything we can to honor those people`s rights? Whether or not ultimately they are turned away or not, which every country does, tend to turn away some people.

ANDIOLA: Here`s the thing. I would hope and it`s really triggering for me when I hear the first thing that comes out of a candidate`s mouth is, "I want comprehensive immigration reform in a path to citizenship", as the whole solution to every single problem on immigration.

Yes, we need a path to citizenship for people, but it has become really an outdated solution in a way. And to us, what I want to hear what are they going to do, as Alicia was mentioning, as a priority for immigration. And there`s so much they can actually do through the administrative part of the government, which is the President, can do a lot.

MELBER: Right.

ANDIOLA: -- to be able to first come in into office, what am I going to do in my own power as the President to make sure that we do give relief to "Dreamers", beyond what is there now. While we give relief to the parents of "Dreamers", what can we do administratively to make sure that we are closing down the detention centers, all these things that are happening at the border. It can be done by the President.

And then what can we can actually do in Congress. But it`s really a matter of figuring out how they can start this process without just talking points of CIR (ph).

MELBER: I appreciate both of you for your expertise and your details. And this is one of those stories that it comes and then sometimes it recedes and then it comes back. And it comes back to what are we doing as a nation when we see children being mistreated in the custody of United States government, when we see those photos that we`ve seen.

Are we doing everything possible or not, that`s an accounting I expect, I don`t know because I don`t have the questions. But I expect it to come up tonight.

Thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.

ANDIOLA: Thank you so much Ari.

MENENDEZ: Thank you so much.

MELBER: I appreciate it. And look who`s about to walk on the stage here. Candidate for Office Governor Jay Inslee, come on out here. I`m going to show everyone you`re here so they don`t go anywhere.


MELBER: I really appreciate you being a part of our show tonight before you do the debate.

INSLEE: Good to see you (inaudible). We need to.

MELBER: I want you to sit down. And we`ll be back in 30 seconds.

INSLEE: All right.

MELBER: All right, sir.


MELBER: 10 candidates will clash at this first debate tonight. Now there are some of the party`s most famous names there like Elizabeth Warren, but also lesser known figures. Take Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

The fact is, in most recent polls, seven out of 10 democrats say they`ve never heard of him. But here is the thing about debates that could change in a few hours tonight when he takes this stage for an event where a lot of Democrats are watching.

Now his walk through was earlier today, you can see a clip of that. But looking a little causal. He is running is the green candidate and hit the Trump administration on that very issue today after touring the Everglades.


INSLEE: I can`t say that we don`t have to cleanest air in the world, that there`s nothing to worry about from pollution in fossil fuels. Wake up and smell the carbon dioxide --


MELBER: And as I`ve mentioned in this broadcast, this is a rarity, but it`s happening, Jay Inslee doing an interview right before tonight`s debate, a BEAT exclusive. Thank you for being here.

INSLEE: Thanks for bringing truth to America.

MELBER: I like that. I get to have you around more. So look most candidates don`t even do interviews in the few hours before. We get the benefit of this. I think it`s fascinating on a number of levels. What`s in your mind right now, what you want to achieve out there tonight?

INSLEE: A couple things. Number one, I want the story of Florida that`s been inundated with sea-level rise, which is also the story of your hometown and mine in Seattle, which is climate change is ravaging my state. Forest fires have now given us the worst quality in the world. We have to make defeating the climate crisis the top priority of the United States.

MELBER: So do you pivot, if you get a question about something else and that`s your priority, you`re just going to run right to that issue?

INSLEE: No, not necessarily. I`m hopeful that we will have climate change questions. But, look, I`ve got a second story which is a pillar of accomplishment. I`m a Governor that`s really succeeded. I`ve got the highest minimum wage. We have the greatest teacher pay increase in United States.

I`ve passed the very first public health option in the United States. Speeches are great, plans are great, accomplishments are even better, I`ve got a boatload of upness in Washington State.

MELBER: Let me press you on that. In any other cycle, some of these Governors, yourself included, would be -- and I don`t say this in rude way, but would be taken somehow more seriously by the elites? Now maybe it doesn`t matter because the elites are wrong all the time.

But what`s going on this cycle? I`m going to put up here on the on the -- this sort of average and these changed. We`ve got a whole point about how this doesn`t matter much. But you see Biden and Bernie Sanders as more well-known names polling higher.

And you, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker all around that 1 or 2 point mark. Is that just because people are so hungry for folks who haven`t been in government?

INSLEE: I think what it is principally is the centralization of the news industry. Basically our people are now watching Washington D.C., not where the real progress is which is Washington State.

MELBER: I think what you`re saying is I see your problem and it`s your fault.

INSLEE: Yes, but you`re doing a great job.

MELBER: No. But I`m that`s a fair point. I mean, you are here on this show. We take people from up and down. We don`t we don`t discriminate based on the polling ourselves. But the DNC, right, did kick other Governors.

INSLEE: Correct.

MELBER: What do you think they should be on this stage?

INSLEE: I think both should have been on the stage. But here`s what I believe. This what campaigns are for. Look, I`m an underdog. I`ve always been an underdog and I beat a lot of Republicans being an underdog.

But I`m more Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were about this stage. This is about introducing yourself. Look 7 out of 10 Americans never heard my name. But tonight when they hear a person who is going to prioritize climate change, who has had one of the most spectacular progressive records in the United States, I`m the guy who stood up to Donald Trump on the Muslim ban.

I`m the guy sued him successfully 22 times. I`m the guy that`s got the first long term elder care program and the first net neutrality law in the United States. So I`m happy to share that information with people.

MELBER: Let me ask you something else.  When you first heard that news alert or however you heard, Bob Muller is back.  Bob Mueller is going to come and testify publicly which he`s literally never done since he became special counsel.

For your campaign, did you think, I don`t care old news?  Did you think that`s good as the kind of accountability moment or did you think and be honest, these House Democrats are stepping on our debate.  You want to talk about green jobs in the future, is that backward-looking?  What was your honest reaction?

INSLEE:  My reaction is Congress should do its job.  It should have a full inquiry from whatever source from any witness has information.  I do believe that the impeachment issue is now virtually become inevitable.

MELBER:  Meaning?

INSLEE:  It`s time to start an impeachment inquiry in my view.

MELBER:  And when you say inevitable, you mean Pelosi and the Democrats will come around to having an impeachment --

INSLEE:  I don`t -- this president has left us no choice.  He violates the Constitution every time he turns around.  He lies to the American people and things big and small.  There are many things he`s lied about but the fact that the other day went out and told us that the air is clean and climate change is not a problem, there`s a lot of lies that are destructive and that`s one of them.

MELBER:  So you say it`s inevitable.  When you hear Joe Biden say you know, he needs more time, is he wrong on that or you get where he`s coming?

INSLEE:  I`ll let everybody be a judge, but I`ve just had a belly full, the Constitution is in doubt.  We have to show America to get the bottom of what could happen.  And I think having an impeachment inquiry can help that actually occur.

MELBER:  Now, we`ve done a lightning round before.  Can you handle doing it right here face to face in Miami?

INSLEE:  I don`t know.  You know all my secrets (INAUDIBLE).

MELBER:  In a sentence or less, Jay Inslee wins tonight`s debate if --

INSLEE:  People understand I am the candidate, the only candidate who`ll say this has to be the top priority the United States which is defeating the climate crisis.

MELBER:  Of these top 20 Dems, the one most likely to be on a Jay Inslee ticket if there were one is --

INSLEE:  I can`t say but it`s not going to be two white fellas at the top of the ticket, I will tell you that.

MELBER:  If you were the nominee, you`re saying it will not look like you.

INSLEE:  We need diversity -- we need diversity at the top of the ticket.  I will give you that.

MELBER:  And that -- and that`s a standard.  You`re saying you`re running on that.

INSLEE:  Yes.  No, obviously we`re going to find a person who`s qualified.

MELBER:  Sure.

INSLEE:  There`s a lot of quality in this -- in this field.  I`ve already identified that maybe you know, eight or nine that are qualified to be vice president as a matter of fact.  So I`ll test them out tonight.

MELBER:  And the most important issue tonight is?

INSLEE:  Well I view identifying someone who can beat Donald Trump and I believe I have the best way to do that which is economic growth with the number one fastest growing job in America which is clean energy.

MELBER:  And finally, when you see Cory Booker crushing those barbells, that`s -- the videos going viral today, you think what?

INSLEE:  I think Cory is quite a great football player but I`ll be doing OK in the debate stage.

MELBER:  Governor Inslee for a rare before you take the stage tonight.

INSLEE:  All right.  Thanks, Ari.

MELBER:  Thanks for making the time.

INSLEE:  Thank you.  Have fun tonight.

MELBER:  It`s literally a very busy night.  I appreciate it.  Still ahead, from Rick Perry`s oops moment to unforgettable lines like where is the beef.  We have a special breakdown tonight of why debates could matter so much and one on one with the man who set this whole thing up and the rules.  DNC chairman Tom Perez is here.  We`ll be right back.


MELBER:  Welcome back to our live debate coverage out of Miami.  And I can tell you I just came from checking out the stage and the podiums inside the hall of tonight`s debate, we were looking at the lecterns, they`re so tightly packed.  Any candidate can basically shake hands with their neighbor without even leaving their position.

And while I was there, this was just hours ago, we saw a series of candidates come in and inspect the digs themselves.  Under these party rules, each candidate and their staff gets them solo time to get a feel for the room and get comfortable.

Now, there were candidates who you can see, Warren there walking through and Beto, but some other candidates skip that option.  Cory Booker made a point as mention of doing some weight lifting.  This videos going around, but doing it in a shirt and tie.

So basically you have every candidate figuring out their own personal style for prepping for what could be the biggest night of the campaign thus far.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A lot of them are going to work out today.  I just heard Beto O`Rourke going for a run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Beto O`Rourke holding an event here in the Miami area yesterday and said listening is one of the keys for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jay Inslee the governor of Washington draws.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar`s case, they`ve actually been putting policy into real-life application.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  John Delaney both said they`re going back and watching the 2016 Republican debates to try to get some idea about how to navigate a big crowded stage with multiple candidates on them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Amy Klobuchar among others, we were told that she has spent a little bit of time watching the 2016 Republican primary debates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he had the two comedians Skype into his last prep session last night to help him work on any jokes you might try to use on the debate stage.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez.  I don`t know if you brought any comedians for your prep.

TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DNC:  No, I`ll stick with the regular formula.

MELBER:  What you have tonight is an abundance of what you call riches.

PEREZ:  Absolutely.

MELBER:  But also ten candidates is a lot.  What have you done to ensure that it`s fair and will there really be equal time?

PEREZ:  Well, we`ve worked from the outset to make sure fairness is our North Star.  We made sure that we gave the candidates all of the rules of engagement back in February.  We established unprecedented access to the debate stage by establishing not only a polling threshold but a grassroots fundraising threshold.

I don`t think you can win the presidency without becoming a really accomplished grassroots fundraiser in the year 2020.

MELBER:  And that`s you`re just being practical and saying your party is not going to unilaterally disarm from how expensive it is to run.

PEREZ:  Absolutely.  And I also want to return power to the people.  And we took a host of steps to make sure that the grassroots had a voice.  And the notion that you can invest $1.00 which is what the situation is now and be involved in the effort to get a candidate of your choice on the debate stage, that is democratizing the process.

And so we took that effort and this you know, we did random assignment for tonight.  And tomorrow there`s no J.V. varsity.  We`ve got a deep bench.  And what I think people are going to see is there are multiple candidates that they really like.

And I encourage people to date, multiple candidates, speed date if you will, and then fall in love, and then what we have to do is fall in line behind whoever wins.  And what we`ve done is to make sure that the process is fair to everyone so that those who don`t make it are going to be enthusiastic in Milwaukee in a little over a year.

MELBER:  Now, you`re enough of a political junkie that you may know there`s one thing that Maxine Waters and Ross Perot have in common.  Do you know what it is?

PEREZ:  I have no idea.

MELBER:  It`s being dead serious about their time.  Maxine famously says reclaiming my time.

PEREZ:  Right.

MELBER:  People love that.  And Perot back in the day at his debates would say can I finish, can I finish, can I finish, and he would browbeat these moderators who of course full disclosure, I think everybody knows are my colleagues, but to try to get extra time, and everyone has seen that footage.

What does success look like to you?  Does it look like a great night where we meet the candidates but the big ones speak more or do you think part of your measure of tonight in conjunction of course with these hosts, co- hosts, and all that is equal time?

PEREZ:  Well, we need to make sure that every candidate has a fair opportunity to communicate their vision.  And I`m confident that the moderators will do that because they`re very seasoned and talented.

At the same time, you have to make sure that you don`t lose the flow of the debate.  And so if you`re in the middle of something, you want to give that opportunity to finish so that voters can make their choice.

MELBER:  Let`s look at this.  30 seconds for that follow-up.

PEREZ:  Right.

MELBER:  You know these guys and gals.  You know them.

PEREZ:  It puts them --

MELBER:  You know them. I know them and you know them and I think a lot of our viewers know them.

PEREZ:  It puts a premium on --

MELBER:  Most of them -- most of them don`t do follow-ups in 30 seconds.

PEREZ:  Well, but again, one of the things that is important about this is we set forth these rules in advance.  And the folks who will excel are the folks who are able to cut to the chase and articulate a vision quickly and cogently.

MELBER:  So you think your rules are not only fair, they`ll help these candidates sharpen and --

PEREZ:  Yes, absolutely.

MELBER:  -- what you want to have is someone who emerges from this who could beat Trump?

PEREZ:  You know, I remember when I was doing a healthy dose of trial work and you would get a rebuttal opportunity in front of a judge and you`d be told you got three minutes, those were usually my best three minutes because I understood, I had to cut to the chase, I had get to my point, and I had to make that point very, very quickly.

And I`m confident.  This is a good stable of candidates.  It really is a deep bench tonight and tomorrow.  And I think -- what I think the American people are going to see is the unity of values and then what they`re going to see is they really do like multiple candidates because the difference between the candidates and Trump is 100 percent on all the critical issues.

MELBER:  Right, which you can argue is good for you.  I am going to remind you anytime we`re running out of time in a T.V. interview of your comments today about the importance of gravity.

PEREZ:  Amen.  Ari, always good to be with you.

MELBER:  I know you`re very busy putting this all on.  I really appreciate you making time to be coming on our special episode of THE BEAT, sir.

PEREZ:  It`s great to be here.  It`s going to be a great night and a great tomorrow.

MELBER:  As I say to everyone, good luck to you.  Ahead, I actually spent some time just now with some of the voters here in Miami and got some interesting tanks.  We`ll play some of that for you.  That was us out on the streets moments ago.  That`s a Yang supporter right there.

And with this huge national audience what we can learn from history about why this is such a make-or-break moment for certain candidates.


MELBER:  Simple question.  Why does tonight`s debate actually matter?  Well, it`s obviously the first chance for these contenders to introduce themselves to voters around the country.  Right now most Democrats say they only know a little about the candidates.  That`s a statistic that shows the stakes but also broader research suggests primary debates have an especially large impact.

So tonight it`s not just about political theatrics or the media getting excited for an event though it can include that.  But as a matter of raw politics and political science, we know early debates can define candidates and narrow the race.

Consider current Trump administration official Rick Perry before the 2012 debates, many saw him as a potential Republican frontrunner.  He had the high polling when he entered the race that summer and a resume like the last Republican President George W. Bush, both Texas governors.  Then voters saw him not only stumble but attack social security in a way that proved less popular outside of Texas.


RICK PERRY, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It is a Ponzi Scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today you paying into a program that`s going to be there.  Anybody that`s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids and it`s not right.


MELBER:  That didn`t play well.  Perry dropped as voters heard from him directly.  And later debates hurt even more.


PERRY:  It`s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone, Commerce, Education, and the what`s the third one there, let`s see, let`s see.  I can`t, the third one, I can`t.  Sorry.


MELBER:  I can`t.  And he couldn`t because he dropped out of the race a few months later.  We all know politics doesn`t like a vacuum.  Space gets filled.  For Republicans, it was primary debates that was igniting what filled the space because people got excited about what they heard.

Remember, the same cycle Herman Cain who was dismissed by his party`s leaders, for the most part, found grassroots voters excited for those very simple plans he unveiled on the big stage.


HERMAN CAIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have put my 999 plan on the table.  We must grow this economy with a bold solution which is why I have proposed 999.  999 will pass.  This is why we developed 999.


MELBER:  Now, Cain only surged after those debates.  He had many other weaknesses apart from those zingers, credible accusations of harassment, poor performance of business.  The point tonight is not whether a given candidate will definitely go the distance, but that the voters you guys, watch, you make up your minds regardless of whether the elites or the media think a candidate in the early stages "top-tier."

And that`s a lesson to keep in mind before anyone counts out some of the lesser known candidates taking the stage this week.  Then, of course, another point to consider is the way skilled debaters couldn`t totally define an opponent on this big stage.

Sometimes dispatching rivals in ways that are more lethal than any attack ad or piece of mail.  Back when Gary Hart was basically nursing a big lead over Mondale in 84, that veteran Democrat turned his own experience against the newcomer in a line that worked even if it was highly prepared.


GARY HART, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When I hear your new ideas, I`m reminded of that ad, where`s the beef?


MELBER:  And what is beef?  Mondale was teeing off a pop cultural reference from a popular fast-food ad.  He was also showing voters he was ready to handle any beef.  Again, the lesson isn`t that the face to find everything candidates performance over time, and fundraising, and attitude, it all matters over this whole cycle.

But even a political world these days, it feels like it can turn on just the latest tweet or hype.  I want to tell you, tonight is about what these candidates actually stand for and what voters, what you ultimately decide.

To dig into this point, I want to bring back RNC Chairman Michael Steele.  Your thoughts on why tonight is different.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, you hit -- you hit a home run and you framed it exactly right.  There`s a lot that`s going on beneath the surface here and a lot of it has less to do with the candidates and more to do with the voters who are tuning in -- and yes they`re sitting back, they may be at their beach property, they may be on vacation somewhere, and they`re going to tune in with a beer in hand, or soda, whatever.  They`re going to look and sort of size these men and women off.

And it won`t be should this person be the next President of the United States, it`s going to be what are they saying?  What do they stand for?  What are they thinking?  How attractive are they?  Can I see them in the role?  And that`s the evolution that`s going to take place over the next few debates.

So tonight, you`ll see some guys or gals punch up.  I think that`s a waste of time.  Don`t go after the front-runner because the person standing next to you is your problem at the moment, right.  So understand the space you`re in and look at that camera and forget about them, and make this a connection between you and those Americans out there who are looking at you for the first time.

MELBER:  I feel like you`re saying yes, be careful with any assumptions about who`s ahead because the political life you save may be your own.

STEELE:  May be your own, exactly.

MELBER:  Now, I want to show folks watching this before we go a little bit of what we were able to do today speaking about the voters.  I went out.  I hit some of the streets right outside the debate hall here in Miami, and I got to talk to a bunch of different folks from multiple campaigns, from Yang, Biden supporters, Klobuchar, Sanders, there was a lot of folks out here.

As you can see, that`s a 20-year-old Biden supporter who says he wants to cast his first presidential vote ever for Joe Biden.  And one of them was telling me that they already to your point, Michael, I didn`t know you were going to say that but he did.  One of them told me they already shifted from being a Kamala Harris supporter to now being a die-hard Elizabeth Warren supporter.  Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Elizabeth Warren was not my first choice.

MELBER:  Who was your first choice?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My first choice was Kamala Harris but after listening to Elizabeth talk, present her plans, I thought, oh hell no, I`m going with Elizabeth.

MELBER:  So you shifted.  You already moved once.


MELBER:  Could you move again?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There`s no one else.


MELBER:  You ran a political party.  How typical is that and how much does that happen because of debates?

STEELE:  That`s -- well, very typical.  And what`s interesting and important about that, it happened before the debate.  In other words, candidates out there on the hostings right are having a conversation with voters is equally as important.

That`s why I tell voters and tell people polls don`t really matter that much right now.  It`s that connection that the candidates are making with the voters that kind of moves the table, as it did for that particular voter.  Now what was interesting to your question, can you shift again, he said no. 

MELBER:  He said no.

STEELE:  He said no.  I bet you -- I bet you starting tonight, if someone stands up on that stage, Elizabeth Warren falters, or they get the best of her, it`s going to cause him to rethink and reevaluate what he likes or doesn`t like about her.

What her strength is, ironically and interestingly enough is the policies.  This election could actually be one in which policies dictate and drive a lot of where voters ultimately settle down beyond the likability of the candidate.

We`ve done the cult of personality.  That was Trump.  Now the question becomes the substance of what you bring to the table, which is why an Elizabeth Warren-Donald Trump debate in the fall of next year gets really interesting, because there is only so much you know, ducking you can do when you`re getting hit on policy and that`s especially what the voters want to see.

MELBER:  Right.  And a lot of times it`s those activists who you know, the term, influencers, influential activists are ones who friends come and say at least not maybe who should I vote for, but who are the two or three for real and take their word on that.

STEELE:  That`s right.

MELBER:  I spoke to one young voter today who said he is all about Yang.  I said why.  He said, he is the only data-driven candidate.  And I said that`s probably true.

STEELE:  Yes, it is.  But you got to go beyond data driven.  You know, you got -- there`s more to it than the data.  So the question for someone like a Yang, who no one has an idea about maybe beyond the tech space is how will you be president?  How will you do the presidency?

Now, let`s not get caught up  on the "well, if Donald Trump can do it, anybody can do it."  That`s not the standard, folks.  Get that out you ever head.

MELBER:  I don`t want to take -- I don`t want to take time from our special predebate coverage so Michael, I`m going to -- I`m going to leave it there for now.  We`ll see you again.  When we come back, one more thing before I toss to Brian and Nicole.


MELBER:  And the stage is set.  The Democrats will be clashing in Miami very soon.  Thanks for spending the hour with us.  I`ll be back here live from Miami 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night where I`ll be joined by another candidate on the stage, Senator Elizabeth Warren.  We`re looking forward to having her.

Thanks to everyone in Miami for the hospitality.

And don`t go anywhere because, of course, up next, we begin our special coverage with Brian and Nicolle for this pre-debate.  See you later.