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Democrats sue for Trump's tax returns. TRANSCRIPT: 7/2/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Paola Ramos, Michelle Goldberg, Jenn Budd, David Corn, Michael EricDyson, Norma Torres


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Hey, and that`s all for tonight, we`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY and "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Steve, thank you very much. This is THE BEAT and we have a lot going on in tonight`s show. Democrats now formally suing Donald Trump for his tax returns today and blasting his attack on Congress`s authority. That`s a story that changes because it now goes to court.

Later tonight, I`m joined by professor Michael Eric Dyson. We`re going to discuss a lot including the homeless crisis in America and why Donald Trump is bringing that up. We also may talk a little 2020, we`ll also have the latest on a rebuke to the Trump administration, a breaking story I`m going to bring you later in the hour that we just added to a rundown.

But we begin with what is shaping up to be a human rights crisis at our nation`s border and many say in a large measure, it`s a self-created crisis by the Trump administration, by your government. Now Donald Trump has done all sorts of things. He`s tried to sometimes emphasize and say it`s terrible and sometimes downplay it, allude and even conflate what`s happening with previous administrations.

Now because of the pressure from Democrats and Congress and pressure from journalists and pressure from people who`ve been visiting these sites, we are now seeing with new depth what is happening inside some of these migrant detention centers.

And we`re also hearing directly from the detainees. Now the reporting of widespread overcrowding and inhumane conditions has increased government investigators, publishing graphic photos in the Rio Grande Valley of these migrant facilities.

A senior manager in one facility says the situation is now a "ticking time bomb." Or take this photograph. June 10, McAllen, Texas, the families you see packed behind this fence.

This is this area that they`ve got labeled Pod 2 with very little room for anyone to do anything. You also have families experiencing government induced overcrowding behind fences people wrapped in blankets that are very similar to the aluminum foil, reports we`ve seen previously or take the pictures out of Westlake, Texas.

Detainees with kids lying on the floor, concrete benches on top of each other, appearing to be basically sharing a single water cooler from what we can tell from our photographic evidence, some wearing masks over their mouth, some faces of course blurred for anonymity.

And take a look at the Fort Brown station, a man seen holding up a hand written sign that says simply and I`m going to read it to you if you can`t make it out it says, "Help, 40 day here. Help." Adults also held in cells that are designated for juveniles. Many places are more than double the capacity, violating all kinds of rules and this report that`s leaked details children with no access to showers.

Agents refusing to provide children access to hot meals and adults going without showers for as long as a month. The makings of a public health crisis. Now some of these photos are coming out after lawmakers got to go visit two Texas migrant facilities. Take this video which we have courtesy of Congressman Castro in El Paso.

You can see there a woman in a crowded cell. Castro said, there was no running water to be seen there. One woman said she was told if she needed water she should drink water out of the toilet. The AP is also obtained this video, an interview with a 12 year old girl. Now this is from her lawyer and the statement is that they were basically dealing with this person who was held for two weeks.

This is a facility in Clint, Texas. Now as with a lot of this we`re talking some crowdsourcing, we`re telling your sources. I have to mention NBC did not record or authenticate the interview but we want you to see what we`re learning.


VOICE OF A 12 YEAR OLD DETAINEE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): They gave us little food. Some children did not bathe, they didn`t bathe them. They treated us badly where we were. They were mean to us. Some children were sick. They said they`d take them to hospitals, but they wouldn`t take them.

Yes some children like the age of my sister they would cry for mother or their father. They cried for their aunt, they missed them.


MELBER: A kind of testimony provided via the Associated Press. Now as we`re seeing these pictures and videos and learning more as people make these visits, I should mention that there is of course something going on outside of just the journalistic and political process.

We have this new footage today of parts of America where people are out even though it`s obviously heading toward the holiday week, activists protesting over the treatment of these migrant children held pursuant to Trump administration policies.

I`m joined now by New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg and Paola Ramos, who hosts Vice`s Latinx and also worked on Hispanic press for Hillary Clinton campaign. Good to have both of you here.


MELBER: I want to start with the big picture. We made a choice here to try to show folks what we`re learning from various sources. We even though as reporters who we sent out in the field are restricted a lot in what we can get but we are not looking at Video or footage of prisons, we`re not looking at facilities where people have gone through a process and then convicted of a crime and are being punished.

That`s not what it is although it looks like prison or worse to many people. We`re looking at the detention of individuals including children who haven`t even had criminal process yet. Walk us through that context.

RAMOS: We`re looking at people who have a right to seek asylum. It`s that simple and now these images, it`s up to us to look at that and to ask ourselves, what are we seeing? Is that a concentration camp? Or is that a justified image? And people need to start answering that question. Right? Because the real question after that is what happens when no one `s looking, right?

What happens when you`re not showing us these images what are people doing to these kids and to these moms and to these father`s inside it. That`s another question so --

MELBER: And do you know from your work on the issue when we talk about the overcrowding, there are variations in migration, we`ve covered that on this show. There were variations and regardless of who is in charge, regardless of what you think of this President but beyond those variations, when you look at the overcrowding, when you look at the treatment, what is the evidence you have that it is a deliberate policy, a deliberate outcome of this administration?

RAMOS: The evidence we just saw it. We just a little girl saying [in Spanish] which means in English, "they`re not treating us well." That is the evidence we have, no? That is the -- that- that`s it, we don`t need to look any further, we - this is not a debate, this is a young girl that is telling us, it`s bad, that`s evidence.

There are people who think it`s a debate as you know before I go to Michelle, I want to play something for your response. Pictures tell the story. The administration was knocked back on its heels on other points during the immigration debate over pictures, over facts, although it took keeps going back and forth but here`s what some of the rest of the country is hearing about which I think goes to politics and the debate about what this is like.

Is it what you just said or is it more like an overcrowded House party?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Picture yourself, you have a house, family of five, you have a party, you have 30 people over, maybe have a big party and you have 100 people over and you have two and half beds. In the beginning be okay with 30, then after 100 people be a little bit tax maybe got to get out to a facility. Can you picture 5000?

You can have the best facilities in the world, but they are so over stocked, it wasn`t their idea to have a wide open border, it was bad asylum rules that allowed this to happen.


RAMOS: This does not surprise me. Now when they see a house party, I see a crisis. I see human beings, they see criminals. I think this is unjust, they think this is justified.

MELBER: Michelle at most house parties, among other things there`s freedom of movement. I mean one of the - I hate to be logical about this but one of the differences between a party and a prison, would be freedom.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think that you just see the sort of depth of absurdity to which people have to go to justify the images that are right in front of their face you know and I think we see - that`s something we see over and over again with this administration where people, both the administration and its apologists are going to tell you that you`re not seeing what you`re seeing, right?

You`re not seeing something that looks like the torture of children, that looks like an atrocity. What you`re really seeing is an overcrowded house party and whether or not it`s true that the administration did not ask all these people to come here, that this is - that there is these vastly increased migrant flows.

But it is the job of any administration to deal with crises, right? It is the job of any administration -- first of all, this is not a new problem you know, this has been going on for at least a year, this increased family migration and it is the job of an administration to make things work, not to simply say we`re unprepared and who could have expected.

And the other thing is that my colleague Caitlyn Dickerson on the new side of the New York Times reported on the way the administration has taken steps to make it harder to release children in detention to sponsors, right? So part of the reason that the system is so backed up is because you`re supposed to move the kids from there, then to ORR, the Office of Refugee Resettlement at Health and Human Resources, I`m sorry Health and Human Services and then to a sponsor like a family or friend or someone may be known to the child who is going to take care of them.

What the administration has done is it has started using that process to catch undocumented immigrants so it`s asking people for DNA tests, for fingerprints, for the fingerprints of everybody in the household so they have kind of taken deliberate steps to keep kids in detention longer and then they turn around and say well, this isn`t our fault.

MELBER: Take a listen to on the Democratic side, Chairman Nadler dialing up the heat on what he thinks can be done about this, take a look.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): All the people in the administration who have done this, who have permitted it are guilty of child abuse which is a crime. We ought to prosecute.


GOLDBERG: I hope they do and you know, House Oversight has just announced that they`re going to be having hearings next week. I don`t think we know yet whether or not the leaders of various departments are going to consent to go before Congress because this administration`s often thinks that congressional hearings are optional.

But I hope that - you know I very much hope that somebody does and you know we also know that it`s often difficult in this administration to tell where malice ends and incompetence begins but we do know as a result of this Facebook group that has also come to life, I think 9000 -- that`s has also come to life - I think over 9000 border patrol agents are part of this Facebook group that is dehumanizing migrants, that is you know dehumanizing and spreading kind of you know pornographic memes about Latino members of Congress.

And so in those cases I think that we can assume a level of malevolence that goes beyond just being under resource.

MELBER: Well, you mentioned that, it`s very important, both of you stay with me. Let me give everyone a little bit of background as Michelle was saying. There`s this -- done this reporting today on this Facebook group. It`s border patrol agents and they`re posting about all sorts of things including what they call jokes about migrant deaths.

ProPublica revealed the group. Now as I mentioned some of the reporting we`re bringing to you what we know NBC has not - we have got our hands and verified the group or the post but based on their reporting, at ProPublica, they cite group members responding basically with what they look at as wise cracks to a news story about a 16-year old Guatemalan migrant who died while in custody.

An agent writing allegedly, oh well. Another posting, "If he dies, he dies." Now this ProPublica reporting also talks about something that was just mentioned, sexist memes of vulgar illustration of Democratic congressman Ocasio Cortez and U.S. customs and border patrol says they`re investigating this and going to figure out what went on saying the post if true are completely inappropriate.

For more depth on this, I want to bring into our conversation, a former border patrol agent, Jenn Budd. She served in San Diego, six years before ultimately leaving the force. Thank you for joining us.


MELBER: Your reaction.

BUDD: I`m not surprised at all. This is been the way the border patrol has been run since probably before or even I was an agent. There`s a reason why only 5% of agents are females and it`s not contrary to what that the Chief she says, it`s not because the work is very difficult, women can handle it just fine.

It is because a lot of them are sexually assaulted and harassed in the agency and it starts in the academy and it`s the type of environment and the atmosphere that the border patrol condones and allows to continue and has for decades.

MELBER: So those writings at ProPublica sources to current officials, they strike you as how typical of what you saw and experienced, both, shall we say online or also offline in conversation and in your work.

BUDD: They are very typical. I would say that if you`re in the agency yourself and it`s - it`s much worse female agents, it`s not unheard of to be raped and assaulted by their classmates in the academy like I was and you`re not allowed to report this or else you will lose your job.

You`re not allowed to file a complaint or else you will lose your job because they have to investigate and so forth and the people that commit these atrocities and write these things or say these things, they continue on and everybody knows about it.

It`s the dirty little secrets of the border patrol and every time one of their agents does something like this or somebody discovers a secret page or web - website or whatever, the management always says well, this is just not like us, we`re honorable, we only want the most honorable people.

But yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

MELBER: And I appreciate you being willing to talk about this. I don`t imagine that`s easy.


MELBER: I want to ask you about the enforcement aspect and then I want to let Michelle, panelists, journalist here also ask you a question after me.

BUDD: Okay.

MELBER: But my question goes then to everything you`ve already said you know, as we say in the law allegedly or if true sounds horrific, criminal, unacceptable, period. Then there`s the second layer of what ProPublica and others are reporting here, which is does that also in addition, taint or corrupt the way these agents do their jobs.

So number one are they mistreating as you just alleged and explained in your history, your story each other or others and then two, in your experience though, did it also bias or corrupt the way they were supposed to do their jobs which is -- they`re in charge. All the pictures we just showed at the top of our show, they`re in charge of these people, they have control over these people.

Does it - did you experience or observe that also as an impact?

BUDD: Oh yeah, absolutely, I mean in the academy if we`re trying to talk about that you know, how like you said, how it affects how you enforce, you have to remember that 52% of the force is Latino and a lot of people ask me how do they get Latino people then to behave this way against people who are of their own heritage and their own culture.

And it`s because in the academy, they mandate and they teach the agents to use racist terms for migrants. So that they see these people as other and that they are not like them and it is - it`s not uncommon, it`s very frequent for border patrol agents to arrest you know, women coming across the border and then set updates afterwards with them the south side.

It`s not uncommon uncommon for many sexual assaults to be filed against agents and so I think definitely it does have an effect you know, it`s condoned and when it happens and if somebody complains, everybody groups together specifically more the male side and they protect each other and they push everything out and they stay quiet and that`s how it works.

GOLDBERG: I`d be curious to know where you come down on kind of malice verses incompetence question because obviously one of the things that supporters of border patrol are saying is that they`re just overwhelmed and under resourced.

That was part of the justification for Congress just giving them this huge new budget supplement and so I`m curious from what you know, is it that they`re operating on a shoestring and don`t have the resources to deal with this influx or do you think it`s more about kind of sadism and punishment?

BUDD: You know, I would compare it to when I was an agent, we had about less than 5000 agents for the southern border and per year, we would get an average of about 1.5 million apprehensions. Today, they have roughly 19,000 to 20,000 agents. And this year it has increased but they are nowhere near the numbers that we used to have.

So with four times the amount of agents, they seem to be able to do a lot less than what we had to handle back then. So they should be able to handle this. The demographics have been changing over the years but they`ve had decades to deal with the situation. This is - This is not a criminal law enforcement situation.

This is a humanitarian asylum situation and asylum is not a crime.

MELBER: Right and you mentioned Paola mentioned earlier that we reported on repeatedly here which again is even for folks who watch this and have a view about immigration, have a view about border crossings, we`re not looking at what is supposed to be a criminal punishment setting.

We`re looking at what is supposed to be temporary detention. Jenn, as I said before, I appreciate you sharing your story. I should mention again as I sometimes do in our reporting, the DHS of course says, they`re investigating the incidents that led into our discussion of course, we invite them on to discuss any of this as we often send out requests to Trump administration.

Michelle Goldberg, Paola Ramos and Jenn Budd, thanks to each of you.

BUDD: Thank you.

MELBER: Important story and we will stay on it. Now we have a lot of other stuff I mentioned tonight, including house Democrats bring the fight to Trump and Mnuchin to court. Will anyone be held in contempt of court? Who`s going to win? We have all of that with a break down.

Later, a big loss for the Trump administration. They are folding on that effort that does relate to everything else we were just talking about, to try to have a citizenship question on the census, that ends today. A big loss for Trump and Professor Michael Eric Dyson on this attack on America`s cities.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The people living there living in hell too. Some of them have mental problems where they don`t even know they`re living that way.


MELBER: We have a lot of stories, a lot of topics and then by the end of the hour, I will bring back on a lawmaker who went to the very detention facility we were discussing and bearing witness to what she saw, a lot coming up. I hope you stay with us. I`m Ari Melber, you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Democrats in Congress not treating this week like a vacation. The news tonight, a sharp escalation, a major effort to force transparency on Donald Trump. This is a story, we first broke eight months ago election night about Democrats using new legal powers to compel the President`s taxes.


MELBER: I`ve spoken to a senior democratic source on the Ways and Means Committee who says tonight breaking news, they do intend to request President Trump`s tax returns.


MELBER: We learned that election night news from our sources. Now by April, House Democrats were invoking a special federal law to get the tax returns. It authorizes the House to act alone meaning this is the rare move in Washington that Mitch McConnell cannot fort unlike other democratic efforts in the House, it is one that does take on Donald Trump and try to get some oversight.

Treasury Department defied this request so what`s happening? Tonight the Democrats are striking back against that defiance by formally taking Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to court. That`s going to try to make them to comply with the law. The fight not only puts new legal pressure on Trump, it also reminds voters about a broken promise.


TRUMP: If I decide to run for office, I`ll produce my tax returns, absolutely and I would love to do that.


MELBER: He didn`t and he doesn`t. The New York Times asked some of Trump`s tax info, a couple decades ago and it showed a billion in losses despite claims of having a great business. It also showed evidence that engage in certain types of tax schemes, that Times saw them as "outright fraud."

So maybe those reports have something to do with why Donald Trump has broken his promise and continues to fight hard, now in court to keep his taxes secret. I`m joined now by the one and only, David Corn, who is not only Washington Bureau Chief for Mother Jones and not only an author and not only an MSNBC analyst but someone who has made -- I must note for this conversation a nearly daily habit of tweeting, today would be a good day for Trump to release his tax returns. Take it away.

DAVID CORN: Well, that has become a little of my private mantra, my daily moment of zen. You know, we`ve been talking about his taxes now for five-- four -- five years and he made that promise, he didn`t keep it and lot of us have been wondering why the Democrats are moving as slowly as they have been to try to get them because under the law as you`ve talked about on this show, they have the right to ask for it.

And the law says, the IRS shall make them available. Well, they`ve been very - you know, this isn`t criticisms, maybe explanation, the House Democrats been very deliberative about this. They I think, are worried about being portrayed by Trump as nothing but Trump-hunters and here they are, they have asked them for them quite legitimately and Steve Mnuchin said no, go away, I`m not going to follow the law.

And they followed suit now with this suit that you just mentioned and then they were truly going to be interesting here, beyond even the taxes, and you and I have talked about this, we`re getting to a moment -- there have been - Trump has blown through so many norms, people talked about whether in a constitutional crisis or not.

But at some point in time, a court is going to order Trump, one of his minions to do something. And what happens when they say no? What happens when Mnuchin loses his case and the court says you must produce these taxes and he`s - and he says I`m not going to do that?

MELBER: We don`t know they`re going to lose the case.

CORN: I know that.

MELBER: But we know - I`m going to partially agree with you that we know that if you are a textualist or an originalist or a conservative reader of the rules, we`ll put it up on the screen.

CORN: Yes, here we go.

MELBER: It says, written request from the Chairman of the Committee, the Treasury Secretary that`s Steve shall furnish any return or return information specified. You know, law school has complicated sections, that`s not one of them. It says Steve, you must turn over the taxes so you do think that they`re going to lose this and you think what the Supreme Court will back up the Congress?

CORN: Well, if it goes up to the Supreme Court, then we end up with a textualist decision or judicial activism on the part of justices who now say, well, we don`t think that text means what it means. You know, Trump has been making that argument --

MELBER: You`re saying this would be not be a very skilly argument if  the court ultimately decided that shall means that if you feel like it?

CORN: Yes. And as you know, Trump`s been making this argument that Congress doesn`t have the right to do anything except legislate. They have no oversight powers or oversight responsibilities, that`s the basis of this legal argument here which up to now has not exist.

MELBER: Well, to be fair - to be fair David.

CORN: Okay, let`s be fair.

MELBER: To be fair, that`s why there was never a Benghazi Oversight Committee created because that - that`s not a legislative activity.

CORN: Or Fast or Furious or The Clinton campaign you know, financial scandal.

MELBER: Would you like to take a look before I let you go, would you like to take a look at Steve Mnuchin clashing with the Congress because it`s become sort of a thing.

CORN: Sure, I mean, I like the picture with him with the dollar bills so let`s roll the tape.

MELBER: Well as they say David, they say Mother Jones, dollar dollar bills y`all. Roll the tape.


STEVE MNUCHIN, SECRETARY, TREASURY DEPARTMENT: If you`d wish to keep me here so that I don`t have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Thank you. The gentleman, the Secretary has agreed to stay.

MNUCHIN: You`re instructing me to stay here and I should cancel.

WATERS: No, you just made me an offer.

MNUCHIN: No, I didn`t make you an offer.

WATERS: You made me an offer that I accepted.

MNUCHIN: Please dismiss everybody. I believe you`re supposed to take the gravel and bang it.

WATERS: Please do not instruct me as to how to conduct this committee.


MELBER: Can we glean anything from that or is that just normal Washington fighting?

CORN: No, that is a normal Washington fighting it shows the disdain for the Committee Chairwoman and it`s a disdain that the White House and the administration are showing for legislative oversight and they`re going to keep doing this, maybe they will run out the clock till 2020 November and who knows what happens at that point.

But they are base - you know, all these great conservatives out there supporting Trump who always believed in coequal government and feared about the overreach of President Obama and executive actions and the imperial President, they`re all turning their back, they`re running away, they`re ducking in cover - covering and they are not abiding by the written law as they`ve always celebrated it.

MELBER: So before I let you go.

CORN: So all I can say today is Happy July 4.

MELBER: Happy July 4th. Before I let you go, is it possible that all of this is not of governing significance because Trump is hiding problems that affect government but sheer embarrassment that he doesn`t have the money he claimed. I`m sure you`re familiar David, with the musician J. Cole.

CORN:  One of my favorites.

MELBER:  And you know, he always says, don`t call me unless we`re talking about commas, and you know comma -- you have to have quite a few commas to -- that`s real money.  You get out to the million and the billion.

CORN:  Yes.

MELBER:  Right.  And so Donald Trump has lived a life claiming he has more commas than some people think he has.  And while that might be embarrassing and while some progressives and resistance and folks might want to know that, would you concede that embarrassing him over having less money than he claimed is not a great and valid government purpose and it should be about more than that.  And what if that`s the only thing he`s hiding?

CORN:  Well, let`s talk about fraud.  One reason we have transparency laws in this country is that people can make informed decisions when it comes to deciding who`s going to get their finger on the nuclear button.  And Trump you know, it`s not a law that you have to release your tax returns but it is a norm.

There are other laws that he has either violated or not paid heed to, the Emoluments Clause and other things.  And so I think he ran on a false promise.  He ran on lies.  He said he`d nothing to do with Russia.  He was dealing with Russia while running for president on a very important business deal.

MELBER:  How many commas do you think he has?

CORN:  I think -- I think going back and looking at --

MELBER:  Do you think he has four or three?

CORN:  In terms of commas?


CORN:  I got to do the math here.  OK --

MELBER:  Billion or million?

CORN:  Well, but you know, the thing is you have to have the commas on both sides, commas on assets, also commas on the debts, and that`s where you get the bottom line.

MELBER:  Wow.  David Corn taking the J. Cole analysis and bringing in some economics, liabilities.  My team, you know THE BEAT team is on it, and you mentioned something and they pulled it.  So for your goodbye, we`re going to show you.  There he is. 

CORN:  There we go.

MELBER:  The money man.

CORN:  Yes.

MELBER:  It`s a real photo.  It looks like a movie but it`s actually America.  David, I enjoy your erudition and I enjoy your bonhomie.

CORN:  Thank you and have a -- have a good Fourth yourself.

MELBER:  Have a good Fourth, you and yours.  When we come back in 30 seconds, we have one of the Democrats later in the show who says these migrants were being told to drink out of toilets.  That`s a story later.  But I should mention in 30 seconds, Donald Trump blasting our own cities.  Michael Eric Dyson is here to fact-check.  Back in 30.


MELBER:  America has all kinds of pressing problems that don`t get enough attention.  Consider more than half a million people are homeless in America.  Today we`re going to get some facts and thoughts on all of this plus the politics of poverty with our friend Professor Michael Eric Dyson.

Here is the context.  Donald Trump using a new interview with Tucker Carlson to talk about homelessness and to make the false claim that it all started two years ago.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL:  Let`s put in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, say they`ve got a major problem with filth.


CARLSON:  Why is that?

TRUMP:  It`s a phenomena that started two years ago.  It`s disgraceful.  I`m going to maybe -- and I`m looking at it very seriously.  We may intercede.  We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up.  It`s inappropriate.


MELBER:  They may do something to clean it up.  This is Trump in interview mode, punditry.  And obscures the fact that he`s the president.  He`s in charge of the U.S. Housing Department.  He could call Ben Carson any time to get their statistics which show homelessness has fallen a bit during the Obama administration and is now roughly flat or he could push policies even without Congress to help homeless people get shelter and then jobs.

So real quick, if you look at what HUD is actually doing in the Trump era, it`s working harder to -- I should say it`s working to make it harder for homeless people to actually get shelter.  This is a recent HUD proposal that would allow shelters to discriminate, to deny people admittance to shelters based on their sex or gender identity, a plan that would potentially increase the number of people on the street.

That`s what the trouble administration is doing while he uses these interviews, this bully pulpit to try to lay up some sort of grim portrayal of American homelessness.


TRUMP:  It`s disgraceful.  The people living there are living in hell too.  Some of them have mental problems where they don`t even know they`re living that way.  We`ve never had this in our lives before in our country.  At least officers are getting sick just by walking the beat.  It`s destroying a whole way of life.


MELBER:  Michael Eric Dyson, Professor at Georgetown University, the author of What Truth Sounds Like.  I wanted to talk to you about this because there is something important underneath some of the false claims.  What do you see when the president says that and what do you see in the wider politics of poverty?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:  Yes.  The famous anthropologist V. Y. Mudimbe talks about the demonization of the urban and that`s what we see going on here.  There`s a stigma being associated with these people and these who are our fellow citizens.

And what`s amazing is that instead of taking credit for the dip in the numbers, the decline in homelessness, and then going forward to suggest that maybe he can alter some of his policies, call Ben Carson up as you suggested, stop the kind of low-income housing dragging of people through the -- through the mud, and then give them opportunities, talk about substance abuse treatment, talk about mental health delivery, talk about permanent housing.

These are the kind of substance of public policies that can be put forth to alleviate and ameliorate the situation that`s going on there.  But instead, he wants to hype it up to suggest that there`s a kind of Dickens like you know, urban landscape that is prevailing and he will be the heroic figure to step in as savior and remove them.  But --

MELBER:  You mentioned -- you mentioned Dickens.

DYSON:  Right.

MELBER:  Here`s a little bit more of the President because the way he talks about it, the filth, the disgrace, it`s evocative.  It may not be accurate but it`s a portrait and it`s why does he need to paint this portrait does he think as he unveils his reelection.  Take a look.


TRUMP:  This is the liberal establishment.  This is what I`m fighting.  They -- I don`t know if they`re afraid of votes.  I don`t know if they really believe that this should be taking place.  These are usually sanctuary cities run by very Liberal people and the states are run by very liberal people.  But the thing that nobody can figure out is do these governor`s or mayor`s, do they really think this is a positive?  Do they really think this is OK?  Because it`s not.  It`s destroying their city.


MELBER:  Michael?

DYSON:  Well, it`s astonishing.  You know, he could read some David Hume to talk about causality, one thing causing another.  Are they corollary, are they corroborating?  You know the thing is the president here is trying to demonize you know, the so-called Progressives and Liberals and Democratic Party as if they are the cause of this while he`s president now, while he`s sitting in the bully pulpit to be able to speak out against this issue or to do something about it.

And what he has proved to us, Ari, is the fact that he has a pen that is active and he can go in there and he can issue executive orders and he can -- he can do things that will actually make a substantive difference.  He can call his Secretary of Housing and tell Ben Carson look, you`ve got to do something different than what you`re doing now if we`re going to seriously address these issues.

But the point is he wants to paint a portrait of Democrats and progressives and those who concerned about these issues and somehow out of step, out of tune, allowing their public policies to undercut and undermine the very people that they are ostensibly meant to help.

And the reality is is that his public policy isn`t doing nothing.  It`s not just a matter of commas, its semicolons.  It`s all the grammar that we can pull up to suggest that the President has got a problem.

MELBER:  Look at you.  From the numerical to the grammatical, I expect nothing less.  Before I let you go.  I did mentioned earlier the broadcast we`re also going to get you a little bit on 2020.  We come out at different ways.  Jesse Jackson is still as you know a big leader and he summons people that -- to have these kinds of conversations particularly by his issues and civil rights.  Here`s mayor Pete today talking at that event.  Take a look.

DYSON:  Right.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Look, when you`re new on the scene and you`re not from a community of color, you`ve got to work much harder in order to earn that trust because trust is largely a function of quantity time.  I`m committed to doing that work.  But I think the most important question is will our policy benefit black Americans and all Americans.  And if that happens, and if I can show that, I think the politics will start to take care of themselves.


MELBER:  Professor, you hear him talking about trust.  As you know, it`s been said trust, a word you seldom hear from us.  We don`t sleep we keep one eye up.  Talk about building tribe -- that`s Hope, but I`m talking about building trust for such a young mayor, such an untraditional candidate.

DYSON:  Yes, it`s hard because on the one hand, look, you took him at his word, he`s a breath of fresh air, he at least admits when he does something wrong.  He issues an apology.  But the problem is that when you had the opportunity, when you had a black police chief and you got rid of him and you think for good reason, Mr. Mayor because he was taping cops, but he was taping them because they were doing racist things that needed to be exposed and they couldn`t be exposed otherwise.

So instead of hiring another black police chief or another -- you hire two more guys and then the person who was there on the police force who ends up killing recently the young man is himself not taking the test.

So the thing is you got to close the distance between what you say and what you do.  Another great rapper of an earlier century said in TS Eliot between the ideal and the reality falls the shadow.  And Pete Buttigieg has to look at the shadow with a great big old spotlight that is both self- reflexive and also looking on the landscape of public policy.

Yes, be sorry.  Yes, you got to talk about people whose interests are there but you got to also move from ideal to reality.

MELBER:  A lot of people forget the T.S. Eliot besides.  We learned so much from you, sir.  If it wasn`t a T.V. show, I would be honored to call you and just hear you bring all this stuff down from the poverty conversation which is so important to your views on 2020.  I hope you come back soon, Professor Dyson.

DYSON:  Looking forward to it, the greatest (INAUDIBLE) in the land.  Thank you, Mr. Ari Melber.

MELBER:  Thank you, sir.  We take a turn.  We`re trying to cover a lot of different things this hour.  But as promised, we`re going to get an eyewitness account that will give more insight into some of what we`re seeing including these pictures inside a migrant detention center, a Democratic official who just toured them.

And later, this is important.  The Trump administration conceding defeat tonight on that controversial explosive citizenship question before the Supreme Court.



REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY):  What we saw today was unconscionable.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTO (D-TX):  One of the women said that she was told by an agent to drink water out of the toilet.  These are the conditions that have been created by the Trump administration.  These are the inhumane conditions that folks are facing.


MELBER:  Members of Congress speaking out but and I`m joined by one right now, California Congresswoman Norma Torres who was inside the facility and Zerlina Maxwell from Sirius radio, a former Clinton Campaign Official.  Congresswoman, what are you seeing?

REP. NORMA TORRES (D-CA):  Well, I am disgusted by what we saw continuing to see what I saw eight months ago which are you know, very young children being held in jail cells which are the temperature is so low, kids are freezing, and they are in groups taking care of each other.

It is unconscionable that we continue to have these horrible images and that Congress continues to be denied entry to these facilities and we continue to be denied to have cell phones so that we can document for ourselves and for the world what we are seeing.

MELBER:  When you say you`re denied, how does that work?  I mean, members of Congress are a co-equal branch.  If you make a request to DHS for a facility be it in your district or a place relevant to your committee, what happens?

TORRES:  What happens is they say that they are not available for a tour and requests a later date.  When that day comes around, it`s usually canceled or rescheduled for a further date which is just playing games.  That is the bottom line.  They don`t want us there because they don`t want us to hold them accountable for the inhumane treatment in the pain that they are causing these toddlers.

MELBER:  And that is such important context to their claim and what they`re saying which we`re obligated to report.  The Trump administration says I don`t know, actually, it`s just a few facilities that are being selected and then used to tar the whole system.  You`re saying they`re not even letting people look at the whole system.  Here was that claim from acting Trump DHS secretary today.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING SECRETARY, DHS:  But unsubstantiated allegations last week regarding a single Border Patrol facility in Clint station in Texas created a sensation.  That`s balanced somewhat since several media outlets toured the Clint station and saw the actual conditions there, a clean and well-managed facility and well-equipped process.  But frankly, much of the coverage is simply too late and is missing the story.


MELBER:  Zerlina, that was secretary McAleenan within the last week.  Your view of that claim.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL:  I just think that it doesn`t jive what the photos were seeing.  And I think that you know, I`m reminded of the time Donald Trump said don`t believe what you see with your own eyes and so we`re seeing photographs of children in cages covered by aluminum foil and that under no circumstances is good conditions, not for any human being.

You wouldn`t have your dog in a cage-like that so why would you put Children and Families in a cage-like that.  And I think as American citizens, we have to understand that this is all being done in our name.  And so the tax dollars that are going to fund this, the votes that are going to support these policies, we have to all understand that this is something that we have a responsibility to speak up about and ensure that this ends.

And so I`m glad that Congress actually was able to go and tour at least part of what is going on on the border because it is their role as part of the oversight responsibility to ensure that these human rights violations are not having in our country.

MELBER:  Congresswoman, what do you say to the larger conversation we`ve had -- we`ve had experts on about this that migration does surge.  People are fleeing obviously real external events that the United States and the President of the United States don`t generally control in other places, and that that accounts for at least a part of this.

TORRES:  Absolutely.  It does account for at least a part of it.  But we have -- we are a great nation with a lot of resources.  You`re telling me that we are not able to bring temporary services to alleviate some of the pain that they are causing these children.

Additionally, there is no need to separate children from their guardians that they are traveling with.  In 1970, a little girl came from Guatemala with her uncle.  That little girl was me.  Imagine, if you found forward that to 2019, this administration would have separated me because they would not have considered my uncle as a family member.  That is what they`re doing to these children so they are causing pain on them.  That is unnecessary.

MELBER:  I appreciate you sharing that and it`s -- you`re talking about the road, the literal road and the proverbial one, all the way to landing in the United States Congress which is a reminder of as we all know, it`s become a cliche to say, but the great -- the great strength and pride of immigrants who help lead  this country as obviously a nation if immigrants.

A fitting note to touch on in a story that obviously as you said has a lot of sadness to it and we`ll continue to cover it.  Congresswoman Torres, Zerlina Maxwell, thanks to both of you.

MAXWELL:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  Up ahead, a breaking story that we just added to our rundown in tonight`s show because it`s a new surrender from the Trump administration in response to the courts, the rule of law, and a very embarrassing setback at the Supreme Court.  I`ll explain when we come back.


MELBER:  Breaking news tonight on another big story.  The Trump Administration will print the 2020 U.S. census without a controversial citizenship question that`s it`s been pushing.  This is a decisive moment in a huge fight that went all the way, as you may recall, recently to the supreme court.

The decision is a total turnaround for Trump, who just yesterday said maybe they would delay printing the whole thing so he could keep on fighting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Will you be delaying the census, for the Supreme Court ruling on the census?

TRUMP:  We`re looking at that.  We are trying to do that.  We`re looking at that very strongly.


MELBER:  Looking at that strongly or completely folding?  That`s what happened tonight.  All of this happens after the Supreme Court blocked Trump`s effort to add the citizenship question to the census and with evidence it was designed to help white Republicans.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did not provide a sufficient explanation for why it should be validly included.  That`s what the court found.  Now, last month, the House panel also voted to hold Ross along with Bill Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas about all of this.

Now, one final point.  These days we hear a lot about how nothing matters.  The President will do what he wants.  Tonight this story is about many things, but one thing it`s about is Donald Trump doing the opposite of what he wants because activists took him to court and he lost and on this one, the rule of law gets the last word.


MELBER:  One programming note.  We have a new podcast series called "UNCORKED."  You can find it wherever you get your podcasts.  It`s free.  And it has some deeper conversations that go even beyond what we can fit into the hour.  The new one is with George Packer all about Obama era diplomacy, wherever you get your podcast.

Thanks for watching THE BEAT.  "HARDBALL" is up next.