IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Congress tables Trump impeachment tonight. TRANSCRIPT: 7/17/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: John Flannery, Daniella Gibbs Leger, Melissa Murray, E.J. Dionne,

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: OK. Well, you got Mueller testifying next week. You got the recess, you got the town halls. You got debates coming once a month starting in the fall we`ll see.  Amie, John, Michelle, Yamiche, thank you all for being with us tonight. Extremely hectic hour here.

We`ll back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY and "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. 

Good evening to you, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Steve. Thank you very much. And we begin our breaking news from the floor of the U.S. House.

For the first time since Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House, right now, moments ago a bill to impeach President Trump just reached the House floor. Now that itself is unusual and what happened next was also striking.

Speaker Pelosi leading Democrats to unite with Republicans--


MELBER: --as you see right here right now to squash this effort, voting down this bill to impeach President of the United States, Donald Trump by 332 to 95. These numbers just came in, breaking.

The debate comes amidst deep tensions as the House just formally rebuked Donald Trump last night for quote "Racist" comments. Now as the House barrels towards new rebukes of Trump, officials as well on the floor tonight, which we will get to, this impeachment measure came from liberal Congressman Al Green.

Now he seized the momentum from that rebuke of Trump last night to effectively cross Speaker Pelosi and her entire strategy here and argue now is the time to impeach President Trump.

This move comes as Bob Mueller`s testimony looms next week and these 95 Democrats who sided with Green tonight, I could tell you, that actually marks a slightly larger coalition than the 85 members of the House Democratic caucus who have previously called for impeaching Donald Trump since the release of the Mueller report.

Now there those who stress that Congressman Green`s catch-all resolution which was just voted on, doesn`t specifically go into a full treatment of obstruction and the other issues that came out of the Mueller report. But to even see this vote happen is unusual.

Presidents Nixon and Clinton faced impeachment probes, but Nixon was never actually faced with a floor vote to impeach. These votes are rare. In fact, if you check, the last one came from liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich in a proposal to impeach President Bush and it was just farmed out to Committee.

So consider what tonight`s vote marks, anything can happen in the future or after Mueller testifies next week. But as of right now, I can tell you this news. Less than half of the Democrats in Congress will even move forward on a vote for a bill to launch the impeachment probe of President Trump. It`s 40% to be exact, to say nothing of actually potentially later finding the President guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.

So for all the talk of extremes and division, you can think of tonight`s news like this. It`s President Trump and his Republican defenders of his race baiting attacks who are looking quite extreme right now this week.

And it is Speaker Pelosi and now the majority of her caucus on record that look either gun-shy, if you ask Green and the progressives, or measured, if you ask the Speaker who says, "Now is not the time for her party to involve into a debate over removing Trump from office". This is a fast and fluid story.

And so I want to bring in our panel and we`ll update anything as it happens. Former federal prosecutor, John Flannery, as special counsel on multiple congressional probes; Daniella Gibbs Leger of the Center for American Progress and Melissa Murray, NYU Law Professor. She was a clerk to Judge Sotomayor; and E.J. Dionne, columnist for The Washington Post.

John Flannery, 40% of Democrats come out to the floor tonight moments ago and say yes there should be some sort of impeachment probe. The majority of Democrats and all the Republicans say no. What does that tell you about where the Congress is tonight?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, from the Democratic side, I think, the reaction is they broken faith with their own base for all their talk about the other base, Mr. Trump`s base. I also think that it`s a shame that they didn`t at least refer to the Judiciary Committee.

And it is ironic in terms of contradiction that on day one we can say that this man is unfit for office, because he`s a racist and not think that that is a high crime or misdemeanor. And it was identified in Congressman Green`s resolution as a high misdemeanor, and I agree.

And it didn`t require us to wait and see what Mueller was going to say, because it`s separate and apart from all the other charges obstruction and otherwise we`ve been concerned about. But it does hit a key point. From the moment he walked down his golden escalator, he was a racist. He`s been that before he announced. He`s been that while he`s been the President.

And if this nation that made a promise we were all equal, as we work toward perfecting this Constitution and are failing to do so with this President, what better reason do we have to deny him the Chief Executive position in our government.

So I think Green was right. And I think they should have at least referred it to the Committee so the Committee could decide to amend it and add other causes or act on that one alone.

MELBER: Daniella, your reaction of Speaker Pelosi siding with the Republicans tonight on this vote?

DANIELLA GIBBS LEGER, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I`m sure, she wouldn`t classify it as siding with the Republicans. I think she would--

MELBER: But that`s what it is.

GIBBS LEGER: But I know that is effectively what happened.

MELBER: I mean, what does it take to get partisanship on the House floor? Apparently, it takes two by four legally or constitutionally that you swing at President Trump and then a bunch of Democrats say that`s too far.

GIBBS LEGER: I mean no one should be surprised by what happened tonight. We knew that Nancy Pelosi wasn`t going to support impeachment right now and we knew that most of the Democratic members weren`t going to support it right now either.

I mean, look this is a very tough position that she`s in. I think the longer that the Democratic base perceives that nothing is happening on the Hill, the harder it`s going to be.

Now that doesn`t necessarily have to be impeachment, but it needs to be some sort of heat, some sort of fire towards this administration, so that it doesn`t seem like they`re just getting away with everything. So I think the contempt vote with Barr, like that`s a good step.

But the problem is that the perception is that not enough is happening and that Trump and his cronies are getting away with everything.

MELBER: Professor and then E.J.

MELISSA MURRAY, LAW PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think Daniella is exactly right. I don`t disagree with anything that John has said. But I think one of the things that Speaker Pelosi was trying to avoid today is getting into a really protracted battle with the Republicans about whether or not racist Tweets constitute high crimes or misdemeanors for purposes of impeachment.

And that`s something that we`ve never actually decided. It`s a really broad constitutional term. Congress has interpreted it broadly in the past, but never to include Twitter.


MELBER: Yes, go ahead, E.J.

DIONNE: oh, I was going to say. I think you underscored something important at the beginning of the show. That 95 is bigger than the number we thought was for impeachment. So clearly sentiment is growing in that direction.

I think for a lot of members - a freshman I talked to a couple of months ago said, "Look, there are plenty of grounds to impeach Donald Trump. And you the purpose of impeachment is to send a message that this is unacceptable behavior".

What he was worried about was not the politics of it. Although, there was obviously politics here and there are 31 House members sitting on seats that Trump carry. But he said that the politics isn`t the issue. The problem is if we ever got to an impeachment vote and passed it, what message would an acquittal in the Senate send? Would that actually say, "No, no this is all acceptable". So I think--

MELBER: Well, then let me push you on that. And we have two constitutional scholars with us who know more than I do and maybe even more than E.J. I think the counter-argument to that E.J. is that that would be doing something and not everything.

And Al Green is arguing with it now the House is on record, basically doing close to nothing in his view. And let me play a little bit of Congressman Green on the urgency for everyone`s response, starting with E.J. Take a look.


Reporter: Why not wait after Special Counsel Mueller`s testimony?

REP. AL GREEN (D-TX): Because that`s justice delayed. We cannot wait. As we wait we risk having the blood of somebody on our hands and it could be a Member of Congress.



DIONNE: Yes. No, it`s a powerful statement. I suspect that if you privately ask 137, I think that was the number who voted to table, "Does Trump deserve to be impeached?" The overwhelming number of them would say, "Yes".

I think their question is, will we look like we`re rushing into something that we want to look like we`re doing deliberately. But number two, what`s going to happen at the end of the line if he should be acquitted by the Senate. Does that strengthen him politically?

But I think in their heart of hearts, an awful lot of these Democrats who would just love to throw Trump out of office.

MELBER: Well, and you say would love to do it. Also the question when their constitutional duties is whether they think he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. Certainly a lot of people around him, through the judicial process have been found guilty, have been found to be at least felonious.

Let me do a lightning round and then come back around. Do you agree or not with E.J`s statement that there are far more members of the Democratic caucus who think Trump has done impeachable acts, but didn`t vote for it today. Daniella do you agree?

GIBBS LEGER: Yes, I agree.

MELBER: Professor, do you agree.


MELBER: Flannery?

FLANNERY: I don`t know what it means if you don`t have any commitment consciously. I can`t read their minds.

MELBER: Fair answer, resisting the frame like any good quibbling lawyer.

FLANNERY: That`s what I do.

MELBER: And now going around--

FLANNERY: Never answer the question.

MELBER: Now going around with more time. What are the Democratic voters supposed to take from that, Daniella, because you go around, you talk to folks, there are many people who say Donald Trump`s full pattern of behavior - the five to six incidents where Mueller said there was substantial evidence of crimes committed in office.

The race baiting, the attacks, the racist comments to quote the House Resolution last night, a lot of other things - the campaign finance violations that Michael Cohen admitted to, that the Trump didn`t get in trouble for.

Take it all together, what are voters supposed to make of their leaders saying, "Yes, he did all these things and maybe Obama would have gotten in more trouble, but he gets a pass".

GIBBS LEGER: Yes. I think it`s a problem and they`re going to have to figure it out. I mean, look, you have to be honest with voters. Like, honestly, is the Senate going to vote to get rid of Trump? Probably not under Mitch McConnell.

But that is not an excuse and that is not a reason if you truly believe that he has committed impeachable offenses to not move forward with impeachment. Because if that`s this the reason why we`re not going to do anything, then then what`s going to stop the next President from just doing whatever they want?

MELBER: Professor and then Flannery.

MURRAY: I think Nancy Pelosi is in danger of losing control of her caucus. I think you have a lot of moderate Democrats who are going to have to go back to their districts and over the recess and have town hall meetings and there are going to be some very angry progressive constituents who want to know why they voted to table this.

And I think that`s what Nancy Pelosi had hoped to avoid, and that is what squarely landed on her plate today.

FLANNERY: My turn?


FLANNERY: Yes, well she`s ditched a large component of her caucus. She has sided with Republicans. They give lip service to the fact that no person is above the law, when plainly they don`t invoke the law in any instance against his violations of law - Constitution, racism, demeanor, you name it.

And if we had a trial in the Senate and McConnell let it happen, the public would get to see the evidence or they would see more misconduct that would inform how they vote.

And if you remember, Clinton may not have been convicted in the Senate, but we couldn`t succeed with another Democratic President and I think a large part that was because of what happened with Clinton.

DIONNE: heading in appellate?

MELBER: E.J., hang with me. I have a Member of Congress with me. You guys stay and we`ll hear more from you. But we`re talking so much about searching the hearts and minds, if you will. Let`s go and listen directly, California Congressman Jackie Speier serves on the Oversight and Intelligence Committees.

You, I don`t think, take a backseat to many in your disagreements and professional criticism with Donald Trump. But I understand you voted against this, why?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): So I voted to table it for a very specific reason. This particular resolution to impeach was based on his racist comments and that alone.

What we are about to hear next week from the special counsel to lay it out to the American people, are the reasons I believe, that the President should be impeached, that was not included in this resolution.

So I do think that your former guests were little too aggressive in thinking that somehow the Democratic caucus is splitting from Speaker Pelosi. I don`t think that`s the case at all.

MELBER: Well I think what the guests are referring to Congresswoman is, this is the first time impeachment has gotten to the floor. If it was set up to be tabled or to be squashed or set up to fail, I think that the criticism - and I`ll allow you to respond to it on behalf of yourself or the thinking of leadership, if you if you wish. Is that it`s not been teed up to have a Mueller related vote.

Now it`s - now there`s been one vote to table and the Speaker has not said, to my knowledge, that there`s going to be a Mueller related impeachment vote after Wednesday either. So I suppose what is the response to that?

SPEIER: So my response to that is, let`s have the hearing where we can hear four hours or five hours of Bob Mueller talking about that report to the American people. I think there`s many of us who have already gone on record that we want to initiate an impeachment inquiry for the Judiciary Committee. And many of those members did not vote for this impeachment resolution.

High crimes and misdemeanors, I mean there`s no question that this President has made racist comments. I believe that he is racist. But that alone is not sufficient, I believe, to impeach him.

I think a cover-up, obstructing justice, working with the Russians to intervene in the election, cooperating with the Russians, tacitly conspiring with the Russians, those are all reasons, I believe, that we would be willing to impeach.

MELBER: You mentioned, what you described as the President`s racist comments, and of course, I was quoting the resolution earlier. He says this is all working, which is quite a statement. That he`s winning. Take a listen to the President saying that this is all the way he wanted it to go down this week.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do think I`m winning the political fight. I think I`m going to get by a lot. I think that they are not espousing the views of our country - the four Congresswomen. I think that they`ve said horrible things that the press doesn`t cover--


MELBER: Congresswoman?

SPEIER: Well, my response to that is, this is not about winning and that`s where the President is. He doesn`t want to do any policy work. The American people expect us to come together, negotiate and come up with some solutions.

I`ve started to hashtag stop tweeting start leading, because I`m tired of responding to every horrendous Tweet that he puts out. And he puts out three or four a day.

And we`re - we end up responding to that and not sitting down and trying to negotiate - reducing the cost of prescription drugs, building more infrastructure, and getting rid of corruption. Those are the things that the American people want us to engage in.

MELBER: I don`t want to make light of anything. But it`s always that paradox these days on the Internet. If you`re tweeting about not tweeting, where does that get you? Although hashtags can spread and inspire the better angels of our nature to think more and perhaps Tweet less or at least Retweet some of the bile that has come out of the White House Twitter account.

Before I let you go, there is this thing that happens, I think, you know about it with the news. Obviously, I told my viewers at the top, how rare it is to even have a floor vote on impeachment. This was the first one since  your party took office. So that`s a big story.

And yet it`s not the only thing going on. As you know, Congresswoman, in a very formal way with teeth that could matter in litigation, you and your colleagues are moving forward on votes to hold other Trump officials in contempt. Walk us through what that means? Why that`s important, what it would achieve?

  SPEIER: Well, why that`s important is that the oversight function of our Oversight Committee has been thwarted by the President who is basically telling all of the administration officials not to cooperate with requests for depositions and hearings.

And, in particular, the census issue is one where the PRESIDENT thinks he`s winning, because he has now chilled many people in this country from participating in the census. He didn`t get his question on the census that asked whether or not you were a U.S. citizen.

That`s important, because states like California could, in fact, lose hundreds of millions of dollars in just one program. The program as it relates to federal funding for roads. It`s a $5 billion pot of money that is based almost exclusively on the census.

So I think that the American people are tired of all of this. I don`t blame them. I`m tired of it too. But what we need to do is try and get the President refocus on leadership, which means sitting down with us and negotiating some of these thorny issues.

MELBER: Congresswoman Speier, on this busy night with all these votes, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.

SPEIER: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: What I`m going to do now is reset with one final lightning round. We heard our panelists told by this Member of Congress they were too aggressive. Some of them. Now Flannery, I think it was mostly for you. But what do I know. I can`t read minds, that`s the theme tonight.

So final lightning round, I`m told - my producer is telling me I have 80 seconds left. But you just heard the Member of Congress, each of you in a sentence or two, any response of what`s important for Congress going from here on this historic night, starting with Flannery?

FLANNERY: They have to stop being a congressional cream puff and even if they hold people in contempt, actually do something about it afterwards. Just like all the promises they made to do something and they`ve failed to do. Sorry, if I went too long.

MELBER: Daniella?

GIBBS LEGER: I don`t have to use the word cream puffs. But I do agree that they need to put some teeth behind their actions.


DIONNE: Hold them in contempt, have hearings, build the case and then have this vote sometime down the road.

MELBER: Professor?

MURRAY: I said what I said and I`ll keep saying it. I don`t know that this was the Hill to die on, but I do think what happened today shows that Speaker Pelosi is losing some momentum she had in holding this caucus together.

MELBER: Interesting. And I think that point you raised which is somewhere between the moral debate and the procedural one is, tonight was going to be about some other things. And as you say, there was enough pressure that this vote went forward rather than shutting it down.

She didn`t want to appear to shut it down, but she did hold the votes and now everyone knows a little bit where the flank is in the impeachment debate, in the intramural part of the democratic caucus.

Again, my thanks to the Congresswoman for joining us, Flannery, Daniella, Melissa, E.J., thanks to each of you.

We have lot more on this show. THE house has formally begun the vote on contempt. You see it here. This is a big deal. President Trump already lost once at the Supreme Court over that census issue.

But as we were just discussing, this is now a very real thing. Bill Barr would be the second Attorney General in American history to be held in contempt, and democrats say this would strengthen their hand in these fights in court. So in this hour, we`re going to get the results of that. I will bring you the breaking news.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump says he`s "Not unhappy with the firestorm over his race-baiting." Later the House will move forward on dealing with the man you see on your screen as we get new reports out of the Southern District in New York. Mueller`s testimony could touch on that. It`s one of the cases he referred. I have the former Chief of SDNY here tonight live.

And Michael Cohen`s hush money investigation, remember that? New reports where it all led.


MELBER: And then this controversial tape, NBC has unearthed from 1992 and you`re looking at is what it looks like, Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump talking at this party. We`ll show you that and a lot of updates on that case. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching "THE BEAT" on MSNBC.



MELBER: Breaking news on a very busy night on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. We are looking at live pictures of the passage of holding two Trump officials in contempt - Wilbur Ross and Bill Barr.

This is a story we`ve been following really for a long time, and this is a culmination tonight. Mr. Barr becomes only the second Attorney General in American history to be held in contempt. Democrats say what you`re witnessing here - this counting of this vote strengthens their hand in litigation.

This is over an issue where Donald Trump already lost before the Supreme Court. Let`s listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House on the State of the Union for further consideration of the Bill H.R. 3494, which the clerk will report by title.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2020 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities.

MELBER: And they`re moving on here to the next order of business, formally showing that they`ve held these officials in contempt, as far as the floor the House is concerned. I want to bring in Matt Miller.


MELBER: He`s a former official in the Obama administration under Eric Holder. And relevant here, when I mentioned this almost never happens, the last Attorney General to be held in contempt was your boss, Eric Holder, under different circumstances.

What does it mean to the Democrats that they have gone forward tonight with all this other debate on impeachment and this condemnation of President Trump last night, to now also hold these two officials in criminal contempt?

MATT MILLER, FMR CHIEF SPOKESMAN, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Well let me start with a slight correction, Ari, which is, Bill Barr was the last AG to be held in contempt, although, it was civil. He`s been helped in contempt once already this Congress in civil contempt, now criminal. So in some senses he`s a returning champion here.

MELBER: Returning champion, I would quibble back with you and say it`s only happened to two attorneys general before--

MILLER: Yes, that`s right. Yes, exactly. Look, the fact that he`s been held in criminal contempt is largely symbolic. Criminal contempt is - would require for there to be any sort of enforcement mechanism for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring a case, try to prosecute the Attorney General - her boss. She`s obviously not going to do that, I think, just as the Attorney General and the Obama administration did not decide to prosecute Eric Holder. So that part`s symbolic.

MELBER: So let`s draw (ph) on that. There`s two pieces.


MELBER: You`re saying if any normal, random person - the classic example being my cousin Vinnie (ph), is held in contempt, you could go to jail that day. But, because, this is that super situation where the people who send you to jail are the people at the Justice Department run by Bill Barr, that`s not going to happen. So having said that, what`s the number two that does happen?

MILLER: The number two piece is that this resolution authorizes the House to go to court to enforce their subpoenas against the Justice Department and the Commerce Department. And that`s really what`s at issue here is that the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said under oath to Congress.

That the reason he put - he want to put this question on the census in the first place was because the Justice Department had asked him to do so for the purposes of helping enforce the Voting Rights Act. That later turned out to be not true. It was a lie. It seemed that he lied to Congress under oath.

So what the House Oversight Committee is seeking is both documents and testimony - and that`s important. They want people from the Justice Department to come in and testify about this, so they can show that Wilbur Ross did in fact lie to it.

And so what this does it allows the House to take to take the Commerce Department and the Justice Department to court, they have to kind of get in line with this long list of lawsuits that the House is teed up now against the administration. Only one of which they`ve actually so far filed.

MELBER: Well, you know what little Ross thinks about all this?

MILLER: Yes, I`m sure.

MELBER: He thinks this is junk. Take a listen.


MARIA BARTIROMO, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: What is your expectation on this contempt issue?

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: This is just more a political theater. It doesn`t really have any substantive basis. The question of illegals was never going to be asked. The census was intending to ask the question, "Are you a citizen or you are not?"


ROSS: It never asked about legal status.



MILLER: Well, two things. One, the question of legal status is sort of is sort - it`s not the thing that`s at issue here. What`s at issue is whether the Secretary of Commerce - whether Wilbur Ross came before Congress and lied under oath, and that`s what the House Oversight Committee is seeking documents and interviews to prove.

The second issue I would say, I think later in that interview he talked about the fact that supposedly there were only 15 documents that are being withheld and they`ve turned thousands over. Those 15 documents the House Oversight Committee says are very important.

But the other thing that`s critical is that they get testimony. And I will say, because you brought up the fact that that my boss, Eric Holder, was held in contempt. That was at the end of a long investigation, in which not only had we turned over documents, but we had allowed a number of officials, including senior political appointees to come up to Congress and do interviews and in some occasions testify in open hearings.

That`s what this administration is denying so far and that`s why you see the House taking this step.

MELBER: Well, I think that`s important procedural point on both of these attorneys general, clearly when you work for, have their critics, and certainly disagreements about the policies they pursued. I don`t think anyone would say they pursued the same policies. And there`s a rich tapestry of debate in this country.

But I think the procedural point you raised is actually quite significant. There was cooperation, as you say, under oath, to it to a very thorough degree. And here there is an incredible stonewalling, which if you care about holding the government accountable.

And in the census case, the Supreme Court, with the Republican appointed justices, cared about that. It was a it was a rejection of the approach and the lack of transparency from this administration.

Matt, you you`ve been in the fight. We appreciate you joining us.

MILLER: Thanks Ari.

MELBER: Yes, sir. Donald Trump saying he`s quote "Not unhappy over this racial firestorm". We`re going to be back with a special Pulitzer Prize winning guest in 30 seconds.


MELBER:  Consider two political pictures America`s scene right now the fracas on the left this house floor debate Democrats rebuking two Trump officials tonight, breaking news the last ten minutes while also tabling a bill to impeach Donald Trump over racism.

And on the right, the scene at the rally in North Carolina where Donald Trump is heading right now as he continues this scorched earth fight that he says is going well.  Trump is saying he`s pleased with the Democratic reaction to these attacks.  And rather than reckoning with moral condemnation for his approach, he`s talking politics saying it`s working to marry the Democratic Party to these potentially controversial freshman members.

Now, this has become a big talking point.  And I should tell you tonight, it doesn`t make a lot of sense the idea that they`re all wedded now.  I mean, Pelosi and Schumer and all these Dems running for president are more famous than these freshmen that Trump attacked.  And in 2019 news cycles, I got to tell you, it is hard to imagine people remembering this whole mid- summer story in a few months let alone next November.

Either way though, more importantly, and some guests have said this on this very program, there`s obviously no proper defense for racism.  Not politics to say it`s working, not self-interest, nothing,  That was the whole point of the House condemning the president last night.

But other than the actual impeachment of President Clinton, consider that that rebuke was actually the first time the House has formally criticized a president in more than 100 years on the record.  That matters even at a time of cynicism.  It is a mark that will stay on Donald Trump`s record in the history books.

Meanwhile, we show you all perspectives around here.  Some of his supporters today at this rally of North Carolina are already echoing his combative words this week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If they don`t want a be here, I agree with him.  Go somewhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was just saying if you can fix the problem, fix it and let us know how to do it and come back and tell us how to do it.  So I don`t think it was racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The four horsemen I guess is what they call it.  Go back to where you came from.  It`s not a racial thing, it`s where they live before they came to Washington D.C.


MELBER:  Washington Post`s Eugene Robinson who writes "the Republicans have embraced Trump`s racism and deserve as much blame as he does."  Let`s begin with the statement from the individual you just heard.

That is brand new sound from an individual who is either misinformed and thinks these are foreign members of Congress, whether or not that`s a good or bad thing, he`s misinformed or he doesn`t care and he`s kind of lying the way Trump does to use something that we`ve been documenting on the show this week, a long history, more than decades history of a racist trope of telling Americans to go back where they came from.  Break it down for us.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC chief political analyst:  Right.  Well, it goes all the way to go back to Africa.  This is the you know, the people held up sign saying go back to Africa as students who are integrating the University of Mississippi, the University of Alabama, integrating public schools in Little Rock.  That -- it`s racism pure and simple and there`s no historical argument about that.

There are people who are core Donald Trump supporters who either don`t know that history or don`t care about that history or don`t believe anything that Donald Trump doesn`t tell them basically and believe everything that Donald Trump does tell them.

So what do you do about that?  You continue to tell the truth and that`s all you can -- that`s all you can do as communicators.  You know, the president is driving a wedge.  He`s trying to drive a wedge between his almost exclusively white aging hardcore base and others who don`t feel that way and he`s drawing in along racial lines.

And if this is his tactic before the election, if this is how he`s going to -- going to try to get reelected, at the very least his timing is off because as you said this is the summer of 2019.  It`s a long time before people are going to vote.  A whole lot is going to happen between now and then.

And I seriously doubt that he`s going to be able to keep the focus on for freshmen members of the House of Representatives with all this happening around us.

MELBER:  Right and that goes to sort of the low on the list, the fifth or seventh thing after the moral and ethical condemnation and the duties of the president.  But there has been also a bit of unearthing of the history here because my observation is that during the campaign, there were different categories of people with their familiarity with A, Donald Trump, so New Yorkers and people who dealt with him or Central Park Five, right, had a view, and then there`s also how conversing you are on some of these issues.  In other words, not everyone knows everything, right.

I think that`s a part of getting through a democracy.  And so people who studied the history of the civil rights movement in this country are covered these races over years.  And seeing the dog whistles, and seeing the racism, and seeing the Southern strategy is as you have, as our viewers have relied on you for years, sir, walking us through some of these issues, might have a different sense of what`s happening to that notes who at first didn`t get it or didn`t hear it or didn`t hear it the same way.

And yet when you go back whether it was Donald Trump saying that there needs to be a death penalty to execute black teenagers in New York whose convictions were later overturned or what I`m about to show you which was the 1980s version of Donald Trump going on national T.V. and saying with regard to Harlem and regard to urban America, hate was something that needed to be invoked against the inner city.  What are we hearing and what do we know about what -- from where he came?  Take a look.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I hate these people.  And let`s all hate these people because maybe hate is what we need if we`re going to get something done.


MELBER:  Gene?

ROBINSON:  Well, look, the first time Donald Trump came to public notice was when he and his father were sued by the Justice Department in the 70s, were refusing to rent apartments to African Americans.  And they eventually settled that lawsuit and they say without a formal initial admission of wrongdoing but they did it for a wrongdoing because they did wrong.

I mean, he`s -- look, there`s no question in my mind and in the mind of anybody is paying attention to his career that Donald Trump is a racist.  I don`t think -- and I don`t say that lightly because I usually prefer to focus on racist words and racist deeds.  But if you get enough racist words and enough racist deeds from a person, then you have to draw the inevitable conclusion.

Other people don`t know that history, don`t care about that history, or have decided that if he`s going to divide the United States electorate in a tribal sense, they want to be with his tribe.  His tribe is the -- is the white tribe, the tribe that loves guns and the tribe that waves the flag in a certain way, not that -- not of course that progressives aren`t as patriotic as anybody else.

And so that hardcore base, I don`t know how you crack it.  We`re not going to have mandatory civics or history lessons here.  We`re going to have to get voters to the polls who do know the history and who do understand the stakes in this diverse country, this increasingly diverse country, and who understand that what a disaster it is to not reopen old wounds so much as create new ones.

And that`s what Donald Trump is trying to do.  It`s a very cynical and really awful thing to do but that`s where we are and it has to be fought.  It has to be fought tooth and nail.

MELBER:  Well, I appreciate that point that you closed on because the cynics say nothing matters or everything is a transaction.  I get something back out of this.  And the idealism and there`s been a war between cynics and idealists from the founding of this nation which has been a beacon of hope for so many people at so many different times is whether the idealist ultimately can win by saying no, I don`t accept how dark you see it.  We will find a way through this as well.

Gene, we wanted to set aside some time to hear from you on a week like this.  And we are better for it.  Thank you.

ROBINSON:  Thank you so much, Ari.

MELBER:  I appreciate it, sir.  We`re going to fit in a break.  We have some other stories.  We`re one week out from Mueller`s testimony.  I actually have the man who literally ran the Southern District of New York, the same office that Preet, and, Comey, and all these other folks have ran.  He`s here live to talk about what we`re going to learn from Mueller and a lot more.

Plus, the case in that office, Michael Cohen and the hush money, an update on that when we come back.


MELBER:  Turning to a whole different story now.  Another big investigation that appears to be wrapping up in Trump World, the Southern District of New York`s probe into Donald Trump`s hush money payments is now reportedly over, ending with a judge ordering prosecutors to release unredacted search warrants by tomorrow morning.

The President`s personal lawyer is taking a victory lap saying they`re pleased and they`ve maintained from the outset that President Trump never engaged in any campaign finance violation.  That`s not the only thing going on here.

The SDNY which we hear about all the time because it is involved in so many big cases, well, they`ve charged sex offender Jeffrey Epstein with sex trafficking of minors and that`s a series of high-profile cases that this SDNY has handled.

In fact, this office has been run as I`ve mentioned before by people you know every day national names Giuliani, Comey, Bharara, and the man you see in the lower right-hand corner David Kelly, former SDNY chief, and my old boss when I practice law, I always mentioned.  Good to see you.


MELBER:  Number one, what does it mean when we heard so much about SDNY digging into Cohen, the money, the payments, Trump Org signing the checks, he confesses to a crime that allegedly benefits the candidate, Trump.  And now we`re told it ends there, not a single other charge.

KELLEY:  Well, you don`t know what`s in -- it would be good to see what`s in the documents and it`s hard to believe that he was the only one that knew what was going on.  So it`s going to be you know, was a decision that there`s no further charges because no one wants to charge the president or is there some other reason?  And I think it`s reading tea leaves until we really know more.

MELBER:  Well, I got a tea leaf for you.  If this candidate who benefited from these payments and made them through his company were not the sitting president but were a civilian, in your view, would the SDNY charge that?

KELLEY:  Yes. `

MELBER:  Would you charge that case?

KELLEY:  By the facts, yes.

MELBER:  As SDNY chief.  So this is another situation where for a long time it seems like Donald Trump got away from -- basically got away with everything because he was wily.  Now it seems like he`s got to get out of jail free card called being commander in chief.

KELLEY:  Yes.  Yes, so far.

MELBER:  then I want to get you on Mueller before we turn to Epstein which is also in that office.  You know a lot of these folks.  And I should mention with regard to Mueller because it touches on Comey, you represent James Comey as a lawyer.

But big picture, why are so many people who were close to Mueller and know this stuff expecting him to say so little next week?

KELLEY:  He`s a by-the-book guy.  And he`s an institutionalist, he`s a dutiful person, and he said what he said before which is he`s going to stick to this report.  People may find that disappointing but there`s an awful lot in that report that people haven`t read.  So I think the question is when you preview -- when he has to preview Bob`s testimony, the question is not so much what he`s going to say.  The question really should be, well, what is he going to be asked.

Now, I think what the Congressional Committee members should do is ask very concise short leading questions that basically reads to the public what is in that report.  Things that they have never heard, never focused on, certainly haven`t read, and let Bob do nothing more than you know, certify that that is true.  And if --

MELBER:  What would a question like that sound like?

KELLEY:  Well, basically read the report.  Mr. Mueller, is that a fact that you found XYZ?  Yes.  And is it a fact that you spoke to so-and-so and he said the following?  Yes it is.

MELBER:  And when you report that the subject of Investigation ordered people to falsify testimony, is that a crime?

KELLEY:  Yes.  And so -- you know, and then he`s going to -- he may get hung up in the -- in the conversation of the dialogue about whether or not it`s possible to charge a president and so forth and so on, and I think he`s going to avoid that.  He`s going to refer you to read my report.

MELBER:  I want you to --

KELLEY:  I think -- I think the questions are like -- if the members, I think what they want to do is ask questions to just have the public understand what`s in that report that requires nothing more than not looking for a court blast on their tweets and then they run out of time, but to just focus on what`s in that report.  That`s where the real news will be.  Things that people haven`t heard or seen before.

If they want to really get color on some of the investigation, I think it`s not Bob from whom they`re going to get it but some of his staffers.  You know, Andrew Weissmann or some of the other folks who did the investigation.  Get them -- you know, Aaron Zebley -- get them in a room somewhere and try to get some more color.

There`s going to be a fight about that about how much more they can say certainly, but I think for this purpose there`s really not going to be any traction gained by Congress unless they are able to get out --

MELBER:  Right, unless they`re factual.  Take a look at this new video of Epstein who`s charged by the office you used to lead with Donald Trump.

It`s rare you see that kind of footage or it looks like they`re having a good time.  This office used to run has taken on Epstein.  It`s embarrassed the Trump administration in a sense.  What does that tell you and where does this case go in SDNY?

KELLEY:  Look, I think the big unanswered question about Epstein is you know, you hear that`s been a lot of you know, people going out and getting him women, young girls.  The question is was he getting them for anybody else, number one.  Number two, who was it that was getting him them -- getting him the women.

I think there`s a much broader net to be cast here than just one person as you know -- because he can`t do it alone.

MELBER:  And why were the Public Corruption Office is involved?

KELLEY:  I don`t know that I read too much into that. 

MELBER:  It could be just how they divide up the workload?

KELLEY:  It could be anything.

MELBER:  Got it.  Well, sometimes have you short answers, not unlike your friend Bob Mueller.  David Kelley, I appreciate you coming in.

KELLEY:  My pleasure.

MELBER:  Really great.  We have a break and then a very important story when we come back.


MELBER:  Now the news about this controversial video recorded five years ago today.  A civilian Eric Garner, unarmed stopped and then killed on camera by NYPD Police.  This is a controversy that has continued for five years.  The justice system has purported to deal with this case with several investigations into excessive force.  The evidence, testimony, and yes, access to this video to decide whether the Trump DOJ should ever charge the officer.

Now yesterday, Bill Barr closed that last door on this case.  So now when you see this video, you have to understand that for years, after every probe local and federal, with that evidence staring America in the face, we have seen the door slam shut.


ERIC GARNER, KILLED BY NYPD:  Don`t touch me.  Do not touch me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All right, get down, get down.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  For the second time in as many weeks, a grand jury has found the evidence is just not there to charge a white police officer in connection with the death of a black civilian.

GARNER:  I can`t breathe.  I can`t breathe.  I can`t breathe.  I can`t breathe.  I can`t breathe.  I can`t breathe.  I can`t breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Federal prosecutors say they will not file civil rights charges related to the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It ultimately came down from Attorney General Bill Barr.


MELBER:  That side by side is pretty hard to watch.  It`s evidence, which is supposed to matter, and then decisions by people in government to put that evidence aside.  The only thing left is whether the NYPD will remove this officer from his post.  Five years later, he remains on the job.


MELBER: The U.S. House just voted to hold Bill Barr, Wilbur Ross in contempt this hour, and they are now responding to Justice Department saying it`s a new low, Ross saying this was unnecessary and, quote, unfortunate.  We want to give you that update.

That does it for us.  "HARDBALL" starts now.