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Trump deploys racist attacks as political tactic. TRANSCRIPT: 7/29/19, The Beat w/Ari Melber.

Guests: Brittney Cooper, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Emanuel Cleaver, RashadRobinson, Elise Jordan, Tim O`Brien, David Rothkopf

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  We start there, we go to every election since then, please check it out.

That is all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY and "THE BEAT" starts right now with Yasmin in for Ari.

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST: Kornacki with any stats we watch you that is for sure. Thanks Steve.

KORNACKI: Thank you.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I`m Yasmin Vossoughian in for Ari Melber. We`re covering a lot of stories tonight.

Donald Trump launches another racist tirade against a black member of Congress, and it is met with silence from the leaders of the Republican Party.

Plus the House impeachment caucus swells in the wake of Mueller`s testimony.

And a major national security shake up, with Trump moving to install loyalists as the Director of National Intelligence.

We`re going to get to all of that. But we begin tonight with Donald Trump`s latest Twitter outburst. A series of racist attacks an Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, starting with calling his Maryland district a quote "disgusting rat and rodent infested mess".

And when critics said calling an American city rodent infested was racist, he tried to flip the script, and without explanation insisted Cummings was a racist. The hits continuing today, all of it part of Trump`s pattern of attacking Democrats of color and denigrating their constituents - a pattern that goes back years.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Trump responded, tweeting "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart, not to mention crime-infested--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump the suggested, "they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST: Here we go again. President Trump spends another weekend to unleashing another Twitter attack at another member of Congress who happens to be of color.


VOSSOUGHIAN: And we have new reporting that Trump isn`t just deploying racist attacks, he`s doing it purposefully, because he thinks it`s going to help him politically. "The Washington Post" reporting that Trump`s advisors believe the overall message sent by such attacks is good for the President among his political base.

And as "The New York Times" points out most modern Presidents have quote "Shied away" from over racial debates. Trump seems to be going out of his way, lately, to engage in one, even if his advisers continue to deny what is in plain sight.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It has absolutely zero to do with race.

CHRIS WALLACE, `FOX NEWS SUNDAY` HOST: You say it has zero to do with race - there is a clear pattern here, Mick.

Infested. It sounds like vermin. It sounds subhuman. And these are all six members of Congress who are people of color.

MULVANEY: I think you`re spending way too much time reading between the lines. Does anybody--


WALLACE: I`m not reading between the lines. I`m reading the lines.


VOSSOUGHIAN: I`m reading the lines. My panel and all this, Brittney Cooper, Professor at Rutgers University, Mara Gay, Member of the New York Times Editorial Board and Melissa Mark-Viverito, former Speaker of the New York City Council, and a Senior Adviser to the Latino Victory Fund.

Mara, I`m going to start with you. The House voted two weeks ago to condemn Trump`s racist remarks, of course when he attacked the four freshmen Congresswoman. He`s keeping it up, though. So how is the President stopped when it comes to this racist rhetoric that he`s using right now?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. So there`s a couple things that I think need to happen. One is that, right now we need to understand that the silence from Republicans and the silence from white Americans in positions of prominence is deafening.

Whether you`re the coach of a little league soccer team or you`re a member of Congress or you`re the head of a multinational corporation. This is the time to speak out and tell America what your values are and stand up for your fellow citizens.

I also think that it`s really important that the Democrats start to understand and learn how to talk about race and racism. I don`t believe that this President can be defeated by ignoring race. I actually think that this--

VOSSOUGHIAN: Do you think Democrats aren`t doing a good job?

GAY: No. I don`t think Democrats have any plan or any understanding, at least as a party, of how to talk about race and racism in this country. I think what you really need to do in 2020 is go right at it and make this a contest between America and the values that we care about and Trumpism.

This is a moral crisis as much of as a political one. And it`s not enough to just ignore it and call the racist Tweets a distraction. Because, in fact, Trump is running on the racism itself, so that`s what you need to attack.

VOSSOUGHIAN: So are you talking both about the 2020 candidates along with legislators in Washington as well that neither know how to talk about race in this country right now and what`s happening?

GAY: I think there are very few people on the national and political stage you understand how to talk about race and racism, unfortunately.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Who does in your mind know how to talk about race in this country?

GAY: I think that Donald Trump understands how to talk about race with his base. It doesn`t mean that I agree with what he says. I think Barack Obama understood it. I think you have people like Elizabeth Warren who are doing a lot of work to understand how to talk about it. People like, frankly, Mayor Bill de Blasio know how to talk about race.

There are some examples and there are some times where people can learn and understand what the history is, which is part of this conversation that is often ignored. But I think the Democratic Party needs a crash course in how not just to ignore and rhetoric, but actually confront.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Brittney with very few exceptions Republicans are criticizing the President. Mark Meadows today came out with a very soft critic criticism of the President to say the least and we`re going to be reading that a little bit later in the show.

What does this say about the President`s hold on the Republican Party right now? Are they fearful of losing control come 2020? Are these people whose seats are up for grabs and that`s why they`re not speaking out?

BRITTNEY COOPER, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: I`m not inclined to read them generously. I think that part of the reason that they`re resistant is because it is a winning strategy politically for Trump. This is both an over call and a dog whistle. Even the Tweets about Al Sharpton today, these attacks whip up a very particular group. It`s aggrieved the white men.

And those men then go on the attack and they don`t just go on the attack in the voting booth, they also harass, they Tweet, the e-mail they put out violent threats towards people who disagree with Trump. So I think that`s one thing.

The other thing that is the more disturbing thing, Republicans are also going along with Trump, because even though he`s a vile person in terms of his racial politics, he`s getting a Republican agenda done. Right?

There obstructionism in the Senate, in particular, Mitch McConnell`s about to confirm all of these judges - these conservative judges to federal positions. He`s going to get his money for the border wall. The Supreme Court is going to let that go forward. So all of these very bread-and- butter Republican issues are happening under a Trump administration. They don`t have any incentives. They don`t have moral incentive.

And as long as he can continue to appeal to this fear that they have that they`re being pushed to the past, that they are being pushed to the backburner and he can whip up that white male aggrievement and entitlement, then what they see is that their fear and their sense that they are under threat overrides any sort of moral commitment to a kind of empathy or care.

Or just a commitment to the rule of law, legality and ethics, all of that goes out the window. if someone`s coming in your house your ethics go out the window. Right? You just think how do I save myself. He has all these folks thinking they`re drowning, and so they`re fighting everybody. They`re pushing everybody underwater to save themselves.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I want to read a part of this op-ed from "The Washington Post" by these 149 African American aides to the Obama administration. And it reads in part this. "We refuse to sit idly by as racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are wielded by the President, and any elected official complicit in the poisoning of our democracy. We call on local state and congressional officials, as well as presidential candidates to articulate their policies and strategies for moving us forward as a strong democracy."

The way in which the Republicans and Trump, it seems, that people surrounding him think that the talk around racism is going to drive his base to the polls, do you think that race can galvanize the Democratic base and drive them to the polls for greater voter turnout come 2020 as well?

MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO, FORMER COUNCIL SPEAKER: Without a doubt. When you talk about the voting base of the Democratic Party, it`s people of color, whether you`re Latinos or African Americans. Those are the two driving and major voting blocks for this party.

So a rejection or inability to speak eloquently around this issue means that you`re alienating a large percentage of your voting bloc. Let`s be clear, anyone that enables this racist President is racist. Racism is systemic. It`s in our systems, whether it`s education, criminal justice.

Those in power are the only ones that can set an example of who we are as a society and what our values are. So for the Republicans or even Democrats to sit idly by and sit in silence, you are enabling racism to perpetuate in society and this is the time to stand up against a bully and against a racist.

And there`s no many - how many other ways do we have to express ourselves and say this President is a racist. We shouldn`t even having a debate on whether or not he is. He is. And that has to be clearly articulated by the press and everybody else. There should be no doubt about that.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Can this literally inspire, Mara, someone in Baltimore waking up tomorrow morning to say, "You know what, that`s it. I`m going to the polls and I`m going to vote against this President come 2020". Or someone in Minnesota who supports Ilhan Omar or someone in Michigan--

GAY: Absolutely.

VOSSOUGHIAN: --who supports Rashida Tlaib?

GAY: I think it absolutely can and it will. I think there are a lot of Americans who are people of goodwill, who regret their vote or who stayed home last time. Those folks are living in swing districts, some of them are in my own family.

And I think that the Democrats need to talk to them, but they also need to really organize their base and get their base to the polls. It`s as much about conversion, as we say in politics, making your argument and changing people`s minds, as it is about really motivating your own voters.

And I think really Democrats are motivated, but the message needs to continue to be driven home that this President is a racist and beyond that that our existence as a Democratic nation in a country of pluralism and a country that values diversity and that cares about human rights is at stake. And the rule of law is at stake. And I really don`t think that that`s - it`s not understated. This is an existential crisis.

COOPER: And this--

VOSSOUGHIAN: Go ahead. Yes.

MARK-VIVERITO: And this - I mean, for Latino communities African-American, it`s exhausting. We wake up every day wondering what is the new level of depravity and what impact is it going to have.

We see the families being ripped apart. We see children dying in custody of the U.S. government. I mean, this is an assault each and every day. This is very real. So if we don`t shape up and try to figure out how we speak to our base, as Democrats, particularly, because this is what we have to do and we have to motivate our base.

We have to be able to articulate what is our vision, our values, and what role should we play as Latinos, and African-Americans within that dynamic.

COOPER: And look, I actually think the candidate that is speaking best to race right now is Juli n Castro. He is the one who is talking about these issues that are inspiring young activists and I think we need to be paying more attention to him.

I think we need to be paying more attention to Kirsten Gillibrand who has - who was more conservative and who has had a shift and who walks people through that shift. I think, of course, Elizabeth Warren, I think Kamala Harris, I think Cory Booker.

I think there are some people that we really need to be paying attention to how they handle racial discourse. But I also think that there`s a more fundamental thing that we need to be doing, which is talking to people about fear.

The problem on the on the liberal Left as well is that, what Trump does is, he whips up everyone`s sense of fear and their sense of anxiety. Even on the liberal Left. If you just think about aging, no one wants to be told that they don`t matter anymore.

And he is playing on people`s fear on the Right and the Left that if we let all--

VOSSOUGHIAN: Why don`t you necessarily think that this conversation that you`re talking about, this conversation about fear, it happened a lot at 2016, especially about the comments when he - that he made about the Mexicans coming over with drugs and rapists.

That conversation was had. It was had in the media. We had those conversations. It was had by the candidates. It didn`t necessarily resonate. Sure Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. But at the end of the day, Donald Trump is the President of United States. So why do you think it`ll resonate this time around?

COOPER: Look, I think because now people have the evidence of how Trump governs and they don`t necessarily have the language, before he had the promise and the potential. Now we`ve seen the levels of destruction he has committed and folks are saying I didn`t believe you before now, I have evidence.

But the other thing is, that very often white men, because they are white men and they have had authority we invest them with trust. And the thing that we - our system is set up for us to do that.

The thing we`ve got to be saying is, "Look, you think that he is trustworthy because of his position, because he is rich", all of these things. But what is he actually done for you besides turn the country in the turmoil, make you wake up every morning and feel anxious about what`s going to happen. Lock up kids, which no person with any moral compass would ever believe in.

If we can just tap into those issues, I think it`s a one-two punch. I think we have to name racism for what it is and say that he`s a racist. But I also think that we can take care of the emotional responses he inspires.

The country is all on - the highest level of fear and anxiety. And if a candidate does not figure out how to speak to that emotional life, people don`t vote just on policy issues, they never do. They vote on the candidate that they trust.


VOSSOUGHIAN: What`s interesting to me, though, as you were listing the candidates that you think speak best about race, Kamala Harris was number four on our list, Cory Booker was number five--


VOSSOUGHIAN: They happen to be the two candidates that have been the most outspoken about race, especially when it came to attacking former Vice President Joe Biden`s record long history.

COOPER: Just because they`re African-American doesn`t they have--

VOSSOUGHIAN: Nothing to do with the fact that they`re African-American.

COOPER: I`m not saying that towards you.

VOSSOUGHIAN: But the fact that they have been attacking Joe Biden with his- -

COOPER: Sure. But--

VOSSOUGHIAN: And, she - obviously Kamala Harris was the most--


VOSSOUGHIAN: --on the debate stage, especially when it came to the pressing issue.

COOPER: The problem is that what we keep on thinking is that, because candidates are black that they actually have a great racial analysis. I don`t think Barack Obama was great on race. I think that he - look, there are things I admired about President Obama.

But I think he participated in this false equivalence where he would say, the worker who lost their job in the factory is like the black person who had been aggrieved and couldn`t get a home loan.

One came out of a system of discrimination. The other came out of bad policy on the Right. Those are not the same thing. And so the inability to make these distinctions, President Obama contributed to that and so we`ve actually got to tell a more honest truth.

All people are being messed with by a system that doesn`t take care of the everyday working middle-class person. But the histories that get us, they are different. And if we respect the American public, we`ll actually speak to them as people who can understand complexity and -nuance -

VOSSOUGHIAN: Can I just tell you ladies that are THE BEAT it`s the best. So thank you.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Britney Cooper, Mara Gay, Melissa Mark-Viverito, thank you guys all.

Coming up, my exclusive interview with the newest member of the Democrats impeachment caucus, I`m going to ask him what changed his mind and what happens next.

Plus controversy over Trump`s pick to be the nation`s top spy chief. Is he putting loyalty over national security? Plus, Trump`s controversial ties to a murderous autocrat, some exclusive reporting from my colleague Amy Mohideen.

I am Yasmin Vossoughian in for Ari Melber. And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC. We`ll be right back.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back. Democrats have launched an impeachment investigation with House Judiciary Chair Nadler saying Trump quote "Richly deserves impeachment". Today the impeachment caucus is swelling to a 108 members, nearly half the Democrats in the House backing an impeachment inquiry. Today Nevada congresswoman Dina Titus joined the list.


REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV): While the Mueller testimony might not have been made for TV, he certainly brought out that the President had been less than truthful. And after those hearings, I got lots of calls from people in my district saying, "Do it now". The calls have increased in number and in intensity.


VOSSOUGHIAN: But still leaders in the party they`re hesitant about taking that next formal step. Watch this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I worry equally, though, Chuck about the message of taking impeachment case to trial, losing that case, having the President acquitted and then having an adjudication that this conduct is not impeachable.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): He richly deserves impeachment. He has done many impeachable offenses. He`s violated the law six ways from Sunday`s. But that`s not the question. The question is, can we develop enough evidence to put before the American people?


VOSSOUGHIAN: All right. With me now is Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri who today called for an opening of an impeachment inquiry. Congressman good to see you.

So back in June you cautioned against a rush to judgment on impeachment, telling your colleagues quote this "The President will be held accountable for any crimes he may have committed. But in order to ensure that transpires we must be patient". What`s changed for you?

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D-MO): Well, I still think that we must be patient. I don`t think that we can afford to haphazardly and thoughtlessly run out and start screaming impeachment. But I sat down and had a conversation with Chairman Nadler, listened to Adam Schiff, I`ve listened to individuals on the Judiciary Committee. And I have been convinced that we do need more information.

Now do we have enough money - enough information for impeachment? Absolutely. If it only involves the people in Congress. But we`re talking about 300 million people in the United States, and many of them are not convinced.

And so we`ve got to have, I think, some rather commanding information to present to them. And all I have seen is the redacted version of the Mueller report. There is also grand jury testimony. And Chairman Nadler is saying, look there`s a lot of information that we don`t have.

And some of it we may not get, because for example, in the Southern District, they - we`re talking about counterintelligence, and that may be so sensitive that with our intelligence community that may not be available to us, but maybe it`s available to the House and Senate leadership.

But we need to be able to have the judiciary, the third branch of our government agree that now that we`re moving in a direction to have an indictment, we need all of the information. And so we can`t afford to have the executive branch hold people back and say this is like executive privilege.

And in some instances just saying, you just can`t - I don`t want you to go. And so we`ve got to have some punch to do that. And I think an inquiry impeachment is just that punch?

VOSSOUGHIAN: And what`s that punch Congressman? What`s that punch?

CLEAVER: Well, that we do have now a more powerful legal argument for the information. Remember, we`re fighting this in court now. And I`m not a lawyer--

VOSSOUGHIAN: But Congressman what is it going to take, because it seems as if this is going to be an incredibly drawn-out process. You`re not even in a formal impeachment inquiry. This is still just an impeachment investigation which then leads to an impeachment inquiry, which then leads to formal impeachment, which could take months.

By January you`re effectively into the primary season and then you have a presidential election around the corner. The timing of it all, does it necessarily line up, especially if you`re looking for that punch.

And of course, we`ve all been asking, what is the punch that Democrats need to really drive at home, if that`s in fact what they want?

CLEAVER: Well, I don`t think we`re going to pick up a sheet of paper and say, "Oh, my goodness, he`s done this. He`s done that." We have enough. I mean, I`m sure that he has already committed impeachable offenses with the information we have. But we we`ve got to be very thoughtful.

We`re talking about undoing an election, even though I don`t think, that even if we impeach the President that there`s any chance that Mitch McConnell, and Republican Senate would do anything. I don`t care what we find, nothing.

And so there are those who say that if the Senator quits, it may make it somewhat difficult to put the President on trial after he leaves the White House. Look, we`ve got to be thoughtful about this and I don`t think we just rush in and start screaming impeachment.

There will probably come a time when we may have to vote that, based on the information we have, whether or not we want to go for impeachment. And remember, if we have impeachment the government shutdown we`re through until look decisions made.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Look, at the end of the day, you have a 108 on board. It seems you need a lot more for a majority to say the least. Are you confident that more Democrats are going to sign on to this?

CLEAVER: No. I think that many Democrats - my colleagues I`ve had conversation with, they realized that that we`ve got to be very deliberate and they also realize that only 23 percent of the public wants to do this, and they also realize that what Adam Schiff has been telling us is real.

And that is, we impeach, and then the Senate says no, and then even people on the base will say, "Well, why did you guys over reach? Why were you - why didn`t you just wait around the election of 16 months from now?"

VOSSOUGHIAN: So if you are not confident Congressman, quickly, if you`re not confident, then is this more just about being on the record about the fact that you support impeachment of this President?

CLEAVER: Well, I do think it`s - there`s - something has to be said for being on the right side of history and I don`t want to be like some of my colleagues on the Republican side who are watching lawlessness and saying nothing. I don`t want that.

But I also would like to make sure that we can go and get information that we don`t have at this time.

VOSSOUGHIAN: All right. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, thank you so much. Appreciate you joining us tonight.

Coming up where are the Republican leaders after Trump`s attacks? More on that silence in 30 seconds. We`ll be right back.


VOSSOUGHIAN: Welcome back. As of tonight, not a single top Republican in Congress has condemned Donald Trump`s attacks on Baltimore as rodent infested and crime ridden. And not a single top Republican from Mitch McConnell on down has condemned Trump`s attacks on congressman Elijah Cummings.

Watch Republican Senator Rick Scott respond to questions about the controversy by going after Cummings.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Congressman Cummings has sat there and attacked our Border Patrol agents, all right. This is this reminds me of what happened to soldiers coming back from Vietnam.

TODD: So that justify - but that justifies a racial resentment Tweet in response? Is that presidential leadership?

SCOTT: Well, I - look, I didn`t - I didn`t do the Tweets, Chuck.


VOSSOUGHIAN: There`s stammering there. Or take Republican Congressman Mark Meadows who Cummings has called a quote "friend". Late this afternoon Meadows finally weighed in, saying he`s friends with both Trump and Cummings and that both love America.

Now compare that to Cummings` emotional defense of Meadows after a Democrat accused him of committing a quote "racist act".


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): Mr. Meadows, you know, and of all the people on this Committee, I`ve said it and got in trouble for it, that you are one of my best friends. I know that`s shock for lot of people--

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): And likewise Mr. Chairman.

CUMMINGS: Yes. But you are. And I could see and feel your pain. I feel it.


VOSSOUGHIAN: So that was Cummings defending Meadows. Amid all of this, some of Trump`s allies in the Right-wing media they`re doing more than staying silent. They`re actually egging him on.


DAN BONGINO, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Don`t dare liberals run away from this. Don`t you dare. And Mr. President, please God keep the heat on them. Liberals have destroyed and decimated these cities. They have been a forest fire--

RUSH LIMBAUGH, HOST, "THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW": The President is not a racist. He didn`t say anything racist. Wherever you find this decadent decay, you`re going to find Democrats having run the operation--


VOSSOUGHIAN: OK. Let`s talk about all this, joining me now former speechwriter for President George W. Bush Elise Jordan, and Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, the nation`s largest online racial justice organization.

Elise, I`ll start with you on this one. What do you make of this deafening silence from top Republicans to Trump`s attacks on Cummings and on Baltimore?

ELISE JORDAN, WH SPEECHWRITER UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH: Republicans are petrified of Trump. They have let themselves be bullied by him for years now and you see no signs of that letting up in any moral courage or leadership and strength of purpose shining through from the Republican camp. It`s very depressing.

VOSSOUGHIAN: I think what is what is troubling to me about this, Rashad, most is the fact that it seems as if the GOP and Trump and his campaign they recognize that this resonates with his voters, and with his base, so they`re doubling down on it.

Using racism and divisive talk as a strategy versus recognizing it as a problem saying, OK, there is a problem of racism amongst our voters and we need to face this head-on and make sure it doesn`t continue. And yet they`re flaming the fire.

RASHAD ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, COLOR OF CHANGE: Well, this is nothing new. The Republicans have used race baiting strategies for decades upon decades to win elections in this country from the Southern Strategy to other efforts. And while this is not as much of a dog whistle, it is all out bullhorn.

It does speak though to also a failure on the Democratic side, right? Because the fact of the matter is, Democrats for years have thought that they could run away from direct conversations about race. Because - but the Republicans are actually talking about race over and over again.

They`re not talking about race the way we want them to talk about race, but they`re talking race.

And unfortunately the conversations about what`s happening in cities around the country which is a direct impact of how racial anxieties has been used to push through all sorts of policies, of disinvestment, of giving giveaways to big corporations, all sorts of things that have left our cities in this way.  And instead of Democrats actually going after it, they talk about these problems are structural.

People think that folks are poor are in bad situations because they may have done something that put themselves there.  And if the Democrats are not willing to actually call out the villains, the corporation`s the folks that have benefited from big tax breaks, the ways that our schools and so many other things have been disinvested, then we`re trying to have a conversation with them about apples to elephants rather than actually a conversation about what is the path forward.

So this is not simply about people hating Trump, but it`s about Democrats putting out a platform in a position that makes people love them in return.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So you don`t think they`re doing that?

ROBINSON:  No, I actually don`t think they`re doing it.  I think it`s just not enough to simply call Donald Trump a racist over and over again.  We did that in 2016 and it actually didn`t lead to a victory.  The path to actually winning is pointing people a direction about one of the Democrats going to do in return. 

What is the -- how did cities get into the position that they`re in.  What are the ways that under investment and disinvestment the austerity budgets that have been put forward, the way that tax breaks have been given to the wealthiest folks and as a result we`ve had this huge income inequality where corporate CEOs are making 100, 200, 300 times the lowest employee in their -- in their corporation. And we`re then giving more tax breaks away - -

VOSSOUGHIAN:  We have Elizabeth Warren talking a lot about that.

ROBINSON:  Absolutely we have Elizabeth Warren, we`ll have other candidates talking about this and I think like that is going to be the path forward.  The path forward is actually telling people a full story of how we got here.  Because if we don`t tell a story that has heroes and villains, Donald Trump fills that story in with immigrants, black people, women`s equality and that becomes a full story.

Our story can`t simply be about some magical structures, it has to be about the people who put those structures in place tell you to benefit from them and what are we going to do in terms of building the type of power that puts those things aside and gives people the ability to have real opportunity.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Elise, Donald Trump has a lot of things he could be campaigning on right now.  He could be talking about the economy, he could be talking about two GDP growth but instead he`s digging in when it comes to us against them because he does feel like it`s resonating.  Does that -- does that make it seem as if -- does it make it seem as if the president doesn`t necessarily believe that things are going as well as he`d like to think?

ELISE JORDAN, FORMER SPEECHWRITER, WHITE HOUSE:  I think we`re giving Donald Trump way too much credit by looking at this as some grand strategy, some evil genius that is going to help him win election.  I think that it`s morally -- not only is it morally reprehensible, it`s just a dumb strategy.  Look at what happened to him in 2018 and how the flight of suburban voters, the flight of educated voters, the flight of women from the party, that is not good for Donald Trump.

And so he`s turning himself into such a negative symbol, the negative partisanship might actually turn and hurt him when that`s usually what he benefited on.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Well, and I`m glad that you brought that up because could this, Rashad, backfire on him this -- Elise doesn`t call it a strategy but this strategy it seems that he`s taking in painting this picture of us against them, send them back to where they came from.

ROBINSON:  Donald Trump absolutely has a ceiling.  He`s going to hit that ceiling and the question right for the Democrats is what is their path forward.  Not how -- not how does Donald Trump lose this election but how do the Democrats actually win it.  How do they win it by expanding the base of young people, black folks, women people of color, that feel inspired to turn out not because they hate Trump but because there`s an aspirational vision and message for how their lives are going to be paid better.

Elections are not simply about giving politicians on either side of the aisle a job.  They`re about a pathway to helping improve our country and making people`s lives better.  And from my perspective as someone who runs a racial justice organization, I believe that leaning into racial justice as a winning strategy and all around the country we`re seeing reform to our criminal justice system, being driven by reform minded prosecutors. 

We`re seeing people turn out to the polls at `18 who didn`t turn out in previous midterm elections.  There`s an opportunity to do something different but it can`t simply be about hating Trump.  It has to be about an aspirational fight for the future.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, Elise Jordan, Rashad Robinson, thank you both.  I appreciate it guys.  Still to come, Donald Trump`s pick for a new top spy chief ignites questions about whether he prizes loyalty over national security.  Plus why is Trump siding with Saudi Arabia`s murderous autocrat over a majority in Congress.  A new reporting on that tonight.  We`ll be right back.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  Trump just tapped a Mueller critic for Intel Chief.  Dan Coats is stepping down and another Trump loyalist is in, one of his staunch defenders Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe.  The New York Times reporting that Coats was becoming "the disapproving Republican elite that Trump scorned."

Remember this moment when Coats found out that Russian President Vladimir Putin was coming to the White House live on television.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The White House has announced on Twitter that Vladimir Putin is coming to the White House in the Fall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You -- Vladimir Putin coming --

COATS:  Did I hear you -- did I hear you --


COATS:  OK.  That`s going to be special.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  I`m not quite sure the president likes seeing that.  Trump reportedly met with Ratcliffe about the job just one week before the Mueller hearings and he looked like he was auditioning for the audience of one during those hearings.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX):  Americans need to know this as they listen to the Democrats and socialists on the other side of the aisle.  Volume two of this report was not authorized under the law to be written.  I agree with the Chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law.  He`s not.  But he damn sure shouldn`t be below the law which is where volume two of this report puts him.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right.  But the Senate needs to confirm this pick and so far the support has been tepid.  Joining me now is Tim O`Brien, Executive Editor of Bloomberg View and author of TrumpNation and David Rothkopf National Security Expert and former Editor of Foreign Policy Magazine.

Tim, I`ll start with you on this one.  What background does Congressman Ratcliffe have for this job?

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG:  Next to zero.  And I`m not just being sensationalistic or exaggerating.  You know, he was formerly his -- you know, his professional job he was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.  Most of the cases in that office or what that office is known for our patent infringement cases.

They`re not national security cases, they`re not terrorism cases, so he has nothing in his background professionally that recommends into this office which involves a lot of coordinating work between national security agencies so you can present essentially a dashboard to the president about what the president needs to know on an interagency basis.

He has no experience with any of that which obviously begs the question as to why is he being considered for the job.  And I think he`s being considered for the job because he`s a Trump loyalist and I think Trump -- I think the education of Donald Trump has taught him now to populate the various heads of these agencies with people who are first and foremost loyal to him.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So, David, if in fact, he is a Trump loyalist, how troublesome is it to have a partisan DNI?

DAVID ROTHKOPF, FORMER EDITOR, FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE:  Well, it`s extremely troublesome.  All you have to do is take the Russia case where Trump`s position has been Russia didn`t really interfere and where the Trump administration has been trying to change the subject.

And if we`re in the middle of another election cycle and the Russians are potentially doing the same thing they were doing before which the FBI Director said last week that they are, and this is a Director of National Intelligence who does want to talk about it, wants to change the subject, wants to suppress the information, wants to protect the president, that`s a problem.

Similarly, if Trump or Barr want to go and undertake an investigation into the Obama administration and how they started their surveillance of people in the Trump campaign, and they`ve got one of their own who behaves in the same way that Barr does running the Director of National Intelligence, you might have a thumb on the scale there.

And so what I see here is the formation of a kind of praetorian guard around Trump, Barr, Ratcliffe, Mitch McConnell --

VOSSOUGHIAN:  A loyalist, best man.

ROTHKOPF:  A loyalist who won`t let the law get to him, that`ll keep him above the law, who will crush his opponents, and that`s really, really dangerous.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So there was this amazing moment which I`m sure you both remember in June of 2017 where the President was sitting at his table surrounded by all of his appointees, all of his guys.  He had -- he had Tillerson there, he had Chao there, he had Priebus there, and he had Dan Coats there, and they all talked about what they felt of the president.

Some of them praised the president.  Coats however, had a little bit of a different answer.  Let`s watch that.


REX TILLERSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES:  Mr. President, thank you for the honor to serve for the country.  It`s been great privilege you`ve given me.

TOM PRICE, FORMER HHS SECRETARY, UNITED STATES:  I can`t thank you enough for the privileges you`ve given me, the leadership that you`ve shown.

ELAINE CHAO, FORMER SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION, UNITED STATES:  I want to thank you for getting this country moving.

REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, WHITE HOUSE:  On behalf of the entire senior staff around you Mr. President --

COATS:  It`s joy to be working with the people that I have inherited and we`re going to provide -- continue to provide you the very best intelligence we can so you can formulate policies to deal with these issues.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  So interestingly enough, despite the fact that Dan Coats` last state seems is going to be August 15th, we got one, two, three, four of those individuals that are going to be gone or gone, Coats leaving the others all but gone.  And jumping off of what David just said then, it seems as if the president is choosing to surround himself with yes-men, filling all of those positions with people that agree with him on every level.

We know where Dan Coates stood on North Korea.  He said they will not let up with their nuclear weapons.  We know where he stood on Iran.  He actually said that Iran is actually not developing nuclear weapons right now.  He said actually, Russia did interfere in the U.S. elections.  All things that were the antithesis of what the president was putting out there on a daily basis.

O`BRIEN:  And it`s my understanding that one of the initial things that turned the president against Coats was Coats was one of the few people in the Oval Office to recommend that they not fire Jim Comey, and that stuck with the president that he felt everyone else around him including Jared Kushner said you should get rid of this guy, protect yourself, get him out of the way, and Coats said you shouldn`t do that.

And I think one of the themes that has stayed around Dan Coats is he envisioned his job and acted in his job as someone who was serving the American people and serving the principles of the office that he inhabited.

He didn`t see it as a need to bow down before your fearless leader which is what you see in those really strange cabinet meetings where everyone is on cue telling the president how great he is.  And of course, someone who`s a very confident leader doesn`t need a bunch of yes-men around them.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Hey, David, quickly.  I spoke to a congressman earlier today who basically said he doesn`t think that Ratcliffe is even going to be confirmed.  He`s going to have a lot of trouble getting to this position.  Is there anybody in your orbit that you feel like could actually be come -- to take over Dan Coats` position that you feel like is feasible for the president?

ROTHKOPF:  Well, you know, it`s interesting the first person the press went to for this job was Devin Nunes who is actually a worse choice than Radcliffe.  So I don`t know that the president is going to end up taking my advice for the advice of the community.

He wants a loyalist.  And if he doesn`t get Ratcliffe -- and by the way, there are Republicans who`ve been very lukewarm on Ratcliffe.  Burr has said, I don`t know.  We`ll see how he comes.  You know, I don`t think we`re going to get that.  I think he`s going to just keep putting people up.

You know, you showed that clip earlier which could have been a North Korean cabinet meeting for Kim Jong-un.  The only person who is still in the cabinet, Mitch McConnell`s wife.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Yes, Elaine Chao, exactly.  Tim O`Brien, David Rothkopf, thank you so much.  I appreciate it, guys.  Ahead, Trump sides with Saudi Arabia and we have exclusive reporting from my colleague and friend Ayman Mohyeldin on how the Saudi government makes dissidents disappear.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  Welcome back.  Right now, the Senate as you see they are voting on whether to override Trump`s veto of three bills blocking the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia.  All three are expected to fail but the bills passed both congressional chambers with bipartisan support and we`re widely seen as a condemnation of Trump`s close relationship with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Today, my colleague Ayman Mohyeldin out with an expose about the Kingdom`s quest to quell dissidents like Khashoggi breaking down "the extent to which Saudi authorities have gone to imprison, repatriate, and even murder countrymen who dare protest the kingdom`s policies or malign the image of the nation.

Many have pointed to Trump`s coziness with a de facto ruler of the Kingdom, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman known as MBS.  Now, despite a United Nations report directly linking him to Khashoggi`s killing, Trump had this to say about him just last month.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years when it just -- thank you on behalf of a lot of people and I want to congratulate you.  You`ve done really a spectacular job.


VOSSOUGHIAN:  All right, I`m joined by Ayman Mohyeldin, co-host of "MORNING JOE FIRST LOOK," my co-host on "MORNING JOE FIRST LOOK."  Good to be on you this evening despite --


VOSSOUGHIAN:  12 hour days.  So we`re just hearing now the votes have all failed.  So it seems as if MBS despite all that has gone on, despite your investigation finding out so many of these dissidents, these activists gone missing, people within the royal family gone missing, the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi at the Embassy in Turkey, MBS, the Kingdom of Saudi not being held responsible for their actions.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes, I mean, if you ask U.S. officials and we have posed the questions to it, they will say that those responsible for the killings, at least on a mid-level within the government and operational you know, level would have been held accountable by the U.S. because they`ve been sanctioned.

But really when you kind of look at it and dig a little bit deeper, it`s hard to imagine the way this played out and the way these operations have been carried out as we`ve been investigating over the past couple of months that there wasn`t more of a coordinated wider policy in place to try and silence these critics.

And so if there is a willingness to accept what happened to Jamal Khashoggi on a personal level, the question then becomes what is it going to take to accept responsibility for members of the American Congress and others to try and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for some of these actions.

Because what we`ve learned and is what we`ve reported on our NBC News site is that more and more Americans have been caught up in this.  Sometimes intentionally -- they`ve gone after dual citizens, Saudi American citizens sometimes, they`ve gone after Saudi citizens who have American relatives.  And in other cases Americans have literally been kidnapped while the Saudis were targeting Saudi royals and princesses that may have been involved or part of that entourage.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Talk about that portion of your piece, the three Americans that were kidnapped.  What happened to them?

MOHYELDIN:  So there was a prominent Saudi prince who was bringing a legal complaint against the Saudi government and the royal family for the way that they had treated him.  He had accused them of previously kidnapping them from Switzerland, flying him back to Saudi Arabia, and ultimately he secured his release.  He came for treatment in the United States and wanted to file that complaint.

And so the Saudi Arabian government according to our investigation, went after him again, and this time they kidnapped him from France and brought him to Saudi Arabia.  Part of his entourage included three Americans, and these three Americans were brought into the Kingdom, held against their will, their phones, their laptops all confiscated.  They were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements before they were sent back to the United States.

And this was something that is very rarely reported on that Americans like these three individuals have been caught up in some of these operations that the Saudis have carried out.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  And you have instances of activists being kidnapped and taken, never to be heard from again.  Of course, we know of the incident with Jamal Khashoggi.  How much a part -- we have heard from our intelligence agencies that MBS was integral to what took place with Jamal Khashoggi at that embassy.  How much a part with some of the pieces that you found was MBS?

MOHYELDIN:  It`s really hard to find a silver bullet or some kind of you know, decree that says do this.  But at the end of the day, when you kind of talk to Saudi experts and American and Western officials who track this, it`s hard to imagine that something like this could happen inside the Kingdom without the knowledge of the senior leaders of that country.

This is not a rogue operation.  This seems to be a pattern of behavior.  And so that`s why experts have been saying it seems more and more likely that there was a policy in place that was designed from the powers that be high above and to be executed by mid-level officials across the government in the various Saudi security and intelligence services.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Well, it`s a breath taking piece so I thank you for your work, Ayman Mohyeldin.  You can find his full report at  We`ll be right back.