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NYT: Trump off the rails. TRANSCRIPT: 8/22/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Juanita Tolliver, Aimee Allison, Michael McFaul, Peter Schey,Darrick Hamilton

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: President Trump be alone in defending Brazil at the G7 when this issue comes up. Anyway my thanks to Marina Lopez. Obviously a skype connection. Always tricky there at the end. That`s all I have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Chuck. Thank you very much. We have a lot in tonight`s show. Donald Trump`s erratic behavior rattling insiders and raising the prospect of a tea party primary against Trump. Rudy Giuliani admitting the state department is helping his push for a foreign government to investigate Trump`s political opponents AKA attempted collusion.

And later tonight, an exclusive, a liberal economist shaping racial justice policies for several 2020 Dems is right here on THE BEAT. I`m excited about it. We`re going to go deep with him. But we begin with the alarm bells that are ringing all over Washington, signs that Donald Trump is rattled and some Republicans are on edge

New York Times reporting that former Trump officials worried about Trump`s behavior. Rising pressure on Trump clearly with the economy and his jitters over re-election.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.

REPORTER: Isn`t that anti-Semitic to say>

TRUMP: No, no, no, it`s totally in your head. It`s only anti-Semitic in your head.

So we`re talking about indexing.

I`m not looking to do indexing.

I`ve been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time.

I`m not looking at a tax cut now, we don`t need it.

We can bring up background checks like we never had before.

We have a very, very strong background checks right now.

The Prime Minister`s statement that it was observed, that was - it was an absurd idea was nasty, you don`t talk to the United States that way, at least not me. Excuse me. Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one.


MELBER: Trumpologists say this is all getting worse. That it looks wacky because it is increasingly wacky and that`s not just critics. It`s also his own people. Reporting showing fewer aids around him willing are able to challenge him, much less restrain his more impulsive instincts which also may explain why at least in fits and starts some other conservatives are stepping up.

Talk of an anti-Trump coalition on the right. Also look over at the far right or former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh a tea party conservative is kind of testing the waters for his own primary challenge to Trump which could be different than moderates who have gone at Trump, say Mark Sanford, Bill Weld who has already been running.

Because you have something different here. You have a tough-minded right wing radio host talking about taking on Trump. The political question is now whether Walsh would win the primary against the sitting President or become President himself. Political question is actually narrower. Could he knock half a point or a point off Donald Trump`s support?

Consider Donald Trump couldn`t spare a single point in his narrow, narrow, like super narrow, Electoral College path to the White House. Now take a listen to Mr. Walsh today.


JOE WALSH (R) FORMER IL CONGRESSMAN: Trump`s a bully and he`s a coward. And the only way you beat a bully and you beat a coward is to expose them, is to punch them. The only way you primary Donald Trump and beat him is to expose him for the con man he is. I`d punch him every single day.

MELBER: Lot of people felt like look, it seems like Trump gets away with everything and his side forgives anything. But maybe getting punched every day would add up. Trump was punched by Michael Cohen who some dismissed as a felon. He`s being punched this week by Anthony Scaramucci who many dismiss as a self-promoter.

He`s been getting punched in this primary race from Bill Weld but many Republicans dismiss him as a Massachusetts moderate. Now tonight, you have Tea partier Joe Walsh coming at Trump from the far right with very little to lose. And maybe at some point all the punches do add up.

Consider these new numbers in an AP report that note 62 percent of Americans disapprove of how Trump handles his job and that Trump is - and let this sink in - "The only President whose rating has never been above 50 percent in the history of polling." That`s not good.

The AP also notes a dropdown to 7 and 10 Republicans approving of Trump`s handling of gun control policy. That`s his lowest ratings on that issue from Republicans. So even on guns Trump is losing 3 out of 10 of them. His newly vocal critics and conservative opponents seem to have something in common.

They appear to be planning whatever you think of their authenticity, they appear to be planning for a world where Donald Trump loses. They could be wrong, it`s hard to beat an incumbent President. That`s just a historical trend. But it`s interesting because these nerves and the worries are not just coming from Trump insiders, it`s spilling out also to some of his enablers and some of the most powerful people in Washington like Mitch McConnell.

The context here is you have 22 Republican seats up in 2020. Democrats need to get 3 or 4 to win back the Senate which could explain something that you don`t see every day and not usually in August. Mitch McConnell out here on this hot summer week with an Op-Ed that on its face fights to defend the rights of the minority in the Senate which means advocating for a Senate tactic currently exercised by Democrats.

Republicans control the Senate, why is Mitch McConnell out here writing essays about this tool at his party. Doesn`t need right now because they`re in charge that the senders in the Democratic Party need, the filibuster. Well, maybe he has something in common with those other people I just showed you whether you think they`re in it for themselves or not.

Maybe Mitch McConnell is worried this is a tool, Republicans will need soon if they face a route in 2020. I`m doing tonight by New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg. Juanita Tolliver from the Center For American Progress Action Fund and Aimee Allison, President of the group, Democracy in Color and the founder of She, the People. Nice to see everybody.


MELBER: Juanita, do you sense a pattern.

TOLLIVER: I mean, yes. I think members of the GOP see a weakness here especially as the conditions evolved related to the economy and the fact that almost 50 percent of Trump supporters from 2016 would blame Trump for that. So not only is Trump reacting but I think that`s where these external threats to his being primary come from.

You have Scaramucci setting up a pack looking to shave off 5-6-7 percent of the vote which could have an impact on the general and then you have Walsh here also looking to run a primary where he`s making a play to hold Trump accountable, something we have not seen done well from the GOP at all.

So it`ll be interesting to see how voters who just can`t stomach supporting Trump even though the Republicans react to that as an alternative.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I mean, I don`t think that these defections are going to weaken Trump so much as I think that these defections are a sign of Trump`s growing weakness, right? I mean these sort of either smell blood in the water or aren`t willing to go down with the ship and I think it has a lot to do - you know, it`s hard for me to say whether Trump has become more erratic or more unhinged because it`s not like he was ever particularly unhinged to begin with.

TOLLIVER: He has been pretty steady.

GOLDBERG: Right? I mean, he`s never--

MELBER: Juanita, you agree with Michelle that he`s been steadily unhinged.

TOLLIVER: I was saying he`s been pretty steady. He`s been pretty steady since he descended that golden escalator.

GOLDBERG: Right, I think he`s been more - he`s always been erratic, inept. He`s always been given to crazy conspiracy theories and wild hyperbole and racial insults. I think that maybe thick could be getting worse and it also could be being thrown into higher relief as his poll numbers go down, as the economy weakens and as multifarious foreign policy crises that have been in the background have now all kind of come - are coming to fruition all at once, right?

So that you can see the chaotic consequences of lack of American leadership all over the place.

MELBER: That makes sense. Aimee, there`s also the issue of the fights that he picks. The beef with the Danish Prime Minister. Again, I take Juanita`s point. There`s always been really petty stupid fights for no reason and yet some of them you know were with domestic political opponents and the press which has some you know some vibes that are similar to other political tricks.

When you`re beefing with these foreign leaders, I mean they have their own power base. They have their own constituencies. It doesn`t necessarily end well. He was sort of punked by Denmark which is why he`s been so upset about it and we were speaking just on the show with Barber Res who used to work with him about this.

I asked her point blank you know, why he`s so sensitive on these matters. Take a look.


MELBER: Is he a snowflake?

Barbara Res: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. He does the worse things and then when somebody just does a little thing, how dare they. This is the United States they`re insulting. He wasn`t that bad then. You know people started thinking it was a little bit of a joke. But more later, later on the apprentice, I mean that to me and many people, he`s like a cartoon at that point.

MELBER: Aimee.

AIMEE ALLISON, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRACY IN COLOR & FOUNDER, SHE, THE PEOPLE: Yes. I think what we`re looking at is a series of attempts by Trump kind of like test balloons to see what`s going to move his approval numbers.

I mean remember this is a guy more than from businesses, is from entertainment. He`s trying to figure out how to save himself. All those other, the talk about cutting payroll taxes which he rescinded, attacking a woman leader of a European country which you know, he`s not being - he`s being outfoxes and outclassed right and left.

The only playbook that really works with his base is racism and sexism. We`re going to see him come back to that again and again in his attacks. It`s an organizing, coordinating principle in his campaign and I think the GOP and Joe Walsh trying to run from the right. You know, have at it. It`s a death by a 1000 cuts is an effective way to do things.

It demonstrates Trump`s weakness but I`m really interested in whatever it one else is doing, how they`re responding. We can be whip lashed and try to follow the non-logic of an increasingly bizarre behavior of a guy in the White House or we can organize our own troops and our own forces with a clear message.

And I think you know I`m looking at the Democrats and I`m looking at them organizing their ground and saying, how are they taking advantage of the moment. The fact that there`s so much chaos coming from the White House and no one seems to be able to quell it.

He`s also enjoyed great benefit from having almost universal blocking and protection on the part of the GOP and I`m really looking at the Democrats to hold not only Trump but all the rest of the Republicans accountable for you know the crimes and the activities and the misbehaviors that they have protected.

MELBER: Yes, I mean you mentioned also the sexism and racism that he reaches towards. Juanita, the fights you know, he sort of improvises his way in and so I`m not sure how familiar he was with the political leadership of Denmark when he was hunting for Greenland.

TOLLIVER: Foreign relations in general, right?

MELBER: But then he figures out, oh, he`s dealing with a female head of state, a powerful woman and he does what he`s done at other times, we put this together. Take a look.


TRUMP: The Prime Minister`s statement that it was absurd, that was - it was an absurd idea was nasty. I think she`s a disgrace. She`s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.

REPORTER: She said she`d move to Canada of you got elected.

TRUMP: What can I say? No, I didn`t know that she was nasty.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we want to do is to replenish the security trust fund.

TRUMP: Such a nasty woman.


MELBER: Juanita.

TOLLIVER: I mean, it`s the playbook, right? He`s pulling out all of his sexism and misogyny, putting it on full display for his based be reacting to but here`s the thing while we`re talking about Greenland, while we`re talking about him being the chosen one, we`re not talking about all of the things that are happening in the news cycle and impacting our economy.

Like the fact that the U.S. deficit is soaring because of his trade deal, like the fact that the coal industry was downgraded by Moody yesterday to negative and so you have coal miners who voted for him in 16 looking like, this is another broken promise. You`re not looking out for me. I`m fighting to live.

What are you doing for me? And he`s going to be having to find an answer that is going to make sense to those folks who supported him in 2016 because deflection is one thing but when you have nothing to show but a long list of broken promises on taxes that did nothing for American workers but everything for corporations and the wealthy.

On health care, which Trump is actively trying to take away people`s care, especially individuals living with pre-existing conditions right now as well as on jobs. When you have folks in the auto industry who are jobless right now because those factories did leave the country, he has nothing to show for himself.

So sure, use the playbook but I`m not sure it`s going to get very far.

MELBER: Juanita and Aimee, thanks to both of you for joining us tonight. Michelle Goldberg stays. I want to do one more thing to get into it with you which is Mr. Walsh. You know they talk about defining deviancy he down.

It is striking that I don`t think anyone would have expected five years ago including people on the political right that Joe Walsh would be according to at least some conservatives, the more reasonable savior against Donald Trump or at least would be the tool. And so well we`re mentioning this and as you said it may reflect the weakness that people see out there.

We would be remiss if we didn`t also hold Mr. Walsh accountable for his own statements because of everything he`s been through. So as he becomes the next potential Republican foe of Donald Trump at least in the media sphere, we know Trump doesn`t like it when people go out there and say this stuff on TV. Here is some of what is Joe Walsh. Take a look.


WALSH: You know what Mr. President, a might not be a bad idea and I wonder how many of these alligators it would take to secure the border.

If I wanted people to take up arms why would I recommend people take up an antique like a musket. I mean seriously in 2016 I want people to go out and find a musket?

They want the Hispanic vote. They want Hispanics to be dependent upon government just like they African-Americans dependent upon government.


MELBER: Is he a contrast to Trump or is he just sort of another Trump?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think it`s important to - look, I`m not going to vote for Joe Walsh, all right?

MELBER: Hold on Michelle, I thought you were going to vote for Joe Walsh.

GOLDBERG: But I think it`s important to note first of all that he has and you know, take it for what you will but he has apologized for the role he played in introducing a Trump like politics into the United States, right? So that I think already gives him moral authority over Trump which is not necessarily saying that much.

You know and so I think that the reason that he is a possible contrast to Trump or at least a possible foil to Trump is because he clearly does share the same underlying commitments and I think I`ve said this on your show before that often people who become defectors from a movement are the ones who are true believers.

You know it`s the true believers that feel truly disappointed and truly betrayed when the ideals of the movement that they were part of aren`t - you know turn out to be - aren`t lived up to, right?

So that`s why you see somebody like Justin Ammash who was a very, very conservative become the only person to leave the Republican Party in Congress over Trump, right? That`s why Mark Sanford. Mark Sanford is extremely conservative. You know Jeff Flake was one of the most conservative senators and was a kind of Tea party darling before he got on the wrong side of Trump.

So in a way it`s the people who care enough about the purported ideals of the conservative movement to blanch when they`re betrayed that are going to launch, that are going to launch a challenge to Trump.

MELBER: Right and I think you just put your fingers on something that`s important which is for all the energy or the resistance which has a lot of as you put it a moral dimension. It isn`t enough to just tell the people who support Donald Trump, he`s the worst and you`re the worst and you`re late. That`s not a winning coalition building strategy, right?

And so the Democrats have to figure out if party argument is that he`s a con, how do you tell people that without insulting them because it suggests they`ve been conned.

GOLDBERG: You know, I think - I think that he`s a con and says you know, you kind of the corollary of that is that you had a right to expect better.

MELBER: Right and then there`s broken promises. Michelle, always good to have you for multiple topics. Thanks for being here.

GOLDBERG: Thanks so much.

MELBER: We`re going to fit in a break. We have so much more. Rudy Giuliani`s back at it trying to press a foreign government to help basically collude. I have a former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul here. And Donald Trump`s not the only one flipping on background checks.

My special report on something you need to know about the NRA and the road ahead. Later we`ll speak to the nation`s top expert on the very immigration rule that Donald Trump is now trying to cancel. This is someone who`s actually been winning in court for decades and a look at the democratic candidates handling issues of social justice with a key adviser all that plus more when we are back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Welcome back. We turn now to a story about attempts to collude with a foreign government. This is not a story based on critics of Trump, storing up the collusion talk again or about leads in the impeachment probe. Only to be clear, this is a headline tonight because of Trump`s own lawyer Rudy Giuliani`s seeking for help to go after Trump Democratic rivals in the U.S.

So stop right there. Even if Giuliani doesn`t succeed, we have another chapter of Donald Trump going from no collusion to I`m open to collusion. Be it collusion with Putin as he told ABC news he would still take info on his opponents in 2020 from Russia or this effort to get Israel to help retaliate against domestic American Democratic rivals.

And now tonight`s news help from Ukraine if they`re willing to do basically what? Free oppo work on Joe Biden and his son. Now America`s diplomats apparently getting roped into this attempted collusion. It`s not normal, it`s out in public and appears to be getting worse.

We turn now to the former U.S. Ambassador Russia, Michael McFaul. I suppose we begin with the obvious. Is this an appropriate role for the President`s attorney and the U.S. state department to try to get Ukraine to help go after the Bidens?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FMR U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Absolutely not. Of course, you just implied that, you`re right. I do not understand what Mr. Giuliani is doing in Ukraine. I wish he would stop it. There`s actually some very important diplomatic work to be done with Ukraine right now. They just selected recently a brand new President.

They then had parliamentary elections. His party, Mr. Zelensky has a majority for the first time in Ukrainian history. You have a majority in the parliament to work with the President and now is a time when we should be doubling down on helping Ukrainian democracy and market reform there not having some somebody from the outside.

Mr. Giuliani last I checked, he`s not a U.S. government official, messing around with what I think is vital important national security work for the United States.

MELBER: When you were at the state department, did you ever see anything like this come up?

MCFAUL: No, absolutely not.

MELBER: So what should these diplomats do? I mean, we`re hearing the reporting that Trump state department is sort of getting roped in or talking to Rudy about this.

MCFAUL: Well, I don`t know exactly who in the State department is doing that but I do know that when you work at the State department, you are nonpartisan, you`re not supposed to be involved in elections in any way shape or form.

I was the U.S. Ambassador to Russia in 2012. There was an election that year, remember? I`d worked for Barack Obama on his first election campaign and I worked for him in the White House but as a U.S. ambassador in Russia, I was strictly nonpartisan and working for the United States of America, not for candidate Obama.

And I hope my state department friends working on both sides, both in Ukraine and here in Washington will be doing the same.

MELBER: Well you lay it out there quite clearly, Ambassador and that`s the task, that`s the question. How do these folks at the state department deal with it when the Times is reporting, they`re being briefed and they`re knowledgeable about that as you said at some level and what are folks abroad do given that this controversy continues because of the way Donald Trump leads.

Ambassador McFaul, thanks for joining us tonight.

MCFAUL: Sure. Appreciate it.

MELBER: Absolutely. When we come back, we have a fact check on an NRA flip flop that explains the future of the gun safety debate and also Donald Trump trying to seize indefinite detention powers for kids inside the United States. We have a very special guest on that when we come back.



TRUMP: We`ve had some very bad court decisions. The Flores decisions a disaster, I have to tell you. Judge Flores whoever you maybe that decision is a disaster for our country.


MELBER: President Trump raving against the Flores Agreement, a longstanding court settlement that sets standards for migrant detention. And what you heard there was Donald Trump learned enough to find out there is a Flores Agreement and it`s powerful. But not quite enough to learn why it`s called that.

It is not named after a judge issuing the ruling. There`s no Judge Flores but rather it`s named after Jenny Flores a girl fled El Salvador in 1980s and trying to join her undocumented mother in California. And she was caught and held in severe conditions, a motel surrounded by a barricade of razor wire with severe overcrowding.

The Times reporting those children within subjected to body cavity searches and while her mother wanted to rescue her, she feared showing up as an undocumented person would get them both detained. That was the road to this Flores agreement. Advocates suing for better conditions and that is what Trump is now trying to cancel.

Attempting to seize indefinite detention powers which courts have limited even for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo, let alone these children. Now Trump is not the first President to tango with the courts over these rules but he is going the far this to try to eliminate human rights protections and Flores which began with those migrants fighting in court for their rights and with their legal advocate, Attorney Peter Schey who won this battle and kept tangling with different administrations over the decades.


PETER SCHEY, CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: We think that at bottom line, this is really a policy aimed against Central American refugees.

I don`t believe that Congress would ever vote to amend the United States constitution, to deprive citizenship to children born in this country.

There was not a well thought out policy and no plan for reuniting these children with their parents.


Peter Schey filed the original 1985 Flores lawsuit as lead counsel. He`s been advocating for immigrant rights ever since and leads the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and joins me for this exclusive interview. It`s an honor to have you here, Sir.

SCHEY: Thank you very much for me.

MELBER: Thank you. Donald Trump big picture says all this started with Barack Obama. Is that true?

SCHEY: That is really completely false. The President has blamed President Obama for separating children and claimed that he brought them back together with their parents with an executive order. That was completely false. President Obama never separated children from their parents.

President Trump did that and in reaction to public outcry, two months later, he issued an executive order rescinding that separation policy. In that order, he ordered Attorney General - former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to file a motion in the courts, immediately attempting to terminate the Flores settlement. That was unsuccessful. That took place about a year ago.

MELBER: Yes, let me pause on that with you because you literally started this. I wonder how you feel, I know what you care a lot about the rights of these individuals. I wonder how you feel having won that battle, set a lot of immigration law and then watch this President not only push against it but try to basically destroy Flores. Do you think he`ll get away with this?

SCHEY: I think it`s really sad and a commentary on this President that he is the first President in 21 years who is actively engaged in attempting to dismantle an agreement that really just provides a couple of basic important rights for children in detention. One is the right to humane treatments and that is accomplished by requiring that children as expeditiously as possible be placed into a licensed facility.

And the other is the right to prompt family reunification if the child is not a flight risk or danger to herself or to others.

MELBER: Exactly and I`m going to jump in and say Sir, this is what you`ve been working on. A lot of Americans this year are learning about this and saying how can this be and part of the answer is you won rulings against it. With regard to the conditions, the Trump officials as you know, they say in public and in court, it`s not so bad.  Take a look.


MATTHEW ALBENCE, ACTING DIRECTOR, ICE:  So if you think of yourself of a college dormitory, that`s what the rooms look like there.

KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  Campus like settings with appropriate medical, educational, recreational, dining, and private housing facilities.


MELBER:  Is that true in your experience?

PETER SCHEY, FILED ORIGINAL FLORES LAWSUIT:  That is not true in our experience.  We have the right to monitor the terms of the settlement and so we have monitoring teams, lawyers, child welfare experts who go into detention facilities, go into Border Patrol facilities.

And what we have found particularly in the Border Patrol facilities where children have been held for days and for weeks on end is a severe overcrowding children being held in cages, children not having medical assessments, children being held in very unsanitary conditions.

And then what we have found four children who move beyond the Border Patrol into office of refugee resettlement facilities.  Those facilities are supposed to be licensed under state laws.  And children are held there for months on end while extreme betting takes place of their parents, when these children should be really released in two or three weeks and instead they were detained for months.

MELBER:  And I have to -- I have to fit in one more break for some of my other guys.  I`m curious, last question to you with a limited time, what drew you early in your career to fight for these kids coming across the border, I mean, years ago when a lot of people weren`t thinking about this?

SCHEY:  You know, years ago what drew us into the case in the Center for Human Rights since this case is that this population was really uniquely vulnerable.  It was hard to -- immigrants in general are -- makeup of vulnerable population and a highly exploitable population in this country.

But these unaccompanied and accompanied immigrant children are really among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.  And when we filed this case they have no legal rights and since we filed the case and achieved a settlement in 1997, tens of thousands of children have been treated humanely right have been released relatively properly thanks to the settlement.

MELBER:  And you say that -- you say that -- that`s so important because people are so concerned and frustrated.  And what you`re outlining is amidst that for years, it`s these court-sanctioned protections that you fought for that have improved the lives of some people.  A lot of people know about your case, Flores.  Now they know one of the people behind it.  Peter Schey, thanks so much for coming on THE BEAT tonight, sir.

SCHEY:  Thank you for having me.

MELBER:  Absolutely.  I appreciate it.  I`m going to fit in a break and then we have the break down I promised you on the NRA caught in a flip flop over background checks, and an exclusive with the liberal economist shaping new racial justice policies on the campaign trail.


MELBER:  Now we turn to our special report tonight on gun safety reform.  I say gun safety, not gun control because while banning certain guns remains controversial, preventing certain people from buying guns, not controversial at all.

Think about it like this.  We are a nation divided over all kinds of stuff from Trump to abortion, but there`s unity here.  Nine out of ten Americans support background checks to restrict dangerous people from buying a gun.  It includes Republicans and gun owners because you`re using the law to make sure only law-abiding people get guns and most people find that pretty logical.

Now, Donald Trump may know that because after several mass shootings, he`s claimed to agree with that majority of Americans on to the backtrack.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There`s a great appetite and I`ve mean a very strong appetite for background checks.  And I think we can bring up background checks like we`ve never had before.  We have to have meaningful background checks.

We don`t want to see crazy people owning guns but I also want to remember that mental illness is something nobody wants to talk about.

We have very, very strong background checks right now.  A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment and I am also.  And we have to be very careful about that.  You know, they call it the slippery slope and all of a sudden everything gets taken away.


MELBER:  So that`s Trump.  That`s his flip-flop.  But Rick Ross says some things are deeper than rap, some things are deeper than Trump.  Because while he did that in days, Republicans in the NRA have made the same flip- flop shift they just took years.

After the Columbine shooting in 1999, gun violence was a flashpoint.  Nine out of ten Americans still wanted to close that gun show loophole identical now.  But if you look at the history at the time, 31 Senate Republicans voted in support of background checks with the NRA support including the man who`s now Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

That doesn`t mean they made background checks a reality.  Republicans cast those votes in a process where then other Republicans blocked the bill from becoming law because the House voted it down.  13 years after Columbine, another massacre at Sandy Hook.  And look at the polling pattern.  If you checked at the time, again, the vast majority Americans and gun owners still support background checks.

But with a Democratic President in Barack Obama and a wider push for reform, there was more of the prospect that bill could actually become law, and the Republicans shifted.  This time only four Republicans in the Senate voted for those background checks.  McConnell switched his vote to no matching that wider shift I`m mentioning from the NRA.

As some people forget all of this history, it`s actually important to understand today`s standoff.  The head of the NRA Wayne LaPierre faced Congress after Columbine and he supported background checks.  This was back when he was the NRA vice president.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, CEO, NRA:  Let`s talk about what`s reasonable and what`s not.  We think it`s reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show.  No loopholes, anywhere for anyone.


MELBER:  Let`s talk about what`s reasonable, and he`s under oath facing the Congress.  But by the time President Obama was pushing what you might call that reasonable plan after Sandy Hook, LaPierre had a new line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So let me ask you this.  Do you still as you did in 1999, still support mandatory background checks at gun shows?

LAPIERRE:  I do not believe the way the law is working now unfortunately that it does any good to extend the law to private sales between hobbyists and collectors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, so you does not support mandatory background checks in all instances the gun shows.

LAPIERRE:  We do not.


MELBER:  We do not.  This is -- this is really big.  Take this in.  It`s become pretty common to note the NRA doesn`t represent all Americans or gun owners or even most gun owners when it comes to background checks.  But what you`re seeing here in this history that we`re documenting tonight is it`s deeper.  The NRA doesn`t even represent itself because like that Republican Senate caucus it`s been on both sides of this background check issue.  Why?

Well, there are plenty of critics and experts on this.  The people who work on it day in and day out tell us hey, it`s easier to support something in Washington than it has no -- when it has no chance of passing.  So a politician can say oh yes, I`m with nine out of ten voters, and then go assure the NRA it doesn`t matter.

So maybe the NRA and those senators claim to support background checks back in the day because they had reason to believe those would never become a reality.  It`s actually kind of an echo of how so many Republicans used to claim they were for free-market health care solutions and then Obama came along and pushed that idea for ObamaCare and suddenly they opposed it.

But there`s something else going on here.  That is exactly why some gun safety advocates say there`s a sliver of good news for their cause.  They say this debate is exposing some of their opponents because of the policy progress because they`re getting closer just like so many states are getting closer and have even passed gun safety reforms just in the last year in 2018.

And that raises a larger question.  Can these opponents of reform continue to resist that nine out of ten political gravity on this issue that is being exposed in public?  Can they face down 90 percent of the voting public and their own records and their own sound of Wayne LaPierre?  The answer may come in November of 2020.

We`re going to fit in it break and then I`m going to show you candidates talking about racial justice.  Where do their ideas come from?  A first time guests on THE BEAT, an exclusive, a key advisor shaping the platform.  Professor Darrick Hamilton is here next.


MELBER:  Some say things are getting radical, others say it`s all long overdue.  I`m talking about a feature of this 2020 race platforms that are clearly focused on addressing long-standing economic racial injustice.  At these debates, we`ve seen many issues take center stage including reparations becoming a mainstream topic.

Some candidates also promoting policies to address the racial wealth gap including bond proposals for newborn children in low-income households or an idea of universal jobs you may have heard, and of course, these ideas don`t just come out of nowhere.  They come out of decades of advocacy, of activism, as well as research by academics that informs many of the proposals were now hearing about.

That includes the work of Professor Darrick Hamilton who`s actually been named checked by some of the top candidates.


DARRICK HAMILTON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KIRWAN INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF RACE AND ETHNICITY, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY:  Economic justice is a moral imperative which such an approach economic inclusion becomes an explicit goal regardless of context that we live.

It is wealth that begets more wealth.  That`s why we advocate for baby trust.  An economic birthright to capital for everyone.

The idea of a federal job guarantee is not new nor is it radical.  We talked about human rights, civil rights, the next frontier is economic right so that people have a base level of resources.


MELBER:  And Hamilton has advised several candidates and helped them basically one of the engines intellectually of what is now a mainstream conversation on race in America.  These are just some of the candidates who`s consulted him or his work.  And all of this is changing the way people who might be president propose ideas on these issues.


BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`m reading some articles right now by an economist named Darrick Hamilton that talks about how wealth is accumulated in this country that disproportionately favors white households at the expense of black households.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Let`s deal with the racial wealth gap in our country.  I will remove the barriers that black Americans face when they go to qualify for a home loan.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We know that there`s differentials in wealth are inherited from bigoted policies of our past.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The fact that a Black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence of systemic racism.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:   Racial equality must be central to combating economic equality.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We live in a country now where the president is advancing environmental racism, economic racism, criminal justice racism, health care racism.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need to recognize that when it comes to the economic gap between blacks and whites in America, it does come from a great injustice that has never been dealt with.


MELBER:  Darrick Hamilton Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University.  Thanks for being here.

HAMILTON:  Thank you for having me and thank you for that introduction.

MELBER:  Well, we just pulled on what you`ve been doing.  How many people running for president have you been in touch with now?

HAMILTON:  You know, I`d have to think about that number but I`d say quite a few, probably more than four.

MELBER:  What does it mean that your work which people may not have heard a lot about or at least read directly is now getting this kind of traction?

HAMILTON:  I think we`re ready for change.  I think the Democratic Party recognizes that America is ready for bold change to get us out of that rut that we`ve been in of basically 45 years of stagnant wages.

MELBER:  You look at median net worth and what a difference it is in this country, white households 170,000, Hispanic 20,000, black 17,000.

HAMILTON:  Yes -- no, it is dramatic.  I mean, we could start off with the fact that wealth is unequal in America, period, regardless of race.  But then what becomes more disturbing is one`s well positioned, it`s more determined by race than things like education, income, or things that might be related to class.

MELBER:  When people say oh, but if I could go to school, if I could get a nice degree like yours, that would shift things.  You`re saying, actually no, it depends on whether that person going to school is black or white in this country.

HAMILTON:  There`s one statistic that vividly displays that the fact that if you`re a black family in your head graduated from college, you typically have less wealth than a white family where to head dropped out of high school.  And again, one needs to really consider what wealth can do for you in your life.

If you want to start a business you need some capital.  If you want your children to go to an expensive school, you need some wealth.  I mean, if you`re faced with crises in health and you`re having problems with your health insurance, wealth is a protective factor.

MELBER:  What if you want to start an international branding and hotel company and then get bailed out from bankruptcy?  But a person who worked for the person I`m mentioning, this is a Trump campaign spokesperson who`s worked for them, was railing against this idea of the universal jobs guarantee which is you and other academics have looked at.  Take a listen.


MARC LOTTER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP:  We are at what economists consider full employment right now.  Every day we`re reading job we`re reading headlines across the country about companies that are adding jobs.  The problem in many areas is not enough workers, not too few jobs.  So this just seems to be a stretch to try to appeal to their -- to their crazy liberal base on the coasts and I can`t see it going anywhere.


MELBER:  What`s the plain English response to that?

HAMILTON:  Well, he`s part right in the fact that a problem is we don`t have enough jobs.  Exactly, that`s why we need a federal government to ensure that we have an adequate number of jobs so that everybody can have agency that comes about from having a job.

The other point about full employment, well we need to consider what is the nature of work today versus, for instance, nature -- the nature of work in the past.  If we have people working with poverty wages, if we have people there in unstable working conditions where you don`t know how much you`re going to work from week to week or how much your income is going to be from week to week, if we have a job without protection that`s very different than a job that offers you the dignity of decent wages, decent benefits.

MELBER:  You are operating in this space between big, big ideas that might only get their reckoning in decades or never and then the political service by many people who share your ideology if you want to call it that, or the concerns you have, they want to beat Trump no matter what.

And so I`m curious how you navigate that as you advise or talk to different candidates.  And I want to put up -- it depends how you ask the question but some of your ideas you know do run up against a lot of skepticism.  Look at when you ask people should the free market or the government make these big decisions about wealth distribution.

For Republicans 91 percent to seven, for Independents 67 percent still say free market, and for Democrats, it`s basically split.  Take it all together, and the core -- I`m simplifying because I`m not as studious as you, but the core of some of your proposals which is the government comes in and tries to fix these gaps, right, is facing skepticism there from people who say that`s not the government`s role.

HAMILTON:  Yes.  I mean, we need a granular understanding of history to really understand these big ideas as well.  You know, I like to point out that nothing that I`m proposing hasn`t been proposed in the past in some way, in some fashion or the other.

For example, Roosevelt was talking about a federal job guarantee.  I mean, he was talking about an economic bill of rights which is the next evolution.  So there`s really -- these aren`t radical ideas.  Let me start with that.

MELBER:  Did you know when you started out you would have this much access and a seat at the table, and does it change anything that you do?  Does it make you cooler with your students, et cetera?

HAMILTON:  I mean, in some ways, it`s the silver lining of Donald Trump.  These big, bold ideas now are on the table.  I mean, the question of what is possible in America has been -- has been fundamentally changed.  We are not going to stick with the status quo.  We now have a scenario where we can -- we can really think outside of the box of a new vision.

MELBER:  Well, you talk about getting out of the box some of the ideas that are -- that have been pulled out from outside that box are coming from some of the books and work you`re doing.  So Professor Hamilton, thanks so much for coming on THE BEAT.

HAMILTON:  Thank you.

MELBER:  I appreciate it.  And the Obamas up next, speaking out in a new film with what looks like a swipe at Trump.


MELBER:  The Obamas have been careful to stay out of politics lately.  They don`t have traditional day jobs so what are they up to?  Well, they do have a very special gig as professional film producers.  In fact, you may have heard they partnered with Netflix and their first release tackles economic justice, including a story of a shuttered GM plant revived by a Chinese billionaire.  So why this story?


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  One way of looking at what we have both been doing for the last 20 years, maybe most of our career --

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY:  -- most of our careers once we left law, you know --

B. OBAMA:  -- was to tell stories.


MELBER:  Tell stories.  And in telling the story, they made a pretty subtle statement that still, well, you can hear for yourself, how it`s relevant.


B. OBAMA:  If you know someone, if you talk to them face-to-face, if you can forge a connection, you may not agree with them on everything, but there`s some common ground to be found, and you can move forward together.


MELBER:  Common ground is a contrast to the rhetoric of the Trump era.  So what we can expect in the future?


M. OBAMA:  Higher ground is a reflection of both of us.  So that means that you know, our platform is going to look a little bit like everything just like the world is a little bit of everything. 


MELBER:  Higher ground makes it clear Michelle Obama is still telling everyone, go high.

That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching THE BEAT.  "HARDBALL" is up next.