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GOP Congressman grilled. TRANSCRIPT: 8/27/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Danielle Moodie-Mills, Mark Thompson, Roger Johnson, David Enrich,Michael McFaul, Danielle Twemlow, Ellen Weintraub

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That is probably the future of opioid makers down the road. Thank you very much for your reporting.


TODD: That`s all we have for tonight. It`s been a busy day. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY again tomorrow ends you know why. You never know what`s going to happen. "THE BEAT" though starts right now. Ayman Mohyeldin is in for Ari.

Good evening, Ayman.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST: Hey, good evening Chuck. Thank you very much. Hello there everyone. I am Ayman Mohyeldin in for Ari Melber. We have a lot to get to tonight. Disturbing new NBC reporting on Donald Trump pulling money from disaster relief to fund his immigration agenda.

Plus Trump scrambling to respond to reports of bed bugs at his Florida resort as he pushes to hold a world summit there next year. And critics say Republicans are hobbling the agency in charge of keeping our election safe.

A key player in that fight, the Chair of the FEC is going to join us here but we start tonight with the new revelations of Trump raiding Homeland Security funding to pay for his immigration policy. NBC news learning company officials are pulling more than $270 million of Homeland Security funding including $155 million from FEMA`s Disaster Relief Fund to pay for immigrant detention centers and temporary hearing facilities for asylum seekers waiting in Mexico.

Now this money was meant to be used to respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters. Instead the Trump administration now using it to fund his immigration plan and today one of his top border officials insisting, they won`t hold migrant children in detention indefinitely. They just want to be able to threaten it.


MARK MORGAN, ACTING CBP COMMISSIONER: This is not about indefinite detention. If anybody says that, that`s an absolute lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you put the word indefinite in there but it doesn`t mean they`re going to have indefinite. It`s in order to get them processed. Stay or go, right?

MORGAN: That is accurate, Bryan and what we`ve seen is time and time again just like you said, if we put limitations in there, then they gain the system and they get past that and we end up having to release them so putting that word in there allows us to maintain them during the process.


MOHYELDIN: The other big development we`re tracking tonight. New signs that Trump`s trade war is alienating a part of his own base. The New York Times reporting farmers are increasingly frustrated with Trump`s standoff with China, with a growing number "losing patience with Trump`s approach and suggesting it will not take much to lose their vote as well."

And Trump can`t afford to lose more of the country because his approval rating, well, it is sinking in every single battleground state. One GOP operative warning if this economy falters then I think he`s a goner and I think the Senate will be in trouble.

All of these signs of trouble as Trump contends with a new primary challenger and a former top White House aide hammering him in public.


NIXON: He believes people should raise serious questions about the mental instability of the President.


NIXON: And maybe even invoke the 25th Amendment. Do you agree with him on that?

SCARAMUCCI: A thousand percent. He said he was the chosen one. He said he was the king of the Jews. He compared President Xi and Jerome Pal and said which one is a bigger enemy to the United States. He`s all over the map acting irrational and unstable.


MOHYELDIN: All right, with me now Danielle Moodie-Mills, host of the SiriusXM radio show WokeAF and Rev. Mark Thompson, host of the `Make it Plain` podcast. Great to have both of you with us.

Danielle, let me begin with you. From 30,000 feet this looks like chaos, is it?

DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, HOST, SIRIUSXM RADIO SHOW WOKEAF: It is chaos and I would imagine that if I were inside of the White House, that`s exactly how it would feel. I mean, the reality is that Trump has lied himself into the White House.

He has lied himself into this situation and there`s only so long that you can keep something going before it begins to unravel and what he sold us is that he was a businessman, that he was the art of the deal, that he could do no wrong and what we know is that since he`s been in office, that we have started to trend downward.

And so the trade war that he is doing right now with China, it is hurting the very people that he said that he was going into the White House to help and that is problematic because there`s only so much pain according to Lindsey Graham that people are willing to take.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, we`re going to talk a little bit more about the farmers and those that are affected by the trade war later on in this show but I`m curious to get your thoughts because anything Anthony Scaramucci who served albeit briefly in this administration was a loyal and fierce defender of this President even before he got into the White House.

He is now talking about trying to get people to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove this man from office. What does that in of itself say?

REV. MARK THOMPSON, HOST, MAKE IT PLAIN: Well, it says that a former supporter now agrees with many of us that he`s not well. he is unstable. He`s all over the place. He`s exploiting his own wife the First Lady to solicit some type of solidarity with a crazy dictator saying they met and they never did. He doesn`t know the difference between England and United Kingdom.

He said on yesterday that it Barack Obama lost to Ukraine?


THOMPSON: What is - what is he talking about? He doesn`t understand climate change and even fundamentally, I know you`re going to get to farmers, if I need the farmers` votes, why would I do anything to hurt them. So he`s even harmful to himself so 25th Amendment, whatever it takes and I know Scaramucci can talk about 25th Amendment. Democrats need not to give up on talking about impeachment.

MOHYELDIN: Let me read you guys how the New York Times has been describing Trump today. "The way he negotiates at times involves facts that may not be facts, statements that may not have been said and episodes that may not have occurred and at times, he denied saying what he actually said.

MOODIE-MILLS: He`s delusional.

MOHYELDIN: I mean, I`m curious to get your thoughts because he`s also gone on the record saying that he got a call from China, that China wants to negotiate. No Chinese officials have come out to confirm that report so how does anyone navigate this landscape when you have a President who is as you`re saying delusional?

MOODIE-MILLS: He is absolutely delusional and you heard Mnuchin had to walk back that statement where he said that he got a call from China and he said, oh, we`re in discussions which I guess could be emails, I guess could be text messages but the idea is that the President has created this crazy reality, this alternate universe that he is living in where facts don`t matter and the statements said he`s making, no one can verify and the idea is that he continues to do this and he`s pushing us further and further into this trade war by trying to puff out his chest at the G7 and saying, I`m in talks with China.

No, you`re not like no one is verifying this and the fact is that we need to continue to call it out because it does look like he`s incredibly unstable. Let me talk to you guys about the reporting NBC has today that the President`s directing some funds away from FEMA disaster relief towards his immigration policy.

Talk to me a little bit about the messaging that is sending. You`ve got a hurricane. Hurricane Dorian heading towards possibly even hitting Puerto Rico, a territory that is still ravaged and still suffering from last year`s hurricane and now you`ve got the President diverting finds that could be helping people to implement his immigration policy.

THOMPSON: Well, again, the clinical delusional. He obviously binged watched Shark NATO over the weekend. And he can use that money because he`s got the army and they`re going to send nukes to fight the hurricanes. So yes, I mean none of that makes any sense but that`s what he does.

We - it`s become a cliche because we`ve always said you know, it`s like he`s in a reality show but he really, really is because that`s what you do on reality shows. It`s not a real thing but you kind of ad lib and go.

MOHYELDIN: It`s scripted.


MOHYELDIN: It`s scripted reality.

THOMPSON: And on his show you know, he was really a make believe CEO because we know he doesn`t do anything so he`s a make believe President acting and just saying whatever he wants to say. His obsession with immigration is rooted in his xenophobia and racism.

Now tomorrow is anniversary Dr. King`s I have a dream speech and he is the opposite of what Dr. King stood for. When Dr. King said you know, little black boys and girls, little white - I have a dream little black boys and girls and white boys and girls will walk together.

Donald Trump`s dream is that little brown boys and little brown girls will be separated from their parents, that`s not anything that we need in America right now and it is further dividing in this country and it`s about time I pray, that those that supported him thus far wake up and realize this is not the way we need to go.

MOHYELDIN: Let me get your thoughts on this really quickly Danielle. The Hill reporting that Republicans on the Hill are nervous. They want to try to create a bit of a firewall for the Senate come 2020 because they know that this White House is in serious jeopardy falling to the Democrats.

How concerned should they be that this President could go down, could even take down the Senate with them.

MOODIE-MILLS: He`s going to take down the Republican party with him and they need to be very concerned about that. Those people who keep having conversations in private that we keep hearing about and reports, oh, we`ve talked to some Republicans in private and they really disagree with the President on immigration, on climate change, on all of these things but nobody`s saying it publicly.

And frankly the American public is starting to recognize that Mitch McConnell is the reason why we don`t have sensible gun reform. Why we don`t have a lot of things that we could because the House has passed over 140 pieces of legislation that have died on arrival at the Senate because of Mitch McConnell.

So it`s between Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump who will bring down this party and they need to figure out whether or not they want to remain in power or they want to rebuild themselves post Trump.

MOHYELDIN: Danielle and Mark, stay with me for a second because I want to switch gears. We talked about farmers here for a moment. I mentioned the growing frustration with the Trump administration from farmers. My next guest is actually the head of the National Farmers Union which represents hundreds of thousands of family farmers and it`s slamming the President`s new round of trade talks saying, "Every time Trump escalates his trade war, China calls his bluff - And why would we expect any differently this time around?

Between burning bridges with all of our biggest trading partners and undermining our domestic biofuels industry, President Trump is making things worse, not better."

Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union is here with me. Sir, thank you very much for joining me this evening. First Sir, let me get your perspective in terms of what you`re hearing from the farmers and the family farms that you`re speaking to on a daily basis about this ongoing trade war?

ROGER JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: Well, you need to start with the understanding that there`s a lot of financial stress in agriculture right now. Net farm income is about half of what it was six years ago. There`s - farm debt is at near record levels. Farm bankruptcies are going up.

All of this stuff that you`ve been talking about creates an enormous amount of uncertainty. When we talk about Trump and trade and China, we sometimes forget that this is the President that is also offended the leaders of a lot of the other major markets around the country, around the world. Whether it`s starting with Mexico, with Canada, with the EU, with Japan, you just go around the world and there have been disparaging comments made about leaders and about people.

And these are folks that farmers sell our products to. We`re enormously dependent on them so it isn`t just about China, it`s about our reputation around the world and the fact that we`re losing markets and it`s hurting our economy.

MOHYELDIN: And Mr. Johnson, I am sure though you and the farmers you represent have heard the President on the trail at his rallies always touting how well the farmers are doing and in fact, he himself has in the past always boasted that farmers love him. One poll shows that 71 percent of farmers support President Trump.

How do you explain that with what you`re describing now that the farming industry has been hurt but at the same time the President also says farmers like him?

Listen, farmers historically have tended to be Republican. They`re conservative, they`re independent. They on the one hand, they don`t want government telling them what to do. On the other hand, they want government policies to be market friendly. They want the government to be involved in negotiating trade agreements that work for them and what we`re seeing is that the economy in agriculture is just in a lot of trouble right now.

And so at some point those sort of feelings about who you prefer, you also have to think about your economic future and I think at the end of the day, more and more farmers are coming to understand that listen, what this person is doing is harming our reputation and it`s literally going to take us decades to get some of these - we may never get some of these markets back.

China used to be our top market. They`re number 5 last year for agriculture. We`ve lost over $20 billion worth of sales in China, just agricultural sales so I mean this is - there`s just a lot of stress here.

MOHYELDIN: So let me - let me ask you about your reaction to what Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said which is, hey, you just got to accept the pain. What do you say to that senator?

JOHNSON: Well, I think we`ve been accepting a lot of pain. We`ve been dealing with a lot of pain. At the end of the day, you know when it`s time to vote, farmers are going to go to the polls just like every other American does and they`re going to - they`re going to think about a lot of different things.

But one of the things that they`re going to have to be thinking about this next year is are they still going to be in business the next year or the year after. Their financial circumstances are becoming very, very troubling right now.

MOHYELDIN: All right, Roger Johnson Sir, thank you very much for joining us. Danielle Moodie Mills, Mark Thompson as well, thank you here on set. Coming up, Trump`s bank makes a critical admission in the subpoena fight over his tax returns. Plus Trump makes a bizarre new pitch to host a world summit at his Doral resort.

And Attorney General Bill Barr drops $30,000 for a party at Trump`s DC hotel, believe it or not. Also we`re going to talk to the voter who confronted a GOP lawmaker for blocking gun reform and opposing the violence against women act. I`m Ayman Mohyeldin in for Ari Melber. You`re watching The Beat on MSNBC.


MOHYELDIN: Breaking news in the fight over Trump`s tax returns, lawyers for Deutsche Bank confirming the firm holds tax returns relating to subpoenas for Trump, his companies and his immediate family members. The bank will not publicly confirm exactly who those returns belong to, claiming that would reveal specific details about how its customers conduct business.

It is the latest twist in house Democrats` legal battle to get Trump`s financial records. In fact late last week, judges clashing with Deutsche Bank lawyers on this very issue.


JUDGE: Does the bank have tax returns of any of the named people or entities?

LAWYER: Your honor given contractual obligations and other legal obligations, that`s unfortunately not a question that we`re able to address. The bank has contractual -

JUDGE: What privileges are you asserting?

LAWYER: The Bank has contractual obligations to its clients related to confidential -

JUDGE: You think you can contract away the opportunity to answer a court`s question without a privilege such as the Fifth amendment or something comparable? You can just say, "We told our client we won`t do it."


MOHYELDIN: So the judge is clearly skeptical of Deutsche bank`s argument but it even got more heated.


JUDGE: I`m not asking you for the content of them at all. I`m asking you, do you have them?

LAWYER: Even just answering that question I think could run afoul of -

JUDGE: You think it could?

LAWYER: Yeah, your honor. We`re not in a position to answer that question based on the relevant statutes.

JUDGE: If we want an answer to that question, we go to court to seek an order?

LAWYER: Well, we`d be happy -

JUDGE: I`m serious.


MOHYELDIN: The judge is in fact serious and so is Congress. In fact, last week the lawyer for Democrat in this case revealing that they are investigating "massive amounts of Russian money including possible money laundering."

I`m now joined by David Enrich, New York Times Finance Editor who is writing a book about Trump`s relationship with Deutsche bank and Maya Wiley, a former civil prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. David, let`s start with you first of all. You`ve been investigating this.

When you look at what the news came out today, what do these filings realistically tell us?

DAVID ENRICH, FINANCE EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the bottom line here is that we now know beyond any doubt that Deutsche Bank is sitting on a vast trove of Trump`s personal and corporate financial records, not just his tax returns but all sorts of other corporate records, going back over the full scale of the bank`s 20 year relationship with him.

These tax returns themselves, it`s unclear how useful those are going to be. My understanding is that the bank has kind of the first summary pages, the first 2 or 3 or 4 pages of tax returns for a number of different years and so it`s unclear to me how useful that actually it`s going to be.

It`s certainly not as useful as if that you had all the schedules attached and all of the minute detail which is where I know Democrats and certainly a lot of journalists are - have been for years now dying to get their hands on.

MOHYELDIN: Yes and to that point, how does this Maya, help the Democrats in their legal cases? They continue to piece more information. If in fact as David was saying that it`s not the full scope of the tax returns with all the schedules and how comprehensive or extensive it is, what if anything does this change in the game?

MAYA WILEY, FMR CIVIL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Well, I think there are actually two issues here. So one is of course the more information Democrats can get, the more likelihood they`re able to identify whether there are other sources or other people they should be subpoenaing records from.

So that`s one reason why investigators in this case, Congress would want as the most information they can get around his tax returns. I agree with David around how much information they`re really going to get is an important question.

But the other is the legal issue. The Trump administration has taken - first of all, Trump -Donald Trump himself has taken a very aggressive and legally weak argument that essentially says this is just a political attack on me and I have a right to privacy despite holding the most powerful chair in the country.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, you bring that up and I - just let me play this for you really quickly because you brought up his reaction to all this. He`s been extremely defensive about. Watch what he said in the past.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Maybe I`m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate.

If I decide to run for office, I`ll produce my tax returns absolutely.

REPORTER: What is your tax rate?

TRUMP: It`s none of your business, you`ll see it when I release it.

You don`t release your returns until the order is complete. When the order is complete, I`ll do it. My tax returns against my lawyer`s wishes, when she releases her 33,000 emails -

I mean, I became President. No, I don`t think they care at all.


MOHYELDIN: Why is he so defensive to the point that you are making his defense why is he so defensive about his tax returns?

WILEY: So we`ve heard several things so far that suggest reasons he might be offensive. One for example, is New York Times reporting about him - about how much money he has lost. I mean there is certainly the factor of running on being an excellent businessman with perhaps a financial record that shows you`re not.

The second is implications in whether of whether he`s overstating earnings, overstating deductions, implications about whether he`s actually committed tax fraud for example or insurance fraud for that matter.

I mean, Michael Cohen got up and said, he did these kinds of things all the time and suggested that might be a problem. But third and this is where the counterintelligence point comes in, right? The Counterintelligence Committee also wants this information because Robert Mueller all but confirmed counterintelligence investigation of the FBI, not that surprising.

Lots of reasons to suspect there - there might be ongoing investigations of some form. Deutsche bank is a bank that has been in bed with Russia for a long time and it is one of the only banks that would lend money to Donald Trump.

So if you want to understand whether or not Russia has any leverage over Donald Trump, that`s a good place to look.

MOHYELDIN: All right so I feel like we have the perfect guest to answer that question for us. You`ve been looking at the relationship between Donald Trump and Deutsche bank for the past 20 years. Without giving away all of the reporting unless you want to give away the key nugget of what you found, tell us a little bit about this relationship. Why has it become the focal point of Maya was saying, in this three-way nexus between Russia, Deutsche bank and Donald Trump?

ENRICH: Well, as she said, Deutsche bank is the only mainstream bank that has been willing to touch Donald Trump consistently for the past two decades and it`s also one of the only mainstream banks in the world that has been deep in bed and in hoc with the Russian government and with Russian banks tied to the Kremlin and with people very close to Putin.

So that you know, the most generous explanation is that it`s an incredible coincidence and but the reality is based on our - the reporting we`ve done, there are people inside Deutsche bank, in the compliance department and in the anti-money laundering parts of the bank where they were seeing suspicious stuff with Jared Kushner`s accounts, with Donald Trump`s accounts.

I mean people repeatedly tried to blow the whistle and their concerns were overruled because the bank was so desperate to keep making money off of these very lucrative clients. Donald Trump clearly is very eager to keep his finances secret. We don`t - the bottom line is we don`t quite know why but it`s clearly for some reason and I think sooner or later we`re probably going to find out.

MOHYELDIN: Yes, we`ll see if in fact these Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee will find out. Maya Wiley, David Enrich, thank you both very much for joining us.

Turning next to Trump lashing out at reports of a bed bug infestation at his Doral resort, believe it or not if he pitches world leaders on meeting there. It`s raising red flags about potential conflicts of interest. Joyce Vance and Michael McFaul are here in less than 30 seconds.


MOHYELDIN: Today Donald trump making a new unusual pitch for the next G7 summit to be held at his Doral resort in Florida, tweeting today that it`s a false and nasty rumor that there are bed bugs at his resort but it`s more than a rumor. Trump actually settled a lawsuit back in 2017 over bed bugs at Doral.

A traveler sued the resort after his back, face and arms were riddled with bites after a night`s sleep in one of the luxury suite and then there`s this. 524 health code violations reported at Doral between 2013 and 2018. Inspectors found approximately 20 to 25 live roaches on the walls, baseboards and floors in the kitchen, food prep area.

It was so bad, they recommended the kitchen be actually shut down but of course this problem is bigger than bed bugs and cockroaches. Trump is pushing a plan that basically forces foreign governments to pay him to attend a diplomatic summit.

This at a time when foreign diplomats seem to be seeking favor with company spending lots of money at his hotel in Washington DC. It`s hard to remember now but before Trump took office. He promised that he distanced himself from his businesses as President. Watch.


TRUMP: My two sons who are right here, Don and Eric are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They`re not going to discuss it with me. These papers are just some of the many documents that I`ve signed, turning over complete and total control.


MOHYELDIN: All right so these continued conflicts of interest prove that`s not the case. In fact moments ago reports that Trump`s Attorney General Bill Barr just booked Trump`s to DC hotel for a $30,000 private holiday party. Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance and former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul.

Is no bed bugs Joyce, the best pitch for a world summit, you think?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: This is such a theater of the absurd. It`s so hard to imagine that we`re at a point where the President is using his official role as the leader of our country to hawk his failing resort and forced foreign leaders pay for it but you know, joking aside, this violates the emoluments clause.

It`s not a close call, it shouldn`t be tolerated. The fact that we`re here I think tells us how over time, we`ve accepted the small degradations of norms from Trump to the point where something so outrageous can be taking place.

MOHYELDIN: Yes and joking aside, you do raise up a really interesting point about the emoluments clause but does this Doral controversy really reveal that he was never serious about separating his business from the office or the presidency?

VANCE: He`s shown absolutely no inclination to create separation. It`s unprecedented for a President not to put his asset producing income into a blind trust. The trust that he has no control over. Trump said he would do that during the campaign. Then it became this sort of nebulous process where he would give his adult sons control. We know he`s not separate. He spends time on the properties. He continues essentially to use the office of the presidency as a way to advertise for these businesses that create income for him and his family. It`s a for-profit presidency.

MOHYELDIN: Ambassador McFaul, Trump has name dropped, by our count, his properties, almost 70 times as president of this country. If you are a foreign diplomat, if you are a foreign minister, or even just a foreign government, what kind of message does that send everytime he is dropping one of his properties suddenly in his speeches

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: It diminishes the president of the United States of America. It diminishes our Commander- in-Chief. It diminishes the leader of the free world. There`s no other way to think about it.

That`s the way people are reacting. That is the way other leaders are reacting. And there`s simple solutions. There are better solutions. There`s something called Camp David, for instance, fantastic setting, fantastic security.

President Obama hosted the G8 Summit there in 2012. That would be an appropriate special place to hold the G8. Not this, kind of, you know, whatever location, or other places. It`s just not appropriate for the president the United States.

MOHYELDIN: Ambassador, I`m curious to get your thoughts really quickly in terms of how Russia has been front and center of the G7 debate with the reporting that the president, behind the scenes, has been fervently trying to reinstate them, part of this group without nothing in exchange, without any kind of commitment from them either to stop the cyber meddling, withdraw from Crimea. How do you square that pack? How do you explain what he is doing?

MCFAUL: I can`t explain it. I`m sorry. I`m not going to try to explain it. It is not in America`s national security interests for the president of the United States to be giving a gift to Putin and getting nothing in return.

And by discussing this idea, when Putin has not left Crimea, he has not left eastern Ukraine, he has not changed any of his behavior that got him thrown out in the first place, again, it just undermines the president of the United States. He is supposed to be defending our national interest not Vladimir Putin`s.

MOHYELDIN: And to that point Joyce, let`s bring it back to William Barr for a second. Bill Barr booking a $30,000 holiday party at Trump`s hotel. On the surface that may look innocent, a holiday party booked at a lavish D.C. hotel. But it also seems to be very sinister that it is at a Trump hotel.

VANCE: The recording on this says that Barr went to DOJ ethics officials and was told that it was okay to do this. Other large hotel properties in D.C. were already booked for this day. But even if it`s technically okay, this makes you stop and think about whether or not this attorney general really has the judgment that it takes.

He went into this knowing that if it became public it would create more controversy over the appearance of impropriety and whether the Justice Department was independent from the president, or simply carrying out policies, and now personal practices that were an effort to curry favor with the president.

It`s bad for the Justice Department and you know, Ayman, if I worked for DOJ, and I want to give my boss a holiday gift, I`m limited to $20 under DOJ ethics rules. Last time I checked $30,000 was a lot more than $20.

MOHYELDIN: Yeah. There`s no doubt that the Trump Organization would benefit from any party at that hotel venue. Ambassador McFaul finally to you sir. Russia blocked two U.S. senators from visiting that country. Is this how Putin responds to Trump`s praise? I mean, again, Vladimir Putin banning American senators from entering Russia. On the other hand you`ve got the White House inviting the Russian president to a G7 Summit, or wanting to at least

MCFAUL: Well, first just on its merits this is bad. We need to have conversation we need our senators to go there. As somebody who`s banned from traveling to Russia, because of Vladimir Putin, I just think this --  it doesn`t mean you`re going to agree. But we have to have communication.

But secondly, it`s a great point. You know, why is it always on us that we need to improve relations with Russia? What has Vladimir Putin done in the last two and a half years? Not one thing has he done to try to improve relations with the United States.

And this is just one more instance where he`s not doing that, which all the more begs the question, why is President Trump so anxious to please Putin? And as I said before I`m no longer going to try to explain it.

MOHYELDIN: One of the unknown mysteries of this administration. Joyce Vance, Ambassador Michael McFaul, thank you both very much.

Still ahead, my live interview with a voter who confronted a GOP lawmaker for opposing gun reform. Also, I`m going to talk to a top elections official about why a key agency is hobbled ahead of the 2020 elections. Plus the Trump White House fact checks Trump on something he said about the first lady.


MOHYELDIN: And the national fight over gun laws crystallized in a fiery town hall exchange with constituents grilling a Republican lawmaker for answers. All of it caught on tape. It happened at a town hall hosted by GOP Congressman, Steve Watkins of Kansas. Watch as he gets pressed on his opposition to background checks and to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which would tighten some gun laws.


DANIELLE TWEMLOW, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA CO-LEADER: We`re not really putting our resources in what we do know works which are red flag laws, closing the loopholes on background checks, the domestic Violence Against Women Act, which you voted against.  I will state that --

REP. STEVE WATKINS (R)-KANSAS: Ma`am listen, hold on. That is completely inaccurate, inaccurate characterization.

TWEMLOW: What is your vote on that?

WATKINS: It was full of poison pills that, you know, a sensible, conservative Republican --

TWEMLOW: It is a law that has been enacted for quite some time. That only came up to vote because of expiration and you chose not to reinstate it.

WATKINS: Because it had poison pills that didn`t exist in there before.

MOHYELDIN: Indeed, Congressman Watkins did oppose reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act this year. It passed the House anyway, but has stalled in the Senate, as many others have. Now, you heard the Congressman mention poison pills in the bill. Well, the crowd actually pressed him on that. Watch.

WOMAN IN CROWD: What were the poison pills?

WATKINS: The poison pills we can go into (INAUDIBLE) anytime you`d like --

CROWD: Please! Why not now?

WATKINS: We`d be happy to. We can blast a press release on it if you`d like. It had poison pills in it.

WOMAN IN CROWD: What are the poison pills?

WATKINS: The specifics, I don`t want to give inaccurately.

WOMAN IN CROWD: Because you don`t know? Or you don`t want to answer?

WATKINS: No. We`ll submit a press release.

WOMAN IN CROWD: He doesn`t want to answer.

MOHYELDIN: Okay. So we followed up with the Congressman. In fact, The Beat reached out to Congressman Watkins office for details about the so-called poison pills that were in that. We have not gotten a response. The NRA, they actually opposed the bill, citing new language aimed at curbing gun ownership among domestic abusers.

With me now is that activist who confronted Congressman Watkins, Danielle Twemlow. She is a co-leader of the local chapter in Topeka, Kansas, of the gun reform group, Moms Demand Action. Great to have you with us. And thank you very much for taking the time to join us.

First of all, you heard from Congressman Watkins, you know, deflect the question about poison pills. We reached out to him. He did not respond to us. Have you heard from the congressman any further details about those so- called poison pills?

TWEMLOW: We actually reached out to him as well today. More than one of us -- more than one of his constituents and really received, kind of, the same roadblock that we received yesterday, that no new information at this time. And when they are ready, they will be posting it on their website. And so, no new information now.

MOHYELDIN: All right. Well, we`ll certainly follow up with him as well in the coming days. I want to get your thoughts on one of the responses the Congressman said in that town hall. He said that there is clearly no definitive solution for gun violence. I`m curious to get your response, as somebody who lives this day in and day out on the front lines, what is your response to the Congressman saying there is no definitive solution?

TWEMLOW: Well, there isn`t a magic way to end all gun violence, but that certainly shouldn`t stop us from doing things that can make a difference. And we do have some fairly decent information that, you know, having stronger background checks would definitely help curb some of this day-to- day violence that we see.

One hundred Americans a day are killed by gun violence in America. And that is certainly something that we shouldn`t just take lightly, that we shouldn`t just say it`s going to happen. Enough is enough. And we definitely need to stand firm on making sure that we`re doing things to help curb this problem.

MOHYELDIN: Danielle, I want to play --

TWEMLOW: One thing that I happen --

MOHYELDIN: Go ahead. Go ahead.

TWEMLOW: Go ahead, I`m sorry.

MOHYELDIN: No, no, please go ahead.

TWEMLOW: One thing that I pointed out was that, many of us at the end of the day, when we leave our house, when we go to sleep at night, we lock our doors. We lock it as a security feature. We do it, because it helps deter some crime. And it makes us feel safer. And that`s very what we need to look at. We need to do things. We need to start somewhere to make everyone feel safer.

MOHYELDIN: This is a sign of the times that we are living in. It is back- to-school season. It is in full swing. I want you to take a look at some of the new items that parents are buying their kids in this report. Watch.


KSDK NEWS: Parents are now buying bullet-proof backpacks.

WTLV-TV: Some are calling this a sad reality. The fact that you can simply go to one of these stores like OfficeMax right behind me and pick up one of these bullet-proof backpacks.

STEVE NAREMORE, TUFFPACKS CEO: This is one of our 12 by 18 inserts.

TODAY SHOW, NBC: Steve Naremore`s company, TuffyPacks, makes bulletproof inserts for backpacks. Ninety five percent of his customers are parents who received this guide, which shows how kids should use the backpack along with other survival tips.


MOHYELDIN: I have no words to describe that. What is your response?

TWEMLOW: I agree. I have children myself. I have worked within a school and it`s really disheartening to believe that we`re putting this burden on our children and their day-to-day lives. The research is not suggesting that this isn`t a safe way for our children to live from day to day, that it is the jobs of our senators, of our Congress, people to be enacting laws that are keeping their constituents safer, not putting the burden on children, on schools. And it`s not healthy.

MOHYELDIN: I can`t imagine what it`s like to be a parent having to explain to your first grader how to use a backpack as a bulletproof shield. Danielle Twemlow, thank you very much for taking the time to join us this evening.

Up next, how Mitch McConnell is undercutting election security in this country. The head of federal elections is here on that live, next.


MOHYELDIN: All right. This does not sound good. The federal agency in charge of policing America`s election laws is about to get seriously impaired just as the 2020 campaign heats up. And it`s happening in part because of Mitch McConnell.

Okay, here`s the deal. The Federal Election Commissions is supposed to have six members. Right now, it has four, the minimum required by law to vote as a body and enforce election laws. This week, one member announced that he is stepping down effective Saturday, meaning the FEC won`t be able to form a quorum, essentially paralyzing the agency.

In a moment, I`m going to speak with the chair of the FEC, Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat. She is urging the Senate to speedily confirm new members. But Mitch McConnell has left one nomination stall for two years. And Donald Trump has yet to nominate anyone to fill the other vacancy.

All of this coming amid warnings from security agencies about foreign meddling in the 2020 elections. And just months after Trump said he`s open to accepting foreign aid.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: If somebody called from a country, Norway, "We have information on your opponent." Oh, I think I would want to hear it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC`S GOOD MORNING AMERICA CO-ANCHOR: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It`s not an interference. If they have information, I think I`d take it.


MOHYELDIN: Joining us now is Ellen Weintraub, chair of the FEC. Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for joining us. I`ve got to get to that statement that we heard from the president in a moment. But let me begin with the news about the resignation of your colleague and how that will affect the work of the FEC as the election season really begins to heat up.

ELLEN WEINTRAUB, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION CHAIR: Thanks for having me. First of all, let me assure your viewers that the agency is not closing its doors. We have a very dedicated professional staff. We will continue to come to work to fulfill the agency`s important mission of following the money and making sure that the American people are informed as to who is supporting which candidates, and what those candidates are doing with the money that they receive.

So all of that will go on unimpaired. However, without a quorum, we will be unable to resolve any enforcement matters, to issue any advisory opinions, to issue any new rules. And this is obviously not a good situation for us going into what will undoubtedly be a hard fought election season with lots of money being raised and spent. We need to have a full quorum so that we can respond to events as they develop.

The good news is that in the past, the president and Congress have shown that they are capable of moving quickly when they are motivated to do so. And Commissioner Petersen is a great example of that. He was confirmed a mere 12 days after he was nominated. So if the president can make some nominations quickly and the Senate can confirm them quickly, the agency will not be impaired for long. And I urge them to do that.

MOHYELDIN: So what is your understanding of why this hasn`t happened so far? As we mentioned there in the intro, that Mitch McConnell has stalled one of the nominations for almost two years.

WEINTRAUB: Well, I`m not going to characterize what`s happened, or why it`s happened, or who`s caused it all. That is above my pay grade. The way the system works is the president has to make the nominations. The president nominates people of his own party and usually takes the advice of Senate leaders and the other party for the nominees of that party.

We have had one vacancy on the Democratic side for over two years and one on the Republican side for a year and a half. There is somebody who`s been nominated and there hasn`t been a hearing on that nomination for a Republican seat. But I honestly cannot tell you -- they`re not consulting me --


WEINTRAUB: -- on nominations.

MOHYELDIN: Can you comment at least on some of the measures that are in front of Congress that have been blocked, that would shore up and secure our elections that have been blocked by Mitch McConnell?

WEINTRAUB: Well, again, I don`t want to cast any stones here, but there are a number of very important measures that have bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate that would help to shore up our elections going into the 2020 elections. That would help with election security, that would help with disclosure, that would help make sure that the state and local governments that are responsible for administering the elections have the resources and the cybersecurity tools that they need in order to make sure that the election goes on unimpaired.

And I, again, would just urge Congress, particularly the Senate, to take up those bills, vote them out, and hopefully the president would sign them.

MOHYELDIN: And Madam Chair, your reaction to the president saying he would accept help from a foreign country?

WEINTRAUB: Well, the law is pretty clear that candidates in the United States are not allowed to accept assistance from foreign countries. So I`m hoping that was an off-the-cuff remark and that the president would not, in fact, do that.

MOHYELDIN: We certainly hope he is watching tonight as well. Ellen Weintraub, thank you very much for making that absolutely clear.

Ahead, the VMAs, they get a little political with tough direct messaging to Trump from the country`s biggest pop stars.


MOHYELDIN: We just saw something unusual, the Trump White House fact checking Trump about this statement at the G7.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It`s a country with tremendous potential. I also say that by the way with respect to North Korea, Kim Jong-un, who I`ve gotten to know extremely well. First lady has gotten to know Kim Jong-un, and I think she`d agree with me, he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.


MOHYELDIN: That seemed off since there`s absolutely no reporting at all to suggest that the First Lady ever met with the North Korean leader. The White House eventually issued a clarification saying, quote, "President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim. And while the first lady hasn`t met him the president feels like she`s gotten to know him too."

And last night politics took center stage at the Video Music Awards. The rapper French Montana spoke out against Trump`s immigration policy and Taylor Swift talked about her music video calling to extend civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community.


TAYLOR SWIFT, AMERICAN SINGER: In this video several points were made. So you voted for this video means that you want a world where we`re all treated equally under the law, regardless of how we identify. At the end of this video, there was a petition for the Equality Act, which basically just says we all deserve equal rights under the law. And I want to thank everyone who signed that petition, because it now has half a million signatures, which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.


MOHYELDIN: As of now the White House has still to respond to that petition.

That does it for me. You can catch me every morning on "MORNING JOE FIRST LOOK" right here on MSNBC at 5:00 a.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is next.