CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I don`t mean to be interruptive but apparently I lose to the satellite window that you are participating in in 15 seconds. So Mr. Steyer as always Sir, thank you for coming on and sharing your views. Stay safe on the trial there in New Hampshire and I bet you`ll be talking again soon.
And 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 so much. We have a lot to get to in tonight`s show. President Trump could not get Mexico to pay for the wall as he promised, well he has a new backup plan.
Also did Donald Trump doctor a government weather forecasts with a Sharpie on defense over his own gaffe? Well, we`ll let you decide and later, adult film star Stormy Daniels offering to testify publicly before Congress about her alleged dealings with Donald Trump and the illegal hush money payments.
And in any other presidency that would be of course, the top story all night, every night, all week. We have more on that later plus Moscow Mitch complaining about another nickname as he faces new heat on gun control. We`re going to get into all of it.
We begin with the President`s desperation. I want to put this in the appropriate context right now for everyone. Donald Trump failed completely and totally failed to deliver on his signature campaign promise of building a wall and Mexico paying for it.
We all remember that. Now he`s in a new phase trying to do anything to get the wall paid for raving billions of dollars from the U.S. military for this construction. Now here`s the news.
Donald Trump diverting $3.6 billion today that was already designated for U.S. military construction projects in order to do things that he can argue will amount to a wall. This delays by one count, 127 projects across the U.S. and around the world. Now let`s be clear, Donald Trump promised over and over Mexico would pay for this wall.
Now the military that he claims to love so much he`s overriding their judgments and plans to pay for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the Pentagon, he`s canceling $3.6 billion in military projects spending instead to fund for Trump`s border wall.
TRUMP: Mexico`s paying for the wall, OK? That`s it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Pentagon now says, it`ll redirect $3.6 billion in military construction money to pay for the wall that the President, remember, always said Mexico would pay for.
TRUMP: They`ll pay in one form or another. They may even write us a check.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This does allow President Trump to say that he is working on his border wall as he runs for re-election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: This all started as a long shot campaign to get Mexico to fund our infrastructure. Then it morphed into that government shut down, legal battles over the limits of executive power. Now tonight we are way past even those policy challenges. We are dealing with an effort that is all about helping Donald Trump save face and claim there`s progress.
He`s even admitting to aides that a failure here to get this wall funded and paid for and built in part would be a let-down to his supporters in a "embarrassing" defeat. So just take that in. That`s not a concern that Americans are footing the bill or how this affects the military which is we`re reporting had other plans.
This is just selling - self-serving concerns for Trump about the optics of defeat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The wall is being built. It`s going up rapidly. It`s I guess, most of you have been able to see we`re building very large sections of wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s not true either which is why there`s this desperate rush to find new funds. The Trump administration has not built a single mile of new wall. They`ve only been replacing existing parts. So that`s a lot to take in and it`s obviously embarrassing for Trump. That`s why he`s furiously working to do anything other than let people remember that he failed.
There is no new wall, Mexico didn`t pay for it and on and on it goes. So that`s the fact check portion of the news tonight but we`re not going to stop there because these immigration policies are obviously about much more than campaign posturing. They`re about people`s lives and as Donald Trump goes on this crusade of optics, we`re also learning even more about the way he is using his authority as Commander-in-Chief.
The way that children are still being separated from their parents. There`s a new internal review out that I want you to see it. It found that these separated children are showing and exhibiting obviously high mental stress. They`re more likely to feel anxiety and abandonment than children who came to the U.S. all alone which is not easy.
They`re also documented physical ailments because many of these young children under the stress of the Trump administration policies can`t even process what they`re going. One worker explaining you get a lot of my chest hurts even though actually everything is fine medically and there are heart-breaking accounts like this one.
A boy described as being around 7 or 8 was given no explanation as to why he was separated from his father. A mental health worker explaining he was under the delusion that his father had been killed and he believed he would also be killed.
And these are just some of the accounts that are dribbling out. These are children so sadly we know many of them will be living with this for the rest of their lives and the after-shocks and the PTSD. That is something Donald Trump has actually done and accomplished on immigration, traumatizing children while failing to get Mexico to pay for the border wall he long promised they would while also shifting burdens over to the U.S. military.
Those kind of facts don`t make for much of a re-election campaign slogan. I want to bring in some experts now on these important stories. Maria Teresa Kumar is President and CEO of the group VOTO Latino, Eleanor Clift is the Washington correspondent for the Daily Beast and retired 4-star General Barry McCaffrey.
I won`t speak to the other two panelists, General but you certainly outrank me. I will go to you first. What is your view of this both in the way the government should run you have extensive service within the government and the military piece.
Is it good for the U.S. military to have policy re-routed like this?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFERY, U.S. ARMY RETD: We know at just face value, these military construction budgets in particular are carefully fought out over five years to finally with congressional support get the first year of funding for what is always a multi-year project.
So this is an incredibly inefficient way to go about managing the U.S. armed forces, a giant enterprise. Ari, more importantly having studied American government, taught American government and served at the highest levels for better part of the decade in Washington, we`ve never seen anything like this.
It`s unconstitutional to divert money in this manner.
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, PRESIDENT & CEO, VOTO LATINO: Well, when he says it is unconstitutional, I used to work on our preparations working a lot alongside on folks on the military side on the defense trying to make these plans and it disrupts exactly where it`s going but it circumvents Congress`s power of the purse.
It basically takes a snub of Congress and so when he says it`s unconstitutional, it`s talking about the balance of authority, recognizing that we have this balance of authority on purpose. It`s written into the constitution and he`s stumming his nose at it.
Ari, when you were talking about this President saying that family separation is his hallmark of immigration policy, it`s not alone. He`s also preventing individuals from getting flu shots so if there`s a flu outbreak, we`ve already had two children die under this administration because of the flu. He`s preventing you know, the outbreaks of mumps and it is such hostile environment to a country that actually created asylum and refugee laws.
This is anti-American, unpatriotic and we have to make sure that Congress stands up for it. We demand federal investigations, the congressional investigations not just on his diversion of $3.6 billion of defense to go towards a wall that the majority of Americans don`t want but also with the fact of what he`s doing on you know, on his hands when it comes to these unquestionable you know, this questionable - he`s questioning authority when it comes to actually how he`s treating these children.
ELEANOR CLIFT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: It may be unconstitutional but I think he`s going to get away with it with the blessing of the Supreme Court because the President is acting under the guise of the emergency order that he put through earlier this year.
That gives him virtually unprecedented powers and he`s moving money around with the blessing of the Secretary of Defense and the signals coming out of the Supreme Court in an earlier case indicate that they approve or they favor by 5 to 4 margin executive power and he`s likely to get it away with this, which I think is the most horrifying part of it.
You know Presidents in the past, they have war on poverty, a war on drugs which Gen. McCaffery is very familiar with. This President is conducting a war on immigration and he thinks, it`s going to be or he knows it`s going to be popular among the segment of the population that he needs for his re- election.
And he`s determined to get that wall built and he will stretch his powers as far as they will go and he`s not getting much opposition. Usually when you monkey with congressional projects that have members of Congress and senators who are using them to demonstrate to their constituents, why they`re important in Washington, I`ve noticed so far it`s only Democrats who`ve been complaining.
I`m cynical enough to wonder if they`ve cherry picked the projects and know they`re only going to get objections from the you know, the two Democratic Senators of Virginia or Chuck Schumer and New York is complaining about West Point being on the list.
So I`m waiting for the outcry. We haven`t seen it yet with this President. I probably won`t see it this time either.
MELBER: Well and I think it goes to something that`s very serious, General, even if people are at risk of becoming inured to it normalized which is you have a President who is willing to run roughshod over as you put it very carefully negotiated and thought out a military civil arrangements, which is probably not good long term for the body politic.
I want to play Jim Mattis who was speaking about his departure from the administration on MSNBC today. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MATTIS, FMR SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, UNITED STATES: I don`t know how I could have spoken more loudly to where I stand than what I put in my letter of resignation and quitting a job when I had not completed it two years in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: General, widening out how concerned are you about the relationship between this President and what we just saw there, the depart of Defense Secretary, the military leadership obviously within reason, their job is to stay out of any of these public debates, to let Congress and the executive branch work out funding and go forward.
And yet time and time again, we see things that really test how both the listed or the formerly listed like yourself speak out about things that don`t appear to be a positive and fair balancing of how the military should run in a democracy.
MCCAFFREY: Well look, all Americans ought to be extremely careful about not politicizing the armed forces and under the constitution, they actually do follow all legal orders from the Commander-in-Chief, President of the United States. I think we actually in the short run need to be grateful, we`ve got Secretary Mark Asper now the Secretary of Defense.
He did approve this what I believed to be an illegal act of reprogramming money, but I think is a general statement so far the Pentagon has remained non-political to include with this wonderful man Secretary Jim Mattis who is worshipped by the armed forces but we need to worry about it.
The armed forces are a neutral factor to defend the American people, not a plaything of the President of United States.
MELBER: Spoken clearly. Let me - I have to let the General go actually so I`m going to get back in Maria but General Barry McCaffrey, thank you for your time tonight and for speaking on this topic. I appreciate it.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.
MELBER: Yes Sir. My other panelists day as we bring in one other thing that we absolutely had to get to if you haven`t heard about it yet, this Trump controversy that is being called, I`m sorry, Sharpie day. It begins this very morning with Donald Trump speaking to reporters about an admittedly serious topic, hurricane Dorian, holding up a poster of the Dorian forecast.
So far so good then people notice because it is a public press event, something weird that you see on the map. It appeared someone drew on an extra part, very clumsily there to make it appear as if Alabama might also be in the storm`s path which it wasn`t.
You see it right here this is the important part because that extra line which appears to be drawn in a Sharpie marker and notice it doesn`t match the underlying white line used for the path of the storm and the context is as petty as it is embarrassing because Donald Trump was hammered for an error of his own making when he claimed the storm might hit Alabama which was so flatly wrong, there was no way to defend it.
So government forecasters had to come out and correct their own supervisor, the President so who altered the map? Why did they use a black Sharpie instead of white line that might have looked slightly more realistic? I can`t tell you we know at this time but I can give you the evidence.
We know the President has affinity for the Sharpie marker. He uses them somewhat unusually to sign even official government business documents. He uses them for notes before he speaks publicly and he uses them even to write thickly worded angry notes to reporters and columnists, even underlining the words.
There you see the quote word racist under a note he sent in Sharpie to The Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart. Donald Trump likes Sharpies so much, it even came up as a topic in an interview he did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So this is a Sharpie. Now, I said to myself I wonder why this writes much better and this costs almost nothing and the pen is extremely expensive so I called up the folks at Sharpie and said, do me a favor, can you make the payment in black, make it look rich and they said, not only we can do that, we can put your signature on.
So that`s your signature right here. This costs practically nothing and the other one was immensely expensive and you give them out and more important than anything, it writes well so it works out good. I don`t want to make this as a commercial for Sharpie.
But what it is, is a commercial on saving money too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I don`t know. I don`t know. There`s so much there. The pen being immensely expensive might be the biggest - the biggest problem. There are many problems. Donald Trump touting that he did try to reach out to the folks at Sharpie to get a special personalized pen.
Also you`re the President. Anyway what is serious here when you look at the footage is whether that extra looping line was drawn by the President of the United States in a lie to defend the gaffe he made that did have security implications to make up for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: You showed us a map earlier of the initial forecast and it appeared it have been extended or something to include Alabama, can you explain how that--
TRUMP: No, I just know - yes - I know that Alabama was in the original forecast.
REPORTER: That map that you showed today looked like almost had like a Sharpie.
TRUMP: I don`t know. I don`t know. I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Eleanor, the thing is I want to be very clear. The serious part of this is the error he made which the weather service had to correct and we`ve been covering that. The ridiculous part is the Sharpie gaffe. What do you make of this very 2019 story.
CLIFT: I want to laugh but something inside is telling me Eleanor, do not laugh. He mucked with a weather report that had real consequences for people in the path of that storm who are on his Twitter account who take every word he says seriously and Alabama is a state that went for him by you know, humongous number of points.
But why would he want to include Alabama? There`s no you know political reason. I think he just wasn`t paying attention or he doesn`t know his geography and he said it and he cannot admit any kind of mistake, even an honest mistake. So he`s now doubling and tripling and quadrupling, whatever they do in gymnastics, a triple Axel to justify what he said.
TERESA KUMAR: That`s graceful, Eleanor. That`s a graceful thought.
MELBER: I hate to say - very graceful - I hate to say Elanor but you almost get the impression this is someone who does a lot of crossword puzzles in pen.
CLIFT: No, I don`t think so.
TERESA KUMAR: Download the app. No so I think I mean the biggest challenges that he is potentially diverting much needed resources to the actual victims, not only also creating potential chaos for people in Alabama and legally by law, when you misrepresent weather reports, that is actually a crime.
So I wonder if the Democrats might actually find now grounds for impeachment since he kept repeating it over and over. But that`s you know, I jest. I think the challenge is that to Eleanor`s point, he can`t admit when he`s wrong and when you have leadership, you want to be able to admit when you`re wrong so that when you make mistake, people take your confidence and say, look, you know that was an error, slip of the tongue.
But actually this is what we need to make sure that the - that the resources are going to Florida, that they are going to North Carolina and you know, our prayers are with the people from the Bahamas but he doesn`t have that grace to do that.
MELBER: Right and this also goes something we all know from being practiced in reporting and journalism, which is this is just what we`re seeing. This is the clumsy public effort with the Sharpie. How many times are serious security pieces of information and facts and briefings and all of that being compromised in private settings when he`s also wanting the world to be the way it is.
Eleanor, I do have one more question about this for you and it`s a quick one.
CLIFT: All right.
MELBER: Did the black Sharpie fool you at any point or did it look different. Now if we could put it back up on the screen. Did it look different enough from the white line that you were not taking in?
CLIFT: You know, I wasn`t paying that close but if you get close to the television screen and you look at it, you can see it`s not an obvious addition and the press pointed it out so quickly that I felt I discovered it myself.
MELBER: Well, sometimes people in office, in all parties, they sometimes humiliate themselves, this may be one of those times because as you say the factcheck didn`t require a ton of time or effort as long as you could you know, see.
Eleanor and Maria, thank you for tackling the big and the petty issues tonight. We appreciate it.
TERESA KUMAR: Thank you Ari.
MELBER: Thank you both. Appreciate it. We have a lot in the show as I mentioned. Mike Pence on defense and changing his story again about why he went out of his way, 180 miles just to drop a dime at the Trump hotel.
House Democrats exploring now three roads to impeachment with this new illegal Trump payment probe. We`ll explain that developing story. Stormy Daniels telling Congress, bring it on, she`s ready to tell all and Mitch McConnell he doesn`t like Moscow Mitch as a nickname but he does have one nickname he likes that is an important piece of the gun control story.
All that and a lot more. We`re going to be back right now in just 30 seconds.
MELBER: They say if you`re explaining, you`re losing so if you`re re- explaining, are you losing again? Because Mike Pence is now revising his story a third time counted up on going 180 miles out of his way, all to get government money, your tax dollars into Donald Trump`s company in Ireland.
This is now one day after Pence`s team said the Trump suggested he stay there so we know about that. You have another response from Pence saying well, wait a minute, at no time did Trump direct him to stay at his Ireland resort. Now what is this all about?
Pence and his team plunk down taxpayer money to go, stay at Trump resort which as you see here is a 180 miles away from the government meetings he had in Dublin. Now, it may not have been a direct order. Nobody said it was, who cares? That`s not the point. The point is how these things work. How your money is being misspent and going into Trump`s pocket and how persuasion in this Trump cabinet and Trump administration works.
Michael Cohen of all people described it well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: He doesn`t give you questions. He doesn`t give you orders. He speaks in a code and I understand the code because I`ve been around him for a decade.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it`s your impression that others who work for him understand the code as well?
COHEN: Most people, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Most people. Well, the Judiciary Committee is now on this as a real issue investigating Trump`s push to host the G7 summit at another one of his properties. Personal financial interest clearly shaping decisions about U.S. official government activities according to those investigators.
That is what they want to probe because this is not OK, it`s not a good use of the U.S. treasury. Now here`s part of why Donald Trump could be steering all of this money so desperately, so brazenly, so publicly, it doesn`t help you with re-election to have your Vice President re-explain for a third time why you need this extra change.
Well, some of Trump`s properties are bleeding profits. We`ve seen the Trump name come down off hotels and buildings now that it`s become a more politicized brand. At the Doral resort revenue has fallen, did you know this? By 69 percent. Now our next guest is the perfect expert on this.
Zach Everson tracks what you might call patronage, the efforts of lobbyists and other political people to go to these hotels including Trump`s DC hotel. He found 24 Trump cabinet officials have spent either time or money there, all of which, no matter who picks up the bill, goes back to Donald Trump.
Mr. Everson runs the newsletter, tracking the statistics and we`re also joined by David Corn, Mother Jones Washington bureau Chief. Good to have you both here. Zach, why does this matter?
ZACH EVERSON, 1100 PENNSYLVANIA NEWSLETTER JOURNALIST: Well, to put it simply the President is profiting from the presidency. We don`t know exactly where his interests lie and he`s given up his salary. People make a big deal about that but at the same point he`s reported $81 million in income from the Trump hotel DC alone just in the past two years.
And that`s money that`s come from foreign - from foreign governments, special interest, lobbyists, supporters, other for congressmen, all sorts of other interest in DC.
MELBER: Yes and you mention all those people. We`ll put up some of the Republican senators who of course, they can go where they want but it shows how business is done. 26 according to your newsletter just spotted. We don`t know how many more may have been there and not been spotted.
The New York Times piece on this today has is chock full of details. It`s getting a lot of heat as we mentioned and a lot of it is credit to your work. How did you get involved and get interested in tracking this?
EVERSON: So I was at the Trump hotel for its soft opening covering it more from a travel angle and it was just clear immediately, this was not going to be another normal luxury hotel in DC and as I was reporting an article on it for Conde Nast Traveler, I started getting curious if we can see who is actually going there on social media.
And you know, people had all these fears about the hotel and who is going to be spending money there so I started looking around and it was during the brief but memorable reign of Anthony Scaramucci and he was there just about every day.
Rudy Giuliani was there and it quickly became apparent. If you have concerns about the Trump hotel, you can see him on social media so I just started tracking it and then watch the Newsletter 1100 Pennsylvania back in December.
MELBER: Which is fascinating because again so many different projects and activism and information is come out of this era, you`re saying you didn`t come to this through the resistance or because you long despised Donald Trump.
You were literally just covering travel and found this bizarre in other words most hotels don`t have this kind of revenue stream.
EVERSON: Right. I may have been a travel writer for about 15 years. Normally when I went to an opening of a hotel, you`d mingle with the owner, there`d be some champagne, you get schmoozed, whatever, you know.
Here at the opening for the Trump hotel that was basically a campaign stop a month in advance and it really struck me as interesting and something that needed to get covered in depth.
MELBER: Yes, that`s fishy. I want to bring in David Corn. Now this is a little known. David also wrote for Conde Nast Traveler but he insisted on filing all of his travel articles about Russia and after four or five of them, they said you either got to go somewhere else or we`re going to move on from this.
DAVID CORN, DC BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, it got a little dangerous, what can I say?
MELBER: That`s a joke. Since we`re on the news, that`s not a fact. David, my hats go off to Zach. I think it`s a fascinating piece of work he`s doing which goes to what is fishy here as a political and investigative journalist, what do you see?
CORN: Well, I can add to what Zach says and I salute his work. I rely on his work at times. I have had several meetings when a Republican lobbyist comes to town and wants to meet where but at the bar at the Trump hotel.
It`s a place to go to be seen and if you get lucky enough to gain an access to Trump, what`s the first thing you want to say to him? Mr President, I`m staying at your hotel, it`s wonderful and you know that sounds kind of like schmooze but there`s a real serious component here too in that we know that at least $1 million, maybe more from foreign sources have come - has come into the Trump hotel.
Could be a lot more because these numbers are not readily made available. It`s a private entity so you - you have foreign businesses but you have governments saying, hey, you want to put money directly into the pocket of Donald Trump. This is how you do it.
CORN: And we know when Donald Trump about the world, he thinks the way Snoop Dogg thinks, right? You know what I`m referring to, Ari.
MELBER: I do.
CORN: OK, good. I got mind on my money and money on my mind.
MELBER: I got mind on my money and money on my mind.
CORN: That`s it. That`s exactly--
MELBER: Jinx, I love it. I love a Snoop Dog jinx. David Corn, serving him up hot. I want to ask you about the other thing again. This is not a deliberate theme of tonight`s broadcast but I guess it is the state of play which is this stuff is not normal. It`s not OK. It`s not the way the government supposed to work.
And for that thought experiment imagine Loretta Lynch plowing $30,000 into Obama`s private business if has re-opened his law firm or had a business interests in Chicago and how that would play while she was his Attorney General. That`s happening right this week and isn`t even nearly the biggest scandal this week. Here`s Donald Trump responding to the pen stuff as well as that AG bar putting 30K and doing a planned a party at the at the Trump property. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I had no involvement other than it`s a great place.
REPORTER: You didn`t suggest?
TRUMP: No, I didn`t - I don`t suggest anything. I don`t suggest it nor did I with the Attorney General. I never spoke to the Attorney General about using my hotel. I have a lot of hotels all over the place and people use it because they`re the best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CORN: The market says they are not the best as noted earlier, a lot of them are not doing well and Attorney General Bill Barr just oversaw what happened with the Mueller report that was investigating Donald Trump and may have to - he may be put in a position overseeing other investigations regarding the White House or tapping this administration.
For him to be giving $30,000 directly to Trump. Trump owns the hotel, there is no blind trust here. He may well be dealing - you know when he`s not working because he has nothing on his schedule. He may be involved with his own business operations through his two sons.
So I mean it`s - I don`t know how to express the outrage that should come in response to this because there`s enough - there`s something every day that deserves not 1 to 10 but on 11, 12 or 13 on the outrage scale and this is one of those.
MELBER: Yes, it`s important Zach has been staying on as we mentioned, David`s done a lot reporting on this. We`re going to stay on it. Thanks to both of you for being here.
CORN: Thanks Ari.
EVERSON: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it. Coming up we`re going to fit in a break but Mitch McConnell fuming about the Moscow Mitch nickname while there`s new pressure on him to move on gun safety. First though, new clues on how the Democrats have a different impeachment push. It may surprise you what Stormy Daniels has to do with it.
MELBER: Congress returns from recess will be different from the one that left. It now features a majority of House Democrats backing an impeachment probe against President Trump. But impeachment for what?
You know, in the case of Trump, top Democrats say there`s actually several different potential grounds, not just the evidence from the Mueller probe itself. You could think of this growing impeachment caucus as basically going down three different roads.
First, there`s the obstruction evidence laid out by Mueller, and that`s what most Democrats have, of course, been focused on. Second, there is a broader view by some Democrats that Trump`s greatest high crimes are not even provable felonies, but rather a, quote, "Bigoted and racist way that he governs." That`s what Rep. Al Green said when he pushed his impeachment resolution, a vote that drew 95 other Democrats in July. So that`s door number two with 95 Democrats impeaching for that.
And then, third, there is this topic that honestly might seem less weighty than obstruction of justice or hate, but it`s what`s making news tonight with headlines like this, Vanity Fair reporting the Democrats` impeachment strategy is to bring back Stormy Daniels. And now, she says she`s ready to testify before the House for this probe, announcing she plans to be honest and adding, "Bring it."
Now, Daniels took those infamous payments that Michael Cohen arranged on Trump`s behalf, which is part of why he`s currently serving three years in prison. I`m joined now by Maya Wiley, former civil prosecutor for SDNY, which is where that case was handled. Also former counsel to the mayor of New York.
Good to see you, Maya. And why do you think some Democrats are pursuing what we`re calling here, door number three, when many people would agree, I think you might agree, some of the other offenses are allegedly more severe?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SDNY: Well, first off, let`s just say there`s no reason they should limit themselves to one door. They can use all three and there`s more than three.
But in terms of this particular case, it`s because the evidence is so clear. I mean, remember that in our campaign finance, under campaign finance law, if you are giving a thing of value -- in this case we`re really talking about him having a problem that might interfere with Donald Trump`s ability to be elected president. Typically, voters had not historically in this country been so happy when presidents had affairs, particularly with maybe pornography stars.
And so, what we see and have evidences, in 2015, it`s there`s suggested evidence that he was in the room with Michael Cohen in 2015 talking about how David Pecker could help them with the campaign through catch and kill stories. We have the audiotape with Michael Cohen having a conversation with Donald Trump about how he is going to pay off AMI for Karen McDougal`s catch and kill story.
And we have the story of Stormy Daniels. And so, all of that in time practice proximity all leads to the time he`s running for office, because remember, some of these affairs, Stormy Daniels in particular, was way before the he was running for office in 2007. So why all of a sudden did he need to pay her off? It was in order to protect him in an election. And that is what the campaign finance laws are organized around.
So Adam Schiff said it in a tweet. I think a lot of prosecutors are, kind of, looking at this one looks like a crime. Now, the other thing I think we should remember, Ari, which is really important here. Congress doesn`t have to prove a crime.
WILEY: This is not a criminal proceeding. This is not one where they have the standard of proof that Robert Mueller had. So that`s why I say they can use all the doors. But I think to your point that really what`s happening here is they`re saying when the founding fathers created the impeachment process, it`s because they knew you couldn`t necessarily wait four years for another election if you had someone who was corrupt, and if you had someone who was just doing such a bad job that it was dangerous for the country.
MELBER: Right. And as you say, that`s the evidence Congress has. That`s the timing. That`s why this goes down one of the three roads, according to some Democrats, to impeachment. I want to play some of Stormy Daniels herself as she is potentially going to re-emerge here. She did break her silence after the famed NDA on "60 Minutes".
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST OF ANDERSON COOPER 360A : Was it hush money to stay silent?
STEPHANIE CLIFFORD (STORMY DANIELS), PORNOGRAHIC ACTRESS AND STRIPPER: Yes. The story was coming out again. I was concerned for my family and their safety.
COOPER: So you signed and released a statement that said, "I`m not denying this affair, because I was paid in hush money. I`m denying it because it never happened." That`s a lie.
COOPER: If it was untruthful, why did you sign it?
CLIFFORD: Because they made it sound like I had no choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: She`ll get questions like that in a hearing with both parties as well, right?
WILEY: Yes, she will. I mean, this is the point about an inquiry. All the electives get to ask the questions and they get to ask all the questions. And I think what the American public deserves is to hear from the witnesses. What is it that happen? And let the public draw its conclusion about who they believe.
I mean, this is a situation in which we`re talking about a sitting president. We`re talking about a process where it is absolutely squarely Congress`s responsibility to determine whether or not we have someone sitting in the White House who actively committed crime in order to get there. But again, they don`t have to prove crime. They just have to prove the conduct.
MELBER: Right. Maya Wiley, we always learn a lot. And you really broke it down, particularly in the context of the different roads. Thank you so much.
WILEY: Thank you.
MELBER: Great. I`ll see you soon. But a bit in a break. But Mitch McConnell is now complaining about that nickname, Moscow Mitch. He may not like another one that relates to the gun safety push in Washington. And later, the latest high ranking Trump official to become an industry lobbyist and what it has to do with what you see right there. Our famous friend, the swamp creature.
MELBER: Mitch McConnell is the most powerful member of Congress. He`s earned plenty of criticism, which he often embraces, agreeing even with Nancy Pelosi that he is indeed the grim reaper of the United States Senate. Celebrating the Cocaine Mitch meme is a kind of joke. Dismissing what was an unsubstantiated attack by a rival, he even fundraised off at selling shirts with the Cocaine Mitch logo. Now, McConnell`s also made headlines for embracing his dark side, because he also welcomes the nickname Darth Vader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: One morning, walking up to dozens of reporters there, their microphones ready to capture my words, which they`d likely twists the next day in papers across the country, I welcome them by announcing Darth Vader has arrived.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Darth Vader has arrived. Classic McConnell, seizing on basically the worst thing you could call him to claim, he doesn`t even care, while still delighting in the mood of the authority of some kind of evil villain. Darth Vader was on the wrong side, but no one denied his awesome power, which he used to overpower mortals and make his own deals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARTH VADER (IN STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE): I find your lack of faith disturbing.
DARTH VADER (IN STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK): I am altering the deal. Pray I don`t alter it any further.
DARTH VADER (IN STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK): You don`t know the power of the dark side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Vader determines the deal. Everyone else has to live with it. That`s how McConnell runs the Senate, which complicates the task of pressuring someone who claims to be impervious to pressure. Meanwhile, the pressure is building today. "The Washington Post" editorial section putting out this unusual full page call aimed right at Mr. McConnell, demanding that he do something on gun safety and gun control.
We turn now to Bill Kristol, conservative journalist, former Republican White House aide, director of the group Defending Democracy Together. Good evening, sir.
BILL KRISTOL, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER DIRECTOR: Hi, Ari.
MELBER: You know Vader a little bit, right?
KRISTOL: Yeah. I`m sort of -- I think Vader`s -- that`s a bum rap to compare Darth Vader to Mitch McConnell. He was running the empire pretty well. You know, he rose to the top through merit. It was a well-run empire until that rebellion started going, you know. Whereas McConnell is stopping an awful lot of legislation from even coming to the floor of the Senate.
MELBER: I could see the headlines now. Bill Kristol defends Darth Vader`s, quote, "Meritocratic rise." When you look at, as you mentioned, the lack of the votes, I think that guns are an issue. I grew up in a gun owning household. I know guns are an issue that people have strong feelings about across the nation. But you have been banging this drum that it`s about more than just each gun policy. It`s about whether in the wake of this mass shooting epidemic, there are even going to be Democratic votes on this. Explain.
KRISTOL: Well, that`s what`s so extraordinary. I mean, people can differ on, obviously, on gun measures and whether any or all of them are useful or right. But, you know, the reason we have a Senate is to debate these bills, to mark them up in committee, debate them, amend them, vote on them.
The House has passed a couple of gun measures. In the normal course of things, the Senate should take them up. If they don`t pass them, they don`t pass them. If they pass them and the president vetoes them, and there aren`t the votes to override the veto, that`s fine.
Same with election security legislation, which has bipartisan support. Again, passed the House. Very important to a lot of Secretaries of State around the country, especially, including Republicans say they could use the help to make sure our elections work securely in 2020.
McConnell not even bringing them to the floor. For me, that really is, sort of, an issue of how the democracy is working, how Congress is working.
KRISTOL: It`s really quite extraordinary. And to be fair, McConnell is doing it, but he`s doing it with the support, obviously, of his Republican colleagues. If they wanted to, they could overrule him.
MELBER: That`s what I want to dig in on to it with you. Would you permit me a slightly personal Washington story?
MELBER: You know, I started out many, many years ago working as a very junior aide in the U.S. Senate. And I still remember then, the very elderly Senator Robert Byrd, who was wrong about a great many things, but who was known as the in-house historian of the Senate. And he talked about the outrage he had when the Senate would roll over and not do its duty. That they were elected to go there and represent and not just fold to whatever the president wanted. In that case, he was fighting George W. Bush on the war.
I want to put that up in relief to what Mitch McConnell, who spent his whole life getting to this position, as you say, with or without the force, and then does what? Says, "Well, I`m just here to wait around and do what Trump tells me to do." And really implies that out loud, which is in a way, sort of, admitting there`s no senatorial prerogative. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: I said several weeks ago that if the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I`d be happy to put it on the floor. And if the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly, and I know that if we pass it it`ll become law, I`ll put it on the floor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The bill is that backwards?
KRISTOL: Yeah. Why elect senators if they just cannot do anything unless they know ahead of time? The president`s going to sign the legislation. The military construction funds that various senators complaining about that the president is taken to use for the wall. That`s under an emergency declarations. The Senate could overturn, about 10 Republicans voted to. They couldn`t overturn Trump`s veto. That should be brought back up too. I really think Republican senators -- there need to be pressure put on the senators themselves, not just on Mitch McConnell, to act like senators.
MELBER: Yeah. Bill Kristol, always good to have your perspective. Thank you, sir.
KRISTOL: Thanks, Harry.
MELBER: Up ahead, all the promises to drain the swamp. Wait till you see what another Trump official is doing. We have a fact check.
MELBER: This doesn`t look like draining the swamp. A top Trump official in charge of oil drilling on federal lands, leaving government to join an oil company that`s trying to expand drilling. Donald Trump gave Joe Balash a top job at the interior. Now, he`s joining Oil Search, a foreign oil company expanding operations in Alaska, which, take a look, appears to match with Balash`s government work advocating drilling in Alaska.
He says in the new role, he will not directly lobby his old colleagues at the Interior Department. Alaska`s first boss at that same department, Ryan Zinke, famously left amidst all kinds of scandal and allegations of corruption, and then took a job at a mining company. Now the current interior chief, David Bernhardt, famously faced those activists in swamp creature masks. In fact, we spoke to one of them on THE BEAT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACTIVIST: Bernhardt has no place as Secretary of Interior, and he has multiple ethical conflicts of interest and he has no place there. We really wanted to riff on President Trump`s favorite, saying that he`s going to drain the swamp. We actually think he`s doing the opposite of that. He`s propping up more folks, a lot of swampy, swampy people who have no place being in public office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The swampy people are not only at the interior, look at Trump`s EPA chief, who is a coal lobbyist. His health secretary, a pharmaceutical lobbyist. Defense secretary was a lobbyist for defense industry interests. While in government, Mr. Balash talked all about what he went to do and why he wanted to cut regulations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BALASH, FORMER INTERIOR DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SECRETARY: We`re actually engaged in this novel approach where we`re doing what the president said he would do, and that`s something that not everybody`s prepared for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s false. Donald Trump said he would drain the swamp, which he`s now flooding, and Balash`s work helping oil companies while in the Trump administration has apparently led him to a job outside the Trump administration doing the same thing. Maybe the only thing that`s really changed here is who`s paying him.
Is Donald Trump a fictional president? Sometimes it may seem like that. Well tomorrow, I`m thrilled to tell you we have a fictional author, the legendary and outspoken novelist, Salman Rushdie, who`s making his first ever appearance on this show. I hope you tune in for it. His new novel "Imagines: A fake president who rose on the strength of the reality show culture". We`ll get into all of it tomorrow on THE BEAT. That does it for us though. "HARDBALL" starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END