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Democrats pass impeachment rules. TRANSCRIPT: 9/12/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Mary Kay Scanlon, Byron Dorgan, Mark Thompson, Nick Akerman, TonySchwartz

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.

And a reminder that MSNBC will have post-debate analysis as soon as the debate wraps up tonight. So literally as you hear no more questions, just flip the channel. 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 in tonight`s show. House Democrats taking this first major procedural step, they say, towards impeachment or are they taking that step? We`re actually going to explain.

Also, new reporting, Donald Trump`s Justice Department may indict a major famous and formerly powerful critic. The man who literally ran the Russia probe. That sounds like there`s something wrong with that, many people say there is. We have that reporting tonight - brand new.

Also for the first time, as Chuck Todd just mentioned, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, will share the debate stage for the first time here tonight, that`s new, as long with - along with a lot of other Democrats. We`re going to be live in Houston with reporting from our own Al Sharpton, a former contender himself.

But we begin with this big story of the Democrats taking what they say is their largest, most concrete step yet towards an impeachment probe of Donald Trump. The House Judiciary Committee voting today on the rules and procedures for this impeachment investigation.

Now this is real. It`s written down. You can see what the plans are. It authorizes things like authorizing these staff attorneys to question witnesses, a sign of a deeper type of inquiry, setting formal rules for how classified material would be handled throughout the probe and giving Donald Trump`s lawyers their due process rights to respond to the Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): This Committee is engaged in investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump. That is what we are doing. Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, as I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s the new message. Chairman Nadler saying, look, there`s no formal legal difference and he doesn`t want to have talk about words. Well, that`s one view. Now, look at what the top Republican on this Committee says, because it actually tracks with what some liberal critics say that this whole exercise is still fall short - far short of a real impeachment probe and the Democrats are just afraid to go there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): This stays in the Committee. It doesn`t go outside the Committee. This does not go to the House floor. So they`re covering for their moderates who don`t want to vote for impeachment - the vast majority of those who don`t want anything to do with this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Doesn`t go to the House floor. And Speaker Pelosi, who`s spent months avoiding the entire impeachment question, basically doubled down on that dodging tactic today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you agree, do you concede now that an impeachment inquiry into President Trump is underway?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Do I concede now? Have you not paid attention to what we`ve been talking about? For months we`ve been saying we`re doing three things: legislate, investigate, litigate. That`s the path we have been on and that`s the path we continue to be on. I`m not answering any more questions on this subject.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This is interesting in terms of where this fight is going. The Speaker saying that she does support what Nadler calls an impeachment investigation, but she won`t actually call it that and she`s clapping back at anyone who wants to get into the details.

Now, look, there`s plenty of good faith debate here. But if this message about something of this level of import sounds confusing, that`s because it is. This is like Speaker Pelosi kind of taking what was the Nadler position, remember, from right before Congress went on this break.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you believe President Trump will ultimately leave office being impeached by this house, regardless of timeline?

NADLER: I don`t know.

REPORTER: And why did you saw McGahn today? Chairman Nadler?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Will they impeach? We`ll see. I don`t know. You could call that credit for candor. But if you`re trying to get something done in law or politics, you usually need to say what you`re trying to get done.

Now, the new moves here are a little more emphatic. But, honestly, when we try to analyze this and we look at the facts and try to tell you what it seems like as it comes in, as we look at the rules, it`s not moving by a whole lot. And there is a lot here for Democrats to try to figure out.

Because, obviously, they can investigate and decide what to do about Donald Trump`s actions well beyond anything that Mueller found in his investigation, which is well authorized only through the Justice Department through the Trump administration.

There`s these separate hush money payments to women, there`s the ongoing questions about whether Donald Trump is enriching himself to the presidency and even if that`s not a felony, is that something that Congress wants to act on?

There`s all sorts of avenues in any impeachment probe, if it is a full blown impeachment probe. You can`t do something as significant as move. Towards removing a sitting President from office if you can`t even concede that is where you`re headed and trying to do.

Now, are there comparisons here? Is this all just sort of analysis from the newsroom bleachers? Well, there are some precedents. We all know about them, we remember them and it can be useful to just take - briefly take stock of what it does sound like when the opposing party stands up and clearly tells the nation they are trying to impeach a President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BILL MCCOLLUM (R-FL): The President the United States did commit impeachable offenses. I would submit that he should be impeached, that the evidence is clear. There is no question that he has subverted our system of government and he should be impeached unfortunately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Boom! Right down the middle. That`s what it sounds like when the opposition party is saying let`s impeach the President. That was Congressman Bill McCollum, a Judiciary Committee member on the Republican side and he was saying to the nation on the House floor what the Republican Party stood for. They wanted to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998. That level of clarity, I think, it`s fair to observe is not yet what we`re hearing from the Democratic caucus.

I am joined now by a member of that caucus, Pennsylvania Congresswoman Mary Kay Scanlon is on the Judiciary Committee, I should mention, as Vice Chair. And from the upper chamber former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan. He was actually in the Senate during the Bill Clinton impeachment debate; and Mark Thompson, host of the "Make it Plain" daily show and podcast.

Senator I will I will start with you from the upper House, your view of what it means that the Democrats are going this far but not farther?

FORMER SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D-ND): Well, I would say that I think Nancy Pelosi is showing real leadership. Look, she has a divided caucus on this issue. And she`s right, the first thing you do is investigate, you find the facts and those facts will steer you toward your conclusion. But we`re not there yet.

That investigation is not nearly complete. And we`re looking for, obviously, criminal violations not bad behavior, I mean, if you know this this President is giving bad behavior or bad reputation. But the question is what kind of criminal activity might exist here. And we`re not there. And if they get there they will file articles of impeachment, I expect.

But let me say one more thing. I think, we have an obligation to do that. Historically, there`s an obligation of the House to do this. The fact is, I don`t know, if one Republican of United States senator that would vote for impeachment at this point and it takes 67 votes in the United States Senate. The ultimate verdict of course is about 13 months from today. The American people I think are going to throw this guy out.

MELBER: Congresswoman bringing you in and you`re on the Committee where all the action was. Before we get into what that all means, do you think Donald Trump has done things that merit his removal from office?

REP. MARY KAY SCANLON (D-PA): I personally do, yes. But I think we`re in a very different situation than you just mentioned the Clinton impeachment. In that case, the special counsel gave to the Judiciary Committee all of the investigatory material. We still haven`t even been given access to witness statements. And every fact witness we`ve tried to call in has been blocked by the President, so we`re in a very, very different situation right now.

MELBER: Let me - can I put you on that a little--

SCANLON: Sure.

MELBER: --to just to understand where you`re coming from? I think you make a, obviously, a factual, historical reference because of the nature of what was handed over. But even before that material was handed over.

I think you might agree or tell me if you do that the leadership of the then Republican majority in the House was very clear before all the material came in that they thought they had enough evidence - not a court matter, but evidence for their role in the House to say they wanted to remove Bill Clinton from office.

And now we`re in a position where it seems that Speaker Pelosi is still holding you all back. And I guess my question to you is, is that a fair distinction and what happened that you think matters in the Committee today.

SCANLON: I`m not sure that we can go by the historical precedents in this case. First of all, we don`t have very many an impeachment. Thank God. But the big issue is it`s - the rules of the House are different. We no longer have to get House approval for every subpoena. The Republicans changed those rules several years ago. So we`re able to proceed in some ways more expeditiously.

We`ve got to have the facts. Think what would happen if we came out and said we`re just going to impeach him and we don`t care what the facts say. Right now, there`s a couple options. One is the facts prove the allegations. The second is the facts disprove the allegations. And the third is - really what we`ve been dealing with, which is that the President has been obstructing all attempts to investigate his conduct.

MELBER: What are you hearing from Speaker Pelosi about what comes next?

SCANLON: Well, I think, she`s relying upon the Judiciary Committee to do its job. We`ve got serious allegations of constitutional misconduct. And it`s Congress`s job, it`s the Judiciary Committee`s job to independently investigate and make a judgment as to that.

MELBER: Let me keep both of my congressional experts here with you experience and turn to Mark Thompson in New York. I want to play for you a little bit more of what we`re hearing here from the Democrats. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER: At some point we will introduce articles of impeachment and have the Committee vote for those articles of impeachment.

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): I think that it`s no secret that we are actually in the middle of an impeachment investigation. This is just going to be a procedural vote.

REPORTER: You agree with the Chairman Nadler that you are in an impeachment inquiry currently?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, I agree with the Chairman that we`re in the midst of a Judiciary Committee investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerry Nadler doesn`t do a single thing without Speaker Pelosi`s blessing.

PELOSI: I`m not answering any more questions on this subject.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Is this clear or muddled in your view.

MARK THOMPSON, HOST, "MAKE IT PLAIN" PODCAST: Well, first of all, thank you for having me talk about my favorite subject. Christmas has come early, because they`re hard doing this. I don`t think it`s really muddled at all. I had to Chair of the party Tom Perez on with me this morning. And I asked him what he thought.

And he said Democrats are able to and should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. I think, frankly, what`s going on - and I agree with Senator Dorgan in terms of the Speaker doing what she needs to do.

Frankly, the Democrats did win the midterms on policy issues, health care et cetera. I believe she feels that they can win 2020 as well. That`s true. The Democratic Party`s tent and reach and arms are long enough and big enough that you can hear members articulate impeachment, while other members articulate policy issues. I think we have to do both.

There is a segment of the American population that is going to be in favor of one or the other - one of the other and some both. That`s what governing is.

The White House, the executive branch, is not governing. Republicans in the Senate and House aren`t governing. So taking on the issues of policy and impeachment are absolutely necessary.

And you mentioned - where you showed a clip of the Republican laying out the case for Bill Clinton and emphatically stating that they`re impeaching. Well, she may not have done on the House floor, but frankly, Congresswoman Jayapal did that herself. She said we`re going to impeach, you know what. And I think that speaks for itself. If it looks like impeachment, if it quacks like impeachment, it`s impeachment.

MELBER: I appreciate the duck test. Congresswoman Scanlon, I think one of the questions, though, is is it really quacking, because the speaker is not quacking. The Speaker, as we just played the clip, I`m not going to play it again, says I`m not taking any more questions on this.

And you think, well, if a majority of your caucus supports this now on record. If this is a matter of constitutional dimension and the existential challenges of the Trump presidency, don`t you think the Speaker should come out and take all the questions so that y`all can move forward with the public understanding clearly what the next goals are?

SCANLON: I just don`t see where the debate is. And sometimes - maybe I`m new to Washington. But it seems like people get completely hung up on process. We`ve got allegations of misconduct. The House Judiciary Committee is investigating those allegations. The Speaker has signed off on it.

And you know I think a lot of people want us to put the rabbit in the hat. But what would happen if we came out and said oh we`re going to impeach him regardless of what we find? That`s not constitutional.

MELBER: Well, I`m going again - I`m only having this colloquy to use a congressional word with you to help understand it, because today it seems like one of those weird pivot days. But, I guess, what I would say back to you is. You were saying, well, you can`t do this without the facts.

But you told us earlier tonight and many Democrats a majority have said this that you do think the President has already done things that merit removal from office. So I think that`s the question for the Democrats. The speaker, at one point, according to Washington Post told your colleagues that the President belongs in prison someday.

So if it`s that that someday and those facts have been found, then what else is it that you`re looking to uncover?

DORGAN: But Ari--

SCANLON: Well, I think--

MELBER: Let me go to Congresswoman and then the Senator.

SCANLON: I think we`re talking about scope here. I mean, I quite frankly think that is obstruction of our investigation. His obstruction of the Mueller investigation warrant impeachment, but that is far from the only thing we`re talking about. You mentioned hush payments to obtain his election. We`ve talked about emoluments. We`ve talked about other misconduct. We haven`t been able to get that evidence yet.

And just think what would happen. So the Mueller Report talked about Don McGahn, the White House counsel having been ordered to fire the special counsel and then being asked to lie about it and create fake evidence.

We haven`t been allowed to see his statement. We haven`t been allowed to question him. What if that turns out to be wrong? We can`t just drag the country through this for the fun of it. So we do have a job to do with investigation and we can`t do it piecemeal.

DORGAN: Ari, I think in some ways this is kind of a tap dance around words. And I understand it`s not unimportant at all. It`s important. But the important issue is what is going on really. What - not what are they saying. What are they doing?

There is a real serious investigation going on, and the Congresswoman just suggested and I agree, there are implications of violations of law, criminal behavior. So investigate that, get the goods. Find out exactly what exists, what you know, what you can prove. And then you go to articles of impeachment if you get to that point.

So, I mean, I think I understand exactly what`s happening. And I think the Speaker is doing exactly the right thing. Move ahead, push for the investigations, get them done, then make a judgment about what the future is going to hold in terms of trying to hold this President accountable. Voters, of course, will hold him accountable in a very significant way very soon.

THOMPSON: And while it`s going on simultaneously as I think she`s doing, stress that there are other issues that the American people are concerned about. I will say this. I don`t think it`s going to - its muddle for Trump in the White House and his attorneys.

If anybody watching us tonight were told hey you know the FCC might be looking into you. You get ready for it anyway. I mean, you assume that something might be going on. So I don`t think he`s confused about it. And I think you have to go through the facts, get everything in evidence and then you push forward. I think they`re doing it very, very carefully and I`m very pleased.

MELBER: What I`m going to do is think all of our guests, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, Senator Byron Dorgan, and as always, our friend Mark Thompson. We have Nick Akerman coming up in a moment. We have a lot planned. But first we`re going right to the South Lawn where the President is speaking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The easy ones first, but there`s no easy or hard. There`s a deal or there`s not a deal. But it`s something we would consider, I guess. But we`re very - we`re doing very well. We`re doing very well. I did a little bit of a delay in honor of President Xi, because it`s their 70th Anniversary in China.

REPORTER: Mr. President what do you expect out of the debate tonight?

TRUMP: Well it`s too bad I`m going to miss it. I`m going to have to have it somehow taped. I didn`t even tell them about that, so maybe it`s not that important. But it is important. Look, it`s going to be very interesting.

I look forward to going home and I`m going to have to watch it as a rerun, because many of you are coming to Baltimore with me. I don`t expect too much difference. I mean, you have three people that are leading.

I sort of think that those three people are going to take it to the end. It`s going to be one of those three, I think. But you never know in politics, do we? You know better than I. You never know in politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: And you never know when a President will make news. We were checking in to see if there was news, but it sounds more like pre Baltimore trip banter. So as promised, I`m going to fit in a 30 second break and then joined by Nick Akerman on some major news coming out of the Trump Justice Department.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Breaking news tonight, new signs of a last minute push by Donald Trump`s Justice Department to indict James Comey`s former deputy at the FBI. That`s the man who took over the entire Russia probe after Comey`s surprise firing by Donald Trump.

Now this is a bombshell from "The Washington Post". The reporting is the DOJ has already authorized prosecutors to indict this former top FBI official, Andrew McCabe. And it is over an apparent technicality regarding statements that he made to other DOJ officials, effectively investigative colleagues, as they were probing his contacts with the press.

Now this kind of indictment would mark the kind of politicized retaliation or criminalization of public service that critics have been warning about in the Trump era. As President Donald Trump publicly attacked McCabe personally, identified him repeatedly and also attacked his wife. He also demanded the DOJ fired McCabe before he ever received his government pension.

Now the President does not have the authority to personally remove certain FBI officials. So this was all seen as a public way to put the pressure on. Critics say maybe that pressure is working. McCabe, again, was Comey`s deputy at the FBI. He became, as you may recall, Acting FBI Director after the firing of Comey, so he was in charge of the FBI Russia probe. That was before Bob Mueller was even appointed.

Now at this point it is not clear if McCabe will actually be indicted by the Trump Justice Department. But new details tonight emerging about how McCabe`s team was told prosecutors recommended charges and the top federal prosecutor in Washington, the U.S. attorney from the Justice Department also on board according to this "Washington Post" report.

Now McCabe`s team has been appealing that plan today. They say they`ve learned that appeal was rejected. Another potential clue here that is new about whether these charges are coming and it would be a bombshell story. Well, the grand jury that was dealing with this and investigating McCabe was suddenly recalled this week, and that`s after a month`s long hiatus. "The Post" reporting that panel was let go Thursday.

Now, that timing piece, that could mean anything. It could mean they did already approve this indictment that`s not yet what "The Washington Post" is reporting. It could mean they met and didn`t go forward on this indictment or it could mean they did something else.

As you may know from following the Mueller probe, these grand juries are pretty secret. But what we are seeing in this report is news about a potential indictment of the person who literally ran the Trump Russia probe. If that`s the talk of investigating investigators "The Washington Post" is reporting that talk may be hitting now.

I want to turn to former Watergate Special Prosecutor Nick Akerman who has been on this probe since the very beginning. Before we get to what you may think is wrong with this - and many people say there is something wrong. Walk us through what it means to you to hear that the DOJ has quote "authorized charges against McCabe" and we learned the grand jury met again.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, first of all, the optics on this are absolutely terrible. I mean, here you`ve got a situation where the Trump as President of United States has actually asked for this person to be indicted. So, I mean, that in itself whether McCabe did anything wrong or he didn`t do anything wrong, Trump has basically put this case in a position where it is super politicized.

Not to mention the fact that they singled this guy out so he would not get his pension and fired him the day before he would have qualified for the pension. Now whether or not what we`re hearing about the grand jury makes any sense. To me if they want an indictment, the grand jury is going to go along with the government. It is extremely unusual for a grand jury not to return an indictment if the government prosecutors recommend it.

MELBER: Can you think of any example in U.S. history where a President`s administration indicted the person who ran the FBI or an investigation touching on the President?

AKERMAN: Never.

MELBER: I mean, Nixon didn`t even try this.

AKERMAN: No, no. I mean, he was not that stupid.

MELBER: So now we get to - the real question for you then is, if "The Washington Post" reporting is right and we credit them, this is their report tonight. We don`t know what`s going to happen. But if it`s going in that direction, is that wrong? Is that itself an abuse of power?

AKERMAN: Well, it certainly reeks of that. I mean the optics, like I say, are absolutely terrible. I mean, Jeff Rosen who`s the deputy attorney general, is the same person who turned down the appeal and was the one who arranged for Paul Manafort to get a cushy club fed to spend his time in jail as opposed to being in Rikers Island awaiting trial here in New York.

I mean, he already has a track record of doing Trump`s bidding and political bidding. So it does raise questions. We don`t know the facts. We don`t know exactly what it is they would charge McCabe with. But, like I say, this doesn`t have a good smell to it.

MELBER: And the other piece is the public and now potentially legal attacks on people exercising their free speech rights to criticize the President and how much of this pressure goes on.

Because Mr. McCabe, what everyone thinks of him, he did come out and clearly say that what bothered him most about Donald Trump was the criticism and the attacks and the undermining of DOJ and FBI, something the President was criticized for by many, not just these people caught up in the probe.

He was on this program once. I talked to him about that. Let`s take a look at that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: In my view, the worst thing that this President does is the same behavior and actions that he engages in almost every day. And it is this unrelenting assault on the FBI, men and women in law enforcement and intelligence professionals. I think that that constant attack, that denigration has a corrosive impact on those institutions--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AKERMAN: He`s totally correct. I mean, that is the problem. When you have a person as President of United States who is constantly raising the issue and asking his political enemies be prosecuted that they`d be locked up. It undermines the entire integrity of our justice system.

It makes people question whether the Department of Justice is acting fairly in the exercise of its duties? I mean that is a terrible position to have our government in and to have our Department of Justice in. I don`t think that has ever been exercised by any President on any Department of Justice.

I mean, even at least when Nixon fired the attorney general who wouldn`t fire Cox and fired the deputy attorney general. I mean things went along as normal. Nobody was investigated because they were an enemy--

MELBER: Right.

AKERMAN: Investigated or threatened to be put into jail.

MELBER: Right. And when you put it that starkly, it is quite concerning. It`s based on "The Washington Post" saying the man who ran the Russia probe is up for potential charges. They, already according to "The Post" want to do it at a one office and now it`s hanging in the balance.

And that can chill and go in the minds of every other person in law enforcement in America every time they have a case - and there are many open - have to deal with this President`s, I will say, unusual governance because they`re thinking not only the pressure, not only losing the job or the pension, but going to jail, which everyone in law enforcement knows it`s a deterrent for a reason.

I`m going to fit in a break Nick Ackerman. Thank you for being here.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

MELBER: Up ahead, new reports on Donald Trump`s increasingly erratic behavior. And as mentioned, what happens when he uses the government to promote his company. I`m going to speak to "Art of the Deal" Co-Author Tony Schwartz back on THE BEAT. And first, it`s Warren versus Biden for the first time on the debate stage. There`s a quite a history here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: not bankruptcy--

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator I will be the first. . Invite me.

BIDEN: No, I know you will--

WARREN: But Senator, but if it`s not going to fix that problem, you can`t take away the last shred of protection for these families

BIDEN: I got it, OK. You`re very good, professor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Former presidential candidate and our colleague Rev. Sharpton, live at the debate next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: It is debate night for the Democrats and for the first time we`re going to see Senator Warren face off with Joe Biden. They will be standing next to each other and they could clash on all kinds of issues. Remember, they have a history that goes back before Warren even joined the U.S. Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: A woman who borrowed $2,200. The credit she paid back 2,100 over the two years preceding bankruptcy. And at the end of that period of time she was told she still owed $2,600. They have squeezed enough out of these families in interest and fees and payments that never paid down--

BIDEN: Did she talked about usury rates then, maybe that`s we should talk them on, not bankruptcy.

WARREN: Senator I will be the first. Invite me.

BIDEN: No, I know you will, but let`s call a spade a spade.

WARREN: But Senator, but if it`s not going to fix that problem, you can`t take away the last shred of protection for these families

BIDEN: I got it, OK. You`re very good, professor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The context there is a compliment from a Senator from Delaware at the time, representing the banking interests that Senator Warren was pushing to reform and that she ultimately gave a harder time when she got into the Senate. Now that is policy. We`ve also seen the division in the campaigning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: Look at the business model of an insurance company. It`s to bring in as many dollars as they can in premiums and pay out as few dollars as possible for your health care. Medicare for all solves that problem.

BIDEN: The fact of the matter is that the quickest, fastest way to do it is build on Obamacare, to build on what we did. Everyone, whether they have private insurance, employer insurance or no insurance, they in fact can buy it in the exchange to a Medicare like plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joining me now live from the Spin Room in Houston where there`s going to be a lot of action is our friend and colleague, the Reverend Al Sharpton, host of PoliticsNation, President of the National Action Network. But that`s not all on a night like tonight. We remember also a former presidential candidate, who my own personal opinion was pretty good, when he was on that debate stage in 2004. Thanks for joining us.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, "POLITICSNATION": Thank you Ari. I love you too.

MELBER: Well, I`m glad it`s mutual. As you know Rev. because you do you do your work in New York as well as elsewhere, on the Jewish holiday of Passover we always ask why is this night different than other nights? And tonight`s debate seems different than all the other ones.

SHARPTON: It`s different--

MELBER: Go ahead. It`s smaller and it`s this clash, what do you think?

SHARPTON: I think it`s different for many reasons. One, it is smaller. It`s the first time we`re going to see the 10 top candidates that qualify. And in one night and we`re going to see Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren on the same stage for the first time.

And there are policy clashes. We`re also going to see how those that are polling lower, are they going to try and do something that will make their presence felt and go after either Biden. And a big question around here is whether anyone goes after Elizabeth Warren, because she has not been attacked policy wise or otherwise. So there`s a lot of electricity in the air. And I think that a lot of people are going to be watching to see what happens.

The real problem is that we`re at a College - a university - HBCU, which I`m happy about. And you`ve got to - as someone that was on that stage in `04, you have to realize that you`re not talking just to the audience, you`re talking to millions of people.

MELBER: Yes.

SHARPTON: If you play to the audience you may lose a lot of the people that are watching.

MELBER: That`s a great point. And as I mentioned, something you understand, because being on the stage, the dynamics of that, the pressure and all the different layers. I`m curious what you think about how Joe Biden, who may not be the frontrunner, no one really knows. But it`s certainly a very famous person on the stage. How he takes a punch?

Because we talk so much about who can do the attack and get themselves in. But a lot of the great debaters, certainly Obama, they really knew how to take a punch and not get rattled and keep on their message. I wonder if you think Joe Biden struggled with that before and how that plays into tonight where he`s still a famous target.

SHARPTON: I think we have seen him rattled a little when Senator Kamala Harris went after him on busing. I think the second debate he did not seem as rattled. But a boxing champion once told me, you choose a champion by who can take a punch, not just throw one.

And I think the risk is if that people start throwing too many punches, they can turn what could be a contender that seems to be off into a martyr. You don`t want to look like you just came to beat up on Joe Biden. So you`ve got to be able to thread that needle to where you can say I have something to say. This is my policies. I`m not just here to beat up on somebody.

Because the overwhelming majority of Democrats want to defeat Trump, and though do they want to know the difference between the candidates, they don`t want to see the candidates fighting each other to the point that they feel is going to help the incumbent President.

MELBER: Yes. And I want to ask you one more thing that`s been a scuttlebutt about Elizabeth Warren. I`m sure you remember the great group "OutKast", and to paraphrase them when they said. "I know you like to think your campaign. Don`t stink but lean a little bit closer."

Fair or not that`s the kind of attack she`s getting from some Democratic establishment figures. And you`ve been down this road when people go into the fundraising and they take their hits. Take a look at what the former Chairman of the Democratic Party is saying. Of course, he`s endorsed her competitor.

But he says, "Warren transfer 10 million from her Senate campaign to the presidential one. 6 million came from those big contributions, thousand up". And arguing that Senate appears to be trying to have it both ways, get the upside from a skewing donations from the high level donors, while then using that money in 2018.

Do you think she needs to address that? And is that a strong hit? Or does that look desperate because Elizabeth Warren, to many voters, seems like one of the cleaner candidates who avoids the big money.

SHARPTON: I think there`s clearly the image that she`s been among the cleanest we`ve seen, but she`s going to have to dress it, so it doesn`t look like she`s ducking it. As she has now grown in the polls, she`s been the only one that has advanced every poll just about.

She`s going to have to get used to the fact - she becomes a target. And she is definitely going to face scrutiny. She didn`t face before and if you can`t take that scrutiny and answer it in a succinct way and an effective way, then you can begin to erode. And I don`t think she`s been in that position yet.

We`re going to see it continue to have that kind of scrutiny, if in fact, she continues to have this growing support. And I know, I`ve been controversial, I didn`t get a lot of scrutiny till I started doing "Ari Melber Show".

MELBER: That`s when it all came out. You know people say Rev. throughout your life you`ve never been controversial until now.

SHARPTON: Until now. It`s all on THE BEAT. If I hadn`t done the THE BEAT they`d let me just do what I do.

MELBER: There. Put the word out. Rev., appreciate the seriousness of this (ph) and always fun talking to you. And tonight I`m going to tell MSNBC viewers they can get the debate coverage and more Rev. Sharpton after the debate tonight on MSNBC. Have fun tonight, sir.

SHARPTON: All right. Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it. Up ahead, business leaders tearing into McConnell for inaction on gun safety, but also the staff upheaval, new bizarre - potentially illegal orders to the weather service melting down on aids, inviting the Taliban to Camp David around 9/11. "Art of the Deal" Co-Author Tony Schwartz is here and he says it`s getting worse. When we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Hey, I got a question. What is going on at the White House? Have you noticed the constant chaos and confusion which is in measurable ways getting worse. Well we`re joined tonight, as promised, by "Art of the Deal" Co-Author Tony Schwartz. He knows how Trump operates better than most.

And right now we have Donald Trump immersed in a controversy about ousting his National Security Advisor John Bolton, which was of course, announced on Twitter. Trump under fire for ordering his aides to do something that really affects people`s safety and lives, because he got into a feud with the federal weather agency and he wanted to change storm forecasts, all to try to rescue his gaffe about Alabama Hurricane Dorian.

Tonight we learn his Vice President and Secretary of State are headlining paid events at Trump`s Washington hotel, another controversy about blatant public brazen self-dealing and profiting off the presidency. Does it sound like a catalogue of criticism? These are all just reported facts. Does it sound like it`s getting worse?

Well "The New Yorker" has attention for this piece that says, "Trump`s wacky, angry, extreme August that it is getting worse." It lists an extraordinary catalogue of in our faces meltdowns and writes, compared to just say two years ago --the argument is Trump is more, obviously, overly confrontational, more casually incendiary with words, sentiments statements.

So as normalization is a concern for anyone dealing with this kind of political crisis, is Donald Trump changing. Are there fewer adults in the room? You remember all that talk about John Kelly and McMaster and Mattis. The generals would hold them back. Bolton, whatever you think of him, was willing to say publicly Donald Trump is a liar. He stood up to Trump. That`s part of why he`s out.

Now we have an Acting Chief of Staff, some critics outside and Trump saying well maybe he gets to be who he always was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I look at people as being, in many cases pretty vicious. And unless you`re going to have a certain way you`re going to be eaten alive--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Joined by someone who maybe was picked at, eaten out a little bit, but is alive, "Art of the Deal" Co-author there in front of THE BEAT, Tony Schwartz. He`s the author of "The Way We`re Working Isn`t Working. And he is our featured guest in this recurring "BEAT" series "State of Mind". Nice to see you.

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR "THE ART OF THE DEAL": Nice to see you sir.

MELBER: I`m going to let the viewers in on how this works. Sometimes we report it out and we bring on guests. Other times our guests are experts and they bring us ideas. You came to us and said it`s getting worse. How do you know?

SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean, when I think of the Trump I knew in 1988-1989, he was relatively speaking, relaxed most of the time. He could occasionally be funny and he had a kind of live or let live attitude moment to moment. So long as I can do whatever I want, you do what your thing.

Now, he swings like a spinning top between megalomania and insecurity. And it`s in inverse - his megalomania, the idea of rewriting weather reports, all of this stuff that you just shared - his megalomania is in inverse proportion to the level of security and confidence that he`s feeling.

MELBER: That that is really well put. And I think it speaks to something that if we saw in a movie we wouldn`t believe. A modern President using technology to punch down and beefs at the most random people.

Chrissy Teigen, who is a very articulate, interesting writer, and she`s very funny, but she`s not known and doesn`t claim to be at a presidential level. And she herself was saying it`s absurd that the President was personally singling her out. This was her on "Ellen". Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN DEGENERES, HOST, "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW": It`s kind of, not even shocking, to hear that the President is picking fights with people on Twitter. Like it`s just like that something`s wrong with--

CHRISSY TEIGEN, AMERICAN MODEL: We all just wait for our day to come--

DEGENERES: Yes.

TEIGEN: --and mine happened to be Sunday. I was really angry. I think my eyes filled up with water just at the shock of it, that I can`t believe this really happens right now. He just goes on these rants. And usually very late at night for him, you just wait for him to say something. But you don`t think it`s going to be you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean, what`s happened is he is so preoccupied with his own sense of value or the absence of a sense of value for he lives inside this vast emptiness and he has to fill it all the time.

And that`s what you`re watching when he goes after Chrissy Teigen or a - weather people. Is that anything can be an affront to him, can make him feel small and to retaliate he will go to the extremes. He will go to rage. He will go to demeaning. He will also go to lying. And you know Susan Glasser says in her "New Yorker" piece that he`ll go to tweeting.

One of the fascinating statistics she has in that article is that the number of tweets he`s - he did this August compared to a year earlier was radically higher, because all day long he`s preoccupied right by whether or not he feels treated with respect.

MELBER: Right. His tweets are potato chips. They are some sort of comfort food. But the stakes are too high. I end on a final question, it`s more about what happens when people get where they think they want to go, because we also use you as a sounding board on some of these matters.

You knew him then you mentioned that. He claimed he wanted to be President. He certainly campaigned hard, you can note that. Do you think he`s less happy being President than earlier in his life?

SCHWARTZ: Well he`s the least introspective man who`s ever lived. So you`re asking a question about does he check in with his actual emotions? He lives inside - Ari. He lives inside his emotions. They consume him.

His ability to reflect is so minimal. So is he happy? No. I suspect that he`s in a state of agitation almost all the time. And that`s what I was saying earlier, it wasn`t the case in 1988. Look, he was fine. Nobody was going after him. He was - he could - he made this fake case that he was an immensely successful real estate developer.

Now he sees that he turns left, he turns right and nothing seems to work. The one thing that worked was the economy. And now that`s up in the air, and it`s because of what he`s done. You know I got a fundraising letter from Trump yesterday. And you can see so clearly - first of all that`s a little desperate. And by the way I`m not likely to contribute.

But you can also see in this fundraising letter that they are bearing down on the most extreme case they can make, which is socialism, socialism, socialism. And he is going to make that claim and a thousand other lies - he`s going to tell a thousand other lies, because there is no positive story to tell.

MELBER: We`re out of time. But you take together what you`re saying. It raises a question whether this is the best temperament for a person to be President? I think that`s an open question, right?

SCHWARTZ: Yes. Let`s reflect on that a little and we`ll come back and talk about it.

MELBER: As Tony would say, "Let`s check-in with ourselves about it."

SCHWARTZ: That is a Tony thing.

MELBER: Tony Schwartz back on THE BEAT and we`ll be back again for those of you Tony fans. I want to fit in a break. And then an important story, a 145 business leaders pressuring Mitch McConnell to do something on gun safety. It`s a story we`re staying on and we bring it to you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: We passed our bill in February. Members had events all over the country to ask him to bring up the bill. Don`t ask me what we haven`t done. We have done it. And if you are annoyed with my impatience, it`s because people are dying because Senator McConnell hasn`t acted--

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: In Washington, Speaker Pelosi calling out Mitch McConnell on gun control. Over on Wall Street, corporate America is now adding pressure too, and this is somewhat unusual. Take a look, 145 CEOs, including leaders of some of the most prominent companies in America and some major employees, demanding gun reform.

You see it here Uber, Twitter. Levi`s, GAP, Airbnb, Cond‚ Nast, they`ve united in this joint call - this unusual call given the gun crisis, urging the Senate, that`s McConnell, to stand with the American public to take action on gun safety, passing at least mandatory background checks and these red flag laws.

Now this comes after Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in America and one that is associated more with some conservative leadership has moved to stop selling ammunition completely for military style weapons and banned customers from at least open carrying in their stores. In fact, just last week, we spoke with a Wal-Mart staffer who started the very petition to change this policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We as employees felt that we would no longer be willingly complicit in a company that was continue to make profits off of firearms. We`re really hoping that this sort of sets a paradigm and a precedent really to help curb this horrible trend of mass shootings and violence in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I don`t have to tell you this is very real. Wherever you come down on the policy, lives do you hang in the balance. And what we just showed you is a lot of the movement to do something to pass policy. So what does Mitch McConnell been saying? Well, a little bit of blame Trump and a little bit of a claim - you judge it for yourself, that this is all just theatrics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): They are working on, coming up with a proposal that the president will sign. Until that happens all of this is theatrics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Is this all theatrics? There have been 238 mass shootings in the United States this year - facts. And when we come back we`re going to report on more outrage from Democrats after Donald Trump slams the door on people fleeing the Bahamas who are desperate to get to safety.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: This week we showed you how the President described some of the survivors of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. And now, before we go, we want to contrast that to what they`re actually saying in their own words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don`t want to allow people that weren`t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come in to the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got my two boys, my wife, and I, and we don`t have nothing now.

TRUMP: And some very, very bad drug dealers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have nothing left. All of our homes are destroyed. We have nowhere to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That does it for us we wanted to show you that. And don`t go anywhere, because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews live from the Democratic debate is next.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END