IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pressure on AG Anthony Barr. TRANSCRIPT: 9/13/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Basil Smikle, Matt Welch, Margaret Carlson, Walter Shaub, GeneRossi, Steve Israel, Jonathan Safran Foer, Sherrod Small

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Podcast today - our political unit podcast with myself, Mark Murray and Leigh Ann Caldwell. Go get it wherever you get your podcast. Be sure to subscribe to that - "The Chuck ToddCast", all these things.

And of course, Sunday, "MEET THE PRESS" and your local NBC station, we`re breaking down the primary race in general. Among my guest will be Senator Cory Booker. And remember the Republican House leadership Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

We`ll see you Monday 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. We`ll be watching on Sunday. We have a lot tonight, including this new suit alleging Donald Trump is profiting off the presidency illegally. We have that story later tonight.

Also, a very special guest on gun reform on this new call to seize AR-15s across the nation. And later, we`re going to wrap up this wild week with a very special political conversation with comedian Sherrod Small and the renowned author Jonathan Safran Foer on "Fallback Friday".

Our top story right now, though, is the split screen contrast creating America. Democrats debating policy, as Donald Trump reveals himself at a rambling rally.


BETO O`ROURKE (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels and embrace renewable wind--

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: --darling, the wind isn`t blowing. The goddamn windmill stopped.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Cut all carbon emissions from new buildings. By 2035, all carbon emissions from the manufacture of electricity.

TRUMP: The bulb that we`re being forced to use, number one to me, most importantly, the light is no good. I always look orange.

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION ANCHOR: Should more Americans follow your diet?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all I want to say, no. Actually I want to translate that into Spanish. No.

TRUMP: No more cows, no more planes, I guess, no more people. I think it was Buttigieg - nobody can pronounce this guy`s name. Joni Ernst, and John Thune, and Mike Pounce--

O`ROURKE: Have a white supremacist in the White House and he poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country.

TRUMP: I hit Pocahontas way too early.

JULIAN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re going to have a Democratic President, a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. There will be life after Donald Trump.


MELBER: There will be life after Donald Trump. It really is easy, sometimes, even for those of us who follow this on the Reg to forget how starkly the two parties are diverging right now. These big political nights do many things, but one of them is just bring that into focus. And how our Americans taking in how are you taking it in it, may depend, in part, especially nowadays on the filter.

I want you to see how Donald Trump`s favorite network was playing it.


RONNA MCDANIEL, GOP CHAIRWOMAN: The Democrat Party wants to take away pretty much everything from the American people.

HOWARD KURTZ, HOST "MEDIA BUZZ": Univision`s Jorge Ramos is an unabashed crusader for illegal immigration. He made no attempt to hide it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s basically Medicare for all inside a Trojan Horse.

KURTZ: --looks like there was a cue card you have to genuflect before Obama, before pushing for liberal ideas.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Katie, you`re winner.

KATIE PAVLICH, FOX NEWS HOST: I would say that President Trump and the economy that he has built is the winner.


MELBER: A bold take there. A winner of the debate who wasn`t in the debate. Now the other key moments, of course, that are continuing to drive where this race heads with no apparent frontrunner yet.

Joe Biden making that comment about record players, which was confusing at least; Andrew yang, on doctors; Kamala Harris` Wizard of Oz joke, and then of course, Julian Castro who really was calling out his view of Joe Biden`s fitness for office. Those people who served in Obama`s administration together.

It`s also interesting what didn`t make last night`s debate. We heard very little about the impeachment fight that is consuming Washington Democrats, that`s from the moderators or the candidates. And also we noted and we checked, virtually no discussion of abortion and choice.

I want to bring in our panel night Basil Smikle, former Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Party, knows his way around many of these races and these candidates; Matt Welch, on the right and Editor-at-Large for "Reason" magazine; and Margaret Carlson from "The Daily Beast". Margaret what did you see last night?

MARGARET CARLSON, THE DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: Well, when you did that mashup at the beginning, Ari, I saw for the first time Trump was the 11th person on the stage - a stage of his own creation, because he was counter- programming all along the way.

What the people on the actual stage didn`t know was that - they`re running against Trump and when they`re running against Trump, they`re all winning. When they`re running against each other, they`re not, and they`re pushing each other to the Left where it makes it much harder for them to win.

MELBER: Hmm. Matt, what do you think about coming at that as a libertarian and some of what, I`m sure you heard, didn`t sound like the Obama or Bill Clinton Democratic Party where you`re coming out of or at least where you cut your teeth. It`s the Democratic Party that is now competing on major national government role in your life.

MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It`s interesting, you talked about how there`s a big divergence between Trump vision of the world and Democratic vision. There`s a big divergence between the 2013 Democratic Party and the 2019 Democratic Party.

Now, we`re all legalizing weed - great, as far as I`m concerned. Everyone wants to get out of Afghanistan, that wasn`t a consensus view. Fracking should be banned across the board. It wasn`t really exactly where things should go. A criminal-justice, we should end the drug war and free 17,000 prisoners or more. A lot of that is pretty different and we`re not going to enforcing the immigration the same way that Barack Obama did.

And we saw Joe Biden get kind of tripped up on that question - lied actually is what he did, when he responded to we didn`t put people in cages, we didn`t separate families. They did do some of those things. So you see this divergence in the party.

Some of it is good from the civil libertarian point of view, but a lot of it to me - the moment that struck with me is when Kamala Harris laughed at Joe Biden when Joe Biden dared to say, "You can`t just do everything. There is a constitution. It has to be constitutional."

Joe Biden was about the only person on stage to introduce any kind of notion of a restraint about what the federal government can do. That is new and kind of different from six years ago.

BASIL SMIKLE, NY STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, yes, I agree that`s how it sounded. I would add that restraint isn`t going to win the election. Because what voter - the way the Democratic base is situated now - just sort of referring to your point earlier, is largely influenced by how Bernie Sanders ran in 2016, quite frankly.

So you`ve heard all of the other candidates - Biden`s probably the exception. But you`ve heard other candidates adopt in some way, shape or form his talking points from 2016.

MELBER: I think that`s true ideologically. But did you notice that Sanders and Biden both seem to recede last night.

SMIKLE: I did. So I thought it was interesting that Bernie has. But I`ve been seeing that throughout this cycle in part, because #1, I think, is he`s been running for the last couple of years and his base seems to be built in. I don`t really see a tremendous amount of growth, not in terms of his policies or in terms of his appeal to other voters and other constituencies.

Biden is also interesting, because if you look at his numbers over the course of the polling, he`s still at about a third. He hasn`t gained a whole heck of a lot. But I also think that Biden`s--

MELBER: You think Biden is in trouble?

SMIKLE: I don`t think he`s in trouble, because I - because of the other point I was going to make the - which is that these debates have not resulted in long term bumps for any candidate.


SMIKLE: Afterwards, it seems like the voters kind of settle with their preferred. No candidate has been able to convince a voter to step away from their preferred candidate.

MELBER: I also want to ask you about this, something that`s come up a lot lately, which is when we when we look at candidates and we look at the country we turn back to the color of their skin. I`m speaking of course about Donald Trump being allegedly orange.


MELBER: Yes. Let`s take a look at the way the comedians played this.


TRUMP: The bulb that we`re being forced to use, #1 to me, most importantly, the light is no good. I always look orange.

JIMMY KIMMEL, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!" HOST: Yes. So light bulb that makes you look orange.

TRUMP: The light is no good. I always look orange.


TRUMP: And so do you.



MELBER: You and other Democrats have come on this program. You`ve often accused the President of lying. Was he telling the truth about looking orange?

SMIKLE: He looks orange, and you know what, it`s comical. We should be laughing at that. But to be honest with you, all of what he said at this at this summit or retreat whatever it was, would be hysterical if it wasn`t so tragic.

MELBER: If he wasn`t the President.

SMIKLE: If he wasn`t the President of United States. It`s tragic actually. Can I make one point about color, though? Because we Democrats were at an HBCU yesterday and I was a little disappointed that they didn`t lean into issues of African-Americans and higher education, particularly because HBCU has, if I remember correctly, produced the highest number of PhDs - African-American PhDs in this country.

Kamala Harris touched on little bit. But there`s a little situational awareness that I wish the candidates had more of being in that environment.

MELBER: Very interesting. And Margaret, you know, all our guests are equal and will be treated equally. But I give Basil extra credit for landing the orange issue and then turning us back to a serious policy point. Clearly, he`s a political communications expert. Your views.

CARLSON: Basil missed the historic part of it, which is, I`ve never heard Trump make a joke at his own expense. And it was a true moment amid many, many untruthful ones in Baltimore last night. He called the Green New Deal crap. There are problems with it, but not that. And of course, he went off about the light bulbs with the orange.

There`s nothing that Democrats do that he approves of. And what the Democrats didn`t do was talk about what he`s doing. I didn`t hear one of them say that just this week he`s getting a final regulation that allows companies to dump chemicals into the water--

MELBER: Strange, yes.

TRUMP: --we`re going to have Flint, Michigans everywhere. And this comes after rolling back the Clean Air, so that California has an emission standard that`s going to be greater than what`s in the rest of the country.

MELBER: Do you think as an analyst, do you think the Democrats did do too much sparring with each other last night?

CARLSON: Well, I think, some sparring is needed to show where you are versus the others. Not that there was a lot of clarity. Because I still don`t know who`s for what in Medicare-for-All, it`s such a big umbrella. But, at my dinner table or at any dinner table, I`m at there`s more talk about Trump than there was at that debate last night.

MELBER: Right. Let me bring in Matt on Joe Biden, because the other thing that happens, people say, well, what do you get out of these debates? And a good governing president does a lot of things that are not really illustrated by debates, so let`s stipulate they have their limits.

But it is a testing ground and then I`m hearing from a lot of folks, including folks who love Joe Biden, that they they`re concerned about whether this is going the right way. Take a look at the moment that many people were talking about this answer.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s not they don`t want to help. They don`t - they don`t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television - excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the - make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school - a very poor background who hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.


MELBER: Your view of this. He is someone who charitably always had verbal gaffes. But what I`m hearing from some people now is more of a question about fitness, that`s what Castro at least alluded to.

WELCH: It seems like he`s lost five miles per hour off his fastball, I think there`s no question about that. He`s just not as quick. I mean, three sentences later he was like I know Maduro. What does this have to do with a phonograph and the kids and the words? I mean, it didn`t make sense. It was pure word salad. It`s unclear on - in some levels where he was talking about - Afghanistan or Iraq and dividing things up.

It`s a problem and one of the benefits about having a competitive Democratic primary, which is a lot different than what we had last time in 2016, which is basically had two candidates beating each other up. Is that, he`s got to go through this. He`s got to cook throat go through this gauntlet.

He`s polling well so far and managing, because I think people see him as kind of a rusty weather vane. He`s not going to go full socialist who will just kind of blow in the direction of the wind a little bit and they know who he is.

MELBER: So complimentary.

SMIKLE: But the only question is does he bring in - does he bring together those younger voters, because right now all of his support is trending older. There are so many young voters right now that want to get activated, that want to be energized and that was disappointing what I heard last night.

And that`s, I think, one of the biggest challenges for him, because if you were in 2008, you had a lot of young people bringing their parents and grandparents to go vote for Barack Obama. Now his Vice President and running, are those young people going to have that same energy for him and bring their parents and grandparents to go vote for him? I don`t see that that`s happening right now.

MELBER: And that`s interesting coming from you as a top Democrat who was a supporter of the Obama-Biden administration all along the way. Basil, Matt and Margaret, my thanks to each of you, wrapping up our coverage here on this Friday.

We`re going to fit in a super short 30-second break. And then come back looking at legal pressure on Trump and the profits on the presidency. A man who ran the Federal Ethics Office, Walter Shaub, my special guest later; the man who once run the Russia probe, trying to call the bluff of the DOJ on a potential indictment, and the politics of this dramatic call to seize AR-15s and "Fallback Friday" tonight as well. So we have a whole lot and we`re back in just 30 seconds


MELBER: News out of corruption suit against President Trump. The U.S. Appeals Court in Manhattan is reviving a case that looks at Trump profiting from spending at his properties from foreign governments. You may recall, this has been in the news a lot previously.

The suit, basically alleging that by failing to untangle himself from his hotels, Trump is vulnerable to any kind of bribes from foreigners. Bottom line, will Trump put the country above his businesses? The suit says, no.

All this coming after reporting all week and scandal after scandal of taxpayer money, which is a related issue, going to Trump`s pockets. You have the military personnel at Trump`s resort, you have Turnberry staffers tell "The New York Times" anonymously that the military stays are a regular occurrence and they`re often very large groups.

"Washington Post" now also reporting the Vice President`s trip not only there caused a lot of trouble, but there was also the D.C. hotel which featured him last night, a conservative group, paying that Trump hotel ballroom and Secretary of State Pompeo speaking today.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is it is really, truly wonderful to be here. I look around this is such a beautiful hotel. The guy who owns it must - be going to be successful somewhere along the way. That was for "The Washington Post" in case they`re in the back.


MELBER: Great a trolling. I`m joined by Walter Shaub. You may know his name, because he`s the former Director of the Office of Government Ethics. He worked directly with the incoming Trump officials. He ultimately stepped down.

And sir, your challenges on the conflicts of interest in the administration or something I covered back when you in government, I don`t if you remember. Sometimes I was calling you and your folks, they wouldn`t return my calls at the time. But we did ultimately see what you were doing and what you wrote down at the time.

And at a bottom-line level, it seems the ethics concerns you outlined are now coming home to roost. Is that how you see it?

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS: Yes, I mean, it`s one of these times where you hate to be right. But two and a half years ago I warned what would happen if this man committed the original sin of his administration, which was keeping his financial interest in these conflicting assets. And it`s just proven to be as bad as I feared it could be.

MELBER: What do you think of Secretary of State Pompeo? He`s doing the thing that has become politically popular on the Right, which is leaning into it trolling, making about "The Washington Post". Was not about "The Washington Post" they`ve just uncovered facts here that would suggest these conflicts. Do you think it`s even appropriate for the Secretary of State to speak that way?

SHAUB: Yes, I mean, not only is it inappropriate for him to be there in the first place on behalf of Trump, hosting Trump`s paying guests, but taunting people over his behavior. Actually sends a message to a secondary audience, which is the gigantic federal work force that are subject to really strict rules. And here they have one of Trump`s top appointees telling them that these rules don`t just matter - don`t matter at all and it`s all just a big joke.

MELBER: Let me show you the new reporting that Ivanka Trump says when asked about her moral compass, and she`s of course been involved in the Trump Organization business-wise and she works in the government. She says her moral compass comes from her father. And that`s something we`ve heard from her before. I think we have a little bit of sound on that as well. Take a listen.


IVANKA TRUMP, ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My father taught my siblings and me the importance of positive values and a strong ethical compass.


MELBER: It`s become normalized for some that the children seem to play these dual roles. Your view of all of that part of this.

SHAUB: Yes, I mean, let`s not forget that she`s not only a daughter, but she`s a top presidential adviser, and she`s telling the American people and again that federal work force that Trump`s behavior is a model of good ethical, moral behavior. When actually what he`s done for two and a half years is degrade the ethical culture at the executive branch. So I don`t know that that`s anything to be terribly proud of.

MELBER: What should Congress do?

SHAUB: Well Congress needs to start doing oversight across the board, not just one party, but both. And we watched for two years as Congress simply did nothing. Then the House changed hands, and you have one chamber of Congress actually trying to conduct oversight. But the White House has adopted an across the board opposition to any kind of oversight.

So it really should be a bipartisan effort, standing up for really fundamental principles of public service. Instead, you have 90 members of his own caucus attending events at his hotel over the past two and a half years, participating in this corrupting influence on our country.

MELBER: And one thing we`ve seen in people who do stand up to the President, whether their career officials with nonpartisan roles as you were or appointees, is it does matter what their situation is. Do you think that the extreme reliance on these so-called acting or temporary officials undercuts also their ability to defend these ethics rules in their agencies, which in a healthy government is part of the expectation?

SHAUB: Yes, I think, absolutely. There`s a reason that Congress over the years has passed statutes and revised them, and I think particularly of the Vacancies Reform Act. But also agency specific statutes that try to discourage the President from having acting officials by stripping them of power over a certain number - after a certain period for a very important reason.

And that`s that acting officials are much more vulnerable to the whims of the President. He can replace them in a heartbeat and many of them may feel like they`re auditioning for the job. And even the best ones of them are going to feel like they don`t have the full mandate to really uphold the laws that their agencies are in charge of enforcing.

MELBER: Yes. You lay it out there, it`s another issue that we`ve been covering, and it`s something Donald Trump may not have known four years ago even about how that works. And yet he`s leaned into anywhere that he finds give in the system.

Walter Shaub, thank you for joining me and taking the questions.

SHAUB: Thanks a lot.

MELBER: Appreciate it. Up ahead, the former head of the actual FBI Russia probe is calling out trumps DOJ and there are rumors that he put into writing about whether or not a grand jury is going to indict him. And that standout moment at the Democratic debate about removing guns from people`s homes, we have a special guest who`s been in that fight from the start.


MELBER: Breaking news tonight. New clues on a big story, that`s all about whether the Trump administration is trying to indict James Comey`s former top deputy at the FBI, the man who ran the Russia probe and took over for Comey.

And here`s what`s new we hit on this story earlier this week. The news now all basically comes down to questions about whether a grand jury rejected an effort by the Trump administration to indict this person. If that happened - and I`m going to explain all of this - but if that happened, that would be a huge and rare thing.

And here`s the context. This is all about Andy McCabe. He was, of course, as I mentioned, Comey`s deputy. His legal team has now gone public, which itself is a big deal, in a letter Darren AG Bill Barr and his DOJ to basically confirm or deny what just happened. Did this grand jury, which we do know was impaneled, ultimately decide not to indict him if they were requested to by the Trump administration?

The DOJ had already reportedly authorized prosecutors to try to get the grand jury to indict McCabe. This is all about an apparent technicality regarding statements he made to other DOJ officials as they probed his contacts with the press.

Now, Trump himself has been a huge McCabe critic and basically called for this indictment. I`m going to read to you a little bit from this important new letter, because you have in the McCabe folks saying, look, "We heard rumors from reporters this morning that the grand jury considering charges against McCabe declined to vote an indictment."

And then they say something that we are not confirming tonight. But this is what they say, quote "It`s clear no indictment has been returned." And it doesn`t mean that an indictment wasn`t returned, because we don`t know what happens inside grand juries, they are secret.

That doesn`t mean one would never be returned. What it does mean and why this is so politically fraught, is that McCabe`s lawyers are taking the extraordinary step of going public.

They want the DOJ to explain what they`re up to. "We strongly urge you to request the grand jury to submit a report to the court. we believe it serves the interest of transparency." And they say, look there`s no reason not to do so.

Now anything could happen. There could be a sealed indictment. There could be a later indictment. But the reporting is actually been going the other way. "The Washington Post" new article basically saying the grand jury investigating McCabe was recalled this week. They`ve been gone for months. And they were released yesterday.

And tonight - and it is the end of the workweek as of 6:26 p.m. on the East Coast, well, there`s no public indictment that`s for sure. I want to break all of this down, because it`s such an important story and we are thrilled to be joined by a longtime DOJ veteran, a former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi. Good evening to you.


MELBER: Let`s start with why this is such a big deal. If anyone`s watching right now and they`re going, "Oh Ari`s a lawyer. He brought in another lawyer." Well, it`s a lot of law.

At basic headline level what seems so important to me is we are talking about something that hasn`t happened in the modern era. That is one expert put it this week that Richard Nixon never even tried - we`re talking about an effort, according to "Washington Post", to get the person who was running the Russia probe indicted. Does that alone appear on the level to you?

ROSSI: No, it doesn`t. And here`s what troubles me the most, Ari. Is, I worked there for 30 years - DOJ. And you get the strong feeling that there is political pressure being imposed on the Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney and law enforcement to go after Andrew McCabe, because he had the audacity to be an CNN Analyst and make derogatory comments about the President of United States.

And the thing that really bothers me even more is that after his stellar career, within 48 hours of his retirement, they fired him. And I`m not being facetious, but the actions they took about against Andrew McCabe is like killing a mosquito with an AR-15. They won`t let it go.

And here`s the thing you have to consider as a prosecutor. Do you have the elements of the crime, which is debatable, is there a federal interest in indicting Andrew McCabe? And the third is, is there a remedy besides charging him right?

MELBER: Right.

ROSSI: And the remedy here is. He was fired. He was humiliated.

MELBER: Right. He was fired. He was a long time law enforcement veteran who dealt with terror and all these other big cases, rose to be Acting Head of the FBI. He didn`t even get his government pension. So if you say there was some screw-ups at work - was he sanctioned at work, as you say the answer is yes. And now we`re into this other territory, which his lawyers are basically suggesting is banana republic territory.

Now, I want to get into the - what makes this so hard to cover. Viewers will remember our colleagues, and our experts and Rachel and everyone say look, grand juries are secret. And there is a reason why you didn`t know what Mueller was up to most the time. There`s a reason why we don`t know what this grand jury is up to.

So I`m not going to ask you to pretend to go inside the room. But based on the post reporting, which we`ve been relying on, that the grand jury was recalled then let go. Do you have any view of what this might mean big picture for the case big?

ROSSI: Picture is this. A grand jury is 23 people. You need 12 votes to return a true bill - the charging document. What this means is one of two things. One, they couldn`t get 12 votes to return an indictment.

If that`s the case, and that could be very rare, then they have a duty to inform McCabe that he`s not going to be charged. If they are still gathering evidence, which is a possibility, then they will use that grand jury or get a new one and continue the investigation. Those are the two possibilities.


ROSSI: But if they rejected the indictment, they should tell Andrew McCabe straight up, you`re off the hook.

MELBER: Right. And just to be clear. If those citizens overruled what the DOJ under Barr was trying to do, as you know and as every ham sandwich across the country know, whose we just had the graphic up, that would be 99.9 percent rare. And that is something that literally almost never occurs.

And would suggest that there was an effort to push a case, which in that instance, the jurors found to be too weak to move forward on. Again, I want to be clear at the risk of repeating myself. We`re not reporting that`s happened yet. We`re reporting that Andrew McCabe is calling on that to be clarified and you seem to agree that`s a reasonable request and we are always indebted to your expertise sir. Gene Rossi thank you.

ROSSI: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it. We have a lot more on tonight show. Up ahead a moment in this fight over gun control that`s going viral and may change the equation. Did Mitch McConnell see it?


  O`ROURKE: Hell, yes, we`re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.


O`ROURKE: We not going to allow it be used against a fellow our Americans.


MELBER: And later how a media ally of Donald Trump`s fawning praise of the President may reveal much larger problems in the White House, and tonight we are thrilled about this. I`ve got a fallback Friday with the acclaimed author Jonathan Safran Foer and comedian Sherrod Small, that`s later tonight.


MELBER: Now to an important policy issue that became a inflection point and the standout moment with applause at the Democratic debate.


O`ROURKE: --in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15, and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland, there weren`t enough ambulances to get to them in time, hell, yes, we`re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.


We`re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.


MELBER: You can hear him almost drowned out in the audience and that was reflected over last night and today. Look at all the headlines and interest in a frank proposal to take certain military guns away. This is quite a shift.

And we wanted to give some context. Watch how candidate Joe Biden actually touch on a very similar idea in a different debate, a different race over a decade ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my baby purchased under the 1994 gun ban please tell me your views.

BIDEN: If that`s his baby, he needs help. We should be working with law enforcement right now to make sure that we protect people against people who don`t - are not capable of knowing what to do with a gun, because they`re either mentally imbalanced and/or because they have a criminal record--


BIDEN: Hope he doesn`t come looking for me.


MELBER: I hope he doesn`t come looking for me. That was a dark joke then. It`s a dark joke now, but it is resonating with a lot of people. Two different candidates, both now in the same race this year, but both saying something over the course of a decade that has only gotten louder, at least, in certain parts of the country, which is, owners of AR-15s have a responsibility too.

O`Rourke saying that actually some of them are getting in on this and saying we`ve got to make changes. There was, of course, a viral video that went around of a man destroying his own AR-15. This was after the Parkland shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a gun like this one that takes away the lives. So I`ve decided today I`m going to make sure this weapon will never be able to take a life. And people always said there are so many of them out there. Yes, now there is one less.


MELBER: Former Congressman Steve Israel has been in this fight. He`s been calling for much tougher gun restrictions for years.


FORMER REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D-NY): Here is to remind the American people that congress is on break and we still do not have a bill protecting Americans from gun safety. We still do no have (inaudible) bill. We still do not have the bill on the background checks. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the American people want us to take this vote, they want us to pass these bills.


MELBER: That was in 2016. He also wrote a satirical book called "Big Guns" engaging the topic. Thanks for joining me.

ISRAEL: Thank you. Had fewer gray hairs back in 2016.

MELBER: Well, wasn`t that long ago. But--

ISRAEL: No, that wasn`t.

MELBER: I`ll start with that comparison. On the one hand we`ve seen the rising tide on the issue. On the other, the Joe Biden sound from `07 is pretty striking, because you had a debate where you`ve got submitted questions from the public, you get all kinds of questions. One had somebody waved an AR and the future Vice President at the time was saying, no way. Take that away.

ISRAEL: Well, that`s right. And I think it`s important to remember, Ari, that today actually is the 25th anniversary since we actually had a ban on assault weapons. It was a ban on assault weapons that was signed by President Clinton, supported by Ronald Reagan, supported by Gerald Ford, voted out of the Senate by a vote of 95 to four, had broad bipartisan support.

And why was that? Why did it happen then and not now? Because at that time both parties had some common sense. They understood that these weapons are designed to kill a maximum number of people in a minimal amount of time. That they are carried by carefully trained soldiers on the battlefield and shouldn`t be carried by deranged lunatics on Main Street. So there was that consensus then.

Since then the NRA has become more powerful. Since then the issue has become far more polarized, since then the gun manufacturers and the lobby have become far more intense and since then too many of my former colleagues have become far too afraid to vote for that kind of sensible common-sense gun safety.

MELBER: Yes. It says something - this is kind of a theme throughout today. But it says something that O`Rourke, obviously, who is - many candidates noted, of course, dealt with this in his own community with the mass murder there.

His breakout moment wasn`t about attacking other candidate or Donald Trump directly, although it`s related. But was really about, hey we need to do this. Here he was speaking more about it. Take a look.


O`ROURKE: It`s not voluntary. I want to make sure that we make the distinction here. It is mandatory. It will be the law. You will be required to comply with the law. So - I mean, as with many of our laws, we don`t go door-to-door searching people`s homes to see if they are, in fact, breaking the law. But we expect people to comply with the law.


MELBER: On the policy, is your view that if you ban this and you take these guns away, fewer people, fewer kids will be murdered each year?

ISRAEL: Well, here`s where good, sound policy sometimes diverges from good, sound messaging. I have to be honest with you. It is a sound policy to ban assault weapons. I support it. I co-sponsored the bill.

MELBER: Right.

ISRAEL: We vitally need to take these guns off the streets. But here`s the political problem. Political problem that is how you frame the argument and it`s a nuanced argument. 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks, 90 percent of the American people say that if you can`t get on the airplane, because the federal government says you`re too dangerous. You shouldn`t be able to get a gun.

But when you talk about confiscating weapons, when you talk about having people mandatorily return those weapons, the support drops. And so what Beto has decided to do is, really not care all that much about the politics of the argument--

MELBER: I think we`re learning to is--

ISRAEL: --I think it`s the policy I commit on.

MELBER: --politically he`s decided to say screw it.

ISRAEL: That`s exactly right. And I commend him for it. I think we`ve got to just shake this argument up.

By the way, the only person that this is really relevant to is Mitch McConnell. The American people wanted assault weapons ban, a majority still support it.


ISRAEL: There`s bipartisan support in the House. One person will decide whether this gets to vote, it`s Mitch McConnell.

MELBER: Very important, and you`ve been on it Congressman Israel, thank you.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

MELBER: We`re fitting a quick break. Up ahead, Donald Trump`s Fox News ally praising the White House bizarrely, while insiders say things are worse than ever. And later Jonathan Safran Foer and comedian Sherrod Small are here for a special "Fallback".


MELBER: A lot has happened this week. Do you remember that this is the week John Bolton bounced from the Trump Whitehouse, part of a unprecedented level of turnover in this administration.

Remember former Chief of Staff John Kelly said, "It was crazy town. The worst job I`ve ever had." Another aide wrote a whole book called "Team of Vipers" saying, "This White House is absolutely out of control". So that`s the context of people who are in it, who`s seen it. Bolton also saying Donald Trump was a huge liar, basically.

But one at Trump`s biggest boosters on Fox News, Lou Dobbs has a different view.


LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK ANCHOR: It couldn`t be more positive. The mood in that White House couldn`t be more high energy. I want you to know the joint is hopping. At every level on every floor this White House is energized. There`s sunshine beaming throughout the place and on almost every face. Its winner and winning center. And our White House, our President is at the top of his game.


MELBER: It`s winning center. I almost wonder who wrote that. Lou Dobbs, basically begging his viewers to ignore all of the chaos that is out there, a little bit like the policeman in that scene from "The Naked Gun" when a rocket explodes in a fireworks factory.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me, excuse me. All right. Move on. Nothing to see here. Please disperse. Nothing to see here, please.


MELBER: It`s a winning factory. You know, why does Dobbs overstate it this much? He`s not just speaking to his own audience, which might overlap with Trump`s base. He may also be speaking to the famed audience of, one, Donald Trump turns to these TV individuals - some of them for information.

"The Washington Post" notes, that Trump is as likely to heed a Fox News host as any senior administration official or expert. There are direct reports that Sean Hannity has a desk at the place, referring to the Oval Office. Tucker Carlson was behind - according to POLITICO, the very lobbying to fire former Fox News Analyst John Bolton.

All of this is wild, because Trump seems to have hired Bolton for the obvious reason. And as stated, that he saw him on the shows.


TODD: Who do you talk to for military advice right now?

TRUMP: Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great - when you watch your show and all of the other shows and you have the generals and you have certain people that--

TODD: But is there somebody who`s a go-to for you?

TRUMP: I like Bolton--



MELBER: It`s Friday on "THE BEAT" and you know that means it`s time to "Fallback". Joined tonight by actor and comedian Sherrod Small. He`s appeared with stand-up comics like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, goes to the "Race Wars" podcast. He`s also been featured on shows like VH1`s "Best Week Ever". Hello.


MELBER: And Travel Channel`s "Man vs. Food" and also with us for the first time, acclaimed author Jonathan Safran Foer. He has published, of course, four novels. You`ve heard of them, "Everything is Illuminated", which became an international bestseller, adapted into a film with Elijah Wood. He`s a PEN literary award winner. His new book goes into some political terrain. It`s about climate change. We are the Weather", and it`s out next week.

Thrilled to have you both here.

SMALL: Thank you. Thank you, gentlemen.

MELBER: I`m going to start with you. Who needs to fall back?

SMALL: Well, you know Cam - and you saw Cam Newton. He has to - that look that he gave after the game.

MELBER: I think we have this.



MELBER: Look at him.

SMALL: The babushka. He looked like my aunt that didn`t work and she used to pick us up from school. What a juice box. He - wow - I mean that`s just not - you got to fall all the way back. At least he`s committed to it. But that`s nice--

MELBER: I`m going to bring Jonathan in, because--

SMALL: --my football--

MELBER: As a reader and fan of your work, I think you might agree this look is actually a little bit shtetl (ph).

JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER, AUTHOR: It`s an awesome look. It`s - he is bringing shtetl to 2019. I couldn`t like him more. It makes me miss my grandma.

SMALL: Is that what makes you miss her?

FOER: --who was also a quarterback.

MELBER: What`s on your fallback list?

FOER: The obsession with climate change deniers.


FOER: I think we have an impression that about half of the country denies the science of climate change. It`s just untrue. They`re twice as many Americans believe in the existence of Bigfoot, as deny the existence of human-caused climate thing. 91 percent of Americans believe in the science of climate change. 70 percent of Americans wanted us to stay in the Paris Climate Accords, including the majority of Republicans.

And I think that we are missing the real problem, which is people like me, my guess is people like the two of you, who believe in the science and who care about the science and care about the fate of the planet--

SMALL: Definitely.

FOER: --aren`t actually doing that much.

MELBER: What I take from that, being familiar with some of your other writings is you want Sherrod to stop eating meat.

SMALL: You`re vegetarian, huh?

FOER: So I`m a vegetarian.


FOER: And it`s been a path to get here.

SMALL: How long did it thank you?

FOER: Well, I`m 42 and it took me about 42 years. I`ve been an on and off vegetarian since I was 9. But I don`t necessarily want you to be a vegetarian. I just want you to eat less meat.


FOER: And about 36 percent of meat-eaters in America want to eat less meat. This is not something that - we`ve been looking at it too much as a binary. Like either you are a vegetarian or you just eat meat indiscriminately.

SMALL: Right.

FOER: And what we know now is that we can`t save the planet unless we eat less meat.

MELBER: You know, for a novelist you bring a lot of statistics.

FOER: I`m also a Jew.

SMALL: So is it true that we - because we are eating meat that added to the fire in Brazil, because they`re burning down?

FOER: I`m so glad you asked. You want another number? 91 percent of the deforestation in Brazil is for animal agriculture.


FOER: --to land for the animals to graze or to make land to grow crops to feed the animals. So everybody is furious with Bolsonaro. Everybody`s furious with Trump. The reality is we`re signing the checks. We boycott a beef for a month. It would stop.

SMALL: You know what happened to Oprah when she had that kind of talk?

FOER: Well, people care about what she says more than they care about what I say.

SMALL: True. That`s true.

MELBER: But what happened?

SMALL: They came at her.

FOER: The cattle industry.

SMALL: The cattle industry came at her and trying to say that she was anti- meat and there was all--

MELBER: Are you saying that cattle industry had beef with Oprah?

SMALL: Yes, I am. Yes.

MELBER: I`m sorry. I`m sorry.

FOER: Try to avoid.

SMALL: So - OK. I will cut back on meat that`s my promise to you.

MELBER: You`re willing.

SMALL: I`m willing to do it.

MELBER: Let`s run an idea by you. And I love this, by the way, because I feel like you`re bringing a lot of real. Comedians always really - where people really at. You normally laugh at what you feel is funny. You can`t fake a laugh. And you`re bringing a lot of ideal about how things could be better or at least a little bit better.

What if we only ate carnivores? Because they`re eating other animals, right? So if just eat the animals that eat animals, are you saving animals?

SMALL: If you saying the apex line--

FOER: I`m in.

SMALL: You know that?

FOER: I`m totally in. I`m actually not in. But what I will do is, I`ll wear that scarf that can - if you will stop eating beef.

SMALL: OK. I`m into it.

FOER: In fact, if you just text me a picture of your meals, what`s your eating, if you`re not eating beef in that meal. I will be wearing that scarf at that time.

SMALL: That`s a done deal.

MELBER: I love it.

SMALL: That`s a done deal.

FOER: --one at a time.

MELBER: It sounds like a Freedom Stater, like a--


SMALL: I think it starts with this scarf then what else - more like a dress or shawl. We`ll like add to it and that`s big in a black community, because we like a nice barbecue.

FOER: Well, a lot of African-Americans, like Jews, are disproportionately lactose-intolerant.


FOER: So when I say eating less meat, I should have said eating less animal products--

SMALL: Like dairy and all together.

FOER: Yes, which are really quite bad for the environment as well and something that - you know this is not my opinion. The IPCC, which is the United Nation`s scientific body for climate change said that if we`re going to meet the Paris Accords goals, Americans need to eat 90 percent less meat and 60 percent less dairy.

MELBER: I feel like you know so many things. Like we shouldn`t keep you in the newsroom at all, I feel like we wouldn`t need Google. We would just call over to you.

SMALL: That`s right. He has a wealth of information.

FOER: And I won`t spy on.

SMALL: I don`t know about that.

MELBER: My last question to both of you, because it`s interesting seeing how both of your brains work is. Given the work you do, what is most relevant in this weird political time to your comedy and to your writing and your thinking?

SMALL: I think a lot of things. But I would have to say race is right up there and gun violence. So if you can work them in your set, yes I think that`s important to talk about--

MELBER: Because when you`re talking to audience, as you`re feeling their reaction and that`s on people`s minds.

SMALL: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, sure. That`s around the country. I just got back from Vegas. Did 14 shows there last week, 7 days and that crowd is a little bit everything in America. So they were all ready to talk about it, ready to hear about it. But you`ve got to do it in the right way.

MELBER: Right. And it`s interesting you say that, because we think about politics and culture here, that`s what`s real. Washington, Mitch McConnell wants the gun issue to just go away, and you`re saying around the country people are going - everyone`s getting shot over and over. It`s not going to go away.

SMALL: They want to address it.


FOER: Yes.

MELBER: Well, there--

FOER: I just completely agree. I think that we`re telling the stories in the wrong way, in ways that point out small differences rather than very, very broad agreements. Climate change is a great example. I don`t think that Republicans care less about the environment than Democrats do. I don`t think that conservatives care less about their kids than the rivals (ph) do.

But when we tell the story in a way that is demeaning that makes people feel ignorant or evil or that I`m better than you--

MELBER: Right.

FOER: --rather than starting with these shared values, like we all want to save the planet. So where do we - instead of filling the air with our talk, how do we fill the world with our action. And eating less meat really is the best place to start.

MELBER: I love that. It`s a fitting way to wrap up this week. And I will say, I think, everything is a little bit more illuminated now.

SMALL: Bravo. Bravo.

MELBER: Jonathan and Sherrod, thank you--

  SMALL: Mind boggling (ph).

MELBER: And I will tell you, we`re still also excited about Monday. This is Samantha Power, famous advisor to Barack Obama. She makes her debut appearance on "THE BEAT". We also have opening arguments with Neal Katyal, so a lot to get to that we will be excited about.

So I hope you have a great weekend. And I hope you remember to rejoin us. Come back, Monday at 6 p.m. Eastern. But don`t go anywhere right now, because "Hardball" with Chris Matthews is up next.