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2020 Democrats tackle Climate Change. TRANSCRIPT: 9/19/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Jackie Speier, Michael McFaul


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sorry about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it is hard for the Republicans to get to the unified position when the administration is not in the unified position to start with.

TODD: And by the way the people that really want to be moderate and guns already lost in 2018 of the Republicans that`s something else to keep in mind. Thank you all. Great panel.

That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you so much. We join you tonight at home in the midst of what is truly a strange Washington mystery that also affects potentially everyone`s national security.

We have a whistleblower, we have a foreign leader, potentially, we have the President of United States. And this has gotten really different over the last 24 hours, because of what can only be described as very serious new developments because of this whistleblower, that we`ve reported on before, who we know according to Donald Trump`s own intelligence community is credible.

And this individual is trying to send a warning basically to the Congress aka someone who can do something about this. Because of these credible concerns about Donald Trump`s behavior, not in general, not Donald Trump tweeting, not Donald Trump lying. No, Donald Trump doing things germane according to this credible whistleblower. Germane to intelligence and national security.

And there`s a lot of different reporting on this. If you`ve been watching THE BEAT you`ve seen we`ve been reporting on what Congressman Schiff has said and what print outlets have said. And what has changed lately is new reporting about the nature of this.

"The New York Times" is reporting the whistleblower raised concerns about a series of actions involving Trump that go beyond any quote "single discussion" with a foreign leader. Now NBC has not confirmed the report.

And as we`ve noted, all of our reporting on this, we are talking about a fight over an anonymous complaint. So on the one hand it`s super important to get into, on the other hand no one claims to have the physical complaint.

But "The Washington Post" also is contributing to our understanding, because they`ve separately reported out through their sources that this has to do with, at some level, Donald Trump making a quote "promise to a foreign leader", with a U.S. intelligence official saying and it`s so troubling. That it led to the complaint we`ve been covering. The formal whistleblower complaint with the intelligence services.

Another former U.S. intelligence official says, Trump`s conversation was, according to this person`s belief, a phone call. Now we don`t know who Donald Trump was talking to. As I mentioned, we don`t know what they were talking about, we don`t know whether that promise is the whole story, a part of the story or that there`s something else going on.

So what do we know? Why is this so huge? Well, we know this internal watchdog for the intelligence community, Inspector General, is part of the Trump administration. And this person who does this for a living determined the compliant was credible and urgent. And that is not just a set of words. That is the standard that then requires notification to Congress under federal law.

Then you have more mystery, more entry, because Trump`s Direct National Intelligence is then acting contrary to law to fork over the details. Now, that doesn`t mean - and I want to be fair here. That doesn`t mean that that automatically means everybody`s in on the conspiracy. It may be that something that was alleged about some people in the White House or Intel and that the intelligence Inspector General and DNI, that`s the director, are trying to figure out what to do about it.

So this goes to another layer of this sordid tale, because they then went to the Justice Department where Bill Barr has been quite the protector of the President. Now, DOJ official says, that the DOJ used their legal counsel office to review what to do. But they won`t say whether Mr. Barr, who runs it all, was personally involved.

Now the Inspector General, the man who basically said this was credible complaint went in - and this is another sign of how serious this thing that we don`t know exactly what it is is. Well, they went in and had to brief the House Intelligence Committee members in a confidential session.

Now they in that session didn`t learn the substance of the entire complaint, which of course, continues to raise what are increasingly alarming questions.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We do know that the Department of Justice has been involved in the decision to withhold that information from Congress. We do not know, because we cannot get an answer to the question about whether the White House is also involved.


MELBER: I want to bring in our experts tonight. California Congresswoman Jackie Speier who serves on that Intelligence Committee and was in the closed-door briefing today; Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and experienced diplomat; and Jason Johnson, Politics Editor for "The Root". Thank you all.

Congresswoman I`ve taken pains in our reporting to distinguish all that we don`t know from the little that that has come out, and understanding that you`re restricted under your obligations of what you can tell us.

So let`s start with - for viewers who are saying, "Well, I heard something about this, which seems to be, like, it`s getting more serious." What can you tell us about what this is and how serious do you view it?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): So the Inspector General is required under the law, when a whistleblower complaint comes in, to determine whether it`s credible and whether it`s urgent. And they - he has 14 days in which to do that. He was able to establish both that it was credible and that it was urgent.

It was then communicated to the DNI and he was within seven days supposed to make sure that the House and Senate Intelligence Committee would gain access to that information and to that complaint.

Now, the DNI did not do that, and basically it took the Inspector General some time to figure out that he wasn`t going to do that. And so it was the Inspector General who then communicated with Congressman Schiff again, as Chair of the Committee that there was this serious allegation that it was urgent.

And "urgent" is a really important word to focus on. Urgent means it`s impacting our national security. It is at the highest level of concern. So that is why so many of us are deeply troubled by the actions that have taken place.

MELBER: Right. Can I ask you just on that point you raised? If they blow through these deadlines under federal law, are they in violation of the law right now tonight?

SPEIER: Yes they are in violation of the law. But as we have found over and over again, the penalty is not inscribed in the law and it will take years, probably, to be able to process this through the courts to get access.

So holding in - so holding someone in contempt here - in civil contempt, in my view, is not going to be acceptable. Holding either the DNI or - and/or the Attorney General in inherent contempt is where we precisely have to go, because this is such an urgent issue.

And what is happening in front of us right now is it`s eviscerating the whistleblower protections that we have put in place throughout the executive branch and will create a chilling effect.

By virtue of going to the Attorney General what happened is, this particular whistleblower has lost all the protections that we inscribe in the whistleblower law, because the AG is saying that this doesn`t come under whistleblower protection. So I`m deeply concerned about protecting the whistleblower from reprisals.

MELBER: Well, that`s such an important point you make, because it seems like they`re building the case potentially against the person looking for the loophole, rather than doing what these laws are intended.

And ambassador, let`s be clear, we`re not talking about somebody running to "The New York Times" or the cameras are leaking, which this administration, but in fairness many administrations, struggled with and complained about.

This is someone who claims they saw something that Congresswoman has just detailed for us, the level of urgency. And then went through the process they`re supposed to go through. And, yet, because of the Trump administration`s actions, that process seems to be breaking down.

For your analysis, ambassador, I want to read from "The New York Times" on this. That "Under the law the complaint must have the existence of an intelligence activity, violating the law, rules or regs or otherwise be mismanagement, waste abuse or danger." Meaning, not just "Oh, you disagree with it or it sounds silly."

"Donald Trump enjoys broad power as President to declassify intelligence secrets to order the community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit."

What do you take as a significance of that very high bar that according to the IG, has been potentially violated?

AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, two things Ari. First, the part about the whistleblower law is very important and I want to underscore that. I was the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow when Mr. Snowden arrived.

And I, many, many times on the record said we have a system in place for whistleblowers to take their complaints to higher levels. This undermines those arguments those arguments that I was making on the record what is happening right now and I hope we get that straightened out.

The second thing, I worked in the U.S. governments, at the White House. I do not understand why the DNI is talking to the Attorney General about intelligence matters. I hope we get to the bottom of that. The DNI reports to the President of the United States. And the Attorney General and Department of Justice is not an intermediary between that.

And then finally, to the point that you just said, it suggest me, and I want to keep emphasizing we`re all grabbing here at straws with a lot of holes that we do not know about, right? We`re dealing with very little--

MELBER: Straws are supposed to have two holes in fairness--

MCFAUL: Yes, OK, that`s a bad metaphor.

MELBER: We`re just listening closely ambassador.

MCFAUL: I`m not going to try another metaphor. I`m going to keep it straight, which is to say, in my understanding having worked closely with the intelligence community when I was in the government, nobody that I know would go to these steps unless there was something really serious.

This is not about the inappropriate use of classified material. It not even about policy disagreements. I`m glad you said that.


MCFAUL: If the President says I`m going to lift sanctions to have better relations with Putin, you and I might disagree with that. I disagree with it. But that`s his prerogative.

MELBER: It`s also out in the open.

MCFAUL: --which suggests something much bigger.

MELBER: I mean, what you are getting at ambassador, which is why we`ve gotten up to this point tonight is, that stuff and a lot of other highly objectionable unusual stuff that Donald Trump does is out in the open.

We`re talking about someone who`s at a senior enough level to have this level of access, who knows the rules and is trying to go through the whistleblower protection, who knows they could lose their job or worse.

I mean, we`re speaking in a climate where there`s still questions swirling around whether the White House tried to get a senior ex-DOJ official indicted who happened to investigate the Russia probe. That`s the climate.

So this person is looking for whistleblower protection, but still has decided, not withstanding everything Trump does in public, notwithstanding every tweet and every statement and every lie, that there`s something else so big they`re going to go - put their neck on the line here to flag this. What kind of thing could that be ambassador?

MCFAUL: Well, first, Ari, you said something really important there that I want to make sure your listeners heard. This person has to be very senior in the intelligence community. POTUS phone calls are not read out to the entire U.S. government and the entire CIA. I used to organize those phone calls for President Obama. That is a very small group of people that have access to that. So if this was a phone call, it suggests its somebody very senior.

And second I think it points to either criminal behavior - and again I`m speculating here, or some threat to a key asset to the intelligence community.


MCFAUL: To be so motivated to take this extraordinary act, it has to be something extraordinary, and in my mind it`s in one of those two buckets.

MELBER: Wow. Congresswoman, before I let you go, what comes next out of the Congress on this?

SPEIER: Well, we will be having a an open hearing with the Director of National Intelligence next week. But we`re going to be pursuing this with great emphasis. Because one of the things the Inspector General did to us of the 15 cases that he has referred to, the House and Senate intelligence committees, even though they didn`t meet the standards, historically that`s always been the case. They are always forwarded to us even when they do not meet the standards.

This was the one case where urgency was met. And I think the Inspector General is very anxious to try and get the Attorney General or the Director of National Intelligence to allow him to make the committees aware of what the topic is of this particular complaint.

MELBER: Understood. Congresswoman Speier, thank you so much. Ambassador McFaul, thank you. I turn now to Jason Johnson, who`s here with me.

I want a broaden now we have the national security experts and no shade. But the diplomat and the intelligence committee member know more than us.


MELBER: Yes. Having excavated all of that. I want to turn to you on the political science of this and congressional executive relations. Because in a way, this is an echo of the oversight and impeachment debate, but without as much knowledge of what the underlying thing is. What do you do when you get defiance.

JOHNSON: Exactly. So that`s a very good question, Ari. Because the issue here is, look, we don`t know what this this promise was. And there`s been other reporting that says that it might just - it might include someone beyond President Trump, right?

He could have said something like, "Hey, I promised that I can I can get you on this Committee at the United Nations." He could have said "Russia, I`ll give you Alaska back." We don`t know what he did. But we know it was something that people thought was important enough that they had to complain about.

Here`s the issue here. We have a government that right now functions in a way where not only is William Barr operating as the personal attorney to the President of United States. He`s basically also - he is cleaner, right? He makes problems disappear.

Whenever someone has to talk to William Barr, suddenly we don`t find out as much as information. Transparency, honesty and integrity die when they go to the Department of Justice now.

So it falls upon the Oversight Committee to be as aggressive as they can. They can drag people in. They can force people to testify. If someone doesn`t want to testify, they can call the sergeant-at-arms and put them in a little jail underneath the Congress. That is the kind of behavior that we have to see from the Oversight Committee.

MELBER: Yes, and sometimes it almost sounds like resistance fan fiction when you put it that way where an episode of "24" or whatever tangled analogy you want to use.


MELBER: I hit McFaul on the straw thing. But I do a lot of bad analogies myself.


MELBER: But when you get beyond the fan fiction you actually are saying no, the record suggests that they will push as far as possible whether it`s defying the subpoena or sending Lewandowski in to act in a way that, according to reports about speaker Pelosi today, that she thought that was contemptible--

JOHNSON: Exactly.

MELBER: --and saying hold him in contempt. And what do you do then? How do you respond to that? Because they`re just seeing what they can get away with.

JOHNSON: Well, and that`s the whole point, Ari. Like, I - look, I`m not part of the resistance. I`m not a Democrat. I`m just an American citizen who`s concerned about the fact that our government is basically doing whatever it wants under this administration.

Congress has power. They have both political power and they have functional power. They have an oversight constitutional responsibility. There is a reason that you can hold people in contempt. There`s a reason that there is a jail. It is to embarrass, to shame and force an administration to follow the laws that are on the books.

And at the end of the - at the end of all this, which is the most dangerous is, if this issue was considered urgent, the longer it takes before oversight gets to find out what`s really going on and who was involved, this urgent issue could become more dangerous. That`s why it`s important for Congress to be more aggressive.

MELBER: Very interesting to get you a breakdown on the politics and the congressional fight ahead. And nice to see you here on set in New York, Jason Johnson.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

MELBER: We`re going to fit in a 30-second break and then I have a special report coming up on the federal case that can actually stop Donald Trump`s immigrations plans in its tracks. Later tonight, Chris Hayes is here on his forum and news on Mark Zuckerberg, so we have a lot. But when we come back in 30 seconds, Berit Berger on the Bill Barr of it all.


MELBER: Developing news tonight. In this intelligence battle over Donald Trump facing a whistleblower which says there was some he did wrong. Reports that it might have been an illicit promise to a foreign leader, something so troubling that you have Donald Trump`s own intelligence Inspector General saying this is credible.

I turn now to Berit Berger, former federal prosecutor and MSNBC Analyst. Good to see you.


MELBER: Prosecutors often side with the people run these agencies. You enforce things, you prosecute a leak, if it`s an illegal leak. But you also understand when you have someone following the rules and not leaking illegally, but using the whistleblower process. That should be respected. Walk us through your perspective of what we know and where the DOJ fits it.

BERGER: Yes, it`s incredibly surprising that we`re at this place right now, where the whistleblower process has really seemed to break down. Meaning, the normal courses was explained in your last block. You would have a whistleblower who would bring this up to their Inspector General.

But it`s important to remember the Inspector General is independent from sort of the normal chain of command in most agencies for good reason. Right? They really shouldn`t be subject to the whim of the executive of an agency, because they`re supposed to be able to investigate potential wrongdoing or miss - abuses of power.

So here you have a situation where the Inspector General has really sounded the alarm bells here saying this is not only of an urgent concern, but from a credible source. And then you have the head of the agency coming down in a very different direction, seeking DOJ probably from the Office of Legal Counsel, OLC, seeking their guidance on how to potentially keep this information for Congress.

MELBER: Now what do you say to Trump officials or allies who claim, well, they went to asked for legal advice from DOJ, what`s wrong with that?

BERGER: Yes. What`s wrong with that is that here you now have DOJ, so potentially this whistleblower complaint, if we can believe what`s being reported, this whistleblower complaint potentially involves the President. Right? So now you have DOJ weighing in on a potential whistleblower complaint about the actual executive himself. So this is taking it completely out of--

MELBER: They shouldn`t get a jump on that.

BERGER: They shouldn`t get to weigh in and potentially put there thumb on the scale.

MELBER: Thumb on it. And then I got to ask you, Mr. Barr got these unusual powers, viewers may remember the Russia probe in May, that he could have authority directly from the President to declassify.

They called it a time quote "Full and complete authority to declassify government secrets". That was unusual. Is that suspicious in this context? In other words, why does Trump trust Barr so much more than everyone else?

BERGER: Yes. I mean, the whole thing is it`s strange. And really we keep hearing the word unprecedented, but this really is unprecedented. I mean, look, obviously the President has the ultimate declassification authority.

MELBER: Right.

BERGER: The president can choose to do classified anything he wants to. If the President truly thought there was nothing to hide in any of the conversations he had, the President like that could declassify potential phone conversations that he had, make them available to Congress.

This is not really a matter of declassifying this information. It`s a matter of getting it to Congress and why is the executive branch here trying so hard to keep it from the congressional intelligence committees.

MELBER: It`s fascinating given the DOJ being pulled into this. To get your analysis, Berit Berger, thank you as always.

BERGER: Thank you, of course.

MELBER: Really appreciated.

Up next, I have something we`ve been working on here. My special report on the federal case that can actually stop Donald Trump`s immigrations plans in its tracks.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ve probably been hearing a lot about the Flores agreement or Flores settlement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House said this week that they want to change the Flores agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: a decades-old federal court ruling known as the Flores settlement agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The long-standing federal courts settlement that caps how long immigration officials can hold migrant children in custody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Flores settlement agreement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The consent decree called Flores.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The exact answer is still not clear, so get used to hearing about this.


MELBER: The Flores agreement, this decades-old court settlement is actually more important than ever. It`s crucial understanding these immigration battles in the Trump era and legally this is the case that still governs how child migrants are treated. That`s an issue, of course, with Trump`s widely condemned family separation policy.

And right now, even if there`s all these other controversies going on, the Trump administration is methodically working to try to end that Flores ruling you were just hearing about, that`s controversial like so many things that Donald Trump does on immigration.

So we turn to a special report tonight, digging into the facts on this. With some nuances that often get lost and that are key to figuring out the right path ahead, no matter who is President. You know many human rights advocates and also former Obama officials criticized part of this Flores case.

So we want to get into this, because we all need truth to resolve some of these problems, not some kind of political cave that answers Trump`s hyperbole with a reverse echo of propaganda.

So let me tell you where this starts. The story begins in the 1980s. There was a new wave of Mexican and Central American migrants crossing into the U.S., many undocumented, and long before all of today`s talk of walls, the rhetoric and the mood from that time shows officials faced migration emergencies and strained facilities.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The patrol is running out of places to keep juveniles and people to guard them. Motel rooms are being used as temporary detention centers. Private security guards have been pressed into service to keep an eye on the youths. The Patrol complains that the cost to taxpayers is astronomical.


MELBER: Now those so-called youths were driving the migrant crisis. Young men, comprised many of the crossings on southern border, a shift that later involves changing demographics - more families, more children crossing in.

Now back then the ACLU and other groups sued the U.S. government for and on behalf of those minors. One of them was Jenny Flores, a 15 year old girl, fleeing violence in El Salvador who was apprehended crossing the border handcuffed and held in detention for months.

This Flores case is named after her. It began alleging that her rights were violated, like other children, because even if they crossed illegally, they still were allegedly mistreated; Subjected to illegal strip searches, forced into conditions that the U.S. is not supposed to put children in like making teenage girls share sleeping quarters with older men and allegedly holding them indefinitely.

Now on the day after that suit was filed.


MELBER: The attorneys held a press conference with the mother of a detained child you see he here. She had to hide her face even as she fought for these rights, because she said she was undocumented as well.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Public interest groups have filed suit against immigration authorities accusing them of holding 2,000 foreign children as bait for their illegal alien parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In many areas the center is seeing that the rights of families, the rights of children are actually being stripped away.


MELBER: That suit was tied up in court for years. And young immigrants were still stuck in detention a detention.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A detention center for illegal aliens run by the U.S. Immigration Service, children are mixed in with adults.

The conditions here are prison-like and security is tight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was scared I would die. The army looks for young boys like me to recruit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Julio`s story is typical of many children from El Salvador. He grew up in a war zone and when his uncle was killed two years ago, his parents urged him to flee to the United States. He was just 14 years old.


MELBER: Those battles went on and on until 1997 when the Clinton administration settled this case that was seen as a victory for those immigrants who would get better treatment and due process that was denied to people like Jenny Flores. That includes getting food and water and medicine and toilets and sinks.

And a rule that minors can`t just be held forever, pending the resolution of their case. They had to be held in government custody in the least restrictive setting, separate from those random adults that could be dangerous.

That ruling and it`s later extensions are what Trump is fighting in court right now, and fighting in many different types of cases, including that embarrassing oral argument which recently went viral when Trump administration lawyers were trying to argue that government could deny children soap and toothbrushes. They lost and the judges ruled they lost because of the protections in this same Flores line of cases.


A. WALLACE TASHIMA, UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE: If you don`t have a toothbrush, if you don`t have soap, if you don`t have a blanket, it`s not safe and sanitary --wouldn`t everybody agree to that? You - do you agree to that?

SARAH FABIAN, GOVERNMENT LAWYER: Well, I think it`s - I think those are - there`s fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sanitary-

TASHIMA: Not maybe, are?


MELBER: Not maybe, so that protects how these kids are treated. But the new rules did go beyond treatment. They governed what to do with detainees were at large and things get trickier there, because this case originally applied only to children like Jenny Flores, who arrived without parents, not to everybody, not to all families.

But that would soon change with an expansion impacting everything today. That enrages President Trump. Now the shift came partly from changes that also came long before Trump and not just because of what were in the U.S.

These foreign crises that involve poverty and drugs and violence in Mexico and Central America also drove migration and that included a new influx when Obama was President.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a huge humanitarian crisis on the border right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 52,000, that`s how many unaccompanied children that Department of Homeland Security says have crossed into the United States just since October.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The women and children just keep on coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An estimated 5,700 unaccompanied minors will cross the border illegally, 155 a day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --President is also asking for more authority and sending border crossers back to their home country.


MELBER: That influx put pressure on the U.S. and Obama responded not with any intentional way of trying to separate families, let alone denying kids so, but with tough deportation policies. Administration warned migrants they were likely to get apprehended and get sent back. And Obama himself was talking accountability.


BARACK OBAMA, 44TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Ultimately our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.


  MELBER: Now, here`s the thing about holding everybody accountable. That wasn`t totally fair and it was in tension with not only the bipartisan consensus, but U.S. law, which says, and this is something Trump also forgets, that even undocumented immigrants get protection if they are legitimate refugees, like fleeing abuse or human trafficking or genocide.

And just a few years before Obama was saying that President Bush had signed a unanimously passed bill that provides exactly those kind of protections, which locked in some of these rules that I`m telling you about from the Flores case.

So while Obama and Bush said they supported the rights of people fleeing that kind of abuse, some thought those protections made it too easy for them to later get absorbed in the U.S. President Obama and his administration arguing that, yes, part of what Trump officials argue now.

That when the Flores rules are too rigid, they force the government to absorb more undocumented immigrants, that`s why Obama was asking Congress for more flexibility.


OBAMA: Part of what we`re looking in the Supplemental is some flexibility in terms of being able to preserve the due process rights of individuals who come in, but also to make sure that we`re sending a strong signal that they can`t simply show up the border and automatically assume that they`re going to be absorbed.


MELBER: And immigrant groups continue to go after the government in court. They said Obama`s intentions we`re not matching these rules. What happened? Do you remember? This history is really important right now. Because the government lost and the courts expanded this case to cover more people, not just unaccompanied minors, but basically all minors in detention.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States government has been using special detention centers to hold thousands of undocumented women and children. Late Friday night a federal judge ruled they do not meet legal standards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A federal judge ruled that Justice Department`s current system of detaining children with their mothers violates an 18 year old court settlement.


MELBER: And then the Obama administration did something similar to what Trump`s lawyers are doing now. They asked judges to block those rules.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The urgency of this case cannot be overstated because the government`s ability to address surges in illegal immigration is being significantly compromised by the District Court`s order, imposing an incorrect interpretation of a 20-year old settlement agreement that was never contemplated by the parties.


MELBER: Translation, what you just saw was Obama`s lawyers arguing the rules were too soft on migrants, too hard on them - on DHS. And the judges were expanding these rights in a way that rewarded undocumented immigration.

But the Obama administration lost and Appeals Court found those migrants couldn`t be held for more than 20 days, which may sound familiar, because that`s the rule that often lets families nowadays go free.

This part is super important, because this is the issue here. You have the idealistic goals, protect human rights, don`t detain people forever, which sounds fair. And then you have the practical rules, who is actually covered, how long, and what`s the ultimate remedy?

Obama was arguing the rules were tying the government`s hands and that made enforcement harder and it rewarded he argued undocumented immigrants over those who were actually following the rules. And that`s part of what the Trump administration claims today.

Doesn`t make them the same. Policy experts note something that you might be thinking of right now, that the Obama administration had more credibility, far fewer human rights allegations than the Trump folks. But it also explains why the man that Obama put in charge of border policy and this keeps coming up at the Democratic debates. That man Jeh Johnson, also criticizes these rules.


JEH JOHNSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We expanded family detention and then we ran into the issue of the Flores case, which you mentioned a moment ago. I disagreed then with the ruling in the Flores case, because I think that our Border Patrol and our immigration enforcement people need those tools available to deal with situations like this.


MELBER: And the man who holds Johnson`s job there, hits a similar point on Flores.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: This single ruling has substantially caused and continued to fuel with current family unit crisis and the unprecedented flow of Central American families and liners illegally crossing our border until today.


MELBER: So now we`re up to today in an informed way. And you might say OK, Ari, do these rulings fuel illegal immigration? Which is a big question. Now we asked experts in reporting for tonight and the answer, I`m sorry to say, boils down to "Yes" and "No".

No in the sense that, as you probably have learned as we`ve all been seeing in this coverage, macro factors driving migration. It could be war, recessions, changing a single policy is not going to reshape all immigration.

But the answer is also "Yes", in the sense that some migrations tied to weather, potential migrants think their journey, no matter how hard, will end up with them landing safely eventually in the U.S. And we need facts on this, not just living in a partisan or geographic bubble.

Because while many Americans, obviously aren`t following this Flores case closely over the years, it has always been huge news abroad where people follow whether it`s getting harder or easy to get to the U.S., because that could be a life and death thing.

Here`s one quick example from when this same case was expanded, this was back in 2015.


Reporter (translated): The federal Judge, Dolly Gee, ruled against the Department of Justice policy. According to the judge, the practice violates a 1997 agreement which prohibits migrant children from being detained. Gee determined that the agreement affects all minors in the custody of the federal immigration authorities.


MELBER: So the word gets out. And there`s also reporting that shows some of these people who work in the so-called smuggling of migrants invoke these legal developments to recruit, including relying on protections that do exist from some of these cases.

One mother was told and she was planning to come alone, but she was told it would to be easier to stay in the U.S. if she brought her daughter with her, quote "better with the girl", she was told.

Now these reports don`t mean that`s the only reason people make the trip. Some Trump officials have added to the confusion by claiming without evidence the migrants are quote "renting babies to cross the border." But these rules have also complicated migration.

Now if this policy history sounds a little more complex than the immigration debate, we sometimes have in this country, I think that`s partly because some people don`t know all the facts and then it`s also politically partly because Donald Trump doesn`t want you to know the facts. He wants you to be afraid.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: we`re going to destroy the vile criminal cartel - they like to knife them and cut them and let them die slowly, because that way it`s more painful and they enjoy watching that much more. These are animals. But when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see him thrown in rough - I said please don`t be too nice.


MELBER: The ignorance also goes to the top. If you`ve been listening to this report tonight on the Flores agreement, you know that it`s named after the immigrant Jenny Flores, not the judge in the case. And that means right now on just this issue, you know a lot more than the President.


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


MELBER: Whoever you may be or maybe you don`t be, because you don`t exist, because he doesn`t know why it`s called the Flores agreement.

But what do we get when we take this all together? Well, the past three administrations have clashed with the courts over immigration. They`re not the exact same. But they do overlap in arguing that these judges are making it harder to reach good policy, which is pretty striking thinking about how much they do disagree on otherwise.

And we know this is partly because Congress has not stepped up and passed comprehensive reform. Not when President Bush pitched a compromise, not when President Obama offered several ways to compromise and then acted on his own, issuing those executive orders, some of which would be narrowed by the courts. And certainly not now with President Trump offering less compromise and a lot more blunder.

But if nothing else changes, want to be clear with you, Donald Trump won`t be the last President to battle with these issues. And it`s hard to see how you get sustainable improvement unless a President and Congress modernize these rules I`ve been telling you about.

Because the facts suggest that rules designed in a different era to protect human rights, which is good, are now also contributing to sometimes rewarding rule breakers over those who come here lawfully.

And you have all this political energy around opposing Donald Trump, which is understandable, but it sometimes seems to try to disagree with anything and everything that comes out of his administration without regard to the facts, without digging into the practical complexities.

But this is important beyond the politics, because these policies impact these lives and yes sometimes deaths of real people. Many of whom, as we documented tonight, are fleeing horrors that just about, I think, anyone would try to flee - documented or not, to get safe, to take care of their kids, to pursue a better life in America.

So while the President may not know why this is even called the Flores settlement, let alone what it does, it is because of a real person, that teenager Jenny Flores, who was fighting for a better life and did something pretty remarkable. Beat the federal government in our own courts.

So when you take it together, when we get informed, America certainly owes her and everyone else something more here than the status quo. That`s our special report tonight.

But don`t go anywhere, because I want you to know my colleague MSNBC`s Chris Hayes joins me live tonight, coming up in a few minutes, to explain this "Climate in Crisis" series and the special interviews, that`s later in the show.



MELBER: Turning to some other news Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a rare appearance in DC today. He`s trying to add of his fiercest critics, meaning lawmakers. Privately he dined with some others last night. The focus is election security, privacy and of course, further regulation, potentially, of Facebook.

Now, Zuckerberg apparently called these meetings himself. He came back to Washington. This is the first time since last year when he did public testimony - 10 hours and was hit with all kinds of questions. Some pressure on Facebook has only been grown. They got that record-breaking $5 billion fine over privacy abuse. Eight attorneys general have now opened antitrust probes, questioning the company`s size and its power and its strategies.

And Elizabeth Warren, who has been surging in the Democratic primary, announced up - I should say announced her plan to break up big tech, including Facebook, on this very show.


MELBER: Facebook?


MELBER: Mark Zuckerberg.

WARREN: Too powerful.


WARREN: And that`s really the point of the two bigs. Its they`ve got too much power and they get to use that power now to dominate markets, to chew up competitors and ultimately to change the consumer experience. We got to change that.


MELBER: Zuckerberg is trying to change something else, which is whether people perceive in Washington that this is a front burner priority.

Now 2020 Democrats are also out making news today, going after Trump as a climate denier. They`re speaking, it`s something we`re involved with, it`s MSNBC`s official forum on the climate crisis and they are taking questions directly from my colleague journalist Chris Hayes, who joins us live next.


MELBER: Top Democratic presidential candidates are on stage for MSNBC`s two-day forum on the climate crisis starting today. They`ve been taking questions from MSNBC`s Ali Velshi and Chris Hayes. Chris joins me right now, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ari.

MELBER: Let`s take a look at some of the answers. Here we go.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s not an issue on a list of 14 issues. We`re talking about the future of the planet. So you have got to put it at the very, very top.

ANDREW YANG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s a proverb that says, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now." We should have been doing this work 20 years ago, but the second best time is now.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we can`t ever do again is lose an economic argument to a climate denier, which is what happened the last time. There should never be another climate denier in the White House.


MELBER: What jumped out at you today?

HAYES: You know, the biggest things, I think, are two things. One, is that the difference between this race and the last - the last race in 2016 between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And then the last sort of wide open contestant primary that we saw back in 2008. The centrality of climate to this race is - there`s just never been anything like it from the Democratic field.

I mean, it`s not just that you have events like this and other events that have happened. It`s that it`s clearly a priority. And also that the level of depth and sophistication that any given candidate can talk about the issue with is - would not have been the case, I think, even two years ago. It certainly was not the case 10 years ago. Right?

Like, they can talk about healthcare, they can probably talk about immigration. There are certain things that a candidate knows is going to be Central and they immerse themselves in and climate is one of those issues now.

MELBER: Yes. And when you look at the 2020 race, and who is out there. Obviously, being a former Vice President gives you a level of fame, a level of influence. I`m talking, of course, Al Gore, who you`ve been able to talk to. Let`s take a look at that.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Being honest with ourselves about the damage that has been done, has to be accompanied by absolute character based determination to say, "Hell, yes, we`re going to do our best and we`re going to get started as quickly as we can and do it as well as we can."


MELBER: How is he in your view influenced this field? He`s obviously someone who also could be a power broker in a really wide open race if he wanted to be.

HAYES: It is interesting. I tried to press him and see if there was any endorsements forthcoming or at least any plans that he thought were particularly good, and he shied away from that, somewhat understandably.

Although, what I would put, he did say was what I just said. Right? He echoed the fact that he was impressed and taken by how comprehensive and how detailed all these plans are from all the candidates. How much it has been a priority.

And, I think, he`s been someone that`s been looking at this for 30 years. And his assessment of the politics right now, which is my assessment watching this as a journalist, even as a host is, the level of activation and attention right now is the best it`s ever been. And this campaign, in some ways, is a really useful vessel for driving that, but it`s more than that.

I mean, you and I are talking on the day that half of the city Houston is underwater in a weather event that`s extreme and outside the normal parameters of what they experienced, and we didn`t even see come tracking across the water like a hurricane. People see more and more every day and candidates talk about hearing on the campaign trail of just how pressing this is in people`s lives.

MELBER: We have 30 seconds, which candidates have the strongest plans?

HAYES: I don`t know. I mean, it is definitely the case that the most ambitious is Bernie Sanders plan, and I don`t even think that`s a sort of dispute. I mean, it`s a $16 trillion plan. It would be the equivalent as a percentage of GDP to something that looks like World War II mobilization.

The question about that of course is like, is that anywhere remotely in the bounds of the politically possible, particularly if Democrats were not to win the Senate. The answered that. I think, plainly and flatly is no. It`s not politically possible without a Democratic Senate. But how much of it would be in the realm politically possible even with the Democratic Senate?

MELBER: Yes, fascinating and really interesting for you to be pressing these folks for our viewers. Chris Hayes, I want to mention everyone, we can catch you on the special edition of all in "Climate in Crisis" with more of these newsworthy highlights. That`s at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. And we have one more thing when we come back.


MELBER: Before we go, I want to share one more thing from Annie Lennox. You know her as a musician. She is also an activist. We discussed how she covered Billie Holiday`s "Strange Fruit", obviously. A serious song about lynchings in the deep South and how she overcame her own fear of even performing it.


ANNIE LENNOX, SINGER-SONGWRITER: These heinous acts that we perpetrate upon each other, the human race, racism, bigotry, hatred, to me is so appalling and so shocking. And as a musician I`ve been so fortunate, because I`ve been able to be part of music making with people from all different cultures, with different colors of skin, different creeds. And I felt that it`s such a healing thing that it brings people together.


MELBER: You can hear more about how she uses her work in civil rights at for the full interview.

Don`t go anywhere now though.  Chris Matthews is up next.