CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.
And thanks to you at home for joining us on this big night.
The political world is shifting right now. Can you feel it?
As we cover this 2020 race on THE BEAT, tonight from our newsroom, tomorrow from New Hampshire, I`m going to tell you we will try to stay focused on substance, on evidence, truth in these times, and, yes, policy.
We are going to try to stay focused on how this very high-stakes race to replace President Donald Trump matters to everyday Americans. And, tonight, there`s new evidence also signaling how long this race could last. We have that story later.
Also, further behind the scenes, a new Trump administration policy that could actually impact this race or shield Donald Trump, and it`s coming from none other than Bill Barr.
Also, later, we will go right to the source. The campaign manager for a contender joins me live.
So, what I`m telling you is, we have a lot tonight. I hope you stick around for it.
But we begin, of course, in New Hampshire, where, today, Bernie Sanders was straight-up flexing, declaring victory in an Iowa race that, to be clear, NBC News has not officially called, but he was citing the popular vote count.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I want to do today, three days late, is to thank the people of Iowa for the very strong victory they gave us at the Iowa caucuses on Monday night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, while Sanders and Buttigieg are both claiming bragging rights right now, I can tell you there is a tangible reason that some candidates are still in this race at all, while others, like, remember, Senators Harris and Booker, are out.
It`s not about personal tenacity. It`s about money to fund the race. Now, Buttigieg has it. Bloomberg obviously has it. He`s waiting in the wings. And, today, Bernie Sanders is also saying he has it, in fact, more of it than he`s ever raised before, $25 million. That`s just in the last month, built on a grassroots network with an average donation of just $18.
And that means, tangibly, as we follow the evidence of this stuff. It means that Sanders, like Bloomberg, can fund a campaign all the way to the convention, no matter what else happens.
Well, that news is hitting as everyone is sprinting towards the first primary in New Hampshire. More voters tend to participate in that than Iowa. It is just days away. And so we can actually tell you what we`re hearing, what our reporters are hearing, and what these voters are hearing.
Sanders and Warren, they`re pushing domestic spending backed by taxing the wealthy for some big programs. Klobuchar and Biden have been touting their experience and really an implicitly more moderate approach.
Yang, who`s outlasted more famous candidates already, he`s talking up jobs. And Biden has also dispatched his top surrogate, Jill Biden, to hit the trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Now is the time to do what every other major country on Earth is doing, and that is to guarantee health care to all people as a human right.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re going to the 2 cent wealth tax. This is where the money is coming.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My approach to foreign policy and what it will be...
ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Move some of those jobs to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire.
JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN: One thing I know about my husband, Joe, he doesn`t give up.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: New Hampshire is New Hampshire. And New Hampshire is not the kind of place to let Iowa or anybody else tell you what to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Fact-check, true. New Hampshire is New Hampshire.
Now, how are these appeals landing? How`s that policy playing? We can tell you that there`s a brand-new poll which shows Sanders in first place at 24, but followed very closely, almost within the margin of error there, by Buttigieg at 20, Biden at 17, Warren at 13.
It is a three- or maybe four-way race.
In a moment, I will be joined right here in headquarters by Brittney Cooper to get into all of this.
But we begin in Manchester, New Hampshire, fittingly, the state`s Democratic Party chair, Raymond Buckley, and James Pindell, who covers New Hampshire for "The Boston Globe."
Nice to see you both.
RAYMOND BUCKLEY, NEW HAMPSHIRE DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Great to be on.
JAMES PINDELL, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Thank you.
MELBER: How you feeling, Raymond? I know you`re not going to take sides. So what can you tell us about how this is going to go down?
BUCKLEY: This is clearly the most exciting sprint to the New Hampshire primary that`s happened in, I think, decades.
I really can`t remember anything more exciting, the fact that every candidate came out of Iowa with a ticket, nobody had to drop out. And they`re all here crisscrossing the state. And it looks like it`s going to be a tight race.
MELBER: That`s great, when you say that.
It`s interesting, because there`s this thing that happens where people who do this for a living are rushing to get certainty. They want to name front- runners. The history on that is not very strong for getting out ahead of voters.
You`re talking about you think it`s a good thing that you said four or more tickets, which means New Hampshire voters right now are just listening and deciding.
BUCKLEY: Exactly, and all indication is, half of them haven`t made a definitive decision.
So you could see a lot of movement in the polls, depending on what happens in the next couple days. We have got a big, big debate. We have got all sorts of activities happening that could make a big difference.
MELBER: Let me play a little bit of Pete Buttigieg, James, on this back- and-forth.
It`s very -- it`s very interesting to see how these candidates see each other and who they see as their rivals. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTTIGIEG: The key to defeating Donald Trump is to deny him the ability to change the subject. Putting up some equal, but opposite version of him is a recipe for failure, because folks are going to go for the original.
We need to do something completely different.
QUESTION: Is Senator Sanders equal, but opposite? Is that what you`re saying?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I would certainly say that, if you`re asking me for why we don`t need somebody who has the same kind of sizzle as President Trump, I think we need a different approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINDELL: I mean, as Ray said, we are set out to have sort of a wild finish. And we`re beginning to get the contours exactly of where these debate lines will be.
Right now, Iowa obviously did not provide any particular clarity. Buttigieg is the one to watch. He is the one on the rise. "The Globe" is having a daily tracking poll that showed the Buttigieg went up seven points since Monday night.
And, clearly, he`s finding himself in almost a head-to-head contest now with Sanders. But I do think that Buttigieg is the one who`s going to have a lot of arrows flown at him in Friday night`s debate. And that`s probably one reason why Joe Biden is off the campaign trail today.
MELBER: Why is he rising in New Hampshire?
PINDELL: Well, he has been able to claim something of an Iowa bump.
What`s also happening is that Biden has been dropping in New Hampshire. So, if there are -- if there`s such a thing as the moderate lane, Amy Klobuchar is less of a factor in New Hampshire than she was in Iowa.
That is -- that energy, particularly from moderates, is definitely transferring from Biden. And it`s going to Buttigieg right now, at the moment, anyway. We will see what happens...
MELBER: And, Raymond, what do you think? I doubt you have ever seen a candidate this young, this green, no statewide credentials. I don`t say that as criticism. I just say that he`s different than the past model.
BUCKLEY: Well, certainly, I got to know him a couple years ago when we both ran for DNC chair. He`s an amazing young man.
And I think all the candidates actually are doing an excellent job of really stating their case here in the state. So I`m looking forward to a couple of -- I wish I could give them all blue ribbons or gold medals.
All of them deserve to win New Hampshire. They have worked so hard.
MELBER: You`re into just credit for participation?
PINDELL: Well, Raymond...
MELBER: Go ahead, James.
PINDELL: I was going to say, Raymond, that`s what Iowa did. So that`s already been done.
MELBER: I should tell everyone, we do have a slight tape -- a slight satellite delay, which is relevant at times like this.
James, take another listen to an exchange with Bernie Sanders today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Mayor Pete`s been declaring a win for days now. Why should people believe your victory speech over his?
SANDERS: Because I got 6,000 more votes. And from where I come, when you get 6,000 more votes, that`s generally regarded to be the winner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I will say, James, that`s a very Bernie way of handling it. And people, a lot of people like that very gruff style, the Larry David, if you want to call it that.
He didn`t even look that proud or happy of saying he got the more votes, but he did. Does any of that matter, in your view, to actual voters on the ground in New Hampshire? You mentioned an Iowa bump for Pete.
PINDELL: Yes, I`m curious as to how this is going to play in the next few days.
There`s no question that Pete got a bump. There`s also no question that it`s basically a tie in Iowa, if you even want to include Iowa at all in this factor.
But, clearly, this has been a good state for Bernie. If he could have claimed victory Monday night, he would have probably been the overwhelming favorite and we may be less excited here in New Hampshire as to what kind of contest this would be.
I don`t know how this is going to play. A lot of this for Bernie right now, it seems a little bit baked in among his supporters, but it could obviously provide one more instance that he is the progressive option, not Elizabeth Warren, though there`s a lot of people here who really do have their eye on Warren to see if she may be the story of Tuesday night.
MELBER: Well, Raymond ,that`s the other thing we wanted to get to, which is, if it`s a three-way race out of Iowa -- and I was saying this as soon as the numbers came in -- that`s a strong finish by Elizabeth Warren in a field with a lot of people.
I mean, just Elizabeth Warren besting Biden and being so close to two individuals who, her argument, her supporters have said more than she will say it out loud that, hey, if you`re talking electability, people want to beat Trump, there`s a lot of people think, between Sanders, Buttigieg and her, she`s got a strong case, Raymond.
BUCKLEY: Well, and she`s got a terrific campaign going on here in New Hampshire. So does Pete and so does Bernie.
All three of them have phenomenal ground operations, as some of the others do as well, but particularly these three. And so if anyone can pull off a miracle, it`s one of these three candidates could pull out, even if they don`t get a bump from some other situation.
MELBER: Well, let me tell you something, Raymond and James, here on THE BEAT, you both get participation medals tonight.
PINDELL: Thank you.
BUCKLEY: Thank you.
MELBER: And there`s that pause, that two seconds where I wonder, Brittney, will they like it or not?
MELBER: I don`t know.
Thanks to both of you.
As promised, we turn to Rutgers Professor Brittney Cooper.
Nice to see you.
BRITTNEY COOPER, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Good to be here.
MELBER: Your thoughts on all the above?
Look, I think that this is all exciting. I think that there`s a little bit of fatigue and a little bit of anxiety in the Democratic electorate about who`s going to win, who`s the front-runner.
And I think that we saw some of that uncertainty showing up in Iowa. So you see such even splits between these candidates.
But I think that, rather than this actually being about policy, given that you have Sanders and Buttigieg, who are so far apart politically, who really run neck and neck, that part of what that means is that people are really interested in the -- what I think is important is that Democratic voters need to feel like they are actually in the process of working this out and figuring this out as an electorate.
They`re getting to debate the issues. They`re getting to make a choice, because part of what Trump has done is, he has turned down folks` confidence in the system.
And, look -- and the Sanders camp is not helping because many of Sanders supporters are saying this was rigged, this was rigged against Sanders.
It was certainly unfortunate, if he is, in fact, the winner of Iowa, that he didn`t -- in terms of the popular vote, that he doesn`t get that victory lap, but...
MELBER: Let`s get into that, since you bring it up.
MELBER: Because we deal here with the reality.
COOPER: Yes. Yes.
MELBER: On the one hand, there is no evidence that anything was deliberately designed to hurt any particular candidate in the recent events.
COOPER: Sure. Sure.
MELBER: Let`s stipulate that.
MELBER: But, in fairness to where the Sanders folks are coming from...
MELBER: ... there is a view that the Democratic Party historically has tried to push other people ahead of him, including Hillary Clinton.
MELBER: And the Democratic Party, which is under fire for a number of reasons -- Mr. Perez -- has created changes to the rules that appear to bring in Mike Bloomberg...
MELBER: ... who is a Republican.
MELBER: He was a Republican mayor.
MELBER: To give him a spot the debate stage.
MELBER: And there is a frustration with how this is all going.
Do the Sanders folks, do you think they have a valid concern, if they avoid the conspiracy theory talk?
COOPER: Look, I think that we have to -- that we have to critique establishment Democratic Party politics, that we have to say that, of course, the Democratic Party has traditionally been more comfortable with centrist candidates, that they are not necessarily actively participating in a move to the left.
And, look, black women were making that claim in 2016, when they demanded more leadership in the DNC. It`s not just the Bernie camp that is saying it.
MELBER: Well, let me join you in that.
MELBER: If the DNC thinks that you don`t need these fund-raising minimums, then maybe that should have been figured out before Kamala Harris had to leave the race.
COOPER: Yes, correct.
MELBER: To your point, where, oh, Bloomberg might need to get on the stage. So, all of a sudden, you don`t need a grassroots donor threshold. Wouldn`t Cory Booker and Kamala Harris liked to have known about that?
I think that we have to have a balance here, that there are valid critiques to be made of the Democratic Party.
But I think that there`s something really problematic about shoring up this level of anger and using aggrievement politics in order to help move Bernie into the presidency.
I think the point is that he needs to win it on the merits. He`s saying that he`s built a grassroots movement. And the problem that I have is that we`re turning down voter confidence in the system.
COOPER: And that isn`t going to help us, when we need huge voter turnout, because the other story in Iowa is that voter turnout was not, in fact, at massive levels.
MELBER: Well, I think you`re saying something important that people who are just party people sometimes don`t want to say, because they`re loath say anything negative about the party, which, as you`re pointing out, that the sacrifice for engagement or mobilization of a wing shouldn`t be confidence in the whole system.
COOPER: Sure. That`s right.
MELBER: You`re saying that reminds you -- not moral equivalency, but remind you of problems on the right.
COOPER: Sure. Sure.
MELBER: Let me show you something else I wanted your view on.
MELBER: We have had these conversations even before we got now into the heat of 2020.
MELBER: Folks have pointed out, according to the Gallup numbers, and Brian Stelter pointed this out, that there used to be a share of people who, when you ask them, what do you think of Trump`s job approval, how he`s doing, they would go, I`m not sure, I don`t know.
You see, as recently as a year ago, January, 8 percent. That`s about one of the 10 regular Americans going, I don`t know, no opinion.
Today, according to Gallup, same apples-to-apples, it`s down from one out of 10 to one out of 100. It`s down to 1 percent.
MELBER: What does that tell you about just how concrete views of Trump are now? And what does that do to this race?
COOPER: Look, I mean, I think the point is that Democrats have to figure out how to win here. Americans are tired of Trump.
They`re afraid. But we have got to figure out what the story is that we`re going to tell. And so we both have to offer voters options. We have to inspire their confidence in the system.
We have to be telling people that what we`re selling is worth believing in. And, right now, we`re not necessarily doing that, because folks are like, well, I could do this, or I could do that, or I don`t know who will win.
I think it`s our job to inspire confidence. And I`m worried not about the battle, but about whether or not these initial primaries, which, look, don`t actually -- the one problem with Iowa and New Hampshire is, they don`t reflect the rank and file of the Democratic voting electorate either.
And so the other story here is that we can`t get too far ahead of ourselves in these early primaries. What`s going to happen when voters of color in these more diverse states actually come into the primaries and get the chance to have their say? Who will they go for?
We`re going to really have to think about that, because, right now, these front-runners are coastal elites. That`s true whether you think that Sanders` progressivism or Warren`s progressivism are the things to look at.
So this is confusing, but I`m concerned at this moment about whether or not we don`t have voter fatigue going into the fall, because folks are like, we need to know who the leader of the party is going to be. We need to know who to put our steam behind.
And, right now, that`s not particularly clear.
MELBER: All interesting thoughts.
Brittney Cooper, we will be talking about these issues with you.
COOPER: Yes. Looking forward to it.
MELBER: Thanks for being at the table.
MELBER: I should mention, because I name-checked him, DNC Chair Tom Perez, who`s in a bit of debates over Iowa right now, well, you will hear from him directly on "RACHEL MADDOW" tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That should be interesting.
Meanwhile, new uproar about Attorney General Bill Barr evading the Ukraine scandal accountability, and now announcing new rules that relate to 2020 investigations.
Also, while Michael Bloomberg is not campaigning in New Hampshire, he`s already having quite the impact. His campaign manager joins me live tonight.
And a report of outright -- quote -- "fear" inside the GOP, as the White House threatens Romney with -- quote -- "payback."
And then, later, a 2020 conversation we think you may not hear anywhere else. We have some very special guests on all of it.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A man who is a -- I mean, central casting. If I`m going to pick Perry Mason, I`m going to do a remake of Perry Mason -- other than Bill Barr, I`d pick this guy.
But I have to say, I will pick Barr. I pick Barr first, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: President Trump today saying he sees Bill Barr as his Perry Mason.
That was in a rambling press conference settling scores after the Senate trial. Trump became the first president to ever had a member of his own party vote to convict him.
The impeachment trial, of course, also put heat on others, like Gordon Sondland, Rudy Giuliani. But while Barr was named-checked on Trump`s call to the Ukrainian president, he never had to testify or face other accountability for this.
And now, as Trump is talking today about getting even, his administration also announcing a new policy that gives Barr more power over FBI investigations that could involve, conceivably, Donald Trump or his rivals.
The DOJ issuing guidance that -- quote -- "No investigation may be opened or initiated without written approval by the attorney general."
Joining me now is former federal prosecutor John Flannery.
Good evening, sir.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Hi. Good evening.
MELBER: Your view of this policy? Is it a bad idea in general, a bad idea in Barr`s hands, or a certain -- just a certain prudent update?
FLANNERY: Well, taking the facts as we have them with Barr, who is, unlike Perry Mason, more like a mob mouthpiece, he is the kind of guy who -- and I saw this with a mobster who was represented by a nation -- nationally known lawyer.
And he was at one end of the room. And he said to his lawyer -- crooked this finger and said, "Come here."
That is the relationship between Trump and Barr and the Senate Republicans.
We`re put on notice that Barr`s the kind of guy who believes that the president is a power without limitation. The memo that he wrote before he became attorney general was that he couldn`t obstruct justice, that is, Trump couldn`t.
The memo that he wrote saying that Mueller proved nothing and these obstruction charges aren`t lawless.
And the third and most pertinent one, which involved the impeachment trial, was the fact that he was implicated, as you noted, in the readout of the Ukraine investigation, but he killed the -- he hoped to kill, anyhow, the whistle-blower`s report, saying that wasn`t an offense at all.
So, we`re put on notice.
MELBER: Let me echo you.
I mean, he rushed out his view before the facts were at all investigated that there would be no potential crime to be investigated...
MELBER: ... in something that we only learned because the notes, the call notes came out, that we only learned could also involve him, which goes to recusal.
But, on the flip side, I`m curious what you think of the rule, because plenty of people would say, if you did a blind theory and said, well, forget who is in office, should something of that magnitude go that high in the DOJ before you open up a probe?
Well, there`s two parts in that. One is, it means that -- let`s take it that he is a neutral individual and we don`t question his ethics or his criminality. In that context, what you`re saying is, no U.S. attorney, no FBI investigation, nobody brings information to any of the 93 U.S. attorneys can go forward unless Barr reviews it and decides it.
Now, I said Barr, but any attorney general. That`s a bad process. That means there`s no independence. And the Southern District of New York would fall into this control, when they have been called the sovereign district and been known as an independent district.
But under this rule, knowing who we have, Barr, who would do anything, it seems to me, to protect the president from being disclosed to be committing unlawful acts, that this is...
FLANNERY: This is -- Barr is the barrier to getting access to, if you were to borrow Bolton`s words, the Trump cartel, if you will, because this is a criminal conspiracy.
MELBER: You play that out. You`re calling it a conspiracy.
The president is saying, we have a mechanism for that in the Constitution, and the Senate acquitted him, whether you like it or not. And facts are facts, even when they are unsavory, having everyone seen the process, no witnesses, et cetera.
MELBER: My observation at this juncture is, whatever one thinks -- you can think it was a high crime or not -- but we know he sought this election interference. We know he tried to shake them down.
MELBER: And we know that, when caught, and it started to falter, they backed off it.
Now we`re in a situation with this new rule, as I understand it, where, if he does it again, pushes China, part of the trade deal, help me out, just announce something, so I can run ads on it, you don`t have to finish the probe, right, that`s out over there, if he does something that would require investigation, because somebody says, well, actually, he`s done something or someone on his behalf has done something in the U.S. that`s so bad, the DOJ would investigate it, they call Barr up first to find out whether they should even look into it.
Doesn`t that seem to now be moving the line?
FLANNERY: Well, it`s moving the line, but let`s take a step backward.
This is the day after the Senate voted. So we have about half of America`s senators said that this man, Trump, presented a clear and present danger.
And the Republicans said, release the Kraken. We have no rules. The Constitution means nothing. It can`t be enforced.
And this is a natural extension of the power to protect the president from this embarrassment, because you will notice, in the regulations he`s proposing, that this is a protect citizens, that lest than investigation be known to the public and compromise somebody in an unfortunate time during the election.
Who is the only person running for office who`s been implicated in anything to affect an election, indeed this one, in 2020? And the person who`s going to protect and clear any investigation is a man implicated in the Ukrainian conspiracy.
FLANNERY: That`s outrageous.
MELBER: Well, you lay it out. You make a compelling case.
I`m running over on time.
You`re familiar with the statement, the phrase the heat is on. It`s on the street. I noticed, I couldn`t help but notice, for the first time ever, THE BEAT is on, on your bow tie.
FLANNERY: Yes, it is.
And I got you one. And I expect -- I`m sure I`m going to see you wearing it one of these times.
MELBER: I don`t know. I`d have to think that through sartorially, but it looks good on you.
I -- you have been on the show many times.
MELBER: I`m -- we`re honored that you would shout out our team like that. You don`t need to wear it every time, but every so often.
FLANNERY: It`s a fan that sent it along, because they support you, and they saw I wore bow ties.
MELBER: Someone randomly -- someone sent it to you?
FLANNERY: Well, the person who owns the bow tie company in Vermont sent it. And I sent you a long tie, so you don`t even have change your sartorial delight.
MELBER: How about it? All right.
FLANNERY: You could just wear a long tie.
MELBER: Well, shout-out to Vermont and John Flannery. Anyone looking for that, I`m sure they can tweet you and track you down.
FLANNERY: Thank you.
MELBER: When we`re back in 30 seconds, I will be joined by a campaign manager for a key contender this cycle.
We will be right back.
MELBER: Now we turn to someone running a major presidential campaign with decades of experience as an aide to politicians in both parties. He`s in charge of one of the biggest budgets in politics right now, Michael Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey.
Kevin, how you doing?
KEVIN SHEEKEY, BLOOMBERG CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Ari, thanks for having me.
MELBER: Great to have you.
I should mention you also served as deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration.
Let`s get into it.
There are reports your campaign already has people talking to Joe Biden`s backers to try to recruit them if he gets out. What are you telling them?
SHEEKEY: Well, we`re talking to everyone.
I mean, I think the idea behind this campaign is that you run a national primary campaign. Not only can you run one, but we have to run one. We are up against an incredibly formidable president, who is doing everything he can to win this election.
Unless we start campaigns in battleground states now and states all over the country, we`re going to lose.
And so Mike Bloomberg made a commitment to run a national primary, but at the same time run essentially a general election strategy, so that we could begin campaigns in places like North Carolina, Michigan and Wisconsin, where the president has been fighting for three years.
MELBER: But are you telling the Biden folks you`re the natural alternative to him?
SHEEKEY: I have enormous respect for the former vice president. I think he`s one of the most decent public servants this nation has ever had.
I would never say a negative thing about him, nor would this campaign. That said, we have, since 1976, a pretty clear track record that you have to win either Iowa or win New Hampshire. And if you don`t win one of those two states, you don`t go on to be the nominee. I think that`s true of folks who have competed in the early primary process.
MELBER: You`re saying Biden`s toast if he doesn`t win next week?
SHEEKEY: I`m saying that anyone that hasn`t won at least one of those states is toast after next week. That`s correct.
MELBER: Yes. And, historically, that`s been true.
Let`s get into Mayor Bloomberg`s policies. We know a lot about him from, as mentioned, the administration that you served in for a period of time.
One of the ones that`s gotten the most attention, of course, is stop and frisk, which was ruled to be racial profiling. For folks outside of New York who don`t remember, we will show you some of the statistics here. The vast majority of these people stopped were minorities, black or Latino, 87 percent. That`s part of why courts struck down parts of it.
Why was it important to Mayor Bloomberg to run this policy as mayor?
SHEEKEY: Mike came into mayor in New York City in 2002, as you know, shortly after 9/11. And there were still 800 murders in New York City.
Most of the people that were murdered on the streets of New York were young men of color, and Mike was determined to do something about it. So getting guns off the street, reducing murders in half, which he did, was an important part of that.
That said, Mike also, unlike any other mayor in this country...
MELBER: We will deal with that, and then go forward.
SHEEKEY: Yes, sure.
MELBER: You view your campaign`s position is that that racial profiling, the stop and frisk policing lowered the murder rate? That`s your contention?
SHEEKEY: What my contention is that Mike was going to do everything that he could. And that was an important part of the policy.
What Mike later said is that he got it wrong.
MELBER: Well, let`s slow down.
SHEEKEY: No, no, let`s answer the question.
MELBER: We will get to what he later said, but I`m asking why, for that 12 years, that was the policy.
SHEEKEY: I`m answering your question.
MELBER: Did it lower the murder rate, is my question.
SHEEKEY: What Mike Bloomberg did, in terms of 12, 13, 14 different policies that he put in place, reduced murder in New York City by half while he was mayor.
He also reduced the population in the prisons in New York City by half, while every other city`s went up. He broke the rule that you had to increase the population in the prisons to reduce the crime rate.
Mike Bloomberg turned -- proved that incorrect through a number of innovative strategies that people all over the country practice today.
He reduced recidivism by a third.
MELBER: It sounds like you`re saying it was one of the policies that drove the murder rate down?
SHEEKEY: Yes, Mike was not willing to turn his back on what was happening in New York City to people of color.
So let`s -- you talk about people of color. Do you know how many stops there were under that policy?
SHEEKEY: Hundreds of thousands.
MELBER: Is that what you think? Or do you -- any higher than that?
SHEEKEY: I don`t have them in front of me. I also know that Mike ended them before he left.
MELBER: Well, let`s get into it. I have the number in front of me.
SHEEKEY: Good. Good. Good.
MELBER: Five million stops, as mentioned, vast majority black and brown people.
And I want to take a listen to how the mayor, when he had the power -- I understand that you mentioned that maybe he`s changing as a candidate, and we can talk about that.
MELBER: But when he had this power, take a listen to how he explained how necessary that policy, those five million stops of black and brown New Yorkers, was.
Take a look.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They just keep saying, oh, it`s a disproportionate percentage of a particular ethnic group.
That may be, but it`s not a disproportionate percentage of those who witnesses and victims described as committing the murder. In that case, incidentally, I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Is that still his position?
SHEEKEY: No. Mike said he got it wrong.
And you could keep asking the question, and I will keep telling you. He said he got it wrong.
What he didn`t get wrong is that he was one of the few public officials in this country who actually cared to do something about it. He might have been the only public official in the country who took on the NRA in the way that he did.
He was the only mayor at the time, while the prison population was going up 6 percent, over his early years reduced it by 36 percent.
MELBER: Well, what I`m trying to understand -- you said I keep asking the question. And I`m not sure what you mean by that.
This is not a question that is going to go away, not on this program, but not on a lot of programs, because this is the record of how he governed.
And so the question is not just those five million stops, but it`s whether this is how he will govern again if he gets power, or whether we are supposed to, we, in America, society, journalists, et cetera, supposed to take his word now that he got it wrong, that he will do it differently next time?
SHEEKEY: I think you should...
MELBER: Let me play something else for you that I think`s important.
MELBER: And I think this -- I hope you agree this conversation, this topic is important.
SHEEKEY: Yes. No, no, I`d like to talk at some point. But I think it`s an important conversation.
MELBER: You`re going to -- you`re getting a lot of time, but you`re also getting some facts.
You said, for example, hundreds of thousands of stops. It`s five million. So you get to talk. But then I also introduce...
SHEEKEY: So, you were talking, obviously, putting years together, and I was talking by the year.
SHEEKEY: But do whatever math you want, Ari.
MELBER: All right, well, I`m doing the math, according to the data in New York.
MELBER: So let me play for you -- and this, I think, is very important -- Tyquan Brehon, a Brooklyn resident you may have heard of, who spoke to "The New York Times" about his experience under this Bloomberg policy, not that he was stopped once or twice or 10 times or 20 times, but 60 times, while he says he did nothing wrong.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYQUAN BREHON, NEW YORK: I was so confused the first time it happened.
I thought you had to do something for them to really stop you. But after that, I seen that you didn`t have to do anything to get stopped.
They never say, this is why I`m stopping. When you`re young and you`re black, no matter how you look, you fit the description.
From the time I was 15 to 18, obviously, I was stopped, questioned and frisked for -- at least 60 to 70 times.
I needed a break from cops. And the only way I could get that was to stay home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What does Mayor Bloomberg say to him and, again, the people affected by these millions of stops?
SHEEKEY: Listen, I think Mike would say he was wrong. I would say Mike got it wrong.
And, listen, I think there are people in life who get things wrong. I don`t know about you. I have gotten a lot of things wrong in life.
And it`s important. It`s important to talk about it.
What`s really important, though, is not to turn your back on people who are looking at important issues and trying to address them. Lots of politicians around the same period of time were more than willing to turn their eye on the number of guns that were on the streets of major cities around this country and the violence that occurred, right?
Mike did take on the issue of trying to get guns off the street. He also took on the issue of guns trying to flow into the street. He also took on the issue of discrimination in employment.
I sat with a number of young people today who benefited from a program Mike started called the Young Men`s Initiative. It was the first municipal program of its time to address discrimination in issues such as housing, such as employment, and worked to keep people from going back to prison.
It was 12 people who would participate in a program that Mike Bloomberg created, which was ultimately adopted by Barack Obama and became My Brother`s Keeper, and was taken nationally.
And so Mike did hundreds of things, because he recognized that a lot of mayor`s around the country and certainly the federal government at the time had turned its back on young men of color in terms of economic opportunity and all the other discrimination that people face, particularly and most importantly violence, right?
MELBER: Right. And I think those are -- these are important policing debates.
SHEEKEY: And so I think, if the result of this...
MELBER: Part of what we`re showing you is what young people of color and, as represented by organizations, as you know, why it was so controversial, why they sued.
And so the question overhanging all this -- and I want to give you a chance to address it -- that`s why we`re going in-depth on it -- is, did it change because he`s running for president and now he`s claiming he will do something else if he gets power, when he had power, he ran it this way and defended it throughout, and defended it, as you know, recently before he ran, even after leaving office?
And that goes to something else that I think, broadening to a wider topic that I`d love to get your views on, which is, what is the message to Democratic primary voters who are concerned about the rise of Donald Trump`s Republican Party, when you have someone who was a Republican mayor?
And take a look, for example, at the past conventions, when he was running and advocating and endorsing Republicans for president? How does that message change?
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: Neither America nor President Bush ever stopped believing in us.
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki, all of you that worked so hard in bringing this convention to New York.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry.
BLOOMBERG: Thank you to the Republicans for your tremendous vote of confidence in our city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Obviously, he has every right to support whatever he wants.
I`m curious, looking forward, what`s the message to grassroots Democrats about that history?
SHEEKEY: Well, let`s point out that Mike Bloomberg also stood on the stage in Philadelphia and gave a very important speech for Hillary Clinton and endorsed Barack Obama twice.
But let`s go back to what 9/11 was. New York City bid for two conventions in a period -- one of its worst periods in the history of New York City. We bid for the Democratic Convention. We bid for the Republican Convention.
New York City was a city on its knees. It`s a city that needed great help from the federal government to come back from the greatest attack on American soil.
And the federal government did answer that question, when Mike was mayor in 2002, and put together a $20 billion package to let this city get off its knees and to come back stronger and better than it ever was before.
Mike Bloomberg was mayor of New York. Mayor La Guardia once said, there`s no Democratic or Republican way to pick up the trash. The question is, how do you address the needs of your citizens? How do you move the city forward? And I think Mike has always done that.
MELBER: Well, that is interesting. Is your argument...
MELBER: Let me just be -- in fairness...
SHEEKEY: Yes, go ahead.
MELBER: You`re emphasizing that he fought against Trump, that he backed Obama. You`re emphasizing that history.
So is part of your message about `04, because you know -- I mean you know politics well. This is going to come up.
Is part of your message in `04 that that was a make-good that he did for New York, not for Bush?
SHEEKEY: My -- hey, listen, my argument in terms of Mike`s 12 years in an office as the mayor of the city of New York is, he was the greatest mayor New York City ever had. He worked with Democrats, he worked with Republicans.
And he brought New York City back from its lowest point in its 200-year history. It was a remarkable recovery.
And, yes, it took working with everyone, Democrats and Republicans in Albany, which is our state capital, and Democrats and Republicans in D.C.
I think, quite frankly, as you look forward, Mike Bloomberg is running for the Democratic nomination for president. At the end of the day, it`s going to take a lot to pull this country back together...
SHEEKEY: ... just as it took New York City after 9/11.
And I think that`s why Mike`s running nationally, because his view is, we have to pull a lot of folks together. Certainly, we have to pull the party together. Mike Bloomberg has been a Democrat, obviously, for or the majority of his life.
MELBER: Well, but not the majority of his time in office.
SHEEKEY: But we have to pull independents and maybe even some Republicans who don`t support this president now.
MELBER: Let me give you one more question that I bet you won`t answer, Kevin, but I got to throw it at you.
SHEEKEY: Sure, go ahead.
Oh, I will answer all your questions, Ari.
MELBER: Here it is.
You -- as mentioned, you have one of the biggest war chests in politics. Mayor Bloomberg has said that part of his ad spending and being out around the country will help blunt Donald Trump either way.
And we`re hearing a lot of Democrats discussing your campaign, even though you`re not running next week in New Hampshire. Is there a scenario where Mike Bloomberg ever gets out of this race before the convention, or, given his budget, he can run clear all the way through?
SHEEKEY: Yes, no question, listen, we`re clearly running to be the party`s nominee. Our view is, you need the largest and most diverse coalition to actually beat this president, that he is far, far more dangerous and formidable than people think.
But we have signed leases in the offices that we have opened around the country in the six battleground states right through November, with the idea that, if Mike is not the nominee, that those offices and our work and all of the canvassers who are down there who`ve been hired will work for the nominee.
We haven`t signed the other leases over those same period of time. We have only signed in the battleground states, which is ultimately the places that we will need to beat this president come November.
Well, look, it`s really interesting. It`s a very different approach to the campaign. Of course, he had a different approach to business. And you`re running potentially here to be the nominee against someone who had a very different approach too, so all of it really interesting.
And, Kevin, I really appreciate you taking all the questions, sir.
SHEEKEY: All right. I will be back.
MELBER: Great. We will have you back, Kevin Sheekey, running the Bloomberg campaign.
SHEEKEY: Thank you, sir.
MELBER: We`re going to fit in a break, and we have a lot more up ahead.
MELBER: Senator Mitt Romney has made history as the first senator voting to convict a president of his own party.
And take a look at how some of his constituents in Romney`s home state of Utah are greeting him, saying they`re proud, this crowd gathering there, in bitter cold, by the way, with signs thanking Romney for that vote to convict Trump.
Now, President Trump beat the case and lost one Republican senator. How did a figure so wildly reviled by the Republican establishment hold onto them?
Well, today, we`re hearing from an insider, Democratic Senator Brown writing that his own Senate colleagues acquitted Trump primarily out of fear, and they cited his eagerness as well to campaign against them in a primary.
Brown also argues the FOX News now runs more like a Trump whip count against Republicans than an independent media organization.
And witness the reaction to Romney:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: A lone Republican, as you may have read, defected and joined the Democrats.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: He`s the ultimate selfish, preening, self- centered politician.
CARLSON: That senator shall go unnamed on this show, on the grounds that silly moral preening should not be rewarded.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Clearly, losing a presidential election ruins people. You don`t believe me, look at Al Gore, look at Hillary Clinton, and even, to some extent, I would argue, John McCain.
MIKE HUCKABEE, FOX NEWS HOST: This is very disgusting to me, what he did.
LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK HOST: Romney is going to be associated with Judas, Brutus, Benedict Arnold forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The story`s not over. And the question is, how does Mitt Romney respond to all of that?
When we come back, we have a very special guest on Pete Buttigieg and barrier-breaking in politics.
MELBER: The first time ever, a 2020 edition of "Fallback."
And look who`s here, television personality and now podcast host Ross Mathews. You may remember him as Ross the intern on, of course, "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
ROSS MATHEWS, TELEVISION PERSONALITY: Eighteen years ago. Can you believe that?
MELBER: Count it up.
He`s also been on "Chelsea Lately," "Celebrity Big Brother," and he is a judge on the Emmy Award-winning competition show "RuPaul`s Drag Race." He`s also spilling all kinds of tea in the new book "Name Drop." We will get into that.
And speaking of Emmys, we are also joined by my colleague Emmy Award- winning journalist Cynthia McFadden, senior investigative correspondent for NBC News. She`s interviewed everyone, from Madonna, to Queen Latifah, to Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama -- wow, what a list -- and is, of course, a former host of "Nightline," with a 20-year journalism career at ABC News.
Let me tell you, I saw Cynthia walk by me. And I dorked out. I had no idea she would be here. So this is a big thrill for me.
And you and I, first time in person. How about this?
MELBER: Right to shake the hand.
MATHEWS: It`s pretty butch.
MATHEWS: That`s a strong handshake.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, NBC NEWS SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, eyes.
MELBER: Eyes, hand, focus.
I love having you together. I love these pairings. There`s so much going on. This is a 2020 "Fallback."
What`s on your list?
MATHEWS: Well, someone who I need to fall back just a skosh is the woman from Iowa who voted for Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic -- the caucus there, and then, once she found out he was gay, wanted her vote back.
Now, a few things going on here. One, gross lady.
Two, they have been campaigning there for about two years, right? It`s a small state. They blanketed the airwaves. He was on the cover of "TIME" magazine. I don`t know. Maybe look up once or twice before you cast a vote. Just look around.
MELBER: You`re saying an informed voter might have even known about this?
MATHEWS: Could have maybe just had an inkling. Him and his husband on the cover of "TIME" was a heads-up.
I mean, especially in the Democratic Party, that`s not a position most of us take, right? I mean, we`re the party -- our President Barack Obama, he was Democrat. He brought in marriage equality. He led that fight with Joe Biden.
So I don`t understand why you`re voting in the Democratic Caucus if you`re -- if you have an issue with it. And, two, if you`re going to cast a vote for somebody, you should know who they are. We have gotten to know these people, especially in Iowa. They spent millions of dollars introducing themselves to them.
MELBER: So let me ask you a tough question.
MELBER: What do you say? In the midst of this "Fallback," what should a candidate say to someone who says that, do you think?
MATHEWS: Well, I think -- I mean, that`s a tough question. I mean, you`re talking about ideology here, right?
MELBER: Now, Ross, I told you it would be a tough question.
MATHEWS: Well, you -- oh, actually, you did that do that. Why am I here?
No, you have to have those conversations. I think one by one, as they meet us, as people meet us -- maybe she`s never met a gay person before.
MELBER: Or maybe she never knew she met a gay person.
MATHEWS: Well, apparently. She don`t know she voted for one. So that could be.
MELBER: But as we`re introduced to these people -- we have never had a candidate for president at this level be openly gay. So this is a first for voters.
And I think the next one who`s running, it will be less of an issue and so on and so forth, just like it was with Barack Obama being the first African-American president.
MELBER: Yes, I love you bringing this up.
And I think, Cynthia, we have seen this with other candidates, whether it was Catholicism with Kennedy. You mentioned race.
MELBER: And you want to bring people in even as you`re up against -- just like Jackie Robinson or any other path-breaker, you`re up against tremendous ignorance sometimes.
MCFADDEN: I hear what you`re saying about this individual woman, but, really, go to 30,000 feet.
It looks like he won.
MCFADDEN: Which is like...
MATHEWS: Oh, good for you, some perspective, yes.
MCFADDEN: Well, because I actually had a bunch of people in my office this morning saying, like, is it a little weird no one`s talking about the fact he`s gay?
MCFADDEN: And is that a good thing or a bad thing?
And it seems to me that`s great, that people voted to this man who they believed in.
MELBER: What`s on your list?
MCFADDEN: Well, actually, I want to go back to Iowa.
MCFADDEN: I would say the Shadow app.
MCFADDEN: I spent all week covering the Shadow app and digging in.
And let`s just think about it. Iowa had four years to figure out how they were going to get these caucus, the precinct chairmen to report in. And the best they could do was come up with an app, given everything we know, that they were to download on their personal unsecured phone -- cell phones, right?
Already, like let`s stop the music. Are you kidding me?
MATHEWS: I mean, from the get-go, there`s a problem.
Now, the fact that it didn`t work after that, and it underreported certain kinds of votes, I mean, there was a glitch, as they call it, in the system, forget about that. The app has got to go. Obviously, it`s not going to be around.
I am an evangelist for the paper record.
MCFADDEN: And, in fact, the paper record is what saved Iowa, because, otherwise, I`m not sure we could be confident.
MELBER: Wasn`t it Rick Ross who said every day is another opportunity to touch the paper?
MELBER: He wasn`t talking about backup voting systems. He was talking about paper as currency.
MATHEWS: I love when you do it. It`s so like dorky dad, dorky uncle when you start quoting things.
MELBER: We think of it as more nerdy than dorky, Ross.
MATHEWS: All right, tomato, tomato.
MELBER: Is tomato a fruit?
MATHEWS: What did you call me?
MELBER: Is tomato...
MCFADDEN: This is so like being on "Nightly News."
MELBER: I didn`t even see where that was headed.
MCFADDEN: Goodbye to a great journalism career. Thank you so much.
MELBER: I think you guys are great together.
MCFADDEN: You know what? Maybe we could get an MSNBC show.
I`m in charge of everything here. So, yes, done. Green-lit.
MELBER: Was it not Ross Mathews who said birds of a feather...
MATHEWS: Flock together.
MELBER: Thank you. Thank you.
MCFADDEN: There`s way too much hand-shaking.
MELBER: Ross Mathews, Cynthia McFadden.
And Ross` new book.
MATHEWS: Oh, please.
MELBER: Hold it up. It is "Name Drop."
MATHEWS: It is called "Name Drop."
It`s got really good celebrity stories I usually only tell at happy hour, which is where Cynthia and I are going to go now.
MCFADDEN: This is my new book. It`s my calender.
MELBER: And we will be right back.
MELBER: We`re back in the swing of things here on THE BEAT. I appreciate you joining me tonight.
And I want you to know we are headed to Manchester, New Hampshire, where we have a live show out of New Hampshire, along with Chris Matthews and a lot of our NBC colleagues, who are out reporting this 2020 race. I will be there tomorrow, Friday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, and Monday as well.
So, I hope you keep it locked right here on MSNBC, a lot of news unfolding.
"HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS" is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END