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Trump hails DOJ TRANSCRIPT: 2/12/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Paul Butler, Sam Nunberg, Michelle Goldberg, David Kelley, Howard Dean, Michael Starr Hopkins, Marq Claxton


Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.

THE BEAT is back at MSNBC headquarters tonight.

We have developing news on how Democrats say they`re making progress holding Bill Barr accountable, and, later, some major updates in this fluid 2020 primary.

So, lots of important stories tonight, but we begin with a substantive scandal rocking the Trump White House. Some are calling it the Tuesday night massacre, and now, tonight, Donald Trump basically confessing to improper intervention in the criminal case of his longest serving aide, Roger Stone.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing.

They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence for doing nothing. Nine years for doing something that nobody even can define what he did.


MELBER:  That is a remarkable statement.

This adds to the evidence of a confession by the president.

Let me tell you exactly what we know about this story. Donald Trump publicly pushed to cut the prison time for his longest-serving aide, Roger Stone. Recall, Stone was the last person arrested in the Mueller probe, walked out of his house in handcuffs, tried and convicted on several counts of obstruction, lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses.

Along the way, Mr. Stone was reprimanded for attacking the federal judge overseeing this case. Now, notice something here. The very crimes Mr. Stone was condemned for and convicted of, obstruction, lying, tampering, these are the things Donald Trump is increasingly doing right out in the open.

In fact, the president just attacked this judge in the Stone case. That is the very conduct that almost got Mr. Stone thrown in jail during this trial.

And I want to be clear. For all the references to Mr. Stone, this story, this scandal tonight in America is larger than any single person or larger than debates over any single sentence.

Stone faced a very stiff term under sentencing guidelines, and plenty of Americans, including him, can face these kind of strict sentences, and they can certainly be legitimately debated.

But Mr. Stone`s conviction, along with his former consulting and lobbying partner and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, you remember this, they marked some of the most high-profile convictions and, yes, legal victories in the Mueller probe for offenses that Mueller detailed, which undermine the rule of law, and which also overlap with something that Bob Mueller, who everyone remembers, FBI director, Republican, et cetera, Bob Mueller, in his report, detailed with a sledgehammer of evidence that Donald Trump himself obstructed justice.

The entire point of the independent special counsel, the reason it was a big deal and it got so much news coverage and people in both parties talked about it so much, the whole point is, you set one of those up to keep it entirely independent from the White House that it may have to investigate, which is what makes this now such a scandal, Donald Trump demanding lighter treatment, and now Bill Barr`s Justice Department following suit in such an unusual fashion, reversing the recommended prison term for Mr. Stone after the DOJ`s own prosecutors submitted to court.

Now, I can tell you, as we do, we report everything here. The DOJ is still insisting tonight that it was not actually responding to Donald Trump, that it just did this.

But people closest to this, they are thinking and showing otherwise, four prosecutors from that Mueller probe case now withdrawing, one quitting outright. One DOJ veteran telling me this is a Tuesday night massacre, all of it breaking last night.

It`s a reference, of course, to President Nixon`s infamous attempt to undercut the independent probe into his White House. And the reference is instructive. It was such a big deal when that happened, and it blew up in real time, and they teach it in history and law schools evermore.

So just imagine if four Mueller prosecutors suddenly quit over something like this in the middle of the Mueller probe. That would be a huge deal.

But Barr`s entire confirmation, hearing everything he said he would do turned on not letting that kind of thing happen, on making assurances under oath he would respect the probe`s independence and its outcomes, which brings me to the timeline, very important to follow here.

It appears Mr. Barr has delayed these key moves well past Mueller`s tenure, also past that big impeachment trial in Washington, and delayed some of it all the way up against the backdrop of this first 2020 primary, and the news still sent shockwaves across the nation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just moments ago, President Trump congratulated the attorney general, Bill Barr, for intervening, in sentencing of the president`s longtime friend, political adviser, his confidant, Roger Stone.

CHUCK ROSENBERG, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  It signals to me that there has been a political infestation of the office.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN:  It is a breakdown of the system that is like nothing I have ever seen in my career and nothing I am aware of historically.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  If you look at all of this effort, it is to not just to smear the Mueller campaign. It`s to erase it.


MELBER:  Erase what Mueller did and what he prosecuted, what he convicted, and what the consequences are.

So, keep that point in mind, as it may also apply to Barr`s effort to lighten the potential prison term for Trump aide Michael Flynn, and the administration`s strange removal of the top D.C. prosecutor who would oversee both these cases. She was promised a Treasury Department job that, oh, was just eliminated all of a sudden. When? Last night.

So, I`m reporting these facts to you to make a broader point. And if you spend time with us here on THE BEAT, I think you know where we`re going. This is not just another Trump administration scandal or another fight over certain tactics at the Justice Department.

As all the news was breaking last night, I was able to catch up with former Attorney General Eric Holder. And I want to read to you his statement in full.

He says: "This action is aberrant and inconsistent with the Justice Department acting in a traditional nonpolitical way."

Mr. Holder continues, it -- quote -- "disrespects the career prosecutors, whom I greatly respect. Actions such these put at risk the perceived and real neutral enforcement of our laws and ultimately endanger the fabric of our democracy."

He continued in the statement he sent me last night to say: "Those involved in the decision must be called on to explain their actions. This is a sad day for an institution to which I owe so much."

Mr. Holder, who doesn`t speak out on every single thing he disagrees with in the Trump Justice Department. If he did that, I`d be reading into these statements daily. But he`s not alone. Legal experts, nonpartisan experts, many aghast, outraged and concerned.

And even Trump`s own allies, who, of course, famously publicly backed him in this recently resolved impeachment trial, they also feel the need to register disapproval, senators in the Republican Party saying Trump should absolutely have stayed out of this, another noting it doesn`t look right, and reiterating the standard boundary that presidents should never comment on pending federal investigations.

And that last critique also understates exactly what Trump is accused of doing. This is not about commenting. This is about credible evidence and allegations of abusing presidential power to enforce the laws to undercut nonpartisan law itself.

And it comes at a time when many are asking just how much more our democracy can withstand.

For a story like this, we`re going to begin with veteran prosecutors, in a moment turn to two guests with deep knowledge of the people and the intricacies of this story.

On the law, though, we begin with former federal prosecutor Paul Butler and Joyce Vance, both former federal prosecutors.

Ms. Vance has a new piece out in "TIME" magazine that says, if Trump is allowed to turn the Justice Department into a political weapon, no one is safe.

Good evening to you both.

Paul, your views when you heard these four prosecutors step down and the wider context.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  So, President Trump is using the Justice Department and Bill Barr is using the Justice Department to punish the president`s enemies and to reward his friends.

This is unprecedented. If I were one of those prosecutors, I would have quit too. Think about it. They`re standing up. They have been in this courtroom for over a year representing the United States of America.

And then the sentence recommendation, very carefully considered, seven to nine years, it`s a long time, but think about the crimes, the seven felonies that Roger Stone was convicted of, aggravating factors. It happened over a long period of time, and he threatened witnesses.

He told one witness, get ready to die. So, the seven to nine years is within the guidelines. And, summarily, the president tweets he doesn`t like it, and then the sentence is reversed.

This is the erosion of the rule of law, Ari. The Justice Department is on life support.

MELBER:  Very, very strong words coming from you, and I know you care deeply about this, like a lot of legal experts we have heard from.

Joyce, this was obviously a time last night when many Americans who follow news, civic life, had their eye on the first primary. Take a look at some of how this was playing out last night.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN:  We`re staying on these two big stories, the resignation of four prosecutors now from the Roger Stone case, as well as the primary results out of New Hampshire.

TODD:  Meanwhile, all of this is happening amid some major developments involving the Trump Justice Department. Call it a Tuesday afternoon massacre.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  We`re going to continue to talk about this story. And we will get around to the New Hampshire primary tonight as well.


MELBER:  Joyce, I`m wondering if you could take us through your thoughts. Obviously, you care about this. You wrote about it.

But many people had their eye, understandably, on the other story last night.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  It`s absolutely amazing, the notion that any sort of a story could rival the primary in New Hampshire for airtime last night. And I think that that tells us how important this is, Ari.

It is precisely the problem that Paul suggests, this notion that, when you have a president who can use the criminal justice system to reward his friends and to punish his enemies, then we no longer have the constitutional system the founding fathers envisioned.

After all, their primary concern when they set up our form of government was getting away from having a king who is above the law, who  could do whatever he wanted to do. They wanted the rights of citizens to be more important than the rights of kings.

Trump is taking us back to precisely the type of government the founding fathers wanted us to avoid having.

MELBER:  Well, and, Paul, the context here is the fact that, while the Mueller probe is technically over, its results, including the toughest results for some of these convicts, is what they are now, are trying to be undercut or erased.

And look at the history here. I want to put up on the screen, Donald Trump`s been in office for fewer years than most of these other presidents, who either had nobody convicted -- Nixon holds a record you don`t want to hold all the way through the second term.

But when we check this, going in the year two, he had six people with charges or convictions. What does it tell you that, apparently, Mr. Barr appears willing to go along with Trump`s effort to try to somehow undo, tarnish, eliminate what remains a terrible record to hold, which is the highest number of convictions this fast of your own aides?

BUTLER:  It tells us that Barr is the attorney general of President Trump`s fantasies. He`s his Roy Cohn. He`s his fixer.

And, again, when we think about the egregious nature of these convictions now of Roger Stone and just how unusual it is for a president to comment at all, you may remember that, during the Trayvon Martin case, President Obama was consistently asked about it, and he consistently refused to comment while the case was pending.

The difference here is that this case, the Roger Stone case, is really all about Donald Trump. Roger Stone was convicted of lying to protect the president. And so, as you noted at the outset, when the president comments, it`s not just a casual comment. It`s consistent with his pattern of intervening in investigations on cases that implicate him.

MELBER:  And you said pattern.

And, Joyce, that`s the other piece of this I mentioned. There are 90-plus U.S. attorney`s offices. The president has shown an interest in personally interviewing only those offices with jurisdiction over him in New York, when he first asked Preet Bharara to stay on, and then released him.

And then you see right here, meeting with Jessie Liu before nominating her as D.C.`s federal prosecutor, this article tracking all of that.

Given that now Ms. Liu has been replaced with a Barr -- someone who work closely with Barr, do you see it as suspicious that the president wanted to vet people in these particular offices?

VANCE:  I think it`s always been suspicious. It`s always been deeply concerning.

This is why DOJ has well-established norms that the attorney general, Bill Barr, has taken an absolute wrecking ball to, for when people in the Justice Department talk to the White House.

It`s because, if you work at Justice, not only do you want to avoid actual impropriety; you want to avoid even the appearance of improper contact with the White House, because of what that does to the public`s ability to have faith in the justice system. Right?

If the system looks rigged, who`s going to trust it? Who wants to comply with it? It`s a horrible slippery slope no one would want to be on. What we`re now looking at, though, Ari, is the specter of actual impropriety, of Bill Barr -- maybe he didn`t actually have a conversation with the president.

In some ways, I think it`s far worse, if what Barr is doing is looking at a sentencing recommendation and thinking to himself, this won`t make the president happy. So, instead of doing this recommendation that comports with the law that Congress has established for sentencing, I`m going to take it upon myself to do the president`s old buddy a favor.

That`s not a good place for our justice system.

MELBER:  Yes, and then everybody else in America gets these tough sentences under these rules, unless you happen to be Donald Trump`s friend or, as Roger Stone was convicted of, lying for Donald Trump.

Joyce and Paul, I thank you both.

As I told you, if you have been watching, when we turn to our next guests, I want to add the context here, which is, Roger Stone is Donald Trump`s longest serving adviser, a known figure in right-wing politics, someone who claimed to have a back-channel link to Julian Assange in 2016.

Well, much has changed since then, both Assange and Stone indicted.

And as the Mueller probe neared its end, we heard from Mueller witnesses that the prosecutors were ultimately most interested in Stone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The fact the matter is, the reason us three are essentially in there is because of Stone.

MELBER:  Who did they ask most about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, the answer mostly about Roger Stone.




NUNBERG:  They definitely had Roger Stone`s e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Roger in his broadcasts has been defamatory.

NUNBERG:  He`s not going to get away witness tampering. He should shut up.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by Sam Nunberg, the former Trump campaign aide you saw right there, who was a Mueller witness, and "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg.

Good to see both of you.


MELBER:  Sam, it looks like Donald Trump is finally trying to help Roger.

NUNBERG:  Yes, I was actually pleasantly surprised.

But I think that he had no choice, in light of the seven-to-nine-year recommendation. Had they submitted the original -- this recommendation that Jay submitted for 36 months, it may have not given -- it may have not given the president a chance to try to reverse something.

But now, with submitting something that was so harsh, which I read for -- which I read all 26 pages up, and when you go into it, to me, it looked like a political document at the end, even arguing in case the president was going to pardon Roger or commute his sentence, because they go into explicit detail about what they claim is worse crimes that Roger committed compared to Scooter Libby.

MELBER:  When you say pleasantly surprised, why are you pleasantly surprised?

NUNBERG:  Well, because, as -- when I entered into the investigation, when I walk into Aaron Zelinsky, and the first thing he says to me is, who did Roger Stone work for, not how often did Roger Stone talk to Donald Trump, I feel that Roger was in somebody they could have looked into.

But I feel in the way that this has affected his life -- I haven`t spoken to him since 2018. He`s flat broke, from what I understand, failing health. This is something where, with an underlying investigation, that they found no criminal conspiracy, somebody shouldn`t go to jail for seven to nine years on obstruction of justice.

MELBER:  Does it concern you...


MELBER:  Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. I`m going to do the questions. That`s how it works here.


MELBER:  You know that.


MELBER:  And you get your time, because you`re giving your view that you think it was too harsh and unfair.

NUNBERG:  Thank you.

MELBER:  And many people who have friends who are wrapped up in tough investigations can feel that way.

But let me ask you, before I bring Michelle in, don`t you see something wrong with Mr. Stone getting personal intervention because he`s friends with the president that nobody else gets? What is fair or even conservative about that?

NUNBERG:  Do I see something -- I think the president should not have commented on it publicly. In fact, I think it would be better off had they not done anything.

First of all, I also, by the way...

MELBER:  But you just said you liked the idea that...


NUNBERG:  No, I think it would have been better off had they not commented, let Roger get sentenced to seven to nine years, then say that this was so draconian, this looks as if it just shows that they were overly aggressive investigators.

This is something that 99.9 percent of people don`t normally get. Therefore...


MELBER:  Let me take that point to Michelle, which is, Sam is outlining a situation where it might have gone by the rules.

If there`s a tough sentence, and the president wants to use their lawful pardon power after the process has played out, a president can do that. That`s not what happened here, though.

I think it`s important people understand, what happened here, according to a lot of people close to it, is a perversion.

GOLDBERG:  Look, you`re not going to get any argument from me that American prison sentences tend to be draconian. That`s certainly not something that Bill Barr believes in the abstract.

And, in fact, he`s given speeches lambasting progressive prosecutors. It is only a very specific class of people that Bill Barr seems to believe deserve any sort of mercy or leniency.

And so -- and I also want to say something about this idea that there that the witness tampering -- there`s been a lot of arguments that Randy Credico wasn`t really threatened.

And I know Randy Credico -- Randy Credico is somebody I don`t know well, but I have known him for a long time. He`s an anti-prison activist. I first met him when he was an activist against the Rockefeller drug laws.

MELBER:  And, just for context, you`re speaking about the individual that Roger was convicted of threatening.


So, Randy told me before he sent this letter that he felt terrible that someone was going to prison on his behalf and he was going to send this letter. And so that might speak well of Randy, but that has nothing to do with the specific crimes that Roger Stone committed.

I have texts on my phone from Randy Credico talking about feeling threatened by Roger Stone`s associates. And so, again, I think, if you want to say, in the abstract, this is too long of a sentence, and nobody committed -- nobody convicted of these crimes deserves a sentence like that, then, fine, get aboard the criminal justice reform train.

But the idea that only people who not just have lied for Donald Trump, but might, because of a sentence like this, have some sort of incentive to reveal further crimes that Donald Trump has committed -- so I don`t think this is just about mercy.

I don`t think -- we don`t know that this isn`t part of even a bigger cover- up.

MELBER:  And what does it tell you...

GOLDBERG:  And I just want to say, we heard again and again, throughout impeachment, this Ben Franklin quote repeated endlessly, a republic, if you can keep it.

MELBER:  Right.

GOLDBERG:  We are not keeping it.

MELBER:  So let me ask you on that.

What does it tell you that this is happening out in the open after the Senate impeachment trial?

GOLDBERG:  I think that Republican -- I think that Donald Trump has learned his lesson, which is that Republicans have given him complete impunity. The rule of law is breaking down in this country.

It would be familiar from anyone who has lived in a country where democracy has given way to authoritarianism. They would recognize exactly what is happening here.

MELBER:  If nothing else, doesn`t this show that, yet again, Donald Trump is a hypocrite?



NUNBERG:  How is he a hypocrite?


MELBER:  He ran on law and order, let`s be tough.

And the only thing -- the only people he can`t handle being tough on are on his own friends, which is...


NUNBERG:  Well, we can look at this...


MELBER:  Hold on. Well, you -- I`m going to tell you how.


MELBER:  He can`t handle people -- the system being tough on his own friends.

It`s all hypocrisy. And it`s not -- again, for someone who worked initially -- you have broken with them, but worked initially on this Republican campaign, among other things, it`s not conservative.

NUNBERG:  I think, if you look at this, if you want look at this in a vacuum, especially with the fact that they`re still investigating the investigators with Operation Crossfire Hurricane, we don`t know -- we don`t know, with Rosenstein, who signed FISA warrants, who approved this, that, when you look at the totality of the circumstances, it seems to me to sentence somebody for seven to nine years, when we haven`t seen the results of anything going on with Durham`s investigation -- and you`re looking at me smiling.

I don`t understand.


MELBER:  I`m not actually technically smiling. I`m looking at you a little skeptically.


MELBER:  But I let you finish your point.

NUNBERG:  I mean, I just think, in the totality of the circumstances, especially because they didn`t find a criminal conspiracy, to sentence somebody to seven to nine years.

Now, the obstruction itself, even what Sheriff Arpaio just gave in the second memorandum is more than 99.9 percent that people get for obstruction of justice.

MELBER:  Right.


MELBER:  I got to fit in a break.

We will see how this all plays out with the judge, because, as I would remind everyone, in a republic -- and I think Michelle`s warnings are important to be heard -- but, in a republic, it will be the judge who has the final say on the sentence, not these prosecutors.

Sam, as always, I appreciate you coming in.

NUNBERG:  Thank you.

MELBER:  Michelle, thank you.

Coming up, we have a special guest on how Bill Barr`s approaching all this, a former top prosecutor who actually ran the New York unit that`s now investigating Giuliani.

And then our look ahead at what really matters, when you can count up now actual delegates and dollars in this primary. I have a former presidential candidate with me.

And, later, Michael Bloomberg -- Michael Bloomberg, I should say, confronting the stop and frisk legacy. We have the facts and why it matters, and a special conversation with retired Detective Marq Claxton, who served in the NYPD while Bloomberg was mayor.

I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER:  Breaking news tonight, Attorney General Barr facing his backlash over interfering in two cases of former Trump aides convicted in the Mueller probe, the story we have been covering.

Well, House Democrats announcing they have now confirmed Barr will face their questioning under oath. Judiciary Chairman Nadler announcing his committee will press Barr on a concerning -- quote -- "pattern of conduct" and how he handles these cases, including, yes, Roger Stone.

The hearing set for late next month. It will mark Barr`s first testimony before a House committee run by Democrats. They have been pounding him since this news broke about four prosecutors leaving the Stone case in protest, and now asking DOJ`s watchdog to investigate.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  As a result, I have formally requested that the inspector general of the Justice Department investigate this matter immediately.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  Attorney General William Barr ought to be ashamed and embarrassed and resign as a result of this action, directly interfering in the independent prosecution of Roger Stone, simply the latest in examples of political interference by the president.


MELBER:  And that kind of watchdog probe that Senator Schumer is calling for, that could happen.

Remember, congressional request helped lead to the exhaustive I.G. probe of the FBI`s tactics investigating George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, to name just one precedent.

We turn now to a very special guest, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and my one-time boss David Kelley.

Good to see you.

DAVID KELLEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Good to see you, Ari. How are you?

MELBER:  I`m great.

People can understandably feel like a lot of stuff happens in this Trump administration, and a lot seems to break norms and traditions. How significant is what we`re seeing at the Justice Department on this story?

KELLEY:  I think very significant.

I think -- look, I think Barr is probably going to end up saying, well, nothing untoward happened. I had no conversation with the White House.

But what you have is a problem of, at the very least, perception, because fairness is the perception of fairness, as much as anything else. And you don`t have that here.

You also have somebody who`s clearly conflicted, meaning, Trump is conflicted. There`s a conflict of interest here, who is expressing a view on a case, and he`s doing it publicly with obviously the intent to influence the Justice Department.

Whether or not he did or didn`t, it`s -- the problem is there. It`s a problem of fairness and the perception of fairness.

MELBER:  Well, when you say perception, that can sound, to some people, a little loosey-goosey on this issue.

Have you ever seen four career prosecutors withdraw from a case like this?

KELLEY:  I will have to think. No, I don`t think so.

MELBER:  And they haven`t told us what they`re thinking. But the clear implication is that they think not there was a disagreement about sentencing.

And we just heard Roger Stone`s friend make the case of, oh, it seemed harsh. But wouldn`t that normally have been worked out by now, that debate?

KELLEY:  Well, it could have been or it may not have been.

But if you go back and look at their original sentencing memo, it`s on the sentencing guidelines. And the sentencing guideline, my former colleague referred to it once as a cookbook. It`s very simple. You follow the guidelines, and it`s pretty clear how they apply.

And at the end of the day, you have certain numbers and the numbers add up to 70 to 87 months. And if you look at this thing, it`s really a no- brainer. And so for somebody to come in and say, oh, OK, well, we got your no-brainer, but we`re going to do it differently, we didn`t know you were putting the no-brainer version in, we`re going to do it a little bit differently, I think that would cause the conflict that would cause these career prosecutors to resign.

MELBER:  And that is striking coming from you.

And then you have your old your old office investigating Giuliani, his associates indicted. I spoke to one of them, Lev Parnas, recently, near the tail end of the Senate trial.

And amidst all this, Bill Barr`s talking about taking that potential subject or person of interest, Mr. Giuliani, and taking information from him, going over the heads of the prosecutors in that office you and, by the way, Mr. Giuliani ran.

Take a listen to Bill Barr.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE:  We had established an intake process in the field, so that any information coming in about Ukraine could be carefully scrutinized.

But that is true for all information that comes to the department relating to the Ukraine, including anything Mr. Giuliani might provide.


MELBER:  Is that the typical treatment of a subject?

KELLEY:  Could be, if they`re in a cooperation agreement.


MELBER:  Right. That`s if somebody`s worried about being prosecuted.

I mean, this is nuts. Right?

KELLEY:  Look, I get what the attorney general is saying. We`re not going to preclude anybody from giving us information, and he didn`t want to cut it off. But it`s unusual, to be sure.

MELBER:  It`s unusual. And it gives, again, the implication that somehow Giuliani has some special status to go over the heads of the very prosecutors that may ultimately want to put pressure on him.

KELLEY:  Well, if you look at some of the material out there about the Biden allegations, and a lot of folks are saying that`s completely baseless, and has been looked at as such, for them to go ahead and track down information that he`s giving looks, in fact, like he`s getting special treatment.


David Kelley, always appreciate your expertise here. Thank you very much.

When we`re back in 30 seconds, Bernie Sanders` big win and how to really count where this race is headed.


MELBER:  Welcome back.

We`re only halfway through this edition of THE BEAT. We have been covering a lot.

But, of course, you know the other big story is this Democratic presidential race, now officially under way, after this first primary. We are moving from preseason to the real thing, which means we`re actually getting to measurable results now.

On THE BEAT, we try to deal in facts, not any made-up D.C. declarations of who the front-runner might someday be.

So here are the facts and what we now show, Bernie Sanders winning New Hampshire with 4,000 votes over Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar third at 20 percent.

Other candidates were running. But as far as New Hampshire is concerned, only those three matter, because they`re the only people who actually won delegates there. And that`s part of why several candidates are now dropping out of this race, Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet, and Deval Patrick all out.

So take a minute, and let`s do the facts.

Here is the measurement that will decide who becomes the nominee. Buttigieg and Sanders now have double the delegates of any other candidate, with Warren and Klobuchar trailing, followed by Biden in fifth.

Primaries are not about predictions. They`re about who can run a long campaign to win the most delegates and who has the cash to keep running such a long campaign. So it`s also important to count up the fund-raising, where the same two candidates, noticeably, are leading, with Warren in third.

And doing well in these early states helps campaigns keep fund-raising. To paraphrase J. Cole, I know that it`s difficult. Stacking the paper is sort of habitual. Count it up. Count it up. Count it up. Count it.

Joining me to discuss all this is former Governor Howard Dean, who ran for president in 2004, and came in third with 167 delegates. He went on to run the DNC after his bid. And there you see him on the campaign trail. And Michael Starr Hopkins, who worked on John Delaney`s 2020 campaign, before he dropped out, and is a veteran of the Obama and Clinton campaigns.

Good evening to both of you.



MELBER:  Governor Dean, count it up. Delegates and cash, are those the most important things?

DEAN:  Those are the most important things, especially going into Super Tuesday.

MELBER:  Go on. Your analysis.

DEAN:  And, basically, we don`t know. It`s too early. I`d say there`s six tickets that are heading, including Bloomberg, into South Carolina and Nevada.

It`ll be a smaller list by the time it gets to California. A little too early to count out Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren. But they have to do well in the next two primaries.

MELBER:  Michael, what do you see in this delegate formation, which reminds everyone that, while other tickets out of New Hampshire are exciting, most folks didn`t get delegates there.

HOPKINS:  Well, delegates are the only way you secure the nomination.

And, as Governor Dean knows, money is kind of paramount in this situation. And so what we`re going to see is, the less money candidates have, the more candidates are going to drop out. And this field is quickly dwindling.

And that`s why we`re seeing Mayor Pete and Senator Sanders kind of taking over the front-runner status.


And Senator Sanders there in the lead, having run last time, has galvanized a lot of discussions. I was just out on the trail in New Hampshire, where he had big crowds, as did other candidates.

And we were talking to New Hampshire voters, Governor, about how they make up their mind, several saying they were down to a few candidates and really could go in any direction.

Take a listen to this exchange I had with one New Hampshire voter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I voted for Bernie.

But I want to say, the reason I went for Bernie is because of MSNBC and very...

MELBER:  Go on.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it is completely cynical to say that he`s lost 50 percent of his vote from the last time, when there were two candidates.

But the kind of the stop Bernie cynicism that I heard from a number of people -- I watch MSNBC constantly. So I heard that from a number of commentators.

And so that just -- it made me angry enough, I said, OK, Bernie`s got my vote.


MELBER:  Governor, I`m interested to ask you about this, because you also ran an insurgent campaign.

And whether one looks at the media or Washington or the -- quote, unquote - - "establishment" in general, what do you think of the point from that voter and others that efforts to sort of tamp down Senator Sanders can actually redound to his benefit?

DEAN:  Well, they can.

Look, Bernie is a polarizing figure. There is not any question about that. He has been all his career. But he`s used it to his advantage. And it`s why he`s been elected by very large margins to the Senate and to the House in Vermont.

So we don`t know what`s going to happen. And that`s why I wouldn`t make any predictions. It`s true that Buttigieg has two more delegates than Bernie does at this point. That`s really quite irrelevant.

We have had, as Joe Biden pointed out, two states out of 48. This is just beginning to form, all this talk about who`s going to be the front-runner and all this kind of stuff. And we do have 48 states left to go. We`re going to know a lot more after Super Tuesday. We`re going to know more about who`s leaving the race, and that`s probably not going to be Bernie or Buttigieg any time soon.

MELBER:  Well, you say that. I`m curious, given your experience, because you ran.

And in your campaign, there was great enthusiasm. You did finish third, as I mentioned. There was a feeling, though, that after falling behind in the first few states, it came be very hard to come back.

Are you sort of suggesting that template doesn`t apply as much when there`s this many candidates?

DEAN:  Well, no, but I think these candidates are well-organized.

Certainly, Elizabeth, Bernie and Buttigieg had very good organizations in Iowa, and I assume they must have in New Hampshire as well. So, I mean, look, we lost principally because -- for two reasons. First of all, we were not as well organized as we needed to be. And I basically said exactly what I felt, which is not always an asset.

And the other reason, which was a pretty big problem, is, as we got closer to actually casting votes, people got nervous about whether I could beat George Bush, and that`s where they chose what they thought was a safe choice, which was John Kerry.

So, all -- the things are going to change as we go down this primary schedule -- and it`s hard to make predictions this early.

MELBER:  Yes. And I think both of you are really hammering something we try to focus on here, which is the facts and that you can`t get out ahead of the facts. And they`re in limited supply until we here from more states.

I will take the governor`s point to you, though, Michael, that he does allude to something that we hear about even more nowadays, who is more electable?

I think the governor`s right that many folks at the time made a calculation that somehow Senator Kerry might be more electable than Governor Dean and this segment.

Of course, Senator Kerry didn`t win either, Michael.


I mean, I would say that this election is an outlier election, in the fact that people care less about policies than who can beat President Trump. I think one of the problems that Bernie Sanders is going to run into is, even if people think he can win and beat President Trump, they will be worried about the effects down-ticket.

And I think that`s something that`s going to have long-term ramifications.

What I will say is, Senator Sanders...

MELBER:  You think voters or insiders?

HOPKINS:  I think voters.

MELBER:  I mean, you think a voter?

Because I just talked to a lot voters. I didn`t hear anyone say, gosh, let me calculate how this is going to affect the House race. I did hear people ask, whether, on policy, these plans are affordable, et cetera.

HOPKINS:  Well, when I talk to people on the Hill, a lot of the moderate Democrats are really worried that, even if Sanders is the nominee, that Democrats will vote for Sanders, because they`re just sick and tired of President Trump, but they won`t vote for Democrats down-ticket as a check against him.

But one thing really quick I will say, Senator Sanders has been really smart to take a page out of Donald Trump`s playbook and run kind of a grievance politics kind of style campaign. And that`s something that I think is going to work for him in the long run.

MELBER:  All really interesting points.

Michael Starr Hopkins and Howard Dean, thank you both.

DEAN:  Thank you.

HOPKINS:  Thanks for having us.

MELBER:  Up next:  Michael Bloomberg has been increasingly confronted with these questions about his racial policing policies.

A very special guest when we come back.


MELBER:  Former Republican mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg out on the campaign trail today.

He is now running for the Democratic nomination, but he has been facing increasing questions about the controversial policing policies that he used during his 12-year tenure in New York.

In fact, I recently asked his campaign manager about this issue. This was last week. And the story has continued to only grow since then.


Take a listen to how he explained how necessary that policy, those five million stops of black and brown New Yorkers, was.

MELBER:  Is that still his position?


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST:  Bloomberg is on the defensive today after Benjamin Dixon, a Bernie Sanders supporter, posted audio from a speech that Bloomberg gave at the Aspen Institute in 2015.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You can just take the description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops.

TRUMP:  Look, he`s a lightweight. He is a lightweight.

BLOOMBERG:  It was five years ago. It doesn`t reflect what I do every day.


MELBER:  Joining me now is Marq Claxton, a retired NYPD detective whose tenure in the force also overlapped with Bloomberg`s time as mayor. He is director of political affairs for the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.

Thanks for joining me on this.


MELBER:  You know a lot more about this than most people. And you care about both policing and safety, as well as civil rights.

So, before we get deep into Bloomberg, what was stop and frisk and, in your view, was there anything wrong with it?

CLAXTON:  Well, the stop and frisk program, as practiced by the NYPD, became more of an expansion of search and seizure, if you will.

But the problem that NYPD had, historically, was that their stop and frisk program and those initiatives became race-based and targeted enforcement in communities of color. So the numbers and statistics that they used, that they considered to be positive statistics -- and by that, I mean the number of arrests and summonses that were issued -- became their justification to continue using this race-based enforcement.

And that has resulted in just the generational dismantling of police- community relations and the criminalization of so many communities of color in New York.

MELBER:  So, when you see Mike Bloomberg push this policy, defend it, as I discussed with his campaign manager, they continued to defend it after a court ruled it racial profiling, he left office and defended it.

I will play for you, just to give people a sense of this, where, basically -- this is at the Naval Academy in 2019 -- he says: "Look, we focused on keeping kids from going through the correctional system, remove the gun from their pockets, and stop it. The result was the murder rate in New York City dropped by 350 murders."

All of that seems like a pretty strong defense. What do you think of him all of a sudden saying, no, he was wrong, let`s move on?

CLAXTON:  Well, first of all, I think it`s important for people to realize that Mike Bloomberg has not issued an apology in regards to what happened during stop and frisk.

What he has indicated is a regret that he didn`t tamp down on the strategy and the tactics of stop and frisk, that he didn`t, in essence, slow down the racial profiling. He hasn`t issue that an apology about conducting racial profiling or race-based enforcement.

As a matter of fact, I think it`s important to remember that, during the Bloomberg administration, because he followed Giuliani and all of that nonsense, but during the Bloomberg administration, they changed from denying that they were using race-based enforcement...

MELBER:  Right.

CLAXTON:  ... to then justifying it.

And the comments that you`re hearing now from Mike Bloomberg are justifications for race-based enforcement, not an apology, not a regret. And those statements continue.


And let me play -- Donald Trump, of all people, has seized on Mike Bloomberg`s policing.

I want to play Donald Trump invoking stop and frisk. Take a listen.


TRUMP:  When it comes to stop and frisk, you`re talking about taking guns away.

It was continued on by Mayor Bloomberg, and it was terminated by our current mayor. But stop and frisk had a tremendous impact on the safety of New York City, tremendous beyond belief.


MELBER:  That`s one high-profile appearance of Donald Trump, on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton, wrapping his arms around Mike Bloomberg`s stop and frisk.

And so I`m curious what you think about where this is all headed, which is in the shadow of a presidential campaign. Donald Trump tweeted and then deleted an attack on Bloomberg about this very thing. So he`s all over the place.

But I`m curious, given, again, your expertise, your view of all that angle.

CLAXTON:  Well, my familiarity with both the current president and Michael Bloomberg and their positions and their beliefs about law enforcement, in practice and in philosophy, there are some stark similarities that they have.

And that`s what causes a great deal of concern to my...


CLAXTON:  ... communities of color.


MELBER:  As an NYPD veteran, you see similarities between Trump and Bloomberg? Explain.

CLAXTON:  For example, the Central Park -- the Central -- those individuals, those young men who were accused of rape in the Central Park case.

Whereas Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in the newspapers in New York, years later, Mike Bloomberg refused to settle that case out when those young men were found not to be involved in that case, et cetera.

So there are some similarities and some concerns, more so, about the policies and their beliefs and their philosophies about law enforcement and whether or not there are justifications for race-based law enforcement, otherwise known as racial profiling.

MELBER:  It`s really striking to hear you say that.

And there`s so much talk, and we`re gearing up for campaign season.


MELBER:  But you obviously walk the walk. I know I rely on you as an expert on these issues, so really interesting to get you on all of this, Marq Claxton.

CLAXTON:  Thanks, Ari. I appreciate being on.

MELBER:  Appreciate you, sir. We will be having you back.

Fit in a quick break.

And then, when we come back, brand-new comments we`re about to air on MSNBC for the first time from Trump`s ousted ambassador to Ukraine. She`s actually breaking her silence in a new way about the ongoing retaliation issues at the State Department.

I`m going to play it for you right here on THE BEAT.

And, later, a little selection of highlights of what we heard on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.


MELBER:  Reporting on the evidence of Donald Trump undermining the Justice Department`s independence.

Others are also noting that there are problems at a different and important institution, the Department of State.

In fact, just moments ago, impeachment witness and former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch spoke about all of this at Georgetown University.


MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  We need a vigorous Department of State, but, right now, the State Department in trouble.

Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills.

The policy process has been replaced by decisions emanating from the top, with little discussion. Vacancies at all levels go unfilled and officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy even behind closed doors.


MELBER:  Striking to hear a career nonpartisan diplomat say that the Ukraine plot -- Ukraine plot was only one part of the problems she sees in Donald Trump`s State Department.

We will have a lot more on that, of course.

And I will be right back on THE BEAT with one more thing.


MELBER:  We were out reporting from New Hampshire all this week. And I want to thank all -- send a thank you to all the viewers coming on and talking to us.

In fact, we also caught up with Michael Moore at a Bernie Sanders event.

And I want to show you a little bit of what he said, interestingly, about Michael Bloomberg`s campaign.


MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER:  Mike Bloomberg, the Republican mayor of New York City, ran as a Republican, gave that speech at Madison Square Garden at the Republican Convention endorsing George W. Bush, had a stop and frisk program, which should keep Bloomberg`s poll numbers with African- Americans and Latinos down around Mayor Pete`s number.


MELBER:  Now, the entire interview is up online.

So, you can always go to our Instagram. Go on IGTV @THEBEATWITHARI or on Facebook @THEBEATWITHARI, and you can find more exclusive videos and some of our behind-the-scenes stuff that we haven`t even aired on the show.

Hope you will check it out, @THEBEATWITHARI.

I will see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

But, right, now it`s "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS."