Trump admits to key article TRANSCRIPT: The Beat W/ Ari Melber, 2/14/20

Guests: Paul Butler, Joseph Simmons, Sheila Jackson Lee, Shelby Holliday, Mark Thompson, Gene Rossi, Justine Simmons, Nicholas Confessore

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC HOST:  Hey, Chuck. It`s Ayman. I`m actually filling in for Ari.

TODD:  Oh.

MOHYELDIN:  Ari has the night off. Yes, I know.

TODD:  Well, it`s a bummer for him, but nice to see you, sir.

MOHYELDIN:  I was going to say, surprising that he managed to even get a night off with everything that is happening these days.

TODD:  I would like to find out who his boss is, because I would like one of those myself.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes, we could all use it. Thanks, Chuck. Have a good weekend, my friend.

TODD:  You got it.

MOHYELDIN:  Attorney General Barr facing new calls to resign exactly one year since he was sworn in. Trump makes a stunning confession about Giuliani`s trip to Ukraine for dirt.

And the 2020 debate over income inequality. News today from the billionaire candidate and the self-described Democratic socialist.

But we want to begin with some breaking news inside the Justice Department and another explosive and unusual development, NBC News reporting Attorney General William Barr tapped an outside prosecutor to review Trump aide Michael Flynn`s case.

Now, sources are saying the investigation could be aimed at several former officials Trump has repeatedly criticized publicly. And this highly unusual move from Barr coming after he publicly said convicted Trump aide Roger Stone should have his sentence reduced.

We are seeing a pattern from Barr that is beginning to emerge here, essentially questioning anyone who tried to investigate Trump or his political allies, "The New York Times" reporting Barr`s installing outside prosecutors to review anything -- quote -- "politically sensitive."

And they started grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases. And now Trump`s allies in Congress are doing exactly the same thing, leveraging the powers of government to help their friends and hurt their political enemies.

Barr tapped John Durham to investigate the investigators. You remember that? And then Senator Lindsey Graham, he is now demanding DOJ employees interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Russia investigation.

Today, Trump bluntly saying he can interfere in whatever criminal probe he wants. And Trump`s attack on the rule of law, well, as you can imagine, that has been a constant.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The entire thing has been a witch-hunt.

They should be looking at all these FBI guys who got fired and demoted.

Everybody sees what`s going on in the Justice Department. I use Justice now with quotes.

We have the worst laws of any country anywhere in the world.

James Comey was unfair to the people of this country. I think what he did was a disgrace.

All these investigators, they`re Democrats.

To be honest with you, you have to get rid of judges. We`re bucking a court system that never, ever rules for us.

I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. And Mr. Mueller has a lot of conflicts also.

Many people have said, you should fire him.

On the Department of Justice, I would stay on involved. Now I may get involved at some point if it gets worse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, with me now is the NBC News reporter who broke the Flynn for us, Carol Lee.

Carol, good to have you with us.

Let`s start with some basics. And I know this may sound like a hard question, but do we have any insight whatsoever as to why the attorney general, William Barr, is doing this and doing this now?

CAROL LEE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Ayman, what we know is that the attorney general asked the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Missouri to look into the Flynn case, specifically at Flynn`s FBI interview, which is at the center of his case.

His FBI interview, that`s where he pled guilty to lying to investigators in a cooperation deal with Robert Mueller. And he has said he wants to withdraw that plea and he didn`t lie during that interview.

But it comes at a time when Michael Flynn is really challenging this, the prosecutors in this case, saying that he didn`t do this, that there was something untoward that happened with his case, at the same time that the president is saying that Michael Flynn is getting -- has gotten a raw deal.

And also a lot of focus has been on the Roger Stone sentencing that happened, this issue that happened this week. But a very similar thing happened in the Flynn case last month, where prosecutors put forward a sentencing recommendation that included perhaps some jail time for Flynn.

And the Justice Department, senior officials at the Justice Department then applied pressure to the prosecutors and ultimately that sentencing was reversed. And they said, actually, no, probation will be fine.

So the issue with this investigation into Flynn is that, to observers, it looks like it`s an attempt by the attorney general to get another bite at the apple in terms of the various individuals who are involved in the Flynn case. And they go back to James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, people that President Trump has really targeted and said should face their own criminal penalties, and have not.

And so there`s a number of questions surrounding this inquiry, what the goals are, when it would finish. And we just don`t know exactly what the answers are just yet.

MOHYELDIN:  So, Carol, let me ask you really quickly. This is a bit of a two-parter.

One, you mentioned the prosecutor looking into this is from the Eastern District of Missouri. Is that, in of itself, somewhat unusual?

LEE:  Yes.

MOHYELDIN:  That you are bringing a prosecutor very far removed away from the trappings of Washington, the inner workings of this particular investigation from the beginning, to have a look at it?

LEE:  Yes, that`s a great point, Ayman, because it is.

And that`s part of what raised a lot of it people`s antenna about this. It`s very similar to what Attorney General Barr did in terms of tapping the U.S. attorney in Connecticut to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation.

This is not something that people I have talked to said it`s typical, that, typically, if there`s an issue, say, you thought something may not have happened correctly in the Flynn case or in the handling of his interview by these two FBI agents, then you would first go to the FBI.

There are systems in place within the Justice Department. There`s an inspector general. Within the FBI, there are offices that are tasked with looking into what may or may not have gone wrong. So to reach outside into the field is unusual in and of itself.

MOHYELDIN:  All right, Carol, stay with me, because I want to bring it now former federal prosecutors Gene Rossi and Paul Butler and "New York Times" and political reporter Nick Confessore.

I want to ask our former federal prosecutors, first of all, to give me their take.

Paul, let me begin with you. Give me your take on William Barr`s decision here to open an investigation essentially into the FBI.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Yes, so this is part of a pattern.

They are investigations of people who are perceived as the president`s enemies, like Andrew McCabe, Hillary Clinton, James Comey. When those investigations are done in good faith and they clear the names of those people, Barr and Trump order do-overs.

And so today we learn that Trump has -- that Barr has appointed some random prosecutor from Saint Louis to look at the Michael Flynn guilty plea, to look at the Michael Flynn trial. Well, Michael Flynn pled guilty. He put his hand up and swore under oath that he committed crimes.

There`s no legal reason to re-examine this case. It`s purely another example of Barr weaponizing the awesome power of the Justice Department to carry out Trump`s partisan politics.

MOHYELDIN:  Gene, let me get that specific bit that Paul raised, which is about the fact that Michael Flynn raised his hand and said, I am guilty of what you`re accusing me of doing.

It seems that -- I don`t know. And I know you know the legal system better than I do. But how rare is it that the government comes to somebody who says, hey, I committed a crime, and they will say, actually, you know what, we`re going to reinvestigate this. Something doesn`t look right about why you committed this crime and why you agreed or pled guilty to committing this crime?

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  That`s a softball question.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSSI:  Let me tell you what a guilty plea hearing is.

And Professor Paul Butler can tell you the same thing. When a defendant goes into a guilty plea hearing, they raise their hand and, under oath, they say I`m guilty. And here`s the crucial part.

Michael Flynn had one of the best law firms in the country, Covington & Burling, representing him. And, more important, there was a statement of facts that Michael Flynn signed. And when I did hundreds, thousands of guilty pleas, either myself or supervised, in my 30 years with DOJ, that person, that defendant signs that.

And that statement of facts becomes a confession that can be used in a trial if Mr. Flynn withdraws from the plea. So if his plea is vacated, removed, it`s a Pyrrhic victory, because if he goes to trial -- and he would be a moron if he did -- the statement of facts that he agreed to at his guilty plea will be exhibit one of the government.

That`s how a guilty plea hearing is. It`s rare that a defendant withdraws from a guilty plea. And it`s doubly rare that a judge will allow it.

MOHYELDIN:  So, Nick, let me bring you into this conversation. I want to play this sound bite from William Barr, essentially what I think -- and this is my opinion -- seems to contradict himself.

But, first, watch. He says he`s not influenced by President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE:  I came in to serve as attorney general.

The thing I have most responsibility for are the issues that are brought to me for decision. And I will make those decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do, and I`m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  Now, this is the same guy who also in that interview said that the president`s tweeting is making his job impossible.

So, if you kind of read those two statements in the same interview, on one hand, he`s like, hey, he can tweet whatever he wants. He can say whatever he wants. If that`s the case, then why is he also, by his own words, saying that he`s not under any kind of influence?

NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  It`s hard to square, Ayman, right?

And it`s obvious that he has taken decisions that seem to be in response to the president`s tweets and outrages over time. What he has done here now is effectively install a layer of political oversight on the same department he actually leads. He`s the boss.

There are procedures in place there. There`s actually an I.G. There are ways to investigate wrongdoing by prosecutors. He is putting these extra people out there who report back to him. It gives him some control.

And I think there`s two audiences for it. The first audience is President Trump. And the second audience is line prosecutors who are involved in ongoing cases against other friends of the president or ongoing sentencing decisions.

And that sends a chilling message to them.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes, I was going to say, it seems the firewalls that you would expect to be in place, they`re not doing their job right now.

CONFESSORE:  Well, look, it`s clear the president himself has no conception of the idea the rule of law that applies to everyone equally.

And it doesn`t matter if you`re friends with president. He thinks it`s all political, all prosecutions are political, all appointment decisions are political, all funding is political.

And so he can`t conceive, I think, of this idea that it doesn`t matter.

MOHYELDIN:  So let me get your thoughts on this, Paul, for a moment, because there`s William Barr, who said that nobody should interfere with the Department of Justice. And then there`s what he said, but watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  I think spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur.

It is the left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law.

The evidence developed by the special counsel is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, so we showed you there on the split-screen, on one hand, William Barr from the moment that he was confirmed, essentially saying what he said there, but on the right hand of your screen was William Barr essentially also saying, back in 2001, you don`t mess with it, don`t interfere, don`t get involved.

So, Paul Butler, my question to you is, what, if anything, can be done now to check Attorney General Barr?

BUTLER:  Well, he serves at the pleasure of the president. And, again, he`s acting more like the president`s defense lawyer than he is like the attorney general of the United States.

So, yes, Congress can have oversight hearings where they subpoena him. Last time, he didn`t bother to show up. I would say you got to look at what Barr does, not what he said.

So, yesterday, he tweeted that if the president continues to -- or yesterday Barr said in an interview, if the president continues to tweet and interfere, he can`t do his job.

Well, today, the president tweeted and interfered. If Barr really believed in the importance of the independence of the Justice Department, he would resign, he would stand up for the good name of all those career prosecutors who are watching their beloved institution go up in flames.

But watch what he does. What he does is to continue to do these partisan political investigations of the president`s enemies.

MOHYELDIN:  And, Gene, let me get your thoughts on this really quickly.

And when the attorney general says the tweeting that the president does makes it impossible for me to do my job, what do you think he means by my job in this? Is it to clean up this mess, and the president is drawing so much attention to it that obviously the media and everybody who`s critical is focused of it, or what do you think he means by that?

ROSSI:  Well, I hesitate to get into the brain of Bill Barr, but I`m going to take a stab at it.

My job, in his mind, is to do the bidding of the president of the United States. That`s number one. Number two is to put his thumb on certain cases, such as Roger Stone.

I want to dispel an untruth that Mr. Barr has said. He knew from day one what the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone was going to be, because the Roger Stone case was one of the highest-profile cases in the department, and those line prosecutors two weekly memos, if not daily memos, about what`s going to happen in the case.

And Bill Barr for a fact knew that we were going to -- we -- the Department of Justice was going to recommend seven to nine years. What bothers me about Bill Barr in his interview yesterday, or a couple days ago, is, he was not accurate.

He did not make the decision to withdraw that recommendation until after that tweet. He gave the impression that he had made that decision before Trump`s tweet. That really was disingenuous, in my view.

MOHYELDIN:  Carol Lee, button up this conversation for us. Where do we go from here?

You had today the Department of Justice say that they`re not going to prosecute, I believe, Andrew McCabe for what they felt he may have done wrong. So where does everything go forward from here? What are you tracking next?

LEE:  Well, one of the things is what happens to the relationship between President Trump and Attorney General Barr? Where does that go?

This is an attorney general that President Trump has said is finally the attorney general of his dreams that he`s wanted from the start. This is the first sort of real public tension we have seen between the two of them. So what happens there?

The other thing is pardons. Is President Trump looking for -- towards pardoning either Michael Flynn or Roger Stone or both? And the third thing is, Roger Stone is going to appear in court next week. That`s going to be quite a moment. We will see how that goes down.

And then Michael Flynn`s case is still before a judge, a judge who has said, has looked at all of the facts of the case, and said that these claims that there was something untoward or improper about the way his case was handled is just false, that there`s no there, there.

So all of those things are going to be playing out in really the coming days, and they`re all worth watching.

MOHYELDIN:  All right, Carol Lee with some excellent reporting this evening, keep up the good work. Thank you very much.

LEE:  Thank you.

MOHYELDIN:  Gene Rossi, Paul Butler, Nick Confessore, thank you as well.

ROSSI:  Thank you.

MOHYELDIN:  All right, coming up, much more on this breaking news with a key lawmaker overseeing the Justice Department and who will soon question Bill Barr under oath.

Plus:  Donald Trump admits the truth about Rudy Giuliani`s mission to actually dig up dirt in Ukraine, saying the quiet bit out loud.

And we`re going to talk 2020 and the clash between the billionaire and the self-described Democrat socialist.

And a special Valentine`s Day edition of "Fallback" Friday, with Reverend Run and his wife, Justine Simmons. They just literally wrote the book on love.

I`m Ayman Mohyeldin, you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, we are back with more breaking news out of the Justice Department.

Attorney General William Barr tapping an outside prosecutor, as we have been reporting, to look into Michael Flynn`s guilty plea. It comes as William Barr supports a plot to reduce Trump aide Roger Stone`s a sentence by telling Trump to stop tweeting about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR:  To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, but on the surface of it, if anyone is buying what William Barr says, they`re certainly not showing it.

House intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff writing: "Barr fools no one. He`s a witting accomplice to Trump`s attack on the rule of law."

Former SDNY chief Preet Bharara saying -- quote -- Barr is -- quote -- "full of it."

And today marks one year since William Barr was sworn in. And today`s news only fuels that criticism, saying he`s acting more like Trump`s personal lawyer than the attorney general of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  We find ourselves I think, for the first time, with an attorney general who really is the president defense lawyer.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  He is the attorney general of the United States of America, not the attorney general of Donald Trump.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY":  The attorney general seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president.

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  To see this attorney general, who, quite frankly, has acted more like the president`s personal attorney than the people`s attorney, is very scary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, I am now joined by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who sits on the Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining this Friday evening.

First, I want to get your reaction to the big news happening today, before we turn to what you want to hear from William Barr when he appears in front of your committee.

But what is your reaction to William Barr tapping an outside prosecutor to look into the case of Michael Flynn, who has already pleaded guilty?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX):  Well, I first want to say, for the American people -- and thank you for having me this evening -- is that we do believe in due process and the right to a jury by one`s peers, the right to equal treatment under the law.

I would not want any of our comments, who are absolutely aghast at the behavior of the attorney general and the president of the United States, to really denigrate the fact that everyone has that right.

But I do want to take us down memory lane for just a moment and say that this is a Department of Justice in chaos. You remember, when the president first became president, he began to -- what he has a right to do, but he began to fire U.S. attorneys that he had said that he would keep, and particularly the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, first saying, I`d like you to stay and then, once hearing about maybe the attitude or positions of legality that this U.S. attorney might be pursuing, he was summarily fired.

And so we have had the tampering with the DOJ from the very beginning, and the Judiciary Committee has not taken this lightly. I believe that what we have today is a continuing journey of chaos. And it goes beyond the fact of someone having due process or equal rights under the law.

It is excessive rights under the law for friends of the president, as compared to the average citizen everyday that appears in the federal courts of America. So this is shocking. There are line U.S. attorneys that I know worked dutifully on this case.

We do know that General Flynn wanted this case reopened. Now we have outside prosecutors. We`re also aware that these outside prosecutors that have been flown in from around the country have been interrogating the U.S. attorneys in the Washington, D.C., U.S. attorney`s office.

What does that feel, like when you have sworn an oath to serve? Now you are under scrutiny and, of course, looking at -- against what risk is coming to you as a professional.

It`s chaos. It is undermining the Constitution. And, certainly, it is undermining what Americans have come to understand their Justice Department is, and that is the people`s lawyer.

MOHYELDIN:  And, Congresswoman, your committee, as I said in the setup, will be questioning Attorney General William Barr next month.

There are so many threads for you guys to pull on, whether it`s Roger Stone, whether it`s Michael Flynn, whether it is the fact that he is bringing prosecutors from outside jurisdictions and districts to investigate other prosecutors.

What is it that you want to know the most?

JACKSON LEE:  Well, I think I`m going to go again down memory lane, and I would like to know why the attorney general thought it was his responsibility to interpret the Mueller report for the American people before it was actually issue or before it was presented for the American people to see, and to the disdain and disagreement of Direct Mueller?

In addition, a very fine professional, Jessie Liu, was in line to be appointed to an appointment, a presidential appointment, at the Treasury Department and was summarily taken away from that appointment by tweets of the president of the United States, and because this person had led a number of prosecutions against friends of the president of the United States.

Now we will add to, as you said, General Flynn, but we will also add about those particular prosecutors one who actually walked out the building, but four who were absolutely insulted and dismayed by General Barr`s interference into the Roger Stone case, where a jury of his peers had convicted him of lying to Congress, not Congress had not convicted him, but a jury of his peers.

And they were not only overcoming the prosecutors or superseding the prosecutors, but how insulting it is to supersede the federal judge that is going to hear the recommendations that these prosecutors would be making.

So I`m going to want to have a deep dive into that, and then to add to the fact of, why did General Barr, in the backdrop of the president`s tweet of how he was concerned and unhappy, intervene and suggest that he hadn`t seen the president`s tweet, he didn`t know about the recommendations?

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

JACKSON LEE:  And we know the chain of command is that those kind of high- profile cases are sent to either the deputy attorney general or the attorney general. This is baffling.

And I want to stop the chaos that`s going on at the DOJ.

MOHYELDIN:  All right, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, thank you very much for your time. We will certainly going to be following this hearing very closely as it approaches.

Ahead:  Trump is now contradicting...

JACKSON LEE:  Thank you for having me.

MOHYELDIN:  Thank you.

Trump is contradicting his own past denials on sending Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine.

That story when we`re back in less than 30 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MOHYELDIN:  In a shocking new admission:  Trump confessed he sent his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to hunt down dirt on his political enemies.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS:  Was it strange to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine, your personal lawyer? Are you sorry you did that?

TRUMP:  Not at all. Rudy was a great crime fighter. You know that maybe better than anybody.

RIVERA: Of course, yes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, so the revelation comes after Trump`s acquittal.

And it contradicts what he said during the impeachment fight. Watch this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR":  What was Rudy Giuliani doing in Ukraine on your behalf?

TRUMP:  Well, you have to ask that to Rudy. But Rudy -- I don`t even know - - I know he was going to go to Ukraine, and I think he canceled a trip. But Rudy has other clients other than me. I`m one person.

O`REILLY:  So you didn`t direct him to go there on your behalf? You didn`t...

TRUMP:  No, but -- no, but you have to understand, Rudy is a great corruption fighter.

(END AUDIO CLIP)   

MOHYELDIN:  All right, in case you missed it, he said, you have to ask Rudy.

Trump now admitting that he lied about sending Giuliani to Ukraine. And Giuliani is still pressing the very thing that got his boss impeached, the Justice Department even creating a -- quote -- "intake process" to review and vet Giuliani`s information on the Bidens.

Joining me now is "The Wall Street Journal"`s Shelby Holliday.

Shelby, great to have you with us.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Good to be here.

MOHYELDIN:  So, I think the president said the quiet bit out loud. I don`t know if he felt like he was in friendly terrain with Geraldo Rivera, and it kind of just slipped out. The president is known to make these kinds of slip-ups, where he confesses to what he had denied or lied about earlier.

What do you make of this confession?

HOLLIDAY:  Well, it`s also a little unclear because Rudy wanted to go to Ukraine before the whole impeachment saga blew up.

But he also went to Ukraine after the impeachment process started moving forward to go find more evidence and come back to it with a camera crew. He went to the White House to brief President Trump. So I`m not sure which trip President Trump`s talking about in the Geraldo interview, but, nevertheless, he`s doubling down, something Trump always does, saying that he is not sorry.

He`s standing by Rudy. He`s singing Rudy`s praises. But what`s so interesting is that, the entire time, Rudy has said he has been working not just for President Trump, but with President Trump`s knowledge and consent and on his behalf.

And one thing I think that`s been very interesting, if you listen to Rudy`s comments, is, he said he was doing it because he`s a defense attorney, and one thing you do as a defense attorney is you come up with an alternative explanation that clears your client.

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

HOLLIDAY:  In other words, he was going to Ukraine to try to find some stuff that would maybe get President Trump off the hook when it came to the Russia investigation.

This is the whole narrative of Ukraine meddled and not Russia. But the comments came after the Mueller probe wrapped up.

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

HOLLIDAY:  So it was strange that he was standing by that.

MOHYELDIN:  He had already been exonerated from that, as they claimed.

HOLLIDAY:  Right. And he`s out there looking for this alternative explanation.

I think that just shows you, in their minds, and in Giuliani`s mind, and in President Trump`s mind, this Mueller probe never should have happened. It`s still getting to them. They`re still thinking about it, and it`s still influencing their actions.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes, that`s a very good point, actually.

Let me get your thoughts, because I know that you have reported extensively on Lev Parnas and the whole Ukraine link there.

Let me play you a sound bite from his interview with Rachel Maddow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEV PARNAS, INDICTED GIULIANI ASSOCIATE:  President Trump know exactly what was going on. He -- I wouldn`t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  Now, I love the fact, again, when you think of Lev Parnas, the president is saying, I don`t know who he was, I barely met him, I never met him.

We have seen subsequent recordings that have come out demonstrating and placing Lev Parnas firmly in the orbit of President Trump, some key Republicans, even Rudy Giuliani.

HOLLIDAY:  Right.

MOHYELDIN:  Do you think we are going to learn more about that relationship with Lev Parnas and the president?

HOLLIDAY:  That`s a really great question, because that case is still pending in the Southern District of New York.

It`s actually a case people have started expressing concern about with the latest moves by Attorney General William Barr. But Parnas has said the reason he wanted to come forward and the reason he sort of turned on President Trump is because President Trump turned on him first.

So, yes, there are plenty of photos, plenty of recordings, private dinners, events at the White House, events at Mar-a-Lago, that these two were together.

But Lev Parnas has also maintained that he was there helping Rudy represent President Trump, back to Rudy Giuliani saying why he was doing all of this. Lev Parnas was the man who was helping him.

And so there may be more to learn about what exactly they were doing and why and how close they were.

MOHYELDIN:  I would go so far as to say some probably think Rudy Giuliani is a liability to the president, not an asset, despite the president asserting...

HOLLIDAY:  President Trump`s friends that Rudy Giuliani could be a liability. So we will see how things play out.

MOHYELDIN:  Yes, certainly a lot to watch for.

Shelby Holliday, thank you so much. Always a pleasure.

HOLLIDAY:  Thank you.

MOHYELDIN:  Ahead, an incredible divide within the Democratic race.

Two candidates with big buzz, one billionaire, the other a self-described socialist. How does this actually play out?

Also, Trump talks about his love for the troops, but he`s quietly pushing a plan to undercut that.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, so if you`re a fan of THE BEAT, you have probably seen Ari talk about how the Democratic primary will boil down to two things, delegates and dollars.

Right now, Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg are among the front-runners in each category. Bernie is now at 21 delegates, just two short from Pete Buttigieg at 23. Mike Bloomberg has already spent over $300 million on radio, TV and digital ads.

The billionaire and the self-described Democratic socialist might share the debate stage in Nevada next week with world views that really couldn`t be farther apart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think income inequality is a very big problem. But the bigger problem is, you can take money from the rich and move it over to the poor. If you do it too much, then the rich stop producing, and then everybody loses.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Why in America today do we have more income and wealth inequality than any time in the last 100 years? It is time to change the priorities of America. It is time not to give tax breaks to billionaires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, so the former independent and the former Republican are now both fighting to lead the Democratic Party, a little bit of irony in that.

From them and other candidates, a key question is whether voters care more about their ideologies or about who has the best chance of beating Donald Trump.

Joining me now is Mark Thompson, host of "Make It Plain" on SiriusXM, and Susan Del Percio, MSNBC political analyst.

So let me begin with you, Mark, first of all.

I will pick up on that last point there about the ideological divide, or whether it is about beating Trump. Make it plain.

(LAUGHTER)

MARK THOMPSON, "MAKE IT PLAIN":  Well, since you said that, let me just correction. No longer with Sirius.

MOHYELDIN:  Oh, OK.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON:  MakeItPlain.com podcast.

It`s a little bit of both. I think, for the Bernie supporters, there`s a lot of ideology there, and probably for some of the other Democratic candidates. For many, it`s about beating Trump, although I`m not certain that Bloomberg, while some think that he might be the best person to beat Trump, I`m not 100 percent certain of that.

We`re hearing every day more and more about the policy of racial profiling. And the group of people that he targeted are millennial and Generation Z voters now today, young black and brown people.

And we`re not even getting into the Muslims he surveilled. But if we just talked about those he picked up on the streets of New York by the thousands, almost million, to keep that demographic from becoming apathetic -- voter apathy is real. And it`s always been real, especially amongst young people.

That`s going to be a tall hill to climb. Simultaneously, what is Trump doing? He`s making ads as if he`s doing something to correct the disproportionality in criminal justice. We know he`s not. He`s pretending this FIRST STEP Act is doing something. It`s really the who`s on first, what`s on second step act.

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

THOMPSON:  But people -- some are being tricked by that. I heard Chuck Todd in the last hour ask Reverend Sharpton, could Trump get double-digit support?

He`s working real hard at it. And so if he`s able, through the billion dollar disinformation campaign that`s been documented he`s running, convince a little of that demographic, just enough -- remember, Hillary lost with a total of 100,000 some-odd votes across three states.

If you can pick off 100,000 in some of those same states from that demographic that Bloomberg was locking up, I`m not sure, mathematically, he`s automatically the one that can defeat Donald Trump.

MOHYELDIN:  And same question to you about the ideology vs. the practicality of defeating Donald Trump. What do you think is at play here in the primary?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, it was interesting.

The clip that you showed of Mike Bloomberg at the IMF Conference in 2018, the rest of that quote happens to be, we need to do more than just give the poor a handout. We have to give them the dignity of work.

And he was talking about earned tax credit. So it`s a little snippet. It was actually really interesting, that conference,. I watched it all today. He`s talking about climate change, the economy, health and all the things he`s done.

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

DEL PERCIO:  But putting that aside right now, I think what Mike Bloomberg has to do is keep doing what it is and plowing through every tough situation he faces, which is exactly what he did when he was running for mayor in 2001.

But also keep in mind -- and this is a message that I think is resonating where we`re seeing his rise in the polls -- no one has done more or spent more to defeat Donald Trump than Mike Bloomberg.

Think about all his attacks. He has not gone after any Democrat. He`s always gone after Donald Trump. Even when the Democrats try -- the Bernie Sanders supporter put out something trying to trip -- not trip him up, but just wanted to leak a piece of information.

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

DEL PERCIO:  Donald Trump took the -- went right there. And Bloomberg was fortunate that he could have that debate with Donald Trump.

So he`s going to keep pushing that. Now, how is that going to work in the primary? It depends if people think you need someone like that to win, because the top priority right now for a lot of people, not just Democrats, some Republicans like me, is all about beating Donald Trump.

MOHYELDIN:  OK, so let me play you guys some of the sound bites from, as you mentioned, some of the Democrats who have gone after Michael Bloomberg as he`s kind of surged a little bit in the polls. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don`t think people look at the guy in the White House and say, oh, I want someone richer.

SANDERS:  When people understand that, in our democratic society, we have a individual worth some $60 billion who, in an unprecedented way, Anderson, is literally trying to buy the elections.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I don`t think you can buy an election. I`m going to get a chance to debate him on everything from redlining, to stop and frisk, to a whole range of other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, so, Mark, he`s going to be on the debate stage in Nevada. He`s going to have a lot of tough questions to answer from Democratic contenders, certainly from the moderators as well.

But are we likely to see more of that going forward against Mike Bloomberg? And does that speak to concern among some of these candidates?

THOMPSON:  Absolutely.

I think you`re going to see a lot of it. I think it`s a perilous road for him to be on. He is going to be held accountable for what he`s done, and rightfully so.

Other candidates have been held accountable. I mean, when this got started, Joe Biden had to answer questions about his position on bus desegregation. Pete Buttigieg has had to answer questions about firing the black police chief in South Bend.

Amy Klobuchar has had to answer questions about a prosecution that she wouldn`t look at differently and overturn. So why should Bloomberg get a pass?

DEL PERCIO:  I don`t think he thinks -- I don`t think he`s looking for a pass, though. I think he knows exactly what happens when he gets on that debate stage, which is why he never fought to get on the debate stage.

Let`s face it. The Democrats -- the DNC moved their kind of goalposts because he was starting to do well in the polls. But they changed the process for him. And there were candidates like Amy Klobuchar...

(CROSSTALK)

MOHYELDIN:  Would he be where is today without his money?

DEL PERCIO:  No, absolutely not.

THOMPSON:  No.

MOHYELDIN:  So money is definitely a factor in this thing. It goes back to the point that Ari teed up for us, which is, it`s about delegates and dollars. One has the delegates right now. Bloomberg...

(CROSSTALK)

MOHYELDIN:  We got a long to way.

DEL PERCIO:  There`s 19 -- yes, there`s almost 2,000. He`s got 20.

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON:  And that`s problematic, too, because Democrats and others are going to say, well, is he actually buying an election? I don`t think he is.

DEL PERCIO:  I don`t think you can.

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

THOMPSON:  Well, but what he is doing is, he`s getting -- he`s helping to finance other candidates, and they don`t mind, because that will help them down the road in their elections.

MOHYELDIN:  Right.

We got a lot more to talk about.

Susan Del Percio, Mark Thompson, thank you guys so much. Appreciate it.

And coming up: veterans outraged at the Trump plan to cut all funding for a newspaper that has served troops around the world for decades.

And then a special Valentine`s Day edition of "Fallback" Friday with Reverend Run and his wife, Justine Simmons.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Don`t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.

We are fighting the fake news. It`s fake, phony, fake.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP:  It was fake news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, so we have heard President Trump`s attacks on the media before, but, tonight, many veterans are expressing outrage over a new Trump plan to cut Pentagon funding from the iconic "Stars and Stripes" newspaper, which has been serving troops at home and abroad for decades.

The paper has been a main source of wartime news for soldiers throughout American history, starting way back in the Civil War, and on through the wars in Iraq and the one that is still ongoing in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR:  To get today`s paper into Joe`s hands today, "The Stars and Stripes" published its many additions as close to the front lines as possible.

Wherever a single G.I. is still away from his soil, his paper is there with. A soldier`s newspaper in these grave times is more than a morale venture. It is a symbol of the things we are fighting to preserve and spread in this threatened world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, so veterans in Congress are vowing to fight the cut, saying troops need this reporting.

But Trump`s defense secretary says they cut the $15 million in the papers funding to focus on -- quote -- "high-priority issues." That apparently includes nearly $4 billion in military funds for Trump`s border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

For now, troops can read about that story right here in "The Stars and Stripes."

Coming up: a very special Valentine`s Day edition of "Fallback" Friday with Reverend Run and his wife, Justine Simmons.

And you can always catch me weekdays at 5:00 a.m. Eastern on "FIRST LOOK" right here on MSNBC.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  And now it`s time for a special Valentine`s Day edition of "Fallback."

This is all about love.

And I am joined by an iconic hip-hop power couple, Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons and his wife, Justine Simmons. Yes, it is that Reverend Run from the legendary, groundbreaking, multi-platinum-selling group Run-D.M.C., the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers widely credited for taking hip-hop well into the mainstream.

Rev Run and his wife, Justine, out a brand-new book, "Old School Love," obviously right here for Valentine`s Day.

And we are joined by MSNBC anchor Yasmin Vossoughian. She`s the co-anchor of "Morning Joe First Look," friend of the show. You might have seen her right here -- look at that -- on THE BEAT.

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC HOST:  There I am.

MELBER:  I love having you all here. Happy Valentine`s Day.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Happy Valentine`s Day.

JOSEPH SIMMONS, MUSICIAN/PRODUCER:  Happy Valentine`s Day to everybody.

MELBER:  I love what you guys are doing. We love the positivity.

And I`m curious, what`s on your "Fallback" list?

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Bread crumbing. First, it was ghosting. And now there is bread crumbing.

First, you disappeared. And now they`re just like hitting you with the tit for tat, like here`s a little something. I kind of like you, I think. It`s just sad to pull somebody in a little bit, and then, like, just kind of disappear.

So it`s -- I think it`s more painful than ghosting.

MELBER:  Do you think part of that comes from people`s struggles to be vulnerable, which to be intimate, to say, hey, when you want someone, that means you are putting yourself out there?

JUSTINE SIMMONS, CO-AUTHOR, "OLD SCHOOL LOVE":  Right.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  I thought they were just messing with their head, like just being mean. Like, I don`t really like you, but I want to pull you in.

And then that`s how it feels to me, like they`re just trying to make people -- hurt people. It`s just a really weird generation.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  The thing is, you always have to remember, the person that`s saying to you, it`s about their own insecurities. It`s not about yourself. Don`t make it about you, right? It`s about them.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  That`s good. That`s good.

MELBER:  Well, Reverend Run, we like hip-hop, but you know what Miley Cyrus said about all this?

(LAUGHTER)

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  No, I don`t.

MELBER:  If you mean it, I will believe it. If you text it, I will delete it.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  That was good.

MELBER:  Shout-out to Miley.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Shout-out to Miley.

You remember Miley Cyrus.

(CROSSTALK)

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  I don`t remember her. I know exactly who she is. I just didn`t know that rhyme.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  I don`t mean remember her in the grand scheme of things.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  You made it, because I didn`t know the rhymes. It`s like, can we jump to the wife, because the reverend like he doesn`t know her or this song that I`m repeating?

I don`t know the song, but I know her.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  Well, you know the reverend.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Yes, I do.

MELBER:  The reverend knows a lot of things, I imagine.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  I just didn`t know that particular song.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER:  What is on your "Fallback" list?

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Single shaming. I don`t like it. It`s not nice.

And the person who`s single shaming, they`re lucky they have somebody. So they shouldn`t do that, because...

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Right, because you`re getting to be a single yourself.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Exactly, the next time around, so you got to be careful with that.

MELBER:  How do you square that, thinking about this on a time when -- with Valentine`s Day, it`s a beautiful holiday. It can also become a holiday where people feel all kinds of pressure, right? It`s obviously a celebration of love and partnership.

How do you look at this, I`m curious, as a faith leader, working on this book? How do you support those goals without making people feel inferior for not necessarily having them at this moment in their life?

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  I thought about that.

I don`t want to come across as holier than thou because I have this book.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Right, but we also make it seem like we have learned as well.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  And we worked on it.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Like, this is a learning thing.

And we learned this maybe the hard way, or -- and not like we know it all.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  And it`s hard work to be married. It is not easy.

And we definitely don`t want to come across as, ha-hah, we`re married, couple goals, peace.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  And it`s easy.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  No, this is about us being -- talking to you and possibly helping you if you`re in a relationship to do better. And, hopefully, our stories, which is -- in the book, there`s a lot of stories about stuff we have been through.

MELBER:  Well, this raises a pretty serious question, if I may. I don`t want to get deep in the relationship.

(CROSSTALK)

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  Does he ever share his Adidas with you?

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  No.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Yes. I wear size 11-and-a-half. She wears a size 2, or whatever a woman wears.

MELBER:  Because this other line is my Adidas.

But, really, it should be upgraded...

(CROSSTALK)

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Our Adidas.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Exactly.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Walked through concert doors and roamed all over coliseum floors, stepped on stage at Live Aid, all the people gave and the poor got paid.

(CROSSTALK)

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  OK, my thing is...

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  What is your thing?

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  He always -- the Adidas comes in. And a lot comes in for him. And you`re right. I`m not going to getting like boxes.

MELBER:  He`s not sharing the swag?

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Yes, I have. She has Adidas in the house. And if she wants, she gets what she wants.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  I buy my Adidas.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  How often do you wear sneakers daily or weekly or monthly?

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  OK, another -- let`s talk about something...

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  You know what I`m seeing here? I`m seeing a parity, direct confrontation, respect, conversation.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  Not hiding the ball.

(CROSSTALK)

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  .. her red bottoms. She has shoes and stuff. And she never get -- hooks me up, not that I want to wear high-heel red bottom shoes, but...

MELBER:  But, if you did, that would be cool. That`s OK.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  Why you trying mess with my marriage, Ari? You`re doing well.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER:  You all said you were going to come in and talk love. So we`re getting into it. It`s the news.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  You`re just trying to start drama.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  This is real. This is reality.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  This is real.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  I`m trying to learn. Every day, I get to learn at this table.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  This is truth.

MELBER:  What`s on your "Fallback" list?

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So, about a year ago, I was filling in on your show a bunch right after I returned from maternity leave. And 20 minutes before I was going to air every single time, I was literally in my office pumping, because I was nursing my newborn at the time.

And I thought to myself, do other mothers out there have the same opportunities I do? Well, it turns out they don`t. HuffPo actually looked into investigations that the government had launched, like 300-plus investigations.

Companies like Walmart, like Outback Steakhouse, like Jared jewelry store, Dollar Store -- there was a woman at Walmart who literally was told to go to the fitting room to pump. A woman at Outback Steakhouse was told to go behind the glasses, and customers could see her pumping.

Another woman at Jared`s jewelry store would drive home every time she wanted to go nurse her baby, to come back, because they wouldn`t give her the time. So it`s got to fall back. It`s got to go away.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Yes.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  Women are here. Women are in the workplace. And we`re having babies. And without us here, you wouldn`t be here.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Exactly.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  So make room for us and create room.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  That`s right.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  She said exactly...

(LAUGHTER)

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  It`s true.

JOSEPH SIMMONS:  That`s true.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  You all would not be here without our milk.

(LAUGHTER)

VOSSOUGHIAN:  She said it.

MELBER:  I mean I didn`t know that Valentine`s Day was going to turn into a shout-out to milk, but...

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  That`s how most of us got started.

VOSSOUGHIAN:  It`s important. That`s what they need.

MELBER:  Reverend Run, Justine and Yasmin, thanks to all of you for a very special discussion.

JUSTINE SIMMONS:  Thanks for having us.

MELBER:  And the new book, go out and get it. It`s called "Old School Love."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MOHYELDIN:  All right, some important words of wisdom there.

All right, don`t go anywhere, because "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