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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 6/1/17 U.S. pulls out of climate deal

Guests: Daniel Fried, Ron Klain, Jerry Brown, Thomas Ricks

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: June 1, 2017 Guest: Daniel Fried, Ron Klain, Jerry Brown, Thomas Ricks

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Guess what? You can hear from Vladimir Putin himself. The Russian president has agreed to sit down with Megyn Kelly for an exclusive one-on-one interview. This is a video of them greeting each other before an event today, which is somehow surreal. There`s Narendra Modi on the background.

You can catch the interview this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for the premiere of "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly".

That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts now with Ari Melber in for Rachel.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. Just one question.


MELBER: Why won`t you move on?


HAYES: Well, I want -- here`s the thing. I`ll move on as soon as I know what the heck happened, which continues to be the thing that makes me not move on.

MELBER: Yes, I think with journalism, sometimes you keep searching for the actual facts until you`re all done. Thank you, Chris.

HAYES: Eventually, we`re going to learn.

MELBER: I appreciate it.

I want to thank everyone at home for joining us this hour. I want to tell you Rachel is still under the weather.

Now, we spoke with her tonight. She wants everyone to know that she says she is going to be fine. She will be back soon. And she wanted me to tell you she is thankful for all the good wishes.

Now, we have a big show tonight. Trump is pulling the U.S. out of the climate accord, as you know. Tonight, we`re going to hear directly from the man who plans to stand in his way, California Governor Jerry Brown, here for the interview tonight. That is coming up.

But we begin with a report that is shedding light on a very dark corner of the Trump/Russia mystery. The part about what Russia might get for all that meddling. This is a story that puts some key facts and named sources on that question.

Now, here`s the context: there have been many public signals the Trump administration has warmed to Russia. From the president`s obvious comments to last night`s reports about the president giving back Russia those diplomatic compounds inside the U.S. that Obama administration said were used for Russian intel. Obama, of course, kicking the Russians out in late December. That was part of the formal punishment for the meddling in the U.S. election.

Now, that "Washington Post" report cited several people with knowledge of the exchanges. That is a loose reporting term. It means people close to the activity who know about it and don`t want to speak under their own names. That is how of course a lot of Russia reporting has been trickling out.

Reporters with solid sources vouch for those sources. They verify the information that`s coming out. And we all learn a little bit more as we go. At least for those of who aren`t moving on.

But tonight, we have a report that is different. Long time investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, who is now at Yahoo News, just published a blow- by-blow account with named sources detailing how after the campaign and after the transition, the new Trump administration was rushing to try to ease sanctions on Russia right when it walked in the door.

By some accounts tonight, this is the most comprehensive detailing of how the Trump administration in government approached those Obama sanctions on Russia. The Trump White House trying to eliminate the punishment for meddling in the U.S. election. And this is according to senior diplomats inside the U.S. federal government.

Quote: Unknown to the public at the time, top Trump administration officials almost as soon as they took office tasked State Department staffers with developing proposals for the lifting of economic sanctions, the return of diplomatic compounds and other steps to relieve tensions with Moscow.

I want to note of course that wording reflects what sounds like the Trump administration`s view because prior administration here, the Obama folks, didn`t think there were tensions with Moscow over sanctions. They thought those were formal punishments over the meddling, a matter of foreign policy accountability, not personal tensions.

Now, let me show you one of these named sources. Tom Malinowksi, who resigned as assistant secretary of state for human rights to President Obama. And he, quote, joined an effort to lobby Congress after learning from former colleagues the administration was developing a plan to lift sanctions and possibly arrange a summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of an effort to achieve a, quote, grand bargain with Moscow. Now, it would have been a, quote win-win for Moscow, he told news.

And we have another source here. Career diplomat Dan Fried, who coordinated U.S. sanctions policy until stepping down in February, describing what he saw happening at the State Department when the Trump administration took over saying, quote: There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions. He said in the first few weeks of the administration he received several panicky calls from government officials who told him they had been directed to develop a sanctions lifting package and imploring him, please, my God, can`t you stop this?

This is really something. Now, some of it is familiar in the broad strokes because it`s no mystery that Russia was of interest to the Trump administration. What we have detailed here, though, is now what the Trump administration wanted to give Russia. When it comes to what the U.S. would get in return, a basic feature of any deal, let alone a major foreign policy reversal after this Russian interference -- well, on that there`s very little detail.

So, among many other problems with the Trump administration right now, that is starting to look like a big one. Why the rush towards what diplomats are depicting tonight as this one-sided deal?

Well, joining us now to help answer some of these questions is former Ambassador Daniel Fried, one of the sources, of course, quoted here in this blockbuster breaking news. I should mention, Ambassador Fried spent 40 years working in the foreign service as this nation`s longest serving diplomat until his retirement this past February. He was also chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy.

Ambassador Fried, I appreciate your time. I will tell you straight up, it is an honor to have you here, and I`m excited to learn from you.

So, first of all, how can you -- how did you first get this information while you were there, that the Trump administration wanted to lift these sanctions and walk us through what you can tell us about all that.

DAN FRIED, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT CHIEF COORDINATOR FOR SANCTIONS POLICY: Sure. During the early days and weeks of the Trump administration, when I was still in my job before I retired, a number of colleagues came to me and I heard indirectly that still more colleagues were concerned that the Trump administration, the incoming team was going to unilaterally rescind the sanctions on Russia which had been placed there because of Russia`s aggression against Ukraine.

And it was further said by these people that there would be no -- that there would be no action required from Russia. That it would be simply a unilateral American cave.

This didn`t make a lot of sense. I could not -- I never saw an executive order which would have done this, but I had heard from, after a few days and a couple of weeks, I had heard from enough people that I believed that it was at least possible. And that was a great concern to me.

MELBER: You say a number of people. Can you tell us who?

FRIED: I`m not going to mention who it was or where they worked. All I would say is I found the stories sufficiently credible that I was concerned that there might actually be something done quickly. This was a period, you remember, when the early Trump administration was issuing a number of executive orders.

The first one on immigration was in rather spectacular fashion not thought through. And I was concerned that the Trump administration in a rush would do something which would make liars of the American government which is a bad idea and prove us to be faithless in supporting Ukraine and standing firm with our European allies.

So, I did -- I did believe that it was possible. I can`t say that it was true. But I believed it was possible and I was concerned.

MELBER: You use the term unilateral, which I believe is something of a term of art in this diplomatic context. By that, do you mean that there would not be any Russian role to play, anything they would have to do?

FRIED: Well, that`s what I understood. Now, of course we put on the sanctions on Russia in order to put pressure on them to pull out of Ukraine, to stop the fighting, to take their troops out and allow the Ukrainians to take control of their own territory, especially in the East, in the Donbass. And if the Russians did that, we and our European allies agreed we would in fact lift the sanctions, or most of them. We would lift the sanctions except for those on Crimea and the ones on Crimea we would lift when the Russians got out of Crime.

So, we took the sanctions in order to lift them, but not just to lift them in exchange for Russian actions.

MELBER: You were former chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy, among your other many stints at the State. So, give us a sense of how unusual this approach is for sanctions policy and if you know, were there efforts like this to relieve sanctions in Russia on any other country in which you describe as that early tumultuous period?

FRIED: Whenever the U.S. places sanctions on another country, we do so to change behavior. So, if the behavior changes, then we rescind the sanctions either partly or wholly. The purpose of sanctions isn`t to be about themselves. It`s to get the other guy to do something.

And in this case, what we wanted the other guy to do, that being President Putin and his government, was to pull out of Ukraine and allow the Ukrainians to run their own country. What was troubling about these stories is that suddenly, I was hearing that we were preparing to rescind sanctions in exchange for, well, nothing.

MELBER: For nothing.

FRIED: And that strikes me --

MELBER: For nothing. I mean, just to -- that is the --

FRIED: I don`t know that that true.

MELBER: Go ahead.

FRIED: First, I don`t know that that`s true. I know many people said it was true and I was concerned that it might be.

So, I have to be clear about what I knew at the time and what I didn`t know. But unilateral lifting of sanctions in return for nothing is unusual and a bad idea.

Now, it is possible that if your sanctions are a complete failure and no other country supports you and they haven`t achieved anything, you might consider just throwing in the towel. So, that`s a policy option.

But the Russia sanctions are not only effective, they`re supported by our European allies, by the Japanese, the Canadians, the Australian, South Koreans. A lot of other governments support us. And so, we need to maintain solidarity and the word of the United States needs to mean something.

Now, of course, if the Trump administration made a decision to rescind sanctions, there was nothing that I or anybody else could do. But it struck me as a bad idea.

MELBER: I appreciate the measured way you`re explaining that to us and that it has to do with basically the sources and other colleagues you had at which you came to that conclusion and the difference between that and whether you had sort of, for example, seen something on paper that said it was something for nothing. I appreciate that.

FRIED: That`s right.

MELBER: I also want to give you the opportunity to respond to some of the criticism that is out there. Not explicitly directed at you, but quite frankly directed at what we might say career civil servants like yourself, because as you know, there has been this argument that there is some kind of, quote, deep state or some kind of internal federal government criticism that is somehow unfair to the Trump administration and you`ve detailed here some of the your views and concerns about this given your expertise.

But I wonder if you have any response to that, given that has also been leveled by this administration at people who serve in the State Department and other agencies?

FRIED: I served 40 years in the Foreign Service. I worked for Democratic presidents. I worked for Republican presidents. I worked in the NSC four years for President Clinton. I worked in the NSC four years for President Bush. I`m proud of that service.

My oath and the oath of all of my colleagues is to the Constitution. And that means we serve the president who`s elected. So, in expressing concerns about what I consider an ill-advised move, if it were truly being considered, I think I was doing my duty as I understood it.

And the administration needs to consider all options. That`s true. But it needs to do so in light of the facts and to rush something through and to give the Russians something for nothing struck me as a terrible idea. Still does.

MELBER: Ambassador Daniel Fried, we are indebted to your expertise. I really appreciate you explaining and sharing some of this with us tonight.

FRIED: My pleasure.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.

As mentioned, he was one of the people quoted in this blockbuster Yahoo News piece. So, really interesting to get that perspective. We will have some more related stories on that, including the investigation into Russia`s efforts to influence the election, and where that goes from here.

A person of interest now reportedly part of the investigation, a name you might not have heard as much.

Also as I mentioned, we`re going to speak directly with California Governor Jerry Brown about this plan to pull the U.S. out of the climate accord. We`re going to ask what he and his state plans to do in response.


MELBER: In early March, WikiLeaks released what is described as a devastating dump of CIA cyber war tools. WikiLeaks described it as the entire cyber arsenal of the CIA.

The CIA itself wouldn`t put that fine a point on it. But several smart observers say this was the largest dump of classified CIA material maybe ever, and it really could be a devastating blow to the CIA cyber war and spying capabilities.

It was released by WikiLeaks on March 7th. On March 9th, at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has lived almost five years, hiding from sexual charges in his native Sweden, charges that have been partially resolved -- well, over there Nigel Farage was seen leaving the embassy. That`s him in the back in this photo. He is a far right anti-immigration politician from the U.K. most famous for leading that effort in the U.K. to do Brexit.

Now, Nigel Farage you might also recognize from his time right there in the gold gilded elevators of Trump Tower or from his time eating dinner with Donald Trump in February, or from his time on the campaign trail with Donald Trump. There, yes.

And Nigel was back in the U.K. at WikiLeaks headquarters on March 9th in London, right before WikiLeaks gave their big press conference about destroying the cyber capabilities of the CIA. A "BuzzFeed News" reporter saw him leaving the embassy and asked a basic question. What was he doing there that particular day? Nigel Farage responded he couldn`t remember, and he had no idea why he had just been inside that building.

More recently, though, he said he was there for, quote, journalistic reasons. Well, today, the British newspaper "The Guardian" reports that Nigel Farage is, quote, a person of interest in the inquiry into Russia and the Trump campaign. Quote: Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the former U.K. IP leader had raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whom Farage visited in March.

Quote: Farage has not been accused of wrongdoing and is not a suspect or target of the U.S. investigation, but being a person of interest means investigators believe he may have information about the acts that are under investigation, he may therefore be subject to their scrutiny.

The article goes on that one of the things the intelligence investigators have been looking at as point of contact and persons involved, according to a source, if you triangulate Russia, WikiLeaks, Assange and Trump associates, the person who comes up with the most hits is -- Nigel Farage.

Quote, he is right in the middle of these relationships. He turns up over and over again. There`s a lot of attention being paid to him.

Farage`s spokesman we should note says he never worked with Russian officials and regards "The Guardian`s" questions about Farage`s activities as verging on the hysterical.

All this means that Nigel Farage now joins what is really a growing list of people in Trump`s orbit who are reported or alleged to be of some kind of interest to these investigators, like the former campaign advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page, of course, Trump`s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, plus those who are said to be of even greater interest, the potential subjects of criminal investigation which reportedly include former national security adviser Mike Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, although to be clear, we don`t know if those criminal investigators are tied to the Russia probe in the election or some other type of inquiry.

Still, that is a lot. And what we do know is that we are four months and change into this administration, and the Trump-Russia story clearly keeps expanding. Watch this space.


MELBER: It was 14 years ago that Jim Comey, then the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, used a congressional hearing to share his strict view of public service, that it must pride integrity over loyalty because at the end of the line, the only thing that matters to him is his integrity and his family.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I do commit to you that I approach this as a professional and you mentioned integrity and loyalty. There`s no choice in my mind that loyalty is a terrific thing, but integrity and the love of my family is all I have left at the end of the this life. So, that is paramount in my mind.

I can commit to you, though, that because I talk so much about integrity and about this great group behind me, that`s what I really care about. I don`t care about politics. I don`t care about expedience. I don`t care about friendship. I care about doing the right thing and I would never be part of something that I believe to be fundamentally wrong.

I mean, obviously, we all make policy judgments where people disagree, but I will do the right thing.


MELBER: Comey`s presentation worked. He was confirmed unanimously and those sharply partisan Bush years, he maintained a strong reputation among leaders in both parties, a reputation burnished just three years later in front of that very same committee when Comey delivered what has been described as the most riveting 20 minutes of congressional testimony ever.

Now, Comey had a story to tell and he didn`t tell it through newspaper leaks or a TV interview or a speech to some fancy think tank. He used a congressional hearing to recount his unusual effort to stand up against Bush administration officials who he thought were breaking the rules on surveillance. Comey had determined that a surveillance program was unlawful and so he refused to extend it. At the time, he was acting attorney general because John Ashcroft was in the hospital and the Bush White House tried to go behind Comey`s back to get Ashcroft to extend the program from inside the hospital. Quite a dirty trick.

Chuck Schumer questioned Comey about that before a hushed Senate hearing.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Were you president when Alberto Gonzales visited Attorney General Ashcroft`s bedside?


SCHUMER: And am I correct that the conduct of Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card on that evening troubled you greatly?


SCHUMER: OK. Let me go back and take it from the top. You rushed to the hospital that evening. Why?

COMEY: I`m only hesitating because I need to explain why.

SCHUMER: Please. We`ll give you all the time you need, sir.


MELBER: That pause, that careful emotive tone, that is classic Jim Comey. If you like him, like his supporters, people say that that evinces a kind of rare passion for rectitude.

If you don`t like him, if you don`t think he has done a great job, like his detractors, you might say he is melodramatic in moments that should use a little more measured approach. But whichever Comey you see, there is certainly no doubt that he wields the civic authority and the storytelling payoff of a congressional hearing like none other.

Now, that day his story even had a star other than Jim Comey. The star was his boss at the time, a bedridden John Ashcroft.


COMEY: I got out of the car and ran up -- literally ran up the stairs with my security detail.

SCHUMER: What was your concern? You were in obviously a huge hurry.

COMEY: I was concerned that given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that.


COMEY: And it was only a matter of minutes that the door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales carrying an envelope and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed, greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval for a matter. And explain what the matter was.

SCHUMER: But he expressed his reluctance or he would not sign the statement that they -- give the authorization they had asked. Is that right?

COMEY: Yes. And as he laid back down, he said but that doesn`t matter because I`m not the attorney general. There is the attorney general, and he pointed to me, and I was just to his left.


MELBER: Incredible story meets capable storyteller. Comey`s testimony at that hearing was cited by President Obama when he nominated him to be FBI director in 2013. He`s used other hearings to press his views on everything from urban policing to Apple iPhone encryption.

He didn`t back down in the Trump era either. He used those two blockbuster hearings to contradict Trump`s claims of Obama wiretapping and to confirm, of course, the existence of the Russia inquiry.

So, the news today, the confirmation that Comey will testify before the Senate next week, tees up the most anticipated event in the American political life since probably 2016 election night. It also sets a one week deadline for the White House to make any formal effort to restrict the testimony based on executive privilege.

A lot of anticipation for this hearing, but it does have a witness who can probably live up to it.

Tonight`s guest knows these issues intimately. Ron Klain was chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee and has served as a White House aide to President Obama and Vice President Gore.

You see the footage. If there is an art to congressional testimony, sir, what do you view -- how do you view Jim Comey`s style at it?

RON KLAIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA & CLINTON: Well, look, I think he has a reputation for being a straight shooter. You mentioned, Ari, there are Comey fans and Comey detractors. I`ve been a detractor of him on the way he handled Secretary Clinton`s email things, but I don`t even think the detractors have ever questioned Jim Comey`s core integrity, his core honesty. And that`s what Donald Trump is trying to put at issue in this hearing.

He said yesterday on Twitter that Comey had given false testimony to Congress and you can bet that`s going to be Trump`s attack when Jim Comey testifies next week. And so, it`s going to be this man with the reputation for honesty, maybe he`s made some bad judgments, but has a reputation for honesty, against a president who has a tortured relationship with the truth himself calling him a liar and that`s going to add to the drama here dramatically.

MELBER: You say liar. I mean, people who were sympathetic to Hillary Clinton felt that Jim Comey took a finding that there was no wrongdoing justifying charges in the Clinton matter and turned it into kind of an ongoing saga, right? But I don`t think people at the time said that he was a liar. You know, that he was a perjurer. I think I they said they disagreed with the whole approach and that goes to the drama thing, right? He is at times dramatic. I mean, I think that`s just a fact.

But even those folks would look at him and say, yes, compared to Donald Trump, if the test is truth and Jim Comey will be under oath next week, that might be bad for Donald Trump.

KLAIN: That`s right, Ari. I`m one of those people. I was critical of the policy decisions, the investigative decisions and the public decisions that Jim Comey made, but I never called him a liar and I don`t think -- I don`t know others who did.

But yesterday, Donald Trump did call Jim Comey a liar. You can see that`s going to be his strategy. I`ll tell you who else, the most interesting people to watch on that hearing next week may not be Jim Comey. It`s going to be the Republicans on that intelligence committee.

And they are going to have to decide, are they going to join Donald Trump in questioning Jim Comey`s integrity, in questioning his honesty? Are they going to do Trump`s bidding or are they go to get off the Trump train at that stop? They`re the ones who I think in some ways are in the most interesting position next week.

MELBER: You`ve worked as counsel in the Senate. You`ve worked as I mention in the White House. So, if you were prepping for this from the congressional side and the answers they say they want to get and the White House side of what would be responsible approach, how would you do it?

KLAIN: Well, I think that for the committee, the most important thing is to have as precise questions as possible to elucidate what they can, particularly about those interactions between Trump and Comey. I think Comey, as he did in that segment you showed earlier, Ari, parts you didn`t show, he drew clear lines what he would talk about, what he wouldn`t talk about.

I don`t think he is going to talk about the substance of the Russian investigation. I don`t think he`s going to talk about kind of what the FBI was doing. But he has signaled, he will talk about his one-on-one encounters with the president, whether or not the president said to him go easy on Michael Flynn, whether or not the president asked him for a loyalty pledge.

I think the committee, those are the two areas where they`re really going to drill down and where they`re going to need precise questions to get from Jim Comey what happened, how it happened, what the president`s attitude and demeanor was, and specifically the one most damning fact I think for President Trump that has been reported is the factor, the allegation that he cleared the room before he had a one-on-one with Comey.

MELBER: Right.

KLAIN: He asked the attorney general, he asked the vice president of the United States to leave the room. That`s a very damning fact. I think the committee will really bear down on that. Try to see if Comey will confirm that.

MELBER: And, briefly, Ron, you know, prosecutors look at prosecutions and they say they`re not about crimes only. They`re about evidence. And who has the evidence.

What evidence do you think Jim Comey would be willing to cite, beyond his own reputation if he is going to be questioned about his veracity next week?

KLAIN: Yes, Ari, that`s a fascinating question because, of course, there`s been reports that Comey took contemporaneous notes of these key meetings with Trump. We don`t know if he`s willing to make those notes public, if he`s willing to turn them over to the committee.

You know, notes by an FBI agent of a contemporaneous meeting are evidence. They are his recollection but they are used as evidence in court. And if Comey is prepared to turn over those notes, if those notes become public, those really will become blockbuster evidence in this hearing.

MELBER: Ron Klain, we really appreciate your time and expertise.

KLAIN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: We have much more tonight, including California Governor Jerry Brown. Stay with us.


MELBER: If you won a car on "The Price is Right" in the 1980s, it went a little something like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There we are. Now, let`s show Diane some more prizes. A new car!

A Chevrolet Monte Carlo LS Coupe. With California emission and all the other standard features, plus these options. Custom interior, tinted sides, deluxe body side molds, floor mats, air conditioning, twin sport mirrors, body pin striping, sports suspension, cruise control, 5.0 V8 engine, automatic transmission with overdrive. And if you win this car, you will also receive a car telephone.


MELBER: A car telephone. Now, we`re not just playing this clip to reminisce about the deluxe body side moldings and the automatic transmission with overdrive, which does sound nice.

The very special California detail there was a car with California emission. That isn`t one of those trendy term that car dealers just make up to juice the sticker price. It`s a real thing set by actual environmental policy, because as a state, California has set its own environmental emissions standards for any cars that want to cruise through the Golden State and those requirements are greener than federal guidelines, showing that California was not only the first in the nation on many environmental policies for the state level, but that it was also willing to set a higher bar even when there was some federal action.

California`s a long way, however, from Washington, and Paris is even farther away.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord. As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.


MELBER: The president pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, leaving behind over 190 countries who joined that pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So, there are now just three countries on the whole planet that don`t belong to this agreement, Syria, Nicaragua and us, the United States of America.

By making good on his campaign promise to get out of the accord, the president signaled to the world today the U.S. is no longer interested in being any kind of leader on climate change, no matter the environmental or diplomatic costs. This announcement drew rebukes from around the world and vows to fight on from American businesses, health advocates and environmental leaders. No surprise that California is already leading the pack and it has some muscle as the sixth largest economy in the world.

Jerry Brown is the governor of California, a job he held in the 1970s and which he now holds again. Brown signed a bill to slash greenhouse gas emissions, funded a statewide cap and trade program and he took California`s fight global, working with officials around the world on a pledge to cut greenhouse gas, an interesting framework considering the Trump administration`s new posture today.

Joining us now for the interview is California Governor Jerry Brown.

Governor, thanks for joining us on this busy day for you.

How are you going to combat this move from President Trump?

GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: Stay the course. California has a very imaginative and aggressive climate action policy. We have a goal of 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030. We`re already about 27 percent now. And we`ll even go beyond that.

We have zero emission mandates for automobiles. We have energy and appliance regulatory standards. We also have a cap and trade program.

So, we`re all in de-carbonizing our economy. And of course I have to admit we`ve got a long, long way to go. But we`re moving in that direction and the economy has rewarded these policies with a growth of 40 percent faster than the national average, 2.3 million jobs just since the last recession.

So, we`re on the move. We`ll keep going. And more specific action, I`m leaving tomorrow for China. I`ll meet with high officials there to forge new China-California climate agreements.

I`ll also work with New York and Washington and several other states in what I call the Under2 Coalition, a group of 175 different partners, Canada, Mexico, Quebec, New York, Massachusetts, California representing a billion people and almost 30 percent of the world`s economic output.

We are agreed on a climate set of goals very similar to the Paris agreement. And we are moving forward and we`ll continue. And I would say this action, very misguided action by President Trump will act as a catalyst to galvanize the people of California and I would say of the whole world to do the right thing in getting us on the path of sustainability.

MELBER: So, you lay out there a lot of things, and you and your predecessors have passed laws and programs as you mentioned that have made California the leader here. On that sort of international collaboration front, as you know, the Senate Democrats have a new letter out in your state. They`re asking you to consider convening a special climate summit to, quote, partner with Mexico and Canada, and invite other states to ensure that you continue charging ahead.

Is that something specifically you would also do?

BROWN: Well, it just came out an hour ago and I have talked to the Senate leadership on that. So, it sounds like a good idea.

Can we pull it off? If we can, yes. I want to talk to the prime minister in Canada, the president of Mexico, and if we can get them and others, that`s an idea I will give very serious consideration to.

MELBER: Very interesting. So that kind of sort of foreign policy or that rule for California as a leader you`re open to. Let me ask you -- go ahead.

BROWN: Not even just that. We are harmonizing our standards with China.

China has a very powerful mandate for zero emission cars. They are developing their own cap and trade program. California is refining our cap and trade program. There are areas of collaboration. California right now has as much clean tech capital investment entrepreneurial venture capital investment as China and the rest of Europe combined.

So, we`re doing a lot. We`re going to do more with China, and we`re going to link closely together, because it used to be China and the United States as the pillar. Now China is that pillar and California is very much going to be working with them to achieve our mutual goals.

MELBER: So, Governor, given all that you`re doing, is this sort of a place holder or a mechanism where you hope that even if the United States under the Trump administration is not involved that California as the sixth largest economy is part of basically U.S. participation in these accords or these goals over time so that one day the U.S. might be able to reenter the Paris accord? Or how do you look at the future of this?

BROWN: Well, I certainly don`t think Trump in his statement today is the last word, far from it. This is a temporary deviation from the norm, the world norm. And it will be corrected.

How soon? I don`t know. I can`t say that today. But I`m going to do everything I can to correct it.

And in the meantime, we`re not treading water. We`re on the field of battle, and we`re going to do everything we can to win the minds and hearts of the people of California, of America, of the world. This is not some extra little political game or one issue among many. This is an existential threat to the long-term future of humanity.

This is not a game. Millions of people will die if we don`t handle climate change in the right way. We have to make the investments. We have to make the change of course in the way the economy and the world lives. And does things. And California is prepared to do that.

And I would say that Trump is going to act as the null hypothesis. He`s demonstrating that climate denial has no integrity and no future and the opposite, climate activism is the order of the day and you will see in the coming days and months, and hopefully, the coming years that we really rise to the occasion and do what is needed to keep humanity on a sustainable and harmonious path with nature.

MELBER: So, Governor, we talked policy. My final question for you then would be on public opinion. As you know, the president really emphasized in his remarks today that he was doing this for Pittsburgh, not Paris.

What is your view or your response to that, the idea that Americans don`t want these kind of accords?

BROWN: I`ve never seen any survey that would substantiate that. That is truly a junk fact. The majority of people support the Paris agreements in dealing with climate change.

And number two, the whole premise that somehow the Paris agreement loses jobs, the exact opposite. So, Mr. Trump is wrong on jobs, wrong on the facts, wrong on science, wrong on public opinion. So, with all that on our side, I believe we will overcome.

MELBER: California Governor Jerry Brown, I know you`ve been working on these issues a long time. I appreciate you joining us on this busy day.

BROWN: My pleasure.

MELBER: Thank you very much.

And we have much more ahead on this very busy news night. Stay with us.


MELBER: Take a look at the cover of tomorrow`s "New York Daily News", "Trump to World: Drop Dead."

Today`s announcement by the president that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord just the latest example of the U.S. pulling back from any kind of leadership on the world stage. A point made clear during last week`s NATO and G7 summits and also drilled home in an op-ed this week from national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and Gary Cohn from the National Economic Council, writing, quote: The president embarked on his first foreign trip with clear-eyed outlook is that the world is not a global community but an arena where nations, NGOs, businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

The world described as an arena where everyone just competes for an advantage. It would seem by those lights that the U.S. no longer relishes leading a free or interdependent world.

General McMaster in particular has played a key role on all of this, brought on as a well regarded national security adviser after Mike Flynn had to go. He has been forced lately to defend everything from Trump`s embrace of autocrats to Jared Kushner`s supposed alleged attempt to have a secret backchannel with Russia.

And that sense that this highly respected adult in the room is now towing the line for the Trump administration led to an op-ed of its own. And it is a doozy entitled, "General McMaster, Step Down and Let Trump be Trump." Save your reputation while you still can. The country will be fine.

Here is an important passage. Quote: I think McMaster should step down not just for his own good, but for the good of the country. What if he is replaced by a right wing extremist who operates on an alternative set of facts? So much the better, I say.

And here is why, the author writes. The saving grace of Donald Trump as president is his incompetence. He knows almost nothing of how the federal government works.

Joining me now is the man behind that op-ed, Thomas Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" and "The Washington Post," and we should note the author of the book "Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom."

Great to have you here this evening.


MELBER: You wrote this op-ed. It is somewhat unusual in its advice on substance and certainly in its style. What are you trying to get across?

RICKS: Well, I agree with everything you said in your introduction except for one word, forced. And that`s key.

General McMaster was not forced to stand up and do these things. It is not his job as national security adviser to be the advocate for the president, the spokesman for the president. His job is not to protect Donald Trump. It`s to protect the country.

Remember, this is a guy who is still on active duty, in uniform. He is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And he is not behaving as the very good national security advisers of the past have. For example, Brent Scowcroft, you didn`t see him go out and speak on behalf of the presidents he worked for. He did his job as national security adviser.

So, I think -- I used to believe in the adults in the room theory because I thought it was good to have good people around to contain Trump. I`ve stopped believing that really from watching General McMaster over the last couple of weeks. He hasn`t improved Trump particularly. Trump is being Trump.

What has happened is that Trump has degraded McMaster, and used McMaster`s credibility. I`ve come to see Trump as incompetent in most things. But one thing he is very good at, borrowing other people`s credibility. And he has strip-mined H.R. McMaster`s credibility.

MELBER: You make such an important point there. It is obviously the opposite of the conventional wisdom in so much of Washington.

Before we let you go, we`ve got to talk about "The Godfather", because in explaining your logic, you say: Think of it this way, which would be a more dangerous, a mafia family overseen by the cruel and incompetent Michael Corleone, or one let by his ineffectual brother Fredo. So I say let Donald be Donald.


RICKS: Well, I mean, Donald Trump is a lot more like Fredo than he is like Michael Corleone. And I want competent people elsewhere in the government. Let me be clear about that. I think it`s good to have General Mattis over at the Pentagon.

But I think the White House is basically a sinkhole where Trump flails around, where he pretends to be president and he acts president on TV and in Twitter, but really not much happens. And I don`t want the enable him to be more effective. I want him to be as ineffective as possible.

So, I think that people should stop enabling Trump and just let him descend into his own abyss.

MELBER: Yes, it`s fascinating and it`s so different than what we`ve heard. And if "The Godfather" is instructive, of course, I also remember it taught us never go against the family, which may or may not be relevant in this White House.

Thomas Ricks, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author, appreciate your time tonight.

RICKS: You`re welcome.

MELBER: And we will be right back.


MELBER: That does it for the show tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. I am Ari Melber.

And a quick reminder: you can always catch my show "THE POINT", Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

A brief programming note for tonight, though. On the subject of this big presidential decision on climate change, Dan Rather is about to join my colleague Lawrence O`Donnell in the next hour. Dan Rather, of course, has been one of the sharpest critics of this White House on so many issues. And so, you may want to hear his first-time reaction to this big decision on Paris and where we go from here.


And, Lawrence, as always, it is great to see you.