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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 2/10/22

Guests: Steve Schmidt, Elie Mystal, Peter Navarro


Former President Barack Obama meets with House Democrats. Former White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter Navarro discusses his role in trying to overturn the presidential election. Did Donald Trump or his team break the law again with secret White House logs?



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Jason. Thank you.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And this is a major news night right here on this broadcast.

Trump White House veteran Peter Navarro is here, now, for his first exclusive TV appearance since facing that new subpoena from the January 6 Committee.


And this is how we got here:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: White House trade and senior economic adviser Peter Navarro.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assistant to the president and director of the office of trade and manufacturing policy, Peter Navarro.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Former White House trade guy Peter Navarro.

MELBER: A man often in the news, Peter Navarro, is our guest tonight.

PETER NAVARRO, FORMER DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: We had over 100 congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill ready to implement the sweep.

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": This guy did an interview with my colleague Ari Melber here on MSNBC last night.

They had this plan to hype these gossamer, fantastical claims of supposed fraud.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, CO-HOST, "MORNING JOE": He said the quiet part out loud.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Navarro explained that what the coup plot had in common with the football play was teamwork, and, obviously, brain damage.

ELIE HONIG, CNN: Congratulations, Peter Navarro. I think you have just earned yourself a subpoena.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another member of Trump`s inner circle subpoenaed, former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Members of the committee subpoenaed Peter Navarro Wednesday.



MELBER: The House committee there subpoenaing Navarro.

That was late yesterday, demanding his testimony on many of those topics around the election and post-election period.

And, as mentioned, former Trump aide Peter Navarro is here live tonight to answer the questions.

Welcome to THE BEAT, sir.

NAVARRO: Ari, great to be with you.

MELBER: Great to have you.

We have learned a lot over the last few weeks even about these different efforts to keep President Trump in power. One of the sets of reports has been about other, alternate or fraudulent electors.

When did you become aware of that plan?

NAVARRO: That`s not part of my remit or on my radar, Ari.

I was focused simply on the Green Bay Sweep plan, which we talked about in an earlier program, which was simply straight between the lines in the letter of the law, using the Electoral Count Act of 1887 as a blueprint to have the quarterback, Mike Pence, in the Green Bay Sweep remand votes back to the six battleground states for another look.

My presumption there, in assisting with that, based on the careful research I had done, was that there was a high probability that there was significant fraud and the election may well have been stolen. That was my mind-set then. Today, I`m convinced it was indeed stolen.

MELBER: Right.

So, you`re saying that was the plan that you were working on. You said the other stuff wasn`t on your radar.

NAVARRO: Yes. Correct.

MELBER: It has since become public.

Take a look at Boris Epshteyn, a lawyer for the campaign you know, regarding this plan.


MELBER: Did you ever make calls like that regarding what you`re calling these alternate electors?

BORIS EPSHTEYN, FORMER TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN STRATEGIC ADVISER: I was quoted in "The Washington Post" in the last 24 hours.

Yes, I was part of the process to make sure there were alternate electors for when, as we hoped, the challenges to the seated electors would be heard and would be successful, per the 12th Amendment of the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act.


MELBER: You see how that seems to overlap as well with what Mike Pence was going to do on January 6, what some hoped he would do. That was in public.

So, when you say not on your radar, are you saying here tonight you never heard about that until it became public in the press, or, while you were in government...

NAVARRO: That`s correct.

MELBER: ... you might have heard about it?

NAVARRO: That`s correct.


NAVARRO: That`s correct.

My focus, Ari, again...


MELBER: And so -- well, let me get you one more on that, and then I`m going to let you respond, Peter, because what`s striking here -- and the facts matter.

NAVARRO: What Boris...


MELBER: And I know you`re -- yes.

And I know you have spoken out about what you say you were doing. And the committee wants to hear from you too. We will get to that.

But I want to show a little bit of Mike Pence on January 6, because he seemed aware that there was this effort to put forward those other electors. He changed the normal language on that day, which close observers noticed -- not everyone might -- where he talks about these being the only true electors.

Take a look.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The parliamentarian has advised me is the only certificate of vote from that state, and purports to be a return from the state, and that has annexed to it a certificate from an authority of that state purporting to appoint or ascertain electors.


MELBER: So, just to be clear, your push on Pence, what you call the quarterback, it`s your contention that that was different, separate, and you were unaware of what Epshteyn and others have admitted and what he says Giuliani was involved with, which was to get Pence to cast doubt that day based on those electors?

NAVARRO: Correct.

My focus, Ari, was simply on the Green Bay Sweep plan, which was basically to have -- and it started flawlessly -- to have the battleground states challenge the results. That would trigger 24 hours of hearings in the House and the Senate.

And, by that, we could bypass the media and get out the truth of what probably happened in the battleground states. Quarterback Mike Pence`s job at that point was to take 10 days and go back and give the state legislatures, who really are the ones who have the power to determine whether an election is fraudulent, to give them a second look.


And that was my focus, Ari.

And I wrote that three-volume report, which documented in detail -- I hope, between now and the last time I was on, you took an opportunity to read that three-volume report. I wish you would, like, say whether you did or not. You have kind of danced around that, whether you have read chapter 21 in the "In Trump Time" book.

But it`s very clear that the Green Bay Sweep was simply designed not to overturn an election. It was simply designed to send the votes back for 10 days, to have the states have the opportunity to take another look, because, based on my evidence -- and it`s been backed up subsequent by what we found in the states -- that there was significant irregularities and fraud.

MELBER: Right.

Well, Peter, so let`s look at that, because you`re talking about the evidence and what people are asserting.

NAVARRO: Sure. Yes.

MELBER: We put together some of what you have asserted and your, what you want to be the quarterback, Vice President Pence, who, while this has all been playing out publicly, including your new subpoena, he disagrees with you. He says you`re wrong.

So, let`s look at what you have said and what he says. Here we go.



NAVARRO: The remedy was for Vice President Pence, as the quarterback in the Green Bay Sweep, to remand those votes back to the six battleground states.

The thing about Mike`s betrayal of President Trump, which is really interesting, is, he never shared the legal analysis of his general counsel.

I simply wanted to brief Mike on what I had found.

MELBER: Why wouldn`t he listen to you?

NAVARRO: His chief of staff, Marc Short, basically walled off Vice President Pence.

PENCE: President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election. Frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.


MELBER: That`s recent.


MELBER: What do you say to former Vice President Pence, who calls your plan, which he associates with Donald Trump supporting it, which is supporting your plan...

NAVARRO: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: ... your, Bannon-Navarro sweep...

NAVARRO: Sure. Yes.

MELBER: ... as wrong and un-American, sir?


Well, I would love to do an intervention with Mike Pence to get him out of the orb of Marc Short.

Let me reemphasize this point that you played, Ari. Regardless of what Pence did, the one thing he didn`t do was come to President Trump and White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone before January 6 with the opinion drafted by Greg Jacob, Pence`s general counsel...


NAVARRO: ... and say, this is what we found. Let`s talk about it.

MELBER: But what`s your -- what`s your response to him, Peter?

NAVARRO: Now, when he -- now, hang on. Just let me say this, Ari.

MELBER: I mean, Peter -- Peter, he says you`re un-American. He says you`re wrong.

NAVARRO: Proper process in the White House...

MELBER: What`s your response to that?

NAVARRO: No, hang on. Let me just finish the thought here.

Proper process in the White House says that Pence, Jacob should have gone to the president and Cipollone before January 6 and said, this is what we found.

Mike is not a lawyer. Mike was just a tool and a puppet of these guys. He doesn`t know a legal cite from Adam. I`m telling you, he betrayed the president, simply by the act of not coming to the president and the White House legal counsel.

MELBER: So, let me get this...

NAVARRO: I can`t say that more -- enough.

MELBER: Yes. And the fact...

NAVARRO: Well, and he`s just wrong. He`s trying to salvage his political career.

He`s dead as a political candidate.

MELBER: Look, this matters, Peter. I`m trying to do my job here and make sure -- Peter, trying to make sure we understand.


MELBER: So, your response is that you maintain to this day you just think Mike Pence is wrong, doesn`t understand the law or the Constitution.

That`s your contention?


And, look, here`s the thing, Ari. You`re a lawyer. I have done -- I have done a deep dive on the legal opinions on this. The worst you can say about this is...


NAVARRO: ... is that there`s disagreements over what`s the law on this, OK?

You cannot assert, on the Pence side, as he has done unilaterally, that President Trump was wrong. There`s too much ambiguity.


NAVARRO: There`s ambiguity in the 12th Amendment. There`s ambiguity in the Electoral Count -- of 1887.

MELBER: Peter, I want to turn -- I want to turn to another piece...

NAVARRO: And it`s something that the courts probably would have ultimately decided.

MELBER: ... only because we have discussed some of that before.


MELBER: But to put a final note on this section, it would follow from your contention that you think Vice President Harris will ultimately have the call over who should be president, regardless of the results in the next election?

NAVARRO: See, you have misconstrued the whole Green Bay Sweep plan.

It`s not for the vice president to determine who wins, OK? The only thing that Pence had the authority to do is go back to the states and let the states look at the votes. It`s the states in our Constitution who have the right to decide who won an election in the states. That...

MELBER: But you`re not answering the question.

NAVARRO: And I`m saying that the vice president has the discretion to ask for a second look, to be clear.

MELBER: It seems like the question, when you put it on Harris, makes you - - Peter, yes, it seems like it makes you -- but it seems like it`s making you stretch, when we just change the name from Pence to Harris.


NAVARRO: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No.

MELBER: Are you holding the contention -- wait. Let me finish the question, and you will get to respond.

NAVARRO: I didn`t stretch. You said that Pence had...

MELBER: Peter, let me finish the question.

NAVARRO: ... the authority to change the election results.

MELBER: Peter, let me finish the question.

NAVARRO: I say that that was not the premise of our argument.


So, under your premise, Peter -- Peter...

NAVARRO: Ari, the premise was, simply, let`s take a second look.

MELBER: Right. So let`s say that.


MELBER: Under your contention, Vice President Harris could take any states that her side lost and selectively send those back.

That`s your current contention?

NAVARRO: If -- if -- any vice president...

MELBER: If what?

NAVARRO: ... in -- under the Electoral Count Act of 1887, if there are objections that are raised about a state`s electors, the provision is that you have two hours of debate in each chamber.

MELBER: Is that a yes or no, Peter?

NAVARRO: And, at the end of that, you have the ability to send those back to the states for a second look.

MELBER: Peter, you`re an outspoken individual. Was that a yes? Because I didn`t hear a yes. Is that a yes for Harris?

NAVARRO: No, the way you frame the question is wrong.

You`re assuming that the vice president had the ability to determine the outcome. Wrong. All the vice president had was the ability to go back to the states to have them look at the votes again. That`s all they can do. They don`t get to determine election...


MELBER: Peter, if you`re going to quote me on live television, people can hear what I just said.

NAVARRO: The premise is wrong.

MELBER: So, they heard me even narrow it as an exercise. I narrowed it for you and said, can she send it back just to likely the ones she doesn`t like?

They heard me narrow it, as lawyers would say, arguendo. I`m not going to say whether that`s true.

NAVARRO: Not the ones that she doesn`t like.

MELBER: And you can`t say yes to that.

NAVARRO: Not the ones that she doesn`t like, the ones that...

MELBER: I want to go -- I think we got your answer on that.


MELBER: I want to go to this other plot that has also been exposed since the last time you and I had an interview about a proposal to involve the military.

Take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politico has obtained an unsigned draft executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines.

MADDOW: Giuliani and Sidney Powell were trying to get President Trump to seize voting machines around the country.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): A plan was put forth to potentially seize voting machines in the country.


MELBER: When did you first hear about that plan?

NAVARRO: Just probably the same time you did.

MELBER: Did you ever arrange or...

NAVARRO: Again, not on my radar.

It`s like, I think it`s -- I`m here to talk about what I know. That`s not on my radar.

MELBER: Yes. No, that was an answer. I appreciate -- I appreciate the answer.



MELBER: I appreciate the answer.


MELBER: So, the follow-up is, did you or your staff ever attend or arrange any meetings to discuss that plan?

NAVARRO: I never attended anything.

I read in the newspaper that one of my staff members, without my knowledge, may have been involved. I had no knowledge of that. But, no, I had nothing to do with that.

And, by the way, in the "In Trump Time" book, I`m on record as...

MELBER: Well, you had something to do with it.

NAVARRO: ... as criticizing...

MELBER: You just said you had something to do with it.

NAVARRO: ... Sidney Powell for -- pardon me?

MELBER: Sorry, sir.

I said you had something to do with it, if your aide facilitated it.


NAVARRO: Well, no, not...

MELBER: Let me give the background here as part of the interview, and then let me let you respond.

NAVARRO: I have no knowledge of what he did. I don`t know if he did it or not.

MELBER: Well, let`s put up...

NAVARRO: All I have seen are things in the press. So...

MELBER: Well, you`re saying you don`t know.

NAVARRO: So, no, no.

MELBER: Let me put this up for the viewers, and then I will let you respond.

"New York Times"...

NAVARRO: I had no knowledge of that. No, sorry.


"New York Times"...

NAVARRO: Well, if "The New York Times"...

MELBER: Peter?

NAVARRO: Yes. Yes.

MELBER: Peter, I`m going to let you respond, but let`s...

NAVARRO: What I read in "The New York Times" is not always true.

MELBER: Well, that`s why you`re here to discuss it, aren`t you?

NAVARRO: Well, I...

MELBER: So, let`s hear it, and then you can respond to it.

NAVARRO: Ari, I`m as straightforward with you as I am with everybody.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

I`m going to read it -- I`m going to read it to the viewers.

NAVARRO: I had no knowledge of that -- of that...


MELBER: "Flynn and Powell arrive at the White House to discuss their plan to use military to seize -- use the military to seize voting machines. They were escorted in by an aide to Peter Navarro."


MELBER: That aide, who you said you`re only hearing about this later -- and this matters, Peter. I`m sure you can see why this matters, especially if you want to condemn the plan.


MELBER: Here`s what your aide said publicly about it.


GARRETT ZIEGLER, FORMER AIDE TO PETER NAVARRO: I waved in General Flynn and Sidney Powell on the 18th -- on the Friday night of the 18th, for which Mark Meadows` office revoked my guest privileges.

I could no longer get people into the complex after that.



MELBER: That`s your aide. He helped make sure that meeting happened in the Oval. It was about abusing military power for a plan that ultimately wasn`t carried out because -- and then I will let you respond -- because Rudy Giuliani said, if they actually follow that, everyone would end up in prison.

Was it wrong for your aide to facilitate that meeting, and was that plan to involve the military bad?

NAVARRO: I have no comment on that.

I had no knowledge of that. He was working off the reservation. It was not at my direction. And it`s unfortunate that he`s got implicated in that.

MELBER: And was it a bad idea or wrong to pursue the military to seize American voting machines?

NAVARRO: That`s -- that -- that, I would like to get more to the bottom of. I -- that`s not something that I would have put forward, by any stretch of the imagination.


I have never been a machine guy.

Ari, the report I did, the three-volume Navarro report on, by the way, voting machines were like a footnote to a footnote. There was just so many other things going on.

I have never been a machine guy. I have never been a Sidney Powell fan. I...

MELBER: Is that a yes?

NAVARRO: I called her a crackpot, a cracking crackpot in my book.

MELBER: Right. So, is that a yes that that was a bad idea, and you condemn it?

NAVARRO: Look, I would like to see what the proposal was, read the executive order.

I had no knowledge of any of that. So, you`re giving me a hypothetical. It sounds kind of wacky to all of us.

MELBER: It`s not hypothetical.


MELBER: It`s not a hypothetical. I`m going to -- again, I will let you respond again, sir. But this stuff matters.

NAVARRO: It`s funny, Ari.

It`s funny about this interview, which is kind of interesting. It`s like, I have so much knowledge to share with you about what I was involved in and what I know.

And you`re asking me to comment on Boris Epshteyn or Sidney Powell or Rudy or whatever. And it`s like, that`s just not what I did. That was not part of my remit.

So, it`s come back -- I mean, I don`t know what you`re trying to pin on me, but...

MELBER: Well, I think it`s -- respectfully, Mr. Navarro -- yes, respectfully, I will -- no.


MELBER: I`m trying to learn the facts.

Respectfully, if you are distancing yourself from Mr. Giuliani or Ms. Powell...

NAVARRO: I have got nothing to -- I`m not distancing myself. I`m just telling you that that stuff was not part of my remit, and I had no prior knowledge of it. That`s all. It`s pretty simple.

MELBER: OK. Remit. You could say remit, radar, or distance. I don`t want to get lost in the words.

The point is, it is important if you`re saying those things were wrong.

It`s important if -- again, I hope you understand, Mr. Navarro, when you people sneaking into the Oval Office because the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said they shouldn`t be there, for a plan that Rudy Giuliani said could send them all to jail, to try to get to...

NAVARRO: Yes. See, that`s all sorts of assumptions there. I had no knowledge.

MELBER: Let me finish, and then you will go, sir. Let me finish.

And they want to abuse military power, at the time -- and I`m going to put up a timeline for you -- at the time where you say you`re doing this remit of just the sweep.

So, we have the timeline here. I just want to get your response.

The White House is welcoming the electors plan that you say you didn`t know about in November. They have a legal memo on it. By December, you have this military proposal. You say not your remit. January, Bannon is pushing to sweep along with you. And you have a PowerPoint about military abuse on the eve of the insurrection.

So, to be clear, I will let you respond. Your contention is, you were only doing this so-called sweep, and didn`t know about any of that other stuff all around you?

NAVARRO: That`s correct.


The subpoena is here from the House. And we did want to get your official response on that.


MELBER: Given that you have told me that you have a plan that you pushed to delay or deal with the certification...


MELBER: ... you told me 100 members back it, and you have said in public Trump was on board, if you say all those things out here, why risk a legal battle or going to jail to refuse to discuss them with the committee under oath?

NAVARRO: Because I have a loyalty to the Constitution and a loyalty to the president.

The president has invoked executive privilege in this matter. It`s not my authority to revoke that privilege. I can`t. I can`t do that. It`s not my privilege to waive.

Let me say that one more time, Ari.


NAVARRO: It`s not my privilege to waive.


NAVARRO: So, what I have told the other committee pulling this stuff, I will tell this committee, is simply, look, not my privilege to waive under the Constitution.

Your best course of action is simply go to the president directly and his attorneys, negotiate that with the president. And whatever the president decides...


NAVARRO: ... I will salute 45.

MELBER: That sounds hypothetically reasonable.

You say it`s not your privilege to waive.

NAVARRO: That`s the law. No, it`s the law.

MELBER: But let`s look at how often you have waived it. Let`s look some of the news you have made on these topics.

Take a look.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There`s been no outreach from 6 January Commission for Peter Navarro.


BANNON: And here`s the reason, because Peter Navarro, the first thing you will send over is, hey, put this in the official record, which would be the Navarro report.

NAVARRO: That is the dog that didn`t bark.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro is spilling the beans.

NAVARRO: We had over 100 congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill ready to implement the sweep.

BANNON: Peter Navarro.

NAVARRO: Right? The boss tells Pence to take my frigging call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peter Navarro tells "Rolling Stone"...

NAVARRO: It was about sending the votes back.

Most or all of those states would decertify the election.


MELBER: How do you expect people to take seriously your claim this is secret and privileged, when you have been out there talking about it?

And when you and Bannon said the committee`s dog wouldn`t bark, they were afraid of you and the report, it seems now, Peter, like the dog has barked.


NAVARRO: Chapter 21 in the "In Trump Time" book reveals what I have said about the Green Bay Sweep.

That doesn`t violate executive privilege. Nothing is in there. The committee is perfectly willing to read that book. I will send them copies for free. I will autograph them for them, if they like.

Going before the Congress, when the president has invoked executive privilege, is a totally different animal. And, as a lawyer, if you can`t see the difference in that, I can`t help with that, Ari.

But it is what it is. I have been subpoenaed to that committee to testify and to turn over documents. The president has said no. He`s invoking executive privilege. Not my privilege to waive. Not going to cooperate with that committee, until they negotiate a reasonable pathway with the president and his attorneys.

And I don`t believe the president is going to waive executive privilege, because the fundamental problem with this committee -- and I -- Ari, you and I think could agree on, we would love to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6, right, but that committee...


NAVARRO: ... is highly partisan.

MELBER: Yes. Well, just...

NAVARRO: I mean, I have real questions about that perimeter, why it was unguarded, things like that.

MELBER: I will give you one more question, but -- I will give you one more question, Peter...


MELBER: ... because we had a lot of time here, and I do appreciate you taking the questions, and we have learned some things here from you...


MELBER: ... including where you said you were involved and not and what you assert.

You have got to understand, though, that, yes, you can refer them to your book, but this is a legal process. You`re not above the law. The testimony they seek about the things where you would have already waived privilege by discussing it in public and in a book, a book that you have been selling...

NAVARRO: No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no. No, no.

MELBER: Wait, Peter -- is waived.

NAVARRO: You can`t say I have waived privilege.

No, no, no, no. Stop right there, Ari.

MELBER: And so my last question to you is, do you understand that you have already waived it by discussing it? They want it under oath.

NAVARRO: That`s not what happened. I did not waive privilege.

No, no, no, no.

MELBER: And, number two, finally, Peter -- finally, Peter, Mr. Bannon was indicted for this.

Are you prepared to risk indictment for defying the subpoena?

NAVARRO: I have loyalty to the Constitution and the president.

He has invoked executive privilege. I -- I -- it`s not my privilege to waive, Ari. I will stand tall on this.

MELBER: Former Trump White House veteran Peter Navarro, facing that new subpoena yesterday, coming on here to discuss it with us, thank you for your time.

Appreciate you joining us.

NAVARRO: Ari, as always. Thank you.

MELBER: We turn now for analysis to Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for "The Nation."

Welcome back.

Elie, your reaction and thoughts to what we heard from Mr. Navarro?

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": It`s not his privilege to waive because it`s not his privilege to invoke, because he doesn`t have executive privilege.

The documents that he is talking about, the testimony and the conversations that he`s talking about are not covered by executive privilege. And we know that because Donald Trump is not the executive. And Steve Bannon was never employed by the executive in the first place.

You asked him why he`s willing to talk about it in his book. He said to you: "I have so much knowledge to share with you."

Now, if he has knowledge that he can share with you, there is no legal reason he cannot share that knowledge with the committee. I would have asked -- he has talked about in his book -- sorry -- I wrote -- I was writing down stuff as he was going on.

MELBER: Yes, take your time.

MYSTAL: He talked about -- in his book about how he`s had conversations with Steve Bannon about this Green Bay Sweep without Trump in the room, right?

So I wouldn`t -- I would ask him, did you have conversations with Steve Bannon without Trump in the room? Did you have conversations with Giuliani without Trump in the room or Bernard Kerik?

MELBER: Well, he did with some of them.

MYSTAL: Right.

Did you have conversations with Bernard Kerik? Did you have conversations with your wife? Did you have conversations with your children?

Is it your position, Mr. Navarro, that every single conversation you had while you were employed by the White House is covered by executive privilege?


And, Elie...

MYSTAL: And once he realizes that he can`t answer yes to that, you can see that most of the stuff that the committee is after wouldn`t be covered by executive privilege, even if Trump had a legitimate claim to executive privilege...


MYSTAL: ... which he doesn`t because he`s no longer the executive.

MELBER: And we started with the fact questions and ended on process, quite deliberately, because he`s made it clear where he is on the process. And Bannon and others have tried to defy this committee.

I should note, for folks who are wondering, well, it doesn`t anything work, the vast majority of witnesses contacted have cooperated with the committee. So, yes, sometimes the news and the energy is around some of the others. Most do not consent to interviews, so we don`t even hear or get access to them.

But moving back to the facts, Elie, I`m curious what you thought about the way that he, in his own way, with his own wording, did seem to try to completely distance himself from two other seemingly related planks of this effort at a coup or to stop the peaceful transfer of power, fraudulent electors and the thwarted, not enacted, idea about using the military?


So it`s really weird to me. One of the things that Navarro doesn`t do when he comes on to these, like, confessional programs is that he never explains who told him to do what he did, right, like, who told -- he never explains, who told him to go out and find these fake documents. Who told him to go out and come up with this report about fake electors? Who told him to pressure Mike Pence?


Like, was he just doing that on his own just out of the goodness of his heart? Or was he being instructed by other people in the White House to do that? And that`s where you get into these -- that`s where you get into the difficulty with understanding his claims on some of these other levels of potential crime, right?

So, like, if he didn`t tell his assistant to go let Sidney Powell and Mike Flynn in to come talk about stealing the -- then who did to the assistant? He was like, oh, the system was off the reservation going rogue. Does that happen -- so, you would ask him, does that happen often, Mr. Navarro? Do most of your assistants go rogue?

Is there another example of your assistant...

MELBER: Well, we know -- yes, I mean, I will say one thing on that. I mean, we put it up there so people can see.

We know that`s very rare. We know that this was too much for even Meadows and Giuliani. And the assistant, Mr. Ziegler, had his credentials revoked. We didn`t know that. That hadn`t been reported -- that`s from print reporting in "The Times" -- even two months ago. So some of this is still coming together.

The last thing before I lose you, Elie, is, I`m going to put this timeline back up on the screen briefly. This timeline is from a range of evidence and reporting. And lord knows the committee and the criminal investigators have far more.

But the timeline would suggest things that all cohere around January 6. You see the ramp-up in November, the electors. The military stuff`s going on. Bannon and Navarro are pushing Pence. The PowerPoint had the military stuff and Pence in it.

So when you look at that, Elie, it seems very important to Mr. Navarro. One thing we learned tonight that we didn`t know a week ago is, it seems very important to him to say he was doing just this one thing, and the other things that may have been illegal, he says he didn`t know about.

MYSTAL: Yes, he`s trying -- he believes that if he can keep this on he honestly believed that the election was stolen, that will keep him -- that will keep him safe, that that will keep him out of trouble.

And from where I sit -- and, again, I don`t know how this is all going to play out. But from where I sit, unless he is willing to implicate somebody else who told him to go out and make these claims up, essentially, about the results of the election, unless he can point to somebody else who ordered him to do that, then he`s on the hook for his own seditious conduct.

Now, if I were him, I don`t -- I personally -- I mean, just looking at the man, I do not believe that he did this on his own steam. I believe he was ordered. I believe somebody did tell them, hey, Pete, go look into this. I don`t know who that might have been, Bannon, Trump, whoever. But I don`t believe he did that on his own steam.

So, if I were him, I would tell the truth about that. But if he honestly wants to say...

MELBER: Yes. And it`s not -- yes.

MYSTAL: If he honestly wants to say that he did it on his own steam, then he is on the hook for his own conduct.

MELBER: Right.

No, I appreciate your analysis on that. And what we saw tonight, he cut an aide loose who seemed to be interested in the same type of election denials that he is. He cut Giuliani, Epshteyn...

MYSTAL: Kerik. Epshteyn.

MELBER: ... Kerik, others loose.

Whether there`s other contemporaneous documentation that might put pressure on that narrative is, again, why journalists and others do reporting.

But that`s some of what we learned.

Elie Mystal, I want to thank you.

We got to fit in a break.

But Barack Obama was out today meeting with House Democrats. We will explain that. Steve Schmidt is here tonight.

Stay with us.



MELBER: Former President Obama`s making a rare foray into congressional politics today, huddling with House Democrats on strategy.

So, why today? Did Obama just have a free Thursday? Not exactly. Turns out today is the 15th anniversary of his original historic trip to Springfield, site of Lincoln`s house divided speech, where Obama announced that first campaign.


OBAMA: This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.


OBAMA: By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail. But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible.

He tells us that there`s power in hope.


MELBER: A different future always possible, if you`re an optimist, but Obama is the one reminding everyone the Democrats face a different environment right now.

And he`s telling them they can`t just hope people will notice Joe Biden`s record-breaking economic boom. Reports are that, in this meeting, Obama counseled Washington Democrats to stop being bashful at all and flex on the very significant Biden economic gains.

Now, for his part, the current president does talk up the economy more. We have seen that lately. Today, he was out touting a plan on drug prices.

There`s also some symmetry in the Democrat who first brought Biden to the White House now reminding his party, you can be responsible and still show the public that you`re winning with swagger.

In fact, if you remember, from Congress to the court, Obama, when he was winning, well, he made sure people knew.




MELBER: "That`s what I do."


That`s what Obama looked like as player, whether playing hoops or playing against the kind of GOP obstruction that Biden faces now.

When you know how to play, it is said that you are P, and, when you play consistently, that you are pushing P.

Well, many Democrats feel Obama is pushing P consistently. And they want even more of that from the current president, perhaps longing for these B`s to get together, for Biden to follow Barack and start pushing B.

Well, with that in mind, we have a special guest in the Obama world, Heather McGhee, when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re joined now by Heather McGhee, who has an Obama connection of her own.

Although an independent analyst, it turns out the Obamas like a lot of her work. In fact, her book "The Sum of Us" is being turned by the Obamas into a podcast.

Congratulations on that, and welcome back.


MELBER: Great to have you.

And I mentioned playing, because Obama was responsible, he was careful, but he could play the game. And he did it with swagger, even as he was, whatever you want to call it, center-left, moderate on certain things.

What do you think about what he`s doing on both policy and swagger and energy in this huddle today?

MCGHEE: Well, I think the point that you made, and the point that the president, Obama, made is really quite important, because there`s no better economy to run on than this one.

What the Democrats are suffering from at this moment, in many ways, is a problem of the megaphone. The thing is, is that the Republican Party has an in-house propaganda outlet. And then everything else is -- in the far right reaches of the media ecosystem is pushing it to -- further and further to the right.

So seven of the top 10 Facebook memes shared on a daily basis are right- wing, right? You have got FOX News and OANN and Sinclair at the local level. And so is this feeling, like, whatever crazy thing the right wing says, has this media infrastructure that makes it louder than the facts and the truth?

That`s one piece of it. So, it doesn`t matter if your message is good if nobody hears it.

And then Democrats also have the problem that there are real issues in the American economy in terms of costs, right, because of inflation. But the biggest thing that we can do for inflation right now is the Biden agenda that, unfortunately, two Democrats are holding up in Congress, right?

Yes, there`s the $3 more for your grocery basket, but what about the cost of housing, of child care, of health care? And that, those big double-digit increases that are tens of thousands of dollars for middle-class households, that is what the Build Back Better agenda would help with.

And it`s a Democrat problem that he`s got.

MELBER: Yes, that`s fair and candid. I mean, that is the challenge.

The other thing is -- and, in fairness to Biden, Obama definitely ran up against this in his own way -- is that, when Democrats are in charge, sometimes, they come off as almost plaintive about all these challenges. It`s a very different mood than when Republicans are in charge.

And Biden struck the middle ground of that today. Take a look.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, by the way, I`m a capitalist. I`m a capitalist.

You should be able to make a million or a billion dollars. Just pay a little bit of your fair share. That`s all.

We have over 53 companies in America that made $40 billion last year -- didn`t pay a single penny in taxes, not a single penny. That`s not right.



MELBER: You can call that a bedtime stories of late-stage capitalism.

But I think the rebuttal that some have -- and you can give us your thoughts -- is, OK, good that he recognizes a problem, for those who agree that it`s a problem. It certainly sounds unfair. But people say, OK, you all are in charge. You have been in charge for a year. What are you doing?

MCGHEE: Yes, that`s where there`s a real disconnect and where the agenda is the most popular Democratic agenda we have had for a long time, right?

Capping how much a family pays of their income on child care at 7 percent, that`s a hugely popular thing. Raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, hugely popular. peels off a ton a independents and actually Republicans.

But, as I said, I mean, the difficulty is that he`s been able, the Democrats have been able to accomplish a lot of their agenda. And you see that in the jobs numbers. You see that in the American poverty rate being the lowest it`s been on record, which should be something that everybody knows.

And yet the big remaining pieces are being stalled from within his own party.

I want to say one thing, though, about the sort of right-wing message and how the Democrats often get sort of caught up in the culture war and feel like they don`t exactly know how to respond when it feels like there`s a grassroots movement sort of mainstreaming white supremacy, banning black history, and trying to cancel Dr. King, as is happening in a dozen states across the country.

The Democrats have not been on the offensive about this. And they need to be. These bills, even though they have taken hold in a number of states, are hugely unpopular across the country. The American people agree that we should be teaching all of our history, both the struggle and the overcoming. They think that children should have the freedom to learn.

And they think that schools are, frankly, not a place where we should be injecting more chaos. But there`s this difficulty that the Democrats tend to have at going on the offense when it`s about race.

MELBER: Yes, all great points. You make so many good points, makes me think you should team up with the president and put them out there. But you`re already doing that.

Heather, good to see you again. I hope you come back.

MCGHEE: Thank you, Ari. Great to have -- great to be with.

MELBER: Absolutely. Great to have you.

Coming up: Did Donald Trump or his team break the law again, this time with secret White House logs?

Well, Steve Schmidt weighs in on that and a whole lot more. He`s back on THE BEAT, special guest, next.



MELBER: "The New York Times" has a new report that is making waves even in an era where people have come to expect some hypocrisy.

Investigators finding major gaps in the official White House telephone logs from a specific day, the day, January 6, of the insurrection, very few, suspicious few, records of calls by Trump, when investigators actually have reason to believe he was making them from the other call records they have subpoenaed and testimony.

Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee is launching a probe into Trump`s removal of White House documents back home after reports that he may have taken some with classified information. There are calls to DOJ to mount a full criminal probe.

Now, Trump says that he meant to do nothing wrong. And yet this, like so many things, is the most completely typical self-owning hypocrisy that, if it were a plot at the end of the movie, you would say it was too obvious and symmetrical, because Trump claimed, perhaps falsely, to be outraged over how Hillary Clinton used a personal e-mail server.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 e-mails that you deleted. There has never been so many lies, so much deception.

There has never been anything like it.


MELBER: We turn to Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican operative and Trump critic.

Thanks for being here.

Your thoughts on this story?

STEVE SCHMIDT, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, I think, Ari, first off, it`s good to be with you.

Second, I think that we`re going to find out what happened on that day down to the millisecond. And so I think that we will find out what happened to the deleted logs, who deleted them, when they were deleted, at whose orders were they deleted, and all the details will be filled in for the American people in the months ahead.

And then the other part of it, listen, if he removed classified information, if he took material from the White House, stole it, material that was required to be sent to the National Archives under the Presidential Records Act -- I served as a commissioned officer in the White House.

Everybody who worked in the White House that I served in understood what the Presidential Records Act was. If he broke the law, he should be prosecuted, like anybody else would.

MELBER: When you look at the sheer hypocrisy and the reaction of some around the country to say, another round of this, it feels like some of them get away a lot of the time.

You have worked in your career and with an organization that deals with accountability. What do you say to people who have that reaction?

SCHMIDT: Look, I think that one of the defining issues of our, Ari, is the total collapse of trust in every institution in the country.

It was a predicate for a man with the loathsome character of Donald Trump to being elected president of the United States in the first place. I think a seismic event in recent history was the economic collapse in 2008-2009.

The country saw, to the tune of tens and tens of millions of families that lost homes, lost jobs, not a single Wall Street banker went to prison. You had a situation until very recently, until it was unraveled by a judge, the Sackler family, for instance, a family that has a historic amount of American death on its account.

We have an accountability crisis in this country. So, is it reasonable for the American people to look at this and to say that there are rules for me and rules for them, and the two don`t seem to cross very often? Of course.


That being said, the wheels of justice grind slowly. The only thing worse than one political party in a two-party system openly chanting for political opponents to be locked up for political reasons is a second political party in that two-party system doing the same thing.

I know there`s a lot of criticism of Merrick Garland, but I got to tell you, Merrick Garland was the prosecutor on the Oklahoma City case. I think he understands full well the danger of right-wing extremism in this country.

We`re at a moment where we can`t confuse justice and politics.


SCHMIDT: I`m like anybody else who is frustrated by what seems to be somebody who, through an arrogance, an entitlement, a softness in the culture, for whatever many of the manifest reasons for it, seems to be above the law.

And the consequence for it is a cancer inside our body politic, inside our democracy, inside our pluralistic society. So, this is a core idea that we`re going to have to look at and test as a country.

The good news is, there will be no mystery about what happened on January 6. There will be no mystery about any of this. And then the American people are going to have to decide what to do about it.


While I have you, as a student of politics, I am curious what you think of the fact that, while there was much made of Trump`s resiliency in the party, his numbers are down among Republicans. On some issues, including the COVID denialism, there`s a fissure with DeSantis and others.

Do you see something different afoot here or not?

SCHMIDT: Yes, look, I think he`s getting boring.

I think that people are exhausted by them. I think that poll number is a wish. Do I wish he would go away? Yes, I wish he would go away and we would move on.

However, will those people not vote for him? They will vote for him. Here`s the political reality of this, beyond the wish that was captured in that poll. The political reality is, he is lock, stock and barrel in charge of the organization of the Republican Party. He controls all 50 state parties. QAnon factions control some of them.

And the national party did what it did. It just said that the violence, the mayhem, desecration was legitimate political discourse. That has meaning. They voted on it. That embrace of violence now stands in the front of us, unable -- it stands in front of us as the fundamental question that our politics has to settle now.

Are we ready to throw the American experiment into the garbage can for a brutalist system, where the strong take from the weak because they can, where the laws benefit the strong because they`re strong, where the powerful get more powerful preying on the weak because that`s the natural order of things?

The imperfect antidote to that is democracy in all of its forms. It`s the only system of government that`s ever been conceived that puts the dignity of the human being beyond reach and above the power of the state. That`s what this is about.

You can talk about inflation. You can talk about the economy, Build Back Better, all of these things. We are coming to a moment where we must decide the core issues. And the core issues, no matter how important they are, are not the domestic legislative agenda of a president. They`re the values of a country that this presidency is called to defend against a real-life, growing, metastasizing autocratic movement that is, for example, spilling over our northern border and causing chaos there.

We live in a dangerous hour. It will get more dangerous. These next two elections will play a profound role in shaping the direction and the trajectory of this country over the next decades, and really determine what type of society we live in.


SCHMIDT: Will it be democratic? Will it be pluralistic? Will it be a nation of laws?


SCHMIDT: Will it be a nation where we strive for equality under the law?


SCHMIDT: That`s what`s on the ballot.

MELBER: A metastasizing autocratic threat to the body politic itself.

You put it well and starkly. I hope people are listening.


Steve Schmidt, thank you.

And we will be right back.


MELBER: A Republican lawmaker headed up to Trump Tower, trying to explain that she actually has some type of conservative credentials.

This is Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who filmed this video herself because Trump went after her against her primary opponent.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I`m in front of Trump Tower today.

And I remember, in 2015, when President Trump announced his run. I was one of his earliest supporters. I actually worked for the campaign in 2016. I worked at seven different states across the country to help get him elected.

As a strong fiscal conservative, I believe in putting America first. I believe in putting our country back on the path to prosperity.


MELBER: Like so many people who`ve worked for Trump or with him or sought his support, she is learning the limits of his loyalty.

That does it for us. It has been quite an hour.

Thank you, as always, for spending time with us on THE BEAT. You can always find me online @AriMelber, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or now TikTok. And you can tell me what you thought of the interviews tonight, or not.

I turn now to my friend Joy Reid. "THE REIDOUT" starts now.