Michael Flynn backtracks on supporting a coup. Texas Democrats walk out of session to prevent a voter suppression bill from passing. New information emerges that Sean Hannity may have written an ad for Donald Trump during the campaign. Is the Republican Party abandoning any pretense of standing for any actual ideas?
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.
Welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Ari Melber.
We have a big show. Neal Katyal will catch us here with developments in the Trump criminal probe.
But we begin right now with this. The government of Myanmar was overthrown by the military on February 1 of this year. It was chaotic and dramatic, hundreds of civilians killed. No Western Democratic leaders across the political spectrum said anything about that was OK.
But now former General Michael Flynn, who famously pleaded guilty to lying to his own government during the Mueller probe, just appeared at a right- wing event. This is over Memorial Day weekend.
And while answering questions from someone in the audience, he said this about the coup:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can`t happen here.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No reason.
I mean, it should happen here. No reason.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FLYNN: That`s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Quote: "It should have been here."
The video quality may be grainy. But in the context of what`s going on in America, the statement is quite severe, too severe, it turns out, even for Mr. Flynn, who is now backtracking. He says he was misunderstood.
The backlash is real, Flynn facing criticism for doing what everyone is concerned about in our current era, stoking violence, advocating the violent overthrow of the government, a coup.
It`s the kind of call to arms that, of course, led to the insurrection that remains a fault line in our politics right now, congressional Republicans trying to minimize.
We have news on all of that as well, because those militias and other wannabe militias that we saw at the Capitol, they took the calls for political violence literally. They took stop the steal literally. And now there are newly unsealed court documents in the prosecution and the accountability for many of those individuals that describe a plan by one of the groups, the Oath Keepers, to basically anoint themselves a kind of paramilitary force on behalf of Donald Trump`s political efforts to overturn the election.
This is the coup-adjacent stuff. This is new court filings. Prosecutors allege that, in the planning for the January 6 insurrection, the very head of that group, the Oath Keepers, told people, stay fully armed. Prepared to go in armed.
They said in their preparations that then, when they got to the Capitol, they would simply be -- quote -- "awaiting the president`s orders." The whole plan, the whole intent, the whole advanced conspiracy, according to this evidence that prosecutors have gathered, was that Trump would then -- quote -- "call us up as the militia."
Now, that is just a smattering of new evidence that overlaps with what Trump officials, former Trump officials are saying and doing. There are over 400 of these cases.
And I want to tell you some of the night before I bring in our experts on a deadly serious story. The only reason that we in the news can even report on some of those details is because of the prosecution`s, because there are individual case investigations.
But, remember, in our system, each of those cases, according to fairness, is about those individuals involved. What the courts don`t do, what they are not an arena for, is to simply have an open-ended investigation of everything that went on that day, including many scary, dangerous, serious things that may not, for various reasons, be chargeable against certain individuals.
Now, that`s why there was a 9/11 Commission, because, in addition to foreign policy and government investigations in the courts, there was also the need to figure out everything that happened and how it happened and why it happened, and whether, as a nation, through our democracy, our Congress wanted to change laws and rules to prevent it from happening again.
Indeed, there were many famous reforms that came out of the 9/11 Commission, some of them on a bipartisan basis. And that`s where all of these stories intersect tonight.
If the leadership of the Republican Party has its way, there will never be that kind of total investigation of what really happened and who was involved and how many people behind the scenes were politically encouraging the violence to end democracy in America on January 6.
With that, we do bring in our experts.
I`m joined by David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones", and NYU law professor Melissa Murray.
David, your thoughts on the above?
DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think you made a very key point.
If you go back to the Trump-Russia investigation with Robert Mueller, people kept saying, wait for that investigation, wait for that investigation. But that was just geared towards prosecutable crimes. His job was to investigate what happened and see if there was a crime or not.
Not everything that`s wrong is a crime. Not everything that is wrong can be proven as a crime. Not even a crime -- not all crimes can be proven as crimes. That`s why you need independent investigations, congressional committees.
We saw this. You mentioned the 9/11 report. Another great report was the select committee on Iran-Contra back in the late `80s,in the Iran-Contra scandal, where you got a Senate committee and a House committee working jointly together to give us the whole story.
There was a special prosecutor who was prosecuting crimes, Oliver North and John Poindexter. People were accused of crimes. Some people were convicted. Some people were pardoned in the end. But there was a whole `nother effort.
That was Congress. If Congress -- it is Congress` job to tell us what`s going on that we need to know. If there can`t be a bipartisan commission, then Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, without Republicans -- I know it`s going to look partisan -- have no choice but to try to put together I would say one committee, a select committee, and move ahead and investigate.
What did Donald Trump do that day? If he was telling people to sit on their hands, if he was watching in glee and not taking action right away, that might be negligence of duty, but that might not be a crime. But we need to know that. We need to know all those things that happened and how the big lie took hold and what`s happening.
And it leads up to what Michael Flynn said over this weekend, that there should be coup here. That all comes out of the big lie. It`s all connected here.
CORN: It`s all this sort of psychosis on the right. And that needs a good looking.
MELBER: And David, briefly, you bring up -- David, you bring up select committee, which people may remember has been used for a variety of things, some more credible than others, but it`s a governing option.
Real quickly, does your reporting suggest that that is a possible plan B in the works?
CORN: Well, we have heard Nancy Pelosi say that she wants to give this to congressional committees and Chuck Schumer as well say the same.
I haven`t heard much about them doing something jointly together. It`s hard for House -- the House and the Senate to work together often. But I think that would signify this is something different, and that would probably be worthwhile.
MELBER: Professor, I`m curious your view of the larger arc here, because there`s always been extremism in this country, as in others.
There`s whole books like Richard Hofstadter and others studying the paranoid style, the extreme type of conspiracy theories, where they take root. They obviously also commingle with hate.
But it would seem, in the modern era, to be a shift to see one of the top two political parties have such a mainstream embrace of this level of conspiracy and this level of admitted violent talk, whatever was going on behind the scenes. I can`t think of any other national security adviser in American history, Professor, who was caught publicly talking up a coup in theory.
MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It certainly is unorthodox.
And those remarks were striking. And, of course, it has been reported that General Flynn has tried to walk those back in the last couple of days. But, again, the idea of mimicking a Myanmar-style coup in the United States really flies in the face of what we understand about our democracy, where there has always been a peaceful transition of power.
And David is actually -- is absolutely right about the importance of a commission. Commissions are not simply to surface crimes that have been committed, but to just deal with sort of rudimentary disjunctions in the way processes have happened.
In the 9/11 Commission, we learned about the failure of coordination between different law enforcement bodies in dealing with terrorism. And that was incredibly important for moving forward with counterterrorism efforts. And you could imagine a similar commission in this context, noting the difficulties of coordinating between the D.C. Metro Police, the Capitol Police, all to secure what is essentially a massive workplace for a number of Americans.
MELBER: You mentioned the denial.
In fairness, let me read it, so viewers know what Mr. Flynn is now saying - - quote -- "Let me be very clear. There`s no reason whatsoever for any coup in America. I do not and have not at any time called for any action of that sort."
And you can run that against what he thought he was doing and what he was saying in that crowd.
Also, David Corn, I`m sure the old rule of thumb and politics. If you`re disavowing your belief, public support for a violent coup, you`re losing that day.
MELBER: Not to make light of how serious it is, but it`s quite a line: I`m not for any coup
Go ahead, David.
CORN: Well, the important thing here, it`s not just that he said that stupid remark directly about the coup.
The whole QAnon movement, the whole conference is about the fact that Joe Biden was not elected legitimately. That`s the big lie. But, more importantly, they believe he will be overthrown. Sidney Powell, who we know, who know was the lawyer who made these big lie cases, the Kraken lawsuits, was there at the same conference saying that, by the summer, Joe Biden will not be president and Donald Trump will be re-inaugurated.
Now, how is that going to happen? A coup of some sort, right? She`s -- the whole premise of this movement, of this conference was that something extraordinary, beyond elections, are going to come and wipe out what happened in November.
CORN: So, whether or not General Flynn believed...
CORN: ... there should be a Myanmar-style coup, he`s definitely, by appearing here, endorsing the view that Biden should be yanked out of office, will be yanked out of office, and somehow Donald Trump installed, in violation of the Constitution.
MELBER: Well, David, like a very sought-after peanut butter and jelly sandwich, what you just said is both important and nutty.
I mean, it sounds nutty to give any time to this at all. But it`s actually important. And we -- I want to show some of this. What David brings up is exactly something we wanted people to at least see. We`re not going to repeat all the misinformation, but we have some footage of the lies that were peddled about January 6 here.
And appearing, we`re going to show you here, you got a QAnon podcaster that`s appearing with Republican officials. That`s a sitting member of Congress. You have Sidney Powell there, as David just mentioned. And one of the types of lies that is being pushed out is the idea that these fake reviews of ballots in some of these states would somehow change things, which they won`t.
So I take that image to you, Professor, because viewers who watch THE BEAT regularly know we give a lot of thought to how to tell people what`s going on without echoing the misinformation. And I think David also did a -- not that you need my review, David, but I thought David did a fair job of that as well.
It`s not that you repeat this thing so much that people start to think, well, I heard about it on the news, it must be true. It`s nutty. I want to be clear, nutty stuff.
But is the Republican Party embracing this publicly more than we have seen in the past, Professor?
MURRAY: I mean, I don`t even know if it necessarily has to be a full- throated embrace. The fact that it is not a full-throated denial of what we know to be the truth is by itself enough and gives credence to it.
So, as you say, there was a sitting member of Congress who is galvanizing this kind of rhetoric, buying into this rhetoric. You have representatives of the former president saying this, and you have former members of the military saying this.
It`s something that we have never really seen in our history before. And it`s incredibly unorthodox, and there really is no basis for it. These audits are unlikely to produce anything. Every one of these lawsuits that alleged irregularities in the electoral process were thrown out of court or denounced almost immediately.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell says that, in August, he will present evidence to the Supreme Court that will force the court to change the course of the election. The court is not in session in August. They are somewhere else. And they will complete their business probably by the end of June or July, at the latest, and they will not be present.
Nothing is going to happen in August, at least not in the courts. So this is just stoking the flames in the same way that that same rhetoric stoked the flames that ultimately culminated in January 6.
CORN: But it`s important to remember too...
MELBER: Yes, I think you both -- go ahead, David.
CORN: I was just going to say, a poll came out a week or two back that 70 percent of Republicans believe Biden was not legitimately elected.
And we can laugh at that and call it nuttery, which it is, but it`s becoming sort of an albatross around the neck of the political system. And what is the -- the net result of this is what`s happening in Texas and Georgia, these voter suppression laws.
CORN: They`re all based and premised on this lie.
So while, yes, Joe Biden will not be yanked out of office by John Roberts in August, when he`s on vacation, but, indeed, it will become harder for people of color and other people to vote in coming elections because of this.
So there is a nutty element to this, but it`s being used to a real diabolical, realistic way. And that`s why Mitch McConnell and everybody and the Republicans don`t want a 1/6, a January 6 commission, because that will under -- sort of undermine the what`s what`s driving the voter suppression, and also alienating them from their base, which has become -- it sounds partisan to say this -- but very nutty.
MURRAY: Well, I`m not trying to minimize any...
MELBER: Yes, I hear you on that.
CORN: No, I`m not saying you are.
MELBER: Well, listen, let me -- I have to fit in a break. I have to fit a break, but Melissa stays.
So I`m glad to at least David got his point in. We will hear more from Melissa.
We have our shortest break, which is 30 seconds. The professor returns along with other experts.
Also tonight, we have an insider from the Manhattan DA`s office with updates on the probe and how Republican leaders are dropping any pretense of running on policy.
But first: this walkout that stopped what was a Republican attack on civil rights and voting, what we`re just talking about.
Our special report -- when we`re back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Turning to the other big story. And it`s the echo of what led off our broadcast tonight.
As soon as Donald Trump officially lost, Republicans in many key states began a new effort to suppress even more votes than what we had seen in some of these very similar clashes before the election.
A lot of this has to do with what many call the big lie. Now, moments ago, President Biden making it clear he stands with voting rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This sacred right is under assault with an intensity and an aggressiveness that we have not seen in a long, long time.
It`s simply un-American.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the For the People Act to protect our democracy. The Senate will take it up later this month, and I`m going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.
We`re going to overcome again, I promise you, but it`s going to take a hell of a lot of work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We have been tracking this in several states. The latest flash point is Texas, the state`s governor threatening Democrats who staged this walkout in order to block the passage of sweeping voting restrictions, handing a setback to Republican lawmakers.
Governor Abbott now says he will use his powers to deny these elected officials their paychecks, no pay for those who abandon their responsibilities, he says, and that he will use his power to call a special session to vote on the bill.
The proposal would end drive-through and 24-hour voting. It would stop Sunday voting. It would create I.D. requirements for mail ballots, would make it easier potentially to have election results overturned on a partisan basis.
A lot of these are the ingredients of the problems we have been discussing. Texas Democrats say they will fight back. They want Congress to step in and help and deal with this all around the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We came together to say that enough is enough because the people of Texas deserve better.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We denied them the quorum that they need to pass this bill, and we killed that bill.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re going to stand united and we`re going to fight for the state of Texas.
STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (R-TX): If they steamroll us here in Texas, they`re just going to march all across this country until they have made it very hard for everyone to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our democracy is at a tipping point.
Doesn`t seem to know what their state government is trying to do to their right to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The battle is not over. We will continue to fight and speak out against those measures that attempt to silence our voices.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: We`re joined right now by one of the very lawmakers who did the walkout, State Representative Nicole Collier, who`s chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. And, as promised, back with us is NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray.
Representative, especially for people who may have been busy living their lives over the long weekend, not underestimating the import here, walk us through why you and your colleagues did what you did, and what happens next.
STATE REP. NICOLE COLLIER (D-TX): Sure.
So thank you so much for having me.
I wanted to just let you know, so S.B.7 is the so-called voter integrity, election integrity bill that the Republican-controlled legislature presented. They presented it to the full body on the 139th day of a 140-day session. So, for them to go around saying that this was their priority bill, they sure did wait to the end to present one of their priorities.
But this bill has been through so many iterations. I mean, it went from being a 40-page document to a 70-page document almost overnight, with measures that were not even vetted in the public eye. They were not presented to the public and for public input.
So this, to me, is evidence that they are trying to pass measures without really hearing the voices of Texans, who this will greatly impact in the end. So, this bill has been put forth. It was put forth it had so many powerful measures in it.
Like what you said about Sunday voting, what they did was, they really tried to limit the Souls to the Polls, from changing the start of early voting on Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. And we know that people will get disengaged, and then the momentum will be lost when people are trying to leave church and get straight to the polls.
So, we envision this bill coming back in a special session, which we were anticipating any way to take up redistricting. So, maybe in September, we will see these measures come back. But I expect them to try to put -- make them even worse.
MELBER: When did the idea first begin discussions to stage this dramatic walkout, to deny them the chance to hold the vote?
COLLIER: Well, we have been considering this as an option.
We want to make sure that we had all options on the table. But when they came to the point where they were no longer going to listen to us. In fact, the way S.B.7 was handled, the process for it, is no different than how they have handled other measures throughout the legislature.
When our Democratic counterpart, my Democratic colleagues, would put up amendments that would reduce the harmful impact of some of these measures, our amendments were either stripped out, watered down, or flat-out denied. And that`s how they have handled the whole process.
In fact, we got to the point where we were negotiating how much time our members would be allowed to speak against the bill, as opposed to negotiating what was within them.
So when we saw that they were about to cut off all discussion on S.B.7, we decided to do and take that drastic measure and walk out.
MELBER: And, Professor, some of these measures have clearly targeted people on the basis of race, which, in theory, isn`t even supposed to be constitutional. But we have seen Republican appointees to the Supreme Court really push back on any of the extant federal laws that control this, Voting Rights Act Section 5, et cetera.
Then, on top of that, you have efforts that -- I`m curious what you think, Professor, but that really look like they`re also partisan. The idea is to create a different shape electorate that, again, is not just targeting black and brown people, which is wrong, but is also simply trying to, as mentioned, deal with something that I think everyone lived through last cycle, which was, oh, boy, Donald Trump really doesn`t like certain types of absentee voting, he seems to prefer the in person voting.
And some of that has to do with the expected turnout universe. Could you tackle for us, Professor, the question, I think, on some of our minds, which is why -- how is any of this even legal to pass in the first place?
MURRAY: Well, let me piece it all together. It may take me a minute.
So, first of all, these are not laws that classify on the basis of race. They do not prohibit voting on the basis of race explicitly. Instead, what they do is, they focus on voting practices that may be disproportionately used by minority voters.
So, for example, people who have to work late might prefer early voting or might prefer weekend voting or late-night or 24-hour voting. And that will have a disproportionate effect on minority voters. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has been -- is a law that allows for litigation that would find unconstitutional or illegal those kinds of voting measures that have a disproportionate impact on minorities.
That is currently being challenged in the United States Supreme Court right now. There`s currently a case pending about the scope and force of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. It`s one of the last legs of the Voting Rights Act left standing after the Supreme Court decimated that act in Shelby County vs. Holder in 2013.
So, again, as you say, it is not simply an effort to minimize the voices of minority voters at the polls. It`s also an attempt to rejigger and change the structure of state legislatures, of Congress itself by creating partisan roadblocks or partisan blocks in the electorate.
So, again, the redistricting process that happens here is meant to solidify Republican and Democratic strongholds and minimize the prospect of so- called purple districts, where it could go either way.
And as the representative said, one of the reasons why they`re unwilling to work with them to amend the laws is because the Republicans have a stronghold in the Texas House and Senate. They don`t need to compromise. If there was more fluidity in the voting patterns of those districts, they would be forced to compromise and it wouldn`t be quite so red, and that would have real effects.
So, all of this is really linked together. It`s linked back to 2019. Those cases about the census and putting a question about national origin and citizenship on the question, all for the purpose of determining who can vote, who cannot, and using that for redistricting.
So, it`s all linked. It`s all incredible. And we have to keep our eye on the ball.
MELBER: Professor and Representative, my thanks to both of you. I think we have a better understanding of this big issue.
Coming up tonight on the program, we also have Sean Hannity getting busted for literally writing ads for Trump. We will explain.
But first: a new sign that there are significant worries in the Trump Org criminal probe.
We have two special lawyer insiders next.
MELBER: An update on the legal storm Donald Trump is facing.
He has to counter the real possibility that senior officials at the Trump Organization or his company or himself all face the prospect of indictment. As we have reported, there`s a special grand jury that is now reviewing evidence in New York. Trump has also been putting his D.C. hotel up for sale -- that`s one of the properties that has been under investigation -- and planning a series of several rallies amidst what is mounting legal jeopardy in New York, citizen Trump facing a serious test.
Meanwhile, Trump`s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, well, he sees charges coming down the pike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: The chance that there`s not going to be indictments coming out and there`s not going to be convictions, it`s kind of like me waking up tomorrow seven-feet-tall and playing power forward for the Knicks. It`s there, right? It`s going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general, and Andrew (sic) Kaufmann. He was the executive assistant district attorney and chief of the Investigative Division in the Manhattan DA`s office, very relevant, given that that is the same office that has so much going on with Donald Trump`s organization and legal exposure.
Welcome to both of you.
Adam, I wanted to start by just walking us through, what does it mean when, as we have reported, you get a grand jury, a special extensive one impaneled in this way? And what do you think of what we have heard from some of your former colleagues, some of whom have said, we don`t know yet, we have to see, and others have said, well, Cy Vance doesn`t make this move unless there are some indictments coming of someone?
ADAM KAUFMANN, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Thanks, Ari.
KAUFMANN: Excuse me.
Thanks for having me on tonight.
So it`s true. The -- impaneling a special grand jury, it means a lot. It means that the prosecutors have spent the past year going through evidence, gathering documents, reviewing them, litigating, of course, over the tax records, talking to witnesses.
And they have reached a point in this process where they feel there is enough evidence to present to a grand jury. A special grand jury in New York state is a grand jury that will sit for six months or longer, that will hear only one or two cases, and they will focus in this case on the Trump investigation.
So it really does have a significance, in that it means that the district attorney is ready to move forward with witnesses, with strategy. They might compel witnesses to testify. They might charge people. They might immunize people. There`s a lot of strategic moves that come -- that come with a special grand jury, when you have the time to use the grand jury to develop the evidence and make the case.
MELBER: What do you think about the question I asked over whether there will or won`t be indictments?
KAUFMANN: It seems likely that, when you take the step of impaneling a special grand jury, that indictments will follow.
We don`t know who will be indicted. But the district attorney is not going to take the step of impaneling a special grand jury unless they believe, in their assessment, there is legally sufficient evidence to demonstrate criminal conduct.
Now, you can`t say who it is. You can`t say, is it Mr. Trump, Donald Trump himself?
KAUFMANN: Is it Trump Organization? Is it executives, the kids?
But you can say that they`re looking at this and thinking, we have got enough to go forward and bring criminal charges.
NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so I agree with a lot of that.
So, first of all, a grand jury is largely a black box. So we don`t find out what the grand jury is thinking, what they`re being presented with, and so on. I mean, the best way to think about it, it`s kind of like the opposite of Donald Trump. With Donald Trump, it`s always TMI. We know everything he`s thinking, or the lack thereof.
With a grand jury, it`s all about secrecy, as it should be. And so we`re not going to hear much.
But here`s what we do know. We do know that this grand jury has been convened, that the grand jury is looking at the Trump Organization and individuals within it. And Donald Trump, of course, was the head of it for a time. And then it was passed on to his two sons, and he was the president.
I agree. They could be looking just at the organization, and not at the individuals. That might be true in some corporate cases, but unlikely here, because this is a closely held company, in which there`s direct accountability of the leaders. This is not like some big behemoth, publicly traded company like this.
We know that this investigation involves financial records, that they have gone and sought the CFO`s grandkids` schools, tax returns, and so on. And, look, most normal companies have a legal compliance office that deals with all of this and makes sure that the I`s are dotted and the T`s are crossed, but not Trump.
I mean, Trump might come to regret replacing a legal compliance office with like a big picture with the giant sharpie of the presidential seal or something like that. But all of that is what the grand jury is going to be looking at. So, there are financial records witnesses, a whole gold mine for prosecutors.
And, Adam, I want to play something that we got. And we have been talking to many witnesses and people with primary experience, just because that helps you understand the case better.
Jack O`Donnell ran one of the biggest operations that they had back when the Trump Organization wasn`t just sort of a marketing and branding operation, but they were involved in actual business buildings, the Atlantic City casinos. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK O`DONNELL, FORMER PRESIDENT AND COO, TRUMP PLAZA HOTEL: And I actually went through a situation where I was asked to literally build false financials for my business.
I then went into Donald`s office. And Donald said: "Did Robert and Harvey talk to you about the numbers?"
And I said: "Yes, they did. But let me explain why I can`t redo the numbers, because they won`t be true."
And he just said: "We need new numbers."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Adam, when you worked in the same Manhattan DA`s office, would that kind of evidence, if it were recent enough, be something you could work with?
KAUFMANN: Yes, I mean, absolutely.
When you have people who went in the room and spoke to Donald Trump and told Donald Trump -- I mean, that example is, in and of itself, if it were at a time (AUDIO GAP) example, that would be enough to sustain charges, at least for falsifying the records of the company.
And if that is done in furtherance of some type of fraudulent conduct, it`s a felony charge. So that`s why you have a grand jury, because you have got the documents. The documents say whatever they say. The numbers are recorded. The tax returns are filed. The valuations are submitted wherever they`re submitted.
Now the question is, who caused that to happen? And you need to have the witnesses to come in and say, who was responsible? Who did this? Who authorized it? Who commanded it?
MELBER: And, Adam, what do you say to a critique we have heard both from certain people that are sympathetic to Trump, but also from some big Trump critics, who think he skated for too long, including in Democratic New York, that this guy was not exactly, to Neal`s earlier point, flying below the radar?
He was not exactly someone that you couldn`t hear about in New York and hear about how many people he`d stiffed and how many times he inflated his assets, and then undervalued them in other contexts. The tax stuff was legendary, even before they got the full returns.
What do you say to that critique that says that perhaps Mr. Vance or other officials up and down the line were asleep at the wheel, if it`s so bad that now it`s going to merit charges?
KAUFMANN: I think, look, you look back, there`s a lot of scuttlebutt that you hear people talking, oh, it was so obvious back then. I think there`s a degree of 20/20 hindsight.
I think it`s telling that Cy Vance is not seeking reelection. So the decision that he`s making, the decision to -- excuse me -- the decision he will make about whether to charge someone and who to charge, if it`s Donald Trump, is really an apolitical decision that he will make based on the facts of the case. He`s got no sort of political game, since he`s not seeking reelection.
MELBER: You`re sort of veering away -- like a good lawyer, you`re sort of veering away from the question at hand, which is whether this office was somehow lenient then.
MELBER: I take your point that Mr. Vance certainly is not, by definition, auditioning for the next campaign. He doesn`t have another campaign.
But what about back then? I mean, Neal and I have discussed, viewers may remember, Trump SoHo wasn`t even in SoHo. So you don`t need to be an expert to go, is that real estate fraud, or is that the tip of the iceberg?
I give you the last word, Adam.
KAUFMANN: Well the office looked at Trump SoHo once before. The decision was made not to go forward with that case.
I think that, in the years since Donald Trump became president, a lot more information has come out, a lot more scrutiny has been paid to his business activities. And you reach a certain point where the quantum of evidence becomes so great that it`s time to take action.
MELBER: Understood. And appreciate you taking the questions. And we have learned a lot.
When we`re looking at this kind of case that has the federal presidential history, and what the Manhattan DA is going to do, and we have two of the top people in both those dimensions of the law, we`re better for it.
Neal and Adam, thanks to both of you.
I have to fit in a break, but, tonight, we have a bonkers revelation about Sean Hannity busted for the lengths he went for Donald Trump.
And what is the blogger in Florida demanding now? Perhaps a party that doesn`t even claim to have ideas. It`s "Chai Day" next.
MELBER: Turning to politics, we are watching the party of Reagan increasingly submit to the blogger in Florida.
You have got the introduction cover-ups we have been discussing. You have this crackdown on the right to vote. And you have this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOMI LAHREN, FOX NEWS: They looked at the dismal ratings of this year`s Oscars and they said, you know what? We really don`t want to ride that train.
CANDACE OWENS, HOST, "CANDACE": I am talking about Chrissy Teigen`s pointed harassment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe Seth doesn`t have to worry for a few reasons. He is completely inoffensive lately. He`s never said a shocking thing in his life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Conservatives searching for an issue, any issue.
And just last year, for the first time since the founding of the Republican Party, the RNC did something unusual. They didn`t offer a party platform on policy. That is to say, they didn`t even write out the ideas they currently stood for at the time, let alone any new ones.
It was the most direct admission that it was all about one person, Donald Trump, then the president.
Now you have the phase we`re in, where everyone`s trying to understand, are the people in this party moving on, moving forward in any way, or is that idea-free zone going to stay the norm of a party obsessed with a person, unless and until the blogger allows something else?
You have the blocking of the investigation into the riot. You have the crackdown on voting. You have stalling any talks about jobs and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, President Biden does seem to be appealing to moderate Republicans. He has these economic plans. He has the spending increases. He`s pushing some things that people think makes sense during the recession we have lived through, including some more taxes on corporations and the wealthy. There`s also a climate agenda. There is also policing, which is an area of rich debate, but one where Joe Biden says he desperately wants to find a bipartisan solution, so that Congress can do something.
The theme when you take it all together that we`re about to get into with one of our favorite experts is, have Republicans literally become, at least for right now, a post-policy party?
And that brings us to our deep dive political conversations. You know what it is. You might even know what it`s called. It`s a special day on the beach. It`s "Chai Day," where this cartoon you see on your screen comes to life, political strategist Chai Komanduri, a veteran of three presidential campaigns, and a little bit of a history wonk, if we`re being honest.
Good to have you back, sir.
CHAI KOMANDURI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thanks. It`s good to be back, Ari.
MELBER: This is an idea you have been kicking around. And in credit to many, as soon as they dropped any pretense of a platform, other people have talked about it.
But you say that it`s really relevant here in just these few weeks we have been living through when you look at priorities. So, let me ask the question like this, Chai. Do you mean it literally when you critique Republicans as post-policy now?
KOMANDURI: They`re clearly a post-policy party.
And I think the real story here is how the GOP`s abandonment of policy has been a precursor to its abandonment of democracy. The two have become somehow very much linked.
Obviously, we talked about the 2020 platform, where the GOP just simply said, we all believe whatever Trump wants us to believe. It was seen as a very minor story at the time. Now I think it`s can be viewed as a very major story. That was really a red warning light. We really didn`t know what Trump was going to end up asking them to believe.
But, boy, they certainly have shown that they will believe it. And they have done this for really three reasons. The first is, we have talked about before, a political calculation. There`s only five gerrymandered House seats that they need to win in 2020. They can do that by cranking out their base.
The second is, it`s quite fun to actually abandon policy. You don`t have to spend long nights at the library, no poring over economic graphs, no math at all, really. So it`s actually quite rewarding for them to, like, abandon this whole pretense of policy entirely.
And the third -- and I think it`s really something that we should think about very deeply -- the GOP has abandoned policy because they know that they have lost on policy. They know they have lost the policy debate. I think we underestimate the impact of the gay marriage decision and the acceptance of gay marriage on the GOP.
Now they see a whole younger generation that does not agree with them on income inequality, on climate change, and on racial justice. And they know that they have lost the policy argument.
So when you have lost the policy argument, what do you do? You try to own the libs on Twitter because you can`t beat their policy papers. That`s simply what the GOP now has become. That`s the direction they have simply chosen to follow.
MELBER: Yes, and you mentioned the platform history, which is instructive. We dug this up here for the convo.
June 10, Republican National Committee announced, for the first time since its founding before the Civil War, the party would not draft a new platform. They said they were just carrying over 2016. And it was discussed at the time by the, again, Republican-friendly "Wall Street Journal" as a symbolization of Trump`s takeover of the party.
It was also, to your point, Chai a time where you have power. So, a president with power can put just about anything in the platform.
MELBER: And yet the complete lack of interest in doing so tells us what?
KOMANDURI: Well, it tells us that Trump -- Trumpism is basically to avoid any kind of really intelligent policy positions, but try to win on cultural, tribal battleground terms.
I mean, if you think about it, Trump did -- Trump`s policies were always nonsense, whether it was having Mexico build a wall, having universal health care that was going to be more comprehensive and cheaper somehow than the ACA. There was not a single page of policy details to support any of his claims on policy.
But it didn`t matter to 90 percent of Republicans, and he still won anyway, which is why the GOP simply has decided to follow this path. They know that they can still win by simply appealing to culture and tribalism and not having to worry about policy.
Look, let me create -- give you a movie analogy. At the end of the very great movie "8 Mile," Eminem, after winning the rap battle, talks to his friends. His friends say, let`s go and party. He says, no, I`m going to go to the factory and work.
The GOP are the friends who have decided to go and party. The Democratic Party is like Eminem. We`re going to the policy factory, working to create policies to help working-class Americans. The problem is, in this particular movie, the guys who decide to go and party can be rewarded equally, if not more, than the guy who decided to go and work in the factory.
That, I think, is the problem and the tragedy of all this.
MELBER: You may be one of the first BEAT guests to bring an Eminem as a narrative plot device in film, rather than for the bars.
MELBER: It also ends, of course, with him winning the battle by admitting all the worst things about himself and telling them, here, tell these people something they don`t know about me.
As we go through this stage of politics, there`s not much else we don`t know, whether it`s Mike Flynn owning himself on the mic or some of these other things, where people are really revealing the level of autocracy that they actually support.
Chai Komanduri, always full of surprises, thanks for coming back on THE BEAT.
KOMANDURI: Thank you, Ari.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
Now, coming up, something you got to see to believe. If Donald Trump had a ghostwriter, would it be Sean Hannity? Would there be evidence of that? Would it be soul-crushing?
We will answer all those questions. Stay with us.
MELBER: Now we have a new example of obvious hypocrisy from FOX News` Sean Hannity.
Remember, he says things like this about journalists who he thinks are too chummy with politicians:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: The entire journalism -- quote -- "industry" works on behalf of the Democratic Party.
The most infuriating part of it all is, they lie about their true agenda.
Some of the least trustworthy people on the planet. And I think they actually believe their own B.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He has every right to make all of his criticisms.
But something I guess you won`t find out a lot about if you watch Sean Hannity is that he was literally writing and working on behalf of Donald Trump`s reelection. And I don`t just mean during his program.
There`s a new book from a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, interestingly, a sister publication of the FOX News empire, that says Hannity had a role in writing a Trump campaign ad in the 2020 election.
But, curiously, the piece only -- quote -- "aired during Hannity`s show."
Here`s part of the ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Joe Biden, radical, corrupt, extreme and dangerous.
Joe Biden is a 47-year swamp creature that has accomplished nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And how does this all work? Well, the Trump campaign spent $1.5 million to run it.
Trump aides, though, reportedly thought it was so bad that they did only air it that one time, some desire to appease both Hannity and their boss.
Hannity denies helping to write that Trump ad. No word about that or matching that denial by the blogger himself.
MELBER: President Biden spoke in Oklahoma to mark this 100-year anniversary since the Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob destroyed and attacked a black community, killing hundreds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness, but, just because history is silent, it doesn`t mean that it did not take place.
Only with truth can come healing and justice and repair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tonight, on history and the truth, the president gets the last word.
Thanks, as always, for watching THE BEAT.
"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" is up next.