THe Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 9/13/17 Facebook under fire in Russia Investigation
Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: September 13, 2017
Guest: Rich Benjamin, Brian Darling, Antonio Garcia Martinez
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: That`s all we have for tonight.
We`ll be back tomorrow with more “MTP Daily”.
THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Chuck, I`ve been watching you a long
time, host of “Meet the Press”, host of “MTP Daily”. I believe this is
your first blunt pun on television. I believe.
TODD: It may be, it may be.
MELBER: And we salute you and we salute the good senator from you, Todd.
TODD: Hey, go hash it out in your hour. Will you?
MELBER: Thank you, Chuck Todd. Amazing.
TODD: All right.
MELBER: We do begin on THE BEAT tonight with some breaking news.
Bob Mueller`s Russia investigation is now treating Mick Flynn, Jr. as a
subject in its criminal inquiry. Investigators probing his work with a
lobbying firm of his father, former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn.
Now, this is an exclusive “NBC News” report.
Flynn is now one of only three formal subjects in this probe. That`s not
good news for the Flynn family. Flynn Jr. has worked in government and
business for his father, traveling with him everywhere from Trump Tower
during the transition to Moscow for that paid trip to celebrate a Russian
propaganda outlet, “RT”, and sit next to Vladimir Putin.
This is breaking today. So, we go right to NBC`s Ken Dilanian. And he
broke the story, I should mention, with two of our NBC colleagues.
Now, Ken, it is big to identify anyone as the subject of the probe. Why is
Mick Flynn, Jr. under this scrutiny and how did you get four sources to
KEN DILANIAN, “NBC NEWS” NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Ari, as you
mentioned, we have a dogged team working this story for days and we found
the right people who were familiar with this matter. And they confirmed it
And we don`t know exactly the conduct that the special counsel is examining
with Mike Flynn, Jr., but we know that he was the right-hand man of his
father, who is apparently facing some criminal jeopardy over his failure to
declare his lobbying work for Turkey and for some other financial
entanglements in international business relationships.
And the son would have known about almost every meeting. As you mentioned,
he attended that gala in Moscow, where Mike Flynn the father sat next to
Vladimir Putin. The son was along for that. So, he would have intimate
knowledge about his father`s business dealings.
And, moreover, taking a step back, when you look at Mueller`s strategy
here, if it`s his intention to have leverage over Mike Flynn, to get him to
talk about what he knows about potential collusion between the Trump
campaign and Russia, having his son on the hook with some criminal
jeopardy, potential criminal jeopardy, is certainly a point of leverage.
MELBER: And that goes to another question. And as a lawyer, I wouldn`t
want to have to answer it, but you`re here. So, I`m going to try to get
you to answer it. What portion of this is about the son and what portion
is really about the father?
DILANIAN: Well, I`ve got to believe a lot of it is about the father. I
mean, the son is collateral damage really. To the extent that the son was
- I mean, for example, one of the issues with Mike Flynn, the father, is he
apparently allegedly failed to disclose foreign contacts and certain
business arrangements on his security clearance application. That`s an
allegation that House Democrats renewed again today and it`s been made in
To what extent did Mike Flynn, the son, know about these arrangements, know
about the failure to disclose? Was there a conspiracy of any kind? These
are the kind of questions that are going to be asked. If he had knowledge
of or participated in illegal acts by the father, he may be on the hook for
that. But, really, it`s about the father`s conduct.
MELBER: Right. Stay with me. I want to bring in a former federal
prosecutor, Joyce Vance, as well as “Daily Mail” White House correspondent,
Joyce, walk us through what it means to be a subject.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER US ATTORNEY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: So, a subject of an
investigation is someone whose conduct potentially falls within the range
of what`s under investigation.
You`ll remember, Ari, that federal prosecutors use three definitions. A
witness is just what it sounds like. Subject is someone who`s within the
crosshairs, but prosecutors haven`t determined that they are a target. And
then a target is someone who prosecutors believe they have sufficient
evidence to charge or that they will have that evidence.
MELBER: Right. And so, it`s not good for him - the point that Ken and I
were just discussing, it relates all back to the father, creates potential
investigative and prosecutorial leverage, but Bob Mueller is going to
follow the facts. I don`t think they`re going to have him in these
crosshairs if there isn`t actual facts and conduct to support it.
So, Francesca, looking at the pushback here from Team Trump, I want to play
the old pushback, which was, well, Flynn, Jr. is not that involved in
things and some new pushback. Here was the old pushback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gen. Flynn has no
involvement in the transition whatsoever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a transition email.
PENCE: Well, general - well, he has no involvement in the transition
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You see the talking points there smacked right into the facts.
Email being something we`ve all heard about through the course of 2016.
That, I would call some involvement, Francesca.
And then here, just breaking in our hour, Mike Flynn back on Twitter - Mike
Flynn, Jr., which has been very controversial because he has pushed a lot
of falsehoods and conspiracies there, but he says “Fake news media were
done covering the pesky hurricanes, right????” And then says, “Back to
Russia.” And then he calls this through a hashtag, #ANothingBurger.
Francesca, what are we hearing from Trump world?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, “THE DAILY MAIL” WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well,
there`s no doubt that the White House is distancing themselves from this
widening Russia probe.
Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that she had
not discussed this with the president specifically and referred reporters
to outside counsel on this matter.
But as you noted, Mike Flynn, Jr. had an email during the transition and
the vice president tried to say that he had no involvement, but why did he
have an email during the transition process if that was the case.
And so, certainly, there are still questions that the White House has to
answer about Mike Flynn, Jr.`s involvement during the Trump campaign and
that`s certainly something that prosecutors will be looking at, the special
counsel will be looking at as well.
MELBER: The other piece of this, the other Flynn development today was
from Capitol Hill. I want to get all of you on it. Democrats say they
have the evidence that Flynn, Sr. hid these Russia-related trips, part of
his work on a plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East.
Democrats saying Flynn`s secrets may have actually broken the law, handing
over evidence to Mueller`s team. And it`s not just Democrats. Flynn
admitting on his third financial disclosure form that he says he did get
paid over $5,000 for that project. And the company behind the nuclear plan
says they cut him a check for $25,000.
The report paints a picture of a secretive national security official
basically on the take. And, Ken, I think this is going to interest Mueller
because it raises legal questions that extend again beyond 2016, beyond
November and into these two men - father and son - the way they worked with
DILANIAN: Absolutely, Ari. I mean, what we know now from Mike Flynn`s
disclosure statements is that he was paid around $1.8 million by various
entities. And this is one deal that we`re now learning about, where it was
a scheme apparently to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East with
some Russian involvement.
But the larger picture is, here was Mike Flynn making all this money from
all these private entities up to and including through the transition.
Then he becomes national security advisor. You`ve got to believe that
Mueller is asking the question, did any of this money influence his
behavior in the government?
For example, he was paid more than $0.5 million by the Government of
Turkey. Did he take any action to benefit the Turkish government? Those
are active questions you`ve got to believe being investigated by the
MELBER: And, Joyce, as a prosecutor, we talk a lot about intent and
motive. It`s fascinating to see someone operating at such a high level,
taking these relatively small deals by the scale of what multi-star
generals can get.
You don`t need to sell access to the government to get $25,000. We all
know from the public reporting a general could do a couple speeches or do
other kinds of work. Does that help or hurt him, the idea that this may
have been motivated by money?
VANCE: So, I think that hurts him. Prosecutors like to think about
investigations sort of like a duck swimming across the surface of a pond.
What you see publicly is that smooth easy moving body, while underneath the
surface of the water, the feet are paddling wildly. I would guess that
Mueller`s folks are viewing these $25,000 transactions as that smooth part
of the body and that there`s a lot more beneath the surface here.
MELBER: And, Francesca, is this another day where the White House feels
they`ve been pulled back into Russia or have they sort of made peace with
that because we`ve seen the strategy sometimes being, well, leave it alone,
we`re doing other work? And other days, them picking fights with Jim Comey
as they did on Monday.
CHAMBERS: Well, major discussion at the White House today has been the
president`s tax reform package, which we are yet to see, but his team have
been working aggressively with legislators on that.
Of course, as you mentioned, James Comey has come up several times this
week with the White House saying the president was 100 percent right to
When it comes to Michael Flynn, you`ll have to recall, he has not worked at
the White House, Michael Flynn the elder since February when he was let go
by the president. But that wasn`t for failing to disclose this business
that he had with these foreign government to the government.
That was because he reportedly lied to the vice president about whether or
not he discussed sanctions with the Russian government, which is also
something that`s being looked.
So, you have to keep that in mind as you consider the Michael Flynn in the
White House`s involvement here. The White House has blamed the Obama
administration for not vetting Michael Flynn better, even though it clearly
didn`t vet him (INAUDIBLE) in the transition.
MELBER: Ken, in a sea of bizarre talking points, I think that might be the
most bizarre because it was leaked out at the time before Flynn was ever
reprimanded or fired that Barack Obama personally tried to warn President
Trump, basically saying this is not someone you want to have in this high a
DILANIAN: Of course, he did. And by the time Mike Flynn was appointed
national security advisor, everyone knew the story of what had happened in
the Defense Intelligence Agency and how James Clapper essentially pushed
Flynn out early over basically an issue of management chaos.
And so, the idea that - first of all - and it`s also extraordinary that a
man became the national security advisor after essentially earning more
than $1 million in part from foreign governments or lobbying on behalf of
foreign governments. We haven`t seen that kind of thing before. And it
really raises a lot of questions about what vetting there was.
MELBER: And so, Joyce, finally to you on the subjects we have here, with
Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Sr., and Michael Flynn, Jr. are these
confirmed subjects according to “NBC” reporting.
And then, the people under some sort of scrutiny, President Trump, of
course, for the discussion around whether there was obstruction or
interference, as well as any role he might have played in the investigation
here in his campaign; Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner; and Carter Page.
So, all told, that seven plus, what are we to make of that in terms of your
understanding of how Mueller is looking at these different people?
VANCE: Mueller is looking from the outside in. So, we`re starting to see
him talk with people who worked in the White House with this group of
people who are under investigation.
He will be thoroughly and carefully examining exactly what happened. I
think Ken is exactly right that a lot of this circles around Flynn`s
Of course, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates took the remarkable step of
coming to the White House to warn the White House counsel about potential
problems involving Flynn.
We`ve seen increased attacks from the White House on Jim Comey, which seems
to signal that something is coming from the direction of Jim Comey.
And we`ve learned today that there are two senior FBI officials, who
Mueller is trying to keep from testifying on the Hill, which seems to be an
indication that he wants to protect their testimony from public view, that
there is something important there.
So, all told, it looks like he`s starting to focus on this smaller group,
but at the same time being very careful to get all of the details onboard
and to thoroughly test the evidence before he makes any final decision.
MELBER: Understood. And very interesting. Ken Dilanian, thanks for
sharing your scoop with us. Francesca and Joyce, thank you for being here.
Up next, we have a report on another focus of the FBI right now. These
Kremlin-backed propaganda groups. Now, we talked about Flynn Jr. How are
investigators probing Flynn, Sr.`s ties to Kremlin`s “RT.”
And, later, I`ll speak to a former Facebook employee about whether the site
is putting profits above democracy and letting fake news slide.
And Congress finds a reason to be bipartisan, forcing Trump`s hand and
issuing a morally-clear response to Charlottesville, something that
Congress thinks he failed to do over the past month.
I am Ari Melber and you are watching THE BEAT on MNSBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Lock her up
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Lock her up, that`s
right. Yes, that`s right. Lock her up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Gen. Flynn there at the convention. Meanwhile, today, “NBC News”
learning that the Former Trump`s national security advisor`s son Michael
Flynn, Jr. is a subject of Mueller`s Russia probe.
Flynn, Jr. had a key role working with his father in business and on the
transition team. So, focus on Flynn, Jr. brings us to Mike Flynn, Sr., who
said he`d be willing to testify in the Russia probe, but only in exchange
for criminal immunity, even offering he had a “story to tell.”
And with the Flynn family back in the spotlight, it`s worth remembering the
entire question of whether Trump obstructed justice, which revolves around
intent, was an issue Jim Comey said involved a request very unusual to let
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE FBI: General Flynn at that point in
time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal instigation of
his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contact
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Months after Flynn was fired ostensibly for lying to the
administration about contacts with Russia, Yahoo!`s Michael Isikoff
reported Trump and Flynn were still in contact.
The president telling Flynn “stay strong,” whatever that means. Now, today
the White House was asked if they`re still in touch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what was the last time that the president spoke
to Gen. Flynn?
SANDERS: I`m not sure. I`m not aware of any conversation that`s taken
place in quite a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And as “NBC” is reporting on the focus on Flynn, Jr., we`re also
learning just this week the FBI is investigating Russian propaganda outlets
in the US. A former employee of one, the “Sputnik” was on THE BEAT just
last night in his first interview since he spoke to the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Did this new interview you had with the FBI suggest they`re
looking and making “Sputnik” potentially register as a foreign agent? Did
they show an interest in that?
ANDREW FEINBERG, FORMER “SPUTNIK” EMPLOYEE: Absolutely. That was the
purpose of the interview.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Doesn`t stop there. US intelligence on Russian hacking has
already named “Sputnik” and “RT”, as they view it, propaganda outlets.
“RT” is the Russian-backed TV channel that paid Mike Flynn $34,000 to go to
that gala where he infamously sat right next to Vladimir Putin.
And in the heat of the presidential race, Flynn denied the Russians paid
him for going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, “YAHOO! NEWS”, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Were
you paid for that event?
FLYNN: You`d have to ask my - the folks that went over there to -
ISIKOFF: Well, I`m asking you. You`d know if you were paid.
FLYNN: Yes. I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking
event. What difference does that make? Does somebody go, oh, he is paid
by the Russians?
ISIKOFF: Well, Donald Trump has made a lot of the fact that Hillary
Clinton has taken money from Wall Street.
FLYNN: I didn`t take any money from Russia, if that`s what you`re asking
ISIKOFF: Well, then who paid you?
FLYNN: My Speakers Bureau. Ask them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With me now Olivia Nuzzi, political correspondent for “New York
Magazine”; Michael Isikoff there, who has reported on this and was just
conducting that interview we showed with Mike Flynn, I should mention; and,
of course, “New York Times`” Jim Rutenberg who has a big new piece digging
into these Russian propaganda outlets.
Michael, was the general lying to you?
ISIKOFF: Well, he used the same sort of formulation that he later used,
and not just significantly with me, but in his security clearance when
asked what money he took from foreign governments.
He said - he did not disclose that he took money from Russia. He said he
took money from US firms. The Speakers Bureau is a US firm, but everybody
knows, who works with the Speakers Bureau, the money comes from the company
or entity that`s paying the Speakers Bureau.
MELBER: Michael, you know I love you and we love your reporting. I feel
like you`re taking a little bit of extra time to say that if you put crack
money in a Laundromat, it still comes out as crack money.
ISIKOFF: Sure. Well said. You said it better than I can.
MELBER: So, what is it significant to this now as we see all of this
ISIKOFF: Well, we knew that - it was clear when I did that interview that
he had been paid by Russia and received Russian money. By the way, that
was the same day as the lock her up speech, which you showed at the outset
of this. And it was a slight of hand. He was trying to throw people off.
But given all the - even then, there was so much attention to Russia`s role
here. That same week WikiLeaks was disclosing the DNC emails. It was
clear that the Russians were playing a big role. Paul Manafort`s
connections to Russia, pro-Russia people in the Ukraine.
All this was an issue at the time and he was trying to deflect from that.
And the fact that he continued to deflect with that with his security
clearance forum is one of the issues Mueller is looking at and is one of
the reasons he is under investigation.
MELBER: Right. And, Jim, you are talking directly to Putin`s Press
Secretary Peskov, who tells you this new reality creates a perfect
opportunity for mass disturbances in initiating mass support or
disapproval. They feel they`ve been effective and they`re bragging about
JIM RUTENBERG, MEDIA COLUMNIST AND FORMER POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE NEW
YORK TIMES”: Well, kind of. One thing to clarify is they feel like you
guys started this. There were the color revolutions that they think the
West has been part of the upheaval in their part of the world.
So, they`re saying there`s an information war on. Peskov says this
directly. There`s an information war. We are simply engaging in it. And,
sure, he thinks they`re doing quite well.
MELBER: And you view this as something in your reporting that is
significant. I mean, there was a point in time, earlier in the campaign,
when people thought, is this getting hyped, is this getting exaggerated.
And now it seems like, no, this is something that Russia is very affective
at and now you have an administration that won`t even acknowledge they did
RUTENBERG: I mean, I was definitely struck when I left his office, like
let me go check the tape, but he was very open about it. This is an
information - he described “RT” as an army from the opposite side, that
there have been Western media in their part of the world, here is an army
from the opposite side to give our point of view.
MELBER: Well, army, Olivia, it`s so interesting to hear that word because
the entire legal shift is the FBI now saying, wait a minute, we have been
too soft on these groups. They are, if not an army, an agent of a foreign
power and it has to be regulated as such.
And that seems to put more heat on Flynn, Sr. because he has this very
public link to them and that nice dinner seat next to Putin.
OLIVIA NUZZI, “NEW YORK MAGAZINE”, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly.
They are in the White House Briefing Room. And you spoke to the former
correspondent the other day or yesterday. They`re everywhere in
Washington. “RT” is not that far from the White House as I am sure Jim
could talk about.
They are very influential. And Michael Flynn`s son, he was perpetuating
conspiracies like Pizzagate during the campaign. This is somebody who
would - really doing everything that he could to go after the Democrats,
even using conspiracy theories that were being perpetuated by the furthest
of far-right people.
But I think the whole thing now, all the news today, it really just proves
that Trump cannot get away from this. There is a drip, drip. And even if
he fires somebody, it doesn`t really matter when you`re talking about a
This is going to continue to follow him and continue to be a problem for
him. And I think he will be increasingly agitated by it as he tries to get
something done legislatively.
MELEBER: Right. And, Olivia, the question is whether the drip, drip is
coming from Donald Trump`s water bottle. He is the one who was basically
obsessing over the Flynn inquiry before the public or other people had any
sense really how far it went.
Take a listen to him with Lester Holt. This is a different part of that
interview that gets a lot of attention about Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS HOST, “NIGHTLY NEWS WITH LESTER HOLT”: Gen. Flynn
is a part of this investigation, as you know. Sally Yates recently
testified that the White House was notified that he had been compromised.
He was at risk of being blackmailed. It was 18 days later that he was
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Because my White
House counsel, Don McGahn, came back to me and did not sound like an
emergency of any - he didn`t make it sound like he was - and she actually
didn`t make it sound that way either in the hearings the other day, like it
had to be done immediately.
This man has served for many years. He`s a general. He`s a - in my
opinion, a very good person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, to be clear, Olivia, the man he`s talking about, Don McGahn,
has now caught a grand jury subpoena more or less or at least FBI interview
requests from Mueller. So, we may ultimately be hearing leaks about his
side of that story and, again, whether Trump was fixated on Flynn.
NUZZI: Certainly. Donald Trump has by all accounts, everyone I`ve spoken
to, great affection for Michael Flynn. He did not want to fire Michael
Flynn. It was just this cascade of events that sort of forced his hand and
forced him to fire Michael Flynn.
But it wasn`t as though Donald Trump looked around and he said, oh, this
guy is going to be a problem for us, perhaps he shouldn`t be in the White
House in all these important meetings, getting all this important
It was just that the pressure became so intense that he was forced to fire
him. And I think that tells you a lot about how he feels, obviously, about
Michael Flynn, but how he feels about people in this administration, who
might be problematic more broadly.
ISIKOFF: Yes. Look, on the one hand, it`s not a surprise that Mueller
wants to talk to Flynn, that Flynn`s son is a subject here. Flynn`s son
was the chief of staff of Flynn`s consulting company.
The consulting company has been central to the investigation of Flynn, not
just for Russia, but mainly for the Turkish work and the fact that they
didn`t disclose that.
So, it is entirely expected that Mueller would be going in this direction.
In fact, if you take just a step back and look at every story over the last
few weeks about who Mueller wants to interview, who he is seeking documents
from, it`s all entirely predictable. This is exactly what you would
MELBER: No. He`s proceeding through the trail we had. Jim, looking at
your article, at the end of the day, is it just sort of a bummer?
Put the politics aside, you finish an article like yours and you think,
gosh, it`s only going to get worse and there is no truth and it`s going to
be abused by all these foreign entities.
RUTENBERG: Well, I don`t know. I mean, the good news is that people are
aware that our news sources always have agendas, always have motives. You
could say that about any news organizations coming from an angle. People
are aware that this is going on, and so that`s the most important thing,
that you remind people what`s true, what`s false, where is this coming
from, why might you be hearing this.
MELBER: Jim Rutenberg making us all feel a little better a little bit at a
time. I want to thank the panel, all of you and your expertise.
Up next, Congress officially saying to Trump, the hate in Charlottesville
was not “both sides,” it was one side, and forcing him to denounce white
supremacists. This is an important story that hasn`t got much attention
And later, on the Russia inquiry, news tonight about Robert Mueller`s red-
hot focus on the role of virtual crimes. I have a special comment on that
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Congress is forcing President Trump to formally
denounce the white power rally in Charlottesville and formally condemn
white supremacy. Allow me to explain. Just last night, the GOP controlled
House passes a resolution to condemn one side of white supremacy. This
forces Trump to change his message from the infamous things he said after
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had a group on one side
and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and
it was vicious.
I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think
there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it and you don`t
have any doubt about it either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congress has a doubt about it and that`s why the new resolution
rebuts essentially that famous speech. It also does something else
important. Formally declaring in one unanimous bipartisan statement on
behalf of the federal government what happened in Charlottesville was
terrorism. Trump wasn`t sure about that either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his
family and his country. And that is, you can call it terrorism, you can
call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it
as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That`s what I`d call
it. Because there is a question, is it murder, is it terrorism? And then
you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what
did he is a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Horrible and murder but also “call it what you want.” This
resolution coming now at a time when people have stopped thinking as much
about Charlottesville actually is important. It is a national discussion
led by people in Washington in both parties about how to define it. Now,
yesterday the administration said they weren`t so sure what the President
would do. The news today, President Trump saying he will sign this. And
that would send a message that he`s been dragged to, that this was terror
and that one side must be condemned. I want to bring in our panel. Rich
Benjamin is a Political Analyst and an author of the book, Whitopia. Brian
Darling, a former Senior Aide to Senator Rand Paul. Thank you, both.
This Rich is something that comes up and sometimes we just rush off and we
move on. And it`s pretty fascinating, even though it`s a month later to
see the Congress on a bipartisan basis, look at what Donald Trump argued
about both sides, about the monuments, about George Washington, and say no,
Mr. President. You must sign this and it condemns one side because there
was one type of hate at the white supremacist rally, and number two, we`re
calling it terrorism.
RICH BENJAMIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Ari, two things. Let`s address
the white supremacy first. It`s horrifying that Congress has to pass a
resolution condemning white supremacy. I thought we settled that battle
you know, with the Civil Rights Act but Congress having to declare it. But
the second part interesting part that you mention is the fact of terrorism.
And it is not just legal semantics because if you pass the resolution, the
question becomes, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to
fair it out (INAUDIBLE) and prosecute this types of terrorism that has been
swept under the rug as far as the Trump administration is concerned? When
we think that some of the best journalists, some in ProPublica, in other
outlets are investigating the extent to which white nationalists and
extremist groups might be infiltrating small Police Departments in small
towns, then what? So the terrorism part is new. The fact we have to
condemn white supremacy in 2017, that`s horrifying.
MELBER: Brian, your old boss backed this and spoke out. What does it say
that Donald Trump effectively had to be dragged here by a unanimous
BRIAN DARLING, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO SENATOR RAND PAUL:
Well, it is extraordinary that Congress felt the need to do this that
Congress is sending this to the President`s desk for a signature. I think
it does show that the President he could have used much better language
when he was condemning what happened. I mean, obviously, he condemned
white supremacy, he condemn Nazis. He did he that but it was one of three
statements and the other two statements got him quite a bit in trouble.
But I think ultimately, this is something that`s good. I think it is great
that Congress is going on record. The President is going to sign it. And
hopefully, we can move forward and maybe unify the county, not have all the
divisions we had. We should not be defined by the extremes, the extreme
left, and the extreme right. I don`t think white supremacists prevalent in
the Republican Party. And I would hope that people don`t conflate white
supremacy and Nazi with the Republican Party.
MELBER: But don`t you think Donald Trump really hurt that cause as you
just put it when he started saying there were good people at a white
supremacist rally? I mean, we`ve shown on this show the posters which had
the Nazi insignia on there.
DARLING: Oh, yes. I mean, anybody who showed up at that rally to protest
in tearing down the Robert E. Lee statue and then all of a sudden saw a
Nazi flags and people there were talking in very extremist language,
probably should have left. So I don`t think that was the right language
for the President to use. But ultimately, I think that many in left
overreached. I mean, they`ve accused the President of being a racist,
they`ve accused him of being surrounded by white supremacists. I don`t
think that`s true at all. I don`t think the 60 million Americans who voted
for Donald Trump are racists.
MELBER: Let me give Rich a final response then we go back and forth.
BENJAMIN: Well, I`m fascinated to know, how Steve Bannon stayed in the
White House, whether this would have gone down differently.
MELBER: A different way.
BENJAMIN: Yes, a different way. But the fact remains. What are we going
to do with domestic terrorism? What are we going to do with white
extremism? He can sign all the resolutions he wants, the proof is going to
be in the pudding in how his Justice Department conducts himself.
MELBER: Rich Benjamin, Brian Darling, thank you both for a discussion on
something, a topic we wanted to return to. Now, coming up, what`s being
depicted as a red hot focus of the Russia probe? Why Bob Mueller is
demanding more information from sites like Facebook? And an update on the
devastation after Hurricane Irma and is climate change contributing to the
extremity of these natural disasters? NBC`s Environmental Affairs
Correspondent Anne Thompson on THE BEAT, next.
MELBER: New reports today that Bob Mueller is making the rule of social
media a red hot focus of his investigation. Today Bloomberg says, he`s
demanding additional evidence from companies like Facebook about what
happened on their networks. This builds on recent reporting about Facebook
in the election. Days ago, the company received it received at least $100
k in ad spending from Russian firms linked to the Kremlin. Now, I talked
to the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee about all this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA) VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This was a
very comprehensive approach the Russians have. We`ve seen the Russians
intervene in France, where actually Facebook took down 50,000 accounts
before the French Presidential Election. We know they`re intervening in
Germany as well. This is a tactic of the 21st century and in fact, cyber
misinformation and disinformation campaigns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With me now is Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook
Executive who worked on the company`s ad targeting and recently wrote Mark
Zuckerberg was being disingenuous, to put it mildly, when in the wake of
Trump`s unexpected victory, he expressed doubt Facebook could have flipped
the election. Good to have you on. Is Facebook doing enough to deal with
this and are they putting their profits above their role in being fair as a
utility in our Democracy?
ANTONIO GARCIA MARTINEZ, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: I think the
short answer is no. I mean, you know, I`m the first to defend Facebook but
I think in this case, particularly in the case of these allegations of
Russia you know, actually buying ads on Facebook, there`s more that
Facebook can do. And I should strip, I don`t think it is Facebook putting
profit above patriotic duty, I think it was just something that really
wasn`t on Facebook`s radar screen until now, to be honest.
MELBER: So not malicious. They just didn`t know about it.
MARTINEZ: Look, I was actually the guy in charge of the ads quality team
during last Presidential Election. And this was so far from our minds and
not something we would normally have thought about, that it doesn`t
surprise me at all frankly that Facebook was caught blindsided by this.
MELBER: When you were there, did you ever see any ads or these events that
we`re hearing about in Idaho that were from Russians and you thought it
looks little hanky?
MARTINEZ: At that point, we were just trying to convince the campaign
(INAUDIBLE) use Facebook, to begin with. No, there was nothing like that.
MELBER: And what should Zuckerberg do now and there are calls for him to
testify, do you think he should that?
MARTINEZ: You know, I think it will be a great show. But you know,
Zuckerberg talking to a bunch of Senators who don`t know much about tech
isn`t going to teach us much. I do think it will send a message though
that Facebook is more responsible here. I think, what they need to do is
actually just like Wall Street banks know their customer and actually have
to understand who opens these accounts. I think Facebook needs to start
understanding who opens these accounts, why, and what`s sort of message are
running, which is something that they`ve – that they`ve not done and that
they should be doing.
MELBER: Right. And do you – do you want to say anything to Bob Mueller
and his investigators. What should they know about as you say something
that is very technical, that people want you to understand? What should
they know about how Facebook works and its susceptibility to these foreign
MARTINEZ: I mean, I would just stress that Facebook has over 2 billion
users and hundreds of thousands of advertisers. There`s only so much you
can do and hindsight always 20/20. I think, you know, Facebook just needs
to do what it does with a lots of other advertiser accounts and start
policing those a little bit more aggressively. But I think at this point,
it`s clear that Facebook has debt to democracy which is to make sure that
there isn`t the sort of meddling in American affairs from outsiders.
MELBER: And finally, I know, you were focused on ads but I`m sure you`re
familiar with the data that shows some of the most shared pieces on all of
Facebook were fake news, false accounts that were helping Donald Trump.
Why didn`t they catch that? Should they do more on that?
MARTINEZ: Look, Facebook is a technology company. It doesn`t really see
itself as a media company. It doesn`t want to have an editorial function.
Historically it`s always just said, we just show you whatever the algorithm
wants to show you. And I think they just can`t use that excuse anymore.
But it`s a real change in their DNA. They`re not used to thinking about
how you edit a body of – you know, a body of information. But I think
they`re going to have to start doing that going forward.
MELBER: Right. And when you say they`re only a tech company or that`s
what they claim, they`re the most powerful media company in the world. Ask
any Web site or newspaper. So I hear you on that. I appreciate you
sharing your experience with us on here on THE BEAT.
MARTINEZ: Thank you.
MELBER: Now, today a reckoning with the devastation in the wake of
Hurricane Irma including of course this tragic news out of a nursing home
in Hollywood, Florida, six residents dead. Power outages left them without
air conditioning and there were questions of course about why these
patients were not evacuated despite soaring temperatures. In U.S. Virgin
Islands, four people killed, food and water is still very scarce. Relief
supplies are starting to arrive. So a focus on the recovery is essential
but also how to manage and what to expect in future extreme weather events.
Part of the discussion centering also around the role of climate change.
The Head of Donald Trump`s EPA has said it would be “insensitive to discuss
climate change while still dealing with this storm.” There`s another high
ranking Trump official we can tell you. Gary Cohn, who`s actually hosting
a climate change discussion just next week at the U.N. And Stevie Wonder
this to say at the telethon for hurricane relief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVIE WONDER, AMERICAN MUSICIAN: Anyone who believes that there`s no such
thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent. Lord, please save
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With me now is Anne Thompson, NBC`s Chief Environmental Affairs
Correspondent. Thank you for being here. Now, are these severe weather
events increasing in frequency?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It
certainly seems like it doesn`t Ari, but I can tell you when you go to the
National Centers for Environmental Information, they say in the first six
months of 2017, we saw nine climate or weather events, extreme events, that
caused more than $1 billion more in destruction. Nine events, that is on
track to challenge the record years of 2011 and 2016. Now on average from
1980 to today, there are usually $5.5 billion extreme weather events. We
saw nine in the first half of this year. And that didn`t include Harvey
and Irma. And when you think about Harvey and Irma, they are the first two
Category 4 hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. in the 166 years of
record keeping. So we`re in some uncharted territory.
MELBER: So, yes, when people talk about once in a century, that`s what
we`re talking about with these. Then the question becomes what do we know
about the data and whether they are more extreme, not that they`re caused
by climate change but are they more extreme because of it?
THOMPSON: Well, that`s the question. What role does climate change play
when we see these incredible storms? Talking to scientists, they tell me
the climate change has the effect of like loading the dice. It makes it
possible for these storms to have a greater impact. Or another way to
think about it, and this is my favorite way to think about it, is think of
climate change like steroids in baseball. I mean, the role of steroids
with a home run hitter. It doesn`t make it easier, it doesn`t improve his
hand-eye contact. What it does is it improves his strength so he can hit
the ball farther, to go over the big fence more often. And that`s
essentially with a greenhouse gases do in weather events, is it makes –
they make it more likely that these events will be extreme.
MELBER: So climate change is juicing the hurricane.
THOMPSON: Exactly. Take hurricanes, for example. Hurricanes feed off
warm water. In the part of Atlantic where hurricanes form, this year, sea
surface temperatures have been anywhere from one to two degrees warmer this
summer. So now you`ve got more warm water to feed the hurricanes, more
warm water over warm air that can contain more moisture. And when you have
warm water plus warm air, it creates a hurricane, hits landfall, then it
has the ability to produce more rainfall as we saw in Hurricane Harvey.
MELBER: Right. And so those pictures which are horrific and obviously the
first priority is always giving the people the news and information we can
about it, giving them the orders from the government, evacuation orders,
then give way to this wider discussion of what the data shows. It`s – I
think we`re out of time. Go ahead.
THOMPSON: Right. But we have to talk about it because one of the things
is we have to figure out how do we adapt to it? How do we prevent homes
from flooding? How do we prevent Houston from flooding again, from Miami
flooding the way it did even though it didn`t have the most severe impacts?
And without talking about climate change, I don`t know how you get to those
MELBER: Right, which is what Stevie Wonder was getting at in his own
powerful way, don`t be blind or stupid. It`s I think what he was telling
everyone. Anne Thompson, thank you for bringing your reporting.
THOMPSON: It`s so nice to be here. Congratulations on your new show.
MELBER: Oh, thank you, Anne. I appreciate that. Now, up next, I`m going
to share a special look at what I think is a new clue in the Russia
investigation. And ahead, there`s a million things he has not done, but
wait until you see Lin-Manuel Miranda and what he was up to today. That`s
MELBER: Now I have a legal look for you at an important new clue in the
Russia probe. Many describe this probe as an investigation of collusion.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: There is evidence of collusion.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe there was collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there was collusion.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I still maintain that there is evidence
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Collusion is a big legal issue because any conspiracy between
Americans and a foreign power is a major crime. And it`s a big political
issue because the evidence showing political operatives worked with a
foreign power, it sounds like the political scandal of the century.
Collusion is a short hand for the why of the investigation. Why were there
so many Russia meetings with Trump aides? Why was there an e-mail about
Russia support for Trump like it was already an established thing? But,
the latest reports on Mueller shows him digging into the how of the
investigation? How did Russia target so many different parts of American
elections? Mueller`s investigators now have “red hot focus on Russia`s use
of social media, according to a Bloomberg report late today. DHS also
banning federal agencies from using software from a lab link to the
Kremlin, NBC reporting today.
And this focus on how, brings up a new word, and you may start hearing
about it almost as much as collusion. The word is virtual because this
report shows Mueller is focused on virtual crimes, which is still pretty
rare. By one annual estimate, there were over four times as many violent
crime convictions as there were complaints of virtual crimes. Now two key
dynamics are at play for investigators trying to solve virtual crimes which
Mueller clearly trying to do. First, it`s much harder to locate the people
behind virtual crimes for a basic reason. In a regular crime, the
perpetrator has to be at the crime location. That limits the suspects for
all people who are physically there, and that`s why in the old days, the
best alibi you could give the FBI was, you were out of town. For virtual
crimes, you could be anywhere, helping or colluding with the hacker halfway
around the world. But second, there`s a flipside that`s good for Mueller`s
team here. Virtual crimes leave more fingerprints.
So what`s been big news that Facebook has evidence Russians used their site
on Facebook to plot rallies, those are revelations of things that happened
over a year ago, like that August rally in Idaho. Now, if Russians have
physically organized the Idaho event, there would be no evidence to gather
right now, no fingerprints, no interviews with attendees a year later. But
as a virtual event, all the evidence is there, the code, the receipts, even
a list of people who said they were interested in a rally on Facebook and
who clicked that they went. So the old saying is the internet never
And that means even if witnesses in the Russian probe say they can`t
remember a particular e-mail or a hack or a Russian Facebook plot if they
so much as touched it in virtual space, the internet may remember it. And
Bob Mueller may have the receipts. There is another new report saying
lawyers for Trump Aides are advising him not to lie to the FBI
investigators in the Russian probe. Sounds like good advice. It is hard
to outsmart the FBI or out-remember the internet, or as Mark Twain said
long before the virtual crimes were ever imaginable if you tell the truth
you don`t have to remember anything.
MELBER: He is not throwing away his shot. That is a Hamilton reference
but applies equally to Lin-Manuel Miranda`s activities this week. Going to
D.C. and you can see standing with Congressman John Lewis as Miranda
accepts an award for the show`s role in educating people about history,
lobbying lawmakers for funding for the arts, there with Elizabeth Warren.
And then Miranda rolled out the show tunes on the Capitol Hill underground
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: Ding, ding, ding went the trolley. Ding, ding, ding,
Congress train! They call this train. He just keeps rolling along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congress train, those are Miranda`s political tunes. Now, what
song is getting you through this political moment? Tell us. You can post
your answer on our social media pages or e-mail me on ARI@MSNBC.COM. We`ll
read some responses on air. That`s our show, “HARDBALL” with Chris
Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Another Trumpster targeted. Let`s play
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