The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 10/4/17 Trump-Russia dossier might be credible

Jesse Eisinger, Paul Henderson, Byron Dorgan, Catherine Rampell, Jeff Merkley

Date: October 4, 2017

Guest: Jesse Eisinger, Paul Henderson, Byron Dorgan, Catherine Rampell,

Jeff Merkley

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, “MTP DAILY”: And sometimes he simply played with
his moustache. And by the way, I would always be playing with my moustache,
if it was to look like that. All in the name of drawing attention to forced
arbitration clauses that are used throughout the financial industry.

The groups that organized the protests say those clauses are get-out-of-
jail-free cards, which, of course, the monopoly man also had with him
today. Anyway, it was pretty clever. All I`d like to say is it`s made me -
whatever happened to season three of Mr. Robot?

Anyway, that`s all for tonight. THE BEAT with Ari Melber, though, starts
right now.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Chuck, people forget the get-out-of-jail-
free card, that is the pardon power in the game of monopoly.

TODD: There it is. That`s right. There you go.

MELBER: I want to get involved.

TODD: I have a feeling you`re setting yourself up for something.

MELBER: Maybe. I wanted to get involved. Chuck Todd, thank you for that
look at that hearing.

Here`s a message that is new today. “The Russians did it, they`ll do it
again, but there is no final answer yet on whether the Trump campaign
helped them. That was essentially the urging and bipartisan message we
heard today from the leaders of the Senate investigation into Russian

They don`t hold this kind of briefing very often and we mentioned it to you
on the show earlier this week. And the top Republican offered findings that
directly contradicted President Trump on Russia while avoiding a direct
confrontation with Trump when pushed by a reporter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has said repeatedly that any talk of
collusion is a hoax. And you`ve gone through all these documents, you`ve
interviewed all these people, at this point, is the president right, is
this a hoax?

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: I`m going to let you guys quote the
president and ask him questions about what he said. It`s not going to be
the committee where we`re going to -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you have any evidence to suggest to rule out that
the president knew anything about any of these contacts that occurred
between any of his associates and the Russians?

BURR: Let me go back and say. I thought I was pretty clear that the issue
of collusion is still open, that we continue to investigate both
intelligence and witnesses.


MELBER: Still open. Meaning Senate investigators are not ruling collusion
in or out. Now, that was the biggest headline from this briefing today

Then Sen. Burr turned to the infamous dossier.


BURR: As it relates to the Steele dossier, unfortunately, the committee has
hit a wall. We have, on several occasions, made attempts to contact Mr.
Steele, to meet with Mr. Steele, those offers have gone unaccepted.

The committee cannot really decide the credibility of the dossier without
understanding things like who paid for it, who are your sources and sub
sources. And though we have been incredibly enlightened at our ability to
rebuild backwards, the Steele dossier, up to a certain date, getting past
that point has been somewhat impossible.


MELBER: The translation there is that the Senate cannot get the dossier`s
author to talk. Now, maybe Mueller will have better luck.

If there was a bipartisan note today, it was these intel leaders from both
parties coming together to warn the Russians will be at it again.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: The Russian active measures, efforts did
not end on Election Day 2016.

BURR: What I will confirm is that the Russian intelligence service is
determined, clever, and I recommend that every campaign and every election
official take this very seriously.


MELBER: Take it seriously. Today, I`m going to speak to Sen. Jeff Merckly
about today`s news and whether he`s taking it seriously. He, of course,
represents a state that was targeted by Russian hackers in the 2016

Now, let`s get right to it, though, with Elise Jordan. She worked for
Secretary of State Condi Rice and was a communications director for the
National Security Council and Mieke Eoyang, a former staffer to members of
the Intel Committee and a staff member of the House Armed Services

Elise, the issue of collusion is still open. What does that mean to you?

ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That means that today Sen. Burr
didn`t outright dismiss this probe as a hoax, as President Trump has called
the Russia probe. I also - I found very revealing today that he said he
expects this to be ongoing.

And though he`s had this aspirational timeline of ending this at the end of
2017, it`s very likely to be ongoing throughout 2018 and they want to give
a report hopefully before the 2018 mid-terms. MELBER: Aspirational
timeline, is that the kind of word choice you use when you were a
speechwriter? That`s a very nice way of saying this is going to take -


MELBER: It`s going to take a long time.

JORDAN: It is going to take a long time. And I think that the nuance
language that Sen. Burr used today reflects the difficult position that
he`s in among some Republicans, who really would like to see this Russia
probe just go away.

MELBER: And, Mieke, you`ve worked real up close to this, more than most
people on the congressional side. They have a lot of power, particularly
when there is a bipartisan process, right? And they have subpoena power and
they can make people talk up to a point.

They`re a predator when it comes to hunting information. But they are not
the apex predator. They are not Bob Mueller. What did you make of Sen.
Burr, as I just played, showing his reporting, his assessment of the fact
that some answers aren`t attainable if people won`t talk to them.

Burr was sending a very clear message to potential witnesses to this probe.
You either cooperate with us and come in and we`ll let you do this the nice
way, or if you`re going to resist, we`re going to do it the hard way and
we`re going to drag you in front of the cameras.

And if you`re going to take the Fifth, we`re going to make this as
uncomfortable for you as possible. And that`s a message to everyone. You
better come and start talking.

MELBER: And I want to ask you about the way he threaded the needle on both
contradicting Donald Trump, basically providing the evidence, the facts,
what they call, the term of art, the primary findings such as they are,
that Russia is involved, which everyone respectively involved in intel has
already said - and this is the Republican chairman - while declining to
actually fact-check the president personally.

And, of course, we all know, but here it is, Donald Trump saying so many
times things that require being fact checked.


it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t think it`s troubling that they - the Russians
tried to meddle in the election.

TRUMP: That I don`t know.

I`ll go along with Russia. It could have been China. It could have been a
lot of groups.

If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I
want to know about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you once and for all, yes or no, definitely say
that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?

TRUMP: Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other
people in other countries. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for


MELBER: Richard Burr today said he knows. Mieke?

EOYANG: Yes. That`s right. Richard Burr said it`s very clear. He and Sen.
Warner believe the intelligence community`s assessment that this absolutely
was Russia. And he refused to give the president the one thing that the
president has been asking everyone for, which is that he was clean on this.

The president really wants to be exonerated. And when asked the direct
question, Sen. Burr said I can`t give you that answer.

MELBER: And so, Elise, when you look at where it goes from here, if it does
take longer, the other piece, the other disagreement I heard was Mark
Warner saying, well, there are things we can do, look at these Russian ads.

And Burr said, oh, well, that`s already illegal. There was a bipartisan
mood and style, but underneath it, you could see there are different ideas
about whether anything more has to be done.

JORDAN: Well, I think this is the tension that we`re going to see over the
next month before Facebook and Twitter and Google execs, if they agree to
it before they testify in open committee hearing in front of Sen. Burr and
Sen. Warner and all their fellow members of the intel committee, this
tension of what exactly happened with this political advertising that was
bought on the behalf of the Russians.

MELBER: And if it was legal, as so many bad things can be legal, then that
would mean, if Congress wants to stop that you do have to act. And Richard
Burr wasn`t ready to go that far either.

I want you to hang with me. But I want to get to one other big thing today.
The intel leaders, as I mentioned, mostly in agreement. But there was this
area, here it is, Democrat Mark Warner hitting much harder.


WARNER: It has been very disappointing to me and I believe the chairman as
well that it took 11 months for the Department of Homeland Security to
reveal those 21 states.


MELBER: Some local voting officials saying that the feds there, the Trump
administration, make their jobs much more difficult with that big delay
about which states were targeted by Russian hackers.

Now, I want to turn to one of those officials right now. Alex Padilla is
California`s secretary of state and joins me exclusively here on THE BEAT

Is the Trump administration getting this right? Were you warned in time?

So, we`re here to express frustration that, no, when it takes nearly a year
for the Department of Homeland Security to share cyber threat information
with elections officials, at the state or local level, that`s not on a
timely basis for us to do something about it in real-time.

And unfortunately, what`s also come about is you have Wisconsin, California
and Texas at a minimum who have questioned the quality of the information
that is being shared. So, we certainly need to improve upon our
communication and our protocols going forward.

MELBER: Do you know why they waited so long to warn you?

PADILLA: No clear answer as to why. I mean, some partial reasons including,
for example, clearances. If it is indeed sensitive or classified
information, and secretaries of state have not been cleared to obtain
certain intelligence reports from Homeland Security, NSA, FBI or others,
that does cause a delay.

And I know there`s both an administrative as well as legislative efforts
underway to provide those clearances for state elections officials.

MELBER: Are you getting what you need from the feds? Are you confident that
you`re going to be able to withstand any meddling, hacking and intrusions
in the next election?

PADILLA: You hit it right on the nose here. It is not just about debating
what did or did not happen in 2016 because that picture is pretty clear.
But every day that goes by, that either the White House or the Department
of Homeland Security doesn`t act with a sense of urgency on doing this
better, is one less day that we have to prepare for 2018.

So, I`m eagerly awaiting this October 14 meeting where Department of
Homeland Security will formalize a coordinating council. DHS
representatives, elections officials and others at this state and at the
local level to formalize the protocols that should be in place going

MELBER: Alex Padilla, California secretary of state, I want to thank you. I
want Mieke to respond. You hear the secretary of state here. He`s saying,
on the one hand, there are particulars and they need to continue to work
with the feds. But the feds in the senate are concerned about us getting
hit again.

EOYANG: Yes. That was a very interesting moment at the end of the press
conference today where Sen. Burr said they would do things differently than
what DHS is currently doing. The DHS is run under this administration and
they are going to make some recommendations for things DHS needs to

So, it`s very interesting that senators are much more proactive about
responding to and preparing for the 2018 elections than this president.

MELBER: Elise, I mean, this is the weird part. Again, I don`t like to put
these voting officials on blast because I spoke to one from Wisconsin last
week who also said, well, look, I am concerned, but, look, I`ve got to work
with these guys. And I get it. They`re in the middle of having this working
relationship. But no one in the Trump administration or elsewhere has given
a really great reason for this 11-month delay. And we`ve shown the
president running the administration, giving doubt to the whole issue.

JORDAN: This is a dereliction of duty on the part of the Trump
administration and of the Obama administration for not taking a stronger,
more proactive stance when the extent of Russian meddling became clear.

This is both sides of the aisle. The executive leadership has to be
demonstrated to protect the integrity of our elections.

Elise, hang with me. Again, my thanks to California Secretary of State Alex
Padilla and Mieke Eoyang. Coming up -

PADILLA: Thank you.

MELBER: How closely is Bob Mueller coordinating potentially with Congress
on the probe? We have news on that tonight.

And the Trump real estate deal that almost potentially led to felony fraud
charges. Prosecutors were looking at both Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
I have an exclusive interview with the reporter who broke that story today.

And later, NBC reporting that Rex Tillerson called Donald Trump a “moron”.
I have reaction from the Democratic senator I mentioned on the Foreign
Relations Committee.

I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


BURR: Everybody has their jurisdictional lanes. My hope is that they stay
within those lanes. We talk, I won`t say regularly, but when we need to
with the special counsel. The special counsel was focused on criminal acts.
We`re not focused on criminal acts. If we find one, then they`re the first
phone call we make.


MELBER: That`s not what you want to hear if you are a suspect in the Russia
investigation. The leader of the senate inquiry saying if they find
evidence of crimes, they`re calling the cops. In this case, the federal
cops, specifically Bob Mueller.

And in today`s briefing, investigators also said they`ve been gathering
lots of evidence, working six and seven-day weeks. They detailed in this
unusual briefing over 100 interviews, 250-plus hours, almost 4,000 pages of
transcripts and 100,000 pages of documents reviewed by the committee.

Mueller, working on his own track, interviewing current and former White
House staff.

Meanwhile, twist in another case relating to Paul Manafort. His estranged
son-in-law accusing him of trying to mislead a federal court about real
estate investments.

Meanwhile, Jared Kushner dealing with all that blowback from his private
email accounts, new reports he not only had three of them, but he routed
some of the traffic to Trump organization computers.

As for one of Mueller`s star witnesses at the briefing, today, they said
anything relating to Jim Comey and his memos is now up to Mueller.


WARNER: The last one I want to cover is the Comey memos. This topic has
been hotly debated and the committee is satisfied that our involvement with
this issue has reached a logical end as it relates to the Russia

Now, again, this is not something that we`ve closed. Questions that you
might have surrounding Comey`s firing are better answered by the general
counsel or by the Justice Department.


MELBER: By the justice department. Well, I`m joined now by a former senior
official with the Justice Department under Obama, Eric Columbus. Elise
Jordan back with me.

Eric, at the top of the show, we were covering this unusual press
conference and what we gleaned about it for intelligence and Russia. I come
to you now on what it means for the special counsel`s inquiry. What did you
hear today that is relevant to Bob Mueller`s open inquiry?

OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, I don`t think there was a tremendous amount
that was necessarily relevant to Bob Mueller here.

This was more a status report. And the status report -

MELBER: Well, let me interrupt you right out of the gate. I just played
sound where Sen. Burr said, if you`ve got questions about Jim Comey, go
talk to Mueller, don`t talk to us. The indication being that the issues
around the potential criminal obstruction in this Russia case -
obstruction, by the way, the historical matter, was an issue in the
articles of impeachment drafted against two different presidents. If you
have obstruction questions, go talk to Mueller.

COLUMBUS: Exactly. And that`s what I meant that this is not - Burr was
explicitly saying, this is not their lane. This is not the intel lane.
They`re focusing more on what did Russia do in the election and who, if
anyone, helped them.

And anything else beyond that, subsequent time, the obstruction piece is
being examined by Mueller and maybe by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

MELBER: An is Mueller better equipped to get at the dossier than these
Senate investigators?

COLUMBUS: That`s a good question. It depends. It depends on who else was
involved in it. Who else among US persons were involved that might be able
to be turned to get Steele. Steele is not a US person. He`s British. So,
it`s harder to get access to him.

Mueller, obviously, is very good at this and will certainly try, if he
finds that it is relevant. And we don`t know that.

MELBER: Yes. How do you do that? For viewers who are wondering, OK, there
are sometimes crimes that involve foreign nationals, how do you get a
foreign national here if he was an observer or a documentarian.

I mean, Steele is a guy who allegedly know the lot or at least intersected
with key people who gathered the intel. He`s not, as far as we`ve ever
reported, involved to the degree that they could pursue him as any kind of
suspect. So, how do you do that as a prosecutor?

COLUMBUS: To some degree, you are depending upon the cooperation of a
foreign national. To some degree, you are looking at perhaps whether the
foreign national has committed any acts that might be subject to a separate

MELBER: Right. You need a hook. You need a hook.

COLUMBUS: You may need a hook.

MELBER: That`s the issue, Elise, is that writing the dossier makes you
potentially the most interesting person in the world to some people, but
we`re not hearing from him yet. And Burr venting that frustration.

Meanwhile, on the flip side of all of this, “POLITICO” is reporting that a
lot of Trump loyalists and supporters think the Republican party is
basically misplaying this. They say, “losing patience with Republican
leaders over the wide-ranging Russia probes creeping into Trump`s inner
circle,” saying Speaker Ryan and McConnell have allowed the investigations
to hobble the White House for months.

Politically, are we going to see more pressure here from Republicans who
actually think this is a problem?

JORDAN: This is absolutely unsurprising as the tack that Team Trump is
going to take to contest this investigation. Blame it on Mitch McConnell,
blame it on Paul Ryan.

That`s what they`ve started doing -

MELBER: They are trying to move it over to them.

JORDAN: - about everything. So, by pushing the blame on to the GOP
leadership, which unpopularity is lower than Trump`s right now, that`s just
an easier tack and an easy out instead of actually having to own up to any
of the problems that might be revealed because of these investigations.

MELBER: And, Eric, last question, of course, I have to ask you about
private personal e-mail accounts business that just never goes away. In
this case, not going away, because, apparently, Jared Kushner has set up
three of them. How would prosecutors look at something like that, and
particularly the timing, that reportedly he was setting up forwarding and
doing White House business on all of these accounts after hearing inquiries
from the federal prosecutors?

COLUMBUS: Well, it depends what`s in them. I think that it`s likely that
Kushner`s own lawyers may be eager to turn stuff over and share them with
the special counsel, if they feel that there`s nothing in there that
implicates them.

The very fact that he was using a private e-mail account is not necessarily
indicative of nefariousness or even that he was necessarily breaking the
law, as long as he was forwarding those e-mails to his government account
as his lawyer claims that he did.

MELBER: Why three? Why three?

COLUMBUS: Well, I think one was his, one was his wife`s, and the third one
- you got me. There are possibly innocent explanations for this. Sometimes
logistics. But it`s definitely something that the special counsel and, I
believe, Senate Judiciary Committee folks will be looking at to determine
whether there is anything suspect.

MELBER: Eric Columbus, a careful and thoughtful former prosecutor, always
appreciate that. And Elise Jordan, always good to see you.

After the break, this is another big story breaking today. Ivanka Trump,
Trump Jr., and a real estate deal that prosecutors were looking at as a
felonious fraud indictment they were considering. The reporter who broke
this story is here for an exclusive on THE BEAT.

Also later, Rex Tillerson not denying he called Donald Trump a moron and he
is not the only cabinet member undercutting his boss. We`ll explain why it
matters later.


MELBER: Now, to an exclusive interview on THE BEAT. New revelations,
prosecutors explored fraud charges against Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.,
including written evidence that Trump children engaged in lies and a cover-
up. And this case was closed after Trump associates donated money to the
prosecutor`s office, money that is now being returned in response to this
report by Jesse Eisinger. And he joins me in a moment.

This all matters more now because some of the key players are implicated in
the Russia investigation. The dispute began with Trump SoHo, but it did not
begin in SoHo because Trump SoHo was not technically in SoHo. That`s one of
a series of falsehoods, exaggerations or lies, depending on who you believe
in this tale, which led to an investigation of how the Trump kids allegedly
lied to sell those Trump SoHo condos in 2008.

“The Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they`d given to
prospective buyers.” And Donald, Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker
concerned about the false statements, Don, Jr. saying nobody would ever
find out.

He was wrong. New York prosecutors dug into how the Trumps claimed the
condos were 60 percent sold when they were only at 15 percent.

And this new report opens a window into the tough tactics that Trump used
when under investigation. Through the front door - when they went through
front door, they had typical defense lawyers. But in the side door came
this man, Marc Kasowitz, a famous face from his brief stint as Trump`s lead
attorney on Russia.

And some of that Kasowitz money made it into the prosecutor`s campaign
funds, other parts of the donations did not. Now, head prosecutor Cyrus
Vance in New York says he`ll return the money that he got four years ago.
He also denies that any of this impacted his decision to close the Trump

He suggests even if the Trumps lied about Trump SoHo, not all lies are


have to look at all the evidence and weigh all the factors. By the way, not
every lie is a crime.


MELBER: Now, this whole tale is a long ways from Trump`s vision for Trump
SoHo when he launched it on “The Apprentice” in 2006.


TRUMP: Located in the center of Manhattan`s (INAUDIBLE), the Trump
International Hotel and Tower in SoHo is the site of my latest development.
When it is completed in 2008, this brilliant, $370 million work of art will
be an awe-inspiring masterpiece.


MELBER: Art is in the eye of the beholder. The Trump SoHo was always a half
truth. A Trump property not in SoHo. And the new report notes only a third
of its units have sold and it was seized by creditors, making it neither
Trump nor SoHo.

With me now exclusively on THE BEAT is ProPublica`s Jesse Eisinger, one of
the authors of this report. What is the most important takeaway?

that Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. were targets of a criminal probe. We
didn`t know that until this report.

And the second is that, after this unusual intervention from Marc Kasowitz,
the case was dropped after Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan D.A. overruled his
prosecutors. His prosecutors, the lying prosecutors, his – the lying
prosecutors, supervisors, all the way up to the Director of Investigations,
wanted to indict here. And Vance overruled them, reverse them, that`s the
big deal.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: So the people working the case thought they could
feloniously indict both Trump (INAUDIBLE).

EISINGER: They were confident about it. Now – you know, all white
collared cases are difficult and there were complications here but they
believed in the case and they wanted to bring indictments. In fact, in the
spring of 2012, they were escalating the case and that`s when Kasowitzs and
helped to shut it down.

MELBER: You say Kasowitzs help to shut it down, your evidence shows that
there was money given. You can`t prove why they made the decision.

EISINGER: We don`t – we don`t allege that and as you`ve said, Vance said
he made the decision on the merits. What happened – we do know that in –
at one point, Kasowitzs becomes one of Vance`s major donors. Then right
ahead of the meeting, Vance returns that initial $25,000 donation. Then he
meets and three months later they – Vance close the investigation
overruling his prosecutors. A month later, Kasowitzs gets back in touch
with Vance`s people and says I would like to donate –

MELBER: So you have – you have all of these linkages and then you have
links –

EISINGER: That`s the fact –

MELBER: Yes, then you have links to the Russian reading here, “Two Soviet-
born businessmen, Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif. Sater had a history of
running afoul of the law in 1998 and plead guilty to a count of
racketeering for a $40 million securities fraud scheme. And Felix Sater
has been someone implicated in a lot of machinations around the 2016
potential Russian meddling and potential collusion.

EISINGER: Exactly. He is a felon. He stabbed a guy in the neck with a
margarita glass stem as one does in a bar fight. And since then, he was
helping to market a Trump property during the election in Russia and said
to e-mail the Trump lawyer Michael Cohn and said, we can get our boy
elected here.

MELBER: Stay with me. I want to bring in a veteran prosecutor Paul
Henderson. Pretty fascinating piece of reporting here and a lot of it now,
how do you view it, Paul?

PAUL HENDERSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I think what`s really interesting
is the story behind the scene in terms of how those decisions got made and
then what is the actual behavior of Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. I mean, to
me, the – in terms of our first approach is, what is the standard that the
D.A. used to make the decisions that he made and I can tell that you the
standard stays the same. It`s whether or not you believe that you can
prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, that`s the standard but
it`s subjectively interpreted. And so, in this case where you have the
elected, Vance, making the decision over his prosecutors that are
conducting the investigation and presumably, would have been making a
charging decision on their own, having that decision taken away from them
by the elected official, that doesn`t happen very often but it does happen.
And when that elected official makes that decision, this is what the result

MELBER: Right. And that`s – you`re saying that can certainly happen in
the normal course and not be anything (INAUDIBLE) that I want to read
briefly in fairness from the prosecutor, they basically say, look, there
was never sufficient evidence to support criminal prosecution. And they
add that the luxury apartment purchasers who were at issue, he reversed
course. Basically, the type of people who would have been witnesses
ultimately said hey, no biggy.

HENDERSON: Well, that`s true but the caveat to that is, one, they hadn`t
finished collecting all the information from the grand jury where people
would have been testifying and presumably, would have been subject to
possibly perjury charges. And then, there`s the behavior itself which is
proven that we already know about from the e-mails passed back and forth
from Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. indicating that they were aware of, agreed
to, and had disseminated themselves the statements. And then the issue
becomes, are these statements mere puffery or false statements? And if
they`re false statements, then it opens the door to criminal prosecution
and potential civil liability. So that`s the real issue and that`s the

MELBER: And Jesse – and mere puffery Jesse, you`re saying, it`s – in
Soho when it`s just in a hole in the tunnel, you don`t to go jail for that.
Did the Trump kids – we`re out of time – the Trump kids talk to you for
this story?

EISINGER: No. They did not. Their lawyer gave us a statement.

MELBER: Jesse Eisinger and Paul Henderson, thank you both. A very
interesting reporting, Jesse. Coming up, NBC exclusive reporting that
Secretary of State Tillerson called Trump a “moron” and the deeper
questions that raises about Trump`s leadership.


MELBER: Many people pressed President Trump to go to Puerto Rico to help
the island. The Presidential visit brings focus, maybe even commitments
which seem to start to happen when Trump suggested yesterday he`d wipe out
Puerto Rico`s debt.


something out. We have to look at their whole debt structure. You know,
they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street and we`re going to
wipe that out. That`s going to have to be – you know, you can say goodbye
to that.


MELBER: But what if the President`s word doesn`t mean anything and what if
that is established by his own Budget Director because this happened.


rebuilding, repair, debris removal, getting the electric grid up, getting
the water back running and so forth. We are not going to be offering a
bailout for Puerto Rico or for its current bondholders.


MELBER: Or Trump recently blasted the Iran deal.

TRUMP: The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions
the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an
embarrassment to the United States.


MELBER: Which his Pentagon Chief undercut this week.

ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Secretary Mattis, very quick short answer –
question, do you believe it`s in our national security interests at the
present time to remain in the JCPOA? That`s a yes or no question.



MELBER: I do. That`s a yes to the Iran deal. This type of interplay is
not normal. And it is concerning no matter what you think of Donald Trump.
For opponents, it`s another sign of bumbling, failed leadership and for
supporters, it forces everyone to choose between the experts Trump chose
and Trump himself. And that is just Trump`s appointees in public. In
private, Rex Tillerson calling Trump a “moron” with other officials present
this summer as NBC reported today. And Tillerson says this is all petty
but he declined the easy chance to deny it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you address the main headline of this story that
you called the President a moron? If not, where do you think these reports
are –

with petty stuff like that.


MELBER: This story is embarrassing for Trump but that`s not what makes it
important. The larger import is the breakdown of basic policy and
consistency on matters of potential life and death in the United States.
With me now is Byron Dorgan, a former Democratic Senator for North Dakota
and Catherine Rampell from the Washington Post. Senator Dorgan, you`re
always a serious man. Sometimes you give us optimism. What can you give
us here?

the most bizarre thing I`ve ever watched. I`ve been around presidents for
30 something years and this must be some sort of creative tension at design
or maybe it is all an accident. But a president undermining a cabinet,
cabinet members undermining the president. Let me give you another
example. You just mentioned the ones about Puerto Rico and Tillerson. You
know, I was in Iowa. I wrote the Renewable Fuel Standard. I was Iowa the
day that President Trump showed up and spoke at the same conference.

And he said to Iowans and the rest of the American people, you can count on
me on renewable fuels. I`m going to help build the renewable fuels
industry. Last week, Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the EPA says, it
doesn`t matter much to me. He said I`m thinking of shrinking the renewable
fuels industry. So, you know, what do you believe? Is it just words or is
it something more than words? I hope the President made the right choice
when he was in Iowa. But you know, this goes on and on with case after
case of undermining, back and forth.

MELBER: Well, and that`s the problem. You say you`ve dealt with
Presidents before. Senator, you may be familiar with the expression, word
is bond.


MELBER: Well, is the President`s word bond to anyone and how much harder
does that make it for his officials that we`ve shown or people like you,
people in the Senate, people who need to deal with him to try to get
somewhere on solutions, if nothing, he says hold on his own people undercut

DORGAN: Well, Mr. Mulvany said today with respect to the Puerto Rican debt
issues and you can`t just go word for word in terms of what this President
said. Look. this President has a significant credibility issue. That`s
just a fact. So you really have to understand not just what he says but
what does he mean, and that`s very difficult – you know, onward through
the fog here because that`s very difficult to discern.

MELBER: Catherine?

really so surprising that Trump is contradicting his own subordinates when
Trump contradicts Trump all the time? I mean, he`s completely inconsistent
on almost everything from DACA to taxes to health care. He changes his
mind all the time. And even when he thinks he is being consistent, half
the time he is contradicting something else that he said. So of course,
his word is not his bond and of course, he is going to butt heads with the
members of his cabinet. I think it doesn`t really matter to him though
when members of his cabinet or others White House officials contradict him
on policy matters. He does seem to care a lot if he`s you know,
embarrassed in some sense because of a particular private or public insult,
that`s in the case of Tillerson.

MELBER: Well, you say – you say embarrassed. You know, Catherine,
feelings matter a lot in life.

RAMPELL: Trump is a snowflake. True.

MELBER: Well, is he – you say – is he snowflake? Do you think he was
hurt by Rex calling him a moron? Do you think this is going to affect
their personal relationship?

RAMPELL: Of course. But it their personal relationship was already
frayed, to begin with, right? I mean, long before this story came out and
was broken by NBC, Tillerson was supposedly threatening not to come back to
D.C. because he was upset about comments that Trump had made to the boy
scouts. Tillerson himself having been an eagle scout because Trump had
undermined him on Iran, on Qatar, on North Korea on basically every issue
that is – that is important under the sun.

MELBER: And Senator, final word. There is another cabinet vacancy over at
HHS. What do you advise people who would consider filling these posts?

DORGAN: Well, walk softly. I mean, Price got fired or I guess “resigned”
not because of what he did so much, because of the optics of what he did,
how it looked. And the fact is, this President doesn`t want – he doesn`t
want to be somebody who appears embarrassed by his staff. So you know,
it`s all about optics. So whether he looks bad or not, that ought not to
be the standard in my judgment.

MELBER: Right. And it raises the question of whether electing someone
who`s famous for branding leads to do a branding driven presidency, a
question we`ll continue to explore. Senator Dorgan, Catherine Rampell,
thank you, both.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

DORGAN: Thanks.

MELBER: Ahead, this warning from a top Republican that Russian hacking
will continue into 2018. Senator Jeff Merkley is here live. And I have
something to say to Mark Zuckerberg about fake news and his civic
obligations. That`s our closing thought tonight.


MELBER: Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee today saying they`re
still investigating this possible collusion between the Trump campaign and
Russia. And not only that, as we`ve been reporting Russian hackers
targeted the election systems or Web sites in 21 states, today a warning
they could be back in 2018.


that the Russian intelligence service is determined, clever, and I
recommend that every campaign and every election, officials take this very
seriously, as we move into this November`s election, and as we move into
preparation for the 2018 election.


MELBER: With me now, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley who sits on the
Foreign Relations Committee. Your state, Oregon, one of those 21 states
targeted. You`ve expressed these he concerns before, also about possible
collusion. Walk us through how Oregon and these states get ready for its
(INAUDIBLE) call from your colleagues today and any thoughts you want to
share on the collusion part of the investigation.

of the most vulnerable parts of Oregon is our voter database. And that is
why we care for – back-ups are kept so that it can be restored if it was
successfully hacked. But our voting system which involves vote by mail is
basically impossible to hack. The ballots are mailed out. Citizens have
two and a half weeks the return them. They are counted by a system and
tallied without being connected to the internet. So everybody in the
country who wants a system that is resilient to such hacking should look at
Oregon`s system s.

MELBER: So you have that confidence, then on collusion, yes sir.

MERKLEY: Yes, in return to the collusion, well, the plot just gets
thicker. We now know thanks to information released today that very
carefully crafted targeting was done in Michigan and in Wisconsin.
Michigan which had a vote difference of 10,000 votes, Wisconsin 22,000
votes, in both cases, less than 1 percent. And how did this sophisticated
targeting occur? Who provided the insight to Russia on how to target –

MELBER: Are you saying, Senator – are you saying that the circumstantial
evidence suggests they would have need American expertise to do that?

MERKEY: Yes. That is certainly the likely result. They had their ads
targeted in the concept of attacking issues related to race. Certainly,
they were engaged in other strategies –

MELBER: So you`re saying – Senator, you`re saying the open question is
which Americans – we talk a lot about which campaign. You`re saying it
looks like some Americans helped the Russians and the bigger question is
just whether they were affiliated with Donald Trump or not.

MERKLEY: As I`m saying, it`s very likely. That`s very likely and we need
to get to the bottom of who was involved here.

MELBER: And Senator, because your Committee oversees the State Department,
I have to ask you about these reports. The Secretary of State Called the
President a moron. Your view of how that affects diplomacy or our standing
in the world.

MERKLEY: Well, it doesn`t affect it as much as the continuous undermining
of our Department of State on the most serious issues, including Iran and
North Korea and Qatar in the Middle East. On North Korea, there is no
military option. North Korea has a significant deterrent capacity
conventionally as well as having nuclear weapons. And when our President
demeans and tries to undo any effort to apply pressure to provide a
nonmilitary outcome favorable to our national security, he is doing great
damage to our nation. And I think Tillerson was trying to find the correct
right path to apply pressure. And have the President undermine him is a
huge mistake on the President`s side.

MELBER: All right. I don`t want to diminish the complexity, but it sounds
a little bit more like you`re more team Tillerson than team Trump at least
as it relates to the policy orientation.

MERKLEY: In this case, yes.

MELBER: In this case. Senator Jeff Merkley, a busy day for you. And you
made some news here I think as well. I appreciate you joining us.

MERKLEY: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up, a message to Mark Zuckerberg about fake news.


MELBER: Today`s Senate Intelligence Russia briefing focused on Collusion.
But the top Democrat there also said tech companies are finally stepping up
to their responsibilities after Russian meddling.


companies are increasingly understanding that their actions need to match
their public statements that they realize how important it is to maintain
the integrity of our democratic process.


MELBER: That is true, it is certainly a long ways from Mark Zuckerberg`s
first response to his company`s role in spreading fake news after the


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Personally, I think the idea that, you
know, fake news on Facebook of which it`s a very small amount of the
content included the election in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea.


MELBER: A pretty crazy idea. Now, Zuckerberg has walked that statement
back. The company is now cooperating with investigators. But how is
Facebook stepping up to its civic obligations rights now? Well, it`s again
a conduit for fake news, this week spreading falsehoods in the wake of the
mass murders in Las Vegas. In fact, even the company`s official safety
check page for the shooting displayed a false item from alt-right news
which incorrectly identified the shooter describing him as quote a Trump
hating liberal. Yes, this week, Facebook promoted fake news with a
political agenda in the midst of this emergency when Americans badly needed
vetted facts.

And Facebook responded by blaming their algorithm. “We`re working to fix
the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret
the confusion this caused,” the company said. Google also prominently
spread fake news this week about Las Vegas. Look at this false headline
about the shooter. I`m showing it to you to fact check that this is not
true. But it falsely claims, “Las Vegas shooter reportedly a Democrat
associated with anti-Trump army.” Again, that`s not true but that false
account of this gunman in the midst of this terrible week spent hours at
the top of Google`s search results for that man`s name. So if Google were
a T.V. channel, that would be the equivalent of running the false story on
the screen for hours and hours after the shooting on Monday.

And of course, we all know, Google is not a T.V. channel. It actually
reaches way more people. Now that false claim came from trolls from 4Chan,
a notoriously toxic online message board which vocal far-right contingent
which has spent the night scheming how to pin the shooting on liberals,
that according to reporting in the New York Times. We only know about all
of that this week because of journalists tracking it down. That`s the plot
that Google and Facebook said their algorithms couldn`t catch. It`s the
same pattern though as the Russian ads. These companies, we know, they`re
drilled. They boast to investors about their ability to target, to
pinpoint, to monetize everything. And then when it comes to their civic
responsibility, they act like rookies (INAUDIBLE) who can`t handle their
own algorithms. And these companies want to be neutral.

As we`ve reported on THE BEAT, they want to be neutral because it`s
profitable. But you can`t be neutral about lies. You can`t be undecided
about spreading lies in the middle of the emergency we faced this week.
You know, in the movie The Social Network, the fictional Mark Zuckerberg
character argues sometimes technology reveals truth. He has this line
where he says, you don`t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of
this, he says that to those guys suing him over Facebook. He says, “If you
guys were the inventor of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.” Now
that fictional line on this fictional story may apply to some truths. If
Facebook really wanted to get to the bottom of this, they`d have gotten to
the bottom of this. Here`s looking at you, Mark. That does it for this
hour. Also a programming note, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, I will be in
for Rachel Maddow, if you want to tune in. And I`ll be back here tomorrow
at 6 p.m. Eastern. As for right now, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up




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