Kremlin reveals Trump proposed Putin WH meeting. TRANSCRIPT: 04/02/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests:
Renato Mariotti, Kirk Clyatt, Dave Twedell, Richard Painter
Transcript:

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER
Date: April 2, 2018
Guest: Renato Mariotti, Kirk Clyatt, Dave Twedell, Richard Painter

KATY TUR, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: She believed in her people, saying I am the
product of the masses and my country and the product of my enemy. Winnie
Mandela, a furious, passionate and unrepentant fighter was 81.

That`s all for “MTP Daily.” THE BEAT starts now with Stephanie Ruhle.

Hi, Steph.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Hello, my friend, Katy Tur. What a beautiful
tribute.

Thank you so much for tuning in. I`m Stephanie Ruhle in for my friend Ari
Melber tonight.

And we are starting by asking a question. Is President Trump rolling out
the red carpet for Vladimir Putin? The Kremlin now revealing that Trump
suggested a meeting with Putin at the White House when they spoke by phone
last month. The White House then seem to confirm the report, saying Trump
already told reports he and Putin discussed having a meeting in the not so
distant future. And it could be at a number of venues, one could be the
White House.

But President Trump, he didn`t say anything about location.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with President
Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. The
call had to do, also, with the fact that we will probably get together in
the not too distant future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Remember, even that congratulatory call raised serious questions
from both Republicans and Democrats. Here is the question. Why would
President Trump want to reward Vladimir Putin with a White House visit
after, of course, the election hack and the poisoning of a former spy in
England. And why did we first learn about this from Russians? Even some
of the President staunchest defenders can`t explain his attitude towards
Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the problem is that
Russia is running wild. Whatever we`re doing is not working and the
President for some reason has a hard time pushing back against Putin
directly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: So even if you think there`s no money laundering. Even if you
think there`s no collusion, why? Why is President Trump so intent on being
so nice to Vladimir Putin?

We will have a great panel to help weigh in on all of this. Max Boot a
senior at the counsel of foreign relations and a columnist for “the
Washington Post,” Ned Price, former spokesperson for the national security
council and my friend Bill Kristol, founder and editor-at-large for “the
Weekly Standard.”

Max, to you first, why is a Putin meeting a big deal? You who really
understands this could be losing your mind over. But the average person at
home could say who cares? They meets world leaders all the time.

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Remember, Putin is
not a good guy. I mean, he is committing aggression against the west on a
daily basis. He is invading Ukraine as we speak. He is committing war
crimes in Syria. He just used a very exotic nerve agent to try to kill two
people in Great Britain, our ally.

And so the proper policy of the United States is to tell Putin you can`t
get away with this. We are going to make you pay a price. We are going to
stand with our allies against this kind of aggression.

And there are people in the U.S. government who are trying to send that
message, like for example, pushing for the expulsion of Russian diplomats.
But at every turn, Trump is undercutting that (INAUDIBLE) on Russia message
because he can`t help himself. He just loves Putin too much. And so, you
know, his national security council says in big block letters, do not
congratulate Putin on his rigged reelection, and Trump can`t help himself,
he has to congratulate Putin. And of course, it probably didn`t occur to
them to say, don`t invite Putin to the White House, because this is a favor
that you roll out for the leaders that you are trying to woo. And we
should be wooing Vladimir Putin. But this, you know, Trump has a mind of
his own when it comes to Putin.

RUHLE: But Trump has always made the argument, Bill Kristol, I`m going to
try something different. Could he make the argument, inviting Putin over
for a playdate is a good strategy? I mean, the playdate is the only way I
can think of it. You should not reward a hostile power with an invite.
But he is saying come on over.

BOOT: I think he needs a time out instead of a playdate.

RUHLE: Bill?

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER/EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: Conservatives and
hawks, like Max and me, they were critical of the Bush administration that
many times the Obama administration (INAUDIBLE) for being too soft on
Putin, for not making him pay much of consequence for the things he did,
whether it was invading Ukraine or much later, of course, try to tamper to
say the least with our electoral process and now poisoning someone on UK
soil, on British soil as a message to others. Don`t mess with us. You are
not safe. That was a very important thing. It`s been underappreciated.
How devastating.

I mean, if he gets away with that, if they pay no price for that, what
Russian emigre, what dissident, what person speaking up against Russia, not
even a Russian perhaps is going to feel entirely safe. So that is the
newly, the kind of amazing form of aggression to do that, to do with the
bad chemical agent.

I mean, the idea that the President of the United States, the head of the
alliance of which Britain is such an important part, just invites Putin
over to the White House, what, in weeks of that happening. I mean, it
really is a shocking weakness in American foreign policy.

I`m just reading John Bolton who is going to be the president`s national
security advisor, attacking the Obama administration for being too weak on
Putin. I agree with some of those attacks. And now he is going to become
national security advisor to our president who has gone how much further
than President Obama did in not responding or affirmatively undercutting
any attempts to respond to Putin`s aggression.

RUHLE: We can`t seem to figure out why the President is so complementary
or at least not tough on Russia and Putin.

Ned, why does it matter that we keep learning about this stuff from
Russians? Is it that the White House is keeping secrets? Or let`s be
honest. We know this White House is not organized. At very best, the
communication team has limited information. John Kelly is not on all the
calls, and they are playing defense all day long.

NED PRICE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Steph, it`s
not just a messaging issue. This is and actual substantive issue, and it
provides, really, a source of leverage to the Russians that they have
consistently provided the official account, the readout of these meetings
or phone calls, hours in some cases before the White House has done so.

Look, in this case, what`s important is had this close Putin aide,
(INAUDIBLE) not made THIS comment, we may not have learned of this
invitation. And the timing of this comment from the Kremlin aide is
interesting. There`s reason to believe to think that it may have been made
to embarrass President Trump. Of course this revelation comes just days
after President Trump and some of our European allies together expelled 60
Russian spies from our country alone, with dozens mosh from Europe.

And so, we have been so fixated on this issue of leverage in the sense of
compromise - when it comes to personal leverage or financial leverage in
Trump`s longstanding desire to do business with the Russians.

But we have forgotten the fact that Donald Trump routinely has given our
allies and adversaries alike, additional points of leverage. And this is
one of those points of leverage. The Russians rolled this out according to
their schedule in an effort to embarrass him.

For example, let`s assume that the “Washington Post” hadn`t reported last
spring that Trump had called Comey a nut-job no the oval office. If they
had kept that and rolled that out according to their own timing, that, too,
would have been a source of leverage. And so, the question becomes how
many other sources, how many other points of leverage are out there that we
just don`t know about, that President Trump has doled out to our friends
and I think most worrisome, to our foes.

RUHLE: How about a different kind of leverage? Robert Mueller`s leverage.

Max, we know that the Mueller investigation is getting broader and deeper.
Could that be motivating Donald Trump in his behavior and his actions here?
I mean, when I watch, you know, defenders of the president continue to grab
a Robert Mueller, saying they brought him into soon. He is a Democrats.
But let`s back this up.

This is guy, a Republican who is, who ran the FBI. I want to say ran the
FBI, has a purple heart, is Ivy League educated. I scratch my head when
they continue to go after this guy. What is it?

BOOT: Well, mean, it`s the old adage that, you know, if you can`t beat the
case in court you have to beat the table. And they are beating the table
right now. They are trying to discredit Robert Mueller, because clearly
Donald Trump is terrified of what Mueller is going to come up with. And of
course, what Mueller is looking at is the nature of this very strange
relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and between the Trump
campaign and the Kremlin.

We know that there`s been a lot of smoke out there, a lot of stuff has
already come out. There is already a circumstantial case of collusion.
There is a more than circumstantial case that Trump has committed
obstruction of justice. And so, of course, they are trying to beat up the
prosecutor and soften him up ultimately. And that – what this might be
leading to, of course, is an attempt by Trump either fire Mueller or to get
rid of sessions or Rosenstein and (INAUDIBLE), the scale of the Mueller
probe or whatever is going on. Donald Trump is clearly worried. And yet,
this is what makes his outreach to Putin all the more bizarre. Trump`s own
interest to appear tough on Putin.

RUHLE: This is where I don`t get.

BOOT: The more that he invites Putin for a playdate at the White House the
more he gives fodder to this impression that there is something nefarious
about his relationship. And yet he keeps on doing it, which makes you
wonder, is he afraid of what Vladimir Putin has on him as Ned Price does
suggested.

RUHLE: Bill, can you comment on that? Because that is what I don`t get.
They beat Mueller up, right, left and center, but it doesn`t stick, because
the guy has a stellar reputation, and Trump continues to do things that
make you scratch your head saying, yes, guess you really do like those
Russians.

KRISTOL: Right. Well, yes, maybe on that. I think look. If I were in
Trump`s shoes, I think he thinks that Mueller may find stuff that Trump is
not wanting to find whether it is an impeachable offensive or no. And he
is trying to discredit the investigator. It`s the O.J. defense, if you
can`t beat the rap on the merits, you discredit the investigators, you
create enough confusion about the investigators, you create reasonable
doubt for the least the people who want to believe you can stick with you.
And that, Trump has succeed in doing.

Mueller is still, thank God, more popular than Trump as polls the other
day. I think Mueller needs some help and I think some of us will try to
make the case for Mueller. Someone we should believe. We should let the
investigation go.

But it`s not as if Republicans on the hill are rising up steadfastly saying
that Mueller shouldn`t be fired. That no one should be pardoned. Trump is
systematically laying the basis for either trying to get rid of Mueller and
or parting people because he is scared of this probe. I think he knows
what he is doing. We may say it is bad if you are to do this. He also has
the sense that, you know, boldness pays off, maybe. If he has Putin here
and there`s no huge reaction, if people from Congress come and eat with
Putin, it just seems like this is as normal. And if he gets away with
that, that is another step in the (INAUDIBLE) of everything. And it makes
people like us who are saying, well, there is something deeply perhaps and
proper about this relationship. And it does look like the ones who are
crying Wolf. So I think Trump, in a way, knows what he is doing.

RUHLE: That`s a great point. We could say he doesn`t know what he is
doing. We can call it buffoonery all day long, but that guy`s sitting in
the White House. He has got some sort of strategy working.

We are going to talk about another new development in the Mueller probe
tonight. There is new reports of Robert Mueller examining former Trump
adviser Roger Stone`s contacts with WikiLeaks. The “Wall Street Journal”
learning Stone wrote an email in August of 2016 to former Trump advisor Sam
Nunberg, a favorite of this specific television show claiming he dined with
Julian Assange last night. Sam claims that email was a joke and he denied
ever meeting Assange. If that was a joke, where was the punch line?

But last week on this very show, as I mentioned, Nunberg, he`s a regular,
he said he didn`t think Stone was joking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I think he will just say, look - he
won`t say he was lying. He will say I was joking as he sign. I mean, the
joke is essentially on me, because that`s why he got called in. I think
one of the primary reasons by Muller`s special counsel.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Was it a joke?

NUNBERG: I don`t – that`s not the way I recollect it. That`s not the way
I recall it.

MELBER: Is that a no?

NUNBERG: Was it a joke to me that he –?

MELBER: Was it a joke? Yes or no.

NUNBERG: I didn`t think it was a joke.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: He didn`t think it was a joke. And remember, Sam Nunberg, a
massive defender of Roger Stone.

Shelby Holliday broke that story for “the Wall Street Journal.” Great
piece. Congratulations.

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you.

RUHLE: Walk as through this. I mean, what is Mueller`s team looking for
behind this email?

HOLLIDAY: Well, it shows how they have to sort through the complexities of
emails that may or may not be true. We saw the email. We don`t have it in
our possession. But Roger Stone sent an email on August 4th saying he
dined with Julian Assange on August 3rd. When we approached Roger and
asked him for comment on this. He sent us what appear to be a flight
booking. There`s no way for us to verify it. And Delta won`t verify ii.
But it showed him being in L.A. and traveling to Miami. So there are lot
of question. Obviously, you would have to go to London if you are going to
dine with Julian Assange.

I have been talking to some prosecutors once that dining doesn`t
necessarily mean simply being there. Maybe he caught him on the phone
during dinner. Maybe they did –.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLLIDAY: Prosecutors say there`s no fine print there dinning and that
means –.

RUHLE: If I had dinner, if I dined with you last night, it means we broke
bread, it means salad, soup, appetizer, I mean, are you kidding?

HOLLIDAY: So right. So the big question is was he in London? And there
has not been any sort of prove. We can`t see the flight records. Delta,
for privacy reasons, won`t tell us whether he was actually on this flight
he said he was on.

But the big picture here is if you look at the timeline, this email came
just days after President Trump called on Russia to find Clinton`s missing
emails. And it also came days after reported contacts between Manafort,
who is a longtime friend and business associate of Roger Stone, Manafort`s
contact with Konstantin Kiliminik (ph) who the special counsel`s hinted
this weeks as who had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016.

And days after this, actually the next day after the email, Roger Stone
praised Julian Assange on WikiLeaks and continued to do so over the next
few months, predicting that it would be Podesta`s time in the barrel. And
by the way, for that tweet, he said he meant their work showing up in the
panama papers which were published earlier in 2016.

RUHLE: You can`t make this up.

HOLLIDAY: You can`t make it up. And Roger Stone has an excuse for
everything. But it is just really hard to parse the truth here. And I
think that probably shows how difficult it might be for the special
counsel`s office. They obviously know more than we do. But it can be
difficult when you are looking at statements. You are not sure if they are
true.

RUHLE: Max, what do you make of this? And do you want to dine with me
over the phone?

BOOT: Absolutely, that will be a new experience, virtual dining.

Look. I mean, from the outside I looks, it seems to me, and again, we
don`t know everything that Robert Mueller knows and he consistently
surprises us time after time with new indictments and new information. But
even based on what we know, it seems like there is a pretty compelling case
of collusion which is being put together here of which this latest
information about Roger Stone is just one of the pieces of the jigsaw
puzzle.

I mean, we also know, by the way, that Roger Stone talked of Guccifer 2.0,
there was a Russian intelligence agent. We know that were more than 70
contacts in 2016 between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. We know that
George Papadopoulos, who was a Trump foreign policy adviser knew in advance
about the stolen Russian emails from the DNC. It certainly looks like
Roger Stone knew in advance about some of these stolen email that were
going to be leaked out.

You can argue about anyone piece of the puzzle and you know, you can have
an argument of who was dining with whom or whatever. But when you look at
the whole smorgasbord, it adds up to a pretty damning picture, I would say,
that it is going to be fascinating to see what, you know, what Robert
Mueller makes of it because to me, it seems pretty darn incriminated.

RUHLE: A real smorgasbord, not a virtual one. This whole story, it makes
me feel bad for political and crime novelists. Because after this, what
could you possibly make up? Real life is simply too bizarre.

Max, Ned, Bill, Shelby, thank you so much.

What a way to start the show. When we come back, President Trump`s bizarre
message to children, kindergarteners. That`s 5-year-olds at the White
House Easter Egg roll.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have never had an economy like we have right now. And we are
going to make it big Iran bigger and better and stronger. Just think of
$700 billion because that is all going in to our military this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: I don`t know how many kids thinking about $700 billion. But I`m
thinking about Sinclair. The propaganda machine. We are going to talk to
a former Sinclair anchor spilling the beans about the pressure to sell the
corporate`s message.

Also Mark Zuckerberg hitting back at his rival or at least another big tech
CEO, Tim Cook of Apple and he gives a timeline for fix being Facebook.

I am Stephanie Ruhle in for Ari Melber. And you know that you are watching
THE BEAT here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUHLE: Welcome back. I`m Stephanie Ruhle.

Today, President Trump is making an appearance at the annual White House
Easter egg roll. And there were a lot of things he didn`t cover today.
Notably, the markets, which tumbled amid a brewing trade war or at least
skirmish with China. Instead, with an Easter bunny standing at his side,
he touted the economy and the military.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have never had an economy like we have right now. And we are
going to make it bigger and better and stronger. Our military is now at a
level, it will soon be at a level that it`s never been before. Just think
of 700 billion, because that`s all going into our military this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: He also responded to a reporter question about immigration in front
of a group of kids. Again, I said at that before, 5-year-olds,
kindergartners who are there to see the Easter bunny.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Democrats have really let them down. It is a shame. And now
people are taking advantage of DACA and that`s a shame. It should have
never happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: DACA. Joining me now, Michael Steele, a former RNC chairman and
MSNBC political analyst.

Michael, what was your take on the President`s performance today?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: The man has no time and place
awareness. That`s clearly it. You know, this is a big festive occasion.
Like you said, there are a bunch of four and 5-year-olds all over the lawn
there. You know, little Easter eggs and bunnies running around. And you
know, to use that as a messaging point on the military and DACA and other
things to me is just kind of tone-deaf to the occasion. And I get it, you
want to get your message out there, but leave that for others who can have
those conversations with the press on the side while you talk about, you
know, the joys of the Easter season and having these kids here, family and
those types of things. So time and place awareness, it does matter.

RUHLE: Well, how about his message being factually correct? You know,
there`s this talk with more members of the sort of the establishment
cabinet gone, you know. Gary Cohn is still in the building but leaving.
Hope Hicks is gone. Rob Porter, no longer in the building. People are
saying this is Trump unleashed.

STEELE: It is. No, I mean, this is probably the freest Donald Trump has
felt as President. Period. He is looking around, and he is saying all
those folks who are going to be there to block and defend for him have been
run out. Those were there to control and manage him have been run out.
And so, from his perspective, those who are left do not have what it takes
to stand up to him and even control the messaging let alone what he is
going to do.

RUHLE: But how about, Michael, fact-checking. How do other –.

(CROSSTALK)

RUHLE: You talked to establishment Republicans all day every day.

STEELE: Yes.

RUHLE: How can they stand with the President when he goes out after DACA
blaming Democrats when he ended it? He makes no mention of the stock
market - excuse me, he makes no - he mentions the market and the great
economy.

STEELE: Right.

RUHLE: And he does it reference China putting in place tariffs. And to go
to Amazon saying you are not paying fair share. You could hate the game
and want to change the rules. But Amazon is working and paying within the
bombardments of the law.

STEELE: Right. And so, what`s your point?

RUHLE: If I`m Paul Ryan, if I`m Mitch McConnell –.

STEELE: Did you hear Paul Ryan respond to that? No.

RUHLE: How can they not drew this and say, right on, brother?

STEELE: I mean, what he is going to do? Paul Ryan is not going to come
out and go where the President was factually incorrect on that. He is not
going to do that. He hasn`t done that. We missed goes back to the
campaign. There is no will inside the Republican establishment on the
hill.

RUHLE: Why?

STEELE: To present the counter narrative. Because the President`s got
them by the short of their voter base. And the fact of the matter is, the
President`s style, his messaging and his impromptu character or nature is
something that animates that base. And until that changes for a lot of
these members, they are not going to take that penalty point. There`s no
reason for them to do it. It`s unfortunate. We will see what happens come
November. And if they lose the House because of their failure to step up
as you are saying, then we will see how they respond going into 2020.

But right now, you know, Stephanie, there`s no incentive for them to do
that, because we haven`t seen them do it up to this point. They are not
going to start this Easter weekend with that. This is just not there.

RUHLE: Fair point. Well, trade wars, President Trump says they are good.
They are easy to win. We will see how that plays out.

Michael, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

STEELE: Go it. Take care.

RUHLE: All right. Ahead, the largest owner of TV stations across the
country now under fire after a local anchor, his own anchors push Trump`s
fake news message and some are saying I don`t want to do it.

And former on-air Sinclair broadcasting (INAUDIBLE) joins us live.

Also a Trump ally, Chris Christie blasting a Trump staffer`s ethics. As
“New York” magazine`s says Trump is using the power and prestige of his
office to line his own pockets. Richard Painter joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUHLE: Welcome back. I`m Stephanie Ruhle in for Ari Melber.

A conservative-leaning television empire under fire accused of parroting
Donald Trump`s talking points about the media. Sinclair broadcasting.
Never heard of them? Well, they have almost 200 local TV stations across
the country. And they are on the front pages after a video went viral,
featuring news anchors reciting this mandatory script.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

RUHLE: In an internal memo obtained by NBC News, Sinclair executives are
defending themselves saying quote “the critics are now upset about our
well-researched journalistic initiative, focused on fair and objective
reporting.”

Let`s break this down. Joining me now is Curt Client, a former Sinclair
anchor and meteorologist, Dave Truedell, a union rep for photojournalist
and (INAUDIBLE) and Renato Marriotti, a former federal prosecutor.

Renato, I turn to you, because it was your tweet that said this is the
company that is going to take over tribune soon, along with the 42 TV
stations it owned. If that doesn`t concern you, it should. Tell us why it
should.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what we are seeing is a
company that is pushing a far-right agenda that is taking over more and
more local TV stations across this country. And I will tell you, there are
many parts of this country that might only have one or two local television
stations and people aren`t going to – don`t always realize that what
they`re getting is not an objective recitation of the news. These anchors
that have local reputations that people have learned to trust over the
years are being hijacked by a corporate agenda and will ultimately, what`s
happening is people are getting fed a one-sided propaganda and frankly,
it`s a concern.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: But Renato, where could it go? Because the
average person could look at what those anchors said and say, I don`t know,
taken one at a time, it doesn`t sound so bad and don`t T.V. anchors read
scripts? So to the person out there with that response to these videos,
what do you say?

MARIOTTI: Well, what I think makes this country great is having a
diversity of voices, and right now we have a presidency that is trying to
stifle the free press, trying to stifle the people who can be a check or
challenge to the president. And here we have Sinclair Broadcasting that is
very tight with the administration, where frankly, Jared Kushner and others
have said that we`ve struck deals and we`ve given favorable treatment to
Sinclair. What I`m concerned about is that there isn`t a diversity of
views. Let the anchors, if these views are so – are so – have so much
merit, then why not let the anchors come to those conclusions on their own
instead of feeding them from a corporate headquarters.

RUHLE: OK, Kirk, you worked for Sinclair stations for five years and I
know you`re not there now, and you weren`t there in the last year after
President Trump won the election or Jared Kushner struck this dial but tell
me what it`s like inside, the editorial pressures that may exist if they
do.

KIRK CLYATT, FORMER SINCLAIR ANCHOR: Well, Stephanie, this is certainly
not the first time that Sinclair has tried something like this. Right
after 9/11, I was actually out of the country reporting at the time for
Sinclair`s flagship station in Baltimore Fox 45 WBFF. But at that time,
with great controversy and great angst in the newsroom, the anchors and the
number of reporters, they were compelled to do something very similar,
reading a statement about how they supported President Bush`s war on
terrorism. As Renato has just said, if the anchors come to these
conclusions, let them come to themselves. And a friend of mine over the
weekend contacted me and they say what is so bad about this announcement?
Well, what they`re doing here is you know, everybody knows in propaganda.
The most important thing you can do in propaganda is repeat the same
message over and over again. What Sinclair is doing is says oh, no, we
would never do anything to bring you fake news. That`s just not going to
happen.

It`s all these other people we are concerned about and worried about, while
they are the company that more than any other, with their forced-run
commentaries from people such as Mark Hyman which are extreme and I think
has really gotten some people aware of stations they`ve recently taken over
such as KOMO in Seattle, a very progressive area, like what is this coming
out of my television from a station that I used to know and trust. So you
have these extreme commentaries coming from this station, a very cookie-
cutter way that is certainly not good for America. We`ve come so far from
the days. When I started in the media, it was 1975 and there used to be a
rule called 7-7-7 rule, Stephanie, which means that one company could own
seven A.M., seven F.M. and seven television stations. That gave local
control.

Here in Las Vegas, we had a man named Jim Rogers who recently passed away,
and unfortunately, his station KSNV taken over by Sinclair Broadcasting.
This was a man who really did serve the public as a public trustee instead
of this must announcements. He had community organizations, say from the
Filipino Community, say from the Hispanics Business Community come on the
air and tell what`s happening, what`s important in their communities. That
has been replaced from something that is important for us and under each
individual market across the country, by these forced, must-run, lock-step
with the Trump administration commentaries. And of course, you have to
remember, Stephanie, that every time you have a newsroom meeting, that is a
way of advocacy journalism. What stories is that news team going to cover
today?

RUHLE: All right, well, let`s talk about those newsrooms. Now, Dave, you
represent the photo journalists at KOMO which we just heard is a Sinclair
station in Seattle, and that is at the center of all of this. What has
been the talk around the station of the anchors having to read these
prepared scripts?

DAVE TWEDELL, UNION REPRESENTATIVE, SINCLAIR PHOTOJOURNALISTS: The talk
around the station is that this is of a piece with what`s been going on
ever since Sinclair bought that station in 2013. And it is one-way drift
towards more control from Baltimore headquarters, where Sinclair
headquarters is and less and less control at home. Now, it is true as of
this moment, they have not affected the local broadcast but as you saw on
that video that went viral over the weekend, where you see all of the
stations saying the exact same thing, that is the real threat. Political
issues come and go, structural changes are forever and the FCC has allowed
this monster that will be the new Sinclair after they pick up the Tribune
stations. They`re going to double their audience reach. Never before in
American history has any station – any owner been allowed to have any more
than 39 percent reach of the country. Because of a gimmick passed by the
FCC, they will now have 72 percent reach. And because of another gimmick
passed by the FCC, the door is open towards a national broadcast. I`m far
more concerned and our members are far more concerned about a national
broadcast just supplanting local news altogether and getting rid of the
services that local news provides, that is what has been – the door has
been opened by the FCC, and that is really troubling.

RUHLE: All right, quickly before we go, Renato, today the President
tweeted Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more fake NBC which is a
total joke. When the President says something like this, doesn`t that make
Sinclair`s argument that it is fair down the middle and unbiased harder?

MARIOTTI: I think so. And frankly, what I see, Stephanie, is the
President of the United States, Donald Trump trying to say that no one
other than him is where you can get truth from. He attacks any independent
source of information, try and convince his followers and his supporters
that you can only go to him for the truth, and that is really scary.

RUHLE: Gentlemen, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. And I want
to make it clear, we invited Sinclair executives to come on and discuss
this with us, and as always, every day, I invite members of this
administration to join me here on MSNBC and are always welcome. Next, the
new magazine cover is blowing up. You know the one I`m talking about.
It`s getting a lot of attention. This picture, I cannot unsee it. It`s
depicting Donald Trump as a pig and it`s arguing corruption could be his
downfall. I`m talking self-dealing. Richard Painter is with me when we`re
back in just 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My whole life, I`ve been
greedy, greedy, greedy. I`ve grabbed all the money I could get, I`m so
greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab
all that money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Oh, goodness gracious. That speech from Donald Trump on the
campaign trail is at the heart of New York Magazine`s new cover story. The
headline, Corruption, Not Russia is Trump`s Greatest Political Liability.
And now Trump ally, Chris Christie not holding back on ethics issues in the
Trump administration. Trump`s EPA Chief reportedly renting a D.C. condo
from an energy lobbyist for just $50.00 a day. I need rent like that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: This was a brutally
unprofessional transition. This was a transition that didn`t vet people
for these types of judgment issue which I think could have been seen very
easily in a lot of these people. And the President`s been ill served by
this and if Mr. Pruitt is going to go, it`s because he should have never
been –

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he have to go?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I don`t know how you survive this one. And if he has to
go – if he has to go, it`s because he never should have been there in the
first place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: That`s a wow. Joining me now, Richard Painter, White House Ethics
Chief under President George W. Bush whose watchdog group is suing the
President and Hugh Hewitt host of the radio show Hugh Hewitt Show and a
Host of MSNBC “HUGH HEWITT” Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. Mr. Painter, to you,
first. We have talked a number of times, saying this is unprecedented,
this is unethical. We can`t believe they`re doing this. But now it`s
Chris Christie, attacking Trump and/or his cabinet ethics. Does this
signal some sort of shift?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CHIEF: Well, I don`t know that
it`s a shift. We`ve all known that this administration ignores ethics,
ignores the law.

RUHLE: But Chris Christie. That`s a different voice.

PAINTER: Well, it is and I think we`re finding Republican supporters of
President Trump, one by one, starting to realize that this administration
is corrupt and has been corrupt from day one. And our lawsuit is about
foreign government money that has been going to the President in violation
of the United States Constitution. We have the incidents involving cabinet
members getting money and favors from lobbyists. We just today had the
President of the United States making statements that were false, probably
knowingly false, about Amazon, driving the stock price down. If an
investor lost money in that stock, that investor could sue him for
securities fraud. And those investors ought to be calling a lawyer. It`s
every day we have a new violation of either the constitution, the federal
statutes or the ethics regulations. It`s over and over again and yes, I
think people like Chris Christie are finally getting fed up and the voters
are getting fed up. I`ve been fed up with this president ever since he was
a candidate and it was very clear he was going to violate the law if he won
the election, and that`s what we`ve had non-stop.

RUHLE: One other thing. Chris Christie, there was talking Scott Pruitt,
and his apartment he rented down in Washington. Hugh, you and I have spoke
via Twitter on this and you`re saying it`s much ado about nothing. Why?

HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC HOST: Well, let me begin by saying Scott Pruett is a
very old friend of mine, and I`ve had him on my show a dozen times, and my
son works at EPA, so I want to be very transparent. But I`ve been the
designated agency ethics officer at two agencies. Like Professor Painter,
I worked in the White House Counsel`s office as well and the key opinion
here is that of Kevin Minoli. He is the permanent, he is the Principal
Deputy Attorney General at EPA. He`s also the designated agency ethics
officer. He`s a lifer. He`s been there since 2000. Gina McCarthy,
President Obama`s Administrator made him the Principal Deputy Associate
Attorney General at EPA and Mr. Minoli reviewed the lease and upheld it.
It is not in any way shape or form a gift. It`s much to do about nothing.
I think this is really about policy, Stephanie, as we`ve talked about on
Twitter and I think it`s about the Vacancy Act. Specifically, people on
the left are upset with Scott Pruitt over the clean power plan which he
repealed. The waters of the United States which he repealed, the cafe
standards today which he put up for repeal. He`s executing Donald Trump`s
policy on WOTUS and on regulatory roll back and they want him out. They`re
also afraid that if for any reason, Attorney General Sessions leaves the
Attorney Generalship, under the vacancy act, Scott Pruett is eligible to
for up to 210 days to serve as attorney general, even beyond depending on
circumstances.

RUHLE: OK, well, Hugh, there are ethics issues and self-dealing issues
that go far beyond Scott Pruitt. So let`s go back to the New York Magazine
cover where Jonathan Chait writes, to be out for yourself is probably the
single most disqualifying flaw a politician can have. Do you, Hugh Hewitt,
who has a much longer history around politics than I do, do you have ethics
concerns with President Trump or his administration when it comes to self-
dealing?

HEWITT: Yes, always. As I said, I serve as an ethics officer for two
agencies and I`m aware of Professor Painter`s 180 different complaints
against the agencies across the government. But in every case, Stephanie,
it`s a fact and circumstances inquiry. I think every single case against
Scott Pruitt has been a nagging, political attack to slow down the agenda.
But there has been some very –

RUHLE: OK, then let`s go broader that Scott Pruitt. We can do Jarred
Kushner, we can do President Trump.

PAINTER: Excuse me, excuse me, Stephanie, Stephanie, can you find me –

RUHLE: Richard?

PAINTER: Find my a hotel rent for $50.00 a night in Washington, D.C. and
tell me that`s not a gift from a lobbyist. This is disgusting and no
decent ethics lawyer would sign off on that. If that had happened in the
Bush administration, I would have shut it down in a minute. $50.00 a night
to get a room in Washington, D.C., you know, we all know that that that is
a violation of the gift rules and no ethics lawyer could cover that up.
It`s just flat-out wrong and you know it.

HEWITT: Well, I would say that to Mr. Painter, I don`t know Mr. Minoli and
I don`t know you, but I wouldn`t slander a career professional who`s been
there for 18 years.

PAINTER: I will – no career professional would ever sign off on that.
$50.00 a night in Washington, D.C. Give me a break. That`s a joke.

(CROSSTALK)

PAINTER: I did not file 180 complaints. Get a room for $50.00 a night in
Washington.

RUHLE: OK, then I`ll ask you. Hugh Hewitt, when was the last time you
stayed in Washington, D.C.?

HEWITT: A month ago in my own home, which, by the way, I have often given
to friends, but Mr. Pruitt could not use it because of the gift rules.
That`s one of the funny things about this, Stephanie. When you`ve got
friends in Washington, you come to town for five months and your wife is at
home with the last five months of your son finishing high school, you can`t
stay at a friend`s house because of the gift rules, despite Mr. Painter`s
passion which is misplaced.

PAINTER: Not if you`re a lobbyist.

RUHLE: Hugh, you cannot stay at a lobbyist`s house when you`re the EPA
chief and your work could directly impact theirs.

HEWITT: Stephanie, John Boehner stayed at a lobbyist`s house, rented it
from him for ten years as Majority Leader of the House. It goes to whether
or not it`s a gift and by the way, it`s not owned by Steven Hart, he`s been
a friend of mine, again, transparency, for 25 years.

RUHLE: You don`t think $50.00 a night is a gift? You don`t think $50.00 a
night is a gift? How much do you think – how much do you think hotel
rooms cost no Washington?

HEWITT: All I`m telling you is it was reviewed by the career Deputy Senior
Associate General and the ethics official at this agency, for whom I have
no knowledge but great deal of respect, Mr. Painter doesn`t. He`s entitled
to pass judgment on whomever he wants. But there`s a reason he`s in
Minnesota and not Washington, D.C. and that reason goes back to whether or
not you have do regard for other professionals work. I do.

PAINTER: Excuse me, I am fed up with people being attacked in Minnesota.

HEWITT: I`m sure you are.

PAINTER: In my state, we elect people in Washington, D.C. We are sick and
tired of K-Street lobbyists who looked down at us in Minnesota as you
would. This is the reason you`re in Minnesota, instead of raking in money
in Washington, D.C. on K-Street and leasing out a room for $50.00 a night
to the EPA Administrator. This is corruption. This is why the people of
Minnesota and every other state, you`re in a flyover country. While you
want to look down on us, we are going to vote these people out. It is
disgusting what you just said about people in Minnesota, that somehow we
are here because we don`t play by your rules in Washington, D.C. We`re
going to shut it down! We`re going to drain the swamp for sure and this
back fill they brought in from New York, we`re going to send them back to
New York, New Jersey, wherever they came from with Trump brought on down.
This is really wrong, and you know it. And don`t talk down to us in
Minnesota.

RUHLE: Can we just end this segment jogging on New Jersey?

HEWITT: I have a question.

RUHLE: Gentlemen, we`re going to leave it there. Clearly, this
conversation is to be continued. Respect, we always need to have that.

HEWITT: Thank you, Stephanie.

RHULE: And no going after Jersey, Richard Painter, Hugh Hewitt, thank you
both so much. Be sure to watch Hugh right here on MSNBC on Saturdays at
8:00 a.m. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM COOK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, APPLE: We could make a ton of money if
we monetized our customer. If our customer was our product, we could make
a ton of money. We`ve elected not to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you`re Mark Zuckerberg, what would you do?

COOK: What would I do? I wouldn`t be in this situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Ouchy-pooh. Apple`s Tim Cook hitting Mark Zuckerberg where it
hurts, and now Mark Zuckerberg trying to hit back.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I find that argument, that if you`re not
paying that somehow we can`t care about you to be extremely glib and not at
all aligned with the truth. I think so it`s important that we don`t all
get Stockholm Syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you
more convince you that they actually care more about you because that
sounds ridiculous to me.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

RUHLE: Zuckerberg also said it would take years to solve some of
Facebook`s problems.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ZUCKERBERG: I think we will dig through this hole, but it will take a few
years. I wish I could solve all these issues in three months or six months
but I just think the reality is that solving some of these questions are
just going to take a longer period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RUHLE: Really? That`s a funny reality and a big reversal for Zuckerberg.
In 2010, eight years ago, Zuckerberg wrote “there needs to be a simpler way
to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy
controls that are much simpler to use.” Eight years ago said it would just
take a few weeks. Joining me now, my dear friend David Kirkpatrick, Author
of the Facebook Effect. David, what`s your take on all this?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, AUTHOR, THE FACEBOOK EFFECT: I think you were a little
unfair in that last comparison. He was talking about a specific set of
changes in whatever year that was. But (INAUDIBLE) put them in. But they
clearly weren`t enough. I mean, that`s the bottom line here. Facebook
lacks the controls that it needs to governor its system and he is basically
backpedaling furiously in this quite interesting interview he did with Ezra
Klein on Vox that came out today in a way that he has never done before.
That interview is a breakthrough interview.

RUHLE: Why.

KIRKPATRICK: But there are so many weird things about it.

RUHLE: What`s so breakthrough about it?

KIRKPATRICK: I tell you what`s breakthrough about it is that he`s
acknowledging that Facebook needs help to figure out what to do. He`s
never really had that humility before. He specifically said even for
something as minor as you know, if Facebook tells you-you can`t put up a
piece of content, there should be an external place where you can appeal
that. Well, he used a word like a Supreme Court, not that`s run by people
that don`t work for Facebook. That is a minor step in a very good
direction because the reality is Facebook is now in a position that no
company should be in and he`s starting to own that. You know, basically –

RUHLE: He`s owning that, but he`s also calling Tim Cook glib and
ridiculous. You know Tim Cook. Would you call Tim Cook glib or
ridiculous?

KIRKPATRICK: No. but the Tim Cook argument is not the central issue about
this interview. The Tim Cook argument is interesting because basically,
Facebook is raking it in with advertising more than any other company of
its size in history.

RUHLE: And they can`t possibly say they`re not a media company if what
they do is get advertising dollars and they`re getting advertising dollars
only from places like this.

KIRKPATRICK: I agree. We`ll here`s the – you know, if you`re a media
company, the big argument is they should then, therefore, bear
responsibility for the content on their service which –

RUHLE: Like we do here.

KIRKPATRICK: In general, we should agree that is the case and he is
starting to more or less say that but, you know, it`s interesting. He is
outlying himself more with Amazon as a cost-cutting company than with Apple
as a you know, cost-raising company which is basically what he basically
accused apple of in return. But I think the interesting thing is you know,
the – he talks so much about the social responsibility Facebook has, but
in many parts of the interview, he sounds more like he`s the U.N.
Secretary-General or the you know, the Head of the you know, FBI in
responsibilities that he thinks Facebook has to keep society functioning
normally. He keeps using the word “we” throughout this interview as if he
is really capable of making the decisions that will properly guide society
towards healthy resolutions, which he says he wants and it`s very
idealistic of him. But the reality is he`s one guy who completely controls
a commercial company that cannot be in the position of deciding what is
right in the public square.

RUHLE: Well, David, words like we and community are why millions of people
believed that Facebook was all about posting pictures of your babies and
cute puppies. David, thank you so much.

KIRKPATRICK: Thanks for having me, Stephanie.

RUHLE: This conversation, it is not going away. And tune in this Friday
at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the full MSNBC Town Hall with Apple`s Tim Cook.
You don`t want to miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RUHLE: That does it for me. I will be back in tomorrow night for Mr. Ari
Melber, and you can see me first thing tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Thanks for
watching. “HARDBALL” with my friend Chris Matthews starts right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome Vladimir. Let`s play HARDBALL.

END

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