Manafort trail gets underway. TRANSCRIPT: 07/31/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Cynthia Alksne, Sam Stein, David Jolly, Lisa Lerer

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: July 31, 2018 Guest: Cynthia Alksne, Sam Stein, David Jolly, Lisa Lerer

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, day one of the Manafort trial, the first of the Mueller era. The government argues Paul Manafort thought he was above the law, while his defense team plans to attack the star government witness against him.

The president started his day declaring collusion is not a crime, ending his day with red meat for the crowd in Tampa, and no talk of Russia. He did declare himself the most popular Republican ever.

And with 98 days until the midterms, Facebook announces it`s found fake accounts designed to further tear us apart, and we`ll show you if they have a familiar look to them. "The 11th Hour" begins right now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 558 of the Trump administration, and day one of the Paul Manafort trial, the first big test for Robert Mueller. It is a trial about taxes and not Russia, though Russia looms large in the background as it seems to in everything else these days. Manafort`s being tried in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. He was, of course, Trump`s campaign chairman, ran the RNC convention. It`s the first of two trials for him, and this one he`s looking at 18 counts of bank fraud, tax evasion, conspiracy charges in relation to his work for a pro-Russian party in Ukraine before he went to work for the Trump campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. This trial is off to a lightning start.

So far, a jury has been seated. Opening statements have been delivered, and a witness has testified, all on day one. Manafort was a March to August chairman back in 2016. He helped Trump secure the nomination, make no mistake, and Trump said so at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have fantastic people. Paul Manafort just came on. He`s great. He didn`t have to do this, like I don`t have to, he didn`t need to do this, but he wanted to.

Paul Manafort has done an amazing job. He`s here some place. Where is Paul?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: However, more recently, as Manafort was awaiting trial, the president sought to, shall we say, diminish his former campaign chairman`s role.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I know Mr. Manafort. I haven`t spoken to him in a long time. But I know him. He was with the campaign as you know for a very short period of time.

I tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago. You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time. He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something. A very short period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Manafort is the highest ranking campaign figure charge so far. He was also part of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting when Donald Trump, Jr. And Jared Kushner had those Russians come by. Also, tonight multiple sources tell NBC News that Robert Mueller has referred another group of investigations to federal prosecutors up here in new York, the Southern District of New York. Those sources say that former lobbyist Tony Podesta, former Minnesota Republican Congressman Vin Weber, and former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig are all under federal investigation.

The sources also say the inquiry into Tony Podesta, whose brother, John, ran the Clinton campaign, of course, stems from Mueller`s investigation into the case of Paul Manafort. As the special counsel and his team continue their inquiries, the president is now embracing a new line of defense. As we covered here last night, and as floated out yesterday by Rudy Giuliani. This morning, Trump wrote on Twitter, "collusion is not a crime, but that doesn`t matter because there was no collusion except by crooked Hillary and the Democrats".

Let us bring in our lead-off panel for a Tuesday night. Josh Gerstein was inside the courtroom today for today`s proceedings. He is senior White House reporter for POLITICO, also our very newest MSNBC contributor. Cynthia Alksne is back with us, a former prosecutor and a veteran of the civil rights division at DOJ. And Sam Stein is back with us, a politics editor at the Daily Beast.

So Josh, tone and tenor of day one so far. What was the dynamic like in the courtroom?

JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, it was quite surprising, I think, to see the vigor with which Rick Gates was thrown under the bus by Paul Manafort`s campaign team. I should say his defense team. We were all expecting that there would be an effort to dirty Gates up as a witness, but to suggest as Manafort`s attorneys did that the entire enterprise that the government was alleging essentially all of the fraud, the whole special counsel case stands on the shoulders of Rick Gates was a rather startling argument to hear from Manafort`s team. And that was in fact the central thrust of their defense.

We had a pretty good sense of what prosecutors were going to say and how they were going to blame Manafort for what took place here and described the luxury goods that he was indulging in and often paying for with transfers that came directly from bank accounts in shell company names in places like Cyprus and the Grenadines. But, the defense was a little more surprising, and they made this argument that somehow Manafort`s deputy had duped him into any wrongdoing that took place.

WILLIAMS: They`re listing all the items of his lavish lifestyle. The big one that broke through today in the news media was a, correct me if I`m wrong, $15,000 ostrich jacket. Of course, who among us hasn`t owned one of those in the past?

GERSTEIN: Right. And the sums are significant, especially when you add them up. I mean, the ostrich jacket is a colorful item, but they`re talking about him spending something on the order of maybe $800,000 or a million dollars on suits over a few years period. So, it`s a pretty dramatic level of spending. The suit he was wearing in the courtroom today did not look quite as fancy.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, I have two questions lead-off for you. One is purely mechanical. I`ve covered a number of trials. I think we`ve all been on jury duty. How in the world did they seat a jury, have opening statements, and already hear from one witness in the course of a day?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s the eastern district of Virginia, and they`re not fooling around. I mean, they`re called the rocket docket for a reason. And, usually, you know, after you seat the jury, you might have a little bit of a break. But, no, it was stand up and let`s do opening statements and then call your first witness. That`s just the way it goes in the eastern district of Virginia.

WILLIAMS: Second question to you is about this defense case. How tough it is? We just heard Josh lay out the fact that they`re going to go after the star witness.

ALKSNE: Well, yes, they are. Because what else are they going to do? In prosecutorial circles all around the country, this would be referred to as the SODDI defense. Some other dude did it. And, that`s sort of our shorthand. They don`t really have much else to do. And the problem for them is it`s a paper case. And Manafort`s signature is all over things, and it`s not -- probably not going to work. It doesn`t usually work, and I would doubt it works in this case.

WILLIAMS: Sam, I want to read you a quote from Frank Bruni`s "New York Times" column entitled "Paul Manafort`s Trial is Donald Trump`s too". And the quote is "Manafort is such a gilded, sordid reminder of the company that Trump keeps and of how he sees and navigates the world." It is true, Sam, he has represented unsavories all over the world. It is also true this case is not about Russia, and it`s true that Russia is the backdrop for all of it.

SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes, it`s a weird -- it`s a weird thing happening here in which you have obviously the former chairman of the Trump campaign. And right in the middle of a very high profile, obviously, controversial trial, and Donald Trump`s name wasn`t mentioned today. Robert Mueller`s name wasn`t mentioned today. This trial does not have to do with any connection to the 2016 campaign. Nor does Rick Gates` involvement ducktail with what he did in 2016 campaign or his work on the inaugural committee. It is a highly separate trial involving past clients of Paul Manafort`s.

And I think if we`re reading between the lines, it is the prelude to something that`s supposed to be bigger. Obviously, the prosecutors have a case that they`re bringing here, but it does seem like they`re looking down the road to try to get or compel Paul Manafort to participate in the larger mission, which is the investigation to collusion in the Trump campaign. And we`re all sort of waiting to see what Manafort does under this type of pressure. I do agree that the case -- the defense he`s bringing seems highly uncompelling.

Basically, he`s saying my underling did all this without my knowledge. Paul Manafort is begging the jury to believe his story. The prosecutors are telling them, here are the receipts. And so he`s got a really bad card to play, and yet he`s still playing it. And it all begs the question, why. Why is he not trying to get some bigger deal done with Robert Mueller`s team? And I don`t know if there are great answer to this other than he`s waiting for potentially a pardon down the road.

WILLIAMS: And josh, we`ve already had the first strange bedfellow in the first witness. Tad Devine, he of the liberal left, he of the Kerry campaign, the Bernie Sanders campaign, what was he doing testifying in this trial today?

GERSTEIN: Well, he was brought in because he actually worked alongside Manafort. You know, it`s fairly typical in these overseas political consulting efforts when Americans go in. It`s pretty normal for a Republican like Manafort to team up with somebody of a democratic large D, U.S. democratic background to go in and advise a candidate in these countries. And that`s exactly what happened with Viktor Yanukovych and with Manafort.

Manafort brought Tad Devine and several other democratic odd makers along to sort of balance out the team. And he was brought in by prosecutors today to testify about sort of how much money was made, but mainly about how involved Manafort was in the effort in Ukraine and in some of the financial matters so that it would be more difficult, I think, for Manafort to claim that he was just sort of passively involved here and wasn`t paying much attention. Devine essentially described Manafort as a detailed guy already trying to undercut the potential defense that he was somehow hoodwinked by Rick Gates or perhaps by his accountants or his tax people into the kinds of activities that got him indicted.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, you`re the lawyer here, so I got two more for you. Number one is another mechanical question. Tell the folks watching why it is that Paul Manafort, and we`ve established he likes him some high-end menswear is able to wear a suit in court, even though we have seen his booking photo in the green jumpsuit as prisoners wear in that part of the state of Virginia. Is it courtesy and is it because coming in, in a prison jumpsuit would be instantly visually prejudicial?

ALKSNE: Yes, it is. It`s more fair for him to appear in front of the jury in a suit than it is an orange jumpsuit.

WILLIAMS: All right.

ALKSNE: And, there`s no reason to humiliate him in that way. There`s enough happening in the courtroom as it is.

I want to comment on Tad Devine starting really quickly. I think it was very smart. I mean, part of telling the jury the story is to tell it in a compelling way, and to tell it in a way that you put your witnesses in an order so that you can protect your witness who`s going to have the most problems. And that`s Gates. So here, they start with Tad Devine. He`s a very elegant, soft-spoken, nice person who said nice things about Mr. Manafort that was elicited. And it allows the prosecution to be -- appeared to be being fair to Mr. Manafort and to start -- and to overview the story in a way that is -- isn`t bombarding them, but is getting the point out. I think it was very smart. And it`s smart to put a couple witnesses in front and behind Gates who are unimpeachable to kind of sandwich him in. And that was a very good start to the day, I think.

WILLIAMS: You`re also smart to know that this is, after all, storytelling. And you`ve said the same thing about Mueller, that this will be a tapestry, a story he will tell when we look back on whatever book gets published, the Mueller case writ large, do you think today this trial is the forward? Is it chapter one?

ALKSNE: Well, I think it`s the -- I think it`s chapter one. Mueller has this huge charge to look into, and it`s like this huge elephant. And you have to eat the elephant, right? So what do you do? You take a bite. You have to take something small. You have to take something easy for your first bite. And a paper case on a tax fraud would be the first bite of a very large elephant.

WILLIAMS: For my fellow animal lovers, we have thus far deceased an ostrich and an elephant just by my count. So Sam, let`s strike a note for press freedom.

STEIN: Sure.

WILLIAMS: Here we are in the last night of July. We have had three White House on camera briefings in the month of July, a total of 58 available minutes of on camera briefing time. What are we watching happen here?

STEIN: So, it`s beyond -- it`s not just that chilling number which is chilling, you know. We had instance in which a CNN reporter was restricted from going to open air White House briefing event. We`ve had the president deliberately avoid interacting with the White House press corps as he makes his way to either his motorcade or to Marine One. And we`ve all -- and we`ve seen this happen under the new leadership of Bill Shine, who seems to have a very acrimonious relationship with the media, or I should say doesn`t particularly like the idea of the media questioning his client, the president.

And I think what`s ended up happening is Donald Trump has decided it`s in his strategic interests to essentially cut off access, to cut off the hard questions because they might trip him up. And it`s happening right as the Mueller investigation is heating up, of course, as this trial has gone, but also as tough stuff like child separation policy has come into the forefront. And unless there is some sort of price to pay, if they continue to think that this is in their long-term political interest, I`m not sure anything changes. In fact, I think it could even get worse as we go through August. So it`s chilling. It`s been a long time coming and, you know, the press corps has to figure out how to penetrate this bubble somehow. And I`m open to new ideas, and I hope they are, too.

WILLIAMS: All right. We`ll stay on it. And big thanks to our starting three tonight. We`re hoping Josh does not rue the day, he signed up to help us cover this trial where days are long in Alexandria. So to Josh Gerstein, to Cynthia Alksne, to Sam Stein, thank you, all three of you, so very much --

STEIN: Thanks, Brian.

GERSTEIN: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: -- for starting this (ph).

ALKSNE: Good night.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, our report from the Trump rally in Tampa tonight, this is critical. From a special correspondent who went there for us to witness his first Trump rally.

And later, more fallout from the Trump family separation policy. New reporting on the trauma separated families are facing, after they are reunited. We`re just getting under way on a Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to have tremendous border security that will include the wall, that will include the wall.

Now, a lot of people don`t know it, but we`ve already started the wall. We got $1.6 billion, and we`ve started large portions of the wall. But we`re going to need -- even the way we negotiate, we`re going to need more and we`re going to get more. And we may have to do some pretty drastic things, but we`re going to get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That would be another hint at the government shutdown. That was President Trump rallying supporters on border security tonight in Tampa. We should point out, as we always have to, the president`s border wall has not been started, just repairs to an older section near San Diego.

The president spoke for over an hour on a number of issues, including the economy, including his contention that Merry Christmas is under siege no more, including trade immigration, the Supreme Court, voter ID, and shopping for food.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We believe that only American citizens should vote in American elections. Which is why the time has come for voter ID, like everything else. Voter ID. You know, if you go out and you want the buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID. You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID, and you need your picture. In this country, the only time you don`t need it, in many cases, is when you want to vote for a president, when you want to vote for a senator, when you want to vote for a governor or a congressman. It`s crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That was the kind of thing tonight, and during the rally, the president also heaped praise on Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis who is running in Florida`s gubernatorial primary. With us to talk about it, David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida, represented the Tampa metropolitan region. He attended tonight`s rally in Tampa, and now we can say among other things he`s been to a Trump rally. Also with us, Lisa Lerer, national politics reporter for the Associated Press.

So Congressman, I am very anxious to hear your takeaway from your first Trump rally, and chiefly, what television doesn`t convey about a Trump rally.

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN, FLORIDA: Yes, so I think some of the story lines for what we are used to. Perhaps the national story tomorrow is really the chanting and attacks on the free press, and frankly, your colleague Jim Acosta over at CNN. A viral video that`s now going around. The real verbal assaults, if you will, to the press. That was absolutely on display.

We also saw the energy in the crowd when Donald Trump would address immigration matters, and frankly, anti-immigration rhetoric, if you will. Also mentions of Hillary Clinton excited the crowd. All those bread and butter issues. Brian, what was most remarkable to me, though, and probably the thing that I will never forget, and I am wrestling with tonight, is how homogeneous the crowd was. And we can decide whether or not we want to assign culpability to the president for cultivating a constituency that tonight was 99% Caucasian, working class, or is that a broader national conversation we need to have.

But, I`ll be honest with you. And I gut check myself. I asked friends and I asked other folks in the media, look around. How many African Americans, how many black Americans do we see tonight? And you could count them on one finger. And some of them were specifically positioned for camera shots. This was a white working class audience. To Donald Trump`s credit, they felt he was speaking for them, not just to him, but he was speaking to their anger. That`s the one thing I wrestle with. Look, the Tampa Bay community is a very diverse community. I represented a very diverse community. I walked into a rally tonight that was probably the most homogeneous environment I`ve been in, in decades.

WILLIAMS: I`m curious. How many people recognized you? Obviously, you`re from there. You`re Republican, but you`ve been highly critical of this president.

JOLLY: So I certainly received some criticisms from those who said I needed to be softer on the president. I could also have a conversation tonight, though, about how different media platforms divide the information that we receive, because long-time Republican supporters who have not heard some of my criticisms because of where they receive their news today, they were not aware of my criticisms of the president. And so they treated me as a friend.

But certainly, there were those who wanted to know why I was there, questioned my intentions. Look, I was there out of respect for those who support Donald Trump. I don`t support him. I remain a Republican, and I was there to learn from those in attendance. I leave tonight in a strong disagreement as I arrived, but it was important that I attended.

WILLIAMS: Well, thank you for that assessment.

Lisa, in many ways, it was a standard Trump rally. Just when you thought he was on the edge of being Rooseveltian, he talked about actually taking office and realizing he was president. I made some notes here. He talked about Washington, and he said, "I know the great people. I know the scum." So I figured, OK, so not so Rooseveltian there. Did you hear anything new tonight that he may take out on the road?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: I mean, it mostly did as you say seemed like the standard Trump rally. It continues to be striking to me how much the president wants to run on immigration in these midterms. That really is the central piece of his message, and it`s one that he believes, rightfully so, resonates with his base. But, I suspect what he may not be taking into account is it also resonates very strongly with Democrats.

So while driving up his base could help, you know, in the Senate map which is sort of tilted toward Republicans to begin with, in the House, it gets a little more complicated because a lot of the battleground is in the suburban districts. And by continuing to talk about these divisive issues like immigration, like the potential for a government shutdown, along with the, you know, never-ending series of news about the investigation, you know, about controversial remarks, every one of those headlines is an additional shot of adrenaline into an already energized democratic grassroots.

So what we`ve seen is protesters have become volunteers, are likely to become voters. And that level of enthusiasm is something that scares a lot of Republicans, particularly when they look at the map in the House.

WILLIAMS: Lisa, how concerned are you? Is the Associated Press, to your knowledge, about this other dynamic that David talked about? One of the viral videos of the abuse Jim Acosta of CNN took from the crowd, we had to blur what people are wearing. We can`t play what they`re yelling at him. Eric Trump retweeted it. The president retweeted Eric Trump`s tweet of the video. They were called fake news repeatedly tonight. What`s the level of concern?

LERER: Well, I think everybody is concerned. I thought the "Times" publisher A.G. Sulzberger made a really god point over the week. As you know, there was this back and forth after an off-the-record meeting he had had with the president became -- the president made it public. And he pointed out that the threats matter, of course, in the U.S., but more importantly, Trump is giving cover to -- you know, to dictators across the globe who want to suppress freedoms in places like Syria, in places, you know, like the Philippines, places where it`s really hard and very, very, very dangerous. And really, you`re risking your life to deliver impartial information. That to me seems to be the biggest danger to the press globally. And that`s, certainly, a trend that`s being, you know, not being helped by the president`s rhetoric.

WILLIAMS: Congressman, you get the last word. Steve Schmidt left the party. Are you still a Republican?

JOLLY: For now, but I`m always one day away, Brian. What we saw tonight was a big tent Republican Party. Unlike the big tent conversations we had in the past 10 years about whether or not there was room for moderates, tonight, we saw a big tent that invited in extremists, the queue in on (ph) crowd, the WikiLeaks crowd, the Seth Rich crowd. This is a different Republican Party. And, you know, there will likely be a day some time in the near future perhaps on your show where I join Steve Schmidt in making a statement very much like he did.

WILLIAMS: Well, as for tonight, you are our special correspondent of the Trump rally. And our day-to-day --

JOLLY: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: -- correspondent Lisa Lerer. We thank you so much, Congressman David Jolly and Lisa Lerer of the Associated Press.

Coming up for us, the White House rumor that is now put to rest, done and dusted, at least for tonight. That`s next when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Retired General and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has agreed to remain in his job, putting to rest for now the monthly, weekly rumors of his departure. As was first reported by The Journal, Kelly shared the news with West Wing staff yesterday. Quote, Kelly said he had accepted President Trump`s request to stay in this job through the 2020 election as tensions between the two men have eased in recent months.

The rumors reached their peak back in April when NBC news reported Kelly was struggling to bring order to the chaotic West Wing, referred to Trump as an idiot multiple times. Kelly was referred to openly by members of the press as a dead man walking.

The president marked Kelly`s one year anniversary with the photo on Twitter yesterday. It happened to be the same day a year ago that Trump fired his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, via Twitter from Air Force One, famously cutting Priebus loose on a rainy tarmac.

The Washington Post tonight reminds us that quote, Trump has openly weighed replacing Kelly in recent months, and as with all personnel matters in the Trump White House, circumstances could change and Kelly may not end up staying in his job through the 2020 election. Considering he serves at the pleasure of a president who often acts on impulse and whim.

With us to talk about it, co-author of that piece of reporting, Robert Costa, national political reporter for the Washington Post. Robert, anyone we have of your ilk this late in the broadcast indicates we have a lot of news on a night like tonight. Your story among the pieces of news. We have been hearing, I have been hearing the president has been polling friends and associates really recently about replacing Kelly, including floating names.

REPORT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: He has been. He has established a rapport with his generational peer in General Kelly. They bond as people who have shared grievances about members of the media, about different political rivals or enemies, but the president has not been eager to make an immediate move, but he has talked to associates about Mick Mulvaney, the Director the Budget Office, Nick Ayer, Chief of Staff to Vice President Pence, and even other options like Secretary Mnuchin, a close to the son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior adviser, has been mentioned by some Trump allies as a possibility of chief of staff could be akin to President Reagan in the late 1980s bringing in treasury secretary Don Regan. But for now the president is sticking with John Kelly.

WILLIAMS: We know for history that did not go well with Don Regan, especially if you ask Nancy Reagan back at the time.

You have written a story tonight about the Koch brothers. It was really extraordinary to read criticism of the Koch brothers by the president this morning. The headline is Trump feud with Koch Network exposes rift between populist forces and establishment GOP. You`re a broadcaster yourself. Give us the viewers guide to this fight.

COST: The Koch brothers have long been a power in Republican politics. They gathered in Colorado over the weekend. David Koch has since retired from that famous Koch brothers political partnership, business partnership. But Charles Koch, 82 years old, is very averse to President Trump`s trade policies, some of his other policies, economic policies, though he does like the tax cut, as most business people do.

And because of the tariffs, the president has been pushing, he has been telling republican candidates if you stand with President Trump on trade, then you risk not getting the Koch Network endorsement, which is very powerful at times, providing grassroots support, advertising support. This has vexed many congressional Republicans who feel that though the president is not a traditional conservative, they would like traditional conservative support in such a volatile midterm year.

WILLIAMS: Robert, what`s your thought on how closely this White House this president who is, let`s say, a more avid television viewer than most will follow the proceedings across the Reverend Alexandria in the Paul Manafort trial?

COSTA: As you were talking with Josh Gerstein about from Politico, it`s really hard for the president to follow this closely because television cameras are not allowed inside, even reporters are not allowed inside. It`s reporters scribbling on notebooks and that lack of media attention on television could be a challenge for Paul Manafort as he tries to catch the president`s attention. Many federal prosecutors, "Washington Post" speaking to believes Manafort is playing for a pardon.

But if you`re playing for anything with President Trump you almost have to appear on television. That`s during his executive time is when he really digests the political news and thinks through his strategy for the day and for the coming months.

WILLIAMS: You remind me, I should tell our viewers more often, because it`s federal court, there are no cameras and we will be relying on courtroom sketches through the duration of this trial. Our great friend from "The Washington Post," the very able host of Washington Week on PBS, Robert Costa, thank you as always for coming on with us.

COSTA: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, 98 days out from those midterm elections. What Facebook found in its midst and took down. Tonight the company says they`re up against, quote, a determined well funded adversary who will never give up, when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Facebook says this morning they took down 32 phony pages and accounts because of what the company calls coordinated inauthentic behavior. Facebook says the accounts were part of a secret campaign to influence politics reveal just 98 days before the midterms.

Most of the content seemed to be focused on left-leaning causes. It included ads opposing President Trump, and ads supporting the abolition of ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Facebook officials say they deleted pages referring to an event called an event called No Unite the Right 2, supposedly being planned for next week in Washington. Facebook says the activity is consistent with techniques used by the internet research agency. That would be the Kremlin-linked group indicted by the special counsel earlier this year.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers were united in their condemnation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D), NEW YORK: It`s not certain, but what looks like a Russian agency trying to manipulate our elections.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA: What we`re looking at in social media is an effort by the Russians and potentially other adversaries to create social chaos, to divide America.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: I can say with pretty high confidence I think this is Russian-related. These are absolute attacks on our democracy.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will be introducing Thursday a sanctions bill against Russia. It will be the sanctions bill from hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about this from security and business perspectives. With us tonight to do that, Robert Anderson, former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence. Also happens to be the former executive assistant director of the Bureau`s Criminal Cyber Response and Services branch where he was responsible for all criminal and cyber investigations worldwide. And Stephanie Ruhle, the veteran of the investment baking and business world and host of the 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time hour here on MSNBC, and for good measure, the 11:00 a.m. Eastern Hour here on MSNBC. Welcome to you both.

Robert, two-part question for you. Are you convinced this is the Russians? And is this a teaching opportunity for those of us who look at this Facebook page and see that it`s anti-ICE and realize that too is Russia? That`s the way Russia tries to foment division?

ROBERT ANDERSON, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Yes. Great question, Brian. One is I believe it`s absolutely Russia. And I think the bigger part of this, what people need to be looking at, because we`re talking about the attack on the DNC in 2016, and now the attacks here on Facebook, which they deleted today around 32 pages of compromised accounts is Russia never left.

They didn`t leave after attacking us in 2016. They sat right here, and they formulated a plan of how they could attack or try to divide the country in 2018 two years later. And here we are.

WILLIAMS: And when people say we haven`t followed up on our intelligence community assessments, this is what they`re talking about.

Stephanie, full disclosure, I have a family member who works at Facebook. Having said that, isn`t this the world that Mark Zuckerberg wanted? And how on earth to you corral the wild west?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNNC CO-ANCHOR: I`m not going to feel bad for Mark Zuckerberg. This is the world he created, and maybe it`s a Frankenstein. Maybe he created a monster. And yes, it is extremely difficult to corral it, and Facebook is bringing in all sorts of allies and partners and the FBI to address this. But nobody`s crying for Facebook here.

To the point he just made, these cyberattackers never went anywhere. They were there before the 2016 election. They remain there today. And while it`s our gargantuan problem, Facebook has a gargantuan amount of money to address this. And with Facebook not being regulated, you can say all day long if people on the Hill are united this their condemnation of Facebook, but they`re not forcing Facebook to do anything or regulating them to do anything. Facebook could shut it down tomorrow until they have this thing solved.

WILLIAMS: What would you shut down, though? I mean there are pages going up tonight that look innocuous and just have a slight tilted them that only a trained guy like Robert would see as being Russian in their derivation.

RUHLE: You could shut down Facebook. You could say we don`t understand the monster we`ve created. We`re 98 days away from the midterm elections. And to Cheryl Sandberg`s point they don`t even know where this is coming from.

Knowing the threat it is to our American democracy, do you really need to look up, you know, what your ex-boyfriend is doing these days and where he is going on summer vacation? Maybe not. Not until we address what the exact problem is here. It`s not like Facebook doesn`t have the money to do it.

WILLIAMS: Robert, I need you to chime in here.

ANDERSON: I tell you, I think it`s a tough problem. Social media is a huge attack factor for all nation states now. You`ve got to think about if this has gone on in Facebook, trust me. I don`t care if it`s Russia, China, Iran or any other adversary we face. They`re watching our response to this.

I`ve said this before on this program many times, Brian. Russia`s like a bully on a playground. The more you let them push you around, the more they`re going to push. There are some people in this world that don`t understand please and excuse me. And you`re looking at them right now, tonight.

WILLIAMS: If all Americans knew what you knew, Robert, about Russia, would any of us get any sleep tonight?

ANDERSON: Well, I don`t know if we`d get any sleep, but I think we`d be more focused on it. The thing that really bothers me and I think it bothers a lot of Americans tonight is we`ve been talking about this in the government and in the United States intelligence community, and quite frankly, in the social media private sector for two years. We should have been ready for this.

RUHLE: Nobody is shutting down their Facebook pages. You`re not seeing advertisers pull out of Facebook en masse. The fact that these cyber threats are this massive, but people still find them disconnected to their everyday life, we`re not acting like we`re afraid.

WILLIAMS: You cover business a fair amount. You came from that world. To borrow a phrase from earlier in this country`s financial history, when Facebook gets a cough, the tech economy catches a cold. And we`ve seen the drag on tech stocks, because I watch you on television. What to do about that portion of this?

RUHLE: Listen, Facebook, Google, apples of the world have done so extraordinarily well. I wouldn`t be scared about what`s going to happen to people`s stock portfolios. But has the day come for these companies to invest millions, possibly billions of dollars in to becoming more responsible entities? Without a doubt. And if that`s going to cost them some money, I think the market can withstand it.

WILLIAMS: Robert, the world of Facebook is so vast, I`m just trying to think of real world solutions short of a shutdown. Is there a worm that can detect the incoming creation of a page that could nip it in the bud and kill it during the birthing process?

ANDERSON: The problem is Brian, there is a lot of different software that creates out there that we put on cyber companies or clients of cyber companies to detect malware. The problem is when that malware is reverse engineered and changed almost by the minute nowadays by bad guys and bad gals around the world, it becomes useless.

So I think what you`re looking at, I agree with what Stephanie said earlier quite frankly. The day has come where there needs to be a partnership between the government and private sector companies to protect the country, and there needs to be a conversation to talk to how we can do this.

WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle, you`ll be talking about this tomorrow morning?

RUHLE: Indeed I would, on A.M.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much for talking about it tonight.

RUHLE: That`s right.

WILLIAMS: Robert Anderson, thank you for coming back on our broadcast. We appreciate both of you being here tonight, however late the hour.

Coming up for us, the Trump Administration was warned about the risks of pulling migrant families apart. Today some members of the Senate wanted to know why they went ahead and did it anyway, when we continue.

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SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Who here thinks that zero tolerance has been a success? You can just raise your hand if you think it`s been a success. Who thinks that the family separation policy has been a success? Raise your hand.

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WILLIAMS: So that was less than rousing Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal questioning federal officials during today`s Senate judiciary hearing on the Trump administration`s so-called zero tolerance immigration policy which resulted in nearly 3,000 children being separated from their parents.

Zero tolerance a reminder started in April, ended in mid-June after growing public outrage and press coverage. Again today, someone else described these migrant shelters for children as a "summer camp." This time it was an administration official and some of these shelters are inside former big box retail stores without windows.

Another report in the "New York Times" paints a much different picture. It details the trauma children can experience after reunification of their families saying "many of the children released to their parents are exhibiting signs of anxiety, intro version, regression, and other mental health issues."

One mother tells the paper that the change in her five-year-old son is particularly concerning. He "loved playing with the yellow impish mignon characters the Despicable Me movies. Now his favorite game is patting down and shackling migrants with plastic cuffs.

It was pointed out the impact on migrant children should not have been a surprise to anyone. One senior U.S. public health official testified the Trump Administration had been warned long before the policy was put in place.

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CMDR. JONATHAN WHITE, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPT., U.S. PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE: During the deliberative process over the previous year, we raised a number of concerns in the or program about any policy which would result in family separation. There`s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child.

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WILLIAMS: That official says he was assured by the government that family separation would not be implemented. With more than 700 migrant children still considered ineligible for family reunification, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin wants someone held responsible.

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SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I am today calling on the architect of this humanitarian disaster Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to step down. The family separation policy is more than a bureaucratic lapse in judgment. It is and was a cruel policy inconsistent with the bedrock values of this nation. Someone, someone in this administration has to accept responsibility.

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WILLIAMS: Dick Durbin calling for the resignation of the boss at Homeland Security. Another break for us. Coming up, the Trump Administration moves on to the cars we drive and the air we breathe and an argument some folks found hard to believe when we continue.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight is about your car and our air. Documents obtained by the "Associated Press" show that the Trump Administration was at least planning to argue with a straight face, stay with me here, that freezing emission standards for cars choosing not to get tougher on the pollution that cars produce over years, is actually for your own good. Because the argument goes, people would drive more and be exposed to increased risk if their cars get better gas mileage.

The draft document says people will drive less if their vehicles get fewer miles per gallon lowering the risk of crashes.

The A.P. in typical solid A.P. style plainly begins its second paragraph this way, "Transportation experts dispute the arguments." This is in general part of the Trump Administration goal to reduce regulations and be pro business community wherever possible, especially if it`s an Obama era regulation. Indeed in this case, tough new fuel standards were put in in the latter part of the Obama Administration.

If you know cars, then you know that since the `60s, there`s been something called California emissions. It`s part of the clean Air Act. It`s designed to cut down on the unique type of smog that once plagued California. It means the cars sold in California are different, they burn cleaner. And the fuel sold in California is different. It burns cleaner. That`s been the way it is for almost half a century.

The Trump Administration wants to challenge the ability after California, home to 40 million Americans to enforce its own emission standards. About a dozen other states follow California`s rules. And we will follow this story as it moves on down the road.

That is our broadcast. However, on a Tuesday night, thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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