The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 8/25/17 Hurricane Harvey Live report

Guests: Michael McFaul, Jamil Smith, Jonathan Lemire, Evan McMullin, Aisha Moodie Mills, Farai Chideya, Robert Faris, Travon Free, Lauren Duca

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 25, 2017

Guest: Michael McFaul, Jamil Smith, Jonathan Lemire, Evan McMullin, Aisha Moodie Mills, Farai Chideya, Robert Faris, Travon Free, Lauren Duca

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT with Ari Melber, though, starts right now. Good evening, Ari.

MELBER: Good evening, Chuck. We will be watching "Meet the Press" this Sunday. Thank you very much.

It is another Friday night and again we`re reporting on some breaking Friday night news on the Trump Russia inquiry. New reports right now breaking from "NBC News" and a separate story in "The Wall Street Journal".

We also, of course, are monitoring this hurricane heading towards Texas. Officials at this hour advising evacuation. We have a report from the ground on THE BEAT tonight. That is later.

But our top story is these two breaking reports tonight on Trump`s Russia investigation. "NBC News`" Ken Dilanian reporting this. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now issuing his first grand jury subpoenas to get testimony from PR executives who worked with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on what`s described as an international campaign touching Russia issues.

Also tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" with a new report that Special Counsel Mueller is bearing down on a big question. Did Russian hackers try to pass Clinton emails to Trump aide Mike Flynn. "The Journal" reporting intelligence showing "Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton`s email server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary."

A lot to report on and we`re going to get right to it with "NBC`s" intelligence reporter Ken Dilanian who has broken this story. As everyone knows, who has ever followed a major federal investigation, there is the time before grand jury subpoenas and the time after.

Your reporting suggesting Robert Mueller is heading past that line. What can you tell us about your exclusive?

KEN DILANIAN, "NBC NEWS" INTELLIGENCE REPORTER: Absolutely right, Ari. And I should say, my colleague Carol Lee contributed to this reporting. So, it`s a team effort.

And you`re absolutely right. Robert Mueller is now issuing grand jury subpoenas for testimony. We`ve known for some time that he`s been subpoenaing documents from various places. Now, he`s trying to compel people to give testimony before the grand jury.

And what`s at issue here is a lobbying campaign involving Paul Manafort`s work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, who was trying to burnish his image in Washington back in 2012 to 2014.

Now, Manafort filed a disclosure earlier this year saying that he got $17 million from this pro-Russian Ukrainian party over a two-year period for his work and various public relations firms in Washington were paid money to do some work on behalf of this party and these politicians and trying to have meetings with various newspapers and politicians in Washington.

And that`s what`s at issue here. Robert Mueller is very interested in what happened because initially they didn`t register as a lobbyist for a foreign entity. And they later were asked to do that by the Justice Department and they did so. So, that raises some questions. And also at issue is how the money flowed through this effort.

MELBER: Right. And your reporting also suggests at issue is the tentacles from Paul Manafort to all of these foreign projects, some of which may be completely innocent and unrelated, some of which apparently Mueller wants to scrutinize for the links.

To that end, I want you to stay with me with your big story here, but I want to bring in former US ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration Michael McFaul.

Ambassador, number one, what do you make of the implications of this story and, obviously, the Ukrainian piece of it? And number two, what do you want to ask or touch base with Ken on given his reporting?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, of course, the most important question Ken just raised. Why did they not register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act when they were doing this work and who is paying for it, right?

So, we know the number. We know that, by the way, because of great investigative reporting and work by parliamentary officials in Ukraine. That happened six months ago. That $17 million, that`s a good job for a couple of years of public relations work.

But did they register? It appears they did not. Why did they not? And who actually paid for that work to be done?

MELBER: Ken?

DILANIAN: Ari, actually, on paper, the lobbying was paid for by a European NGO, and so the firms in the United States said, hey, as far as we`re concerned, we didn`t have to register. But it`s starting to look like that NGO had connections to this Ukrainian political party.

And when you work for a political party, a politician or a foreign government, you have to register. And there are very particular set of disclosures to the Justice Department because there`s a higher hurdle when you`re lobbying Washington for a foreign government, and that didn`t happen in this case.

And now, it subsequently happened and now Mueller is asking further questions about what they did, how they got paid and what was Manafort`s role.

MELBER: Right. And to your point, it is not that hard legally to register. These companies, particularly those with international projects, they have their own legal and compliance departments. It`s a matter of paperwork.

In my experience, anyone who wants to comply with FARA can easily do so, which raises again the investigative question why not. Why does it go back to Manafort? What is going on with this money trail?

Ambassador, in your experience, what do we know about people who take on these contracts? How easy is it for them to do the work and then unhook from whatever pressures there are because it seems that one of the things we can glean from Ken`s reporting is that Mueller is interested.

And I don`t say this to presuppose the outcome. We never do.

But he is at least interested in trying to understand whether things that occurred before Manafort even hooked up with the Trump campaign could have been the first step towards potentially illicit contacts with a foreign power during 2016.

MCFAUL: Well, these are all questions that need to be answered. And I want to be careful here. I don`t want to get ahead of my skis and speculate about what we don`t know about those, but those are all the right questions, Ari.

First of all, let`s be blunt. No NGO has $17 million to pay for a public relations campaign for the president of Ukraine, Mr. Yanukovich. Obviously, somebody else put that money there. And we need to know where that money came from, including from Russians, from Russian business people that may have been asked to pay that money on behalf of President Yanukovych, who after all, at that time, was very close to Vladimir Putin. So, that`s the first thing.

Number two, I don`t think Mr. Manafort somehow cut all his ties. Lots of stories about his relationships with various people. One in particular, Oleg Deripaska, a Russian businessman, who they did some business together and then Mr. Deripaska tried to sue Mr Yanukovich. That was all going years after the contract we`re talking about.

We need to get to the bottom. We need to know what those relationships were and what, in particular, might people like Deripaska have been doing on behalf of the Kremlin, working with Mr. Manafort.

They`re all questions. I don`t want to pretend I know the answers, but there`s a lot of different kind of open questions here that need to be answered.

MELBER: I want you to stay with me on this breaking story. And I want to bring in more reporters on the panel. Jamil Smith, a contributing writer for "The Daily Beast" and Jonathan Lemire White House reporter for "The AP" are joining the discussion here with the four of us.

Jonathan, how does this square with the reporting you`ve done and the way the White House looks at these issues because, earlier this week, we hear Trump obsessed with Russia.

Tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" bearing down on the idea that Mike Flynn, a Trump associate, who reportedly Donald Trump interfered on his behalf with Jim Comey. Why so much interest in Flynn? That he was directly linked to the email effort, according to intelligence intercepts?

Again, I always say, as chief legal correspondent, doesn`t tell us the end of the investigation, but the intelligence there is something Mueller is looking at.

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": That`s right. And let`s remember, Donald Trump himself, from the podium at a campaign press conference, asked Russia for their help in finding Hillary Clinton`s emails.

And one would be following the path here that perhaps they heard that call. They heard that inquiry. And then, according to the reporting, potentially sending it towards Michael Flynn, who eventually national security advisor.

Paul Manafort also has always been a flashpoint this. Repeatedly, the president and people around him tried to downplay Manafort`s role in the campaign.

Both Trump and former press secretary Sean Spicer both suggested that he was on a short time, that he wasn`t a vital role in Trump`s effort to become the Republican nominee, when, of course, he ran their convention and was the campaign manager for a short time.

He`s always been someone that they have been nervous about. He, of course, was in the famous, or infamous, June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower that had also involved the president`s son.

And that in particular is for the president, seems to obsess about Russia, seems to lash out about Russia when it seems to be hitting close to home, whether it`s with himself or members of his own family.

MELBER: And then, Jamil, put that in the context that, according to the public reporting, there`s only one person who has had his home raided first thing in the morning by the FBI, which is assigned under a court order because that`s what they had to get from a judge that either you have material incidental to a federal crime in your house or you are not being trusted in the view of the FBI to comply.

So, you have to be treated like a common criminal or a drug dealer because they don`t think you`ll comply with a grand jury request. The only person that`s happened, according to public accounts, Jamil, is Paul Manafort.

JAMIL SMITH, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE DAILY BEAST": Right. And there`s been no time in my life that I`ve ever wanted to be Paul Manafort, but especially now.

I think that he`s in incredible legal jeopardy, obviously. And seeing now that this is the first time, as you mentioned earlier, that Mueller is calling for people to testify before the grand jury, now people are in jeopardy if they lie.

And so that, I think, puts this into a completely different phase and I think it really shifts the burden upon his associates and potentially Manafort himself to tell the truth. So, we`re going to see how the president reacts to that. That might be the one thing we can actually predict.

MELBER: And on that point, Jonathan, there`s also a lot of talk about how do you comply with these requests now that the grand jury subpoenas, according to Ken`s "NBC" reporting, are going out.

Anyone at the White House has to know this ongoing proceeding is in a serious place and you revise your statements at your own peril.

LEMIRE: Right. There is definitely a sense of nervousness, in the interviews and the reporting that we`ve done, at the White House.

MELBER: You think people in the White House are nervous?

LEMIRE: I think yes. There`s a sense that this is growing. They know that the grand jury is convened and now appears that the first subpoenas are going out.

It could be a matter of days, weeks, months before anyone in the White House receives one, maybe no one ever will, but there is certainly a belief that they need to prepare, they`ve been told to preserve their documents, they`ve been preserved to keep the communications from last year during the campaign.

Those are people who cannot help, but look around and wonder - it admits all the day to day political storms that seem to consume this White House that the big one is still over the horizon.

MELBER: And, Ken, I know that you as a seasoned "NBC" reporter and a former "AP" reporter, former colleague of Jonathan`s aren`t going to tell us anything about your sourcing other than that it`s true.

But I do want to note, as a general matter, the reason these things do tend to come out is that, while what happens inside the grand jury room and with those jurors is top secret, the grand jury requests as they go out to different institutions are not legally secret.

That is to say, if you get one, you can talk about it to some degree. You can`t talk about what goes on inside the room.

Can you speak to us about whether you would expect more such leaks about grand jury subpoenas if they are indeed continuing to go out?

DILANIAN: Oh, absolutely, Ari. And you`ve covered federal investigations. I`ve covered federal investigations over the years. This is how the news of a federal investigation emerges.

Defense lawyers, witnesses, anyone besides the prosecution is free to talk about what they`re saying to a grand jury, what questions are being asked of them, and that`s how we`re going to learn much more about what the Mueller team is doing.

It`s not that the Mueller team is out there leaking. In fact, Mueller has made it very clear to his troops that leaking is a firing offense.

MELBER: So, Jamil, finally, do Democrats just get out of the way on the politics of this or do they use these steps to try to build the case that while you can`t pre-indict anyone, in particular, not fairly any way, you can certainly say that where there is smoke, there is more that needs to be done, particularly the contrast between Donald Trump calling people earlier this week, according to "Politico" and saying he wanted any bill that protected Mueller to be stopped and then what you see here in what`s leaking out?

SMITH: Yes. I think Democrats would be wise to make sure that they keep their foot on the pedal here.

I think that when you have all these different factors starting to emerge through the investigation, all these different things, I think Democrats would be amiss if they simply ignored it or simply said let Bob Mueller take care of it.

They want Bob Mueller to hurry up. Or at least they want the public perception that this is actually ramping up to take hold, I think really what they need to probably be doing is going out to their constituents, especially in this time before the hurricane takes over the news, and make sure that people understand how important these steps are.

MELBER: And you mentioned the hurricane. We have more on that later in our hour as well. I want to let Ken Dilanian get back to working the phones and I know we`re going to see you back on air with your big story tonight. Appreciate that, Jonathan Lemire as well.

Ambassador McFaul and Jamil Smith, please stay with me because we`re going to come right back to another piece of this.

Next, more on these breaking stories in Russia. And we`re going to bring in a former CIA operative to talk about the pressure on Mike Pompeo.

I`m Ari Melber and you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: More breaking news on the Russia investigation on this Friday night. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting Bob Mueller now probing whether Russian hackers specifically tried to hand Clinton emails to Trump aide Mike Flynn.

A fascinating development considering Mike Flynn already publicly requested criminal immunity because he had "a story to tell."

And what I was just discussing with "NBC News`" Ken Dilanian, reports here from "NBC News" tonight that Mueller issued his first grand jury subpoenas targeting associates of Paul Manafort.

Both these reports come amidst brand-new scrutiny of the CIA under Donald Trump where Director Pompeo faces concern about what he might do if the CIA uncovered new information potentially damaging to Trump.

"The Washington Post" reporting there are concerns Pompeo can`t resist the impulse to be political. So, as reports break tonight that Mueller is bearing down on Russia`s unprecedented and damaging election interference, Trump`s CIA director under pressure for comments like these where he plays down the very actions that Russia took.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Russia intervene in our election?

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: I have been asked it a million times. It`s true. Of course. And the one before that and the one before that. They`ve been at this a hell of a long time and I don`t think they have any intention of backing off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I want to welcome back former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. And joining this conversation former CIA operative and an independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin.

Evan, your views of these breaking reports I just discussed as well as comments like that Pompeo and the apparent pressure he`s under in that "Washington Post" account?

EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, as far as Pompeo is concerned, I have been also troubled by some of his remarks that seem to cast Russia`s multifaceted, broad efforts to influence our elections as something that`s normal.

It is true as he points out that Russia has attempted influence our politics for years and for decades. That`s not new. But the scale is something that is absolutely new by orders of magnitude. So, for him to present it in any other way, I think, is a disservice to the American people.

But I`ll note that sort of at the end of that statement, he also says Russia has, he thinks, no intention of backing off. So, if we`re to unpack sort of what he`s doing there, he may be trying to placate his boss, which is a difficult man to satisfy in President Trump, while at the same time stressing the importance of efforts to prevent and deter Russia from carrying out these kinds of activities in the future.

MELBER: Is the CIA supposed to placate their bosses? In the run up to the Iraq War, wasn`t that the whole issue that the intel started to get cooked by political demands?

MCMULLIN: Well, absolutely. That`s something that you constantly have to watch in intelligence, is political influences.

Somebody like Director Pompeo comes from a very political background, but he`s not the first CIA director to have that background. George Tenet, who was a long serving director, a very good one in my view, who served under Republicans and Democratic presidents, he also spent a lot of time on the Hill, but then went to serve the agency there. Porter Goss was another one.

The important point here is just that, you can come from a political background and lead the CIA, but you`ve got to check the politics really at the door.

Pompeo has gotten himself involved in political situations that he just shouldn`t be involved in, whether it`s reports that he was willing to or did engage off-the-record with media outlets trying to downplay reports of significant contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials or whether it`s his portrayal of the Russian influence campaign as less significant than it truly was or his remarks about the president - his defense of the president`s comments after Charlottesville.

These things would lead to believe, and do lead many to believe, including at least myself, that he has still a tendency to be more political than he should. And I think that`s something that he`s got to be very careful.

He`s a very intelligent man. He`s very strong willed. I believe he has a lot of respect for the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency and its mission, but he`s got to be very careful about his engagement in any kind of political activities.

MELBER: Well, and ambassador, as for the other piece of this "Post", basically, he`s got special oversight of counter-intel in a way that either means he cares a lot about it or he has some special Russia interest, which seems to be a recurring issue in the Trump administration. Here`s his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POMPEO: Was meant to send a signal to the workforce that this was important and we weren`t going to tolerate misbehavior in our organization. It was meant to send a signal to those around the world that we were watching.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Your view of these accounts, ambassador, and whether they`re getting the right proportion on Russia or that too is becoming a kind of an obsession that might start from Trump and then filters through the agencies.

MCFAUL: Well, I appreciate his sentiment that he wants to show its importance to the agency and to the director. But just to echo what Evan said, one has to be very careful about politicizing intelligence.

Those lines have to be drawn. Every new CIA director, if they come from one place and then move to that job has to adjust. I witnessed it when I worked with John Brennan at the White House and then he became the CIA director. That`s a different job.

You can`t sit in the Situation Room and have the CIA or any other intelligence officer putting a spin, either for political or policy terms, when those deliberations are being made and he needs to be careful not to do that in this case, of course.

MELBER: Right. And he is under that pressure. Here we are. I just want to revisit the news of the night. He`s under that pressure at a time when the grand jury is, for the first time, sending out subpoenas demanding that people comply under the threat of law under Mueller, as "NBC" reports.

And "The Wall Street Journal" says, oh, wait a minute, the reason we`ve been hearing so much about Mike Flynn may be Mueller wants to know, related to intelligence assessments new, showing Russian hackers wanting to get Clinton emails to Mike Flynn.

Looks bad. Doesn`t mean it is bad, but it`s certainly what they`re going to looking into. Ambassador McFaul and former CIA operative Evan McMullin, thank you both.

MCMULLIN: Thank you.

MCFAUL: Thank you.

MELBER: That`s a big and important story. And there`s another one, of course. This gigantic storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Harvey is now hours away from landfall. You`re looking at live pictures there, 5:23 PM local time in Texas. It`s 6:23 here on the East Coast.

And you can see the furious water. This is the first time in 12 years that the mainland United States have been bracing for this kind of storm.

Thousands evacuated. Officials are saying get out to everyone in this path. I want to bring in "NBC`s" Catie Beck live in Corpus Christi. What can you tell us, Catie?

CATIE BECK, "NBC NEWS" CORRESPONDENT: Well, the conditions here have been steadily getting worse all day and they continue to do so. There are about 30,000 people already in Corpus Christi who are without power right now.

Lots of downed (INAUDIBLE) and tree branches all over the roadways. Most of the roads don`t have any cars on them, but there are a good number of folks who stayed home. There was not a mandatory evacuation order here in Corpus Christi despite the fact that this is a Category 3 storm.

So, some people have decided to just try and brave it out. As you drive through the streets in these residential neighborhoods, you tend to see a lot of the homes boarded up. Some of them have spray paint, indicating how many men, how many women, how many children are inside, sort of reminiscent of Katrina, but there is a fair amount of people who really just felt like they could stick this one out.

The main eye of the storm is supposed to come around 1 a.m. this morning. And that is when they are expecting to see those 125 mile an hour winds.

As you can see here, all of the homes boarded up, prepared for that wind, that rain, and the storm surge. They say the storm surge here in Corpus Christi could be anywhere between 6 to 12 feet, so that is some significant damage on the way for these folks, as they brace for the worst yet to come.

MELBER: Catie Beck, I hope you stay safe and responsible there. I know you are in the car for that reason. Appreciate your reporting. We`ll have more on this on the show tonight. Thank you.

Ahead, the first high profile Trump advisor to publicly criticize his boss a tiny bit on Charlottesville. We`ll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Breaking news tonight in the Russia investigation. These reports that Bob Mueller zeroing in on whether Russian hackers tried to give Trump aides dirt on Hillary Clinton.

"NBC" separately reporting Mueller now using grand jury subpoenas against associates of Paul Manafort.

And now bad news coming from within the Trump White House itself. Economic advisor Gary Cohn now saying the Trump administration can "do better" to stand up to neo-Nazis and that he considered resigning after Charlottesville, drafting a resignation letter that he never actually submitted.

Now, Trump spokesperson says they`re not surprised by what Cohn said about all this in a new interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Everybody wants to focus on a really small part of that interview.

Gary has not held back how he feels about the situation. H`s been very open and honest, and so I don`t think that anyone was surprised by the comment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Gary Cohn is speaking about a draft letter of resignation that he never submitted. Critics say standing up to neo-Nazis requires a bit more than tough sentences that remains stuck in your draft email folder.

But even that may be too much. Axios reporting that the mild step could still make Trump "explode". The way Trump will see it, Cohn is siding with the fake news.

All this tension comes amidst a major risk, of course, facing Americans today. We were just reporting on it. The first Category 3 hurricane aimed for the US mainland in 12 years.

And there is currently no director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Secretary of Homeland Security which oversees the key agencies here. Trump meanwhile tweeting, "Storm turned hurricane is getting much bigger and more powerful than projected. Federal Government is on the site and ready to respond. Be safe."

Now, this is not the time to address these federal government vacancies. Critics say when would be the time, pointing out that Trump still has 81 percent of vacancies across federal agencies according to the Washington Post. And more disturbingly he hasn`t put forward names for 368 of the key management posts. With me now is Aisha Moodie Mills President and CEO of the Victory Fund Institute the nation`s largest resource for openly LBGTQ public officials in government. I want to start with Mr. Cohn. He thought about it and weeks later his news to everyone is he thought about it.

AISHA MOODIE MILLS, VICTORY FUND INSTITUTE PRESIDENT, AND CEO: Well, action speaks louder than words. You know, I have been waiting for someone in this administration to stand up and surface as the conscious, right? Someone who has values, who has some moral principles that they hold true to. And I just knew that after Charlottesville, somebody would say enough is enough. We have got to stand up to this President and say enough is enough. And to hear that he has an e-mail sitting somewhere in draft, eight, that that`s what he wants to come out and publicly disclose as if it`s opposed to wash him of the sins of his master if you will, is really disappointing because I would expect people to have a little bit more courage than they`ve shown.

MELBER: Well, I think it was the Dalai Lama who said a lot of people have draft e-mails, right? I mean so what you have a draft e-mail. And then he puts out a very odd statement where he cited the people marching saying we will not be replaced by Jews. And he said as a Jewish American, he was not going to leave his job. The issue is not whether he`s Jewish or not. The issue is whether his boss gave comfort and support by saying there were good people of white supremacist rally and whether in government you feel obligation to stand up and speak for that. And if you`re not going to resign by the way, which a perfectly defensible moral position some would advocate, then why are you talking about resigning. Why are you trying to get credit for that draft e-mail?

MILLS: Right. And what does that e-mail have to do with anything? Right? So here`s the thing. Personnel is policy. This is what we always say at the Victory Institute because we actually had a personnel program where we staff the Obama administration with LGBT personnel in order to drive policy that was equality and we did. So, when I look at this administration and the people who are working there, presumably they are there because they fundamentally believe they can drive policy that matters to people`s lives. So when we have an incident like Charlottesville, and then you have a guy that says, well, I have a draft of an e-mail and I`m not going to quit my job, the question becomes what policies are you as personnel really trying to affect in this role that you are determined to stay in. And that`s where it all gets hazy and where it`s all gray because no one has doubled down and said what they want to do to bring America together.

MELBER: Right. And the other personnel policy issue that may not have been on people`s radar this week is this big clash over environmental relations, business, person and billionaire call icon resigning his post after attacking a woman named Janet McCabe. Now, we were able to interview her. This has never played yet. This is exclusive to THE BEAT. A former environmental regulator talked about her clash with icon take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET MCCABE, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: People have personal interests that could be advanced through their access. And that`s not what government is supposed to be about. People serving the President are supposed to be doing their best for American people. That includes business of course because we need a strong economy and of our environmental regulations and laws have been implemented with a lot of attention to our economy and to growing our businesses in this country. And that`s been very successful. But that`s what the business of government is about is serving everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This being the issue that a businessman wanted her to do one thing and attacked her publicly by name over it. And she said the job of the EPA is not listen to those business interests. Since you talk about staffing, how important are all these staffing fights going on because they`re not always getting the attention with all the other Trump drama?

MILLS: Well, I think the other Trump drama it`s a smoke screen for the imperative that he`s trying to push for his business cronies, right, which why we aren`t hearing about him. The EPA put out a report. In fact, it was agencies wide across the government that had a whole host of environmental regulation that we should maintain or we should put forward that we haven`t really heard too much about. And all that is intentional. Trump came in and he said, I`m trying to do what I can to fatten by pockets and to fatten the pockets of my friends. And he pretty much told us that everything he`s doing is demonstrating that. So, I`m not really surprised. And I`m thankful that she came forward and she called a spade a spade.

MELBER: Aisha Moodie Mills always great to get your perspective even on one of these busy breaking news Fridays. Thank you.

MILLS: Good to see you, Ari. Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you. Amidst the breaking news on this Russia inquiry, there`s a brand new report out of Harvard about the e-mails. Those are the e-mails we`re just reporting. The Wall Street Journal says Russian hackers might have passed to Michael Flynn. We have the latest on that and this report next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: In the breakdown tonight, we have a very different angle on this breaking news. The Wall Street Journal reporting Special Counsel Bob Mueller looking into whether Mike Flynn was trying to work with Russian hackers to get Hillary Clinton`s e-mails and learning what a crucial role those played in the election. Here is what is new this week. Research from Harvard University says the media was tilted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Now, that could be a surprise for Trump supporters who hear him complain about the press. Harvard`s findings though are based on numbers and not opinions and they have three key points. First, Trump got more coverage. No surprise there.

But second, it wasn`t just volume. Harvard says when the press covered Trump, they covered his policies and when they covered Clinton, they covered his attacks on her. Take a look. In a count of hundreds of thousands of articles in the election, the press covered Clinton scandals more than her policies but for Trump, the press covered his policies like immigration more than his alleged scandals. That could be a surprise to Democrats and Republicans alike. We`ve heard of conventional story that Trump gets attention for all of his antics. But stop and think. These numbers show there was more coverage of his policies like immigration in the Muslim ban as some result was according to this brand new Harvard study that the media presented one candidate on defense and the other on offense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILARY CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have turned over 55,000 pages of e-mails.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I will build a great, great deal wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.

CLINTON: That was a mistake and I take responsibility for using a personal e-mail account.

TRUMP: Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This brand new study is 140 pages. But you know what, the short version boils down to but her e-mails. And here is the third and final point in the data. And this may sound harsh but this is what the numbers show. On the internet, Clinton supporters shared actual news stories from news outlets that they liked. And Trump supporters shared opinion pieces from partisan and propaganda outlets. So, Clinton`s top sources were journalist like the New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico while Trump supporters according to this massive amount of data, chose partisan outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart.

Indeed, like it or not, on the election`s most widely covered policy, immigration, the numbers show Breitbart was the most prominent site over all journalistic outlets. And this is a map from the study which shows the top stories. That big, big red blob, the most influential blob it`s Breitbart. Of course, Breitbart was literally run by the Trump Campaign Manager Steve Bannon. It`s the liberal equivalent of it for site run by James Carville was literally your top source for election information all election long. You know Pat Moynihan used the say, "everyone`s entitled to their own opinion but not their on facts." The new research shows, 2016 was an election where people felt entitled to let their opinions dictate their own bubble, perhaps a big red bubble of alternative facts.

Bob Faris conducted that news study with colleagues at Harvard Center for the Internet Society and Veteran Political Reporter Farai Chideya, covered six Presidential cycles, reporting from 49 states, 28 countries and she`s currently studying the 2016 election at Harvard. I appreciate your both being here for an important conversation and one that involves self- reflection and criticism if we`re so capable. Mr. Faris, beyond what I just laid out, what is the key finding here going forward especially for people who want better or more accurate information?

ROBERT FARIS, HARVARD`S BERKMAN KLEIN CENTER FOR INTERNET AND SOCIETY RESEARCH DIRECTOR: Thank you so much, Ari, for having me on today. So what we found you summarized quite well is that we`re seeing juxtaposition of what`s essentially too distinct to me disappears that is (INAUDIBLE) tied. And that the conservative media sphere is more partisan, it`s more insular, it`s more tilted towards the right than the left wing media sphere. And what they dis is they were -- they stayed on message and the take away from their coverage was unmistakable. It was the Trump good Clinton bad, corrupt, self-serving, dishonest. While the mainstream media covered both sides.

MELBER: Right. Let me bring in -- I want to bring in Name then. I mean, this is not what people think. The numbers are fascinating. People think, trump personality and you count it up and says, actually they`re talking about Trump`s policies and they`re talking her scandals.

FARAI CHIDEYA, SHORENSTEIN CENTER ON MEDIA, POLITICS AND PUBLIC POLICY: Right. Well, part of it is you have to understand that there`s that principle you know, no advertise -- no press is bad press. And so, even when Donald Trump was talking about immigration in the context and later people would go on and rebut him and say that was factually incorrect, he was still getting his message across to his supporters and it was still sinking in. So I covered, for example, Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2010 and very hard liner on immigration, he loved doing press and he loved doing hostile press because people still listened to him. They listened around the facts to his sound bites. And some news outlets just ran wall to wall Trump and didn`t really moderate what he was saying.

So, why did we hear a million times about building wall? We could say once instead and you know, and some outlets did this but it could have been done more. Once again Donald Trump makes his argument for building the wall but instead, we heard it again and again and it became essentially free advertising which changed people`s minds.

MELBER: So Rob, did these findings surprise you?

FARIS: Somewhat, yes. We were surprised at the degree of partisanship and asymmetry there. The typical story was the left is moving left and the right is moving right. And we found that to be wrong. We were surprised by the amount of coverage on Clinton scandal across the election but the data is very strong and very telling on that point.

MELBER: Yes. Data is amazing. I want to read a little more from your study for folks who don`t read the whole thing although I recommend it. Top stories for Trump all told, all media Farai, trade, jobs, immigration. It`s like what he said he was running on. Top stories for Clinton, jobs then Clinton foundation scandals, then number one, I know you know it.

CHIDEYA: The e-mails.

MELBER: Clinton e-mails.

CHIDEYA: Well, I mean, this is part of the false equivalencies. And I remember, I can`t remember which specific reporter but there was a reporter or editor from the New York Times who is said we did make an effort to really talk about the Clinton e-mails in order to be nonpartisan. So there was this idea that everything should -- the scale should be weighted equally.

MELBER: That being partisan about giving extra scandal coverage made you nonpartisan.

CHIDEYA: Correct. In retrospect because --

MELBER: What did they say in Scooby-Doo? Like how is that make you more nonpartisan? Well, I mean, it was -- it was this idea that, I mean, I think there was a lot of builds up where people thought that Clinton was inevitable but that then weighted the scale so that some journalists began to say, well, we`ve got to do every negative story to be -- to be nonpartisan.

MELBER: You put it so well because we do have a job to be hard on anyone in the sense of what facts show but you can`t play the perception game of whether people are going to say that you`re unfair because then you just play yourself. And so, you have all these reporters that someone said what you`re saying here. Someone said to you, I did that to look better. I mean, that`s wild. Mr. Faris, you`ve done a great service I think by letting the data lead the conversation. And Farai, a very veteran journalist, I hope you come back on THE BEAT.

CHIDEYA: Thank you both.

MELBER: Thank you both. More breaking news tonight, we got to give you an update on this. North Korea has now fired an unidentified projectile into the sea of Japan. This is breaking this hour, the news confirmed by NBC News and according to a South Korean Military Official saying they`re analyzing the details. There`s much we don`t know and we`ll wait to report the rest as the story comes together. And I want to tell you this, it has been a busy week all week in the news and you know we have a lot to talk about on FallBack Friday like who needs to fall back. I`m proud to say we have comedian and daily show veteran, now writer for the Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Travon Free along with Lauren Duca and the Daily Beast`s Jamil Smith. You won`t want to miss this Fallback Friday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: It has been another long week and we`ve reported on some serious stories all week and especially today. So we`re going to take a few moments like we do every Friday for FallBack Friday

FallBack Friday is a chance for us to tell someone, anyone you want to pick to chill out, to relax or even reassess their choices this week. And we have really good panel this time for it. Back with me is Jamil Smith, a Contributing Writer from the Daily Beast, Travon Free, a veteran on The Daily Show and now with Samantha Bee and Lauren Duca a reporter for Teen Vogue. Hi, everybody.

TRAVON FREE, COMEDIAN, ACTOR, WRITER: What`s up man?

MELBER: We need this. name, who needs to fall back?

FREE: I think the -- I think the NFL, I wanted them to fall back, man. It`s -- the fact that Kaepernick -- Colin Kaepernick is not playing football, it`s not assigned to a team is insane, especially guys like Brock Osweiler is assigned to a team, and that guy couldn`t draw a lock at the ocean. Meanwhile, Kaepernick touchdown to interception ratio is 4:1 and were still like rallying and begging for this guy to get a job. There`s like 20 quarterbacks not better than Kaepernick who were playing football.

MELBER: Jamil, do you agree?

SMITH: Yes. As Browns fan, I definitely think Brock Osweiler needs to fall back. But I think that you need to also put blame on the fans. You know, the fans are the ones who put the pressure on the owners to make these kinds of business decisions. And so, you know, fans need to reassess their choices in this regard too.

MELBER: Choices, we`ve all got choices. Lauren, who needs to fall back?

LAUREN DUCA, TEEN VOGUE COLUMNIST: Philip Rucker from the Washington Post --

MELBER: Sure viewers know him.

DUCA: -- who is phrasing Trump after his Afghanistan military speech as a new -- a new President. And I just -- I don`t really know what threw him off, maybe the President`s ability to read from a teleprompter without causing a national disaster.

MELBER: I think we have Rucker`s tweet. He said, tonight, a new President Trump acknowledging a flip-flop and taking -- excuse me -- talking about the gravity of office history and substance."

DUCA: I just -- I think that this is so indicative of the need to normalize, desperation for respectability, to have something that`s so mundane and so ordinary, we receive a pat on the back is very unnerving. And then I have a bonus one if I can do one more.

MELBER: Bring it.

DUCA: James Cameron, talking about Wonder Woman is my other thing that needs to fall back. He was saying that Wonder Woman is setting women back is James Cameron`s opinion. And I just think that the significance of that movie and having a female super hero was hugely significant even if there is a sexual, you know, it`s a super hero, OK, so it`s good to be fit.

MELBER: My understanding, and Travon, you are a Hollywood guy. My understanding is James Cameron never falls back.

FREE: Well, it`s funny how guys, especially in Hollywood, guys like him who come forward and say things like this about women, you always find out that they`ve treated women terribly in their lives.

DUCA: (INAUDIBLE) and you`re going to need to him talk about the fact that he pulled his all-male crew repeatedly to make sure the aliens were you know, something they would hook up with in Avatar.

FREE: Like who does that?

MELBER: I like how smart the aliens were in Avatar but that`s just --

DUCA: OK (INAUDIBLE)

MELBER: Jamil, who needs to fall back?

SMITH: Taylor Swift needs to fall back. Not just the video teaser for whatever is going to be released on Sunday looks like (INAUDIBLE) version of Lemonade but also the song itself is rubbish and just further his feud with Kanye West which she already lost. I mean, we already know that you lied about you know, consulting with this line with Kanye, Taylor so just stop trying to convince us.

MELBER: Let me ask -- let me -- can I push you, Jameil?

SMITH: Yes.

MELBER: I prefer personally, I prefer Beyonce to Taylor, that`s just me.

SMITH: I hope so.

MELBER: But what if -- what if when you look at the photos too, what if it`s tribute? What if it`s Taylor saying oh, Beyonce is awesome. That was an awesome look in formation and she wants to give tribute because we know in music, you do give tribute to earlier looks and beats.

SMITH: I think it`s a little too soon for tribute. At this point it looks like plagiarism so --

DUCA: I have a thing, too, which is this woman has been campaigning on this girl power brand where just feminism is an accessory to her. And her silence during the election was absolutely deafening coming out of that PR positioning. And this song needed to make me like be unable to not dance. And it just wasn`t very good.

FREE: Yes, I mean, she`s never said -- that`s such a great point. She`s never said a thing about anything related to any type of issues going on in the last five years.

DUCA: Think big or go home.

FREE: Right. The idea that that can be some type of homage to Beyonce is crazy.

MELBER: OK, so my idea so -- I was just -- it`s a crazy question.

FREE: No, no, no. I`m saying if somebody -- if somebody said -- that might be her excuse now because she`s singing on the back ledge she might say it`s an homage.

MELBER: So you`re saying -- I get it. You are saying the host of THE BEAT needs to fall back. That`s fine. I got a quick one. I got a quick one. My nominee is Flat Earthers needs to fall back. Because this is a special edition of FallBack Friday.

DUCA: I`m here.

MELBER: Look at this these. There are people -- this is real -- who said if eclipses are real, why do you need NASA glasses to see them? Throw away your glasses, expose the lies. These are people who believe, if you didn`t wear your grasses, you`d find out the earth is flat. And that just blew my mind. Thank all the time we had. Jamil, Travon, and Lauren, thank you for joining.

SMITH: Thank you.

MELBER: And now we go to of course another great question. Who said it? Here is our quote for you. "Keep others in suspended terror, cultivate an air of unpredictability." The answer after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: We`re back with Who Said It? The quote, " Keep others in suspended terror, cultivate an air of unpredictability The answer? Author Robert Greene. This is his book Seminole book the 48 Laws of Power, a Machiavellian (INAUDIBLE). Published back in 2000 which has influenced many power players, business executives, entertainment folks and maybe Donald Trump. Ronald Greene will be on here THE BEAT on Monday to talk about whether Trump is cultivating an area of unpredictability in his governing style, what people can do about it.

That does it for our show, I will see you back here Monday night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern or tonight at 9:00 p.m. when I`m filling in for Rachel Maddow and "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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