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The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 9/5/17 Russia probe heats up as Congress returns

Guests: Bob Graham, Adrian Carrasquillo, Leah Wright Rigueur, Eliza Orlins, Michael Hirschorn

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 5, 2017

Guest: Bob Graham, Adrian Carrasquillo, Leah Wright Rigueur, Eliza Orlins, Michael Hirschorn

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": We`ll also see if Menendez decides to ever leave. We could see a vote to expel him, if he never leaves, if he is found guilty.

Lots to watch. Let`s try to keep an eye on it. We`ll be doing it for you. That`s all we have for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now.

Ari, it`s all yours buddy.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Thank you, Chuck. Appreciate it.

Donald Trump went back to work today, publicly talking about Mexico, while investigators are bearing down on his private fixation with Russia. And we have news developing on both stories tonight on THE BEAT.

A backlash to Trump`s immigration announcement as Congress evaluates his efforts to apparently pass the buck today and signs that Bob Mueller and congressional investigators are reaching to the top of the White House ¤ Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Michael Cohen, all now set to face congressional investigators in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, new reports have placed the spotlight on a controversial aide, who had not been a key figure in the Russia case before.

Unlike, say, Manafort or Sessions, Stephen Miller is not tied up in high- level Russian meetings, but "The Times" now has broken this story that he was the man Donald Trump put in charge of the first effort to fire Jim Comey, which was vetoed by Trump`s own lawyer.

Now, that puts Miller in the special counsel`s crosshairs. When this story broke Friday, heading into that long holiday weekend, a top former federal prosecutor told us for the first time Miller could be hauled before the grand jury.


UNIDENTIFED MALE: At the very least, Miller is going to be an important witness.

MELBER: You`re saying as a federal prosecutor, you think Stephen Miller could be hauled before the grand jury? We`ve never heard that before.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Oh, I think there is no question, given that he wrote this letter. And we know that Mueller is looking at obstruction because Trump`s attorneys wrote a letter to Mueller making various obstructions arguments.


MELBER: A lot of talk about letters there. Let`s break it down. That first letter never saw the light of day. Something was so wrong with it that Trump`s own White House counsel spiked it.

But it reportedly outlined the original rationale to can Jim Comey, according to "The New York Times" report. Now, that story still echoing in Washington today, amidst a new warning, and a stern one, to Congress from a top Democrat, who knows intel and investigations.

Former Senator Bob Graham ran the 9/11 inquiry, tangle with President Bush, and he now says Donald Trump simply cannot be trusted on the Russia case. So, Congress must implement protocols now that can be deployed the moment Trump might try to remove Bob Mueller.

That former intel committee chief Bob Graham joins me on THE BEAT later today for an exclusive discussion and that warning is animating, of course, the wider Russia challenge right now.

After all, if there`s nothing to hide, why did the Trump campaign hide so many Russia meetings? If there`s nothing wrong with doing business deals in Russia, why did the Trump organization lie about trying to build that Trump Tower in Moscow? Only recently exposed.

Donald Trump has certainly proven effective at one thing. Marketing. So, he knows how to exaggerate, distract and change the subject.

But the signs here today in the investigation suggest that even as Trump talks immigration or taxes or policy, the investigators will not be distracted, raising the prospect of a much bigger clash heading into the fall.

With me now is Nik Akerman, a former assistant special Watergate prosecutor; Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for the United States towards Russia; and Francesca Chambers, who, of course, covers the White House for "The Daily Mail".

Good day, everyone. Nik, let me start with you.


MELBER: These top associates here that we`re seeing, the names I mentioned that we know, Manafort and co, plus Stephen Miller, what can investigators glean from them if, as we would irrationally expect, they are not just going to cough up things to make them look that?

AKERMAN: No, I think the big issue really goes to these letters that Trump wrote. We don`t know how many there are. According to some press reports, there was one that was done by Trump and Stephen Miller that was then given to White House counsel, who then redid that letter.

And we don`t know what letter was actually turned over to the Mueller prosecution. We just don`t know who has that and how many letters there were.

MELBER: But let`s pause on that with "The Washington Post" reporting. And again, I mentioned this because it was going into the holiday weekend. People have lives. Some people have more active lives than you or I, Nik. Some people are not breathing the Russia inquiry every day.

And this was a blockbuster on Friday. Reading from "The Washington Post" about the first draft letter. So, this was a reason to fire Jim Comey that was ultimately aborted. It conveyed Trump`s displeasure that Comey wouldn`t say publicly what he told the president three times privately, that the FBI`s probe into Russia`s interference in the election was not focused on him.

From an obstruction point of view, would that be good or bad as the reason to remove the FBI director?

AKERMAN: That would be bad. Look, the whole thing could be just bad. The reason why these letters are so significant is because they go to a critical element for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump obstructed justice.

Obstruction really goes to the intent, whether or not the president acted with corrupt intent ¤

MELBER: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- firing James Coney.

MELBER: And, Francesca, you`re a writer. I`m a writer. Writing they say is revision. And it`s OK when you`re writing particularly to fix things.

The question here, and I`m wondering what you`re hearing at the White House, is whether they weren`t so much fixing or revising, but lying or cheating or hiding because, ultimately, to refresh everyone`s memory, the DOJ letter said we`re firing Jim Comey over his handling of the Clinton case, not Russia.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE DAILY MAIL": Well, Ari, Congress is very curious to get its hands on these materials for that very reason.

We saw Adam Schiff saying over the weekend ¤ and Adam Schiff being the ranking Democrat on the House`s committee that`s looking into this, say over the weekend that he would like to see those materials.

And, actually, if they exist, this would fall within the scope of what his committee has already requested, the House Intelligence Committee, and so that could provide some more insight into what these materials say, if the White House does turn those over to that committee, but that is a lingering question after that bombshell report that you mentioned.

MELBER: Evelyn?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Yes. I think what`s important to know is that one of these earlier drafts was basically vetoed by McGahn, the White House counsel. So, presumably, he had legal concerns.

And then, Rod Rosenstein went and found what he thought was a good legal basis and I suspect also something that has a foundation within the FBI itself.

So, we know already from a lot of reporting that there was a lot of unhappiness about how Comey, former Director Comey had handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation. And so, I suspect that Rosenstein was reflecting that the legal and cultural consensus within FBI ¤

MELBER: And, Evelyn, you`re putting your finger, though, on what`s problematic, which is what of this was pretextual. So, if a corporate board decides they want to remove, say, a CEO because of their gender and then they say, "hey, go write me a good memo, Mr. General Counsel, making up other defensible reasons," if the first letter says we`re going to do gender discrimination, no matter how good the second letter is it can`t save the first one, right?

FARKAS: It goes to intent. I`m not a lawyer, though, I should make it clear.

MELBER: We`ve got enough lawyers on the panel. But you`re a government official who knows the difference between a process that`s going towards an actual search for information and decision and a pretextual one, right?

FARKAS: Absolutely.

MELBER: That`s the allegation, it`s pretextual. Go ahead.

EVELYN: Yes. The first version reflects his actual feelings, his intent much more clearly than subsequent revisions because those people, the people who revised them were doing it not in the interest of reflecting the president`s actual emotions or actual analysis of the issue.

MELBER: Let me bring in Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee. And, congressman, there`s so much I want to speak to you about.

But starting on intelligence, what is your view and approach about the priorities, what we`ve learned and how it affects who you want to speak with next?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, the House committee and I know the Senate Intelligence Committee have continued to move forward collecting documents and reviewing those documents, interviewing witnesses.

Of course, this includes all of the usual suspects, so to speak, that you hear about in the news, but also folks who were much more low key. So, we`re continuing to move forward.

As you know, Robert Mueller`s investigation is a separate one. And he is the only person that can bring charges and prosecute if there were crimes committed.

So, our job is going to be to make sure that we, number one, get to the bottom of who conspired with the Russians that interfered with our 2016 elections; and secondly, make recommendations to make sure that it doesn`t happen again.

MELBER: What do you make of this first letter about firing Comey that the White House counsel vetoed?

CASTRO: We`re anxious to review that, assuming the reports are true, that those letters exist and they`ve been turned over and so forth.

I said early on that if President Trump fired Comey for that reason, then that is grounds to start impeachment proceedings. If he fires Mueller for a similar reason to get rid of the Russia investigation or because he thinks that it will accomplish that, those are grounds to start impeachment proceedings.

MELBER: Congressman, you`re saying today that if those reports are true, that if they can be substantiated, that the initial reason to remove Jim Comey was Russia that that is grounds in your view to begin the impeachment process?

CASTRO: Yes, absolutely.

MELBER: Isn`t that what these reports allege?

CASTRO: They certainly have. Again, everybody is going to have to review them for themselves. I certainly have not had a chance to review those. But if it`s the case, if that is what is concluded, then I certainly think those are grounds to start impeachment proceedings.

MELBER: So, you`re saying there`s a red line and if "The New York Times" account is correct coming into this weekend that he`s already passed the red line?

CASTRO: Speaking for myself, again, we`ve not had a chance to review them, but if we get to that point, then yes, I think that`s grounds to start impeachment proceedings.

MELBER: Well. Congressman, I appreciate that. As I mentioned, I`d like you to stay with me if you`re willing to talk immigration.

CASTRO: Absolutely.

MELBER: Great. Nik, Evelyn, Francesca, I want to thank you. Congressman, as I said, we`ll come right back.

Looking at whether Congress has a plan B if Robert Mueller is fired today, we have an exclusive interview with the 9/11 investigator who has advice for the Congress on that.

And new protests around the country here unfolding now against President Trump`s crackdown, his plan to get Dreamers within six months.

We¡re going to speak with an activist, as well as I mentioned go back to the congressman straight ahead.

And Steve Bannon plotting a "bloody September" ¤ his words, not ours ¤ with conservatives in Congress.

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


MELBER: Protests against Donald Trump`s immigration action across the country today. We`re going show you right now here in New York City live shots. This is Foley Square in Downtown Manhattan. Looks like quite a crowd from the overhead shot.

President Trump meanwhile still says he has a heart for the people he may deport.


DONALD TRUMP, THE PRESDENT OF UNITED STATE: I have a great heart for these folks we¡re talking about. A great love for them.

And people think in terms of children, but they¡re really young adults. I have a love for these people and, hopefully, now Congress will be able to help them and do it properly.

And I can tell you, in speaking to members of Congress, they want to be able to do something and do it right. And really, we have no choice.


MELBER: Saying we have no choice. Meanwhile, Trump¡s own aides say this move that he chose is like throwing an unpinned hand grenade at Capitol Hill Republicans in a blind quote to "The Times".

Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama out swinging, you know this is a rare public rebuke because he mostly stays out of the Trump fights, but says today, "to target these young people is wrong because they have done nothing wrong and it`s cruel.

Back with me is Congressman Joaquin Castro on Capitol Hill. Congressman, you of course represent Texas which has been dealing with the hurricane and there was many reports about Dreamers getting involved in rescuing their fellow residents of the United States.

Your view of this issue now that we know the president`s plan, which is to claim basically credit for ending the Dreamers program, while asking the Congress and you to do something about it.

CASTRO: Yes. I think that it`s a tragedy for the country, certainly devastating to the lives of 800 young bright hardworking people, who really are integrated into every facet of American society and into our economy.

These are folks that are in the military, that are teachers in our schools, folks who are working in every sector we can imagine, so it`s going to be blow to the country also.

MELBER: There`s a lot of talk about law and order and crime and punishment. And I think it`s fair to say immigration is a difficult issue. Being a humanitarian about it doesn`t mean that you have open borders, right?

You look at it, for example, though, what`s happening in the country and I`m going to show again some of these overhead shots in New York City where we`re seeing these large protests gathering, Congressman.

Here`s what the top prosecutor in New York is saying. He`s concerned that this type of move will actually hurt crime fighting. Let me read and get your reaction. He says, "What Trump is doing could actually dissuade victims and witnesses from reporting what he calls real crimes and public safety threats for fear of their own deportation." And then he says, "I want to assure undocumented New Yorkers my office remains a safe place to report crime." Your response.

CASTRO: Well, first, I`m glad that the attorney general of New York has taken that position. And I agree with him. These are 800,000 people who have put themselves forward, who came here as young people to the United States, and who are law-abiding folks. In fact, you have to be to be on the DACA program.

And you are taking those 800,000 people and putting them back in the shadows. So, yes, it`s going to be a serious impediment to reporting crime on all levels and it`s going to hurt communities.

MELBER: So, you do think that it could be actually a block to public safety efforts?

CASTRO: Absolutely. This is not good for public safety and the reporting of crimes when you have people who could become victims and don`t want to report being victimized and also who are witnesses to certain crimes and are afraid to come forward and describe what they saw because they are scared they are going to get caught up in the justice system. And so, this is not a good decision that President Trump made in terms of public safety.

MELBER: And, finally, what should Congress do now? Can they get this essentially solo or a la carte because every time the Congress has looked at immigration including, as you know, under previous presidents from both parties, they haven¡t eked out anything comprehensive.

CASTRO: Sure. Since the 1980s, Congress doesn`t have a great record on dealing with the thorny issue of immigration. But it is going to be tough to do it in six months, but it is doable. It depends on the will of the members of Congress and also on the reaction among the American people.

And they have got to express, I think, the outrage that you are seeing in Denver and New York and other cities and fundamentally the fact that they want Congress to do something about immigration reform.

MELBER: Well, that`s interesting coming from you as an insider, inside the halls of Congress asking for people to get involved because we are looking here at live shots in New York City, looking at the overhead shots of people protesting also earlier in the Washington DC area.

And, congressman, I think you made some news today both outlining a path to a legislative solution on this and also your view on that impeachment proceedings should begin if that "New York Times" report is correct about the reasons for firing Comey.

Congressman Castro, thank you for joining us on THE BEAT.

CASTRO: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Now, for another perspective, I want to turn right to Eric Beach, the co-chair of the Great America Alliance, a pro-Trump PAC. He is one of the many faces of Trump agenda you can catch all over the airwaves. Thanks for joining me today.

ERIC BEACH, CO-CHAIR, THE GREAT AMERICA PAC: Thanks, Ari, for having me.

MELBER: Let`s start with the president`s decision. Your view of whether this is the right approach to deal with the Dreamers? And if it is, why wait six months?

BEACH: Well, there is no question that it was illegal. There`s a reason why President Obama did this in 2012 within months of his presidency ending because he knew that it was not constitutional.

So, I think the president actually is doing the most humane thing. He is leaving it up to Congress to do its job. And you can tell that the (INAUDIBLE) with this decision.

MELBER: The internal logic there, if this is illegal, why continue it for six months? How do you defend doing something if your premise is it`s illegal? How do you defend doing it for six more months?

BEACH: Well, illegal immigration, for the last 30 years, Congress has failed to act. The most important thing that we could have done was secure your border. We have had no ¤

MELBER: Sure. But if you are on this show, you have got to answer ¤ Eric, let me just give you ¤ if you are on this show, you`ve got to answer the question.

I am not asking you about Congress. I do agree with you. Congress under both parties has reformed it. But the position I heard from the White House ¤

BEACH: To be honest, it`s a privilege to be on the show. So, I`m going to answer that question.

MELBER: Right. The position I`ve heard from the White House and that you just stated is the program itself is illegal. If it`s illegal, how do you continue it for six months?

BEACH: Well, I think the president is right in his own words. He has a heart. He wants to find the solution. But what`s wrong, Ari, with asking Congress to find a solution?

Both parties, even Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is no hawk on immigration, has said, look, we have six months. Your last guest, Congressman Castro said, we have six months to come up with a solution. What`s wrong with asking Congress and having a separation of branches of government to come up with a solution to illegal immigration.

There is nothing wrong with what the president asked them to do, come up with a solution. He ran on campaign promises to secure our border. He ran on making sure that national security was his number one priority. And that is why he won the election. So, the idea that he has not taken a humane approach to this, I think, is a fallacy.

MELBER: Does the solution include allowing these folks who came here as minors to stay because if that is a possible solution on the table, and folks like you often say, well, the president is a great dealmaker, why go through all of this (INAUDIBLE), which many businesses, of course, also say is bad for them because they don`t have certainty on what`s going to happen if we are going to land in six months, a Congress basically doing what the president won`t, which is create legal status.

BEACH: Well, businesses and CEOs often have their own agenda why they want illegal immigrants to be in the country because it helps with their margins on their businesses, but that`s a little bit different than the Trump coalition.

And to answer your question, yes, it`s definitely on the table. Why not kick at the Congress to make sure that all options are on the table to help with a problem that`s been really in the last 30 or 40 years on both Republican and Democratic presidents.

That`s what the president did today. He showed true leadership by saying we are going to find a solution to something that hasn`t been resolved in the last three decades.

MELBER: Is it leadership if he wants Congress to figure it out? This is one of the most confusing things about the Donald Trump presidency in this early period is, if this isn`t` leading from behind, what is?

He says, I don`t know, I don`t like it, I don`t have a solution, Congress please help me within six months.

BEACH: Well, I believe that`s really kind of being a constitutional conservative, Ari, right? You contrast it with what President Obama did where he enacted this illegally and by executive order.

The president knows that there is a separation of powers. And Congress` job is to enact certain laws and institute certain laws that help better our country.

MELBER: And when you say illegally, are you referring to any Supreme Court precedent or are you just stating your opinion that you think it`s illegal?

BEACH: Well, I think if they would have gone to the courts, it would have found as illegal, but I also know that when President Obama said, I am not a king, I can`t just determine this solo ¤

MELBER: But you knowledge no high court has actually said it.

BEACH: No court has acted on it, but I assume that that is what they would have done had the ten Republican attorney generals ¤

MELBER: You must be more clairvoyant than some because we just don`t know what the courts would do. The courts did limit certain immigration executive orders, but not this one yet.

Finally, I want to get you on one more thing before ¤

BEACH: We do know, Ari, that Congress has to have a bipartisan solution. We do know that. And that is OK for me if the president asks them to pass the reforms that he ran on or even that the American people want.

MELBER: And last thing I want to get on the record. I want to put up on the screen. When you look at the incarceration rates, people talk so much about public safety and it`s something we`ve been reporting on today, the immigrant males rate of incarceration far lower than native born males.

Do you think it is important for the president and his defenders like yourself to acknowledge the fact that crime rates are actually lower with regard to incarceration for immigrants than the native-born population?

BEACH: No. I think even in politics, the race baiting or anything else of that nature, the law should be applied equally across the board and we have laws that are part of this land.

And I think what we need to do is stop, as a country, segmenting different groups and saying, this group does it better than this other group. We are all Americans. I think we have to apply the laws equally to all Americans and that`s what the constitution says and I think that`s what the president tries to reinforce.

MELBER: Eric Beach, Great America PAC, thank you for coming on THE BEAT. Appreciate it.

BEACH: Appreciate it.

MELBER: Up next, we turn to a BEAT exclusive as promised. The senator who helped lead the 9/11 inquiry with a stern warning for Congress about what to do if Mueller is fired.

And Steve Bannon with big plans for the month of September. Plus, the Trump administration coming clean on all that big talk about Obama wiretapping.


MELBER: One of the nation`s leading experts is warning Congress that it must draw a red line to protect Bob Mueller before it`s too late. Former Senator Bob Graham saying, "I ran Congress` 9/11 investigation. The intelligence committees today can¡t handle Russia. They should act as if their investigations will be the final and possibly the only ones because they may be."

Now, notice something there. That is the opposite of the conventional wisdom right now, which is that Congress can just take a backseat while Mueller runs the show. And legally, there`s no doubt. Mueller has far more power to press witnesses, to get the goods.

But here Sen. Graham is making a broader point. With a president like Donald Trump, he argues, you can`t assume there won`t be inappropriate or even potentially illegal interference with Bob Mueller`s job.

So, Graham is calling on Congress to devise protocols now to pick up where Mueller might leave off and to ensure access to all documents, transcripts and materials amassed by the Mueller probe.

Now, the warning is not just coming from any former senator here. Graham, the former chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intel, and as mentioned, the former co-chair of the congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.

He called for that investigation be reopened to deal with Saudi Arabia`s potential role in facilitating the attacks, alleging a potential cover-up and fighting for years to get key parts of that 9/11 report declassified.

There`s an ancient saying, sometimes attributed to Lao Tsu, those who know don`t talk and those who talk don`t know.

When it comes to intelligence investigations, Bob Graham is someone who knows and right now has decided to talk. Joining me now in a BEAT exclusive is former senator Bob Graham. Thank you for joining me.

BOB GRAHAM, FORMER SENATOR OF FLORIDA: Ari, thank you very much. And before we start on your subject, I want to express my admiration for the people of America the way they have come to the aid of the Houston residents, who`ve been so terribly dealt with by Hurricane Harvey. And I would Hurricane Irma is threatening to inflict maybe the same type of damage on our own homeland. And I ask that you watch closely and be as understanding as you have been with the people affected.

ARI MELBER: Sir, we appreciate that. We`re reporting on that. I mean we`re here talking about rules in public service and we have seen a lot of public service in the way people have responded to these tragedies. I appreciate that. The subject of your piece and the reason you`re on here in this exclusive is you`re talking about protocols, things that should be set in motion now in case Mueller is fired. What do you mean?

GRAHAM: My concern is that Bob Mueller`s position is tenuous, we have seen the number of attacks against him personally, against the Attorney General, against the Deputy Attorney General and the possibility that he, Bob Mueller might be removed from office, is not fantasy. My feeling is that the Congress should that occur is going to carry a very heavy burden to gather the information that will tell the American people what happened and lead the effort to make those reforms that will be necessary.

MELBER: And your call here -- you`re sort of putting out a road map and I want to put up on the screen, part of what we know Mueller has been coordinating and thinking about. Under the U.S. federal rules of criminal procedure, as you know, Grand Jury materials, typically secret can be requested by these local prosecutors under the state law violations, something that got a lot of attention last week. And you write that the same Grand Jury materials should be a road map for Congress. Do you think this is something on the mind of the Special Counsel, that he`s acting fast now so that Congress can take over all this stuff even if his investigation is somehow kneecapped?

GRAHAM: Well, I`m concerned that it`s on the mind of some people who don`t want this investigation to come to a full conclusion. They might be looking for ways in which they can deny to Congress the information that Mr. Comey and Mr. Mueller had developed. So I`m suggesting that before that happens, that there be an understanding that all of the information that is thus far been gathered will be made available to the Congressional Committee, so they can take on this much heavier burden from high point of development of the evidence.

MELBER: Let me play for you some of what the allies of the President have said when pressed on this key point of whether there could be further tampering or obstruction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will the President promise not to interfere, not attempt at any time to order the Deputy Attorney General to fire Robert Mueller?

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: Well, the President -- the President of the United States as of we all know is a Unitary Executive. Now, I`m not going to speculate on what he will and will not do.

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: I think he`s considering perhaps terminating the Special Counsel. I think he`s weighing that option.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does that meaning that firing the Special Counsel is something that`s on the table for this President?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I`ve answered this question several times before, although the President has the authority to do so, he doesn`t intend to do so.


MELBER: Number one, the President under the rules doesn`t have the authority to unilaterally fire the Special Counsel without cause, so a misstatement there at minimum. Number two, how does this kind of reaction and pressure compare with what you faced as we mentioned on the 9/11 inquiry? Is this about the same or worse?

GRAHAM: It`s much worse, we never had any threat that our investigation was going to be cut short. I will say there were a number of instances where we struggled to get the information that we thought that we needed, most of those we eventually prevailed. But what`s happening now is beyond the pale of anything that is occurred in Congress, trying to understand and to make recommendations on a major national crisis which I consider Russian meddling into our democracy to clearly be.

MELBER: Former Senator Bob Graham, drawing lessons from the 9/11 inquiry. Thank you for joining us.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Now, still ahead. Trump`s month getting harder, Steve Bannon offering hardball tactics and tips to Congressional Republicans. And does the Trump administration trying to bury the news about those bogus wiretapping claims with President Obama?


MELBER: We`re looking again at these live pictures now of the White House. This is where Trump has just finished the meetings with Republican Lawmakers. But one person who wasn`t there may have the largest impact, Steve Bannon at Breitbart and going full throttle. Reporting on the Bannon Factor, NBC News notes its source warning, the Republicans must brace for a, "bloody September." Bannon (INAUDIBLE) plans with get this, House Republican Leader, House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, the two discussing how to go after a globalist in the west wing. Meadows on Breitbart radio as well with a warning to Republicans who might want to fund Hurricane Harvey relief and add other must-pass items to the package.


REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS: But what we do anticipate is the Senate will add, as you mentioned, the $2 trillion debt increase and send it back to the House. And I think that that is not only a -- sends a very bad message, it`s just not the right way to do it. We`re going to push back as conservatives. We`re starting to build momentum.


MELBER: Joining me now is Leah Wright Rigueur, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard and Adrian Carrasquillo a White Correspondent for BuzzFeed News. Leah, you see this teaming up. If Bannon built any Congressional relations in the White House, he is now using them apparently against the White House.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, HARVARD ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY: Right, and so, we knew that this is what Bannon is going to do when he lost the White House, that he wouldn`t attack Donald Trump directly but that he would attack the people around him, that he would look for fractures and look to exploit these fractures. And it looks like he`s found a kind of a perfect partner in crime if you know if you have -- in moving in with these kind of conservatives who also have something to lose and have a very much have an agenda right now. So really what we`re seeing is kind of the fracturing, again, the fracturing of the Republican party and Steve Bannon is willing to take advantage of it.

MELBER: Adrian, you`re on the White House beat, how is it playing?

ADRIAN CARRASQUILLO, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BUZZFEED: You know, I think that since Bannon left, you know, the line that you know, you`d rather have the guy, you know, peeing outside the tent than inside the tent, right? I mean, the thing with Bannon is now he`s outside, he`s definitely dangerous, he says that he has -- he has his hands back on his weapons. But what he wants to do is make you know, issues like the DACA negotiation, the immigration negotiation, more hard line. So you know, he -- it`s not that he`s against the principles of DACA, but his for a DACA immigration trade if for example he gets the Cotton Perdue Bill which would limit visas from half a million visas to 500,000, you know, if he can get the funding for the wall for the President. He sees himself as the guardian of the grass roots base and that`s why he`s going to -- he wants to take it to the White House.

MELBER: Right. And he`s looking issue by issue where`s the White House really would want some progress there on the hurricane funding. They would like to get something out of Congress without having everything become right on right feud. The other conservative Trump might have going problems with is as people might recall Mitch McConnell, one of the lawmakers meeting with Trump at the White House late today. We know he`s back in the building. But the Wall Street Journal reports that until today, the two hadn`t talked in weeks, their phone conversations had gotten awkward. Sources telling the journal, McConnell doesn`t have any patience anymore for Trump`s banter. Trump tries to keep it "more casual," starting conversations with minutes of chatter about the day`s headlines which McConnell stopped responding to the President`s chit-chat following silent in one call waiting a beat and then responding, yes, Mr. President, back to the bill. At times this summer, of course, their feud went public.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Our new President who`s not been in this line of work before and I think have excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in democratic process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Senator McConnell consider stepping down as Majority Leader?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, I`ll tell you what. If he doesn`t get repeal and replace done, and if he doesn`t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn`t get a very easy one to get done in infrastructure, if he doesn`t get them done, then you can ask me that question.

I`m very disappointed in Mitch.


MELBER: Adrian, I don`t know if you knew, it`s very easy to get infrastructure done until the breaking news (INAUDIBLE). And what do you - - what do you think about the rapport between these two men. It seems like the Donald Trump doesn`t always realize how much he needs McConnell.

CARRASQUILLO: That`s exactly the problem. They have such a slim majority in the Senate. For example, he`s going after Flake, he`s going after Senator McCain, he`s going after Mitch McConnell. They have such a huge agenda this fall. They want to get taxes done, they want to get the Harvey funding as well as keep the government funded. And now, you`re talking about -- by the way, an immigration deal which you know, health care was tough, immigration is just as tough. There`s a reason that President Obama had so much difficulty in his eight years trying to pass something. So you know, he needs Mitch McConnell and he doesn`t really seem to understand that he`s going to need to you know, grease a lot of hands to get a deal done.

MELBER: Right. And Leah, I want to ask you about something that came up a while ago, and sometimes these stories just fritter away in the Trump era, but we want to point something out. There was new pressure on the Trump Justice Department from a lawsuit. And they now, under this pressure admit there was no evidence of any court order the Obama wiretaps of Trump Tower. A statement reading both the FBI and the DOJ, National Security Division confirm they have no records related to wiretaps describe by the March 4th tweets, which of course contradicts those tweets where Donald Trump made all those baseless allegations. And I reported at the time, Leah, it`s a type of defamation when you knowingly falsely accuse someone of a felony, illegal wiretapping being a felony, they knew or should have known at the time. So Barack Obama, according to legal experts we spoke to have a very strong defamation case against President Trump, he just doesn`t want to bother with it.

RIGUEUR: Right, so I think you know, with regard to the Trump administration, just more broadly, when have they ever let the truth get in the way of their reality? And I think this is what we`re seeing here, right? This is part of this narrative that Trump uses over and over and over again, which is that he is the victim, that he has been wronged, that President Obama in fact is, you know, obsessed with him, when in fact we know that this is projection that it is the President who is kind of obsessed with this idea of comparing himself to Obama -- President Barack Obama, but also, overturning kind of the legacy of Barack Obama, the executive orders, legislation, what have you, if Barack Obama`s name is on it, then Donald Trump wants that (INAUDIBLE) as false, fake news, wrong and throw it out of the window.

MELBER: Yes, you get the feeling he thinks a lot about Barack Obama and Russia for whatever reasons. Leah Wright Rigueur and Adrian Carrasquillo, thank you for joining our political panel today.


RIGUEUR: Thank you.

MELBER: And don`t forget to check us out on Facebook and Twitter @THEBEATWITHARI or you can always use regular e-mail ARI@MSNBC.COM. Now ahead, the Trump administration playing out like a marathon version of survivor, we will explain next.


MELBER: You know, the conventional narrative about Donald Trump is often he does not change and that`s incorrect. Trump changes all the time while just pretending to be consistent. It`s especially evident in the changes to Trump`s inner circle. So while Trump still governs like a chaotic reality show, his new Chief of Staff clearly deciding to play casting director and ousting heavy weights like Steve Bannon and loyalist like Trump`s longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller. The man so close to Trump that he hand delivered the infamous letter firing Jim Comey. And the next contestant to be ousted could actually be the former Apprentice contestant Omarosa. The Daily Beast reporting John Kelly is pushing her out for triggering Trump with news stories he shouldn`t be looking at. Now Omarosa could be making a final pitch to her boss, but unlike the actual reality shows like Survivor, the parting cast members don`t even get a final speech anymore.


ELIZA ORLINS, FORMER SURVIVOR CONTESTANT: You never treated me with an ounce of respect. You didn`t even speak to me like I deserved your breath. I might envy your position in the final two, but I do not envy your life.


MELBER: That was Eliza Orlins who competed on Survivor working directly with the Creator of the Apprentice, Mark Burnett, she is now a public defender at the Legal Aid Society providing criminal counsel at New Yorkers. You guys can show her right here. She joins me today along with T.V. Executive Mike Hirschhorn and created several leading reality shows for VH-1, who writes for the Atlantic, both say they`re members of the resistance now, who think Trump is turning government into entertainment. Thanks for being here.

ORLINS: Thanks for having us.

MELBER: So, Eliza, do you see any of Mark Burnett`s style in the way Trump now governs?

ORLINS: Well, I mean, I think Mark basically created Donald Trump and so for that, I will never forgive him. No, I`m serious though. And I think that basically, Mark kind of govern his reality shows with this quiet manipulation. You know, behind the scenes he`s a micromanager but in a way that you`ll never really anticipate. It`s just, he`ll ask you questions, you know, are you sure that voting that off person is the right move? And then you kind of change your mind based on subtle manipulation. But Trump is bachelor over the head, you know, Roger Stone type not Mark Burnett as - -

MELBER: Did Trump learned anything from Mark?

ORLINS: Well, I think Trump learned a lot from Mark such as you know, his love for consumerism, product placement in many, many shows. I mean, Mark Burnett originated that. He had GM sponsoring Survivor starting with season one. I actually won a car on my season of Survivor in a challenge because you know, this was something that was always with sponsorships and everything and the Apprentice was very big on that, so I think Trump learned that. I mean, he was wearing his hat to his, you know, that were for sale on his Web site.

MELBER: Right. You mentioned product placement. The President, Michael, could wear anything. We`ve seen him wear the Presidential seal or sometimes military or disaster apparel in tribute. But Donald Trump went on that hurricane tour wearing a hat that you can buy from his political operation, politicizing disaster relief.

MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, T.V. PRODUCER: Yes. There`s a kind of ongoing disconnect that is sometimes obvious and sometimes is subtle between the show and the reality. And that`s why I think his response in Houston was so discordant. It didn`t seem like he understood that there were real people involved. And if you see how he handled the whole DACA thing, there`s a real almost pathological inability to empathize with real people in this effect. And I think that`s part of the, you know, reality show effect, right? The reality shows exist in their own bubble. When you`re on Survivor, the only purpose is to win Survivor, right? This is Survivor but with a body count.

MELBER: And you look -- you mentioned the Hurricane, Donald Trump also still talks about ratings like they`re an independent metric. But he, unlike some people in this building, is not on a T.V. show anymore, so it is really weird. You used the word discordant, that`s a very fancy word I think. I would say bizarre, weird, potentially disturbing from a governance perspective and the obligations he has under the Constitution to talk this way. Take a listen to him here talking about the Arpaio pardon in the context of ratings.


TRUMP: A lot of people think it was the right thing to do, John. And actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.


HIRSCHORN: Yes, I think -- I think the problem with normal people and how they think about Trump and think about Trump supporters, is that they think of that the point of Trump is actually to pass something. So the purpose of the Trump Presidency is not to accomplish anything. It`s a kind of ongoing theater of rage.

MELBER: A theater of rage?

HIRSCHORN: As long as they can keep the theater going, people are going to be interested. And in order to keep people interested, the ratings have to be high. So there is some internal logic to this.

MELBER: This is -- this is a thing, Michael, we talked about this before. It`s so interesting and why I like learning from you is because you excelled in this field but you say it has limits. In reality T.V. show --

HIRSCHORN: It`s not fun anymore.

MELBER: It`s not fun anymore. We are still, many people, assessing Donald Trump as a Chief Executive Officer. And the insight from you is that he still sees himself mostly as chief content officer.

HIRSCHORN: That`s right. And I think that you know, what`s interesting because we were talking about the Survivor metaphor, is he a contestant in the Survivor or is he a producer of the Survivor? Or does he see himself basically as the Bachelor? So I think that that`s, you know, this purely theatrical approach requires the constant feeding of story beats and surprise --

MELBER: Right. And it is all a twist which is why there`s so much stabbing. Omarosa is someone who we mentioned may be on the outs but is the ultimate combination. She spoke the approach to enemies. I want to play this for you, Eliza. Here`s Omarosa.

Let`s pull it up because I want to -- she talks about -- oh it`s a (INAUDIBLE) that`s my mistake. I thought we have the clip. She says it`s so great our enemies are making themselves clear so when we get into the White House, we know where we stand. Trump has a long memory and we`re keeping a list.


ORLINS: Yes. Omarosa is the quintessential reality T.V. contestant. She is a person who knows exactly what to do to incite drama, to get the big ratings. And I think she just like Trump is looking at this like a reality T.V. show. She is the one who Kelly is trying to keep away from Trump because she`s the one slipping him news articles that are causing him to go on --

MELBER: To get obsessed.

ORLINS: -- 20-tweet hate storms, you know, and rage about these people.

MELBER: And you`ve devoted your career to now to public service. Do you take anything from Survivor to go into the courtroom or most of it is in your rear view mirror?

ORLINS: I definitely think being hungry and surrounded by people who are out to get you helps in any field of work and certainly as a public defender but I think that mostly, that`s something in my past.

MELBER: Right. So that`s the difference between you and the President --

ORLINS: Exactly.

MELBER: -- how much you integrated. Michael and Eliza, thank you, both, fascinating.

ORLINS: Thank you so much.

HIRSCHORN: Thank you.

MELBER: Coming up, a new apology from a high profile person in Trumpland. Here`s your quote, "I concede wholeheartedly that the post was boastful and materialistic and my response was extremely thoughtless." Who said it, next.


MELBER: And we`re back with today`s quote. It`s from Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin with new comments saying I concede wholeheartedly. The Instagram post she did was boastful and materialistic and my response was extremely thoughtless. She apologized for that big controversy she sparked when she posted those pics on social media showing her and her husband exiting a government plane and including notes about his clothes like #tomford. When some commenters said Linton was wrong to do the post, she fired back and called an (INAUDIBLE) woman who we later had in the show, adorably out of touch. So she`s now more fully apologizing and sparking some new criticism. The Washington Post noting that while Linton apologizes for the materialism, she was doing it wearing a designer ball gown and with a cover shoot to boot. You`ll be the judge, that is it for THE BEAT, I`ll see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Trump`s got trouble. Let`s play HARDBALL.



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