Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 13, 2017 Guest: Rich Benjamin, Brian Darling, Antonio Garcia Martinez
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily".
THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Chuck, I`ve been watching you a long time, host of "Meet the Press", host of "MTP Daily". I believe this is your first blunt pun on television. I believe.
TODD: It may be, it may be.
MELBER: And we salute you and we salute the good senator from you, Todd.
TODD: Hey, go hash it out in your hour. Will you?
MELBER: Thank you, Chuck Todd. Amazing.
TODD: All right.
MELBER: We do begin on THE BEAT tonight with some breaking news.
Bob Mueller`s Russia investigation is now treating Mick Flynn, Jr. as a subject in its criminal inquiry. Investigators probing his work with a lobbying firm of his father, former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. Now, this is an exclusive "NBC News" report.
Flynn is now one of only three formal subjects in this probe. That`s not good news for the Flynn family. Flynn Jr. has worked in government and business for his father, traveling with him everywhere from Trump Tower during the transition to Moscow for that paid trip to celebrate a Russian propaganda outlet, "RT", and sit next to Vladimir Putin.
This is breaking today. So, we go right to NBC`s Ken Dilanian. And he broke the story, I should mention, with two of our NBC colleagues.
Now, Ken, it is big to identify anyone as the subject of the probe. Why is Mick Flynn, Jr. under this scrutiny and how did you get four sources to confirm it?
KEN DILANIAN, "NBC NEWS" NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Ari, as you mentioned, we have a dogged team working this story for days and we found the right people who were familiar with this matter. And they confirmed it for us.
And we don`t know exactly the conduct that the special counsel is examining with Mike Flynn, Jr., but we know that he was the right-hand man of his father, who is apparently facing some criminal jeopardy over his failure to declare his lobbying work for Turkey and for some other financial entanglements in international business relationships.
And the son would have known about almost every meeting. As you mentioned, he attended that gala in Moscow, where Mike Flynn the father sat next to Vladimir Putin. The son was along for that. So, he would have intimate knowledge about his father`s business dealings.
And, moreover, taking a step back, when you look at Mueller`s strategy here, if it`s his intention to have leverage over Mike Flynn, to get him to talk about what he knows about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, having his son on the hook with some criminal jeopardy, potential criminal jeopardy, is certainly a point of leverage.
MELBER: And that goes to another question. And as a lawyer, I wouldn`t want to have to answer it, but you`re here. So, I`m going to try to get you to answer it. What portion of this is about the son and what portion is really about the father?
DILANIAN: Well, I`ve got to believe a lot of it is about the father. I mean, the son is collateral damage really. To the extent that the son was - I mean, for example, one of the issues with Mike Flynn, the father, is he apparently allegedly failed to disclose foreign contacts and certain business arrangements on his security clearance application. That`s an allegation that House Democrats renewed again today and it`s been made in the past.
To what extent did Mike Flynn, the son, know about these arrangements, know about the failure to disclose? Was there a conspiracy of any kind? These are the kind of questions that are going to be asked. If he had knowledge of or participated in illegal acts by the father, he may be on the hook for that. But, really, it`s about the father`s conduct.
MELBER: Right. Stay with me. I want to bring in a former federal prosecutor, Joyce Vance, as well as "Daily Mail" White House correspondent, Francesca Chambers.
Joyce, walk us through what it means to be a subject.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER US ATTORNEY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: So, a subject of an investigation is someone whose conduct potentially falls within the range of what`s under investigation.
You`ll remember, Ari, that federal prosecutors use three definitions. A witness is just what it sounds like. Subject is someone who`s within the crosshairs, but prosecutors haven`t determined that they are a target. And then a target is someone who prosecutors believe they have sufficient evidence to charge or that they will have that evidence.
MELBER: Right. And so, it`s not good for him - the point that Ken and I were just discussing, it relates all back to the father, creates potential investigative and prosecutorial leverage, but Bob Mueller is going to follow the facts. I don`t think they`re going to have him in these crosshairs if there isn`t actual facts and conduct to support it.
So, Francesca, looking at the pushback here from Team Trump, I want to play the old pushback, which was, well, Flynn, Jr. is not that involved in things and some new pushback. Here was the old pushback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gen. Flynn has no involvement in the transition whatsoever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a transition email.
PENCE: Well, general - well, he has no involvement in the transition whatsoever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You see the talking points there smacked right into the facts. Email being something we`ve all heard about through the course of 2016. That, I would call some involvement, Francesca.
And then here, just breaking in our hour, Mike Flynn back on Twitter - Mike Flynn, Jr., which has been very controversial because he has pushed a lot of falsehoods and conspiracies there, but he says "Fake news media were done covering the pesky hurricanes, right????" And then says, "Back to Russia." And then he calls this through a hashtag, #ANothingBurger. Francesca, what are we hearing from Trump world?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, "THE DAILY MAIL" WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there`s no doubt that the White House is distancing themselves from this widening Russia probe.
Today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that she had not discussed this with the president specifically and referred reporters to outside counsel on this matter.
But as you noted, Mike Flynn, Jr. had an email during the transition and the vice president tried to say that he had no involvement, but why did he have an email during the transition process if that was the case.
And so, certainly, there are still questions that the White House has to answer about Mike Flynn, Jr.`s involvement during the Trump campaign and that`s certainly something that prosecutors will be looking at, the special counsel will be looking at as well.
MELBER: The other piece of this, the other Flynn development today was from Capitol Hill. I want to get all of you on it. Democrats say they have the evidence that Flynn, Sr. hid these Russia-related trips, part of his work on a plan to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East.
Democrats saying Flynn`s secrets may have actually broken the law, handing over evidence to Mueller`s team. And it`s not just Democrats. Flynn admitting on his third financial disclosure form that he says he did get paid over $5,000 for that project. And the company behind the nuclear plan says they cut him a check for $25,000.
The report paints a picture of a secretive national security official basically on the take. And, Ken, I think this is going to interest Mueller because it raises legal questions that extend again beyond 2016, beyond November and into these two men - father and son - the way they worked with the government.
DILANIAN: Absolutely, Ari. I mean, what we know now from Mike Flynn`s disclosure statements is that he was paid around $1.8 million by various entities. And this is one deal that we`re now learning about, where it was a scheme apparently to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East with some Russian involvement.
But the larger picture is, here was Mike Flynn making all this money from all these private entities up to and including through the transition. Then he becomes national security advisor. You`ve got to believe that Mueller is asking the question, did any of this money influence his behavior in the government?
For example, he was paid more than $0.5 million by the Government of Turkey. Did he take any action to benefit the Turkish government? Those are active questions you`ve got to believe being investigated by the special counsel.
MELBER: And, Joyce, as a prosecutor, we talk a lot about intent and motive. It`s fascinating to see someone operating at such a high level, taking these relatively small deals by the scale of what multi-star generals can get.
You don`t need to sell access to the government to get $25,000. We all know from the public reporting a general could do a couple speeches or do other kinds of work. Does that help or hurt him, the idea that this may have been motivated by money?
VANCE: So, I think that hurts him. Prosecutors like to think about investigations sort of like a duck swimming across the surface of a pond.
What you see publicly is that smooth easy moving body, while underneath the surface of the water, the feet are paddling wildly. I would guess that Mueller`s folks are viewing these $25,000 transactions as that smooth part of the body and that there`s a lot more beneath the surface here.
MELBER: And, Francesca, is this another day where the White House feels they`ve been pulled back into Russia or have they sort of made peace with that because we`ve seen the strategy sometimes being, well, leave it alone, we`re doing other work? And other days, them picking fights with Jim Comey as they did on Monday.
CHAMBERS: Well, major discussion at the White House today has been the president`s tax reform package, which we are yet to see, but his team have been working aggressively with legislators on that.
Of course, as you mentioned, James Comey has come up several times this week with the White House saying the president was 100 percent right to fire him.
When it comes to Michael Flynn, you`ll have to recall, he has not worked at the White House, Michael Flynn the elder since February when he was let go by the president. But that wasn`t for failing to disclose this business that he had with these foreign government to the government.
That was because he reportedly lied to the vice president about whether or not he discussed sanctions with the Russian government, which is also something that`s being looked.
So, you have to keep that in mind as you consider the Michael Flynn in the White House`s involvement here. The White House has blamed the Obama administration for not vetting Michael Flynn better, even though it clearly didn`t vet him (INAUDIBLE) in the transition.
MELBER: Ken, in a sea of bizarre talking points, I think that might be the most bizarre because it was leaked out at the time before Flynn was ever reprimanded or fired that Barack Obama personally tried to warn President Trump, basically saying this is not someone you want to have in this high a post.
DILANIAN: Of course, he did. And by the time Mike Flynn was appointed national security advisor, everyone knew the story of what had happened in the Defense Intelligence Agency and how James Clapper essentially pushed Flynn out early over basically an issue of management chaos.
And so, the idea that - first of all - and it`s also extraordinary that a man became the national security advisor after essentially earning more than $1 million in part from foreign governments or lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. We haven`t seen that kind of thing before. And it really raises a lot of questions about what vetting there was.
MELBER: And so, Joyce, finally to you on the subjects we have here, with Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Sr., and Michael Flynn, Jr. are these confirmed subjects according to "NBC" reporting.
And then, the people under some sort of scrutiny, President Trump, of course, for the discussion around whether there was obstruction or interference, as well as any role he might have played in the investigation here in his campaign; Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner; and Carter Page.
So, all told, that seven plus, what are we to make of that in terms of your understanding of how Mueller is looking at these different people?
VANCE: Mueller is looking from the outside in. So, we`re starting to see him talk with people who worked in the White House with this group of people who are under investigation.
He will be thoroughly and carefully examining exactly what happened. I think Ken is exactly right that a lot of this circles around Flynn`s conduct.
Of course, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates took the remarkable step of coming to the White House to warn the White House counsel about potential problems involving Flynn.
We`ve seen increased attacks from the White House on Jim Comey, which seems to signal that something is coming from the direction of Jim Comey.
And we`ve learned today that there are two senior FBI officials, who Mueller is trying to keep from testifying on the Hill, which seems to be an indication that he wants to protect their testimony from public view, that there is something important there.
So, all told, it looks like he`s starting to focus on this smaller group, but at the same time being very careful to get all of the details onboard and to thoroughly test the evidence before he makes any final decision.
MELBER: Understood. And very interesting. Ken Dilanian, thanks for sharing your scoop with us. Francesca and Joyce, thank you for being here.
Up next, we have a report on another focus of the FBI right now. These Kremlin-backed propaganda groups. Now, we talked about Flynn Jr. How are investigators probing Flynn, Sr.`s ties to Kremlin`s "RT."
And, later, I`ll speak to a former Facebook employee about whether the site is putting profits above democracy and letting fake news slide.
And Congress finds a reason to be bipartisan, forcing Trump`s hand and issuing a morally-clear response to Charlottesville, something that Congress thinks he failed to do over the past month.
I am Ari Melber and you are watching THE BEAT on MNSBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Lock her up
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Lock her up, that`s right. Yes, that`s right. Lock her up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Gen. Flynn there at the convention. Meanwhile, today, "NBC News" learning that the Former Trump`s national security advisor`s son Michael Flynn, Jr. is a subject of Mueller`s Russia probe.
Flynn, Jr. had a key role working with his father in business and on the transition team. So, focus on Flynn, Jr. brings us to Mike Flynn, Sr., who said he`d be willing to testify in the Russia probe, but only in exchange for criminal immunity, even offering he had a "story to tell."
And with the Flynn family back in the spotlight, it`s worth remembering the entire question of whether Trump obstructed justice, which revolves around intent, was an issue Jim Comey said involved a request very unusual to let Flynn go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE FBI: General Flynn at that point in time was in legal jeopardy. There was an open FBI criminal instigation of his statements in connection with the Russian contacts and the contact themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Months after Flynn was fired ostensibly for lying to the administration about contacts with Russia, Yahoo!`s Michael Isikoff reported Trump and Flynn were still in contact.
The president telling Flynn "stay strong," whatever that means. Now, today the White House was asked if they`re still in touch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what was the last time that the president spoke to Gen. Flynn?
SANDERS: I`m not sure. I`m not aware of any conversation that`s taken place in quite a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And as "NBC" is reporting on the focus on Flynn, Jr., we`re also learning just this week the FBI is investigating Russian propaganda outlets in the US. A former employee of one, the "Sputnik" was on THE BEAT just last night in his first interview since he spoke to the FBI.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Did this new interview you had with the FBI suggest they`re looking and making "Sputnik" potentially register as a foreign agent? Did they show an interest in that?
ANDREW FEINBERG, FORMER "SPUTNIK" EMPLOYEE: Absolutely. That was the purpose of the interview.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Doesn`t stop there. US intelligence on Russian hacking has already named "Sputnik" and "RT", as they view it, propaganda outlets. "RT" is the Russian-backed TV channel that paid Mike Flynn $34,000 to go to that gala where he infamously sat right next to Vladimir Putin.
And in the heat of the presidential race, Flynn denied the Russians paid him for going.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, "YAHOO! NEWS", CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Were you paid for that event?
FLYNN: You`d have to ask my - the folks that went over there to -
ISIKOFF: Well, I`m asking you. You`d know if you were paid.
FLYNN: Yes. I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking event. What difference does that make? Does somebody go, oh, he is paid by the Russians?
ISIKOFF: Well, Donald Trump has made a lot of the fact that Hillary Clinton has taken money from Wall Street.
FLYNN: I didn`t take any money from Russia, if that`s what you`re asking me.
ISIKOFF: Well, then who paid you?
FLYNN: My Speakers Bureau. Ask them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With me now Olivia Nuzzi, political correspondent for "New York Magazine"; Michael Isikoff there, who has reported on this and was just conducting that interview we showed with Mike Flynn, I should mention; and, of course, "New York Times`" Jim Rutenberg who has a big new piece digging into these Russian propaganda outlets.
Michael, was the general lying to you?
ISIKOFF: Well, he used the same sort of formulation that he later used, and not just significantly with me, but in his security clearance when asked what money he took from foreign governments.
He said - he did not disclose that he took money from Russia. He said he took money from US firms. The Speakers Bureau is a US firm, but everybody knows, who works with the Speakers Bureau, the money comes from the company or entity that`s paying the Speakers Bureau.
MELBER: Michael, you know I love you and we love your reporting. I feel like you`re taking a little bit of extra time to say that if you put crack money in a Laundromat, it still comes out as crack money.
ISIKOFF: Sure. Well said. You said it better than I can.
MELBER: So, what is it significant to this now as we see all of this adding up?
ISIKOFF: Well, we knew that - it was clear when I did that interview that he had been paid by Russia and received Russian money. By the way, that was the same day as the lock her up speech, which you showed at the outset of this. And it was a slight of hand. He was trying to throw people off.
But given all the - even then, there was so much attention to Russia`s role here. That same week WikiLeaks was disclosing the DNC emails. It was clear that the Russians were playing a big role. Paul Manafort`s connections to Russia, pro-Russia people in the Ukraine.
All this was an issue at the time and he was trying to deflect from that. And the fact that he continued to deflect with that with his security clearance forum is one of the issues Mueller is looking at and is one of the reasons he is under investigation.
MELBER: Right. And, Jim, you are talking directly to Putin`s Press Secretary Peskov, who tells you this new reality creates a perfect opportunity for mass disturbances in initiating mass support or disapproval. They feel they`ve been effective and they`re bragging about it.
JIM RUTENBERG, MEDIA COLUMNIST AND FORMER POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, kind of. One thing to clarify is they feel like you guys started this. There were the color revolutions that they think the West has been part of the upheaval in their part of the world.
So, they`re saying there`s an information war on. Peskov says this directly. There`s an information war. We are simply engaging in it. And, sure, he thinks they`re doing quite well.
MELBER: And you view this as something in your reporting that is significant. I mean, there was a point in time, earlier in the campaign, when people thought, is this getting hyped, is this getting exaggerated.
And now it seems like, no, this is something that Russia is very affective at and now you have an administration that won`t even acknowledge they did it.
RUTENBERG: I mean, I was definitely struck when I left his office, like let me go check the tape, but he was very open about it. This is an information - he described "RT" as an army from the opposite side, that there have been Western media in their part of the world, here is an army from the opposite side to give our point of view.
MELBER: Well, army, Olivia, it`s so interesting to hear that word because the entire legal shift is the FBI now saying, wait a minute, we have been too soft on these groups. They are, if not an army, an agent of a foreign power and it has to be regulated as such.
And that seems to put more heat on Flynn, Sr. because he has this very public link to them and that nice dinner seat next to Putin.
OLIVIA NUZZI, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE", POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly. They are in the White House Briefing Room. And you spoke to the former correspondent the other day or yesterday. They`re everywhere in Washington. "RT" is not that far from the White House as I am sure Jim could talk about.
They are very influential. And Michael Flynn`s son, he was perpetuating conspiracies like Pizzagate during the campaign. This is somebody who would - really doing everything that he could to go after the Democrats, even using conspiracy theories that were being perpetuated by the furthest of far-right people.
But I think the whole thing now, all the news today, it really just proves that Trump cannot get away from this. There is a drip, drip. And even if he fires somebody, it doesn`t really matter when you`re talking about a federal investigation.
This is going to continue to follow him and continue to be a problem for him. And I think he will be increasingly agitated by it as he tries to get something done legislatively.
MELEBER: Right. And, Olivia, the question is whether the drip, drip is coming from Donald Trump`s water bottle. He is the one who was basically obsessing over the Flynn inquiry before the public or other people had any sense really how far it went.
Take a listen to him with Lester Holt. This is a different part of that interview that gets a lot of attention about Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS HOST, "NIGHTLY NEWS WITH LESTER HOLT": Gen. Flynn is a part of this investigation, as you know. Sally Yates recently testified that the White House was notified that he had been compromised. He was at risk of being blackmailed. It was 18 days later that he was finally fired.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Because my White House counsel, Don McGahn, came back to me and did not sound like an emergency of any - he didn`t make it sound like he was - and she actually didn`t make it sound that way either in the hearings the other day, like it had to be done immediately.
This man has served for many years. He`s a general. He`s a - in my opinion, a very good person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, to be clear, Olivia, the man he`s talking about, Don McGahn, has now caught a grand jury subpoena more or less or at least FBI interview requests from Mueller. So, we may ultimately be hearing leaks about his side of that story and, again, whether Trump was fixated on Flynn.
NUZZI: Certainly. Donald Trump has by all accounts, everyone I`ve spoken to, great affection for Michael Flynn. He did not want to fire Michael Flynn. It was just this cascade of events that sort of forced his hand and forced him to fire Michael Flynn.
But it wasn`t as though Donald Trump looked around and he said, oh, this guy is going to be a problem for us, perhaps he shouldn`t be in the White House in all these important meetings, getting all this important information.
It was just that the pressure became so intense that he was forced to fire him. And I think that tells you a lot about how he feels, obviously, about Michael Flynn, but how he feels about people in this administration, who might be problematic more broadly.
ISIKOFF: Yes. Look, on the one hand, it`s not a surprise that Mueller wants to talk to Flynn, that Flynn`s son is a subject here. Flynn`s son was the chief of staff of Flynn`s consulting company.
The consulting company has been central to the investigation of Flynn, not just for Russia, but mainly for the Turkish work and the fact that they didn`t disclose that.
So, it is entirely expected that Mueller would be going in this direction. In fact, if you take just a step back and look at every story over the last few weeks about who Mueller wants to interview, who he is seeking documents from, it`s all entirely predictable. This is exactly what you would expect.
MELBER: No. He`s proceeding through the trail we had. Jim, looking at your article, at the end of the day, is it just sort of a bummer?
Put the politics aside, you finish an article like yours and you think, gosh, it`s only going to get worse and there is no truth and it`s going to be abused by all these foreign entities.
RUTENBERG: Well, I don`t know. I mean, the good news is that people are aware that our news sources always have agendas, always have motives. You could say that about any news organizations coming from an angle. People are aware that this is going on, and so that`s the most important thing, that you remind people what`s true, what`s false, where is this coming from, why might you be hearing this.
MELBER: Jim Rutenberg making us all feel a little better a little bit at a time. I want to thank the panel, all of you and your expertise.
Up next, Congress officially saying to Trump, the hate in Charlottesville was not "both sides," it was one side, and forcing him to denounce white supremacists. This is an important story that hasn`t got much attention this week.
And later, on the Russia inquiry, news tonight about Robert Mueller`s red- hot focus on the role of virtual crimes. I have a special comment on that later.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Congress is forcing President Trump to formally denounce the white power rally in Charlottesville and formally condemn white supremacy. Allow me to explain. Just last night, the GOP controlled House passes a resolution to condemn one side of white supremacy. This forces Trump to change his message from the infamous things he said after Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious.
I think there`s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it and you don`t have any doubt about it either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congress has a doubt about it and that`s why the new resolution rebuts essentially that famous speech. It also does something else important. Formally declaring in one unanimous bipartisan statement on behalf of the federal government what happened in Charlottesville was terrorism. Trump wasn`t sure about that either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and his country. And that is, you can call it terrorism, you can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That`s what I`d call it. Because there is a question, is it murder, is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what did he is a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Horrible and murder but also "call it what you want." This resolution coming now at a time when people have stopped thinking as much about Charlottesville actually is important. It is a national discussion led by people in Washington in both parties about how to define it. Now, yesterday the administration said they weren`t so sure what the President would do. The news today, President Trump saying he will sign this. And that would send a message that he`s been dragged to, that this was terror and that one side must be condemned. I want to bring in our panel. Rich Benjamin is a Political Analyst and an author of the book, Whitopia. Brian Darling, a former Senior Aide to Senator Rand Paul. Thank you, both.
This Rich is something that comes up and sometimes we just rush off and we move on. And it`s pretty fascinating, even though it`s a month later to see the Congress on a bipartisan basis, look at what Donald Trump argued about both sides, about the monuments, about George Washington, and say no, Mr. President. You must sign this and it condemns one side because there was one type of hate at the white supremacist rally, and number two, we`re calling it terrorism.
RICH BENJAMIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Ari, two things. Let`s address the white supremacy first. It`s horrifying that Congress has to pass a resolution condemning white supremacy. I thought we settled that battle you know, with the Civil Rights Act but Congress having to declare it. But the second part interesting part that you mention is the fact of terrorism. And it is not just legal semantics because if you pass the resolution, the question becomes, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to fair it out (INAUDIBLE) and prosecute this types of terrorism that has been swept under the rug as far as the Trump administration is concerned? When we think that some of the best journalists, some in ProPublica, in other outlets are investigating the extent to which white nationalists and extremist groups might be infiltrating small Police Departments in small towns, then what? So the terrorism part is new. The fact we have to condemn white supremacy in 2017, that`s horrifying.
MELBER: Brian, your old boss backed this and spoke out. What does it say that Donald Trump effectively had to be dragged here by a unanimous resolution?
BRIAN DARLING, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR TO SENATOR RAND PAUL: Well, it is extraordinary that Congress felt the need to do this that Congress is sending this to the President`s desk for a signature. I think it does show that the President he could have used much better language when he was condemning what happened. I mean, obviously, he condemned white supremacy, he condemn Nazis. He did he that but it was one of three statements and the other two statements got him quite a bit in trouble. But I think ultimately, this is something that`s good. I think it is great that Congress is going on record. The President is going to sign it. And hopefully, we can move forward and maybe unify the county, not have all the divisions we had. We should not be defined by the extremes, the extreme left, and the extreme right. I don`t think white supremacists prevalent in the Republican Party. And I would hope that people don`t conflate white supremacy and Nazi with the Republican Party.
MELBER: But don`t you think Donald Trump really hurt that cause as you just put it when he started saying there were good people at a white supremacist rally? I mean, we`ve shown on this show the posters which had the Nazi insignia on there.
DARLING: Oh, yes. I mean, anybody who showed up at that rally to protest in tearing down the Robert E. Lee statue and then all of a sudden saw a Nazi flags and people there were talking in very extremist language, probably should have left. So I don`t think that was the right language for the President to use. But ultimately, I think that many in left overreached. I mean, they`ve accused the President of being a racist, they`ve accused him of being surrounded by white supremacists. I don`t think that`s true at all. I don`t think the 60 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump are racists.
MELBER: Let me give Rich a final response then we go back and forth.
BENJAMIN: Well, I`m fascinated to know, how Steve Bannon stayed in the White House, whether this would have gone down differently.
MELBER: A different way.
BENJAMIN: Yes, a different way. But the fact remains. What are we going to do with domestic terrorism? What are we going to do with white extremism? He can sign all the resolutions he wants, the proof is going to be in the pudding in how his Justice Department conducts himself.
MELBER: Rich Benjamin, Brian Darling, thank you both for a discussion on something, a topic we wanted to return to. Now, coming up, what`s being depicted as a red hot focus of the Russia probe? Why Bob Mueller is demanding more information from sites like Facebook? And an update on the devastation after Hurricane Irma and is climate change contributing to the extremity of these natural disasters? NBC`s Environmental Affairs Correspondent Anne Thompson on THE BEAT, next.
MELBER: New reports today that Bob Mueller is making the rule of social media a red hot focus of his investigation. Today Bloomberg says, he`s demanding additional evidence from companies like Facebook about what happened on their networks. This builds on recent reporting about Facebook in the election. Days ago, the company received it received at least $100 k in ad spending from Russian firms linked to the Kremlin. Now, I talked to the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee about all this.
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SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA) VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: This was a very comprehensive approach the Russians have. We`ve seen the Russians intervene in France, where actually Facebook took down 50,000 accounts before the French Presidential Election. We know they`re intervening in Germany as well. This is a tactic of the 21st century and in fact, cyber misinformation and disinformation campaigns.
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MELBER: With me now is Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former Facebook Executive who worked on the company`s ad targeting and recently wrote Mark Zuckerberg was being disingenuous, to put it mildly, when in the wake of Trump`s unexpected victory, he expressed doubt Facebook could have flipped the election. Good to have you on. Is Facebook doing enough to deal with this and are they putting their profits above their role in being fair as a utility in our Democracy?
ANTONIO GARCIA MARTINEZ, FORMER FACEBOOK PRODUCT MANAGER: I think the short answer is no. I mean, you know, I`m the first to defend Facebook but I think in this case, particularly in the case of these allegations of Russia you know, actually buying ads on Facebook, there`s more that Facebook can do. And I should strip, I don`t think it is Facebook putting profit above patriotic duty, I think it was just something that really wasn`t on Facebook`s radar screen until now, to be honest.
MELBER: So not malicious. They just didn`t know about it.
MARTINEZ: Look, I was actually the guy in charge of the ads quality team during last Presidential Election. And this was so far from our minds and not something we would normally have thought about, that it doesn`t surprise me at all frankly that Facebook was caught blindsided by this.
MELBER: When you were there, did you ever see any ads or these events that we`re hearing about in Idaho that were from Russians and you thought it looks little hanky?
MARTINEZ: At that point, we were just trying to convince the campaign (INAUDIBLE) use Facebook, to begin with. No, there was nothing like that.
MELBER: And what should Zuckerberg do now and there are calls for him to testify, do you think he should that?
MARTINEZ: You know, I think it will be a great show. But you know, Zuckerberg talking to a bunch of Senators who don`t know much about tech isn`t going to teach us much. I do think it will send a message though that Facebook is more responsible here. I think, what they need to do is actually just like Wall Street banks know their customer and actually have to understand who opens these accounts. I think Facebook needs to start understanding who opens these accounts, why, and what`s sort of message are running, which is something that they`ve -- that they`ve not done and that they should be doing.
MELBER: Right. And do you -- do you want to say anything to Bob Mueller and his investigators. What should they know about as you say something that is very technical, that people want you to understand? What should they know about how Facebook works and its susceptibility to these foreign plots?
MARTINEZ: I mean, I would just stress that Facebook has over 2 billion users and hundreds of thousands of advertisers. There`s only so much you can do and hindsight always 20/20. I think, you know, Facebook just needs to do what it does with a lots of other advertiser accounts and start policing those a little bit more aggressively. But I think at this point, it`s clear that Facebook has debt to democracy which is to make sure that there isn`t the sort of meddling in American affairs from outsiders.
MELBER: And finally, I know, you were focused on ads but I`m sure you`re familiar with the data that shows some of the most shared pieces on all of Facebook were fake news, false accounts that were helping Donald Trump. Why didn`t they catch that? Should they do more on that?
MARTINEZ: Look, Facebook is a technology company. It doesn`t really see itself as a media company. It doesn`t want to have an editorial function. Historically it`s always just said, we just show you whatever the algorithm wants to show you. And I think they just can`t use that excuse anymore. But it`s a real change in their DNA. They`re not used to thinking about how you edit a body of -- you know, a body of information. But I think they`re going to have to start doing that going forward.
MELBER: Right. And when you say they`re only a tech company or that`s what they claim, they`re the most powerful media company in the world. Ask any Web site or newspaper. So I hear you on that. I appreciate you sharing your experience with us on here on THE BEAT.
MARTINEZ: Thank you.
MELBER: Now, today a reckoning with the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Irma including of course this tragic news out of a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, six residents dead. Power outages left them without air conditioning and there were questions of course about why these patients were not evacuated despite soaring temperatures. In U.S. Virgin Islands, four people killed, food and water is still very scarce. Relief supplies are starting to arrive. So a focus on the recovery is essential but also how to manage and what to expect in future extreme weather events. Part of the discussion centering also around the role of climate change. The Head of Donald Trump`s EPA has said it would be "insensitive to discuss climate change while still dealing with this storm." There`s another high ranking Trump official we can tell you. Gary Cohn, who`s actually hosting a climate change discussion just next week at the U.N. And Stevie Wonder this to say at the telethon for hurricane relief.
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STEVIE WONDER, AMERICAN MUSICIAN: Anyone who believes that there`s no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent. Lord, please save us all.
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MELBER: With me now is Anne Thompson, NBC`s Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent. Thank you for being here. Now, are these severe weather events increasing in frequency?
ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It certainly seems like it doesn`t Ari, but I can tell you when you go to the National Centers for Environmental Information, they say in the first six months of 2017, we saw nine climate or weather events, extreme events, that caused more than $1 billion more in destruction. Nine events, that is on track to challenge the record years of 2011 and 2016. Now on average from 1980 to today, there are usually $5.5 billion extreme weather events. We saw nine in the first half of this year. And that didn`t include Harvey and Irma. And when you think about Harvey and Irma, they are the first two Category 4 hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S. in the 166 years of record keeping. So we`re in some uncharted territory.
MELBER: So, yes, when people talk about once in a century, that`s what we`re talking about with these. Then the question becomes what do we know about the data and whether they are more extreme, not that they`re caused by climate change but are they more extreme because of it?
THOMPSON: Well, that`s the question. What role does climate change play when we see these incredible storms? Talking to scientists, they tell me the climate change has the effect of like loading the dice. It makes it possible for these storms to have a greater impact. Or another way to think about it, and this is my favorite way to think about it, is think of climate change like steroids in baseball. I mean, the role of steroids with a home run hitter. It doesn`t make it easier, it doesn`t improve his hand-eye contact. What it does is it improves his strength so he can hit the ball farther, to go over the big fence more often. And that`s essentially with a greenhouse gases do in weather events, is it makes -- they make it more likely that these events will be extreme.
MELBER: So climate change is juicing the hurricane.
THOMPSON: Exactly. Take hurricanes, for example. Hurricanes feed off warm water. In the part of Atlantic where hurricanes form, this year, sea surface temperatures have been anywhere from one to two degrees warmer this summer. So now you`ve got more warm water to feed the hurricanes, more warm water over warm air that can contain more moisture. And when you have warm water plus warm air, it creates a hurricane, hits landfall, then it has the ability to produce more rainfall as we saw in Hurricane Harvey.
MELBER: Right. And so those pictures which are horrific and obviously the first priority is always giving the people the news and information we can about it, giving them the orders from the government, evacuation orders, then give way to this wider discussion of what the data shows. It`s -- I think we`re out of time. Go ahead.
THOMPSON: Right. But we have to talk about it because one of the things is we have to figure out how do we adapt to it? How do we prevent homes from flooding? How do we prevent Houston from flooding again, from Miami flooding the way it did even though it didn`t have the most severe impacts? And without talking about climate change, I don`t know how you get to those answers.
MELBER: Right, which is what Stevie Wonder was getting at in his own powerful way, don`t be blind or stupid. It`s I think what he was telling everyone. Anne Thompson, thank you for bringing your reporting.
THOMPSON: It`s so nice to be here. Congratulations on your new show.
MELBER: Oh, thank you, Anne. I appreciate that. Now, up next, I`m going to share a special look at what I think is a new clue in the Russia investigation. And ahead, there`s a million things he has not done, but wait until you see Lin-Manuel Miranda and what he was up to today. That`s up ahead.
MELBER: Now I have a legal look for you at an important new clue in the Russia probe. Many describe this probe as an investigation of collusion.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: There is evidence of collusion.
REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: I believe there was collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there was collusion.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I still maintain that there is evidence of collusion.
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MELBER: Collusion is a big legal issue because any conspiracy between Americans and a foreign power is a major crime. And it`s a big political issue because the evidence showing political operatives worked with a foreign power, it sounds like the political scandal of the century. Collusion is a short hand for the why of the investigation. Why were there so many Russia meetings with Trump aides? Why was there an e-mail about Russia support for Trump like it was already an established thing? But, the latest reports on Mueller shows him digging into the how of the investigation? How did Russia target so many different parts of American elections? Mueller`s investigators now have "red hot focus on Russia`s use of social media, according to a Bloomberg report late today. DHS also banning federal agencies from using software from a lab link to the Kremlin, NBC reporting today.
And this focus on how, brings up a new word, and you may start hearing about it almost as much as collusion. The word is virtual because this report shows Mueller is focused on virtual crimes, which is still pretty rare. By one annual estimate, there were over four times as many violent crime convictions as there were complaints of virtual crimes. Now two key dynamics are at play for investigators trying to solve virtual crimes which Mueller clearly trying to do. First, it`s much harder to locate the people behind virtual crimes for a basic reason. In a regular crime, the perpetrator has to be at the crime location. That limits the suspects for all people who are physically there, and that`s why in the old days, the best alibi you could give the FBI was, you were out of town. For virtual crimes, you could be anywhere, helping or colluding with the hacker halfway around the world. But second, there`s a flipside that`s good for Mueller`s team here. Virtual crimes leave more fingerprints.
So what`s been big news that Facebook has evidence Russians used their site on Facebook to plot rallies, those are revelations of things that happened over a year ago, like that August rally in Idaho. Now, if Russians have physically organized the Idaho event, there would be no evidence to gather right now, no fingerprints, no interviews with attendees a year later. But as a virtual event, all the evidence is there, the code, the receipts, even a list of people who said they were interested in a rally on Facebook and who clicked that they went. So the old saying is the internet never forgets.
And that means even if witnesses in the Russian probe say they can`t remember a particular e-mail or a hack or a Russian Facebook plot if they so much as touched it in virtual space, the internet may remember it. And Bob Mueller may have the receipts. There is another new report saying lawyers for Trump Aides are advising him not to lie to the FBI investigators in the Russian probe. Sounds like good advice. It is hard to outsmart the FBI or out-remember the internet, or as Mark Twain said long before the virtual crimes were ever imaginable if you tell the truth you don`t have to remember anything.
MELBER: He is not throwing away his shot. That is a Hamilton reference but applies equally to Lin-Manuel Miranda`s activities this week. Going to D.C. and you can see standing with Congressman John Lewis as Miranda accepts an award for the show`s role in educating people about history, lobbying lawmakers for funding for the arts, there with Elizabeth Warren. And then Miranda rolled out the show tunes on the Capitol Hill underground train.
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LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: Ding, ding, ding went the trolley. Ding, ding, ding, Congress train! They call this train. He just keeps rolling along. Congress train.
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MELBER: Congress train, those are Miranda`s political tunes. Now, what song is getting you through this political moment? Tell us. You can post your answer on our social media pages or e-mail me on ARI@MSNBC.COM. We`ll read some responses on air. That`s our show, "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Another Trumpster targeted. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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