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The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 9/26/17 Senate Hearing on firing Mueller

Guests: Glenn Thrush, Renato Mariotti, Jelani Cobb, David Wohl

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 26, 2017 Guest: Glenn Thrush, Renato Mariotti, Jelani Cobb, David Wohl

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": We`ll be back more with "MTP Daily" tomorrow. Post-election recap. It`s going to be wild. Trust me. THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now.


TODD: Whatever I missed, you have.

MELBER: I`m sure we have it. I`m going to be watching your show extra closely tomorrow for making sense of Alabama.

TODD: There you go.

MELBER: very excited. Thank you, Chuck.

TODD: Cheer the Lynyrd Skynyrd.

MELBER: Now, when it comes to Russia, we don`t know if President Trump is guilty, but we do know he`s upset.

New reports that in a meeting with Americans for Prosperity with President Tim Phillips from that group, Heritage Foundation Founder Ed Feulner and other conservative leaders, Trump suddenly brought up Russia out of the blue and slammed Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from it, leading to this "Wall Street Journal" report and his comments also allegedly "dripping with venom."

All this comes as Trump`s longtime adviser Roger Stone facing congressional investigators today. Now, he last testified before Congress during the Watergate hearings. Today, he said he`d tell the truth about Russia.



ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


MELBER: Stone releasing a sort of audiobook of the statement he gave Congress today and then later said this after facing investigators.


STONE: The accusation that I knew about John Podesta`s email hack in advance was false. I`m aware of no evidence whatsoever of collusion by the Russian state or anyone in the Trump campaign.

I don`t know whether the DNC was hacked. Computer science seems to indicate an inside job. I think it`s an entirely political exercise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that the president should fire Bob Mueller.



MELBER: Love him or hate him, Roger Stone is known to embody Donald Trump, something on display in that Netflix documentary, GET ME ROGER STONE.


STONE: We`re in age of Stone because the change in our politics, the rough and tumble, cutthroat politics, the slash and burn of what was just probably the dirtiest, nastiest campaign in American political history are now in vogue.

I revel in your hatred because, if I were ineffective, you wouldn`t hate me.


MELBER: Meanwhile, in the Senate today, some progress on efforts to protect Bob Mueller from exactly the kind of meddling that Stone is calling for. Hearings on two bills that would insulate Mueller from any effort to fire him.

Now, we can tell you those bills reflect a concern about Trump`s potentially unlawful behavior. But let`s be clear, current binding law already protects the special counsel from firing without cause.

Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, former prosecutor, says today he is "99 percent sure there will be some criminal charges from the Russia investigation." He actually speculated that both Manafort and Flynn will face indictment.

With me now is Nick Akerman, a former assistant special Watergate prosecutor, and Katty Kay, anchor for "BBC World News America".

Nick, your view of what we learned there from Roger Stone`s denials and the wider discussion of looming potential indictments.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think two things. One, he clearly lied. He just - there`s three items that he lied about.

First, the Podesta situation where he tweeted in 2016 that John Podesta would soon be in the barrel and a couple of days later emails that were hacked out of his computer were released. His excuse for this was, well, it was going to be information coming out about John Podesta`s brother, I mean, which just doesn`t ring true at all.

Secondly, he acknowledged actually communicating with Guccifer 2.0, who was presumably the hacker that took emails out of the Democratic National Committee. You`ve got to ask yourself, what was he communicating with the hacker for?

And secondly, he kind of changed his story about whether or not he personally had conversations with Julian Assange. He initially said that he spoke to him personally.

Now, all of a sudden, it`s an intermediary and he won`t even identify who that intermediary is. But if you step back for a second, you`ve got to ask yourself, what`s he doing, dealing with the people that hacked out the emails out of the Democratic National Committee and then with the very people that published those emails.

None of that adds up to the truth.

MELBER: And that`s your view and you`ve tangled with Stone. In fact, I am going to show some of that in a moment.

But, Katty, the flip side would be the argument that Roger Stone has made many bows. He tries to insert himself everywhere as a matter of dirty tricks in media, but that doesn`t mean he actually was everywhere.

KATTY KAY, HOST, "BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA": Yes. And the fact that he loves attention that he gave this hugely long opening statement, slamming the committee, that he takes every opportunity to grab the media spotlight, including going out of that hearing, that testimony and speaking to reporters afterwards.

This is somebody who wants attention. And I think this whole business about the identity of this intermediary, who has been described in the past as somebody in the media, on the opinion side, an American of a libertarian bent, it`s almost as if that`s adding to the mystery.

I mean, if he has gone into this committee and he`s being asked to tell the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I don`t understand why he hasn`t come up with the name of this intermediary.

He says it was because it was an off-the-record conversation that he had with him. At some point, this person`s name is going to come out, so he just has to come up with it fairly soon.

MELBER: Right. Off-the-record being a great term of art if you were a journalist. He certainly isn`t, and so it sounds more like secret communications.

Now, Nick, as promised, you have tangled with Roger Stone for a long time, something that we revisited on MSNBC and you had a lot of choice words for him. So, let`s go ahead and look at that.


AKERMAN: Total nonsense. That never happened.

STONE: Wrong, wrong.

AKERMAN: It`s never ever happened. You are absolutely wrong. You are the man behind this whole business with Trump and with this Gucifer and with the Russians and you have the nerve to get on television and make these wild accusations when you`re on television before predicting exactly when the WikiLeaks information (INAUDIBLE).


MELBER: That was your exchange. We heard from both of you. We always try to hear all views and we`ve quoted from some of what Roger said.

Your view, though, of his responses, though. You really threw the book at him in that interview and there`s been other times where people have thrown the book. But Roger Stone, let`s be clear, has got out from under all this. Do you actually believe from the public evidence that there is liability here?

AKERMAN: I think there`s more that came out since that exchange. What we know since that exchange in the early summer is about this June 9th meeting at Trump Tower.

We know that two weeks later, after supposedly the Russians were showing up with all of this dirt on Hillary Clinton, suddenly all this dirt shows up Guccifer 2.0`s website and then shows up a couple weeks later on the WikiLeaks website.

Who is the person that was dealing with both ends of this transaction? Roger Stone.

MELBER: You believe there is an operational link, which hasn`t been proven yet, but is interesting. I want you both to stay with me.

Another important story. There is a pretty bizarre and important twist here. We first told you about this last week. The Trump administration finally warning 21 states they were targeted by Russian hackers in the 2016 election. That was 10 months late and include key states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Now, the feds apparently did not get it right even after the ten months. Take a look at this, new tonight. "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" reporting Trump officials now, today, telling Wisconsin they actually were not targeted by those Russian hackers after all with regard to election-related material.

I want to bring in Michael Haas. He is the chief election official in Wisconsin. Michael, let`s go through this piece by piece. There is a lot of blame potentially at the federal level. You`re on the receiving end.

So, number one, when were you first informed that elections were hacked in your state?

MICHAEL HAAS, ADMINISTRATOR, WISCONSIN ELECTIONS COMMISSION: Good afternoon. As with other states, we received a phone call last Friday from the Department of Homeland Security. And in that phone call, they advised that they consider Wisconsin to be one of the states that was targeted by Russian government actors in order to scan our voter registration.

MELBER: Did they say why it took 10 months? Did they say why it took so long?

HAAS: Well, as you know, this has been a point of contention and a lot of the state election officials have expressed their concern over receiving this type of information since last June.

And there is a process in place to setup a coordinating council of national, state and local election officials as part of the critical infrastructure designation of election systems.

And one main goal of that coordinating council is to help the Department of Homeland Security communicate more effectively with election officials. And I think that is may be one reason why Homeland Security has gotten to the point of being comfortable sharing this information.

MELBER: So, they tell you this Friday. And then, when did you later hear from them that they got it wrong?

HAAS: Well, we were given a contact at DHS to obtain further information. We wanted to find out exactly what was communicated last October.

Yesterday, they provided an email communication which did not appear to mention Russian actors in it. We asked for follow up.

After they investigated further overnight and this morning, they informed us late this morning that, in fact, the IP addresses that they were looking at were scanning a different state agency in Wisconsin or attempting to scan a different state agency -

MELBER: So, let make sure I understand it. The flow of this is so important. And as you mentioned, sir, there is so much confusion. I want to make sure the point you just made comes across clearly.

You are saying, they left it on Friday as we, the federal government, Trump administration, telling you this was Russian hacking. And only because of your follow-up questions or clarifications did they come back and correct the fact that it didn`t hit election-related cyber. Is that correct?

HAAS: Essentially, yes. I think the initial phone call was to try to get the states all contacted within a one-hour period of time. So that information was very brief. And my understanding is that DHS is fielding follow-up inquiries from a bunch of other states.

MELBER: Sure. And just in my limited time, Michael, the last question that I want to ask you is, if they told you after a ten-month delay, the Trump administration, on Friday that your key state of Wisconsin here was hacked by Russians to some degree, and then, this week, they tell you they got it wrong and it wasn`t, how does that instill confidence? How can the public know if the source of the information, is DHS, Trump administration, and it changes over these days, how do we have confidence from here?

HAAS: I would note that it`s important to be precise. And nobody ever mentioned that Wisconsin was hacked. The terminology here is important. It was always that there was an attempt to scan a system in Wisconsin.

MELBER: That`s what I mean, yes.

HAAS: DHS is a newcomer to the election administration. I think they will acknowledge that there`s been a learning curve there. Whether it`s under the Obama or Trump Department of Homeland Security, that personnel is needed to get up to speed on what state and local election administration (INAUDIBLE 1:35). We consider DHS and FBI to be essential partners.

MELBER: Sure. I got to tell you, just sitting here as a journalist and a citizen, I respect the work you do and the difficult environment you`re in and you have to work with all these folks.

What you`re telling me is completely scary and shocking that, on Friday, you are being told there was Russian scanning in the critical state of Wisconsin. And you do follow up. And by Tuesday, no, there wasn`t. And we`re still ten months out and you have a president who apparently isn`t sure there was any hacking at all from foreign powers or scanning or these intrusions as we`ve been covering them.

I appreciate you joining us. Katty Kay, your response, your thoughts on this story.

KAY: Score one for Vladimir Putin, right? Whether Wisconsin`s systems were scanned or not, the fact that Russia has managed to cause this amount of doubt and confusion about America`s electoral systems is exactly what President Putin was setting out to do when he was interfering in the American election.

In fact, this probably goes beyond his wildest wishes. He can cause confusion, he can cause the government to tell Wisconsin. Wisconsin officials have now spent the last three days looking at their systems, trying to figure out where they need to put security systems in place and beef up their security, so that they don`t get hacked or scanned in the future again, if or if they didn`t.

And possibly, the Russians did absolutely nothing. But what they`ve gained is an ability to undermine our belief in the American democratic process by getting involved or possibly not even getting involved. Either way, it`s a win for Putin.

MELBER: Right. And again, there`s a lot going on. The president is fighting with football players. There are worries in North Korea. There is Puerto Rico. There is a lot going on.

But what we just heard on THE BEAT tonight here, this Wisconsin official basically telling everyone he was informed of one thing on Friday and another thing by Tuesday. And is that going to reverse again? Clearly, more needs to be done on the DHS side.

Nick, Katty, thank you very much. My thanks to Michael Haas for joining us on that story.

Now, later tonight on THE BEAT, a special report on private memos that Paul Manafort wrote to pitch his volunteer services to Trump and why it might be newly relevant getting developments in the Russia case.

Plus, Trump doubling down on the NFL attacks. I`m going to speak to a "New Yorker" writer whose article on this issue has gone viral.

And who in the Trump White House wasn`t using a private email account and how is the hypocrisy playing today. I`m talking to a strategist who helped Hillary Clinton prepare for all of those attacks on email in the debate.

I am Ari Melber and you`re watching The BEAT on MSNBC.



REINCE PRIEBUS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: She lied when she said she had turned over the email. She lied when she said that she provided everything to the FBI.

STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISOR FOR POLICY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: She hid her emails because she knew what she did every day could never survive public scrutiny.


MELBER: Trump campaign officials argued the very act of using personal email is a sign you are hiding something. Today, several are failing that Trump email standard as those true Trump aides you just saw - Reince Priebus and Stephen Miller - among a list of six Trump officials using private email for government work. Plus, Bannon, Gary Cohn and Trump`s daughter and son-in-law.

How rampant was this private email habit? Well, Chief of Staff Priebus, while he was in government, tried to shut down the private emailing by telling people to lock their personal phones in secure lockers at the White House, but the request was largely ignored.

You heard that right. Priebus wanted to lock them up, the phones, not the people. Now, this is not a story because personal email is so super important. It`s a story because of the apparent cavalier hypocrisy of some Trump aides and the double standards of parts of the political press, including "The New York Times," now downplaying a supposed email scandal recast with new characters.

The exhaustive inquiry into Clinton`s personal email found no criminal wrongdoing and featured a pretty unprecedented presentation by FBI Director Comey, saying the evidence showed no intent to break the law, but personal email use did reflect carelessness.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE FBI: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.


MELBER: That carelessness may apply whenever officials rely on personal email, though, there are no signs of an FBI investigation into personal email in this Trump White House. Now, that is the government side.

Then there`s the media side, which is difficult maybe for the media to face. Reporters covered Clinton`s personal email more than any other issue. A Harvard study here comparing coverage of Clinton and Trump`s job plans also compared it to coverage of Trump`s treatment of women and ties to Russia - those red bars - dwarfed by total coverage of her emails. You see it there. That`s Clinton email print coverage, not even close. Wasn`t proportional then.

And this record may be painful for some reporters, who now want to defensively justify the record instead of reassessing it and maybe some hope to avoid reliving the trauma. The truth can hurt.

But the press may need to rethink this approach and take some advice from Jay Z. We know the pain is real, but you can`t heal what you never reveal.

I`m joined now by Philippe Reines, longtime Clinton adviser, and Matt Miller, former Justice Department spokesman under Obama. Matt, your thoughts?

MATT MILLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I think you`re right, Ari. I mean, look, in a normal world, this wouldn`t really be that big a deal. I will tell you most senior government officials at times will have emails that are work emails that come across their personal accounts for a variety of reasons, but we`re not in a normal world.

The Republican Party, from the president, when he was a candidate, on down to members of his staff and members of Congress set this new standard for Hillary Clinton, as you outlined, that use of personal email account for government business was a completely appropriate offense, something that ought to be investigated, and so they created those rules for Clinton.

I think Donald Trump has to live by them. And what needs to happen now is we need to look at this and see, were these just a few emails, as they have said, or was this a widespread attempt to avoid the Presidential Records Act.

And I think it`s important that the questions we ask not just about email, but about reports that Trump officials were using Signal, using WhatsApp -

Melber: Right.

MILLER: Using other devices that can avoid any detection, and unlike emails, whether personal or business, disappear after a time.

MELBER: Signal disappears. Donald Trump has said under oath in depositions that he doesn`t use email for a similar reason, which is not having the records.

Mr. Reines, I put the question to you. Do you think ultimately hindsight and the historical record will show that the political press covered Hillary Clinton`s emails in a fair and proportionate way or not?

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO HILLARY CLINTON: I don`t think it well. At the very least, it`ll portray it in hindsight as a false equivalency, as you showed in your chart. She really had one issue that came up all the time, that the media brought up all the time - email, email, email.

And somehow, that had a greater impact or got more time than the dozens of things from his taxes to his treatment of women to his bankruptcies before, but I think -

MELBER: As well - it`s up on the screen. We`re going to leave it up on the screen. We`ll put it back up. To your point and this issue, this again is not my chart, it`s just a Harvard study and it just counts what the media said. So, it`s only bias is whatever the media covered. And it`s not only about blue and red, although we show that.

It`s also - if you`re a voter, Mr. Reines, who wanted to know about the respective jobs plans, as you see on the chart, you got very much less information about the two candidates` jobs plans and more than triple the same information about email.

REINES: And even worse, if you probably were watching TV or reading the paper about her jobs plan, you would then hear or read several paragraphs about Donald Trump saying lock her up because of her email.

The email wasn`t just covered too much and every day. It permeated everything. You would see biography, biographical stories of Secretary Clinton when she worked for the Children`s Defense Fund. Presumably, that`s a positive time in her life that we can all agree on with a noble cause.

You would see paragraph after paragraph about how she has violated this, she has deleted her email. There was a need, a false equivalency to insert email into everything every day.

MELBER: Mr. Reines, do you think "The New York Times" in particular was invested in this story for any particular reason?

REINES: I don`t have any reason to believe that. I could go on about "The Times" coverage of the secretary going back the last 15 years. But in this case, I think what was at play among "The Times" and other people was that there was an assumption she would win. And I think that was in the media writ large, that was in the Obama White House.

People did things because of that. President Obama supposedly because of that didn`t feel the need to intervene on the Russia stuff. And I think that played out in a lot of ways, including how she was vetted versus how he was vetted.

MELBER: So, Matt, in a couple of sentences, what is the investigator or government side of this from here?

MILLER: Well, unfortunately, there is no inspector general for the White House. It`s up to Congress to look at this now. Trey Gowdy has said he`s going to take a look at it. We`ll see. He`s not been a very aggressive overseer of this administration as he was the previous one.

MELBER: Matt Miller and Philippe Reines, thank you both.

Ahead Paul Manafort`s pitch to join the Trump campaign, what his memos may reveal in a new context, giving developments in the Russia case.

And later, what Trump is missing about the history of black athletes and political protests, according to a guest who joins us with a viral essay.


MELBER: Now, to an exclusive on THE BEAT, Paul Manafort`s secret memo making his case for getting a job with Donald Trump. We have Manafort`s actual memo.

This is a document which has never been published in its entirety. It`s actually a fascinating read, especially given that we now know Bob Mueller`s investigators warned Manafort he could be indicted.

Now, we have the five pages that Manafort wrote back in 2016. This is from "New York Times" reporter Glenn Thrush. He first wrote about Manafort`s written appeal for a campaign job earlier this year.

Thrush did not release the entire memos at the time and the memo shows Manafort making his case as a volunteer laborer who`d fight the Washington establishment and shows how he played down his potential links to Russia.

Manafort approached Trump in February when they were primary victories being racked up, but Trump was facing that revolt from the establishment with talk of a contested convention and heartburn over his racial controversies. This was the headline the day of Manafort`s memo.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS HOST, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Tonight, the Klan controversy exploding around Donald Trump after refusing to condemn the KKK`s former leader. What he`s saying now and what we found him saying years ago.

Plus, tensions boil over at Trump`s rally. And tonight, some Republican leaders alarmed, scrambling to stop him.


MELBER: Manafort wrote that very day, trying to play on Trump`s ego and promising to deploy the skills of an insider. He said, "continue to manage the campaign the same, nothing really needs to change on," what Manafort called, "track one," winning the primaries.

But he warned of a revolt on track two, the convention, where Manafort writes that Trump`s enemies in the party establishment would fight him there, stack key committees with never Trumpers and use the platform to undermine Trump`s position on key issues.

Now, remember that, because Bob Mueller may scrutinize why Russia got such cozy treatment in that platform. Now that`s the why.

Then there is the who Manafort says he was. This secret memo showing Manafort pitched himself as that rare species in Republican consulting an altruistic free bird, willing to volunteer for months on end with no compensation. "I`m not looking for a paid job," he wrote. And Manafort notes asked the Trump advisor Tom Barrack to use that to make the case. Now, remember as well because while it is legal to volunteer for a campaign, no problem, it`s not legal to donate your service if they were compensated by any illegal source. And finally, there`s who Manafort says he was not. He wrote he was not a part of the Washington establishment, not someone with client relationships dealing with Washington, not someone with Washington baggage and not cozy with political establishment in Washington. Out of nowhere, he added, "my blood enemy in politics is Karl Rove" who Manafort cast as an insider trying to stop Trump by playing up his anti-Washington work.

Now, Manafort was also playing down the clients he had instead of D.C. Republicans, dictators like Ferdinand Marcos and Putin-backed figures like Yanukovych and Putin-linked oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska. Now, the only time Manafort even brought up that work in the memo was to distance himself from it saying, his work with Black, Manafort, Stone, Stone-linked firm who actually spoke of course to investigators on the Hill today as all over. "I`ve not been partner with Roger Stone since sold the firm in 1992," he wrote. And having begun the memo by promising Trump that he didn`t have to change, stoking that emotional ego, Manafort closed with a flourish to the financial ego, "I live in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue," he wrote, even including the specific apartment number in case you wanted verification.

An outsider, a fighter, a supporter, a tenant, those were the core messages that Manafort delivered to Trump before they teamed up for one of the most chaotic upsets of the American politics. Neither man could have known how quickly their paths would diverge. Trump becoming the tenant of the most priced public housing in America, Manafort finding his home raided and his lawyers trying to spare him indictment and any risk of becoming a tenant in some of the scariest facilities in America. I`m joined now by Glenn Thrush who reported this story out and obtain those memos as well as former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti. Glenn, how might investigators look at the way these two men linked up and what we`ve learned from your reporting here?

GLENN THRUSH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what you have to view this through is the prism what we have learned really over the last couple weeks. We know that Bob Mueller has sifted through tens of thousands of Paul Manafort e-mails and several of them pertained to interactions he had with Russian oligarchs in which he reportedly offered this guy weekly briefings on what the Trump campaign was up to. So it`s clear that Manafort was obviously mixing both of his businesses. What is less clear is what were his motivations? Were they nefarious? Were they commercial? Were they just relatively innocent? It`s impossible to sort of tell from the -- from the info that is out there what his motivations were, but this much is clear. People at the time on the campaign wondered why this guy was hanging around. Why he would have pulled himself sort of out of semi-retirement in American politics to jump on the campaign of somebody who seems certain to lose.

And what was interesting is the person you mention, Tom Barrett is a longtime friend of the President`s. He was the Chairman of the Inaugural Committee. He`s somebody to whom the President speaks with quite a bit. He`s an enthusiastic backer of the President. He also happens to be fairly close to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. And the prominence of the Manafort letter also tells you about what -- how this particular world work. Barrack got it from Manafort and barrack handed it to Ivanka who then handed it to Donald Trump who then liked what he saw. And my sources at the time I wrote that story, told me that Trump was especially impressed by two factors. The fact that Manafort wanted to work for free, Trump loves it when people work for free and the fact that Manafort had already given him money in the form of purchasing a co-op in Trump Tower. So Manafort rang all of Trump`s bells and thus this relationship which is of such great consequence was born.

MELBER: Such great consequence. Your reporting really flushes that out. And Renato, I mean Glenn makes the point that the money wasn`t coming into Manafort from the campaign and yet there was "mixing." As a former Federal Prosecutor, is that an area of an investigative interest and when does mixing potentially become misconduct?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what I would say, you know, my takeaway was very -- this document was really a very interesting read. And I think that Mueller`s team would also take a look at it in -- with great interest. And I think that you know, you could put this document in context of the recent revelation we heard that there were e- mails that Manafort sent, essentially trying to you know, appeared to be selling access to a Russian billionaire. I mean, you wonder when somebody is doing -- willing to do something for free, what do they get out of it?

MELBER: It is not a crime Renato?

MARIOTTI: Well, you know, it`s not -- in a straightforward way, it`s not a crime. In other words, in and of itself, it may not be a crime, but it could be. And so, it`s a little bit of a complicated question. In other words, if he`s lying to someone to get money back, it would be a crime. If he`s concealing what he`s doing from the Trump campaign, that could make it a crime. If it`s -- he`s getting income from that that he`s not reporting in his tax returns, and we found out today there was further reporting that confirmed what we knew that Mueller was looking -- working the IRS to get tax return information on Manafort investigating tax crimes.

So you know, if he wasn`t disclosing income from foreign sources, if he wasn`t disclosing info on his tax return, that could get him in trouble. And I think the issue for Manafort is, you know, whenever you are hiding activities you`re doing with foreign governments or people tied to foreign governments, it`s a very explosive thing that you know, ultimately, a jury wouldn`t like and a judge would not like at sentencing. And so --

MELBER: Right, and it paints -- I mean, what it paints is a problematic picture for Paul Manafort. The biggest question in Washington is knowledge, Glenn. It`s whether Trump knew or came to know that and how he reacted to it, or the best theory of the case from the Trump criminal defense team is that he was out of the loop and that as he learned, he changed. So sometimes we show clips of politicians about inconsistencies, other times the Trump theory of the case would be we`ll know when he learned, he distanced himself. That`s what you`re supposed to do if you find a wrong person on the team. Here is Trump over the months about Manafort.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Paul Manafort has done an amazing job. Here`s here someplace. Where`s Paul? Paul Manafort. Oh, good, you made it. Paul Manafort has done a fantastic--

Paul Manafort was replaced long before the election took place. He was only there a short period of time.


MELBER: It changes fast, Glenn. From vital to who is that guy, he was here for a second? But does your reporting shed any light on whether Donald Trump came to learn more about Paul Manafort or really knew the whole time?

THRUSH: I don`t think it`s -- I don`t think it`s clear. The issue with Trump is you know, what we`re learning now and we learned with his son Don Junior and his interactions with the Russians is it`s often done through these intermediaries. Trump drifts in and out of meetings. He deals with sort of the vagaries of these things. Manafort, you know, again, was brought on principally to deal with the issues of the convention which were not small issues at the time. Trump was really facing an insurrection. We saw that I think pretty graphically in Ted Cruz refusing to explicitly endorse him during the convention.

So I think Trump was -- my sense of this is, Trump may have been a little more distant than others in his family who dealt with Manafort directly. And the one element of truth that Trump, you know, I guess, when you watch those clips and they are astounding Ari, and we`ve seen it over and over again with people drifting in and out of his world. Which version of those events is true? Was Trump telling the truth when he was lavishing praise on Manafort or was he telling the truth when he said he didn`t know him very well? I think the answer to that question is going to be the one that really tells the story in this case.

MELBER: Right. And other people may weigh in on that under oath. I got to tell you. Your reporting, I always like to read and your evidence, this memo was also very interesting. Glenn Thrush from the New York Times, thank you. Former Prosecutor Renato Mariotti, thank you, both. Donald Trump meanwhile with new attack in the NFL feud. I`m going to talk to the New Yorker`s Jelani Cobb who`s articles going viral. And how Trump could suffer a bruising loss in Alabama today aided and abetted by Steve Bannon.


MELBER: President Trump continued his football fight for the fifth straight day in the middle of a diplomatic appearance with the Prime Minister of Spain.


TRUMP: Well, I wasn`t preoccupied with the NFL, I was ashamed of what was taking place because to me that was a very important moment. I don`t think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem. I`ve heard that before about, was I preoccupied? Not at all, not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work. For people to disrespect that by kneeling during the playing of our national anthem I think is disgraceful.


MELBER: There`s a long history of public protest in sports. One in `68 Olympics and the now iconic display of raised fists from U.S. medalist Tommie Smith and John Carlos to Bill Russell, NBA Legend and one of the Presidential Medal of Freedom sending out this message today of solidarity. Trump`s request of players to be sanctioned for their free speech does have precedent. Those very Olympians were suspended for the raised fists. Most team owners though lately have been rejecting that kind of approach and while the backlash that athletes should just play, be quiet and be grateful is itself causing controversy. Author Jelani Cobb writing in a new piece that when people lecture black athletes to just savor their position in silence, they`re pushing a toxic stereotype, "ungrateful is the new uppity," he writes in a piece drawing much discussion today. Jelani Cobb is here. What do you see in this dispute?

JELANI COBB, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NEW YORKER: Well, I think it is pretty clear, we did not see the President talk in this kind of strident terms about the neo-fascist group that`s were protesting in Charlottesville that he`s reserved with bile for these athletes who by and large, African- American. He`s accused them of behavior that he found "shameful" which is almost surreal given you know, the track record that he has compiled during his time in office, of having disrespected virtually every major institution in American life and American democracy along with very many individuals in the society as well. And so what people actually doing here is engaging in their constitutionally protected right to protest. And you would think that a President that understood democracy would say that, while I might not agree with it, this is actually protected. But that`s not what he said.

MELBER: Right. And talk about democracy, I`m going to put on the screen, something you wrote about-- you said Trump being a small man. Would you -- this is your words -- I`ll let you read them up there.

COBB: Trump is a small man with a fetish for the symbols of democracy and bottomless hostility for the actual practice of it.

MELBER: What do you mean by that, "the practice of it"?

COBB: So, when you look at you know, the institutions of American democracy and the values and the norms and long that we`ve seen him consistently attack and insult them. He`s insulted the press, he`s insulted the intelligence community, he`s insulted the majority leader in his own party, he`s insulted the house speaker of his own party. He has insulted a gold star family. We can kind of go through the litany of these individuals and entities that he`s taken aim at. And with the very little concern -- seemingly very little concern for the bigger ripple effect of what his does to the society at large. You know, democracy, as I`ve always said, you know, whenever I talk with my students, that democracy is really a frail thing but we haven`t been doing that it long. And it is like person who quit smoking, but the general habit of human history has been autocracy and tyranny. And it re-broken that habit relatively (INAUDIBLE). It`s like a person who quit smoking three weeks ago.

MELBER: Right, and that we are always in danger if we are not patrolling it together as a pluralistic society. I mean, that`s what comes through in your piece.

COBB: That`s right.

MELBER: That`s why people respond to you. Stay with me because I want to bring in for another view, a former Trump campaign surrogate David Wall who argues, none of this is about race and the players are actually protesting in the wrong place at the wrong time. David, what do you mean by that?

DAVID WOHL, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SURROGATE: Well, let me start by saying, look at Mr. Cobb`s exercising his first amendment rights. How eloquent, how powerful, how appropriate form of protest he used to get his point across. When you`re talking about kneeling at the national anthem, it`s completely inappropriate. Look, what you`re talking about is how your actions are perceived. And this is what the players have to be sensitive to, by the fans, by the millions of fans who fill the stadiums. The fans who watch the telecast, the fans who buy the merchandise, these fans are passionate about the team, they`re passionate about the sport, they`re passionate about the way that patriotism is interwoven in the fabric of American sport.

MELBER: Do you think the government -- David, do you think the government should then be instructing private companies to fire them for that free speech?

WOHL: No, no. I don`t think Mr. Trump was instructing anyone. He was acting -- he was talking in a form of outrage that many millions of Americans felt that these players, who are basically are doing the same thing as throwing a middle finger at the flag, at the troops who have died for our rights to freedom, at the fans, at America in general, why should they continue to be employed by teams that benefit from the millions of dollars that these hard working people have--

MELBER: Right. And what you`re saying somewhat like -- somewhat like the President. Jelani, go ahead.

COBB: Well, let`s just be clear that you know, these players are being given the amount they`re giving because they`re generating vastly larger sums for the pea who own these stadiums, for the people who own these teams, the people who sell this merchandise and so on. So this is not you know, philanthropy or charity and any kinds or ways it performs. And then secondly, you know, Mr. Trump explicitly said that they should fire them right before he called them SOBs. And so, there`s really no way around that. I appreciate David, you know, calling me articulate but I think that fact of the matter is that their protest was articulate. It got us to actually have this conversation.

MELBER: David?

WOHL: Well, you know, here`s the problem with that though. You`re -- they`re biting off their nose to spite their faces. They`re damaging their industry, they`re damaging their profession, their damaging their careers, and future ballplayers as well because the boycotts are coming. I mean, we saw it already, some empty seats in stadiums. You saw fans burning jerseys, you saw fans destroying hats. You saw outrage among millions of fans who are completely sickened by what they perceived as a disrespectful act toward America and toward the national anthem.

COBB: People burned LeBron James` jersey because he left Cleveland and went to Miami. And so, no, that`s not the reason to (INAUDIBLE) for this. Beside the fact that there`s never been -- for people who are in power, people who are comfortable, there has never been a convenient time for people who have, you know, dissent to express their views. There`s always a problem. People said that about Rosa Parks, people said that about Dr. King, people said that about abolitionist. You`re doing this in the wrong way. There`s always the kind of concern that you`re making people uncomfortable. Well, the point is that we`ve been uncomfortable with the issue of police and -- policing and police brutality in our communities. And so they simply wanted to make a point, to get a point across that the values that we purportedly hold as a society, they are not extended to everyone in our society equally. And you they did it in a way that brought attention to it.

WOHL: You know what, I agree. Do you know what I think? The targets of the protest need to be the people causing the problems, the police, the police stations, the federal authorities. But when you -- the target of the protest is the national anthem, the patriotic sort of song that is America, people get offended and your message is lost. And that`s the big problem.

MELBER: People -- I suppose David -- I guess we`re almost out of time. David, the problem is, like the President, you`re still taking the position that you should have the final word and that`s understandable. A lot of people want the final word on what other people should do. That`s not how free speech works in a democracy. As an attorney, I think you would recognize that.

WOHL: No, I recognize the right of free speech, I also recognize the right of employers to prohibit free speech on the company clock. And I also recognize the rights of fans to speak with their wallets. And when they see something offensive, they`ll respond in due kind and I tell you what, it`s going to hurt the players, bottom line.

MELBER: Final word -- Jelani, final word.

COBB: Well, if that were the case. If we were trying to say that we wouldn`t have politics engaged in sports as all, we would never have had the national anthem played and we would never have had the military there in the first place. We would say, we want no kind of recognition of anything relating to any political institution in the United States but we don`t say that. We say that we want the military to be recognized and we want the flag to be saluted, we want the national anthem to be played and those in and of itself are political acts.

MELBER: Jelani Cobb and David Wohl, thank you both for being here.

WOHL: Good for you, Jelani.

MELBER: Still ahead, Steve Bannon --

WOHL: Thank you.

MELBER: -- about to deliver another potential big fight and not on Donald Trump`s terms.


MELBER: You know the comedian George Carlin had a famous list of ridiculous oxymoron terms, like jumbo shrimp, mandatory options, wireless cable, and mutual differences. Well, for the Trump era, maybe we could add another, united government. Because while Republicans control both elected branches, their united government looks very divided. Polls close in Alabama within an hour now where Trump`s candidate was just roasted in person by Steve Bannon.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST, WHITE HOUSE: They think you`re a pack of morons. Mitch McConnell and this permanent political class is the most corrupt and incompetent group of individuals in this country.


MELBER: So it is Trump versus Bannon versus McConnell and eight months in we`re seeing results of this divided government as it appears. Remember, Republicans have control of the House and Senate and the White House. Compare that to 2008, the last time there was united government. By this point in time, laws were passed on equal pay, a stimulus and new, clean energy rules. Health care was ultimately passed the following march. By contrast as of now, Trump has signed no major pieces of legislation and Trumpcare looks pretty dead. Outside Washington, Trump also feeling the heat.

This entire island of Puerto Rico still basically without power seen here in satellite images of Puerto Rico before and after. Some pointedly asking whether Trump is doing enough. In Vox they ask not only is Trump barely doing enough for Puerto Rico, he`s essentially argued that Puerto Rico is at fault and responsible for these problems. Today, six days after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, Trump finally announcing he will go visit, but in a week from now. Let`s remember, 3.4 million Americans` lives and well-being still hang in the balance. Trump though explained the difficulty of getting supplies to Puerto Rico in describing the home to millions of Americans as follows.


TRUMP: It`s very tough because it`s an island. In Texas, we can ship the trucks right out there. And you know, we`ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and on Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico. But the difference is, this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it`s a big ocean; it`s a very big ocean


MELBER: I`m Ari Melber, that does it for THE BEAT. I`ll see you back here the at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Unnecessary roughness.



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