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The Beat with Ari Melber, Transcript 9/27/17 FEC commissioner on Russia hack

Guests: Jose Serrano, Maya Harris, Ellen Weintraub, Kurt Anderson

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 27, 2017 Guest: Jose Serrano, Maya Harris, Ellen Weintraub, Kurt Anderson

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": Ari, you`re kind enough to hold me over because 60 minutes weren`t enough for us today.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Well, I hope you - you are totally out of time. Will you give me three minutes to talk out -

TODD: I`m all yours. Please.

MELBER: All right. My big question, and you touch on some of this, though, is we saw Trump and Bannon go down there. We`re all looking nationally at that impact. Would all of this still have gone down in your view the same way without the outside intervention?

TODD: Look, I think Roy Moore - look, there was a unique situation. I think we forget there`s some local dynamics here that we`re missing.

First of all, Roy Moore has a following in a constituency that`s very loyal to him. So, he started off I think with a bigger advantage than perhaps some in Washington realized.

And the fact is there was that local - I mean, you can`t under estimate the impact of the scandal with the former governor now Bentley and then how when he appointed Strange, Strange was investigating him, I mean it wasn`t hard to say, oh, geez, the swamp of Washington, the swamp of Montgomery, right?

That wasn`t hard sell. So, here is the only way I would have war gamed this differently. The candidate that was the most, I think, potentially supportive of the Trump agenda and the most reasonably insurgent was Mo Brooks.

What would this race have looked like if the president who I think - if you look at his politics and how he would like to shakeup Washington, really Mo Brooks is the guy that most resembles what he wants to do. And what if he had gone in for him and what if the establishment had picked him -

MELBER: Right.

TODD: - frankly as sort of that middle ground between a Strange and a Moore.

MELBER: Doesn`t that go to the other thing? I mean, many years ago when I did work in the Senate, one thing that everyone agreed on is you stick with your party and the incumbents. I mean, there isn`t a senator really in -

TODD: No doubt.

MELBER: - either party that ever wants to mess with that. And yet things have changed. We talk about whether people know how to adjust to changing rules. Trump went with that rule. McConnell went with that rule.

And does he risk, Mitch McConnell, a perception among Republican base here that he`s always involved in losing, whether it was this loss or Obamacare this week.

TODD: Look, Mitch McConnell is in a vice here, all right? Internally, he gets a lot of grief from the rank and file on the Republican conference because they think many of them are sort of worn out by the partisan way they believe he`s been running the Senate, even if they`ve individually agreed with each decision, whether it`s how he handled the Supreme Court nomination or the two reconciliations.

On the other hand, the president is ramming against Mitch McConnell for essentially not being partisan enough in how he runs the Senate and the grassroots thinks he isn`t running the Senate in a partisan enough way.

So, he`s really caught in this vice grip, I think, politically that - he is in a box that I don`t know how he gets out of. And at the end of the day, I think he is saying himself what`s in the best interest of keeping the Republican majority intact in 2018. And I think he looks at Roy Moore as a potential problem for Republicans nationally.

MELBER: Is Moore difficult for Republicans? Absolutely.

TODD: That`s right. It`s something that they have to answer for and it`s not something they`re looking forward to.

MELBER: Right. Chuck Todd, three extra minutes, well spent. Thanks for staying overtime with us.

TODD: You got it, brother.

MELBER: OK. Appreciate it, Chuck.

MELBER: Standing by here to get more into this on Trump, the GOP and the Democrats, I got former DNC Chair Howard Dean, Former Clinton Adviser Maya Harris, and Julius Krein, a conservative who has publicly recanted his vote for Trump.

We`re going to talk in a second and we`re going discuss this brand-new response from Trump running away from his candidate`s loss last night.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about Mitch McConnell? Is he in trouble?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to ask senators about that. No, you`re going to have to ask senators.

I know what they did with Mitch and they used him very much in the campaign, but he works hard and I`m sure things will work out. They use him in the race and I was very honored by the way I was treated in the race. But they used him in the race.


MELBER: Were you honored? It`s not about you, but that is what you sound like if you lost last night apparently. Some blaming of others, some juggling. Meanwhile, the winning side says this is just the beginning.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: You`re going to see in state after state after state, people that follow the model of Judge Moore, that do not need to raise money from the elites, from the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington DC, New York City, Silicon Valley.


MELBER: That though could be bad for Republicans because of the fact Judge Moore now the Republican Senate nominee is actually a former judge because he defied judge`s orders.

In fact, judges in Alabama ultimately booted him from office for defying orders to remove this 10 Commandments monument.

And let`s be clear, the issue there was not pro or anti-monument. People can have that debate. It was pro or anti rule of law. And Moore took the lawless or, call it, anarchist position that he should personally override lawful orders, he lost his job over it. He also advocates for jailing people based on whom they have sex with.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Homosexual conduct should be illegal? Should be illegal?



MELBER: He also has advocated a religious test against Muslims for Congress. Now, that is not any kind of left or right issue. Judges take an oath to uphold our constitution, which has always said no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.

Roy Moore knowingly violated that oath with his position and basically argued that he could be a more radical person in the Republican field than Donald Trump. And as of last night, he won.

What does that mean? I want to get to it with Howard Dean, former chair of the Democratic Party. Chuck Todd comes at this objectively. You come at it as a former leader of a party. Chuck Todd was just saying this development could be good for Democrats. As a Democrat, do you agree?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER CHAIR OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, it`s bad for the country. So, I think what`s bad for the country, it`s never good for the Democrats. I think this is a problem and this is going to be a real test for Alabama.

Alabama is not what it was when George Wallace was governor. There`s a lot of better jobs down there, the economy is better, the University of Alabama has become a, relatively speaking compared to what it was, progressive place, known for its football team, but also now it`s beginning to be known for its academics.

This is a real test for the voters of Alabama. Roy Moore is crazy. Basically, he is. And Jones has got a stellar record of somebody with some real courage. And he`s fairly conservative. I think we have a shot.

MELBER: Governor, when you assert that Roy Moore is crazy, do you mean crazy like cuckoo for cocoa puffs crazy, like just bonkers, or do you mean crazy like a fox with a very clear political agenda that he has been pushing now and is at the precipice, if he wins this Senate race in Alabama, of having more power than he`s ever had in his whole career.

DEAN: Well, he may or may not have more power. That depends how he gets treated when he`s here. If you`re an American and you believe that you can be the Supreme Court justice in the State of Alabama and violate the law of the land as described by the Supreme Court, not once but twice, I think there`s something really the matter with you.

MELBER: Yes. Stay with me, governor. I want to bring in two other guests that I just mentioned. Maya Harris is a former Hillary Clinton adviser and conservative Julius Krein who voted for Trump, but says that Trump`s administration has turned out to be "disgraceful."

On that spirit, let me start with you, Julius. As a conservative thinker, you heard of my other guests here walk through it and you heard my treatment of the facts. Given your concerns about where Trump is taking the Republican party, what`s your view of Mr. Moore here?

JULIUS KREIN, FOUNDER AND EDITOR, AMERICAN AFFAIRS JOURNAL: Yes. Well, I think it does show that the Republican voters` discontent with the Republican congressional leadership goes deeper than any sort of personality cult around Donald Trump.

At the same time, I don`t think Trump will pay much of a price for endorsing Moore`s opponent. But the fact is these are still all sort of protest votes without much of a coherent positive agenda. And as we have seen, that clearly has its limitations, to say the least.


MAYA HARRIS, FORMER SENIOR POLICY ADVISER TO HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, I think that Moore and the other thing that he stands for is a real abomination in terms of the arguments that he made on the trail.

I think that, any day, when you have someone Corker saying that they`re going to leave the Senate, you have someone like Moore being elected to the Senate, you really have to say where`s the face of the Republican Party, where is the Republican Party going.

I think this election is a real reckoning for the Republican Party. For many years, the Republicans over decades gerrymandered districts to create an advantage over Democrats. And now, they`re sort of reaping what they sow.

They`ve created an environment where - that`s ripe for falling prey to these kind of out-of-the-mainstream candidates, who are running against them and actually winning.

I expect that we`re going to see more of that. And the more of that that we see, I think we`ve seen this movie before in terms of the rise of the Tea Party.

MELBER: Well, you`re making a fundamental point that they may have contracted for stability, Republicans gerrymandering and doing other mechanisms to try to get safe seats in the House side or in the Senate side, basically appeal to the base, and what they have gotten instead is more of a civil war.

I want to play some of Roy Moore here, also other controversial comments he`s made, appearing to blame 9/11 on atheists or unbelievers. Again, this is now the Republican nominee. So, the party is going to carry this for some time. Take a listen.


MOORE: You know, we`ve suffered a lot in this country, maybe, just maybe because we`ve distanced ourselves from the one that has it within his hands to heal this land.


MELBER: Maya, what he`s saying there is, with regard to 9/11, we`ve distance ourselves from the one, from God, and that somehow is responsible for 9/11 rather than, I don`t know, the people who perpetrated the attacks.

HARRIS: The interesting thing that`s going to happen for Republicans is - because he has said plenty, he wants to criminalize LGBT, he says we shouldn`t have Muslims in Congress, he`s an original birther.

And the challenge for Republicans is going to be, now that he`s won the primary, they`re going to have to stump for him in the general because they`re going to not want to lose the seat, so they`re going to have to link arms. And that is only further going to color the picture of what the future of the Republican Party is.

MELBER: So, let`s also look at the broader picture because the Alabama results do go beyond Trump. It has now been five years since a Republican senator had lost a primary.

It was moderate Dick Lugar who lost in 2012 and he`d been in for 35 years in the Senate. There was a wave of six other incumbent Republicans who lost their seats in primaries that year.

Tea Party Republicans also ousted, of course. The second most powerful House member, Eric Cantor, in 2014. And last year, we checked the history, two Republican incumbents lost their primary.

So, in the last three cycles, Gov. Dean you have 12 Republicans and 8 Dems who have lost seats as incumbents, basically losing out, governor, to their own base. So, we`re seeing it in both parties, but more on the right even in the Trump era as of last night.

DEAN: I think that`s true. And I always thought the Republican Party would be remade, but I thought it would be remade after Trump lost, not after he won it.

They`re actually moving even further to the right, which is not where the voters are moving. The voters are moving further to the left.

I saw a poll the other day which stunned me, which says 60 percent of Americans were in favor of Medicare for all. That`s a big - and you have got 15 Democratic senators supporting a bill instead of just Bernie Sanders.

So, they`re not where Americans are. Americans are not bigots and they`re not as intolerant, but that`s what the hate wing of the Republican Party is, which is so active in primaries, and that`s how Roy Moore wins.

I think Jones has got a shot in the Senate and I hope the Democrats in Washington understand that.

MELBER: And, Julius, to this larger point, there has been months and months of conventional wisdom, I think, shared across the political elites, across the media, I hear it all the time that, well, there`s these really passionate base Republicans and they love Donald Trump, and so you have to factor that into everything you do.

Well, they didn`t love Donald Trump enough last night to go with his chosen candidate. And to your point, I think you were speaking about earlier, it seems that maybe that anger, that energy there has overlapped with Trump rather than fully powered him. And if people understand that or that becomes the conventional takeaway, then last night was really bad for Donald Trump.

KREIN: Well, my personal view is that Trump won by offering himself as the sort of rebellion against the Republican leadership.

And to pick up on Maya`s point, it`s not just with gerrymandering and so on, but as Republicans basically failed to fulfill any of their own professed goals.

And as much as their agenda, their economic and foreign policy agenda, was discredited, they really turned to this sort of populism, demonizing opponents, ruthless, relentless obstruction of Obama, for example, and now they`ve lost control of it.

MELBER: And lastly, Julius, real quickly, you spoke out in a major way. We had you once on THE BEAT before saying you found Trump disgraceful and you took back basically your vote.

Have you heard from anyone in the Trump or conservative circles? Are you finding any growing movement for the points you made?

KREIN: Yes. I think there is, although it remains more in the intellectual circles rather than in political ones.

MELBER: Gov. Dean is nodding. And I don`t know if he`s giggling or smirking. I don`t know, what I would call it?

DEAN: No, I`m not smirking. I think that`s exactly right. It`s very hard. Populism is based on a lot of very complex, but deeply emotional feelings. And it`s very hard to get to people`s emotions when they have an investment and not knowing what the facts are, and that`s what the Trump supporters do.

MELBER: It`s funny - you put that so well, emotions invested and not knowing the facts, which is something actually we`ve got a very special guest on much later in the hour.

Gov. Howard Dean, Julius Krein, thanks for coming on. Maya, I want to talk you about Puerto Rico. So, please stay with me.

Coming up, Trump rolling out the tax plan without releasing his own tax returns. We have reporting on how much money from the plan could go to the Trump family and yours also.

This dire crisis facing millions of Americans in Puerto Rico. A congressman joins me along with Maya to discuss.

And some major news in the Russia probe tonight. A new report that Facebook, Google and Twitter will all have to face investigators. We`re going to talk social media and Russia in my exclusive interview tonight with a top elections official at the FEC.

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


MELBER: This week, Donald Trump lost an Obamacare fight and a Senate primary where he campaigned and a portion of the NFL, and it`s only Wednesday. Today, Trump turned to the fight he thinks could deliver the first major law of his presidency, tax reform.


TRUMP: Our framework includes our explicit commitment that tax reform will protect low income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well connected. They can call me all they want, it`s not going to help. I am doing the right thing. And it`s not good for me, believe me.


MELBER: So, Trump is branding this as not good for him and rich people. But Trump has really never been consistent about who he wants the tax code to target.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?

TRUMP: I do. I do, including myself.

For the wealthy, I think frankly it`s going to go up. And you know what, it really should go up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They should pay - the wealthy need to pay more taxes. What do you define as wealthy by the way?

TRUMP: Here is - let me explain - somebody like me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On taxes for the wealthy where you said you were open to taxing them more, as you know that`s against the conservative.

TRUMP: I didn`t say that, Chris.


MELBER: He didn`t say that. Now, Trump is not still really saying what the plan would do, which makes it difficult to say whether middle income families will see the most benefit from the tax overhaul or if it will favor the richest Americans.

According to "The New York Times" analysis today, "but continuing this class war branding, Trump is touting two Goldman Sachs bankers that he hired, Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin as wealthy people who would not do well under the plan."

Now, we do have some public information about what those two bankers are worth, but very little about Donald Trump as he still refuses to release his tax returns, which makes it especially odd, perhaps even brazen, for Trump to pitch this whole tax plan today by invoking his own tax bracket.

Joining me now is Fordham professor Christina Greer and a former Obama economic official Austan Goolsbee. Austan, what can you tell about this plan based on what`s available?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, what he announced - I mean, it would be like if you said I`m going to go to the most expensive restaurant in the city, and somebody said, but that`s going to cost $100, how are you going to pay for it; and you said, oh, no, no, trust me, I`m going to go get some coins out of the sofa and I`m going to find all the money that I dropped in it in the last week.

It doesn`t come anywhere close. What he`s outlined are a bunch of multi- trillion dollars cuts for high income people. And how they are going to try to square that circle - I assume they`re just not going to try to square the circle.

MELBER: Right. Then it`s still a wish list. It`s funny. That`s something people often say about Bernie Sanders or other folks who put out these big plans that are expensive and sometimes people claim they don`t add up.

But Professor Christina Greer, that`s basically what the economists are saying is the issue with Trump.

CHRISTINA GREER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, we know that this particular president has zero history of public service. We know that he has oftentimes pledged to give money and has shirked on that. We still have yet to see his tax returns.

So, when he says this is great for the middle class, he hasn`t defined who the middle class would be. He has clearly not said - besides speaking in platitudes, he`s just saying, well, you know, no one `s going to lose, well, clearly, someone has to lose.

So, will it be poor people who are going to be penalized more or is it going to be wealthy folks? He can`t say, but we`re not even sure that he knows.

And I think the last piece is this is him having unified government and still not really have any legislative victory.

MELBER: Right.

GREER: He said day one he`s going to have this wall. He`s going to repeal Obamacare, all these things, because he has a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate. And legislatively, he is a failure.

MELBER: Right. And on the class piece, I want to play some sound here, Austan, of the president basically saying, well, maybe the rich people will pay more with a new bracket, maybe not, it`s sort of all up in the air. Take a listen.


TRUMP: We have also given Congress the flexibility to add an additional top rate on the very highest income earners to provide even more tax relief for working people.


MELBER: So that`s the rate side. But then, Austan, of course, there are the deductions which is a big feature here.

As you know, Lauren Hill famously said "it ain`t about what you cop, it`s about what you keep." You can make a lot of money, but what do you have at the end of the year leftover is what you keep. These deductions seem to be a big sticking point. Can you give us some insight on that?

GOOLSBEE: Look, my only insight on the deductions will be there`s a reason they haven`t specified what deductions they`re going to get rid of. It`s because they know perfectly well, as soon as they say that, there will be a large number of Republicans who say, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, we can`t raise taxes on that group.

You`ve got - they`ve discussed getting rid of the state income tax and state tax deduction. There are 50 some Republican House members that are from high tax places who are going to say, well, we are for your plan, just take that part out of it.

MELBER: Well, let`s dig it on that because I want to bring in Professor Greer. I mean, that`s a key point Austan`s making here, which is in the abstract, you can say, oh, we will save money, right, by eliminating that deduction.

But a lot of conservatives like that deduction because it operates on an idea that if you pay tax to a state, you shouldn`t also have to pay the tax to the feds, that there`s some fairness in that. And a lot of the Democrats frankly like that deduction because it`s in a lot of blue states.

GREER: Right. And the governor of New York has already come out and said that this would be devastating for the State of New York, the governor of California said the same thing, New Jersey.

So, we are seeing the blue state - if you will, blue state Democratic governors saying the little bit that we`ve seen today is so detrimental to the entire population and we know that this particular president likes to speak in platitudes, right?

We`re doing great in Puerto Rico. Everything`s just fine. But when it comes to tax policy, if you haven`t been able to successfully move the chains on building the wall, you haven`t been able to successfully move the chains on repealing and replacing Obamacare, why do you think that you would have a victory of one of the most complex tax structures.

MELBER: Right. This is the thing.

GREER: And people who are far better politicians and intellects have not been able to. I don`t understand why this particular president thinks, well, you know what, we need a win before the Senate, let`s just do it.

MELBER: And you had to have more of a working coalition. Look, it`s hard to do tax segments on TV and make them really fun. I will say this was better than doing taxes. And I hope the viewers agree. Economist Austan Goolsbee, Professor Christina Greer, thank you both.


MELBER: Ahead, THE BEAT exclusive I mentioned tonight, the federal elections official who warned about foreign powers interfering with our elections. And she has a new warning.


ELLEN WEINTRAUB, COMMISSIONER, UNITED STATES FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: They are trying to push whatever buttons they can to try and affect our elections and we need to do more to stop that.


MELBER: Right now, in Puerto Rico, over 3 million Americans hunkering down for a night without power and, in many cases, severe food shortages. The lines for water and fuel can run for hours.


MELBER: Now, we turn to Puerto Rico tonight where millions of Americans are grappling with an unfolding crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning in Puerto Rico, lines for necessities like food, water, cash and gas are sometimes stretching for blocks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s very frustrating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need diesel, we need gas, we need running water, we need our hospitals not to become deathtraps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A humanitarian crisis is unfolding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some remote parts of Puerto Rico, calls for help are written on rooftops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nearly 12,000 people remain in the emergency shelters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No electricity no food, no planes, we feel desperate. It`s just me. This is a scary situation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roads obliterated by mudslides and flooding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s trees down, power lines down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a nightmare. This is not where I planned to be or I wanted to be during the first two weeks of my baby`s life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump is facing criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re seeing that there is no action being taken, so it`s not working. Here it`s not working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are US citizens. We are supposed to be treated equally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We really need help. We don`t have anything and we need to start over.


MELBER: This is a key test for the Trump administration and there is criticism pouring in from both sides of the aisle. Sen. Michael Rubio says, "what I`m more concerned about in the next 48 to 72 hours is ensuring that we don`t have a Katrina-style event." Other lawmakers have been even more blunt.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: The response has been anemic. Back when we had Katrina, I said to the world in a news conference, God would not be pleased with our response to Katrina. God certainly wouldn`t be pleased with this response.


MELBER: And it took plea from Hillary Clinton to get Trump to deploy a hospital ship Comfort to aide residents. That ship, though, will not leave until four days from now. It takes five more days to reach Puerto Rico.

Trump himself, though, has sounded this note about the response to Puerto Rico, calling it great, amazing and tremendous.

He heads there for a scheduled trip on Tuesday. I`m joined now by Congressman Jose Serrano, a Democrat from New York who notes he was born in Puerto Rico. Thank you for joining us. What are you calling on the administration to do now for Puerto Rico?

REP. JOSE SERRANO (D), NEW YORK: Well, not to wait a day longer, to declare this a full emergency. It has been declared in words but it now hasn`t been done in action. The President`s visit is welcome but it should have been much earlier. The fact that we`re having trouble moving assets around, federal assets around, is something that has to be taken care of. In fact, I`ve called for the Department of defense send in boots to Puerto Rico because they know how to build towns, they can how to rebuild communities. They know how to create roads. We have to know where we can move because in some cases, items are getting to Puerto Rico but how to move them inside of Puerto Rico within the condition of the roads and the trees were all over the place and the water that`s creating a situation that is very difficult to deal with.

MELBER: There`s as you know been bipartisan criticism about a real failure on the Trump administration`s part to make changes that apparently could it make rather swiftly, like changes to shipping rules, the so-called Jones Act. Senator McCain saying, "Shipping industry supports this Jones Act because it`s protectionist. Puerto Rico deserves better than policy decisions driven by special interests." What should the administration do about that?

SERRANO: At the minimum, they should wave it for the length of this crisis, at the minimum. We can look at the whole Jones Act, you know, down the road, soon but at the minimum, wave it. Secondly, understand something, Mr. President, this is not a foreign country. These are American citizens. I was born there. I was born an American citizen. I`m now here, a United States Congressman from New York, simply because I moved to New York. Nothing changed in my status. There was no immigration status to deal with. So please understand that these are your folks, too. And he is a New Yorker. He of all people should understand our community.

MELBER: Congressman, when you say Mr. President, Puerto Rico is not a foreign country, are you concerned that he doesn`t know that? Do you think there`s evidence that Puerto Rico is being treated differently?

SERRANO: The territories are always treated differently. In fact, for all the years I`ve been in Congress, I`ve always said that if I`m remembered for anything is, don`t forget the territories or include the territories. This is a time to prove that I`m wrong. This is a time to prove that we, the United States, consider the territories part of United States and that the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have to be taken care of. I just got a report this afternoon that told me, that in towns where the water is beginning to go down from the flooding, they`re finding hundreds if not thousands of dead pets, dead animals, cats dogs, in the mountains, cats, and horses, not to mention who might be out there that are human beings. So this is beyond anything you can imagine. The hurricane went through the center. It has destroyed the agriculture. It has destroyed everything else. The houses are down, the roads are down. No electricity, no water no, food.

MELBER: Congressman Serrano, thank you for joining us on a busy day on this important topic. I want to turn back to Maya Harris who has advised Hillary Clinton. I want to run through some more of the numbers because obviously, the evidence matters here. The federal hurricane response for Harvey, about 31,000 federal employees went to Texas, Irma, 40,000 to Florida. For Hurricane Maria, under 7,000 deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

MAYA HARRIS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I don`t know where to begin in terms of the response to Puerto Rico. It is an absolute dereliction of Duty for Trump to not do everything humanly possible to save lives for 3.5 million Americans who are living in Puerto Rico, devastated by this -- by this event. And when you look at the response that`s been, you know, had so far, I agree with my friend (INAUDIBLE), the response has been puny. It`s been cold. When you look at the responder numbers that you`ve just identified in terms of responders he sent to Texas and Florida, look what`s happening in Puerto Rico is that you know, it is puny. But it is also cold when you know, it took him days to say anything. And when did he finally say something, what have he talked about? He talked you know, about property damage, not people. He talked about infrastructure, not lives.

MELBER: He talked about their foreign debt obligations, which they`re not the only part of the United States where there are debt issues but he didn`t talk about that in Texas where people also have underwater mortgages and homes and other issues.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

MELBER: So Maya, I want to continue on this story. We`ve been covering it repeatedly. I appreciate the Congressman`s time, as well as yours. Thank you. Coming up, Facebook`s Mark Zuckerberg has a brand new statement breaking tonight in our newsroom and it is further backpedaling on his prior claims that any blaming for fake news on Facebook is crazy. And the woman you see right there, my exclusive conversation with an FEC Commissioner who wants to take on social media and deal with the Russia threat. And later, is Trump ready to say you`re fired to a Trump official racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Your money on his private travel.



MARK ZUCKERBERG, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, FACEBOOK: Personally, I think the idea that you know, fake news on Facebook of which you know, it`s a very small amount of the content. It influences the election in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea.


MELBER: Crazy that fake news influenced the election. That was Mark Zuckerberg in November. Tonight we can report he`s recanting. Facebook of course under fire in the Russia probe. Last Monday, right here on THE BEAT, I put it this way.


MELBER: So the social network facilitating these foreign frauds and profiting off them doesn`t think it owes Americans any information about that. Mark Zuckerberg resounding like a combination of Equifax and Alex Jones here.


MELBER: He was sounding like that but tonight, Zuckerberg is walking it all back. This is brand new in our newsroom. He says, "Calling that crazy that fake news had influence was dismissive "I regret it." Now, the foreign meddling was a shock to a lot of people, but there were some officials sounding the alarm like Ellen Weintraub. She`s an FEC Commissioner warning about the danger of foreign nationals, all the way back in March. That was before Trump even won the nomination when she warned that foreigners could evade the restriction on foreign influence by simply setting up shell contributions through which to funnel their contributions. And here she was in, I should say, in April 2016.


ELLEN WEINTRAUB, COMMISSIONER, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: As I said, we need to do a much better job of disclosure of the political money and there`s this issue have foreign national that I think has not been addressed since Citizens United opened the door to corporate money which can be an opportunity for foreign money to come into our elections.


MELBER: That concern is now taking hold. Two Senators pushing legislation to force new rules on spending for ads online.


MELBER: Here`s Ellen Weintraub joining me now, a voice perhaps from the wilderness Commissioner. I think you were proven correct in your concerns. What do you see as the key to stopping this foreign money and should social media companies be more regulated, the way, for example, T.V. ads are?

WEINTRAUB: Thank you, Ari. As you know, I have been concerned for a long time that foreign nationals might be in a position to take advantage of various loopholes in our laws in order to try and exert influence over our democracy. And the law is flat on that. Foreign nationals are not allowed to spend directly or indirectly in connection with any election in the United States. What we`ve seen recently, this explosion and information about what`s been going on in social media is I think more evidence that there`s a lot of very ingenious thinkers going on out there and they are trying to push whatever buttons they can to try to affect our elections. And we need to do more to stop that. Now, whether we can stop it all together at the FEC, I think maybe a little bit ambitious but we can certainly do more.

MELBER: But let me -- let me push you on that. Like I noted, you`ve been a leader on this but you know, Facebook is often thought of by a lot of people positively. And is something that doesn`t need regulation. People don`t think of it like a bank or an oil company. We looked in the history here back in 2011, Facebook was saying that you guys, the FEC, should exempt it from all the rules on advertisers to disclose who`s paying and they argued that they are more like small campaign items, like a bumper sticker. Is Facebook just no biggie like a bumper sticker?

WEINTRAUB: Well, a bumper sticker is only seen by the people who happen to drive by that car. And Facebook obviously has a much broader impact than that. I think what has happened is that the internet and the capabilities of it have changed so dramatically since the last time the FEC actually took a serious look at this. We haven`t done any rulemaking on internet political activities since 2006. When we started that rulemaking, YouTube had been in existence a few a few weeks. So obviously, technology has really taken off from there. Some people are still relying on an advisory opinion that the commission is shooting 2002. The technology has totally changed since then.

When Facebook came in in 2010 or 2011, to ask for that exemption, they were -- their point was that, well, this is all very small and it`s hard to put a disclaimer on an ad on the internet. But the one thing that the commission and the public agreed on, even as far back as 2006, the last time we address this was that yes, we want to have a lot of opportunity on the internet for people to exchange ideas and to engage in robust debate but we still want to have limits on paid advertising. I want to make sure that people know who`s behind them.

MELBER: Well, isn`t that -- let me -- isn`t that the key? Isn`t that the key that -- we`re not hearing about Russians having secretly bought T.V. ads, right? We`re hearing about this money coming in sort of a dark route to the web.

WEINTRAUB: Yes. That is absolutely right. I think that we leave the door open. When we leave room for people the act without disclosure, then we just leave the door open for people to take advantage of that. And that`s what we`re seeing. If we have firmer disclosure rules, stronger disclosure rules that has both a deterrence and a detection function. What the Supreme court has long recognized is really important in addition to just informing people where they`re getting their information.

MELBER: Right.

WEINTRAUB: Because who wants to get their information from a Russian troll farm.

MELBER: Right. And once you know that, it actually may break some of the value to propaganda. Ellen Weintraub, I will say, you were concerned about foreign meddling before it was cool. Thank you for joining us.

WEINTRAUB: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you.


MELBER: Ahead, coming up, a special look at fake news in America and the forces behind Trump`s rise. Bestselling Author Kurt Anderson is out with a new book and he joins me live.


MELBER: Some of the most influential people in today`s politics are not famous and they`re liars and they admit it. Take Paul Horner, a 38-year- old who spent six years peddling fake news with headlines like, Donald Trump signs executive order allowing the hunting of bald eagles, drugs in Colorado, new deadly strain of marijuana, turning users gay, and "Donald Trump protesters speak out I was paid $35,000 to protest Trump`s rally. That last false story was tweeted out by non-other than Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski and that link you see right there makes it pretty hard to tell that the ".co" at the end means it was actually a fraudulent story impersonating ABC. And this man claimed responsibility for electing Trump.


PAUL HORNER, FAKE NEWS WRITER: I do it to try to educate people. I see certain things wrong in society that I don`t like and different targets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you educating?

HORNER: Within my stories, I`ll have links to all the different facts that the purpose of a story I`ll pick a purpose to write about. And then, within that story, I`ll have links to everything to back up the different purpose behind the story.


MELBER: That was Paul Horner. He was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday, Arizona Police announcing that death. They pointed to a suspected drug overdose. And that death made it into the New York Times today because of a judgment call, that fake news is now so politically influential that it is worth reporting on even people like that you may not have heard of. It may also be illegal, those reports that Mueller is ceasing thousands Facebook ads to investigated they were part of an international fake news conspiracy of crime. Now, if you find a post-fact world depressing, maybe you`ll start wishing you could travel back in time before these problems existed. As the old protest time goes, what do want? Time travel. When do we want it? It`s irrelevant. See, the timing is irrelevant if you have a time machine. And we have dad jokes. It`s all -- it`s all good.

Our next guest, though, says you have to travel far back far in time because American politics has long struggled with lies and conspiracies. Kurt Anderson the Author of Fantasyland and he`s working with Alec Baldwin on a forthcoming takedown book, You Can`t Spell America Without Me. Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Is there something uniquely American about these conspiracies?

ANDERSON: Well, there is something I think definingly American about our passionate desire to believe the untrue, to believe the excitingly untrue. And conspiracy theories is part of it. There`s a long history of that. But also so is fake news. Back in the 1830s, the great time of P.T. Barnum. The New York Sun for six days had this extraordinary series about discovery of bat people on the move with great temples and so forth. Everyone believed it in New York City in 1835. So there`s a history of fake news. We need to be careful, though, in this day and age about fake news because of course, this guy who says, yes, I did these fake stories in order to get the political results that I wanted.

That is unquestionably fake news. But just today, the President of the United States says Facebook always anti-Trump. New York Times, Washington Post, always anti-Trump, hence, fake news. So let`s be careful about the various definitions of fake news. For Donald Trump, it`s anything that is unflattering to or inconvenient for him. That is, therefore, fake news. And of course, that`s always been not so much an American idea but a totalitarian idea to undermine the truth.

MELBER: Right, but this, this goes -- this goes to what might be different. I think you do an interesting job showing the roots of this, which may be why it took hold. I read one quote from the book. You said Trump was elected President because of his nonstop lies. The old fringes have been folded into the new center. The irrational has become respectable and often unstoppable. That seems to be an important point, that in the old days, leaders and politicians sought to be credible --

ANDERSON: Correct.

MELBER: -- and may have lied when convenient. Now Trump seeks to make the factual part of the world not credible.

ANDERSON: Exactly right. And also, it`s not just lies. If it were just lies, you`d say, OK, Donald Trump is lying. In the case of Donald Trump and many of his followers, the distinctions between truth and falsehood are irrelevant. And I`m not sure that Donald Trump couldn`t pass a lie detector test for many of the -- for many of the conspiracy --

MELBER: I`ve never heard that. That -- which tests only whether you`re nervous about lying.

ANDERSON: Exactly. I think he probably, for instance, believed that Barack Obama was not born in the United States for a while, maybe. But the more worrying, more disturbing to me is that he doesn`t care about truth and falsehood. It`s all the same to him as long as it gets him over in this instant.

MELBER: Now, you have a history. I want to put up Spy Magazine which you and Graydon Carter ran back in the day before Trump was ever thought possible. You had these jerks cover you, you put Trump on it. You guys upset him, but he won. He beat you guys.

ANDERSON: He did? He became President. I don`t know if he beat us in any sense. But he certainly --

MELBER: You and Graydon Carter spent a lot of time criticizing him, putting forth a theory, a case about him.

ANDERSON: About being a bully and a liar and a blowhard and a --

MELBER: And a lot of Americans agree and more Americans chose the other candidate. But what does it tell you, there must be something on his mind here that he did do well here after all that.

ANDERSON: Well, no. I think he has a kind of uncanny instinct for what will sell. He`s an extraordinary grifter, salesman, and he sold himself. You know, we were astounded that he was able to sell all the things he sold, bad condos and vodka and everything else that he sold back in the day. And now he was able to sell a whole other set of fantasies to 46 percent of the American people.

MELBER: Right. You documented one thing that a lot of those sales have in common is they sold for a period of time and then they went bankrupt and that`s the big question, is whether his business career will look like the political career. Kurt Anderson, I hope you come back.

ANDERSON: Pleasure. Thank you.

MELBER: Interesting stuff. The book is Fantasyland, How America Went Haywire. Now, next, is a Trump top official on his way out for wasting your tax dollars on private planes?



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to get massive border security as part of that and I think something can happen. We`ll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, will you attack North Korea.

TRUMP: We`ll see.

I think we had a very successful meeting in Russia. We`ll see. We`ll see the end result.


MELBER: We`ll see. That is the assessment for Trump`s pick to take on ObamaCare. Tom Price losing that key battle over health care this week. Now he`s under fire for wasting taxpayer money on private jet travels, MoJets, MoProblems as they say. Politico says price has spent 400,000 on this including a plane to get to an island at an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land and chartering a private jet to fly to Nashville where has a condominium and where his son lives. Now the House Oversight Committee pressing for details. Some Democrats calling even for his resignation. Now Price gave up his seat in Congress to join the Trump administration just this year. Can he expect loyalty From Trump now?


TRUMP: I am going to see -- I`m looking at that very closely. I am not happy with it. I will tell you, I am not happy with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you fire him, Sir?

TRUMP: We`ll see.


MELBER: We`ll see. Now, the last time Trump said that about an employee, it was Steve Bannon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us broadly what your -- do you still have confidence in Steve?

TRUMP: We`ll see. Look --

We`ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.


MELBER: We`ll see what happens. Bannon, of course, gone within the week. Now, here`s the big difference. Price under fire, for one thing, spending your money on his travel. Firing him for that offense would bring more heat on Trump, potentially validating all of the criticism of Trump spending millions on his travel, billing taxpayers even to reimburse Mar-a- Lago over $3 million, which is now the subject of ethics and legal complaints. So is wasting taxpayer money on travel a fireable offense for the Trump administration for everyone but the President? The answer obviously is we`ll see. That does it for us. "HARDBALL" starts now.



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