Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: September 28, 2017 Guest: Barbara McQuade, William Steinman, Roy Mitchell, Maya Wiley
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": That low pressure developing off the coast of Africa. Well, anyway, many canaries. Remember that one word. We`re claiming that we`re coining this race.
That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with a lot more "MTP Daily". THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Chuck, is this butterfly theory like weather or is it baby canary? I just want to know the analysis.
TODD: We`re going with many canaries. And that`s something like I said, well, wait a minute, canary is already small. But, hey, they`re state legislative seats. We feel like congressional seats are the canaries.
I wanted to go with finches personally, but that annoyed some people.
MELBER: The beak of the finch.
TODD: Yes, yes.
MELBER: You`re going Darwinian. Chuck Todd with the analogy and watching the races as a leading indicator. Thank you, sir.
TODD: You got it, brother.
MELBER: President Trump`s approach to law enforcement is under scrutiny tonight after he snubbed the swearing-in ceremony for his own FBI director today. And we can tell you that`s totally unprecedented.
Since the FBI began under J. Edgar Hoover, every president has attended the swearing-in ceremony. President Obama was there for Comey, President Clinton was there for Louis Freeh, President Reagan was there for William Sessions, President Carter was there for William Webster, even President Nixon attended the ceremony for Clarence Kelly.
Every president has done this. Since FBI directors typically serve a decade, presidents typically do this big thing only once.
But not Trump. As of tonight, he decided not to do it. He was, of course, reportedly confident about replacing the new FBI director Ray with the one he fired Comey. But he didn`t go.
Now, at some ceremonies, past FBI directors have been known to appear. Director Sessions with former director Webster there. So, by snubbing this today, Trump ensured he could avoid any possible run in with Comey, whom he fired, and Mueller who is investigating that firing.
Now, we can tell you, it turns out they did not attend, but Sally Yates did. As deputy attorney general, of course, she was previously the boss of the FBI director and Trump fired her over the travel ban. Then we later learned, she warned the White House about Michael Flynn, who is now under investigation by, yes, former FBI Director Bob Mueller.
It is hard sometimes to keep track of all the FBI veterans involved in the criminal investigation of this Trump presidency.
As for Russia, a new phase of the investigation clearly underway. Interviews with White House aides are now being scheduled. That means people have to commit to their stories. They would be creating a new crime if they lied to investigators.
Now, what is the view from the Trump White House on all of this? Sometimes, it`s hard to know. But, today, I did speak with White House Special Counsel Ty Cobb. Now, he didn`t say a lot on the record because that`s not part of his job, but he didn`t deny that these interviews now are going forward.
And he also wanted to emphasize the White House is cooperating, telling me today, "while the White House doesn`t comment on specific witnesses or interviewees, it remains committed to full cooperation with the special counsel."
As for Jared Kushner, well, his lawyer has gotten a little more expressive at least when he thinks he`s speaking to his own client. Abbe Lowell, apparently now by a prankster posing as Kushner, over email accidentally forwarding a sensitive Senate intel letter that Kushner failed to disclose the existence of because of the personal account and the interview this summer.
Now, this is the second time a top White House lawyer has fallen victim to these kind of pranks. Cobb himself was disclosing some information about the inquiry to another person pretending to be a colleague earlier this month.
I`m joined now by Natasha Bertrand from "Business Insider" who broke that Kushner prank lawyer story. Nicholas Confessore joins us from "The New York Times" and David Frum from "The Atlantic," also a former aide to President Bush.
Natasha, I want to start with you because Kushner email is a big deal and I want to point to the other breaking news. A lot of email talk in the 2016 campaign. Right now, the committee here, Senators Burr and Warner, bipartisan basis, say they are concerned to learn of his personal email account from the news media rather than from him.
They write, in your close staff interview, please confirm that the document production he made to the committee includes additional personal email accounts as described by the news media. So, what are they upset about? It seems that the once politically hypocritical issue of personal email use now is hitting the Russia case.
NATASHA BERTRAND, EDITOR AND REPORTER, "BUSINESS INSIDER": Well, this is a huge gaffe by Kushner`s lawyer in the first place to forward this very sensitive committee letter to an email prankster, who he had been speaking to earlier in the week, thinking that he was Kushner.
They are concerned that he made this private email account in December and did not disclose it to the Senate Intelligence Committee when they interviewed him earlier this summer about all of his ties to Russia, about what he experienced during the campaign, all of the documents.
And so, they just want to know, well, have you really handed over everything or is there more material that you are keeping from us.
MELBER: Right. Which seems like a pretty straightforward question. Again, the sort of legs of the email hypocrisy.
David, put that in the context of Donald Trump, hitting another first, the first president to snub the swearing-in of his own FBI director today.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": We don`t know why he did. He may be unwell. He may be unhappy about being - going to an event where he is not the center of attention.
I don`t think he`s ever shown himself bashful about personal interactions with people he doesn`t like. He is a pretty abusive - he`s a pretty assertive figure and is willing to do that.
But this was not the person he wanted his FBI director. He wanted, remember, to go much farther outside of the chain of command. He went through a lot of people who were going to be much more politically loyal to him, names like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani were floated around.
And he`s at pretty much daggers drawn with this agency. Remember, Donald Trump also has canceled the FBI`s plans to have a headquarters outside of downtown Washington.
MELBER: All great points. And I take your caution that we don`t have from the White House an explanation of why he made this very unusual break with protocol.
Now, let`s take a look a little bit from this swearing-in ceremony at the FBI today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: His judgment and integrity will always lead him. He has no hidden agendas.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We`re going to follow the facts independently no matter where they lead and no matter who likes it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Nick, it may have been easier for them to not have the president there. What did you think of sort of the significance?
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, POLITICAL AND INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Two things. One, if I were Trump, I would stay as far away from swearing agency as possible - swearing in as possible.
First of all, if he goes and it`s a positive event, he`s essentially endorsing this guy who`s investigating him. And if the president wants to come back, as he has in the past, to try to discredit what the FBI is doing or what it finds in the future, it`s a lot harder to do if he had stood there clapping and smiling at the installation of the new FBI director.
MELBER: What you`re saying sounds logical, but, I guess, it`s my job to point out the hole sometimes. Didn`t he already endorse this guy by giving him the hugely powerful job of running the FBI. I mean, what`s a photo op?
CONFESSORE: He`s very attuned to photo ops. I think the more likely answer is probably stay away from the agency whose agents are investigating you.
CONFESSORE: Just don`t get involved there. It can`t look good either way. I think, probably, the more likely thing is they`d figure it`s a mess straight away.
MELBER: Right. Which is sort of, Natasha, the Donald Trump view of all of this, the Jay-Z aphorism, love me or leave me alone. He wants the FBI either to love him, praise him, just like his view of the CIA, or leave him alone, let him do whatever he wants.
BERTRAND: Right. And he`s still characterizing the entire Russia investigation as a hoax. And for him to show up at the swearing-in ceremony, granted some of the people that he had run-ins with, like Comey, were not present, but it would have been extraordinarily awkward.
MELBER: Yes. David, do you want to weigh in on that?
FRUM: It would be awkward. I don`t know that that would be enough to deter him. But I think one of the things that we have noted, and this maybe a broader - is Trump seems to have these cycles of hypomanic and sluggish activity. You hear from him a lot. And then he sort of falters.
And I think what I`ve always been mesmerized by, one of the things you can sort of learn what Trump is about is by noting the things he most accuses other people of.
And the fact that he would accuse Jeb Bush of all people the energizer bunny, of being low-energy, tell me he thinks about energy a lot. You know how he doesn`t - he rode in the golf cart at the Taormina meeting with the G7 leaders.
So, it may not be FBI specific that causes him to miss an event. He may be on sort of the ebb cycle of his ebb and flow.
MELBER: Well, now, I`ve got to ask you, because we`re getting into the - did your - the president you served, George W. Bush, was he more even keel? I know he believed in exercise and scheduling.
FRUM: Bush had the most predictable schedule of any human being you`ve ever met. And he started really early in the morning and he ate lunch at the same day. If he could have, he would have eaten the same thing. And he went to bed very early. He regulated himself. But he was an extraordinarily physically fit president.
MELBER: And Russia, David, I want to give you a pop quiz, put on the spot on live TV, can you name the most senior official who served in the Obama administration and now is serving in the Trump administration?
MELBER: The most senior.
FRUM: No, I can`t do that. I probably will be able to do as soon as the camera is off.
MELBER: I mean, that was newly appointed, not the holdovers. It`s John Huntsman, at least arguably. I`m sure some out there would argue on how we define it. But he is a, as you know, newly picked by this president, sworn in today here.
He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there was no question Russia interfered in the presidential election and that he would still burnish relations between the two countries despite it.
Just walk us through the significance of this and the role Huntsman plays here with a boss who won`t say what I just read.
FRUM: Well, it`s a very odd appointment. So, John Huntsman, someone I pretty widely admire, was ambassador to China under President Obama.
John Huntsman speaks Chinese, knows China well, had been ambassador to Singapore, a Chinese speaking - different varieties of Chinese. But he is someone with a deep knowledge and steeping in Chinese culture. It`s completely sensible. And, in fact, bold and wise to send him to China.
He does not speak Russian. He`s not a Russia expert. It is a strange pick, especially when you remember this is a high conflict situation potentially. And you look at the kind of super-specialists in Russia who held that appointment under past presidents, people like Michael McFaul under President Obama. Reagan and the Bushes again had Russia specialists. People knew the language. Could entertain in the embassy. Could speak to people directly without interpreters.
Again, great pick for many, many roles and is good that he`s in this administration, but it`s a strange job for him to have.
David Frum, thank you. Always appreciate your expertise and experience. Natasha and Nick, two great reporters. Appreciate you being here.
Coming up, how is Bob Mueller potentially pursuing new avenues against Paul Manafort. I have a new report tonight about an anticorruption law that could be a powerful tool in this case.
Also, the politics. Who`s to blame for the mounting Republican Obamacare failures in Congress? Paul Ryan has a few thoughts. We`ll explain. Sean Hannity gave him an assist.
And Donald Trump with a stealth campaign to sabotage Obamacare. My exclusive interview live tonight with a healthcare insider who got this email from the Trump administration. We`ll explain.
I`m Ari Melber and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: It`s been a tough week for Congressional Republicans. Even Sean Hannity posed what looked like a challenging issue in his new sit-down with Paul Ryan last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, "FOX NEWS" HOST, HANNITY: But Mitch McConnell can`t even appoint two-thirds of the president`s appointees and is nine months in, and Mitch McConnell - you have passed, two hundred and, what, seventy some odd bills that he has not taken up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: But Paul Ryan was ready, so ready, he brought sharks to the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We passed 337 bills in the House as of this week.
HANNITY: And you have the different administration.
RYAN: Yes. This is more than Obama in the same time, more than Bush, more than Clinton, more than H. W. Bush.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, Ryan`s handheld chart there shows the House passed more bills which are stuck in the Senate. But this was not an impromptu moment.
Sean Hannity accidentally gave the game away because, as we`re showing, he cut away from Paul to reveal a Fox graphic with the same data sourced to Speaker Ryan`s office.
So, Ryan apparently knew Hannity question was coming in Fox, apparently had all the chart info in advance. This was a planned effort to blame McConnel for Republican failures, with Hannity adding that McConnell is tainted, echoing Trump`s frustrations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: The House is tainted by the inaction in the Senate.
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m very disappointed in Mitch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should Sen. McConnell consider stepping down as the Majority Leader?
TRUMP: Well, I`ll tell you what, if he doesn`t get repeal and replace done and if he doesn`t get taxes done, then you can ask me that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Here is why this is important. This fight isn`t just a political civil war. It`s a test of actually a key claim conservatives have been making for years. They say it doesn`t really matter who Republicans nominate for president.
At the conservative CPAC conference, activist Grover Norquist famously put it like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GROVER NORQUIST, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don`t need someone to think it up or design it, pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.
This is a change for Republicans to realize that that the body of where we`re going to be is House and Senate work with the presidents signing bills.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Say what you will about Donald Trump, he does have enough working digits to handle a pen. And he says he will sign any Obamacare bill.
But so far, this conservative theory that congressional Republicans will lead is failing under Donald Trump. To assess this, we have the ultimate Paul Ryan guest, David Hoppe, the House Speaker`s former chief of staff, and a former Obama official, Ron Klain who was chief of staff to both Vice President Biden and Gore.
Important stuff. Gentlemen, good day.
DAVID HOPPE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO SPEAKER RYAN: Good day. Thanks for having me.
RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Good to see you.
MELBER: Ron, does this show that Grover Norquist digit pen theory doesn`t work with Donald Trump?
KLAIN: Yes. I think Grover forgot that Donald Trump was going to use his digits to work his Twitter machine and not to work the legislative process.
I mean, it is very hard to pass healthcare legislation without presidential leadership. It`s never happened. Hardly tax reform without presidential leadership. It`s never happened.
And while Paul Ryan was busy throwing Mitch McConnell under the bus last night on Sean Hannity`s show, the real problem here is Donald Trump.
The weekend before Graham-Cassidy went down in the Senate, was he lobbying senators, was he trying to work up. He was busy tweeting about the NFL that weekend.
So, he`s got to get in the game. He`s got to provide the leadership if he`s going to get these things done. Otherwise, it`s just a blame game. And Ryan, McConnell can point at each other all they want.
MELBER: David, you were the top aides of Paul Ryan. Your former boss here is giving it to Mitch McConnell. What is the strategy here to blame the obvious lack of new legislation on McConnell?
HOPPE: I think one of the things that`s happening here is that Paul is defending the House and the fact that they have been doing things, and that`s an important thing to do.
I don`t think of it as much throwing McCollum under the bus. As he was saying, Senate Republicans haven`t got themselves in order. And one of the things as we talk about this that you have to understand is, does anybody control John McCain`s vote?
And surprise, surprise, John McCain is the only one who controls John McCain`s vote.
MELBER: David, Speaker Ryan is hitting McConnell. You`re hitting McCain. I have that right?
HOPPE: No, what I`m saying is that Sen. John McCain will think for himself and do what he wants and Sen. McConnell can`t control him, Donald Trump can`t control him, Paul Ryan can`t control him.
But these are the issues. This is where it`s tough and we`ve got to get these things work together. Have they had a bad week? They have had a bad week.
MELBER: You think they`ve had a bad week?
HOPPE: I think it`s obvious that they`ve had a bad week. Not the week they wanted. Many of the things they wanted to do, they couldn`t be able to get.
Having said that, what you need to do is be disciplined, consistent and work together to put these - and the next issue they`re going to work on right now is tax reform. It is obviously a better set up, a better situation for Republicans.
They`re conversant with tax reform. They talk about it all the time. They see it as a basis for the growth we need, to bring our economy back above 3 percent.
MELBER: We covered that last night. You also made the assertion now that Ryan is not attacking McConnell and the Senate. He is defending the House. What I`m hearing is both.
Here it is on CNBC, also Paul Ryan, same message he had with Hannity, maybe it was a little less prepped, a little less coordinated, but here he is, talking again, bringing up the Senate. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We`re all frustrated in the House. The Senate has rules that perplex us, that frustrate us. But it is the way their system works. And they had a razor thin majority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Ron, if you`re talking about the rules of the other body, it sounds like you`re probably not winning.
KLAIN: Well, that`s true. And what`s more, they lost this big vote. I mean, President Trump said it would be easy to repeal healthcare. He said it would happen on the first day he was president, right, and they lost not because of the filibuster or any rule, they lost on a 51-vote vote. They couldn`t get 50 Republicans to vote for this thing.
And Senator McCain`s independence is part of that. The fact that Ryan Zinke threatened Sen. Murkowski, and so she wasn`t going to vote for it. I mean, they are just forgetting they can`t shoot straight.
And while I certainly agree with David that they are a little more in their depth on taxes and maybe they will do better on taxes than they`ve done on this, come out the door - again, not a real plan from the president. The president kind of sitting back, throwing out some principles, leaving it to the Hill, that`s just not how complicated things happen.
You need presidential leadership. This fighting between Ryan and McConnell would be interesting -
MELBER: Ron, hold on. To be fair, Ron, no one knew it would be this complicated.
KLAIN: Yes, that`s true.
MELBER: I mean, just to be fair.
KLAIN: Yes, it is fair. And indeed, President Trump, as he said himself, no one knew healthcare would be that complicated.
MELBER: We`re out of time. David, real quickly.
FRUM: One of the problems was that they didn`t have enough work that was done in committees and regular order on the healthcare bill. What they`re doing right now is getting set to go through the Ways and Means Committee, then through the House floor, Senate Finance Committee to do the things they need to do, to mark up the bills as they ought to be marked up. That`s going to happen here.
You can hardly blame them for doing more of the procedural work that they need to do to set up success on the tax bill.
MELBER: That`s important. And that`s something McCain has himself had called for. David Hoppe and Ron Klain, thank you both. Two insiders with a lot of experience.
Next, our original report on what could be a new front in Mueller`s Russia inquiry. A powerful anticorruption law you may not have heard of could actually be used against key people in the case.
Also, new revelations about Twitter and the election hack. Are tech giants putting profits ahead of our political process? My colleague Chris Hayes will join me live in studio here to discuss. Straight ahead.
MELBER: Now, to our new reporting tonight on the Russia case. Many people talk about this inquiry as an issue of collusion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ongoing investigation into Trump associates and their potential collusion.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: What we want to show, collusion, coordination -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether we`re going to be able to demonstrate a collusion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Director, the term we hear most often is collusion -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Collusion has become sort of this shorthand for the problem. But collusion is not a federal crime. Bob Mueller is investigating specific felonies, actions like hacking or criminal conspiracy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hacking of American institutions by a foreign power is a crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that term is conspiracy. There could be a potential conspiracy charge against any one of them or all of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So, in this theory of the case, the potential crime involves basically action coming from Russia to the US, like Russians hacking in here or maybe Americans helping them do it.
There is another theory of the case though. Legal experts telling THE BEAT tonight that Mueller`s investigators may use an obscure federal law to probe action coming from the US towards other countries.
And this anticorruption law prohibits bribing foreign officials with money or giving them something valuable. Breaking that corruption law carries up to 20 years in jail. The law makes it illegal for an American to bribe, say, people in China, which is something this law that Trump used to rail against.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What are we prosecuting people to keep China honest? Now, every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do. It`s a horrible law and it should be changed. I mean, we`re like the policeman for the world. It`s ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Congress didn`t think it was ridiculous. It made the US the policeman in the world, which gives these prosecutors extra power.
And we can tell you tonight, Mueller has hired two prosecutors with specific experience using this very law. Andrew Weissmann and Greg Andres. And here`s what else is new.
Recent reports showing that Paul Manafort offered private briefings to a Russian oligarch during the 2016 campaign, an offer linked to a contentious business deal, and newly leaked emails indicating Manafort pitched that secret plan to Oleg Deripaska.
Now, the State Department says he`s one of the top three oligarchs that Putin uses. Now, let`s be clear, that alone would not provide enough evidence that Manafort broke any law.
Prosecutors would have to go further and prove an illicit deal for the Kremlin and Deripaska representing the Kremlin.
But in our reporting, legal experts tell THE BEAT, Mueller`s team could have the evidence to actually make that case in two ways. One that the DOJ has long said you can break this law just by bribing someone close to a foreign government, that the foreign official doesn`t have to mean a technical employee, that it`s much broader.
And two, experts say that Russia issued Deripaska a diplomatic passport. And he himself has said under oath that he has represented the Kremlin abroad before.
So, this new theory of the case could pursue Manafort for reaching out to Russia rather than pursuing him for how Russia may be reached out to the US.
And all of that could be potential leverage for Mueller, though it`s no easy case. Now, I spoke to Manafort aide Jason Maloney about all of this today. And he said Paul Manafort did not collude with the Russian government to undermine the 2016 election. And it`s no secret Mr. Manafort was owed money by past clients after his work ended in 2014, adding this exchange is innocuous.
As for anticorruption laws, Maloney suggested there is no briefing or thing of value that was given to Deripaska. And then he added, I think facetiously, Paul is not responsible for the sinking of the ships in the Bermuda triangle.
I`m joined now by Ken Dilanian, NBC`s intelligence and national security reporter, who has been on this case for a while, Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor, and William Steinman is an expert on this anticorruption law, who teaches at George Washington University Law School.
Welcome to all of you. Ken, talk about the facts and then I`m going to ask Barbara to give us the legal analysis.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Right, Ari. I think you guys have done a great job with the legal team of putting a spotlight on this because what`s really intriguing about this Deripaska- Manafort situation is that Oleg Deripaska, as you said, he`s an oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin.
But he`s also something else. Since 2011, he`s been a diplomat representing the Russian government, with an official title. Now, that may have been a way, some believe, for him to get around a ban.
He was banned from the United States over his ties to organized crime. So, he comes here on a diplomatic passport, representing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. That`s an international body in New York.
But that makes him an official of the Russian government. Now, we have these emails that show that Paul Manafort, while he was campaign chairman back in the summer - last summer, offered private briefings on the inner workings of the Trump campaign.
Could those things be construed as a thing of value under this anticorruption law and what was Manafort seeking in return? Well, he said something cryptically in an e-mail about wanting to be made whole. Well, we know that Deripaska had given Manafort $19 million for investment purposes and then was coming after an accounting of that money in the Cayman Islands and there`s no evidence that case was closed. So the question is, was there a corrupt arrangement here? That seems to be something that Mueller would be interested in. And given that this law carries a 20 -year prison sentence, it seems like it`s a big point of leverage even if it is as you said a novel wheel interpretation of the law.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Right. And Barbara, we know that on the list of federal laws -- because they`re not investigating collusion. They`re investigating potential felonies and intelligence issues. And (INAUDIBLE) felonies, obviously you start with the hacking. We`ve had reports of obstruction. But you go down this list and look at someone like Greg Andres, not a household name, but someone that Mueller tapped. I want to show you him testifying about how they`ve used this law to put people in jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG ANDRES, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CRIMINAL DIVISION: We`re also vigorously pursuing individual defendants who violate the FCPA and we do not have hesitate to seek jail terms for these offenders when appropriate. The Department has made the prosecution of individuals a critical part of its FCPA enforcement strategy. We understand well that it is an important and effective deterrent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That man now working for Mueller. Barbara, give us your view of all this.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, so the statute is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It was enacted in 1977. And the goal is not as President Trump says, to be the policemen for the world. It is to level the playing field for U.S. businesses. Businesses who play by the rules find themselves at a competitive disadvantage if people are allowed to bribe foreign officials to do business in foreign countries. And so, in an effort to deter that kind of behavior, to level the playing field, it`s a crime and there is vigorous enforcement has been, at least, at the Justice Department when people are paying bribes to engage in business in a foreign country.
And that can include not only cash which is what we traditionally think of these bribes, but the statute is broader than that includes the phrase thing of value. So as we heard, it could be a Presidential briefing, it could be access to the President. It could be a VISA which we know this oligarch was seeking to get into the United States. So there are a lot of ways that that statue could be violated. And so I think there are enough smoke here for Mueller and his team to be investigating a violation of this statute.
MELBER: William, you are an expert on this law. We`ve relied on some of your expertise in our reporting here. How do you view this given the public leaks and the fact pattern around Manafort? Because again, in fairness, what his folks are telling me today is people owed us money and we didn`t even do anything. How do you square that with the potential way that someone like Greg Andres, this tough prosecutor that Mueller has hired, might look at this issue?
WILLIAM STEINMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, a couple, little finer points about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, under the statute, the Manafort team wouldn`t have actually had to give a briefing. It`s enough under the statue that they offered a briefing against something of value. It doesn`t have to be limited to money. And the statue also --
MELBER: Let`s pause on that William. You`re saying that just the offer is enough for prosecutors to pursue?
STEINMAN: That`s correct. That`s correct. So the statute sets forth that giving something of value can be prosecuted but also offering something of value. So whether it`s that valuable briefing, access to folks in the campaign, information itself, all of these things, things of value, just offering it directly or indirectly can be problematic.
MELBER: And so Ken, when you look at that and what Paul Manafort was doing, this is not the first time of course that he`s worked, foreign officials. His argument would be, I`m in business with people representing foreign governments. That itself is not illegal and people knew about that.
DILANIAN: That`s right. I think the -- one the of key questions is, did Deripaska have the capacity to cause the Russian government to grant Manafort a favor in any way in terms of the money he was owed or the Deripaska investment was that connected to the government? I mean, the lawyers would be better suited to speak to this. And then I`ll just throw out that there are also -- Manafort also worked for other foreign governments over the years including in the developed world, including places like Kenya and Nigeria where bribery is rampant. So there`s a potential that you know, some of those entanglements are being looked at under the statute as well.
MELBER: And so, Barbara, how does Mueller do this? For folks watching at home, thinking about you as someone who used to be federal prosecutor, is it a checklist? You say I got four potential violations but some are stronger than others? How does this all really go down if it is part of the scrutiny they`re doing?
MCQUADE: Yes, certainly, for every one of those statutes that they`re looking at whether it`s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, fraud, money laundering, campaign finance laws, they would break down those statutes and look at the elements of each offense and see what kind of evidence they have to satisfy each of those elements. I`m sure the teams get together. They`ve probably divided the work based on the different statutes that they`re looking at. And they would be looking at documents, interviews with witnesses. I`m sure that the e-mail that we have heard about are part of the evidence in the case.
And don`t forget there`s also been reporting that Manafort was the subject of some FISA coverage. So they`re maybe intercepted conversations, intercepted e-mails that can be used to show evidence to support the elements of those offenses. So at the end of the day, they`ll make an assessment about whether they have sufficient evidence to have a reasonable likelihood of success at trial. That`s the standard before they would go forward on choosing which if any of those statutes they would prosecute.
MELBER: Barbara McQuade, Ken Dilanian, and William Steinman thank you all for walking us through this really interesting stuff. I appreciate it.
Ahead, the Russia probe is putting tech giants under the microscope. News breaking these past few hours, Twitter shutting down hundreds of accounts they say were linked to Russian operatives. Chris Hayes is going to join me live to discuss all of this Silicon Valley and how the internet should work straight ahead.
MELBER: Developing news on Russia and social media tonight. Twitter saying that it told investigators they shut down over 200 accounts like the Russian operatives who posted thousands of Facebook ads. Congressional Investigators calling on Tech Execs now to testify. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg continues to backtrack on his past denials that Facebook spread fake news which he once called crazy. This is a story about Russian meddling of course, but it`s also a story about how the internet works and how corporations want it to work, which is why we`ve asked Chris Hayes to join THE BEAT for a deeper look. Every time these social media companies are busted for hosting Russian ads, they have a similar response. They deny wrongdoing, they slowly take down the ads long after the damage appears done. It is the same way tech companies deal with pirated music or even some hate speech.
And some of the reasons for that are based on the foundation of the internet itself. A cyberspace that values freedom and remixing and treats sites as kind of an open highway, not regulated gardens. Congress even passed a law saying companies can act after violations occur, take them down after rather than try to prevent or even censor content in advance. And that approach also does lead, of course, to more clicks which makes the companies more money. But maybe Russian meddling should get a tougher standard than pirated music. With me now, our very own Chris Hayes, Host of "ALL IN" here on MSNBC. Thanks for coming by.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You bet.
MELBER: I wanted to ask but this because I feel like this is something you live in or steeped in. What do you think?
HAYES: Look, you know, first of all, I think -- look, the first thing I would say is from talking to people inside the tech world, and some people actually inside Facebook particularly, I don`t think it`s totally disingenuous when they at first don`t know how big the problem is. Right? So, Facebook is a billion people. If you went to Amazon tomorrow and you said, you know, how many Russians ordered lawn mowers last year? It is like, that data does exist somewhere but that, it`s not like just hanging there, right?
So they`re going through a huge amount of data to sort of find this. I don`t think this -- all the ad purchasing is automated. I mean, right now, I can go -- I can create a Facebook page and I can start running targeted ads and they have no idea who I am, right? So, what you`re dealing with is, you are dealing with companies who are operating on a scale and with a level of influence into our attentional spectrum that is unprecedented in human history. That`s the case for Facebook. And what we`re seeing in some ways is the un-governability of that kind of stuff.
MELBER: Wow! I mean, so then you talk about scale. Here`s the new report from Twitter`s statement on the Russian interference. Twitter is the source that RT spent $274,000 on these American ads. That, of course, is a group that is now is being fingered by U.S. Intel as the baddest, worst thing ever. The counter-argument which you were mentioning right when you sat down is, they operate in plain sight and that`s not that much money.
HAYES: Right. I mean, first of all, RT I think is a little bit in a different category. And I don`t know if the ads were promoted by them or whether they`re associated with them. RT, people know what RT is, right. People are going to watch RT if they can. The weirder shadier stuff right, is all the sort of subterfuge like setting up fake accounts, pretending to be an American with a backward baseball cap. They call pulled off someone`s Facebook profile. The other -- the big question to me here is scale. OK? we`re talking about $150,000 that Facebook found in Russian ads, right? It was 150, or 250, $174 here. The degree of scale that the Russians were apparently operating on seem -- makes that seem like a (INAUDIBLE). So the question is, are we just seeing the tip of the iceberg or was this simply a fairly ancillary part of what they were up to?
MELBER: But I guess the policy question, we had the FEC Commissioner on this week who said you know, they haven`t updated the ads for political internet rules since2006. The policy question at least from a starting point, Russia side is, wait a minute, now that we know how big of an effort this is from our adversaries, does the takedown notice, deal with it later, remix cultural thing, does that have to give way that this is special.
HAYES: Well, right. I mean, there is a real -- there`s a real disclosure question here. And I -- to me, that`s sort of strangest thing, creepiest part of this and also the sort of most legally problematic. When you look at, for instance, some of these groups that were set up on Facebook that were running ads, right, borders, secure borders of America or whatever.
MELBER: It was foreigners against foreigners.
HAYES: Right, exactly. Foreigners against foreigners. Right. They`re running ads explicitly talking about Hillary Clinton. Now, if they were any other actor in the political system in an election year, that`s a violation against campaign law.
MELBER: Exactly. Yes.
HAYES: And what is true is that Facebook does not have any safeguards at the point of purchase or any way to regulate essentially what is already acts as law about disclosure. That was a violation of federal law on (INAUDIBLE), right? You got money that unregulated as falling in a better candidate and its foreign money as well, right? You can`t do either of those things. So there`s a real question about how you, how Facebook gets serious about essentially creating an ad architecture that like the ad architecture of our television has the necessary legal disclaimers.
MELBER: Right. And that actually compels that disclosure because those laws were just literally written when no one was thinking about internet it was only flying toasters.
HAYES: Right, exactly.
MELBER: Do you remember the flying toasters?
HAYES: I remember flying toasters. Who can forget?
MELBER: Chris Hayes, Host of "ALL IN" thank you for making time. I know you`re getting ready for your show which is on 8:00 p.m. Eastern of course "ALL IN" on MSNBC. Don`t miss it tonight.
Coming up, a special report on THE BEAT. You may have heard Trump say ObamaCare is collapsing. But is he making it collapse? I have an exclusive interview with the health official blowing the whistle saying the administration is sabotaging the ACA. I`ll tell you the e-mail he got from Trump. That`s next.
MELBER: Time for our special report. While Republicans failed to repeal ObamaCare this week, they have done something else that might be very important. We`ve obtained new evidence on efforts to undermine ObamaCare from within Trump`s HHS Department. We learned about this on THE BEAT from Roy Mitchell who runs a health care program in Mississippi that works with people to get them enrolled in the ACA. Now, he had major plans to do that with the Trump administration, even meeting with the Regional HHS Director and setting up events for them to attend until he received this new e-mail that says that they`re pulling out of marketplace efforts in the regions, that HHS offers apologies for taking so long to announce this cancellation.
Mitchell is now blowing the lid off this, releasing this e-mail and saying it shows an effort to sabotage ObamaCare in the field after Republicans failed to repeal it in D.C. And there`s evidence for that. The administration has already slashed advertising by 90 percent, cut funding for the people who guide consumers to these plans and cut the time available for Americans to choose plans in open enrollment by 50 percent. Now we ask the Trump administration about all of this tonight, and they didn`t detail wither or not they`re canceling events across the rest of the country. An HHS spokesperson gave a response that sounds a lot more political than policy focus. Telling us, "The American people know a bad deal when they see one and predicting that people will not sign up for Washington Knows Best health coverage that they can`t afford and asserting that "ObamaCare continues to collapse."
With me now is that man, Roy Mitchell, Executive Director of Mississippi`s Health Advocacy Program. He`s been working with the Department of Health and Human Services since 2013 to get people sign up for ObamaCare. Tell me what happened and what and what you think this means the Trump HHS is doing?
ROY MITCHELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MISSISSIPPI HEALTH ADVOCACY PROGRAM: Sure, Ari. This was essentially the most minimal effort they could make in Mississippi. Attending meetings convened by nonprofits to get the word out about the ACA enrollment period. And as you know, the enrollment period has been short and cut in half. The funding for advertising is cut 90 percent. Navigators are real. Their budget has been cut by approximately 60 percent. So this was the least they could do, is go out with us throughout the various regions of Mississippi and explain what ACA enrollment was going to look like this year.
MELBER: This all comes on the same day that Tom Price is apologizing for all of his money spent on private jets. How do you contrast that with what you were told by HHS?
MITCHELL: It`s hard for me to fathom. We could have certainly used $400,000 for outreach and enrollment in Mississippi. We sorely need that. Mississippi has the highest uninsured rate in the country or close to it. We have a low per capita income so we have a lot of uninsured people that need health care for not only their health security but their economic security as well.
MELBER: Sure. Roy, stay with me. I also want to bring in Maya Wiley, she`s a counsel for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio previously. Maya, you look at this, Roy was saying this is the law of the land. What does it tell you and what is the concern of the administration`s lost the Senate vote to try to, OK, fix it, change it, whatever their view is and now they are doing this.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNCIL TO MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: If you want to kill a program that`s working, starve it. And that`s really what this is. It`s an attempt to make a prediction as you read in terms of the Trump administration`s response here. A prediction that enrollment will be down by actually suffocating enrollment by starving the stability to get enrollment numbers up. It`s cynical. It`s going to cause -- it`s actually a life and death issue for some of our people in this country. And it`s cynical and it`s shameful.
MELBER: I want to play Donald Trump talking about ObamaCare, Roy because this is a tough policy complex problem. And a lot of folks have looked at ways to change or improve healthcare policy, even with some of the changes that have been made. But what we`re seeing and why it`s so interest that you are willing to disclose or blow the whistle on the e-mail you got is, this isn`t about what`s naturally happening. This is, as you both just mentioned, active efforts to create a reality. Here`s Donald Trump. Take a listen to him on ObamaCare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obamacare is a disaster. It`s failing badly. You look at the rate, you look at what`s happening with reviews from people who can`t afford ObamaCare. It`s been a catastrophic situation. ObamaCare is a disaster. It`s a wreck, it`s a train wreck and it`s only getting worst.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: So Roy, the question for you is, with dealings with HHS now, do you think that what he`s saying is what they`re actually trying to achieve to engineer?
MITCHELL: Well, I`m very concerned. I`m wondering what`s next, Ari. What kind of sabotage could we see in healthcare.gov?
WILEY: Here`s the -- here`s the thing. It`s very hard for me to laugh when I hear those statements because we literally have the lowest un- insurance rates that we`ve had in this country since 1960 as a result of the reforms that were made in 2010. Now that`s not to say that there may be -- there aren`t ways to improve the program. One improvement would be for instance all the governors that have refused to expand Medicaid insurance for all the residents of their states that can`t afford coverage would be one of the ways. California actually cut their un-insurance rates in half between 2014 and 2017. That`s a success that we should build on. We even have new research that shows people`s medical debt is lower and they are getting screened earlier which means lower mortality, less illness and frankly lower costs. But I think the primary issue here is a moral one, which is we have people who are healthier as a result of this program.
MELBER: Right. And that`s the even scale. And the question is what are the pressure points on the administration particularly if people like Roy Mitchell isn`t out there doing this work. You know, not in the media, not talking, not doing it, and your sharing with us some of what you`re finding, what you`re learning so I appreciate you enhancing our journalism in that respect. We`ve learned a lot from you about what`s going on down there. Roy Mitchell, Maya Wiley, thank you, both.
WILEY: Thank you.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
MELBER: Ahead, you guys, viewers, the Beatniks if you want to call yourselves that or taking over. I ask you a question, we`re going to bring you your answers on the songs that you say are getting through this political moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, AMERICAN COMPOSER: Just keeps rolling along. Congress train.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was Lin-Manuel Miranda song for this political moment, the Hamilton Actor there on the Hill. Now, we asked you what songs are getting through your political moment on BEAT viewers and we`ve got hundreds of responses. Christophe is saying that he`s optimistic in the Trump era channeling Gloria Gaynor`s I Will Survive for motivation. Susan says she`s listening to What`s Going On, of course, Marvin Gay`s 1971 hit. And Cal from New York has a Beatles song asking for, yes, Help, all caps. Rob, a BEAT viewer chose the Grateful Dead song Throwing Stones and sites the lyrics, "It`s all too clear, we`re on our own." I guess that`s how he may feel right now. Meanwhile, Amanda nominates Mask Off by Future.
That`s a reference to the controversial topic of unmasking surveillance targets. Not sure if that`s how future meant it. Meanwhile, David from Orlando nominating Sunny Share`s The Beat Goes On. Thanks, David, we, of course, feel you on that one. This is proof that we read your e-mails and what you send in into THE BEAT online. You can visit us on Facebook or Twitter @THEBEATWITHARI or you can e-mail me at regular old e-mail AR@MSNBC.COM. That is our show. I`ll see you back here 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. Pacific. And "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Bad deal. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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