House Russia investigators question Trump Lawyer Transcript 10/24/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Dorian Warren, Francesca Chambers, Bruce Bartlett, David Priess

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: October 24, 2017

Guest: Dorian Warren, Francesca Chambers, Bruce Bartlett, David Priess

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": That's all we have for tonight. We believe you haven't missed a thing. That's what it really means. We'll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily".

But if you did miss anything, my man, Ari Melber, will have it with THE BEAT. And it starts right now. Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Thank you, Chuck. I was watching your fascinating interview right through, as you put it, that little dose of capitalism, the commercial break.

TODD: Thank you, brother.

MELBER: Thank you, sir. Donald Trump is fighting off key defections in the Republican senate. That is the big news tonight.

If there's a place in history for Jeff Flake, he may have written his final chapter just here in the past few hours. A speech that called on Republicans to stand up to what he calls a dangerous menace in the White House. A speech laying out his choice of country above career.

And here's the key part where Flake makes the ethical and patriotic case against Donald Trump in a little over 30 seconds.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.


MELBER: Facing that danger. Sen. Flake didn't just put this on political terms today, announcing that he will not run again, he put it in ethical terms, arguing that good men's silence can pave the way for ruin.


FLAKE: When we remain silent and fail to act, when we know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political considerations, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.

Politics can make us silent when we should speak and silence can equal complicity. I have children and grandchildren to answer to. And so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent.


MELBER: You don't hear it like that every day. Flake making it clear today on that Senate floor that he would rather stand up to Trump and depart his seat, which we know these senators fight hard to win. He'd rather do that than become what he calls another Republican being complicit. Essentially, rebranding his skin under some kind of Trumpian primary duress.

We could show you now, as this news was breaking, his home town paper noting the significance. "Bombshell Senate Speech. Mr. President, I Rise Today to Say Enough."

And the fallout is, obviously, continuing on the Hill at this hour. In just a moment, I want to get new live reaction from a Democrat on the Hill. The revolt is all the more striking as Flake is not acting alone. This is not simply the product of one state's primary calendar.

Sen. Bob Corker getting right back in Trump's face today, suggesting the debasing, lying commander-in-chief needs a nanny. Again, as we play this for you, as we think about Sen. Flake telling us today is not a normal day, consider that what you are about to hear comes one of the very top Republican senators laying out this case today.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The worst of it is going to just the whole debasing, if you will, of our nation. I think that will be the contribution that hurts our nation most. Standing up in front of the American people and stating untruths that everybody knows to be untrue. Just the attempted bullying that he does, which everybody sees through. Just the dividing of our country, something that is, I think, debasing to our country.

You would think he would aspire to be the president of the United States and act like a president of the United States, but that's just not going to be the case apparently.


MELBER: And so, now we have two senators in the president's own party here and they're saying Donald Trump is essentially risking the country's well- being and dividing the Republican Party from within.

The president has been silent since Sen. Flake's remarkable floor speech here. We will keep an eye in this hour for anything that comes.

But we want to turn here for the significance to David Frum, a speechwriter for Bush 43, and Jamil Jaffer who is a former senior adviser to Sen. Bob Corker himself. And as mentioned, I'll hear from a Democratic congressman in a moment.

David, what just happened?

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": What happened was that a senator who has been in conflict with Donald Trump has made a bid for freedom.

You will hear some negative comment, where was Sen. Flake before this. But the way that this has political impact is prospectively. That Sen. Flake's seat is up in 2018. It's going to be a tough Republican year.

Arizona is a state that has a growing knowledge center in Tucson, a growing Hispanic minority. It is not impossible that the seat could be tipped.

And what Sen. Flake is doing is giving permission to a lot of more traditional Arizona Republicans to stay home or maybe to do the unthinkable and cast a protest vote against Donald Trump.

MELBER: Wow! And that's the political side of it. Jamil, I want to play your old boss, Bob Corker, today. To David's point, yes, there is always a discussion about where were you and what did you try to do.

Both these senators have hit one of the same points, which is they did try earlier, they say. They tried to influence through other means. Here was Sen. Corker.


CORKER: I've had private meetings with him. Dinners with him. I play golf with him. I've had multiple occasions where the staff has asked me to please intervene. He was getting ready to do something that was really off the tracks.

And, look, I've seen no evolution in an upward way.


MELBER: Your old boss basically saying, this can't improve the way Donald Trump acts.

JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR TO SEN. BOB CORKER: Look, Bob Corker is a very straightforward guy and he has tried hard since the election time and since the election past to work with President Trump and try to get him to do right thing.

I mean, I think what you heard there was just astounding when he said the president's staff has come to him, asking him to intervene with the president to try and prevent the president from doing something bad. That's very troubling.

MELBER: Yes. And, David, where does this go in terms of the credibility of the president? There's the election time line. You referred a little bit to that.

There is also the fact that, as you know, and I think a lot of our viewers know, because we follow these different people, Bob corker is a conservative. Jeff Flake is a conservative on almost all issues. I think immigration is one that comes to mind where he's looked for a middle path, but, again, that's one recognizable to a lot of mainstream Republicans, including your old boss, President Bush.

Where does this go with moderates and conservatives who do think of, dare I say, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, as more credible and more truthful than Donald Trump?

FRUM: Well, in the case of Bob Corker, what I'm agog at is the impact on the foreign policy of the United States. He is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The president is at war. Not only with the chairman of his Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but with his own secretary of state, who he has invited to an IQ-off to prove the president's IQ is higher than that of the former Exxon chairman.

I think all around the world, everyone who depends on the United States for protection and security, has to wonder, where is the United States? Spain is having a unity crisis. The United States is absent.

Venezuela is in a state of near civil war. The United States is absent.

There's an American armored brigade in Poland. And Russia is behaving ever more provocatively. Where is the United States? And on which side of that border do the president's loyalties lie?

So, when the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says, as he has said in the past, we're on the way to World War III to stumbling into a foreign crisis, not because the United States is defending itself or its friends, but just because of the incapacity of the president, as the president's own rhetoric becomes ever more belligerent, I think it's sending worries around the world. It worries me.

MELBER: Yes. Yes. And that's the undertone, Jamil, is anyone who looks at this and says, finally, someone goes to the floor of the Senate and says this isn't normal, the way a lot of Americans have felt as they have watched various aspects of Trump, someone who is a serial exaggerator, a serial dissembler, and, in some cases, when the evidence supports it, we see a liar.

And the Republican is the one making this argument. This was Trump as we're watching him walk with McConnell, again. If we're meeting, trying to say everything is normal, I wonder, Jamil, the look at what a Jeff Flake outlined politically.

I want to read here what he told his hometown paper. "Here's the bottom line. The path I'd have to travel to get to the Republican nomination is a path I'm not willing to take. I can't in good conscience take. It would require me to believe in positions I don't hold on issues of trade, immigration and require me condone behavior that I cannot condone."

You'll notice, if you notice, if you interpret that, Jamil, he's not saying he couldn't win. He's not saying he's not a political acrobat. He's saying that's not how he wants to win.

JAFFER: Right. And I think that's where Bob Corker is at too, which is, look, is going to - he has always told it like it is, whether it was President Barack Obama or President Donald Trump.

Bob corker is a straightforward guy. He's from Tennessee. He's a gentleman. So, when you see him saying things like this, it really should tell something that when Bob Corker is fed up of this kind of behavior and when the president's response to that is to really put untruth after untruth out there again and again, which has been proven wrong by "PolitiFact", by every major news source, I mean, it's just - you can't call it fake news. Just because you say it in 140 characters on Twitter doesn't make it true.

MELBER: A fitting point to pause on. Jamil Jaffer and David Frum, thank you both.

I want to turn now as promised to Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes. Congressman, how did you first hear about this and how is today's earthquake, if you want to call it that in Republican circles, playing out right where you are?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I heard about it by surprise, like an awful lot of people in this building and we were a little taken aback by it. And not entirely unexpected.

I mean, Jeff Flake's numbers were in a little bit of trouble in Arizona and he had probably some of the same electoral challenges that Bob Corker had to face. We will not know, in the end, how those would have come out.

But I tell you, one thing that has been probably a little under-covered, which is just absolutely mind-boggling about where we are today is, think back just a month or two ago when the thing that the Republicans who have the Senate, the House and the presidency now have been promising for seven years fails in the senate by one vote.

And the response of the president of the united states after that happens is to go to war with three senators in his own party, at the very moment when the president and the Republicans, who are working very, very hard to get tax reform done.

So, just from a strategic standpoint, to declare war on three senators who we are going to need to get anything done is just legislatively mind- boggling.

MELBER: Well, congressman, you bring up taxes. That's what the administration says will be their saving grace. That is, they say, the one legislative thing they can get done this year and do it without you, do it party line.

Does today's developments make tax reform under Trump less likely?

HIMES: I think unquestionably. Look, they've got the majority. They can take the approach of trying to get this done with all Republicans. That's what they've done by passing a budget that includes a reconciliation, so that they only need 51 votes in the Senate.

But they need 51 votes in the Senate. And, therefore, for the president of the United States to probably antagonize at least three - and, remember, there's other senators out there who don't like the behavior against their colleagues.

To just antagonize the people you're going to need to beg for a legislative accomplishment is just totally bizarre. Because, yes, at this point in time, they're planning on doing this just with Republicans.

And, remember, tax reform is probably the single hardest thing that this building can do. There's a reason why the last time this happened was over 30 years ago. It is enormously difficult.

So, to start throwing away your allies is just odd.

MELBER: Now, congressman, will you do some real talk with me for a second?

HIMES: That wasn't real?

MELBER: Well, where we're about to go. I know you have the conversations with other members of Congress and you like to keep them pretty quiet, if they're not on the record. But, I'm wondering, can you give my viewers any sense of what we heard from Corker and Flake in public today, are they the only Republicans, in your view, who feel that way or do you know Republicans who serve in that chamber you're in right now who also feel that way, but aren't speaking out yet?

HIMES: Yes. No, it's far from true that they are the only ones who feel that way. I mean, the best I can do to real talk there is, in the House of Representatives, you've got 240, plus or minus, Republicans. I would tell you, there are 20 or 32 believers, people who really, completely support, without reservation, the president of the united states. Maybe as many as 40.

You've got a few, a handful - and I'll tell you, the interesting people are the handful of people who will speak up against the president of their own party when they're not retiring, a handful who were publicly opposed, and then you've got the vast bulk, 200 or so Republicans who are on a spectrum between uncomfortable, and I think that's probably the best of it, to outright appalled, but not willing to say much.

MELBER: It's fascinating. Congressman, please stay with me. What I want to also do, beyond this big political news, is ask you about developments in the Russia probe, where, of course, you're a key member of the intelligence committee. So, stay with me a moment. Quick break.

Russia investigators today questioning Donald Trump's lawyer, the man who once said he'd take a bullet for the boss, but happened today? And GOP lawmakers announcing new probes, not of Trump, but of the Obama administration. One inquiry led by the lawmaker who spearheaded, of course, Benghazi.

And later, more on this momentous day in politics, will - as we were discussing - other Republicans take a stand against Trump?


CORKER: When the next generation asks us, why didn't you do something, why didn't you speak up, what are we going to say?


MELBER: What are we going to say? I'm Ari Melber and you're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Some days in the Russia probe were quiet. This was not one of them. House investigators grilling a Trump lawyer who is tied to Russia, Michael Cohen, in a closed meeting.

Now, last year Trump falsely claimed he had no dealings with Russia. It was Cohen's emails, though, that contradicted that, revealing his pursuit of a Putin spokesperson's help for a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which we can tell you was never built.

Now, Cohen has also said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump. He's also been cast as the sixth Trump child. Now, Cohen did not say much after the interview.


You've been so chatty before, you don't have five minutes? How did it go?



MELBER: Investigators also talked to the man behind the Facebook ads. That's Trump digital director, Brad Parscale. We don't know exactly what they talked about, but we do know - both of these individuals are central to two lines of inquiry. How far did Trump aides go to seek the Kremlin's help, which they previously denied, and was there overlap between Trump's Facebook plan and Russia's Facebook plan?

You may recall that was the question a top Facebook executive recently ducked in D.C.


MICHAEL ALLEN, "AXIOS" CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR: What have you all learned about the overlap in targeting between the Trump campaign and these Russian accounts?

SHERYL SANDBERG, COO, FACEBOOK: Targeting on Facebook is broad.

ALLEN: We're talking about the overlap between the Trump campaign and these Russia accounts.

SANDBERG: Well, targeting is something everyone uses.

ALLEN: But the Trump campaign and Russian accounts, you don't know or you won't tell me?

SANDBERG: When the ads get released, we will also be releasing the targeting for those ads.


MELBER: I'm joined again by Congressman Jim Himes who was in those interviews today with Michael Cohen and Brad Parscale.

Congressman, I know there are aspects of this you can't discuss. What can you tell us is on your mind and your takeaways from today?

HIMES: Well, Ari, as you know, we try to preserve the integrity of this investigation by not talking about what happened behind closed doors. So, I don't want to do that.

I will tell you that we made some real progress, as you pointed out in the introduction. There were questions about the real estate deal and what was the communications with a variety of people who were Russians related to Michael Cohen. We had an opportunity to ask about that.

Online, of course, we had an opportunity to really understand what the mechanics and who the participant were in the Trump campaign online and campaign operation. And we've got a lot more work to do there because, as we discovered in the last couple of weeks, the effort on the part of the Russians with Facebook to actually use groups like the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization, to buy ads, to affect the kinds of news and information that America has got, that was a broad ranging effort.

And we've got work to do not just with people like Parscale, but with the online advertising platforms to understand how they do their business and what they can do in the future to make sure that that kind of interference doesn't happen again.

MELBER: Yes. And Parscale is someone who really came into the campaign orbit mostly around digital work in the campaign. Cohen, obviously, quite different. A long-time consigliere and business partner and adviser to Donald Trump.

He is central to something that is public, that's not behind closed doors, which is they went the whole campaign saying they didn't try to do deals in Russia.

And now we have some of the leaked emails showing they did. Does that make Michael Cohen really less than credible at this point?

HIMES: Well, Michael Cohen, like everybody else testified under oath. And, obviously, not testifying honestly when you're under oath is a very serious crime. So, this was different than talking just to the media or issuing statements.

So, we'll see. Again, an investigation tends to be an awful lot of hard work. A lot of grind. And only when you've done all of that work and reviewed the documents and talked to everybody can you start to form conclusions.

MELBER: And then, congressman, now in my role as journalist, I have to ask you something that sounds ridiculous, but maybe you can help us understand.

The chairman of your committee is launching a new investigation, not into this administration, but the Obama administration, a seven-year-old Russia- linked deal. And there is another inquiry, we're told, coming out of House Republicans today to do more on Clinton e-mail.

Are these the best use of the committee's time? Are they even in your view legitimate areas to go back into?

HIMES: No. I don't think so. In particular, the Russia uranium deal, I mean, this has been driven by right wing media. Nobody has ever produced any evidence that there was any wrong-doing there.

But, again, it's how you change the subject. And all you need to do is turn on right wing media to know that when Bob Corker is giving a speech or in a war with the president or when Jeff Flake is resigning and giving a historic speech on the Senate floor about how dangerous this president is, those in the media who support the president need to talk about Clinton e- mails, uranium, Benghazi, all the usual things.

So, sadly, I fear that this is yet another distraction. It's a little like the unmasking crisis, which wasn't. This is just yet another way of changing the topic away from the work that we should be doing.

Forget about the president and whether the president's people had any sort of collusion here, but just in really understanding and accepting and countering what the Russians did.

MELBER: Congressman Jim Himes making time for us here on a very busy day. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.

HIMES: Thank you, Ari.

I want to show you all another thing that happened today on these issues. A protester actually made it inside the Capitol. This is a security breach, got close to the president. Now, nothing terrible happened. But this protester was able to throw, you'll see these, Russian flags towards Donald Trump as he walked with Mitch McConnell, an unusual protest scene to say the least.

You can see the Russian flags raining down. I'm turning now to Nick Akerman, a former Watergate prosecutor who is now a partner at Dorsey & Whitney.

Nick, you don't have to have any analysis of the flags.


MELBER: But it was definitely a noticeable scene. And we've seen people, in administrations of both parties, finds different ways to make their protest known.

I look at that, though. I look at the attention on this president and what I just discussed with the congressman. Give us your view of where things are headed now.

AKERMAN: Well, I think they are heading exactly where we'd expect them to head, although I think it's going to be a lot more important with the Mueller investigation.

Data is the king here. Today, they had the person who in charge of the data operation for Donald Trump in before the House Committee. We also had that clip that you played before with respect to Facebook and whether or not Facebook basically was - the ads that they have for the Russians were coordinated with the ads that the Trump campaign was running.

I mean, the good news is that we're going to be able to take all of that data from Facebook, from Twitter, determine exactly who they were targeting. And, again, keep in mind, this was to target Clinton voters, to suppress their vote, and to bring out Trump voters.

So, in order to make this an effective operation, you would expect that he wouldn't have people doing this willy-nilly, that it would be coordinated between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

And, in fact, we know that the Russians were supporting Donald Trump. And that June 3rd email from Ron Goldstone to Don Trump, Jr., it was pretty clear. I mean, it was very explicit that the Russian government was supporting Donald Trump.

MELBER: Prosecutors often have more information, as you know, than the people they interview. When Mueller does sit down with these folks, what does he know that they might not know he has in the digital paper trail?

AKERMAN: Oh, there's all kinds of things. I mean, I'm assuming that they're getting all of these computers. There is this whole operation in San Antonio that was constructed to do exactly that. This data mining operation that was targeting voters in very specific districts.

He is going to know exactly who was targeted, how it relates to the Facebook and Twitter targeting. And he is going to be able to ask very pointed questions about who actually came up with this strategy and who put it together.

He's going to know what's on various computers, et cetera. There's a lot of things he's going to know including these national security wiretaps and the information that's been developed by the national security agencies over the last year-and-a-half.

MELBER: Yes. Nik Akerman, always appreciate your expertise, coming to us from New York. Thank you so much.

Straight ahead, more on those surprising GOP investigations into the Obama administration. What does the record show? Is this distraction?

And also, on this extraordinary day in Washington, Republican senators saying this isn't normal and calling Trump a liar, more on what it all means ahead.

And later, this is one I'm excited about. The man who actually briefed Bob Mueller in person is here on THE BEAT with his insights into how Mueller works and how he deals with secret intelligence.


MELBER: Those two top Senate Republicans defecting from Trump has been the top story tonight. But the other big story is what Trump loyalists are doing on Capitol Hill, launching new investigations into the Obama administration.

Devin Nunes, under fire for favoring Trump in that intel investigation, fending off questions about whether this is all a bid to help Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has anyone from the White House been in contact with you about this investigation or is this something that's being driven the House?

REP. DEVIN NUNES (D), CALIFORNIA: No, this has been -- this has been -- I have not talked on anyone at the White House about this.


MELBER: The probe looks into a sever-year-old uranium deal linked to Russia. The House hasn't explained why this is a priority now. But as I was just discussing with Congressman Jim Himes, this has gotten a lot of attention thanks to Fox News.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Uranium One will be one of the biggest scandal this is country has ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obama and the Clintons sold us out, our uranium and with it the security of our nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Obama's Department of Justice uncovered a massive Russian racketeering and bribery ring working to get control of that uranium.


MELBER: So that is one story. Then today, the very same day other House Republicans announcing, this is separate. Another Clinton e-mail inquiry. This time into how then FBI Director Jim Comey handled the case. The Trump Justice Department famously cited Comey's treatment of Clinton as a reason to fire him, a rationale that lasted only a few days until Trump admitted Russia was on his mind in the firing in an NBC interview. Now the DOJ's internal watchdog, we should tell you, has already been reviewing Comey's handling of the Clinton case, it's not reportedly finished. And it's not clear how a separate House investigation starting at this late date would be constructive. But you know what, it's also not clear it's intended to be constructive.

I'm joined now from the White House with the Daily Mail's Francesca Chambers and Dorian Warren, President for the Center for Community Change Action. Dorian, you know, we do dad jokes here on THE BEAT even when I'm in Minneapolis where I was giving a great talk at the town hall and everyone was lovely here. My dad joke to you is 2016 called and they want their news cycle back.

DORIAN WARREN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR COMMUNITY CHANGE ACTION: You know, Ari, you can find clips from Fox News of all the same claims, just substitute Benghazi for these two investigations announced today. Remember all the hype about Benghazi and how it was the biggest scandal that was affecting the Obama administration and the Clinton administration? $7 million later, how many months later, they issued the final report, no serious wrongdoing, right, except for some e-mails. This is such a coincidence that these two investigations were named today when the Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war and it worked last time to attack Benghazi to do these investigations when Trump was campaigning. It is not clear this is going to work today and this time around in terms of governing and especially when they still have a Russia hacking our election investigation to complete.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, Francesca, this is -- this is a wild one. And there is rule for Congressional Oversight particularly when it is done seriously around serious issues. But anyone looking up at their T.V. screen right now and seeing the headline that there's a new investigation into Clinton e-mail, I mean, in the Republican worldview, is the only part of presidency that she should get is eight years of oversight?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, DAILY MAIL: So speaking at his press conference today on Capitol Hill, Devin Nunes addressed the reason why this was coming up now. He suggested that leadership wouldn't approve this before and that now leadership would. And you mentioned where is this coming from? I think it is pretty clear even if he didn't directly speak to the White House where these marching orders are coming from. The President is the leader of the Republican Party, and we saw him last week tweeting about this uranium deal that now the House is looking into. And even if you listened to Sarah Huckabee Sanders today at the White House, she was saying that this is something they've been talking about for a long time. They being the President, the White House, that the real Russia scandal is this.

MELBER: So Francesca, you think -- I mean, you're speaking this from the White House, you're doing the reporting there. You think the dots do connect although Nunes denies it, this is partly a response to the Trump White House wanting to talk about Hillary Clinton's e-mail again.

CHAMBERS: Well, the White House didn't exactly deny that today either is what I'm saying. When Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about it, she pointed out that President Trump and the White House had repeatedly brought up these issues. And so they're drawing a line between and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw President Donald Trump tweeting about this in the future and taking some credit for this.

MELBER: Well, I would never be surprised if we saw Donald Trump tweeting. But Dorian, final word.

WARREN: Well, I don't think it's a coincidence Devin Nunes is involved in this. Remember he got caught earlier this year briefing Trump on the investigations into the Russia hacking of our election and he had to step away slightly from the committee. Same person involved, the White House is not denying this involvement, this is Benghazi 2.0. This is shocking, shocking news. I'm so shocked by all of this frankly, Ari. It comes as such a surprise that on the day as you were just talking on Nick Akerman, on a day when one of the House Intelligence Panels or one of the House Committees investigating Russia hacking has a key witness that they -- that they interviewed today. And as Mueller gets closer and closer, why not bring up these he two new investigations that will cost us a lot of money?

MELBER: So Dorian, hang with me, I want to ask you one more thing. Francesca Chambers at the White House, thank you. Ahead, Donald Trump called out by Senators for lying. A Republican who worked for Reagan and Bush 41 writing a new book about why truth still matters. And the Special Counsel operates in secret but I'm going to talk to the man who briefed Mueller every day about how he works and what kind of Intel catches his eyes. Stay with THE BEAT.


MELBER: Big story today as those Republican defections, and if you think about it, the most unusual thing about Senator Jeff Flake's retirement speech was its candor. He basically said, look, I'm going to lose this Republican primary if I remain a conservative who disagrees with Trump. He said his path to nomination has narrowed and narrowed and disappeared. Conjuring the image of a path made of dental floss that even a skilled politician can't navigate.


SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: I'm a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party. We have given in or given up on the core principles in favor of a more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment.


MELBER: Note that Flake is not saying this is about the right versus the very right. The Conservative Senator saying this is about the right versus the angry and the right versus he the lies. Flake, like Corker, is a long time conservative. His disintegrating path in the Trump era is not about ideology. Flake and Corker saying this is about conservatism versus a flagrant attack on truth and decency.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Know that much of what he says is (INAUDIBLE) but all of it is (INAUDIBLE). Some of that he wouldn't be able to check but so he's utterly untruthful.

FLAKE: Threats against principles, freedom, and institution. The flagrant disregard for truth and decency, glorifying in the things that divide us and calling fake things true and true things fake.


MELBER: Among people who listened to those two conservative leaders, Trump probably lost some more credibility today. The question is whether he picked up two Senate seats which would not exactly be a draw. Back with me is Dorian Warren and I'm joined now by a special guest. Bruce Bartlett was a Senior Policy Adviser for the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. He is the author of the aptly titled, The Truth Matters. Bruce that followed your work and your thoughts about conservatism for a long time. Your view of what we saw today and the centrality in the argument from these conservatives about as you -- as you emphasize, truth in politics.

BRUCE BARTLETT, FORMER SENIOR POLICY ADVISER FOR PRESIDENTS REAGAN AND H.W. BUSH: Well, I'm very glad to have Jeff Flake and Bob Corker saying the things they're saying but they're traveling a path that others like myself have been traveling for 10 or 12 years. And I think that one of the problems that is caused this whole fake news problem, this whole problem of Trump, is that we have a television network, Fox, which is just pure propaganda. It's not a legitimate news source. And if it was the wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican National Committee, I don't see how it would behave any differently than it does and I really think that's a big source of the problem.

MELBER: So that's a systemic analysis which you're positing Trump as a symptom caused by the longer-term trend of conservative party essentially captured by a corporate media entity that has different goals.

BARTLETT: I think that's exactly right. I think it's forgotten now that Trump was purely an entertainer until Fox started inviting him on regularly to comment on national affairs and essentially turned him into a politician, a political commentator who then as now, has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

MELBER: Dorian?

WARREN: So, I appreciate Bruce because he was out there long before both Senators Flake and Corker -- and in terms of Senator Flake, you know, I probably disagree with him on almost every issue, probably except for immigration but I'm not going to revel in him stepping down because he wanted to make the Republican Party better. And he had two options, switch parties or takes his ball and go home and he chose the latter. And that's unfortunate, actually, because we need a unified Republican Party for a strong two-party system.

And this is just the indication that this civil war bubbling underneath the Republican Party for a long time has now come out in the open. And I want to say about Senator Corker, where was he in 2015 and 2016 when the same Donald Trump showed up on the campaign trail as a same guy in the White House now? Like I appreciate his honesty and his great hashtags on Twitter but where was he and where was the rest of the party when Donald Trump took it over with his explicit racist appeals to win the election?

MELBER: Bruce speak to Dorian's point, it isn't where you from, it's where you at. And these guys are a little late to get there.

BARTLETT: Well, I think the courage of Corker and Flake in giving up Senate seats highlights now the cowardice of the establishment wing of the Republican Party whose silence is just -- is just shocking. I mean, where is Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, George Shultz, Jim Baker, Mitt Romney, people who I believe are responsible, serious people who must be appalled by Trump yet they say nothing. And I just think -- I think is disgusting.

MELBER: And Bruce briefly, what did you learn? Go ahead Dorian, sorry.

WARREN: I was going to say, there is now a current major race. The race for the Governor of Virginia between Ed Gillespie who was basically an imitation of Trump and use explicit racist appeals the way Trump did last year and Dr. Northam, and it would be great if these two Senators could weigh in on that because it's bigger than Trump. Trump perfected a strategic racist strategy to win the election. And if they are disgusted by that, we need their voices on everything that's happening in the Republican Party right now.

MELBER: Dorian Warren, thank you. Bruce Bartlett, the book is The Truth Matters. We've had an eye on you. I'm glad you join us on THE BEAT. I hope you come back. Straight ahead, as promised, what is Bob Mueller doing behind the scenes. How does he deal with the secret information he get? I've got someone who knows firsthand joining me. And then, I have for you a special look at a brand new report on police body cameras. These police shootings have sparked a call for the cameras, but how do they impact behavior? My take on that up ahead.


MELBER: Special Counsel Bob Mueller is working his investigation into Trump-Russia collusion but he does operate in total secrecy. Before his work as Special Counsel, Mueller was, of course, the FBI Director and CIA Analyst David Priess spent months providing Mueller with his daily intelligence briefing, offering extraordinary insight into how this Special Counsel thinks, how his mind works and how he even handles sensitive information. I just talked to David about all this and I started by asking him what he learned about Mueller.

DAVID PRIESS, FORMER ANALYST, CIA: I saw the way he reacted to different kinds of information. And without getting into the details and reacting to specific pieces that are still classified, I can tell you a few general points. First of all, he routinely treated the material with the utmost gravity. There were definitely light-hearted moments. The man does have a sense of humor that you rarely see. But when it comes to the material, he treated it very seriously. That's important because every day after I briefed him at a special room at the FBI, he would go into a cargo at Pennsylvania Avenue with the Attorney General to meet with the President of the United States.

And back then it was a daily meeting going right on the heels of this briefing into the president's briefing. The second thing relates to the way he works with the material itself. He worked at both a tactical level and strategic level. At the tactical level, sometimes we would be briefing exquisite intelligence about particular terrorist plots and he would be tracking it in the details asking for more details, looking for the edges of the jigsaw puzzle piece. But he was also looking at the wider picture, the mosaic that all the pieces formed and making connection between the parts of that puzzle in a way that I've seen few people able to do simultaneously.

MELBER: I wonder about something that comes up certainly in government but actually in many people's everyday lives which is the gap between how you learn stuff and process it and then how you deal with people, the social or leadership side of it. Muller, of course, an organizational man, we know that. He's talked about leadership in the military. Take a listen to that.


ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL, RUSSIA INVESTIGATION: In the Marine Corps, you learn the basics of leadership. Your troops eat first, you know, never I ask a troop to do what you wouldn't be willing to do yourself. And of course, I did a year in Vietnam. So generally if you make it through, the rest is downhill.


MELBER: And you hear Bob Muller there talking about being a leader, respect for what he looks at there being the line -- people on the line. In that case soldiers, in the case of the FBI, it would be your FBI agents who were out you know, taking bullets. How did e he use the Intel you were giving him in a socialized or leadership format.

PRIESS: So he took that intelligence and then went to meet with the President or discuss live with the Attorney General the implications of that intelligence. As a briefer, that was my time to step back and let them have those conversations. But certainly, to inform that, I saw how the very -- the very special bits of intelligence, the details sometimes going back weeks or months he would build into those conversations.

MELBER: I really appreciate you sharing some of these war stories and we understand there's certain parts you can share and other parts you can't. But the public facing parts do give a little bit more of a slice of a measure of this man who so many people are interest in what he's going to do and how he's going to do it. David Priess, thank you.

PRIESS: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Time and time again, Americans have been shocked by police brutality caught on tape. A new study shows whether body cameras videos make a difference. I have a special breakdown on the legal road to accountability. My take is next.


MELBER: Now to some big news on policing. Surveillance video is the most powerful evidence you can get, like this year's video showing a police officer unlawfully arresting a nurse who told him he had to follow rules to get a patient's blood.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're done here. We're done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let go of me. Somebody help me. Stop! Stop! Stop! You are assaulting me. You are assaulting me. Stop! Stop! I've done nothing wrong.


MELBER: That detective was fired. So while video didn't seem to temper the behavior, it did lead to some accountability. Another video that emerged last year showed an unarmed man raising his hands to surrender to Officer Betty Shelby but she shot him anyway and led many people to say the police were using excessive force. The video was so damning, even this candidate said the officer was in the wrong line of work.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, did she get scared, was she choking, what happened? But maybe people like that, people that choke, people that do that maybe they can't be doing what they are doing.


MELBER: Or one of the most shocking police-involved shootings caught on video. 16 shots fired into Laquan McDonald in Chicago. The video has no sound. It cost the Chicago Police Chief his job and led not only to a murder indictment of the officer but also three indictments of other officers for conspiracy to cover up the crime. You see there as he was walking right before the shots. Now, more video can also be good for cops supporting their decisions or versions of events. Like this overhead video showing police pursuing armed ranchers after a standoff, they pulled a gun, which justified the officers use of force caught in that video. But in the wake of police misconduct reports, many cities are subjecting officers to more video.

In fact, 95 percent of Police Departments use some body cameras. On the premise that recording these incidents gives you accountability based on the videos and can deter future misconduct. So just like the video surveillance at a store, the idea is not only to catch you when you steal, it's to deter you from stealing in the first place. But is it working? I can tell you now. A brand new study provides the most exhaustive accounting of body cameras probing how they worked for 2,000 officers in D.C. and the study found the presence of body cameras made almost no difference in how police acted, the effects too small to be significant.

This surprised police leadership. The Washington Police Chief told the New York Times he had expected body cameras would have made a difference on police and civilian behavior. Four takeaways here from the new study, first, police have hard jobs and in many situations, the presence of a camera may be irrelevant to the adrenaline of the moment. But second, D.A. also prosecute police far less than other people and other professions. So the videos may not be a deterrent if you expect not to be prosecuted. No matter how powerful the evidence, it doesn't matter if prosecutors don't want it to matter. I should mention in the Chicago case, the D.A. was ultimately defeated at the polls.

Third, we're learning that what video lacks in deterrence in prosecutions, it still provides transparency. These videos are giving the public a reality check and facts about what the police do in our name which leads to my final takeaway. Body cameras are still valuable for facts but alone, they don't solve anything. A fact can be influential but a lonely fact is usually irrelevant. Facts need friends. Facts need support. Facts need the rest of us to matter. So these body cameras don't solve everything unless we do something about what we see on them. That is our show. You've been watching THE BEAT. I'll see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: He's not going to change. Let's play HARDBALL.



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