NYT Report links Trump Tower meeting to Kremlin Transcript 10/27/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Howard Fineman, Leticia Gonzalez, Peter Grosz, Michael McFaul, Renato Mariotti, Natasha Bertrand, Evelyn Farkas

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: October 27, 2017 Guest: Howard Fineman, Leticia Gonzalez, Peter Grosz, Michael McFaul, Renato Mariotti, Natasha Bertrand, Evelyn Farkas

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Thank you, Chuck. We`ll be watching you on Sunday. The breaking news tonight is a break in the Russia probe. The Russians who met with top Trump aides at Trump Tower had a trail that directly linked back to the Kremlin.

Now, this may sound familiar tonight because many people believe those Russians were linked to the Kremlin and there has been public and some circumstantial evidence of links to the Kremlin, including the previous NBC reporting.

But, tonight, "The New York Times" is reporting on direct evidence that the Russian lawyer offering dirt on Clinton discussed her plot in advance with a key Russian government official. And that official was the same prosecutor named in those Trump Tower emails.

So, tonight, "The New York Times" is adding, confirming evidence that those Russian claims that they have dirt on Clinton offered to the Trump campaign was coming from the Kremlin. This is an account that those claims were true, that they did have Clinton oppo from Putin allies. And that, obviously, contradicts the longstanding defense from the Trump team.

Now, regardless of what was promised in that original email that leaked, the actual meeting they said was a nonsensical discussion of adoptions not Kremlin help for defeating Clinton and that it was a short pointless meeting.


DONALD TRUMP, JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: It was sort of nonsensical, inane and garbled and then quickly went on to a story about Russian adoption and how we could possibly help. And, really, that`s what where shut it down.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Don, Jr. took a very short meeting from which there was absolutely no follow-up.


MELBER: President Trump did not attend that meeting, but he also pushed this adoption defense.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the case of Don, he listened. I guess they talked about - as I see it, they talked about adoption and some things. Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting.


MELBER: They talked about adoptions and nothing happened. OK.

But, tonight`s "New York Times" report says that "records show that in the months before the meeting, that Russian lawyer discussed the allegations with one of Russia`s most powerful officials, Putin ally and prosecutor, Yuri Chaika."

And while Donald Trump, Jr. had said the idea that the information came from Putin`s prosecutor was just goosed up puffery.


TRUMP, JR.: I think what happened - he sort of goosed up. He built up. There was some puffery to the email, perhaps to get the meeting, to make it happen. And in the end, there was probably some bait-and-switch about what it was really supposed to be about.


MELBER: Listen to that closely. That is an account that the references to the dirt on Clinton and the links to this Russian prosecutor was puffery. It was just to "get the meeting."

No. Tonight`s report in "The New York Times" shows that, number one, evidence that Trump Tower meeting trail does lead back to Putin officials, it was not just puffery.

And number two, that very Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya not only represents Kremlin interest, which knew about some of that, but she was an ongoing contact with Putin`s prosecutors about this alleged dirt on Clinton.

Now, before tonight, there were reports on her many links to the Kremlin and on links to that prosecutor. NBC`s Ken Dilanian reporting in September that she said the Russian prosecutor`s interests in a legal case stemmed from her pressuring him about it and providing information.

"The Times" report specifically, though, is contradicting her claim in another interview that she had no connections to the Russian government.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russian government attorney, that means you.

NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, RUSSIAN LAWYER (through translator): No. I am certainly flattered by being mocked and called as a government attorney, but I have never worked for the government in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever worked for the Russian government? Do you have connections to the Russian government?



MELBER: Net. Well, this week began with those new reports on the Trump side of the table. The Trump digital team asking for foreign help getting stolen Clinton emails and it ends here with a Friday night bombshell about the Russian side of the table.

Evidence that the Russians, who marched into Trump Tower, claiming to speak for Putin allies, were speaking to Putin allies. That looks bad.

Now, it does not prove whether or not Trump aides accepted any Russian offers. It does, though, raise more questions about why so many Trump aides have said so many things about this Trump Tower meeting that no longer appear true.

I`m going to speak in a moment to the former US ambassador to Russia. But right now, Ken Dilanian, NBC`s intelligence and national security reporter, who, as I mentioned, has been reporting on this for some time.

The Russia side of this, what do you take away from it?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Ari, as you just laid out there, NBC News has interviewed Veselnitskaya, this Russian lawyer, on two separate occasions.

One on camera with Keir Simmons and the second time by phone in September. Her story really changed over the course of those two interactions.

As you saw there, she initially denied that she had any connection to the Kremlin or to the Russian government for that matter. And she also denied in that interview that she offered any dirt on Hillary Clinton in the Trump Tower meeting.

In the second interview in September, she acknowledged that she did bring information she thought was derogatory to Clinton and the Democrats to that meeting. She gave us a copy of the memo. We had it translated. It talks about potentially some political contributions that she thought would be embarrassing.

She also acknowledged that she had been in talks with this Russian prosecutor. Now, as she tells it, she was the one that got the Russian prosecutor interested in this tax evasion case that she says happened.

But "The New York Times" story raises a question about whether it was the other way around, how closely they were coordinating.

But here`s what`s clear. This is a lawyer who has very close connections to the Kremlin and to an official with close connection to Vladimir Putin. There`s just no disputing that, Ari.

MELBER: And you`re digging in on some of the complexities. So, I want to pause on it because there`s so much that can rattle around here in the newsroom.

You`re raising two points. One, the chicken and egg of the source of that information. Was she pushing this Putin ally? Was she getting it from a Putin ally?

But, that, for our purposes here, journalistically, seems less important than the core claim, which was, is she in touch with this prosecutor? "The New York Times" reporting yes, which is the opposite of what I just played, of the Trump team`s defense. No, this was just pretending they knew someone. Oh, I know a lot of people and that was a way to get the meeting.

Reading from "The New York Times" account, it says, how Ms. Veselnitskaya`s allegations made their way to the upper reaches of the Russian government and then to the Trump campaign is a tangled tale.

Indeed, it is. But, Ken, when you look at the tale, would you stay the ongoing evidence - some of which you`ve reported and some of which is in this new story - undercuts the Trump characterization of the meeting?

DILANIAN: I think that`s a fair characterization, Ari. And let`s remember what this is about. This is about the Magnitsky Act, which is a series of sanctions on wealthy Russians, on Putin`s friends. It is one of his top priorities, is to get rid of these sanctions. And this woman has spent a career lobbying and trying to do that.

And now, it`s very clear that she was doing so in coordination with a senior Russian prosecutor, who is a close associate of Vladimir Putin.

MELBER: Stay with me. Ken, I want to bring in Howard Fineman, a global editorial director for "Huffington Post" and former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

Ambassador, Yuri Chaika, this Putin-allied prosecutor in the mix here. Explain why this matters according to this new reporting.

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, Yuri Chaika is one of the most senior people in Putin`s world. He has been very close to Vladimir Putin for many, many years. It would be meeting with one of the top people in the cabinet in the Trump administration, if you think about in a comparative way.

And the second thing I just want to add for context is about how the nature of the Russian political system works. Think about, had she just shown up by herself, meeting with the campaign team, the son of the possible - possibly the next president of the United States.

It seems rather naive to believe that she would do that just all on her own, especially working in the - I think it`d be naive to think about that for any country. But in Russia, in Putin`s world, of course she was in contact with the Russian government about that trip. There`s just no doubt in my mind.

MELBER: Howard, what are you thinking about on this Friday night?



MELBER: I wish I could participate. Someone tell me what it means.

FINEMAN: I`m thinking a couple of things. First of all, if Donald Trump, Jr. repeats under oath, in front of the committees or in front of the prosecutor the baloney that we now know he was spewing out on television, he is going to be in serious trouble based on what we now know.

MELBER: You`re saying - let`s pause on that, Howard. You`re saying the false statement offered to "Fox News", if these accounts are correct, is unfortunate. But if you offer the same statement in a legal proceeding, it becomes felonious.

FINEMAN: I think potentially very dangerous legally because I think we are increasingly learning that this was a substantive act here, that this was a - by the way, this theory about the Democratic donors and the Magnitsky Act and so on, this is something they`re talking about openly in Russia right now.

Vladimir Putin has been at a couple of conferences recently, as "The New York Times" reports in their story, talking about this very theory.

And that leads me to the other thought I have tonight, which is that the Russians even now are directly involved in trying to discredit Robert Mueller and the investigation and distract attention from the probes of Donald Trump and trying to throw them elsewhere. Putin isn`t done yet.

MELBER: You make such an important point you often do, drawing the link from what is international coverage, what Putin is saying abroad, all the way in.

Let me play for you, Howard, for your response and then the ambassador. Sarah Huckabee Sanders denying collusion, as is her right and she`s done before, and then referring to some of the arguments that are now being put back in some sort of investigative climate that tries to sort of accuse everyone else of what is under investigation with regard to the Trump, this collusion.

Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s been a number of politicians over the past two weeks, including Chris Christie here at the White House yesterday, who have said that Rob Mueller should step aside from certain investigations within the special counsel. Does the president share those views?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president wants to see this completed. There`s still no evidence of collusion between the president and anyone. If any collusion took place, it would be between the DNC and the Clintons.


MELBER: Howard and then the ambassador.

FINEMAN: Yes. I think that`s what`s happening here. And I think the reason that Putin is talking about this openly, the theory that Veselnitskaya was trying sell to Don, Jr. is because they wanted - the Russians want to help Donald Trump turn the attention away from the probe against him and back on the Clintons.

Don`t forget, Vladimir Putin has a double interest here. He wants to ally with and help out Trump if he can, I think, ultimately still, despite their public disagreements, and he is still interested in payback on Hillary Clinton.

MELBER: Ambassador?

MCFAUL: Two things. First of all, on collusion. Veselnitskaya came to that campaign meeting with the Trump campaign people to achieve an objective to lift sanctions. She claimed that she had something to offer in return. And based on that transaction, they attempted to do a transaction. Whether they did or not, we don`t know exactly the tales - the details. But the attempt at collusion was there.

And number two, the thing about Clinton and the DNC, that`s a classic Putin strategy called what aboutism. Let`s detract from the story at hand and talk about something that is totally peripheral and insignificant, in my opinion.

DILANIAN: Ari, can I just make one other point? Here`s what my intelligence sources say about this meeting. The Russians would not send their A-team to a first meeting to try to test whether the Trump campaign was willing to collude because what if the Trump campaign had called the FBI.

So, when you look at these Russian players - and point of fact, the information that they said was derogatory to Clinton and the Democrats, I`ve looked at it, it really wasn`t. It was very superficial. It was kind of a nothing-burger.

But the fact that the Trump campaign took the meeting based on a promise of help from the Russian government, that`s what I think is most significant about this.

MELBER: Ambassador, you`re shaking your head. Briefly?

MCFAUL: Yes, I agree. You`re not going to give everything away in the first meeting. That was a fishing exercise to see if they wanted to play. It turns out that maybe they didn`t and we need to know the details.

But the point was, they were coming to do some business together and both sides wanted to interact in that exchange. Looks like attempted collusion to me. Whether it`s illegal or not, that`s somebody else to decide. But they wanted to cooperate and were trying to cooperate. I think that`s pretty self-evident.

MELBER: Right. And whether it was illegal, I have a federal prosecutor who is going to join me after the break on that question. And also, we`re going to dig in to what you were raising, the what aboutism because there is a lot more on the Russia-Putin side here that`s really, I think, important for where the story goes.

So, Ken Dilanian and ambassador McFaul, thank you both. Howard, stick around.

DILANIAN: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: About the Trump Tower meeting ahead. What does Bob Mueller do with some of the new reporting coming out tonight?

And a new investigation launched. Investigators want to know about the Trump team campaign walking and talking to Assange about Clinton emails.

Also later, many calling this a morally reprehensible act in the Trump administration. This is a 10-year-old Mexican national with cerebral palsy detained by border patrol after emergency surgery occurring in Texas. It`s an important story we`re bring you. And the family`s attorney is going to be on THE BEAT live.

I`m Ari Melber. Stay with us.


MELBER: Breaking news from "The New York Times" tonight. New evidence tying the Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower meeting back to Vladimir Putin. At the top of the show, we were reporting on how this news puts Bob Mueller`s investigation of the Trump campaign in a new light.

Now, we turn to the Russia side of attempted collusion. What can we learn from the specific Russians involved in this clearly expanding story? We start with the Russian lawyer who denied Kremlin links.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russian government attorney. That means you.

VESELNITSKAYA: No. I am certainly flattered by being mocked and called a government attorney, but I have never worked for the government in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever worked for the Russian government? Do you have connections to the Russian government?



MELBER: But, tonight, "The Times" reporting, there were connections to the government and that that lawyer was talking to the Putin ally named in the emails. The crown prosecutor of Russia offering this dirt on Clinton as part of the Kremlin`s support of Trump.

That`s a reference to prosecutor Yuri Chaika as we were just discussing. Now, he is known as the master of Kompromat, a political attack dog for Vladimir Putin. He reportedly leaked a salacious video - I`m going to put it up here. This was a big deal at one point in Russia and it was used to take out one of his points.

Now, that public history added some circumstantial credibility to the story line that Chaika was offering dirt to help Putin again, and this time offering to it Trump. Chaika also filed charges against one of Putin`s domestic political rivals, an exiled oligarch who recently told THE BEAT that when Chaika offers something, like dirt on Clinton, it comes from Putin.


MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY, FORMER OLIGARCH: Were he to decide to take such a step, he would get permission from Vladimir Putin beforehand.


MELBER: So, that is the Putin ally that was invoked in the Trump Tower meeting.

And there`s more. Tonight, "The New York Times" saying the very material that that Russian lawyer brought to the meeting closely followed a document from Chaika`s office. As they say in court, boom.

And that is also not all. We have more tonight. "The Times" reporting that the Russian lawyer was pushing information, she believed, was not only bad for Clinton. It was also bad allegedly for Bill Browder.

Now, Bill Browder is a familiar name to Russia watchers. He clashed with not only Putin, but specifically with that Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya, in court and I asked him about that this week on THE BEAT.

BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: I haven`t had any bias against the lawyer. When I see a woman who is effectively representing accused money launderers, who are then trying to - effectively, she`s trying to change US law, this is not about bias, this is just about stating that it`s absurd that the Russian can be running around trying to spend millions of dollars influencing US policy, and think that that`s OK and not even report it under any of the reporting guidelines that are required when you do that type of stuff in Washington.


MELBER: It was this very week that Putin again put that man you just saw, Bill Browder, on Interpol`s most wanted list.

So, as the US investigators are zeroing in, Putin dialing up the pressure. And while Browder`s history is complicated, in this story, Browder equals sanctions.

It was his lawyer who died in a Russian jail after exposing corruption there and it was that suspicious death, which led to sanctions on Russia, restricting adoptions. Sound familiar? Yes. Those are the adoptions that the Trump side says were discussed at Trump Tower.


TRUMP: Actually, it was very interesting. We talked about adoption.


TRUMP: Russian adoption. Yes. I`ve always found that interesting because he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting, because that was a part of the conversation that Don had with that meeting.


MELBER: That is interesting. That was Donald Trump talking about how his discussions with Vladimir Putin included adoptions, which he says, Don had in that meeting.

You know what else is interesting? Tonight, we`re looking at a lot more evidence that is not the full story.

I`m joined now, as promised, by Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, who is also, we should mention, running as a candidate for the attorney general of Illinois; and also, Natasha Bertrand, a "Business Insider" correspondent, who`s been following the Russia probe; and Evelyn Farkas, a former Pentagon official and Russia expert.

A lot to go through. Great experts here.

Evelyn, I start with you. The significance of these new accounts, which, for people who follow this story, make you go, yes, I figured this all went back to Putin.


MELBER: But it`s one thing to say I figured it, another thing to see this evidence in public.

FARKAS: Yes. I mean, basically, what "The New York Times" is saying, Ari, is that Veselnitskaya went. She produced a document. She gave to it Donald Trump, Jr. The document contained the same information as the document that Chaika, Yuri Chaika, the guy you just mentioned, the prosecutor general, very close to Putin, as you said, almost like a cabinet member.

He had given the document to a member of Congress. We can talk about that as well. But that same document - basically, what she gave Trump, Jr. was a very similar document.

That means that she must have coordinated with Chaika. And, of course, we know from the email trail that set up the meeting for Donald Trump, Jr. - remember, there was the Goldstone guy, the British talent agent.

He essentially said, the prosecutor general, he referred to him as the crown prosecutor, but anyway, that this information was coming from him. So, we already had a sense that she was connected to the Kremlin or Chaika.

We also knew about her business dealings. Her business dealings also made it highly likely that she was in the good graces of the Kremlin, if not known to them.

So, this idea that she was somehow not a - of course, she wasn`t strictly speaking a Russian government lawyer. But she was doing the bidding of the Russian government. Make no mistake.

MELBER: Natasha, have you seen the Chaika memo?


MELBER: And what does it tell you?

BERTRAND: It is essentially verbatim, give or take a few lines here and there to the memo that Natalia Veselnitskaya brought with her to Trump Tower.

And when I noticed the similarity a few weeks ago, I asked Bill Browder about it, and he said that this is the strongest evidence that we have to date that she was an agent or is an agent of the Russian government.

The memo essentially was all about Bill Browder, basically trying to undermine him in every way possible because if you undermine Bill Browder, you undermine the Magnitsky Act.

And the Magnitsky Act, of course, it`s - repealing the Magnitsky Act is one of Putin`s biggest foreign policy objectives. So, the entire memo was especially attacking him, alleging that he had worked with these investment brothers called the Ziff Brothers to try buy up Gazprom shares outside of the purview of the Kremlin.

And there was one or two lines in there about Hillary Clinton, but, in essence, the entire memo, both of the memos, both from Yuri Chaika`s office that was given to Dana Rohrabacher and the one that Veselnitskaya brought with her to Trump Tower were about Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act.

MELBER: Right. A lot of names in the story, but Kremlin - it goes back to the Kremlin.

BERTRAND: It goes back to the Kremlin.

MELBER: And, Renato, that is different, as was pointed out at the top of the show, than the public defense offered by Don, Jr. explicitly and, we see from reporting, allegedly by the president, in weighing in on the meeting, to say that, to the extent - this was their argument.

Again, we look at theories of the case here. They argued that, to the extent, there was people name-checking these powerful Kremlin folks, that was puffery. That was like trying to get past the bouncer by saying, I know these A-listers when you don`t.

And now it looks like, no, they knew these Kremlin A-listers. Renato, what is the legal path?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it`s interesting, Ari. I was taking a look at this issue earlier today when I read "The New York Times" article and I was writing a Twitter thread about it.

And I went back and looked at the public statements that Kushner and Trump, Jr. made about this meeting, which I had previously dissected. And it was very interesting to read those statements because in those carefully prepared statements by their lawyers, they didn`t quite say that this woman was not affiliated with the Russian government. They kind of danced around that issue.

And what it tells me is, their lawyers recognized already some time ago that this was a problem. And so, despite what was said publicly to the press, they were very careful about what they said to Congress because that would potentially be a crime.

MELBER: Two things. One, I didn`t know you really used Twitter. JK, you`re always on Twitter.

But two things besides that. That`s number one. Number two is, you`re saying that your legal analysis is that what Trump Jr. was saying there on the clip on "Fox News" was knowingly false as evidenced by the fact that it was put very differently under legal tutelage when submitted in a legal forum.

MARIOTTI: Exactly right. I think that that was walked back, to use the way that lawyers like me would talk to us, walked back in his testimony. So, they were very careful when he was talking to Congress because that is a federal crime if you lie to Congress.

MELBER: Right.

MARIOTTI: So, they, I think, were dancing around - the way it was worded gives you the impression that the person is not a government lawyer, but they never come out and say that, which I think was a very careful attempt to make sure he didn`t lie to Congress.

MELBER: Evelyn, here is those new statements from Vladimir Putin, big around the world, hasn`t gotten a ton of US attention, on Bill Browder who figures in. Criminal activities, he alleges, of an entire gang led by this man. I believe, Browder condemned in the activities. He says they are "on the verge of being illegal." This was earlier this month. Put that in context for us.

FARKAS: Well, so apparently, the Ziff Brothers were investigating with Browder. And Putin and the Kremlin have made allegations that, first of all, that Bill Browder was doing something illegal. They`re just trying to smear him.

I mean, I really don`t want to take time dissecting whether Bill Browder did something wrong in Russia or not. First of all, we worry about him as an American citizen, complying with American laws. So, that`s Russia`s business.

But the fact of the matter is that what Russia did to his company and to his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was illegal according to international law. Certainly, torturing and killing a lawyer. Certainly, seizing Bill Browder`s company would be illegal under international law.

Of course, Bill Browder has not been able to receive any kind of restitution for that. And the money that was taken from that, interestingly enough, it appears that it may have ended up with this company and that Veselnitskaya was trying to help.

So, the whole thing is very tangled.

MELBER: But the way you put it - yes. The way you put it, Evelyn, is so important. You`re talking about the seizing of private property for political ends. The abuse of the legal system. And allegations of political murder.

And the reason that`s important is for the reasons that Rachel Maddow and others have said on this program and on her program and elsewhere, which is that`s the crew you`re dealing with that`s offering this dirt. That`s the crew driving into the heart of the 2016 campaign and getting meetings. Go ahead.

FARKAS: And the US Congress said, if you`re going to kill an American citizen`s lawyer in jail, then we`re going to consider that an international human rights violation. And all of the people we can tie back to that crime will be sanctioned.

Many of them, of course, are close to Putin and this made Putin very angry because, of course, the whole murder and the whole seizing of Bill Browder`s business was sanctioned by the Kremlin and by Putin.

MELBER: Evelyn Farkas, thank you as always for your clarity. Natasha Bertrand, thank you for your reporting. And, Renato, thank you for your Twitter fingers.

MARIOTTI: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Appreciate all of you. Now, coming up, WikiLeaks confirming the Trump campaign reached out for help. Hear what the top Democrat on the intel committee is now saying about what that story means.

And later, as I mentioned, a different important story. This 10-year-old Mexican girl with cerebral palsy rushed for ER surgery in Texas, only to be taken into custody by Trump immigration officials. The family lawyer joins me for an exclusive live.


MELBER: More on that breaking Russia news that the Russian lawyer at the Trump Tower meeting shared her material with the Putin ally. The story on the Russia side comes with continuing fallout on the other big piece of this. On the Trump side of the ledger, his digital team reaching out to Julian Assange to ask for help to get Hillary Clinton`s stolen e-mails. Investigators turning up the pressure, and tonight we can tell you something else. There`s a top Democratic Senator demanding new info and from that Trump digital firm and from Facebook. That Democrat, Diane Feinstein making the push without the Republican Chair on her committee. A sign she is going someplace that Republicans don`t want to go. Meanwhile, the top Dem on the House side says this all matters because it takes the number of campaign connections of people from the Trump world to people who might steal e-mails to an extraordinary level.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There are extraordinary number of connections between the campaign and those who are stealing, those who are publishing the e-mails and a picture begins to emerge.


MELBER: The picture is of a campaign considering trying to get help from WikiLeaks which was said by the U.S. administration now, Trump`s CIA Director, that WikiLeaks is a hostile foreign intelligence service. At least that`s how they view it. Meanwhile, Trump`s former Campaign Manager and a current White House adviser not backing down.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, ANCHOR, CNN: Are you uncomfortable with trying to bring in WikiLeaks to help?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Let me just tell you what was totally unnecessary. Any of that was completely unnecessary for a very simple reason. We beat Hillary Clinton fairly and squarely.

CAMEROTA: Are you comfortable that the Trump campaign, through the Cambridge Analytica had a connection to WikiLeaks.

CONWAY: They didn`t have a connection to WikiLeaks. I know nothing about that because I was the campaign manager and I can`t be bothered with any of that. And the reason is --

CAMEROTA: But, Kellyanne --

CONWAY: -- we wanted to beat her fairly and squarely on the issues.


MELBER: Joining me now, The Nation`s Joan Walsh and back with me Howard Fineman. Joan, is the issue that it could win without it or is the issue that they asked for help?

JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: The issue is that they asked for help and it`s such an arrogant and ridiculous thing for her to say that she can`t be bothered figuring out whether they reached out to Julian Assange who many people in the intelligence committee -- I`m not going there -- do feel is a hostile power, it`s not a United States citizen. So we know that that`s confirmed but she can`t be bothered to know about it. All right, that`s just crazy.

MELBER: Howard?

FINEMAN: Well, what I`m interested in is who inside the Trump circle certainly not Kellyanne Conway, because she was only the Campaign Manager, why would it be she? But somebody in the Trump circle said to Cambridge Analytica, you know, why don`t you go see what they know, what WikiLeaks knows and can get us about the e-mails. Now maybe Alexander Nix, the Head of Cambridge Analytica was just trying to impress he the boss, namely Donald Trump. Maybe Nix was also trying to impress some of the most powerful and wealthiest backers of Donald Trump, namely the Mercer family in New York who were behind and owned a big piece of Cambridge Analytica and who after they got out of the Cruz campaign were big and remained big with Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.

So why were they reaching out in that way at the time when Donald Trump was openly saying, gee, I wish the Russians would find the 33,000 e-mails? Well, if you believe the American intelligence community that WikiLeaks is a part of the Russian intelligence operation, then basically, Trump was basically making an appeal to part of his own empire there to go ask the Russians.

WALSH: Right, and the --

MELBER: Well, Joan, I mean, there are people who say, there`s no purpose of having Kellyanne Conway on interviews because she is a serial fable teller. But one purpose from an --

WALSH: All alternative facts.

MELBER: Alternative, excuse me, alternative fables.


MELBER: But one reason to talk to from an investigative view would be right there. You know, it`s easy enough to say we didn`t do it. It is a bad idea. Anyone who would do it shouldn`t be involved with us. That`s not what she said in the interview.

WALSH: Not at all.

MELBER: And we had a White House reporter on this show last night who said, you know, who`s really close to Rebekah Mercer who received reportedly the e-mail about the Assange outreach is Kellyanne Conway.

WALSH: She came with the Mercers from the Cruz campaign to the Trump campaign. So the idea that she somehow exists in a realm separate from Cambridge Analytica and the Mercers is completely crazy. We know that is an alternative fact, I guess. That`s a light. So she`s not protected from this either. It`s -- you know, it will likely go to her too.

MELBER: We have so much to process here at the end of what has been a real busy I would say interesting at times even alarming week. I want to ask you two to try something new on with me on THE BEAT. We try different stuff on this show. And as everyone knows, some of it works and some of it doesn`t, but that`s always on me. It is time now for to us try our Friday night lightning round. Let`s start --

FINEMAN: Is there going to be a bell? Was there going to be a bell, Ari?


MELBER: My first question to both of you starting with Howard, is asking Assange for campaign help a good idea or no?

FINEMAN: A good idea now, obviously in retrospect, not. At the time, the Trump people had already shown they`d go for anything from anybody at any time.

MELBER: Joan, good idea?

WALSH: Bad idea. Obvious, it should have been obvious bad idea back then.

MELBER: Howard, who`s calling their lawyer today?

FINEMAN: I think Donald Jr. is rechecking with his lawyers as we`ve been discussing tonight. I think Kellyanne Conway having said you know, I don`t know anything about it, I was the Campaign Manager might want to check with her lawyer.


WALSH: Kellyanne, absolutely. She did herself no favors with that blanket statement.

MELBER: And my last question. Maybe we`ll run the animation one more time because are excited about it. Do we have it? Do it. It`s just, I get -- I work on T.V. for now and we like the animation. My last question to both of you starting with Howard, what`s the most important thing we`ve learned for the Russia investigation this week?

FINEMAN: We`ve learned that Veselnitskaya worked for the Russian government.

WALSH: I`ve got to go with that and I`m really glad he said Veselnitskaya before I did. I always bungle it, so thank you, Howard, I owe you one.

FINEMAN: I`ve been practicing. I`ve been practicing.

MELBER: Joan and Howard, thank you both and we will be right back.


MELBER: Another important story tonight. Right now, a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy is fighting for her life in a Texas detention center. Late Tuesday night, Rosa Maria Hernandez was being rushed to a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas for emergency gallbladder surgery. The ambulance though hit an immigration checkpoint at a border in Texas. The border protection agents let the ambulance go through but they followed it. The agent stood outside her hospital room the entire time and then they took her into U.S. Customs and Border Protection Custody as soon as she was cleared from that surgery. Her mom, understandably struggling to confront what comes next.


FELIPA DELA CRUZ, ROSA MARIA`S MOTHER (through translator): When she realizes her family isn`t with her, she is going to start to cry. She is going on start to get uncomfortable and she may hurt her surgery scars. I don`t want them to deport her. Mexico isn`t safe and she needs therapy, her doctors.


MELBER: I`m joined now by the attorney for the Hernandez family Leticia Gonzalez as well as Howard Dean, a former Governor and a Doctor. First, Leticia, tell us about this story. There are laws and rules in this country but it does seem to be a very humanitarian challenge here. What happened and what are you doing?

LETICIA GONZALEZ, HERNANDEZ FAMILY ATTORNEY: It certainly is. We have a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy who is unable to be with her mother. She keeps requesting mommy. As I ask her if she needs anything, what I can do to help, she says mommy. What she vocalizes to her mother over the phone is, when do I get to come home and when do I get to see you?

MELBER: Well, you say, when does she get to come home. I will read here, reporting on this, the DHS side from the Trump administration says they`re committed to enforcing immigration laws of the nation and "once medically cleared, Hernandez will be processed accordingly." Your response.

GONZALEZ: The immigration laws allow for discretion to be utilized in every case. Certainly, in this case, I think everyone would agree that Rosa Maria, a 10-year-old with developmental delays due to the cerebral palsy, she does not present any sort of threat. She`s not a risk to national security or the United States.

MELBER: Your position -- your legal position and your humanitarian position is, there is established discretion and if ever there were a case providing for that, it would be here.

GONZALEZ: Absolutely.

MELBER: Let me -- let me go to the Governor who has experience here as a - - as a chief executive and a doctor. You know, I`ve covered stories. Sometimes I don`t know what to ask. I guess Governor, Dr. Dean, I ask you, is this -- is there any heart here with a policy like this?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR, VERMONT: No, this is ridiculous policy. Trump promised to deport criminals. A 10-year-old with cerebral palsy post-surgery is not a criminal. This is an exceptionally foolish thing to do from a medical point of view and we`re going to make it an exceptionally foolish thing to do from a political point of view. Even the most hard- hearted anti-immigration person can`t think this is a good thing to do and certainly is not consistent with American values. Trump has shown very little interest in American values and I think he`ll pay a price for that in 2018 when he loses a Congress.

MELBER: And Dr. Dean, Washington Post reported on this beyond -- I would call it the heartache of looking at this case. There`s policy implications saying that immigration advocates say, well, this raises anxieties in these communities where people have to choose between getting emergency care and risking deportation.

DEAN: Well, it also makes crime more likely or less punishable because what local police forces for the most part, who have had actually a good relationship with the Latino communities have done is create the opportunity for people who are victims of crime to come to them regardless of whether they`re undocumented or not. Now those people are going to shut up when they see criminal activity and everybody is going to be a victim of that. This is just stupidity. It`s just plain stupidity.

MELBER: Leticia, final word from you. What does -- the family you represent, what do they want to say to the Trump administration?

GONZALEZ: They would like their daughter to come home. They want Rosa Maria to be home where she can return to her normalcy. She can return to her routines, she could return to school, her special education teachers. Those that know her needs both psychologically, emotional and just go back to normal.

MELBER: Thank you for sharing this with us. Leticia, please tell the family we`re going to stay on this story. And we invite you and them to keep us posted as we`ll stay on it. And Governor and Doctor Dean, thank you as well.

DEAN: Thank you.

MELBER: Turning the page here, coming up, I`m going to show you some exclusive video coming in of Carter Page on the Hill and a leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee live.


MELBER: Breaking into our newsroom, NBC News exclusive video. This is Carter Page, former Trump Foreign Policy Adviser leaving Capitol Hill after a meeting with what we understand to be staff investigators in the Russia probe. This is NBC exclusive. You`re not going to see this anywhere else. And this is interesting because Carter Page, of course, is an individual who has publicly talked about allegedly claiming the Fifth Amendment protection against incriminating himself from presumably federal crimes in resisting to talk on the investigations. He is also someone who has changed his characterization of his cooperation at various times.

What you see here on this video that is new and exclusive to NBC News and our newsroom is that Carter Page was there presumably talking to staff. Interesting development in a case that continues to have all sorts of twists and turns and on those I`m happy now to be joined by Congressman Elliott Engel, a Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. We booked you not to talk about that although if you have a thought you could share it. But about this story that there is evidence linking the Kremlin and Putin`s handpicked prosecutor to the Trump tower meeting, your response.

REP. ELLIOTT ENGEL (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Well, it doesn`t surprise me. We`ve thought all along that there was direction, contact, working together between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the campaign. This just corroborates it. I want to get to know the truth. I think the American people want to know the truth. And I hope Mr. Mueller will keep his investigation because this is part and parcel of it.

MELBER: There`s his investigation and as we`re talking, we`re looking at as I mentioned this footage of the other investigation, the Congressional investigation, Carter Page a key figure there. He`s also as viewers may recall someone who was named in a previous U.S. indictment of Russian spies operating in the United States. And he was not named as a conspirator, he was named as "male one" as just having been around it. Can you shed any light on where all of this figures into the investigation?

ENGEL: Well, again, it figures into the Russians collaborating with the Trump people. I mean, we know there were several meetings. There are a lot of denials, obviously, but, you know, it just gets to a point where one thing after another after another, you know --

MELBER: It adds, it adds, it adds.

ENGEL: -- where you think there`s smoke, you think there`s fire. The lawyer that met with Trump Junior claims she was independent. She was doing it on her own. Nobody believes that. She even -- we even have a picture of her sitting in the audience at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that we held. So she was -- she was there at the behest of the Russians. She has close ties to Putin and the Kremlin.

MELBER: And WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign not denying it and no one in leadership saying it was a bad idea. Was it a bad idea to ask Assange to try to obtain stolen e-mails?

ENGEL: Of course. I mean, you don`t have to be a (INAUDIBLE) scholar to understand that.

MELBER: I know some of my questions are -- sound ridiculous, but these are questions we have to ask.

ENGEL: No. The question is -- that`s why an investigation -- you know, if someone is not guilty, I don`t want them to be found guilty.


ENGEL: So Mueller is a pro. Let him keep doing what he`s been doing and we`ll get to the truth. The American people want to know the truth. The Congress wants to know the truth. You know, we passed a bill more than 60 days ago which the President has signed into law which slapped the sanctions on the Russians.

MELBER: On the sanctions and we`re only seeing a list. It`s not confirmed.

ENGEL: Right.

MELBER: I`d love for you to come back and talk about what`s going to make them -- make the sanctions real. Congressman Elliot Engel, fresh off, you said the west side highway traffic. Thank you for making it in. We`re going it take a quick break and then talk about who needs to fallback.


MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT so you know, what time it is. It is time to fallback. "FALLBACK FRIDAY," something we do here. I`m joined by Peter Grosz, Executive Producer of the President Show on Comedy Central and an Actor in Veep and The Nation`s Joan Walsh back with us. Peter --


MELBER: -- who needs to fallback?

GROSZ: Well, the man I portray on The President Show, Mr. Mike Pence, who signed or who broke the tie in the Senate that allowed -- or that prevented consumers from suing credit card companies. And I think Mike Pence needs to check his bible. Most people know that it says the meek shall inherit the earth. But I think Pence`s bible says the market shall inherit the earth, so he needs to get the right version of the bible there.

MELBER: I didn`t learn that line in Hebrew school, but I believe it.

GROSZ: I went to Hebrew school either, I didn`t go anywhere near that part of the bible.

WALSH: I never heard it in Catholic school either so --

GROSZ: I stop at the first five verse.

MELBER: Joan, who needs to fallback?

WALSH: Fallback, Ed Gillespie. I don`t believe you`re as much -- I don`t believe you`re racist. You`re running a racist campaign in the state of Virginia. He`s running against Ralph Northam. He`s trailing and he has decided to go full Trump. He`s running ads accusing Northam of supporting Sanctuary Cities. He does not. He -- there aren`t any Sanctuary Cities in Virginia so it`s kind of moot. He`s associating him with M13 and now he`s blaming Terry McAuliffe and linking him to Terry McAuliffe, his the Lieutenant Governor for restoring the right to vote for felons last year, which in an earlier lifetime Ed Gillespie said he supported.

MELBER: He said he supported it. Peter, who else needs to fallback?

GROSZ: Mark Cuban says he might run for President. I don`t think the answer to Donald Trump is Donald Trump in sneakers or in a polo shirt. Cuban is a shark. He should remain a shark and stay in those waters.

WALSH: Yes. Stay in the shark tank.

MELBER: Well, never forget what Woody Allen said.

GROSZ: This could go a lot of places.

MELBER: A relationship is like a shark. It needs to keep moving.

GROSZ: Yes, exactly.

MELBER: Alvy Singer character said that.

GROSZ: That`s true.

MELBER: Maybe everyone should fallback, just everyone.

GROSZ: I`m just going to say Woody Allen should fallback maybe every Friday.


GROSZ: Maybe every day.


GROSZ: And every day.

MELBER: Peter Grosz and Joan Walsh, thank you both. You could catch Joan`s new political show Sunday calling on WNYC on Sunday. Check it out. HARDBALL with Chris Matthews starts now.



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