Ari's questions for Zuckerberg Transcript 11/1/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Jim Himes, Michael Caputo

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: November 1, 2017 Guest: Jim Himes, Michael Caputo

JOON HYUN KIM, ACTING US ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: It is an amazing record of success. Of the eight innocent people Saipov allegedly killed yesterday, two were Americans. And the rest were foreigners visiting New York City.

It has been reported that five of eight victims were childhood friends from Argentina, celebrating a high school reunion. Those Argentinian men came here, like the millions of other visitors, to see the sights and spend some time in the greatest city on earth.

For the same reasons that millions visit this city and find it so special, alleged terrorists like Saipov view the city as a prime target for their hate-filled crimes.

But the thing is, for the alleged terrorists, like Saipov, they will find in New York City something else. Justice. They will find, and have found, that law enforcement and everyday people in this city are not afraid of their evil. They see through their false hateful rhetoric and are committed to bringing them to justice.

And that is what we intend to do with Sayfullo Saipov. I'd like to bring to the stand now Bill Sweeney, assistant director in charge of the FBI.

BILL SWEENEY, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE OF THE FBI: Thanks, Joon. Good evening.

For the past 24 hours, hundreds of personnel from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, both on this side of the river and in New Jersey, have been working around the clock, developing and tracking leads and executing searches as we dig deeper into the life and motivations of Saipov.

The charges announced this evening, while significant, should be taken as no indication that our work here is over. We will continue to employ all investigative techniques necessary to fully understand his social network and unearth his motivations. Rest assured, we will not stop until every last lead has been covered.

I do have one recent update I would like to make you aware of. Earlier, as we came in this evening, we were seeking information about an individual. Many of you in this room received that alert. We are no longer seeking that individual. We believe he had information related to yesterday, but we are not looking for that individual any longer.

I would encourage anybody who believes they knew Mr. Saipov or has information about yesterday to proactively contact law enforcement.

A reminder to the public, the tip line is 1-800-CALL-FBI with information that may help us in any way. We also have a link set up where you can upload any photos, any videos you may think are relevant. That link is fbi.gov/nyctribeca.

The NYPD also has their tip line set up at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Following the Chelsea attacks in September of last year, I highlighted the importance of an engaged public. Today is no different. I cannot overstate the critical role the public plays in combatting these threats.

Please remain engaged. Be aware and immediately report suspicious activity to the authorities.

In closing, I'd like to thank the partners, especially the hundreds of men and women working on the JTTF, represented by at least 50 agencies on this side of the river alone. Your work has been exceptional. I would like the thank the US attorney's office. Joon, your team, Ben, Commissioner O'Neill, John Miller, the Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro and George Beach from the state police, the work your men and women have done has been absolutely extraordinary. Thank you.

KIM: Thanks, Bill. Now, I'd like to bring to the podium first deputy commissioner Benjamin Tucker.

BENJAMIN TUCKER, NEW YORK CITY FIRST DEPUTY COMMISSIONER: Good evening. Today's announcement of an indictment of Sayfullo Saipov on federal charges sends the strongest message to those who seek to commit acts of terror in our country.

The swift and decisive charges demonstrate the resolve of our local and federal law enforcement, who work so closely to both prevent terror as well as bring those who commit acts of terror to justice.

The NYPD wishes to thank our close law enforcement partners in the FBI, especially FBI Assistant Director Bill Sweeney, and our federal prosecutors in the southern district led by Acting Assistant US Attorney - United States Attorney for the Southern District, Joon Kim.

KIM: Thank you, first deputy commissioner. I'll take a few questions.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: We have been listening to an updated briefing there. The federal prosecutor, acting US attorney for Manhattan speaking as well as the FBI and the NYPD.

The big news being charges - federal charges against the terror suspect, now defendant, charged with material support for terrorism in that horrific New York attack that killed eight yesterday.

That is the news that comes out of this updated briefing and we will continue to follow it here in our newsroom and bring further updates as warranted.

Now, we turn to another breaking story tonight. Dueling accounts tonight of Donald Trump's state of mind after these bombshell indictments rocked Washington this week.

A brand-new interview with "The New York Times." The president speaking out and projecting a calm, cool and collected demeanor. That is in some contradiction to other reporting today from "Vanity Fair", suggesting the "enraged" Donald Trump and a White House facing chaos.

Now, here's the president's side of the story tonight. He tells "The New York Times" in a brand-new interview, he's not angry at anybody and he's quote - he claims not under investigation.

Other accounts differ, including directly from the White House. Donald Trump being under investigation, according to Chief of Staff John Kelly who said this two days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It is very distracting to the president, as it would be to any citizen, to be investigated for something, while at the same time, trying to carry the weight of what being President of the United States means on his shoulder.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: The chief of staff there referring to the president being under investigation is essentially the known fact. Again, different from this new interview tonight.

And the claims of a kind of calm are also conflicting with this "Vanity Fair" reporting that is making shockwaves tonight. Sources saying, President Trump enraged and indignant in response to the indictments. His top staff "on edge" amidst worries that Mueller's work isn't done.

And the report is from Gabe Sherman. He writes for "Vanity Fair" and we should mention is an NBC analyst. He cites six people that he says are in Trump's orbit, describing the president as apoplectic right now and that he blames Jared Kushner for firing Jim Comey, the act which triggered Mueller's appointment.

And according to a call with Steve Bannon, who is, of course, out of the White House, but in this account still reportedly talking to Trump, there's a belief that Trump's hold on power is "slipping". That's according to an anonymous source.

Now, let's be clear. NBC News has also reported that Bannon has a lot of conflict here and has his own agenda. And the "Vanity Fair" report, though, says something else that could be significant.

Let me explain. It has an account of a potential change to the president's criminal defense team. Now, that would be a huge development if the lawyers telling Trump what he can do impacts how aggressive he is with Bob Mueller.

This is a high stakes debate tonight that's happening in real-time. White House staff, like Hope Hicks, are prepping for these interviews with Mueller's team right now.

So, the report says that one aggressive idea comes from Roger Stone, who allegedly is telling Trump that, while you can't fire Mueller, you could cook up a new Clinton probe in order to put Bob Mueller under criminal investigation.

The panic also allegedly has Trump advisers dodging any talk of Russia. Dina Powell and Gary Cohn allegedly leaving the White House rooms whenever the country's name comes up. Mueller may be closing in and that may have people nervous. A lot to scramble here.

I'm joined by an expert panel. Joyce Vance, a former federal prosecutor in the Obama administration; Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor and a current candidate for Illinois attorney general; and Howard Fineman, "Huffington Post" editorial director.

Joyce, on the law - I want to zero in not on the parlor intrigue, of which you get dueling sources in any White House. But first on the law, what would happen if Donald Trump did change the legal team and change his approach?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This could be interesting. So far, his lawyer, Ty Cobb, has taken a traditional approach, publicly telling everyone that he's interested in openness, that the White House is cooperating.

In other words, he's basically saying the president is obligated to comply with requests made from the investigative team and he is complying with them. Turning over e-mails, making witnesses available for interviews and so forth.

If we were to have, say, a Steve Bannon universe defense team where the White House in essence went to war with Bob Mueller, that could lead to some very interesting results because, as we saw the last couple days, Mueller is playing for keeps here, indicting folks without first speaking with defense counsel and it could become a very fierce, pitched battle if the defense strategy inside of the White House changes.

MELBER: Right. And the current White House legal strategy has been to cordon off certain individuals. Obviously, this cooperating witness, but also people like Carter Page who continue to speak out publicly.

Renato, take a listen to him speaking with MSNBC's Chris Hayes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: Were you in the e-mail chains of Papadopoulos?

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Probably a few, yes.

HAYES: Were you in e-mail chains with him about Russia?

PAGE: It may have come up from time to time. Again, there is nothing major.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Renato, speak to how that plays in and the president's claim in cross-purposes with John Kelly that he's "not under investigation."

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Wow! Well, I don't know what to tell Mr. Page other than he should seek the advice of counsel. Everything that he tells Chris Hayes that can be used against him.

I know when Rob Blagojevich was under investigation, the US attorney's office, and I was there at the time and I'm not telling you any secrets because Mr. Blagojevich would comment about this publicly, that we would get videotapes or recordings from the US attorney's office that were marked as exhibits of his interviews on television.

And realistically, what Mr. Page is doing is just digging himself into a hole by answering questions while he is the subject of an investigation.

As for the president of the United States, there's no serious question that he is certainly a subject of Mr. Mueller's investigation.

MELBER: Right.

MARIOTTI: There is no question at all. If you look back - before I came on the show today, I was looking at the document requests that were made to the White House as reported by "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" about a month ago in September.

And if you look at those document requests, there are about, for example, the meeting that the president had with Russians - with the Russian ambassador and others the day after he fired Comey, where he talked about relieving pressure. There's a document request regarding discussions related to the firing of Flynn.

So, there's, clearly - and there is a number of other document requests that related specifically to the firing of James Comey.

And the only person who fired James Comey and Michael Flynn was the president of the United States. That's not something that you can say some intern made that decision. So, at least, as to the obstruction piece, I don't see how anyone could say that.

MELBER: Yes. Not only that, you're drawing a link there on the firing. That, of course, was also the last time we heard Donald Trump proclaim, apparently wrongly, that he was not under investigation because he weirdly, I would say bizarrely, put it in his letter firing Jim Comey. While I appreciate, he said, you telling me three times that I'm not under investigation and on and on into the firing.

So, those are two points of law. Now, I want to go to Washington. Except I have Washington right here in New York with me.

HOWARD FINEMAN, GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, "HUFFINGTON POST": We wanted to bring Washington to you today, Ari.

MELBER: Here's the thing. We just talked about the law. Then there's the hype. And as you know, there's a famous Washington saying, don't believe the hype, but it's also a Public Enemy song. But you can't believe all the hype on these accounts.

So, even if folks watching at home think, wow, it's interesting, Donald Trump just came on and gave an interview about Russia to "New York Times". So, clearly, something is moving him to give an interview. And he may have a tell when he says, I'm really calm. Gosh, why are you telling us you're so calm.

But when you were walking into the set here - I haven't heard all your analysis - but you mentioned to me there's more to this when you see these kind of sniping. So, unpack it for us. Peel the onion and I'll let you know when the tears come.

FINEMAN: OK. So, first off, there are people in the White House at a very senior level who have actual jobs to do, who are determined to keep doing them, and as Gabe reported in the piece and as we know elsewhere.

I talked to one of them just about an hour ago. They said, look, we've got important matters coming up, we're staying in our lanes. And don't forget, the president is about to go on this long massive and very important trip to Asia.

Those people, the Mattis types, the McMaster types, the Dina Powell types, those folks are staying in their lane. And they are conducting the world's and America's business.

Now, as for Donald Trump, the key here, I think, is that Bob Mueller has shown that he understands that trying to make the case on Donald Trump about solely obstruction of justice is a political case subject to interpretation.

But collusion is collusion if the facts are there. The import of the George Papadopoulos flip, the import of the people that Mueller is looking for now is that he believes, and he knows that it's important if he's going to be credible and convincing, that he has to make the collusion case, not just the obstruction case, and he thinks the collusion case is there.

And that is the political bombshell here. Because I think that even the Bannons and the Stones of the world thought that Donald Trump could fight his way through an obstruction case because it's political, to some extent. One man's obstruction is another defense of a valid move.

But if there's collusion, and if Mueller can go after it and prove it, that's causing the hysteria in the Bannon-Stone base wing.

And frankly, the institutional wing doesn't know what to do about it. They don't know what to do. They don't have a plan. They've got Ty Cobb in there. They're running out these people to be interviewed.

But in a sense, Stone and Bannon are right, in the sense that, if Mueller, has really got his hands on the collusion case, the only way to save themselves is to attempt to blow the whole thing up.

MELBER: Right. You're not saying they're ethically right, I don't think.

FINEMAN: No, I'm saying -

MELBER: (INAUDIBLE). You're saying that strategically - let me bring Renato in here. Howard is saying that they strategically understand that, if there's an existential threat, you don't want to cooperate with someone that may be trying to legally slit the throat of your organization, and that's a view that this is too cooperative.

Speak to that, Renato, and second the underlying point that Howard I think so intelligently laid out, which is that if there is a collusion case and Papadopoulos is cooperating, you've got reports today in Bloomberg that he says a secret Putin meeting was approved by the campaign. Renato?

MARIOTTI: Yes. So, let me start with Howard's first point, and I think it's a profound one. The idea that Stone and Bannon are making - you need to - I think Howard's words were, blow the whole thing up.

And I will tell you, as an American and as somebody who was involved in law enforcement, what we're referring to - when we say blow the whole thing up is the American criminal justice system and the sense of rule of law that we have and no one is above the law.

And the idea that the president of the United States would try to defund Mueller, would try to create separate investigations to try to investigate others without any reason or any warrant for that whatsoever, it's very disturbing.

The use of law enforcement as a tool to investigate enemies and to try to derail law enforcement that is investigating your friends, it is deeply disturbing to me as an American.

As to this other piece - but Howard may be right that that may be the best strategy if he has got the goods on you. Certainly, defendants that I investigated tried to do everything they could. They just didn't have the power of the presidency.

MELBER: Right. And I want to bring Joyce in here. We're using the word strategy. And it is a type of strategy, Joyce, but at a certain point, if what you're advocating for is witness tampering or obstruction, it would be dangerously euphemistic to call that only strategy. No?

VANCE: Absolutely, Ari. And at some point, these people who have been in government, even those who are recently out of government owe, I think, a greater obligation, frankly, to the people of the United States.

And if their idea is to protect criminal conduct via strategy, to take on Bob Mueller and turn him into the target of an investigation in an effort to take some of the pressure off of the president, then they're doing a terrible injustice to the oaths that they swore and to the people who they claim they want to serve.

This, at the end of the day, goes back to what Renato said. It's a rule of law issue. We're talking about whether the president is above the law, whether he can create conditions where he can protect his friends by virtue of the office he holds.

And the answer has to be a resounding no, that the criminal justice process needs to go forward for him, like it would for anyone else.

MELBER: Well, it's a fitting point for us to pause on, that this is not so much a political issue as an American issue. A lot more, we're going to discuss about it because I have a former Trump adviser on the show live tonight.

Joyce Vance, Renato Mariotti and Howard Fineman, thank you so much.

Coming up, what is candidate Trump saying about Russia in public versus what his campaign was doing in secret now revealed. I have a special time line here on THE BEAT with what Mueller is teaching us and how the Trump campaign's officials feel. I have a key Trump adviser from 2016 live on THE BEAT.

And later, Mark Zuckerberg not on Capitol Hill today to answer those questions on Russia. I have a few questions of my own, Mark.

Stay tuned. I'm Ari Melber and you're watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back to THE BEAT. This week started off with a bang. And we are still, days later, pouring through what we've learned not only from the guilty plea and those indictments, but other documentation that has come to light.

So, right now, I have a special breakdown of what we're learning. The Mueller indictment revealed, of course, that a Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos was doing all sorts of things behind the scenes with Russians during the campaign.

But what was happening alongside that activity. On March 6, we know Papadopoulos made arrangements to be this campaign adviser on foreign policy. It wasn't public then.

He was joining an unusual Republican campaign with an unusual posture towards Russia for a Republican. Within a week, Trump told a rally this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin said good things about me. He said he is the leader and there's no question about it. He's a genius. So, they all said - the media, they said, you saw it in the debate. They said you admire President Putin. I said I don't admire him. I said he was a strong leader, which he is. He might be bad. He might be good. But he's a strong leader.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Within two days, Papadopoulos was then abroad meeting with a man claiming Putin connections. And one week later, March 21, Trump announces him as a campaign adviser.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We heard you might be announcing your foreign policy advisory team soon.

TRUMP: If you want, I can give you some of the names. George Papadopoulos. He's an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That's the staffing. Then on policy, Trump said this the same day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Putin says very nice things about me. I think that's very nice. It has no effect on me other than I think it's very nice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: No effect. But March 24, Papadopoulos does that meeting in London. And March 31, Trump meets with his national security team. And there you have it, and adviser there telling "The New York Times" Papadopoulos talked about a possible meeting with Putin.

Today, "Bloomberg" reports he also claimed the Trump campaign approved the idea for that Putin/Trump campaign meeting. We should note, we believe it never took place.

And then, an email, April 25, Papadopoulos telling a senior policy adviser for the campaign, which he now admits, he received an open invite by Putin for Trump to meet him, possibly in London, so they could have a "neutral setting".

And now, we get to a key moment in this story. It was the next day, April 26. Papadopoulos meets a Russian contact in London, telling him the Russians had dirt on then candidate Clinton, including thousands of e- mails.

So, what else was going on, now that we're piecing this together? Well, that night, April 26, Trump was celebrating a primary victory at Trump Tower and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have a lot of power. We're going to have a great relationship with China. We're going to have a great relationship with Putin and Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Most primary victory speeches don't involve references to Putin, by the way.

And then, it was a day later, April 27, that Papadopoulos e-mails a high- ranking Trump official. Putin wants to invite the campaign team to Moscow when the time is right.

That night, Trump has a foreign policy speech that you may have heard about. It was with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak attending.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations and must regard them with open eyes.

But we are not bound to be adversaries. We he should seek common ground based on shared interests. I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible. Absolutely possible.

Some say the Russians won't be reasonable. I intend to find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now, here's the fairest thing we can say about Trump's overtures to Russia. A lot of politicians advocate reversing even harsh stances toward adversarial countries.

Nixon famously went to China. Obama narrowed the Cuba embargo. So, it does happen.

The issue here under investigation is not whether it happened, but what else was happening. So, back to our time line. On June 3, Donald Trump, Jr. gets an e-mail in the morning from someone linked to Russia, saying they can provide official documents to incriminate Hillary. And he implies, "if it's what you say, I love it."

Later that day, at a campaign rally in California, Trump says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Putin said Donald Trump is a genius. He's got to be the next great leader of the United States. No, no, think of it. So, they wanted me to disavow what he said. How dare you call me a genius? How dare you call me a genius, Vladimir? Never say a thing. Wouldn't it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn't that be good? Is that a bad thing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: It could be nice. It is not, itself, evidence of anything other than a policy plan. But we're seeing other evidence, the June 9th secret Trump Tower meeting, that's days after what you just heard him say at that rally. We all know about that.

January 20th, finally, Donald Trump becomes president, sworn in. It's four days later that FBI agents interview national security advisor Mike Flynn touching on Russia. And by January 27th, this new name, Papadopoulos, is first speaking to the FBI and he has now admitted he was lying that day about his contacts with Russia.

Keep in mind, that same day, Donald Trump takes the unusual step of asking the FBI Director Jim Comey to come to the White House for a one-on-one dinner, which we later learned was about a demand for loyalty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: He called me at my desk at lunch time and asked me, was I free for dinner that night. He called himself and said can you come over for dinner tonight. I said yes, sir. And that the dinner was an effort to build a relationship. In fact, he asked specifically of loyalty in the context of asking me to stay.

It is the president of the United States with me alone saying, I hope this. I took it as this is what he wants me to do.

I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That testimony there under oath. What Comey describes as an out- of-nowhere call was the same day that Papadopoulos admits in court he lied to the FBI.

It was July 27th when this got rolling. Papadopoulos arrested at Dulles Airport. And think about this. They say sometimes history echoes. That July 27th was a year after another piece of potentially incriminating evidence, a public statement from a candidate to an adversary, when Donald Trump said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will tell you this. Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Congressman Jim Himes joins me. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, that is the timeline that has emerged as we put all the pieces together. Your response?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, it's a rich time line, but it omits a number of the other critical, weird questions about Russia.

It omits the fact that the president subsequently fired the FBI Director Jim Comey and told a reporter that he did that to relieve the enormous pressure of the Russia investigation.

It omitted - the national security adviser was forced to step down because he lied about contacts with the Russians. A persistent theme in this whole development.

So, I mean, again, the hallmarks of this administration has been to lie about contacts with Russia. The attorney general didn't fully disclose before the senate his contacts to lie about them, such that now one individual has pled guilty to that, another individual has lost his job, many individuals under the cloud.

And the question is why. Why does this keep happening?

MELBER: Yes. Right. The timeline - I mean, no story - it's like when you read a book about something. And even that doesn't have all the details. No story has everything.

Here's another one if we're going to go back and forth. Here's Jim Comey saying what he as an investigator viewed as suspicious about removing people from the room. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: A really significant fact is to me is, so why would you kick everybody out of the Oval Office? Why would you kick the Attorney the General, the President, the Chief of Staff out, to talk to me if it was about something else? And so that to me as an investigator is a very significant fact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: When you look at that and you look at the overlap between the discussions in public about Putin and then what we've seen at certain levels of the campaign, what questions do you have left about George Papadopoulos?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, of course, the big question about George Papadopoulos is what has he been doing these last couple months when he's been cooperating with Mueller's FBI investigation. I'm sure I'm not the only person here. In fact, I suspect there are many here down Pennsylvania Avenue who are thinking exactly the same thing because of course, he has been an active source now for the FBI. He is presumably been out there asking questions, having conversations, presumably recording these conversations. So really the big question is, what other shoes are there to drop here.

The big question for us of course is, you know -- and it's interesting last week you'll recall, many of my friends on the Republican side were calling for a winding down of the Congressional investigation because they said there wasn't evidence of collusion. You know, we can have a long conversation about what collusion means. What we do know is that there are now two people, Don Junior, the President's son and George Papadopoulos who by their own admission were seeking cooperation, collaboration with the Russians. And of course, that points to another big question which is, then what happened? The answer may be nothing. But we certainly don't take this administration at their word that the answer is nothing.

MELBER: Congressman Himes on a busy day when a lot of this questions are being sorted, thank you for giving us your time.

HIMES: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Later, I'm going to talk about the Russian indictments with someone who has a personal view of them. He worked for the Trump Campaign and I'm going to question him. That's live tonight. And later, my special message for Mark Zuckerberg, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Many discussion this week about the Trump Campaign but what about people who actually worked on it. Michael Caputo was a Communications Adviser to Trump before leaving the campaign in June 2016. He's spoken to Congressional investigators and he joins me now. Thanks for being here.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: Thanks for inviting me, Ari.

MELBER: Have you talked to the FBI or Mueller's team? I thought we would do a couple of quick yes or nos.

CAPUTO: No, I have not yet and --

MELBER: Are you willing to?

CAPUTO: -- if they do call I'll be happy to cooperate.

MELBER: Yes. And then is it bad for a campaign in the United States to get help or something of value from a foreign country?

CAPUTO: I think if I were contacted by an intermediary or a foreign country, I would have kicked it right upstairs and tried to make sure. It would -- it would send a red flag for me but I've been in politics for 30 years and Papadopoulos had been in politics for 30 seconds. You know, Donald Trump Jr. had -- was on his first campaign. So when this kind of entreaties come in, if you don't have the experience, you might not know what to do.

MELBER: So when he said OK, he learns they take thousands -- they got "thousands of e-mails," and they have dirt on Hillary Clinton. You think he shouldn't have taken those meetings? You wouldn't continue to talk to those folks?

CAPUTO: No. I think what I would have done is would have kicked it to Paul Manafort or to other people at the campaign or kicked it to the legal office. In a typical campaign environment, especially for a presidential campaign, you have an opposition research department, you have a legal department and we didn't have either of those in the Trump campaign.

MELBER: Well you had Jones -- well, you paid -- you paid -- (INAUDIBLE) you paid Jones Day plenty of money. Don McGahn went form that to be a White House counsel.

CAPUTO: No doubt, no doubt. We had outside counsel.

MELBER: Let me ask you this though. You say kick it up. I hear that. That makes sense. But now we have this records that it went up to a campaign supervisor which we've identified now as Sam Clovis. And he said these Kremlin linked meetings were "great work" and he worked it through the campaign, Bloomberg reporting today that the campaign approved the meeting with Putin. So on that side, do you agree with that?

CAPUTO: No, I don't. I don't think it actually happened. I don't believe Paul Manafort would ever agree to any kind of meeting and I've heard that same leak says it was a secret meeting. I don't believe Paul Manafort would ever have agreed to that. What Sam Clovis said in this e-mail, he claims it was him just being polite. I don't imagine under any circumstances that a person at such a junior level would bring such a cockamamie idea to a national campaign and anyone with any sense would task that young man to go out and do something so stupid.

MELBER: So you call -- you call the idea stupid and there is 20/20 hindsight now. Looking back, do you think the campaign should have hired Papadopoulos?

CAPUTO: Oh I don't think the campaign ever did hire Papadopoulos, he was a volunteer like many do.

MELBER: Do you think they should -- yes, volunteered -- do you think they should have used his services and had him in that meeting with Donald Trump the way they did?

CAPUTO: No, no way. See, here's the thing about Papadopoulos --

MELBER: What about -- what about Carter Page?

CAPUTO: Probably not. He wasn't qualified to be a Presidential Foreign Policy Adviser but he was certainly more qualified than Papadopoulos.

MELBER: What about Michael Flynn -- what about Michael Flynn?

CAPUTO: I think a four-star General with combat valor is qualified to do whatever he wishes. I can tell you about Papadopoulos --

MELBER: What about Paul Manafort? Should they have used his services? He was also technically a volunteer.

CAPUTO: Absolutely. The job was absolutely designed for Paul Manafort. It was a challenge at the convention. No one was better with delegate head counting at a convention than Paul Manafort. He was the right man for the job.

MELBER: So I mean, legally, Manafort's presumed innocent but you say he was right for the job. You know, he was now exposed as hiding and failing to admit that he was working officially for a foreign power all the way to 2015. A lot of Americans are working only for American campaigns. Why would you still stand by employing someone who we know is working for a foreign power in 2015?

CAPUTO: Well, I think there are dozens and dozens, and if you include internationally, hundreds and hundreds of international consultants working all over the world. Paul Manafort is one of them. John Podesta's brother Tony, and there's so many other Democrats who do the same thing. In fact, during one of the reelections campaigns for the President of Ukraine, Paul Manafort hired over a dozen veterans of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama's campaigns. This is part of the deal. This is what goes on in international elections. People who are really good at it end up being invited to do in it in other countries. Paul Manafort was one -- was one of the best at what he does. He hadn't worked on American campaigns for a while but the challenge we had on the Trump campaign called for a guy with his kinds of skills.

MELBER: My last question for you is the one that is just hard to square, even if you want to give White House the benefit of the doubt. And that is, with all of this coming out, and you just said some of these people shouldn't be hired. Why doesn't the President just get up and say, of course you shouldn't take meetings like that, and of course we shouldn't have sought dirt or e-mails about Hillary Clinton from these foreign adversaries, and of course anyone who did that was wrong because that's not the kind of campaign we wanted to run. You got to admit he hasn't said that. Why doesn't he just say that?

CAPUTO: I don't know. I can't say that I sit in the President's head like that. But I can tell you that at no time during the campaign, at no time that I spoke to him after the campaign did he even breathe the word Russia to me. There was absolutely zero Russian collusion on the campaign. And the fact that everybody is hanging medals on the chest and experience on the resume of a guy like Papadopoulos who zero campaign experience, had zero qualifications to be advising the campaign, and did zero for the campaign at all, hanging it out there like he is going to be the smoking gun on the Trump campaign, that's hilarious.

MELBER: Well, hanging it out there. We'll put the picture back up one more time. He was seated at a table with then-candidate Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions as Senator of Foreign Policy Adviser went on to be Attorney General. I mean, it's not other people putting him there. The Trump folks that you worked with made a decision to put him at that table. But I take your larger point that there's a lot we don't yet know and we always like to get multiple perspectives including yours. Michael Caputo, thank you for being here.

CAPUTO: It's always a pleasure to be on with you Ari.

MELBER: Thank you, Michael, I appreciate that. Have a good night.

Now, up ahead, lawmakers grilling social media execs about Russia. One man not talking, not taking questions, Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. Mark, I have some questions of my own. I'm going to ask them to you on air. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: The other big story today, we haven't covered it all in our hour, social media executives getting grilled about Russia in the Senate. Senators saying disappointment with Mark Zuckerberg, not even showing up. Mark Zuckerberg, I have some very specific questions for you up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: While the Russia probe is focused on people including three former Trump aides charged with crimes, another phase focuses on corporations like Twitter, Google, and especially Facebook. Today, Senators began grilling those social media companies including Facebook lawyer Colin Stretch a Tech Litigator who leads the Russia portfolio. Under oath today he admitted Russia ads reached, even more, people on Facebook's platforms than originally thought, 150 million people. But Facebook's lawyer doesn't set the company's priorities. He just implements them. Any fundamental changes require Mark Zuckerberg who didn't testify today.

He did make time to speak to Facebook investors today and announced record earnings but he's not taking questions from Congress about Russia right now. So Mark, even if you're not taking questions, I do have some for you. And Mark, the first question is obvious, why didn't you realize Facebook had and has a problem? We know when Facebook serves up lies in the news section, it tricks voters and it influences our politics. Why did you reject that as crazy?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Personally, I think the idea that you know, fake news on Facebook on which you know, it's a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea.?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That denial also follows your comments during the election that Facebook isn't responsible for this media content because you say you're not a media company.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUCKERBERG: No. You know, we're a technology company. We're not a media company.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Now you say fake news is a big problem on Facebook and you regret those claims which sound like a good change of heart if it was a response to new facts you learned. And that raises a second question, the Watergate question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the President know and when did he know it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: At today's hearing, Facebook says it learned of some of these problems as early as 2015. And a Facebook investor warned you, Mark, prior to the 2016 election about bad actors exploiting Facebook to cause harm in politics. So Mark, when did you first learn that, one, fake news was some of the most popular content on Facebook during the general election; two, that Russians spent a $100,000 on Facebook ads paying for some in rubles, three, and when did you learn Russia was backing fake accounts to trick American voters? That's bigger than fake news. There's a Facebook problem with fake people here. Bots, political cat-fishing, 40 million fake accounts that your company admitted to just today. And Mark, it didn't take Russia to show problems with fake accounts that don't have real identity. We heard about that from you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUCKERBERG: Those things are on the web, aren't designed primarily to use your friends, right? And they don't assume that you have real identity. It means that this is really you, you're tied to it. You're going to put higher quality content in there and not flame or do something that's really disrespectful because it's actually tied to who you are. And would you think that this is a really profound change? It's -- the web looks a lot different when everything is completely anonymous than when some things are -- have your friends and real identity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You got that right. And if most Americans on Facebook are using their real identity, why let Russians be totally anonymous? Today we saw that during the campaign, Russians falsely pretended to be Pennsylvania miners for Trump. They fraudulently posed as an African-American activist group and Russian efforts at voter suppression exposed today like trying to trick a young Clinton voters into thinking they could vote by text. Mark, voter suppression is a crime. When Americans suppress votes, they get charged.

There was a GOP operative convicted of sending phone calls to suppress black votes in 2010 by falsely telling voters that the Democrat had already won. That was fake news too and it was illegal. Mark, we also want to ask you, should it be this easy to game Facebook? Americans do have a right to post most speech on the internet, no doubt. But fraud is not always speech and foreign espionage operatives have fewer rights. Can you also answer the question, Mark, that your board member ducked at her recent Washington trip? Just tell us whether your companies targeting for Russians did or didn't match the Trump campaign's targeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you all learned about the overlap in targeting between the Trump campaign and these Russian accounts.

SHERYL SANDBERG, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, FACEBOOK: Targeting on Facebook is broad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The overlap between the Trump campaign and these Russian accounts.

SANDBERG: Well, targeting is something everyone uses.

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

SANDBERG: When the ads get released we will also be releasing the targeting for those ads. And so, again, we're going to be fully transparent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Come on! We are in the territory of questions on questions on questions. One of which is why won't she answer. If there is overlap and you didn't know, why not just tell us now. And Mark, do you get why people are suspicious about all this? You run a corporation. It doesn't have any automatic loyalty to any one nation. And the Kremlin is not the only autocratic regime exploiting Facebook. Most of your customers are from outside North America, about 85 percent. In China, you agreed to suppress dissenting content to satisfy that government. Russia was so important to you, you personally went there and you met with Putin's handpicked Prime Minister.

But that event in 2012, you knew that was controversial at the time because an anti-Putin human rights group urged you not to be friends with a dictator to jails Russian bloggers and sentences free speech. Are you going to keep up that corporate diplomacy with Putin's government? Are you going to draw a line with them about meddling in U.S. elections? Do you really think you should meet with Kremlin officials personally but only send your lawyer to today's U.S. congressional hearings about Russia? You say Facebook is great for transparency and that's what the government should provide about digital data they request.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZUCKERBERG: The more transparency in communication that the government could do about how they're requesting data from us, the better everyone would feel about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So Mark, why is your position transparency for government, transparency for all of us Facebook users and secrecy for you. You even oppose basic labeling requirements for foreign ads on Facebook which could have flagged these Russian ads. In fact, long before 2016, your company told election regulators a disclaimer on Facebook ads would be inconvenient. Mark, do you still think transparency would be inconvenient when it might actually protect our elections? One of those regulators told us the rule would have helped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLEN WEINTRAUB, COMMISSIONER, FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION: If we have firmer disclosure rules, stronger disclosure rules that has both a deterrence and detection function that the Supreme Court has long recognized is really important in addition to just informing people where they're getting their information, because who wants to get their information from a Russian troll farm?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That's another good question. And Mark, maybe you have some good answers. We don't know because you haven't taken questions about Russia in public all year from Congress or journalists since that November appearance when you dismissed the impact of fake news. And I want to be clear. Mark, you are good at technology. You are amazing at capitalism. Nobody doubts that. You get things intuitively most of us could probably never figure out. But right now, this is actually about something bigger than technology and capitalism. This is about democracy and justice. So a lot of these questions, they circle back to one question. Whose side do you want to be on?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN STRETCH, GENERAL COUNSEL, FACEBOOK: We don't want to put ourselves in the position of being the arbiter of truth. We don't think it's a tenable position for any company or industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Facebook's lawyer there testifying today saying they don't want to be the arbiter of truth but, of course, they are in that role. I was just speaking about Mark Zuckerberg's 2012 trip to Russia, a meeting with the Kremlin official there under new scrutiny. I want to reiterate Mr. Zuckerberg has an open invite to come on this show anytime and answer any questions. He will get all the time he needs. We appreciate everyone watching tonight that is it for THE BEAT. I'll see you back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" starts now.

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