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Trump calls for Clinton probe Transcript 11/14/17 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Jess McIntosh, Mike Lupica, Steve Schmidt, Julia Ioffe

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: November 14, 2017 Guest: Jess McIntosh, Mike Lupica, Steve Schmidt, Julia Ioffe

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": We look forward to having Eifel School Simmons interns at "Meet the Press" very, very soon. That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily".

THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts now. Mr. Melber.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: Mr. Todd, no more fitting tribute to her than a place of learning.

TODD: Absolutely.

MELBER: I grew up on watching her. Thank you so much, Chuck.

TODD: You got it, brother.

MELBER: Tonight, Jeff Sessions is actually at the center of three important stories. One, the scandal-plagued campaign to replace his senate seat; two, the announcement that his DOJ is considering investigating Hillary Clinton just like President Trump asked him to do; and three, a Congress probing whether Sessions lied under oath.

We begin with the developing news here on that lying debate. Democrats saying today, the evidence was obvious and public. Sessions testifying today he did not lie and the accusation that did he is the lie.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: My answers have not changed. I have always told the truth. But I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied. That is a lie.


MELBER: Sessions playing defense in his first testimony since the revelation he attended a meeting last year with Donald Trump and George Papadopoulos who recently pled guilty to lying, but to the FBI.

Now, that meeting, we now know, included an offer to arrange this Trump- Putin meeting, a revelation that came on October 30th. Note that was just days after Sessions had sworn that he did not know that kind of thing occurred.


SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: You don`t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians. Is that what you`re saying?

SESSIONS: I did not. And I`m not aware of anyone else that did. And I don`t believe it happened.


MELBER: I don`t believe it happened. We now know, of course, that claim couldn`t stand because it did happen. So, Sessions couldn`t hold that line.

Today, it was Democrats drilling into Sessions, and he tried out some lawyerly rebuttals.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: You stated in your opening statement that my story has never changed. But Mr. Attorney General, it has changed three times.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Does he want to change his testimony in the intelligence committee?

SESSIONS: I would just say this. I stand by this testimony at the intelligence committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to correct it or clarify it today for us?

SESSIONS: I certainly didn`t mean I had never met a Russian in the history of my life.

I had a meeting with the Russian ambassador, yes.

REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: That`s exactly the opposite answer you gave under oath to the US Senate. So, again, either you`re lying to US Senate or you`re lying to US House of Representatives.


MELBER: Sessions swore under oath today that he did not recall the Papadopoulos meeting. But then, he also said he does remember saying it was a bad idea to talk to the Russians.


SESSIONS: Frankly, I had no recollection of this meeting until I saw these news reports. I do now recall that the March 2016 meeting at the Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I had no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting.

I would gladly have reported it had I remembered it because I pushed back against his suggestion that I thought may have been improper.


MELBER: Had I remembered it, I would have reported it. Note that Sessions says he doesn`t remember the problem, a meeting that he denied under oath. But then he claims he does remember the solution and he pushed back about that improper proposal for a meeting with Putin.

OK. We will get to all of it. But the other big moment you`ve got to see is the Sessions exchange with Congressman Swalwell about Carter Page, who says he told Sessions he was going to Russia.


SWALWELL: With respect to Carter Page, he told you, as you just acknowledged, that he was going to Russia. He was also on the national security team. And this is the second person within about three months now that is bringing up Russian contacts. And you did not tell him to not to go Russia. Is that correct?

SESSIONS: No. I didn`t tell him not to go to Russia.

SWALWELL: And you didn`t tell anyone on the campaign that he told you that?

SESSIONS: I don`t recall him saying that. Am I supposed to stop him from taking a trip?


MELBER: With me now is Congressman Eric Swalwell, who was leading some of the questioning. Congressman, what is your key takeaway that you learned from the attorney general`s testimony today?

SWALWELL: Good evening, Ari. My takeaway is that if there was a book about Jeff Sessions and his contacts regarding Russia, we would be in the third revised edition. And keep the presses open. There may be another revised edition coming because of the number of times he said today that I don`t recall.

This just I think shows that, when it comes to Jeff Sessions or Don, Jr. or Jared Kushner or the number of people in the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russia, we can`t take them at face value when they say they didn`t have contacts or they don`t recall.

We have to keep probing and then eventually we will get to the truth.

MELBER: What about his distinction that a typical traditional senate diplomatic meeting is different from what is really the core of this investigation, which is espionage or people involved in potential illicit activities on behalf of Russia.

SWALWELL: Well, his typical diplomatic meetings with were individuals associated with Russia. Remember, it was June 2016 when our intelligence community started - at least it was reported in the press that they were assessing that Russia was responsible for the hacks.

And so, he had knowledge that Russia was accused of doing this. Yet, he spoke to the ambassador at the republican convention. He spoke to the ambassador again in his office during the fall. And he had an individual tell him, hey, I`m on my way to Moscow in July of 2016 and didn`t wave him off or think it was necessary to tell anyone on the campaign.

Again, if he were the only person that did this, maybe you could have an innocent explanation. He`s not the only person. A number of people on the campaign, as many as nine, now have failed to disclose contacts with Russia. And I think it goes to a larger effort to have an eagerness and willingness to work the Russians as they were interfering in our campaign.

MELBER: Congressman, stay with me. I also want to bring in, for perspective, Matt Miller, who worked for the previous Attorney General Eric Holder. Matt, when you look at this kind of hearing, and you`ve prepped an attorney general for these kind of days, do you think that Jeff Sessions did what he needed to do?

MATT MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I think he was a lot more careful today than he has been in previous sessions. I think this was the lawyered up version of Jeff Session. If you look at a bunch of his answers, he started many of them with I don`t recall, with I don`t believe. He is not nearly definitive as he was in previous hearings, making statements that later got him in trouble.

But he`s still asking you to believe a story that just doesn`t hold a lot of water. To believe his version of events, he previously didn`t remember this meeting with George Papadopoulos. As you pointed out, now only remembers the part of it that`s exculpatory.

But he went on to say he can`t remember anything else about that meeting. He can`t remember Donald Trump`s reaction to suggestions of a meeting that he held with Vladimir Putin.

Again, you find these just inconsistencies where he doesn`t remember, then he remembers the part that`s helpful, but can`t remember anything else. It just doesn`t really add up.

MELBER: You say that he sound lawyerly because of how frequently he couldn`t recall. Let`s take a look at some of those moments.


SESSIONS: I don`t recall.

I don`t recall.

I don`t recall.

I don`t recall it.

I don`t recall that.

I do not recall such a conversation.

I don`t recall ever being made aware of that before.


MELBER: Congressman Swalwell, if at the end of the day, the contradictions or the lack of recall amount to something that you and your colleagues view as misleading or worse, what are you going to do about it?

SWALWELL: Well, we`re going to continue to dig on this because our democracy was attacked. There`s strong evidence that the Trump team was working with the Russians.

We just saw, yesterday, Don, Jr. acknowledge that he was working with WikiLeaks. I also asked Attorney General Sessions. I said, WikiLeaks has been identified by the CIA as a hostile intelligence service. Do you accept that? He did. Yet, I asked, do you think it`s inappropriate that someone on the team that you were a part of was communicating with them? And he didn`t want to offer an acknowledgement of that, which, again, is concerning, and I think goes to show that he`s not going to do anything to defy his boss. So, it`s on us in Congress to do so and understand just what happened.

MELBER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, on a busy day, thanks for giving us your eyewitness account of that hearing. And, Matt Miller, I`m going to talk to you again later in the show.

I want to turn now to former Watergate special prosecutor, Nick Akerman, now a partner at Dorsey & Whitney and something of a Sessions expert.

The congressman says he`s going to keep on digging. He didn`t use the word perjury. Did Jeff Sessions move the ball further away from perjury by the way he defended himself today?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: No, I think he brought it closer to perjury. I mean, you have - perjury is a very difficult crime to convict somebody of because you have to get in the person`s mind as to whether they were telling the truth.

But Jeff Sessions has made it a lot easier for a prosecutor. He`s lied three times. First, he lied about not having any contact with the Russians in his confirmation hearing when, in fact, he had contact three times with Ambassador Kislyak from Russia.

He also sent a letter to Senator Leahy, saying outright no that he had any contacts. And then, on October 18, when he appeared the last time before Congress, he denied having any knowledge about any surrogates having any contact with Russia, when, in fact, we now know since that he was at a meeting with Papadopoulos and he also spoke to Page who told him he was on his way to Russia.

What you have here are just outright, three blatant lies. When you have three lies, it`s hard to explain it away by mistake or a lack of recollection. What he`s doing now is he`s trying to deflect everything by doing the I don`t recall trick.

That is, it`s harder to prove that somebody doesn`t recall something than it is to prove a stated fact, which he did on three occasions.

MELBER: Right. I`ve got to ask you the simple question here, which is why did they come up with this argument. It`s not like Jeff Sessions is new to the law. He`s a former prosecutor himself.

And rather than say, I`m not sure, let me check or try to put out some of the contacts, right, which would look much more credible, there was this just wall of denial front that now, as you and others are explaining, has come to haunt him.

Why do you think he made this mistake? I mean, is your theory of the case that this was just a blunder?

AKERMAN: No. I think he never imagined in a million years that Papadopoulos would suddenly show up as a government informant and a cooperator. He never imagined that suddenly Page would change his testimony. And he also never imaged anybody would find about his three meetings with the Russian ambassador.

MELBER: Right.

AKERMAN: So, I think he was just trying to stonewall this straight through, hoping that the whole thing would go away.

When he first testified back in January, there was no hint of a special prosecutor. There was no hint that anybody would be investigating this. As it is gone along, he`s dug himself in deeper and deeper.

But if you look at the testimony he gave in October and the testimony he gave today, it was I don`t recall, I don`t recall, which is a lot harder for a prosecutor to prove.

But the bottom line is he`s stuck himself with three affirmative statements, all of which are lies.

MELBER: Well, you make a great point about what is hard to predict. He was the attorney general. And early along, he may have figured he would be in control of most of this. When he recused, he may have thought it would go away quietly into the night.

He may not have known that his deputy was going to shock the political world and appoint the former Republican FBI director to dig in. And, boy, he`s been digging.

Nick Akerman, thank you as always for your expertise.

We have a lot more to get to. Is Donald Trump getting results in his pressure on the DOJ to retaliate against Clinton? Some tonight raising concerns about a severe abuse of power.

And, tonight, breaking news on a surprising twist in this Roy Moore sexual allegation scandal. A prominent GOP operative reportedly saying, "I`ll put him in a grave myself if he determines that Moore is lying."

And what the new revelations about Don, Jr. tell us about WikiLeaks. We`re going to speak to the one and only Steve Schmidt as well live, here at 30 Rock.

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


MELBER: The other top story tonight involving Attorney General Jeff Sessions may touch on the most significant test of the rule of law in the Trump era.

Consider that the last president who tried to abuse the DOJ to attack his political opponents was Richard Nixon. He did so in secret, but was ultimately exposed. And the House Judiciary Committee began removing him partly on that basis.

What Nixon did in secret, Donald Trump has mused about in public. His intent is known. And the question for our era is what the DOJ will do about it, what the Congress will do about it, what the press and the public will do about it.

Trump talked about jailing Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. And then he recently asked why the DOJ won`t go after her now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, the saddest thing is that because I`m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I am not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I`m not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I am very frustrated by it. I look at what`s happening with the Justice Department. Why aren`t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with the dossier and the kind of money.


MELBER: That was 12 days ago. And we reported at the time that Trump was pushing an investigation into his political rival, an illegal request which posed a test.


MELBER: The president does not have the power to order a prosecution. This is not a drill. It is not mere talk. We are now living through a test.


MELBER: It`s not a drill. And tonight, I can report for you that Jeff Sessions` DOJ is responding, fanning the flames, just as Trump appeared to request. And this is highly unusual, absent some new evidence, for the DOJ to publicly discuss any kind of possibility of a new investigation of a multiagency foreign policy decision from years ago, let alone a special counsel devoted to it.

But who needs evidence in Jeff Sessions` DOJ? Here you go. Here it is. A new DOJ letter written to House Republicans says the attorney general has directed senior prosecutors to evaluate these issues with Hillary Clinton and whether any of the matters merit the appointment of a special counsel.

We should note that publicly discussing a potential criminal investigation is actually one of the things that Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein said was a reason to fire Jim Comey back in May.

Rosenstein wrote, Comey was wrong and made serious mistakes in his public approach to the Clinton case.

So, that`s Jeff Sessions` Clinton plan. And this idea of a special counsel into the Obama-Clinton era didn`t come out of nowhere. It came from Sean Hannity and other conservatives stirring it up on the airwaves.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, HANNITY: What about investigating their roles in Russia? Hillary Clinton`s State Department, Eric Holder signed off on the deal a year later, knowing that Putin`s - what his intentions were.

Will we have equal justice under the law or will America just be a banana republic?


MELBER: Banana republic. A telling question there.

But even if you put aside the media propaganda roots of this particular theory, remember that Jeff Sessions also already swore under oath he wouldn`t be involved in any potential Clinton case anyway.


SESSIONS: I believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kinds of investigations that involve Secretary Clinton that were raised during the campaign - or could be otherwise connected to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be very clear, you intend to recuse yourself from both the Clinton email investigation and any matters involving the Clinton Foundation, if there are any?



MELBER: Yes. So, is that true today? If Jeff Sessions is not involved in this, does that mean someone else at the DOJ right now is pushing this Obama uranium review to mollify President Trump or, I don`t know, President Hannity or somebody else`s political agenda? Or is Jeff Sessions involved in violating that pledged recusal?

Now, Jeff Sessions, obviously, can clear up these questions, even while carefully refusing to confirm or deny whether there even is any Clinton investigation.

This critical recusal issue may not have been the topic with the most buzz today. But anyone who knows how DOJ really works, how this has worked in the past, knows how much it matters. Anyone who has lived through, say, the Nixon abuse of the enemies list understands the danger in history here.

John Conyers is a civil rights leader. He is the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. He`s the Democrats` former judiciary committee chair. Richard Nixon put him on the enemies list, describing him as a leading black anti-Nixon spokesman.

Conyers is actually the only member of the 1974 House Judiciary Committee who voted for Nixon`s impeachment, remaining in the House today. And it was him, John Conyers, who posed this key question about Sessions` distance from his boss` interests in targeting Clinton today.


REP. JOHN CONYERS (R), MICHIGAN: Are you recused from investigations that involve Secretary Clinton?

SESSIONS: Mr. Chairman, I cannot answer that yes or no because under the policies of the Department of Justice, to announce recusal in any investigation would reveal the existence of that investigation and the top ethics officials have advised me I should not do so.


MELBER: I`m joined now by David Frum, a Bush speechwriter; Leah Wright Rigueur from Harvard Kennedy`s School of Government; and Matt Miller rejoins us.

Matt, I start with you because you used to work there. Are you worried about the DOJ tonight?

MILLER: Yes, absolutely. Look, you, obviously, have the recusal question. That`s an important one. Sessions clearly was dodging there. There is a way to answer that question. You don`t need confirm an investigation, but you just say I stand by what I said previously, which is I would be recused from any matter, if there are any, involving Secretary Clinton, involving the Clinton Foundation.

And the fact that he is refusing to answer makes me think that he`s giving actual serious consideration to the appointment of the special counsel. It would be a gross abuse of power.

It`s really the flip side - appointing a special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton and firing Bob Mueller are two sides of the same coin. They`re both abuses of power. Either, in one case, to protect the president and his allies; in the other case, to persecute his political enemies.

MELBER: What`s striking when you put it that way, David Frum, do you agree that this action being contemplated is on the level with removing Mueller, which is something Republicans have said is a no-go zone?

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": One of the things I was struck by - in fact, the single thing I was most struck by was Attorney General Sessions said that, by definition, the president could not improperly interfere in an investigation.

And that was a categorical statement of his view of what the law is that was very alarming because actually - as you pointed out earlier, President Nixon was on his way to being impeached for improperly using the Justice Department.

And it, obviously, has to be true in a country of laws that the chief law enforcement officer can use that law improperly because otherwise he would be an absolutely authority and not beholden to the law.

I credit Jeff Sessions, who is an institutionalist, with enough sense to understand how dangerous these waters are. And I read a lot of what he was doing today, was trying to not do the wrong thing, trying not to provoke 20 resignations in the Department of Justice, while also reassuring the president that he`s watching the president`s back and listening to what the president says.

MELBER: And yet, Leah, as an expert on constitutional democracy, I`m sure you can enlighten us. It`s not the attorney general`s job to watch anyone`s back, let alone the president.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Well, I think Coretta Scott King tried to warn us years and years and years ago about Jeff Sessions.

This is a man who politicized his office. And his loyalty - and I think he`s been very upfront with this, his loyalty is to Donald Trump.

Now, what we saw today was a performance. And I Agree with David that there was a little bit of an attempt to reassure and say, I am an institutionalist. But there was also a whole lot of, I think, signaling to Donald Trump that he support the president, that he`s loyal to the president and he`ll do what needs to be done in order for the president`s agenda to move through the nation.

MELBER: And, Matt, take a listen to that other passage, which David did point out, where Jeff Sessions seemed to walk this line about influence.


SESSIONS: A president cannot improperly influence an investigation. And I have not been improperly influenced and would not be improperly influenced.

The president speaks his mind. He is a bold and direct about what he says.


MELBER: Matt? I mean, that`s not a correct statement on the law. And it seems to go into the Nixonian territory of, if the president does it, it`s not a crime. Certainly, in the hypothetical, there are ways that any president can improperly interfere in the same way the courts often restrain the president`s power based on improper abuse or excessive power.

MILLER: Yes. I think that answer from Jeff Sessions was consistent with a pattern that he`s been exhibiting really going back to when Mueller was first appointed and the president started to attack him. First, publicly in meetings we later learned about. Later, privately on Twitter.

He`s attacked him for being weak, for recusing himself. He`s attacked him for not appointing the special counsel, for not moving forward with Clinton investigations and Clinton prosecutions.

And you have never seen Jeff Sessions do what an attorney general ought to do, which is stand up and say, look, the president does not make calls about investigations and prosecutions; I do as the attorney general, and as long as I`m the attorney general, I will make those calls independent of political pressure, independent of the White House and the president should really butt out.

And because he hasn`t done that, he`s left himself susceptible to this kind of pressure and he`s encouraged Trump to keep pushing and pushing and pushing. And now, we see, he`s considering the most dramatic step, which could be appointing the special counsel.

MELBER: And, David Frum, I wonder if you would just sketch this back to the role of "Fox News" and other entities which appear to be in the driver`s seat of what House Republicans ask the DOJ about and then, I have it here, what the DOJ says back in return. I mean, this all seems to be quarterbacked.

FRUM: Well, let me give you the most charitable possible interpretation of what Jeff Sessions is doing and it goes to the "Fox" question.

So, every day, "Fox", which has this direct line to the president`s brain, is pumping into his - appealing to his sense of victimhood, appealing to his sense of aggrievement, and giving him these legal fantasies.

There may be a part of Jeff Sessions that knows, look, this will be the end of everything. It would be illegal, it would be the end of my career, it would be the end of this administration.

But if I tell the president this candidly, he`ll fire me. So, I have to do, as his staff so often does, is I have to give - make sure the president has his TV time, his nap time, his blanky and his shiny toy. And if I can just calm him down, he will today not do anything impeachable or start a nuclear war.

MELBER: We don`t ever pause on TV. Let`s all pause and think about the line from the nap time to the TV time to the blanky to avoiding nuclear war.

David Frum, as always, appreciate your perspective. Leah Wright Rigueur and Matt Miller, thank you as well.

Coming up, one of Roy Moore`s biggest supporters now saying, "if he`s lying, he`ll put him in a grave himself."

Also, a special guest joining me, Republican strategist and MSNBC analyst Steve Schmidt live here on Sessions, on Moore and on that Alabama race.

And later, Donald Trump, Jr. is facing these questions about his secret messaging with WikiLeaks. I have the reporter who broke the story and my own breakdown of an aspect of this you may not have heard. That`s later.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Breaking news tonight. The hammer absolutely coming down on Roy Moore. In Washington, it was Sheila Jackson Lee asking who do you believe?


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: These young women have accused this individual, Judge Moore, who is running for a federal office, the United States Senate, of child sexual activity. Do you believe these young women?

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have no reason to doubt these young women.


MELBER: Meanwhile, Moore`s Democratic opponent down in Alabama Doug Jones has a new attack add using Moore`s own supporters against him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don`t decency and integrity matter anymore?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a Republican but Roy Moore no, way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m for Doug Jones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m another Republican for Doug Jones.


MELBER: And a Daily Beast report that just came into our Newsroom. Four sources say one of Moore`s most vocal backers, Breitbart leader Steve Bannon having second thoughts. Bannon reportedly vowing if he finds out Moore "lied to him," he says I will put him in a grave myself. Also breaking tonight, NBC confirming the RNC pulling out of a fundraising agreement with Moore and pulling all field staffers. It is a bloodbath. I want to go right to my panel. Jess McIntosh, Executive Editor at the progressive group ShareBlue, also a former Hillary Clinton Adviser, as well as New York Daily News Columnist Mike Lupica. His latest piece takes aim at Roy Moore and talks about responsibility. Jess, what is happening?

JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SHAREBLUE: I mean, honestly, it`s sad but it`s pretty rich to see the entire Republican Party come out and start to denounce this kind of behavior. We`re hearing from Mitch McConnell, from Paul Ryan, that this behavior is appalling and they believe these women. Honestly, cool story, bro, you still shill for a sexual predator. Donald Trump has been accused by 17 different women and you don`t even have to believe them because the President admitted it himself. So it`s fantastic that the committees are separating their funding agreement and everybody seems to understand now that this is a problem. But as long as they continue to prop up that kind of a man as the leader of their party, women aren`t going to buy it at all.

MELBER: Is it -- is it sheer politics or do you view it as any step of progress that what you argue Donald Trump got away with may not be something that is a long-term viable thing for a candidate?

MCINTOSH: I think it`s absolutely politics. If this were an actual coming to Jesus moment on the part of the Republican Party, they would be looking a lot broader. He is in office. He is in the White House right now, which women across America feel very deeply and have ever since he was elected. We need Republicans to actually care about women, understand that they`re people, understand that they`re worthy of being believed regardless of whether it is inconvenient for them in a political election cycle.

MELBER: You said, come to Jesus. Every time we cover this story, someone is giving me a Jesus metaphor. Mike, I may not be good at them, Jesus, Come to Jesus, Jesus and Mary, help us out.

MIKE LUPICA, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: No. As a former altar boy, I`m really good at -- as soon as you say come to Jesus, it`s interesting that the party of bible waving and bible thumping is -- including Steve Bannon -- is getting religion a little late in this church service about this guy. And for so long, it was if he did these things. And you wanted to say to these people, can you read? How much of a slow thinker are you? Can you read? Did you read the Washington Post story? Did you watch the woman who came forward yesterday? And this whole thing about the presumption of innocence, like this is being tried in one of Judge Roy Moore`s old courtroom. There is no presumption of innocence anymore with this guy if you read the facts. And Ari, if this is a plot, wow, what a plot this is from the Democrats and Mitch McConnell and 30 sources, and all these women, all out to get poor Roy Moore.

MELBER: Well, we were discussing this in our editorial meeting today, and one of our producers has pointed to this New Yorker story about as you say, the evidence that it`s he said, they said, and a lot of other evidence. New Yorker saying locals troubled by Roy Moore`s interactions with teen girls at the Gadsden Mall, he was banned from the mall and the YMCA for what they viewed inappropriate behavior of, "soliciting sex from young girls."

MCINTOSH: I think this is going to be a real problem for the Alabama Republican Party and whole -- as much as it is a problem for the national party. The fact that the Alabama Republican Party infrastructure has rallied around Roy Moore so hard saying that you know, Joseph and Mary were an underage-middle age relationship. I mean, that has to be turning off these locals who were quoted in the New Yorker saying, no, no, actually, we were worried about him when he was trolling for teens at the mall. Like this is going to be a time where they have to stand on principle or risk really alienating the people who have been the red rock solid base.

MELBER: And you drew a line back to what the facts are. This is as we argued on THE BEAT yesterday, a test of Steve Bannon`s fake news defense. Can you muddy the waters, can you have people pose as reporters, can you do all this, you know, are we seeing any verdict on that yet?

LUPICA: Yes. I mean, I don`t know where they`re from but they`re apparently sewer rats down in Alabama trying to pass themselves off as Washington Post reporters. And by the way, Roy Moore now says he`s going to sue the Washington Post. Let`s see if that lawsuit is filed any time before the 12th of never.

MCINTOSH: Donald Trump said exactly the same thing about his accusers, that he was going to file suit against them. This is what happens when women come forward.

MELBER: Right. And he -- and Donald Trump never filed those suits.

MCINTOSH: Of course not.

MELBER: When Cosby did, they proved to haunt him because they created a fact-based place with rules of evidence which is different than some of the rules of politics. You said the 12th of what, never?

LUPICA: 12th of never. And --

MELBER: Well, you know, what Kanye calls that, the 35th of Nevuary. Thank you.

LUPICA: I come here to learn things.

MELBER: Well, it`s a Newsroom. We learn we learn as we go. I`m always learning. Jess McIntosh and Mike Lupica, thank you, both. Ahead, was it coordination? We have the journal who broke the story on Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks live. But first, a special guest who I heard was more special than Mike Lupica, Steve Schmidt gets his own promo, his own full screen. He`s here live next.


MELBER: Tonight, Donald Trump is under fire for record-breaking numbers of lies shattering norms and maybe lies by targeting Hillary Clinton in a new investigation and for employing people accused of lying about Russia from Jeff Sessions to George Papadopoulos. It is a lie. And that`s why even some lifelong Republicans warn Trump marked the death of a certain part of the Republican Party. Steve Schmidt is here in studio to talk about that tonight and I`m going to play Steve for Steve. This is you on election night.2016 before the race was called.


STEVE SCHMIDT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s an extraordinary night. One thing we already know is that no matter what the outcome is in the Presidential Race, the party of Reagan no longer exists. There are enormous issues geopolitically that we`ll be dealing with this. This is the seismic event of our political lifetime.


MELBER: Steve, tonight the President returns from his international trip about a year after you said that. What kind of democracy is he going to find back home today?

SCHMIDT: A diminishing one. Our country is resilient and our institutions are strong but we should make no mistake that Donald Trump is not just degrading his office with his lack of rectitude and probity, his attacks on the widow of a fallen green beret, gold star parents, and a hundred other examples. When we stand may be at the precipice of a moment where a Fox News demand can find its way to the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate a conspiracy theory, where it becomes commonplace maybe in this country to investigate your defeated political opponent, to giant leap forward to banana -- towards banana republicanism. It`s dangerous. When you hear his assaults on the concepts of the freedom of the press, the first amendment, when you see Nazis marching in Charlottesville and he talks about the good people among them, all of these things are not normal. They`re not healthy.

And lastly, there`s no democracy anywhere where you see the level of lying like you see out of this administration. Democracies are foundationally built on truth. Without truth, there can`t be accountability. In every autocracy, you see a foundation of lies. And you see Donald Trump on this trip abroad representing the United States, but not our ideals, not our values. He didn`t mention them very much on this trip. And I think for these other world leaders, what they understand is how easy it is to flatter him. There`s an old saying in a poker game. If you don`t know who the patsy is, you`re the patsy. And I think that these leaders see an easy mark in Donald Trump. Throw him a military parade, roll out the red carpet but how delighted our adversaries must be that an American President doesn`t much believe in American ideals.

MELBER: Well, and you`re speaking to what makes a republic run and you`re talking about normalization of the abnormal as a serious threat on civic life. And you`re talking about the role of facts. I mean, something we`ve been covering is how in other countries, one of the rules of entry is you have to go along with the government`s monopoly on information. And that`s the price of getting in. This has never been the American way. I wonder if you can speak to the exhaustion, as someone who`s worked in political campaigns where you know, you call the voters. They say we don`t want any more calls, we don`t want a turnout. And you have to find a way in to prevent people from what I hear when I`m out in the field, which is people say, gosh, I`m sure it`s important but God, the latest thing, it`s exhausting.

SCHMIDT: I was struck by something that Andrew Sullivan, the brilliant writer, a point that he made earlier in the year. He made the point that in a free society, part of the freedom is being able to be free he from politics. It`s not ever-present. When you go to an autocratic country, you see the images of a leader hung like tapestries from the buildings. It`s omnipresent. The state is everywhere. That`s not the case in America. You`re supposed to be able to check out from what`s going on, turn away from the T.V. for a couple of hours, there`s some new outrage that the president has been engaged in. People are genuinely anxious. They`re worried. We have no respite from politics, not even on Sundays with the NFL anymore.

President Bush in his second inaugural address which I don`t think stands the test of time when he talked about that it will be the policy of the United States to spread democracy. I think the policy was well-intentioned and he was academically correct that after 9/11 that helping democracies don`t particularly produce the citizens that have ambition to fly airplanes into buildings. But what we`ve he learned over the last decade, it`s not elections that create democracies. Elections can create majoritarianism. Democracies and republics are built on protection for the minority against the majority. It`s the rule of law which is foundational to a democratic society. And that`s, I think, the most pernicious part of the Trump assault on these core institutions and values.

MELBER: Right. And as you say, democracies cultivate a type of social change that exist above parties as not beholden to them. The civil rights movement dealt with the fact that the Democrats were really race, and the Republicans were really bad on race and yet there was progress. We have a debate now over whether sex crimes should be a disqualification for office in Alabama, and you have party officials there saying maybe it shouldn`t. That`s putting party above everything, as you say, the rule of law itself. Steve Schmidt, thanks for coming by.

SCHMIDT: Good to see you, Ari.

MELBER: I always learn something from you. Coming up, the fallout from Donald Trump Jr.`s secret message with WikiLeaks. The Journalist who broke that story is here. And that how it proves that once and for all, the questions about what WikiLeaks is will be central to the resolution of the Russia probe.


MELBER: (AUDIO GAP) secretly corresponded with a WikiLeaks representative during the 2016 campaign according to a new report by the Atlantic`s Julia Ioffe. It details how Trump responded a few times and apparently got his father Donald Trump to post a link suggested by WikiLeaks. The correspondence was through private messages on Twitter and alone, there`s nothing inherently automatically illegal about that. Trump Jr. has far more legal exposure for example for the welcoming of alleged Russian oppo on Clinton at Trump Tower. And there are two significant implications here for WikiLeaks. First, while Julian Assange recently said he rejected an offer to coordinate with Trump`s digital team Cambridge Analytica, somebody running his WikiLeaks Twitter account was obviously seeking coordination with Trump`s campaign. We have the messages, they suggested that they promote Podesta e-mails, part 4, and they said Trump should not concede in the election if he lost, and instead should challenge a "rigging that occurred."

The messages also ask Donald Trump to leak his father`s tax returns and his e-mails about the Trump Tower meeting. Trump Jr. did not provide those to WikiLeaks. So WikiLeaks was privately coordinating with parts of Trumpworld regardless of whether it engaged and offered to coordinate formally those stolen e-mails with Cambridge. And this story was actually deemed significant enough that Vice President Pence put out his own statement basically distancing himself. But there`s a second point here. These messages add to the evidence that WikiLeaks is not a neutral publisher. And to some people that may sound obvious but a key legal defense for WikiLeaks and maybe for anyone who ever got -- ever gets caught working with them is that they are a media outlet. Conservative hawks have long argued WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have blood on their hands.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he does clearly have blood on his hands. I`d like to see them move aggressively to prosecute in Mr. Assange.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it is, a non- state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.


MELBER: That`s the idea WikiLeaks, bad, but Donald Trump`s idea during the campaign was WikiLeaks good because it was helpful.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You`ve got to read it.

WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.


MELBER: Julia Ioffe broke the story. What do these new messages tell you about WikiLeaks?

JULIA IOFFE, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, just as you said, Ari, they say that they`re not a neutral publisher, they are not, as they have often repeated just doing work like journalists. They are a political organization and one that has been mysteriously aligned with the interests of the Kremlin since at least 2013. Again, for those of us who have been watching Russia for years and years, this isn`t exactly surprising. But it`s -- you know to finally see it written in black and white, you know, why would a journalist or a transparency organization say, hey, don`t concede the results of that election, challenge them, you know, don`t give in? Why would a transparency organization want to sew chaos and create a constitutional crisis in the U.S.?

MELBER: I mean, that makes sense what you`re saying and what your reporting shows. Let me -- let me throw a different argument at you. You know, they say on the internet no one knows whether you`re, you know, a pet dog, famous New Yorker cartoon, I don`t know if you`ve seen it. no?

IOFFE: I`m a pet cat on the internet.

MELBER: No one knows you`re a pet cat. The argument being, well, maybe whoever was behind this Twitter account was just messing around, or trying to say things to mess with Don Jr. and get the tax returns or some of the weird requests they make. I`m not endorsing that argument but I put it to you for your response.

IOFFE: Oh, sure, maybe, we don`t know that it was Julian Assange running that account. We reached out to WikiLeaks, to their lawyer, listen to those messages, and we got no response back. We don`t know who wrote those messages but it doesn`t matter. It`s the main WikiLeaks account that has millions of followers that`s been verified by Twitter and it`s exchanging messages back and forth with, you know, one of the top surrogates of what was then the Trump campaign, the Republican Nominee`s oldest son and now, you know, the President`s oldest son asking him for favors.

MELBER: And that goes the -- and that goes to the other thing I want to ask you as a student of this because you`ve covered it for a long time. Is the theory that WikiLeaks was opportunist and ended up with Russia or that there is a free-standing sort of commitment or ideology there?

IOFFE: You know, I`m not sure. I think that it`s one of those -- it may have started as an ideological affinity which is what you saw with the first WikiLeaks dumps of the State Department cables. You know, it`s interesting -- what I found interesting in reading these direct messages back and forth between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks was that they keep saying hey, help us look more neutral, help us look better, help us look less pro-Russian by giving us this stuff because they never leak stuff that -- in 2016, it never leaks a thing that hurt trump and helped Clinton. But before 2016 they never put out anything that made Russia look bad.

MELBER: Right, such --

IOFFE: And this is kind of a problem that you see on the left and now on the right. But before it was kind of a standard kind of lefty problem that, you know, if you don`t like American imperialism, who else doesn`t like American imperialism? Moscow doesn`t like American imperialism. And so, you know, this old kind of cold war this phantom limbs of the cold war and causing a lot of these people to close their eyes to the fact that Russia`s -- you know, America has plenty of problems, but Russia is far, far worse --

MELBER: Right.

IOFFE: -- especially on the issues these people care about, civil liberties, transparency, privacy --

MELBER: Right. I have to -- I only have to go because I got to clear the space for HARDBALL but Julia Ioffe, thank you for your reporting, we`ll be right back.


MELBER: That does it for THE BEAT tonight. You can always find us on Facebook @THEBEATWITHARI. HARDBALL, as promised, is up next.




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