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Facebook under fire for discrimination Transcript 11/22/2017 The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Michael Conway, Karen Loeffler, Liz Plank, Seth Herzog

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: November 22, 2017 Guest: Michael Conway, Karen Loeffler, Liz Plank, Seth Herzog

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST, "MTP DAILY": Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones. THE BEAT with my favorite turkey, Ari Melber, starts right now. Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE BEAT: How are you doing? I grew up on reading rainbow.

TUR: Good. And look where it got you.

MELBER: I don't know where it got me, but I loved it. It was always weird, though. It was a TV show about reading.

TUR: Well, you can read a teleprompter now, which is good. It's a TV show and you're reading. There's a synergy.

MELBER: You know, I didn't think about it like that. Katy Tur, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

TUR: Thank you, Ari. You too.

MELBER: Tonight, we are following multiple developing stories. What Trump was saying in private just days before coming out in support of an alleged sexual predator in the Alabama race.

Also, a story you may not have heard and an important one. Facebook under fire for discrimination. I have a special report for Mar later in the show.

Also, new concerns about Donald Trump pressuring DOJ to investigate opponents and the free press. I have a special guest who is an expert on DOJ independence. It's an important story.

But we begin with a question many are asking about the prosecutors investigating Russian collusion. Do you think they'll get the president?

Now, that is what Jared Kushner recently asked a friend according to a second source who spoke to "Vanity Fair." That fretful question allegedly from a loyal Trump insider is at odds with the White House's public legal stance.

As we reported last night, Trump layer Ty Cobb insisting that the interviews are going well and Mueller's entire probe could be resolved in early January.

Kushner may have his own legal exposure. Mueller now investigating Kushner's contacts with foreign leaders, asking detailed questions about Kushner's views of Jim Comey and if he favored firing him.

Now, Mueller could be chasing a lead from "The Wall Street Journal", which reports four sources who say Kushner did support that now infamous firing of FBI Director Comey. But let's be clear. Those four sources are anonymous. They could just be enemies of Kushner trying to pin the White House's probably worst decision yet on him.

But consider this. Another former Trump campaign aide has blamed Kushner for Comey's firing on the record. You may recall, when Sam Nunberg joined THE BEAT for a spirited, even energetic interview earlier this month, he brought up Comey's firing.


SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: What I do know is, from all public reporting - what I do know is that he said you should fire Flynn, you should fire Mueller, you should do this, you should do that, you should make deals on things that would be direct -

MELBER: Comey.

NUNBERG: On Comey, yes, he said fire Comey. By the way, a lot of people suspect - I don't know, a lot of suspect, which is nobody has really reported that Comey started looking into Jared's financial dealings and these real estate dealings.

Jared is a major problem. He owns "The Observer". He has that big deal on 666 Fifth Avenue. And it's all turned to crap.


MELBER: It's all turned to crap. Now, let's be clear. That's just a source. This quote and crap can be in the eye of the beholder. Nunberg, as we reported at the time, was also fired from the campaign, but this may actually be the one thing that he and Donald Trump agree on.

Because, reportedly, the president has taken to blaming Jared Kushner for Comey's firing, which led to Mueller's appointment.

Let's get right to it. Joyce Vance served as US attorney in Alabama under President Obama. And I want to mention Tolouse Olorunnipa is a first-time guest here at THE BEAT. He's White House reporter for "Bloomberg News". Thanks for your maiden voyage.


MELBER: Joyce, I'll start with you as the prosecutor. The obstruction piece of this. And what is so interesting in Jared Kushner, who is tied to all this, sounding very different from the White House lawyers.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER US ATTORNEY FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA: Many people think that the straightest path to the president would have to be through Jared Kushner. So, it is not surprising that he would be asking questions like this, Ari.

I think, in many ways, he is asking, will I be prosecuted? Am I vulnerable as he looks at the president's situation.

And to the casual observer, just from what evidence we see in the public domain, let alone what Mueller's team has and what evidence they're wading through, it looks like Jared Kushner is at risk on a number of different sorts of grounds. And so, he might well ask whether that would ultimately reach the president, his boss.

MELBER: Yes. And, Joyce, just following up on that, in a normal situation - and again, this is part of the pre-Thanksgiving broadcast where we note it's not normal right now - but in normal situation, if you have someone potentially exposed, which doesn't mean they did anything wrong, but at least they have exposure, you then wouldn't involve them in these key personnel matters. I mean, a CEO dealing with an investigation who has, say, a CFO under exposure, would keep the CFO out of some key discussions about how to approach regulators or prosecutors, at least in the study of law that I'm familiar with.

And yet, Donald Trump going totally abnormal here, keeping Kushner involved in these discussions. Was that a bad idea?

VANCE: It's really inexplicable that Kushner hasn't been walled off because it really creates potential for obstruction or for other sorts of problems for Trump and for others.

Typically, in a situation like this, you would expect to see him, if not resign his position, then be very carefully walled off rather than retaining his security clearance and continuing to be involved in personnel decisions and substantive matters. It's really surprising.

MELBER: Tolouse, what are you hearing down in Washington?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, the question that you asked is key. And it sort of - if you go back to the campaign, the president relied on his family probably more than any other candidate in the history of presidential politics.

Jared Kushner was one of his top campaign advisers. When we get to the transition, he was one of the top people who was in contacts and communication with all of these various foreign governments, including people coming over from Russia and from Israel.

And I believe that one of the reasons that Kushner hasn't resigned and hasn't been walled off from some of these decisions is because the president is comfortable with his family members helping him in his presidency.

He didn't come to Washington with a lot of friends. He was an outsider and he is relying on his daughter and his son-in-law to help him move his agenda along. So, that's part of the reason that the president and the White House has ended up in this sort of hot water with investigators.

It's because the president hasn't provided that wall between family and business. He's mixed the two together and it has become something that the White House has struggled to deal with.

Right now, they're trying to just focus on the agenda, try to focus on policy issues. A number of people in the White House do not want to be swept up in this investigation. So, if you ask them about that, they give you a no comment or try to move on. But this is clearly something that has been a cloud hanging over the White House and continues to be a hindrance for the president and his agenda.

MELBER: Right. Tolouse, and you mentioned the line between family and work. There's also the line between work, the government obligations these people have undertaken, and other work because you've got more sort of part time officials than we're accustomed to.

The president says he can run his business while he's in the office. Jared Kushner has technically divested, but still takes meetings with all sorts of people, including Russian bankers that raise questions. For example, the Sergei Gorkov meeting, chief executive of the Russian state-owned bank, which, of course, is a huge issue because they're on the US sanctions list, among other things.

Is there a point in Washington where people who are for Trump even say, look, if it's so important to do the banking for the Kushner company or that kind of outreach, maybe you should go back to job number one. Maybe two jobs at once is too hard for too long.

OLORUNNIPA: Well, I think the Mueller probe, which is looking specifically at that meeting with the Russian banker who is under sanctions, there have been competing and varying narratives about what that meeting was about. Was it about sanctions and government issues? Was it about business in the private company that Jared Kushner had before he entered into government?

I think the fact that Mueller is looking at those types of meetings is going to lead to those questions being asked by members of the Trump administration, by outside advisers, who are going to wonder whether or not it makes sense to have both family and business mixed together, as well as private sector business and government business mixed together.

This is a president that has a number of conflicts of interest, a number of people in his inner circle have widespread conflicts of interest and their businesses. And the fact that Mueller is probing these things, the reporting that Comey might have been looking into some of these things before he was fired is leading to a number of questions being asked about whether the president is making the right decision by holding on to his businesses, keeping his family members close, even though they have number of conflicts and a number of questionable meetings they've had over the past year with foreign governments.

Those questions are being asked and we are not - it's not clear that the president is listening. Obviously, he had listened to his family members and his close advisers when he fired Jim Comey, which many people on both sides of the aisle said that that was the low point of the presidency, and it's led to all of these various investigations and all of these various problems that the president has had to deal with and the special counsel even existing.

So, it is not clear that the president is listening to those advisors who are cautioning against mixing all of this family and business and all of this private sector business. It is not clear that the president is listening and that's an issue that he's been facing.

MELBER: Joyce, as I mentioned at the top, I'm just learning about Tolouse's style and it is clearly so factual and capital and diplomatic that he just said a bunch of things that could be interpreted as damning for Donald Trump, although never in a way that was negative or rude.

But if I heard right, Joyce, what he's raising is the fact that when you have these open conflicts, that you don't listen to the experts or advisers, you can make the legal problems worse. I wonder if you would weigh in on that.

And also, the other big story that I heard some of the prosecutors talk about last night, which is whether this White House line that this can all be wrapped up by January is, A, realistic and, B, the actual complexity of what we think Mueller is looking at.

VANCE: Well, let me answer the part of that first. The idea that this wraps up by Christmas is entirely aspirational. It's simply not going to happen. The most surprising thing about Mueller's investigation is the speed at which we saw these early investigations.

They still have a lot of documents, bank records, witnesses to plow through. That takes time. Putting the case together takes time.

And most importantly, to good prosecutors, making sure that you're not missing conduct that you should be picking up on, making sure that you're indicting all of the crimes that need to be dealt with. So, this is far from over.

But I think the detailed factual recitation is fascinating because not only do we have criminal elements that are being looked at here, and clearly, a lot of this has to do with whether or not there might be fraud or some sort of foreign bank misdealing sort of criminal conduct that becomes looked at, but it also raises issues of whether the president has an emoluments clause problem.

This is the prohibition against accepting remuneration from a foreign government while you're in office. There is at least one private suit that's been brought in that regard.

And many of these other conflict of interest entities, ideas that are surfacing. For instance, this morning, the president tweeted and referred to Mar-a-Lago as the winter White House. And yet, we all know it's a business enterprise that he's running and, in essence, advertising every time he tweets about it.

I think that there's a lot of interesting financial conflation going on here. And at the end of the day, the decision to bring in family and family business may have been very detrimental.

MELBER: Joyce Vance and Tolouse Olorunnipa, thank you both and happy Thanksgiving. We have a lot more on the show. Does Donald Trump see parallels between himself and Roy Moore? There's reporting from inside the White House about that.

And growing concerns about how Trump is using the Justice Department as a weapon. Now, this has happened before. I have a lawyer here who helped write a report recommending President Nixon's impeachment.

Also, a new investigation about discrimination online at Facebook. Are they unable to fix or just unwilling? I have a special report for Mark Zuckerberg on that tonight.

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


MELBER: Donald Trump was out on the golf course today. That was hours after supported an alleged sexual predator. Trump breaking Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Speaker Ryan to, clearly, back Roy Moore over the Democratic challenger out there.

A new poll showing a statistical tie in Alabama. And a reporter there saying what voters are saying about Moore and his opponent Doug Jones.


ANNA CLAIRE VOLLERS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "AL.COM": What gives some conservatives pause down here, it is really his pro-choice stance. When I talk to people who are on the fence, maybe they are not Roy Moore fans, a lot of them have said to me, I'm looking at a choice between a man who might molests children and a man who thinks it's OK to kill unborn babies.


MELBER: Before breaking his silence, Trump had privately doubted some of Moore's accusers. He questioned reportedly why they were emerging now. Two White House advisors also tell "POLITICO" that trump appeared to see parallels between Moore's situation and his own. Trump believing Moore's denials, including a new one.


ROY MOORE, GOP NOMINEE FOR ALABAMA SENATE SEAT: I didn't have any wrongful relationships, engaged in any sexual misconduct with an underage woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever date or go out with underage women?

MOORE: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever engaged in any sexual misconduct with any person?

MOORE: No. It's against the law and it would be wrong.


MELBER: I'm joined now by Liz Plank, executive producer of Divided States of Women at Vox Media, and Melinda Henneberger, editorial writer and columnist at the "Kansas City Star".

Melinda, if you look at the ethics of this, it has been a big important conversation about what happened. If you look at the politics, the race is both closer than it usually would be in Alabama and many people say way too close.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, EDITORIAL WRITER AND COLUMNIST, "KANSAS CITY STAR": Well, it's really like a bad joke. Would you rather have a child molester or a Democrat? OK. The child molester.

That it has literally come down to this, I think, is a gigantic moment not only in our American political life, but for the Republican Party. I mean, I think even more than electing Donald Trump, electing Roy Moore under these circumstances would really be a post-republican Republican Party for what we used to think of. I think there was an argument to be made that, at one point, this was the family values party.

MELBER: On that point, Liz, this is a candidate in Doug Jones and a democrat who is really going directly at this issue. There is a view politically that you stay out of the way to some degree. Because we know the more partisan and polarized it is, the more people go in their corners. Whereas if it's about the truth or the reporting that maybe you win people over.

But here is that new ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leigh Corfman, Beverly Young Nelson, Debby Wesson Gibson, Gloria Thacker Deason, Gina Richardson, Wendy miller, Kelly Harrison Thorpe, and the list is growing. They were girls when Roy Moore immorally pursued them. Now, they are women. Witnesses to us all of this disturbing content. Will we make their abuser a US senator?


LIZ PLANK, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF "DIVIDED STATES OF WOMEN", VOX MEDIA: Yes. I mean, this is a powerful ad. It shows that the women who are saying that they were molested by Roy Moore would be his constituents and that he would be elected.

And we've been in a situation like that before where there is someone who is an alleged predator who ends up being elected into office. Of course, I'm talking about Donald Trump. And I'm not surprised to see him defend someone like Roy Moore.

There's a bro code. Men who are accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment defending other men who are accused of the same thing. It maintains the myth that women who do this are liars or women who do this are getting together and colluding against a powerful man.

And it serves a purpose in the case of Donald Trump because, as we know, these women who have accused him of different kinds of sexual misconduct are still out there making those claims.

MELBER: Melinda, I think one other difference journalistically - and again, not necessarily ethically. I mean, these are difficult issues. But journalistically is, there are times - we as journalists have covered times where there is a lot in doubt or there are just accounts of one versus one. That can happen.

HENNEBERGER: Right, sure.

MELBER: But here, even if you remove some of the numbers of accusers, a big difference journalistically is how many other independent individuals are corroborating key claims.

I want to play a police officer here, again, who is not accusing him of misconduct, but is speaking as a former officer of the law about what she says she was advised about Moore, which affected what she was doing on the job. In a court context, this would be very influential testimony. Take a listen.


FAYE GARY, RETIRED GADSDEN POLICE OFFICER: We were advised that he was being suspended from the mall because he would hang around the young girls. We were also told to watch him at the ballgames and make sure that he didn't hang around the cheerleaders where the cheerleaders would be.

Every day, we was looking for a complaint to come in.


MELBER: Where do all those extra corroborating witnesses fit in?

HENNEBERGER: Well, as you say, with so many victims coming forward, that's just - I always hated the term, he said, she said because if you really care to investigate, you can almost always, I think, get to the truth of the matter.

But now, when you have these great numbers of women coming forward, and, as you say, all these corroborating witnesses, people with no political stake in this whatsoever, people who never even knew each other, saying, this man was known by all of his colleagues to have that inclination, that he was known in town as someone who couldn't go to the mall, that he was known as someone who had to be kept away from the cheerleaders, I mean to say that this is, as I've heard people in Alabama who still support Roy Moore saying, oh, this is out of Washington, this was cooked up, 30 sources on the record, they must be really, really working hard to cook that up.

And you have to have worked hard as somebody in Roy Moore's backyard, it seems to me, who never heard this about him over the years since a "Washington Post" reporter walking through town actually got on to it.

MELBER: Melinda Henneberger, thank you very much. Liz Plank, stay with me. I want to talk to you about fallback turkey as well. I also want to give you a programming note, something we've been working on, working hard, our team here on THE BEAT.

We have specialist Friday. Russia on trial, debating evidence of collusion. We go inside a moot court with live student jurors. We hear arguments about both sides of the Russian election conspiracy, including from former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti and renowned defense attorney Alan Dershowitz who has appealed 200 and he makes the Trump defense.

That is going to be on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, a BEAT special, 6 PM Eastern.

As for us ahead, breaching that DOJ wall. These new concerns, Donald Trump using the Justice Department to attack opponents. I have a key figure from Nixon's impeachment here live tonight.

And later, Mark Zuckerberg's ad problem is getting worse, from Russian operatives to racial discrimination. An important story ahead.


MELBER: It is Thanksgiving eve and Donald Trump was tweeting a lot today. And we're not going to report on the actual words in any of those tweets because they're not newsworthy other than for the general point that, yet again, politically, Trump is trying to drum up controversies over the national anthem and basketball, which will probably reverberate at some Thanksgiving dinners tomorrow. You can look forward to that.

The story we are going to report on tonight with far more reaching consequences is one Trump isn't tweeting about. Allegations that he's turning a once obscure part of the Justice Department into a weapon against those who criticize him.

The DOJ basically trying to take Time Warner to court to block a merger with AT&T. And their company CEO says it's not a surprise that one question keeps coming up. Whether this is all an effort to retaliate against CNN.


Randall Stephenson, CEO, AT&T: There's been a lot of reporting and speculation whether this is all about CNN. And frankly, I don't know. But nobody should be surprised that the question keeps coming up.


MELBER: The question does keep coming up and it's because of Trump's ongoing fight with CNN. Sources told "CNBC" that the DOJ wanted AT&T to sell Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN as a condition for approval of this merger that they're now fighting.

This appearance of an abuse of power comes, of course, just days after Trump was pleading with the DOJ to investigate Hillary Clinton.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 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?


MELBER: That was followed by an odd overture from the Justice Department to House Republicans on the same issue.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sessions is considering the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a number of Republican concerns, some involving Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Justice Department sent a letter to Congress saying some of those Clinton issues are being investigated.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: Sessions battled members of his own party over whether appointing a prosecutor to investigate the president's chief political rival was a good idea.


MELBER: That's a huge deal. Tonight, we can't tell you whether a new Clinton prosecutor will be appointed, but historians know political meddling with DOJ is one rule presidents break at their peril.

George W. Bush's attorney general ultimately resigned over allegations politics played a role in retaliating against DOJ prosecutors. And, of course, Nixon's attempt to thwart an investigation by firing his special prosecutor triggered a crisis, paving the way to the end of his presidency.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The country tonight is in the midst of what may be the most serious constitutional crisis in its history. The president has fired the man you just saw, the special Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox. Because of the president's action, the attorney general has resigned.

Richardson's deputy William Ruckelshaus has been fired. The president has abolished special Watergate prosecutor's Cox' office.


MELBER: The draft article of impeachment against Nixon cited those attempts to abuse DOJ investigative power for political ends.

It's a process my next guest knows intimately. Michael Conway wrote part of the final report to the US House recommending Nixon's impeachment. He went on to try hundreds of civil cases in Chicago. Thanks for being here.

Do you view this story which hasn't necessarily gotten as much attention as many other dramas in the Trump era, as significant in a historical context as DOJ meddling?

MICHAEL CONWAY, FORMER COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Absolutely. I mean, both President Nixon and President Trump have engaged in abuse of power. President Nixon did it, as you mentioned Ari, directly in firing the special prosecutor but he did in other ways, too. Actually, he did it in an interesting way in an anti-trust case. There was an anti-trust case pending against ITT and the president, first through his subordinates, and then in the White House tape call what (INAUDIBLE) profanity, told then- deputy Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to drop the case. (INAUDIBLE) do the next day, he said, drop the case.

And then when Mr. Kleindienst was nominated as Attorney General, he was asked if there had been any White House pressure on him to drop the case. He denied it. Later, he pled guilty to lying to Congress in his confirmation hearing about that White House pressure. And of course, the more notable one that we remember is that President Nixon went through his subordinates, went to the IRS, created an enemies list, ask the IRS to audit and investigate his political opponents and people from the McGovern campaign.

MELBER: Right. And that was very explicit. You know, some folks turn on the channel, they think we're in competition with CNN. And in a sense, we are, but that's not really the lens I bring to this story. The question is one that would matter no matter who the journalist or entity or company is. It's a question of whether the DOJ is now doing something explicitly to target a critic in the mind of the President. What is the burden of proof for something like that? Because we don't know the publicly.

CONWAY: Well, when Congress passed the three articles of impeachment against President Nixon, the second one was the abuse of power. Tellingly, it got more votes than the article of impeachment about obstruction of justice. It passed the 28 out of 38 votes. And what the Congress said in our final report said was that an abuse of power does not have to be a criminal offense. It is the President taking an action for an improper political purpose. And of course, we have as you mentioned, the fact that the President is now urging the Department of Justice to investigate his political opponent, Hillary Clinton. And that's really the essence of abuse of power. He's taking the proper president power and using that for an improper purpose.

MELBER: Michael Conway with the Nixon history, thank you for being here. I want to turn now to some more recent history, the Obama era. Karen Loeffler was a Federal Prosecutor under President Obama. She also more broadly spent 30 years at DOJ prosecuting bribery and conspiracy cases and served all the way up until the U.S. Attorneys were removed by President Trump. Thank you for being here. How do you view these comments from this President about pursuing political opponents through DOJ?

KAREN LOEFFLER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I view them as not -- it's just very difficult even to hear them. As a longtime member of the Department of Justice, that's an organization and a department with a story in history of trying to be of being objective and forcing the laws of the United States without influence, without attention to political realities. And it's very difficult. And there's a separation wall that has gone on in almost all instances. I agree with Mr. Conway but it just is astounding to someone who has been a member of the Department of Justice, was a member for a long time. There's a separation and a dedication and an oath that's taken to enforce the laws of the United States without influence and this stuff matters.

MELBER: And Karen, I want you to listen to something that Donald Trump said during the campaign with an eye to whether this makes it worse for him, to the extent there are reviews of his conduct or potential obstruction or potential meddling. Here he was during the campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. People have been -- their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you've done and it is a disgrace.


MELBER: Does that make it worse if there is any legal review ultimately here?

LOEFFLER: Well, it makes it worse because it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Department of Justice and the role of the White House. There has always been the policy that the White House doesn't direct the Department of Justice what to do. And the Attorney General of the United States takes an oath to the laws of the United States and not to loyalty to the President. And it looks, you know, third worldish to say, or you know, to sit there and say I'm going to direct somebody to investigate you is not the role of the President. It's inappropriate and undermines the credibility of the Department of Justice which is very important when you standup representing the United States, and takes actions like an indictment or a prosecution.

MELBER: When you look at this --

LOEFFLER: It undermines the credibility. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

MELBER: Oh, please, no. I know you're in Alaska so we have a little bit of delay. The other question was this real open question about whether anti-trust enforcement which by the way is not something the Republican administration are typically known for being super aggressive about. If it's a jump ball, they tend to err on the side of letting companies do what they want or letting them merge within the law. And yet, here we've seen something very different which then taking AT&T and Time Warner to court this week. It hasn't gotten a lot of attention. I think a lot of people aren't quite sure what to make of it. Do you view that coupled with the President's comments about CNN and saying he wanted to get them through merger, coupled with the head of the Anti-Trust Division having reversed himself because last year he said this wouldn't be an issue and now they're suing? Do you view that as something that requires more scrutiny or more of a conspiracy theory at this point?

LOEFFLER: Well, I think it going to require scrutiny of the motives for the bringing of the case. I can't talk to you about the substance of the case. I don't know enough about it. But I do know that -- I mean, when the Department of Justice take action, there has to be credibility to the action. And we've seen it not in this context. We've already seen it in a number of rulings by judges against the department where they look to the President's statements and they said, you know, the department can say one thing that they don't mean this but the President is out there saying I want to get them. And then, that undermines the belief in the decision. I don't know the substance of you know, what the courts will do but I think there will be an investigative -- investigation into the motives of bringing the case and that makes the whole -- the whole approach of justice. It undermines the credibility.

MELBER: Karen Loeffler, this was your first time on THE BEAT, I'm so glad we could get you on because, after decades of DOJ, your expertise is so really needed right now. Thank you for making time.

LOEFFLER: Well, thank you so much and have a happy Thanksgiving.

MELBER: Happy Thanksgiving. Now, coming up, a new report saying Facebook allowed advertisers to discrimination by race nearly a year after they were first warned about that problem. Facebook knows about the problem. Why aren't they fixing it? And as we look ahead to Thanksgiving, who needs to fall back tonight?


MELBER: Just after the election in December, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg talked about the responsibility he felt for how his platform is used and then he added this.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: We're an important part of the public discourse. And I am -- you know, reflecting on 2016, this is just something that I am proud that people in this company take this so seriously. Because I know that people in our community are -- you know, we're just a small part of the social fabric around the world but we are part of that, and I think we do have a big responsibility to get that right and to keep on doing better and better.


MELBER: A big responsibility, he said for the small part they play in democracy. Then we learned all about the Russian operatives buying ads in rubles. We learned about the lack of controls to deal with fake news. And this week a report you may not have heard yet. We're learning about racial discrimination, supplied through Facebook. I have a special report for Mark Zuckerberg on this topic next.


MELBER: One of the most famous and respected companies in the world. The criticism at his face in the past few months so for his approach to Russian meddling and fake news is probably one of the rougher periods for this celebrated company. A New York Times column noting this week the companies like Google and Facebook are seeing the mood has shifted as some now believe tech is like the tobacco industry, corporations that make billions peddling a destructive addiction. Is this criticism hitting home? Not yet really. Facebook's current stock price is at a record high, worth almost five times its debut price.

The markets are not telling Facebook to do anything different even as I would argue three big criticisms are emerging across the spectrum. The first is that Facebook doesn't just want to you connect. It wants to you crave those connections. Facebook stokes just about anything that meets that profitable craving. As a platform, they don't care if news is real or propaganda is from Russia so long as you keep clicking. And then there's also the idea that Facebook's targeting maddeningly one-sided. They use the data to target all of us with precision but we know very little about them. This is transparency for the masses and privacy for our corporate leaders. As early as 2005, Mark Zuckerberg was touting his micro- targeting.


ZUCKERBERG: So people from Harvard can get specific stuff both functionality and I guess, advertising that's targeted to people at Harvard. And we have so much data about what people are doing on the side and how people are using it that it just makes it so that we can really enhance the experience and target stuff toward those people in ways that no one else has really been able to do before.


MELBER: Targeting is an enhanced and new innovation. Like any tools, it can be used many ways. But from Russia to fake news, to cultivating censorship abroad, wean been reporting on how Facebook seems pretty blas‚ about how its tools are used until they get caught. At which point, the company assures everyone it's learned and will change. And that's a pattern we've seen several times just this year including when top exec Sheryl Sandberg said just month, Facebook does not allow racial targeting for discrimination.


SHERYL SANDBERG, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, Facebook: We allow targeting to different groups, different ethnic groups, different races, different religions. There are times when you shouldn't and we take this really seriously. We do not allow targeting on financial loans or you know, things that are discriminatory but there are times people make products for one group and not another.


MELBER: Now, that sounds reasonable in theory. Facebook allows to you make a page say, promoting a Jewish holiday event for Jews but it doesn't allow you to use Facebook to bar Jews from renting an apartment in your building. This rule isn't Facebook's idea, by the way. It was back in the days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Congress passed a law. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 barring any housing ads that use discrimination based on race, color, religion and other qualities. Now, last year, the public interest news group ProPublica ran a test to see if Facebook was complying with that law. Facebook failed and they promised to fix it. And being dogged journalists, ProPublica just ran that test again and this week they found Facebook still allows housing advertisers to exclude users with those illegal factors, discriminating by race and religion.

Now, ProPublica created a model housing company and ask Facebook to place ads discriminating against minorities like African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics, their ad was approved as was an ad targeting Jews and Muslims. If all of this sounds familiar, it is. Just two months ago, Facebook was also busted for placing ads he targeting people who identified as "Jew haters," for example. Now, some of that kind of targeting is actually still lawful in the unlike the housing problem, the only solution would be if Facebook self-polices if it chooses to. So what is Facebook saying this week after getting busted for the same targeting discrimination that they got busted for last year? Well, they admit this is a "failure in our enforcement." They called this a technical failure. OK, guys, everyone in Silicon Valley already knows that if a tech giant keeps making the same mistake over and over and over at a certain point, it is not a technical failure.

Facebook didn't get to where it is today by repeatedly failing to fix its technical problems. And when it comes to enabling discrimination, the question for Mark Zuckerberg, again, is the same question for catching fake news of for stopping Russian propaganda. If you really want to stop it on Facebook, why don't you make it stop? Now, Mark is brilliant and smart people don't usually defend the indefensible in public, which is why Facebook admits faults then turns the conversation to other topics, like freedom and society. And in Silicon Valley, profits are often defended in the guise of free speech.


ZUCKERBERG: I'm not going to sit here and tell you that we're going to catch all bad content in our system. We don't check what people say before they say it, and frankly, I don't think society should want us to. Freedom means you don't have to ask for permission first. And that by default, you can say what you want.


MELBER: Keep talking to us about freedom. Our report today, though, is about racial discrimination on Facebook that might be illegal. Facebook insists these failures though now become so important that Mark Zuckerberg will put security above his profits.


ZUCKERBERG: We're investing so much on security that it's actually going to significantly impact the profitability of the company.


MELBER: Here's the real bad news though, the conflict may lie at the core of Facebook's business model. A former company manager there said they will avoid any changes that would hurt the business of collecting and selling data. And that data is what makes the ads sell. Mark Zuckerberg said back in April 2010, there are no real changes coming for that model.


ZUCKERBERG: Right now, we serve ads on So, that's the business model. It's working really well for us. No real changes here.


MELBER: No real changes here. Facebook will keep targeting ads and clicks in the most profitable way they can. When they get caught over the line, they will downplay it or blame the tech or promise to do better. But there are no real changes here, Mark says. And so while Facebook does not technically charge customers directly, its high costs are becoming more obvious as Facebook's eagerness to invoke neutrality and freedom as a defense to discrimination or censorship or collusion gets exposed. Users are going to have to assess this price because it demonstrates a very old saying in tech circles. If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer, you are the product being sold. And if Mark has turned all of us users into a product, it may explain how he treats us.


MELBER: It's Wednesday, but also Thanksgiving Eve which make it kind of like the end of the week. So we're doing a special turkey version of "FALLBACK FRIDAY." Wow, I haven't seen that yet. Do we have music? A little louder, let me hear the music. So we're also doing two leather jackets -- that's not coordinated. It's just unfortunate.


SETH HERZOG, COMEDIAN: It's like if the road warrior went to the prom.

MELBER: Who needs to fall back?

HERZOG: Oh, my lord, you haven't even said who's here.


MELBER: Look, when you're on a show on enough -- Liz was on earlier, so she doesn't need to be introduced. You, Seth Herzog, has been on this show before.

HERZOG: Yes, I have, so they know. They're home. I think the first person that needs to fall back --

MELBER: No, I'm just going to --

HERZOG: Please do, yes, that's coffee. Mike Hughes, who is a 61-year-old limousine driver, I believe in Arizona, has built his own rocket and he's launching himself this Saturday into space to prove that the earth is flat.

PLANK: So the earth is flat?

HERZOG: Yes, he's going to take a picture from space, from a mile up, from a rocket he built from scrap metal. It's steam-powered engine and he's launching it from his mobile home.

MELBER: Does he need to fall back or does he just need to read?

HERZOG: I think -- I think he needs to fall back to earth and not die. I feel like we should already start the, you know, the obituaries, I hope they're written already, and the, you know, memorials. But I think he's going to be fine. This is his third rocket attempt to varying degrees of success --

MELBER: You know who's not fine? This has been your roughest outing on the show, holistically speaking.

HERZOG: Holistically?

MELBER: Liz, who needs to fall back?

PLANK: Well, so, Paris Hilton, because that has been the theme every time I've done a "FALLBACK FRIDAY" on the show. Paris Hilton happens to do something that I don't agree with. So this week, she took credit for the selfie. She took a selfie with Britney Spears in 2006 and claims that she is the inventor of the selfie, which has obviously been now investigated thoroughly by the New York Times in a very great article that sort of goes into many experts who don't agree with Paris Hilton's revisionist history. The first selfie, taken with a selfie stick, as it used to be, it was like a tool before it was widely available, was Helmer Larson.

HERZOG: Who doesn't know Helmer Larson.

PLANK: So we should -- yes -- give him the credit.

MELBER: So you didn't just bring a leather jacket, you brought receipts to this "FALLBACK FRIDAY."

PLANK: That's what I do.

MELBER: I've got this thing. Here's Senator Carper talking about how to get off the phone with Donald Trump.


SEN. TOM CARPER (D) DELAWARE: 30 minutes into the call, Gary gets up and takes a call on his cell phone, comes backs into the room, he says, we have somebody calling in from Asia. And it was the President, which was nice. It's nice of him to do that. 15 minutes later, the President is still talking and we -- I said to Gary, it was a room where we're all sitting around this big square table, and I said, Gary, why don't you do this, why don't you just take the phone from, you know, your cell phone back and just say, Mr. President, you're brilliant, and -- but we're losing contact and I think we're going to lose you now so good-bye, and that's what he did and hung up.


MELBER: The White House is denying this but he's saying that to get off the phone with Trump, his economic adviser literally say, I can't hear you, I can't hear you and that's how he got off the call, which brings us to my final thought, the famous Verizon ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you hear me now? Good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you hear me now?


MELBER: That's where we land. Cell service needs to fall back. If people are using that trick to get off the phone with the President, that is amazing.

HERZOG: Yes it is.

PLANK: Yes. It works.

MELBER: Liz, thanks for being on the show. This other guy, thank you for being on this show.



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