Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 16, 2018 Guest: Jacob Weisberg, Barbara McQuade, David Frum, Shelby Holliday, Roger McNamee
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We have a lot on Russia which has been a change in the last two weeks of news, Chuck. And I guess that is true.
Thank you, Chuck Todd.
We begin with the breaking news tonight. Two subpoenas forcing Steve Bannon to talk. When the history is written January 2018 will go down as the toughest month in Steve Bannon`s political and public life, dissed by the President he helped elect. Roasted by his former proteges like Stephen Miller. Ousted from his passion project by Breitbart News and roundly hoisted on the very patar (ph) he used against so foes leaking to the so- called main stream media.
All that was before tonight`s news. Moments ago the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, telling reporters, boom, he is issuing a subpoena to Steve Bannon to legally force him to talk. Bannon had arrived at the committee early this morning. You are looking at him going through security like any other civilian.
Sources telling NBC News that Bannon said that he did want to answer the questions. He said that the White House with which he did in a very public spat told him he couldn`t answer the questions. But let`s be clear right off the bat. Many other people linked to this White House including former employees have spoken to that committee. Trump`s personal lawyers spent six hours talking to him.
But the breaking news here tonight is that for whatever reason, and it could be a legitimate one, Steve Bannon claims he could not. And then think about this, whenever you hear this criticism that Democrats are overlaying their hand on Russia, we are getting new information to get to the bottom of this, the heat coming down on Steve Bannon right now when I was walking out to the set, this breaking story, his subpoena on the house side comes from Republicans.
And that`s not all. This is the second Bannon subpoena that`s been leaking out just today. The "New York Times" late today breaking the story that Mueller is subpoenaing Bannon as well. A hardball tactic that is legally more assertive than his approach to many other witnesses who have been allowed to come in voluntarily. Why now? Could Mueller think that of Bannon`s leaks and that tell-all White House book "Fire and Fury" is something to dig into, maybe. Well, these subpoenas force him to talk? The White House for its part not saying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Steve Bannon talking to the special counsel, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why not encourage Steve Bannon to be completely transparent today on Capitol Hill?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No one`s encouraged him to be anything but transparent. But there is a process of what that looks like and what that process should go through.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And not answering some questions, right?
SANDERS: Look, I can`t speak to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In a moment I will speak to Maryland`s senator Chris Van Hollen about all of this and how Steve Bannon`s excuses line up with the fact.
But I begin with an analysis from David Frum, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He is the author of a new book "Trumpocracy," as well as Nick Ackerman, a Watergate special prosecutor and a partner at "Dorsey and Whitney."
Nick, these aren`t coordinated, and they don`t have to be, but Steve Bannon caught two subpoenas today, which is way more aggressive than most other witnesses. Do you have a theory as to why?
NICK ACKERMAN, WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think it is bad luck. I think he was ultimately going to be a witness in this case regardless. He has knowledge relating to the data mining and the data targeting of Hillary Clinton voters. He is the one that put the entire group together in May of 2016 to introduce the campaign to this whole data mining program.
MELBER: But let me press you on the new part. Why is Steve Bannon making a claim to this House investigators that other Trump allies have not? That he seems to think there is some reason he can`t talk?
ACKERMAN: Well, it depends what the reason is. If he is asserting his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, that`s certainly is legitimate.
MELBER: The leaks don`t sound like that. The leaks sound like he is claiming the White House is pushing him away from talking.
ACKERMAN: Then that means somebody is telling him that he may have to exert executive privilege. But he can only do that from the time of January 20th of 2016 to the present. He can`t do it for the time period during the campaign. And I`m sure that there is plenty of information to ask him about during the time of the campaign.
MELBER: David, I want your analysis. And also I want to add to this rather large buffet of new information. The "New York Times" analysis of why grand jury interviews are different. This isn`t something most people are familiar with. Prosecutors prefer to interview witnesses before a grand jury when they believe they have information the witnesses do not know or when they think they might catch the witnesses in a lie. We know that Bob Mueller has caught people in lies with the standard FBI interview. Clearly there is a reason that he is using this hardball tactic tonight.
DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Look. When you, in a book to - discussions with a confidant who writes a book accuse the son of the President of the United States of treason, that catches people`s attention.
As to your claims - as of your points about what kind of privilege would you be exerting, remember the Trump people have periodically exerted various kinds of not existent privileges. The quality of lawyering they get is not always the highest nor is it always true that they do what their lawyers tell them.
But for me, the key moment that is interesting with Bannon`s career with this investigation, are those moments in the fall of 2016 at the time that the access Hollywood audio was broken by "the Washington Times," instantly followed by the WikiLeaks John Podesta dump. The Trump people weaponized that John Podesta --.
MELBER: Well timed for the political perspective.
FRUM: Within 45 minutes. But what is even more striking is this campaign that was so chaotic, so disorganized, hound in that trove of emails, the two that could be weaponized and they found them within hours. And given their general disorganization, you have to wonder, are you quite sure they had no idea what was coming?
MELBER: I mean, you raise a very important question that is a potentially damaging question for the campaign if there is other contemporaneous evidence which would be emails, records, recordings or even, as Nick as pointed on our show, micro-targeting or other digital data that would suggests oh, this email was flagged by one, and they knew it was coming.
Is that enough, though, in Mueller`s view to put Bannon under exposure, because Bannon is a good leaker, by that I mean he leaks constantly and to his own interests. And there have been various credible media outlets that he was warning against all the bad stuff and never implicated.
ACKERMAN: Well, that`s what he is leaking. But there was, apparently a conspiracy to steal the emails from the Democratic National Committee and use those emails and weaponize them to help Donald Trump win the election. That is a crime, it`s a 10, 15-year felony. Now what Bannon`s involved in that, we don`t know. We know he introduced Cambridge analytics in the campaign. We don`t know what role they played. We don`t know what he knew about the WikiLeaks. I mean he was on the email chain from Don, Jr., understanding that Don, Jr. was communicating.
MELBER: You mean, Don, Jr., the egg, the human egg?
ACKERMAN: The human egg, right.
MELBER: The human egg.
David, this goes to the politics of it. I want to play for you Steve Bannon`s attempt to say what it would be like this month. He wanted for months and certainly going into the midterms to be the big, tough guy going to war, ostensibly against Trump`s enemies, but maybe sometimes pressing Trump. It hasn`t worked out well for him, but here is the plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: They do not support the President`s program. It is an open secret in Capitol Hill. Everybody in the city knows it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, therefore, and now that you are out of the White House, you are going to war with them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Going to war with them. It`s not working out well because he lost his website and his relationships with the White House. In your view as a Washington knowledgeable veteran, do his political relationships and spats right now matter or do they don`t ultimate a-cloud what he is going to say?
FRUM: Look. People who can actually do the things that Steve Bannon was talking about doing do not sit down with Charlie Rose and talk about them, they just do them. And so, there`s a lot of myth about Steve Bannon and if you look at the expression on his face and the color of his eyes in that interview, you know, I think that gives you some insight into what`s going on with this very, very loud talk of threats.
MELBER: What do you mean?
FRUM: He is not man fully in control of himself. He says things he shouldn`t say.
MELBER: You are saying he seems emotional and angry rather than acting from strategy?
FRUM: But here is the thing to bare in mind as they are going in to that room, just to pick up what Nick said. People need to be very careful about leaping to the conclusion that the most dramatic and important things that happen are going to be criminal. Yes, it`s a crime to hack emails. But the people who did that are Russian citizens, presumably and presumed beyond the reach of American law.
It may be a crime to -- it is certainly a crime to give a thing of value to an American Presidential campaign, although information is not usually considered a thing of value, under election law. But if you have not broken the eavesdropping laws, the hacking laws, if you have not broken the election laws, simply the most horrifying act with those leaks, immoral anti-Democrat act of talking to an informant intelligence service and getting information to use against your American Democratic opponent, that is not a crime.
MELBER: Well, that is a big hanging question over all of this. And why Steve Bannon tonight facing two subpoenas has suddenly clammed up. I would note, I`m obligated as a reporter to note, he is generally known to be quite talkative so this is a different look for him.
I want to thank both of our analysts here. In turn, as promised, we will get David back later in the show.
But I want to turn to the other issue, Mueller questioning witnesses to find out what happened, and one fact not up for debate. There is the hacking and it is criminal and a top Trump official confirming that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I believe that Russia in general will continue to try to test our systems and where they can extract information and perhaps disrupt, they will. Yes, there was interference, to my knowledge, no votes were changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Maryland senator Chris van Hollen joins me. He also wrote a piece today with Republican Marco Rubio about a bill they are pushing to defend the U.S. for future hacks.
And senator, I want to give you time to speak to that which is an important policy issue, but I begin with a breaking news story tonight. Steve Bannon catches two subpoenas leaking out here on the same day and makes the argument that he may have a legitimate reason not to talk to Congress because of the White House. Do you accept that?
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: I do not accept that. And certainly I don`t accept that to any questions related to the campaign. Of course, the meeting at Trump tower which he has infamously referred to as being treasonous on the part of Don Jr. and Jared Kushner.
With respect to what his duties and what he learned at the White House, it would be very far reach for the White House to exert executive privilege. And in order for Bannon to even attempt that the committee should really push to get a strong White House statement confirming that that`s their position because he should not be allowed simply at this point in time to decide he is not going to offer the information that he knows to Congress or ultimately before the grand jury.
MELBER: I`m not going to ask you to comment on what`s going on inside the Mueller probe. But as a broader matter, which you have a lot of experience on, what does it mean when an investigator subpoenas somebody for grand jury testimony which as I have emphasized is more significant than simply scheduling a voluntary interview?
VAN HOLLEN: It is indeed. And it is a departure from the practice that Mueller`s been following with respect to other potential witnesses as you indicated. It suggests that Mueller has something that he wants to present in that particular forum, rather than the other kind of setup where someone comes in voluntarily.
So that may explain why all of a sudden Steve Bannon is, you know, trying to go underground and refuse to answer questions or come up with pretext not to answer any questions. I don`t think he is going to get away with it with Mueller. And I certainly hope he doesn`t get away with it before congressional committees.
MELBER: Well, senator, you just said it is a way to present the grand jury. And two main reasons to do that would be one, significant enough testimony or evidence about other people or actions that Mueller actually at this stage wants the grand jury to hear themselves, or two, some sort of confrontation about Steve Bannon`s own testimony or voracity. Do you have any view of whether it is either of those or some other door number three?
VAN HOLLEN: Ari, I really don`t. I mean, I would be speculating entirely with to that. The grand jury proceeding --.
MELBER: But we don`t - you know, senator, we never ask people to speculate in the media. That`s just not - that is not who we are.
Let me get to your bill, sir, which is also is very significant. And as we know bipartisan, there`s a rumor sometimes that nothing is happening there in the chamber where you work on a bipartisan basis. It caught our eye here on "the Beat." Let me read a quote and have you explain why you think this is important.
If Russia interferes with another election, the bill a set severe sanctions on major sectors of the Russian economy, block the assets of every senior Russian political figure or oligarch prevent them from entering the U.S. How would that work as an automatic trigger and why would this bill necessary if there have been some sanctions already?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, as we have been talking about, there has been a lot of focus on what happened in the last election. No doubt that Russians interfered. But very little attention as to how we are going to stop this from happening going forward. And you just heard the testimony in the committee today from the secretary of homeland security saying that we believe that the Russian will try once again.
So we should do everything in our power to deter that, to prevent that and that`s why Senator Rubio and I introduced this bill. What it says is, 30 days after the election, the director of national intelligence will certify to Congress whether or not Russia or another country interfered in our election. And if the answer is yes, then this bill requires automatic harsh sanctions against large sectors of the Russian economy. So if you are a Vladimir Putin and you are thinking about the costs and benefits of trying to interfere in another U.S. election, you are going to see a law that requires automatically action to be taken that will hurt your economy badly. And so we believe that would be a deterrent.
MELBER: Senator Chris Van Hollen, thank you for telling us about your bill and for spending the time.
VAN HOLLEN: Thanks. Good to be with you. Thanks.
MELBER: Coming up, another story that in any normal presidency would be the stop story all night. An adult film star now claiming a 2006 affair with Donald Trump and supported now by an associate of hers on national TV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She says well picture this, Donald Trump chasing me around the bedroom in his tightly whiteys isn`t something that you ever forget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: More on that reporting.
And conflicts of interest. There`s a new report about foreign governments and political groups and how they are funneling money to Trump properties, a Trump cabinet official under fire for claims as the s-hole controversy continues.
And Mark Zuckerberg`s former mentor is here live to talk about something that Facebook says is a good change to your feed.
I`m Ari Melber. And you are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.
MELBER: Now we turn to a story that in any other administration would be getting wall to wall coverage all night every night. An adult film star basically putting out information about details of a previously undisclosed affair with the current President. These reports are about the lengths that Donald Trump allegedly went to silence a woman who says they had a consensual relationship.
Stephanie Cliffords, she performs under the name Stormy Daniels and had told reporters she had an 11-month long relationship with Donald Trump while he was married. Now there are new reports tonight, Daniels was talking to reporters all the way back during the election including multiple times to a very influential political journalist Jacob Weisberg. He is editor-in-chief of "Slate."
Now all of this matters because it adds some apparent corroboration to that new "Wall Street Journal" report on an alleged $130,000 that this woman received from Donald Trump`s lawyer also for her silence.
Now to be clear in reporting this story, Daniels is not alleging any abuse. She says this contact with Donald Trump was consensual. As for Donald Trump and his team, they deny any relationship existed and they also released a written denial they say is from this woman, it was signed allegedly signed Stormy Daniels.
Weisberg in his reporting consulted three of Daniels` friends who confirmed outlines of her story. One of them spoke to NBC "today" citing a phone call she says she received from Daniels and Trump inside his hotel room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did he say?
ALANA EVANS, ADULT FILM ACTRESS/FRIEND OF STORMY DANIELS: Come hang out with us. Come have fun. Let`s party. And so --.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he know you were an adult film star?
EVANS: Yes, I believe so. I believe so. I`m sure they had conversation because I being was being invited and he knew that I was being invited because he invited me himself. Having here tell me the next day when I asked how did it go, and she said well picture this, Donald Trump chasing me around the bedroom in his tightly whiteys isn`t something that you ever forget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With me now is that journalist Jacob Weisberg.
You started working on this story during the campaign. You didn`t publish during the campaign. Why not then?
JACOB WEISBERG, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE SLATE GROUP: Well, I couldn`t quite nail it down, Ari. Part of it was I didn`t have any independent confirmation of this agreement although I did have some unsigned pages from this side letter that interestingly seems to define the pseudonyms used in the confidentiality agreement.
MELBER: Yes. Pseudonyms seem to be an expanding part of this story.
WEISBERG: Well, you know, someone that has a foreign name also has another pseudonym. I mean, there`s a pseudonym on pseudonyms.
MELBER: And you are reporting is that Trumps` folks trying to defend him used a pseudonym allegedly for him in these legal papers?
WEISBERG: That`s right. So there will be an agreement that will use pseudonyms, a confidentiality agreement. And then a side letter which was re-produced in the "Slate" story. Again, on fine says, the real name of this person is Stormy Daniels. The real name of blank to be filled in presumably Donald Trump is David Denison.
MELBER: The David Denison is in the lower right hand part of the screen. This is something we highlighted on "the Beat" when the story first broke. This is as much about extensive secrecy as it is about the underlying allegation.
WEISBERG: Well, you got the feeling that was not a one-off. I mean, there was the same "Wall Street Journal" reporter who broke this story back right before the election in 2016 wrote about another performer of playboy center fold, who was paid in and different way, via David Pecker, an American media, and the national enquirer for her silence. And that case, they bought exclusive rights to a story they didn`t intend to use.
As the story has ramified, there have been, you know, other former porn actress who was on the show with Megyn Kelly this morning. There seems to be more and more of this. This does not seem to be virgin territory as it were for Donald Trump, the idea that you would pay someone for their silence to cover up something you had done.
MELBER: Yes. You use the term virgin territory. You are a writer, so you know how to use words. There are people who feel that the media is unfair to Donald Trump and always looks at thing as negatively as possible. From reading your work on this and the surrounding articles, it appears that you spent time researching and reporting this story out. And in fairness to Donald Trump, you didn`t initially report it because you wanted to make sure it was all confirmed, is that fair to say?
WEISBERG: I didn`t think I had proof and until "the Wall Street Journal" reported on Friday about this $130,000 agreement that they had sources confirming the existence of it. Only at that point did I think well, there was enough to go on.
MELBER: And this goes to a broader point which is there`s the story and then there`s the political reaction to the story. And a lot of viewers may know you as a political analyst as well. If this story broke about any other President, Obama, Bush, you name it, would it be bigger in your view than the way this story feels today?
WEISBERG: Lord, Ari. I mean, if this whole presidency is an exercise in defining deviancy down, I mean, if this were any other president, this would be career ending. It would be the biggest news in the world. With Donald Trump, it sort of not one of the ten worst things this week that paid hush money to covered up almost a year-long relationship with a former porn actress.
I mean, not be too moralistic, but I think most people still think that`s a kind of a negative. But it`s something that, you know, in the context of Russian collusion, in terms of all of the financial corruption around Trump`s administration, it`s sort of, the question, it`s a fair question how big a deal it is only because so many other things seem worse.
MELBER: Last question, and I want to go to a prosecutor for more on this because there are more significant aspects. Do you see any link here to how this informs the understanding on some of the claims in the Russia story?
WEISBERG: I do. One is, you know, Christopher Steele who was a researcher on the so-called dossier went to the FBI because he said Trump was vulnerable to blackmail from the Russians. And here is an example, and there couldn`t be a better example of Trump paying hush money, being totally vulnerable to blackmail about something embarrassing.
And then the other point is also, you know, I think people have been very skeptical of some of the claims in the dossier about Trump allegedly consorting with prostitutes in Russia. And his response to that is, are you kidding me? I would never do that.
Well, I mean, with the count is growing higher and higher of porn actresses, one claims that he offered her money to have sex with him. So, you know, the whole picture starts to be more plausible. The picture that`s painted in the dossier.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, you are making -- I`m literally writing down what you are saying because it seems that, you know, I just wrote conduct lies in blackmail. And sort of like what you are saying, this is when we make up a graphic real quick, we don`t have time to turn it into a real graphic. But what you are saying is there`s the conduct and people can debate that and whether that`s private or public, and there`s certainly many Republicans who say what about bill Clinton`s conduct and all these other Democrats who have conduct.
And then there`s the lies which may be broader than lying only about the conduct, according to your reporting, and then there`s that third thing that seems very different which is this is a case where there`s an open international espionage investigation. And one of the claims is blackmail. And if there is other lies and conduct that we enforce the vulnerability to blackmail, that would seems to touch our national security and not just the other "private stuff," quote/unquote.
WEISBERG: Yes. I think that is why James Comey went to the White House in the first place and told Donald Trump what was going on. The concern of the FBI was Trump vulnerability to Russian blackmail.
MELBER: Right. And you are describing what Jim Comey told him and we now know from the testimony that whatever Jim Comey told him, set off Donald Trump and a reaction that Comey later testified under oath was so wild, outrageous and intense that he went to the SUV parked outside of Trump tower, so that is seven blocks from here, and started typing memos which he said he had never kept in any other context of any other President that explosion.
And now we are seeing that explosion linked back to these accounts and the story that you began to break or began to research all the way back this October. It`s not a movie. It`s not a movie.
I want to bring in Barbara McQuade, who is a former federal prosecutor on the law here. We just went through a lot. I guess my first question is, anything you want to add?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think one point that you touched on is, this whole concept it`s not the crime, it`s the cover-up. You know, it`s not really a crime to be involved in this kind of relationship, it`s certainly embarrassing and something that Donald Trump is not proud for the world to know. But the propensity to use hush money to silence a witness, you know, in the law there is a rule of evidence called 404b that says prior bad acts are not admissible in court to show propensity to act in conformance therewith, unless it is part of a common scheme or plan. If you can show this is the way a person acts again and again, you can use it. So one wonders if people have been paid for their testimony in relation to the Russia investigation.
MELBER: Well - and you are making such an important point, which is not what people think about whether this private conduct was good or bad, which was part of the debate in the electorate. You are making the point that legally, if this was a pattern and practice, it` is more likely to be admissible, even potentially, in a Russian probe or any open criminal inquiry.
I mean Bill Cosby`s prior bad acts referring to the doctor (INAUDIBLE) was a justification to include a different and additional accuser in his case, right? Do you think that Bob Mueller looks at all this and it affects how he weighs the evidence whether the compromise or blackmail claims in the dossier could be true?
MCQUADE: I think he does, because you know, when you think about relevance, the question is does this fact make other facts more or less likely to be true. If you see this kind of activity, if it`s true, occurring in this country, why would we think this his behavior in a foreign country might be any different. So I do think it`s going to be an important fact for him to be about. Again, not the underlining conduct, but the propensity to engage in sexual activity and then to try to lie about it and when you are doing it in a country like Russia, potentially exposing yourself to blackmail.
MELBER: And Jacob, there`s another piece of this that I want to get your specific analysis of, which is this alleged letter. It says quote "rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false. It signed Stormy Daniels.
We didn`t receive it from stormy Daniels which would raise a kind of larger narrative question of whether stormy Daniels exists as a fictional character, but we didn`t even receive it from the woman who plays stormy Daniels. That letter was provided to our newsroom by Donald Trump`s lawyer.
Having been inside the story for a lot longer than the rest of us, what do you make of that?
WEISBERG: Well, it just seems transparent to me. I mean, the background is, Michael Cohen, Trump`s personal attorney is the one who has said to have negotiated this confidentiality agreement, with Stormy Daniels through a lawyer representing her. Now, if this were all untrue and she wanted to deny it, I would think she would just deny it rather than sending her denial to Michael Cohen who if the denial was true, had nothing to do with it.
MELBER: I agree. It`s a weird way to do it.
WEISBERG: It`s a weird way to do it and then you know, it was parsing the statement. It was kind of -- the phrase and what`s a little funny, she said, I did not have a -- I believe it was, a romantic and or sexual relationship with Donald Trump many, many, many years ago. So that many, many, many, first of all, sounds a little bit like Donald Trump`s. Doesn`t he say many, many, many, like that? But beyond that we`re saying this was ten -- this would have been a little over ten years ago. If you`re saying it wasn`t many, many, many, you`re saying well, it was just many. So technically it`s true. I`m not sure, but everything about this statement rings weird. I mean, it does not seem like in any respect like an authentic denial.
MELBER: Was it -- did you ever listen to Queen? Do you remember queen?
WEISBERG: I`m old enough I`m afraid.
MELBER: Is this real life, is this just fantasy? But this is real life.
WEISBERG: There you have it.
MELBER: Barbara, I`m not going to ask you to comment on that, OK?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Fair enough.
MELBER: Jacob Weisberg on a very, very, interesting story that you`ve been working on for a very long time, Barbara McQuade, former Federal Prosecutor, indebted to both of your reporting and analysis, thank you.
MELBER: Ahead are foreign governments pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Trump`s properties? There is brand new reporting on that. And tempers is flaring at an emotional hearing. Why Senator Booker slammed Trump`s Homeland Security Secretary. And later, we are learning more about what really went down in the famous immigration meeting. Also, Mark Zuckerberg`s former mentor has become something of a critic on Facebook but he`s interested in solution. That`s ahead tonight.
MELBER: -- government watchdog group Public Citizen that says 64 trade groups companies, candidates, and foreign governments have spent money at Trump properties in his first year of office alone. Kuwait with a gala at Trump`s Hotel, Malaysia, having a big visit there, Saudi Arabia, dropping a quarter of million. A president taking money from a foreign country can violate the constitution. Donald Trump insisting he would not divest from his business holdings. I`m joined by Richard Painter, former Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush who also is suing Donald Trump for that same potential offense. Richard, your suit has run into some trouble, more broadly, this new report suggests there is foreign money heading into these places. But if you want to be as fair as possible, how do you know that this isn`t just business that might have happened anyway?
RICHARD PAINTER, VICE-CHAIRMAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Well, our suit was dismissed because the judge didn`t believe our particular organization had standing. There are two other lawsuits that are proceeding brought by members of Congress and by Attorneys General of Maryland and the District of Columbia, we`re appealing our decision. No (INAUDIBLE) has ruled on this on the merits.
MELBER: Yes, I`m going to go right back to you on that. Let`s pause just -- you`re saying, you got a roadblock because of who was suing, but the what of whether that Trump is violating the Constitution is still very much in play?
PAINTER: No court has ruled on that at all ever with respect to the Emoluments Clause and the interpretation of the Emoluments Clause which we believe clearly reaches profits and benefits from dealings with foreign governments. And one reason that courts have not ruled on is this is extraordinary. We have never seen a president with these extensive business operations around the United States and all over the world, obtaining financing all over the world, doing business with countries all over the world, this is clearly something the Founders sought to prohibit in the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. And this is really extraordinary. And you know, I know all these exception stories of President Trump and always talked about other presidents. Warren Harding, the Kennedys or Bill Clinton, or John Edwards who campaign supporters paid a hush money to a mistress there. He can point to other examples in the sexual misconduct area but in this area, with respect to financial conflicts of interest, he is exceptional, we have never had to deal with a president who has been dealing with foreign governments and entities controlled by foreign governments and refuses to disclose it much less abide by the Constitution.
MELBER: And here`s the statement from the people who did this report. This is new. This is what Donald Trump`s not tweeting about. There`s no way to escape the conclusion these events are being held at Trump properties as a way to curry favor with the President? Is that your view and how do you prove that if you actually went want to get a judge to stop it.
PAINTER: Well, the point of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, the Founders didn`t want you to have to have to prove any type of a quid pro quo arrangement. They flatly prohibited a person, any person holding a position of trust from any properties or benefits or gifts from foreign governments. It is a very broad clause. They don`t want you dealing with foreign governments. And that`s what he`s doing. He`s in violation of the constitution and we have not seen this before as I say from other presidents.
MELBER: Right, and it`s a big story that we`re going to say on, which is why we wanted to get your views of this new report. Richard Painter, thank you. Up ahead, we turn to a top Trump official facing a grilling about the s-hole controversy.
MELBER: Washington Post reporting tonight on new details from inside the now infamous immigration meetings. Senators thought Trump would back an immigration deal and then found he was flip-flopping again. And tonight I can tell you a government shutdown could come as soon as Friday. Meanwhile, Trump`s Homeland Security Secretary who was in that meeting, grilled today by Senator Dick Durbin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: You said on Fox News that the President used strong language, what was that strong language?
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY: Let`s see, strong language, there was -- apologies, I don`t remember specific words.
DURBIN: Did you hear me use profanity?
NIELSEN: No sir. Neither did i.
DURBIN: Did you hear Senator Graham use profanity?
NIELSEN: I did hear tough language from Senator Graham. Yes, sir.
DURBIN: What did he say?
NIELSEN: He used tough language. He was impassioned.
DURBIN: Do you recall that the strong language he used repeated exactly what the President had said prior to that?
NIELSEN: I remember specific cuss words being used by a variety of members.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Meanwhile, we`re about to show you Senator Booker with strong words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: When the Commander in Chief speaks or refuses to speak, those words just don`t dissipate like mist in the air, they fester, they become poison, they give license to bigotry and hate in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity. Tens of millions of Americans are hurting right now because of what they`re worried about what happened in the White House. That`s unacceptable to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: For more, I`m joined by Shelby Holliday from the Wall Street Journal and David Frum back with me. Shelby?
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Cory Cooker is right. These words fester. We`ve been talking about them for days. They have dominated the discussion on cable news. And I think at the end of the day, what`s so telling here is that President Trump makes -- takes an action, says something controversial and then he throws his staff out there to clean it up. That Q and A with Dick Durbin was just ridiculous. You cannot remember very specific things about a conversation and then altogether forget what someone else in that conversation had. So it didn`t come away as very credible and ultimately didn`t help the President nor the Republicans pass their agenda.
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: And we`re taking the first steps on the way of what is going to be ultimately a total Republican cave into the Democrats on the immigration issue.
MELBER: You think this helps the Dems win?
FRUM: Yes. The Republicans are going to end up having a complete retreat. And for those of us who are on the harder line side of these immigration issues is an example of just what an expense -- how expensive the price is for Donald Trump`s ego and vanity and lack of self-control because he starts fights over -- issues of disrespect that then mean you have to loses the policy.
HOLLIDAY: And his inability to apologize because nobody is out there just admitting what happened. We can never get to that point.
MELBER: Do you know the weirdest part of the policy on this David? And I know it`s important to talk about the words, but we do a little policy on this show. This is an executive action. That is not in debate. There are people who didn`t like when Barack Obama took this executive action, people who didn`t like Donald Trump left it in place and then when -- because in part he said of attorneys general from red states suing him, he then announced a plan to let it expire. For a guy who likes to be in charge, he sure seems to be running away from the executive power he has here. If he wanted to give this executive action six more months, he could do it today.
FRUM: Look, the concept has always been that the trade would be allow the DACA people -- not their extended families, but the core group of people to stay in exchange for meaningful restrictions on future immigration. Not the stupid wall but actual policy. Enforcement, entry-exit visas, at the work -- enforcement at the workplace, but Donald Trump doesn`t think that way. He`s got -- he wants to provoke and then he`s got an attachment to this symbolic victory of the wall that even if he were to get it, even if he were to build the wall, it would be totally meaningless.
HOLLIDAY: I think a lot of the challenge too is he doesn`t come and define the merit-based immigration system that he wants. We continue to hear those words and his staff is continuing to try to define that for him, but we can`t heard that from the President himself, what he thinks this merit- based immigration system should look like or what specifically he wants on the defense side.
MELBER: Well, I`m getting -- I think I`m getting breaking news. He doesn`t know. That`s just in, and that`s one of the issues. David Frum and Shelby Holliday, thank you, both for putting some serious analysis on this particular story. After the break, a story we brought you with a new twist. Mark Zuckerberg`s former mentor is here live. He argues this company has become tailor-made for abuse by others and there must be change. He`s here next.
MELBER: Let`s put it like this. In 2016, we learn Vladimir Putin was good at Facebook. In 2017 we learn Mark Zuckerberg was in denial about that. In 2018 is, Mark Zuckerberg now says he is learning and working on real reforms. And we here at THE BEAT are going to cover Facebook`s attempts to fix these problems just like we cover their troubles. One new change shows people more content from their friends and family in the news feed and less from publishers. Facebook tells the plan as good for users and better for the goal of going beyond voice and fostering positive community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I used to think that if we just gave people a voice and helped some people connect, that that would make the world a lot better all by itself. And in a lot of ways it has. But you know, today when we look around, our society is still very divided. So now I believe that we have a responsibility to do even more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s the vision. Now, how does it work? In the New York Times reporting, Facebook is trying this and when it did it overseas, there were some problems. Like in six different countries, when Facebook tried to adjust the news feed, it ended up limiting the audiences for non- governmental news sources and even amplifying the impact of some fabricated or sensational stories. The lesson being this is hard. I`m joined now by an early Facebook investor and Zuckerberg`s former mentor Roger McNamee. How are you doing?
ROGER MCNAMEE, MENTOR OF MARK ZUCKERBERG: I`m really good. How are you?
MELBER: I`m good. And I think this is important not because of Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook in theory but because this is platform and utility where democracy hits the road, where Americans are actually learning or being misinformed. Your view, hold on. You got to weigh in or you got to wait. Your view on whether this is a good start or they`re starting out the wrong way.
MCNAMEE: I`m really glad that he`s doing something. I don`t think this is going to help at all.
MELBER: You don`t think this helps?
MCNAMEE: No, not at all. I think the really perverse thing is had they implemented this had in 2015, the Russian interference to our election almost certainly would have been worse because the role that groups and friends played in amplifying the messages, the role that fake humans whether they were bots or Russian trolls played in people`s sources of information. Those things will not be affected by this. I`m really glad that Mark is stepping up and recognizing we have a problem. The difficulty is we have an election coming in ten months.
MELBE: So let`s slow down. You do give Zuckerberg who you`ve worked with credit for trying to do something.
MCNAMEE: I give him credit for recognizing that there`s a problem.
MELBER: But you think he`s doing the wrong thing. But let`s stipulate for the sake of argument that he`s smarter than you and smarter me, then why is he landing on the wrong thing?
MCNAMEE: I don`t honestly know. I think he`s getting bad advice. I look at this and say the fundamental problem here is that the Russians did not hack Facebook. What they did was use Facebook the way it was intended to be used but for a really awful purpose and it`s really hard to fix this problem. It`s not like Mark can flip a switch and everything`s going to be hunky-dory. The problem is in the actual design of Facebook. It`s -- basically in order to engage you to sell advertising, they have to put a bunch of things in place that bad guys can exploit anywhere.
MELBER: But that sounds fatalistic. I want to -- I want to take your point and play a little bit more Zuckerberg where he seems to think that there`s news out there and that`s something they just have to live with. And I want to talk about why that`s problematic. Here`s Zuckerberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZUCKERBERG: We build technology but we feel responsible for how it`s used. We don`t write the news that people read on the platform but at the same time, we also know we do a lot more than just distribute news. This is just something that I am proud that people in this company take this so seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: He says that we don`t write the news. That skips the whole issue. The issue is that the Russians and others were able to put out lies, falsehoods and trick people into thinking it was news. When BuzzFeed reports that one of the most shared items was the Pope endorsing Trump which didn`t happen, a lie, that shouldn`t be on the platform as news if they care at all about what news is.
MCNAMEE: And the problem is in the architecture. Because what happens is that Facebook, to make ads work wants you to be in what they call a filter bubble. And this is a thing that essentially everything you see is stuff you agree with. They give you stuff you like. That is the point. If they give you enough stuff you like, suddenly you think that all the people around you agree with you, suddenly you believe that whatever you`re shown must be fact whether it`s the Pope endorsing Trump, whether it`s Pizzagate and so it`s the fake news is a symptom of this broader problem in the architecture of Facebook. It could be fixed if they shifted to a subscription model. It could be fixed by a bunch of different things that would make the company less profitable. What`s hard about this Ari,is these guys are a little bit like the Flint Water Company but the profits are from the lead in the water. That they`re -- it`s actually a parasitic model because they didn`t intend to harm the end users but they can`t help it.
MELBER: But isn`t that -- isn`t that depressing?
MCNAMEE: Dude, imagine this. This was the greatest -- this was the greatest thing in my professional career and all of a sudden one day I realize that it`s harming me and everybody else and our democracy. So we`re trying to sit there --
MELBER: Have you told -- we`re out of time. Have you told Mark?
MCNAMEE: Of course. I told him before the election that I was worried. And we`ve been having conversations, if you will, through places like this ever since. We can`t talk to each other because he won`t return the call.
MELBER: Which is saying something but I appreciate you coming and we`d love to have you back.
MCNAMEE: I will come back.
MELBER: Roger McNamee, we will be right back.
MELBER: We`ve had quite a show and we ended on that potentially depressing note, what should Facebook do to try to stop election meddling. Well, that`s a conversation we can continue fittingly on Facebook, @THEBEATWITHARI, a place to have the conversation. What do you think they should do? Tell me and we`ll reply. That does it for our show. I`ll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The S-hole shutdown. Let`s play HARDBALL.
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