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Bannon faces subpoenas in the Russia investigation Transcript 1/17/18 The Beat with ari Melber

Guests: Zerlina Maxwell, Michael Hirschorn, Simona Mangiante, David Corn, Kara Swisher; Paul Henderson; Matt Miller; Frank Figliuzzi; Michael McFaul; Maureen Erwin

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: January 17, 2018 Guest: Zerlina Maxwell, Michael Hirschorn, Simona Mangiante, David Corn, Kara Swisher; Paul Henderson; Matt Miller; Frank Figliuzzi; Michael McFaul; Maureen Erwin

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: That`s all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more of MTP Daily.

"The Beat with Ari Melber" starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.

We have breaking news in the Russia probe tonight, Steve Bannon is officially cooperating with special counsel Mueller. One day after news broke that Mueller subpoenaed Bannon to appear before a grand jury, a source close to Bannon selling NBC News, this apparent standoff which everyone was talking about yesterday, the standoff was yesterday. Here`s why, Bannon will agree to a voluntary interview with Mueller investigators. That`s spares him of the grand jury appearance.

But Bannon is of course also facing the other big news, that separate subpoena that he refused to answer questions and the interview with the House Intel committee. Bannon saying the White House instructed him not to talk about his work there or even during the transition. Reports today that Bannon did admit that he had conversations about the now infamous Trump tower meetings, but otherwise, he wasn`t talking much. The White House defending its coordination with Bannon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s (INAUDIBLE) that Steve Bannon`s attorney is relaying questions so my questions are, who was he relaying the questions outside the Senate Intel committee is real-time to the White House. And so, my questions are who is he relaying the questions to? Is that something the White House specifically asked his attorney to do? And if so, why did the White House think that was a necessary step in handling Bannon`s testimony?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is the same procedure that is typically followed. Sometimes they actually have a White House attorney present in the room, this time it was something that was relayed via phone and again was following standard procedure.


MELBER: There`s nothing automatically wrong with that either, so Bannon didn`t talk, because as the spokesman explains, there was an arrangement to do this. But executive privilege Bannon when it gets down to controversies doesn`t have the best track record. Take for example, historical cover- ups, Richard Nixon lost his big efforts to try to shield the White House tapes.

No matter how effective the strategy is, though, it does show that while Bannon is fighting Trump in public and Lord knows we have heard all about that since the book came out, they are also coordinating their strategies. Bannon the witness is working with Trump`s White House counsel, and that itself is pretty interesting, because of this fact, Bannon and the White House counsel, Don McGahn, who was also counsel to Trump campaign share a lawyer.

Rachel Maddow pointed this out last night.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: And we are no left with the question not only of this interesting dynamic between M. Bannon and the White House with the White House reportedly telling him not to testify. There is sub dynamic there that is also interesting which is that that advice presumably came from the White House council Don McGahn. Steve Bannon`s lawyer is also serving as Don McGahn`s lawyer in the Russia investigation, so that feels like an odd conflicts.


MELBER: That is a sub-dynamic that could be called a dynamic all on its own which we are about to dig in to. What is the broader strategy here, what is the implication? And what about it shows the view of congress? Is this coming from the top of the White House or is this kind of a side deal with Don McGahn. The truth is at this hour, we don`t know.

And let me be clear and fair, Don McGahn has every right to try to stem the bleeding in public from this investigation. He may have concluded that he does have a legal argument to legitimately withhold some of the information Bannon has from the Congress. Will the White House try to stop other aids from testifying? Late this afternoon, the top Democrat on the House Intel committee, saying Cory Lewandowski, of course, the former campaign manager also refused to answer questions.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUR INTEL COMMITTEE: Mr. Lewandowski came to testify yesterday, he said on FOX he would answer every question we had. Today, however, he refused to answer questions like Steve Bannon that referred to anything after he left the campaign.


MELBER: There are questions, we are looking for answers.

I`m joined by Frank Figliuzzi, the former assistant FBI director. Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and former assistant to President Obama and here with me in San Francisco, Maureen Irwin, a columnist from the San Francisco Examiner and consultant for flip the 14 which is a campaign right here in California.

Let me start though with you, Frank, on the national implications, Bannon cooperating with Mueller, but he didn`t have much of a choice, correct?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Yes, and let`s be careful about how we couch cooperation, right? Because what he`s agreed to do is forego the grand jury experience and instead come in voluntarily for an interview. Whether that turn into true cooperation, as in I`ll give you this if you lay off of me criminally, that would remain to be seen. But you are right, he was between a rock and a hard place. No one wants to face the grand jury. He is coming in voluntarily. This sends, by the way, to the President that Mueller is not going to hesitate the issue of grand jury subpoena. Put that if you want to change your mind and come in voluntarily, we are open to that.

MELBER: Yes. And walk us through how that works because there`s also reporting fresh today that FBI agents went right up to Bannon`s home. He had previously sort of touted the fact that he didn`t have a lawyer, which I would observe is fairly meaningless. There`s nothing wrong with getting one, indeed you usually do if you can, and now he has one. And reportedly, as this NBC News account said these agents visited his home as recently as last week. They learned that he had a lawyer and they went through the process.

Frank, what do you read in to that?

FIGLIUZZI: Well, couple of things. One thing is that FBI agents are precluded generally from making contacts with someone they know to be represented by counsel and talking about the matter in which they represented. So they visited his house. Meaning, they didn`t know he had lawyered up yet. He told them at the door. And of course, the significant part of this is, as you already reported, he has got the same lawyer as Priebus and McGahn in which I see as misguided right now. Remember, initially we thought his lawyer burke was all about prepping for testimony before the house intelligence committee. And only about limiting the testimony to the campaign, right?

Now, he tells FBI agents regarding Mueller, the special counsel, yes, I`m represented by Burke. This is going to be very interesting to see if he keeps Burke or change his attorneys.

MELBER: And that, I want to go back to you one more time and then bring in our panel. But you are making so many big points that we wanted to drill down on. They shared a lawyer as Rachel was reporting, again, nothing nefarious about that, when you say that could go south, for whom?

FIGLIUZZI: Yes, for all three of them. Because the minute they start talking about each other, right, they may all think we are in this together, we have got our plan, we always synchronized our watches. But the second that they start talking about each other, who knew what when, who was in the meeting and even one of them slips up and says a mistaken statement about, yes, Priebus was in a meeting and McGahn was not. Now they have lost common interest. And now they should really be represented by separate counsel. This is an interesting things to watch legally.

MELBER: Ambassador, how do you view Steve Bannon`s evolving role, it`s dangerous to make predictions, no one would have predicted even a month ago that he would be out of Breitbart, at odds with the President. But also, as Frank just articulated coordinating legal strategy in a way that might ultimately not be in his interest, your view as both a diplomat but also has someone who understands how Washington works?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, Ari, I did work three years at the White House. And most certainly if you are an advisor to the President, you act and operate and speak to the President as if that is a confidential conversation. So I don`t know the legal matters, but I know the practical matters of trying to get anybody from the White House to testify. When I worked there, that was just not done.

But practically, politically, the way I react to reading it, they`re covering up something, that means that there`s something that needs to be revealed. And eventually, it looks like it will be revealed not perhaps within the U.S. Congress, but before special counsel Mueller and his investigators.

MELBER: Maureen, I want to talk about the politics with you. Recently there`s been a lot of evidence that this is a polarized issue, Russia, and Republicans and Democrats fight with each other about it. I want to play for you Trey Gowdy, who is well-known as a very partisan Republic. And I don`t think he would deny that. And here he is attacking Bannon, and by extension, the deal that I just reported orchestrated by the Trump White House. Because he is very mad effectively that Michael Wolf in "Fire and Fury" is getting access that he is not. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the broadest effort to effectively gag a witness that we have seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is happy to tell an author about treason us unpatriotic acts but he won`t tell the Congress when he is pressed on it.


MELBER: What about that point?

MAUREEN ERWIN, COLUMNIST, SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER: You know, it is interesting. I feel like the Democrats are really I emerging as the party of patriotism right now. We are seeing all of this going on right now, this investigation with Russia. And we have Democrats coming forward and saying we want to stick with the process. We want to stick with the constitution. Let`s be Americans first. Let`s make sure that we are not having foreign interference with our elections. And so, it is putting Republicans in kind of a strange position where, you know, as more information comes out about Trump and his associations with Russia, to what degree are they getting pulled into that.

MELBER: Well, do you think Trey Gowdy risks the perception that he cares more about being out of the loop like Michael Wolff got a better interview but hasn`t always care about all the other evidence that might resolve what really happened in 2016 election.

ERWIN: Yes. I can imagine as somebody on one of those committees, you want access to that information. It has got to be extremely frustrating. But whatever these motivations are, you have to remember that you have people who are going to be running again, and there`s a lot of different calculations that are coming into how they position themselves in this.

MELBER: Frank, what did you think of the reaction and I ding Trey Gowdy a little bit there, you can argue. I`m going to go ahead and ding Adam Schiff, reading back what he said. The broadest effort to effectively gag a witness we have ever seen. I`m sorry, that`s a little Trumpian, the Congress has a long history and there are many White Houses that have gone to great lengths to gag people. I don`t know that we know yet whether this rises to that level. Do you have a view, a, of fact checking that statement, and b, why the Congress seems particularly so upset about Bannon?

FIGLIUZZI: Well, look. The White House has an absolute right to protect the concept of executive privilege and try to exercise it wherever possible, and that`s happened across administrations forever.

But what it does for me, is it simply hammers on the importance of the special investigation versus any congressional inquiry. And that is where we got to focus. And Bannon has reportedly already told somebody I have no intention of asserting executive privilege with Mueller. That`s where we need to look. He knows it won`t stand. It won`t last. He is talking about potential criminal conduct. Executive privilege won`t cut it with Mueller. We should not be having any high hopes in the House Intelligence or even Senate inquiries at this point.

MELBER: And ambassador, finally to you, on the underlying claims that Steve Bannon has made, you know, one of the most fascinating parts of "fire and fury" was the repeat accusation that the reason we know so much, questionable and suspicious information about dealings with Russia, about alleged business ties and corruption potentially with Jared Kushner and others is because Steve Bannon kept leaking about it.

Your view of that and how unusual that is? We all know leaks happen a lot. But someone of that level, as such a top White House aide, really leaking that kind of stuff against a Presidential family member, perhaps before he even had the goods or knew whether he was right.

MCFAUL: Well, nothing of that sort ever happened in the Obama administration, let`s just be clear. Yes, there were leaks but not of that magnitude and not of the place that he occupied in the White House.

Ari, I`m going to leave one last thought before we get off of this, to pick up on something Frank just said. We structurally here are now seeing the results of the politicization of this investigation. And so the congressional committees are not reaching policy prescriptions. They are not looking at other aspects of what the Russians did. Instead it`s become a partisan football. And special counsel Mueller`s rift is about legal matters. It is not about national security matters. That`s why we should have had a bipartisan independent investigative committee like we had after 9/11. And as you and I have talked now for months, if not years, the fact that we don`t means that we are not getting to these critical national security issues, not Democrat or Republican, but national security issues.

MELBER: I appreciate you bringing that to the table as is so often the case, you have uplifted our dialogue here even higher than the discourse level of "Fire and Fury" which is can be really interested to talk about to really where we go and why it is Congress that has the brief to deal with preventive action. No prosecution. The best prosecutor in the world isn`t going to do that. And are we still vulnerable electorally, which is our democracy.

Thank you for that. Thank you all of you. Frank Figliuzzi, Michael McFaul and Maureen Erwin herein San Francisco.

Coming up, I have a cable news exclusive, the fiance of the Trump aide who is pleading guilty in the Russia probe.


MELBER: When did you first hear about that night?


MELBER: You didn`t know about that before you read it in the "New York Times"?



MELBER: That`s her speaking for the first time about her own interview with Bob Mueller`s FBI investigators and revealing what she knows about her fiance`s secret outreach to the Russians.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He never did anything without the blessing of the campaign.


MELBER: Also, developing now, Bob Mueller looking into newly reported suspicious financial transactions by top Russian diplomats in the U.S.

And John Kelly behind closed door allegedly calling some of Trump`s campaign pledges quote "uninformed."

I`m Ari Melber. You are watching "the Beat" live from San Francisco on MSNBC.


MELBER: A new breaking story, Bob Mueller looking into suspicious financial transactions by Russia in the U.S. This is a buzz feed report. Mueller`s team looking at transactions between people in the Russian government and people in the United States. A 120k sent to the Russian ambassador ten days after Trump won the election.

Buzz Feed records also show years of other Russian financial activity which is being suspicious. That doesn`t mean illegal, but it does mean the feds are looking, an indications that there may be more to the story.

Now a key figure in the Trump-Russian investigation had multiple contacts with Trump inner circle as well. Then of course General Michael Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his calls with that ambassador Kislyak. Kushner also met with him at Trump tower. Jeff Sessions recused himself after failing to disclose he has discussion with Kislyak.

Two of Trump`s former advisers also admitted to meeting with him. We are literally running out of room to show you all the links. And then here`s a photo, Kislyak in the oval office where Trump called Jim Comey a quote "nutjob."

I`m joined here in San Francisco by Paul Henderson, a veteran prosecutor as well as Matt Miller, former aide to Eric Holder at the DOJ.

Matt, suspicious activity reports can lead to something or nothing, so I want to be very clear about what this is. It`s not any kind of smoking gun, and yet, we have to note it involves Mr. Kislyak, which is not exactly nobody.

MATT MILLER, FORMER AIDE TO ERIC HOLDER AT THE DOJ: Yes, that`s right. Look, suspicious activity reports don`t mean any illegal. They don`t necessarily even mean anything nefarious. Banks are required to flag transactions to the treasury department that because of either their side or pattern don`t fit with the way that -- don`t fit with the patterns that they usually see for a given account. And that`s clearly what Citibank did in this case.

These could be any number of things. These could be legitimate transactions on behalf of Sergey Kislyak and others in the Russian embassy. They could be, you know, diplomatic or they could be other espionage activities completely connected to Russian interference.

But I think we have to go back to remember what Bob Mueller`s mandate is, it`s not just to investigate links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government whether there was any collusions or coordination, it is also to investigate the underline interferences itself. And it is clear from this this report that one of the things he is doing is to follow the money.

MELBER: Follow the money, exactly.

And Paul, look. Kislyak is what in legal circles what we would call a super annoying interview?

PAUL HENDERSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: And it`s probably a little bit more than that, but at a very least.

MELBER: Take a listen to how he seemed to, this is my analysis, delight in being difficult when asked about all these contacts.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through text): Could you tell us who else you met and spoke with by phrase (ph), so that we know who will go to prison or questioned by Mueller (INAUDIBLE)? Flynn, Sessions, who else?

SERGEY KISLYAK, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR (through text): There are two lessons with that. First, I will never do it. And second, the list is so long that can`t do it in twenty (INAUDIBLE).


MELBER: The list is so long and we have showed some of the names and he couldn`t go through it. Obviously we don`t take him at face value. He likes to mess with America. But your view of him legally as a person here who is implicated here in so much under investigation.

HENDERSON: And that makings him a key figure, not just for the special counsel, but also for the Senate intelligence committee, because they are examining the same thing concurrently at the same time. He has been a figure in D.C. since 2008. And his ties to the Trump administration and people that are around are very telling to all of these folks that are going the investigation, especially since these new records that we have seen show that he has $120,000 right after the election.

So as with all of this investigation, and with all of these discrepancies, which by the way, come from the bank secrecy act from 1970, where you examine anything suspicious or that are over $10,000, basically what the special counsel wants to know, what the intelligence committee wants to know is where did this money come from, and then where did this money go?

MELBER: And could the answers make a potential crime under federal law.

HENDERSON: Absolutely, depending on the answers to those questions is why the Senate intelligence committee want to see those documents. It`s why the special counsel wants to talk to Kislyak. It is why they need to get those questions answered so they know where to point that finger.

And we have already seen some convictions and please come from those questions. And I think more to come once those documents get examines and when and if Kislyak ever starts answering those questions.

MELBER: Right. And you put it well.

And yet, Matt Miller, if there is a smoking financial gun here, it`s probably not a direct transfer of cash involving the ambassador, right?

MILLER: Well, I mean, you would think that it wouldn`t be something so obvious, but then you would also think that, you know, the Trump campaign would get an email that says, you know, the Russian government wants to help your campaign and then take a meeting. So I don`t know that we can assume that people will be smarter criminals that they actually are sometimes.

But I think, you know, largely this is -- I think largely you are probably right, that it won`t be that direct a connection, but I think the point is right, look, Bob Mueller wants to get to the bottom of this, he wants to follow this money, not just where the money is from, but where it was spent.

Was this money spent in the U.S. to somehow interfere with the election? Was it used to fund some of the social media efforts and some of the advertisements that we know they funded on social media? Or is it just used for other diplomatic or espionage purposes or, you know, it is just another example of Russian graph that`s common in the Putin regime.

MELBER: Yes, just your typical espionage purposes.

MILLER: Right, exactly.

MELBER: Yes. You know how it is.

Well, I appreciate both your legal analysis and your precision. This could be something. It could be nothing. It is certainly something worth investigating which is part of the news that broke today.

Paul Henderson and Matt Miller, appreciate it.

Still ahead, emotional protests in the halls of Congress over immigration. Trump`s own chief of staff apparently suggesting the President uninformed on the subject and the shutdown looming this week.

And as promised, my interview with the fiance of the Trump aide who ignited the Russia probe, apparently he didn`t even realize it.


MELBER: I have to ask you this, why do you think George lied?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he was confused. But this is my personal opinion.


MELBER: A Beat special interview, setting the record straight after those attacks from Trump allies.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody knows now that he is not a coffee boy.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, what do you say to Dreamers who are worried about whether they can stay here? Can you keep the government from shutting down?


MELBER: Donald Trump ducking questions there on immigration today. But in a new interview, he declines to say whether he ever did describe Haiti, El Salvador and those African countries with that now infamous epithet, s-hole countries.

Staying on that, you can see though on Capitol Hill, protesters making noise in Congress demanding action on DACA. Eighty-two arrests, the issue is clearly at the center of the fight to stave off a shutdown, now just two days away.

As for that Reuters interview with Donald Trump, he says a shutdown could happen. And then he says it wouldn`t be his fault or the party who controls Congress, it would be on Democrats.

Meanwhile, the congressional Hispanic caucus sitting down with John Kelly. "The Washington Post" said in the meeting Kelly said Trump was quote "uninformed on immigration" and said the U.S. will quote "never construct a physical wall along the border." Wow.

I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, former director progressive media for the Clinton campaign. And she works at Sirius XM now. And Michael Herschon, a TV executive who has created several reality shows for VH1, writes at the "Atlantic" and has been a trenchon (ph) analyst of the reality TVization of our entire democracy and civil discourse, which is fun, right, Michael? That`s a fun thing.

MICHAEL HERSCHON, TV EXECUTIVE: Good times. It`s a great time to be in America.

MELBER: I`m going to go to Zerlina on the policy and what it means when the chief of staff allegedly reportedly says those things. But first, you have argued that sometimes we in the press make mistakes, sometimes we miss the point, falling down rhetorical rabbit holes by Donald Trump. Do you view s-hole gate as that? And how do you view the real world implications of the shutdown looms this week?

ZERLINA MAXWELL, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON AIDE: I definitely think that we have fallen down the rabbit hall. We have spent days and days talking about whether or not the President said vulgar words in a meeting and we have completely missed the point, I think, in focusing on the racism.

Whether or not he said s-hole or s-house (ph) is relevant. The real issue pf what he said is that he said he would prefer white people over black people and he`s implementing that world view in policy. So I think that that`s where the problem lies.

As a citizen of this country, as a person of color, you know, I think you heard the passion and pain in Cory Booker`s voice yesterday. I think a lot of Americans have been feeling that for the past year. And when this administration starting to implement policies that are literally ripping black and brown families apart, I think the sense of urgency that we feel to either change the makeup of our Congress or change the direction of this administration, it becomes so much more urgent in this moment. That`s why you see people sitting out in the halls of Congress right now.


MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, TV PRODUCER: Yes, I think I agree with everything that Zerlina is saying. I think the import of the s-hole comment, I agreed with her that it felt like a distraction, it felt odd to be watching "MORNING JOE" this morning constantly talking about whether that word was used or not. but then I had a kind of pivot in my head, which is this is actually the Waterloo for reality itself, right? Because you have -- this is a key moment where you have Senator Cotton, who`s a really smart guy, who has presidential ambitions, who is not known for taking risks, made the decision that it`s OK to jump on the fantasy train, that it`s OK to kind of clearly lie to say a lie that he knows is a lie and decides that that`s a winning strategy. And so that`s why I think the s-hole debate, along with the other debate, which has massive real-life importance, the shutdown of the government, the fate of immigrants, are standing as a humane country, but we`re at this juncture now where we`re fighting over the meaning of reality and whether reality ultimate will hold.

MELBER: Wow, and when you say that Michael, and you look at what Kelly`s reported comments today have in common with Trump`s reported comments last week is, they make the White House look stupid, they`re bad enough that they may be denied. They occurred in a semiprivate setting with great scrutiny that immediately leaked out. With your reality show prism, and you produce celebrity reality shows and once commented that one of the core sort of, I think you said one of the core repercussions is that the space that`s actually private shrinks because people start performing even outside of the stage in the hopes that it will eventually get back on stage. Do you see that happening more in Trump`s Washington?

HIRSCHORN: Well, I noticed that a lot in the media, right, so if you -- if you go back to the Stephen Miller interview on Sunday, it was awesome that he was kicked off the air, but should he have been on the air in the first place, right? So we in the media and I count myself as part of the media, are starting to perform roles in this brand-new reality show while ignoring, you know, what Zerlina is saying, which are the real -- the real world impacts. So you`re having two things happening at once. You`re having a more explicit racism, which is you know, which is reaching out to a certain constituency, but then you`re also -- you`re also having the government will us into this fantasy zone where whatever Trump says is the truth and the media no longer matters.

MELBER: Right. And that goes to the more famous point that keeping it real can go wrong. We`re out of time because we have that next interview, Zerlina, I want to get you back and get you some more time. So I hope you`ll join us next week, consider this your invitation. Michael Hirschorn, thank you as always. Up next, our special interview, exclusive with the fiance of the Trump advisor spilling secrets to Bob Mueller.


SIMONA MANGIANTE, FIANCE OF GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: He`s cooperating and I think it`s in the interest of the country, at the end.


MELBER: From secret meetings in Europe to drunken tells with an Australian diplomat, she reveals how the Russia probe is stranger than fiction.


MELBER: I mean, it`s got to feel sometimes like you`re living in a movie.

MANGIANTE: Yes, it looks like a James Bond movie, definitely.



MELBER: This is a busy day of breaking news in the Russia probe, but we have something special for you tonight, a rare look inside the investigation, with an actual witness who`s been interviewed by agents for Special Counsel Mueller. Her name is Simona Mangiante, she is the fiance of George Papadopoulos who was the first person to plead guilty in this probe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A former campaign advisor pleads guilty for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. Where does the investigation go now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Papadopoulos said he was told by the Russian they had dirt on Clinton, including thousands of e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Papadopoulos may now be actively working with the Special Counsel`s office to reveal who in the Trump Campaign knew that he was communicating with Russian operatives and when.


MELBER: Papadopoulos is the same man whose night out drinking with that Australian diplomat sparked the FBI to do a criminal Russia probe. That story from the New York Times was just before the New Year, an event that Simona Mangiante has not spoken about on T.V. until now. I asked her about that as well as her experience being interviewed by Mueller`s agents, her view of the probe and a lot more.

MANGIANTE INTERVIEW HERE [18:38:50-18:45:42]

MELBER: I`m now joined by journalist David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief from Mother Jones who`s been on this story from the start. What stood out to you from the interview?

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, it was interesting to me when you asked the question whether he had been a freelancer because you know the Trump campaign and Trump White House has tried to distance itself, and people have called him a coffee boy doing things on his own. We know from Bob Mueller`s own filings that for months, it wasn`t just a couple of times, for months throughout the campaign and well into August of 2016, George Papadopoulos kept trying to make contact with Russian government officials and at one point was even trying to set up what he called a back channel communication with Putin`s office. Now, this was happening long after it had come out in the media at least that Russia was the number one suspect in the hack of the DNC, the Democratic National Committee and in releasing the DNC emails prior to the Democratic convention in July, so there`s a lot here to unpack. Why was the campaign through George Papadopoulos, still at that point, trying to reach out to Putin`s own office?

MELBER: Right. David take a listen to one other key moment in the interview.


MELBER: What should they know about George and about you and the road ahead?

MANGIANTE: I think they should know about George that he`s very loyal and as I said, loyal to the truth, which is now is a big statement. He`s decided to be on the right side of this and is cooperating. And I think it`s in the interests of the country, at the end.

MELBER: You think it is in the U.S. interest that George is cooperating?



MELBER: The right side of history David.

CORN: Well, that`s a big deal, you know, any time you`re prosecuting a case, you know this, you`re the legal expert. Having people on the inside cooperating and telling you what they knew, what they saw, what they heard, it also means that everyone else is being interviewed from the Trump campaign by the FBI agents for Robert Mueller, have to be worried, they have to be careful, they have to make sure they tell the truth. Look what`s happened so far. Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos have been nailed for lying to the FBI, not for the underlying actions, but they only can cut these deals if they have something really to offer to Mueller. And we -- in each of these cases, we don`t know what this is yet.

MELBER: Right. And I thought it was fascinating to hear at least her perspective of why that turning is a good thing not only for them, leniency, but she argues for the country, and it`s not often you even get to sit down with a witness who has been inside with Mueller`s investigators. David Corn, who`s been on this story from the start, thanks for your analysis.

CORN: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up, why am I here? Well, media tech giants are under increasing fire over their role in democracy. I have a special conversation with Recode Kara Swisher next.


MELBER: -- news lately it can be hard to believe we`re still in January of the New Year. But 2018 could be shaping up to be the year that the virtual tech world may have to confront some big problems offline. In the old days, there were tech leaders who argued they weren`t interested in politics or they simply hoped to transcend them. Now the tech industry sees some politics is unavoidable. Amazon breaking with Trump to support DACA immigrants along with many other tech companies and finding its leader Jeff Bezos under fire from Trump learning that when you acquire a top journalistic outlet, you acquire political heat along with it. Other tech companies say they`re caught in the crossfire over how their platforms handle fake news, hate speech, harassment and attempts to politicize their content or platforms. The top Democrat in the Senate Russia probe reached for an even older metaphor saying the Web`s new challenges feel lawless.


SENATOR MARK WARNER, (D), VIRGINIA: The whole notion of social media and how it`s used in the political campaigns is the Wild, Wild West.


MELBER: Tech companies that were once winning a consumer popularity contest like Apple, some of them find themselves under fire for corporate responsibility, critiques for hiding billions overseas and although that`s a common and legal practice for companies in any industry, a recent New York Times editorial captured the public mood arguing tech went from "the coolest industry to a growing perception it`s like the NFL, something millions of people love but which everybody knows leaves a trail of human wreckage in its wake." Some are taking notice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shows there has been or is a moral reckoning on going right now with the tech industry where they`re really thinking about the influence they`ve had on the world and the influence they have on us.


MELBER: With this important discussion, I have a very special guest, Recode Executive Editor Kara Swisher, hosted the Recode Decode podcast. She`s Co-EP of the influential code conference. And if you recognize her on your screen here, it`s because you`ve probably seen her on MSNBC or seen here on record of reporting for the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and other places. Thanks for doing this.


MELBER: Let`s start with that big question. Why is so much of the country taking a different look at tech? And where you work and live every day, is that being noticed?

SWISHER: Well, yes, absolutely. I think people are very aware of their impact finally. And it`s something we`ve been talking about on Recode for a while. I think it started off at the beginning of the year around things like Uber and some other stories that got larger. But I think it`s more having to do with the election and tech`s responsibilities into what happened. A lot of focus is on social media and whether it was weaponized, I think that`s the term I like to use. And then the responsibility of these platforms that are not besign as we thought they were. They have influence in ways that maybe they didn`t think about, the tech companies and their leaders didn`t think about and what they`re going to do about it.

MELBER: One of the things that happened in the last year was the awareness of Russian meddling. Another is that David Letterman grew a really big beard and still got a great Netflix deal which may give semi-retired people everywhere some hope. Take a look at him speaking with Barack Obama about some of these issues.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever your biases were, that`s where you were being sent and that gets more and reinforced over time. That`s what`s happening with these Facebook pages where more and more people are getting their news from. At some point, you just live in a bubble and that`s part of why our politics is so polarized right now.


MELBER: That`s something that President Obama has said many times. You`ve interviewed him. But to some degree, it`s become his fallback statement.

SWISHER: Yes, he has said that.

MELBER: What do you think is the deeper issue there, and can you blame polarization on technology which I think is fairly easy for politicians to do, or what about the users? What about the people who may want to keep looking for only certain types of reinforcement?

SWISHER: You know, I don`t know if -- it`s the tools of technology that are being used by human beings. I think the problems are human beings. Like you know, the enemy is us in that way. And these people are getting on social media behaving badly. Well, you want easily blame the tools. I think you really do have to you know -- you have to blame our leaders, not just our tech leaders but our political leaders and citizens themselves.

MELBER: Kara Swisher, thank you very much.

SWISHER: Thanks a lot.


MELBER: Thanks for watching our show live here in San Francisco. That does it for me. We`ll be back 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.



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