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Bannon to meet with Mueller. TRANSCRIPT: 2/1/2018, The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Richard Blumenthal

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 1, 2018 Guest: Richard Blumenthal

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MTP DAILY: Did I mention the horseback riding 


Anyway. That`s all for tonight. "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

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

Our top story tonight involves major development in the Russian probe. Donald Trump saying he will release that secret GOP memo to discredit his investigation. But two other significant updates about the people Bob Mueller is charged in this probe.

First, breaking just moments ago, three lawyers for the indicted former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, of course, he was also business partner Paul Manafort, those lawyers, now telling a court they are completely withdrawing as his attorneys. The move effective immediately and the reasons not fully explained in public, that is under seal.

Also, Bob Mueller telling a judge, get this, he is not ready to go forward with the hearings to sentence Mike Flynn, he at least quote "90 days more," which suggests Mueller wants more time to keep Flynn talking and cooperating.

If you haven`t heard that news, maybe it`s because a lot of the White House wants you to hear only about the memo.

Now these developments and these allegations in the probes also stretch out to new reporting about Hope Hicks, and whether she talked about hiding evidence of the infamous Trump tower meeting with Russians. To be clear and fair, Hope Hicks denying this account, but it does come from shooting inside the building, Mark Corallo who say Hicks claimed that the Trump Junior emails showing he want a dirt on Clinton from Russians would quote "never get out."

And the biggest problem for Hicks, let me be clear on the legal issue here, this is leaking right now, tonight, and this is after Hope Hicks finished her December interview with Bob Mueller. If she didn`t get it right then, if she misled, or if she lied, she could have liability.

This is not a joke and this is not a drill. Remember, both of these guilty pleas Mueller has already secured are specifically about lying to the feds. But during Trump`s transition period, Hope Hicks was known as a fast rising star new to politics. She did a profile with Forbes magazine. You can see the photo shoot there. But also, this is why we are showing it to you, it is one of the rare times we have seen her on video talking about her unusual introduction to politics and working for Trump.


HOPE HICKS, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You own a news cycle with one tweet. And I think that speaks to both his power and his presence and personality but also his message. So I think now, being a novice is so much more jarring to me that being a novice on a campaign because there are so many people that are new to it. They are all sort of trying to just figure everything out as it comes to you. I knew very little about politics, obviously, it wasn`t expecting to take part in this, and certainly not to play the role that I had.


MELBER: The fairest thing you can say is that Hope Hicks was indeed new to politics, certainly new to criminal probes. The problem, what Bob Mueller investigating, according to "the New York Times" is not whether she was new, but whether she was talking about potentially illegally hiding evidence.

I`m joined now by lawyer Maya Wiley, she served as council to the mayor of the New York City, Nick Ackerman, former Watergate special prosecutor, now a partner at Dorsey and Whitney.

Maya, when you see this, and you see this sparring, do you view this as part of why the White House is so eager to focus on other stories right now?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ADVISOR TO NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Yes. Do you have a harder question?

MELBER: And in your view does Hope have a problem?

WILEY: Hope has a problem, depending on, as you pointed out, depending on what she said. I mean, certainly, it`s possible tat she is guilty of incompetence in meaning she said that the emails would never get out not because she was going to intentionally try to interfere with the emails getting out, but because she didn`t understand the process and what might happen down the road in the investigation.


WILEY: But either way, it is deeply problematic that you have someone on the President`s team during an investigation that literally seems to apparently, may have participated in trying to obfuscate what actually happened in the crafting (ph) of a response in a criminal investigation.

MELBER: Right. And that response, Nick, goes to what it always seems to come back to, and this is a fact that`s very uncomfortable for President Trump and potentially legally vital. He wasn`t in the Trump tower Russia meeting. He disclaims any knowledge of it and any premeditated role on setting it up to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. And if that`s true, that`s good news for Donald Trump and I will report it when it is verified. But if that`s true, why did he insist on being so personally involved in drafting a response to something he brought no knowledge to, allegedly.

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: No. I think it was just part of the cover-up. He just wanted to hide from the public, and probably from the criminal investigators the role of his son of this whole theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee. And the dirt that was going to be brought to Trump tower on June 9th.

I mean Donald Trump on June 7th, after he won the New Jersey primary said that the following week he was going to give a press release to detail all of the dirt on the Clintons, basically. He didn`t do that. Because he knew that those emails were too hot to handle. They had to go out through another way. They went out through goocifer 2.0 and through WikiLeaks, through his henchman, Roger Stone.

MELBER: Right. What did (INAUDIBLE). Were going to say too hot to handle to quote "to hold." No.


MELBER: Let me play Jo Becker, who is a very talented "New York Times" reporter, that we don`t often see on television as much. But she did come on MSNBC with Nicole Wallace and detail some of what was so important in the Russia meeting that they broke open at Trump tower. Take a look.


JO BECKER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: There`s a debate about this. Is lying to the press a crime? And there`s a theory that it is if what you`re doing is really meant to mislead investigators in addition to the American public and the "New York Times."


MELBER: Nick, the counter argument that she is reporting on there is whatever Hope did, whatever anyone else did, if it was only talking to the press, it was not directly going to the outcome of the probe. Your analysis?

ACKERMAN: First of all what Hope said about those emails never being turned over is in and of itself an obstruction of justice. It has nothing to do with the press.

MELBER: You are saying it`s not because she hid them from the press. It is that you interpreted it as her saying they are not going to coming out.

ACKERMAN: Right. No way, no how. Those emails are not going to see the light of day is basically what she is saying. And so, you have to ask yourself. Is she just repeating what her boss is telling her, Donald Trump, that those emails are never going to be revealed. I mean, was he intending to destroy those emails and thinking he could do that?

So yes, I think - you know, the fact that you say something to the press, it`s not a crime. But if what you are trying to do is formulate a false story that is released to other people who in turn use that false story to provide it to the grand jury, provide it to investigators, that is a serious federal felony.

WILEY: It`s impossible to be in a political position with an ongoing investigation and be talking about communications that you may know to be false. So in addition to what Nick is saying, what we are hearing here is that they literally were -- your coms people are usually trying to help you formulate a truthful statement. And if you can`t make a truth testimony statement, you don`t make any. So this is deeply disturbing to see this kind of exchange, if it in fact happened.

MELBER: Right, if in fact happened. And with regard of her being a novice, the other fact is that she might be able to argue that, look, I was hold into a meeting. I thought they were lawyers, I thought someone else did that work and they didn`t. in other words, she was just like the last person in. But it does give more context to the Steve Bannon comments that he said he thinks she has liability. A lot of circular firing.

I want to bring in Jennifer Rubin, a conservative opinion writer for "the Washington Post."

And Jennifer, let me play for you something that Donald Trump said today about the state of the GOP.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, Paul Ryan called me the other day and I don`t know if I`m supposed to say this, but I will say that he said to me, he has never, ever, seen the Republican party so united.


MELBER: Jennifer, do you think that`s a true statement? And do you think that the uniting is around undermining the rule of law?

JENNIFER RUBIN, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, to the latter. As to the former, whether they are united, I guess we are going to tell over time whether that breaks apart.

Let me just go back to something very briefly, Ari. One of the reasons that the Hope Hicks statement is so important, is what she is doing is giving an opening through Trump to lie to the public, she is saying you can make up whatever story you want because the real reason which is reflected in those emails is not going to come out. So that is powerful evidence in that context as well as perhaps suggesting that they might be destroyed.

Now to the Republicans, to a degree that even surprises me after a year of this, these people are now, not just looking the other way, they are facilitating, they are enabling, we have reason to believe that Devin Nunez has perhaps or his staff perhaps is cooperating with the White House in sending this memo into the public. What we know is that the President is telling aides that he is doing it for the express purpose of discrediting the FBI.

Why doesn`t he just go on the roof and simply shout obstruction of justice? Obstruction of justice. You know, he has really - you know those lists where they put the world`s dumbest criminal, the guy who gets locked in the bank safe, wouldn`t Donald Trump is going to be on that. Because what he does is he - during an investigation for obstruction, he keeps making new evidence. He asked not one but three high national security figures if they were on his team. He has crafted a statement that we believe is not representative, is not an accurate account of that June meeting.

MELBER: A meeting that he claims not to be in.

RUBIN: That he claimed not be in.

MELBER: So what accurate information can he offer about it?

RUBIN: Apparently, he doesn`t even want to know the real reason because as Hope says, don`t worry about those. The real explanation is never going to get out.

He has fired the head of the FBI. He has hounded McCabe who is one of the witnesses we think to Comey`s contemporaneous accounts of those meetings with Trump.

There is so much evidence here. He gave it to a law school on a law school exam, it would be hard not to get an A. It would be hard not to find a zillion instances in which the President has obstructed justice.

And what -- I think he fails to appreciate or maybe he just is incapable of, is that by releasing this memo, that in of itself, I believe, is an obstruction of justice.

Listen. If he doesn`t believe his national security team that it`s inaccurate and not confidential, he should fire them. But obviously he keeps them in place. So he must believe what they are saying. He must say, OK, so it`s misleading, so it`s intentionally damaging to American security, but I`m going to release it anyway because I know it`s going to do damage to the national security team.

MELBER: I mean, one point is, he is constitutionally a declassification authority. So he certainly can declassify anything he chooses without it being itself an element of obstruction.

The larger point you are making, though, I believe, does go to the problem and it is something that congressman Schiff talk about, the elicit purpose of the entire memo crusade.

I want to take a listen to this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The President is looking for a reason to fire Bob Mueller. The President is looking for a reason to fire Rod Rosenstein. The bigger concern I have right now is for Rod Rosenstein. The White House knows it would face a fire storm if its fire Bob Mueller. What`s more effective is to fire Bob Mueller`s boss. Now why is that more effective. Rod Rosenstein decides the scope of Bob Mueller`s investigation.


MELBER: An interesting warning from congressman Schiff. I`m wondering your analysis of that and the other political side, and for viewers who may have forgotten, you come from a more conservative perspective on policy issues, although you have clearly quite clearly, objectively, discussed it. I think it is fair to say with those that you see as undermining the rule of law. But the politics of this started Mueller is a lot more famous than Rosenstein. And so, you could potentially get away with it more if that`s all you care about.

RUBIN: Correct. And you have to back up a step. Rod Rosenstein was appointed by this President. It`s not like he is a Democrat. Although, he keeps referring to him as a Democrat from Baltimore. That`s not true. He is a Republican.

Trump put him in that role, when he was only in that role because Jeff Sessions recuse himself over (INAUDIBLE) the that President had another instance of obstruction, by the way. And so, I think you are right in that he is perhaps thinking he could fire Rosenstein or one step below that.

He is just seeking to discredit the whole thing. He thinks that if he throws enough mud up and dirt in the air that people will get confused or maybe he will use that as an excuse not to sit down with Mueller for interview or he will keep the Republicans close to him. He is doing a good job of keeping Paul Ryan on a tight little leash.

And so I think all of this is a lot of diversion because in Trump`s mind, it`s all about kind of smearing the other guy, getting the upper hand. But there is inexorable progress in this case towards and end point that Bob Mueller is going to come back with. And none of what Trump is doing in the end I think is going to save him. Because Bob Mueller is methodically putting together not the testimonial of one witness or two witnesses, but dozens of witnesses, dozens if not hundreds of documents.

MELBER: I`m going to fit in a break. You called it the progress and that is part of the other news. It is the non-memo news. Ninety more days for Flynn cooperation. Rick Gates under indictment and his lawyers vacating the scene of the premises. A lot more there that is not the what the White House wants to talk about.

I got to fit in a break. So Jennifer Rubin, Nick Ackerman and Maya Wiley, thank you each.

Coming up, I have tonight a Beat Special Report on how the Republicans who actually passed a surveillance law are now undermining it. I`m also going to speak to senator Richard Blumenthal, who says Donald Trump is now weaponizing justice.

Also how unprecedented is what we are seeing in the news this week, presidential historian Michael Beschloss makes his beat debut.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump once again is ripping a page out of the Dick Nixon playbook. What Nixon was afraid of was the tax was about to get to White House tapes which we know show that Richard Nixon was guilty.


MELBER: That could be interesting tonight.

Also, we will be breakdown Russia connections from Carter Page, the former Trump aide at the heart of the GOP`s FISA memo.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fake FISA warrant that was, you know, based on the (INAUDIBLE) dossier. The only hack I know about is the FISA warrant hack and the FISA warrant wiretap.


MELBER: You heard it first there on Chris Hayes. He has interviewed Carter Page more than just about anyone. And Chris Hayes joins me live on "the Beat" to talk about it tonight.

I`m Ari Melber and we will be right back.


MELBER: Tonight, the White House is pushing forward with the plan to release classified information to undermine a criminal probe into the White House, stoking many historical comparisons, but you don`t have to reach back to Nixon for a sense of how serious Trump`s attacks are. Considered this Bush-era scandal that brought down an attorney general.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The attorney general and the firestorm tonight over the controversial dismissal of several federal prosecutors, was it political punishment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some claim they were pushed out for improper political reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the ongoing controversy over U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gonzales today vigorously defended his controversial decision --.


MELBER: Across the political spectrum, people said those stakes were high. If it was true, the AG politicize the removal of prosecutors they said they would have to stop.

Bush initially defended attorney general Gonzales, who denied the core claim that these removals were improperly political.


ALBERTO GONZALES, BUST ATTORNEY GENERAL: My decision to ask for the resignations of these U.S. attorneys was not based on improper reasons, and therefore the decision should stand.


MELBER: But a nonpartisan internal review found otherwise, noting Gonzales let partisan pressure corrupt prosecutors and so the decisions were not based on the law or on evidence. And that it added political pressure which shouldn`t shape those decision.

System seemed to worked. Key aides ousted. Karl Rove resigned rather to answer Senate`s subpoena and then there was Gonzales.


GONZALES: Yesterday I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude miss service as attorney general of the United States as of December 17, 2007.


MELBER: Does that history put today`s problems in context? My special guest tonight suggests the history shows just how troubling the news is this week. NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss, the author of a dozen history books, a winner of an Emmy for news and documentary work and a frequent expert that we benefit from. Thanks for joining me tonight.


MELBER: When you look at that history, how does it compare to this week?

BESCHLOSS: That recent history has been so far put in to shape by Donald Trump that you can imagine. You know, you remember last month -- March, Donald Trump fired U.S. attorneys too. We were talking about seven, as we were in the Bush case, we were talking about 46 of them. And you know there have been stories during the last year about him interviewing them personally, I think when there`s more (INAUDIBLE), we may hear that he has asked more than a few of them for the kind of loyalty pledge that we know he asked from James Comey and others.

MELBER: Something weird I wanted to get your view on, is sometimes when we make historical comparisons, they are in a totally different era so all the players are different.


MELBER: This particular issue is not. So take a look here at some recognizable faces who are still around and how Republicans stood up for what they saw as undermining the rule of law by a party of their own - of a president of their own party.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have told the attorney general that I think this has been mishandled. It`s caused a real fire storm and he better get the facts out fast.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s clear to me that some of these people just had personality conflicts with people at the White House, and you know, they made up reasons to firer them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the best way to put this behind is your resignation.


MELBER: You know, Kanye West sometimes talks about the old Kanye and the new Kanye. Here we have the new Cornyn and the old Cornyn. So I`m not nostalgic for some other by-gone era. I`m just, I guess, am I getting it as a journalist nostalgic for when John Cornyn just called the rule of law as he saw it regardless of party?

BESCHLOSS: I think we are both feeling the same way. And Kanye, by the way, and I are both from Chicago so you are playing to the audience here.

MELBER: Correct.

BESCHLOSS: But, you know, absolutely right. And I think you have to look at the larger context as you always do. No one really thought that George W. Bush had a bent toward authoritarianism. In Donald Trump`s case, every time we look at something like this, including the Nunez memo, you have to ask the question, he has talked about reconstructing the FBI, and making the FBI people loyal to him.

Same thing with the justice department. All these unfilled places in the state department. He has attacked the intelligence community. You know, we don`t have the evidence that would suggest yet that he is doing this with the idea that he will have a degree of personal power and authoritarian control that we haven`t seen in earlier Presidents. But the founders always wanted us to ask those questions of anyone who was President because they felt that was the only way that we could defend our liberties.

You know, when Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of system the founders had given us, and he said a republic if you can keep it. What he meant by that is that the highest role of all of us as citizens is to always watch those in power and at least, you know, maintain the possibility that what they are trying to do is take our liberties away.

MELBER: And so briefly, do you think the founders were concerned that the oversight division of Congress can turn this partisan?

BESCHLOSS: They have tried to create a system so that members of Congress would make sure that Presidents did not seize too much power. I think an impartial person would say that Republicans in Congress, in many cases are not doing that. They are trying to defend their President. And Donald Trump to some extent is trying to, you know, change the judiciary process to make it easier for him to exercise influence.

It`s like what Dwight Eisenhower said in his final address. You need, what he said was, an alert and knowledgeable citizenry. Unless we do that all the time, we will have our democracy begin to fade.

MELBER: Michael Beschloss, I feel more alert having the benefit of your analysis tonight. Thank you.

BESCHLOSS: My pleasure. Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Donald Trump asked the person in charge of the Mueller probe if he was on his team. What if he fires him? That important story is next.

Also, Trump`s chief of staff says the boss wants quote "everything out." I have a fact-check on that you might want to see.

And later, the former Trump aide at the center of the Republican memo now back in the spotlight. Our colleague Chris Hayes talked to him more than anyone else and he will join me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only hacking I heard about emails is from "the Washington Post" and "New York Times" about my emails getting hacked with this fake FISA warrant that was, you know, based on the (INAUDIBLE) dossier.


MELBER: Tonight, my beat Special Report, I have been writing it all day. These Republicans are blasting the Russian memo. I have some for them on the law they passed.


MELBER: The other top story tonight, Donald Trump pushing to release this secret memo over objections from his own FBI director. Multiple reports saying Trump wants to use the memo for a very specific reason to fire the man in charge of the Russia probe.

Democrats, meanwhile, are calling on speaker Ryan to remove Devin Nunez from the intel committee for improper activity. Ryan says this is just oversight.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: What this memo is Congress doing its job in conducting legitimate . And if mistakes were made and if individuals did something wrong, then it is our job as the legislative branch of government to conduct oversight over the executive branch if abuses were made.


MELBER: I`m joined by Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Your response to Paul Ryan saying this is just oversight?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The Congress has a legitimate oversight role when it comes to the FISA court and our intelligence community. But it`s role should be to examine it, first of all, confidently, without disclosing information that will give away sources and methods. And second without grossly mis-characterizing in a memo summary of that kind of intelligence. And there is a procedure within the foreign intelligence court. I know because I hope to draft it for appeals and for scrutiny within the court system that is properly the way to do it.

MELBER: What if Carter Page is, for the sake of argument, should never have been surveilled, if you take that just as the lawyers say arguendo, is that have anything to do with whether Mueller is doing a legitimate probe?

BLUMENTHAL: Carter Page has remedy within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as a result of the adversary process that we inserted, but point number two is Carter Page was known to the FBI for years before that warrant was sought.

MELBER: Yes, and Senator, I reported that. But I am curious, to press you a little bit on. If true -- I`m not saying true, but if true, does it even implicate the rest of the probe as Donald Trump seems to think?

BLUMENTHAL: If there was a reason to do oversight with respect to Carter Page, there are remedies and well-used remedies, there have been such oversight investigation in the past not to disclose piecemeal information that puts in danger the very sources and informants and intelligence community resources that are essential. That`s the reason that this disclosure is being called extraordinarily reckless. And in fact, what we have here, let`s be very plain is the investigative vice is tightening on Donald Trump, he is becoming increasingly desperate. Some of the news you just mentioned like Flynn`s sentencing being postponed, Mark Corallo being a witness before the Special Counsel. And he is seeking to politically weaponize the law enforcement and the intelligence communities.

MELBER: Senator Blumenthal, thank you for joining us on a busy night. I want to turn to another important part of this. Donald Trump`s Chief of Staff John Kelly says, "Donald Trump wants everything out so Americans can make up their own minds about the memo." Let`s probe that word everything, because it sounds like a broad interest in transparency, but we looked this up, it doesn`t seem to include Trump`s tax returns, or his future testimony with Bob Mueller if that happens, or even the Democrats` rebuttal memo to the same issue, or any of the other FISA warrants, or let me think, Steve Bannon`s House testimony. While we`re at it, everything doesn`t seem to cover the White House visitor logs, let`s add that, or the Mar-a-Lago visitor logs, or the Stormy Daniels story. I think we -- yes, I think we need more -- can we get some more room to fit his all in? Let me -- let me get to you.

Does the open testimony on the sexual harassment allegations, that would fall under everything out. There`s the list of foreign customers at Trump properties, the details about Trump University`s business practices, the number of anonymous Trump property buyers since the election. Everything out, let`s see. The evidence of voter fraud, full documentation of the military deferments for Mr. Trump, his passport records and also something he sued to try to stop, the publication of Fire and Fury, so it looks like everything out would be a lot more than what they want out. Let me turn to my next guest, former FBI Special Agent, NBC National Security Analyst Clint Watts. Is this everything out transparency, or is this political selective transparency for partisan purpose.

CLINT WATTS, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It`s totally partisan, it`s selective, it`s cherry-picking, and it`s also putting it out under this veil of the public needs to know. And that`s why we have Mueller investigation because the public does need to know. The other part of it you do this application because often times you`re trying to determine whether someone is part of an espionage operation, or foreign terrorist organization, foreign terrorist target. And that`s why you do these techniques because you`re investigating, you`re trying to get to the bottom of it. The other thing that`s fascinating about this is, I can already sense what the story is going to be. The dossier was used in the FISA application, the FISA application was tied to Clintons, then the Clintons it ties back to Trump Tower being wiretapped, it just confuses the issue by picking apart every part of this investigation, putting just a little bit of doubt in there and then muddying the waters.

MELBER: You`re a former FBI agent. You put your life out there and you worked with a lot of people who did. Donald Trump made a lot of noise being for law enforcement. Does any of this stuff collectively over time cut into what your former colleagues thin about whether he really does heed, respect, and listen to law enforcement?

WATTS: No. I think it`s very discouraging. Imagine if you were an FBI agent or an special agent across any of the agencies today and you`re putting together a title three wiretap or a FISA warrant, and you have to think to yourself now in an additional screen, how might something be picked out from here by a politician four years from now and use this as a weapon against me or against the investigation or --

MELBER: So that`s interesting. You`re not just saying this is wrong for the past. You`re saying this could corrupt future work in actual surveillance?

WATTS: Yes, I mean, you will hesitate as an investigator using any of these tools if you think that some politician, a congressman on a committee, later down the road sees an opportunity where the piece of information, something you can`t even think of, to use that as a target against you or anybody else. It is really going to put anybody at pause in an investigation, so they really have to really overthink everything and say how is this going to be potentially used against me? We`ve seen that with text messages, would you want to send a text message right now if you`re an FBI agent to somebody else for any reason. I don`t want to be --

MELBER: Well, I don`t even want to be -- I don`t even want to be talking to you on T.V., this could be taken out of context.

WATTS: That`s right. I mean, it`s always e-mails, messages, FISA applications. And the assumption is if I get this piece of it, I`ll win politically and I`m helping the public understand, when you`re actually doing is confusing the public about what`s actually going on.

MELBER: Clint Watt, thank you as always for your analysis. Up next, we turn to what I promised earlier in the show. This is my BEAT special report on the Republicans going at a law they passed for the Russia memo. And then later the Trump Adviser Carter Page`s Russia links now as we just discussed at center of all this. Chris Hayes who`s made news for his Carter interviews, he`s here live.


MELBER: Now, to our special report tonight. Republicans barreling towards this unprecedented release of secret surveillance information. Many political controversies have two sides. This one does not. The report you`re about to see explains how surveillance law works, how top Republicans wrote the law and how they`re now undermining it. And if that makes them look bad, it`s because the facts are bad. The Republican memo on Russia centers on two simple claims according to press reports. First, the claim that surveillance power was abused to track and obscure former Trump advisor Carter Page. Second, the claim that Prosecutor Rod Rosenstein is responsible. And Trump says this memo claim could help him force Rosenstein out. The first claim is an opinion. The second claim is incorrect. The opinion is the FBI maybe should not have surveilled Page and maybe the evidence wasn`t strong enough and it was too easy to surveil him. And look, lots of people debate whether the law should make domestic surveillance easier or harder. But the law is the law.

An opinion about why it`s too easy to do surveillance in America is not a scandal, it`s an Op-Ed. Second, no prosecutor has the final say on domestic surveillance. Under the law, prosecutors like Rosenstein, only request warrants for surveillance. A judge makes the final call. It`s false to say a prosecutor decides be it Rod Rosenstein, or Jeff Sessions or Rudy Giuliani. All right, so who made this law this way? If it is too easy to get a warrant for surveillance, if the law should have made it harder to surveil people, such as targets like Carter Page, who did that? The U.S. Congress, run by Republicans and specifically Devin Nunez who argued for this exact law saying that making it harder to surveil people would weaken security.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: As threats to Americans at home and abroad increase by the day, now is not the time to be weakening our national security.

At the end of the day, we all take the American people`s constitutional liberties seriously.


MELBER: That last clip is not some old footage from a bygone era. That was three weeks ago when Nunez and 80 percent of Republicans re-upped this surveillance law. And that`s not all. Apart from how hard it is to get warrants, Republican leaders also pushed a law to allow some digital surveillance of non-U.S. persons with no warrant at all. That`s a section of the surveillance law called 702, they were libertarians like Justin Amash who wanted to make it harder to use that power. But Paul Ryan and Nunez and Steve King shot that down arguing the approach would have America flying blind against ISIS.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I rise in support of the 702 reauthorizations, it is critical to our national security.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: What would American people say if we hampered our law enforcement protecting them? What would the people of this country say if we had another Murrah building blown up and the FBI couldn`t look at even an e-mail address?

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: You pass the Amash amendment, you bring that firewall right back up. You pass the Amash amendment and defeat this underlying bill, we go back to those days where we are flying blind on protecting our country from terrorism.


MELBER: That was just three weeks ago when they re-upped that law. Surveillance law works this way because that`s how Republicans wrote it. And under the law it`s judges who decide these warrants, the judges specialized in national security. They`re picked by Chief Justice Roberts who happens to be a Republican and it`s a nonpartisan job, but if you`re counting, 80 percent of the current surveillance judges are also Republicans. The process is secret, which is why it`s such a big deal Republicans now want to release this classified info, but this is interesting, there was one former surveillance judge who discussed the process, explaining they always probe before approving a warrant.



ROYCE LAMBERTH, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: I ask questions, I get into the nitty-gritty. I know exactly what is going to be done and why and my questions are answered in every case before I approve an application.


MELBER: That`s the process. The majority of these warrants are approved, Congress could tighten that process, although they didn`t last month. And Republicans can still have a personal opinion that the judge was wrong to approve Carter Page`s warrant, o the DOJ should have given more details about sources if they use the infamous Putin/Trump dossier. Under the law though, judges can approve warrants even if the source is biased, the issue is only whether the facts come from a credible course source. That`s a summary of current surveillance laws by Professor Orin Kerr. He`s a former prosecutor who clerked for a Republican appointed Supreme Court Justice. Also, the FBI was tracking Page`s Russia back when Donald Trump was on The Apprentice and no dossier existed. There was even a 2015 federal case stating Russian spies tried to recruit a male in New York. Page later reportedly out as that person, "Male One".

The case discussing the attempted use of Male One is an intelligence source for Russia. The FBI also interviewed Page back in 2013, for a federal probe. He also met with high ranking Russian officials and had ties to Russian companies and made all those Trips to Russia. So the FBI have all kinds of leads about the ties to Russia without any dossier. If this year has shown anything, it has shown that with all the links to Carter Page, his best answer is to paraphrase Drake, I don`t know how many times, I forgot, it`s a lot. But finally, just for the sake of argument tonight, what if the judge was wrong and the Carter Page file was so flawed the warrant should have never been issued? What if you entertain theory that the heart of this increasingly panicked and frantic Republican conspiracy theory? Page has been pushing that theory that the truth will vindicate him.


CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: In the interest of really getting the truth out there, because I think when the truth comes out, when Speaker Paul Ryan says the FISA warrant or the details about the dodgy dossier and what happened and all the documents around that is going to be released, that`s what I`m really excited about. I think that the truth will set a lot of people free.


MELBER: I look forward to freedom. If the warrant actualy was mistaken, there is -- we`ve discussed tonight a solution to that. It can be an appeal to a higher court. Any evidence gathered from the surveillance can be withheld, if a target`s rights are violated, If that target were Carter Page, he can sue the government in court. We know that`s the solution because it`s in the same law the Republican Congress just re-upped last month. But even if there were a mistaken warrant, that wouldn`t be a crime. None of that changes the authority of the Russian probe. None of that would even impact other cases like Flynn or Manafort unless the surveillance did show Carter Page linked to other crimes.

And again, the core of this theory is that he was innocent from the start, which brings to the end. It brings us back to Devin Nunez, the man who has been so much more loyal to Trump instead of his own committee that he had to step back from his own probe, and now this week he goes further. Honestly, it is sad to report the reality that Nunes` latest effort to undermine critique and defy the surveillance laws he passed just last month is so craven in a town known for petty partisan hypocrisy, Nunes may have defined a new humiliating lull. Is this really the time to undermine the very national security law he passed? Well, for the answer, let`s just listen to Devin Nunes.


NUNES: As threats to Americans at home and abroad increase by the day, now is not the time to be weakening our national security.


MELBER: I`m happy to say, up next, we have Chris Hayes here. The man who knows Carter better than most. We will be right back.


MELBER: -- guilty, reckless? You can decide. Carter Page on "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes back in October of last year.


PAGE: Yes, I`m really looking forward to a more open hearing with Congressman Himes and the rest of the House Intelligence Committee.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I genuinely hope, Carter, that you`re innocent of everything because you`re doing a lot of talking. It`s either -- it`s either admirably bold or reckless. But I guess we`ll find out. Thanks for coming by.

PAGE: Great to see you, Chris.


MELBER: As promised I`m joined by Chris Hayes, Host of "ALL IN" and our Carter Page expert. Do we have more clues whether it`s bold or reckless?

HAYES: Well, here`s the thing that has been interesting about watching the memo develop. Carter, for as long as I`ve been interacting with him and corresponding with him which has been for a while has basically taken the view that is now being enshrined, we think, based on reports in the Nunes memo and is the joint view of the Republican Party, the Republican leadership and the President of the United States over the objections of the FBI which is, he has said to me he is the victim of a tremendous abrogation of his civil rights. That he has been the victim of an unfair and unjust government run amok. He read my book which is about the criminal justice system and asked me to sign it because he thought it was so fitting. It was of course about like mass incarceration, things like that.

MELBER: He relates to you and Michelle Alexander?

HAYES: So this -- yes. So this perspective which was the kind of let`s say, eccentric specific view of Carter Page that he alone has been singled out in this incredibly unjust way has now migrated to become the official policy of the Oversight Committee that has oversight over the FISA Courts, the White House, the President against his own FBI. It`s sort of amazing to watch Carter`s words and Carter`s view on this become the official position of the Republican Party.

MELBER: Exactly. And whether it is just as Donald Trump has been telling friends a way to get Rod Rosenstein which seems like less of a good cover story if literally doing your cover story before you even go and make that move, but second, you don`t have a right not to be wiretapped. You have a right to have courts oversee it.

HAYES: And of course, I mean, this is one of the things that shows what -- I mean, the bad faith here is really remarkable. I mean, the entire Nunes M.O. is like there`s great Youtube highlight reels of like the worst flops in soccer or basketball which like went in slow motion, like a hand comes like this and they like throw themselves back. Like that is the whole Nunes M.O. here, is just this insane flop that we`re all watching in real time which is that if you have problems with it as you very, very well showed incredibly deftly, then you should have reformed the law, A, B, you could release the memo to the court itself which is the entity that granted this in the first place.

If you think they screwed up, then you should talk to the court. You could release the memo to them. Why you are not going to the people that okayed the warrant and then okayed its renewal, the court? Why aren`t you dealing with them? Why aren`t you having an oversight hearing behind closed doors which you can do because you`re the Intelligence Committee with the people that are on the court? And you know, if you want to do any of those things, then you should do those things.

MELBER: And right before we came on air, you and I were observing that in the old clip in the interview you did with him, he says very explicitly, well, Paul Ryan will help me get this out. How does that look to you now in retrospect?

HAYES: I -- it makes me really wonder. Because I was actually looking at that interview today in my office and that makes you wonder to the degree to which there has been communication between him and House Republicans. When I`ve asked him if he has lawyers, he said I`ve been getting help from some people. We know that he`s come before congressional committees and he seemed very confident way back in October that Paul Ryan was going to OK the release of all this information around him. The other thing I would say here is, with an eye towards preserving sources and methods which is, of course, the concern I think of the FBI and the Intelligence Community.


HAYES: If they want to show everyone what at actual FISA warrant is, that`s the relevant document.

MELBER: Right, which is not what is about maybe coming out tomorrow.

HAYES: No, no. What`s coming out tomorrow is a book report about that document by a person who hasn`t read the book. What`s coming out tomorrow is a summary memo of the FISA warrant by a man who hasn`t read the FISA warrant.

MELBER: Which is -- don`t they say that isn`t Twitter just a book club for people who obviously never read the book? And I`m on Twitter, I say that including myself.

HAYES: That -- and so this is what -- this is what is being publicized. It`s preposterous. If the warrant was bad and let me just say, it`s possible that FISA warrants are bad. I`m sure bad FISA warrants get approved.

MELBER: Right.

HAYES: If that`s the case, let`s see the warrant.

MELBER: Right. Let`s see the warrant or go back to the court which you just re-upped last month and that`s --

HAYES: Or appeal to the court or sue or do any of those things, if that`s your concern. But of course, this is bad faith all around. That`s not the concern.

MELBER: And I close with the question that hangs over all of this. It isn`t behind us, this is Chris Hayes` words, admirably bold -- admirably bold or reckless. We don`t know yet.

HAYES: We don`t know.

MELBER: Chris Hayes, we`ll be watching tonight, 8:00 p.m. Thank you for joining us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes 8:00 p.m. Eastern. I suspect it will be a very good show tonight. My last question to you, do you ever play -- where am I looking? Here. I don`t have as much experience as you, Chris. Steady cam. Ever played Candy Crush is the question. I have a fact check about that next.


MELBER: One more thing you need to know. Donald Trump saying today his State of the Union had the highest ratings ever. Not true, both Barack Obama and Clinton did have higher T.V. ratings if you`re keeping track. Even some people inside the room had their distractions going. There are three lawmakers on their phones during the speech. They`re just like us. Michigan Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence playing Candy Crush. How many levels do you get through in a State of the Union that lasts an hour and 20 minutes? We`re just asking. You can always take a break from Candy Crush and hit us up at Facebook @THEBEATWITHARI. That does it for me though. I will see you back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.



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