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Comey: GOP's memo "dishonest and misleading." TRANSCRIPT: 2/2/2018, The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Michael Isikoff, David Corn, Jackie Speier, Frank Figliuzzi, Bill Kristol, Natasha Bertrand, Fat Joe

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 2, 2018 Guest: Michael Isikoff, David Corn, Jackie Speier, Frank Figliuzzi, Bill Kristol, Natasha Bertrand, Fat Joe

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Ari, man, keep it going , brother.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Let me tell you, we don`t always do a power super review here, Chuck. But tonight on this show, I have one of the journalists cited in the memo, Michael Isikoff. And I have another one of the journalists cited in the memo in David Corn, Bill Kristol and Fat Joe join me later to talk about who should fallback. There is a lot to get to.

TODD: I would just say, keep the remote right here, no flipping (INAUDIBLE).

MELBER: Very kind he could say. And thanks to your coverage, Chuck. I have been watching you making a lot of points.

Tonight, Donald Trump thought he was dropping a bomb on the Mueller probe, according to the reporting. I can tell you from reading this memo and consulting with a wide range of experts, it`s a dud. The controversial Russia GOP memo does not even allege let alone prove that anyone committed any crime. It doesn`t even mention Bob Mueller. It cites the work as I mentioned of investigative journalist Michael Isikoff right there, a big part of the memo. He joins me in a moment.

It also cites the work of another Russia reporter "Mother Jones" journalist David Corn. He is also my guest tonight. These two reporters mentioned in the memo, on "the Beat" for their first exclusive reaction, not only how to implicates them but to what it all means and to give us a better set of insight. I, myself, am looking forward to that.

Now, here is the news. FBI director Chris Wray, of course, appointed by Trump, is now putting out a statement. Now he doesn`t cite the memo directly, but it is quite obviously here on this Friday night, an unusual rebuttal in the context of everything.

He tells employees quote "talk is cheap. The work you do is what will endure."

Also reacting tonight, national security Hawk McCain saying this only serves Putin`s interest.

Jim Comey saying this is dishonest and misleading, this new memo.

And then look at Republican congressman Charlie Dent saying all of this sets a dangerous precedent.

What`s in the memo? Well, at its core is an allegation that that the DOJ should not have asked to surveil and the court should not have approved the spying on Trump`s former aid Carter Page. Of course, if this is the man at the center of all this, that seems odd. Don`t take anyone else`s word for it except for the top aides to Donald Trump who dismissed this person as a low level volunteer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think I have ever spoken to him. I don`t think I ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low level member. I think a committee for a very short period of time. I don`t think I have ever met him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know Carter page. To the best of my knowledge, Carter Page never had a DonaldTrump.com email address. Had no formal role in the campaign that I am aware of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have not spoken with him at all. In fact, meaning, he was not part of our national security or foreign policy briefings that we do now at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not part of the campaign anymore?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s certainly not part of the campaign that I`m running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A wide, wide historical record of denials to Carter Page matter. That`s how they talked about Page. That is the record, apart from, what is now being claimed as this memo comes out tonight.

Now it suggests the DOJ ask a judge for permission to monitor Page and suggests that the main reason the DOJ did that. I`m not telling you the entire facts, I`m telling you what the memo alleges, which we have not verified. But it says that this was because of information provided in that dossier by the British spy, Christopher Steele. And then it goes on to speculate that the FBI`s once deputy director recently pushed out, also said quote "no surveillance warrant would have ever been sought without that dossier information." That is up for dispute as well. And I`ll break that down later in the show.

Meanwhile, the memo lists all of the officials who were involved in signing off on the application to do this surveillance. This is normal, this is actually how the process typically works and you see them there, Comey, McCabe, Yates, Dana Boente who is coming as the FBI council.

And in a moment, I`m going to speak with congresswoman Jackie Speier. She is on this intelligence committee.

But I begin with former assistant FBI director Frank Figliuzzi and Max Boot who is a former advisor to John McCain and the national security expert. His new book I should mention is called "the Road not taken."

Frank, I have got a lot of great guests in the broadcast. One could argue the people cited name checked this memo are of even news-worthy interest. I`m excited to talk to you and them. But I start with you for an FBI view of whether what is in this memo, objectively that you show problems with the way that Carter Page was surveilled and problems with the Mueller probe or not?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Ari, thanks for having me. I was prepared for a very tough day today. I got up this morning this morning and appeared on MSNBC. I was saying that maybe the FBI director would have to come out today and rebut line by line and bullet by bullet whatever terrible disgraceful Watergate like allegations it contained. And I was ready for even an allegation of serious FBI misconduct.

I have appeared in FISA court myself personally in my career over 20 times. I signed off on countless FISA affidavits throughout my career in the FBI. I have got the three-and-a-half pages in front of me of the memo. I don`t see it. I don`t understand it. And most of all, this memo depicts the political motivation behind its release.

So there`s no roast beef there. It`s not there. And specifically, they are trying, as you know, the legal doctrine called fruits of the poisonous tree, right. That if you can poison the tree then all the fruit that comes of it is tainted. The problem is they have poisoned the wrong tree. They can`t show any connections of the special counsel inquiry by what they are alleging today.

Let`s assume everything they have alleged in three and a quarter pages is accurate. It still doesn`t taint the special counsel inquiry. It certainly would taint --.

MELBER: Right. And I`m going to slow you down. You are making an important point, but I want to slow you down because I just, for viewers who have heard so much hype, I want to take it piece by piece.

Before we get to whether there is any implication for Mueller. I turned the same question to you, Max Boot. When you read the four pages of the memo, do you see a problem here as alleged?

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: No, of course not. My reaction was the same as everybody else`s, where is the beef? I mean, where is this great scandal? There is absolutely nothing whatsoever there. What is striking to me in reading that memo is it basically tries to impugn Christopher Steele by saying he was bankrolled by the Democratic Party. But it didn`t actually impugns information. They didn`t say that he got anything wrong. So they are trying impugn one guy who provided information for one FISA warrant in a much larger investigation. And they didn`t even do that successfully.

So this really amounts to nothing whatsoever. The only take away from this is how shameless Devin Nunes and Donald Trump and all the rest of the Republicans are for attacking the FBI for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

MELBER: And Frank, I want to go deeper into the point you raise, which is a lot of us, based on the hype and the rumors thought what might be in the memo was an allegation of some sort of serious crime or misconduct, by somebody, somewhere. That`s not even in here.

Let me read from someone you know well, Jim Comey, responding pretty bluntly. He says, that`s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with the intelligence community, damaged the relationship with the FISA, inexcusively exposed classified investigation of an American citizen for what? DOJ and FBI must keep doing their job -- Frank.

FIGLIUZZI: So let`s try to pick a part. Just the highlights here of what they are trying to allege. First they are claiming that the FISA court judge who signed off on his wiretap was never told that Christopher Steele had been paid by the FBI or paid by the DNC for the dossier.

Number one, what they are not recognizing is, the Q&A that goes on that FISA court. Again, I have been there many times. Their questions - there are verbal, there is verbal answers, there is give and take to the chief clerk, there is give and take to the judge. We don`t know this to be accurate that he did know it.

But the ultimate question is, would that have changed the judge`s mind in signing off? And there`s another big piece here. They claim that they -- they keep harping on the fact that Christopher Steele was terminated as a source by the FBI because he went and disclosed his relationship to the media. OK. What does that have to do with the voracity of the information that he provided to the FBI?

Sources go bad and go south on you all the time. Their sources, they are human beings. But it doesn`t impact the truth of what they gave you. So if I tell you it`s raining outside, and you go outside and independently confirm that it`s raining, it`s raining, whether I go bet on you or not.

MELBER: Right. Well, it`s raining down facts on a memo that was promised to be something very different. I got to run because I got so much in the broadcast.

Frank and Max, thank you both.

I turn now to Congresswoman Jackie Speier, of course, from the House intel committee. Your response to the release of this memo.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, as everyone has pointed out, there is no sizzle here. The one thing, though, we need to appreciate. This is a fake memo. This was designed by the President for the President to derail the Mueller investigation.

It`s not going to derail the investigation. And I think the American people are going to recognize that if they take the time to read it.

What`s really critical now, Ari, is the fact that we should stop even looking at Trump. What makes a democracy? And are we teetering at the edge where the democracy is at risk because there`s efforts to damage our law enforcement agencies, our judiciary, our media? This is really getting to the point where I fear that my Republican colleagues have lost their way in terms of remembering what it is we`re supposed to be doing and how we`re supposed to protect the constitution.

MELBER: Well, let me ask about one of the reasons that I think it`s understandably you could draw that conclusion. When you first found out - we are learning some of this now, when you first found out that this so- called memo was almost completely about whether or not Carter Page, by all accounts of peripheral figure, should or should not be surveilled, what did you think?

SPEIER: Well, you know, there is things I can`t talk about that make sense for why Carter Page was being sought to be surveilled. What`s important here to point out, you know, all of last year, Devin Nunes was talking about this terrible unmasking by the Obama administration. What did they do here? They unmasked a U.S. person by making this memo public. So they are just throwing spaghetti up against the wall to see if anything sticks.

MELBER: Right. And I just mean that it made it sound like this was about more and it seems to be about something incredibly narrow.

SPEIER: It is. But, you know, they were trying to piece together all these elements to show bias within the department and within the agency. And we have got to remember, that the Christopher Wray is a Republican appointed by the President. Rod Rosenstein is a Republican. Jim Comey was a Republican. Andy McCabe was a Republican. These are all Republican operatives and yet are appointees and Republicans.

So make the case that somehow they are all biased in favor of Hillary Clinton and out to get the President is just not right.

MELBER: No. And that`s - yes. And that is something that we have been talking about for months. The expectation tonight, what I keep returning to at the risk of annoying everyone, is that I had been told that there was going to be a lot of there there about the whole probe. And now I have got the memo, and it`s only about one person that everyone used to agree was very peripheral.

And congressman Speier, thank you for your time.

I turn now to a man at the center of the controversy engulfing the United States tonight. That`s not hyperbole, Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter who is cited point blank in the memo.

Why are you in the memo? Does it suggest, as viewers have been told, that you did something wrong? Or that your sources did something wrong in dealing with you? Those are questions I have to put to you.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Well, look. I was as surprised as anybody to see my story cited in the memo as having been extensively cited to the FISA court for a number of reason. Number one is everything in the story that I broke in Yahoo! News in September of 2016 was information that was already known to the FBI. So it is a little baffling as to why they would have needed to cite my story to the FISA court. Now what we don`t know --

MELBER: You are baffled that if true your story was cited to the court?

ISIKOFF: Yes. What we don`t know is what they were citing in the story. They are trying to suggest in the memo that it was the information that came from Christopher Steele, which was clearly a big part of the story, although the gist of the story was that the FBI, that the U.S. intelligence community was investigating the allegations about Carter Page that Christopher Steele had brought to them. But there was lots else in the story including information about Page`s background, how he was known as an apologist for Vladimir Putin, about his trip to Moscow.

MELBER: But just to slow down -- I got to slow you down. Not everyone is as well read on this as you have been.

ISIKOFF: Sure.

MELBER: The memo says you wrote a thing.

ISIKOFF: A story.

MELBER: And the story, that thing, the memo says was cited as part of the larger evidence for spying on Carter Page.

ISIKOFF: Yes.

Is there anything wrong with that?

ISIKOFF: Well, first of all, I`m a reporter. And I wrote the story that the FBI was, and the U.S. intelligence community was investigating these questions about Carter Page. Was it wrong for the FBI? They already were investigating. That`s what the story said. So it was not --

MELBER: Sounds like you are saying no.

ISIKOFF: I`m Sorry if that triggered the investigation.

MELBER: I got to zero in on you. It is my job. It sounds like you are saying no. It sounds like you had reported things that you believed had been verified. They overlap --.

ISIKOFF: They were verified by sources other than Christopher Steele.

MELBER: And that overlapped with the case that these things were true so that they should spy on Page?

ISIKOFF: Yes, sure. But like I said, since we don`t know what they were citing, it`s a little hard to know what to make of this. But can I say, to me, the most significant piece of new information in the memo is something you referred to. But I don`t think people quite understood. There were three renewals of this FISA application, which they had to make new representations to the court about why they were getting the extension.

MELBER: But that`s not why you are here, sir. We will get to that. My last question.

Let me bring in David Corn, the other person mentioned in this memo. It says here, I have to ask you this. I know you may not answer this. It alleges you got your information quote "leaked by Steele himself to you." Do you have any comment on that?

ISIKOFF: Christopher Steele has said in a court filing, that Yahoo! News which I worked for was among the news organizations that he briefed in September 2016.

MELBER: Understood. Michael Isikoff stay with me. I have a lot more questions for you. It is a fascinating story.

The only other journalist, the only other journalist cited in this unusual memo, in this unprecedented release, is "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief, David Corn.

First, same question to you. Does your appearance in this memo suggest that you or your sources somehow did something wrong? Why are you in this memo.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: I have to say it`s a very dubious honor to be part of a stunt this way. And what they did was they cited an article that I wrote on October 31st. They, of course, got the date wrong. They said it was October 30th, which is based on an interview with Christopher David Steele. At the time, I didn`t identify him by name. But I`m now allowed to do so. And in that - there was the first article that really discussed the fact that he was trying to get his information to the FBI. The FBI was interested. And that he had sent in a series of memos that talked about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin and that was a Kremlin operation to co-opt and cultivate Christopher David Steele and that it might even involve information that they could use to blackmail Trump with.

So I laid this around about, you know, eight, nine days before the election. And like my friend and co-author, Mike, I was quite surprised to see me in there because they are just citing public information. And I guess the point being that when Steele spoke to me that was something that ticked off the FBI. They knew who, you know, even though I didn`t name him, they knew who I was talking to. And at that point, they cut their relationship the with Steele.

MELBER: Do you know that to be true?

CORN: As has been reported by multiple places, Steele never had an official relationship with the FBI. And so there was nothing really to sever other than working with him informally, he had been giving his information to the FBI for months. And so that also has no bearing, I think, on whatever information might have been used, if any was, in the FISA application.

So I think what they are trying to do here is to make it sound like the FBI was using a guy who as your earlier guest said had gone south on them. And as he explained that doesn`t really matter if the information he provided was deemed --.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: And that is a fair assessment. It certainly would not legally matter to the very narrow claim that maybe the surveillance should not have been authorized.

Let me read to you from the memo about you, though, David Corn. It says quote "Steele was suspended and terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the quote "most serious of violations, an authorized disclosure to media of his relationship with the FBI." And it cites you.

Can you speak to whether that is the accurate and whole situation or not?

CORN: Well, my article reported that Steele who is now identified was indeed cooperating and working with the FBI. So if the FBI was right in a sense, that it revealed a connection. Now terminated and sourced - I mean, as far as has been reported, I don`t know anything that would where different than this. Steele did not have an official relationship. There was nothing to terminate.

MELBER: So, again, --.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: I`m interrupting because we have to and there`s so much deliberate parsimonious fog. I just want to be very clear since I have the benefit of both of you primary sources. When this memo says terminated as a result of contact with you, if there wasn`t a formal relationship, you are reporting for us tonight, that that might be an exaggeration, that word terminated?

CORN: It sounds like they are talking about an official relationship. Now it`s my understanding that at that point they didn`t work with him or were worried about working with him because he was talking to me and maybe to the other reporters. So I understand.

But this whole idea of termination, it makes it sounds like he had an official relationship, which as far as I understand, as far has been reported elsewhere, was not the case. So when you look at one thing that I know well here, and I see them exaggerating it, it makes me wonder about everything else, such as when they cite Mike`s piece is being used extensively in the application.

Well, we don`t know what extensively means or to what degree it was using, maybe 20 other things were used more extensively. It`s really an impossible document to work with if you are trying to get to the truth of any of this.

MELBER: Right. You are saying as a factual map, it is impossible.

And Mike, can you build on David`s point that I think is important for viewers as there has been so much discussion. He is saying that his primary interaction with the same set of facts makes him come to the collusion that this is not a straight telling. That this is exaggerated in places. What is your view?

ISIKOFF: I mean, yes. I think that is patently obvious. It is clearly a sketchy account of what went into that FISA application. There`s so much more you would want to know. Listen, there is, they cite at one point, they say the deputy -- then deputy director Andrew McCabe told the committee that, but for the Steele dossier, they would not have grounds for the FISA application. If true, that would be disturbing information. It is being disputed by others. There`s going to be a transcript, there is a transcript of what it is McCabe said, what the back and forth is. Let`s see the transcript.

MELBER: Well, I cover this stuff too. I am not familiar with FBI veterans entertaining hypotheticals about what an independent federal judge would approve or not in surveillance. I can tell you and we will have more of this later in the show, that the FISA court surveillance approval rate is over 99.9 percent. So his notion of whether he would go to the court or not is a hypothetical. When you do go to that court, they approve a lot.

ISIKOFF: That`s true. And it has been accused of being a rubber stamp court. But remember, this is a highly sensitive investigation. And the fact that they mention that George Papadopoulos was cited in the FISA application as well as Carter Page, suggests that this was broader than just about Carter Page. They were looking at a Russian intelligence operation to penetrate the Trump campaign.

MELBER: You are saying the way that this memo adds to what we know about the origin of this probe suggests that they were concerned about multiple people in the Trump orbit who were working with Russia?

ISIKOFF: That is clearly the most likely scenario based on the sketchy information we have here.

MELBER: David, I`m out of time, but your final thought?

CORN: Well, also, they were looking at the investigation that started way before, months before the Carter Page surveillance application became an issue. But I will also say that we are spending a lot of time on this as we should. But this week the CIA chief told us that he believes that Putin is targeting the midterm elections of the United States again. And this is a great deflection for Trump and everybody else, you know. It is stunt. It is not substance. And I hope we can get back to the main topic at hand that I know you have been covering for months, Ari.

MELBER: Well, I know what both going to be interested in the book you guys are working on together. I will mentioned that, Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The book quote "Russian roulette" the inside story of Putin`s war on America and the election of Donald Trump. Two men not only joined as co- authors but now joined as the only two journalists cited in this unusual release of the memo under rule 10.

Thank you both for coming on "the Beat" to shar you perspective on this very news-worthy Friday.

Coming up, as promised my legal breakdown of the memo, it makes a lot of claims. What does the law say?

And we move on from the destruction to the probe. New reporting on what`s making the Trump White House nervous.

Plus, the FOX effect signs that President Hannity knew a lot about the memo and it might not live up to the hype.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This suggest the tip of the iceberg. The memo is only 10 percent to 15 percent of the information that will be coming out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m Ari Melber. You Are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: More of our top story tonight. This memo did confirm one thing that might be bad for the Trump White House. It says the FBI did not start the investigation because of the memo as many partisans have claimed. Instead, the GOP`s own memo says the probe started because of information the FBI had from George Papadopoulos, the Trump advisor looking for those meetings with Russia. Now, Republican Trey Gowdy saying the memo does not in any way quote "discredit Bob Mueller`s investigation."

For more on this big news tonight, I turn to Bill Kristol, founder and editor-at-large for "the Weekly Standard," as well as Malcolm Nance, our intelligence and terrorism expert.

Malcolm, if you had the benefit of thinking about the memo today and hearing two of those reporters cited and we just spoke out on "the Beat," I wonder what you think for viewers who have been working today or not glued to the televisions screens, what is the headline to you?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the headline to me is that the American public are being exposed to the FISA court process. But, you know, there is one critical thing that I think people should understand. And although, David Corn did say that 99.1 percent of these applications approved, it is because the people they are looking for are one of two things, you are either a member or suspected member of ISIS and AL-Qaeda or you are suspected of being an agent of asset of a foreign intelligence agency. And that is what the FISA court handles.

All I heard today were people screaming that Carter Page, who was suspected of possibly being involved with a foreign intelligence agency had his civil liberties violated in some form that the memo couldn`t describe to me as an intelligence professional. This is a hot job. I mean there is just no way this should have come out. And all, you know, it just tells me that the system is broken and they want to break it more.

MELBER: Bill, same question. Your conclusion?

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER/EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: (INAUDIBLE) that they mentioned at the end that Papadopoulos, is that they are worried that someone smart is going to say, wait a second, isn`t there another reason why the FBI wasn`t worried about Russia penetration? So the memo says interestingly the two Trump campaign advisors were therefore subject to this FBI investigation. And we know in the case of Page, they were able to renew to FISA request, presumably they were finding something interesting. So right away, that is pretty big admission I think by people who are trying to argue in Trump`s interest. Thus, you know, two of his campaign advisors are of the serious investigation.

MELBER: Let me read that back for you, and you quarterback it for us. You are referring to the very weird ending of this memo.

KRISTOL: Right. You know, I`m reading the memo and it looks like it ends on this page and then - the first time I read this, I didn`t - and then I saw this additional paragraph stuck on.

MELBER: And it is almost -- the memo reads like three pages of so what? Because it`s about one person`s surveillance. Then as you say item five on page four, this application for a warrant mentioned information regarding Trump campaign aide Papadopoulos. But there`s no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos info, the memo says, triggered the opening of the FBI probe in late July.

KRISTOL: You`re a lawyer, I`m not, but if you -- if someone says to you, yes there`s this thing and this thing, but there`s no evidence of a conspiracy, what do you think? Gee, maybe there is a suspicion that they either talked to each other or talked to others in the higher up in the Trump campaign. You know, earlier you and your guest were saying, I kind of agree with this. This seems kind of crazy. All of this huffing and puffing about Carter Page, on the other hand, let`s look at -- turn the thing around the other way.

Maybe the reason they`re trying to discredit the Carter Page investigation so much is that it`s going to turn out that as a result of FISA warrant on Carter Page, and maybe the investigation of Papadopoulos too, they did actually learn about Russian connections to higher-ups. Maybe in one of those connections Donald Trump`s name even showed up. You know what I mean? So I wonder if there`s a little more method to the madness of seeing into focus on discrediting the page -- the FISA application for Carter Page. And I am very struck, and you`re going to get to this later on the show I know, by the renewals.

MELBER: Yes. We`re going to get --

KRISTOL: The way I understand the FISA Court, if you don`t find anything, you drop it.

MELBER: Well, let me put that to Malcolm. Bill Kristol raises a laser focus on saying if this partisan defense memo says out of the blue we don`t think Page and Papadopoulos worked together, does that make you suspicious that maybe they did?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, no. What it tells me is that they cherry-picked 400-page report which was justifying the continued surveillance against a target who they believed was an asset or an agent of a foreign intelligence agency. And by cherry picking that one little thing and putting that in there, was that supposed to show us that there was no conspiracy going on between these two? They could have been two wholly independent run Russian intelligence assets.

MELBER: Yes, well, look, I`m going to fit in a break, Malcolm, thank you as always. I know we`ve come to rely on you on nights like this. Bill, don`t go anywhere, I want you to join me and Fat Joe for "FALLBACK FRIDAY" later today. Up ahead, there`s more breaking news on this, on this "dishonest, misleading, partisan nothing burger." We`ll tell you who said it and also as promised, I have my own legal breakdown on what this memo means, a special Russia memo edition, also a "FALLBACK FRIDAY" as I promised. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Breaking news this hour. Devin Nunez has just broken his silence and weighed in public for the first time about this memo. He did it on Fox News. Before I go to that, which I will in a moment, let me play some of the other coverage from Fox News about this story when it broke today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a bombshell, it`s a smoking gun, look at it, it`s a disgrace what happened to this country. If you look at it and you see it, it`s a disgrace. I`ve looked at it, I`ve seen it, I don`t see it. Do you see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: One anchor who doesn`t see it and another anchor who doesn`t know and that is after this memo has come out. Fox News has been something of the epicenter at least at night for the effort to discredit the Mueller probe, with language we documented here occasionally, language about a coup, language about Gestapo tactics. Let me play for you now Devin Nunes going over to Fox to give as I mention, his first public reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you read the actual FISA applications?

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY: No I didn`t. The -- and this has been one of those bogus news stories that have been put out. So the agreement we made with the Department of Justice was to create a reading room and allow one member and two investigators to go over and view the documents. I thought the best person on our committee would be the Chairman of the Oversight Committee Trey Gowdy, who has a long career as a federal prosecutor to go and do this. And then they over a series of meetings would come back with their notes and brief the rest of the committee members.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m joined now on this breaking story by Natasha Bertrand and Howard Fineman. Howard, we`re going to talk about the law. I have a full breakdown of surveillance law up next. I`m going to talk to you for a second about what that interview clip looked like because if that is the televised victory lap for Devin Nunez, that might be the saddest, most tired, most kind of just blase victory lap I`ve seen in the history of modern televised politics.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: OK. Well, what makes that particularly interesting and even amusing is that after he performed that duty for the Chairman -- or for Mr. Nunez, Trey Gowdy announced that was he was retiring. He was getting out of dodge. He was -- he was retiring from Congress. Now, whether there`s a relationship there, I don`t know, but I find it slightly curious. I mean, I think even Devin Nunez, and there can be no more reliable Trump ally than he, surely must know that this was a face plant of the most dramatic kind. There really is nothing there.

If they`re going to impugn Christopher Steel`s integrity, then Devin Nunez should read his own memo, because in there it says in two places that Christopher Steel had been a very reliable informant for the FBI over the years. And of course, as we know, the original investigation wasn`t even based on what Devin Nunes -- excuse me on what Christopher Steele said, but what they`ve heard from Papadopoulos. So politically, it`s a nonstarter. But what you have to understand, Ari, as you play the Fox clip, that this was aimed at the Fox audience, and if it doesn`t even serve the purpose of inflaming the Fox audience to denounce Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller, then the whole effort has failed and I think we`re going to find that that`s the case.

MELBER: Well, and that`s the politics of this. You can run over to the party where you think you will be greeted most warmly but if you don`t have at least a nice bottle of white wine, you don`t have any cupcakes, you show up empty-handed, they might be your friends, and they`re still your friends, but they are not going to celebrate if you said for weeks that you were buying out the bar. I mean, this is the politics of this, it is extraordinary. In the control room, my producer tells me there is more interview we`re about to pay. And let me get some context, Natasha. One of the big questions, of course, is, is this memo really just more of a nothing burger press release, and if it hit the press immediately -- originally, no one would think much of it and that was only the optics and the energy and the fog around it that try to make it seem so special. Well, keep that in mind when you hear a new thing, a new-seeming promise Nunez just made on air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there other memos that are going to come out? Are there other memos, you said this was phase one?

NUNES: Yes, so this -- so this completes just the FISA abuse portion of our investigation. We are -- we are in the middle of what I call phase two of our investigation, which involves other departments, specifically the State Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: That is jaw- dropping. I mean, I think it`s really important to keep in mind the timing of all of this. I mean this comes on the heels of a week when the Trump administration did not impose sanctions on Russia during a week when the Mueller investigation seems to be heating up incredibly. You have Mark Corallo who is going to start cooperating with Mueller, going to be interviewed by Mueller within the next few weeks. You have Rick Gates, who is giving every indication, the business partner of Paul Manafort, who`s giving every indication that he`s already begun to cooperate with Mueller.

And of course, you now have Hope Hicks potentially involved in an obstruction of justice case because she said at one point during a conference call during the Air Force One meeting aboard to discuss the response to the Trump Tower report that Donald Trump Junior`s e-mails would never see the light of day, that they would never get released so that there was no reason, to be honest about what was in them. So the timing of this and just the fact aht they continue to hype this, combined with everything that we`ve seen in the last week about, with the uproar of the Russia sanctions and the escalation and the Mueller probe, it`s really, really telling.

MELBER: Right. It`s a lot. I got to fit in a break because have a lot going on. Natasha Bertrand and Howard Fineman, thank you for joining me on this night. Up next, the GOP memo has conservatives asking, I thought there would beef? I will explain a full and fair break down the surveillance law implicated and why there was so little beef on this patty.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: That`s it? Jim Comey may have said it best today reacting to the extraordinary release of this national security information by Devin Nunez and Donald Trump. Or maybe it was National Security hawk John McCain who said it best blasting this memo released as Republicans today doing Putin`s job for him. Or maybe Trump`s appointee said it best. They not only oppose the memo`s release, but tonight Trump`s lawyer Don McGahn undercut the memo`s value. This is a letter the White House sent today, and it notes that the entire memo is just the opinion and judgments of its congressional authors. Let`s stop right there.

After all this, Trump`s lawyer is warning everyone, hey, this memo, it`s not evidence, it`s not a search warrant, it`s not facts from the DOJ, no, it is the opinion of congressional authors. That brings us to what may be the most important words in this memo, Republicans are on the majority of course and this memo is from the majority staff to the majority members, Congresspersons like Devin Nunez. So after all this, Republicans didn`t release the documents from the DOJ or the court or testimony from investigators, what you`re looking at, this new story tonight, is them releasing a memo, their own employees wrote to them.

Now, with this focus on transparency, let`s see who these people are. One staffer is Kash Patel. He`s a key Nunes aide. He once traveled to London researching the dossier. Others include Mark Robert Stewart, Wells Cooper Bennett, Carly Scott Blake. Those are their salaries according to Legistorm, also Jack Langer. That`s the who of the memo, one party`s political staff. Now to the what. What does this memo say about Mueller and his probe? Nothing, a dud, it doesn`t even use the words Bob Mueller. What does it say about Mueller`s boss Rob Rosenstein? Well, he`s only mentioned twice noting he was one of several officials who as I mentioned early on the show renewed the surveillance warrants for Carter Page. The memo doesn`t say Rosenstein did anything wrong. If this memo alleges scandal as we have been hearing for weeks, what is it?

Well, the allegation is that the U.S. government should not have surveilled Carter Page. They read you the key part so you can decide for yourself. It says that the relevant information was omitted in the warrant for the spying, that the application did not reference the role of the DNC in funding the Trump dossier and therefore there are some people who think that hypothetically maybe now surveillance warrant would have been sought if the DOJ didn`t use that dossier. Tonight let`s take that claim seriously. Whatever the politics, the ledge hypocrisy that led to this release, our job is to appraise it and fact-check it. What does happen if a warrant approved based on information from a biased source?

Under the law, it turns out, judges don`t toss information even if it`s found to be biased. One Appeals Court ruled that the focus is on whether the info is from a credible source, not whether the source also has "ulterior motive." So if the memo is correct, if the court got the information from a bias source when approving Page`s surveillance, legally the warrant can still be lawful. Now Republicans only released their staffers` opinions not the evidence, so we don`t know if the material even was biased or if it was the only thing the court was using, the dossier. Today, the top Intel Democrat says the court typically would review more than just info from one dossier source.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING DEMOCRAT, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The FISA application relies on all of the components within the application, each and every component, and only in that sense is it fair to say, well if you take out any piece of it, then does that mean that the application would not be complete.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: So there`s that, the idea that they probably didn`t only use the dossier. But again, our job, fact-checking and fairness, what if the memo was right? What if the judge would have decided to reject this warrant for spying on Page, then what? Well, even if many say this process has been unfair, let me be fair about that question, the Supreme Court has ruled, if a court finds evidence that`s obtained through unlawful surveillance, then it`s inadmissible and must be thrown out of court. This is an old school legal principle, it`s called -- someone mentioned this earlier on the show tonight -- it`s called fruit of poisonous tree. If the tree is poison, right, and you`re going to die from it, the thinking goes, the illegal surveillance then is poison fruit. You can`t use it. So how does that apply here?

Well, it doesn`t mean any crime occurred. It doesn`t mean anything about the Russia probe or Mueller or Rosenstein. It would mean any evidence gathered against Page could not be used in court. Now that`s not nothing for Page. It would help him if he`s concerned about the evidence they have on him or just more fairly about his civil liberties. But it is a nothing and nothing burger for the wider probe. As we reported just last night, federal law already has a system to address this, not partisan leaking but a system. If Carter Page were to use that system and win in the appeals process, we would congratulate him. We would report on that. Now, would he win? Fairly, I can`t tell you tonight. I don`t know. We don`t have the underlying classified material to assess the legal case. I can tell you that the historical odds are overwhelmingly against him.

You`re looking right now here at what it takes, not much, to get a FISA court warrant approved. The approval rate over 99 percent over a 30-year period according to the FISA data. If you haven`t seen that pie chart before or heard about it lately, maybe it`s because that`s what Republicans are leaking. Finally, the people involved. Does today`s news bring any kind of disrepute on Rosenstein or the next person in command? Well, for that, have you seen this yet? This is today from your recused Attorney General.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: Those two are -- Rod and Rachel are Harvard graduates. They`re experienced lawyers. They -- Rod had 27 years in the Department. Rachel had a number of years in the department previously. And so they both represent the kind of quality and leadership that we want in the Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That`s from today. Rod Rosenstein is Mueller`s boss. Rachel Brand, the woman next to him there would take over if something happened to Rod. Sessions talks about leadership. That`s tested by adversity. If this memo does not discredit the Russia probe, the people behind this memo may try again. Rod Rosenstein`s leadership and place in history is yet to be written.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT. It has been quite a week and now it is time to fall back. For my "FALLBACK FRIDAY," I am reuniting two friends of THE BEAT, Bill Kristol, Editor at Large for the Weekly Standard and the Rap Artist Fat Joe who also has a podcast Coco Vision on title. Fat Joe, you happy to be back with Bill?

FAT JOE, RAP ARTIST: Oh man, I`m happy to be back with Bill. I feel like we made history the first time.

KRISTOL: It was huge. It was -- it was a moment, you know. We need to do this in person sometime. That will be -- that will be --

FAT JOE: Hey, Bill, hey Bill, we call it -- we say to you is Lit. We call it lit, L-I-T.

KRISTOL: I appreciate that. You`re always lit. I`m just lit when I`m -- and very occasionally when I`m (INAUDIBLE).

MELBER: Joe, I`m going to go ahead and say you`re the sun and when Bill is with you like the moon, he becomes more lit. Now, I`m going to leave -- my fallback nominee, I`m going to go first because it`s been a big week for Russia and the Mueller probe and I am calling for Devin Nunes to fall back which is what we say in the culture, that`s a word for recusal as far as I`m concerned. He said he would recuse once. He`s back in it this week, Bill and I think the memo as we covered today suggests a lot of reasons why he`s more on team Trump than team investigation. Maybe he should go across and get a White House job. But this is a week, you look at the facts here, you look -- he had to step away once, Bill. I think he should fall back.

KRISTOL: Don`t give Trump ideas about giving him a White House job. That would not be improvement of the quality of the White House staff, obviously.

MELBER: Bill, who`s your nominee to fall back?

KRISTOL: All the patriots, hater, Brady haters, the Belichick attack dogs out there who don`t recognize true greatness when they see it. Really Belichick, who`ve made the greatest -- one of the greatest teams ever in the history of football.

FAT JOE: My fall back of the week would have to be the Grammy`s because this year was a huge year for hip-hop music and they programmed it and hyped it up like this was going to be the year that the hip-hop culture gets its just due. And in all of major categories, although I love him but he`s a pop star, Bruno Mars took all the big awards. When I thought at least, Jay-Z nominated for eight Grammy`s should at least got one. He got terribly snubbed. So the Grammy`s got to fall back this Friday.

MELBER: I hear you on that Joe. And I heard a lot of people talking about the Grammy`s falling back. You look at this, it`s a pattern, right? I mean, back in `98, Jay-Z and DMX were on the top of the charts. They didn`t want to televise the rap portion. They asked Drake to play and even said -- the Grammy said on Super Bowl ad that Drake was playing and he was like I`m not playing if I`m not nominated. And then as you say this happened with the calls on Jay-Z and Kendrick got some but not a ton. Let me play for you the other big political moment, Joe, because I want to ask you about this. Here was Logic at the Grammy`s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOGIC, RAPPER: Stand and fight for those who are not weak but have yet to discover the strength that the evil of the world has done its best to conceal. To all the beautiful countries filled with culture, diversity and thousands of years of history, you (AUDIO GAP) on the behalf of those who fight for equality in a world that is not equal, not just and not ready for the change, we are here to bring, I say unto you, bring us your tired, your poor and any immigrant who seeks refuge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A rebuttal to the President`s famous comment about those countries. What did you think of that there at the Grammy`s, Joe?

FAT JOE: You know, hip-hop music speaks for the voiceless, man. And I thought he did what he was -- what he was supposed to do. You know, we got to preach a little bit of consciousness in our music and take a stand for the people that really don`t -- their opinions, people think don`t matter about you we speak for them. We`re like a megaphone for the average people out there. And I thought that was amazing. I Thought it was powerful. I thought it was uplifting. Also, the women`s movement that was on stage with Kesha and all the women, that was a very powerful statement, as well. I mean, you know, I think, you know, it`s our freedom of speech and music is a beautiful platform to voice our opinions.

MELBER: OK, Bill Kristol and Fat Joe together again on THE BEAT. Thank you, both. I wish you a great weekend. And from all of you out there watching, we`ve heard from you on social media. If you have something to say to Joe or Bill Kristol, or you want to give Bill Kristol tips for his playlist, hit us up FACEBOOK.COM/THE BEATWITHARI. Bring in the moon and sun together always makes me happy. That does it for our show. What a week. The news does not stop though and this is a night to keep it locked on MSNBC, fair to say. I`m looking forward to "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews which start now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

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