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Former Trump aide may plead guilty. TRANSCRIPT: 2/20/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: Kenneth Pennington, Jamira Burley, Jamil Smith, Winston Duke

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 19, 2018 Guest: Kenneth Pennington, Jamira Burley, Jamil Smith, Winston Duke

KATY TUR, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Chuck will be back in the chair tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "The Beat with Ari Melber" starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Sounds like somebody has a case of the Monday?

TUR: I do. I don`t have enough flair on today.

MELBER: Great movie.

TUR: Great movie.

MELBER: "Office space."

TUR: One of the best movies of all time.

MELBER: Big claim.

TUR: Haven`t you wanted to take a bat to a printer?

MELBER: It is was one of my favorite scenes. And here is a lot of great music in that as well.

Katy Tur, I hope you enjoy the rest of your Monday.

TUR: See you later, Ari.

MELBER: Tonight, there is growing pressure on Donald Trump as he confronts all of this heat from the Mueller probe. A former top campaign aide, this is a brand new, Rick Gates, now ready to plead guilty in the Mueller probe. He would be testifying, of course, against his old boss, Paul Manafort.

Sources telling the "L.A. Times," Gates will plead guilty to fraud related charges within days. One sources, Gates would give prosecutors the quote "cherry on top against their case against Manafort. That news, of course, is coming while Washington still digests this unprecedented set of charges from Bob Mueller against 13 Russians conducting information warfare against the U.S., of course, the election interference. All of this news has driven Donald Trump to lash out, even by his own standards.

This has been quite the tweet storm this weekend. He falsely insisted the Mueller indictments clear him. They don`t. He attacked the FBI, bringing in the shooting. He even lashed out at his own national security adviser from confronting the Russians. But Trump did fail to address two points. One, whether he will punish Russia for these attacks that are now the product of the criminal conspiracy charge in court. And two, whether he will try to stop them again.


JAMES CLAPPER, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE FORMER DIRECTOR: What is it we are going to do about the threat posed by the Russians? He never talks about that. It`s all about himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is President Trump failing to act to protect our democracy.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It`s inexplicable that the President of the United States continues to sit on sanctions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not once, sir, as he condemned Russia. Does that bother you?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK), SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: It does because Russia is clearly tried to advance their agenda into the United States.


MELBER: Let`s get right to it. I have gathered three esteemed former federal prosecutors with expertise in this area. Daniel Goldman, prosecuting international organized crimes cases in New York including involving Russians. Philip Uropsky worked at the DOJ`s criminal division, and our, of course, Barbara McQuade, who has overseen extensive public corruption and terror cases as a U.S. attorney. All of you guys are great. And I see Philip getting the water ready, which is also key. You have to be hydrated Rubio style.

Barbara, let me start with you. If Rick Gates pleads guilty, what does it mean for this probe?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think it could be helpful, certainly, in the Manafort investigation. It could be that his cooperation helps in any trial of Paul Manafort by providing someone who can explain and connect the dots for prosecutors. But I also think it could ultimately help in a prosecution of connections between Russia and the Trump campaign if he has information about that, because either he has his own information about it, Gates does, or he could induce cooperation from Paul Manafort. If Manafort`s conviction becomes inevitable with the cooperation of Rick Gates, it could cause him to enter a guilty plea and try to cooperate. And of course, Paul Manafort as a former campaign chairman, may have information that is useful.

MELBER: Philip, speak to Barbara`s point, which anyone will recognize from any outdoor barbecuing and it is Presidents` day, you go up to the grill, you don`t flip one burger. You flip all the burgers in a row. And the idea is that at least the goal of the Mueller prosecutors and the team here, which includes folks from the Enron task force that cracked some pretty tough suspects and defendants. The goal would be not only to flip Gates this week, in days, according to the reporting we have, but that would lead to Manafort flipping. Is that in your view at all possible or is that really overstating the case at this point?

PHILIP UROPSKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTION: No, I don`t think that`s impossible or overstating the case. You know, all of us who are prosecutors learned very early on, mostly doing drugs and guns cases, that you start at the bottom and you build up. As you go up, you find, you know, someone who has the information that will help you get the next guy and the guy after that.

I frankly think, you know, given the leak that Mr. Gates is about to plea, that they have flipped him. They have already done a very extensive debrief of them. Otherwise, they wouldn`t be offering a deal.

MELBER: Philip, your legal analysis, again, as I mentioned it because you have done it, as being a prosecutor who has done this kind of work is that we wouldn`t even be hearing this if Mueller didn`t already know what Gates has.

UROPSKY: Yes. I think that`s right. I mean, it sounds to me that they have or they are very close to striking a deal with him. That they have offered some form of leniency, perhaps not in writing but an agreement if he delivers on what he`s offered, that they will file a motion to reduce his sentence, what`s called a 5K at sentencing. I think that they are very likely, very, very close, and they know what he said or what he will say. But either through a proffer from his attorney or more likely through a direct interview, proffer from him.

MELBER: Yes. And that`s a remarkable place that we are in because a year ago, Daniel, you would not have been sitting here thinking that the people running the Trump campaign, the campaign manager, the deputy, and Mike Flynn, clearly the most senior national security voice they had, would all be in this predicament. And yet you run that against the reason you are here, which is what does it mean to prosecute foreign nationals.

Take a listen to H.R. McMaster speaking at this Munich conference, making waves in his view of what Mueller found.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And as you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain.


MELBER: Let`s be clear. That`s Mike Flynn`s replacement. That is the man, right, talking about the investigation that got a guilty plea of his predecessor. And then you look to the skepticism, which we always cover all sides and reactions here. There is a skeptical view in the United States, particularly among some Trump allies of what does it even mean to indict foreigners and is it really a big deal? You have done this before. Does it matter?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTION: Well, it matters in a whole host of different ways. One, it could matter because you are bringing people to justice from overseas. And as long as you have jurisdiction here in the United States, based on their conduct touching upon the United States, then that`s obviously the number one primary goal.

But second, you have two other potential goals. One is what we would often call naming and shaming whereas in this case, where you don`t really expect to get anyone in court. You don`t expect to arrest anyone. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. And Russia will almost certainly not agree to extradite their own citizens which is actually more common than you would expect.

But you want to put out in the public record what crimes foreign internationals have committed against the United States. And so you have that aspect of what the Mueller indictment is. This is really a document of historical record, as to what occurred related to social media infiltration of the 2016 election.

MELBER: And when you lay that predicate, Philip, can that then be used for potential American collaboration in any foreign conspiracy?

UROPSKY: Well, yes. I see this as the beginning of a series of indictments, perhaps. This lays out the case that there was, you know, from the Mueller investigation, that there is in fact evidence of Russian meddling. It`s very specific. It`s interesting to me, you know, how specific it is. It indicates that they have, you know, some source of information that gave them inside information that they believe is authentic. And this doesn`t mean that that`s the end of it. I think you can go from here to there to there. Whether, you know, I agree that this could very well be an indictment for public consumption, to indicate that there is a there, to refute some of the messaging that`s been in the press and from the Congress over the past -- and the administration over the past, you know, several weeks. But it also could be used to influence and put pressure on people to provide information.

MELBER: Right.

UROPSKY: It`s absolutely clear that they will not extradite from Russia.

MELBER: Right. Let me get to Daniel. Go ahead, you wanted to respond to that.

GOLDMAN: Well, I actually think as to this sliver of the investigation, this is probably it in my view. Based on reading the indictment, when you talk about the campaign officials and you see them, they are Florida-based officials that have nothing to do with the central campaign, as referenced in the indictment. And the indictment specifically says, and refers to them as unwitting. I think if you were to foreshadow further indictments, as to this aspect of it, you would see unindicted conspirator language.

MELBER: Right.

GOLDMAN: You would see additional language.

MELBER: Which leaves open one of the big kahunas, to use a legal term, which all the criminal hacking, which isn`t even mentioned in here.

And then, Barbara, I have to ask you about a big report, and we always give credit where it`s due and where it happens to be. This one today late today from CNN, that the Mueller probe will be looking at Jared Kushner`s financial arrangements. I will read to you briefly what no one less of an authority than James Clapper, former DNI director said, which is this indictment doesn`t even address a potential involvement of the Russian government and financial entanglements in the Trump organization. He mentioned that for whatever reason. You view of that angle and that scrutiny on Kushner.

MCQUADE: Well, remember, just as we saw with Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the special counsel has jurisdiction, not just to look at links between Russia and the Trump campaign in relation to the 2016 Presidential campaign, but anything that might arise in the course of that investigation. And so one of the things any prosecutor would do would be to get their arms around the financial records in a case like this, to see if there is any money flowing back and forth to provide motivation and connections. And if in the course of that he is to find charges, potential charges against anyone that he is looking at, including Jared Kushner. It`s fair game to charge that. So it could be that we see charges against Jared Kushner for money laundering or financial fraud unrelated to the Russia probe.

But that`s just because they were looking there, they were in a place where they had legal authority to be looking, and they saw evidence in plain view. You could see charges like that.

MELBER: Right. They saw and they acted.

Barbara McQuade, Philip Uropsky, and Daniel Goldman, thank you to each of you.

Coming up, Facebook`s response to the Mueller indictment and why Donald Trump is quoting it. Malcolm Nance joins me live about Putin`s secret plan to continue to abuse social media.

And a key question in the indictment tonight. Why did the Russians support not only Trump, which we heard about, but Bernie Sanders and how early? I have a special breakdown on that tonight in the show.

And my interview with one of the biggest stars of the biggest films in America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leader of the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accept your challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glory to honor man.


MELBER: Starting from Wakanda, now we hear as the saying goes. Winston Duke, the villain from "Black Panther" is in studio, on "the Beat." I`m excited about that.

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


MELBER: The new Mueller indictment argues Russia weaponized Facebook. Mueller cites Facebook and its company Instagram a lot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Russians created hundreds of accounts and Facebook pages.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Elaborate scheme to influence the 2016 election through social media.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russians then allegedly stole Social Security numbers and dates of birth of real Americans without their knowledge. Opening PayPal accounts in their names to buy political ads on sites like Facebook.


MELBER: And the Russians creating these groups impersonating American activists, over 100 million Americans saw them. The Russians also used Facebook to organize rallies in the real world like that one in Houston. They even mimicked Trump`s own language, saying what about organizing a huge pro-Trump flash mob.

So what did Mark Zuckerberg say about this new indictment? Not much. The company had a lower level executive Rob Goldman tweet that in his opinion of these Russian ads, the main goal was not swaying the election. Mr. Goldman, there you see it, appears to think that his opinion is key. Donald Trump even quoted it over the weekend.

But Facebook is actually wrong here. Mueller just charged a criminal conspiracy on the premise that the election meddling was part of Russia`s goal.

I`m joined now by Malcolm Nance.

Why did Facebook become so key for this Russian operation?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s very simple. Facebook was one of the largest social media platforms in the world. And the Russians, in a way they wanted to alter the perception of how America saw whatever meta narrative they wanted to introduce, which in this case was Hillary Clinton bad, Donald Trump awesome.

And by doing that, Facebook became not just a tool. They became a guided weapon system in which everything that the Russians wanted to inject into the conversation was turned into a weapon and they hacked the mindset of the American public, who used Facebook.

MELBER: Take a listen to Mr. Goldman, who like other Facebook leaders, seems to operate on the premise that they just understand this better than people like you, that have all this intel experience, and better than others who study this. This was him explaining the approach to advertising.


ROB GOLDMAN, FACEBOOK VICE PRESIDENT FOR ADS: The Facebook ad products are differentiated primarily by the fact that Facebook is so knowledgeable about people. And we just try to kind of run that loop over and over again, getting smarter as we go.


MELBER: A loop where they get smarter. Why do they seem to still struggle not only with combatting this, which you and I have discussed before. There are difficult parts to it. It is not to scapegoat, but they seem to struggle with even having a civic dialogue about this at a point where America is obviously concerned about this.

NANCE: Well, as we know, 150 million Americans may have been exposed to Russian created propaganda for this election through exposure through Facebook and other platforms. And you wouldn`t have them say this exact same statement if we were talking two years ago about ISIS media and ISIS posting, which were out there.

I wrote a whole book on ISIS social media and Facebook and twitter went immediately after them, saw that content, and shut it down. But you are talking about content which is not immediately identifiable as coming from a hostile actor. We are talking about an operation which hacked the mindset of every person who retweeted some of these, you know, bots and information that came from Russia`s propaganda organ, and it is on a state level.

I mean, you`re talking hundreds of people involved in this, millions of dollars per month, not to mention the very fact that they have been doing this for 70 years. It`s just now their propaganda can go by the key stroke.

MELBER: And you make such an important point. I mean, ISIS, which is to be taken seriously, is still fundamentally a want to be state. We are talking about a nuclear power here with as you say tremendous experience that is being deployed on Facebook and elsewhere against us.

Malcolm Nance, as always, benefit from your expertise.

Up ahead, my Special Report tonight that I have been working on, looking at how the Russians supported, yes, Donald Trump, but also Bernie Sanders and how they weaponized our primaries and what we need to do about it.

And later, the "Black Panther" star Winston Duke is here after a record- setting weekend at the box office.


MELBER: The other top story tonight, our Special Report. Bob Mueller`s indictment of Russians interfering in the election clarifies what many have suggested that while the operation had many goals, when it came to the specific campaigns, they supported two major party candidates, Trump and Bernie Sanders. The indictment alleging Russians used information warfare to support Sanders and Trump.

Now the story in the indictment is honestly so detailed, much of it still hasn`t sunk in as of tonight. And apart from Donald Trump, the new facts in here about the 2016 Democratic primary are important. Mueller showing for the first time that the Russian strategy to boost Trump and Sanders was set early in the primaries when both candidates won their first primaries. This was the scene in New Hampshire on February 9th.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One-time long shot Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We harness the energy and the excitement that the Democratic Party will need to succeed in November.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump trouncing the field, beating second-place John Kasich by more than 50,000 votes.

TRUMP: I love you all. Thank you, New Hampshire. Thank you.


MELBER: The very next day, we now know, Russian planners ordered their operatives to criticize Clinton and the other candidates quote "except Sanders and Trump. We support them."

That was going on at the beginning of the primary race. This was like literally the day after the first primary. Think about that. On the same day that Americans are waking up to headlines about who won the first primaries, Russians are giving their orders to support those two candidates. And that early start has not been the conventional narrative about Russia`s boost for Sanders. Take Bernie Sanders himself, who claims in a new interview Russians basically interfered at the end of his campaign.


SANDERS: At the end of my campaign, when it appeared that Clinton was going to win, and certainly after she won the nomination, what the Russians were doing is flocking to Bernie Sanders Facebook sites, and they were saying to Bernie Sanders supporters, if you voted for Sanders, you have to understand, Hillary Clinton is crazy. She is a murderer. She is terrible. All kinds of horrible, horrible things about Hillary Clinton.


MELBER: That may be how senator Sanders remembers it, but now we know it began much earlier with those February marching orders. And the very next month, the Sanders volunteer, John Mattes, says a huge wave of fake news story slamming Clinton from abroad, targeted Sanders supporters and he says he alerted a contact at the Clinton campaign about it warning it was all an effort to suppress the vote of Sanders supporters in order to help Trump. By that summer, Clinton clinched the nomination, but the Russians weren`t done. They routed hacked DNC emails to WikiLeaks which did devastating political damage to Clinton at the very moment she was aiming to unite a fractured party.


SANDERS: We have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sanders supporters began screaming his name, disrupting the program and shattering any illusions of party unity.


MELBER: It was a mess. And Sanders called for the ousting of the DNC chair in response to the hacked emails.

Here`s how "The New York Times" reported the start of that convention. Democrats arrived at their nominating convention under a cloud of discord as Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, abruptly said she was resigning after a trove of leaked emails showed party officials conspiring to sabotage Bernie Sanders.

The revelation, the "Times" reports, along with the pro-Sanders protests, threatened to undermine the delicate healing process that followed this fight between the two, at the day also veered extraordinarily into allegations that Russian leaks helped bring down the head of an American political party.

Extraordinary veering. Sounds like a race track you don`t want to be on. That was the "Times" report during it. To paraphrase an internet saying, Russian election interference comes at you fast.

Now, people weren`t sure what to make of WikiLeaks dropping those emails about alleged DNC bias against Sanders. Wikileaks had broken other true stores over the years and honestly, calm debate is more difficult in the heat of a primary. Sanders supporters were genuinely upset about the content of the emails. But now we know the full extent of Russia`s role, it is worth reflecting on how Russia did achieve its exact goal of Democratic division in that convention and how the conventional narrative at the time driven by political actors, and yes, the media, didn`t always emphasize just how much that meltdown in Philadelphia was stoked by a foreign power.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thousands of leaked emails showed Democratic Party officials possibly plotting against Bernie Sanders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The latest emails released by WikiLeaks suggests that top officials at the Democratic National Committee planned to undermine Bernie Sanders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspected Russian leak of embarrassing Democratic National Committee emails.


MELBER: Some reporters did also press on Russia`s role during the convention. NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell raising the point with Bernie Sanders` campaign manager, who didn`t welcome Russia`s help.


ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We have been told by the computer experts there`s a strong suspicion that the Russians were behind the original hack. Do you have concern about a foreign adversary trying to influence the election? Potentially on behalf of Donald Trump, who has praised Vladimir Putin?

JEFF WEAVER, FORMER SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Certainly a very, very disturbing. We certainly don`t want foreign powers trying to influence U.S. elections. No doubt about that.


MELBER: That was in the middle of that convention. And that`s, of course, the right answer.

As more came out of the election, more journalists dug into just how deeply this Russian operation exploited the Democratic primary battle.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: They used automated social media bots and what appeared to be paid operatives in Russia and other countries, specifically to target Bernie supporters. They took the real split in the Democratic Party between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and they blew it up into what they hoped would be an unreachable chasm.


MELBER: Now Russia didn`t create that chasm. The Democratic primary was already heated. But was everyone too quick to react to criminally stolen property exactly the way the Russians wanted? Was the press too excited about secret scoops to give voters the properly context? Were political leaders too happy to then seize on those scoops, you know, looking back on the election last year. At one point, I did ask senator Sanders about his call for the DNC chair to resign after Russia hacked the emails.


MELBER: You among others called for her to resign, in part after those leaks. What we didn`t fully know then that is so understood now is those were partly operations of Russia. Did you in a way benefit from that, and would you do it differently then knowing what we know now?

SANDERS: Well, knowing what we know now, you know, doesn`t help me figure out what I would have done back then. The Russians cannot be allowed to get away with that stuff.

MELBER: Did you know then that this might have been part of their design, was to leak these emails precisely so there would be more rifts in the Democratic Party?

SANDERS: What we knew is -- well, of course, we knew that. And of course we knew they were trying to cause divisiveness within the Democratic Party. That`s no great secret.


MELBER: Of course we knew. But if we knew the extent of that Russian operation, wouldn`t we all consider doing things differently?

Look, I do get it. A lot of politicians, they don`t like hypothetical questions because it seems like just another attempt at a gotcha moment. But this is important. Right now, we`re living through an attack on our democracy. What we learn in hindsight can help with our foresight. No one is accusing Senator Sanders of being just like Trump because they both got name-checked by Russian operatives. The context is different. The Russians backed Trump to help Trump. And the Russians backed Sanders at the convention to hurt Clinton. In other words, to help Trump. The campaign behavior is also different. Sanders` staff not accused of meeting with Russians to get oppo, and Bernie Sanders didn`t respond to any of this news by brazenly asking Putin for helping hack his opponent`s e-mails. When it came to Clinton`s other e-mail issue, here State Department e- mails, Sanders even agreed that was a distraction.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.

MELBER: So, let me state clearly, there is no equivalence there, period. But it is worth pressing. Both the candidates that Russia boosted in this operation, and it is worth questioning how all of us are going to deal with this on-going weaponized information. I think it`s a mistake to view this dilemma only through a partisan lens, as settling scores from an old primary or as a distraction from yes, also the larger issue of Donald Trump`s current Russia relationship. You know, when North Korea attacks Sony over that film The Interview it also would have been a mistake to narrow that debate as to whether The Interview was a great film. It wasn`t. But I think the bigger question is, what should the U.S. do when foreign powers wage cyber war on American companies. And today, the question is, what do we do when the cyber war is waged on our elections and primaries. How do we navigate leaks that on the one hand, they may expose real information, but they`re also are agitating for fake news and division?

And how do we inoculate ourselves against those efforts and combat them while also retaining the combination of, I guess, of skepticism and good faith, which we need in a civic society? The Russians were interfering, again, just last month, back at it. They pushed that Republican campaign to, "release the memo." But now, brand-new, Mueller is showing they spent 2016 pushing another campaign to elect Bernie Sanders. Now, neither of those facts automatically proves whether a given campaign is all good or all bad or something else. But we have to guard against a kind of digital McCarthyism that falls into that kind of trap and we have to guard against acting like this is all just old news that we have already figured out. We haven`t. These Russian efforts, we`re learning, were very effective, even when done on the cheap, and they`re just getting started.


SANDERS: It mentioned me twice, our campaign twice in his report. And I think what he was talking about is kind of old news.


MELBER: Is it old news? I`m going to speak about all of this live with the former Digital Director for Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign. That is straight ahead. We will be back in just 90 seconds.


MELBER: For more on the fallout from the Mueller indictments, I`m happy to say I`m joined by Kenneth Pennington who was Digital Director for the Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign. Thanks for being here.


MELBER: Kenneth, when you look at what we`ve learned now, including what`s in the Mueller indictment on Russian meddling, interference, and support, explicitly at times for Bernie Sanders, did you know that then during the early primary?

PENNINGTON No, I mean, we knew very little about the thing that were going on. And you have to take yourself back to, you know, you mentioned you know, what was early on in the campaign. This is a multi-year campaign. I started working on this campaign in April 2015. It was a long time, and over that course of that time, we had millions of social engagements. We had you know, 3 million people donate online to the campaign and we had 81 million volunteer phone calls. So there was a ton of online grassroots volunteer enthusiasm and it just would have been impossible for someone like me, who is you know, even in this stuff all day, to actually notice you know, what was going on. So we really did not know.

MELBER: Right, and you`re more immersed in it than most people. So it`s very interesting to hear that this was not clear or abundantly in your face at the time. When you look at that history as well, though, about the Democratic convention, knowing what we know now, do you think that either the Sanders campaign contingent or just the Democratic Party at large should not have taken what we know to be Russian bait as much in those divisions over the e-mails or do you think that was the right way to handle it then?

PENNINGTON: Look, you can`t get around the underlying fact that what was revealed and you know, these leaked e-mails regardless of the source, was very frustrating for a lot of progressive supporters of Bernie Sanders. You know, the fact that the DNC leadership tipped the scales in many ways was very frustrating and you can`t get around that. That does -- you know, that doesn`t mean what Russia did was acceptable, and it doesn`t mean that we you know, shouldn`t consider the source of information when we take a look at it. But you know, there`s no doubt that what Russia did in terms of meddling with our election, you know, is totally horrible, and you know, that doesn`t excuse that. But I do think there are legitimate frustrations that Bernie supporters had with the way the primary was handled. And you know, I don`t think those become illegitimate because the source of the leaks was Russia.

MELBER: Stay with me. I want to add to this conversation because we wanted to dig into it, Jamira Burley, who`s a former National Deputy Millennial Vote Director for the Hillary Clinton Campaign. What do you think about what we`re learning now that we can see it all together?

JAMIRA BURLEY, FORMER NATIONAL DEPUTY MILLENNIAL VOTE DIRECTOR, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Yes, I think what`s happening with the information that`s come out, it`s extremely frustrating. But also I think it clarifies that Hillary did not have this in the bag, and many of the issues she dealt with was reflective of both a foreign entity, the Russian government coming in and trying to really steer the direction in the wrong way. But what`s interesting, I think, about the frustration that many Bernie supporters had is unrealistic. Bernie Sanders was a Democrat for all of yesterday and to expect that the Democratic Party is going to change both its insight and its relationships with the Hillary Clinton campaign so overnight I think is unrealistic.

MELBER: Well, you sort of -- yes, you`re litigate -- we`re not going to relitigate that, at least not here. I`m asking what you --

PENNINGTON: I think we were just talking for a fair primary. You know, I don`t think we were asking for them to bend over backwards for us.

MELBER: But Jamira, to be clear, the news is that Russia pushed that. So Jamira, does the fact that it was a partly a product of what is a criminal conspiracy by Russia, do you think that makes what happen worse or not?

BURLEY: No, I definitely think what happened -- worse. I think it`s unrealistic, the fact the President still has not done anything in regards to this, especially now Russia is continuing to attack our government and used different online --

MELBER: And you`re going at the president -- you`re talking about President Trump?

BURLEY: Exactly.

MELBER: I`m not interviewing you about President Trump. This is why these conversations are so hard. I`m asking you, when you look at the primary, not blaming Trump, which is another part of the conversation, but when you look at the history we just ran through in the primary, do you think Hillary Clinton was ill-served or unfairly treated because people were so quick to respond to what Russia criminally hacked and released or not, I guess is my question for you, and then Kenneth respond.

BURLEY: No, I fully agree. I think there was lot of propaganda that was pushed out about Hillary Clinton that was false and a lot of perspectives from people that we thought we trusted online that actually turned out to be stolen identities. And so I think because of that, it definitely made Hillary seem undesirable to many individuals who were trying to decide on a president candidate.

MELBER: Kenneth?

PENNINGTON: You know, I think we have to keep things in context here. We`re talking about the Bernie Sanders campaign. You know, we had 2,500 employees on the campaign at the height of the campaign. So we have to keep things in perspective when we`re talking about 13 people, how much of an impact can one person have on an election.

MELBER: You don`t think the Russians had a big impact on the primary?

PENNINGTON: It`s impossible for me to measure the impact that someone had or did not have in the primary or in the general election.

MELBER: But there`s a view that some of this -- and let me give you this, again, to you, Kenneth, there is a view that for various reasons, the level of impact of these Russian efforts are overstated. When you look at how tight the Democratic primary was, is that your view of it?

PENNINGTON: It`s so difficult to say. I mean, I don`t even know that I have a full picture. There are new revelations coming out every day. It`s hard for me to get a full picture of you know, what even actually happened. And therefore, for me to measure it would be, you know, irresponsible. But what I do think that, you know, we should have in the Democratic Party is a little bit of an internal reckoning. We had the worst possible GOP candidate in decades that we were running against. We should have clobbered him by 20 points. And the fact that we didn`t tells me you know, it`s not just on these outside factors, it`s also a bit on us. What were we doing wrong, you know, where did our message falter?

MELBER: You`re calling on Democrats to do more soul-searching than just look to Russia?


MELBER: Ken, I got to fit in a break. Kenneth Pennington and Jamira Burley, I appreciate you guys coming on together, talking this out. Thanks for being here. Up ahead, saving time for our Black Panther interview. It opened nationwide and broke records this weekend. One of the stars Winston Duke is here on THE BEAT.


MELBER: There`s a movement hitting American politics, a call for a reckoning of how America treats its citizens and even our obligations to the world. Those are the themes in Black Panther which had a record- breaking opening weekend, $235 million. In a moment, I`ll speak to actor Winston Duke from the film and Writer Jamil Smith. The Black Panther uses an alternative lens to explore the history of Africa and the black American experience.

It arrives as America faces many racial divisions from those White Supremacist rallies to Trump debates, who was, of course, elected after this movie began production. The original Marvel Black Panther character is from 1966, a period when the civil rights movement was debating the merits of pacifism and organizing. MLK leading efforts to force concessions from a white power structure. Stokely Carmichael advocating the black power movement, and calls for more militants as activists like Bobby Seale created the Black Panther party.


BOBBY SEALE, AMERICAN ACTIVIST: With all the Panther power that can be mustered, we will greet you. We will acknowledge you. We greet you with the revolutionary fervor of the people.

STOKELY CARMICHAEL, POLITICAL ACTIVIST: Black people across the country are becoming politically aware of their position and their strength, and of their ability to move. And the question is whether or not this country is going to be able to meet their needs peacefully or whether they`ll have to move to disrupt this country in order to force the country to speak to their needs.


MELBER: That is what Black Panther meant then. Marvel even briefly changing the name over the association. While MLK spoke about a dream, something hard but attainable, the comic was about fantasy, something you imagine that`s probably impossible. Black Panther depicts a black hero gifted not only in strength but intellect and equally intelligent strong black women generals fighting alongside him. It imagines an African nation that was never colonized and leads the world in tech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) South America but it was in Africa the whole time.



MELBER: Glen Weldon writes this is a story about black people completely untouched by colonialism outside the global systems of institutionalized racism. That`s fictional universe is part of what the Black Power Movement was demanding, a new conception of blackness, unmarred and uncorrupted by years of racist theology. Jamil Smith writes that the black panther comic advanced that agenda with a hero whose, "genius intellect was his best attribute. A black hero celebrated for intellect and power." So is that a plot and a fantasy? Is it a memory of recent presidential history? The feminist writer (INAUDIBLE) writes that this film is now powerful because it actually presents an alternative to Trump era racism and also a positive nostalgia for black achievement that can range from the Obama coalition to the accomplishments of African nations whose history, she argues, shouldn`t be controlled by colonials narratives.

History, of course, is political, because it`s written by the people who live to tell it. The future is political because it`s our debate over what to do about it. And this film operates on the level of fantasy and fiction and alternative reality where African kings wield enlightened power and people in different nations spend resources on progress instead of war. What I`m saying is, it was a great movie. Now the most exciting part may not be the fantasy but the prospect that someday that kind of alternative reality could be a reality. And like any superhero movie, this one has villains, but it also has some complex adversaries like my next guest, who offers this challenge to the Black Panther King.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I, M`Baku leader of the --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accept your challenge, M`Baku.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glory to honor man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the challenge begin.


MELBER: I`m joined by Winston Duke, who stars in Black Panther, plays the character M`Baku. Thank you very much for coming here.

WINSTON DUKE, ACTOR, BLACK PANTHER: Thanks for having me, Ari.

MELBER: This movie means what to you as an actor, as an African immigrant, as someone in America?

DUKE: This film, I feel, offers an opportunity for people to somewhat reclaim a history that feels incredibly distant and lost. I know I have seen this kind of grandeur with like the British royals. I`ve seen this kind of grandeur and royalty around you know, East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern bodies but I`ve not seen this around black bodies.

MELBER: Black bodies.

DUKE: Yes. And I`ve seen that around black skin. And that means a lot to me as an adult. And I think it`s a really great gift to give to children that they can see this and know that there is no limit to their potential.

MELBER: In America, we are a diverse country, which is a strength. But people in the majority don`t even think about necessarily representation in the culture. What does it mean when we look at this history that comics, that adventure films, that these kind of movies now have someone for people to look up to?

DUKE: We`re continuing this history of trying to help people gain a sense of identity, and for them to see themselves and know that they`re present and that their stories are valid. When I was growing up, it wasn`t always that I didn`t see black people. It was when I saw black people, the stories were written by white men, the stories were written by white people and it was up to us as actor, as artists, as creative to bring a sense of integrity and reality to it.

MELBER: Let me bring in Jamil Smith, who I mentioned because he wrote this piece on Black Panther for Time Magazine. Jamil, you listen to this conversation. For folks at home who haven`t thought about the movie yet or heard as much about it, why does it mean so much?

JAMIL SMITH, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: It`s about having African-American stories told through African or African-American lens. So you think you`re talking about a black director with a majority black cast with this kind of budget and the first mainstream black superhero that was ever created, and certainly the most popular ever. So all those things combined, in addition -- you know we think about who the director is, Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station, Creed are works that reflect you know African- American realities with a frankness and starkness that I think is uncommon for Hollywood.

MELBER: And I want to read from another piece by Carvell Wallace who says this is a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries, Africa as a dream of our wholeness, greatness, and self- realization. Jamil, you`re talking about who owns history, who writes history, or in this case, how fantasy intersections with history. And it comes at a time when we have a president with his own fantasies about how he defines Africa.

SMITH: Right. I mean, certainly, we have a president in Donald Trump who does not seem to visualize an African-American future in the same way that we as black people certainly do. I think there is a lot of universal themes that if people were sort of you know, scared away by the politics, they will understand that you know, things will apply to their lives as well. It`s not simply, you know, a reflection of one particular reality, but way -- in a way a way to articulate you know, how we can all see ourselves through an African-American lens.

MELBER: What`s interesting you use that phrase. If people are more scared by the politics than by what`s supposed to be scary in the movie.


MELBER: How did your experience growing up in Trinidad and Tobago influence this because it`s about both fantasy, it`s about Africa, and as we discussed, it`s also about the African-American experience.

DUKE: I think what`s really brilliant about this film is that it continues and engages in a lot of really great discussions. The kind of questions of what does it mean to be a citizen and what do you owe, and how do you hold your country accountable? And I feel that that`s really a timely question right now.

MELBER: Right. And so Jamil, when you look at that and you think about the larger arc of these racial debates, the difference between violence and force is legitimacy. And we`re talking about an experience in American history where black citizens were systematically denied legitimacy under color of law. Speak to that in the context of this movie that outlines a different civilization and a different model of black power.

SMITH: Well, certainly. And we certainly shouldn`t speak of that of in past tense. That`s certainly still happening. I think, first of all, Wakanda offers a vision of African or African-American reality, frankly, that is independent of colonization. And that is a vision of a black reality that can be shared you know by people in African nations that are you know, our president referred to with scatological metaphors, or here in America, in American cities that have been essentially invaded by you know, essentially forces of `white supremacy as articulated through policy in our government. So I think that there is a lot of things that black folks who see this film will recognize in their own reality. And while, you know, yes, it`s just a movie, it doesn`t replace the work on the ground,

MELBER: Right.

SMITH: It`s not in and of itself a revolution. It may inspire the kid who does indeed lead that revolution someday.

MELBER: Right. Jamil Smith and Winston Duke, I want to thank you so much for coming on THE BEAT.



EMMA GONZALEZ, STUDENT, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL: They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call B.S.


MELBER: A student and survivor of that deadly mass murder at Florida high school calling for tougher gun laws. These protests are spreading right now. Outside the White House today, there were teenagers from the Washington area, and they held what they called a die demonstration to commemorate the victims if this violence. At a different high school, that was activism and promises to vote out NRA politicians if there`s no change.


NICK FONSECA, STUDENT PROTESTER: I`m 18. A lot of people here are 18. We have enough power to start voting our legislators out of office if they aren`t going to do what they know is right for our people.


MELBER: We leave you with that because it looks like around the country, young people are leading this conversation. That does it for THE BEAT. "HARDBALL" is --