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WH strips Kushner of top security access. TRANSCRIPTS: 02/27/2018. The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: John Sipher

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: February 27, 2018 Guest: John Sipher

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MTP DAILY: -- he wanted to seek a public term. I would say better late than never. But 22 years late, we will go at never. So here comes Trump 2020. Get ready for a great many things, a bunch of things, but my guess is multiple times that he will announce his re- election. And does he do this, new hats, Make America great again, again or does he start with the word keep. We will see.

That's all we have for tonight. "The Beat" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck.

If you are a candidate and you want more time, that's the power of positive thing, right? Only mentioned seven.

TODD: I only mention seven.

MELBER: Just assuming and leaning into re-election.

Thank you, Chuck.

TODD: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Tonight there is a lot of heat on Jared Kushner, developing news right now and the President, his father-in-law not helping him out.

Here is the story. This news, Jared Kushner, right now officially losing his access to top secret intelligence. His security clearance is quote "downgraded because he has been operating, as you know, with a temporary clearance for months." This is a very big deal, and we will explain why, it has a lot more to do than with just what intel Jared sees. Now the move may seem subtle in a way. Consider though that Democrats have been saying repeatedly Kushner should not have had this access in the first place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kushner's security clearance should absolutely be suspended.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kushner absolutely should not have a current clearance.


MELBER: That was the push. And now he is being slightly downgraded.

Democrat senator Richard Blumenthal with this reaction today.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Jared Kushner's security clearance blocked give the word overdue. There's no reason that these interim security clearances should continue to enable people who have very (INAUDIBLE) secrets in their background to themselves have access to the nation's secrets.


MELBER: This is by any account a negative thing for Jared Kushner. It is a thing he doesn't want. It is at least a slap on the wrist.

And so the question tonight as this news breaks is, why isn't President Trump helping Jared Kushner out?

Let's be clear, as a legal and constitutional matter, this President like any President is the ultimate classifying authority. He can give Kushner the full permanent clearance, but remember last week, the President said he would stay out of this one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your chief of staff general Kelly has recommended ending the practice of giving interim security clearances to members of the Trump administration.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If that proceeds, would you be willing to grant a security clearance to Jared Kushner?

TRUMP: Jared Kushner has done an outstanding job. I think he has been treated very unfairly. He is a high quality person. He works for nothing. That will be up to general Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot. And general Kelly will make that call.


MELBER: And the report tonight is general Kelly made that call, you heard the President there say, Jared has been treated unfairly. Let's be clear, the President is in-charge. The treatment of Jared Kushner tonight, something that maybe embarrassing for someone who is supposed to negotiate Middle East peace, if treatment overseen legally by the President. If he is not being treated fairly, it's from his President/father-in-law.

And this broader yet. Jared Kushner, not the only staffer getting downgraded right now. He is one of the highest ranking members of the administration. But take a look at this. "The Washington Post" is reporting why Rod Rosenstein, the man in-charge with the Russia probe telling the white House the context, significant information requiring investigation would continue to delay Jared Kushner's security clearance on a permanent basis.

Now what was that significant information about? I'll tell you this. Rosenstein did not say. And now I will tell you what broke in the "Washington Post" just moments ago, a big story that Kushner's contacts with multiple foreign government officials are raising concern in and out of the White House as to what he knows, how he is using what he knows and whether that effects his ability to obtain the full and permanent security clearance.

I'm joined now by MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance and Anne Gearan who covers the White House for "the Washington Post" which has been breaking many parts of these stories and what is this all mean and why is it as I think is clear broader than just one family member's security access?

ANN GEARAN, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, Ari, what my colleagues are reporting tonight is that there has been concern about the way Jared Kushner was conducting his contacts with foreign officials going back quite some time at the White House. And that this is one of the reasons that he was never able to get a full high level security clearance. Remember, he kept having an interim one that was pushed out, pushed out, pushed out, all over last year, and his file was never closed. Well, one of the reasons is because he supposedly had off the books meetings with foreign officials and maybe even more importantly, my colleagues report, there were at least four countries who were -- whose officials were discussing ways that they might use Kushner's position, his business contacts, his business debt to compromise.

MELBER: Right. Which is -- let me supplement what you are saying, just to list the countries for viewers here. Officials in at least four countries here, decoded from the same piece, privately discussed ways they can manipulate Kushner. These countries are reportedly, UAE, China, Israel and Mexico.

So, Anne, they basically think that the fact that Jared, as the President puts it for free, because he is not working the U.S. government's money, but still has potentially other interests, they think that helps them, not America.

GEARAN: Right, exactly. I mean, in every country does a version of this. You will note that some close allies of the United States, Israel and Mexico are among - around that list. What they are looking for there are ways that they can apply pressure, perhaps subtly to someone like Jared Kushner, to either tell them things, to do things that are beneficial to them, some way that they can use his business background and really significantly the fact that he had had some business setbacks as leverage.


GEARAN: And that is a -- that is one of the things that people outside government totted about from the very beginning with the role of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in this administration that they occupy this nebulous middle space where they are family, yes, they may work for free, as the President says they are maybe quality individuals, but they have business background, they have ongoing business relationships at the same time that they are the President's advisors.

MELBER: Yes. And it isn't that nebulous to these other countries, Malcolm. I mean, nebulous is one way to think about it because Ann is very expertly pointing out how confusing it can be. But clearly to UAE, to Mexico, it's not nebulous, it's a way to work on him.

And so I ask you two questions as our intel expert. Number one, what does it say to you that the process as it normally works say he shouldn't have this access. And number two, what does this President, who is known to have a soft spot for what he deems to be loyal or family, what we might called fam. This President is not overriding this. He is apparently sitting with this decision that is embarrassing to his son-in-law.

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: Well first off, I think that by not interjecting himself into this decision process, by letting general Kelly does it -- do it, it means that if something is found out in the future, which affects the security process, where information he may have used at some point in the past, that came across U.S. intelligence, and was then traded or was used to his benefit, the President has full deniability that he had nothing to do with his clearance. That's point number one.

Point number two, I have been involved in operations where we have seen information from foreign countries trying to gain influence on American citizens or people involved in other administrations. They wouldn't be talking like this unless they felt that they had some pathway to this individual and that this individual was technically for sale.

MELBER: You are making an important point to build.

I just want to be clear. What you are saying is, this doesn't just come out of the blue from a bunch of different countries at this high a level, you are educating us, your intelligence assessment is, that means more than one country, their set of operatives, spies, et cetera, you believe there's a there there?

NANCE: Well, absolutely. It might not be spies, it might be diplomats, might be a high level business people. But the point is they have a pathway in. That they believe that they can manipulate that. And by manipulating that they can get access to Jared Kushner and by extension the President, they have obviously based on the "Washington Post" brilliant reporting, believe that they can pull those strings. And if they can pull those strings, then the attorney -- deputy attorney general has made the right decision to suspend downgrade his security clearance.

The only question that I have is what kind of clearance is it? Is it just regular, general access to the White House secret or does he still have access to, you know, special compartmented information and special access programs? There is a big difference between the two things.


MELBER: I want you both to stay with me. This is a breaking story so we led with it. We have a lot more in a moment. I'm going to bring in our wider panel, which I'm excited about as well.

The other big headline though, I want to tell you today is a top Trump staffer Hope Hicks declining to answer key questions from the House Intel committee. This is about anything that has happened since Trump too office as well as questions about the transition. And the White House another White House staffer, Hope Hicks is declining to answer any questions about the Russian investigation and the White House won't say why.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to comment on any individuals' interactions with the committee, but we are cooperating because as the President has said repeatedly there is no collusion.


MELBER: This is key significant because Hicks is such a serious an inside aide to the President. If Trump wanted her to talk, of course, she would be allowed to. Meanwhile, take a look at what attorney general Eric Holder just said.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: You can no longer say that this is a witch hunt or that this doesn't exist. I mean you have got specific people. You've got three other entities, you have got really facts, dates, times, so we know that it happened. Now the question is who might have been involved with it.


MELBER: It happened, who else was involved? That's a question there from a top law enforcement official.

Meanwhile, as these facts come out, there is the ongoing political question about how this is playing out on the right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make of the coverage in this country that has been for the last years then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sean, you know, in that context I have to thank you, because you have been the Edward R. Morrow of this whole process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media is going to love that comment.


MELBER: The media is going to love that comment. That's former Trump aid Carter Page calling Hannity the Edward R. Morrow of the Russia probe which got us thinking.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The action of the junior senator from Wisconsin has caused alarm and dismay amongst our enemies abroad. And given (INAUDIBLE) to our enemies. (INAUDIBLE) was right. The fault there, Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time the "New York Times" is trying to distract you. They have a story they Trump wanted Mueller fired sometime last June. And our sources, and I have checked in with many of them, they are not confirming that tonight.

All right, so we have sources tonight just confirming to Ed Henry, that yes, maybe Donald Trump wanted to fire the special counsel for a conflict. Does he not have the right to raise those questions? You know, we will deal with that tomorrow night.


MELBER: Yes, may be, we will deal with it tomorrow night. Which, of course, is a kind of a good night and good luck for the modern age. We are going to make sure to show all of that to bring in our panel, that's Betsy Woodruff, political reporter for "the Daily Beast," Leah Wright Rigueur from Harvard.

Leah, Edward R. Morrow? What do you think?

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: So, I think we are definitely living in different times in different eras. And in fact kind of really the proliferation of, you know, cable news networks that act as vehicles for Donald Trump right now makes this a totally different way of viewing ideas, viewing facts, viewing opinions. And so, what you can do is just sweep things under the rug. There's -- really we had to pay a lot of attention to this idea of journalistic integrity, because we are just - we are very much off the farm right now.

MELBER: Off the farm and you have these odd investigative media tours that people do, Betsy, so you have Carter Page and he has been on multiple m channels and will interview most people who are involved in the news, but he comes out and gives his version of it. Hope Hicks is unlikely to do that. Take a look at how reticent she has been in general with the media.


TRUMP: She's a little shy, but that's OK, because he is really, really talented. Hope say a couple of words.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Merry Christmas everyone. And thank you Donald Trump.


MELBER: And that is it. And as you know, Betsy, because you deal with these folks, Hope has proven to be very adept at her job while staying out of the spot light. Walk us through the investigative and media version of that as you see it. It is her import with her today?

BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Part of the reason that Hope has had such a long, successful career in Trump's orbit at a time when most people who started on the campaign when she did are long gone, sort of conscience to the (INAUDIBLE) of Trump incorporated.

Part of the reason she has been such a survivor is that she keeps her head down. She doesn't go On the Record. She doesn't go on TV. She never tries to steal the spotlight from Trump. You can almost think of here as anti-Amoroza. She has been extremely unfailingly loyal. And that's the single thing that Trump values most in the people around him. I think that's part of the reason she's been less than open with investigators in Congress who my understanding is right now are working to get her to tell them more about the campaign, the transition and Trump's presidency.

Now it's possible they have made some sort of a break through, one member of the house intelligence committee told reporters a little while that they were making some progress, that she has shared some information with the Senate, that perhaps sort indicate she can be a little bit more open with them as well. But if you see hope hicks walking into the place in the White House where these hearings are taking place. You know it that Hope Hicks without a doubt is going to be on the side of you and on the side of your family. That's what Trump cares about, everything else is tertiary at best.

MELBER: Anne, how about you?

GEARAN: Well, I think its notable today that she would not discussed whether or not, Hope Hicks had been given specific instruction to cut off in the level of her cooperation at that time that Trump note that if Trump cooperated with the committee at all. And the White House saying they will not comment on any individual's reactions with these committees but making a pointed note that they don't have to -- these people don't have to testify unless they're under subpoena which she's not. And Sarah Sanders saying today that she would not discuss whether or not hope hicks has been given specific instructions to cut off her level of cooperation at the time that the Donald Trump transition began after the election. And that is the information that we had coming out of the committee from earlier in the day that she had answered questions about her work and about the campaign up until the point that he became President elect.

MELBER: And Leah, what is your view as a political scientist tracking all of the ways that these relationships work, that there's big news breaking that Donald Trump put aside all of the sort of the illegal fact that that he could have intervened.?

That he really is staying out of this issue with Kushner, and on Malcolm's point, do you think that's partly because of self-interest?

I mean, everything with Mr. Trump is about of self-interest which is worth interesting which is interesting to see how these people around him really are, you know, soldiers for Donald Trump, they are incredibly loyal to him in every way, shape or form. But the other thing it does is it allows him a modicum of protection if something else happens, he can say, I didn't know, I tried to distance myself, I have no power.

When in reality, we already know that the White House has questionable values when it comes to transparency, when it comes to following rules, when it comes to oversight. So the reality is when it comes to behind closed doors. There's probably something very, very different going on but we're not going to know that until we see a real investigation.

MELBER: Right. And we are talking about this in the context of a week that they have declined the names who the foreign governments are that are frequently their hotels at the very me that we are learning and what "Washington Post" that this country has think they have an with he is not getting the security clearance the otherwise, woof. So it is a lot.

Betsy, Anne, and Leah, thank you very much. Malcolm, stay with me. I have some other questions for you.

Later, I want to guys another update of breaking from our own (INAUDIBLE) at NBC News, reporting top secret intel requested by Obama his last weeks in office. Actually identifies seven specifics states where there was evidence of Russians compromising election activities. Three senior intel officials telling us that of January 2017, those states, and this is new, were believe to be, Alaska, California, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida with official saying those states though at the time, and this is pretty interesting, new tonight, those states weren't told about the assessment that they were compromised by the Russians. It's another layer in that unfolding story.

Now coming up, Donald Trump's cyber chief admitting under oath Trump hasn't ordered him to stop the next hack. I have a Special Report on why Putin might have wanted to get caught meddling and I will tell you why it involves dark night.

Also, my interview with a former ATF agent talking about the NRA's strangle hold on the very agency that's supposed to represent guns.

And have you heard about this one? There is a lot of buzz tonight about a new take on a classic, Fahrenheit 451 with extra resonance in the Trump era.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little knowledge is dangerous thing. News, facts, memoirs, inevitable, burn it.


MELBER: That's later tonight.

I'm Ari Melber. You are watching "the Beat" on MSNBC.


MELBER: New tonight, how the NRA is hamstring in the very agency that is supposed to represent guns, the ATF. "The New York Times" now reporting, the NRA has taken on their nominated directors they have aggressively lobbied against all kinds of initiatives of the ATF including how they spent money and they have me capped this gun agency's power to even track gun crimes.

Now for background, the ATF deals with terror attacks. It dealt with the Boston marathon bombing. But it's now down to just 7800 investigators. The NRA's efforts to hobble the ATF, is according to these reports part of a larger and more often unseen effort to undercut not only gun laws that is in Congress, but the enforcement of laws that are already on the books.

I'm joined now for the special discussion by William Vizzard who is a former ATF special agent. Thank you for joining me sir.


MELBER: I understand that you are part of law enforcement. You know a lot about this. You have done a lot of work. Walk us through your view of whether the NRA has gotten in the way of what law enforcement agencies like the ATF are supposed to do in keeping us safe in regulating guns?

VIZZARD: Well the NRA has worked to preserve the existence of ATF as the symbolic threat. But at the same time work to limit its range of the NRA to abolish its effect, but work at the same time to limit its range of activity and discretion, it's funding and its authority. So that it simultaneously exists as a symbolic threat, but in fact has a very limited set of options in what it can do.

MELBER: Let me play for you, President Obama who was trying to, as I briefly mentioned, get the ATF empowered.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books which means we are going to add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.


MELBER: In your view is the NRA actually trying to stop law enforcement? Stop what traditionally would be called the good guys with guns?

VIZZARD: Well, I think the NRA, first and foremost is trying to preserve its existence. And if you understand it in many ways as a business that sells fear and anger, as opposed to an ideological entity, yes, their action tend to limit ATF's effectiveness. But I'm not at all sure that is their primary function. Their primary function is to just keep on being the NRA and keep the membership coming in and to keep organizations like gun owners of America, which is pushing them from the right from stealing their thunder.

MELBER: And so when you were at the ATF, was this a concern? Was this a feeling that the NRA got in the way?

VIZZARD: Well, the NRA began the attack on ATF about 1971, 1972 and it escalated after 1977 when the more conservative -more political faction led by Neil Knox and others, took over at the Cincinnati convention, and then it steadily moved more and more intensive as they have essentially shifted more and more to a social organization. They are less focused on guns in some ways now than they ever were in the sense that they have become part of a package of kind of populous conservative views.

MELBER: Right. And you sort of tracking the political aspect. \

William Vizzard, thank you so much.

We are also seeing on that same point, Republicans, now trying to financially punish a major company for saying that it wanted to break with the NRA. A top Republican lawmaker in Georgia says they will now block a tax break that was going to benefit Delta. This is after the airline stopped a discounted fare program for NRA members. Lieutenant governor Casey Kegal (ph) saying they would kill any legislation that benefits Delta unless the company comes back and reinstates support for this NRA program. Delta says that it does support the second amendment, but it maintain a quote "neutral status in this national debate over gun control."

I turn now to Mike Lupica, columnist for the "Daily News" and MSNBC contributor who writes that if Georgia doesn't want Delta airlines business, then New York could invite the airline to move its headquarters to Empire State. Playing hardball, sir?

MIKE LUPICA, COLUMNIST, DAILY NEWS: Well, I just think that Delta at this point can look at Casey Kegel and say if you want to take these tax benefits away, we are declaring ourselves an airline free agent. And I can remember when I was a kid and I first got to New York, American Airlines left Third Avenue and went to Dallas.

I think delta is perfectly capable of leaving Atlanta and coming into New York City. The governor's state Andrew Cuomo made a statement today about that. (INAUDIBLE), the lieutenant governor, I spoke to Bill de Blasio a couple of hours ago, he said tell them to come on ahead, the welcome back is out. And then Casey Kegel can go back to his constituents and explain how being a real rough tough guy for the NRA helped constituents with the company that has like 30,000 employees in the state and brings it like $300 million in taxes and fees.

MELBER: I feel you on that. And I feel that there is a kind of a tip-for- tag going on. But what about this sort of deeper, crazy place we are in, this ridiculous place we are in, where you have got people in charge of state government, trying to effectively threaten corporations, because those corporations don't agree with their favorite political groups? I mean the NRA used to lobby the government. Now you have the government lobbying a private company to support the NRA. Like how did we end up here?

LUPICA: And Ari, by the way, it's probably a violation of the first amendment rights of Delta, even though you now know we are now living in a time in America where guys like Casey Kegel think they can take the first amendment and told it into a party hat. And they are allowed to make -- this is a mild political statement they have made but it showed to me it speaks to me about how insecure the NRA is these days, even though it still considers itself not a business, they think they are a branch of the government now.

MELBER: Right. And you just put your finger on it now which is the connective tissue between the conversation we are just having and yours which is these are not the acts of an organization that actually is peaking and on top. This is the act of an organization that's reaching out to its friends and allies in government to try and get companies to treat the NRA like it's more legitimate than obviously Delta felt it was, that's delta's call.

Mike Lupica, I'm short on time. Thank you for joining us.

Up ahead, we turn to my Beat special report, The Russians want to get caught. And I'm going to show you rare video of the story they are telling inside Russia.

Plus, more on this developing story, Jared Kushner getting smacked down and told he can't see all the intel secrets anymore. I have a former CIA official on that coming up.


MELBER: Now to our special report tonight, it begins with a classic Hollywood trope, the villain who gets caught only to reveal getting caught was part of the plan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the Joker's plan to be caught. He wanted me to lock him up in the MCU.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was getting caught part of your plan?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, congratulations, you got yourself caught. Sir, now what's the next step of your master plan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crashing this plane.


MELBER: Now, Vladimir Putin is obviously not like the Dark Night Rises villain Bane. For one thing, Putin's words are way easier to understand than Bane. But the Russian digital fingerprints on election interference do raise a big question both for our national security and the Mueller probe. Why was it so easy to catch the interference? Did Putin want to be caught? Now, this is not an idle question or hindsight. The first man in charge of this whole hunt, before Mueller, the man who literally lost his job for following the leads, former FBI Director Comey, told Congress the Russian operation was deliberately loud.


JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: They were unusually loud in their intervention. It's almost as if they didn't care that we knew what they were doing or that they wanted us to see what they were doing.


MELBER: That's the domestic assessment from the FBI, but foreign intelligence veterans agree. The CIA's former Moscow Chief flagged the trail of breadcrumbs that the Kremlin deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin. This operation he wrote was meant to be discovered. And there's more. While Putin still formally denies interfering in the election, which he told Trump and he tells western media, we found Kremlin programming from inside Russia telling a very different story. Now the Kremlin puts his state-run T.V. programming and the anchors, they openly gloat about this, the vibe is a kind of triumphant trolling about owning President Trump. Take a look at this coverage of Trump's refusal to enforce sanctions against Russia.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Let's continue our tiny modest Russian celebration. President Trump is ours again. He may be ours but the treasury chief still isn't unfortunately. We'll keep working on that.


MELBER: President Trump is ours again. When a recent video suggested Donald Trump didn't know the words to the national anthem, which honestly that could be a ripe thing for any Trump critic in any country to just make fun of, but Russian T.V. didn't just mock him, it returned to the idea that maybe Trump's loyal to a very different anthem, a very explicit reference in Russia because the words for the current anthem were only added by Vladimir Putin in 2000, replacing a previously wordless anthem.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): They're laughing at Trump again. This time it was the singing of the national anthem during the Super Bowl. The American President attempted to sing along, but apparently forgot the words or decided to make up his own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He may be singing in Russian. The lips don't match, though, who knows?


MELBER: Who knows? Now, this international trolling comes as Trump's own Secretary of State who made lots of money in Russia says Russia may interfere again and that's hard to stop.


REX TILLERSON, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The point is if it's their intention to interfere, they're going to find ways to do that, and we can take steps we can take, but this is something once they decide they're going to do it, it's very difficult to pre-empt it.


MELBER: It's difficult to pre-empt it. But is it difficult to even try? Consider tonight's news that when pressed under oath, Trump spy chief revealed that Trump hasn't ordered him to even try to stop Russian interference which obviously drew condemnation in Congress.

MICHAEL ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NSA: I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there's little price to pay here --


ROGERS: -- and that therefore I can continue this activity. Yes, we're taking steps but we're probably not doing enough.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: OK, so she wants to know and I want to know why the hell not? What's it going to take? The notion that you have not been given this mission to stop this from happening this year is outrageous.


MELBER: And the notion there is that with Trump's people in power, Russia has little to fear as their own media figures are suggesting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): from that standpoint, the longer Trump remained in power, the better it is for us. We're just biding our time.


MELBER: And here is where propaganda partly meets reality. Russia did interfere, Russia did get caught. Experts say Russia did wanted to get caught partly to cultivate the propagate perception that Russia can control events in the U.S. Now, of course, we know the truth is more complicated. Those state T.V. hosts, they can brag about things that never even happened. Russian is interference was real, but we don't think it has to defined American democracy, and Putin knows the U.S. has the stronger military. He cares about those U.S.-led sanctions because they hit his pocket book, and if Russia had a truly powerful secret tool to control the entire U.S. elections, he would probably keep that weapon secret in order to continue deploying it, not (INAUDIBLE) it in public so much. And that brings us back to the villain who wants to get caught and it bring s us back to a famous Russian proverb. Little thieves are hanged, but the great ones escape. The Russians who interfered did not escape. Bob Mueller identified them and a whole lot of other people and indicted them and by all accounts, Mueller is not finished. I'm joined now by Malcolm Nance, a former DHS Counterterrorism, and Intel Officer. He wrote a book about Putin's spies trying to steal the election. Malcolm, what do you think of the possibility the Russians really did intend to get caught and the wider story they're telling domestically?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST: I think your hypothesis that they don't care is much more accurate than they wanted to get caught. They have used the fancy bear and cozy bear systems to hack numerous other countries. We know the German (INAUDIBLE) T.V. France five, they took over the, you know, the Ukrainian power plant system, the Pentagon once before and the White House. They used this malware suite over years and they knew we would eventually figure it out. But I think they understand our psychology far better than we understand theirs. They believe that the United States as a democratic system is frozen and it will be impossible for us to make a decision without having a very long discussion. You have to understand something. Putin has a deep contempt of liberal democracy, western democracy. He feels that this should be replaced with an axis of autocracies. And he took his shot to get his man into office in order to affect that. Now Donald Trump is in office, he feels that the United States is frozen in amber. We're never going to do anything. So technically as spymaster in chief of Russia, former -- ex-KGB officer, he is a bond villain. I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if he has a cat.

MELBER: When you look -- so when you look at that footage internal to Russia, what do you see there in terms of what their strategy is?

NANCE: You're seeing a brilliant example of propaganda warfare, using political warfare tools. They used state-run media and state-run media will go out and project the tail end of whatever it is that they -- you know, they want to craft for internal consumption, and external consumption. This started -- if you want to see the first time they really used this well, is when they put Michael Flynn as former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, at the right hand of Vladimir Putin at RT's 10th anniversary party along with Jill Stein and some other people. Those people didn't speak to Putin, but to the Russian people, Michael Flynn, former Director of Intelligence, sitting at the right hand of a former KGB officer, the first Director of Russian intelligence FSB, that looked like he owned him, and he's doing the same thing with this administration.

MELBER: You put it so well, we always learn from you. And as you mentioned, the power of the imagery, which can lead to overreaction in their country as well as ours, but peeling back what was actually at play there. Malcolm Nance, thank you as always.

NANCE: My pleasure.

MELBER: Up next, there is this developing news on the big blow to Jared Kushner. Tonight, he has been stripped of his access to certain special top-secret documents as well as this new report officials in multiple foreign governments discussing ways, according to the Washington Post, they can get to Kushner. I will talk to a former senior CIA official about this back in 90 seconds.


MELBER: Back with this breaking news on Jared Kushner. Two big developments right now, first Kushner losing access to these top-secret documents. Now, he had been operating with what's called a temporary security clearance like other White House staff, all of whom are now getting their security clearance downgraded. Meanwhile, also tonight, The Washington Post reporting officials in four different countries discussing ways of deploying Kushner's business contacts, debt and leverage to try to potentially manipulate him. I'm joined by John Sipher, a former Senior CIA Official who was stationed in Moscow for several years. When you look at these stories, number one, what does it mean that the President who could override this decision is not, he is basically living with the decision of John Kelly to prevent his son-in-law, Advisor and Middle East Peace Negotiator from getting this access and two, what are this other country's up to?

JOHN SIPHER, FORMER SENIOR CIA OFFICIAL: I think what they're up to is they've seen the naivete of the White House, they've also seen stories that Mr. Kushner hasn't reported his financial dealings, and therefore they understand there is a bit of a barrier there that they could potentially take advantage of it. You know, they have now seen him travel overseas, they've been able to take his temperature and they see some problem there. But I have to say, the big issue here really is you can't operate in the White House on the issues that he's supposed to be dealing with, with a secret clearance. The people that are in those meetings can't parse between what's information they got there that was top secret, what was secret and what was confidential. So I think this puts in -- it's hard for me to imagine he can do his job with a secret plan.

MELBER: You think this change tonight, means Kushner cannot do his job?

SIPHER: I'm pretty confident that he can't do his job. If you're trying to deal with sensitive issues in the Middle East between the Israelis and Syrians, and Palestinians, you know, the bulk of that information is intelligence material. Intelligence material is top secret at the very least.

MELBER: The things you would need for that negotiation you're saying is at that level that he's now denied?

SIPHER: Absolutely. There are reports, you know, State Department reports between embassies might be at the secret level. There might be some other stuff. But when the people come to brief him, there's no way that they can decide you know, which part of this brief is secret and which part of this brief is top secret. So I think this puts him in a very difficult position that he can't continue.

MELBER: And when you see the country's list of UAE, China, Israel, Mexico, two of those relevant to Mid-East peace negotiations as you say. Does anything jump out to you given your CIA experience about the countries named in this -- in this new report?

SIPHER: Well, first of all, this leak is really something. I mean, you know, coming from the intelligence community, I think it's terrible that that kind of stuff would come out. However --

MELBER: You think it's bad that this problem -- you think it might have come from the American side and that's a bad thing?

SIPHER: Well, I definitely did. You know, if people are targeting Mr. Kushner, that information came from our intelligence community and shouldn't have been released. However, what it suggests is that you know, the problem here is that Mr. Kushner didn't report these issues and the holdup on his clearance might have to do with debt and financial entanglements so that he's in a very, very difficult position. So I can understand why countries might look at this and think of this. But if you put those things together, his failure to report, his naivete, his un- qualification for the job he's involved with and these reports, I can't imagine that he can continue in that job.

MELBER: Well, that -- you might be breaking news or at least you're giving us a strong analysis. It's interesting and you may have coined a new word. I think you said -- did you say nonqualified, unqualified or what was the word?

SIPHER: Well, you know, frankly, you know, I'm less concerned about his ability to see our secrets. He works for the White House, he works for the President, than the fact as Americans, in one of the most important jobs in country dealing with huge issues in the United States, China, and the Middle East. You have someone who's 31 years old, totally unqualified, that's a bigger issue for all of us.

MELBER: John, I got to fit in a break. Thank you very much. We're going to take a break and up ahead, why Fahrenheit 451 is trending tonight and what it means in the age of Trump.


MELBER: The war on books is back. A new movie adapting the classic novel about burning books, Fahrenheit 451 stars Michael B. Jordan as a fireman with an ideological mission to torch knowledge itself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not born equal. So we must be made equal by the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to burn.


MELBER: That new trailer, one of the most watched videos on the internet tonight. And it's riding a renewed interest in stories about dystopia for the Trump area. Orwell's 1984 book sales there spiked after the inauguration. The Handmaiden's Tale, of course, a runaway hit. And now, Fahrenheit 451 pressing a conversation that goes beyond Trump versus the resistance or left versus right, this cuts deeper to what happens when a political mission demands the sacrifice of knowledge and learning itself.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever seen a physical book before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to know what's inside? Insanity.


MELBER: Of course, in Ray Bradbury's original story, the government deploys a different kind of firefighter to obliterate books and what they represent. The premise is pretty familiar to anyone who has ever been inside an authoritarian country. They authoritarian try to control facts because left unchecked it's facts and truth itself that can uncork uprisings and topple governments. And there's more. You know, in the original novel, it's the government that not only seeks to destroy learning via book, it also wants to replace it with, of course, entertainment filling all of our time with any kind of material that can distract us and keep us oppressed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. News, facts, memoirs, internet of old, burn it.


MELBER: News, facts, of course, before Donald Trump ever was in reality T.V., it was Bradbury arguing that entertainment can short-circuit people's ability to think for ourselves. He even imagines a society where intellectual became a swear word as it deserved to be and that meant the death of informed democracy. In Bradbury's world, books are powerful because they have knowledge and that's dangerous. One character famously compares books to a loaded gun in the house next door. Now, President Trump of course literally tried to ban a book, Fire, and Fury and it's well-known that he prefers T.V. to books.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great you know -- when you watch your show and all the other shows --


MELBER: In Bradbury's world, the assault on knowledge comes with a high price. It brings a lot of the misery. Now, the director of this new film says that it's not just about Trump, it is rather about Ray Bradbury's larger point that we all need facts and books if we are to govern ourselves.


RAY BRADBURY, AUTHOR, FAHRENHEIT 451: If you didn't have books and the ability to read, you couldn't be part of any civilization. You couldn't be part of a democracy.


MELBER: Just an update on the big news that was breaking as we came on air. Jared Kushner who occupies these dual roles as both an Adviser to the president, as well as his son-in-law, has been stripped of part of his top security access with his clearance. This is a big and developing story for many reasons not the least of which is that the Acting A.G. for Russia, Rod Rosenstein had flagged significant information affecting the clearance process and number two, that Donald Trump is not intervening. Meaning that Jared's role in a serious way has been constrained. We'll have a lot more on the story I suspect throughout coverage tonight. That does it for me. I'll see you back on THE BEAT at 6:00 tomorrow. "HARDBALL" starts right now.




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