Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: April 2, 2018 Guest: Renato Mariotti, Kirk Clyatt, Dave Twedell, Richard Painter
KATY TUR, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: She believed in her people, saying I am the product of the masses and my country and the product of my enemy. Winnie Mandela, a furious, passionate and unrepentant fighter was 81.
That`s all for "MTP Daily." THE BEAT starts now with Stephanie Ruhle.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Hello, my friend, Katy Tur. What a beautiful tribute.
Thank you so much for tuning in. I`m Stephanie Ruhle in for my friend Ari Melber tonight.
And we are starting by asking a question. Is President Trump rolling out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin? The Kremlin now revealing that Trump suggested a meeting with Putin at the White House when they spoke by phone last month. The White House then seem to confirm the report, saying Trump already told reports he and Putin discussed having a meeting in the not so distant future. And it could be at a number of venues, one could be the White House.
But President Trump, he didn`t say anything about location.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. The call had to do, also, with the fact that we will probably get together in the not too distant future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Remember, even that congratulatory call raised serious questions from both Republicans and Democrats. Here is the question. Why would President Trump want to reward Vladimir Putin with a White House visit after, of course, the election hack and the poisoning of a former spy in England. And why did we first learn about this from Russians? Even some of the President staunchest defenders can`t explain his attitude towards Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the problem is that Russia is running wild. Whatever we`re doing is not working and the President for some reason has a hard time pushing back against Putin directly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: So even if you think there`s no money laundering. Even if you think there`s no collusion, why? Why is President Trump so intent on being so nice to Vladimir Putin?
We will have a great panel to help weigh in on all of this. Max Boot a senior at the counsel of foreign relations and a columnist for "the Washington Post," Ned Price, former spokesperson for the national security council and my friend Bill Kristol, founder and editor-at-large for "the Weekly Standard."
Max, to you first, why is a Putin meeting a big deal? You who really understands this could be losing your mind over. But the average person at home could say who cares? They meets world leaders all the time.
MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Remember, Putin is not a good guy. I mean, he is committing aggression against the west on a daily basis. He is invading Ukraine as we speak. He is committing war crimes in Syria. He just used a very exotic nerve agent to try to kill two people in Great Britain, our ally.
And so the proper policy of the United States is to tell Putin you can`t get away with this. We are going to make you pay a price. We are going to stand with our allies against this kind of aggression.
And there are people in the U.S. government who are trying to send that message, like for example, pushing for the expulsion of Russian diplomats. But at every turn, Trump is undercutting that (INAUDIBLE) on Russia message because he can`t help himself. He just loves Putin too much. And so, you know, his national security council says in big block letters, do not congratulate Putin on his rigged reelection, and Trump can`t help himself, he has to congratulate Putin. And of course, it probably didn`t occur to them to say, don`t invite Putin to the White House, because this is a favor that you roll out for the leaders that you are trying to woo. And we should be wooing Vladimir Putin. But this, you know, Trump has a mind of his own when it comes to Putin.
RUHLE: But Trump has always made the argument, Bill Kristol, I`m going to try something different. Could he make the argument, inviting Putin over for a playdate is a good strategy? I mean, the playdate is the only way I can think of it. You should not reward a hostile power with an invite. But he is saying come on over.
BOOT: I think he needs a time out instead of a playdate.
BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER/EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: Conservatives and hawks, like Max and me, they were critical of the Bush administration that many times the Obama administration (INAUDIBLE) for being too soft on Putin, for not making him pay much of consequence for the things he did, whether it was invading Ukraine or much later, of course, try to tamper to say the least with our electoral process and now poisoning someone on UK soil, on British soil as a message to others. Don`t mess with us. You are not safe. That was a very important thing. It`s been underappreciated. How devastating.
I mean, if he gets away with that, if they pay no price for that, what Russian emigre, what dissident, what person speaking up against Russia, not even a Russian perhaps is going to feel entirely safe. So that is the newly, the kind of amazing form of aggression to do that, to do with the bad chemical agent.
I mean, the idea that the President of the United States, the head of the alliance of which Britain is such an important part, just invites Putin over to the White House, what, in weeks of that happening. I mean, it really is a shocking weakness in American foreign policy.
I`m just reading John Bolton who is going to be the president`s national security advisor, attacking the Obama administration for being too weak on Putin. I agree with some of those attacks. And now he is going to become national security advisor to our president who has gone how much further than President Obama did in not responding or affirmatively undercutting any attempts to respond to Putin`s aggression.
RUHLE: We can`t seem to figure out why the President is so complementary or at least not tough on Russia and Putin.
Ned, why does it matter that we keep learning about this stuff from Russians? Is it that the White House is keeping secrets? Or let`s be honest. We know this White House is not organized. At very best, the communication team has limited information. John Kelly is not on all the calls, and they are playing defense all day long.
NED PRICE, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Steph, it`s not just a messaging issue. This is and actual substantive issue, and it provides, really, a source of leverage to the Russians that they have consistently provided the official account, the readout of these meetings or phone calls, hours in some cases before the White House has done so.
Look, in this case, what`s important is had this close Putin aide, (INAUDIBLE) not made THIS comment, we may not have learned of this invitation. And the timing of this comment from the Kremlin aide is interesting. There`s reason to believe to think that it may have been made to embarrass President Trump. Of course this revelation comes just days after President Trump and some of our European allies together expelled 60 Russian spies from our country alone, with dozens mosh from Europe.
And so, we have been so fixated on this issue of leverage in the sense of compromise - when it comes to personal leverage or financial leverage in Trump`s longstanding desire to do business with the Russians.
But we have forgotten the fact that Donald Trump routinely has given our allies and adversaries alike, additional points of leverage. And this is one of those points of leverage. The Russians rolled this out according to their schedule in an effort to embarrass him.
For example, let`s assume that the "Washington Post" hadn`t reported last spring that Trump had called Comey a nut-job no the oval office. If they had kept that and rolled that out according to their own timing, that, too, would have been a source of leverage. And so, the question becomes how many other sources, how many other points of leverage are out there that we just don`t know about, that President Trump has doled out to our friends and I think most worrisome, to our foes.
RUHLE: How about a different kind of leverage? Robert Mueller`s leverage.
Max, we know that the Mueller investigation is getting broader and deeper. Could that be motivating Donald Trump in his behavior and his actions here? I mean, when I watch, you know, defenders of the president continue to grab a Robert Mueller, saying they brought him into soon. He is a Democrats. But let`s back this up.
This is guy, a Republican who is, who ran the FBI. I want to say ran the FBI, has a purple heart, is Ivy League educated. I scratch my head when they continue to go after this guy. What is it?
BOOT: Well, mean, it`s the old adage that, you know, if you can`t beat the case in court you have to beat the table. And they are beating the table right now. They are trying to discredit Robert Mueller, because clearly Donald Trump is terrified of what Mueller is going to come up with. And of course, what Mueller is looking at is the nature of this very strange relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
We know that there`s been a lot of smoke out there, a lot of stuff has already come out. There is already a circumstantial case of collusion. There is a more than circumstantial case that Trump has committed obstruction of justice. And so, of course, they are trying to beat up the prosecutor and soften him up ultimately. And that -- what this might be leading to, of course, is an attempt by Trump either fire Mueller or to get rid of sessions or Rosenstein and (INAUDIBLE), the scale of the Mueller probe or whatever is going on. Donald Trump is clearly worried. And yet, this is what makes his outreach to Putin all the more bizarre. Trump`s own interest to appear tough on Putin.
RUHLE: This is where I don`t get.
BOOT: The more that he invites Putin for a playdate at the White House the more he gives fodder to this impression that there is something nefarious about his relationship. And yet he keeps on doing it, which makes you wonder, is he afraid of what Vladimir Putin has on him as Ned Price does suggested.
RUHLE: Bill, can you comment on that? Because that is what I don`t get. They beat Mueller up, right, left and center, but it doesn`t stick, because the guy has a stellar reputation, and Trump continues to do things that make you scratch your head saying, yes, guess you really do like those Russians.
KRISTOL: Right. Well, yes, maybe on that. I think look. If I were in Trump`s shoes, I think he thinks that Mueller may find stuff that Trump is not wanting to find whether it is an impeachable offensive or no. And he is trying to discredit the investigator. It`s the O.J. defense, if you can`t beat the rap on the merits, you discredit the investigators, you create enough confusion about the investigators, you create reasonable doubt for the least the people who want to believe you can stick with you. And that, Trump has succeed in doing.
Mueller is still, thank God, more popular than Trump as polls the other day. I think Mueller needs some help and I think some of us will try to make the case for Mueller. Someone we should believe. We should let the investigation go.
But it`s not as if Republicans on the hill are rising up steadfastly saying that Mueller shouldn`t be fired. That no one should be pardoned. Trump is systematically laying the basis for either trying to get rid of Mueller and or parting people because he is scared of this probe. I think he knows what he is doing. We may say it is bad if you are to do this. He also has the sense that, you know, boldness pays off, maybe. If he has Putin here and there`s no huge reaction, if people from Congress come and eat with Putin, it just seems like this is as normal. And if he gets away with that, that is another step in the (INAUDIBLE) of everything. And it makes people like us who are saying, well, there is something deeply perhaps and proper about this relationship. And it does look like the ones who are crying Wolf. So I think Trump, in a way, knows what he is doing.
RUHLE: That`s a great point. We could say he doesn`t know what he is doing. We can call it buffoonery all day long, but that guy`s sitting in the White House. He has got some sort of strategy working.
We are going to talk about another new development in the Mueller probe tonight. There is new reports of Robert Mueller examining former Trump adviser Roger Stone`s contacts with WikiLeaks. The "Wall Street Journal" learning Stone wrote an email in August of 2016 to former Trump advisor Sam Nunberg, a favorite of this specific television show claiming he dined with Julian Assange last night. Sam claims that email was a joke and he denied ever meeting Assange. If that was a joke, where was the punch line?
But last week on this very show, as I mentioned, Nunberg, he`s a regular, he said he didn`t think Stone was joking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I think he will just say, look - he won`t say he was lying. He will say I was joking as he sign. I mean, the joke is essentially on me, because that`s why he got called in. I think one of the primary reasons by Muller`s special counsel.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Was it a joke?
NUNBERG: I don`t -- that`s not the way I recollect it. That`s not the way I recall it.
MELBER: Is that a no?
NUNBERG: Was it a joke to me that he --?
MELBER: Was it a joke? Yes or no.
NUNBERG: I didn`t think it was a joke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: He didn`t think it was a joke. And remember, Sam Nunberg, a massive defender of Roger Stone.
Shelby Holliday broke that story for "the Wall Street Journal." Great piece. Congratulations.
SHELBY HOLLIDAY, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you.
RUHLE: Walk as through this. I mean, what is Mueller`s team looking for behind this email?
HOLLIDAY: Well, it shows how they have to sort through the complexities of emails that may or may not be true. We saw the email. We don`t have it in our possession. But Roger Stone sent an email on August 4th saying he dined with Julian Assange on August 3rd. When we approached Roger and asked him for comment on this. He sent us what appear to be a flight booking. There`s no way for us to verify it. And Delta won`t verify ii. But it showed him being in L.A. and traveling to Miami. So there are lot of question. Obviously, you would have to go to London if you are going to dine with Julian Assange.
I have been talking to some prosecutors once that dining doesn`t necessarily mean simply being there. Maybe he caught him on the phone during dinner. Maybe they did --.
HOLLIDAY: Prosecutors say there`s no fine print there dinning and that means --.
RUHLE: If I had dinner, if I dined with you last night, it means we broke bread, it means salad, soup, appetizer, I mean, are you kidding?
HOLLIDAY: So right. So the big question is was he in London? And there has not been any sort of prove. We can`t see the flight records. Delta, for privacy reasons, won`t tell us whether he was actually on this flight he said he was on.
But the big picture here is if you look at the timeline, this email came just days after President Trump called on Russia to find Clinton`s missing emails. And it also came days after reported contacts between Manafort, who is a longtime friend and business associate of Roger Stone, Manafort`s contact with Konstantin Kiliminik (ph) who the special counsel`s hinted this weeks as who had ties to Russian intelligence in 2016.
And days after this, actually the next day after the email, Roger Stone praised Julian Assange on WikiLeaks and continued to do so over the next few months, predicting that it would be Podesta`s time in the barrel. And by the way, for that tweet, he said he meant their work showing up in the panama papers which were published earlier in 2016.
RUHLE: You can`t make this up.
HOLLIDAY: You can`t make it up. And Roger Stone has an excuse for everything. But it is just really hard to parse the truth here. And I think that probably shows how difficult it might be for the special counsel`s office. They obviously know more than we do. But it can be difficult when you are looking at statements. You are not sure if they are true.
RUHLE: Max, what do you make of this? And do you want to dine with me over the phone?
BOOT: Absolutely, that will be a new experience, virtual dining.
Look. I mean, from the outside I looks, it seems to me, and again, we don`t know everything that Robert Mueller knows and he consistently surprises us time after time with new indictments and new information. But even based on what we know, it seems like there is a pretty compelling case of collusion which is being put together here of which this latest information about Roger Stone is just one of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.
I mean, we also know, by the way, that Roger Stone talked of Guccifer 2.0, there was a Russian intelligence agent. We know that were more than 70 contacts in 2016 between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. We know that George Papadopoulos, who was a Trump foreign policy adviser knew in advance about the stolen Russian emails from the DNC. It certainly looks like Roger Stone knew in advance about some of these stolen email that were going to be leaked out.
You can argue about anyone piece of the puzzle and you know, you can have an argument of who was dining with whom or whatever. But when you look at the whole smorgasbord, it adds up to a pretty damning picture, I would say, that it is going to be fascinating to see what, you know, what Robert Mueller makes of it because to me, it seems pretty darn incriminated.
RUHLE: A real smorgasbord, not a virtual one. This whole story, it makes me feel bad for political and crime novelists. Because after this, what could you possibly make up? Real life is simply too bizarre.
Max, Ned, Bill, Shelby, thank you so much.
What a way to start the show. When we come back, President Trump`s bizarre message to children, kindergarteners. That`s 5-year-olds at the White House Easter Egg roll.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have never had an economy like we have right now. And we are going to make it big Iran bigger and better and stronger. Just think of $700 billion because that is all going in to our military this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: I don`t know how many kids thinking about $700 billion. But I`m thinking about Sinclair. The propaganda machine. We are going to talk to a former Sinclair anchor spilling the beans about the pressure to sell the corporate`s message.
Also Mark Zuckerberg hitting back at his rival or at least another big tech CEO, Tim Cook of Apple and he gives a timeline for fix being Facebook.
I am Stephanie Ruhle in for Ari Melber. And you know that you are watching THE BEAT here on MSNBC.
RUHLE: Welcome back. I`m Stephanie Ruhle.
Today, President Trump is making an appearance at the annual White House Easter egg roll. And there were a lot of things he didn`t cover today. Notably, the markets, which tumbled amid a brewing trade war or at least skirmish with China. Instead, with an Easter bunny standing at his side, he touted the economy and the military.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have never had an economy like we have right now. And we are going to make it bigger and better and stronger. Our military is now at a level, it will soon be at a level that it`s never been before. Just think of 700 billion, because that`s all going into our military this year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: He also responded to a reporter question about immigration in front of a group of kids. Again, I said at that before, 5-year-olds, kindergartners who are there to see the Easter bunny.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats have really let them down. It is a shame. And now people are taking advantage of DACA and that`s a shame. It should have never happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: DACA. Joining me now, Michael Steele, a former RNC chairman and MSNBC political analyst.
Michael, what was your take on the President`s performance today?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: The man has no time and place awareness. That`s clearly it. You know, this is a big festive occasion. Like you said, there are a bunch of four and 5-year-olds all over the lawn there. You know, little Easter eggs and bunnies running around. And you know, to use that as a messaging point on the military and DACA and other things to me is just kind of tone-deaf to the occasion. And I get it, you want to get your message out there, but leave that for others who can have those conversations with the press on the side while you talk about, you know, the joys of the Easter season and having these kids here, family and those types of things. So time and place awareness, it does matter.
RUHLE: Well, how about his message being factually correct? You know, there`s this talk with more members of the sort of the establishment cabinet gone, you know. Gary Cohn is still in the building but leaving. Hope Hicks is gone. Rob Porter, no longer in the building. People are saying this is Trump unleashed.
STEELE: It is. No, I mean, this is probably the freest Donald Trump has felt as President. Period. He is looking around, and he is saying all those folks who are going to be there to block and defend for him have been run out. Those were there to control and manage him have been run out. And so, from his perspective, those who are left do not have what it takes to stand up to him and even control the messaging let alone what he is going to do.
RUHLE: But how about, Michael, fact-checking. How do other --.
RUHLE: You talked to establishment Republicans all day every day.
RUHLE: How can they stand with the President when he goes out after DACA blaming Democrats when he ended it? He makes no mention of the stock market - excuse me, he makes no - he mentions the market and the great economy.
RUHLE: And he does it reference China putting in place tariffs. And to go to Amazon saying you are not paying fair share. You could hate the game and want to change the rules. But Amazon is working and paying within the bombardments of the law.
STEELE: Right. And so, what`s your point?
RUHLE: If I`m Paul Ryan, if I`m Mitch McConnell --.
STEELE: Did you hear Paul Ryan respond to that? No.
RUHLE: How can they not drew this and say, right on, brother?
STEELE: I mean, what he is going to do? Paul Ryan is not going to come out and go where the President was factually incorrect on that. He is not going to do that. He hasn`t done that. We missed goes back to the campaign. There is no will inside the Republican establishment on the hill.
STEELE: To present the counter narrative. Because the President`s got them by the short of their voter base. And the fact of the matter is, the President`s style, his messaging and his impromptu character or nature is something that animates that base. And until that changes for a lot of these members, they are not going to take that penalty point. There`s no reason for them to do it. It`s unfortunate. We will see what happens come November. And if they lose the House because of their failure to step up as you are saying, then we will see how they respond going into 2020.
But right now, you know, Stephanie, there`s no incentive for them to do that, because we haven`t seen them do it up to this point. They are not going to start this Easter weekend with that. This is just not there.
RUHLE: Fair point. Well, trade wars, President Trump says they are good. They are easy to win. We will see how that plays out.
Michael, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
STEELE: Go it. Take care.
RUHLE: All right. Ahead, the largest owner of TV stations across the country now under fire after a local anchor, his own anchors push Trump`s fake news message and some are saying I don`t want to do it.
And former on-air Sinclair broadcasting (INAUDIBLE) joins us live.
Also a Trump ally, Chris Christie blasting a Trump staffer`s ethics. As "New York" magazine`s says Trump is using the power and prestige of his office to line his own pockets. Richard Painter joins me next.
RUHLE: Welcome back. I`m Stephanie Ruhle in for Ari Melber.
A conservative-leaning television empire under fire accused of parroting Donald Trump`s talking points about the media. Sinclair broadcasting. Never heard of them? Well, they have almost 200 local TV stations across the country. And they are on the front pages after a video went viral, featuring news anchors reciting this mandatory script.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
RUHLE: In an internal memo obtained by NBC News, Sinclair executives are defending themselves saying quote "the critics are now upset about our well-researched journalistic initiative, focused on fair and objective reporting."
Let`s break this down. Joining me now is Curt Client, a former Sinclair anchor and meteorologist, Dave Truedell, a union rep for photojournalist and (INAUDIBLE) and Renato Marriotti, a former federal prosecutor.
Renato, I turn to you, because it was your tweet that said this is the company that is going to take over tribune soon, along with the 42 TV stations it owned. If that doesn`t concern you, it should. Tell us why it should.
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what we are seeing is a company that is pushing a far-right agenda that is taking over more and more local TV stations across this country. And I will tell you, there are many parts of this country that might only have one or two local television stations and people aren`t going to -- don`t always realize that what they`re getting is not an objective recitation of the news. These anchors that have local reputations that people have learned to trust over the years are being hijacked by a corporate agenda and will ultimately, what`s happening is people are getting fed a one-sided propaganda and frankly, it`s a concern.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC ANCHOR: But Renato, where could it go? Because the average person could look at what those anchors said and say, I don`t know, taken one at a time, it doesn`t sound so bad and don`t T.V. anchors read scripts? So to the person out there with that response to these videos, what do you say?
MARIOTTI: Well, what I think makes this country great is having a diversity of voices, and right now we have a presidency that is trying to stifle the free press, trying to stifle the people who can be a check or challenge to the president. And here we have Sinclair Broadcasting that is very tight with the administration, where frankly, Jared Kushner and others have said that we`ve struck deals and we`ve given favorable treatment to Sinclair. What I`m concerned about is that there isn`t a diversity of views. Let the anchors, if these views are so -- are so -- have so much merit, then why not let the anchors come to those conclusions on their own instead of feeding them from a corporate headquarters.
RUHLE: OK, Kirk, you worked for Sinclair stations for five years and I know you`re not there now, and you weren`t there in the last year after President Trump won the election or Jared Kushner struck this dial but tell me what it`s like inside, the editorial pressures that may exist if they do.
KIRK CLYATT, FORMER SINCLAIR ANCHOR: Well, Stephanie, this is certainly not the first time that Sinclair has tried something like this. Right after 9/11, I was actually out of the country reporting at the time for Sinclair`s flagship station in Baltimore Fox 45 WBFF. But at that time, with great controversy and great angst in the newsroom, the anchors and the number of reporters, they were compelled to do something very similar, reading a statement about how they supported President Bush`s war on terrorism. As Renato has just said, if the anchors come to these conclusions, let them come to themselves. And a friend of mine over the weekend contacted me and they say what is so bad about this announcement? Well, what they`re doing here is you know, everybody knows in propaganda. The most important thing you can do in propaganda is repeat the same message over and over again. What Sinclair is doing is says oh, no, we would never do anything to bring you fake news. That`s just not going to happen.
It`s all these other people we are concerned about and worried about, while they are the company that more than any other, with their forced-run commentaries from people such as Mark Hyman which are extreme and I think has really gotten some people aware of stations they`ve recently taken over such as KOMO in Seattle, a very progressive area, like what is this coming out of my television from a station that I used to know and trust. So you have these extreme commentaries coming from this station, a very cookie- cutter way that is certainly not good for America. We`ve come so far from the days. When I started in the media, it was 1975 and there used to be a rule called 7-7-7 rule, Stephanie, which means that one company could own seven A.M., seven F.M. and seven television stations. That gave local control.
Here in Las Vegas, we had a man named Jim Rogers who recently passed away, and unfortunately, his station KSNV taken over by Sinclair Broadcasting. This was a man who really did serve the public as a public trustee instead of this must announcements. He had community organizations, say from the Filipino Community, say from the Hispanics Business Community come on the air and tell what`s happening, what`s important in their communities. That has been replaced from something that is important for us and under each individual market across the country, by these forced, must-run, lock-step with the Trump administration commentaries. And of course, you have to remember, Stephanie, that every time you have a newsroom meeting, that is a way of advocacy journalism. What stories is that news team going to cover today?
RUHLE: All right, well, let`s talk about those newsrooms. Now, Dave, you represent the photo journalists at KOMO which we just heard is a Sinclair station in Seattle, and that is at the center of all of this. What has been the talk around the station of the anchors having to read these prepared scripts?
DAVE TWEDELL, UNION REPRESENTATIVE, SINCLAIR PHOTOJOURNALISTS: The talk around the station is that this is of a piece with what`s been going on ever since Sinclair bought that station in 2013. And it is one-way drift towards more control from Baltimore headquarters, where Sinclair headquarters is and less and less control at home. Now, it is true as of this moment, they have not affected the local broadcast but as you saw on that video that went viral over the weekend, where you see all of the stations saying the exact same thing, that is the real threat. Political issues come and go, structural changes are forever and the FCC has allowed this monster that will be the new Sinclair after they pick up the Tribune stations. They`re going to double their audience reach. Never before in American history has any station -- any owner been allowed to have any more than 39 percent reach of the country. Because of a gimmick passed by the FCC, they will now have 72 percent reach. And because of another gimmick passed by the FCC, the door is open towards a national broadcast. I`m far more concerned and our members are far more concerned about a national broadcast just supplanting local news altogether and getting rid of the services that local news provides, that is what has been -- the door has been opened by the FCC, and that is really troubling.
RUHLE: All right, quickly before we go, Renato, today the President tweeted Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more fake NBC which is a total joke. When the President says something like this, doesn`t that make Sinclair`s argument that it is fair down the middle and unbiased harder?
MARIOTTI: I think so. And frankly, what I see, Stephanie, is the President of the United States, Donald Trump trying to say that no one other than him is where you can get truth from. He attacks any independent source of information, try and convince his followers and his supporters that you can only go to him for the truth, and that is really scary.
RUHLE: Gentlemen, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. And I want to make it clear, we invited Sinclair executives to come on and discuss this with us, and as always, every day, I invite members of this administration to join me here on MSNBC and are always welcome. Next, the new magazine cover is blowing up. You know the one I`m talking about. It`s getting a lot of attention. This picture, I cannot unsee it. It`s depicting Donald Trump as a pig and it`s arguing corruption could be his downfall. I`m talking self-dealing. Richard Painter is with me when we`re back in just 90 seconds.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My whole life, I`ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I`ve grabbed all the money I could get, I`m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States. I want to grab all that money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUHLE: Oh, goodness gracious. That speech from Donald Trump on the campaign trail is at the heart of New York Magazine`s new cover story. The headline, Corruption, Not Russia is Trump`s Greatest Political Liability. And now Trump ally, Chris Christie not holding back on ethics issues in the Trump administration. Trump`s EPA Chief reportedly renting a D.C. condo from an energy lobbyist for just $50.00 a day. I need rent like that.
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CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: This was a brutally unprofessional transition. This was a transition that didn`t vet people for these types of judgment issue which I think could have been seen very easily in a lot of these people. And the President`s been ill served by this and if Mr. Pruitt is going to go, it`s because he should have never been --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does he have to go?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I don`t know how you survive this one. And if he has to go -- if he has to go, it`s because he never should have been there in the first place.
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RUHLE: That`s a wow. Joining me now, Richard Painter, White House Ethics Chief under President George W. Bush whose watchdog group is suing the President and Hugh Hewitt host of the radio show Hugh Hewitt Show and a Host of MSNBC "HUGH HEWITT" Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. Mr. Painter, to you, first. We have talked a number of times, saying this is unprecedented, this is unethical. We can`t believe they`re doing this. But now it`s Chris Christie, attacking Trump and/or his cabinet ethics. Does this signal some sort of shift?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CHIEF: Well, I don`t know that it`s a shift. We`ve all known that this administration ignores ethics, ignores the law.
RUHLE: But Chris Christie. That`s a different voice.
PAINTER: Well, it is and I think we`re finding Republican supporters of President Trump, one by one, starting to realize that this administration is corrupt and has been corrupt from day one. And our lawsuit is about foreign government money that has been going to the President in violation of the United States Constitution. We have the incidents involving cabinet members getting money and favors from lobbyists. We just today had the President of the United States making statements that were false, probably knowingly false, about Amazon, driving the stock price down. If an investor lost money in that stock, that investor could sue him for securities fraud. And those investors ought to be calling a lawyer. It`s every day we have a new violation of either the constitution, the federal statutes or the ethics regulations. It`s over and over again and yes, I think people like Chris Christie are finally getting fed up and the voters are getting fed up. I`ve been fed up with this president ever since he was a candidate and it was very clear he was going to violate the law if he won the election, and that`s what we`ve had non-stop.
RUHLE: One other thing. Chris Christie, there was talking Scott Pruitt, and his apartment he rented down in Washington. Hugh, you and I have spoke via Twitter on this and you`re saying it`s much ado about nothing. Why?
HUGH HEWITT, MSNBC HOST: Well, let me begin by saying Scott Pruett is a very old friend of mine, and I`ve had him on my show a dozen times, and my son works at EPA, so I want to be very transparent. But I`ve been the designated agency ethics officer at two agencies. Like Professor Painter, I worked in the White House Counsel`s office as well and the key opinion here is that of Kevin Minoli. He is the permanent, he is the Principal Deputy Attorney General at EPA. He`s also the designated agency ethics officer. He`s a lifer. He`s been there since 2000. Gina McCarthy, President Obama`s Administrator made him the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General at EPA and Mr. Minoli reviewed the lease and upheld it. It is not in any way shape or form a gift. It`s much to do about nothing. I think this is really about policy, Stephanie, as we`ve talked about on Twitter and I think it`s about the Vacancy Act. Specifically, people on the left are upset with Scott Pruitt over the clean power plan which he repealed. The waters of the United States which he repealed, the cafe standards today which he put up for repeal. He`s executing Donald Trump`s policy on WOTUS and on regulatory roll back and they want him out. They`re also afraid that if for any reason, Attorney General Sessions leaves the Attorney Generalship, under the vacancy act, Scott Pruett is eligible to for up to 210 days to serve as attorney general, even beyond depending on circumstances.
RUHLE: OK, well, Hugh, there are ethics issues and self-dealing issues that go far beyond Scott Pruitt. So let`s go back to the New York Magazine cover where Jonathan Chait writes, to be out for yourself is probably the single most disqualifying flaw a politician can have. Do you, Hugh Hewitt, who has a much longer history around politics than I do, do you have ethics concerns with President Trump or his administration when it comes to self- dealing?
HEWITT: Yes, always. As I said, I serve as an ethics officer for two agencies and I`m aware of Professor Painter`s 180 different complaints against the agencies across the government. But in every case, Stephanie, it`s a fact and circumstances inquiry. I think every single case against Scott Pruitt has been a nagging, political attack to slow down the agenda. But there has been some very --
RUHLE: OK, then let`s go broader that Scott Pruitt. We can do Jarred Kushner, we can do President Trump.
PAINTER: Excuse me, excuse me, Stephanie, Stephanie, can you find me --
PAINTER: Find my a hotel rent for $50.00 a night in Washington, D.C. and tell me that`s not a gift from a lobbyist. This is disgusting and no decent ethics lawyer would sign off on that. If that had happened in the Bush administration, I would have shut it down in a minute. $50.00 a night to get a room in Washington, D.C., you know, we all know that that that is a violation of the gift rules and no ethics lawyer could cover that up. It`s just flat-out wrong and you know it.
HEWITT: Well, I would say that to Mr. Painter, I don`t know Mr. Minoli and I don`t know you, but I wouldn`t slander a career professional who`s been there for 18 years.
PAINTER: I will -- no career professional would ever sign off on that. $50.00 a night in Washington, D.C. Give me a break. That`s a joke.
PAINTER: I did not file 180 complaints. Get a room for $50.00 a night in Washington.
RUHLE: OK, then I`ll ask you. Hugh Hewitt, when was the last time you stayed in Washington, D.C.?
HEWITT: A month ago in my own home, which, by the way, I have often given to friends, but Mr. Pruitt could not use it because of the gift rules. That`s one of the funny things about this, Stephanie. When you`ve got friends in Washington, you come to town for five months and your wife is at home with the last five months of your son finishing high school, you can`t stay at a friend`s house because of the gift rules, despite Mr. Painter`s passion which is misplaced.
PAINTER: Not if you`re a lobbyist.
RUHLE: Hugh, you cannot stay at a lobbyist`s house when you`re the EPA chief and your work could directly impact theirs.
HEWITT: Stephanie, John Boehner stayed at a lobbyist`s house, rented it from him for ten years as Majority Leader of the House. It goes to whether or not it`s a gift and by the way, it`s not owned by Steven Hart, he`s been a friend of mine, again, transparency, for 25 years.
RUHLE: You don`t think $50.00 a night is a gift? You don`t think $50.00 a night is a gift? How much do you think -- how much do you think hotel rooms cost no Washington?
HEWITT: All I`m telling you is it was reviewed by the career Deputy Senior Associate General and the ethics official at this agency, for whom I have no knowledge but great deal of respect, Mr. Painter doesn`t. He`s entitled to pass judgment on whomever he wants. But there`s a reason he`s in Minnesota and not Washington, D.C. and that reason goes back to whether or not you have do regard for other professionals work. I do.
PAINTER: Excuse me, I am fed up with people being attacked in Minnesota.
HEWITT: I`m sure you are.
PAINTER: In my state, we elect people in Washington, D.C. We are sick and tired of K-Street lobbyists who looked down at us in Minnesota as you would. This is the reason you`re in Minnesota, instead of raking in money in Washington, D.C. on K-Street and leasing out a room for $50.00 a night to the EPA Administrator. This is corruption. This is why the people of Minnesota and every other state, you`re in a flyover country. While you want to look down on us, we are going to vote these people out. It is disgusting what you just said about people in Minnesota, that somehow we are here because we don`t play by your rules in Washington, D.C. We`re going to shut it down! We`re going to drain the swamp for sure and this back fill they brought in from New York, we`re going to send them back to New York, New Jersey, wherever they came from with Trump brought on down. This is really wrong, and you know it. And don`t talk down to us in Minnesota.
RUHLE: Can we just end this segment jogging on New Jersey?
HEWITT: I have a question.
RUHLE: Gentlemen, we`re going to leave it there. Clearly, this conversation is to be continued. Respect, we always need to have that.
HEWITT: Thank you, Stephanie.
RHULE: And no going after Jersey, Richard Painter, Hugh Hewitt, thank you both so much. Be sure to watch Hugh right here on MSNBC on Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. We`ll be right back.
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TIM COOK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, APPLE: We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer. If our customer was our product, we could make a ton of money. We`ve elected not to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you`re Mark Zuckerberg, what would you do?
COOK: What would I do? I wouldn`t be in this situation.
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RUHLE: Ouchy-pooh. Apple`s Tim Cook hitting Mark Zuckerberg where it hurts, and now Mark Zuckerberg trying to hit back.
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MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: I find that argument, that if you`re not paying that somehow we can`t care about you to be extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth. I think so it`s important that we don`t all get Stockholm Syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you because that sounds ridiculous to me.
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RUHLE: Zuckerberg also said it would take years to solve some of Facebook`s problems.
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ZUCKERBERG: I think we will dig through this hole, but it will take a few years. I wish I could solve all these issues in three months or six months but I just think the reality is that solving some of these questions are just going to take a longer period of time.
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RUHLE: Really? That`s a funny reality and a big reversal for Zuckerberg. In 2010, eight years ago, Zuckerberg wrote "there needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use." Eight years ago said it would just take a few weeks. Joining me now, my dear friend David Kirkpatrick, Author of the Facebook Effect. David, what`s your take on all this?
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, AUTHOR, THE FACEBOOK EFFECT: I think you were a little unfair in that last comparison. He was talking about a specific set of changes in whatever year that was. But (INAUDIBLE) put them in. But they clearly weren`t enough. I mean, that`s the bottom line here. Facebook lacks the controls that it needs to governor its system and he is basically backpedaling furiously in this quite interesting interview he did with Ezra Klein on Vox that came out today in a way that he has never done before. That interview is a breakthrough interview.
KIRKPATRICK: But there are so many weird things about it.
RUHLE: What`s so breakthrough about it?
KIRKPATRICK: I tell you what`s breakthrough about it is that he`s acknowledging that Facebook needs help to figure out what to do. He`s never really had that humility before. He specifically said even for something as minor as you know, if Facebook tells you-you can`t put up a piece of content, there should be an external place where you can appeal that. Well, he used a word like a Supreme Court, not that`s run by people that don`t work for Facebook. That is a minor step in a very good direction because the reality is Facebook is now in a position that no company should be in and he`s starting to own that. You know, basically --
RUHLE: He`s owning that, but he`s also calling Tim Cook glib and ridiculous. You know Tim Cook. Would you call Tim Cook glib or ridiculous?
KIRKPATRICK: No. but the Tim Cook argument is not the central issue about this interview. The Tim Cook argument is interesting because basically, Facebook is raking it in with advertising more than any other company of its size in history.
RUHLE: And they can`t possibly say they`re not a media company if what they do is get advertising dollars and they`re getting advertising dollars only from places like this.
KIRKPATRICK: I agree. We`ll here`s the -- you know, if you`re a media company, the big argument is they should then, therefore, bear responsibility for the content on their service which --
RUHLE: Like we do here.
KIRKPATRICK: In general, we should agree that is the case and he is starting to more or less say that but, you know, it`s interesting. He is outlying himself more with Amazon as a cost-cutting company than with Apple as a you know, cost-raising company which is basically what he basically accused apple of in return. But I think the interesting thing is you know, the -- he talks so much about the social responsibility Facebook has, but in many parts of the interview, he sounds more like he`s the U.N. Secretary-General or the you know, the Head of the you know, FBI in responsibilities that he thinks Facebook has to keep society functioning normally. He keeps using the word "we" throughout this interview as if he is really capable of making the decisions that will properly guide society towards healthy resolutions, which he says he wants and it`s very idealistic of him. But the reality is he`s one guy who completely controls a commercial company that cannot be in the position of deciding what is right in the public square.
RUHLE: Well, David, words like we and community are why millions of people believed that Facebook was all about posting pictures of your babies and cute puppies. David, thank you so much.
KIRKPATRICK: Thanks for having me, Stephanie.
RUHLE: This conversation, it is not going away. And tune in this Friday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the full MSNBC Town Hall with Apple`s Tim Cook. You don`t want to miss it.
RUHLE: That does it for me. I will be back in tomorrow night for Mr. Ari Melber, and you can see me first thing tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. Thanks for watching. "HARDBALL" with my friend Chris Matthews starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome Vladimir. Let`s play HARDBALL.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END