Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 31, 2018
Guest: Yochai Benkler; Adam Schiff, John Flannery, Seth Waxman, Natasha Bertrand, Christine Todd Whitman, D.L. Hughley
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That is all for tonight. We will be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. But I promised you, THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER is gong to be very fulfilling. And it is far cry from nothing. It is a lot of something.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Well, we start our show medium rare, but we try to get well done by the end of the hour.
TODD: I know.
MELBER: Thank you, Chuck.
Today marks the first day of the first time Bob Mueller has put anyone on trial. That`s kind of big when you think about it. Paul Manafort facing a jury of his peers which was selected today, Mueller`s prosecutors boiling down their message to those jurors. I can report directly from the courtroom where our reporters have been eyeing this quote "Paul Manafort lied." That`s their case. And we will be covering this historic news tonight with House intelligence leader Adam Schiff.
Later, I also have a legal breakdown on how collusion is a crime.
So we have a lot in tonight`s show. But we are actually not beginning with those developments coming out of the Mueller probe because there is even more significant breaking news tonight.
The United States midterm elections are now officially under attack. Here is what you need to know. According to federal authorities in a major U.S. company, right now there is a new effort under way to interfere in our nation`s midterms, which are, as you probably know, less than 100 days away. The tactics echo many of the controversial. And now, yes, indicted methods employed by Russian agents in 2016.
Now, Facebook has drawn fire before from regulators and tech experts and reports on this very show for what was widely considered a tepid response to the 2016 meddling. Well, tonight this company Facebook says it has learned, and it`s acting fast and even proactively. In fact, the company tells us they are coordinating with the FBI as we speak. They have taken down 32 accounts, both on the Facebook and Instagram platforms, that they identified as foreign, likely political influence in interference operations which aim to exploit divisive issues both online, as well as, and this is big, trying to right now drive unsuspecting Americans to attend real midterm events offline, like this stage protest of a white supremacist rally in D.C.
Now, notice what you are looking at yet hasn`t occurred. This ploy was actually scheduled for August 10th. Facebook publicly warning Americans away from this trick tonight.
Now, the combination of tactics overlap with what U.S. intelligence did uncover in 2016, which anyone who watches the news remembers, the efforts to drive division around general issues in policy, not just candidates, combined with tricks that do relate to Donald Trump himself.
Now, I want to be clear as we dig into what is the biggest political story in the nation right now as the midterm approach. There are, as of tonight, no indications any of these newly exposed efforts, are suspected to have domestic help from Americans inside the U.S. But they are targeted inside the U.S. Some of the trick pages trying to trick opponents to Trump by tapping into so-called resistance and tap pro-immigration sentiment by running ahead to abolish immigration enforcement through I.C.E.
It is too early to pinpoint this on any explicit actor. We are told that experts to know the tactics clearly echoes Russia`s past expose operations. And there are, get this, links from these newly busted accounts to the Russian accounts that Facebook had disabled. Facebook saying, whoever set up these accounts actually went to greater lengths to obscure their true identities than last time. And lawmakers who have been critical in the past of the company welcome today`s action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: I salute Facebook for doing what they did and finding those 31 attempts by what looks like a Russian, it is not certain, but what looks like a Russian agency trying to manipulate our elections.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I will be introducing Thursday, a sanctions bill against Russia. It will the sanctions bill from hell.
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: This will be a heck of a lot easier if there was a White House who actually carried and was willing to get in the fight which clearly continuing, the Russians are not going to slow down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That last point from the top Democrat on the center of intelligence committee is the problem that hangs over this entire news tonight.
It appears the FBI and Facebook are acting in real-time, which indicates some learning compared to 2016. The President himself though hasn`t only undercut past intelligence about Russia attacking in 2016, he also says he doesn`t think it`s happening now either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let`s go, make your way out.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You had a chance to speak with the President after his comments. The President was -- said thank you very much, and was saying no to answering questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by MSNBC terrorism analyst Malcolm Nance. He is the author of "the Plot to Destroy Democracy." And Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler, an expert in online propaganda and disinformation and the author of "the Wealth of Networks." Natasha Bertrand from "The Atlantic" who has covered many aspects of these Russian-style operations before.
Malcolm, are we under attack?
MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is very interesting that we are finding this information out almost two years to the week that we, on this network warned the nation that the United States was under attack by a very broad, deep intelligence operation being carried out using information warfare, propaganda warfare, psychological warfare with the intent to hack the mind-set of the American public. And now, it`s happening again.
I applaud Facebook for this, this nation is under attack, and lawmakers need to take this one seriously. They are trying to now make a split between both sides of the United States. They are trying to now foster hatred from the left by using this as a platform to stoke fears on the right. So if we don`t stop it right now, it`s going to get worse.
MELBER: Yochai, I`m a long-time reader of your work. You are known to be quite measured and precise. And so I bring to you some of the numbers which don`t suggest a wide or large scale, but anytime you have something like this with an election it is important, in a democracy.
Let me read to you what we are getting from Facebook tonight. It is a breaking story. They took down these 32 pages I mentioned, 290,000 accounts, they say were following the pages. The events that they caught were about 30 in America. And the spend quite low when you think about all the midterms going on, $11,000 on 150 ads. But that`s what`s been caught in real-time. Your analysis?
YOCHAI BENKLER, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Good to be with you again. And I think we should all be happy that Facebook is responding. And that they are actually cooperating, both with federal agencies and with independent researchers. But I also think it`s important to put this in scale.
As you said we are looking at about 30 accounts. We are looking at $11,000 over more than a year, relatively small exposure. And in that regard quite similar to what we saw during the election.
BENKLER: There`s a huge difference between the fact that somebody really wants to attack you, and is trying, and you need to be there and aware and look for it. And panicking that American democracy is under threat.
MELBER: Well, Yochai, I want to be clear, my goal here tonight is to start a nationwide hysterical panic.
BENKLER: I think that would be --
MELBER: That`s how you know it wasn`t that funny, the silence on THE BEAT.
But walk us through all that, joke aside, Yochai, what are we to take from it? Do you - do we know enough to think that Facebook of the feds are getting better at combatting this in real-time, or 100 days? How do we not know if this is the first strike of what could be, as Malcolm worries, a larger effort?
BENKLER: We don`t know enough to know whether what Facebook has done is enough or they are just finding a little bit. What we do know is when we look at the data from the election itself, this is a very similar pattern. They seem to be jumping on bandwagons that are already there. They are trying to show some success. But largely they are not driving the effect. Just like they didn`t drive the concerns with voter fraud that the Republicans were pushing. They are not driving the resistance to I.C.E. They are not driving the rejection of the White House supremacists.
So I think it just needs to be taken in context. They are trying to - they are trolling us. They are trying to make us feel like our democracy is not safe because of them when, in fact, it`s internal divisions with very long and deep roots.
MELBER: Let me press you on that.
BENKLER: That are really pushing us.
MELBER: Let me press you on that and I`m going to Natasha. Your claim you just made would suggest they want us to find this and be scared, Facebook revealing that they view this as whoever is doing it, trying even harder not to get caught. How do you square that? To Yochai first.
BENKLER: Oh, I have no doubt that they are trying to do it, and that what they are trying to do, if Americans were working with them, is illegal. They are trying to cover up.
BENKLER: They are professionals trying to do their work.
BENKLER: The problem is that we need to not overstate how important they are.
MELBER: Right. Let me go to Natasha then, your analysis.
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, I think that one of the things that worried me the most about this announcement was obviously not the scale of it, 30 is a relatively low number, but it was the fact that it seems like they are getting more competent, that they`re learning how to cover their tracks more efficiently. That they have really begun to adapt now that they know that they are in the cross hairs of major investigation.
I mean, remember that Robert Mueller indicted I think it was 12 Russian members of the internet research agency along with the internet research agency itself back in February. So it`s very clear that they are kind of under the microscope now. But I do think that it`s important to realize that Facebook has really done a complete 180.
BERTRAND: And how it`s dealt with this. Because if you will recall, President Obama, back in 2016, warned Mark Zuckerberg that this is a serious problem. And that Russia could be using Facebook to amplify these divisions, and to sow chaos in the election. And Mark Zuckerberg said that was crazy. There was no way Russia could be using Facebook to interfere in the election.
Of course, just last year, still as of July 2016 -- or of 2017, Facebook had said that there was no evidence that Russia had actually used its platform in a nefarious way to interfere in the election. Come late last year we found that Russian-backed accounts have reached approximately 128 million people.
So that`s another part of my concern, is that Facebook may not know the full extent right now of how many accounts are operating on its platform, and whether many of these accounts are actually totally innocuous sleeper accounts that will become more active right around the runups to the election.
MELBER: Right. And that goes through a time when a company has been hammered on stock prices it says spending more on security. And there has been a lot of scrutiny on it.
Malcolm, the Trump campaign, their digital director who is now the full campaign manager for the reelect, has always been clear Facebook is how they won. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Facebook is how he won.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think so. I mean, I think Donald Trump won. But I think Facebook was the method. It was the highway in which his car drove on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NANCE: Well, you know, I don`t want to bring this down to a discussion as to whether academia or the intelligence community has the solution to this thing. But let me give you the intelligence community`s perspective.
Our mission is intentions and warning of what our enemy is doing. And by my placing emphasis on this tonight, I want to point out that what you are seeing with these small amounts of data and these small amounts of pages, you are watching a viral vector be introduced into the information stream of Facebook. And those viral vectors rely on the social media to exponentially bring that information out into the mainstream. So they don`t have to have a lot of effort.
And let me tell you, for all the intelligence watch standers in the world who are watching this program, they know the power of one person putting out one bit of data out there to where it can go around the world before you even know that it`s happening.
MELBER: Well, I`m very tight on time. Since you named check academia, it sounds like you are throwing shade at Harvard there.
Yochai, brief rebuttal before we go.
BENKLER: Look. As I said, it`s important to be -- to look. But if you look at the data from the election, and you look at specific allegations, like the account that drove the voter fraud story, that account that`s in the Mueller indictment starts communicating seven days after Donald Trump as candidate is pushing voter fraud, after he goes on Hannity, after he goes on O`Reilly. And then to step back and say the Russians shaped the elections as opposed to looking at the piece that you just showed about the importance of Facebook and focusing on targeted advertising, on making sure that Facebook targeted advertising is fully transparent and is available for the public to look at. If we focus on the Russians, because we give them too much impact.
BENKLER: First of all, we accredit them. And second, we divert their attention from where Facebook really might be having mass effect, which is in the targeted behavioral marketing that`s not transparent enough.
MELBER: And we don`t have targeted behavior or marketing in the rundown tonight. But that could be our mistake.
I like the crosstalk because I know you guys are scratching an important part of this debate. It`s still a question of vigilance versus overreaction. I hope to get you both back on together.
Natasha stays with me later in the show.
Up next, the Democrats top Russian investigator in the House, congressman Adam Schiff is here live.
And all the action, we re going to give you the breakdown of everything that happened on day one of Manafort`s trial including a $15,000 ostrich jacket. Sounds nice.
Later, I have a legal breakdown on something you may be discussing a lot all week, yes, collusion is a crime.
And I will hear from a Republican cabinet member under Bush who now says it is clear Donald Trump is unfit for office.
If that`s not all, D.L. Hughley is back. He is on the show about his book "how not to get shot and other advice from white people."
I`m Ari Melber. And you are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: And joining me live is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, which has been quite busy today with Facebook`s revelation on new attacks with the midterm elections. Plus we have a lot of other news in the Manafort trial.
Thanks for being with me tonight.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good to be with you.
MELBER: For people who are following this news as it breaks, or may have heard at the top of the show, where we had two very qualified experts disagree on the level of intensity, what does this new revelation mean about this attack on the midterms tonight?
SCHIFF: Well, I think we need to view this in combination of what we learned a week ago from Microsoft. And that is that two of the vectors the Russians used in the last election they appear to be using again. That is and we saw this in both of the Mueller indictments, they are using social media surreptitiously, to try divide Americans, to try to accentuate the fault lines in our society.
But the are also hacking or attempting to hack political campaigns, we saw Claire McCaskill is one of the targets of this. And that she was a target the same week that Donald Trump was evidently saying publicly that she needed to be defeated. That has an echo of July -- of the election year in which Donald Trump said publicly, hey Russians, if you are listening, hack Hillary Clinton`s emails. Because we learned that indicted that on that date. In fact, they did try to hack the Clinton campaign.
MELBER: Congressman, respectfully, to push you on that, he would probably be on record against the reelection of most any incumbent Democrat.
SCHIFF: Well, that`s certainly true. But it also looks like the Russians may have been listening when he called for Claire McCaskill`s ouster. Because the timing, again, is very suspicious. The timing of that attempted hack of her campaign took place not months after he mentioned Claire McCaskill. And it wasn`t like there was a tremendous volume of campaigns that were the subject of attack. According to Microsoft, I think there were only three, and that was one of them.
So the timing is certainly suspicious. But it looks like because they have identified similar actors to the Russian hackers of the DNC, that the Russians are using both of these modalities, hacking of campaigns, surreptitious social media again to influence our elections.
MELBER: `I also want to get your report card here on what is a giant and powerful corporation, Facebook. Because in ways that no one, I think, would have predicted, many years ago, they have become a key platform and utility, if you will, for how we do democracy and civic discussion in this country. You and others have been critical in the past. I want to read from how Mark Zuckerberg is assessing this tonight.
Security isn`t a problem that you ever completely solve, but we are learning and improving quickly too. And we are vesting heavily to keep people safe.
What grade to you give them, and how true does that statement feel to you given how much more you know than most of us about the back room pressure to get this company to act responsibly.
SCHIFF: Well, I think it`s a work in progress. But I`m pleased that they came forward with this announcement today, even if they had to caveat it and say that we can`t definitively say this was the Russian government, but there are links to this troll farm in St. Petersburg, IRA. That`s what we need them to do. We need this to be timely. They referred to events that it appears, again, that these Russian trolls are trying to organize in the United States and victimize real people and get real people involved in protests or counter protests without knowing that they -- the impetus originates in Russia.
MELBER: Right. To get the out in the real world. So what does it say to you that there already the markings or the overlap at least of Russian operations? What does that say to you about this attack we are learning about tonight?
SCHIFF: Just what we would expect which is the Russians aren`t going to be so blatant next time. They are not going to use the exact same IP addresses that can be trace back to the very same Russian troll farm. They are going to hide their hand. And Facebook clearly acknowledges that in their statement today which means that Facebook is going to have to do better sleuthing.
But also, as Facebook acknowledges, we need to make sure that our intelligence community is cooperating and there are channels of communications with the tech companies that is a free flow of information. And I have to say I`m concerned that we learn from Microsoft about this attempted hack of three campaigns. They undoubtedly would have informed the FBI or the department of homeland security. I would have thought we would have been notified in Congress about this. But none of that happened. It didn`t go up through the food chain. There wasn`t the kind of whole of government response there should be, and that alarms me as we get closer to those midterms.
MELBER: Does that relate at all to leadership or lack thereof from the Trump administration?
SCHIFF: Unquestionably. There are, I think, very good people at the mid- bureaucracy level who are trying their best at the department of homeland of security, certainly throughout the intelligence community and at the top of the intelligence community. But there`s no one at the top saying that this is a priority of our administration.
SCHIFF: You need to work with each other. You need to talk with each other. I want periodic reports. Instead, we got the guy at the top saying this is all a hoax and a witch hunt.
MELBER: Right. Which now tonight feels very real as undercutting something that is actually relevant to how we choose, well, the body that you are in, the Congress.
We have gone several minutes, congressman Schiff, without discussing Rudy Giuliani. I would like to rectify that by showing the comments he made that are both bizarre in how he did it, but relevant in the sense he`s the lawyer for the President talking about a potential meeting that might add culpability. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: There was another meeting that had been leaked, but hasn`t been public yet. There was an alleged meeting three days before. According to Cohen, or according to the leak, he says there was a meeting with Donald Jr., with Jared Kushner, with Paul Manafort, with Gates, and possibly two others, in which they, out of the presence of the President, discussed the meeting with the Russians. We checked with their lawyers, the ones we could check with, which was four of the six. That meeting never, ever took place. It didn`t happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Is this important in any way? And does your investigation look at whether there were such meetings that could suggest greater culpability about this potential collusion and conspiracy?
SCHIFF: Well, we certainly tried to look into this. But all too often the majority on our committee was uninterested in getting the answers. So when witnesses stone walled us and refused to answer, the Republicans were unwilling to subpoena them or compel them. So we weren`t allowed to follow the evidence where it was leading.
But here you have Giuliani saying, OK, there was a pre-meeting, and then he quickly corrects himself, an alleged pre-meeting. He is all over the map. But I think you can look at the statements he has been making, along with the President`s confirmation of the new defense strategy, collusion is not a crime, and you can see that plainly they feel there is evidence that the President knew in advance that this is what they are worried about, that evidence is going to come forward, that the President knew in advance of the Trump tower meeting, so they are shifting to a -- OK, even if there was collusion, even if the President was involved in collusion, it`s not a crime. But, of course, the crime is conspiracy. So they are playing a word game. But nonetheless, I think this kind of -- throw everything you can at the wall strategy of Rudy Giuliani doesn`t really serve the President`s interests very well. But it is telling.
You know, the only other point I would make on this is that I think that they are clearly spooked by Michael Cohen. And they are making the leaks, not Michael Cohen, it seems, at least as far as the sum of it is concerned. And I have to imagine that they might have gotten this information if there had been a joint defense of some kind with Michael Cohen and these other counsel, that Michael Cohen has now opted out of because it seems to be they are very specific about this pre-meeting that they are -- you know, six members or eight members, and they have talked to four of the six or six of the eight. They are using a great many particulars, and they clearly, I think, want to try to get this out there, and minimize it before Michael Cohen does. But I just don`t see that it`s going to be all that effective a defense strategy.
MELBER: Well, that`s the weird part. Rudy Giuliani is insisting this dinner never took place, but everyone had sushi.
Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for being here.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Up ahead, I break down the central government on Trump`s idea that collusion is not a crime. That`s wrong. It is. I will explain in 30 seconds.
MELBER: The other top story tonight, after all the guilty pleas and charges today is an unusual point in modern American history. The campaign chair for a sitting President facing trial for crimes that could give him life in prison. Mueller`s prosecutors throwing the book at Paul Manafort today, and that`s a bad association for any White House at trial like this. Though prosecutors do say they do not expect Russia to come up, meaning this trial is not expected to breakthrough answers on collusion.
And that actually makes it quite odd that this is the week that Trump and his allies are bringing up collusion, not to say it never happened, but to claim, as we have been reporting tonight, that it`s maybe OK even if it did. The argument is that collusion is not a crime. So even if more evidence comes out about it, that`s OK. They also argue that those rookies in that meeting did no better, which doesn`t really apply to a veteran operative like Paul Manafort.
Now colluding with foreigners to impact a U.S. election is a crime. Let`s go through it briefly. One, it`s a crime to get anything of value from foreigners. Two, it`s a crime to defraud the United States. Three, it`s a crime to steal things, whether you steal objects like everything that was ripped off in Watergate, or you steal email, which is what is at issue in Mueller`s latest indictment. And finally, four, it`s a crime to engage in a conspiracy of any of those other crimes.
So collusion is not only a crime, collusion involves at least four crimes. Those are the legal facts. Now, in fairness, we will note here as we have many times on this program, no American has been charged with any of those potential crimes I just mentioned. In fact, Bob Mueller may never charge any Americans. So that could be a good thing if you are rooting for this White House to escape any collusion culpability.
But these are crimes. They do exist. And that`s what makes it so odd to watch the Trump team`s evolving defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Collusion is not a crime. And so the fact of the matter is that we are a long way away yet from having anything to talk about here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Collusion is not a crime. Only in anti-trust law. You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election. There`s no such statue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But what crime?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can anybody identify the crime? There is no evidence by the way of colluding with the Russians. It`s not a crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Collusion is not a crime while there is not any evidence of any collusion here involving our client --.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That drum beat, of course, escalated this week with Rudy Giuliani`s interviews and a presidential tweet today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: They never used it. That`s the main thing that they never use it. They rejected it. If there was collusion with the Russians, they would have used it.
I`ve been sitting here looking on the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime.
I do not even know if that`s a crime colluding about Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined by former Federal Prosecutors John Flannery and Seth Waxman, Natasha Bertrand back with me as well. John, take it away.
JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, these guys sure shouldn`t be teaching first-year law criminal law. There`s also not in the code you won`t find colluding with Russians either. But the definition that we`re concerned about is when two or more persons commit -- agree to commit a crime, that is the crime of conspiracy. And if you are considering the fact of what collusion is, again, it`s two or more persons agreeing to commit a crime. So you can`t subtract the crime, the object of the agreement and say well collusion is not a crime. And I suppose what they`re saying is the technical word collusion, they can`t find it in the code but the elements of a crime is how we define it in the Section 371 defines it that way.
MELBER: Yes, it`s a collusion -- it`s a collusion of conspiracy.
FLANNERY: Correct, yes. And interestingly if you just take the June 9th meeting, you may have the pre-meeting that Rudy doesn`t know happened or not.
MELBER: You talking about the sushi dinner.
FLANNERY: The sushi dinner.
MELBER: Yes, sure.
FLANNERY: And then we have on June 8th the Russians put the stolen e-mails and another information from the DNC and the DCCC online and the next day they`re at the tower and were to believe that they talked about adopting Russian children rather than what the e-mail said that put together the meeting that said Russia likes Trump for President and we want to help you and they have a meeting and afterwards we see that they do it.
MELBER: Right. Let me go to Seth on the -- on the stolen property piece. If material was stolen and just went around the world on the Internet and that`s the end of it, then you can make the argument that that just happened right? The problem is that in their defenses they seem to be getting closer to the idea and I want to be very fair here, it is not alleged that they personally receive the stolen material yet. But if they did, receiving stolen material depending on how you do it and what you do with it can be criminal and there are precedents which is what we lawyers tend to look to. Seth, I want to reach back into the vault for this fantastically interesting corollary where when the Gore campaign received material that was helpful to it but they were concerned it might be stolen on Bush, they immediately called the FBI. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: Somebody had stolen it evidently from the Bush campaign and mailed it to my close friend Tom Downey who was going to be Bush -- the Bush stand-in and debate prep. It didn`t -- it wasn`t mailed from Moscow but it was mailed from Texas. We immediately turn it over to the FBI and Tom recused himself --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Seth, how does that figure into the analysis?
SETH WAXMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Sure, I mean that can be aiding and abetting or an accessory after the fact someone commits a crime, hacking into computers and then shares that information with you knowingly and you make use of it. That can be an aiding and abetting crime or an accessory after the fact that under the criminal statutes and penalties you as an aider and abettor are as criminally responsible as the principal who conducted or committed the act at first. And you offer up for four crimes at the outset of your piece there. I`ll offer up another one that you and I have talked about before, is federal bribery.
WAXMAN: And I`ve been -- I`ve been jumping up and down for months as you know writing op-eds and tweeting out that federal bribery statute, a 15- year offense criminalizes of this for that exchange. So if they gave dirt on Hillary in exchange for a promise to lift or reduce sanctions on Russians, that is a classic quid pro quo. And as you and I have talked about in the past, because that bribery statute has that unique language that makes it applicable both to people who have been sworn into office and candidates, it puts it right into the wheelhouse of this time of the Trump Tower meeting and otherwise and that hammer of a 15 year penalty is far greater than conspiracies to defraud the United States or election campaign finance violations and that`s the kind of hammer federal bribery and it can be a predicate for RICO and honest services fraud, even 20-year offenses. That`s the kind of crime federal prosecutors used to flip senior members who we used to call chief lieutenants of a criminal conspiracy.
MELBER: Seth Waxman citing the term of art in federal precedent for when the bribery liability attaches to a nominee might have been a more impressive legal point than anything you`ve said, John. I don`t want to pick you guys against each other. I want to go to -- I just want to give that dig in there. Natasha, on the wider ambit of this, the prosecutors are laying out in more than four examples why collusion conspiracies are criminal. Walk us through your analysis of the wider politics of this. Why are we hearing about this as the Manafort trial begins? What it kind of tell do you see it as?
NATASHA BERTRAND, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Right. So what`s interesting about this talking point is that it actually emerged in the right-wing media kind of around the time that Jim Comey was fired as FBI Director. So it seems to emerge anytime there`s kind of a crisis going on with regard to the President`s position within the Russia investigation. So now we see it emerging just after this revelation that Michael Cohen is willing to testify to prosecutors that you know Trump not only knew about the Trump Tower meeting but actually approved it and of course days before the man afford hearing which is not going to focus on collusion, it`s not going to focus on Russia. We saw today in the opening statements that really didn`t have anything to do with that. It has to do with bank fraud tax fraud etcetera. But still, there has to be a nervousness there because of course, looming over the entire trial is the fact that Paul Manafort is at the center of questions about whether the campaign did conspire is a better word than collude with the Russians during the election so this is not a new talking point. It`s been out there. It seems to kind of you know resurface every time the White House seems really scared about something but it`s definitely one that is a conscious effort to shift the goalposts here.
MELBER: John, did you ever see There Will Be Blood, the movie?
FLANNERY: No, I didn`t. there`s a great scene in there where he keeps screaming I drink your milkshake and that`s sort of what Seth feels he`s done to you legally in the -- in the segment. I`m not taking sides on that. I just want to give you a final -- a final word if Seth was indeed the more arcane legal analyst tonight. I`m not taking sides.
FLANNERY: Well, in the case of bribery, you know, it takes only two to tango and therefore it`s not treated the same way as conspiracy because necessary to bribery is that there be at least two people. But the thing that`s interesting to me about a conspiracy is you don`t actually have to achieve the object of the conspiracy. If they had the meeting and they had these conversations to advance the conspiracy that is to do a quid pro quo with Russia, they`re stuck even if they didn`t do anything after that. Now, I believe that they have and your question is will we ever find out that any person or persons is involved in this and I think you can take that to the bank, it`s just a question of time.
MELBER: We don`t know -- but your point about how many people involved goes to how hard it is to prove the case. Anyone watching at home wondering what law school is like, it`d be like if this segment lasted three years. And who wants that? My special thanks to all of our great experts tonight. Up ahead, Beyonce breaking a color barrier at Vogue. That`s an interesting story. Also, comedian D.L. Hughley getting serious on police shootings in the Trump era, he joins me. And former Governor Christine Todd Whitman says Trump is now officially "unfit for office." She wants him to resign. The Governor joins me for her first T.V. interview since making that statement. That is next.
MELBER: These are live pictures in Tampa, Florida. Donald Trump holding a political rally for Ron DeSantis for Governor there. He has bear-hugged Trump as much as anyone in the U.S. Congress in a GOP primary that help pushed him, the help looks like to the top of the polls. But while some Republicans are obviously standing by Trump, there are others who say it`s time to change things. My next guest, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, served in the Bush 43 Cabinet as EPA Administrator and she is now calling formally on Donald Trump to resign. She makes out her case in a new piece where she says Trump is unfit to be President and she`s calling on her fellow Republicans to "put aside the GOP label as hard as that may be and demonstrate the leadership our country needs by calling on this President to step down. Christine Todd Whitman joins me. This is your first interview since this piece came out. I appreciate you coming to THE BEAT with it.
CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: Pleasure. Good to be here.
MELBER: What moved you to state this now?
WHITMAN: The behaviors been building the erratic behavior of the President but particularly the way he handled the meeting in NATO and the European Union and then the meeting with Putin. I`m sorry, when you dis our allies in the way that he did, treat them the way he did, and then you cozy up to somebody like Vladimir Putin who was not our friend, he is not going to be our ally. And he to my mind really forgot his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. And frankly, Putin is somebody with whom you`ve got to deal very strongly and you cannot assume that he is going to be your friend.
MELBER: Do you think that conduct which took you to this position reflects bad judgment on the part of Donald Trump or potentially something worse?
WHITMAN: Certainly bad judgment without a question. There`s bad judgment there. Whether it`s anything worse or not, I think we`ll find out over time but you know, it`s hard to know with this President because it changes so every day. And within a day you`ll get two or three times, you get a different story and a different take on things coming out of the White House itself. So it`s hard to know where there`s anything more behind it rather than just bad, bad judgment. And the fact that he likes strong men. I mean, we know that. He likes Kim Jong-un and thinks he`s a great guy. I mean, here`s somebody who offs half his family and anybody who disagrees with him. Putin is the same way, the kinds of things he`s done. I just got back on Saturday from the Republic of Georgia not our state of Georgia but overseas and you see there I was doing a pre-election mission there and you the heavy hand of Russia always in the background. I mean they`re not playing in this election as much as they have in past ones but the kinds of things that we`re seeing today, they have fake news, the influence that they`re that they`re peddling, the fear-mongering that they`re doing it`s very reminiscent of what we see happening in this country and it`s very, very disturbing if you care about the United States of America.
MELBER: You`re a former Republican elected official.
WHITMAN: I am.
MELBER: The party has long touted itself on national security, on service, on loyalty to the United States. What do you think when you see this Republican President and his allies say even if they did collude with Russia to impact the election that`s not a crime.
WHITMAN: I find it extraordinarily offensive. I mean, frankly I don`t care whether it`s a crime in the criminal code book or not, it is against the best interests of the United States. You do not collude. And for a president to get up there and say you know, well, maybe I did -- of course, again, the story has changed right along. At first, there was no collusion and well, it doesn`t matter if I did or not. It does matter and words matter. That`s the other thing about what happened in over there in Europe. It`s the words that he uses, the language that he uses that confuses people, that undermines our country as a world leader that has now started to isolate us and we`re going to need allies. They`re important. We`ve worked with them before. We need them. And Putin is never going to be our ally neither is Kim Jong-un.
MELBER: Your counterpart Chris Christie you both held the same post, Republican governor of New Jersey. He once claimed to be a moderate. He has been very loyally defending Donald Trump. What happened to Chris Christie?
WHITMAN: Well, I mean, I think he -- I had known Chris well enough to think that he believes now what he is -- what he`s saying and he is a supporter of the -- of the Republican President and I think it goes that far. And I think at some point he was hoping for a little higher position than he`s been able to get there. But even so he --
MELBER: Higher than nothing?
WHITMAN: Higher than nothing, yes. I think he was --
MELBER: You didn`t said it, I said it.
WHITMAN: You said it. And I think it`s --
MELBER: He has no position. He wants to be higher than nothing.
WHITMAN: He has position. He was hoping was going to have a position. But also it`s because he`s a loyal Republican. I mean, there are people who will tell you that well, some of the emails that have gotten and tweets and posting since that op-ed have been no anatomically challenging shall we say. But the language used which is really too bad. Well, it`s 70-30 in favor versus against but -- and there have been a few of those who are against who are thoughtful, whose positions I understand. I get it. I respect them. The rest of them it`s just the kind of language you wouldn`t let your fifth-grader use.
WHITMAN: And when we worry so much about bullying in our schools and the outcome of that, I think we`ve got the world`s number one bully at the head of the country. Not good, not good for us long term.
MELBER: Governor Whitman, you`re speaking to some of the reaction you`ve got and I know a lot of other people have been heartened by this at a time where what`s happening in this country has raised questions about who will stand up so it was very interesting to see your piece. I really appreciate you coming on THE BEAT to talk about it.
WHITMAN: Thank you. My pleasure.
MELBER: Governor Christine Todd Whitman, thank you very much. Up ahead, D.L. Hughley joins me. We`ll be right back.
MELBER: Here`s a fact. African-American men are three times more likely than white men to face a killing by the police. 12 unarmed African Americans were fatally shot by police officers this year all too often. The conversations can focus on the victims` behavior. What were they wearing or how did they act? What were they doing in that neighborhood anyway?
My next guest has written a book on this topic. You may know him for his comedy or you may know him also for the incisive points he makes on these issues. D.L. Hughley whose specials, of course, has appeared on HBO and Showtime. The book is called How Not To Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People. D.L., quite a title. And obviously, this is the news. I got a fact check you. If you`re the author of the book, I don`t think you`re a white people.
D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: No. But you know, I think they`re so adept at telling us what to do and like what to wear and how we should comply. And but we`ve seen time after time where black people did comply and they still with (INAUDIBLE) still being the latest case in point. I think America just doesn`t have a problem with Americans -- Africa -- African-Americans or people of color being slain at the hands of the police. I mean, you`ll hear a lot of white groups say well, the most policemen are good apples. There are a few bad apples, right? That may be true in a lot of neighborhoods but those bad apples, those tend to live are working in our neighborhoods.
MELBER: I wonder what you`re doing in this book as a prominent successful black man with a platform who is listened to where you`re using the book to explain that you don`t have to personally be murdered by an officer to have it affect your life, your civil rights, the way you feel and live as you walk around with your family or your kids or whomever. Walk us through how you`re using the book to explore that.
HUGHLEY: I think the book is simply this. It`s not an -- it`s not an indictment of society but it is expectant of it. I think society by and large has not come for black people or people of color being killed by the police. There`s always the presumption of innocence, unwanted presumption of guilt. It is simply this. If we are what we say we are, then we should be troubled by this.
MELBER: And I wonder if you can also speak to the fact that while so much is polarized across political lines in this nation right now, this is an issue where even black conservatives have come out and said yes, no, this is what it`s like. Here`s Tim Scott who I know you and I know him a little bit and I don`t think you guys agree on a whole lot. Here he is speaking on this very issue that`s in your book. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: In the course of one year I`ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers. Not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year as an elected official.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUGHLEY: You can`t find a black person in this country that can`t tell you about the negative experiences they have with the police. Conversely, you can`t tell -- talk to a lot of white people that had similar experiences with black people. I think we`re mid to them, like a lot of us don`t -- a lot of them don`t know who we are. They know we are from the media so they have this preconceived notion of us. Like I don`t really involve the police because they`re doing -- they`re acting a mission statement. That mission has always been in terms of communities of color not to protect and serve but to keep us where we belong. Keep us in our neighborhoods and out of places that make other people uncomfortable. It`s telling that almost every time there`s an interaction with the police it has the propensity to spiral out of control of some unattended consequence happening.
MELBER: Right. You`re talking about the confluence of over enforcement, of profiling, and then escalation, and what a medley that`s been and then we`re only covering -- we`re only seeing sometimes even the worst case is when we have a lot of folks, trustworthy, knowledgeable, thoughtful folks explaining this is a daily grinding reality. D.L. Hughley, thank you for coming on THE BEAT and talk to us about this. The book, How Not To Get Shot: And Other Advice From -- yes -- White People. Thank you, D.L.
HUGHLEY: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate it.
MELBER: One more thing to tell you. Beyonce is breaking a color barrier at iconic fashion magazine Vogue. She`s taking over the very much (INAUDIBLE) September issue and using that power to hire what is surprising but is the first time they`ve ever use a black photographer to actually shoot the magazine`s cover. 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell has the honor for the first time in their history. It`s pretty interesting way to take over the magazine. That does it for me. I`ll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "HARDBALL" starts now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END