Secret recordings in the Trump White House. TRANSCRIPT: 8/13/2018, The Beat with Ari Melber

Guests: John Flannery; Cathy Fleming; Mara Gay; Rich Benjamin; Michael Hirschorn;

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: August 13, 2018 Guest: John Flannery; Cathy Fleming; Mara Gay; Rich Benjamin; Michael Hirschorn;

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: That`s it for today. We will back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. Now time for the aux-gate with Ari Melber.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Katy, I can`t gate to see where this goes.

TUR: I got nothing.

MELBER: Nothing?

TUR: Ari, come on! Come on, Ari, start your show! I like that Instagram picture you posted of us, by the way.

MELBER: Wow, see, I didn`t think you had anything because you said you didn`t have anything, at the end, it turns out you had something up your sleeve.

TUR: Ari Melber, is the honey badger on today?

MELBER: Not today but you never know until you watch the whole show.

Katy Tur, thank you, as always.

TUR: Bye, Ari.

MELBER: We are reporting several big stories tonight. There is new heat on the Trump tower with Russians after President Trump offered a kind of lawyerly defense of his son`s role in it. We will get into why that matters later.

Also, Bob Mueller`s prosecutors are resting their case for the first time tonight. They are telling the court they have shown enough evidence to convict Paul Manafort. And I`m joined tonight by one of the top federal prosecutors who has worked inside that very court for years. He even personally trained several of Mueller`s prosecutors.

And later, We have BEAT special report on current meddling in the 2018 election. How to spot it and how to fight it.

But the top story in politics tonight is a President caught on tape again without his knowledge by one of his own former aide.

So before we go any further, join me in considering this reality show, dumpster fire of projection and irony haunting the White House. And note that it is all of Donald Trump`s own making.

And when it comes to secret tapes, Donald Trump seems to keep getting himself on the wrong end of them. A little context. It was Donald Trump who claimed he might have tapes of James Comey and claimed other people may have illegally taped him at Trump tower, Trump accusing former President Obama of that.

But at this point in this presidency, tonight is a night where we noticed the only tapes that have actually appeared that have actually aired across America that have actually embarrassed the people caught on said tapes are the tapes made by Trump`s own lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen and now his own reality show "Apprentice," Omarosa, who has gone from heralding the Trump train to making him out tonight as a public enemy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OMAROSA MANIGAULT-NEWMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STAFF: When I say Trump train, I want you to say choo-choo. You all ready? Trump train!

CROWD: Choo-choo!

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Trump train!

CROWD: Choo-choo!

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Trump train!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Those were the days.

Tonight, the story is new reports coming off of Omarosa`s book, rollout tour that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were also caught on her tapes and in-change that does sound fairly innoxiously, the couple wishing her the best and asserting they didn`t know that she was being fired at the time.

And also, I should note in fairness, not all these tapes are bad for the White House. Omarosa`s breach of protocol to bring a recording device into the situation room has drawn her far more criticism of then her apparent target, chief of staff John Kelly who, according to government rules was within his rights to expect privacy there in her departure, since he was chief of staff.

There is also a new tape excerpt obtained by NBC News revealing Omarosa also had some phone access to President Trump. It features him claiming he had no idea she was being let go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Omarosa. Omarosa, what`s going on. I just saw in the news you`re thinking about leaving. What happened?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: General Kelly came to me and said that you guys wanted me to leave.

TRUMP: No, I -- nobody even told me about it?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Wow.

TRUMP: You know, they run a big operation, but I didn`t know it. I didn`t know nat.

I don`t love you leaving at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That expert is obviously open to interpretation. Donald Trump could be telling the truth and he was out of the loop about her removal which in itself may not mean much if she already had a limited role. The President is not involved in every personnel decision even in a normal non- reality show, White House.

Trump also could have been lying to get through at somewhat difficult phone call, Omarosa arguing today that Trump is prepped to lie to the American people on "The Daily.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So if the comes team prepped the President to lie to Lester Holt.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: They prep him to lie everyday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever ask the question, why are we lying?

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: All the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ant the answer was --

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: This is how they do it. This is the Trump administration at its best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This is how we do it, little Montel Jordan there.

Now Donald Trump is hitting back at his former apprentice aide by giving her new nickname on twitter demeaning her with this brief exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you feel -- by Omarosa, sir?

TRUMP: Low life, she`s a low life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This is not another plot twist. This is not a cliffhanger. This is another step in the (INAUDIBLE) march of a reality show presidency that is not so much staffed as it is cast, that is not so much planned as it is scripted. And that in the end, is not driven by debate which assumes people actually holding beliefs beyond their self-interest and self- promotion.

This isn`t a debate tonight. This is just more content, which is why the self-made characters look so at ease in situations most people would find uncomfortable and undesirable.

But we know this is their desire. This is what they want, as we`ve known about many of Trump`s flamboyant aides for some time. Some of them want to use you but some of them want to get used by you.

Joining me now we have Michael Hirschorn who created the very concept to celebrity reality at VH1 with hits like Flavor of Love. I love the 80s Celebrity Rehab. He is a critic of importing that style of governance, political analyst Rich Benjamin, the author to "Whytopia" and "New York Times" editorial board member Mara Gay.

Thanks to all of you for this very important discussion. I don`t know. What do you think?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, NEW YORK TIMES: I actually think you are spot on. I don`t think that this is a different story. I think that this is what we call in journalism, more color for the same story that has already being written about the Trump White House, which is that despite promising Americans that he was going to hire the best people, actually President Trump has shown that the people who are in the White House are people you wouldn`t even necessarily want to be at your dinner table because you can`t trust them, because of the lack of respect that they bring to the office and to the American people.

And I just -- it was one of those days for me where I said, imagine if Barack Obama had done this. The double standard, not just for the first black President compared to President Trump but also quite frankly at this point for Republicans and the latitude they are sometimes given remarkable.

MELBER: You think America would be less patient with Barack Obama making all these hiring and firing decisions?

GAY: Well, I will leave it to the imagination. But I mean, I think when you look at the quote-unquote "scandals" during his administration, Barack Obama`s, the wearing of a tan suit, we are so far beyond that at this point. And I think it`s very clear that race is part of that, but also just this general disintegration of our politics into this reality carnival. It makes me sad.

MELBER: So Michael, because you are familiar with both this medium but also its limitations, these are times, as we think about what`s in the news and what`s important and what the President is doing with his time, where I do struggle. I struggle to even understand what we are doing. And so I reach for the poet method man who said, is it real, son, tell me if it`s real, son, is it really real son?

MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, PRESIDENT/CEO, EH ENTERTAINMENT: I thought you were going to reference the Decatchy 69YG right now. But you went deeper for me. I think it`s unbearably sad and it is unbearably tragic. And my concern actually expands to the coverage that has given to this issue. You know, they are very successful, both Omarosa and the President at controlling attention. And their controlling attention. And Omarosa is going to keep controlling attention.

MELBER: But this is negative attention for Donald Trump. I understand that point and I`m willing to debate it with you. This is very negative attention for him on soft spot issues for him on something he has told supporters is credible and positive previously. And it is on a day when politically, he has finally gotten, we are going to get to this later on the show, but he would want, I would argue, the a block of the news shows to be about the firing of the FBI agent who was anti-Trump deep state. So does the destruction argument really apply on a day like this?

HIRSCHORN: I think so. I think if we are going to stick with the beef metaphor that this is in in fact, within the context also of a reality show, kind of a hip-hop beef, right? And a hip hop beef almost by definition benefits at least one or both of the parties.

And I think - so, in this sense, anything that provides distraction is a positive. And so, this actually represents a new type of distraction that is interesting as drama, but you never know if it`s real or fake.

I would even posit that it is possible that these tapes actually are completely fabricated. The quality of the tape is too good. The whole thing kind of smells funky to me.

MELBER: Well, and when you say that it`s like a beef where both sides benefits because the conflict escalates and elevates them to some degree. Of course, Rich, this goes to the famous saying, what`s beef? Beef is when you need two tweets to go to sleep.

RICH BENJAMIN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: And Ari, you begin with that analogy that the White House is a reality show and Trump likes to conduct it like a reality show. The problem with that metaphor is we are not viewers, we are citizens, we deserve better and we cannot opt out of this reality show on our terms.

The world in many case is going to fire and then we are sort of saddled with all this mess. And we are distracted, as Michael has said. And so, this business, to your point, what about Scaramucci? What about Pruitt? It is just a parade, horror show of disastrous hires. And some in the main reality show and some are just sheer incompetence. So distinguishing between incompetence and reality TV is becoming more difficult.

MELBER: And let me say, Michael, watch then to your point, the idea that this is a constructive beef for their benefit is drama. Here was Donald Trump and Omarosa on their failed reality TV dating show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Omarosa.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Since you have been very good for me. And you are my pal. But, you know, I would love to have you meet somebody. Is there anybody that can tame you? I have 12 men. I want you to go out to Las Vegas, meet these guys and you will decide whether or not there`s somebody for you.

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: I hope I can find them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: First of all, note, that was a binder full of men, for anyone who remembers, that`s a binder full of men. But it goes to your point that these two are collaborators.

HIRSCHORN: Yes absolutely. And I think they have been collaborators for a long time. You know, anyone who is a reality show villain is a reality show villain for life. There`s really no way out of it and this really is a continuation of their relationship by other means.

GAY: I`m going to say Donald Trump really only seems to have two litmus tests to work in that White House. One is to make him look extremely good, and the other is to be red meat for his base. And when those are the litmus tests that you use to hire you don`t necessarily get the best people.

MELBER: I want you all to stay with me. I want to bring is Pulitzer prize winning journalist Jonathan Capehart.

You were speaking to Omarosa when a lot of this was considered more of a pipe dream in 2015. Let`s take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: You have to understand the dynamic of celebrity feud, honey, I made a career out of celebrity feuds. He is selling the sizzle not the stake. And you all are getting caught up on the sizzle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: What have we learned?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, OPINION WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST: A lot. That conversation happened in August 2015. It was the first Saturday after Donald Trump participated in his first debate in the Republican primary. I wanted us to bring in a Trump whisperer, someone who could try to explain him to us because we figured he would do something in that debate to require us to talk about it and talk about him. And that interview with Omarosa has stuck with me for three years because everything she said in August 2015 turned out to be true.

The thing she said was, Jonathan, reality television has taken over America. Donald Trump is the reality television king. He is now bringing that to Presidential politics and you are making a mistake if you try to view him through a Presidential prism. You need to view him through this pop culture reality television prism. And I was having a hard time with that. Three years later I have no hard time at all. I completely see it. Everything I know about Donald Trump and learned about Donald Trump I learned from Omarosa.

MELBER: Well, And Michael, in that point, that is Jonathan saying something you said as well, what is the culture conversation that is tapped into. And the celebrity status of Donald Trump which was held against him not only by the Republican establishment on the right but by the elites and what you might call center and liberal elites, obviously did play well in part of the country. He didn`t get more votes but he came close.

Take a listen to the John Kelly exchange where it is hard to imagine that John Kelly fits into the beef feud the same way because he seems very much against all of this. Here`s the audio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANIGAULT-NEWMAN: Is the President aware of what`s going on?

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Don`t go down the road. This is a non-negotiable discussion. This has to do with some pretty serious integrity violations. So I`ll let it go at that. The staff and everyone on the staff works for me, not the President. And - so after your departure I`ll in form him if he gets interested on where you may be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Is that part real?

HIRSCHORN: They sound like they are in bed together.

MELBER: But they are not. They allegedly in the situation room.

HIRSCHORN: Allegedly. The problem is I think what`s happening right now is everything is becoming an allegedly, right. Part of the deterioration that the Trump administration has created where you don`t trust anything. And I think the entire country is in a state of paranoia. What if this is real? I have no idea.

MELBER: Right. But I think the idea is that John Kelly, based on what we know, and the fact, that darn fact, she was removed from the White House. There is government payroll. She no longer draws that check. That`s publicly disclosed. She doesn`t go there everyday and John Kelly was the one that removed here. So there are some facts that are out of this even amidst the drama. And that goes to -- this is what John Kelly, the chief of staff is spending his time on.

BENJAMIN: Right. But what`s the accountability for that? I mean, if all of these conventions are so slippery, this true they are so slippery, he is actively creating an atmosphere of paranoia, then what is the accountability and the tangibility of these facts.

And so, they are facts but then he gets to sot of determine, oh, she is this and she is that and he has the sort of determine the parameters of the fact if it were not for journalists keeping him accountable?

MELBER: And so, Jonathan, do view this as something in Washington that plays out for a few more days and a few more tapes? Or has any other long term significance for this President?

CAPEHART: I think we are now in Omarosa`s hands. And she initially said, I have got tapes. The initial reaction in Washington was, oh, sure you do. Then, on "Meet the Press" yesterday she drops a tape that you just played. And we hear that it`s not only the chief of staff but it`s in the situation room, she upped the ante this morning on the "Today" show with a tape of a conversation that she had with President Trump saying that she had just been fired.

Now, there`s reports she`s got recordings of Jared and Ivanka. She could keep this going, Omarosa could keep this going for however long and however many tapes she has. I think it then requires us in the press to determine whether we have had enough.

MELBER: Mara Gay, Rich Benjamin, Michael Hirschorn and Jonathan Capehart, thanks to each of you.

Also, as soon as hour show is over, I should note, related, Omarosa will be live on Chris Matthews with "Hardball."

Coming up, Donald Trump takes a major shift in the defense of the Trump tower meeting. Does it suggest follow-up?

Meanwhile, the feds rest their big case against Manafort today. I have an ex-prosecutor who has argued cases before the same judge.

And later, special report on Facebook actually taking proactive measures to stop midterm hacking and what some activists are saying about it.

I`m Ari Melber. You are watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Donald Trump has a new defense today of the infamous Trump tower meeting. If there was follow-up, he wasn`t in on it. Trump speaking in a new report about his son and says quote "Don received notoriety for a brief meeting that many politics would have taken. But most importantly to the best of my knowledge nothing happened after the meeting concluded."

Trump has said before nothing came in the meeting. Today, this caveat does stand out. It is quite lawyerly to the best of my knowledge which is a kind of wiggle room, especially if there is more information about the meeting that his team knows might later come out or that Bob Mueller already has. The larger context is we have seen the stories about this pivotal meeting change before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President`s son tonight is confirming that meeting to NBC News calling it simply introductory, saying they discussed a Russian adoption program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump Jr. now acknowledges he was promised information about Hillary Clinton -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An email from the President`s son responding to an offer of negative information on information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government saying, quote, "if it`s what you say, I love it".

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly didn`t dictate. He weighed in.

MELBER: Trump`s lawyers admitting for the first time Trump wrote and dictated a statement that tried to hide what really happened to the Trump meeting with the Russians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as this incident id concern, this is all of it.

DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP`S SON: This is everything. This is everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: This is everything, to the best of some people`s knowledge.

Let`s go right to our expert panel. I`m joined by two federal prosecutors, John Flannery and Kathy Fleming.

John, I hear from people in and around Trump world, who sometimes complain that these stories never go away. That it is unfair to them. Today seems like a day where this is a big story because of Donald Trump talking about it in a new way and Donald Trump Jr.`s conduct. What is your analysis?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the problem with Trump senior is the best of his knowledge is always something we have to extract because he never gives it to us. If he makes an admission against interest, that`s reliable. If he makers an incredibly false statement like the meeting was about adoption, then that tells us something, that he`s hiding something.

And then we can quote impute knowledge to him. We can take information that is in emails and conduct and say what he really did. For example, after the June 9th meeting he held a press conference and he talked about Hillary and emails. And then, we had the discussion from June onto the convention the democratic convention talking about we have to get something because we can`t get the Democratic Party unified.

And then on July 24th, there`s a release and we find out that Wasserman Schultz has been double dealing. And that helped split the party and Trump comments on that. And then Trump on the 27th, invites the Russians to give him emails.

So, it`s really nice to say what knowledge he has, but it`s a reservation protecting him from his own son going down the drain, I think. And he always reserves something for himself.

MELBER: Well, and the relationship between these two, has really become significant, which goes to how involved you want your family in business or the business of politics. Take a look at a much older archive footage by Don Junior talking about what he was taught by his father the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP JR.: 7:00 in the morning, I`m going to school, hugs, kisses, and he used to say couple of things. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs, I think a great lesson for any kid. But then followed up with don`t trust anyone ever. And you know, he would follow it up two seconds later, do you trust me? I would say of course. You are my dad. He thought I was a total failure. He thought my son`s a loser, because I couldn`t even understand what he meant at the time. I mean, it`s not something you tell a 4-year- old, correct. But it really means something to him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CATHY FLEMING, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, why put it in your kids lunch to say I love you when you can say, don`t trust anyone ever to get him ready for the real world. If you were trying to teach him not to trust anyone what better way than to be sending out tweets that are unsolicited and really have no meaning in the context of what is going on in the case in front of everybody in the public on that case than saying I had nothing to do with this, to the best of my knowledge, nothing happened.

I don`t understand why he would put this statement out, it is not even a tweet. It id clearly a lawyered up statement. It was given to the "Washington Post." Why give it out today? Are you trying to distract from other stories? Is there something that is about to come out from someone else that you need to get this out and get ahead of things. It really is kind of irrelevant, except that now Donald Trump is putting it out there and bringing attention back to his son. It doesn`t make sense to me you would do that.

MELBER: How do you think prosecutors look at this when anything that Donald Trump Jr. would have done was effectively done on behalf of the campaign and his father. It wasn`t self-interest, per se.

FLEMING: Well, what Donald Trump knows or doesn`t know clearly has to be either from his son or from other people that are involved in it. We know that Michael Cohen has already sent out signals that he is going to say that Trump knew about it ahead of time. We know that other people whoa re looking to seek favor with the government may try to flip and say he had knowledge about it. And the fact is that whatever happened will have to be proven down the road.

I don`t know whether he thinks he will be helping things by continuing to give more statements. But any good lawyer will say the fewer statements somebody makes in the press the better. The fewer statements a prosecutor has the better.

MELBER: Well, you used the term, "good lawyer."

And John, that`s a term that you have reserved and refuse to apply to Rudy Giuliani, like you, is a former federal prosecutor.

THE BEAT team here went through his new claim Sunday, which can be fact checked not through the archive or other facts but by playing Rudy Giuliani`s prior statements. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE NATION: I just want to be clear exactly what happened in that conversation with Comey about Michael Flynn. What exactly did President Trump say?

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: There was no conversation about Michael Flynn.

TAPPER: You told ABC News last month that the President told Comey quote "can you give him a break?" Now you are saying that they never had --.

GIULIANI: I never told ABC that. It is crazy. What I said was, that is what Comey is saying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is saying that the President was asking him, directing him, in his words to let the Michael Flynn investigation do. He didn`t direct him to do that.

GIULIANI: What he said to him was, can you --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, He took it as direction. Comey said he took it as direction.

GIULIANI: That`s OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: John?

FLANNERY: You know, the thing about this that`s distressing to me, is not only can Rudy can`t possibly find a straight line and maybe Trump junior`s dad should have told him, don`t lie when he was giving that prescription. And maybe Rudy can use the same thing.

But you have to ask yourself, if Trump ever does testify and tells us one of these stories Rudy is telling, is Rudy teaching him to change his story this way? And as Rudy exposing himself at least publicly in the public domain as a politician to lying about what happened? But this is at the same time when we have a criminal investigation going on and he is saying ridiculous things that are contradicted by himself, by documents, by witness. And soon, after Manafort is convicted, then we will see -- I think a series of indictments and one of them may very well be Trump junior.

This is an American tragedy and we don`t seem to be able to awake from this awakening nightmare. It`s a terrible time.

MELBER: Right. And there are certainly lies caught on tape and for many people a nightmare.

I have to state, of course, Paul Manafort presumed innocent until proven guilty. And we don`t know what this jury will do in the D.C. trial.

Appreciate always the expertise from you, John Flannery and Cathy Fleming, two very experienced prosecutors.

Straight ahead, we turn to another Mueller`s team resting its case against Paul Manafort. The former prosecutor who has argued cased before this judge and trained several on Mueller`s team joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: As we mentioned Bob Mueller`s prosecutors rested their case against Trump`s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, a conviction could put him in jail potential for the rest of his life.

Now the defense is expected to be brief. Manafort himself expected to off out of taking the stand. Closing arguments could come as soon as tomorrow. Now defendants in their lawyers have many reasons, of course, of deciding whether or not to take the stand. We have seen Manafort choke up in hot seat in the past testifying before Congress about a public housing scandal in 1989 and admitting what he did amounted to influence pedaling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The technical term for what we do and what law firm associations in the professional groups do is lobbying. For purposes of today, I will admit that in a narrow sense, some people might term it influence pedaling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: That didn`t seem to go overwhelmed with everyone. Manafort then went on dodge some of the chairman`s question and at times, he appeared rattle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANAFORT: We had glad that housing office had a mayor --.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: That didn`t seem to go over well with everyone. Manafort then went on to dodge some of the chairman`s questions and at times he appeared rattled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANAFORT: We have got a housing office, sir. It had a mayor, it didn`t have a housing authority though, sir, so we couldn`t go and sit into -- we went to the appropriate housing authority as we understood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am asking you a different question Mr. Manafort.

MANAFORT: But I`m getting to that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I`m asking a very simple question. I`m asking you to address the question I`m asking you. I`m enormously patient and courteous but I expect the courtesy of a response the questions I ask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I`m joined now by Gene Rossi, a former Prosecutor in the Justice Department Tax Division, for two decades a Federal Prosecutor in that same Eastern District of Virginia arguing before Judge Ellis over 500 total times and you were inside the courtroom last week. It is great to have you at the table.

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you very much.

MELBER: You have a lot of experience here.

ROSSI: Yes.

MELBER: Big picture, what is the severity of the case the prosecutors have been able to put forward against Manafort now that they`ve rested and what impact you think it`s having on this now quite well-known Judge Ellis who you`ve been before.

ROSSI: Well, let me talk about George Ellis briefly. For twenty years, I had seven trials in front of him and I appeared over 500 times. He`s demanding, he`s diligent, he`s brilliant, he doesn`t use a velvet hammer, he uses a sledgehammer with nails and I am covered with scars and wounds from George Ellis over those 20 years. You have to roll with it.

Now, let`s talk about the amount of evidence that has been presented. In every criminal tax case, you got to look at greed, lies, and manipulation. And in this case, the greed is enormous, $16 million not declared, the number of lies is too many to count, the manipulation of his tax preparers and bank officials is also enormous. If I had a bet money and I don`t have a lot of money, Paul Manafort it will be found guilty of five counts of filing a false tax return. He probably will be found guilty of several counts of bank fraud plus the foreign bank account requirement.

Do I think he has a chance of a hung jury? Maybe. I don`t know what they`re going to put on for evidence tomorrow but I do know this. If they put Paul Manafort on the stand they are crazy. And those attorneys who are representing Paul Manafort are some of the best of the best. They`re from the tax division and Department of Justice. I`m familiar with all three. They`ve been doing a great job but they don`t need to put Paul Manafort on the stand.

MELBER: As you know from your extensive trial advocacy, the two things you`re saying bump together because it is only in a situation where a defendant is very worried about getting convicted that they might need to Hail Mary of going on the stand because of the burden of course with those prosecutors the chair used to sit in. As to whether Paul Manafort would help himself or not, he does have a law degree. He does see himself as a master strategist but playing a little more from what we showed in the intro there are a lot of reasons to think he doesn`t come off that well on the stand. Take a look again in that grilling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it seem to you improper?

MANAFORT: We did not think that was in improper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, do you now? You think that`s -- I mean, here so seemingly the point -- no, I want you to answer the questions.

MANAFORT: That seems to me improper but I guess the point is getting lost in the process here is that that there was -- the fact that the program had been funded, didn`t mean that our project --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No it is not getting lost, Mr. Manafort but we are very clear about it. You know what, let me ask you --

MANAFORT: We felt that risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, great risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Can you get away with those kinds of answers in front of Judge Ellis?

ROSSI: Absolutely not. And if Paul Manafort acted like that from a Judge Ellis, Judge Ellis is prone to interrupt a witness, prone to interrupt the prosecutor in a defense, I would guarantee you that Judge Ellis would interrupt and conduct his own cross-examination. I have seen it in my seven trials.

MELBER: And before we go I want to ask you, is there anything you`ve seen in this case that suggests that Mueller is close to being done or far from being done or looking at other things?

ROSSI: There are three what I call red flags and loud gongs, they`re coming out in the last few days. The first red flag and loud gong that points towards this investigation is not done is that sidebar that was held evolving Rick Gates. They tried to cross-examine, they had a sidebar it was about the Trump campaign, that was a long sidebar, that sidebar was put under seal. That`s a red flag because Rick Gates worked for the convention, he worked for the campaign, he worked for the transition committee, and he also worked a little bit for Trump`s organization.

The other red flag is something from Friday, August 10th, page 2045 of the transcript. There`s a sidebar about a conspirator statement from Stephen Calk of the Federal Savings Bank and in that sidebar, Mr. Andrew said that Mr. Caulk is facing other criminal liability. That suggests to me that Stephen Calk who was in a high-level advisory economic position and was working with the transition and the inauguration committee, he may one epic conspiring with Manafort to do bad things, public corruption or without Manafort he was doing something involving public corruption. This is not over. Absolutely.

The third red flag is this. George Papadopoulos at 10:23 this morning, a protective order was filed for his sentencing in September. That says to me there`s a possibility that the information at that sentencing may involve a lot of cooperation involving Russia, possibly. It`s not over.

MELBER: Right. You`re talking about whether Gates is testifying anywhere else regarding the Trump Organization whether there`s other criminal liability and what exactly Papadopoulos has put up why it needs to be under seal which is interesting to say the least. Gene Rossi, thanks for coming by at THE BEAT.

ROSSI: Hey, thank you, sir.

MELBER: I really appreciate your expertise. Ahead, there are questions about obstruction and Donald Trump celebrating as I mentioned earlier in the show the ouster of an FBI agent he had targeted repeatedly in public and on Twitter. But first next up, I have a special report on Facebook, Russia, and how the attacks on U.S. elections are shifting and going offline.

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MELBER: It is well known that Donald Trump will not condemn Russian attacks n U.S. election systems, not in 2016 and not in the midterms. But right now we want to take a special report, look at how these attacks are morphing into new and dangerous forms including real offline activities that affect the midterms. Consider that already a top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee says these 2018 online attacks are from Russia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Only three months before the 2018 elections, Russian backed operatives continue to infiltrate and manipulate social media to hijack the national conversation and set Americans against each other.

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MELBER: Russian hackers are working to target Senators individually including Democrat Claire McCaskill and they`ve already reportedly penetrated at least one voter registration system. All of this has led Donald Trump`s own CIA Director to say this campaign is continuing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: In regards to Russian involvement in the midterm elections, we continue to see a pervasive messaging campaign.

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MELBER: So that`s what`s happening and yet there are many including Trump allied conservatives who argue that Russia`s influence online or on Facebook is laughable. The debate here is over whether what happens online matters. And there`s reporting that shows this is not just about what`s online or out in sub mythical cyberspace. Facebook is a crucial tool of ongoing foreign espionage precisely because it is a hub for real people inside our country to do real things on the ground which is why it`s so important to continue to expose these efforts to understand how online right now there are these allegedly foreign Facebook campaigns to target and organize real world events.

So before we even get into the new stuff what you might call meddling 2.0, let`s make sure we remember what Mueller already busted during 2016. There was that ad that promoted a down with Hillary event offline in New York or an event from the heart of Texas group, Get Ready To Secede. USA Today founded in 2016 there were over 3,000 Facebook ads created by a Russian group indicted by Mueller to promote ads designed to inflame race-related tensions. That includes the Black Lives Matter group in 2016. So all of that we know.

Here`s what`s happening now, America this weekend was bracing for this very device seven potentially dangerous set of events at the Unite The Right Rally in Washington. And while that was going on, while people were getting ready for that, there was a foreign effort trying to basically gin up a lot of discord through the web and online this weekend. You`re about to see one of these efforts. We`re showing it to you because it`s fake, not real but it was trying to exploit this weekend`s events.

A Facebook page called the resistors promoting what it called feminist activism but it wasn`t real, it was an American, it was created in March 2017. Facebook would go on to report the page was once moderated by and shared by those fake Russia linked accounts. This summer in June the page would create a counter-protest event to Unite The Right. And that eventually caught up real people like here`s one of them Brendan Orsinger who contacted the page to get involved in the counter-protest effort. In fact, he told the New York Times he spoke with someone who said their name was Mary as an administrator for months about these efforts.

But it turns out there was no Mary. That was a fake account, a fake person, and Orsinger, a real person was spending time and energy and activism about this counter protest with someone who may be involved in this foreign espionage. The fake group also actively reached out to other real people to try to join the effort and there were then five actual activism groups that co-hosted this event with the original fake group.

So this is important when you get into what`s really going on. At this point, you have that counter-protest that was somewhat fake being mingled in and run with real Americans although they were unknowingly working in conjunction with fake accounts that again may be linked to foreign espionage. And by the end of the July -- the July period, Facebook basically suspended that account and shut down this counters protests.

Resisters was one of four of the most popular pages that Facebook shut down. The other two you see here as Flying Warriors and Black Elevation which were also fake American pages. And then the espionage effort gets messier which is part of the purpose. Because while that page was fake, the issues of racism and civil rights that it was exploiting in our country are very real, and some of these would-be protesters that were recruited inside the U.S. are real people and some of them who are anti-Trump active are upset that the fake page was taking down.

After all there were over 3,000 people already involved when Facebook deleted it. So Facebook was on the one hand doing what so many people have called on it to do, to confront these foreign efforts before it`s too late with action that can disrupt the problem but it also disrupts other civic organizing. In fact, as we reported on this one of those protesters I showed you told us that he was against Facebook taking down the entire page because he and other activists wanted to keep using it to organize against that white supremacy rally.

So that`s a lot and it`s complicated but it`s super important when the foreign effort mixes with what people want to do in our country. Now if any of this is somewhat familiar, it`s actually the kind of point that a Harvard digital expert Yochai Benkler was telling us about on THE BEAT that he argues we have to both expose these Russian efforts but not let them boomerang on us because they do basically traffic in real issues.

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YOCHAI BENKLER, FACULTY CO-DIRECTOR, BERKMAN KLEIN CENTER FOR INTERNET & SOCIETY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: They seem to be jumping on bandwagons that are already there. Largely they`re not driving the effect. They`re not driving the resistance to ICE, they`re not driving the rejection of the white supremacists, they`re trying to make a spiel like our democracy is not safe because of them when in fact it`s internal divisions with very long and deep roots.

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MELBER: Those internal divisions are as real as the many, many Americans who rely on these social networks every day. We use them for news, we use them for information, we certainly use them for companionship and Facebook remains in the center of all this even as it tries to improve how it handles it because Facebook works with our real identities as Mark Zuckerberg made so clear all the way back in 2010.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Most things around the web aren`t designed primarily to use your friends, right? And they don`t assume that you have real identity. It means that this is really you, you`re tied to it. The Web looks a lot different when everything is completely anonymous than when some things are -- have your friends and real identity.

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MELBER: He was right about that. And the fact that Facebook uses our identities is why so many people continue to rely on in our country and around the world. It`s also why it continues to be such a breeding ground for these foreign efforts. They want to confuse us. And while we`ve done a lot of reporting on this show that points out what`s wrong with Facebook`s response, today is one of those days where the update shows they`re trying but this is very, very hard. And when we come back, the lawyer for the ousted FBI agent who sent those anti-Trump text messages just spoke out. We`ll show you what he said.

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PETER STRZOK, FORMER AGENT, FBI: Not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took. It is not who I am and it is not something I would ever do.

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MELBER: FBI agent Peter Strzok denied any of his personal mistakes impacted the way he did his FBI job when he broke his silence to Congress there just last month. But tonight`s news is his FBI boss has apparently disagreed to some -- to some degree. They`ve taken an unusual step of going beyond the discipline called for in that internal review and they have fired him today. The FBI declines to comment on the details. I`m joined now by Ryan Reilly who has been covering the details from Huffington Post at the Justice Department. Why was he fired as best you could tell?

RYAN REILLY, SENIOR JUSTICE REPORTER, HUFFINGTON POST: You know it`s sort of unclear at this point because usually for most of these procedures, it`s usually a very heated process, you know, a FOIA requests dating back years about the internal disciplinary process at the FBI. But this is a very unusual circumstance in which we have the President United States tweeting and weighing in on this. And the process as it`s played out with the I.G. report has of course been very public. And you know, Peter Strzok`s you know, words have -- his text messages have definitely helped you know, been used as a weapon to sort of undermine legitimacy in the FBI and sort of caused Republican faith in the FBI to plummet.

So as this plays out, I mean you know, I think that -- there`s no way that that couldn`t have impacted their decision in this case --

MELBER: Right, and on the one hand, a lot of people look at what came out and thought well, if people around the country get fired for literally nothing or budget cuts and sometimes get fired for judgment that there seems to be an argument for firing him. On the other hand, it`s not something as you say we`d even know about but for the witch-hunt attacks from the administration. Here was Strzok`s lawyer within the last hour.

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AITAN GOELMAN, LAWYER OF PETER STRZOK: I don`t think that you can rationally reach any conclusion other than it was political. Trump also and his allies at Capitol Hill repeatedly called for Strzok to be fired. The demotion and the suspension was the right call and not dismissal and then that was over terms by the deputy director. This is way out of proportion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: You view.

REILLY: Yes, I mean, I think the one thing here is that this is an administration that`s necessarily known for its rigorous advocacy for disciplinary -- discipline of law enforcement officials. That is only in this context and there`s a situation where you know he`s speaking out against Trump in these text messages that the administration really cares you know, about really making sure that law enforcement officers are held to account for some of these issues.

MELBER: You`re saying there`s a contrast in say the way the administration deals with law enforcement officials accused of unlawful killings or police brutality or racism that that doesn`t get the same fervor that this did because someone was discovered to a privately criticized Donald Trump.

REILLY: Correct. Yes, there`s this broader you know, advocacy for you know, support of law enforcement officials and it`s hard to imagine a scenario in which you know, some -- there is a controversial shooting where the President would be weighing in in this nature and saying you know, we definitely got to hold this person fired. This person, get them, hold them accountable. That`s just not a situation that`s going to rise.

MELBER: Right. And then as you point out in your reporting, the FBI also quite mum on this so it`s hard to know what their official story is because as of today they don`t really have one. We wanted to get more reporting to give people some insights on this. Ryan Reilly, we appreciate your time on that.

REILLY: Definitely. Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely, sir. And we will be right back.

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MELBER: Before we go I would encourage you to check out our podcast. You can look for the purple podcast icon on any iPhone, click on it go to the search bar and type in THE BEAT with Melber and click on us. You`ll see our show page pop up and you can subscribe and listen to the show commercial free. Now that does it for us tonight. We`ll be back here at 6 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Omarosa versus Trump. Let`s play HARDBALL.

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