CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That`s all we have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY.
"THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" starts right now. Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening to you, Chuck.
We have a huge show tonight. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange indicted by the Trump Justice Department for hacking conspiracy, raising questions ranging from what does he know about Russian meddling to what is is endangered freedom of information.
Also, Governor Jay Inslee, presidential candidate is here on THE BEAT tonight in person. And later, progressives rallying around Pelosi power as she takes on the attorney general.
But we begin tonight with breaking news. The Mueller probe ended but today, the feds indicting a lawyer for lying to the Mueller probe about his work with Paul Manafort. As I mentioned, this Mueller probe has ended. You may have heard about that but this news breaking right now shows the feds are not done indicting people who allegedly lied to Mueller.
This that I`m holding here is the first Mueller related indictment since this probe finished and this is striking for several reasons. Let me explain. First, this new indictment of prominent Democratic lawyer Greg Craig touches on several of the biggest issues that Mueller was investigating, like Paul Manafort`s illegal foreign activities.
Second, this shows that while Mueller did not indict an election conspiracy, something we`ve been careful to report, he`s obviously uncovered a range of activities that remain under investigation in several prosecution offices. There`s SDNY that we hear so much about. And then today, there`s D.C. charging this case.
Third, while President Trump has loudly and falsely claimed that the Mueller probe was some sort of solely partisan pursuit of Republicans, this is a charge against former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig. The charges that he lied to Mueller about a multimillion-dollar project that he was doing for guilty former Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort.
Indictment charging Craig with basically concealing information about their work on this report about something that happened in Ukraine and then lying about it, making false statements on more than one occasion including to Mueller in October 2017 during, as you`ll see here, an interview conducted by Mueller`s office, Craig allegedly repeating false and misleading statements he made to their foreign lobbying unit.
One of the alleged crimes here is lying to Mueller`s office while it was open. And this is the first time since Mueller`s probe has ended that we`ve seen a new indictment with a crime that was committed during the special counsel`s ongoing investigation.
Now, Mr. Craig`s attorneys who were expecting this indictment as recently as last night put out this statement. They say he is not guilty of any charge. Now, these charges may be the first against a high profile Democrat in the Mueller probe spinoff but it is also the latest in a series of events that what Mueller found is still active in very real ways, legally and obviously substantively.
Not just in Washington. The Southern District of New York has been going strong where Trump`s links to the "National Enquirer" have been probed and put under a microscope, the tabloid accused among other things, of extortion by one of the richest man in the world, Amazon CEO and Trump critic Jeff Bezos.
Now, I can tell you in addition to everything else, that company is putting up the tabloid for sale. And the CEO and a long-time friend of Trump`s, David Pecker, has been cooperating with SDNY. "The New York Times" reporting Bezos will meet with SDNY prosecutors who may be interested in Bezos`s accusations against Pecker. This meeting is happening as early as this week.
Now, as for the politics, we have experts who are reacting to all of this, including this charge against Greg Craig, the former Obama White House Counsel saying it is another sign that Bob Mueller`s probe, while it was active and now as it has farmed out what it found, doesn`t care about politics or parties.
So Donald Trump can continue to talk about a coup or a witch hunt or angry Democrats. The truth according to these experts and what we`re seeing in these filings is they`re following the facts wherever they lead.
I am joined now by former counsel to the New York City Mayor and a former civil prosecutor with SDNY Maya Wiley, as well as the co-author of "The Art of the Deal", Tony Schwartz. He`s the author of "The Way We`re Working Isn`t Working" and has insights into how Donald Trump will be viewing a lot of these developments right now.
What do you make of this indictment?
MAYA WILEY, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: If you get into the bed with the devil, you might get burned.
MELBER: Is guilty Paul Manafort the devil in this?
WILEY: Paul Manafort and Yanukovych. I mean we`re talking about a law firm, that at least as the indictment reads, was engaged in helping the P.R. prospects of government that Paul Manafort was willing to help try to reform their reputation in secret without telling the American people, hey, here I am representing this government.
MELBER: And these laws, to your point, all they say is, if you are working for a foreign government, just tell the country and then you can go on and do it.
WILEY: That`s right.
MELBER: This was millions of dollars, coming from the offshore bank accounts that Paul Manafort was running for these folks who are all Putin allies.
WILEY: That`s right. And one of the things that was happening here in what (0:00:12) and Gregory Craig was hired to do, was run a review of an investigation that the Yanukovych Ministry of Justice had brought against his political opponent.
And some of the exchanges that are mentioned in the indictment are about how the report would play out in public. In other words, it appears to be public relations. And remember, that at the time this happened, the human rights community was up in arms about the report.
Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was saying, this doesn`t make sense. This is a bad prosecution. And so there are a lot of questions in here that I think make it clear that this is a law firm that, remember Van Der Zwan, who worked on this report pled guilty to lying about what they were doing with the report.
And the firm itself paid a fine and said in retrospect we should have registered as an agent for foreign government. So that`s what`s going on here.
MELBER: Yes, it is a significant development in Trump`s world as he continues to try to say, "Well, Mueller is done. I was exonerated. No one needs to worry about the report." Given your knowledge of him, take a look, Tony, at the president on all of this just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was an attempted coup. This was an attempt to take down a president. And we beat them. We beat them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SCHWARTZ: Well, if I say it`s true, if you say it, it`s false, I mean that`s Trump. Whether it`s true or false, he`s going to take the position that -- including when it is completely representative of his own worst behaviors, he`s going to go, he`s going to attack people for those same behaviors and he`s going to constantly declare victory in the face of defeat.
You know, you saw him back away with Assange today from having talked about how wonderful WikiLeaks was 160 times in the last 10, 15 days of the campaign. Today, he doesn`t remember who Julian Assange is.
You know, when he talks about an attempted coup, I think that`s where he`s at. I mean he`s in a White House in which he is completely unbounded. Nobody there to put any kind of hand in his face around what he does.
And I think his goal is to bring down the truth, lower the bar on what we think is true or false, so low that we cease to notice the difference between what`s true and false.
MELBER: This also comes at a time where America continues to be tested about what these principles mean. What does it mean whether we`re going to see what Mueller found or not? What does it mean whether the Congress will do oversight or not?
And what does it mean tonight, Tony, where the president may have his approach to law and order? But what does it mean for everyone else? You`ve talked at this table before about leadership.
I want to read to you a Democratic congressman responding to this, who says with regard to Obama`s White House counsel being now indicted. "Ted Lieu. No one is above the law. Not Greg Craig", who`s Obama official, "Not Michael Cohen, not Michael Flynn, no one. Lying to federal investigators is a big deal and strikes at the core of our ability to investigate crimes."
How important do you think it is for our -- if I can be so bold, civic and political culture to process this information on a nonpartisan basis?
SCHWARTZ: Well, I mean it is the self-evident that it would make every kind of sense to look at it as recognizing the greed and deceit gave no ideological bounds. It goes right across greed and deceit and overwhelm anything.
And Trump has created a world in which grifting, not actually sure that`s a word, but being a grifter is an acceptable, actually even an honorable profession in these days. And so the risk -- and you could talk about this more in a more articulate way than I can, Maya.
But the risk to the law right now when you have somebody assaulting it from every side every day. I don`t think it`s ever been as great as it is.
And then you watch William Barr be willing to play, clearly a partisan -- take a partisan perspective during this period, it is scary. It`s scary and this is what Trump does to people. He brings them down to his level.
WILEY: It would be nice to have a president who has read the Constitution. That`s my view.
SCHWARTZ: Well, we don`t even have a president who has read Babe Ruth`s story.
WILEY: Right. Well, so --
SCHWARTZ: Much less the Constitution.
WILEY: I`m hope -- one of the things that has kind of become clear in this -- when Donald Trump says this whole point about witch hunt or any of the kind of tropes that he uses to confuse us about our values, one thing that is problematic is that too many people are cynical about whether anyone tells the truth.
WILEY: And I think that serves unfortunately the kind of sound bites of Donald Trump. And that`s why the rule of law and its neutral application is so important, right. Because part of what it says is our institutions of government are about protecting the rules, the boundaries.
And if there is one good thing to come out of this, it is that the statute that is about transparency and about making clear to the American people what they`re hearing and where it`s coming from is now being enforced, when it actually has a very long history on the books and was not being enforced.
MELBER: Right. And that`s where, to put it really all together, you`re talking about the corrosive elements of what happens if someone is seen as succeeding and getting away with it and the risk of that which is far broader than partisan boundaries, what you call the grifting.
And you`re talking about what cuts against that which is someone like Mueller who happens to be life-long Republican saying, no, the rules and the facts matter and I`m going to do the job as honorably as lawfully as possible and let the chips fall where they may, which is why this is such a big story.
My special thanks to Maya Wiley and Tony Schwartz for leading off our coverage.
I will tell you we have a busy show because coming up, what would have been the top story no matter what, any other day of the week, Julian Assange indicted. And you`re watching new footage of him being removed from the Embassy in London. We have that story.
Donald Trump also withdrawing everything he seemed to ever claim about WikiLeaks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We love WikiLeaks. Boy, they are good. WikiLeaks.
I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It is not my thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And later, liberals cheering. Speaker Pelosi`s moves against the Trump agenda. And if that wasn`t enough, Governor Jay Inslee. You`re looking at a live shot of him here at 30 Rock leading on climate change. That`s what he says he wants to talk about. We`ll get to that and a whole lot more in my live interview coming up next.
I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Here we go. I am joined live by presidential candidate and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. It`s great.
MELBER: It`s great to have you. Your first time here in person.
MELBER: Let`s get right to it. You have been advocating climate change as important to resolve for the United States of America and really crucially, your candidacy.
MELBER: Let me show you something that might be politically bad news for you. Let`s start right there. I don`t think this is a surprise. But this is people`s priorities, According to the polling. You`re not top 5, you`re not top 10. You`re 17. Do you have to move that number up in voters` minds for your candidacy to succeed?
INSLEE: Actually not because if you look at that poll, if you look at the top things that are on there, I think number one was the economy. Number two was health care.
MELBER: Yes, you`re right.
INSLEE: Number four is terrorism. So those are things that are associated and exacerbated by climate change. And our only task is to get people to really think about it in those terms.
Look, it`s an economic issue. I`m going to Iowa tomorrow to look at the floods where we`ve had billions of dollars of damage to our economy, astronomical losses throughout the Midwest.
I`ve gone seen whole towns burned down in Paradise, California. The expense and damage being done to our economy by climate change is something that is increasing dramatically.
MELBER: So what do you say to voters who, when they hear green climate change candidacy, they think sacrificing economic prosperity?
INSLEE: No, what they can think and they should think is the enormous growth in job creation and that`s what we`re talking about. So when I go and talk to communities, I talk about the wind turbines in Iowa.
Look, Trump says wind turbines cause cancer. He`s wrong. They don`t cause cancer. They cause jobs. We talked about -- I argued with Meghan McCain on the view about this.
MELBER: You know I don`t think you knew this, Governor, but you are mentioning something that we`re prepared to get into. Let`s look at President Trump as you say on that very issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value. And they stay noise causes cancer. You tell me that one. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
INSLEE: Well, listen, I don`t agree with Senator Grassley a lot but he called that comment idiotic. And the reason is because you`re seeing wind turbines building a whole new industry.
Look, we created a $6 billion industry, the wind industry in our state, in part because we adopted a renewable portfolio standard that I helped folks pass at the ballot box. We understand job creation. We understand people criticize Democrats saying we`re going to trains and planes and cars.
MELBER: Or ice cream.
INSLEE: Or ice cream. But look, at the very moment I was debating that, we`ve got a General Motors, all electric bolt, shiny new blue spiffy card made by American workers in Orion, Michigan. That`s a vision of a destiny of America, to be the real test bed and building, manufacturing center for the world to build these products.
We`re doing biofuels in Grays Harbor, Washington. We`re doing batteries like crazy in Nevada. We`re making -- we`re spinning carbon fiber in Moses Lake, Washington, a small community as you know, East of Washington or Seattle.
And the interesting thing about this is this economic development vision is good for smaller towns, rural areas, rather than just urban ones, you know, from Washington State. These jobs are not just in Seattle. They`re in Moses Lake. They`re in Lind, Washington in the town of 350.
MELBER: Let me -- you mentioned the chart. Let me get you on health care as well. I`m old enough to remember when a lot of people thought of you as a progressive Democrat within the party.
But time has gone on. You`ve ascended to be governor. When we put up the list of candidates here who say they`re basically for Medicare for All, it is a lot of the candidates, including a lot of the ones who have amassed a lot of support. Are you to the right of them on that? Are you not for Medicare for All at this point?
INSLEE: I think I`m just in the right place which is to follow what we`ve done in Washington State. As you know, we may be and I hope to be shortly, the very first state to have a public option that is available people through a public system.
INSLEE: And I`m proud of the progress we`ve made.
MELBER: And I`m going to press you on that. A lot of people think that works. That was basically, I think, similar to where a lot of the Obama supporters wanted to go.
MELBER: But Medicare for All is a bigger, more robust, but more expensive program. Walk us through why you`re not for that.
INSLEE: Well, what I`m for is for Medicare for those who want it. And I think that`s the right approach. We know we need universal care. We know we need everyone to have access to health care.
And I believe the successful way to get there in the next administration is to provide a universal access for those who want access to Medicare. That means allowing people to go into the Medicare system on a volitional basis, to reduce the age where you in a sense automatically you`re on Medicare. And I believe that would be the most successful way to advance to a Medicare system.
And the reason I believe that is I think you are going to have a lot of people who are going to want to keep the health care that they have. And we have millions of people who are satisfied with their health care right now. And I believe we`re going to succeed. Look, I`m a governor --
MELBER: Let me get you on one other issue.
MELBER: Not that I don`t want to hear the rest of that --
INSLEE: Go ahead.
MELBER: -- but with the time I have. Senator Booker, your competitor was here. And he talked a lot about how we`ve gotten criminal justice wrong historically.
MELBER: You voted for the 1994 Crime Bill. Would you vote for that same bill today? What do we need to do on those issues, particularly racial inequities?
INSLEE: No. If I knew then what I know now, that that bill has resulted in some racial disparities, that`s why I have been so intent and successful as a governor helping to reform our criminal justice system. We know that death penalty has been racially disparate. We`ve eliminated the death penalty under my leadership. I put a moratorium on it.
We know that drug wars have been part of the racial disparity that we`ve suffered. So we`ve legalized marijuana and I`m the first governor to offer pardons to thousands of people who have had marijuana convictions to help them get jobs so that this is not a problem.
MELBER: Right. You can get marijuana just about anywhere in Washington State. Let me ask you if you`ll play lightning round with us. Other candidates have.
INSLEE: You bet.
MELBER: Let`s start with, one word ideally, one sentence if you need it. When you go into a Washington State marijuana dispensary, you feel how?
INSLEE: Like I`m a governor of a very progressive, effective state.
MELBER: Your favorite --
INSLEE: We have the best marijuana in America.
MELBER: The best marijuana in America.
INSLEE: No question. At least I`ve been told. I`m not --
MELBER: You`ve been told that?
INSLEE: I`m not --
MELBER: And you trust your constituents?
INSLEE: I trust my constituents as being very objective on this issue.
MELBER: Favorite Starbucks drink.
INSLEE: The Howard Schultz should not run for president latte.
MELBER: Favorite music, band or artist from Washington State or Seattle.
INSLEE: Well, you have to go with Jimi in Purple Haze. And this is the 50th reunion of Woodstock and that is still vibrating in my mind of him playing the star-spangled banner in Woodstock.
MELBER: You know I was lucky enough to go to Jimi Hendrix`s High School, Garfield High School and --
INSLEE: Yes. This is why you`re so talented.
MELBER: If 6 were 9 --
INSLEE: My dad taught there actually.
MELBER: I didn`t know that.
INSLEE: He`s a Garfield biology teacher.
MELBER: No kidding? A couple more one word or sentence. Bernie Sanders.
INSLEE: Bernie in his day was a pretty good basketball player and I admire him for that.
MELBER: Donald Trump.
INSLEE: A blip in history and we`re going to make sure that happens.
INSLEE: Where I`m going tomorrow to look at the flood damage. And I will be in a state where Mike Pence is there. I will be arguing that we need to defeat climate change so these floods do not overwhelm us.
MELBER: Bob Mueller.
INSLEE: He will be there doing nothing. I don`t know how the man sleeps at night doing nothing about climate change.
MELBER: Bob Mueller.
INSLEE: He`s been doing some great work.
MELBER: Bill Barr.
INSLEE: That remains to be seen but I`m disturbed and worried about the approach he`s taking, that it will be more partisan than justice.
MELBER: Former Obama Counsel Greg Craig who was indicted today out of the Mueller probe.
INSLEE: Yes. I don`t know about the situation so you`re going to have to ask somebody else about that one.
MELBER: And lastly, it is National Pet Day. Would you bring a pet to the White House if you won?
INSLEE: I would bring everybody`s pet to the White House in spirit. They will all be in the White House when I`m president of the United States.
MELBER: But are you a dog or a cat person or no pets?
INSLEE: We don`t have pets right now because I can`t have a dog. It`s the strangest thing.
MELBER: Who would walk the dog while you`re --
INSLEE: No, not the problem. But it is the strangest thing. There --in my lease, at the official residence, it says no pets.
MELBER: You`re serious?
INSLEE: So I just have to watch them on television.
MELBER: Well, maybe you`re --
INSLEE: I just watch cat videos on the Internet.
MELBER: Governor, maybe you`re drawing attention to the fact that you follow the rules even when you`re in charge. You`re following the no pet rule.
INSLEE: This is true.
MELBER: I appreciate you talking policy with us and some of the fun stuff. And I hope you come back on THE BEAT.
INSLEE: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: Governor Jay Inslee right here right now.
Up ahead, we have a lot more including Speaker Pelosi showing how she says Democrats have to continue to take on Bill Barr. And the U.S. government indicted Julian Assange, a very important story when we come back in 30 seconds.
MELBER: Now we turn to a major developing story today with implications for American politics, and journalism, and international affairs. This is huge regardless of how you may feel about the man at the center of it, WikiLeaks` founder Julian Assange, arrested and handcuffed this morning, led out of the Ecuador Embassy in London in response to a new indictment by the Trump Justice Department. This is part of their new extradition request.
Now, Assange is controversial for many reasons from the way WikiLeaks operates to some of the allies it has earned, leakers to indicted Putin operatives, to candidate Trump, to indict Former Trump Adviser Roger Stone, to other serious allegations against Assange like sexual misconduct in Sweden.
So there are all kind of valid reasons to critique Assange and WikiLeaks. But the news tonight isn`t really about criticism or Assange`s role in American politics.
The news is the U.S. government`s indicting a publisher of information on a single charge that does not involve him actually stealing information but rather a charge about this publisher communicating with the person who stole the information and then allegedly trying to help the person in a plan that did not allegedly steal information.
Now, I just said that all to you very carefully, which I try to do here. If that description sounds a little broad, or a little vague, or a little tenuous, that`s because the new charge from the Trump Justice Department does sound that way.
And this means that if Assange did go farther than most journalist would, if the Trump administration can set up a precedent of indicting and jailing publishers, the press, for information they publish in a situation where the publisher did not allegedly steal anything themselves but mostly talked to the people who did, well, I`m telling you tonight that precedent might later be used against other publishers who maybe did less.
Because that`s how precedents work. Historically, when government wants to jail journalists, they don`t start with the most popular ones. They start often with the most reviled. The ones that are the easiest to make some sort of example of.
Now, this indictment of Assange isn`t about 2016 or Anything recent. It is a single charge of conspiracy to hack in 2010. Now, it`s not a charge of hacking because prosecutors aren`t alleging right now that the hack succeeded.
But this conduct happened in 2010. That brings us to another question, why wasn`t it charged then? You may know prosecutors have probed WikiLeaks for quite some time. During the Obama administration, prosecutors convicted Chelsea Manning for stealing and leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents from the U.S. government which exposed all kinds of activities by the U.S. as well as other countries.
And those were considered very news worthy leaks. They were covered, of course, by a wide range of media here and abroad, including this network, and they sparked some major impacts on global affairs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, HOST, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Ninety-one thousand documents have been released on the Internet by the whistleblower website, Wikileaks.org, and they have more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some analysts comparing them to the Pentagon Papers.
LESTER HOLT, HOST, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Tonight, after violent protests that have lasted for weeks, the Tunisian government has fallen. The president has fled and some are calling this The First WikiLeaks Revolution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The First WikiLeaks Revolution. Now, impactful journalism is obviously not a defense to other alleged crimes but it was leaks like that which won WikiLeaks the organization a range of journalistic awards. The Obama administration`s DOJ never indicted WikiLeaks publicly despite its opposition to how they ran.
And it reviewed what appeared to be similar conduct regarding this 2010 issue because they indicted, as I mentioned, Chelsea Manning And they reviewed a case against Assange and concluded it was not warranted.
Now, as for the person who gave the information to WikiLeaks, President Obama ultimately commuted her sentence, saying she took responsibility for what was criminal leaking and she shouldn`t spend too much time in jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With respect to Chelsea Manning, I looked at the particulars of this case, I felt that in light of all the circumstances, that commuting her sentence was entirely appropriate. She took responsibility for her crime, that the sentence that she received was very disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Why am I telling you all this right now? Because there is a lot of context like a lot for the Trump DOJ going forward here on these actions from nine years ago that the Obama DOJ did not deem chargeable. The case against Assange could get stronger, there could be other counts based on other secret evidence we don`t have tonight, and we know Bob Mueller wanted a lot more from massage as do the feds on many, many topics.
But working with what we have now, the indictment unsealed today doesn`t show Assange actually stealing anything or coordinating with foreign spies or doing espionage. It`s a single count of conspiring to do something that allegedly did not happen which makes the indictment an aggressive and potentially chilling document for journalists in the U.S. or abroad.
It shows this leaker Manning telling Assange after this upload that`s all I really have got left. And then Assange pushes for more leaks saying curious eyes never run dry in my experience, the kind of communication that some reporters have with sources. And then it alleges Assange crossed a line that reporters are not supposed to cross offering help with potentially stealing itself to try to crack a password. No, it doesn`t allege at least in what we got today that it they succeeded.
Now that sounds bad and that single bad part I want you to know is also the whole case. The allegations section of this indictment runs two and a half pages, the whole thing, the entire charges are six pages. It would be easy to view this case only through the U.S. government lens. And if you hear government officials from many parties, that`s what you`ll hear.
Assange took on the U.S. government, published leaks that undercut it. They don`t like that. They have every right to voice their opposition to that. You can also view this only from the mystery lens and say man, Julian Assange upended the 2016 election, what does he know about Putin and collusion and things that even the Mueller report may not answer. Let`s get him here and interview him.
But there`s also tonight a nonpartisan lens of freedom of information. What check should exist on the Trump administration charging an extraditing a publisher not for stealing or espionage but for one conspiracy count about how he tried to help a source and whether that crossed a line.
That lends I think is part of why the Obama Justice Department was careful, a point that I actually recently discussed with Eric Holder, this was last month which we now know is a time period when Assange had been indicted under seal but that information was not public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now there is an open case that appears to be looking at WikiLeaks for charges. Should a publisher like that be open to charges by the U.S. government?
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES: Well, you know, if you are acting in a pure journalistic sense, no. I mean, you know, I deplore leaks. We brought cases against people who were leakers. Members of the press receive those leaks and then write stories about them. If on the other hand you`re acting at the behest of a foreign power, you are in a fundamentally different position, and I don`t view that person as a that organization as a pure -- that person has appeared journalists or that organization is a journalistic organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s how Holder put the balancing test on the issue. As with all matters of government versus the press, part of the challenge isn`t the rules in the abstract. Think about it like this. Who do you trust applying those rules? Do you trust your government reflexively? Are you skeptical of government power because it is awesome power to arrest, to investigate, to jail, to execute? It is a power that can end up in just about anyone`s hands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m talking about the fake news media. They are truly an enemy of the people. The fake news, enemy of the people. They`re really are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: For special conversation I`m joined by Andy Greenberg from Wired. He interviewed Julian Assange for more than two hours in 2010, the year that is the time when this crime was allegedly occurred in the court of the indictment, David Hickton a U.S. Attorney, Founding Director the University of Pittsburgh Institute for cyberlaw policy and security, and Jesselyn Radack Director of Whistleblower and Source Protection that Exposed Facts and a former Justice Department Ethics Attorney.
I really appreciate each of you. Jesselyn, does anything concern you about the theory of the case in this indictment?
JESSELYN RADACK, FORMER LEGAL ETHICS ADVISOR, DOJ: This is very concerning. Under Obama, there was basically a war on whistleblowers and I always said that this could be a backdoor to a war on journalists or on a news outlet, and that`s what we`re seeing come to full fruition right now.
And I really think the arrest of Assange puts all journalists and publishers at risk of prosecution under the Computer Fraud Abuse Act which is the tool of choice for today, prior it had been the Espionage Act, but the computer fraud abuse Act is just as much an overbroad law that can be incredibly punitive and has been used against a number of the whistleblowers that you think of like Chelsea Manning and Tom Drake, and Edward Snowden.
I mean there were CFAA charges that the government tried to bring in those cases as well. And publishing classified information is not a crime. You can read the newspaper every single day and read leaks of classified information. So I think we need to think long and hard about criminalizing, I mean, do we want to criminalize MSNBC or Ari Melber -- do we want to -- you know, for talking about this stuff? I mean, we`re talking about a really bad precedent that could be set here.
MELBER: David, your view as a prosecutor?
DAVID HICKTON, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I disagree. First of all, if you regard this as the continuation of the Trump assault against the media, I would agree with you and the (INAUDIBLE) warnings that all media at risk would apply. But I think we`re not talking about a publisher here, we`re talking about someone who was conspiring with a leaker, a person who was already given many classified information, lots of classified information and he was working with him -- her to get additional information.
So I think the facts are important and how we define what happened here is very important. Look, Assange is a shiny object in three spheres, in the Manning case, in the 2016 election, and generally in our campaign to apply law to digital space.
I think this is a good development. I think this is an important step in making sure that we are dealing with the borderless world of cybercrime. I think if you look at the Mueller indictment in July it is very clear that WikiLeaks is a key component in understanding and I don`t -- I reject the word collusion, that`s never been the word, it`s conspiracy, the GRU through Fancy Bear was giving information to WikiLeaks and that was alleged there.
The question of how it got into our space and whether there were Americans participating in that conspiracy is still unanswered.
MELBER: I appreciate --
HICKTON: That`s to follow.
MELBER: Right. And I appreciate your perspective as a prosecutor and that`s why you`re here. And I would observe for the viewers the charges they`re here though are not about 2016 which are fascinating it`s about 2010, and there has been a big evolution in how people view Mr. Assange. I pointed out how controversial he is.
We want a play so folks remember Donald Trump used to cheer him, today reversed himself. But a lot of different folks at different times have had views. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population. We should pay attention to what we learn from the -- from the leaks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I just -- first of all, I think that WikiLeaks has done such an important job to get the truth out.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Julian Assange, fascinating. I do hope you get free one day. I wish you the best.
TRUMP: We love WikiLeaks. Boy, they have really -- WikiLeaks.
I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It`s not my thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY GREENBERG, SENIOR WRITER, WIRED: Well, I think the important thing to remember is that 99.5 percent of what Assange has done in his career is what a journalist does. It`s combative, adversarial, incendiary, highly controversial journalism, but particularly this 2016 stuff and everything with you know, Russia`s Fancy Bear hackers feeding them information.
But the cardinal sin, the one thing that has allowed the justice -- the Department of Justice to label Assange as a hacker rather than a journalist is this one password that he allegedly offered to crack eight years ago that as far as we know failed to crack, but it shows that the tiny, the thin line between being a modern journalist and being a hacker.
We`ve seen other journalists stumble across this line before like Matthew Keyes, Barrett Brown and spent years in prison for these kinds of what I would say are actually quite small violations of this over-broad law of the CFAA.
MELBER: Would you be concerned -- you know, the digital part can get very complicated. Would you be concerned if you use a Watergate analogy that at certain points if Bob Woodward is moving the flowerpot and then he`s talking about how to get the information, then he`s saying please bring me more classified information, then he`s saying well maybe you want to talk to the general counsel at the FBI to get me.
At what point do you worry whether it`s on or offline that the journalists under this prism is now being accused of conspiring because they sought information because Assange is clearly a controversial example but journalists routinely seek information that would be illegal to reveal?
GREENBERG: I think that that`s what is disturbing in the indictment that you`re pointing to is that most of the indictment is about Assange asking for more information which is absolutely something the journalists do with their sources even when they`re asking for classified information, something that the leak of which is a -- is a legal act. That`s what journalists do and have done for generations.
There is this other line where suddenly you`re helping them to break the security of the network that they`re taking information from, and that`s what Assange is accused of doing. But in one case, eight years ago, it shows that kind of grudge that the Department of Justice can hold against alleged hackers and sometimes somebody who might be a journalist and it`s very difficult to draw the distinction.
MELBER: David, your response?
HICKTON: What we were talking about all those years ago was classified information about our forward movements in Afghanistan. That`s what we were talking about. And it was being leaked by a security analyst in the government. That`s what we`re talking about. Now, I think that we have to step back and try and decide where we want to go because we are still building this plane as we fly it.
We are applying law to digital space in real time and we have pre-digital norms which guide us. Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not lie. Just because you walk into a grocery store and something is apparent does not mean you can take it.
MELBER: Well, David, and I`ll push you on that --
HICKTON: -- everything is now on a digital forum does not mean you can just --
MELBER: Let`s leave digital side. The Pentagon papers was one of the old pre-digital lines which was yes, you can`t leak the Pentagon information. That is illegal. But when the Times wanted to publish it, and the Nixon administration took them to court on a prior restraint, they won that case. I guess my question for you is what is the limiting principle if you go after publishers now?
HICKTON: This is why we have the Supreme Court. These clashes are going to occur and whether you are pushing the frontier of what the law is, is the right privilege and responsibility of the journalist, I agree. But whether you`re protesting or you`re a journalist pushing the boundary, you may decide that you`re going to violate the law because that violation is more important in the case of Pentagon Papers which expose the lie about Vietnam.
But we still have to order the environment and we cannot go so far as to say that forward movements in a war theater can be routinely leaked. There`s some things that need to be remain classified in secret.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, I again -- and I`m going to give Jesselyn last word for her turn. Jesselyn, I suppose the issue with that is that`s an attack on the leaking. Manning went to jail. A lot of other leakers have gone to jail. What about the notion that a conspiracy charge here by the Trump administration could it be used in your view against other American publishers.
RADACK: Absolutely. I think this puts any foreign publisher at risk for violating U.S. secrecy rules and you have to wonder how that would be applied to U.S. journalists in countries like China and Iraq and North Korea, and saying -- you know, look I agree certain things should be kept secret, classified identities, undercover, nuclear design information, that kind of thing.
But leaks in the public interest that reveal criminality, that reveal war crimes as in the case of what WikiLeaks revealed in the Collateral Murder video gunning down people as if you`re playing Call of Duty gunning down innocent civilians, that is not about Forward Operating Base movements.
MELBER: We gave ample time to this because it`s so important and ample perspectives. I don`t think there`s an easy answer. Jesselyn, David, and Andy, my thanks to each of you. Up ahead we turn to Donald Trump getting rebuked on an important nomination with Republicans punching back. But next up Nancy Pelosi going further than she has ever before on William Barr. We have a special guest next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I`m very concerned about the statements made by the Attorney General Barr. He is not the Attorney General of Donald Trump. He is the Attorney General of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Speaker Nancy Pelosi taking on William Barr in very direct terms. Center for American Progress is Juanita Tolliver joins me. What do you think of what Speaker Pelosi is up to here?
JUANITA TOLLIVER, CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, she hit the nail on the head right? She`s going to push this because Barr in his testimony yesterday went out there and he essentially did Trump`s bidding by spilling conspiracy theories, by really just digging into some of the narratives that Trump has been pushing himself and so Pelosi is calling that head-on.
MELBER: Yes. At times it seemed like Attorney General Barr was doing the congressional hearing version of a Donald Trump tweet threat.
TOLLIVER: There you go.
MELBER: Which is not always what you`re looking -- you`re not always looking for re-tweets when you`re testifying under oath about matters of life and death.
TOLLIVER: Especially when you`re the nation`s top law enforcement officer, right? This is an attorney general who behaved that way and it`s really despicable and I commend Speaker Pelosi for sticking to her guns and really calling for him to release the full report to Congress because the public needs to know what was included in that report.
MELBER: When we see Speaker Pelosi out here, she`s definitely punching back in a big way. She`s obviously the most powerful Democrat. I`m curious what you think we put together a comparison of some of the ways she`s been leading as compared to the most powerful Democrat in the Senate Chuck Schumer. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Let me just finish -- because you can`t get your way.
TRUMP: The last time you shut it down, it got killed.
PELOSI: Mr. President, please don`t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just want a big victory.
SCHUMER: Whether or not you`re a supporter of President Trump or not, whatever you feel, there is no good reason not to make the report public.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you trust that we will see the full report.
PELOSI: It`s a matter of time but we will see it. I don`t trust Barr, I trust Mueller.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Do you find when you look at that side by side, do you find her to be bolder and more effective or just different styles?
TOLLIVER: Very different styles, right? Schumer is a New Yorker. He and Trump kind of enjoy that banter back and forth, whereas Pelosi, she does not mince words, she never has, and she has very direct and determined approach here.
MELBER: Yes. I feel like sometimes the takeaway from her is she`s not having it, and somebody seems --
TOLLIVER: At all. And I feel like that comes as a woman maybe, because we draw the line and she has clearly drawn the line in the sand with Trump on this.
MELBER: And it`s interesting with Barr because he`s at the center of all of this and what we`ve been observing, she has been clearer than almost anyone earlier about putting the heat on him. Obviously, she`s got her strategy for that. We`ve had a lot of stuff in the show tonight. Juanita, thanks for making time for us.
TOLLIVER: Thanks for having me, Ari.
MELBER: Absolutely. I`ll see you again. And up ahead the infamous Cain train may be hitting a roadblock on the tracks to the Federal Reserve, a story we first brought you earlier this week with a big update next.
MELBER: News tonight on a Trump nomination that`s been rattling both Washington and Wall Street. Earlier this week we reported on Herman Cain potentially getting nominated to the Federal Reserve despite many things he has done to raise eyebrows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN, NOMINEE BOARD OF GOVERNORS, FEDERAL RESERVE: 999 means jobs, jobs, jobs.
That`s what I`m talking about.
I believe these words came from the Pokemon movie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In the news tonight, Cain`s nomination could be dead-on-arrival in the U.S. Senate. Because look at this, four U.S. Senate Republicans want to vote against Cain`s nomination to the Fed, standing up to Trump. Now, those Republicans hold the line and Democratic Senators oppose him. President trump won`t have enough votes for this unusual bid to mix up the Fed.
MELBER: One more thing before we go. Tomorrow is Friday and we have a special segment. Hip Hop D.J. and Producer Clark Kent, Russian Jewish Novelist Gary Shteyngart and friend of THE BEAT, Liz Plank will join us for a special "FALLBACK FRIDAY." I hope you will join us, but keep it locked right here because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END