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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Stephanie Ruhle, 9/7/22

Guests: Tracy Walder, Stacey Plaskett, Juanita Tolliver, Matthew Dowd, Max Fisher


Trump ally Bannon expected to surrender in NY. Former AG Barr weighs in on potential Trump indictment. DOJ has until Friday to appeal special master ruling. New report highlights members of far-right extremist group. Judge grants special master in Trump Mar-a-Lago probe. GOP offers strained Trump defenses in Mar-a-Lago case. How social media harms our politics and our brains.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And we should all be deeply grateful for that. So, thank you so much.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Presidents Obama and Biden get tonight`s "LAST WORD". THE 11TH HOUR with Stephanie Ruhle starts now.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, former Attorney General Bill Barr says the Justice Department is getting very close to enough evidence to indict Trump. And we learned new information about another Trump investigation no one is talking about. Again, Republicans tried to reboot their Senate campaign strategy. And again, a bombshell report caught them off guard.

Plus, politics personality and misinformation. Would we be better off without the social media chaos machine? As THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Wednesday night?

Good evening, once again, I`m Stephanie Ruhle. As the former guy faces a growing legal threat from the Mar-a-Lago investigation, one of his most vocal supporters, Steve Bannon is expected to face a new criminal indictment just hours from now in New York City.

One abandons lawyers tell CNBC that the one-time Trump strategist is on the way to surrender to Manhattan`s District Attorney in the morning.

The Washington Post says this case is probably similar to Bannon`s federal indictment in a fraud scheme to build Trump`s border wall. But those charges never struck never stuck. Trump pardoned Bannon on his way out of the White House.

Bannon, of course, is still facing sentencing next month for defying a subpoena for the January 6 committee. And Donald Trump himself may well be considering his next move in his battle with the Department of Justice over those classified documents he`s been keeping down at Mar-a-Lago. He may want to pay close attention to the latest warning from his former Attorney General Bill Barr.


BILL BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: There are two questions, will the government be able to make out a technical case? Will they have evidence by which -- that they could indict somebody on including him? And I -- that`s the first question. And I think they`re getting very close to that point, frankly. But I think at the end of the day, there`s another question is do you indict a former president? What will that do to the country? What kind of precedent will that set? I don`t want to see him indicted as former president. But I also think they`ll be under a lot of pressure to indict him. Because one question look, if anyone else would have gotten indicted, why not indict him?


RUHLE: The Justice Department does have to decide by Friday, it will accept a judge`s order to appoint a special master in the case or file an appeal. And DOJ appears to be widening its separate investigation into events leading up to the Capitol riot. According to The New York Times, the FBI is looking to talk to more people, including William Russell, a former White House aide who continued working for Trump after he left office. The Times says Russell has now been subpoenaed.

It has been 20 months, think about that, 20 months since the rioters stormed the Capitol. Today, an alarming new report shows the extremism behind the insurrection it is not going away. The Anti-Defamation League says it has been combing through a leaked membership list for the far-right Oath Keepers.

The ADL says it found the names of hundreds of people working in law enforcement, the military and who were running for or served in public office. The founder of that Oath Keeper group, Stewart Rhodes, who is currently charged with seditious conspiracy in connection with the Capitol riot has pleaded not guilty. Well, today a judge rejected his effort to delay that trial proceedings will get underway September 27.

With that, let`s get smarter with the help of our leadoff panel tonight. Jackie Alemany joins us, Congressional Investigations Reporter for The Washington Post and MSNBC Contributor, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor and as a law professor at the University of Alabama. And Tracy Walder, former CIA officer and FBI Agent. She`s the author of the book, "The Unexpected Spy."

Jackie, let`s start with Steve Bannon. What is he facing tomorrow? Because you get all these headlines that sound really bad for Bannon, yet when it comes time, he`s cartwheeling into courtrooms making a promo for his podcast.

JACQUELINE ALEMANY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Stephanie. This certainly doesn`t hurt his podcast promotion. He took that opportunity to direct readers to his podcast from putting out a statement responding to our recording last night that he is expected to surrender to state prosecutors on Thursday that will face a new criminal indictment we`ve been told that will mirror the case that he was charged with two years ago. This is related to the we build the wall fund. But again, we could not confirm the precise details of what exactly he`s going to be charged with but in that previous indictment that I just mentioned prosecutors had alleged that Bannon and several others defrauded contributors into a private $25 million fundraising effort and that those funds were supposed to be funneled towards building the wall and instead weren`t.


But again, Bannon is doing everything he can to make tomorrow as big of a press event as possible to take advantage of this platform despite the criminality of what he`s being accused of.

RUHLE: Yes, it was his lawyer telling journalists he`ll be turning himself in i.e., get your camera`s ready.

Joyce, I can`t keep up with it. Charges, indictments, pardons for Steve Bannon, is this I ever get in trouble?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: So, this case is very interesting, Steph, because it carries a much longer potentially time for punishment than the charges Bannon faces for obstruction of justice in Washington, in connection with his failure to comply with the January 6 committee`s subpoena for his testimony.

And one of the things that prosecutors will see with a defendant who is facing serious charges, and a lengthy sentence is sometimes they become far more interested in cooperating. Bannon is talking tough now, but I`ve seen defendants do that and then decide to cooperate. This will turn largely on the strength of the district attorney`s case when we see his charging document tomorrow, the sort of charges he brings in and what sort of sentence they carry. And whether Bannon believes that they can prove it, if they can, he might be incentivized to deal.

RUHLE: Tracy, Bannon is a big, deep state conspiracy theory guy. And now you`ve got his ilk talking about defunding the FBI. How is all of this impacting your former agency?

TRACY WALDER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: So, I would imagine that it`s impacting them tremendously. Really all of this, all of this talk by Bannon, by Trump, even the appointment of a special master, quite frankly, is really undermining the credibility of these institutions that have existed for decades, and that really are the pillar of upholding the law here in the United States. And the reality is that no matter whether or not, you know, Bannon is charged. Trump is indicted, any of those things, it will always be called into question, because of these deep, deep state conspiracy theories that they really have been perpetuating for years now.

RUHLE: Let`s talk about this special master ruling, Joyce, because legal and national security experts are sounding the alarm the DOJ has to act. Are you surprised they haven`t done anything yet?

VANCE: I`m a little bit surprised that we haven`t seen a Notice of Appeal, prosecutors will often file what`s called a prophylactic notice of appeal. It simply is a placeholder that gives the Justice Department the opportunity to think through all of the issues and there are frankly a lot of angles that will need to be considered here before DOJ appeals. But usually, you`ll see that prophylactic Notice of Appeal filed pretty early before the time has run.

And what it might mean here that we haven`t seen that yet is that there`s still robust conversation inside of the building, not only about whether to take an appeal, but what issues to take an appeal on? Of course, one option would just be to outright appeal the judge`s order. But DOJ could also be more selective. They might appeal for instance, just the injunction that keeps the criminal investigation from moving forward while the Special Master is proceeding. A lot of different options that are in play here. We`ll know more once we see a notice from DOJ.

RUHLE: Joyce, what do you think Bill Barr is up to? For years, he had an enormous amount of power and influence in the Department of Justice and our government. And he used that power to act as a human shield to Trump. Now, that he`s a private citizen, and all he is, is a talking head on TV. He`s now coming out and saying the DOJ has almost enough evidence to indict the guy. What`s Barr up to?

VANCE: You know, I read this differently than other people did, to be honest with you. I didn`t hear him saying that he thought Trump would be indicted. In fact, I heard him saying to the contrary, that he didn`t think a former president shouldn`t be indicted. So that`s where Bill Barr has always hung his hat on the power of the presidency. That`s apparently why he contorted the Mueller report to saying that Trump had been fully exonerated when of course, we know that that was not the case, when the Mueller report, in fact, suggested that Congress should pick up the package that the Mueller team had sent to them and look at obstruction of justice.

What Bill Barr is saying here is that he believes that there`s a technical case against the former President but that he should not be indicted because he is in fact a former president and that would be divisive for the country.


I suspect Merrick Garland will use a more finely tuned analysis. If the reason that Trump is going to be held above the law not indicted for crimes that very likely other people would be indicted for, is because he was the former president that just stands our entire system of justice on its head. And Garland will far more likely hew to the traditional principles of federal prosecution, determining whether there is a strong case, determining whether there is a national interest, and whether there are other forms that could vindicate the interests that would be vindicated by the Federal criminal justice system. We don`t know how he will view this ultimately and what his decision will be. But one suspects he`ll have a far more rigorous analysis than the former Attorney General.

RUHLE: Jackie, what are your sources telling you, are Republicans and Trump camp, are they reading Barr`s comments the same way Joyce has? Because I keep hearing Barr say the DOJ has almost enough evidence to indict him.

ALEMANY: Yeah, Republicans have remained pretty much on this. But I do have to tend to agree with Joyce here, which is that I think most people in the Republican Party took former Attorney General Barr`s comments to mean that a former president shouldn`t be indicted and that president should not be broken, that he is protected by sort of the things that come with a post presidency, and that the former president should go quietly into the night.

That being said, you know, Republicans are just coming back to Washington, D.C. now. They`re going to be facing an onslaught of questions from reporters, Senate Republicans have already returned, that House Republicans are just coming back next week. So, I certainly think that we`re going to hear more varied responses. Maybe some people finally sort of turning the corner as the news about what exactly was taken by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago has underscored the severity of the investigation, as we reported yesterday that there were documents that were ultimately seized that were related to nuclear programs from another country. So, I think that it`s only a matter of time that Republicans can keep sort of talking themselves in circles about what this investigation means. And the DOJ is obviously moving pretty quickly. So that conversation will inevitably run out soon.

RUHLE: Tracy, let`s turn to what we learned today about the Oath Keepers. And I want to share with the Vice President of the Anti-Defamation Defamation League had to say.


OREN SEGAL, VP, ANTI-DEFAMATION DEFAMATION LEAGUE CENTER ON EXTREMISM: Oath Keepers are looking to recruit primarily from the Holy Trinity, if you will, law enforcement, military, first responders, and what they`re appealing to, is this idea of an oath to defend the Constitution. So, they`re saying you all need to be part of our group, because you said you would defend the Constitution, but not our government. They separate the two.


RUHLE: the Holy Trinity, law enforcement, military and first responders, the Oath Keepers looking to recruit from them, given that, should law enforcement and the military be doing more, to protect themselves and look at their own ranks in terms of battling extremism? Normally, you think of those organizations, those agencies as those who protect us?

WALDER: So, you`re absolutely right. And I think, yes, we do think of those organizations as groups that protect us. But the reality is, is nothing is infallible, right? And so, I think, you know, if we look at something like the Oath Keepers, it`s really difficult for us to fully get our heads around really what domestic terrorism is. And really, that is what they`re doing. And that is what their platform is for. And a lot of times the Oath keepers, this is what I currently teach at the college level, a lot of times the Oath Keepers are really associated, it`s just really being anti- government. But it`s more than that, they ascribe to sort of this new world order, which is, you know, the replacement of the regime with a totalitarian regime, and it`s somewhat racist and anti-Semitic. And so, we really have to remember what their core values are, and really start looking at classifying these groups as domestic terrorist organizations. And I do think --

RUHLE: Can I just push back a second, to your point that, you know, listen, any group is vulnerable. We`re not talking about any group. We`re not saying that the Oath Keepers are going after teachers to recruit. We`re talking about the military, law enforcement and first responders. What is it about those organizations that they would be pro anti-government racist tendencies?

WALDER: So typically, and I think that`s a really good kind of point to differentiate. What they`re really looking at is folks within the ranks of those organizations that have become disgruntled, I guess you can say that are still in those organizations but have become disgruntled, I guess you can say that are still in those organizations, but have become disgruntled and dismayed by some of the things that they have seen in what they have done. So, I think those are the groups that they`re really targeting there.


RUHLE: I got it. Joyce, it seems like Trump`s entire game plan right now is to delay, delay until past the midterms in hopes that Republicans take control. Let`s say they do. Merrick Garland still runs the DOJ. So how does this delay game work?

VANCE: You know, Trump seems to be eternally optimistic about litigation, hoping that the more he can delay, the more he can either force an error or keep a case from coming to fruition. And that`s worked pretty well for him over time, and it`s very difficult, I think, for people to have confidence that justice is slowly building at this point in time on a number of different fronts. But here delay doesn`t particularly prejudice the Justice Department, they would likely stand down now that we`re almost 60 days out from the midterm elections. There`s no technical reason they have to. Trump is not a candidate on the ballot. But Merrick Garland is firmly committed to preserving the appearance and the reality that DOJ is apolitical.

So, it seems likely that he would have a 60 day pause on any overt public action, at least in any event. And this may be one time that delay actually prejudices the former president. It gives DOJ the opportunity to evaluate the evidence that it had before the search of Mar-a-Lago. It gives it the opportunity to hone it strategy for dealing with the judge`s ruling in the Southern District of Florida. And then to make a decision about whether this is a case that`s headed towards indictment, or whether it`s a matter that will be handled a different way. But I think we may be about to see a very different side of the justice system when it comes to how the former president is forced to interact with it.

RUHLE: And hey, if you`ve got a history of not paying your legal bills, might as well delay, Jackie Alemany, Joyce Vance, Tracy Walder, nothing I like better than starting the hour with some brilliant women.

When we come back, she was the center stage in Congress`s last effort to hold Donald Trump accountable. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett on whether she thinks this time it`ll actually happen.

And later, after Timothee Chalamet warns the onslaught of online opinions, makes it tough to be alive right now. We`ll ask the author of The Chaos Machine about resisting the manipulation of social media. THE 11TH HOUR just getting underway on this Wednesday night.



RUHLE: Tomorrow will mark exactly one month since FBI agents searched Mar- a-Lago and after 30 days the former president still has yet to explain why he had classified documents at his home and club in Florida. Those documents reportedly included the highly classified details of a foreign government`s nuclear capabilities.

With just a few days ago, a judge ruled in favor of a special master to oversee the DOJ investigation, a move that has many mystified. We welcome Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands to discuss. She served as an impeachment manager in Trump`s second impeachment.

Congresswoman, always good to see you. I want to start with a special master ruling. What does -- does this make sense to you?

REP. STACEY PLASKETT, (D) U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: Most people in the legal profession are kind of shaking their head at this one. It doesn`t really -- many of her arguments, she contradicts herself. The evidence doesn`t support parts of her ruling. It`s really a very convoluted opinion, to get her to a place that it appears she wanted to get to in the end anyway. And so, you know, the Justice Department right now has to make a determination what they`re going to do about this ruling.

RUHLE: So, let`s say it holds, let`s say there`s going to be a special master. It doesn`t mean this thing flies out the window. They`re just an independent third party. And if there`s wrongdoing, if Trump did something bad, it doesn`t mean that they`re not going to go after him?

PLASKETT: That`s correct. It`s a delay on the part of the criminal investigation. But let`s not forget that there`s still a separate investigation going on, which is related to national security interests, and a risk assessment as to whether or not these documents pose a risk to national security to classify -- classifications that different agencies have to entail and to potentially even agents that are out in the field, that`s still going on.

RUHLE: As an impeachment manager, you witnessed Trump yet again, avoiding consequences, now that you`re watching all of this play out with the Department of Justice, how confident are you that he will face some sort of consequences?

PLASKETT: Well, I think we`re seeing a confluence of so many different cases going on with the former President right now. Trump has what`s happened to Mar-a-Lago seizing records. Let`s not forget, it`s not just classified records, it`s all of the documents. None of these belong to him under the Presidential Records Act. All of this information belongs to the White House, belongs to the National Archives, not to him. So, there`s related issues to that.


We also have the New York Civil Case going on, in which we are seeing movement, as well as the Georgia case related -- which is a criminal matter as well, related to the election and election fraud. So, I think that this confluence is going to come to bear, and eventually we`re going to squeeze some conviction out of this president.

RUHLE: I want to switch gears because you and I actually spoke five years ago, almost exactly when Hurricane Irma devastated the Virgin Islands in Puerto Rico, it was five years ago yesterday, can you give us an update on what happened since then, oftentimes, when we see devastation in vulnerable places, like the Virgin Islands, we say, when they rebuild, we`ll make the infrastructure stronger and better. So, it won`t get damaged like this again, but it doesn`t often happen that way.

PLASKETT: Well, I think that`s right. And I think, you know, we were so grateful to have you and your team, so many people who came down to really take an assessment. And one of the amazing things that Congress did after the storm, after looking at some of the places that you went to, that others went to was saying, you know, the argument that you, Stacey, and others have been making is correct, we have not given you the funding before the storm, that it would have made you more resilient.

And so, under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, we received an exponential both ourselves and Puerto Rico received an exponential amount of money to rebuild. Unfortunately, during the years, during the Trump administration, they were really, you know, it was a terrible fight to release any of that funding. And we still today have capacity issues, to meet the obligations for that.

I`m hopeful that you`re going to see in the next couple of years tremendous rebuilding. We have seen Congress making an effort and this administration, at the different agencies are really working hard to get that money obligated, so that the people, the great people that you met, who against all odds continue to band together to be a community to support one another, you know, making trips to different parts of the islands that regular military and others couldn`t get to, we support each other. And we`re going to continue to fight and support so that our children`s children can have a legacy after the storm, from the tremendous opportunities that we think that we have.

RUHLE: So, five years out, where are the islands today as far as recovering, rebuilding?

PLASKETT: Well, I think you`re seeing right now, you know, we have had some obligation for major projects, such as rebuilding our schools, both of our major hospitals were destroyed, getting agreement on the rebuild of the hospital, we`ve been using, you know, temporary shelters for our children, who were have been not only dealing with hurricanes five years ago, but COVID that have kept them out of schools, we`re seeing, you know, tremendous issues with them both socially and academically. And I just have to give kudos to the teachers and to the parents, and to the kids who have done a tremendous job during that time.

We`re seeing road projects being rebuilt. We`re supposed to rebuild our entire utility system. Virgin Islanders were out of power for some up to six months. And unfortunately, so much of that has not taken places yet. But as you know, you know, after Katrina, 10 years later, some of those projects are still in the works. We`re hoping that we`re not going to be that case, that we`re going to be able to jumpstart this and to really see some tremendous growth. I unfortunately, many of us don`t feel that it`s gone as quickly as we like. But I think the pressure is on our Governor and others really want to get this done. And we`re going to see it happen.

RUHLE: All right. Always good to see, Representative Stacey Plaskett.

PLASKETT: Stephanie, and see it again. Take a look --

RUHLE: Any excuse to go down to the Virgin Islands, I will not turn down the opportunity.

PLASKETT: Thank you.

RUHLE: Always good to see you, Representative Stacey Plaskett.

When we come back, they were all declassified. No, no, no, no, wait, it`s just a storage issue. Actually, it`s all the leaker`s fault. How the GOP is trying to explain away the classified document controversy and how it`s not working? When THE 11TH HOUR continues.




SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: This is really at its core, a storage argument that they`re making, right? They`re arguing there are documents there. They don`t deny that he should have access to those documents, but they deny that they were not properly stored.


RUHLE: That was Florida Senator Marco Rubio over the weekend attempting to defend former President Trump`s handling of classified documents. It`s a storage issue. And then here`s what we heard from him today, after the Washington Post reported that storage issue was really material on a foreign nation`s nuclear capabilities and that`s what was recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Here`s what Rubio said about.


RUBIO: Every single day are strategically leaking information that can`t be rebutted by the way or in any way analyzed for a reason. And that`s politics, and the government sent a letter to Trump`s lawyer basically saying we think you are in possession of X number of boxes. They didn`t say immediately return those to us, it said please store them somewhere where they`re safe behind lock and key and the like.



RUHLE: No, no, no, no, no. They said return, return, return and Trump`s lawyers signed off and said, we don`t have anything. That was a lie.

Here to break all of this down, Juanita Tolliver, Veteran Political Strategist to Progressive Candidates and Causes, and MSNBC Political Contributor Matthew Dowd, also a former George W. Bush Strategist and Founder of Country Over Party.

Juanita, what do you think of Rubio`s response? And at what point does this become indefensible? I mean, it`s crazy.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s already indefensible, Stephanie. And he has absolutely no shame to continue to put his face on air, repeatedly getting him titling himself and not trying to defend the indefensible, trying to defend someone that he knows has done wrong and violated basic laws. And I think this is par for the course where the Republican Party writ large, they`ve been doing this in the face of scandalous criminal behavior, insurrectionist violence from former President Trump and they`re going to keep doing it because he is their guy. They look at Trump and say that he is the future of our party. So, no one should expect them to stop this ridiculous slate of explanations they continuously come up with, they`re only going to keep doubling down and making themselves look ridiculous. All for Trump.

RUHLE: But there are all sorts of Republicans in office who do not want Donald Trump to be the head of their party.

Joe Biden, Matt is calling out MAGA Republicans, but at this point, aren`t all Republicans MAGA Republicans unless you`re Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger. I don`t hear any of them talking about threats to our democracy and national security?

MATTHEW DOWD, MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: About 80% of the Republican Party is MAGA Republicans today. I mean, that`s 80% of Republicans support Donald Trump, believe the election was stolen, or all of that. That`s the Republican Party that exists today. The problem for people like Marco Rubio, and other Republicans, is they told the truth about Donald Trump until he became the Republican nominee in 2016.

Marco Rubio called Donald Trump a con man. Marco Rubio called Donald Trump on embarrassment. Marco Rubio said Donald Trump had no principles and would be a danger to the Republican Party in the country. He said all that until Donald Trump became the Republican nominee. And at this point, the truth is obviously the best political answer here, which is, this is a problem. This is concerning. It needs to be investigated. And we look forward to the results of that investigation. That`s the best answer.

RUHLE: But Mr. Dowd, after Donald Trump became president, he then lost the House, lost the Senate, lost the White House and was the grand loser. So why continue to be an apologist for him?

DOWD: Because they`re first concerned about their base. That`s the problem. I mean, I`m with you. They -- we ought to do is tell truth. And we first start to tell truth to our family. And we first start to tell truth to those closest to us. The Republican Party has lost that ability, they refuse to tell their own base, which is why their base believes that Joe Biden isn`t a legitimate president, because they stood up there and wouldn`t tell truth to their base. And even in the midst of an FBI investigation, and the Justice Department, they still refuse to tell the truth to their base. That`s the fundamental problem. And that, to me, is one of the greatest dangers of democracy when you have a legacy party that refuse to tell truth to their base.

RUHLE: OK, well, then, to that point, Juanita, the political analysis website FiveThirtyEight, found nearly two out of three Americans are going to have an election denier on the ballot when they go to vote this November. Do you think people understand the choice they`re about to make?

TOLLIVER: I mean, Democrats are about to work overtime to remind them of the choice that this is about supporting violent insurrectionists, who don`t believe in the 2020 election outcome or supporting the future of our democracy.

And the other thing that I have going -- I think that Democrats have going for themselves is that 67% of the general public believes that democracy is on the brink of collapse. And that concern will be following them into the polls. And so, as President Biden laid it plain, and made the case to the American public last week, in his speech, that this choice is between insurrectionists or semi-fascist or MAGA Republicans in our democracy, he was not exaggerating. He wasn`t exaggerating one bit. And Stephanie, of course, I looked at that analysis and found that even in my own state, there`s going to be multiple, multiple election deniers on the ballot in November, and it`s a sickening reality that was orchestrated by Trump who said he wanted people who would be willing to deny electors overturn elections or find votes when he calls them and now, he has a slate of these individuals running up and down the ballot across the country in November and the threat is present and clear.

RUHLE: Matt, I want to share what we heard from Republican Senator Rob Portman said tonight when he was asked if Republicans had the votes to codify same marriage.



SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R) OHIO: If he couldn`t do, we will because all we`re talking about is the status quo and frankly it`s a legislative function. It -- in my view, is the appropriate role of Congress to speak here. And to be sure that one, we are ensuring that people who are in relationships already aren`t at risk of losing the ability to move from state to state, which is really what this is about.


RUHLE: Protecting same sex marriage. Matt, does it sound to you, like Republicans may be realizing how damaging the Roe reversal was?

DOWD: Well, I think what they`ve discovered is, is this all these things that they`ve been pursuing for years, which whether it`s take getting rid of Roe vs. Wade, what it is on marriage equality, whether it could be on contraceptions, they`ve actually succeeded in many ways. And now they realize the vast majority of the public can`t stand what they stand for in those things. And so, I think this is -- I mean, I`m all for Chuck Schumer putting this to a vote. I think every American should stand up and say where they are on this, and our leaders should stand up. And I am glad that the Democrats are answering the culture war that the Republicans have launched for 20 years. Instead of doing it with small ball, Democrats are finally doing it with big ball, which is our democracy is at stake. Our freedoms are at stake. You can`t -- we`re going to fight for what America really means. Instead of fighting over small ball issues, which Democrats sometimes have a tendency to drift off into. This is a big ball election with big freedoms in our democracy at stake. And I`m really glad that Democrats are putting people on the line for these big issues.

RUHLE: And I`m really glad both of you joined us tonight. Juanita Tolliver, Matthew Dowd, good to see you both.

When we come back, The Chaos Machine, how social media affects our behavior and our mental health. Author Max Fisher will break down her division drives engagement, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.




TIMOTHEE CHALAMET, ACTOR: To be young now, to be young whenever, I can only speak from our generation, but it is to be intensely judged. I can`t imagine what it is to grow up with the onslaught of social media. And it was a relief to play characters that are wrestling with an internal dilemma absent the ability to go on Reddit or Twitter, Instagram or TikTok and figure out where they fit in.


RUHLE: After Timothee Chalamet went on to say sometimes social media even makes it tough to be alive. And the impact of social media has become an inescapable reality for many of us, affecting everything from our politics to the human brain. I`m happy to welcome Max Fisher, author of The Chaos Machine: The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World. It was released yesterday. Max, we know these platforms radicalized people, we know we`re addicted to them. But how serious is it?

MAX FISHER, AUTHOR, "THE CHAOS MACHINE": So, what we now know, what is new and what is in this book, what I spent four- or five-years chasing is we finally have hard, scientific, empirical demonstrative evidence that it is changing your nature if you are on these platforms. And this is not just, it`s easy to think, oh, it`s just --

RUHLE: What`s changing nature? Changing of brain?

FISHER: It changes, oh my god, it changes your brain chemistry, because that is part of the addictive function that was deliberately designed into it. It changes your emotional makeup, the emotions that you feel, not just when you`re online, but all the time, even when you`re offline far away from social media. It changes the way you think about your identity and the place of your identity in the world that changes the way that you think about other social groups makes you more distrustful antagonistic towards them. And it even changes your sense of right and wrong, the way that you judge what is moral and immoral is distorted by the platform. It`s not something they set out to do. But it is something that they had evidence that they were going to be doing. And it is now we can actually show how that effect works.

RUHLE: It might not be what they set out to do, but it`s what they`re doing. And they`re not stopping. So, what`s going to change this, right? If we`re addicted, we`re not changing our behavior. The government hasn`t regulated anything. And these companies are making zillions of dollars. So, what will be the catalyst to change things?

FISHER: I think the -- there`s a top down and a bottom-up answer. And for both of these, I think a lot of it has to do with a just mental shift and understanding that these are the cigarette companies, they are selling a product that is addictive. That is baked into their business model that cannot be engineered out of their business model, you see that some lawmakers and regulators are starting to see this, they started see it`s not about make this tweak, enforce this moderation policy a little bit better. But confronting these companies is something that is deliberately distorting us in ways that are unhealthy.

And the bottom up answer, which is the one that I get asked all the time, and I think is actually a little bit more encouraging, is that once you start to see the drug like effect that it has on you, if you were anything like the median American who spends a couple hours a day on these social platforms, when you start to understand it the way that alcohol might affect you, once you understand the way that coffee affects you, it becomes easier to control for that effect to understand and to differentiate when is something -- when are you doing something because you want to do it because the platform has trained you to do it and to understand when you can and cannot use it safely and maybe like with any addictive product moderate it to what is going to be most responsible for you.


RUHLE: Are you on social media?

FISHER: I am it is hard not to be. They have just --

RUHLE: OK, so hold on, all that you studied for five years, all that you just told me. But still, yeah, you`d like to tweet? That`s crazy.

FISHER: It is crazy. They have -- they`ve so successfully dominated our discourse, the way that we consume news, I am on it, maybe 95% less than I used to be. And I use it completely differently. I mean, again, understanding it like a drug, it`s one that hides its effects. So, you don`t realize that you are taking this drug every time you open this platform, which for most Americans is a couple dozen times a day. And when you start to treat it like a drug, maybe you only take it once or twice a day in controlled circumstances very carefully, which is how I use it now, as opposed to all the time for every day.

RUHLE: OK, but here`s what`s different between social media and drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. They`re all highly regulated.

FISHER: Yeah. Yes, that`s right. And it`s tough to make that shift with social media. Because the drug like effect is number one, it`s hidden. Because you think that you`re just on this platform, interacting with your friends reading the news, and you don`t realize that these incredibly powerful systems are delivering these dopamine boosts and changing your behavior. And two because the drug like effect changes your social behavior, it`s not something --

RUHLE: Or is it tough? Because there`s no political will to do so because of the huge lobbying dollars of those companies, right? Pregnant women still love smoking cigarettes and drinking until the government said, here are the risks.

FISHER: Yeah, it`s true. It`s it was a big top-down shift and regulation. It was a big bottom-up shift in cultural attitudes towards what we considered -- there was a -- you know, a lot of people went from thinking it`s OK to smoke when you were, for example, pregnant to thinking that you shouldn`t do that. And that change in social norms around cigarettes had a big effect and I think it has to be both in order to change how we think about social media to.

RUHLE: Lawmakers, are you watching? If not, read Max`s book. Max Fisher, thanks for joining us.

FISHER: Thank you.

RUHLE: I appreciate it. Again, his new book, The Chaos Machine, it is out on bookshelves now.

When we come back, a return to decency, the former president and first lady returned to the White House for a tradition several years overdue. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.




BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You`ll note that he refused to hide any of my gray hairs. The refuse my request to make my ears smaller. He also talked me out of wearing a tan suit by the way.



RUHLE: The last thing before we go tonight, a return to decency. A long- standing tradition returned to the White House today when the Biden`s hosted the Obamas for the big reveal of their official portraits. Paintings that are not to be confused with the Obamas images in the National Portrait Gallery that were unveiled back in 2018. The White House tradition is usually carried out by the former president`s successor, but the event was put on hold during the Trump administration. No official explanation was ever given. So, the portraits were kept secret until today. During this afternoon`s event, the fondness, the Biden`s and Obamas have for each other was on full display, as was the respectful couples hold for the highest office in the land. Watch this.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Barack and Michelle, welcome home. Welcome home. With Barack as our president, we get up every day and went to work full of hope for real, full of purpose, and excited about the possibility before us. There are a few people I`ve ever known with more integrity, decency, and moral courage than Barack Obama.

OBAMA: Thanks to your decency, and thanks to your strength. Maybe most of all, thanks to your faith in our democracy, and the American people. The country is better off than when you took office. And we should all be deeply grateful for them. And when future generations walk these halls and look up at these portraits, I hope they get a better honest sense of who Michelle and I were. And I hope they leave with a deeper understanding that if we could make it here, maybe they can too. They can do remarkable things too.


RUHLE: Michelle Obama had not set foot in the White House since her husband left office. Today, the First Lady met the moment and spoke about the importance of our democratic institutions with a subtle swipe with the former president.


MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FORMER FIRST LADY: Traditions like this matter, not just for those of us who hold these positions, but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy. You see the people they make their voices heard with their vote, we hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Those of us lucky enough to serve work, as Barack said, as hard as we can for as long as we can, as long as the people choose to keep us here. And once our time is up, we move on. A girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this House and she definitely wasn`t supposed to serve as First Lady.


That is what this country is about. It`s not about blood or pedigree or wealth, it`s a place where everyone should have a fair shot.


RUHLE: A call for equality and fairness from the former First Lady takes us off the air tonight.


And on that note, I wish you all a very good night. From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, thanks for staying up late. I will see you at the end of tomorrow.