MTP Daily, Transcript 3/31/2017
Show: MTP DAILY
Date: March 31, 2017
Guest: Abbe Lowell, Eliana Johnson, Bill Kristol, Jennifer Palmieri, Kevin Mandia
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Friday.
There`s one thing the president is not immune from, controversy. Tonight,
a presidency on the brink. And an ousted White House adviser says he`s got
a story to tell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House concerned that General Flynn has
damaging information about the president?
SEAN SPICER, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODED: Plus, targeted trolling. Life imitates art.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Organic news (INAUDIBLE) key word searches (INAUDIBLE)
can`t get enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: How Russia`s real life cyber-attack strategy is straight out of this
season`s home land.
And you can`t always get what you want. And if you try sometimes, you just
find out I`m obsessed with ugly compromises.
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington. Welcome to Friday`s MTP
DAILY. And we begin tonight with a presidency on the brink of irrepair.
Yes, it`s early. But after just 70 days, the White House faces the very
real prospect of a domino effect of cascading crisis. Tremendous damage
has already been done to this administration`s credibility, its authority
and its ability to govern.
And things seem to get worse because the president, arguably, keeps making
them worse. His agenda is stalled so he`s declared war on a majority of
Congress by threatening conservatives and Democrats. More and more members
of his own party are openly bucking him. And, in some cases, mocking his
threats of vengeance.
Then, there`s the Russia cloud which has infected everything but the
president refuses to acknowledge it. Instead, he`s doubling down on
conspiracy theories, hoaxes and misinformation. It`s arguably a disastrous
place to be for a presidency that`s just 70 days old.
And now, we`ve learned that the president`s former security adviser,
Michael Flynn, wants immunity to testify on Russia. Congressional
investigators have so far turned that request down. And, remember, folks
asking for immunity doesn`t mean you`re guilty of a crime. But it`s not an
argument that Mike Flynn or President Trump can creditably make.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENERAL MIKE FLYNN, FORMER SECURITY ADVISOR: The very last thing that John
Podesta just said is no individual too big to jail. That should include
Hillary Clinton. I mean, five people around her have had – have been
given immunity, to include her former chief of staff. When you are given
immunity, that means you`ve probably committed a crime.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And her ring leaders were given
immunity. And if you`re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity
TODD: The White House said today that Mr. Trump wants Flynn to testify.
But President Trump defended Flynn`s request for immunity by calling the
investigation a witch hunt after he called it a hoax. The president`s
comments today were rejected by the top Republican on the House Oversight
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a witch hunt?
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: No, I don`t think it`s a witch hunt. Look,
it`s very mysterious, to me though, why all of a sudden General Flynn is
out there saying he wants immunity. That, A, I don`t think Congress should
give him immunity. If there`s an open investigation by the FBI, that
should not happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Questions about the White House`s interference of a House probe of
Russia are also piling up. Remember, this is like a side bar story
compared to these other two issues.
And after “The New York Times” and “Washington Post” reported that the
White House, itself, actually fed the information to its top ally on the
House Intelligence Committee, in this case, Congressman Devin Nunes, in
what appears to be an attempt to use the investigation to prop up the
president`s baseless claims that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
For the past eight days, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has
arguably gone out of his way to mislead the press on this particular story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you rule out that the White House or anyone in
the Trump administration gave Chairman Nunes that information?
SPICER: I don`t know what he actually briefed the president on. But I
don`t know why he would (INAUDIBLE) brief the president on something that
we gave him. That doesn`t really seem to make a ton of sense. So, I`m not
aware of it but it doesn`t really pass the smell test.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would Nunes need to brief the president on
documents he viewed on White House grounds?
SPICER: Because that`s a big assumption that you`re making. To jump to
that conclusion is, frankly, irresponsible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have any information to live up to the
commitment you made here on Monday to provide more detail as to how that
happened in a process you just told us, yet again, is (INAUDIBLE) and
SPICER: I don`t have anything for you on that at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You told us that you`re willing to look into it.
SPICER: And I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And ask (INAUDIBLE) about the process and provide us
SPICER: No, no, no. I – please don`t put words in my mouth. I never
said I would provide you answers. I said we would look into it.
TODD: So, there you go. And that`s just Spicer`s spin on this one topic.
Then, there`s the president`s escalating war with conservatives in his own
party. After threatening to campaign against them that 2018, he`s now
begun to single some of them out on Twitter.
Folks, it should be obvious by now, but President Trump has a temperament
problem now. He cannot compartmentalize or let things go. And if you`re
always fighting the last fight, you risk being blindsided by the next one.
[17:05:07] Ask yourself, is this president prepared to lead if there`s a
crisis in the world right now? How do you think our allies might answer
that question? And, more important, how might our enemies answer it?
I`m joined now by Washington super lawyer Abbe Lowell. He was chief
counsel to House Democrats during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. He`s
the head of Chadbourne and Parke`s litigation department.
Mr. Lowell, always good to see you, sir.
ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY, CHADBOURNE AND PARKE: Nice to see you, Chuck.
TODD: OK, let`s give me some legal clarity here. Mike Flynn asked – his
lawyer asked for some form of immunity, number one, saying he has an
interesting story. Number two, we now know that, essentially, the Senate
said, too soon, no thank you, not yet. Different ways, different people
have interpreted that. But explain why asking for immunity is not an
admission of guilt.
LOWELL: So, it is a little ironic, right, that both President Trump and
Mike Flynn, himself, during the campaign made those ridiculous statements,
that if somebody gets immunity, they must be guilty of something. But
that`s clearly not the case, although I guess they`ll to have figure out a
way to explain what they meant.
What it is, though, is a device by which the Senate, or it could be an
agency, seeks the ability to get somebody`s testimony and their testimony
can`t be used against they if the Justice Department then comes after them
in a criminal case. People don`t quite get right.
So, it`s considered what`s called used immunity. It can`t be used. It
doesn`t mean you can`t be prosecuted.
LOWELL: It means your words can`t be used against you. It makes it three
times harder to get a prosecution but that`s what it`s about.
TODD: OK, but let`s look at the way this story is. Nobody has 100 percent
confirmed but it appears that Mike Flynn is among the folks the FBI is
investigating. That he is at – if he is not at the center of the
investigation, he`s certainly within a few yards of the center there.
If the Justice Department is in an active investigation of him when he`s
testifying before the Senate, how would the immunity apply or, at that
point, what would happen?
LOWELL: So, if immunity occurs, at any point in the process, what happens
then is a mad frenzy by prosecutors, they have to basically box up all the
information they have, at that moment, and show somewhere, someplace,
sometime that they had it without regard to anything he said after he got
People will remember that that became an issue during Iran contour when the
Senate and the house gave immunity to Oliver North. And, therefore,
ultimately, it was found that the government couldn`t prove the evidence
they had against him was untainted by what he had given in immunity.
So, what happens is if you get immunity, the prosecutors who bring your
case have a burden of showing that not only they`re not using the words,
but nothing derived from your words to be making the case against you?
TODD: I`m glad you brought up Oliver north. He had immunity to testify
but he still was prosecuted.
LOWELL: Yes, but, ultimately, the prosecution failed and was reversed
because the immunity tainted the case.
TODD: And so, in this case, this is why – if you look at Oliver North,
then this is why, if you were Mike Flynn, you want this immunity.
LOWELL: Absolutely. And, by the way, I thought his lawyer did a very good
thing for him by trying to be as provocative as he could be by saying, he
has story to tell, trying to entice the Congress to give him immunity.
Because his assumption must be, my guy isn`t going into public service
anymore, so I don`t care about what the ramifications of getting immunity
is going to be. But if I get him immunity, it will make it 10 times harder
for anybody to ever bring a case against him.
TODD: All right. What if you`re currently in the White House staff right
now? Or n the NSC staff right now and all of this is happening. Is it
time to lawyer up?
LOWELL: Well, speaking as one the of lawyers in the Washington community,
yes, it should have happened yesterday. And my number – no, no.
So, what I really think is, it is too early to lawyer up. I mean. not
everybody needs a lawyer, period. The people who are the targets or the
focus basically are already consulting. When you say if you`re at the NSC
or whoever. No, not everybody who has ever spoken to Mike Flynn or anybody
else about any of this needs a lawyer.
And, look, I want to say something that people also get lost here. I know
there`s a lot of rhetoric like anybody who gets immunity must have done
something wrong. There may not be anything underneath all this. And I
believe as others should that we believe that presumption of innocence
Having said that, if you had to draw a line where there should be lawyering
up, I think when you have Mike Flynn, that`s a good place.
TODD: So, what conditions – why would the Senate feel as if they needed
to get him immunity if the FBI is in the middle of an investigation? What
would be their motivation to – essentially, to disrupt the investigation?
Because that`s what they`d be doing if they did this.
LOWELL: OK. So, there`s only two reasons why either the Congress or even
a prosecutor would give anybody immunity. Reason one is because they can`t
tell the whole story without that person, period.
TODD: That they are the lynchpin to – that they –
[17:10:00] LOWELL: That they are – they are – I would say, they are –
TODD: – are person X to person Y.
LOWELL: OK. But that`s, kind of, the first to the second, but you`re onto
it. They are that link in a chain. And without that link, it does not
But the second reason is related. They need that person to go rat out
somebody higher or more important than they do and they think that the
person that they will get evidence about is either more culpable or more
important to go after than the person who gets immunity.
TODD: If you were Mike Flynn`s lawyer today and you saw the president`s
tweet this morning, which indicated, no, I want him to get immunity. He
should ask for it. Would that make you happy or nervous?
LOWELL: If you were his lawyer, you would`ve been very happy because you
thought that that tweet would influence the Congress to give you what you
want for your – for your client. Is it a bluff on the president`s part?
Does Mike Flynn know something about the president? We don`t know.
That`s, kind of, all the psychology we won`t know.
But, again, remember, if you`re protecting Mike Flynn`s interests, you`re
going to do everything possible to get him Congressional immunity which
will put a big monkey wrench in any prosecution that anybody would want to
bring. And if you`re anybody else on the planet, you don`t want him to
TODD: Now, you have a situation with Mike Flynn where he may be being
investigated with some things have nothing to do with the Russia issue.
He`s got this entire Turkey episode that`s sitting there, too. At what
point could those investigations get linked and the immunity gets linked?
LOWELL: Well, OK, so, understand the contours of immunity.
LOWELL: We use that phrase. We`re all using that phrase.
TODD: I know. That`s what I`ve been worried about.
LOWELL: So, if I got immunity and I went before Congress and I was asked,
Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia and never asked a question about Turkey,
Turkey, Turkey, Turkey, then your immunity on Russia isn`t going to stop
the government from finding evidence about Turkey.
And, remember, they could still prosecute you about both. The lynchpin is
that if you`re given immunity for what you say, a prosecutor has to prove
not only that he or she didn`t use what you said, but didn`t get any
evidence derived from what you said.
It`s theoretically possible that he could be asked questions about what he
did in the White House. But what he did someplace which thinks like it`s
Russia but also links something to Turkey, that wouldn`t be a good day for
TODD: Very interesting. Abbe Lowell, there`s a reason Mr. Korinizer (ph)
calls you the smartest man in Washington. Appreciate you being here, sir.
LOWELL: Good to see you.
TODD: Thank you.
Let me bring in tonight`s panel. Jennifer Palmieri was the communications
director to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama White House. Bill
Kristol is the editor-at-large for “The Weekly Standard.” Eliana Johnson,
National Political Reporter for Politico. Welcome, all.
OK. Eliana, it`s – this is a White House that feels as if it is totally
off the rails now. Do they grasp how off the rails it is right now?
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: I think they do. I
think the vast majority of the people in the White House and the president,
himself, grasp that things are going awry.
The – I think the question is, who`s in charge there to put things back on
the rails? And I`m not sure there is anybody.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, “THE WEEKLY STANDARD”: I mean, I think a
White House in which a mid-level NSC staffer is looking through the most
sensitive documents and then sharing them with a Congressman, a chairman of
a committee, granted, outside of channels, not notifying his boss, a
superior, or notifying him or notifying different superiors, perhaps, to
whom he doesn`t directly report but who are – were happy to have him do
this. That is a White House that is asking for huge trouble.
This – if you look at the history of White House scandals, this is often
how they begin, right?
JENNIFER PALMIERI: Yes, and we haven`t even gotten to the – the
underlying problem is still the investigation on Russia, right? And this
is just – they are compounding all of their problems now because they`re
panicking. They`re inexperienced. They`re turning on each other. And the
president is consumed by it.
TODD: You know, –
PALMIERI: Right? Like, that`s a mess. There`s no – there`s no
compartmentalization of this.
TODD: No. And it`s funny you say that. And you worked for a president
that was under investigation in Bill Clinton. He figured it out how to
come out of it. There`s a point, no matter how much –
TODD: – you`re in denial, no matter how much you`re angry and seething,
he found a way to compartmentalize and said, OK, I still want to try to
PALMIERI: Yes. You put a team together. You isolate the problem. You
say, these are the people that are working on this. No one else talks to
the press about it. No one else talks to – you don`t – you don`t gossip
about it internally.
And those are the people that manage this. But you have – now, you have,
like, staffer turning on each other. And you saw in “The Washington Post”
story today about the Nunes meeting, that, you know, the staff trying on
save each other by –
TODD: Oh, it`s clear that it`s White House staff dropping dimes on other
White House staff.
KRISTOL: They`ve gotten more sensitive about national security matters. I
mean, whatever everyone thinks of the Clinton White House, the Clinton
foreign policy. You know, I don`t think Sandy Berger allowed mid-level
staffers to, sort of, freelance, to maybe take orders from some other
counselor to the Lady Davis (ph) on the –
KRISTOL: That is just – that is such a recipe for disaster. A, you`re
breaking various protocols, probably, in how you`re handling classified
material and so forth. And, B, you`re just creating the situation they`ve
now got which is why won`t they say – people are going to think, why will
they not say who the staff was who cleared the chairman of the House
It`s not wrong to clear someone. I`ve cleared thousands of – you clear
thousands of people in or your staff did.
KRISTOL: When you worked at the White House. If it`s – if there`s no
problem, who was it?
[17:15:02] The reason they don`t want to say who it was is that that who it
was then get asked, immediately, by a congressional committee, well, who
did you talk to while you were doing all this research?
PALMIERI: Yes, and we`re learning more – I think that we`re learning more
about the hand of Bannon and Kushner in all of this. Like, they – there
is a 30-year-old who is in charge of national intelligence at the National
Security Council. It`s crazy. And this supposed story today –
KRISTOL: (INAUDIBLE) that General McMaster having been put in charge of
the security council tried to –
TODD: He tried to fire this person.
KRISTOL: – he tried to remove him or move him over or fire him, right?
JOHNSON: Tried to remove him. He – the National Security Council
staffer, by the name Ezra Cohen-Watnick, had developed a relationship with
Jared Kushner, appealed to Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon who then took his
case to the president. And the president overruled his national security
So, you know, really, I think this Russia issue is not that complicated.
Either investigators will find Trump campaign officials had inappropriate
contact with the kremlin which was interfering –
JOHNSON: – with the campaign or they did not. But what I think is
amazing about this White House is it has managed to stir up so much
controversy, in the course of this investigation, and undermine its own
case, that I think it really does make the case that there is a lot of
dysfunction going on in the White House.
TODD: It is not this White House. It is one individual. OK, the
president cannot compartmentalize. It`s the president that cannot let the
Russia story go. Because he says, oh, – he says, oh, no, it`s a hoax.
What`s wrong saying, Bill Kristol, with saying, this is a serious problem
what Russia tried to do. I was astonished that they went after Marco
Rubio, they went after Ted Cruz. Clearly, this is no longer a Democrat or
a Republican problem. This is an American problem. How do you not say
KRISTOL: Well, you should you say that but maybe he doesn`t – you`d
think, yes, just have an investigation. If he wants to – if he doesn`t
trust Congress, appoint Joe Lieberman and, you know, some other
distinguished former senator or judge or something.
TODD: Yes. Joe Lieberman and Dick Lieder.
KRISTOL: Sixty days. Well, maybe he doesn`t want the truth to come out.
Can we just be honest? Usually –
KRISTOL: Usually, when people – when people keep blowing smoke and doing
these complicated things, I`d say you could use Clinton as an example. One
reason they didn`t come clean.
This is – we had this same conversation in February, March, April of 1998.
Why doesn`t he just – why doesn`t he just let people know what happened?
You want to know why he won`t let people know what happened? Because there
was a problem.
PALMIERI: One thing to do is still to say, no one`s working –
KRISTOL: (INAUDIBLE), I don`t want to make this painful for you.
PALMIERI: None of it bothers me anymore. But –
TODD: Yes, it`s a code of armor.
PALMIERI: Yes. But the – you know, it is – it – the smart thing to do
is to say, no one is more concerned than me. No one wants to get to the
bottom of this more than I do about what really happened with Russia. And,
like, at least give lip service to it and say you`re trying to – you want
to solve the problem. You want to understand what happened.
And even if you`re not prepared to tell the truth. But that – but they
can`t even see clearly enough to know that`s a smart thing to do.
JOHNSON: When you talk about the one individual, I would add that if the
president was interested in burying this scandal, he`s taken step that have
hurt him. It`s not like he wasn`t warned that Mike Flynn was cozy with
Russia and might not be the best choice or the most prudent choice of
national security advisor. He chose him, nonetheless. And because of the
Russia angle, it blew up in his face.
So, I think the president has made some bad decisions that have, you know,
added fuel to the fire in this scandal.
TODD: No, I mean, that seems to be ultimately the biggest issue here.
All right. There`s more – we haven`t even gotten to the party infighting
yet there. It`s unbelievable.
We`ll pause here. You guys are sticking around for the hour. Coming up,
the truth might be stranger than fiction, when it comes to Russia`s cyber
strategy. How the kremlin used social media to try and influence voters.
And President Trump, I swear to God, what I saw on “Homeland” on Sunday, I
saw testified on Thursday.
TODD: Welcome back.
As Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell weighs using the so-called
nuclear option to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, his Democratic
counterpart, Chuck Schumer, now says he regrets using the same gamut or
regrets that Harry Reid used it to get President Obama`s judges through
Senate in 2013.
In fact, the Democratic leader told the Associated Press, we made one
mistake. We shouldn`t have changed the rules for lower court judges, but
we never did it for the Supreme Court. This is a much bigger mistake on
Well, Schumer is referring to the so-called Reid rule enacted by then
majority leader Harry Reid that let some lower court nominees be confirmed
with a simple majority and not allow them to be filibustered.
Well, NBC News now reports 36 Senate Democrats say they will oppose
Gorsuch, including six Democrats up for re-election next year in red
states. And if five more Democrats follow suit, they will have the votes
to filibuster and, potentially, trigger McConnell using the nuclear option.
Well, Guess what? This Sunday, Senators Schumer and McConnell will be my
exclusive – semi-exclusive guests on “MEET THE PRESS.” Check your local
We`ll be back in 60 seconds.
TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
The Senate Intelligence Committee`s first public hearing on their Russian
investigation revealed some things about the kremlin`s cyber tactics that
seem straight out of a spy novel. Expert witnesses explained the complex
tools the Russians used during election and that are still being deployed
now, including some of the way they use everyday social media sites to
spread misinformation and fake news.
Here`s how it works. Basically, a Twitter user, you see in your feed,
might look and sound like an American sitting behind his or her computer
here in the United States. But they`re actually fake profiles created by
the Russians to spread conspiracy theories. Complete with hash tags and
photos and they specifically targeted the president when they knew he was
going to be online.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI AGENT: Part of reason active measures have worked
in this U.S. election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian
active measure at time against his opponents. Gray (ph) outlets that are
Soviet pushing accounts tweet at President Trump during high volumes when
they know he`s online and they push conspiracy theories. So, if he is to
click on one of those or cite one of those, it just proves Putin correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And, yes, if you are watching every single current else of
“Homeland” and you`re up to date, then, yes, that was part of last week`s
Well, to help us understand these tactics, let me bring in Kevin Mandia.
He`s the CEO of FireEye, a fiber security company. And he was among the
folks that testified yesterday at that Senate Intelligence hearing.
Mr. Mandia, thank you for coming on the show.
KEVIN MANDIA, CEO, FIREEYE: Thanks for having me, Chuck.
TODD: OK, I`ll be honest. Some of this will seem surreal to folks. That
it seems, most, oh, come on. Are you really telling us a bunch of Russians
who may not speak the language as well as us are suddenly fooling all these
Americans? Why shouldn`t we be skeptical of the testimony we heard?
[17:25:00] MANDIA: Well, I can tell you, I first responded to Russian
intrusions back in 1996, when I was in the United States Air Force. And
we`ve seen gradual incrementalism ever since.
So, I know it`s very real. It`s part of – you know, I would say for maybe
the first 20 years, fair game for espionage was just defined differently
and had different tools. So, they used to just break in and surreptiously
But, over the years, you`ve seen an escalation from Russia doing it this.
And, by the way, it`s not just Russia.
MANDIA: You`re going to see Iran start getting into doing this and other
modern nations starting to use the same tools at their disposal to
influence public opinion, to invade our privacy, to hackle organizations.
TODD: Has the United States ever done this?
MANDIA: You know, I can`t speak for that. I haven`t responded firsthand
to an intrusion that I would have attributed to the United States.
TODD: And we don`t know of any reports of other countries claiming this,
at any point in time?
MANDIA: No, there`s been reports being claimed in that. Now, it would
stretch credulity to think we don`t have modern weaponry that`s available
in the cyber domain to meet diplomatic needs. And I think everybody`s been
trying influence public opinion with whatever media tools they had at their
disposal throughout history.
But now, we have different tools. We have Facebook. We have Twitter. We
have other anonymous ways to push different agendas. And as these tools
emerge, I would expect every modern nation will use them to propagate their
TODD: You know, it – you know, when the – Mark Warner, the ranking
Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, during his opening statement, he
was outlining that this operation was so sophisticated that it was even,
essentially, targeting the swing states. And making sure voters in the
Wisconsins, the Michigans and the Pennsylvanias, they were seeing some of
this fake news or they were making sure that they were, sort of – making
sure it was high on those social media he feeds.
TODD: Is the Russian operation that sophisticated? Have they been
downloading voter files in order to, essentially, micro-target their fake
MANDIA: You know, I don`t have firsthand knowledge as to how sophisticated
they are to that specific that Senator Warner brought up.
But I can tell you this. With the anonymity of the Internet, and with just
– you know, you can certainly peruse your agenda and push it into
different geographies. We didn`t see the evidence. But it wouldn`t not
have been in plain view during the investigations that we did into the
cyber intrusions during the election time frame and over the last 12 to 15
TODD: You know, and the most startling part it was when Clint Watts said
that the person who helped spread this misinformation the most was the
candidate himself. And that he – that they timed it – they would time
some of these stories so that he would see it.
Is – was that the fastest way to spread this?
MANDIA: I have no idea. I think there could`ve been analysis done to try
to figure that out. But I`m certain there`s – whenever you see what`s
called doxing or the leaking of information, it`s probably done
strategically. It could be done under some guise of threat. There could
be communications before it happens.
I think in what you`re referring to, there probably wasn`t communication
beforehand. But I`m sure that whoever is behind it has to be thinking
about how to get maximum impact based on timing.
TODD: Now, you brought up the fact that it was 1996 was the first time –
TODD: – you knew that Russians were trying to do this. I`ve had
intelligence sources tell me, for years, that, look, yes, there are other
countries. But while the Chinese throw a lot of resources at this, the
Russians have been much more sophisticated, really, than anybody else. And
that there is a nuance to what they do versus everybody else.
Is this run out of all GRU?
TODD: I mean, is this a Putin program? I mean, who run this program?
MANDIA: Well, it`s hard for me to tell. You know, what we get to see
firsthand is basically the results of doing nearly 20 years of responding
to computer intrusions. We have over 150 threat analysts in 19 different
countries that speak 32 languages.
But we`re responding to the victim networks. We`re analyzing the evidence
that`s left behind from these intrusions. And I would definitely say,
throughout history, what I`ve witnessed is Russia seems to have the tools
and capabilities to be more surreptitious, more successful.
And how I`ve described them, kind of in a hockey analogy, is it`s kind of
like playing goalie against Mario Lemieux on a breakaway. I mean, the
Russians put –
MANDIA: – the puck in the net when they try to hack you.
China has always been more polite about it. They`ve always, kind of,
carried the – you know, I always say they wear the Chinese jersey when
they hack you. But we seem to have come up with some kind of treaty and
rule of engagement that we`ve agreed upon with China. So, we`ve seen that
threat largely abate.
But we`re seeing Iran develop capability. And we`re seeing North Korea
develop capability. And the bottom line, Chuck, is there`s asymmetry here
that`s, sort of, dangerous for a nation.
Right now, in cyberspace, in the cyber domain, the United States is
actually in the glass house here. And there`s a lot of nations that can`t
beat us kinetically, but they can get a lot of impact to their agenda in
the cyber domain.
TODD: And, very quickly, look, how much more resources would a company
like yours need now from the federal government? I mean, is there a point
where there is only so much you can do for private firms that need your
help from like this? I mean, do we need a better national strategy here?
MANDIA: Well, we definitely need a better national strategy. And I`ll speak
for every single victim company CEO. We need a deterrent, and we need
attribution to have a deterrent. Meaning, you got to know who is behind
these attacks so that you can determine what is the proportional to these
attacks. And that`s a diplomatic thing. You got to have the current
administration work with other nations to figure out what`s gonna be fair
game for espionage.
MANDIA: . and start working on that. Otherwise, we can do our best playing
goalie, but the asymmetry, it won`t bode well for us if all we do is think
about defense. We have to think about diplomatic ways to get deterrents in
TODD: That is the challenge that I`ve heard over and over again, and no one
knows what that answer is yet. Kevin Mandia, thank you for giving voice to
this and providing some expertise. Thanks for coming on, sir.
MANDIA: Thank you.
TODD: Still ahead, the new president wants to know what the last president
knew and who he told about the Russian investigation. I`m going to talk
with somebody who was in the White House on the last day the president was
in the White House. Josh Earnest. Stay tuned.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES OF AMERICA: I don`t settle
cases. I don`t do it because that`s why I don`t get sued very often because
I don`t settle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Fast forward about a year from what you just heard and three lawsuits
against the now shattered Trump University have ended in a settlement.
District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, do you remember him? Approved the $25
million settlement today. It ends two class action lawsuits and a civil
suit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
President Trump opted to settle the cases shortly after his election in
November tweeting, as president, I have to focus on our country. Under the
settlement agreement, the Trump Organization admits no wrongdoing.
Attorneys for the former students involved understood that they will get at
least 90 percent of their money back. We should note that while some former
Trump University students alleged they were defrauded, others have said
they were happy with the school.
Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization have commented on the
settlement decision. Up next, former White House Press Secretary Josh
Earnest on what the Obama administration knew about Russia`s election
interference and when they do it. But first, Hampton Pearson with the
Friday “CNBC Market Wrap.”
HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Chuck. We
had the three major index posting quarterly gains as we close out this
quarter. The Dow falling by 65 points. The S&P down 5. The Nasdaq down 2
points, had it`s best quarter since 2013. The number of retailers filing
for bankruptcy is marching toward a post recession high.
Nine retailers have filed for Chapter 11 in just the past three months.
Consumer spending barely up last month amid delays and tax refunds.
Inflation continues to rise though, pointing to a likely interest rate
hike. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back. New developments today on the Obama administration`s
efforts to preserve intelligence of Russian election hacking. A former
Obama administration official told NBC News that Obama officials were so
concerned about what would happen to key classified documents related to
the Russia probe once Donald Trump took office, that they created a list of
document serial numbers to give to senior members of the Senate
Intelligence Committee. The Obama official said the purpose of this
document list was to make it quote, harder to bury the information.
This comes just one day after the White House Counsel Donald McGahn sent a
letter to the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee saying the White
House hopes the community will investigate whether the Obama administration
inappropriately gathered disseminated classified information.
In simpler terms, Trump White House wants to know what the Obama White
House knew about the Russia probe and how much they shared it and who they
shared it with. Communications of those Trump associates are of course were
picked up by the intelligence community.
Joining me now is a former Obama White House official, former press
secretary, Josh Earnest, who of course is a brand new NBC and MSNBC
political contributor. Mr. Earnest, how are you, sir?
JOSH EARNEST, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY, NBC AND MSNBC POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR:
I`m great, Chuck. Nice to see you.
TODD: Nice to see you.
EARNEST: Happy Friday.
TODD: Happy Friday. In this case, I want you to put on your Obama
EARNEST: All right.
TODD: So we have this news on the serial numbers. How did that work?
Explain what was happening during this transition. How concerned, how much
of an issue was inside that west wing?
EARNEST: Yeah. President Obama in December ordered the intelligence
community to actually dig in to what exactly happened with regard to Russia
and their involvement in the presidential election. And he asked them to
put together a report before the end of the administration. And the
president`s directions were actually quite clear.
He suggested that they actually brief the contents of that report not just
to the White House but to intelligence officials on Capitol Hill, in both
parties, in both the house and senate, and to the Trump transition team.
TODD: Okay, this is about whether – okay, you had intelligence that there
was some of this intelligence gathering that there was concern it might
disappear. So what – there obviously was another order that was given by
the president for preservation. Explain that.
EARNEST: I think the goal was to make sure that everyone was read in on
what exactly happened. When we sustained a significant attack on our
electoral system, that`s not a minor deal. And so the president wanted to
make sure that the intelligence community was taking a deep dive look into
this to get to the bottom of what happened, to try to assess the aims of
the Russians, but also to make sure that Democrats and Republicans were
read into what had happened so that we can take steps to prevent it from
TODD: All right. I want to talk about a previous story, “The New York
Times” story which was one that NBC, MSNBC contributor, former assistant
national security secretary defense on Russia issue, Evelyn Farkas, she
sort of gave voice to it.
It became part of this Don McGahn letter, but essentially it was on that
“New York Times” story, that said not only did you guys try to preserve
documents but you aggressively disseminated them. Perhaps even lower
classification levels in order to say make sure a Ben Cardin, who happens
to be the ranking democrat on foreign relations, could have the clearance
to receive this intelligence. Did that happen?
EARNEST: I obviously wasn`t involve in the decisions that were made about
TODD: (inaudible) decisions, but you might be involved – you might be
EARNEST: And what I can tell you about is the motivation of those
decisions. The motivation of those decisions was to make sure that as many
intelligence officials, again we`re talking about intelligence
professionals at the FBI and other places, but also at the relevant
committees in congress were read in on what happened. This has a serious
attack on our political system. This is not a small matter that we have
Russia intervening in a presidential election in rather brazen fashion.
So the Obama administration did make a concerted effort to make sure that
relevant officials were aware of all the evidence, had access to all the
materials that could us some insight and to what tactics were used, what
motives could contributed to Russia`s decision to get involved in this way.
But also to think about what sort of response would be most effective in
trying to be, to deter Russia in this kind of activity in the future.
TODD: Do you understand why the Trump White House believes this was a – or
at least maybe perhaps the president believes that this was a concerted
effort to undermine his legitimacy as president?
EARNEST: Well, again, if they don`t have anything to hide, it raises
questions about why they are refusing to be so forthcoming. Why are there
so many Trump officials hiding, or at least not being forthcoming, with so
many meetings they had with so many Russian officials?
For example, there is now this investigation into what kinds of
conversations Jared Kushner, the president`s son-in0law, was having with
the Russian ambassador. I remember during the Trump transition, there were
all kinds of people being paraded through the lobby of Trump Tower. Kanye
West, Don King, but for some reason the Russian ambassador was snuck in
through the back door. Why is that?
And if the White House says, this is just typical of what you would expect
the transition team to do in terms of meeting with ambassadors, then why
hide it? Why is this such a – this is just not the only example, we`ve got
Jeff Sessions, Mike Flynn, others who are accused of not being forthcoming
with this information.
TODD: One other story that popped this week. James Comey, it was reported,
wanted to do an op-ed, very early, I guess late June or early July, about
Russian interference and it was somehow – the reporting says, it was nixed
by the White House. What do you know about this?
EARNEST: I actually don`t know about those conversations.
TODD: That was news to you?
EARNEST: That`s news to me.
TODD: The idea that Comey wanted to go public?
EARNEST: Yes, that was news to me. What we know is that he did that
extraordinary news conference where he announced.
TODD: He wanted to go public on Russia as well with an op-ed. It was nixed
by the way.
EARNEST: I can`t speak to this conversation. I wasn`t involved in those.
But if James Comey was making his own decision about what he wanted to
communicate publicly and there was some heartburn about the manner that he
chose to communicate publicly, not just in July, but also in that letter
that he released in October.
TODD: Josh Earnest. Do you miss the podium?
EARNEST: Not today, no.
TODD: Fair enough.
TODD: Welcome aboard. Thanks for being here.
EARNEST: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Coming up, why I`m obsessed with the reaction to North Carolina`s HB2
repeal and the dying art of the political deals.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight I`m obsessed with reminding people that
politics is the art of the possible, not the art of the ideal. Democrat Roy
Cooper won North Carolina`s governorship largely due to his opposition HB2,
the law mandating that transgender people use the bathroom corresponding
with their gender shown on their birth certificate.
But on Thursday, Cooper and North Carolina`s Republican state legislators
agreed on a compromise that got rid the law name that prevents
municipalities from allowing transgender people from using the bathroom of
their choice. Not surprisingly, LGBTQ advocates are outraged of the
Charlotte Observer, Cooper turns back on LGBT community. “The New York
Times,” North Carolina`s bait-and-switch on transgender. Slate, The HB2
repeal bill is an unmitigated disaster for LGBTQ rights and North Carolina.
Maybe in a less polarized era, deal more acceptable to the LGBTQ community
would have been possible.
But you have to remember what`s going on in North Carolina. Republicans
have a vetoed proof majority in the state legislature. It was this or the
status quo. If we`re going to start punishing politicians by demanding all
or nothing at all, then nothing at all is what you`re always going to get.
This is what compromise is going to look like in this polarized era. It`s
gonna stink. It`s gonna feel like loose, loose. But if you refuse to
compromise, you won`t get anything. Just ask the Republicans in congress
how repealing and replacing Obamacare is going. We`ll be right back.
TODD: We`ve got some breaking news. We`re now learning more about why the
government issued that ban on laptop computers and other electronic devices
from carry-on bags on some overseas flights to the United States. U.S.
officials say that the decision was made based on an assessment that
suggests that various terrorist organizations have developed the means to
conceal explosives in laptop computers in a way that could elude security
screening, particularly in some of those countries that were identified.
We`ll have a lot more details from Pete Williams on the NBC nightly news in
a little bit. Let me bring the panel back in. Jennifer Palmieri, Eliana
Johnson, Bill Kristol. Very quickly. Not surprisingly, there had to be
something connected with that. Jen, there`s plenty of times that temporary
decisions were made when you were there about what could go in, and
remember we had toner cartridges we were worried about at one time.
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Right.
TODD: We had the shoe issue before that. This is sort of almost a regular
thing that happens inside the international sort of screening process,
PALMIERI: Yeah, and the fact that we first heard about it from the airlines
made me understand that it was legit and that it was something that had
been worked through the bureaucracy unlike other things that came out of
the Trump White House. Because that`s how, you know, you work with the
airlines actually to figure out how you`re going to tell everybody what
they can bring on and what they can`t bring on.
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE WEEKLY STANDARD, NEOCONSERVATIVE
POLITICAL ANALYST AND COMMENTATOR: I`ve had my cross with the intelligence
community. (inaudible) a little bit and to degree I was able to understand
that stuff. And also when I was outside, I`ve been critical – you do want
basically to have citizens trust what the intelligence community tells the
White House and then when the White House announces something like this or
some other agency announces it, you want some level of trust. This is
damage the Trump is doing.
TODD: It`s interesting that you bring this up and we`re connecting it to
the trust issue early on because, look, I had somebody say to me their
biggest fear right now with the current state of the Trump White House is
if you were Kim Jong-un, if you were Putin, if you were an adversary of the
United States, this is a time to strike. This is the time to do something
because, you know, maybe you moved troops to the border of Estonia. I mean,
I hate to be – but that is a concern. Is this White House ready for this?
ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER AT POLITICO: For a while I had
thought that there would be some sort of international crisis that will
reveal sort of the character of the White House and how everything really
works. Whether the president listens to his cabinet secretaries and takes
their counsel or whether this completely falls apart and the administration
comes to an untimely end.
And I think truth and trust are two really important things and Donald
Trump was a product of a lack of faith in institutions and the weakness of
institutions. And now that he`s president, he`s further undermining
people`s faith in institutions, the intelligence community, political
parties, congress, you know, health care bill not getting passed, wasn`t
good for people`s faith and the ability of congress to function. He`s
undermined people`s trust in the intelligence community and so on. He`s
compounded the problem that he`s been elected to fix.
TODD: She has made a point that a crisis does reveal that initial
PALMIERI: Right, yes.
TODD: I remember you weren`t there in the Obama White House in `09. I
remember the underwear bomber incident.
TODD: There`s a lot of things that the White House learned.
TODD: And, you know, some of the things.
PALMIERI: And how you lock down the chain of information about who knows
what, what they need to know and who.
TODD: And they were 11 months into the presidency then and they were still
PALMIERI: And having the wherewithal to not answer questions or not put
information out until you`re sure that it`s right because I get – I mean,
every time there`s a major incident or terrorist act or something, the
first reports were always wrong, without exception, always wrong. And you
have to be careful.
TODD: Bill, last word.
KRISTOL: You need allies to trust you in an emergency, right? If President
Trump calls Chancellor Merkel and says hey, we have real problem, we have
intelligence to show us something is happening in Estonia, you need it to
be a reliable statement.
TODD: That was the word of the economist today in that deadly cover that
they had today. Anyway, Jennifer, Bill, Eliana, thanks for being flexible
with me. I appreciate that. After the break, has the internet taken the fun
out of April fools? Has the internet taken the fun out of all snark? Stay
TODD: Well, in case you missed it, the internet, of course, maybe social
media ruined April Fools` Day. As a public service, let us remind you that
tomorrow is April 1st. What you really need to know is it`s crab season. It
used to be the time to trick your family or friends with a goofy gag or a
lighthearted frank. Perhaps a few M&M mixed in with can of Skittles or some
surprise redecorating a co-worker`s office.
And sometimes the TV networks got in on it, on the fun. Here you see the
BBC`s 1957 special report on the Swiss spaghetti harvest. But in the age of
the internet, April Fool`s Day changed entirely. The spoof shared between
friends became overshadowed by large-scale hoaxes and marketing
opportunists. We used to seeing at least one fake celebrity death spread
around on Twitter and with the goal of going borrow, companies these days
push outrageous phony products that I will admit we all still get a kick
And then like, you know, Jim Bean`s can of Jim beans or Burger King`s
whopper toothpaste or even Google`s Miss Pacman overhaul under Google map.
So yes, the internet kill April Fool`s Day. But if you must celebrate, do
it in person. Do it with kids. Maybe try putting some toothpaste between
two Oreo cookies. Old-fashion fun. Keep your April Fools` Day off of social
media since guess what, in the age of fake news, how do you even know what
is real anymore on that feed.
That`s all we got for tonight. We`ll be back on Monday with more “MTP
Daily.” And if it`s Sunday, don`t forget to catch “Meet the Press.”
McConnell and Schumer. No place else, just see them both. “For the Record
with Greta” starts right now. Go ahead, Greta.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the