The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/16/2017
Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: March 16, 2017
Guest: Glen Caplin, Wendy Sherman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us at this
In 1980, the Summer Olympics was held in Moscow. And even if you were an
old person like me and you were an old enough person in the year 1980 to
conceivably have memories of those Olympic Games, if you`re an American,
there`s a reason why you don`t have memories of those Olympic Games. And
it`s because the United States boycotted those Olympics in protest of the
Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
U.S. President Jimmy Carter led a boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980.
It wasn`t just us. Ultimately, the U.S. led a coalition of 65 countries
that did not go to the Olympics in Moscow that year. And then,
incidentally, it was pitiful four years later, the Olympics were held in
Los Angeles four years later in 1984, Moscow decided that they would lead
their own international boycott of the United States hosting the Olympic
Games as retaliation for what happened to them in 1980.
But the United States had, again, led a coalition of 65 countries for the
boycott of Moscow. The Soviet Union basically just got themselves and
their little sphere of influence in the Eastern Bloc. It was 14 countries
in total, including the Soviet Union that boycotted L.A. in 1984.
But that weird period in Olympic history had one legacy for right now
that`s turning out to be sort of interesting. That – the Moscow Olympics,
that Moscow Olympic adventure with that weird international intrigue around
it in 1980, that was the last time Russia got an Olympics for a very, very
long time, for a generation.
Fast forward to 2007 – July, 2007, the International Olympic Committee met
in this city, in lovely Guatemala City in Guatemala to make a decision
about who would get the Winter Olympic Games in 2014. As you can see,
Guatemala City is lovely, cosmopolitan place. The International Olympic
Committee likes to do their selections of cities who get the Olympics, they
like to do it with as much drama and pomp and circumstance as possible.
So, there was really global focus on the International Olympic Committee
when they convened that July in Guatemala City to make their decision about
where the Winter Olympics was going to be in 2014.
And the top three contenders were Salzburg in Austria, Pyeongchang in South
Korea and Russia, the city of Sochi in Russia. It would have been Russia`s
first Olympic games since 1980.
And it`s interesting. Most people thought Pyeongchang was going to get it.
Pyeongchang had only narrowly come in second place to Vancouver for the
2010 Olympics so a lot of people thought they actually had – still had a
good chance. They still had a pretty good bid in 2010, would hold up four
years later. In the end, though, Pyeongchang didn`t get it, Russia got it,
Sochi was awarded the Olympic Games for 2014.
And in order to win that bid, in order to get awarded the Olympics that
year, Russia really had to pull out all the stops. They were not favored
to get it. They hadn`t had one in a long, long time. They hadn`t had an
Olympics since 1980. I think they knew in 2007 that was their best chance
to get one. They really put the pedal to the metal.
For example, Vladimir Putin personally flew to Guatemala City to make the
pitch for Russia getting the Olympics in person and when he got there he
made that pitch in person in three languages. I`m not sure people were
widely aware he speaks languages other than Russian. He doesn`t like to
show that off. He`s a nationalist after all, right?
But that July in Guatemala City, Vladimir Putin was like the Rosetta stone.
Jean-Claude Killy, the famous French ski champion, he was on the IOC that
year and this is what he told the “Associated Press” that summer about what
happened with that vote. He basically said the IOC was powerless before
Quote, “He worked very hard at it. He was nice. He spoke French. He
never speaks French. He spoke English. He never speaks English. The
Putin charisma can explain at least four votes.”
And I`m sure the Putin charisma is considerable, particularly in KGB-
accented French. But Putin didn`t only rely on his personal charisma to
get Sochi the Olympic Games, to get it done that year in Guatemala City.
He also had kind of a trick up his sleeve. He had a grand flourish in mind
that he knew nobody would be able to resist.
In addition to Vladimir Putin flying personally to Guatemala City to make
the pitch in three languages, Putin also flew to Guatemala City an ice
rink. Russia literally flew a whole freaking functioning ice rink from
Moscow to Guatemala in July to impress the International Olympic Committee.
The ice rink, they set it up in Guatemala City, that`s where they mounted
their official presentation, that`s where they made the case they should
get the Winter Olympics at their Russian ice rink that they purpose built
in Guatemala for that occasion.
And that is how Russia got the Sochi Olympics for 2014, which we now know
ended up being yet another way that Putin found to make his friends
spectacularly rich. That was also the winter Olympics where Russian
athletes did better than they ever had before at a Winter Olympics. And
that, of course, is how we ended up with the Russian Olympic doping
scandal. So, all in all, it worked out great.
But the company that Vladimir Putin used to seal the deal in Guatemala
City, the company that Putin used to show off what Russia could do, to fly
this freaking ice rink from Russia to Central America to make a good
impression for Russia`s Olympic bid, it was a Russian air cargo company
called – this is the name of it. I`m not going to pronounce this because
Stephen Colbert will make fun of me if I try. I know the first word is
Volga, the second word, no idea. Pronounce it however you like that.
But that is the company Vladimir Putin picked to fly the ice rink to
Guatemala. It`s also a company that was at the center of one of the great
modern corruption stories at the United Nations. This year`s Russian U.N.
mystery is, of course, about the Russian ambassador to the U.N. dropping
dead with no warning at the age of 64 last month, followed by the U.S.
State Department putting out a strange statement insisting that no cause of
death would be released for him because, quote, “Ambassador Churkin`s
diplomatic immunity survives his death.”
That`s – that`s this year`s Russia-U.N. intrigue. Before this, though,
before the mysterious death of the ambassador, this year, before this
intrigue, the big Russia-U.N. intrigue before that was when a bunch of
their senior diplomats got nailed in a huge bribery and corruption scheme.
It was a bribery scheme involving that same company, that same air cargo
company that flew the ice rink to Guatemala for Vladimir Putin. A bunch of
Russian diplomats, including some of the most senior diplomats they had at
the U.N., were caught and arrested in conjunction with this bribery
The company itself got in big trouble. They got struck off the list of
approved airlines for any U.N.-related business because of their links to
corruption and their links to corrupt Russian officials. It turns out,
though, that Russian company, that air cargo company – don`t worry.
They`re doing OK now because now we know as recently as august, 2015, that
company was paying Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. And then
in October, 2015, he was taking more Russian money from a Russian computer
firm that U.S. intelligence agencies have long believed to be linked to
If you want to see the documentation of those payments, it`s here. These
documents were first published, the story was first reported by one of
America`s great investigative reporters, Michael Isikoff. He now works at
Yahoo News. How Mike Isikoff got this documentation, though, how he got
this stuff is itself a great story.
And it`s about Flynn. I mean, if you step back from it for a second, the
national security adviser getting fired 24 days into the new administration
because he misrepresented his contacts with foreign governments – I mean,
that alone, if that was the only worrying or negative thing that happened
in the entire Trump presidency thus far, that would be one of the biggest
Washington scandals in decades.
As it stands, it`s one of many but it has been one month since Michael
Flynn was fired and almost everything about his fire and his tenure as
national security adviser has question marks lingering around it. Why the
administration hired him in the first place is a big part of the mystery.
When Michael Flynn got brought on board as a top advisor to the Trump
campaign, even before they won the election and he became national security
adviser, just being brought on board the campaign in a formal role, that
itself raised a ton of eyebrows in part because Michael Flynn`s behavior
toward Russia was already really odd for a recently retired general.
And at the Republican National Convention last summer, Mike Isikoff, this
great reporter, he asked Mike Flynn about that directly to his face. It
was one of the great news moments that came out of the Republican
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS: Last December, you flew over to Moscow –
MIKE FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes.
ISIKOFF: – to participate in the tenth anniversary –
FLYNN: Russian television.
ISIKOFF: – celebration of RT, Russian television, a propaganda arm of the
And you sat next to Vladimir Putin at a celebratory dinner. Were you paid
for that event?
FLYNN: You`d have to ask my – the folks that I went over there to –
ISIKOFF: Well, I`m asking you. You`d know if you were paid.
FLYNN: Yes, I mean I went over there as a speaking event. It was a
speaking event. What difference does that make, though? Is somebody
going, “Oh, he`s paid by the Russians”?
ISIKOFF: Well, Donald Trump has made a lot of the fact that Hillary
Clinton has taken money from Wall Street.
FLYNN: I didn`t take any money from Russia, if that`s what you`re asking
ISIKOFF: Well, then who paid you?
FLYNN: My speaker`s bureau. Ask them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: My speaker`s – ask them.
You know what? Don`t say something like that idly. Don`t say ask them
idly to an investigative reporter like Mike Isikoff. Also just don`t say
it unless you mean it because we now know that a congressional committee
did ask them. A congressional committee did follow up on Michael Flynn`s
suggestion, ask them that they ask his speaker`s bureau about that trip to
From this letter released by Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, we
know the oversight committee in the House, they asked Michael Flynn
speaker`s bureau last month, hey, who paid Flynn to go to Russia and meet
with Vladimir Putin? And the speaker`s bureau responded in full, providing
all their documentation surrounding that trip, including the stubs of the
checks and the e-mail chain negotiating it, the terms of the deal.
And it terms out, yes, Russia paid him. Russia paid him. My favorite part
of the back and forth with the Russians is this, “Great news, he has
accepted” and then the smiley face emoticon. Great news, Russia, he`s
coming. He`s going to take your money.
Russian state-run state-funded TV paid Michael Flynn $45,000 minus a
percentage cut that went to the speaker`s bureau, but plus, a three -day
long all expenses paid trip to Moscow, including accommodations at a five
star hotel right off Red Square for him and his son Mike, Jr. And all of
that, the cash that he pocketed, the business class round trip airfare, the
five-star hotel rooms, all of his meals, all his on the ground travel, all
of that appears to be payments from a foreign government.
And, you know, presidents are not allowed to take payments from a foreign
government. American public officials are not allowed to take payments
from a foreign government, and the Defense Department has made clear that
retired military officers are not allowed to take payments from a foreign
government. Michael Flynn took it, though, plus the money he took from his
other two Russian gigs which we learned from his speaker`s bureau that was
released to this congressional committee and then obtained and reported out
and published by Mike Isikoff.
If you are a public official or president of the United States or a retired
military officer and you want to get around the part of the Constitution
that says you`re not allowed to take payment from foreign governments, the
only way you can get around that is if you get permission in advance from
the U.S. government to take the money. In Flynn`s case, he would have
needed permission from the U.S. Army. And Flynn himself is not commenting
on whether he stopped that permission, but the Army says nothing in its
files indicates that he did, and he took the money.
So, this is an uh-oh moment for the administration. Did they vet this guy
at all when they made him national security adviser? When they brought him
in to sit in on the president`s daily brief and all the other highly
classified intelligence briefings that he received alongside Donald Trump
during the transition and into his time at the White House? Did they vet
Did they vet him? Did they not vet him? Did they know this stuff and
decide they didn`t care?
Congressman Elijah Cummings wrote to the White House asking for the
relevant portions of Mike Flynn`s applications for security clearance. Did
he hide these payments from Russia when he applied for a security
clearance? If he hid those payments, why wasn`t the White House able to
discover them anyway?
I mean, Mike Isikoff is a good reporter, but he`s not god. He`s not
omniscient. There`s Mike Isikoff at the Republican national convention
asking him about his payments from Russia on the record. Did the White
House not have any idea? Did that not pop when they vetted him?
If Michael Flynn didn`t lie about taking money from a foreign government,
if he disclosed he`d taken tens of thousands of dollars from Russia, how
could you then appoint him national security adviser? Especially given
that him taking that money may very well have been illegal, not just a
conflict of interest, but also illegal under the Emoluments Clause of the
And this is separate and apart from the fact that he`s also now
retroactively registered as a foreign agent. He`s now retroactively
declared that he was also taking money from another foreign government. He
was also taking money to lobby on behalf of the government of Turkey while
he was advising the Trump campaign and while he was working in the
transition, while he was getting those highly classified intelligence
briefings alongside the new president.
It`s been a month since Flynn got fired but there were so many things that
have not been explained about him. When he was fired a month ago, the
White House purported explanation of why he was being fired then made no
sense. I mean, the White House maintains to this day the reason they fired
him is that Michael Flynn lied to the vice president. He lied to Mike
Pence. That`s their explanation.
But they let him stay on the job for almost three weeks after they learned
that he lied to Mike Pence. So, that doesn`t make sense. And now,
increasingly, with each new revelation about him, including today`s new
revelations about what Michael Flynn was up to between the time he was
fired from the Pentagon at the Defense Intelligence Agency and when he came
on board with the Trump folks, there are increasing questions every day as
to how on earth the Trump campaign and the Trump transition and then the
Trump White House could ever have hired him. Either their vetting was
criminally negligent or it wasn`t, and they knew what they were getting
with him and they wanted somebody like him around classified information,
which is inconceivable unless they`ve got brilliant explanation for it.
The vice president has become implicated in a Michael Flynn story in a way
that needs explaining. As of this past week, the vice president has been
asserting that he had no about Michael Flynn`s foreign government ties,
even though the vice president was head of the transition effort and he was
notified multiple times, including by Flynn`s own lawyers that Flynn was in
fact working on behalf of a foreign government.
Mike Pence`s explanation for his role in all this is that he had no idea.
Never heard of it, completely in the dark which, again, is utterly
impossible and now, there`s one more piece of this that is either going to
fall in place tomorrow or it`s going to become a whole new scandal in its
own right tomorrow.
What Mike Flynn ostensibly was fired for was lying about the content of his
communications with the Russian government during the transition, right?
His assertion that he didn`t talk about sanctions with the Russian
government, that assertion was exposed as a lie when it emerged in multiple
news reports that Flynn had been captured by U.S. surveillance in fact
talking about sanctions with a Russian government official.
The piece of this that is about to fall into place, at least it seems like
something about to fall into place, is the question of why Michael Flynn
was caught in that U.S. surveillance. Foreign surveillance warrants,
foreign surveillance practices allow U.S. agencies to capture the
communications of foreigners, of foreign nationals, of non-U.S. citizens.
That is not legally controversial. Foreign surveillance warrants and legal
foreign surveillance practices by U.S. agencies can capture the
communications of foreigners. They are not allowed to capture
communications involving Americans.
If a foreign person under surveillance establishes communication with a
U.S. person, foreign surveillance warrants say that that person, that U.S.
person can`t be captured. The American can`t be listened in on, can`t be
surveilled by the U.S. government. But Michael Flynn apparently was. Why
Yesterday, we reported the chairman and the top Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee wrote a very terse, short, two-page letter to the
NSA, the CIA and the FBI, demanding an answer to that question. Why was
Michael Flynn being surveilled?
They have given those agencies a deadline of tomorrow to report to them why
Michael Flynn, a U.S. person, was captured in U.S. surveillance. They`re
also asking whether other U.S. persons associated with either the Clinton
or Trump campaigns were also captured in U.S. surveillance. They want an
explanation they say by tomorrow.
And this is going to be really important and really interesting, because
those agencies are going to respond. I mean, this isn`t a member from any
member of Congress. This is the chairman and ranking member of the
This is an oversight committee. The Intelligence Committee oversees the
intelligence agencies. It would be frankly unheard of for these agencies
to not respond to this request from Schiff and Nunes. It would be a
scandal of really significant proportions if the intelligence agencies and
the FBI say no to this request, and they don`t disclose this information to
If they say, “No, we`re not telling you, it`s sensitive, we`re not going to
disclose it to you,” that would be a really big deal. That would be a huge
break with all past practice. That would be kind of an epic national
security moment in our country.
And so, it is very likely that they`re going to respond. In all
likelihood, we`re going to get or somebody`s going to get a response from
those agencies and that is going to be in all likelihood an explanation for
why Michael Flynn ended up in that surveillance. Was it a mistake in which
case people are going to go nuts and you`re going to hear a lot of calls
for the heads of whoever inappropriately allowed this to happen, right?
Who inappropriately and maybe even illegally surveilled this U.S. person,
thus leading to the firing of the national security adviser.
If it was a mistake, that is going to be a huge deal. If it was not a
mistake, if it was legal and appropriate for them to be surveilling Michael
Flynn – well, why that would be? In all likelihood, that would mean that
Mike Flynn was the subject of a court-ordered warrant. Was he under
criminal investigation or counterintelligence investigation personally
during the transition in which case, oh, my God, how did he end up being
national security adviser?
If the intelligence agencies tomorrow do not respond to this, it is a
scandal. If the intelligence agencies respond to this and say Mike Flynn
was outed for his calls to the Russians inappropriately, maybe illegally,
that would be a scandal. If the intelligence agencies respond tomorrow and
say, no, it was legal and appropriate to be surveilling Mike Flynn because
he was under criminal or counterintelligence investigation, that, too,
would be a scandal.
It`s a scandal if they don`t say anything, it`s a scandal if they say A,
it`s a scandal if they say B. And their choices are A or B.
The only way to avoid a major news scandal breaking out on this subject
tomorrow is if time stops and we don`t get to tomorrow. In which case, I`m
going to Guatemala City to go ice skate and relax for a few decades and you
can wake me up when this is all over.
MADDOW: So, the president is doing reelection rallies for 2020 already.
Literally his reelection campaign is sponsoring events for him now. And
the president took the stage last night in Nashville, Tennessee, in one of
these campaign rallies. We`re now told to expect one of these every couple
of weeks, apparently, for four years.
But as he was taking the stage in Nashville last night, outside the arena
more than 2,500 people were out there protesting against him. This is
Tennessee. Donald Trump won Tennessee by 26 points. But here were more
than 2,000 people out on the street chanting, singing, waving signs in
opposition to him last night.
The Trump presidency, of course, has been a huge change in our country.
It`s a new thing. But it has created an equal and opposite reaction that
is making itself manifest in all sorts of unexpected places and all sorts
of unexpected ways.
Consider Virginia, for example. It`s kind of a national bellwether this
year because Virginia holds off-year elections. Virginia state elections
are this year in 2017, and this year in Virginia, there is an unprecedented
wave of Democratic candidates running for office in that state.
Democrats are challenging 43 of the 66 Republican incumbents who are
standing to try to defend their seats in the statehouse. That`s more than
twice the number of Republican seats the Democrats contested last time
around. Some of these districts even have a bunch of Democratic candidates
who are going to be competing in a primary for the privilege of going up
against the Republican incumbent. That is something that never happens in
Republican districts in Virginia, but it`s happening all over Virginia this
There`s all sorts of signs of the energy on the Democratic side or at least
the anti-Trump side in the country right now – tons of protests, waves of
new political candidates in local and state and congressional races.
But here`s the thing to consider – Democrats in November picked up seats
in the House and picked up seats in the Senate. They did not win the White
House. But there was energy there, too, around those House and Senate
races. You know, Democrats didn`t do as well as they were expected to or
as well as they might have in November, not just Hillary Clinton but
Democrats all the way down the ballot. And part of the reason for that is
tied up with the biggest story in the country right now. Part of what
happened to the Democrats in November is something that was done to them by
an external force, and I`m not talking about the Republicans.
And the question is, are Democrats going to face that again this year right
Hold that thought.
MADDOW: Last year, in Florida`s 26th congressional district, which is at
the very southern tip of the state, there was really bruising Democratic
primary fight to see who would take on the incumbent Republican congressman
in that district. One candidate was a Democrat who used to – who formally
held that congressional seat, another was a really popular Florida state
The Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they
had picked one of these guys over the other. It was the kind of primary
fight that causes or exacerbates internal party rifts. You see the
“Politico” headline here. “Primary fight drives rift between House
So this was going to be, you know, a tough one for Democrats. But then,
suddenly, in August of last year, it got much, much worse very quickly,
because a whole bunch of hacked documents related to that race got posted
online. Strategy memos, opposition research, e-mails, it included a 76-
page dossier of dirt one of the candidates had compiled about the other as
well as all the dirt the Democratic Party had dug up on their own potential
candidates in order to know their weaknesses.
This oppo research that was posted online apparently included one of the
Democrats getting caught on a C-Span feed picking his ear wax and appearing
to eat it. OK!
So, all of this stuff was supposed to be behind-the-scenes Democratic Party
stuff. It magically appears online. You can imagine how nasty the primary
becomes then between these guys, right? Accusations and counteraccusations
fly. The candidates use the hacked documents against each other.
And then, one of them wins. One of them wins the primary, makes it to the
general election. But all this stuff is in the public domain, and, of
course, the Republican in the general election turns around and uses the
hacked documents against the ultimate Democratic candidate. And the
Democrat, of course, did not win that race in Florida. Democrats didn`t
pick up that seat.
We all know now that the Democratic Party was hacked last year as part of a
Russian attempt to influence the outcome of our presidential election. And
we know how that material was used against the Clinton campaign and in
favor of Donald Trump.
What is also known, though, but got far less attention was the way that
Russian operation also got deployed down-ballot. Russian hackers in their
op against our election last year, in addition to targeting the
presidential race, they targeted about a dozen House races around the
country, some of the most competitive races in the country. Russian
hackers took and then leaked damaging documents, they hacked the stuff from
the Democratic congressional campaign committee which shares an office with
the DNC in Washington, and then they released that stuff publicly in a
Notably, they targeted Democratic primaries in most cases, and that`s a
great tactic if you not only want to weaken Democratic candidates for the
general election, but you also want to sow dissension in the Democratic
ranks. You want to exacerbate splits or rifts that occur inside the
“Huffington Post” has been doing some great reporting over the last week on
what appears to have been a coordinated Russian effort to flood Bernie
Sanders supporters and Bernie Sanders Facebook groups with anti-Hillary
Clinton spam and fake news during the election, stories about Hillary
Clinton murdering her opponents and using body doubles and all this crazy
stuff. One Sanders Facebook page administrator started tracking down where
these nuts stories were coming from and found that at least 40 percent of
the domain registrations were in places like Macedonia and Albania and
elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Another Facebook group administrator told the “Huffington Post”, quote, “It
came in like a wave, like a tsunami. It was a flood of misinformation.”
Now, a lot of the people who are posting these things from foreign
countries claimed to be Bernie Sanders fans who had decided to vote for
Trump or had decided to vote for Jill Stein because Hillary Clinton was a
murdering person with body doubles and all the rest of it. I mean, the
goal, obviously, was to depress Democratic turnout, to inflame the mistrust
that already existed between different parts of the party, to give people a
narrative that would explain why they shouldn`t vote for Hillary Clinton
under any circumstances whether or not they would consider voting for
That was the goal of that op and it worked to a certain extent. And now,
it`s 2017 and now, in large part because Trump is president, right now,
there is a ton of energy on the Democratic side. You see in the protests
but you also see it in a flood of new interest in running for office, new
Democratic candidates registering to run in local and state and
So, here`s the question – is what happened last year going to happen
again? As we start gaming out congressional races and state legislature
races and statewide races all around the country, how much involvement
should we expect from Moscow? Do the Democrats have situational awareness
about exactly what happened to them last year? And since we can probably
assume they`re not going to get any help from the federal government in
preventing it from happening again, are they capable of stopping it from
happening again this year and into the future?
Joining us now is a man who knows, actually. Glen Caplin, he`s former
senior national spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign. And his
responsibility on the campaign included handling questions about WikiLeaks
and the hacking and that Russian op.
Mr. Caplin, it`s really nice to meet you. Thanks for being here.
GLEN CAPLIN, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN NATIONAL SPOKESMAN: Good evening.
Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First, let me ask you, in terms of the way that I laid that out,
does that seem roughly right to you in terms of what you understood
happened last year?
CAPLIN: It does but also, that`s the second shift in sophistication that
we saw with Russian hacking operations.
MADDOW: What do you mean?
CAPLIN: Well, the first we saw was the original dump of information was by
Guccifer 2, a name people don`t know, on an obscure web site called D.C.
Leaks that people did not know. It was a massive dump of information and
it was not user-friendly in any way. Even we had trouble wrapping our arms
around what was in that information.
MADDOW: But it was from the Democratic Party, from your servers?
CAPLIN: It was from the DNC. Those are first DNC dump of the hacked
CAPLIN: The second one was WikiLeaks, a very well-known outlet with a
highly-searchable search function where you could easily get to the good
information, and on the eve of the Democratic Convention. So, it was the
first shift in – where Guccifer didn`t get a lot of attention with the
original dump of information, the second one gotten a enormous amount of
attention by going to a more well-known web site that was very user-
MADDOW: And at the time, again, you were on the campaign at the time, and
these dumps – these attacks were targeting the DNC and as you mentioned
here, the DCCC, which shared an office with the Democratic Party. How
aware were you on the campaign of how much information this was and how it
was being deployed operationally in the campaign for political purposes?
CAPLIN: Well, we were aware very, very early what this was, which was the
Russians interfering in the election, to put their thumb on the scale –
MADDOW: You saw Russian fingerprints on it from the beginning?
CAPLIN: Well, the very first dump of information by Guccifer and D.C.
Leaks had Russian metadata on it. A friend of mine who is an expert in
Russian cyber told me Russians are really good at espionage, but not very
good at propaganda, which was why it was sloppy with Russian metadata on
MADDOW: So they can get it, but they don`t know how to present it in a way
that`s going to be accessible.
CAPLIN: Which is why I think the first two shifts the, shift from Guccifer
to WikiLeaks which, by the way, Guccifer claims – the persona Guccifer
which is a front for the Russian intelligence claimed that he gave the
information to WikiLeaks.
CAPLIN: So, we – in summer of 2016, U.S. officials, cyber experts were
already attributing this hack to the Russians and you could see it was only
hurting one side and benefitting the other. It was very clear what this –
what this operation was. It was to discredit Hillary Clinton and to help
MADDOW: Glen, I am going to ask you a weird question.
MADDOW: Would you agree to come back on this show tomorrow? Because I
feel like what you`re describing in terms of the way you saw this unfolding
from your perspective on the campaign is a piece of the story that hasn`t
been told and I`d like to give you a bunch of time to just walk us through
it and tell us why what you experienced and what it was like at the time.
Are you busy tomorrow at this time?
CAPLIN: I would be – I can ask the babysitter to come, I`d be happy to
MADDOW: OK, if you need a note for the babysitter –
CAPLIN: A note will help.
MADDOW: All right. I will.
I have to go help Glen Caplin write a note to his babysitter. He`s former
senior national spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign who worked on
the WikiLeaks and Russia hack issue. We`ve got to get him a babysitter.
If that works, we`ll be back with him tomorrow night. But we`ve got more
ahead on other subjects tonight.
Please stay with us.
MADDOW: In most foreign countries, their equivalent of our secretary of
state is called the foreign minister. So, when our secretary of state
travels abroad, he or she meets with the foreign minister of that country,
it`s the norm. I know this is an unsettling time in our politics,
sometimes hard to keep track of what`s normal and what`s not normal
But I can tell you that in normal politics, one thing that would be weird
is if the foreign minister of another major country came to the United
States and didn`t meet with our secretary of state. That would be weird.
It would be weirder if our State Department didn`t when another country`s
foreign minister came here. That would be particularly, particularly weird
if it was the foreign minister from one of our closest allies and the State
Department had no idea.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRACY WILKINSON, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I see that the foreign minister of
Mexico is in town, Luis Videgaray, meeting with – according to the
Mexicans – Kushner, Gary Cohn and McMaster. Is there no State Department
meeting with him? And if not, why not?
MARK TONER, ACTING STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Tracy, good question. We`ll
take that and get back to you. I was unaware that he was – the foreign
minister was in town and I`m not sure, I can`t speak to whether there`s
going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: I was unaware that the foreign minister was in town. That was a
few days ago at the new and improved Trump State Department. Who`s in
town? The foreign minister from Mexico. Seriously? Nobody called.
Since then, since that happened a few days ago, we`ve had news the Middle
East envoy appointed by the Trump administration who is a former lawyer for
Trump`s real estate business, we`ve now learned that as Middle East envoy
for the United States, he doesn`t even report to the State Department. He
reports instead to Jared, he reports to the president`s son-in-law. OK.
Earlier this week, the new secretary of state had two hand shakes on camera
with other countries foreign ministers. These events where he does not
speak, at least does not speak in a way that would be audible to anybody
else in the room, this is him with the Tunisian foreign minister not
Now, when these things happen, it`s not just Andrea Mitchell shouting
questions that the secretary doesn`t answer. Now, it`s all sorts of
reporters who shout out questions and the new secretary of state just
smiles and turns his head from side to side and pretends he can`t hear
This is him with the Greek foreign minister, another silent movie, not
answering questions, can`t hear you, not speaking. There was supposed to
be a third silent photo-op this week with Rex Tillerson and the foreign
minister from the UAE, United Arab Emirates, they cancelled that photo-op,
closed it to the press. Even with the “I don`t speak and I pretend I can`t
hear you” rule, they didn`t even want reporters to be in the room for that
Well, now, the new secretary of state is on his first trip to Asia and
there`s been attention to the fact that he`s breaking with decades of
precedent and bringing only one reporter with him on the trip, a reporter
from the conservative blog instead of the usual traveling press pool that
travels all over the globe with the secretary of state.
If we`re talking about the invisiblization of the State Department, though,
what was maybe even more striking than the no reporters thing today was
that when the secretary of state got to Tokyo today, rather than visit the
U.S. State Department outpost in Tokyo, rather than visit the U.S. embassy
in Tokyo, Rex Tillerson instead opted for a nap. Rest time. Screw the
embassy, nap time is upon us, everybody.
And he has made a habit of this. In February, he sent his acting deputy, a
holdover from the Obama administration, to meet with the Israeli prime
minister, instead of him meeting with the Israeli prime minister because
Rex Tillerson decided he need to fly to Bonn, Germany, his first foreign
trip, a night early, so he could, quote, “get a good night`s sleep before
the conference started.” Forget the Israeli prime minister, it`s nap time.
Beyond the cardboard secretary himself, though, is the consequential news
today from Washington about, really, what is the planned decimation of the
agency in terms of its budget. And we`ve got news on that ahead. Stay
MADDOW: Listen to his explanation for why the cuts are OK, why the cuts
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What the president is asking the
State Department to do is I think reflective of a couple expectations. One
is that as time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the
U.S. will be directly engaged in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Don`t worry about cutting a third from the State Department`s
budget, there`s going to be less war, you guys. There`s going to be fewer
military conflicts. I mean, look around the world, isn`t that obvious?
We`re seeing the systematic destruction, chipping away, of the U.S.
Department of State, little by little, bit by bit. The dismantling of the
very thing that have put the U.S. State Department at the forefront of
everything on the international stage appears to be dialing back and fast.
Joining us now is Wendy Sherman. She`s former under secretary of state for
political affairs in the Obama administration.
Ambassador Sherman, thank you for being here. Appreciate your time
WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER U.S. UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be here.
MADDOW: I look at that proposed 37 percent cut, which we`re now told will
be 30 percent in the first year, the secretary of state saying he is not
just OK with that, he is going along with that willingly, he is excited
about that. He thinks it`s appropriate, and I feel like the State
Department is about to change radically.
Do you see it that way?
SHERMAN: Indeed. It`s sort of ironic, Rachel, that Secretary Tillerson is
saying that there is likely to be fewer wars, while at the same time,
Secretary Mattis of the Defense Department is buying more ammunition for
more wars. So, they seemed to have a different strategic view of what the
world is going to be like and what is necessary.
And it`s also strange because I understand that Secretary Tillerson was a
CEO of a successful company. And in a company, I`m in the private sector
now myself, in a company, you`ve got a bottom line and if you`ve got to
tighten your belt, you tighten your belt. You tell employees they`re gone
and you just move forward.
Government has more responsibility than that. We have a moral compass that
is different and more expansive that what a private company or public
company has to do.
And among the kinds of thing that are going to be gone as a result of this,
we have a 65-member coalition fighting ISIS. We organize that coalition.
We keep it together. We look at the interests of that coalition. We care
about supporting the members of that coalition because we want them in the
fight against terrorism.
The president wants to cut the OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment
Corporation. Because of the investments that OPIC has made, it`s created
280,000 American jobs and returned in 2015, $2.6 billion to the U.S.
The president is worried about Ebola. We know he is worried about
pandemics. We heard that he`s terrified of a disease like Ebola coming
here. Because of what the U.S. State Department did, what USAID did to
help Nigeria build the health system, Nigeria managed Ebola very quickly
and sent 200 health workers to other countries in Africa that were
experienced in Ebola, that helped keep Ebola from our shores.
Those investments are in America`s national security interests. And it is
short-sighted, dangerous, and cruel to do what is being suggested.
MADDOW: Ambassador Sherman, there is one threat that the new secretary of
state has made in terms of U.S. involvement in the international community
that I`d like to ask you about. If you could hold for one moment –
MADDOW: – and we come back on the other side of the break, I have one of
those questions for you. Thank you.
We`re with under secretary of state for political affairs in the Obama
administration, Ambassador Wendy Sherman.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back now with Wendy Sherman, who`s the former under
secretary for political affairs.
And, Ambassador Sherman, thank you again for sticking with us.
I wanted to ask you about a threat that the secretary of state made this
week that the United States might drop out of the Human Rights Commission.
How important would that be in terms of American leadership in the world?
SHERMAN: I think it is very important. It is tough because the Human
Rights Council at times has not been very good in terms of who it`s members
are. There are human rights abusers who become members, and they certainly
haven`t been a friend, nor has the U.N. has always been a friend to Israel,
a key ally and partner of ours.
But if we aren`t there to speak up, if we aren`t there to put our values
forward, then the silence will be deafening. We have to be there and we
have to speak up.
MADDOW: Wendy Sherman, former under secretary for political affairs in the
Obama administration – appreciate your time with us tonight. We have been
watching the sort of dismantling of the State Department, in my case, with
some considerable alarm. It`s good to have your perspective on it tonight.
SHERMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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