The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/22/2017
Show: The Rachel Maddow Show
Date: March 22, 2017
Guest: Charlie Savage, Jeff Horwitz
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: The last conversation I had with my dad, Chris
Hayes, it was him calling me so excited he could barely speak because he
got tickets to see you in California. He could – I know, he could have
pulled a string.
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: He could have probably pulled some strings.
Please let me know if there`s anyone else in the family I can get seats
MADDOW: I will do. I will tell you the reason he was so psyched is
because he could not get into his first-choice venue and he had to go to a
farther away venue in order to see you. But he got in on his second
HAYES: All right. Anyone you need. I`ll hook him up, OK?
MADDOW: Thank you, Chris. Well done, my friend. Congratulations.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Boy, this has been a heck of a day in the news, right?
We`re going to start with a mineral called bauxite. You mine bauxite.
Basically, it looks like a combination of spumoni and dirt. But it`s a
mineral and you grind up bauxite. You process it with lime and caustic
soda and the super hot solution.
And what happens when you do that to bauxite is that separates out from the
bauxite something called alumina. And if you dry alumina out and take it
to your metal processing plant, your smelters, you process that dry alumina
powder into liquid aluminum.
And the process by which you get that powdered alumina into liquid aluminum
is the smelting process and in big aluminum smelters it`s one of the
things, we humans have created to most closely approximate the pits of hell
on earth. Right? The pictures from aluminum smelters, especially big, big
aluminum smelters, it`s basically sci-fi, right? It`s hard to believe that
this is on the surface of the planet.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and its state-owned giant aluminum smelters
were becoming private property, private businesses, that heavy Russian
industry, like a lot of other Russian industries at the time, turned into
full scale murderous gang warfare. As various thugs and connected
gangsters fought it out, in many cases literally, for control of what they
knew would be a multibillion dollar private industry, the Soviet, the
former Soviet now Russian aluminum industry.
In Siberia at the time in the 1990s, one of the contenders in that fight,
one of the guys who is trying to get control of this mammoth Russian
industry, famously, he started sleeping at his smelters. He would sleep at
these hell mouths, right, so he could be there 24 hours a day. He could –
he would sleep in the middle of those pits, so that he would be there to be
able to stop sabotage in his smelters.
So, he`d be the first one to arms if the wolves he was competing against in
that industry came to his door, came to his smelter, came to his factories
to try to take off from him what he was trying to build. It was a very
brutal start sleeping in the smelters.
But you know what? He won. By the following decade, he was the aluminum
king of Russia. He cornered the market. He was a multibillionaire. The
U.S. State Department was describing him in cables as, quote, “enjoying a
favorable relationship with President Putin.” He was a more or less
permanent fixture on Putin`s trips abroad and he`s widely acknowledged by
our contacts to be among the two or three oligarchs Putin turns to on a
That`s from a State Department cable in 2006. 2006 is also when the same
Russian billionaire, the aluminum king, the buy who was basically Putin`s
right hand man, never left his side, took all his trips abroad with him,
2006, the year that State Department cable is also the year that that same
billionaire started paying Donald Trump`s presidential campaign chairman
$10 million a year.
It`s a contract that reportedly started paying Paul Manafort $10 million a
year starting in 2006. We don`t know how long those payments continued.
We don`t know when they ended or if they ended, but “The Associated Press”
broke this story this morning based on documents obtained from Manafort`s
businesses and records of international wire transfers that the “A.P.”
reviewed. And if it feels like everything went nuts today in the news,
this story may very well be why.
According to “The Associated Press”, Manafort proposed in 2005 and started
getting paid in 2006 in a contract arrangement with this Russian
zillionaire where he agreed, quote, “to influence politics, business
dealings and news coverage in the United States to benefit the Putin
government.” For that contract, he signed a deal that would pay him $10
million annually beginning in 2006.
According to a memo written by Paul Manafort proposing this arrangement to
the Russian billionaire, quote, “We are now of the belief that this model
can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels
with the appropriate commitment to success.” Paul Manafort in this
document then explained that where he would exert his influence on behalf
of the Putin government was at, quote, “The highest levels of the U.S.
government, at the White House, at Capitol Hill, at the State Department.”
Again, “The Associated Press” obtained these documents today from
Manafort`s consulting business. They say they saw records of wire
transfers of millions and millions and tens of millions of dollars to Paul
Manafort, $10 million a year starting in 2006, ending we don`t know when.
I should note that it`s also a matter of public record that when Paul
Manafort was hired to run the Trump campaign last year, he worked for free.
It`s kind of a sweet gesture when you think about it.
Trying to follow the news today was like if you wanted to read a book, you
intended to read a book, but instead what you were offered by the universe
was a shower of thousands of pieces of shredded book. Like, which would
make for an excellent ticker tape parade but it was made it hard to follow
Today was just a blizzard of news and it seems like the news got more and
more serious as the day went by. And not just because of deliberate
distraction. I mean, there are a lot of substantive things going on.
The terror attack in London today, it was a very big deal. One police
officer and three civilians dead in addition to the attacker himself.
We`re going to have more on that attack coming up, including the latest
from the Metropolitan Police.
Today in Washington, there was another day of Supreme Court confirmation
hearings for nominee Neil Gorsuch. The substance of these hearings is
increasingly getting overshadowed, at least on one side of the aisle, but
what are basically now louder and louder calls for the Democrats to stop
participating in these hearings, to try to just stop the process instead if
for no other reason than that fact that this president`s campaign is the
subject of a counterintelligence investigation by the FBI to see if they
colluded with a foreign power in an attack on the United States last year.
Maybe in the immediate aftermath of the FBI confirming that investigation,
maybe that`s not the time to be acting on a far-reaching and irreversible
action by that president.
And to that point, tomorrow, Congress is set to vote on the president`s
Obamacare repeal which will throw 24 million Americans off their health
insurance if they get it through. It`s all happening at the same time.
It`s all happening right now.
And into that confetti maelstrom today, we also got the political
equivalent of a flash bang grenade, to mix my metaphors, right? We got
this huge showy confusing break in the news this afternoon when the
Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a man who is
supposed to be leading one of the two bipartisan congressional
investigations into the Russian attack last year and the possible Trump
campaign collusion with that attack, today that congressman, Devin Nunes,
held not one but two fairly breathless press conferences alleging
He couldn`t quite say what, about the intelligence community and the Trump
transition of which he was an executive member, things he had seen but he
could not describe that made him feel alarm, that made him feel concern,
that ought to make us all feel alarm and concern, and they certainly would
make us feel concerned if we knew what they were but he would not tell us,
in fact, he did not have these things in his possession, and he had not
shown them to the rest of the committee who were participating in this
investigation he`s supposedly leading.
And we`re going to have more on what he did today in just a moment with a
reporter who really understands these matters than almost anybody else in
American journalism. But for the moment suffice to say the only new
information, the only advance in our understanding that came out of what
Congressman Devin Nunes did today, the only granular thing he gave us, that
means anything other than the big distraction this all cost today, the only
thing knew to come out of what he did today is new uncertainty as to
whether or not there really is going continue to be an investigation in the
House of Representatives under his leadership, about what happened to our
country last year and what the Trump campaign`s role was it in it if any.
The only concrete outcome of what House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes
did today was raise the question of whether or not he just blew up his own
investigation. And, you know, maybe that`s not the most important thing in
the world, right? In the Senate, they`re also doing an intelligence
And we know the FBI is doing their own counterintelligence investigation
and how you feel about the competence and the independence of that FBI
investigation will depend on where your personal James Comey tea leaves are
today, you know? Whether you think he is trustworthy or not, whether you
think he is running a trustworthy FBI or not, whether you think the Justice
Department under Jeff Sessions is going to allow for an untrammeled FBI
investigation to go wherever the facts lead it up to and including
potential criminal prosecutions if necessary.
But regardless of how many investigations there are, regardless of who does
the investigation, today, there is new reason to be convinced that a real
investigation is necessary. That this is – this stuff is a big deal and
part of that is this absolute bombshell dropped by the “Associated Press”
today about the Trump campaign chairman reportedly being paid tens of
millions of dollars annually to covertly advance the interest of Putin`s
government inside the United States in an effort that started ten years ago
and we don`t know when it ended or if it ended. That`s part of it.
Another part is what we learned from the top Democrat on the intelligence
committee, what we learned from him on the central question, the
existential question, the question that will end the Trump presidency on if
it turns on to be true, on the central question of whether or not the Trump
campaign helped Russia. Whether they knew about and cooperated with
Russia`s attack while Russia was attacking the United States.
Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the Intel Committee, on Sunday
morning, he claimed on “Meet the Press” that there is in fact evidence of
collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians last year, but he
said that evidence was circumstantial. He said that on “Meet the Press,”
on Sunday morning. There`s circumstantial evidence of collusion between
the Trump campaign and Russia.
This evening on the daily version of “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd, in
the middle of Chuck trying to sort out all this mishegoss what happened
with this Devin Nunes today and whether chairman Nunes was saying anything
substantive or whether there was just a distraction and whether there were
any verifiable claims there and whether there is still going to be an
intelligence committee investigation after Nunes did that today – in the
middle of sorting that out today on his 5:00 show this afternoon,
Congressman Adam Schiff joined Chuck Todd for part of that discussion at
the end of the hour and listen to what he said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: But you admit, it`s a circum – all you have
right now is a circumstantial case?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Actually no, Chuck. I can tell you the
case is more than that and I can`t go into the particulars but there is
more than circumstantial evidence now. So, again I think Director Clapper
TODD: You have seen direct evidence of collusion?
SCHIFF: I don`t want to go into specifics, but I will say that there is
evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of
investigation. So, that is what we ought to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is a serious and specific new allegation. Like just – I
know there`s a lot of noise around this subject today and around lots of
subjects today. But just be clear on this one point. Just to be very
clear, on Sunday morning, Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the
Intel Committee, said there was circumstantial evidence of the Trump
campaign colluding with the Russians last year during their attack.
The following day, on Monday morning, that`s when the FBI confirmed there
is an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into whether or not the
Trump campaign colluded with Russia. That night, Monday night, I asked
Congressman Schiff on this show if he could elaborate a little bit. Tell
me what he meant on “Meet the Press” when he said there was circumstantial
evidence. Tell me what he meant by the phrase “circumstantial evidence”
when he said that`s what we`ve got on the issue of collusion.
And when I asked him about that Monday night, here`s how he answered that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman, on NBC yesterday, you said that you see there being
an accumulation of what you described as circumstantial evidence that there
was collusion between this Russian operation and associates of Donald Trump
during the campaign. Can you just expand on that a little bit, what you
meant by circumstantial evidence and both the limits of that, but also the
extent of it?
SCHIFF: Well, I know when you use that term, a lot of people think that
circumstantial evidence isn`t very telling, it isn`t very powerful, but it
all depends on what kind of circumstantial evidence. I can`t go into a lot
of specifics here, but probably the best example for your viewers is if you
go outside in the afternoon and there`s no snow on the ground and you wake
up the next morning and there is snow on the ground, you can pretty
conclude that it snowed overnight. That`s circumstantial. If you see the
snow coming down then you can say, I have direct evidence that it snowed.
So, circumstantial evidence can be very, very powerful and indicative of
something that`s happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, that`s as much as he was willing to say on Monday night.
Congressman Schiff, again, he has access to everything the intelligence
committee is seeing and on Monday morning, he said there`s circumstantial
evidence of collusion, Monday night, he`s giving more descriptive
elaboration about what he means that by their being circumstantial evidence
Now, tonight, he has moved on from that. He is now saying something new.
He`s now saying it`s not just circumstantial evidence anymore. It`s more
Again, just play that piece of that real quick. Do we have that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: I can`t go into the particulars but there is more than
circumstantial evidence now. So, again, I think Director Clapper –
TODD: You have seen direct evidence of collusion?
SCHIFF: I don`t want to go into specifics, but I will say that there is
evidence that is not circumstantial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s new. We reached out to Congressman Schiff`s office tonight
to find out what this means, to make sure that the congressman did not
misspeak, that he`s intending to move the ball forward like this with what
he is asserting, his office told us that the congressman meant what he
said, he did not misspeak. His office also told us that the congressman
not only intended to say what he intended to say but that he wouldn`t give
us further elaboration on it tonight.
We asked further if this new evidence that he`s seen, this non-
circumstantial evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia, we asked if
that had anything to do with what Chairman Devin Nunes was talking about
today. His office told us, no, has nothing to do with that at all, it`s a
So, whatever Congressman Schiff is describing here has nothing to do with
this sideshow from Devin Nunes today on Capitol Hill and at the White
House. So, whether or not the Intelligence Committees continue their
investigations, the top Democrat who is part of that investigation in the
House says there is something new and big that has just arisen since Monday
that is evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians during the
Russian attack. That`s a big deal.
And so, whoever is going to carry on with this investigation, it seems more
important than ever that this investigation carry on. And there`s just one
last point here, in terms of the importance of there being at least one
credible real investigation of what has happened here and the Trump
campaign`s involvement with it, if there was any.
Yesterday in Moscow, this man either fell or was thrown out of a fourth of
floor window in a Moscow apartment building. Miraculously, he survived.
He has serious head injuries. He`s in intensive care in a hospital in
That was yesterday. Today, he was due to testify in a case about Russian
money laundering. He`s also due to testify in May in New York in a Russian
money laundering case brought in federal court by Preet Bharara`s office.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who was controversially fired by the Trump
administration two weeks ago even though he had previously been asked to
Both of those cases, both the New York federal court case and the case in
Russia, both of those cases in which this man was due to testify are about
a very famous quarter billion dollar fraud scheme in Russia. It involved a
Western capital management firm that was operating in Moscow and basically
what happened is they got squeezed by Russian authorities and ultimately,
it was a tax fraud scheme that resulted in Russian government officials
apparently using this Western company to rip off $230 million from Russian
And the firm was aware of what was going on while Russian officials were
doing this at their expense and the firm tried to blow the whistle when
that happened and the auditor for that firm was a guy called Sergei
Magnitsky. And the Russian authorities and the Putin government they
grabbed him and threw him in prison and you can hold somebody in Russia for
a year in prison before you bring charges against them. They held him in
prison for almost a year and then one week before that year was due to be
up, he mysteriously died in prison.
He was 37 years old. His name was Sergei Magnitsky. After he was dead,
Russian officials blamed the whole fraud scheme on him posthumously.
There was a Magnitsky Act in U.S. law that prohibits all sorts of Russian
officials who were implicated in that guy`s death and implicated in that
fraud, there`s a U.S. law that prohibits Russians who were implicated in
that scandal from coming into the United States. It`s essentially targeted
sanctions on people who are involved in that fraud and what appears to have
been that murder.
We reported last month on this show on a Russian activist, a former
journalist who had lobbied in this country to expand the Magnitsky Act, to
expand it beyond just people involved in that one crime. It would be
expanded to impose sanctions and penalties on all sorts of different
Russian officials who were involved in wide scale corruption and crime and
And we reported on that Russian activist last month here on this show,
because for the second time in two years, he narrowly survived being
poisoned. His name is Vladimir Kara-Murza. He`s now out of a coma. He
may yet survive the second attempt to kill him with poison.
Sergei Magnitsky`s lawyer is in intensive care today with sever head
injuries. He may yet survive whatever it was that saw him fling off a
fourth floor window ledge yesterday in Moscow head first. He may yet
survive but he certainly wasn`t able to testify today.
Sergei Magnitsky, though, he did not survive. He was dead at 37. They
raided that Western company where he was working in 2007. They threw him
in prison in 2008. They killed him in prison in 2009.
And in 2006, 2007, 2008 and at least through 2009, Paul Manafort, Donald
Trump`s campaign chairman, that`s when he was being paid $10 million a year
to promote the interests of Vladimir Putin`s government secretly in the
United States without registering as a foreign agent, without declaring who
he was working for, and without ever before now having to defend publicly
his real intentions and his real paymasters while he was doing what
otherwise appeared to be American political work.
There`s a lot going on. Some of it is deadly, deadly, deadly serious.
We have got Charlie Savage here tonight, one of the best national security
and justice correspondents in the country. We have one of the “A.P.”
reporters here tonight who broke this story on Paul Manafort`s contract to
promote Putin`s government secretly in this country. We`ve got the latest
on what happened today in London.
Lots ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, this afternoon, Congressman Devin Nunes of California, the
Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he rushed to the
microphones to tell the press about what he called “significant
developments” in his committee`s investigation of Russian interference in
the U.S. election. What he told the assembled reporters on Capitol Hill
was that the American intelligence community, while engaged in surveillance
of foreign targets, they had incidentally collected information about
American citizens who were involved in the Trump transition. Hmm.
He said details about these people in the Trump transition were, quote,
“widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting”, to which the
inevitable response is, ooh, what do you mean? Also, is this bad?
Are you saying something illegal has happened? Are you saying that U.S.
intelligence agencies have improperly surveilled someone? What do you
Reporters started by asking the very juicy obvious low-hanging fruit
question which is, “Are you saying, Mr. Chairman, that U.S. intelligence
agencies surveilled the president-elect? They looked at his communications
and then shared those around? You mean they listened in on Trump?” Simple
question – you`d think.
Here`s the first time he got asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Was the president also part of that incidental collection, his
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), INTELLIGENECE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Was the president part of that collection? Yes. Yes.
Are you sure?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Excuse me, let me just
clarify. The president of the United States` personal communications were
intercepted as an incidental part of –
NUNES: Yes, I think what we have to – it`s very – when we talk about
intelligence products here, we have to be very careful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No, whoa, whoa, whoa, where would you get that idea?
So, the first answer is: yes, the president`s communications were
intercepted here. Second answer: no, no, no, no, the president`s
communications were not captured here. Let`s try again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The president of the United States` personal communications were
collected in incidental collection, not in specific targeted collections?
NUNES: It`s possible. We won`t know until we get the information on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Until Friday. That`s strange, because we all thought he had the
information and that`s why he convened this press conference, to talk about
the information that he had. But on that one direct question, the
president had his communications intercepted here? The answers were yes,
it includes the president, no, it doesn`t include the president and then,
“it`s possible it includes the president”, and then, “we`ll know on
And then literally 10 seconds later, he was back to the first answer again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, was the president`s conversations or anything
about the president appearing in intelligence reports? Is that what you`re
NUNES: I have seen – I have seen intelligence reports that clearly show
that the president-elect and his team were – I guess at least monitored
and disseminated out in intelligence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, yes and then no, and then, it`s possible, I don`t know, I`ll
let you know on Friday and then back to yes, yes, I have seen reports that
clearly show the president elect was monitored. I guess, at least, all in
a space of two minutes.
And then it was off to the White House to go brief the president on these
definitive new findings.
At a second press conference after his meeting with the president,
Congressman Nunes was asked why it was appropriate for him to brief the
White House given that his committee is supposed to be investigating the
president`s campaign right now. Mr. Nunes said it was appropriate to do
that because these findings that he was discussing today have, in his
words, quote, “nothing to do with the Russia investigation.”
A reporter then asked, well, if he`s going to open a new investigation into
this stuff since he said this material isn`t related to existing
investigation, would he open a new investigation on this stuff? His reply
to that was that this stuff is part of the existing investigation, you
guys. Quote, “We`re already investigating.”
So, it`s OK for me to take this to the White House because this isn`t part
of our investigation and, of course, we`re investigating this because it`s
part of our investigation. What are you talking about?
Congressman Nunes finished off his afternoon with an interview on CNN in
which he was still unable to give any coherent answer about whether or not
Donald Trump`s communications were picked up in this surveillance he is
allegedly describing from the time when he was president-elect.
But after all that, after two press conferences and a briefing for the
president and a TV interview, the chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee, I have to tell you, still has not shared any of this new
information that he says he has with his own committee where he is
supposedly leading a robust investigation. He still hasn`t actually shown
the information to anyone, including the other people he`s supposed to be
Top Democrat on that committee gave his own press conference tonight in
which he said that the chairman`s actions may have made it impossible for
the committee to do its work with any credibility from here on out.
This was a big weird distracting story in the news today but the bottom
line news here, I mean, really the takeaway here is that Congressman Devin
Nunes is behaving very strangely for a man who is supposed to be leading a
bipartisan of a very serious national security matter. That`s – that`s
really the bottom line.
That was weird. You`re running this investigation and that`s how you`re
Don`t – headlines aside, he did not release any information today. He has
not shown any information to anyone else. He is not even claiming that he
actually is in possession of any information. He is not claiming that any
laws were broken.
And while saying that he is alarmed and concerned and everybody should be
alarmed and concerned and the president should be alarmed and concerned,
he`s not actually making any sort of coherent case as to what anybody
should be concerned about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence
community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved
in the Trump transition. None of this surveillance was related to Russia
or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.
SCHIFF: I can say this, the chairman will need to decide whether he is the
chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes
allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the
Russians, or he is going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because
he cannot do both. And unfortunately I think the actions of today throw
great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to
conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the
top Democrat on that same committee holding dueling press conferences
today, which is not a great sign for that committee`s ongoing investigation
into Russian interference in the U.S. election last year and the question
of whether or not the Trump campaign cooperated, collaborated in that
Joining us now is Charlie Savage. He`s the national security reporter for
the “New York Times”. He`s the author of “Power Wars: Inside Obama`s Post-
Mr. Savidge, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here, Charlie.
CHARLIE SAVAGE, THE NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Thanks for
having me back.
MADDOW: So, can I ask you to just sort me through? Explain a little bit
of how this wiretapping stuff works. We heard a lot of people talking
today about the idea of routine surveillance of foreign targets. What does
that mean, routine surveillance?
SAVAGE: So, the FBI here at home and the NSA abroad are engaged in foreign
intelligence collection using surveillance all the time, everyday,
especially abroad. The NSA is targeting foreign government leaders,
businessmen who were involved in major deals that have geopolitical
implications, terrorism suspects, all kinds – you know, the definition of
what counts as foreign intelligence is extraordinarily broad. It`s almost
And so, if they are specifically targeting a person they think might have
that intelligence because they`re a prominent person in whatever world
they`re looking at or if they`re vacuuming up stuff abroad in hopes of
gathering that stuff, they are going to inevitably suck in conversations in
which at the other end of the line or receiving and sending e-mails to and
from that target is an American. And the rules allow the government to use
that collected information even though it involves an American if it
involves foreign intelligence. Something they think is relevant. They can
even identify the American in their reports to each other if the identity
of the American is necessary to understand that foreign intelligence.
This incidental collection and the rules surrounding what the government
can do with it has been a major dispute about surveillance in the post-9/11
world. It surrounds the Bush administration`s warrantless wiretapping
program and what the FISA Amendments Act that grew out of it. It`s been a
huge conversation in the courts and in Congress for years, but it`s been an
issue that has been like the hippy issue, right?
The civil libertarians, the ACLUs and the Rand Pauls like, hey, wait a
minute, what about the rules? Is this going to intrude on Americans`
privacy? And the sort of standard conservative line has been, eh,
whatever, this is about getting terrorists.
And it`s one of the most interesting developments of all of this chaotic
mess that you`ve been trying to explain tonight has been the sudden
awakening that incidental collection and the rules surrounding what can
happen to it when the government finds itself in possession of private
information about Americans without having set out to get that information
but came anyway because they were talking to targets is suddenly of great
salience to an entirely different set of the political factions. And it`s
happening in a year in which the FISA Amendment Acts, the warrantless
surveillance program, is up for renewal and it`s going to be fascinating to
see how this plays out.
MADDOW: Charlie, one of the ways, one of the reasons we`ve sort of been
anticipating some sort of disclosure along these lines if not exactly what
we heard today from chairman Nunes. One of the reasons that frankly I
didn`t join the big pile on in calling President Trump crazy when he
tweeted he believed he had been wiretapped in Trump Tower, even though he
sort of worded in the a crazy way, is because we`ve been watching very
closely the question about why Mike Flynn was fired. General Flynn as the
national security adviser had to leave supposedly because he was untruthful
about the content of his communications with the Russian ambassador. We
learned that through a “Washington Post” story which described him being
picked up on surveillance of the ambassador which included people knowing
it was him on the phone and knowing what was discussed.
We saw the intelligence community, right to the FBI, the CIA and the NSA on
March 15, basically demanding to be known how come we all found out that
Michael Flynn was on that call? The FBI and the CIA apparently still
haven`t responded to the House Intelligence Committee on that and it still
remains an outstanding question, doesn`t it, as to whether or not Michael
Flynn was properly unmasked as a U.S. person on that warrant? Whether he
might have been the subject of a warrant himself or where whether there
might have been misconduct in the – his name becoming known, associated
with that content?
SAVAGE: Well, I have to say, as someone paying close attention to
surveillance debates and rules and all this stuff for years, I think that
is a red herring. Just this morning, the “Wall Street Journal” editorial
page had this editorial that went viral because it talked about Trump being
a fake president who is clinging to this crazy claim like a drunk to an
empty gin bottle, a very strong anti-Trump editorial from a conservative
outlet, but embedded in that was this – and he has a legitimate question
about why was the government listening to Michael Flynn?
And that`s kind of crazy to me. If you pay any attention to this, you
should understand that the Russian ambassador of all people walking around
the streets of the United States is going to be the target of a wiretap by
the FBI for counterintelligence purposes and if the national security
advisor to the rising president is – talks to the Russian ambassador, that
conversation will be intercepted, they`re listening to the Russian
ambassador, he`s talking to someone else, they get both sides of that
And, obviously, what that – what Michael Flynn of all people says to the
Russian ambassador and vice versa is foreign intelligence and you need to
know who Michael Flynn is to understand it. I do not see based on what the
rules are and just a sort of basic understanding of how this works what is
alarming about that or maybe alarming is the wrong word. What is
mysterious about that, what is hard to understand about that.
We think this was a targeting of the Russian ambassador and that`s not
remarkable at all in the world.
MADDOW: Charlie Savage, national security reporter for the “New York
Times,” that`s exactly why I wanted to talk to you about this. Thank you
for helping us through this tonight, Charlie. Good to see you.
SAVAGE: Good to see you, too.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight, including the reporter who
wrote the bombshell, a piece story about Paul Manafort and his work to
promote the Putin government secretly in the United States.
Plus, you got the latest from London.
Stay with us tonight.
MADDOW: It was almost 40 years ago. That was the last time the British
parliament was attacked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: It was mid-afternoon at Big Ben when Airey Neave drove out of
the underground car park at the House of Commons. He never made it to the
top. The blast tore open the right door, the driver`s door in Britain.
One of Neave`s shoes was blown behind the car. He was dead on arrival at
Parliament suspended debate while Scotland Yard looked for more bombs.
None was found.
The Irish Republican Army had warned their renewed bombing campaign in
Northern Ireland would be taken to the British mainland during the election
campaign which began yesterday. And Airey Neave was apparently at the top
of the IRA`s hit list.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was March 30th, 1979, British Member of Parliament killed,
bomb planted in his car in the parking garage at the House of Commons. All
through the `70s, right through the turn of the century, Britain was, of
course, embroiled in the murderous conflict in Northern Ireland and at
times, that war bled into the U.K. mainland. It made British politicians
and Britain itself targets for attack by Irish paramilitary groups.
But, still, parliament is a serious target and a hard target. The last
attack on parliament was 1979. There hadn`t been an attack at the British
House of Commons since then. Until today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: The value our parliament
remits – democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law, command the
admiration and respect of free people everywhere. That is why it is a
target for those who reject those values.
But let me make it clear today as I have had calls to do before, any
attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror is doomed to
failure. Tomorrow morning, parliament will meet as normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: British Prime Minister Theresa May this afternoon. Parliament
will be meeting as normal.
This all started today when police got called around 2:40 p.m. local time,
a man driving a gray Hyundai 4x4 was driving across the Westminster Bridge,
apparently steering deliberately into pedestrians. Three people died as a
result of that, part of the attack on the bridge. Many more were injured,
including three police officers.
The attacker then sped up and drove directly toward the Houses of
Parliament. He crashed into a railing, proceeded to get out of his car.
He attacked a police officer inside the gates with a knife. That police
officer died from his injuries, he was 48 years old.
The attacker then reportedly lunged toward another officer before he was
shot and killed by police. Four people were killed total, plus the
attacker makes five, at least 40 people were wounded.
The police are treating this as a terrorist incident. Police said this
evening that the attacker is thought to be, quote, “inspired by
international terrorism.” That said, so far, nobody`s taken responsibility
and so far, we do not know the name of the attacker. Police say they
believe they know the identity of the attacker, but they have declined to
give further details and some names that circulated earlier today have been
proven to be false.
It`s the middle of the night in London right now. It`s after 1:45 in the
morning. This story continues to unfold. We`ll bring you more as we learn
MADDOW: So, at the top of tonight`s show, we reported on an exclusive
“Associated Press” story today concerning former Donald Trump campaign
chairman Paul Manafort. According to the “A.P.`s” reporting, prior to
joining the campaign, Paul Manafort reportedly entered into a $10 million a
year contract to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin
in the United States, secretly. I say secretly, because although the
“A.P.” has obtained documentation about this business arrangement,
including proof of millions of dollars in payments to Paul Manafort,
Manafort never registered his work on behalf of a foreign government with
the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act says you have to disclose paid work
like that. As the “A.P.” noted in its story today, quote, “willfully
failing to register is a felony and can result up to five years in prison
and a fine of up to $250,000.”
I should mention, this is also not the first time that Paul Manafort has
been accused of failing to legally disclose work he did on behalf of a
Last August, in the middle of the presidential campaign, the same “A.P.”
reporter from today`s scoop, Jeff Horwitz, also reported that Paul Manafort
had failed to disclose his foreign lobbying efforts for a pro-Russian
political party in Ukraine.
Joining us is now Jeff Horwitz. He`s the “A.P.” reporter who broke the
story earlier today.
Mr. Horwitz, I really appreciate your time tonight. I know it`s been a big
day explaining this work to everybody. Thanks for being with us tonight.
JEFF HORWITZ, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I know you don`t want to talk about your sources or your
reporting process too much, but what can you explain to us about how this
came about, about how you knew to look, for example, for this company that
Manafort operated, how you figured out that he might have this kind of a
HORWITZ: So, I have some very talented colleagues who are working in
Moscow, Kiev, Cyprus, all over the place on this stuff. But without
getting into sort of the details of reporting and some of the sourcing is
confidential, what I can say is that we obtained from a number of different
places memos that Manafort wrote to Oleg Deripaska, who is a Russian
oligarch very close to Putin. He`s one of the guys that – I mean,
according to U.S. diplomatic cables for a number of years back is sort of
one of Putin`s top business lieutenants, top allies in the business
And in these memos, which were sort of associated with this $10 million a
year contract that you referenced, Paul Manafort is talking about
representing Oleg Deripaska`s personal and business interests abroad and
that`s eastern and former Soviet countries, and also in Europe and in the
United States, and basically trying to – while the focus was on the post-
Soviet countries, trying to make sure that his message was sort of
channeled well and through a number of different means to Washington as
MADDOW: And in the documentation that you found, Manafort explicitly makes
the case that this would be a promotion of Putin`s government, that this
would be good for Putin`s government specifically.
HORWITZ: Right. And that is – the language was extremely clear on that.
That one of the appeals – you know, sort of – and it kind of was a sales
pitch from Manafort`s firm to Deripaska. One of the appeals of subsidizing
his work or underwriting are the work was that Deripaska would be advancing
the interest of the Putin government and thereby ingratiating himself to
the Putin government.
So, it was very, very straight forward in terms of the pitch. I mean, a
big part of it was sort of undercutting political movements that the Putin
government would not like in countries neighboring Russia and supporting
those that it would.
MADDOW: Jeff Horwitz, a reporter at “The Associated Press”. Remarkable
scoop today. A long story, very easy to understand, very clearly sourced.
Thanks for helping us understand it tonight. Appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: They are apparently going to do it. They`re going to hold the
vote. House majority leader tells NBC News tonight that by 7:00 p.m.
tomorrow, Republicans, in his words, will have passed their bill to repeal
Obamacare and throw 24 million Americans off their health insurance.
It still does not look at all like the Republicans for sure have the votes
they need. They can`t get nor do they appear to want any Democrats` votes.
That means their magic number in terms of no votes from Republicans is 21.
If 22 Republicans vote no, the bill is dead.
NBC has been doing a whip count of no votes. And the list of Republicans
who say they`ll vote no tomorrow or are that leaning strongly against the
bill tomorrow, right now, is well above 22. It`s 28 say they are no or
Again, 22 no votes and it`s dead. You have to wonder if that self-imposed
7:00 p.m. deadline is really realistic. But they tell us tonight they`re
still going to try for it. Tomorrow is going to be another big day.
We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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