The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 7/6/2017 Protests in Germany
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: July 6, 2017
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I`ll tell you that in the building, we
know the monitors are on showing what`s on TV as everybody goes about their
business, everywhere I walked in the building, people were stopped in their
tracks walking and watching it with their mouths open.
Incredible work. Thanks, man.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, MSNBC`S “ALL IN”: Thanks.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got a big show tonight. There`s a lot going on in the world.
We`ve got eyes on the big G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, where there were
huge protests today. President Trump is in Hamburg tonight. He`s meeting
there tomorrow with Vladimir Putin.
NBC`s Richard Engel is there too. He is going to be joining us live from
Germany tonight ahead of his big Richard Engel special that we`re doing
here tomorrow night.
The head of the government`s ethics office also resigned tonight. He got
as famous as a bureaucrat gets for the robust way he stood up to the Trump
administration and to Trump himself on ethics issues and the president`s
unprecedented financial conflicts of interest.
His name is Walter Shaub. He said he was not forced out of the Office of
Government Ethics. He basically says he`s leaving because the U.S.
government ethics rules are not strong enough to allow him to stand up to
what this president and his family are doing. So, he is leaving his job at
the Office of Government Ethics in order to try to strengthen the rules
from the outside. So, very interesting resignation today. We`ve got more
on that story ahead.
There`s a lot going on. We`ve got a big show tonight.
But we are going to start with something different tonight. I said at the
very end of last night`s show that we`ve got a scoop to share with you
tonight. This is that scoop.
In-house on our staff, we have been talking about this as an inside – kind
of an inside-out story. Not your typical news story, not your particular
scoop. But I think it`s important.
It is one of the few times we have ever had a scoop on the show where I
feel like I need to send up this like a flare for other news organizations
in particular. That`s part of what I`m intending to do with part of this
OK, here it goes. We have this thing we have been doing on our show for a
while now that`s called www.sendittorachel.com. Basically, the idea is if
you want to get in touch with us, if you want to give us a tip or send us a
document, you can do so via that Web site, www.sendittorachel.com. We get
tons of stuff that way.
We get information about important local political fights that otherwise
aren`t getting national coverage. We get a lot of information about bad
behavior by elected officials. We occasionally get news about really good
behavior by elected officials that has gone unnoticed.
We get anonymous tips and we get documents, too. We get a lot of
documents. We`ve had a lot of first-hand records come across the transom
through the www.sendittorachel.com, documents that show us how the
government is making decisions, what the government is doing, whether or
not they`re talking about it publicly yet. So, it`s been a great resource
for our reporting.
I will say it one more time, www.sendittorachel.com. It`s still up and
running. We`d love to hear from you.
Well, a few weeks ago, we got a new document through that channel. And at
first glance, it was just unbelievably red hot. If by any chance this
document is real, it is so sensitive, so classified that I cannot show it
to you. I cannot show it to almost anyone because of its purported
classification level. It`s actually hard to circulate it at all or even to
describe it to people.
And I don`t say that to try to hype it. I say that to let you know that
it`s actually logistically difficult to validate something like this,
because when it`s classified at that level or appears to be classified at
that level, you can`t run a document like that by people the way you would
for any other kind of document we might get shipped to us from some source.
People who are in a position to recognize or authenticate this kind of
document, people who have worked with things at this level of
classification, they typically will refuse to even look at a document like
this if there`s any chance that it is real, that it is real classified
information that has been improperly disclosed. That`s because the terms
of their own security clearance mean effectively they can`t review anything
like that without it creating legal obligations on them.
So, it`s very hard to check this stuff out. Classification wise, it is
logistically just very difficult to deal with, very, very sensitive.
But in terms of the political implications of this document that we were
given, its content – politically, this thing is so sensitive it takes all
of the air out of the room, and all of the nearby rooms as well. People
talk about finding the smoking gun. What got sent to us was not just a
smoking gun, it was a gun still firing proverbial bullets.
So, here`s the deal. We believe now that the real story we have stumble
upon here is that somebody out there is shopping carefully forged documents
to try to discredit news agencies reporting on the Russian attack on our
election, and specifically on the possibility that the Trump campaign
coordinated with the Russians in mounting that attack.
Let me show you what I mean. Here`s what we know. Do you remember a month
ago when a relatively new news organization called “The Intercept”
published this report? Top secret NSA report detail Russian hacking effort
days before 2016 election. This was published by “The Intercept” almost
exactly a month ago, Monday, June 5th.
“The Intercept” has a bunch of good reporters, a lot of aggressive
national security reporters who really earned their stripes. In terms of
the Russia story, “The Intercept” have – they are really stood out for
being basically aggressively skeptical on that story. Skeptical that there
was a Russian attack on our election, skeptical of the possibility that the
Trump campaign might have colluded in that Russian attack.
I mean, there is nothing wrong with a news organization having an editorial
take on a particular story. I am not criticizing them for their take on
Russia. But for purposes of understanding what we just figured out, it`s
important to understand that “The Intercept” does as a news organization
have a take on the Russia attack, on the Russia story, and their take on it
is that they`re dismissive of the story.
And that`s why it was really surprising and really interesting that it was
“The Intercept” of all places that published this big advance in the Russia
story. New details on the Russian hacking effort into the U.S.
presidential election, including a U.S. intelligence report which said that
the attack went on for longer than had been previously disclosed, it was
wider than previously disclosed, and they got further in their attack than
had been previously disclosed.
Quoting from “The Intercept”: Russian military intelligence executed a
cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-
phishing e-mails to more than a hundred local election officials just days
before last November`s presidential election.
Quote: Russian government hackers were part of a team with a cyber
espionage mandate specifically directed at U.S. and foreign elections.
They focused on parts of the U.S. election system directly connected to the
voter registration process.
Quote: Russian hacking may have penetrated further into U.S. voting systems
than was previously understood. Russian hacking may have breached at least
some elements of the U.S. voting system.
And all of this explosive stuff is cited to, quote, a highly classified
intelligence report obtained by “The Intercept”. In addition to their
write-up of it – this is important – “The Intercept”, they didn`t just
publish an article about that top secret intelligence report, they actually
published the top secret intelligence report, the top secret NSA report
they said they obtained, five pages of it, detailing this American
intelligence understanding of how Russian agents attempted to wriggle their
way into the U.S. election system, further than we`d ever known before.
The document came with a flow chart of how the Russians got in, and why
they targeted the places they did. It`s very detailed. And the whole
thing, as I mentioned, was labeled top secret on every page.
“The Intercept” reported when they published this thing that U.S.
intelligence officials wouldn`t comment on the document but they said
agencies did ask them for certain redactions, some of which “The Intercept”
agreed to make. So, they made those redactions, specific redactions at the
request of U.S. agencies and then they hit publish on this story.
Big deal, right? I mean, new detail evidence into American intelligence
gathering on Russian attempts to get inside our election system. This was
a very big story based again on a very classified document. Huge story,
real scoop, real coup for “The Intercept”.
But now, even just a month later, that “Intercept” story is remembered less
I think for the content of the story and more for what happened immediately
after they published, because immediately after they published it, we
learned that there was an arrest.
We got our first head`s up about that “Intercept” story just before 4:00
p.m. on June 5th. An hour later at 5:00 p.m. sharp, June 5th, the Justice
Department announced they had already had in custody, they had already
arrested the person who allegedly leaked that top secret document to “The
Intercept”. And this is a pending federal case now against that NSA
contractor. It`s not resolved at all. But from the criminal complaint the
government filed here, the case is not at all subtle.
Apparently, the NSA can tell how many people have ever accessed, have ever
looked at an individual secret document like this. They can tell who they
are by name. And in the criminal complaint, the FBI agent named in the
complaint lays out how the FBI investigation into this leak proceeded.
They have this list of like a half dozen people who they know have accessed
this document. They go down that list looking for someone who has accessed
the document who also appears to have been in touch with this news
organization, with “The Intercept”.
By that process, they quickly narrow it down to one NSA contractor working
in the state of Georgia. A contractor named Reality Leigh Winner.
According to the FBI she was the only one of those six who had accessed –
who had both accessed the document and been in touch with “The Intercept”.
Then they go down a second line of approach. The agent says in this
criminal complaint that there`s a crease, like you get a crease from
folding something. There`s a crease that is visually evident on the
document itself that was a clue to the FBI that whoever took this document
off of the NSA had printed it, had printed the page and folded it and
carried it out of the NSA office by hand.
And then there was another clue – and this is where the story gets a
little bit crazy. Most color printers, maybe even all of them, I don`t
know, they apparently leave behind when they print, right, when they print
out a piece of paper from a computer, when they print, they leave behind a
fingerprint on every sheet that they print out.
You know in old school detective stories, they do forensic analysis of the
corks of individual typewriters, right, to find out which typewriter typed
the ransom note or whatever. There is a version of that for computer
printers, too. And that may have come calling when “The Intercept” showed
the NSA this document they had obtained through a source because they
wanted the NSA to validate it, to comment on whether or not this document
they had received was real.
In that document – which we have access to because they published it
online when they published their story – in that document, alongside all
the plainly visible texts and the flow chart and even the redactions and
everything, alongside all of that, all that obvious stuff was also this
barely visible fingerprint from the printer it was printed on.
The fingerprint is basically a series of light almost invisible yellow
printed dots. And unless you`re looking for them, you would never notice
them just by reading the document. But if you run the page like through an
image software and do a magic reversing of the colors and in this case, a
little brightening so you can see them on your TV, up pops, if you`re
looking for it, a readable specific grid of these little dots.
And that grid of those little dots is basically a fingerprint and it tells
you which exact printer was used to print out that page. It tells you the
model number. It tells you the serial number, and it tells you exactly
which time and date that printing happened.
Now, it may be that the FBI didn`t have to use those little yellow printer
dots to track down their suspect. The FBI doesn`t mention the printer dots
in their charging document in this case. But once “The Intercept”
published this document online, for people who understand forensic tracking
of documents and the dangers of leaking documents, those yellow dots were
an obvious thing to worry about, because they were there on that document
that “The Intercept” published. They were there to be read by a trained
observer on that document that “The Intercept” published online.
OK. So, now, let me show you how this worked for us. This is the NSA
document published by “The Intercept”. You see the little dots. You`d see
the little dots in that very specific pattern in relation to that little
piece of text that we`ve excerpted there. It`s uncovered on one of the
pages that “The Intercept” published.
Now, watch, I`m going to show you that same pattern of dots, except this
time, it`s from a different document. OK? As you can see, it`s the same
pattern of dots, the top half of the pattern. But what I`m showing you
here, this is not the document published by “The Intercept”. This is from
the document that somebody sent us through www.sendittorachel.com.
That same pattern of dots, the supper portion of it exactly appeared on the
supposed NSA document that somebody sent to us anonymously. So, again, you
see it here in “The Intercept” document with the dots by the word summary.
Those same dots, the top part of the pattern appear magic by the word
summary in the document that we got.
It`s not all of the dots. Just the ones that appear to have slipped
through in a photocopy cut and paste job.
This is what it appears to be to us, a cut and paste forgery, using “The
Intercept” NSA document as a template. And again here, see that thin line
is there on the upper left-hand corner? You can see why I think is the
crease where the FBI says “The Intercept” document was folded after it was
printed. We think we see remnants of that exact same crease on the forged
supposed top secret NSA document that got sent to us.
Now, it may be helpful to know, we got this purported NSA document the same
week “The Intercept” published theirs. And here`s another thing I can show
you in terms of sussing that out. Look at the metadata here. Check this
out in terms of the timing.
The suspect on “The Intercept” leak goes to jail on Saturday, gets arrested
on Saturday, June 3rd. Saturday June 3rd, the FBI interviews and arrests
Reality Winter, this NSA contractor. She has pleaded not guilty, but she
has been in jail since Saturday, June 3rd.
“The Intercept” published their story two days later, around 4:00 p.m.,
that Monday, June 5th. The forged document we got sent to us appeared to
have been created in that narrow window of time between those two events,
after Reality Winter got arrested and before “The Intercept” published the
document, with its identifiable printer dots and the crease and the paper
that appeared to have been lifted off that same document that “The
Our document appears to be a cut and paste forgery derived from “The
Intercept`s” document. We cannot know for sure. But if that is the case,
then whoever did that work to create that forgery was cutting and pasting
together a fake document, working from a document that was not yet publicly
They would have started creating that file or they would have started that
file after Reality Winter`s arrest and before “The Intercept” published it
to everyone and then sent it to us two days later.
Given what we know about the time it was sent to us and what we can see
from the metadata, we believe this is the timeline. Now, is the time line
a clue as to who contacted us and sent us this document? We don`t know.
Maybe the metadata itself has been faked or wrong in some way. I don`t
There are other things that are wrong in the document, too. That raised
red flags for us but they`re subtle. There are some little typos. There`s
some weird spacing that just doesn`t look right.
It has a date on it in terms of when in the future it can be declassified.
That doesn`t make sense if it was produced when they said it was produced.
The big red flag for us is that the document we were given, this is part of
what made it seem so red hot, it names an American citizen. The document
we were sent, which we believe to be a forgery, names a specific person in
the Trump campaign as working with the Russians on their hacking attack on
the election last year. And the specific name of the Trump campaign person
is irrelevant and I`m not sharing it now because we believe from how the
NSA works from multiple conversations with current and former officials
familiar with documents of this type, we believe that a U.S. citizen`s name
would never appear in a document like this.
Even if the typos and the weird spacing and the other odd stuff has snuck
through for some reason, an American citizen`s name would not have snuck
through, not at this level of an NSA report. That our document contains an
American name spelled out, that says to experienced people who have worked
with this stuff that what we got is forged. It`s fake, which is
interesting if you work on this show.
This is news because why is someone shopping a forged document of this kind
to news organizations covering the Trump-Russia affair?
Last week, three journalists resigned from their jobs at CNN after that
network retracted a story they had written about the Trump administration
related to the Trump-Russia affair. CNN says the sourcing of that story in
retrospect did not meet its editorial standards.
Also last week, “Vice” retracted two stories about the Trump
administration. Like CNN, “Vice” also cited problems with the sourcing of
The thing that`s knocking around in the back of your mind right now is from
2004, when the legendary Dan Rather lost his career at CBS over a story on
the evening news that delved into George W. Bush`s truncated service in the
National Guard during Vietnam. The Rather team had documents that they got
from a source that they checked out, but the sourcing of those documents
was later attacked and undermined. CBS was ripped to shreds over the
process it went through that resulted in those documents being put on the
air as the basis for that story. Still over a decade later, the origin of
those documents is murky.
But undeniably, CBS running that story was a disaster for two things. It
was disaster for everyone involved and it was a disaster for a news story.
All right. That was in personal terms, that was the end of a trusted voice
of reason and insight and perspective, Dan Rather, as a regular presence in
the family living room.
In terms of the news, that was a spike through the heart of the story of
George W. Bush`s National Guard service keeping him out of Vietnam, which
was a true and interesting story and which really might have been a serious
ongoing political liability for candidate George W. Bush. But nobody was
ever willing to touch it again during that campaign because of the way
those documents purporting to prove out the worst aspects of that story
blew up like a pipe bomb at CBS News.
And so head`s up, everybody, this is what I mean by an inside-out scoop.
Somebody for some reason appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake
NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump
campaign in working with the Russians on their attack on the election. It
is a forgery.
Let me caveat that. It is either a forgery or every single national
security official we consulted about this story is wrong about it.
I don`t know if the Trump campaign worked with Russia or not. If they did
knowingly work with a foreign government, a foreign military intelligence
service to attack our election, to help Trump to the presidency, that is
clearly the biggest political scandal in modern history by a mile. We
don`t know if it happened or not. So, we don`t know yet whether it
happened or not. Not yet.
The special counsel is investigating. Congressional committees are more or
less investigating. And the American news media is investigating.
Whether or not the Trump campaign did it, one way to stab in the heart
aggressive American reporting on that subject is to lay traps for American
journalists who are reporting on it, trick news organizations into
reporting what appears to be evidence of what happened, and then after the
fact blow that reporting up.
You then hurt the credibility of that news organization. You also cast a
shadow over any similar reporting in the future, whether or not it`s true,
right? Even if it`s true, you plant a permanent question, a permanent
asterisk, a permanent – who knows – as to whether that too might be false
like that other story, whether that too might be based on fake evidence.
So, head`s up, everybody. Part of the defense against this Trump-Russia
story, now we can report, include somebody apparently forging at least one
classified NSA report and shopping it to news organizations as if it`s
real. We don`t know who`s doing it but we`re working on it.
Head`s up in the meantime, everybody. We will be right back.
MADDOW: The G20 are the 19 richest countries in the world plus one, plus
the European Union. They meet every year. G20 Summits almost always
attract major protests, mostly anti-capitalism protests, but also just
protests by anybody who has a beef with this small minority of countries
that represent the lion`s share of all of the wealth and trade in the
This year, today, the G-20 is meeting and they are meeting in Hamburg
Germany. This year`s protesters picked a cheery theme to greet the leaders
of all the G20 countries. Their theme this year is: G20, welcome to hell.
OK, this should be fun.
Officials say they expect upwards of 100,000 protesters to show up during
the G20 overall. Today, it kicked off with about 10,000 to 15,000
protesters in the streets. Within minutes of the start of their planned
march today, the march was broken up by German riot police. Look at this.
Police said that some protesters were breaking the law by wearing masks
that covered their faces. And so, they broke the whole thing up. From
there, things pretty quickly went pear-shaped. Police turned water cannons
and copious amounts of tear gas and smoke bombs against the protesters.
The protesters for their part threw rocks and bottles at the police. By
nightfall, the protesters were lighting fires in the streets. Now, we
don`t know how many protesters were arrested in Hamburg today, nor we do
know how many were injured.
We are told that more than 75 police officers were injured today. Three of
whom had to go to the hospital, including one who had an eye injury when
the officer had a firecracker blow up in his or her face. Right now, as we
speak it`s after 3:00 in the morning in Hamburg. Things have died down.
After the big and somewhat violent confrontations today, there were a lot
of peaceful protesters who stuck around and made themselves know
But as of right now, we`re told that heading into tomorrow, despite the
very big protests today, things are still on schedule for the official
summit which does start tomorrow. And in terms of American politics, that
means everybody is bracing for the first official meeting between President
Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tomorrow is Trump`s first meeting as president with Putin. But it is not
his first meeting as president with a Russian official. I think part of
what`s giving so many Americans so much shpilkes about this meeting
tomorrow is what happened the last time Trump had a meeting with Russians
since he`s been president.
You`ll remember that was the one inside the Oval Office where Trump
inexplicably disclosed to the Russians code word protected top secret
intelligence that should have never been shared with any other country, but
especially not with the Russians. That was also the meeting where he told
them overtly that yes, he had fired the FBI director because of the Russian
investigation, that he was feeling pressure because of the FBI`s Russia
investigation and that firing the FBI director gave him hope that he would
be relieved of that pressure from that investigation.
That`s what happened the last time this president met with Russian
officials. And also, remember, he got played too. Remember for that
meeting, the White House refused to let any American media into the Oval
Office to cover that meeting. But Trump did let the Russians persuade him
to allow the Russians to bring in their own official Russian photographer
with his own equipment into the Oval Office, after which they admitted they
had no idea that the photographer also worked for a Russian news agency and
would publish all of the photos.
A White House official told “The Washington Post” thereafter, quote, we
were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual
headed and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency.
CNN`s Jim Acosta got a White House official to speak much more bluntly on
the subject. This was his tweet, quote, White House furious over the
Russian government photos of Trump meetings with Lavrov, Kislyak. They
tricked us, an official said of the Russians. They tricked us. They lie.
So, it went awesome the last time the president met with Russians. Now,
he`s going to meet with Vladimir Putin tomorrow. The only other people in
the room beside Trump and Putin and two translators at that meeting will be
Rex Tillerson, who was personally awarded the Order of Friendship by
Vladimir Putin for his friendship to the nation of Russia. The only other
person beside him will be Sergey Lavrov last seen receiving code word top
secret intelligence from Trump in the Oval Office and tricking Trump into
allowing into the Oval Office a Russian photographer and his bag full of
So, it will be just the four of them, making sure America`s interests are
protected in the face of Russia`s unprecedented recent attacks on our
country. Sure, that should go fine. Richard Engel joins live from
MADDOW: Richard Engel is NBC`s chief foreign correspondent. And forgive
me for saying so, but he is better at being a foreign correspondent than
anybody else in this business in this country. He is the best of his
You can drop Richard Engel anywhere in the world and he will intrepidly
hunt out the most important, most newsworthy thing that is happening there.
And when the most important news in the world is happening in a place you
are not supposed to drop a foreign correspondent, he is the kind of guy who
has been known to get himself there any way in order to get the story.
As a young man who did not speak Arabic, Richard moved to Cairo alone,
figured he would pick up the language while he was there. He did. When
the Iraq war started, he often brought himself to Baghdad on his own steam,
started covering it alone as a stringer.
When I started at MSNBC, he started tutoring me on the subtleties of the
Middle East and Central Asia, mostly in bars with hand drawn maps that he
would make for me on cocktail napkins. I`m not ashamed to admit.
When it was time for me to do a little bit of reporting in Iraq and
Afghanistan, it was Richard who hooked me up with his local knowledge, his
access to sources and language. On this show, Richard has been our
interlocutor of all things international that has been fascinating always.
It has also sometimes been terrifying, like him walking us through the five
harrowing days he spent in captivity in Syria, after he and his crew got
So, because of all that, I am psyched to tell you that Richard Engel has a
new special that he`s doing right here, this network this hour tomorrow
night. It`s the first of a new series called “Richard Engel on
Assignment”. It premieres tonight here.
And tonight, Richard is at the site of the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, where
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are meeting in just a few hours. And
Richard joins us live now.
NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel – Richard, I am so happy we
have finally got this new series launched. Congratulations, my friend.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We`ve been talking
about this for a long time. I`m really excited about it. Thank you. It`s
going to be interesting.
So, we`ll start with this one on Russia, on this meeting between Trump and
Putin, and then we have some others in the works.
MADDOW: Tell me about what is going to be in the special tomorrow.
Obviously, the Trump-Putin meeting is in just a few hours at the G20
meeting in Hamburg where you are. What are you looking at in terms of the
first in this series tomorrow night?
ENGEL: So, the way this show, this series is going to work is it will look
at a specific subject, in this case it`s Russia and the U.S. pegged to this
meeting, this summit between Putin and Trump. And it tries to look at the
issues around it. How does it work?
We`ve heard so much about Russia. We`ve heard so much about the U.S.
elections. You`ve covered it so much in your show.
We went to Russia. We went to talk to people who are directly involved in
this. We went to several different countries in fact. We`re in Ukraine.
We crisscrossed the globe to try to find out a little bit more.
So, what we`re going to be looking at in this special is how do you
understand Russia? What is Russia after? What is Russia`s game? What
does Vladimir Putin hope to do with all – what is he up to?
And that`s what this special really tries to look into, the why of the
story. And then you know we`re working on another one. I was just in
Baghdad the other day and I think – in Mosul, excuse me, the other day,
about the offensive there. We`ll be heading back there soon. We`ll be
doing a combination of not just Russia, but some front line reporting and
jumping from issue to issue, story to story.
And I think your audience has clearly shown that they want to hear more
about complex issues around the world.
MADDOW: And you have also sparked something of an insane and difficult for
me fight among all of my producers who want to work with you on these damn
So, thank you for making my life much more exciting. But also on a day to
day basis, a little more difficult like you always do.
ENGEL: Well, I`m glad that your show didn`t just blow up, that you didn`t
step on the land mine that was sent in your inbox.
ENGEL: So, we can keep going and do things like this.
MADDOW: I know.
Richard, something else happened today that I want to ask you about. Do
you mind sticking around for one more minute before we let you go?
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back with Richard Engel. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s a thought experiment for you. Imagine if as soon as Donald
Trump took office, he and his Republican allies in Congress passed a law
that said the editor of your favorite newspaper or the manager of your
favorite TV news network would now be hand-selected and installed in office
by Donald Trump`s treasury secretary. It would be one of the follow-up
questions on election night. Trump has won the election.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who will you put in charge of NBC News now
and CNN and “The New York Times.” That is not the way it works here,
praise Jesus and the Founding Fathers.
But in Poland, that has recently become not a thought experiment. Last
night, we started talking about the radical change in government that
preceded this visit by President Trump today to Poland. Very conservative
right wing nationalist party came to power in Poland less than two years
ago. They did all sorts of things to consolidate in themselves all forms
of political power. They removed the independent leadership of the secret
services. They took over the Supreme Court. They put their finance
minister in charge of hiring and firing at media outlets in Poland, and
they didn`t make up some high-minded reason for that change.
The president said he signed that law about who`s running media companies
because all of those dark journalists were biased against him, so they had
to go. Thereafter, they just kept going. They try on a new rule to limit
the number of journalists who would be allowed into the parliament. Those
who were allowed in to cover the parliament would have to stay in a special
room and not go out into the halls where they might run into an actual
lawmaker they could talk to. Oh, and also, nobody would be allowed to film
or take pictures anymore. That proposal sparked such a backlash, including
days of street protests and a blockade of the parliamentary hall by
But the ruling party eventually scrapped that plan. Poland`s president
then said that the plan had only been intended to, quote, help journalists
organize their work better. That`s nice.
And, you know, it`s one thing, you know, whether or not you call about
Poland. But today, after in recent weeks Senate Republicans here briefly
tried to institute a plan where American journalists would no longer be
allowed to interview anybody in the halls of the U.S. Senate. After a few
weeks press briefings stopped almost altogether at the State Department and
where journalists have recently been restricted from using their cameras or
even their audio recorders even at White House briefings, today, our new
president went to Poland where they`ve had radical curtailment of the press
in the last couple of years.
And standing beside the Polish president, our American president joined him
in attacking the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have been fake news for
a long time. They`ve been covering me in a very dishonest way. Do you
have that also, by the way, Mr. President?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See that face the Polish president made?
In Polish, that face means, we did have that, Mr. President, but then we
just fired all of the journalists. You should try it. Used to have that
In any year before this year, Poland`s media crackdown is the kind of thing
that you would expect a visiting American president in Poland to raise a
big stink about. Not to make common cause with.
Still with us is NBC chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.
Richard, thank you for sticking around. I wanted to ask you about this
part of the presidential visit today to Poland. As a journalist who works
around the world often in inhospitable places, do you think that it matters
materially when an American president says stuff like that in a venue like
that? Does it have an impact or is it just noise?
ENGEL: No, I think it has an enormous impact. If you remember when
President Trump got elected, I`m sure you do, the international reactions
around the world, first most effusive reactions to come in were from
countries like Poland, the far right government there, the far right
government in Hungary, far right leaders like Marine Le Pen, the Brexit
movement in the U.K. They thought they had a new member of the club. They
thought, the U.S. now has someone just like us, sympathetic to our cause.
Whereas the sort of let`s call them other European countries were somewhat
diplomatic. But in private, in private conversations I had with them,
their hair was on fire.
So, it does matter when you have the U.S. president come and share the
stage with the government, with a country who is tearing apart press
freedom and sort of jokes about, you know, how is the press going in your
country? I think it sends an absolutely loud and clear message of
encouragement that this kind of behavior is not only tolerable, but it`s
something that the United States and the U.S. president encourages.
MADDOW: And, Richard, looking ahead to the G20 and to obviously everybody
is very much focused on that bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin
which is going to happen in just a few hours, what do you think we should
be looking for in terms of the way Trump is received in that stage
tomorrow, from that important bilateral meeting, but in general at this
summit? In terms of America`s role in the world and how it`s changed under
this president, what are you going to be watching for?
ENGEL: I want to watch the statements that come out of the meeting between
Putin and Trump. You brought up a tiny example but I think a really
revealing one. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was in the Oval
Office and then, suddenly, the Russians released the photograph which the
White House really didn`t want to release.
And I would be curious to know if tomorrow there will be dual releases.
The U.S. will release some summary of what happened during the meeting and
the Russians will as well. I want to see who goes further.
And if the Russians go further and further and start laying out all of the
things that they supposedly agreed upon, will the U.S. push back? Will
President Trump say, well, we didn`t do that or will that become policy?
Will he get played?
That`s one of the things I want to see about, because there could be some
very big statements there. And if this is not – this is not the policy
that Trump agrees to, he`s going to have to go out and say, no, Putin lied.
So we will see.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent, the host of the
brand-new series “On Assignment with Richard Engel” which starts tomorrow
night in this very timeslot, and we could not be more psyched about it,
9:00 Eastern MSNBC.
Richard, thank you so much. I`m super psyched for tomorrow. Thank you for
being here tonight, man.
ENGEL: Until tomorrow.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We reported late last week on the president`s new Commission on
Election Integrity. It`s been making a lot of news over the past few days
because of the person in charge of it, Kris Kobach, and his decision to
send this letter to elections officials in all 50 states, asking those
elections officials to give up personal information for every single voter
registered to vote in all of those states. For every voter in every state,
he wants full names, addresses, date of birth, political party, the last
four digits of your Social Security number, your voting history back to
2006. Pretty much everything short of what you ate for breakfast every day
you ever voted and whether or not you liked it.
Should all of those pieces of information really all be collated in one
convenient place for everybody in the country? Really?
Before today, even as there has been sort of increasing upset over that
request to the states, before today, it had been an open question as to
what exactly the White House intended to do with all this data, where they
plan to keep all of this super personal information about every single
voter in America.
Today, we got our answer. “Washington Post” reports that according to Kris
Kobach, all that voter information for every voter in the country will be
stored on White House computers under the direction of a member of the vice
president`s staff. Well, that`s fine, then.
This past year, we now know in an attack that continued right up until days
before the election, Russian hackers tried to access voter data from
individual states. They successfully broke into multiple states` voter
registration systems. That is a scary thing to hear about in terms of the
integrity of our elections.
What`s always been the silver lining here, the thing that makes stealing
voter information and stealing elections so hard to do in this country, is
that every state has its own system, their own database where they store
all their sensitive information about their voters in different ways.
Hackers would have to crack 50 different systems. That`s been a safeguard
And the feeling that that safeguard might be endangered is what`s been
rumbling underneath this news that the White House wants to put all that
information about every single voter in all 50 states all in one place, on
a White House server. What could possibly go wrong?
Depending on how you count it, somewhere between 14 and 45 states have
already said they will not turn over some or all of that data to Kris
Kobach`s office and to Mike Pence`s laptop. It`s been an amazing, even
entertaining scene to watch the responses from various states trying to
sound more resistant and more upstanding and refusing to hand over their
voters` personal information.
But even as that has unfolded, something else happened the day that Kris
Kobach sent all those letters to the state. And that other thing is
arguably more important than your Social Security number ending up in a
mystery meat government database somewhere in Mike Pence`s office. And
that other thing that happened that same day, that`s next.
MADDOW: Before the 2000 presidential election, Florida, under then
Governor Jeb Bush, paid a private company to purify Florida`s voter rolls.
You know, eliminate duplicates and take off dead people or felons who are
on the rolls.
The resulting list was full of mistakes. The state ended up wrongly
purging thousands of people off the rolls who should have been allowed to
vote, disproportionately they purged African-American voters. And because
this was Florida in 2000, because Jeb`s brother ended up winning by just
over 500 votes, the decision to kick those thousands of people off the
rolls wrongfully very well could have swayed not just the results in
Florida but arguably the presidency.
And that`s where the White House`s new pop-up election commission comes in.
The same day this past week that a letter went out from the White House`s
new commission to all 50 states asking for voter information from everybody
who has voted in every state, this letter also went out not from Kris
Kobach and the pop-up commission but from the Justice Department. State
election officials got this from the Justice Department informing them that
Justice is, quote, reviewing voter registration list maintenance procedures
in each state to make sure states are in compliance with the law that
decides who should be kicked off the voter rolls.
Justice Department tells the states to explain how they`re going to kick
people off the rolls in every state in the country. We talked to officials
in Rhode Island and California, who told us that the Justice Department
letter was a total surprise out of nowhere. People who track this sort of
thing say the letter is unprecedented. They`re calling it a directive from
the federal government to start purging voters off the rolls.
It appears that the Justice Department is laying the groundwork for a
lawsuit if states refuse. This is one to keep an eye on. We have seen big
purges of the voting rolls before, and we have seen it go very, very wrong.
Whether or not there is a national effort to push for that sort of thing,
we do not know. But watch this space. The Department of Justice pushing
for that, again, it`s unprecedented, and we don`t know how this is going to
work out. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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