The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 8/23/17 Trump Dossier
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: August 23, 2017
Guest: Rick Wilson, Gordon Lubold
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.
Rick Wilson is a Republican political operative. You`ve probably seen him
here on MSNBC. He`s appeared on lots of different shows.
Part of the reason he is such a popular guest is he`s not only very
connected in Republican politics, he knows a lot of what`s going on inside
the party. And he also has a good sense of humor, which makes hit great on
TV. And he`s one of that endangered species of modern Republicans that is
not afraid to be very vocally critical for President Trump.
And for Rick Wilson, that has been true all along. He was a Marco Rubio
supporter in the Republican presidential primary last year.
But unlike a lot of other professional Republicans, including Senator Rubio
himself, Rick Wilson didn`t decide to eat his criticism of Donald Trump
once Trump won the nomination and ultimately the election. He has stuck
with his critique.
He`s the unusual high-profile Republican who started off as a no to Trump
guy. And he remains a no to Trump guy. And he`s not the only one. There
are some, but not many.
Back during the election last year, last July, which was right after we
started getting the first reporting about how Russia appeared to be
involved in the hacking attacks on the Democratic Party`s e-mail servers,
last July, Rick Wilson got a call from a reporter about something very
strange, and honestly, very worrying that was starting to circulate about
An investigative reporter in the TV news business called up Rick Wilson and
said, hey, basically, you`re a never Trump guy, have you heard anything
about this private intel operation that has turned up supposedly a whole
sheaf of allegations about Trump being connected to Russia? About Russia
having compromising material on Trump? And Trump being involved, or at
least informed about this Russia hacking the Democratic Party?
He got a call that was an inquiry as to whether or not he had heard that
stuff. He`s a guy who hears about opposition research. He`s involved at a
professional level in Republican politics for a long time. Hey, buddy, you
heard about this?
That call last July, that`s how Rick Wilson learned, that`s the way a lot
of people learned that there was something out there rumored, right,
described vaguely, something out there about Trump that seemed like it
might be really worse than your standard political oppo in this country.
Last July, around that time, there were a bunch of reporters who started
hearing about this private intel project that had turned up, this Russia
specific information about Donald Trump.
Now, it was just people talking about it. Nobody published anything on it
for months. But lots of reporters did try to chase it down.
And the way you try to chase things down is exactly what you think. You
try to retrace the steps of the purported investigator as best you can to
try to independently corroborate what`s in these reports that you`ve heard
about. You call all the sources you know, who might conceivably have heard
something about this, to see if they can give you any other detail, any
other angle on what you`re trying to track down. You call around, you talk
to sources, you work what you got.
And that process last summer of reporters calling around to their sources
to check out this rumored thing that they had heard about, that was the
very casual way a lot of people in Washington first heard about the
supposed dossier, which we now call it, the dossier of alleged Russian dirt
on Donald Trump.
Now, David Corn and “Mother Jones” magazine, he did get out ahead of the
pack. He was first to publish a piece on this intel project, this intel
reporting on Trump. He published just before election on Halloween night
last year. In his piece, David Corn described a former Western
intelligence officer who was well-respected in his field who had gathered
this inflammatory information on Trump that was starting to circulate in
But again, because the intel itself, the allegations themselves about Trump
hadn`t been independently verified by the journalists who were hearing
about it and reporting on it, the intel really could only be described in
very, very vague terms.
Until finally, well after the election was over, it all broke open. What
broke the dam on this story seems to have been the news that leaked in
early January, that the product of this private intelligence operation, the
report that was produced by that intelligence operation about Trump and
Russia, it was leaked information in the first ten days of January that
that reporting which had been rumored for all these months, it was now
being taken seriously enough by the U.S. intelligence community that the
findings of that report had been summarized and briefed to the outgoing
president, Barack Obama, and to the incoming president-elect, Donald Trump.
CNN was first to break that story right at the beginning of January. And
that went off like a flash-bang grenade in the news when CNN broke that
But it led immediately to the obvious urgent follow-up question, OK,
they`ve been briefed on this intel. They`ve been briefed on this thing
we`ve all been hearing rumors about it. What is it? What does this intel
actually say? What is this inflammatory explosive information that`s been
briefed to the president and president-elect? What is it?
And that`s where “BuzzFeed” came in to blow the whole thing open. On
January 10th, less than two weeks before the inauguration, “BuzzFeed” went
ahead and did it. They uploaded the report, 35 pages of it.
It turns out, David Corn was right. It was from a respected former Western
intelligence operative, a former MI-6 agent from Britain, and as had been
hinted about and rumored for months, the claims in this intelligence
product, in this report, they were in fact lurid. Even if you got through
the first couple of pages and then put it down, and reacquainted yourself
with the other side of your stomach, even if you didn`t make it all the way
through, all 35 pages, right up-front, it was very blunt.
And the thing that got the most attention initially was a description of
alleged salacious personal behavior by the president-elect that Russia had
supposed documentary evidence of, the implication being that Russia could
use that tape of his behavior to blackmail him, and that`s the thing that
resonated most loudly at first, for obvious reasons.
But if you could get past that alleged X-rated stuff, what was also made
clear in that dossier was that Russia didn`t necessarily need to blackmail
him, whether or not they had a tape. What was in the dossier was spelled
out, a detailed allegation that there was a mutual operation under way
here, that there was collaboration and coordination between the Trump
campaign and the Russians. Yes, during the election, as the Russians tried
to hurt Hillary Clinton and her chances in the election. But that was the
product of a long-standing years-long relationship between the Russians and
Quoting from the dossier. Quote: The Russian authorities had been
cultivating and supporting U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald
Trump for at least five years. Quote: Trump and his inner circle have
accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his
Democratic and other political rivals. Quote: In terms of specifics, the
Kremlin has been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his
opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Now, I mentioned just a moment ago that people in political circles and
journalistic circles first started hearing rumors about the existence of
this intel right after we learned that Russian hackers had been involved in
breaking into the DNC and stealing those Democratic Party documents back in
June. Well, there`s a lot of detail in the dossier on that part of the
Russian attacks. Specifically, quote: The Russian regime was behind the
recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages emanating from the Democratic
National Committee to the WikiLeaks platform. Quote: The reason for using
WikiLeaks was plausible deniability by the Russian regime, and the
operation was conducted with the full knowledge of Trump, and senior
members of his campaign team.
So, this was all made public the night of January 10th by “BuzzFeed”,
created a huge uproar, right?
The day after “BuzzFeed” posted it and everything went nuts, “The New York
Times” contacted Republican operative Rick Wilson as part of their
reporting on the impact of this dossier, now that it had been made public.
Their reporting also on the back story as to when people first started
hearing about this information, how long it had been circulating, how it
ended up coming up into the public domain.
Even though Rick Wilson had first heard of the existence of this intel
months earlier, last summer, seeing it all come out in black and white in
January, according to him, was a different thing all together. He told
“The Times” in January, quote, it is a remarkable moment in U.S. history,
what world did I wake up in?
That`s always stuck with me. Since that first came out. What world is
Now, that was January. It is now seven months down the road. Trump is
president. He`s facing multiple investigations into his Russia ties.
Multiple committees in both Houses of Congress are investigating his Russia
ties. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is leading a special counsel
inquiry into his Russia ties.
The Russia issue is not just the focus for this presidency and this
president, it appears to be an increasingly an object of fixation for this
president, probably for good reason, given the seriousness of the
investigations that he`s facing.
Jonathan Martin tweeted that a Republican senator just called him to tell
him that Trump is, quote, consumed with Russia. An unknown senior –
unnamed senior Republican aide told “Politico” tonight, quote: It seems
Trump is just always focused on Russia. That quote comes as part of new
reporting tonight from Josh Dawsey and Elana Schor at “Politico” saying
that Trump in recent weeks has been calling Republican senators and
berating them. That`s the word “Politico” uses, berating them on issues
related to Russia.
“Politico” now describing Trump calling Republican Senator Bob Corker to
yell at him and complain to him about a Russia sanctions bill that Corker
had sponsored and supported. “Politico” also describes the president
dialing up Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina, calling him on August
7th to complain to Thom Tillis about a bill he was working on that was
designed to prevent Trump from firing the special counsel Robert Mueller
who is looking into the Russia matter.
And it`s kind of interesting, the two different levels to look at this,
right? All this reporting about the president, you know, calling senators
about Russia. Not being able to let go of Russia. Talking about Russia
all the time. It`s all evidence that the president is sort of centrally
focused on Russia at the moment.
But if you step back from it for a second, it`s also evidence that lots of
Republican sources are willing to tell reporters about that now.
Republican sources, congressional aides, senior Republican congressional
aides, maybe even Republican senators themselves are now getting very
comfortable calling up reporters to tell the press how fixated Trump is on
Russia and what he`s been saying to them about Russia in individual private
And that includes this bombshell report from “The New York Times” last
night, with multiple Republican sources claiming to “The Times” that Trump
isn`t just randomly calling Republicans and yelling at them about Russia.
When it comes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to these
Republican sources in “The Times,” Trump called McConnell on August 9th to
berate him and swear at him and scream at him about Mitch McConnell not
protecting the president from the Russia investigations that are being
conducted under McConnell`s purview in the Senate.
The president, of course, is already reportedly facing an obstruction of
justice inquiry from Robert Mueller, due to him firing the FBI director,
James Comey, after Comey reportedly rejected the president`s pressure on
him to stop the FBI investigation into the Russia matter. What`s another
inquiry on top of that? Two scoops.
So, all of this is proceeding, right? All of these investigations are
ongoing. Republican sources are getting increasingly aggressive against
the president, specifically on the Russia issue.
And now today, it comes full circle. Because today, more than a year after
those rumors started circulating about some weird intel sheaf of private
stuff that shouldn`t disclose – after those rumors started circulating,
more than a year from that, seven months down the road from when we first
laid eyes on this crazy private intelligence effort, right, that produced
this almost unbelievable sheaf of reports about Trump and Russia, seven
months down the road from when we first saw the dossier, we`re back to the
dossier in a way that may be a big problem for the White House if the
dossier is at all real.
Yesterday, we reported that the firm that hired Christopher Steele, that
MI-6 agent who got all that intelligence, who did the dossier, the head of
the American firm who hired him to do it, Fusion GPS, was interviewed
yesterday by the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee for ten solid
hours. We can also confirm tonight that Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion
GPS, did hand over 40,000 pages of documents to the committee as well.
That was first reported by FOX News last night. We can confirm it tonight.
But even if you put aside 40,000 pages of documents, think about his ten-
hour-long interview. We know what it was about. I mean, the only reason
the head of Fusion GPS was talking to the Senate Judiciary Committee for
five minutes, let alone ten hours, is because of that firm`s role in
commissioning the Trump-Russia dossier. When the head of the firm, Glenn
Simpson, came out of his interview, his lawyer made a statement making
clear that the dossier was the subject of the interview. And even though
everybody`s grown accustomed to habitually describing the dossier as
uncorroborated and unverified, that`s not the way Fusion GPS views it.
Richard Ben Veniste is a famous American political figure particularly when
it comes to investigations in complicated national scandals. Richard Ben
Veniste was a Watergate prosecutor. He was also a member of the 9/11
When Glenn Simpson came out of that ten hours of testimony yesterday with
the judiciary committee, his lawyer quoted Richard Ben Veniste in calling
the Trump Russia dossier, quote, a road map for the investigation. They
want the congressional committees and the FBI and all of these other
professional investigations, they want all those investigators to follow
the dossier. Check it out. They want the dossier to be the basis of other
people`s investigations. They are volunteering it. Check it out.
They say they stand by their work. They say they are proud of their work.
By their work, they mean the dossier.
And even though the White House and people from the Trump campaign and the
Trump administration keep denouncing it as like this dodgy dossier,
reporters routinely talk about it as unverified and uncorroborated. You
know what? That`s less and less true all the time.
This thing was made public in January. By February, we had the first
substantive reports that a lot of it was starting to independently check
out. Investigators were following up what bits of it they could, and were
finding that the dossier was true. Quote: U.S. intelligence intercepts
confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place
between the same individuals, on the same days, and from the same locations
as detailed in the dossier.
I mean, that was just by February. After that, there was further
corroboration of things like the specific details mentioned in the dossier
about Russian staff who were based at the U.S. embassy in Washington, who
had to get sent home in the middle of the scandal. I mean, even stuff like
that about the Russian side of it, those too, those details, too, were
checking out when people were able to independently verify them.
The important thing that`s now new here is that Fusion GPS is basically
having to make itself known because of this testimony to Congress by the
founder of Fusion GPS, and now that they`ve been sort of forced to answer
questions about this stuff, they are inviting scrutiny of this dossier.
They are standing by it publicly.
And we know that the dossier itself was delivered to the FBI. It`s been
reported that the delivery of the dossier to the FBI by Christopher Steele
including him giving the FBI information on who his sources were that he
used to create the document, again, to further help them verify his
information. Now as of today, we know we`ve got ten hours of testimony on
that dossier, yesterday in the Judiciary Committee. And I have to say, the
dossier remains a series of allegations.
But you know what? None of them have been overtly disproved, since it was
first posted online. And that brings us tonight to Mount Ayr, Iowa. It`s
a small town, about 1,700 people, south-central Iowa. It`s a really out-
of-the way place.
It`s a part of Iowa I`ve never been to, so I looked it up on Google Earth
today. Other nearby towns around Mount Ayr, Iowa, have amazing names like,
Gravity, Iowa, Diagonal, Iowa, and Siam, Iowa. I`ve never been to that
part of Iowa and now I want to go.
I especially want to go after seeing this footage tonight from Senator
Chuck Grassley`s town hall in Mount Ayr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: The second thing I`d like to talk on is the Senate
Judiciary Committee staff members, for 10 hours, I would like to hear what
they discovered in that meeting. And I would like the transcripts
released. Will you do that?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The answer is,
it will take a vote of the committee to do it. But I presume that they
will be released. But if you heard from the lawyer for Simpson in the
evening news, the fact that we were going to release it, we can`t release
it until we give Simpson and his lawyer a copy of it.
So, if there`s something that the transcript is wrong, give them an
opportunity to change it, or to correct it, or at least to negotiate what
was typed. First of all, it takes a long time for the court reporter to
get it ready to go. But we`ll have to give it to them before the thing
you`re asking me about can be done.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: Will you do that?
GRASSLEY: Of course, we`ll put it to a vote of the committee.
But here`s what might happen as a result of this. We have not given up the
possibility that we would have Donald Trump Jr., and Simpson, and Manafort,
it depends what comes out of these transcripts. There has to be an open
session. That`s something we`re going to wait until we get done.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: Will you personally vote for the release the
GRASSLEY: I don`t know why I wouldn`t. But I don`t want to say so,
because I`ve never – in all the years I`ve been in Congress, well, I guess
I`ve only been chairman of two committees, I`ve never gone through this
process before. So, I`m not going to answer your question until I get a
firm footing of what the precedence is.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: My statement is, I want to see the transcripts.
GRASSLEY: OK. But you understand the necessity of giving it to them, to
make sure it`s correct.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: Absolutely. But I don`t see that that would take a
long time, amount of time to do so.
GRASSLEY: I would guess, even better than what you`re asking to be done,
is if we decide to have a hearing, an open hearing on this issue. With
those three people.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: It`s already been said for ten hours, release that memo
and the have your open hearing.
GRASSLEY: OK. Go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
I don`t know who that guy was at the town hall, but I love you.
Senator Chuck Grassley tonight speaking with one of his absolutely
persistent and well informed and plain spoken constituents at home in
south-central Iowa. I think what he just indicated there, I think what the
senator just indicated there is that he`ll vote for the release of the
transcript of the 10 hours of testimony that the founder of Fusion GPS did
yesterday about the Trump dossier. He said he has to check with
precedence. But he doesn`t know of any reason he would vote against
releasing that document.
Now, in terms of this issue of the transcript having to go back to Glenn
Simpson and Fusion GPS so they can review it before it could be made
public, Chuck Grassley seems to think that would be some sort of major
barrier to releasing the transcript. Like my new boyfriend in Mount Ayr,
Iowa, I don`t think that would be a major barrier to releasing the
transcript. And I`ll tell you why, tonight, we have just in the last few
minutes received a statement from Josh Levy, who is Glenn Simpson`s lawyer,
responding to what Senator Grassley just said.
The statement is exclusive to us. It`s very interesting. Are you ready?
Here it goes.
Quote: Yesterday, Glenn Simpson spent the entire day answering questions of
the Senate Judiciary Committee staff, pursuant to a written agreement from
the committee`s chair and ranking member that was reached some weeks ago.
Mr. Simpson told the truth and so far has been the only witness to fully
cooperate with the committee. The transcript reveals all of Mr. Simpson`s
testimony based on the hours of questioning from staff.
The committee can release the transcript, if it so chooses. But after
spending an entire day answering questions, and zero testimony from any
other witness, calling Mr. Simpson to a hearing, I think he means an open
hearing, serves no investigative purpose other than to try to find out the
identities of clients and sources which are protected as matters of
privilege and in the case of sources, protected as matters of safety.
We appreciate the opportunity to review the transcript and will do so. At
the end of the day, that transcript is the committee`s. It`s not ours.
OK. Do you see what`s about to happen here? The reason this is such a big
deal is because, again, nothing in the dossier has been overtly disproved.
If it really is a road map to the investigation, well, that`s a very
serious road map to somewhere for the Trump White House. Because the two
main claims in the dossier are that Russia was cultivating Trump for years,
including collecting information on him for years that could potentially
oblige him to do Russia`s bidding, and the other part of it is that it
alleges overt knowing collusion between Trump and Russia, in Russia`s
effort to interfere in the presidential election in order to hurt Hillary
That`s what the dossier says. And if the dossier is now about to be
publicly defended and explained and backed up, I mean, that`s conceivably
the whole ball game. When is the judiciary committee going to take that
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: In the public
domain is this question of the Steele dossier, a document that has been
around now for over a year. I`m not sure when the FBI first took
possession of it, but the media had it before you had it and we had it. At
the time of your departure from the FBI, was the FBI able to confirm any
criminal allegations contained in the Steele document?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Mr. Chairman, I don`t think that`s a
question I can answer in an open setting, because it goes into the details
of the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ah, no, that goes into the details of the investigation.
The firm that commission that Steele dossier now says that they stand by
the veracity of that document. They are proud of their work on it.
They`ve now handed over 40,000 pages to the Senate. And the firm`s founder
gave 10 hours of testimony about it to the Judiciary Committee yesterday.
Those ten hours we`re told were transcribed.
Fusion is suggesting they are now open to that transcript being made
public, so we can all read what happened in those ten hours of testimony.
And tonight in Iowa, Senator Chuck Grassley, who runs that Judiciary
Committee, he said he`ll let the committee vote on putting that transcript
out. He sees no reason why he would vote against that idea himself, if he
and the Democrats on that committee all vote for it, then that transcript
is coming out.
It`s one thing to have heard rumors in advance, about what was in that
intelligence dossier about Trump and Russia. Those rumors started about a
year ago. It`s another thing to have seen all that stuff in black and
white, once “BuzzFeed” published it in January. But the people who
commissioned it say now publicly that it`s true, that what`s in that
dossier is real and can be backed up.
And that case looks like it may soon go public, which is a big deal,
because if the dossier really is right, what it has to say about Trump is
not just compromised by a foreign government, it is overt and knowing
collusion in the Russian attack.
Joining us is Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who worked for a super
PAC supporting Marco Rubio in 2016 and who is star of my opening anecdote
Rick, thank you very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to have you
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, I want to get your reaction to this tonight, this news
overall, just reaction as a Republican.
MADDOW: But I was also hoping that you could talk a little bit, shed a
little light for us on how people in politics first started hearing about
the dossier before it ever got published.
WILSON: Well, sure.
I mean, first off, I think the fact that the guys from Fusion today gave
this extensive testimony and are willing to have that put out there in the
public record, and turned over 40,000 pages of documents, should absolutely
terrify Donald Trump`s attorneys, and the sort of constellation of media
who have been denying and denying and denying that anything in the dossier
is true, and that anything in the intelligence community has gathered on
this guy is true.
That 40,000 pages is what oppo always has, intel always has. A gigantic
iceberg of information underneath the tip that you see above the ocean.
And so, this sort of thing has been swirling around for a long time.
Even before I got that phone call last summer, there have been rumors of
Trump business entanglements and Trump financial entanglements with a
variety of Russian oligarchs and Russian interests, you know, and Russian
oligarchs and the Russian intelligence service and the Russian government
all basically tied together as the same entity. And those things have been
floating around. We`ve been writing some of that stuff down.
But as the individual accusations started to be made clear inside the
political community, inside the sort of consultant world and folks who have
interesting overlaps between politics and intelligence and government,
those things started to come up more and more. Those things started to
burble up more and more. We didn`t know the exact source. We knew there
was something out there, a package floating around out there of
I didn`t know it was from Christopher Steele or Fusion proper until January
when the “BuzzFeed” document rolled out. But the information was certainly
circulating. And all of it, you know, the tip of the iceberg on these
things, like I said, is always backed up by a gigantic amount of other
data. And so, the most salacious detail, the fabled Ritz-Carlton moment in
the dossier became a distraction for a lot of people. But it was the
financials that most people were talking about before that started to pop
up into the dialogue.
MADDOW: A lot is being made, as you said, about how some of the
allegations in the dossier remain unverified. It`s often sort of
shorthanded as unverified or uncorroborated document, even some of the
stuff in there has been checked out and verified by other sources.
Now, Glenn Simpson`s lawyer said Fusion GPS stands by the work. That`s
new. We`ve never really heard from them before this. They say that
they`re proud of the work. They`re obviously inviting scrutiny of it at
every level that they can.
Did you have any previous sense of Fusion as an organization, in terms of
their credibility and research, or previous work in opposition research?
WILSON: I had never hired them as an opposition firm. But as a – from
what I do, I`m one of the consumers of oppo in great volume. I knew of
them. They just weren`t in my particular stable of folks that I hired for
work, but they certainly were not considered anything but professionals.
They`re not some fly-by-night agency that, you know, does a rip-and-read
off of Google and dumps a 200-page document on your desk.
These are professionals. They come from a professional journalism
background. Obviously when they hired Orbis and Steele, who is an
incredibly well-regarded intelligence agent for MI-6, who covered Russia in
great depth, both in official cover and non, this is a guy that they
obviously went out and they said, we`ve got to find somebody who can
credibly do this work, and they certainly did.
There is nothing about Christopher Steele`s record that is anything but an
incredibly serious, diligent public servant, and a guy who is an expert on
Russia and all things Russian intelligence, including their influence
operations overseas. And I think he produced a framework here, and the
documents that fusion has turned over have produced a framework here that
when you marry it up with the other information that our intelligence
services and the rest of the files put together on this thing, I think
Donald Trump has got some exposure here, and I think that`s why he`s
lashing out so aggressively, why he`s so angry, why he`s yelling at
senators and calling senators randomly to blurt out whatever`s on his mind,
to I`m sure to the great chagrin of his attorneys.
MADDOW: Republican strategist Rick Wilson, thank you for being here with
us to talk about this tonight.
WILSON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
And, you know, what Rick was saying about this being a framework in this
stuff potentially resulting in some exposure for the president, if those
ten hours of testimony are, they finish the transcription, they are run
fast Fusion to make sure that they don`t have objections to them and they
come out, I think we can expect that to be a ten-hour defense and
explication of what`s in that dossier and why Fusion stands behind it.
That will be the biggest new chapter in this story for a very long time.
All right. We`ve got much more to come here tonight, including some news
that is just breaking on President Trump`s proposed transgender ban in the
military. This news is actually just breaking right now as we speak.
We`re going to have it for you right on the other side of this break.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have some breaking news right now about transgender service
members in the United States military. Just about one month ago, the
president surprised military leaders, surprised everybody, by announcing
without warning on Twitter that thousands of transgender U.S. service
members were going to be kicked out of the military basically.
He said in his tweet, quote: The United States government will not accept
or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S.
Despite that surprise summary declaration from the president on social
media, since then it`s not been at all clear whether or how this new
announced ban on transgender troops would go into effect, or how it would
go into effect. Or what would happen to the thousands of American troops
who are transgender, who are serving openly in the armed forces today.
Well, tonight, “The Wall Street Journal” has just reported that the tweet
is about to get follow-up. According to “The Journal”, we should expect
new guidance soon from the White House about implementing the president`s
Twitter announced plan on transgender troops.
“The Journal” just in the past few minutes has described a White House memo
that, quote, directs the Pentagon to deny admittance to transgender
individuals and to stop spending on medical treatment regimens for those
currently serving, according to U.S. officials familiar with the document.
Quote: The two and a half page memo gives Defense Secretary James Mattis
six months to prepare to fully implement the transgender ban. That`s
according to these officials. Quote: Mr. Mattis, under the new policy is
expected to consider deployability, the ability to serve in a war zone,
participate in exercises or live for months on a ship as the primary legal
means to decide whether to separate service members from the military.
Again, that`s just been reported moments ago in “The Wall Street Journal.”
Joining us now is Gordon Lubold. He`s the “Wall Street Journal” Pentagon
reporter who broke this story tonight.
Mr. Lubold, thank you very much for joining us, especially on short notice.
I appreciate it.
GORDON LUBOLD, POLITICAL REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL (via telephone): Of
course. No problem. Thank you.
MADDOW: So, you`re describing this new memo as something that the White
House is expected to send to the Pentagon in coming days. Is it your
understanding that this is a trial balloon, that they are considering this
as the implementation following the president`s tweet or is this done?
LUBOLD: So, there`s a lot we – there`s some we know, and a lot we still
don`t know. I don`t know if the Trump administration does trial balloon or
not. What I think that we learned here in this reporting is that there`s a
lot of discretion left to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to decide at least
on the – those who are serving now, as you said in the opener, you know,
it`s pretty definitive in terms of no new accessions, that the military
called accessions, and no more – that the focus is on spending for medical
treatment for those who are now in the military and receiving it.
What`s not clear on that count is, does somebody who`s receiving, say,
medication, is that suspended or do they have to go buy it on their own or
what, that`s still a little unclear. I think some of that is left to the
discretion of the secretary.
MADDOW: And in terms of the discretion of the secretary, in terms of the
members of the military right now who are serving openly as transgender, is
it your understanding from this memo that Mattis will be given, at the
secretary of defense level, he`ll be giving discretion whether or not to
kick out each individual member of the service depending what he views as
their deployability as it specifically pertains to their gender?
LUBOLD: Yes, that`s correct. And there`s some precedence for this,
because when Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in office, he had essentially
personal say and discretion on that level at that time.
But I think, you know, I want to take you back to January when Mattis was
being confirmed, and they asked him about some of these issues, and his
whole kind of thing is, deployability, and is somebody ready to go to war.
And if they are, great. If they meet the standards, great. If not, then
there`s a problem.
So, this sounds like a lot of this memo that I think will get to the
Pentagon in the next day or so, maybe early next week, will be – it`s
written and kind of influenced by Mattis, who I don`t think wanted this on
his plate. He`s got a lot of other things to worry about. So, this gives
him a little bit of time, and gives him a lot of discretion, at least in
terms of those who are actively serving.
MADDOW: Gordon Lubold, “Wall Street Journal” Pentagon reporter, joining us
on short notice by phone after breaking this story tonight – Mr. Lubold,
thank you for being with us. I appreciate it.
LUBOLD: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: It – we`ll wait to see. Gordon Lubold said, I don`t know if they
do trial balloons. We`ll wait to see if this is a trial balloon.
One of the things interesting about the surprise announcement from the
president was to see the various service chiefs come out in the Coast
Guard, in the Navy, basically all the different chiefs basically came out
and undercut the president`s Twitter order on this subject. It remains to
be seen whether or not they`ll have the same sort of resistant attitude
toward this follow-up guidance that they did to the initial pronouncement
from the president.
But what this sounds like is an outright ban that they`re going to
implement in terms of transgender people joining the military, and every
single person serving openly in the military right now as transgender, at
risk of getting thrown out simply for that purpose.
If that`s a lawsuit you hear in the distance? Yes, that`s what you hear
thundering down the hall.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I want to go back and re-up our exclusive tonight. The lawyer for
the head of Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier
last year, tells us tonight that after Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson
gave ten hours of testimony on the Trump-Russia dossier to the Senate
Judiciary Committee yesterday, as far as Glenn Simpson is concerned, the
committee is welcome to publicly release the transcript of those ten hours
In an exclusive statement provided to us tonight, Simpson`s lawyer Josh
Levy says in part, quote: The transcript reveals all of Mr. Simpson`s
testimony based on the hours of questioning from staff, the committee can
release the transcript if it so chooses. Be my guest.
That`s important, because Chuck Grassley, the chair of that committee, just
told a town hall in Iowa tonight that his committee is going to take a vote
on whether or not they want to put out that transcript of the ten hours of
testimony. He said personally he sees no reason why he would vote against
making that testimony public. Oh, dear.
Intelligence veteran Malcolm Nance joins us next.
MADDOW: Malcolm Nance is an intelligence veteran. He`s the author of “The
Plot To Hack America”, which is about the Russian attack in our election
last year. But even more specifically pertinent to tonight`s news that
we`ve broken at this hour about the Trump/Russia dossier and it`s
underpinnings, potentially going public in a large way very soon, we
believe that Malcolm Nance may have been the first to be briefed of the
existence of this dossier when it was first created.
Malcolm Nance joins us now.
Malcolm, thanks very much for your time tonight. I really appreciate you
MALCOLM NANCE, INTELLIGENCE VETERAN: my pleasure.
MADDOW: So, Malcolm, how is it that you were one of the first people to
learn about the dossier?
NANCE: Well, I may have been one of the second persons to learn about the
dossier. David Corn managed to get ahold of the dossier relatively early
on, you know, more than a month and a half before the election. He called
me out of the blue and he had known that I had published “The Plot to Hack
America,” which had come out about eight weeks before the election.
And prior to that, I hadn`t heard anything about this dossier. But what`s
really interesting about it is, when he called me, what are the
methodologies that an intelligence officer like Christopher Steele would
use to actually go out and verify the information, and we had a very long
discussion about what we call rumint. That`s rumor intelligence.
This is the kind of information that diplomats get at dinner parties.
People who are friends, sitting around cafes or drinking, come out and tell
the stories as they know it. And the information that we had in the Steele
dossier, as I said it was, it was an enormous amount of rumint. But you
notice the term of art, rumint has int in it, has intelligence in it.
And when the final dossier came out in its fullness, it was very clear that
Christopher Steele had something enormous on his hands. This was not a
joke. Everything that I had written in the months prior to that dossier
coming out was almost identical to what the CIA had written because we`re
intelligence officers. This is what we do.
But the Steele dossier had the details of our conjecture. Enormous things
that are coming out now, such as, you know, Manafort`s dealings with the
Yanukovych government, and being paid off. That was detailed in that
dossier, in great detail, and all of the individual players who are now
being investigated by the Mueller investigation.
So, what this does is this gave the U.S. intelligence committee, as we`re
finding out now, you know, had already as early as June had its hair on
fire over the Russian hacking sent to the DNC and a campaign to essentially
get Donald Trump elected. But Christopher Steele was way ahead of it and
so was David Corn.
MADDOW: Malcolm, I`m struck by the way of sort of the way this has been
furthered in the last 48 hours. The co-funder of Fusion GPS which
commissioned the dossier from Steele, he`s done this fulsome 10-hour
interview with the Senate and has handed over 40,000 pages to the Senate,
very obviously cooperating with the investigation. And Fusion is saying
openly, listen, we stand by the dossier. We think – basically, we think
it`s true. Check it out.
If that testimony that he just gave, those ten hours of testimony, the
transcript for that will be made public. Do you think that changes the
stakes materially for the White House?
NANCE: Well, I think it does because what it does is if he turned over
40,000 documents, forget about the ten hours of answering questions. If he
turned over the raw material, the traffic that he used to – you know,
Christopher Steele used and the notes that he took to bring that about,
trained intelligence analysts at the CIA and counterintelligence office of
the FBI, they are going to make a lot of links back to known intelligence
that comes from the broader intelligence community.
We had heard about that from John Brennan earlier this year, that U.S.
intelligence had some indications that many of the things, or at least some
of the things in the Steele document were verifiable through our
independent multibillion dollar, multi sensor systems.
If that`s the case, it`s going to recreate a verifiable framework for the
Mueller investigation to go through and it is a damning document. Let`s
not make any jokes about it. That document is explosive.
MADDOW: Malcolm Nance, intelligence community veteran, author of “The Plot
to Hack America,” a man who makes sense of a lot of the darkest stuff we
talked about in American news – Malcolm, thank you. Appreciate you being
here, my friend.
MALCOLM: My pleasure.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I just want to tell you once again about the breaking news we got
in a few minutes ago, that the White House is following up now on the
president`s surprise Twitter declaration from the last month of a ban on
transgender people serving in the military. “Wall Street Journal” has just
reported that the White House is about to send new guidance to the Pentagon
on implementing that ban. The guidance spells out that openly transgender
people will not be able to join the military anymore and it spells out the
discretion that Defense Secretary James Mattis will apparently have to
throw out currently serving transgender troops one by one. There are
thousands of transgender Americans who are serving in every conceivable
role in the U.S. military right now in all branches.
“The Wall Street Journal” is describing this planned guidance from the
Pentagon but we have not seen it directly yet. We let you know more when
we learn more.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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