The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 9/15/17 Buzzfeed unearths another undisclosed meeting
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: September 15, 2017
Guest: Anthony Cormier, Josh Lederman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
hour. Happy Friday.
The first one, which is often called a firing but it wasn`t, it was a
resignation, the first one came just 24 days into the new administration.
Three and a half weeks in, and they were already shedding their first
senior staff. February 13th, Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn
resigned from the White House. That was in February.
Then in March, next out was the deputy White House chief of staff, Katie
Walsh. Then in April, it was the deputy national security adviser, K.T.
McFarland. Then in May, it was the White House communications director,
number one, Mike Dubke. He was out in May.
Then in June, it was the vice president`s chief of staff, a guy named Josh
Pitcock. Stick a pin in that one for a second. Vice president chief of
And then in July, July ended up being quite busy. I swear they saved this
up for when I went on vacation in part of July. In July, they lost the
deputy chief of staff of the National Security Council, who`s a Breitbart
person named Tara Dowdell. Then they lost the White House Press Secretary
Sean Spicer. Then they lost the assistant White House press secretary
Michael Short. Then they lost Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff.
Then they lost White House communications director, number two, Anthony
And then we rolled into the lazy days of August. And in a normal universe
version of Washington, nothing happens in August. But in this one, August
meant it was time to fire or accept the resignation of the senior director
for intelligence at the National Security Council, Ezra Cohen Watnick. And
then – I mean I should say about him he`s a guy who nobody was quite sure
why he was there in the first place, but he was gone as of August.
Then all on the same day, it was White House chief strategist Steve Bannon
and a special assistant to the president named Julia Hahn and a director of
public liaison the director the public liaison office at the White House.
He was also out.
And then the special advisor on regulatory reform, Carl Icahn, he was out,
too, that same day. He appears to have had some law-enforcement interest
follow him home from that job. Then, a week later, still in August, it was
that strange guy who doesn`t really have a job title Sebastian Gorka.
All gone. I mean, and this is just like the people who have knowable
titles, right? All gone and this administration isn`t that old. This
doesn`t show like a revolving door. This is like somebody turning the
carousel motor up to 100 miles an hour and people just fling off the thing
with centripetal force into the night, right?
And, of course, that`s not even counting the no-notice firings of dozens of
federal prosecutors and the firing of the acting attorney general, Sally
Yates, and the firing of the FBI Director James Comey. I mean, this is all
just White House.
Last night, “The New York Times” broke the news that on the day Robert
Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate the Russia matter,
President Trump reportedly lost his mind at the Attorney General Jeff
Sessions, because Sessions had recused himself from anything related to
Quote: When the phone call informing him about the Mueller appointments
ended, White House counsel Don McGahn relayed the news to the president and
his aides. Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at
Jeff Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in
the current situation. Trump told Sessions that choosing him to be the
attorney general was one of the worst decisions he has made. He called him
an idiot and he said he should resign.
“The Times” then reports that Jeff Sessions did resign. He wrote a
resignation letter to the president and gave it to the president but the
president would not accept it. Quote, Trump ended up rejecting Sessions`
resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that
dismissing the A.G. would only create more problems for a president who had
already fired an FBI director and a national security adviser.
So, his senior advisors told him that accepting Mr. Sessions his
resignation would only sow more chaos inside the administration. Really?
The idea that this administration didn`t want to let anybody go, it would
attract too much attention. They were afraid of shedding anyone as of May?
They took drastic steps even against the president`s wishes to stop losing
key and high-profile staff as of May because that would be too much chaos,
really? They stopped letting people go – how does that square with their
It doesn`t make sense that senior White House advisors wouldn`t let the
president fire anyone too high profile as of May, because in reality, as of
May, they were just getting started with the flinging people off the
carousel into the good night, and that went all through the summer and now
it has continued into the fall.
“The Times” further reports that president Trump asked again if he could
please fire Jeff Sessions in July, and again, the answer was reportedly no.
No, that would be too disruptive. Too disruptive to fire somebody in July?
Why? Because Jeff Sessions might clog up the outdoor that they were using
to fire all these other people and then there might be a pileup, he was
going to block the fire exit?
Honestly, that explanation for why the president couldn`t fire Jeff
Sessions when he wanted to it honestly makes no sense, given the number of
people fired from this White House. This situation with the president and
the attorney general supposedly having the standoff, it will end weirdly, I
can assure you. But something about the way that conflict between the
president and the attorney general, but was something about the way that
palace intrigue is being described is off when you put it in context
against the way the White House was otherwise behaving at the time these
supposed conflicts really came to a head.
Regardless of Jeff Sessions though, today, there is one new name to add to
the list of people being flung off the carousel in Washington. Today, we
got the resignation of the press secretary to the vice president, the man
named Marc Lotter. Vice President Mike Pence`s press secretary gone as of
today. Vice President Mike Pence lost his chief of staff back in June,
lost his press secretary today.
And for all the turmoil in this White House and all of the scandals about
various people and the quitting and the disappearances of all these senior
staff, Vice President Mike Pence has been caught out in way more of these
scandals than his bland beltway press coverage would have you believe. I
mean even going all the way back to the first dramatic departure from this
White House, going all the way back to Mike Flynn, right?
Mike Pence was the head of the transition. This is a letter that he
received as head of the transition notifying him in writing about concerns
that soon-to-be national security adviser Mike Flynn appeared to be on the
payroll of foreign governments. In addition to this notification in
writing from Congress, Mike Flynn`s lawyers also said that they too
notified the transition in person, telling them that Flynn was on the
payroll of foreign governments.
Vice President Mike Pence was running the transition when all those
warnings about Mike Flynn came in. He nevertheless claims that he never
heard, no idea. As head of a transition, he had no idea, nobody could have
had any idea that Mike Flynn might have been on the payroll of foreign
governments. That is plainly not true.
Vice President Mike Pence also solemnly intoned the American people that
there was no way that Mike Flynn had had discussions about Russian
sanctions with Russian officials during the transition, despite the fact
that he said it very solemnly that was also not true. Vice President Mike
Pence also insisted, insisted, that there were no contacts at all between
the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the campaign. That, of
course, was not true either.
Vice President Mike Pence insisted that James Comey was fired as FBI
director because of an internal process at the Department of Justice, had
nothing at all to do with the White House`s needs or desires, certainly
nothing to do with the president`s feelings about the Russia investigation.
Although that`s what Mike Pence told the American people about the firing
of James Comey, we now know that President Trump gave Pence a letter that
outlined his rationale for wanting to fire James Comey the day before the
Department of Justice ever produced their rationale for why the Justice
Department might want him fired too.
So, Mike Pence`s Comey firing explanation was not only not true, we can
tell based on the timeline that he knew it was not true at the time that he
said it. Oh, but wait, there`s more. This week, Mike Flynn`s son Mike
Flynn Jr. was described by NBC News as being a subject of the investigation
by Robert Mueller in the special counsel`s office.
Mike Pence has a good one about Mike Flynn Jr. as well. Controversy, of
course, emerged during the campaign but also during the transition about
toxic conspiracy theories that had circulated during the campaign, and
controversy arose specifically around Mike Flynn Jr. continuing to defend
some of the most odious conspiracy theories from the campaign, even after a
disturbed young man showed up at a D.C. pizza parlor and started shooting
because of that conspiracy theory. Mike Flynn Jr., in the ensuing
controversy, was fired from the Trump transition.
Again, Mike Pence was head of the Trump transition. His explanation for
what happened there was that Mike Flynn Jr. wasn`t really being fired from
the transition because he was never actually part of it. That was not
true. Mike Flynn Jr. was part of the transition. We have evidence for
this but in the form of among other things the fact that Mike Flynn Jr. had
been happily emailing his conspiracy theories to reporters from his
official Trump transition email address for quite some time before Mike
Pence tried to get away with lying about that too.
So, Mike Pence has a real problem in the Russia investigation and in some
of these White House scandals. Again and again and again, Vice President
Pence really has made brazenly untrue public statements about some of the
most controversial elements of this new administration and the Russia
scandal specifically. Now, Vice President Pence having already lost his
chief of staff, today, he lost his press secretary. Vice President Pence
has himself hired a high-powered Washington D.C. lawyer to represent him on
the Trump-Russia scandal.
After the vice president took the unprecedented step of setting up his own
political action committee, something no vice president has done at this
point in a new administration ever, after he set up that PAC, Team Pence
initially floated the idea that this PAC might be used as a fundraising
vehicle to raise money to pay for Mike Pence`s legal fees in the Russia
scandal. After they got some pushy press enquiries about that though, the
vice president backed off those plans and they now say the PAC won`t be
used to fund his legal defense. We don`t know how the vice president is
planning to pay for his legal representation on the Russia matter, but he`s
not a man of Trump level means. It`s going to be a real issue for him and
his family. It`s got to be on their minds.
In July, the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, left
that job in frustration. You probably remember is a very high-profile
resignation. As he left, he warned that one of the things we should watch
for at the Government Ethics Office now that he was leaving, he said we
should watch for who the Trump administration was going to appoint as his
successor at that ethics office.
Walter Shaub warned us as he was leaving office that the administration
might try to pass over the most senior person under him at that office who
would otherwise have been in line for the job. He said that person is
highly qualified and would do an excellent job with the ethics office. He
said it should send red flags for everybody if they bypass that senior
person, if they bypass that senior official who`s next in line to be the
acting director and instead, he warned us – watch to see if they instead
want to pick this one other particular guy who works at the office.
The Trump administration then did exactly that. They picked that lower
ranking staffer in the ethics office who Walter Shaub warned explicitly
should be expected to have a more pliable attitude on ethics toward this
Well, that is the guy who`s in charge of the ethics office now and he has
now revised the rules around legal defense funds for administration
personnel. Under the new interpretation of ethics rules around these
things, Mike Pence and any other White House staffer needs to fund his
legal defense will be able to accept unlimited anonymous donations from
lobbyists to defray any legal bills that arise out of these White House
Oh, good, what could possibly go wrong? If there`s one thing I want
lobbyists to be able to anonymously fund it`s the legal defense for White
House officials facing the Russia inquiry.
Tonight, the administration announced that they do not want this to be seen
as a change in policy. I`m sure they don`t. But the outgoing director at
the ethics office, Walter Shaub, has been banging the drum over this for
the last couple of days since they made this change, warning that this
really is a turn for the worse.
Today, for the second time, we learned of a witness being called to testify
before one of what we believe are the two grand juries that have been
convened by special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation. The
first person we know to have testified at the grand jury is Rinat
Akhmetshin, Soviet born naturalized U.S. citizen who was part of that Trump
Tower meeting last June during the campaign. Rinat Akhmetshin is known to
have ties to Russian military intelligence. He was the first person we
know who spoke to the Mueller grand jury.
The second person we now know who has spoken to the Mueller grand jury was
today it was Jason Maloney, who is the spokesperson for a Trump campaign
chair Paul Manafort. It`s a little bit weird to think about a spokesperson
being called to testify before a grand jury, but presumably that reasoning
will all become clear in the end. Paul Manafort does appear to have a real
bull`s-eye on him in this investigation, both in terms of Mueller part of
it and in terms of what`s happening in Congress.
The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, Dianne
Feinstein, yesterday, she was asked by reporters why there`d been such a
delay in getting Paul Manafort to come in and give testimony to that
committee weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks after it had been announced
that he had been asked to come in. She responded by attributing the delay
in part to the committee`s own need to up its game when it comes to
investigating complex financial matters. Dianne Feinstein announced
yesterday that her committee has just hired two new investigative financial
staffers to, quote, trace the money.
Now that those investigative financial staffers are in place, Senator
Feinstein suggested that that interview with Trump campaign chairman Paul
Manafort might go ahead.
What that means for potential liability or money trails leading up to the
White House, we don`t know. Paul Manafort is long gone from Trump world,
right? He resigned from the Trump campaign more than a year ago now, but
you know, even since they`ve been in the White House, we are starting to
realize that in Trump world, the way this works is there`s going to be a
lot of people left behind. There are going to be a lot of people involved
in lots of interesting things who are long gone by the time we realize what
exactly they know and what they might have been up to before they left.
When it comes to a scandal and an ongoing investigation like this though,
just the fact that somebody has resigned or been fired, it`s not
necessarily enough to get their smell off you. The very first guy they
shed from the new administration, it didn`t even make it four weeks in,
Mike Flynn, he is still ricocheting around this White House breaking stuff.
For example, in this damning and intriguing new report that has just come
out from “BuzzFeed News”. That`s next.
MADDOW: Reporters Jason Leopold, Chris McDaniel and Anthony Cormier have
just published this new report at “BuzzFeed News”, and what can reporting
in the first instance is a new addition to the exceedingly long list of
secret meetings with foreign officials that the Trump campaign and the
Trump transition didn`t disclose until after that meeting ended up in the
“BuzzFeed” today reporting on a previously secret meeting held in January
in New York that involved Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and the
king of Jordan. Now, there`s nothing inherently scandalous about the king
of Jordan. There`s nothing inherently scandalous about members of a
presidential transition team meeting any foreign leaders. It happens all
It is unusual that they didn`t disclose it. Jared Kushner initially left
the meeting off his security clearance application. Mike Flynn left the
meeting off of his security clearance application. Steve Bannon, we don`t
know about his security clearance application yet, but trust me, we`re
working on it.
Beyond just the secrecy about this, the fact that it has not been disclosed
until now, here`s another really acute problem about what “BuzzFeed” has
just reported. Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs
Committee reported on Wednesday morning this week that another thing Mike
Flynn failed to initially disclosed was that he was a paid agent working to
advance a business proposition to partner with among other companies,
Russian nuclear and security companies in order to do this gigantic multi
hundreds of millions of dollars project that would build nuclear reactors
in the Middle East. Most of them would be in Saudi Arabia, which, yes,
floats on a sea of oil. So, question mark about nuclear power anyway. But
also in the nation of Jordan.
So, congressional Democrats on Wednesday release this information that they
said shows that Mike Flynn was involved in that project. He was being paid
to advance that nuclear project including taking a trip to the Middle East
in 2015 to pursue that project. He was doing all that without ever
disclosing that trip, without disclosing any of the foreign meetings with
foreign leaders he took in conjunction with that project, and certainly
without disclosing the payment that he received for doing that work. He
didn`t disclose any of that in his security clearance application. House
Democrats say they are therefore forwarding that information to Robert
Mueller so he can decide if that`s a prosecutable offense.
So, that was Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, “The Wall Street
Journal” had reported that once Mike Flynn actually was national security
adviser working in the Trump White House, he continued to advance that
Russian nuclear business proposal, up to and including telling National
Security Council staff members that they had to take meetings with the
companies who were involved in that business plan.
Well, now, what “BuzzFeed” reports is that not just Mike Flynn but also
Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner who does still work in the White House,
“BuzzFeed” reports that the three of them were in on a meeting, a
previously undisclosed meeting with the king of Jordan during the
transition at which they talked about that nuclear deal.
Again, this is Jason Leopold, Chris McDaniel, and Anthony Cormier. They`re
the reporters on this at “BuzzFeed”.
And it`s really interesting, they get denials – I love the way that
they`ve sourced this – they get denials from three individuals, one close
to Flynn, one close to Kushner, and one close to Bannon. And each of those
three people close to each of those guys denies that Flynn`s nuclear
reactor business deal thing was discussed at this secret meeting with the
king of Jordan.
But now, check this out, check out this wording. Quote: People close to
the three Trump advisers say that the nuclear deal was not discussed, but a
federal official with access to a document created by a law enforcement
agency about the meeting said that the nuclear proposal was one of the
topics the group talked about.
So, a federal official with access to a document created by a law
enforcement agency about the meeting. Law enforcement agency? Why was a
law enforcement agency aware of that meeting? How do they know what was
discussed at that meeting?
And if that law enforcement agency is right about what was discussed at
that secret meeting, what would it mean if Kushner and Flynn and Bannon are
all lying about it?
Remember, can you put that panel back up? Yes, a lot of people are gone
from this White House. Flynn`s gone. Bannon`s gone. Kushner is still
Joining us now is Anthony Cormier. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning
investigative reporter with “BuzzFeed News”.
Mr. Cormier, thank you for being here.
ANTHONY CORMIER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BUZZFEED: Thank you for having
MADDOW: Let me ask you – the way I stack that up was there`s a few things
that you guys have broken here that add to other people`s reporting and get
some new news. Previously undisclosed meeting, a second meeting that seems
to involve this one nuclear deal and the question about whether or not
these guys are telling the truth about what the content was of that
MADDOW: OK. In terms of the undisclosed nature of this meeting, there`s
nothing inherently scandalous about transition members talking to foreign
CORMIER: None at all.
MADDOW: In what way should this have been disclosed?
CORMIER: Likely they should have gone to the NSC, the National Security
Council, and let them know that the foreign at the head of state is in the
United States, and they probably should have reported it on their security
Now, we know that Mr. Flynn did not. We know that Jared did not on his
initial disclosure, he did subsequently.
And we don`t know what Mr. Bannon did. We`ve been trying very hard to get
that document out of the White House. They have so far refused. The
people around Mr. Bannon have refused to give us any indication of what he
MADDOW: There are a lot of meetings between members of the Trump campaign,
the Trump transition with foreign officials that did not get disclosed
until after the fact. Interesting reporting this week about the crown
prince of the United Arab Emirates turning up at Trump Tower in December,
meeting with Flynn.
CORMIER: Same groups.
MADDOW: Same group.
MADDOW: Kushner, Manafort, Bannon. In that case, it appears that U.S.
intelligence agencies were aware of that meeting in part because they were
weirded out that the crown prince from United Arab Emirates was in the
United States without telling the U.S. government which would be protocol.
MADDOW: Is there any indication that the king of Jordan took that meeting
without telling the United States government that he was doing something?
CORMIER: You really would like to know that?
CORMIER: We have not been able to figure it out yet, and no one will tell
us. It`s a rather simple question, right?
CORMIER: Like, it`s did you tell our national security apparatus that a
foreign head of state was in the United States, at a bar in Lower
Manhattan? It`s a fairly simple question.
We`re a little bit weirded out that no one will answer it, or no one will
give us a straight shot at it. So, I can`t answer it. I wish we could.
MADDOW: OK, and the king of Jordan, it should be noted – I mean, King
Abdullah has incredibly warm relations with the United States, especially
on security and national – security and intelligence matters.
So, do we know anything about from his side of this in terms of whether he
is willing to answer questions from investigators, reporters, willing to
talk about these things?
CORMIER: You might be willing to talk to investigators but he`s not
talking to journalists.
CORMIER: So, we`ve left we`ve tried to reach desperately out to the
embassy. In fact, the only thing that we found rather obscurely on their
Website is a brief message that says the king has returned home from a
foreign visit, which is –
MADDOW: He said – well, of a private nature.
CORMIER: That`s right, yes. Which is this visit. That`s the only public
statement from anyone involved that the king of Jordan was in the United
States at the Four Seasons Hotel, and ultimately meeting with three of, you
know, the incoming White House officials.
MADDOW: And according to your source with access to this law enforcement
document, that private visit was talking to Jared Kushner, Mike Flynn and
Steve Bannon about a potential nuclear deal involving the Russians.
CORMIER: That`s –
MADDOW: That doesn`t sound like a fun private visit.
CORMIER: That`s yours, not mine.
MADDOW: Anthony Cormier, this is a really interesting scoop, and as you
can tell from this discussion, I have a feeling it`s going to lead to a lot
CORMIER: We hope so.
MADDOW: – interesting information. Thank you for helping us understand -
CORMIER: Thank you so much. Thanks for having us.
MADDOW: I appreciate it. Thanks.
All right. Much more to come, busy night tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s some disturbing new details tonight about that just
absolutely terrible story following Hurricane Irma about the nursing home
that was across the street from a working open hospital that had power but
nevertheless eight residents died in the nursing home in sweltering
conditions. It`s a terrible story. We`re getting some both provocative
and worrying new information about that tonight.
First, there`s new video tonight from inside this nursing home in
Hollywood, Florida. It was taken by a concerned relative just a few hours
before patients started dying there. The start of the nursing home losing
their air-conditioning system was when a tree came down and hit the
transformer that controlled power to the nursing home their A/C unit was
apparently not hooked up to a backup generator. So, the A/C went down, and
as you can see in these footage, in this footage, they resorted to fans and
portable cooling units to try to keep people cool.
But clearly, it wasn`t enough. Eight residents died. That nursing home in
Hollywood, Florida, is now closed. It`s also now a crime scene. Federal,
state and local authorities are pursuing a criminal investigation. They
were granted a search warrant overnight. This morning, teams were inside
In terms of potential charges, the nursing home operators could be facing
up to manslaughter charges if the state attorney`s office concludes that
employees, administrators or the owner of the center acted with culpable
negligence, acted with an utter disregard for the safety of those
residents. Charges like that could carry a sentence of up to years in
One retired homicide investigator who`s 94-year-old mother-in-law was
inside that nursing home told the “Miami Herald” today, quote, they should
have called 911. Somebody should go to jail for this.
Well, tonight, we are learning that the nursing home says that they did
place emergency calls for help. They say they called Florida Governor Rick
Investigative reporter Jim Defede of CBS 4 in Miami reports this tonight.
Quote, 36 hours prior to the first death, officials at the facility called
on three separate occasions an emergency number that Governor Rick Scott
had given to health care institutions, including nursing homes so they
could have a direct line to the top of the state government if they were in
need of help.
Nursing home officials say they called that number three times asking for
help, they say they place the first call to Governor Scott six hours after
the hurricane made landfall on Sunday, then they say they called again the
next day on Monday, then they say they called again that the next day on
Tuesday. They say those calls went unanswered.
Now, NBC News is reporting with some specificity about these calls.
According to NBC News, the first call was made at 5:34 p.m. on September
11th. Then, another call was made at 5:59 September 12th. Then, a final
call for help was made at 12:41 p.m. later on September 12th. So, we`ve
got specificity in terms of what the nursing home says they did, and we do
know that the Florida governor gave out that number for medical facilities,
health care facilities, including nursing homes to get help.
That said tonight, the state of Florida and the governor are refuting the
account from the nursing home. Tonight, the governor`s office says that,
quote, every call made to the governor was referred to the agency for
health care administration and the Florida Department of Health and quickly
Again, the nursing home is saying they made three calls for help to that
emergency number that was supposed to get them through to the governor and
help. They say they never got a response.
Expect the effort to pinpoint exactly whose failure to act may have doomed
eight vulnerable people. Expect the effort to figure out exactly what went
on here to go on for some time and to factor into what is looking like a
pretty considerably aggressive criminal investigation.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: In 2015, China summoned the senior American envoy to China, to
protest the U.S. selling almost $2 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan.
China really did not want that. They threatened to impose sanctions on
U.S. companies that are involved in the arms sale. They dressed down the
China was furious. So, they called the top U.S. envoy to that country.
Then, in May of this year, it was Turkey. Turkey summoned the U.S.
ambassador to Turkey to protest the treatment of Turkish security officials
in the U.S. This was after the Turkish president`s security detail
attacked a bunch of protesters outside the Turkish embassy in D.C. and
started beating them up. Our ambassador got that call from Turkey right
after we called up their ambassador to us, because we were so mad about
them carrying out that brawl on our own soil.
I mean, usually when a host country summons the top diplomat of some other
country, especially when it you know what happens it`s a big public way,
usually that means that people are mad. Usually that is to voice a
complaint. Usually that means somebody`s getting in trouble for something.
So when the Cuban President Raul Castro summoned to the top American envoy
to Cuba recently to discuss what the United States was saying about these
weird health effects and hearing loss that was breaking out among U.S.
diplomats in Havana, it seemed like this would probably not go well. It
seemed like somebody was mad. But “The Associated Press” has this
remarkable report today that that rare face-to-face conversation between
the president in that country and our top diplomat there wasn`t because
anybody was mad.
According to the “A.P.”, President Castro paid that call to not to voice a
complaint, he did it to express his concern. And according to the U.S.
officials familiar with what happened at this meeting, President Castro
seemed baffled by the attacks, as baffled as the United States has been.
He denied responsibility for whatever has been happening to U.S. diplomats
in Havana. U.S. officials were reportedly taken aback by the way he
addressed the matter.
Cuba also reportedly offered to let FBI agents come to Havana to
investigate this thing. Cuba is not usually psyched about inviting FBI and
the agents anywhere.
Well, NBC News can confirm tonight that the FBI did send additional FBI
personnel to Cuba to investigate the sonic attacks. But it`s unclear
whether they`re still there now.
Cuban sources also tell NBC News that the Cuban government allegedly sent a
diplomatic note on this issue to the State Department, offering that they
themselves would help investigate the incident. They offered to be part of
a bilateral investigation with the United States into this matter. Cuban
sources tell NBC News that they sent this note to the U.S. State Department
never got a response back. I understand they`re having some staffing
issues at the State Department. They didn`t get a response?
We first learned about these strange attacks, these strange symptoms
emerging among U.S. diplomatic personnel in August. CBS Radio`s first to
report that American diplomats in Cuba were reporting incidents which
caused a variety of physical symptoms super vague and the initial
reporting, it was very unclear what types of incidents were happening here.
The State Department was totally bafflingly vague and confusing on the
subject. We now, thanks to good reporting on the subject, we now know that
it`s a scary and weird as it seemed before we knew the details.
We now know there are medically confirmed cases, some of which involve
permanent hearing loss or traumatic brain injury. Yesterday, “The
Associated Press” published some scary details on the attacks let me just
read to you straight from the “A.P.” story.
Quote, the blaring grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed
in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet though and there was silence.
Quote: He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him
again. It was as if he walked through some invisible wall cutting straight
through his room.
Quote, in several episodes recounted by U.S. officials, victims knew it was
happening in real time and there were strong indications of a sonic attack.
We really don`t know what`s going on here. Yesterday, the State Department
spokeswoman said there`s an aggressive investigation underway, but she
honestly has offered no more information than she did a month ago. State
Department`s most recent line on this is, quote, the reality is, we don`t
know who or what has caused this.
But we also now know that the State Department is not responding to the
Cuban government when they have been offering to bilaterally investigate
Joining us now is Josh Lederman. He`s a national security reporter for
“The Associated Press”. He`s been reporting out this terrifying story.
Mr. Lederman, thank you very much for your reporting and thanks for being
JOSH LEDERMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Hi,
MADDOW: So, the thing that I don`t – the thing I can`t get my head around
this with this story is that I don`t understand if there – if we believe
there to be a type of weapon or some sort of electronic device or some sort
of tactic that could cause the kinds of injuries that have been seen in
these diplomats. Do we know that there`s something like this and we just
don`t know if who`s been deploying it?
LEDERMAN: That`s really what has made this puzzle impossible for U.S.
investigators to solve. There are devices or technologies that could
explain parts of what we`re seeing. They could explain the noises people
are hearing, maybe the vibrations. There are devices that could explain
some of the symptoms that people are hearing and feeling and experiencing,
but then not others. And none of it is consistent.
And so far, investigators haven`t been able to find a single theory that
fits all of what they`re seeing among the now 21 Americans who are
confirmed to have been affected by this.
MADDOW: It does – the targeting part of it that you explained in your
story this week is beyond spy movie in terms of thinking about this, in
terms of how scary it must have been for these people to go through it.
Can you just clarify that what these people have reported in some instances
is a palpable sensation or a noise, something that`s causing discomfort or
at least disturbance, and it exists in parts of a room but not in others.
You can literally move in and out of the sort of zone of interference.
LEDERMAN: Right. it`s as if there was some type of an invisible wall
splitting the room and you`d walk through it and then you couldn`t hear
what you could hear on the other side of it, except people were just or
feet away from the bed where they had been before when they were hearing
Now, there are some devices that can do that. Electromagnetic waves can be
targeted very narrowly like lasers for instance, and also ultrasonic waves
can also be targeted. There are these devices called Elrads. They`re used
sometimes to disperse crowds or to try to prevent pirates from boarding
ships. But they don`t explain the totality of the symptoms.
And that`s why investigators are still so flummoxed almost a year after
Americans started getting sick.
MADDOW: And, Josh, we`ve got Americans who have now been identified as
having been affected by this more or less some of the symptoms a possibly
permanent terms, a permanent hearing loss. Some of the other symptoms have
been more transitory.
You have some interesting reporting that this may not have just been
confined to American residences or workplaces. Actually, this may have
also included a hotel?
LEDERMAN: That`s right. “The A.P.” first reported this week that at least
one hotel was hit. There was an incident that took place in the Hotel
Capri. That`s a Spanish-run hotel, but it`s in downtown Havana, near all
of the big sites and the Malecon, that famous boardwalk.
We now can confirm today that there were several other hotels where this
seems to have taken place.
MADDOW: Wow. Josh Lederman, national security reporter for “The
Associated Press”, an absolutely confounding story. And you`re reporting
on it is clarifying and scary. Thanks for helping us understand it.
LEDERMAN: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: One thing to watch on this. We`ve been watching this story unfold
since we first learned about it. One of the disturbing things that Josh
and his reporting team have described as the fact that this appears not to
be over when the State Department initially started talking about this.
They made it seem like these incidents happened long in the past and this
was resolved and they were just sort of retroactively trying to investigate
It now seems that his recently as less than a month ago, there were
additional – there was at least one additional attack. Also, the
geographic, non-specificity of this in terms of hitting people in their
office, their homes and also in multiple hotels. It`s just absolutely
The investigation is apparently aggressive, but there are these new
disturbing details that we got tonight about the State Department
apparently blanking Cuba when Cuba often to offer to help with this
Crazy stuff. Watch this space.
MADDOW: Last week, we got a strange report that the House Intelligence
Committee was subpoenaing the FBI and the Justice Department on matters
related to the Trump-Russia dossier and the Robert Mueller investigation.
Now, I say that was strange because we`re used to seeing the FBI and the
Justice Department issuing subpoenas. We`re not used to seeing them
getting subpoena themselves.
Well, it turns out there`s a reason why that whole thing seemed a little
bit weird. It turns out it wasn`t the whole House Intelligence Committee
that was sending out those subpoenas. It was just this one guy, Devin
Nunes, the rogue chairman of that committee who has supposedly recused
himself from Russia matters but he nevertheless continues to toss out
subpoenas unilaterally like their free t-shirts at a ball game.
If you want to understand how Team Trump is actively trying to turn the
Trump-Russia investigation to some kind of Democratic scandal in to
definitely somebody else`s problem, then Devin Nunes is the guy you have to
watch. When President Trump claimed falsely that he had been wiretapped by
President Obama at Trump Tower, Devin Nunes was the guy who had that whole
bizarre episode where he ran off to the White House in the middle of the
night to try to prove it. That got him kicked off the Russian
investigation and investigated by the Ethics Committee.
Devin Nunes then tried to turn the Russia investigation into an Obama
administration scandal about unmasking. That also blew up in his face.
Not only did those intelligence intercepts and interviews with Obama
officials show that they didn`t do anything wrong, those intercepts
actually raised new questions about whether Trump associates broke the law
and took secret meetings with foreign leaders without disclosing them.
Devin Nunes` latest attempt to help team Trump on the Russia thing is
apparently to try to discredit the Trump-Russia dossier that has gotten so
much attention over these last nine months. Whenever you think about some
of the salacious stuff in that – in that dossier, a bunch of key claims in
that dossier have turned out to be true. The dossier claimed that Trump
campaign had accepted damaging information from the Kremlin on Hillary
Now, thanks to the reporting about that Trump Tower meeting, we know that
they did. The dossier laid out various conversations between Trump
campaign officials and Russians during the campaign. Trump campaign denied
that that ever happened, but U.S. intercepts have since corroborated that
many of those conversations took place between the same individuals on the
same days as what was described in the dossier.
The dossier says then candidate Donald Trump was actively exploring a real
estate deal in Moscow during the campaign. We also know that to be true.
Trump Tower Moscow.
I mean – this was supposed to be the big week where Devin Nunes was going
to expose the FBI and upend the whole Mueller investigation because of any
reliance he could prove on the Trump-Russia dossier.
This also appears to be strike three for Mr. Nunes. When the attorney
general and the FBI director failed to respond to these subpoenas that he
sent them, demanding they turn over FBI information about the dossier,
Devin Nunes got really mad and he publicly threatened that he would hold
them in contempt. He sent this threatening letter with a deadline,
September 14th, yesterday.
In this letter, he said: if these documents on the dossier were not
produced by September 14th, quote, the attorney general and the director of
the FBI shall appear before the committee at 9:00 a.m. sharp on that day at
an open hearing to explain under oath their unwillingness to comply.
That was yesterday. I don`t know if we missed something. Those big
showdown at the O.K. Corral and everybody was like getting a breakfast
sandwich at the time. But today is September 15th, nothing happened
yesterday. We have tried contacting Devin Nunes` office all week long to
see if they got these documents they`re demanding. All week long, silence.
But yesterday 9:00 a.m. came and went. I kind of looking forward to seeing
what Devin Nunes does next.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We now know that they
were sowing discord during the election, with phony groups on Facebook.
They were running anti-immigrant, anti-me, anti Hillary Clinton
demonstrations. They were, you know, putting out all this fake news, all
these negative stories that were untrue, to really divide people. And so,
we`re going to make Facebook own up to everything. They`re just begun to
own up. They have a long way to go before they get to where they need to
be in my opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`m going to make Facebook own up to everything. That was Hillary
Clinton and her interview on this show last night, making the case that
Facebook needs to show their work. They need to own up to the fact that
they let their platform be weaponized by Russia as part of Russia`s attack
on our election last year.
Facebook, of course, denied for months that Russia used them at all in
their attack. Now, Facebook has reversed course and admitted, OK, yes,
they did. But they won`t say how they figured it out or what they found
when they looked into it. It`s been hard to figure out what exactly
Facebook turned up in their records that finally made them change their
tune on this story all these months later, what made them finally admit
that they`d sold ads to Russian interests.
I haven`t been able to really figure out how they did it, how they got to
this conclusion. Until today we got this from Senator Mark Warner, top
Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. You can see that he
retweeted a CBS News story about the Facebook Russian ads thing. You can
also see though that he made a critical addition to this tweet. He added
six words of his own.
This is what he added: And they paid in rubles. Seriously.
That was this whole tweet, was that like a joke, right? What does that
mean? Russia bought ads in the election. Russians buy things in rubles,
ha, ha, ha.
But Mark Warner is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. He
doesn`t say things about this investigation by mistake. It seemed unlikely
he jumped on Twitter to like, you know, workshop his Russian currency
So, we called Senator Warner`s office today. We asked what he meant when
he fired off that tweet and we got a very satisfying answer. His office
told us tonight, quote: It`s literally true. Some of the ads were paid for
So, that was not him making a joke. According to the top Democrat on the
Senate Intelligence Committee, Facebook really did accept rubles to sell
those ads that were part of Russia`s hack on the election. That`s what
took Facebook`s crack investigators months and months to figure out.
You would have thought act like a currency check and their records might
have sorted out, hey, did we get paid in rubles for any political ads in
the campaign? It took them months. That was the operational secret
Facebook didn`t want us to know about how they were looking into this.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”. Ari Melber in tonight for Lawrence.
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