The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 9/29/17 PR still without power
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: September 29, 2017
Guest: Carmen Yulin Cruz, Georgia Wells
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
Have a nice weekend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: You too.
MADDOW: And thanks to at home for joining us this hour. Happy Friday.
All right. It started very early on. It started just two months in.
Specifically, it started two months and one day into the new
administration. A person named Ellen Moran stepped down.
Who`s Ellen Moran? You probably don`t know now and, honestly, nobody knew
then either. She was a very low profile but she had an important job and a
very impressive job title. She was the White House communications
Now, she was not the spokesperson at the podium, so she wasn`t like on TV
every day doing the briefing. She was the person behind the scenes working
on communication strategy overall. And she quit April 21st, 2009.
Word from the White House was, quote, it wasn`t a good fit.
It did seem to be an amicable departure. She left the White House but what
she did was she just moved over to the Commerce Department instead, where
she became chief of staff there and served happily for years.
But she was the first. Ellen Moran, she became the first high-profile
departure of the Obama administration. They made from sort of day one,
from January 20th and he was sworn in they made it two months and one day
to April 21st, three months in one day sorry. Right? January, February,
March, April. Sorry, three months and one day.
And, you know, nobody`s saying that first terms are easy, particularly when
it`s a president who hasn`t run anything of the federal level before,
right? There`s definitely a learning curve and you got to figure out if
you got the right people around you, and there`s going to be some turnover.
And so, with the brand-new Obama administration, that one-term U.S.
senator, right, coming in to be president for the first time, of course,
Ellen Moran wasn`t the only White House official who turned out not to be a
good fit at the start of that administration. The following month, there
was the director of the White House military office. He resigned after he
approved a dumb photo-op – this is the photo – where Air Force One flew
really too close to the Statue of Liberty and people got nervous in New
York when they saw it. So, he left a month after the White House
Then, three months later, in July, it was the top adviser on the auto
bailout who left. And then the month after that, in August, it was the
Obama administration`s advisor on cybersecurity who resigned.
Then in September, it was Van Jones. Van Jones is very well-known now
because he`s a CNN guy now, but he was less well-known then as an adviser
to President Obama on green jobs. In September, he resigned too.
So, if you were looking for signs of a brand new administration having
trouble finding its feet, you maybe even an administration in turmoil
that`s what you had in terms of major departures from the Obama
administration and the first 252 days. When the Obama administration was
as old as the Trump administration is today, they really had their fair
share of departures, high-profile departures from the new administration.
That White House military office, a short-lived communications director a
couple of advisers. They were all out.
Well, we are now 252 days into the Trump administration, let`s see how
they`re stacking up on this same scale. Are you ready?
So, in the same time period when those were the major departures from the
Obama administration, the Trump administration, we couldn`t even keep them
all the same size. We do not mean doing tests imply that any of these
smaller heads are less important than the larger heads. It`s just a –
it`s tough to squeeze them in.
The Trump administration has been here for days and so far, the Trump
administration has lost or fired, are you ready? The acting attorney
general, the national security adviser, the deputy White House chief of
staff, the director of the FBI, the deputy national security adviser, their
first White House communications director, that`s Mike Dubke there, the
vice president`s chief of staff that`s Pitcock, whose name is under Dubke.
The chief of staff of the National Security Council, the director of the
Office of Government Ethics, the White House press secretary Sean Spicer,
the assistant White House press secretary, the White House chief of staff,
another White House communications director that would be Mr. Scaramucci,
the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, the
White House chief strategist, that was Steve Bannon.
Also, the special advisor to the president on regulatory reform, they also
lost a high-profile deputy assistant to the president who nobody really
knew what he did – remember Sebastian Gorka? Yes. We don`t know what he
did, but he was a deputy assistant to the president.
We also lost the vice president`s press secretary and now, today the
secretary of health and human services.
Everything OK you guys? Sorry, we couldn`t keep all your heads the same
I mean, I realize Barack Obama, new president losing his green jobs advisor
in the first year. I mean, that was something that was a grave concern to
like FOX News for not just weeks but months.
But the – what`s happened at the Trump administration, this is an order of
magnitude different. We`ve never seen anything like this. This latest
departure tonight from the Trump administration is notable because it`s a
cabinet secretary, Tom Price. Right? A cabinet secretary having to resign
in a big corruption scandal, and it`s notable because it really is the
latest in a tremendous flood of major departures from this very young
administration, right, in this short amount of time.
But, you know, it`s also notable because you really couldn`t see this one
coming, inexorably. This time last night, I said we were on a resignation
watch when it came to Tom Price. That turned out to be right.
But you could also see it coming a long time ago. You could see it coming
from the minute he got nominated to the cabinet. Tom Price was dogged from
the beginning by a scandal from his time in Congress, where he
enthusiastically bought and traded health care companies stock while at the
same time, he was taking actions on the health committee that he ran that
affected the price of those stocks that he owned.
At his confirmation hearing, Tom Price was questioned about the fact that
some of those trades he did in health companies where VIP deals were only
he and a few others select clients were even allowed to trade those stocks
at those prices. Hey, Mr. Chairman of the health subcommittee, how did you
get those special deals?
Tom Price, when questioned about that in his confirmation hearing, he just
denied that he`d been in on any VIP stock deals. He said, oh, no, the
public could have been in on any of those deals, which absolutely was not
true. He was under oath at the time and he never went back and corrected
But the Republicans on the committee and in the Senate at large were happy
to vote for Tom Price anyway and you know what? It turns out, when
somebody during their confirmation process shows a proclivity for self
dealing in government employment and when they`re more than happy to lie
about that and not even bother to clean it up once they`re caught lying on
it even under oath, when somebody shows you that`s who they are as they say
believe them if that`s what you paid for in a cabinet secretary that is
what you will get as a cabinet secretary.
But thanks to investigative reporting from Rachana Pradhan and Dan Diamond
at “Politico”, Health Secretary Tom Price will not go down in history as
the health secretary who tried to take away health insurance coverage from
tens of millions of Americans. He will go down in history as the second
casualty from the Trump administration related to direct and serious
allegations of corruption. They made it 252 days and only lost two people
to corruption scandals. The first was Carl Icahn who left his regulatory
advisor position under a cloud of allegations about how he appeared to have
used that position for his own enrichment.
For Tom Price, the proximate cause of his resignation is the embarrassment
over his extensive and enthusiastic private jet travel, which was all
charged taxpayers. As Pradhan and Diamond published scoop after scoop
about Tom Prices million dollar-plus luxury private aviation, including
hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars with the flights he took with
his wife on military aircraft that cost taxpayers up to twenty five
thousand dollars an hour, after those scoops mounted at politico.com over
the last days, ultimately, the White House got dragged into it.
The president himself started telling reporters he was bothered by what
he`d heard about Tom Price and these flights then the White House press
secretary took care to say yesterday that the White House had had no role
in approving any of Tom Prices private flights. But then at 7:00 last
night, there was yet another scoop about more than a half million dollars
in military flights for Tom Price and his family that the White House did
in fact approve, which makes it harder for this to get written off as some
case where the president was very upset to hear about this terrible
wasteful behavior by Tom Price given that his White House approved it that
will be harder to get away with or at least it should be.
So, Trump`s health secretary is out now, which means maybe the focus will
shift to Trump`s EPA director, who`s not only got the same private jet
trouble fetish as Tom Price, he`s also lined himself up an 18-man 24-hour a
day security detail, and bizarrely, he is having the EPA pay to build a
secure soundproof phone booth in his office, which apparently is costing
taxpayers about $25,000.
Now, his agency first tried to say that his magic soundproof room was a
security necessity. It`s as SCIF. They tried to say this is just the EPA
building itself a sensitive compartmented information facility so employees
can handle super top-secret EPA materials.
But it turns out the EPA already has a SCIF, already built, already exists
on a separate floor. What they`re building for Scott Pruitt is just what
the – what the contract calls a privacy booth for the administrator. A
privacy booth in which you will presumably be safeguarded by his 18
bodyguards and to which he will be flown on one of several private jets.
If it`s not EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who gets the attention next?
It may instead turn to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who it turns out
doesn`t always use a horse for his commute. Sometimes, Ryan Zinke has
taxpayers pay for a private jet flight – a private jet flight on an
aircraft owned by an executive from an oil and gas exploration company in
Wyoming. While as interior secretary, he`s always – also moving to give
away more federally controlled public land for oil and gas exploration.
That one private jet flight the taxpayers paid for on the oil and gas
executive`s plane, that one started in Las Vegas where Secretary Zinke had
been giving a motivational speech to a hockey team owned by his biggest
campaign donor. That`s where the trip started. It ended at Ryan Zinke`s
house in Montana and taxpayers paid for that to be a private jet flight on
an oil executive`s plane.
Secretary Zinke has also charged taxpayers to pay for his private jet
flights to Republican fundraisers. And then there were the multiple
private jet flights he charged to taxpayers for flights to and around the
U.S. Virgin Islands. And you know, to be fair, that`s the kind of one
where you think OK, that one may make sense, right? We all know how hard
hit the U.S. Virgin Islands were by the hurricanes.
But actually, no, in this case, Trump`s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
charged taxpayers for private jet flights to and from and around the Virgin
Islands in March, way before the hurricanes what everything was fine. In
fact, what he did there was go on a snorkeling tour which the taxpayers
paid to fly him to on a chartered private jet.
And with Ryan Zinke, again, could have seen this coming – senators
apparently decided they did not mind that official report on him from his
time in the Navy when he got in big trouble in the Navy because he –
according to the Navy – had fiddled his expenses in order to get the
government to pay for his personal travel.
If you decide you don`t care about ethics issues like that when you
nominate people the things, you get headlines like this once those people
are in office. You get behavior like this.
And you can just keep going on this same theme. This really is a very
deep, deep theme in this new administration. There`s also Trump`s treasury
secretary who now famously requested a $25,000 an hour military flight for
his European honeymoon. He didn`t get it. He did have to settle for
flying his new bride on a military jet that expensive to Kentucky, to Fort
Knox, where the publication “Queen World” reports the happy couple
inspected the gold.
But there`s more. There`s also Trump`s Veterans Affairs chief and his wife
who taxpayers apparently just paid to send on a 10-day European vacation –
sorry – work trip that included a championship tennis match at Wimbledon
and I do mean championship. It was the Women`s Final, we`re talking Serena
The trip also included a tour of Westminster Abbey and a river cruise down
the Thames and a canal tour in Copenhagen, where they saw the little
mermaid statue and trips to four separate palaces. In the middle of this
trip, Trump`s V.A. secretary reportedly had four straight days with no
daytime business whatsoever on the calendar.
They were very efficient though, clearly, he and his wife made the most of
it. Four palaces is a lot. “Washington Post” points out tonight that
Secretary Shulkin took this whole taxpayer-funded shebang less than two
weeks after he signed a memo for other staff at the V.A., telling them to
please review their plan to travel, to determine if it was really truly
Quote, I expect this will result in decreased employee travel and generate
savings with the department, signed, Secretary Shulkin.
So, he signs that and then on his way out the door, bye, got to go, I`ve
got – I`m going to four different palaces and I`m going to see Serena
Williams. I`m going to Wimbledon. Now, you guys get these travel costs
under control. I got to go. My wife`s waiting.
So, Trump`s health secretary`s gone as of tonight. His V.A. secretary, his
interior secretary, his treasury secretary, and his EPA administrator all
appear to have done pretty much the exact same stuff as the health
secretary. So, I guess, theoretically, if the administration is going to
say that Tom Price`s behavior was a problem we should be watching to see if
those other four officials from the Trump cabinet are going to go now too.
To encourage you not to hold your breath on that, after Tom Price resigned
today, the president chose to display his personal disapproval of Tom
Price`s terrible taxpayer-funded conspicuous waste by himself flying on Air
Force One to his golf resort in New Jersey.
Today, as the White House absorbed a second day of blunt headlines about
their tax plan and it`s expected effect which would be to shovel lots more
money to the richest people in the country and to corporations, today, as
one of the multiple Trump cabinet members caught up in a private jet greed
and corruption scandal finally had to resign, today, the ninth day of a
legitimate crisis continue to unfold for the 3.5 million Americans who are
the victims of a terrible storm that hit more than a week ago now, but who
continued to be victims of what thus far has been a botched and
dramatically inadequate federal response.
The president over the past few days has been insisting like a bizarre
fantasy mantra that everything`s going great in Puerto Rico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And our team has been
incredible we have had tremendous reviews from government officials. We
are doing a great job. Everybody has said it`s amazing the job that we`ve
done in Puerto Rico, we`re very proud of it.
As far as Puerto Rico is concerned, that`s been going – as you know –
really well. I think it`s going really well. We`ve made tremendous
It`s been incredible the results that we`ve had. People can`t believe how
successful that has been. We have done an incredible job. We`ve done a
really good job. I`m there to help I could tell you that.
This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water. We will not
rest however until the people of Puerto Rico are safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After saying today that he would not rest until the people of
Puerto Rico are safe, then right after that is when the president flew to
his golf resort, which is where he is right now. Presumably he is not
We`re going to be live from Puerto Rico with the mayor of San Juan. Stay
MADDOW: So, as a country, we do not have a health secretary as of tonight,
with the resignation of Tom Price. We also do not have a secretary of
homeland security anymore. We haven`t had one since July, when the head of
Homeland Security, John Kelly, left that job because the White House chief
of staff got fired and he got that guy`s job. It`s kind of been like that.
The acting director of homeland security is named Elaine Duke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELAINE DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The relief
effort is under control. It is proceeding very well.
The response today has been phenomenal. It was strong today and we
committed to continue making and keeping it strong until recovery is
complete. The feedback from the governor, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen
Yulin Cruz, all been positive.
I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The mayor of San Juan is Carmen Julian Cruz. The administration
should probably stop citing her as backup for their self-satisfied
assertions about how great they`re doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO: Well, maybe, from where
she`s standing it`s a good news story. When you`re drinking from a creek,
it`s not a good news story. When you don`t have food for a baby, it`s not
a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings
because, you know – I`m sorry but that really upsets me and frustrates me.
Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story.
This is a life or death story. This is there`s a truckload of stuff that
cannot be taken two people story.
This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people
are not getting food and water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The mayor of Puerto Rico`s largest city has been sounding the
alarm all week long. Today, she very clearly hit her limit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest
nation in the world cannot figure out the logistics for a small island of a
hundred miles by thirty five miles long. So, mayday, we are in trouble.
FEMA asks for documentation, I think we`ve given them enough documentation,
and they have the gall this morning – look at this, look at this. They
think they ways enough.
They have the gall this morning of asking me, what are you priorities,
Mayor? Where have you been?
And I have been very respectful of the FEMA employees. I have been
patient. But we have no time for patience anymore.
So I am asking the president of the United States to make sure somebody is
in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.
They`re up to the task in Africa whenever Ebola came over. They were up to
the task in Haiti, as they should be, because when it comes to saving
lives, we are all part of one community of shared values.
I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging
anyone that can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is
listening to us, we are dying and you are killing us with the inefficiency
and the bureaucracy. We will make it with or without you, because what
stands behind me is all due to the generosity of other people.
Again, this is what we got last night: four pallets of water, three pallets
of meals and twelve pallets of infant food, which I gave them to Comerio,
where people are drinking of a creek.
So, I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad
as hell, because my people`s lives are at stake, and we are but one nation.
We may be small but we are huge and dignity and in our zealous for life.
So I am asking the members of the press to send a mayday call all over the
world. We are dying here.
And if we don`t stop, then if we don`t get the food in the water into
people`s hands, what we are going to see is something close to a genocide.
So, Mr. Trump, I beg you to take charge and save lives, after all, that is
one of the founding principles of the United States of North America. If
not the world would see how we are treated, not as second-class citizens,
but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: On day nine of this crisis. That`s Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San
Juan Puerto Rico. She joins us live next.
MADDOW: For 3.5 million Americans, this is their second week living in
darkness, wondering when food and water and fuel they need will arrive. On
Tuesday, the mayor of San Juan told us about the dire situations,
specifically inside hospitals and in nursing homes, in Puerto Rico`s
capital city, patients dying in hospitals because the generators powering
their life support keeping them alive, those generators are running out of
fuel. People needing to be evacuated out of nursing homes that were going
day after day with no power, no running water, no ability to provide food
to their patients.
And despite what are now insistent references from this administration,
from the president personally about how great the rescue effort is going,
the reality on the ground is something very different and there has been
nobody trying to sound that alarm than the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin
Mayor Cruz, I know you have a million things to do and places to be. Thank
you for helping us understand what`s going on tonight.
CRUZ: Well, thank you for helping us get the voice out and have some
connection between what has been said and reality of people are living in
the streets and the hospitals and in their homes.
MADDOW: You told us earlier this week, on Tuesday, that the problem seemed
to be, the chain of command, seemed to be bureaucracy. It wasn`t that
there weren`t supplies in Puerto Rico, it wasn`t that there weren`t people
who seemed like capable people who are willing to help. It seemed that
there was no plan, no organization that actually allowed things to get out
to people who needed them. How`s that improved at all?
CRUZ: No, it hasn`t. Actually, it`s gotten worse yesterday. I got the
visit from the mayor very late at night asking me if I had any leftovers
that he could have for his people that were drinking from a creek. That`s
the mayor of Comerio.
Today, I got a mayday call from the two different neighboring mayors
saying, look, we have gone to the FEMA distribution centers we get there
and they give us one pallet of water, or they tell us, you know what, we
have nothing to give you. Please call us next week.
The other thing is that they are asking people to – you`re not going to
believe this. Everyone knows our power grid is down, so Internet
connection is almost none. So, they`re asking people if they want to be,
you know, just helped by FEMA to register via Internet or to call. Well,
for heaven`s sake, what don`t you understand like we don`t have any power,
so our Internet connection is limited?
There is such a thing, I – there`s a motto for the Marine Corps, you
adapt, you improvise, you overcome. It seems simple. So if you do not
have Internet, don`t ask people to register using Internet. You adapt and
you do a different way.
So, they said, well, everything is going according to the plan. Where
maybe when you`re sitting in air condition, everything is going in
accordance to plan. Today, I had to rent a rig and I just thank regional
manager John Raven (ph) for helping because I was still getting questions
from FEMA of what are my priorities.
It seems pretty simple, you save lives with food, water and medical
supplies. It just doesn`t seem like the most powerful nation in the world
to be incapable of just having in a hundred by thirty-five mile long the
ability to just put fuel into hospitals. And then I was told, well,
hospitals I have to request to be put on the list. For heaven`s sake –
CRUZ: You know, there`s a list of all the hospitals in Puerto Rico. You
just don`t have time for any of this, and it just appalling. You know why,
Rachel, because it`s a disconnect to the reality of the heart of the
I lived in Boston. I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I gave birth
there and I know that the American people are brave people. They`re whole-
hearted people, and they just charge when something is not wrong, they
invented. When you have to move it, you move it. When you have to go
around and you go around it.
So, I have no idea why this is going on, and there`s a disconnect between
what the FEMA people are saying is happening and what the mayors and the
people in the towns know that is happening. So, I was promised and
(INAUDIBLE) tomorrow from Mr. John Raven himself miraculously. I was told
that I was going to get two containers of food and water and lo and behold,
after that I rented a rig, I got a lot more.
But do you know what? That`s not the way things should happen.
MADDOW: When you say you rented a rig, Mayor – I`m sorry to interrupt
you. When you say you rented a rig, you`re saying that you had to pay cash
to rent a semi-tractor an 18-wheeler, in order to move these containers?
CRUZ: No, no, no. I moved (ph) some of the containers – I said, you
know, I screamed and shouted literally and said, you know, my people are
dying here. What do you want to do?
I mean, we have given FEMA piles and piles of information, piles and piles
of information, but you got to fill out this form and fill out the other
form, and, you know, I understand there is a process, but there are lives
at stake here.
When you are at war, you just don`t say, oh let me see if there`s a radar
in this field so I can land the plane to rescue somebody. No, you land the
field, you land in the baseball park or whatever it needs to be done, you
So, there seems to be in this emergency management, a lot of management and
very little sense of emergency.
MADDOW: The one thing that I saw today that made me feel like there was a
change in the organizational approach to this mayor was that the army
started to send out releases about dispatching teams by helicopter into
far-flung towns. Obviously, the Army has taken organizational control of
the relief effort, we`re told as of today.
Have you seen any evidence of change because of the Army taking over? Are
you hopeful about that?
CRUZ: Not today. I`m hopeful that the logistics that the Army is
providing in this humanitarian mission is going to provide for a much
needed relief and also for the continuance of this relief. You can`t just
feed people one time a day, one day a week. You have to do it
So, we are hopeful as we are and we keep pushing on. We keep seeing
communities come together and just doing a lot of the clean up themselves
or cooking for 400 people and so forth, we keep getting people from
different counties and cities and mayor of Boston, the mayor of Columbus,
Ohio. They`re reaching out and they`re saying, Mayor, what do you need?
And whatever I get, I will share it with the rest of the municipalities in
Puerto Rico, because we`re just one. We`re just one. And we`re doing –
giving an SOS.
This is for you. I`m going to give this to the production, because you`ve
been very helpful and getting out the SOS call for everybody and making
sure that our voices are heard. So we thank you very much for that.
MADDOW: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, thank you for talking to us.
Please keep us apprised and tell us what else people need to know and
please take good care of yourself. You`re doing a lot of work here, a lot
of days, a lot of late nights there. You got to make it through this, too.
CRUZ: Thank you very much, ma`am.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Sorry. I need to make a correction from the top of the show.
It`s Friday. There was one whole night this week I didn`t get sleep
because my back hurt and I got the knock on effect where you`re not really
tired the next day but you`re tired the day after. Sorry.
So, that`s my excuse. Here`s what I screwed up. I said at the top of the
show that when the veterans` affairs chief went to Wimbledon this year,
Serena Williams was playing in the women`s final.
Here is what I have to correct. The veterans affairs chief and his wife
did take a taxpayer-funded 10-day European trip that did include four
different palaces and a tour of Westminster Abbey, and a river cruise and a
canal cruise, and four straight days with no scheduled events in the middle
of their European vacation. I mean, more trip.
And veteran secretary did on this taxpayer funded trip with his wife to
Europe, he did go to Wimbledon where he did see a championship match and it
was the ladies` final, and it was one of the Williams sister in the final
but it wasn`t Serena. It was Venus. And I need to watch more tennis,
clearly. My mistake. My apologies. Very sorry.
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Their
response was frankly inadequate on almost every level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mark Warner is the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence
Committee. He was among a lot of lawmakers who emerged from much-heralded
private meetings with Twitter executives yesterday to pronounce themselves
dissatisfied by what Twitter told them. They`re unhappy apparently about
the limited information that Twitter was able to hand over to Congress
about the Russian activity on Twitter during our presidential election last
Well, today, Twitter defended their conduct in response to that criticism
from Congress. They said today that the congressional committees hadn`t
actually requested any specific information from us.
Like I know you guys didn`t get what you wanted, but we didn`t know what
We already knew from reporting in “The Wall Street Journal” and elsewhere
that Twitter`s limited disclosures had angered congressional investigators.
But tonight, we have one new detail to report about why congressional
investigators were so annoyed.
A source familiar with Twitter`s presentation on Capitol Hill yesterday
tells us that Twitter did disclose to investigators that there were roughly
200 Twitter accounts active during the election that have been linked to
Russian actors, that seems like a low number. What congressional
investigators are annoyed about is that Twitter apparently didn`t discover
those Twitter accounts themselves, Facebook did, and so they just got that
information from Facebook.
And what`s worse, Twitter did not come prepared to tell Congress anything
about those fake accounts used by the Russians at all, bupkis.
According to our source, when Twitter executives turned up with great
fanfare, right, to brief investigators yesterday on what they had
discovered about how Russia used their platform during the presidential
election, Twitter executives would not provide lawmakers with the names of
any of these accounts they now say were linked to Russia, nor would they
describe any of the content that was spread by any of those accounts. So
then who cares, right?
As “The Wall Street Journal” reported, people closed to Twitter say the
company is months behind Facebook in determining the scope of nefarious bot
activity on its social network. They`re behind Facebook? Facebook is only
barely admitting that Russia was operating on their platform at all.
Anybody who was observing anything having to do with the American political
election last year knows from experiential anecdotal truth that there were
plenty of bots and plenty of foreign, idiomatically identifiable fake
accounts that were absolutely messing with everybody streams of
information, both on Facebook and on Twitter. Facebook and Twitter appear
to be completely convinced that we`re going to have no serious questions
about why that happened and they appear to have done almost no work on
their own behalf to help investigators understand how their platforms were
used as the scenes of a significant crime.
The question is, why they don`t care?
Joining us now is Georgia Wells. She`s a reporter for “The Wall Street
Ms. Wells, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate you being here.
GEORGIA WELLS, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you for
MADDOW: So, I don`t know about the internal guts of how Twitter and
Facebook work. I don`t know about their – where they see their privacy
rights and their intellectual property rights as clashing with
investigators here. But it – even from that position of ignorance, it
seems surprising to me that Twitter appears to have had no information
about Russian activity on their platform to hand over to Congress
WELLS: I mean, I think it has to be uncomfortable. I think one thing to
keep in mind is I think Twitter thinks of their constituency is much
broader than just Capitol Hill and much broader than just the U.S. I think
they think of it as a place for people to safely and anonymously share
And so, I think they genuinely care about the privacy of these users on the
platform, when at the same time, there are allegations that there were
actors who, you know, we`re attempting to interfere with the American
political process. And I think this is a point where and in many minds I
think the privacy concerns of these foreign actors will be outweighed by
the American, you know, political concerns. And I think this is the
equation that Twitter is having a hard time with.
MADDOW: Right. I mean, if they`re – it`s one thing for talking about
individual anonymous speech rights and how Twitter engages with those as a
global company. In this case, what seems to be the conclusion of
intelligence agencies is that Twitter wasn`t used by individual actors to
express unpopular opinions. Twitter was used as a venue for state-
sponsored actions that were run by foreign governments to effectively,
illegally influence an American election using large scale approaches to
their platform, automated approaches to their platform.
Given that and given that that`s clear even from a distance, that`s clear
even if you`re nowhere near that company, you can see that because we
experienced what that was like during the campaign, why is Twitter months
behind Facebook in your estimation in terms of – in terms of sorting this
WELLS: Yes. So, we`ve reported that people close to Twitter just say that
– kind of just their understanding of the problem is months behind
Facebook, but I think also Twitter would point out that they have shared
more information now than they`d ever shared on it previously, including
data and the longest blog post they`ve ever written about it.
MADDOW: Unless that they`re bragging about the length of their blog post.
That`s brought Mr. Bao (ph) down and marvel at its height.
WELLS: I mean, I do think that they`ve been caught somewhat flat-footed,
which is hard to understand given some of these concerns did begin to
emerge months and months ago right after the election. I think also though
that the understanding of this problem among tech companies has changed a
bit and so, we`ve seen this with Facebook where right after the election,
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, made a comment that the idea that kind of
misinformation on Facebook could have influenced the election was crazy and
now he`s rolling that idea back and a couple days ago he posted saying that
he shouldn`t have dismissed those concerns because these issues are far too
And so, it`ll be interesting to see kind of how their understandings of
MADDOW: Yes, and if it evolves in time to help investigators who are
trying to figure this out and catch the bad guys.
Georgia Wells, reporter for “The Wall Street Journal”, appreciate you being
here tonight. Thank you.
WELLS: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We first learned something was wrong almost two months ago when
CBS Radio reported something that was simultaneously very worrying
sounding, but also, sort of too vague to worry about.
The way that CBS Radio first put it was that American diplomats in Cuba
were reporting, quote, incidents which have caused a variety of physical
symptoms. Incidents with – a variety of symptoms do you say?
And that was all – that was all the information we got in that initial
report. CBS Radio definitely had the scoop, but it raised a lot more
questions than it did even cogent worries. It wasn`t clear what these
incidents were. It wasn`t clear what the injuries were, and the
government, our government, the State Department, was the opposite of
forthcoming on this matter.
Well, we have since learned and not from the State Department, that these
mysterious attacks have injured more than 20 Americans, and the effects are
serious. They range from permanent hearing loss, to mild traumatic brain
injury. We have no idea how these injuries were inflicted. We do know
that some of the attacks occurred at diplomats residences. Some of them
appear to have occurred at Cuban hotels.
We also know that the Cuban government is adamant that they are not behind
the attacks. Cuban government offered – and this is unusual – offered to
let the FBI come to Cuba and investigate. Cuban government is not in that
We know the FBI has been down to Cuba to investigate. They reportedly
visited the homes of diplomats. They reportedly reviewed security footage,
but apparently, they didn`t detect anything suspicious.
And this is interesting. They were also unable to duplicate in a lab
anything that would cause the symptoms that diplomats have experienced in
Cuba. So, we know these incidents started in the fall of last year and
then they stopped for a while, and then this summer, apparently, they
picked up again. The most recent incident reportedly happened in late
August, and we know all of that stuff from reporting, not from our
government, not from the State Department. They have been tight-lipped and
unhelpful in providing any real details about exactly what`s going on.
Today, even though the State Department still is not sharing much about
what`s happening in Cuba, they did take a big dramatic step they announced
that they`re pulling about 60 percent of U.S. embassy staff out of the
embassy of the United States in Cuba. Right now, there are about Americans
working at the Havana embassy. The only ones who are going to stay behind
now are so-called essential staff, people who are there just to carry out
The State Department has also announced they`ll stop processing visas in
Cuba and indefinitely. As of Monday, no more visas will be issued from the
embassy in Havana.
Today, the State Department issued a travel advisory warning Americans
against traveling to Cuba, saying, quote: We are unable to identify the
source of the attacks. So, this is a very strange story. The
administration has not blamed Cuba for the attacks. As of now, there
appears to be no evidence of culpability that we know of by any particular
country or actor by Cuba or anybody else. It`s just a really weird, spooky
mystery. Whatever has been happening to U.S. diplomats in Cuba and again
some of these injuries that they have sustained are serious and some are
Today`s actions would have been a big step for the State Department to have
taken toward Cuba in general in normal circumstances, but it`s a giant leap
given that no one it will really explain what`s going on here. We still
have the State Department`s general reluctance to say anything at all
about, you know, whether the attacks are continuing even now, how they are
approaching it, how they are investigating it.
And now, we don`t know why they just took this big set of dramatic new
measures that they hadn`t taken before. Is that because they learn
something new? Is that because they just got around to doing this stuff
they meant to do before? I mean, imagine if you`re – one of your family
members is one of those essential State Department personnel it`s being
left behind, how do you feel about that? Is the State Department ensuring
It`s weird enough when it seemed like maybe Cuba or some other government
was attacking American diplomats. But now, without explanation, we`ve got
this dramatic action by the U.S. government, without explanation as to why
they have taken this dramatic action. It`s just – it`s just weird. It`s
just weird. Lots of unanswered questions.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Joy Reid, filling in for Lawrence.
Good evening, Joy.
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