House Intel committee votes to release Dem Memo.TRANSCRIPT: 2/5/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: February 5, 2018
Guest: Eric Swalwell, Steve Coll
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: You bet.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
So, it wasn`t really a market crash. It was more like a market drunken
veering into a ditch and that ditch was icy and it couldn`t get out and it
had to call a tow truck. Better metaphor I think.
On Friday, it seemed like just another little bit of surrealism, just a
little numerological surrealism that on a day in Washington when
Republicans in Congress and the Trump White House had a political
implosion, they had their worst day on the Russia investigation that didn`t
involve someone`s indictment or a guilty plea. On that same day on Friday,
it seemed like a little bit of, like puckish news god practical joking that
the Dow Jones that day dropped not just significantly not just by over six
hundred points, it dropped specifically by 666 points. It dropped by 666,
the number of the beast.
I mean the number of the beast obviously exists in the bible. It exists on
Jared Kushner`s midtown office building and it existed in the wild on that
market news on Friday which just seemed so strange, alongside that gigantic
political news day.
Well, today, I will take your number of the beast from Friday and I will
raise you another 1,175 points off the Dow. At one point today, the Dow
was down almost 1,600 points just today. I don`t know if it`s better or
worse that there was a weekend with no trading in the middle of it, but
over the course of these two days, Friday and today, it was over a 2,100-
point swing, over 8 percent of market value lost. Today alone was the
biggest point drop in a single session on the Dow ever.
Now, why did this happen? What does this mean? A lot of people will tell
you that they know, nobody really knows. The market speaks in numbers not
But today, we did get a new chair of the Federal Reserve after President
Trump fired Janet Yellen for reasons that have never been totally
explained. There are also worries about inflation that could have been a
It`s possible that what happened today was just a market correction that
the market was artificially high and it has been brought down to a less
bubbly size and there isn`t one thing that caused it. There have also been
some recent revelations about the one very large very significant policy
that has been enacted by this new Republican Congress and this new
Republican president. In fact, it was sort of stunning to see the split
screen today while the president was in Ohio bragging about the impact of
his tax bill while networks covering his speech were also covering in
little boxes or in split screens, covering the Dow shedding hundreds and
hundreds of points as he spoke about his tax bill.
The tax bill is the biggest change to the U.S. tax code in a generation.
We`ve learned over the last few days that it will provide a multibillion-
dollar windfall to multiple individual oil companies. Seriously, Exxon
alone says they`re looking at a $6 billion windfall just from that one
bill, just that one company. And that kind of news is great if you happen
to be an oil company.
But money at that magnitude, money by the barrel going out the door to
corporations – I mean, multiple individual corporations getting
multibillion-dollar windfalls and that kind of money has to come from
And one of the revelations of the last few days is that the government is
about to hit the debt ceiling a lot sooner than it was going to like a
month sooner than it was going to because of the tax bill. Nobody in the
Republican Congress or the Trump administration like to dwell on the fact
that their bill is projected to add one-and-a-half trillion dollars to the
debt and the deficit. So, I understand as a matter of messaging they like
to avoid that. It also appears though that they didn`t really plan for
that consequence of this policy that they have just passed.
And so, having just finished one government shutdown already which happened
on the one-year anniversary of this president taking office, the only time
we`ve ever had a government shutdown with one already in control of the
House and the Senate and the White House, while we are facing another
government shutdown Thursday night this week, we are also now looking at a
very fast oncoming train which is the debt ceiling, which the government
also has to actively do something in order to avoid hitting. Nobody has
much faith in their ability to avert even predictable disasters like that,
even scheduled shutdowns. I think people have even less space less faith
in their ability to avert things like that when it turns out those things
are coming at us faster than anybody had planned for.
But now we know we`re going to hit the debt ceiling faster than they had
planned for because of their tax bill. So, you know, we don`t know exactly
what blew up the market today and again, what was the largest single point
loss on the Dow in the history of days on the Dow. But I think it`s
important to keep in mind that despite the weekend happening in between
these two market sessions in terms of when the markets are closed, right,
this was a two-day sell-off, right? Friday, Satan wrote on its warhead and
today almost double that number dropped.
So, this is a two day sell-off that is of significant magnitude. That
means overnight, everybody`s going to be watching the Asian markets and
then the European markets and worrying about tomorrow`s opening belt in New
York, worrying that tomorrow is going to be sell-off day number three.
Meanwhile just to settle everybody`s nerves, it`s about to be memo day
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The
reality is that as this investigation has progressed our own, perhaps more
significantly, the investigation by Bob Mueller as more and more
individuals have either been indicted or pled guilty in connection with
this investigation and the evidence has mounted both in terms of the issue
of collusion as well as the issue obstruction, there is a rising sense of
panic clearly within the White House and as well on the Hill. And as a
result we see a tactic we have often seen in criminal cases where when the
facts are increasingly incriminating of the defendant, there`s an effort to
put the government on trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat in the
Intelligence Committee, speaking to reporters tonight on Capitol Hill as he
announced that, as he put it, quote, the five-day clock is ticking. The
White House tonight has started that five-day clock from ticking because
they have been sent a classified memo written by Schiff and the other
Democrats on the Intelligence Committee and the Democrats say their memo
basically outs the effort by Republican members of Congress to try to block
the FBI`s criminal investigation into the president and his campaign by
releasing misleading information about that investigation and the way it
has been conducted.
As you know, on Friday, Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee
scored a little bit of an own-goal with their much touted, highly hyped to
release of their own classified memo that they had promised over a period
of weeks, they had promised would derail the entire Russia investigation.
I think they probably realized now that they would have been better off
never actually releasing the thing, continuing the hype that it existed but
then never actually letting anybody see it.
Essentially, this was – this was a put up or shut up moment. This was
they put up or shut up moment when putting up was not the better of the two
options. The central claim of their weeks of hype their whole campaign to
release this memo was that somehow this memo would prove that the dossier
of alleged Russian dirt on Trump that was prepared by former mi officer
Christopher Steele, their whole campaign was based around the idea that
this memo would prove that the Steele dossier is what led to the whole
Now, the problem with that argument with having created that expectation
around their secret memo is that their secret memo actually conceded that
it was not the Christopher Steele dossier that started the FBI
investigation. The FBI had actually started a counterintelligence probe
into the Trump campaigns ties with Russia because of what turned out to be
well-founded counterintelligence concerns about a particular Trump campaign
guy who didn`t even turn the dossier who wasn`t named in it once, a guy who
Christopher Steele said he had never heard of when the FBI went to him and
asked him if he knew anything about this particular Trump guy.
So, that was kind of their first big problem. We`re going to prove this
thing and then here`s our memo which disproves that thing, failed at that
level. But then the memo also claimed outright in black and white that to
the extent the FBI had sighted the steel dossier in this application for a
search warrant on a different adviser to the Trump campaign, Republican
memo said that to the extent that they had referred to the Steele dossier,
they said the FBI hadn`t also told the judge at the time that that dossier
come for it came from a political source, that it was opposition research
on Donald Trump.
Well, as soon as the Republican memo came out on Friday with that claim in
black and white, Democrats started crying foul, insisting that that
specifically was not true. They said the judge was told about the
political origins of Steele`s material. The Democrats said that right away
on Friday as soon as the memo came out.
Then, over the weekend, “The Washington Post” confirmed with multiple
sources that in fact the judge had been told that the source of the dossier
was political opposition research. Then, finally this morning, the
Republican author of this memo, Congressman Devin Nunes, this memo that
said the judge was never told about the political origins of the Steele
Devin Nunes this morning conceded on “Fox and Friends” that in fact the
judge was told nothing political origins of the dossier.
So, the dossier started the FBI investigation noted. The judge wasn`t told
about the political origins of the dossier, yes, it does. This Republican
memo on Friday after weeks of hype, it – a lot of people one thing that
was a dud, I don`t think it was a dud. Did you play with fireworks when
you`re a kid? What did your parents tell you was the most dangerous thing
and playing with fireworks? Obviously, your protection.
But for me, but my dad always told me about fireworks was beware the
apparent dud, because it might not be a dud, it might just be slow. And
it`s sometimes more dangerous to have something not go off initially than
it is just to have a big exciting firework where you know what its going to
This thing wasn`t so much a dud. It was like a firework with a faulty
fuse. So, it didn`t provide the show it was supposed to when you thought
it was going to, but it did end up posing a danger to the people who were
trying to set it off. Democrats now say they plan to use the Republican
memo fiasco from Friday against Republicans, against congressional
Republican incumbents when they are all up for re-election this November.
Congratulations, you released the memo. It`s now going to be used in a
million attack ads against you. And now, it`s starting to get really
woolly for them. It remains remarkably an open question as to whether the
White House itself was involved in coming up with this whole scheme. This
scheme to release classified information to try to exonerate the White
House and indict the FBI in the Russia investigation.
So far, neither the House Republicans have created this thing nor the White
House will answer directly when they`re asked if there was any White House
involvement in this whole scheme in the creation of this document and the
whole idea behind it. Democrats I think are now starting to realize that
they are onto something with this line of questioning and into this
evening, they are continuing to push it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: I also want to say that my colleague, Mr. Quigley, again and
repeatedly asked the chairman whether he or any of his staff had consulted
with coordinated, conceptualized this memo in combination with the White
House, we know after all that the chairman embarked on a similar effort to
coordinate a campaign early on in the investigation and once again Mr.
Nunes refused to answer the questions. At the very end of the hearing, he
gave a very lawyerly, written response or read a written response saying
that the White House had not been involved in the actual drafting of the
memo but in terms of whether it was coordinated with the White House or
they were consulted or strategized the whole concept, he refused to answer
those questions. That`s a very important question for our committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, this remains an open question. I thought this would be
settled by now. I thought eventually they`d be able to just like be clear
with people, no, we didn`t have anything to do with it, but this is an open
Was this not just a congressional Republican effort to try to defend the
White House by ginning up this false controversy about the FBI? Was this
actually the White House working with congressional Republicans to gin up
this false controversy involving the FBI? With an open obstruction of
justice inquiry into the president and the White House already, that would
be a very, very high-risk move for this White House, particularly given
this other new outstanding issue they have created for themselves by trying
to pull off this stunt, and that is legal precedent. When the president
decided to declassify that Republican memo, so it could be released to the
public because he apparently was assured that it would completely exonerate
him and the Russia investigation, he`d be able to fire everybody
When the president made this decision to release this classified memo, that
may very well have created a new legal precedent around the release of
classified information of this type. The president personally may have
essentially set a whole new standard for the public release of FISA related
information and other classified national security information of this
On the basis of the president`s decision Friday to declassify that
Republican memo, for example, “The New York Times” today has already filed
a motion with the FISA court requesting the public release of the
information on which this memo was based because the president has now
established a new standard for when and why and how information like that
gets to the public.
Did President Trump know he was making new law about highly classified
material when he made this decision that he would release the Republican
memo before he`d even read it? Did he know he was doing that? I have no
idea, but it appears that he may very well have done that.
And that revelation ends up being really important tonight, as the White
House receives a new Democratic memorandum based on classified information.
Again this time, it`s not from the president`s friends in Congress who are
trying to come up with a storyline that`s favorable to him. This time,
it`s from the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee in the House. But
it`s based on that same classified information that was the basis of that
Republican memo last week.
Now, this Democratic memo this – it`s – this is going to be a big deal
this week, a week ago tonight, all the Republicans on that committee voted
that the Democratic memos shouldn`t be released. Today, the Republicans on
the committee all changed their mind and they all voted that it should be
All right. So, it was a unanimous vote on the Intelligence Committee
today. All Democrats and all Republicans voting to send the Democratic
memo, which is on the same subject as the ones as the one the Republicans
released on Friday. They`ve all now voted unanimously to send it to the
White House where President Trump has five days to announce whether he has
any objections to releasing that memo, the same way he released the
Republican one on Friday.
It would be very awkward for him to refuse to release the Democratic memo,
right? He made the decision to release the Republican memo based on the
same classified information. He promised somebody at the State of the
Union that he would release it before we now know he had even read it. If
the president nevertheless decides that he wants to block the publication
of the Democrats document, which is based on the same classified info, that
will be awkward. I don`t think the president minds awkward.
Well, what could the Democrats do then? They could, if the president
blocks them, they could try to bring the matter before the entire House of
Representatives, which could vote I have a majority vote to override the
president`s decision and thereby released this document from the Democrats
without the president`s permission.
Again some of the Republicans would presumably vote to do so. All the
Republicans on the Intelligence Committee today voted that`s that this
thing should be out. So, this is – I mean the memo thing on Friday was a
tremendous fiasco after two weeks of incredible Republican and Fox News
hype. This next stage of it, this Democratic moment which is already being
reviewed at the White House, this is going to be five days of interesting
One of the Democrats behind that strategy, one of the Democrats who`s been
intimately involved in that process in that fight is going to be joining us
live in just a second to talk about what the implications are there and how
they`re going to approach this strategically now that the president has the
Democrats document. He can do with it what he wants.
I`m just going to leave you though with one final matter on this – one
final point on the same matter. The basis for all these shenanigans, the
subject of the Republicans memo on Friday, the subject we believe of the
rebuttal memo from the Democrats which is now going to make news all week
long, the basis of all this tooling and froing from both sides is Trump
campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page. The Republican argument
bottom line is that the whole Russia investigation is bogus. There never
should have been FBI counterintelligence interests, let alone
investigation, let alone court-ordered surveillance of a Trump advisor like
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The director of
the FBI is well aware of my concerns about Mr. Page and I don`t believe
that somebody like Mr. Page should be a target of the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Devin Nunes has been leading the charge on this in the
house for the Republicans. I don`t believe that somebody like Mr. Page
should be a target of the FBI. “Time Magazine” reported this weekend that
Mr. Page once bragged in writing that he was, quote, an advisor to the
Kremlin. First reported this weekend by Massimo Calabresi at “Time
Magazine”, in August 2013, Carter Page wrote a letter to an academic press
in a dispute over I think a manuscript of his that they didn`t publish, but
he bragged to them in this letter, quote, over the past half year, I`ve had
the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.
Again, that was August 2013.
We know from court documents that two months before then, June 2013, is
when the FBI had paid a visit to Carter Page. Two counterintelligence
officers from the FBI visiting him in person to tell him that he had been
kibbutzim with and meeting with and handing documents over to a Russian spy
ring in New York City that was trying to recruit him.
Now, you would expect that you know the outcome of a visit like that from
the FBI might be to make a person feel very self-conscious, worried, maybe
even mortified in a patriotic sense that they had unwittingly become the
target of Russian spies, that they had been duped by their spy operation
and they`ve been unwittingly handing over documents to the Kremlin for
intelligence purposes, to use against our country. That`s what you might
expect would be the product of an FBI visit like that.
But apparently, in Carter Page`s case in 2013, he saw that visit from the
FBI as confirmation that he`d been working with the Kremlin which was then
worth bragging about, at least a publisher`s within weeks of that FBI
I realized that we are still very much engaged in this fight about the
surveillance of Carter Page, right? The origins the FBI investigation of
the Trump campaign the current status of the FBI investigations and the
congressional investigations into the Russian matter, that will all still
continue to be fought over including tonight and especially I think over
the course of this week. That is going to get hotter and not cooler over
the next five days.
But at its heart, ask yourself this question, why did the Trump campaign
hire Carter Page of all people to be one of their five foreign policy
advisers? No political profile, no national security profile, no foreign
policy profile at all, but a Russian intelligence problem and a serious
one. Out of all the people in the world, why did they pick him and George
Papadopoulos and Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort – those were all weird
choices. Why`d they all end up on the Trump campaign? What do they all
have in common?
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Congressman Nunes, have you voted yet? Have you voted to
release the Democratic memo?
NUNES: The rule is we`re not going to talk about committee business.
REPORTER: You did to Fox today!
REPORTER: And on Friday!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We don`t talk about committee – you know the rules, we don`t talk
about committee business. And one reporter says, you did to Fox today.
Pregnant pause, and then the other one goes, and on Friday.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes giving reporters the cold
shoulder tonight and reporters giving it right back to him. That was just
moments after his committee voted unanimously to release the Democratic
rebuttal to that GOP memo that was declassified by the White House on
Friday. The Democratic version, the Democratic rebuttal is now at the
White House where a five-day window has opened during which the president
can decide if he wants to block its release or not.
And while we are following that story, we are also following breaking news
tonight from “The New York Times” about the critical question of whether
the president will agree to be interviewed by special counsel Robert
Mueller. Quote: Lawyers for President Trump have advised him against
sitting down for a wide-ranging interview with special counsel Robert
Mueller. According to this new reporting and “The Times” tonight, the
lawyers who want the president not to sit down with the special counsel
include John Dowd and also Mr. Dowd`s deputy, Jay Sekulow, who you`ve
probably seen on the Fox News Channel, if you`ve ever seen him anywhere.
But apparently, the president`s lawyers are divided on this subject.
Quote, one of the few voices arguing for cooperating with Mr. Muller is Ty
Cobb, another one of the Russia lawyers for the president who actually
works in the White House and is considered to be White House staff. I will
say, I get the president`s lawyers having varying advice for him on this
subject, but do they get to decide if the president wants to and he said
publicly that he wants to, can`t he just overrule them and do it.
And even if the president decides he doesn`t want to and his lawyers don`t
want him to, does the special counsel have the ability to compel him to
Joining us now Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, who`s a member of the
House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Swalwell, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You too, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the Democratic memo. This is something that
Democrats – you Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee I understand
have-have drafted that`s essentially a rebuttal to what the Republican –
Republicans on the committee released on Friday. Is it fair to understand
it that way?
SWALWELL: Yes, it`s a document we hoped would never see the light of day,
but it`s the only way I believe to cure the poisonous rhetoric that the
Republicans have put out with respect to this investigation.
MADDOW: The White House as I understand it, they`ve got a five-day window
now during which the president could decide to block the release of this
information, at least a block the means – block this information from
being released by the same means that the Republican memo was released by.
What do you expect will happen during this five-day period at the White
The president has been telegraphing a lot of disdain and anger toward you
and your fellow Democrats.
SWALWELL: Rachel, if the president wants to be honest with the American
people, he will allow a memo that`s free from any political edits. You
know, we have asked the Department of Justice something the Republicans did
not which was to review the memo if there`s any national security risks of
information getting out, but to do so in context of what is already out
Again, as we said, we think the only antidote to the undermining they have
done would be for the American people to have a full picture of what
happened and then most importantly for us to move on and do our job and
start – restart interviewing witnesses in this investigation.
MADDOW: The way that you`re describing the sort of damage done by what the
Republicans released on Friday what the president okayed, if the president
blocks your memo – blocks the release of it, that is within his power to
do so, at least as far as the White House goes, I understand there is
another path toward releasing this wherein the entire House would take a
vote on on releasing this matter and then it would either have to be read
into the congressional record or maybe it could just be released directly.
Would you expect that if the White House blocks this, that`s the route
things would go?
SWALWELL: I would also expect that Devin Nunes would be the person who
stood on the floor and asked his colleagues to support that because he`s
supported it today in the committee.
But, Rachel, I also am worried though that a dangerous precedent is being
set here by releasing information to the White House because it – they are
giving the White House evidence that exists in the case. Again, we want
our memo out there just to give the full picture, but we can`t go down this
road where we are giving subjects and witnesses in an investigation
evidence that investigators hold very, very close.
And I`m afraid that that is done intentionally so that the Trump team knows
what`s out there I think that`s why they continue to pursue the selective
release of committee transcripts and information held by the Department of
MADDOW: Do you believe that the information that they released on Friday
was designed to or would have the effect of interfering with a
counterintelligence investigation or any of the criminal investigations
that are ongoing? Do you think it has been – that it will do some harm?
SWALWELL: It will do harm and, you know, people have said, well, no
sources and methods were disclosed. They were disclosed. But the argument
that we`re making is just because they were publicly known because of press
reporting, it`s never been the practice the Department of Justice to
acknowledge sources and methods. So, Mr. Steele`s identity was disclosed.
His long-standing history as being a source was disclosed.
So when we need people to come forward and be sources and anti-terrorism
cases, they`re going to think twice and worry that their cooperation could
be outed because of the political winds.
MADDOW: One last question for you, sir. I understand that Steve Bannon
former White House strategist and a man who used to run the Trump campaign
has been issued a subpoena to appear before your committee tomorrow. This
would be the second or third time to get him in behind closed doors for
questioning. Do you actually expect them to be there tomorrow?
SWALWELL: I do, Rachel, and I expect my colleagues if he does not show up
to issue and start contempt proceedings because he is the only witness
where they moved quite expeditiously when he refused to answer questions,
they gave him a subpoena within an hour. I don`t know if that`s because
he`s made enemies on the committee with some of the work he`s done in the
past, but every witness should be shown that type of a dogged investigative
But if he does not show up tomorrow, does not answer our questions, I think
he needs to be held in contempt.
MADDOW: Has his testimony been deconflicted with the Mueller
investigation. I understand that there`s sensitivity about trying not to
interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation. Is the Bannon testimony
has been the subject of negotiation with Mueller`s office in terms of him
being cleared to testify?
SWALWELL: You know, that`s something that ranking membership Schiff and
Mike Conaway sort out, but that has never been a reason given to us. What
we`ve been told is actually I think the worst of all reasons is that the
White House does not want him to talk. They`re not asserting executive
What they`re doing is something worse. They`re standing on no privilege
and saying that he can`t tell us anything that happened during the
transition once he joined the White House and once he left the White House.
So, that`s actually a privilege without any legal authority.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, member of the House
Intelligence Committee – really appreciate your time tonight, sir. Thank
SWALWELL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. Lots more to get to. Very busy news night, and we`ve
got somebody who`s a really big deal here tonight for the interview.
That`s coming right up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: – this time in American politics, that would be absolute
showstoppers, gonzo, over the top, stop everything scandals at any other
time. But because they`re happening now in this administration, in the
context of lots of ethics scandals all at once and daily bursts of
unprecedented behavior and speech by the president, and honestly because of
the existential scandal that looms over everything else they do because of
the special counsel investigation and the Russian scandal, basically in
this administration, a lot of stuff that would be a really big scandal in
every other administration you can think of, that happens here every week,
stuff would be blockbusters at any other time and we just kind of you know
mark these things and then watch them pass.
Today, for example, the administration formally withdrew the nomination for
the new ambassador to Singapore. The nominee was K.T. McFarland. She`s
probably best known as a former Fox News Channel contributor. Trump
administration had initially hired her to be deputy national security
adviser to Mike Flynn, but then when the Flynn scandal erupted, they
decided they would move K.T. McFarland to Singapore instead.
In the meantime, though, when Flynn got indicted, the statement of the
offense that was submitted to the court along with his guilty plea, they
explained a whole bunch of new details that we didn`t know before about
Flynn`s conversations with the Russian government during the transition.
We learned that he lied to the FBI about those conversations. We learned
that he did talk to the Russians about sanctions even though he and
everyone else in the White House at the time lied publicly and said that he
And we learned that Flynn wasn`t making those calls during the transition
as a rogue actor. He was in contact with Trump transition officials every
step of the way, lots of people were in the loop, by email – emails that
Robert Mueller has obtained discussing Flynn having these conversations
with Russia about sanctions.
Now, one of the officials who was sending emails about Flynn`s conversation
with the Russians was K.T. McFarland. Here`s the problem with that:
separate and apart from the criminal prosecution of General Flynn, when
K.T. McFarland got nominated to be ambassador to Singapore, she was flat-
out asked in her confirmation hearing if she had discussed contacts with
Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak directly with General Flynn. She had, of
course, the transition team emails that Mueller obtained proved that she
had done so, but she told the Senate that she had not. And in any other
administration, that would be an above-the-fold scandal for a long time,
Ambassador nominee and former deputy to disgraced national security adviser
lies to Senate is exposed by emails, the presidential transition didn`t
know would be whatever be handed over to prosecutors, right?
And you can see this spinning out, you could imagine in the movie this goes
on for a while. In any other administration, that`s how it would be, but
because this is our life now, it`s like oh I wonder if she`s going to go
back to Fox. They have a spot on the weekends? Right?
And that`s just one. And the head of the CDC just resigned over financial
conflicts of interest.
The HUD secretary reportedly used his new job to steer business to his son
and his daughter-in-law. Now, he is welcoming an investigation into that
The health secretary already had to resign over his own financial scandal,
Congress didn`t even blink at that, didn`t even pretend to start an
The interior secretary not only makes some poor sod run up to the roof and
fly a special flag whenever he enters his agency`s headquarters, his latest
scandal is that he`s accused of intervening to stop Indian tribes casinos
after he got lobbied to do so by the tribes rival casino operators, which
is the plot of the Jack Abramoff movie except it`s happening right now and
it`s Ryan`s Zinke. Same black cap though.
The president`s son`s wedding planner got put in charge of Housing and
Urban Development in the entire Northeast. The husband of a woman who does
party planning for Trump golf courses, he`s a handyman, just got moved into
a senior headquarters job at EPA.
The president today said maybe it should be viewed as treason the Democrats
didn`t clap for him more enthusiastically at the State of the Union.
I mean, it is it is hard to keep up with stuff that is the kind of thing
that would derail any normal presidency, at least for a while. And this
one it`s just par for the course, it`s just a day`s news.
But there is one of these that is life or death and that has given birth to
some truly, truly tremendous journalism, and that story is next.
MADDOW: There`s a job in the world called special inspector general for
Afghanistan reconstruction. Congress made the job in 2008. It`s an office
that does independent oversight on the money that the United States spends
in Afghanistan low these years into our sojourn there.
John Sopko has been in that job since 2012. He is nobody`s fool. His job
is to ask questions like, hey, what happened to those planes we paid
millions of dollars for that never turned up anywhere? And, oh, what about
that police training center that was built so well with taxpayer dollars
that it literally melts when it rains?
The inspector general put out his 38th quarterly report just a few days
ago, January 30th of this year, and the first thing he had to report this
quarter is that there`s something new going on. For the first time, the
Defense Department has instructed him to stop releasing public unclassified
data about what we`re doing in Afghanistan and how well or poorly it`s
Quote: This quarter, the Department of Defense instructed the special
inspector general to not release to the public data on the number of
districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government or by the
insurgents or contested by both. The inspector general`s office was
informed this quarter that the Defense Department has determined that
although the most recent numbers are unclassified, they`re nevertheless not
releasable to the public.
This development is troubling for a number of reasons not least of which is
that this is the first time the inspector general`s office has been
specifically instructed not to release information marked as unclassified
to the American taxpayer.
And if you make your way all the way to the bottom of the nearly three
hundred page report, or at least to the back quarter, on page 251, you will
see in fact a number of redactions. These are redactions requested by the
Defense Department. Its unclassified information – information that until
now you as an American taxpayer have a taxpayer had a right to see but you
can`t see it anymore.
Trump scandals and Trump administration failures really are different from
most recent administrations. He really is a different kind of president.
But after President George W. Bush started the war in Afghanistan and
President Barack Obama spent a long time working on getting us out of there
but didn`t, there is clearly something about this war that is intractable
despite who the president is. It`s like the only political norm that Trump
can`t actually break.
So, this new president who really is nothing like any other president we`ve
had before in some ways, he is now rolling into year 17 of that same war
and yes, he`s talked Trump-like about mining Afghanistan for profit or
maybe putting the education secretary`s little brother in charge of a
private version of the war and then he can run Afghanistan like a viceroy,
OK. I mean, as President Trump takes his own Trumpian turn at the helm
here, and simultaneously moves to cut off the American public`s window into
how well or poorly our military operations are doing there, big question
here, even regardless of Donald Trump. Does anyone know why it is that we
are still there?
Steve Coll spent 20 years of “The Washington Post”, up to and including his
time as managing editor. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting at “The
Post” that he won another Pulitzer Prize for his book “Ghost Wars”, which
is the magnificent and definitive prehistory of 9/11, then he should have
won another Pulitzer Prize for private empire in 2012, but he got robbed.
Well, now, he`s written “Directorate S: The CIA and America`s Secret Wars
in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. It is a reporting masterpiece. It is a
brutal and dark story. He`s also now the dean of Columbia`s Graduate
School of Journalism.
Steve Coll, it`s an honor to have you here.
STEVE COLL, DEAN, COLUMBIA GRADUATE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM: Thanks for
having me back.
COLL: Thank you.
MADDOW: First of all, did you know when you started writing “Ghost Wars”
that you were going to write “Ghost Wars” Part 1 and 2, that you`d write up
to 9/11 and then you`d write the post history.
COLL: Absolutely not. I mean, it took me a while to decide that there was
a second part that was worth doing because the world was in such chaos
after September 11th, the war in Iraq and the rest, I wasn`t sure how to
create a second volume. But I`m – I`m now 10 years later dragged one
across the finish line. So, I`m glad about that.
MADDOW: I mean, this is – it is a – it is a reporting masterwork and I
am a – I am a humble, huge fan of yours, and everything that you`ve ever
worked on, particularly at book length. What I find remarkable about this
story is I feel like you do actually answer the question of why it`s 17
years in Afghanistan and nobody knows why we`re there.
MADDOW: Essentially your answer is “Directorate S”, is that it`s Pakistan
it`s the reason that we`re still there, and that that is something that
nobody`s come close to solving.
COLL: That`s right, and it kind of confused us over and over again about
what our war aims really were in Afghanistan if the problems that we most
feared al Qaeda, the loss of control over Pakistan`s nuclear weapons were
in Pakistan, then why were we sending tens and thousands of troops to
Afghanistan? There`s sort of an indirect and muddled proposition almost
from the beginning.
And then again and again, presidents confronted the truth that Pakistan was
both accepting large amounts of our aid and also sending militias in to
kill our soldiers and how do you pressure them to stop doing that well
again if they`re an unstable country with a lot of nuclear weapons that you
don`t want to fall in the wrong hands, it turns out there`s a constraint on
how much you can do no matter how – how often you thump your chest or how
many threats you make.
MADDOW: Two very bleak bottom lines from that, and I guess if there`s two
of them, they can`t both be bottom lines but you work with me. One is that
Pakistan`s involvement in the Afghanistan war has been specifically
designed to make sure that America`s effort never succeeds, that American
troops sacrifice in Afghanistan never results in a settled outcome that
America might want.
So, part of the reason that we`ve got a 17-year war there with no end and
no point in terms of how we tend to end it at least is because Pakistan
wants that and they`re closer and they can do it. The other bottom line
here for me which I find very bleak is that their strategy of obtaining
nuclear weapons worked in terms of making them untouchable in normal
national security terms.
COLL: Yes, I think that`s dead right. I think those are both crucial
insights as to why we have grind, we`ve been grinding against the same
problem without really moving it for so long.
And, you know, look, Pakistan`s a sovereign country, it has an enormously
talented population. It has its own aspirations in the region. It sees in
Afghanistan, American failure that destabilized its country.
Its leaders were increasingly angry about the hubris that they saw America
bringing into the Afghan war, sending terrorists across the border into
their cities, blowing up their buildings and so, they said to themselves
we`re going to take care of our business here. And their view of
Afghanistan was not compatible as you say with the American and NATO vision
of a constitutional democracy that would be allied with the international
community, including India, Pakistan`s archenemy. The more Pakistan`s
generals saw India`s hand in the Afghan equation, the harder they worked to
try to gain influence of their own.
MADDOW: There is a Mike Flynn factor in this book that I think is going to
really surprise people. Can I ask you about that after the break?
COLL: Yes, sure.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with Steve Coll, one of the preeminent
journalists of our day. He is the dean of Columbia Graduate School of
Journalism. His new book is called “Directorate S”. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: – new book which is just out. It`s called “Directorate S: The
CIA and America`s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. If you want to
know why the Afghan war is this long and still going, this is the closest
thing we`ve ever had to an answer as a country.
Let me ask you about something that I guess shouldn`t have surprised me but
I didn`t see it coming, until I got to it in the book, which is General
Michael Flynn. General Flynn obviously was high ranking intelligence
officer. You document his role in the Afghan war here in a way that I
think will be eye-opening to a lot of people who only know him because of
his Trump administration controversies.
Given your reporting on him for this book, what do you make of what ended
up happening to him?
COLL: He was promoted above the level he was suited for when he was
appointed to lead the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is a big
bureaucracy and really a Washington insider`s job. He spent years and
years on the battlefield. He was really trained as a tactical intelligence
leader, a door kicker like, what`s over that hill? How should we take this
convoy so our people don`t get hurt? All of that sort of stuff he was very
But when he got back to Washington, he got into an ecosystem where he had
strong views about what should be done but he really didn`t have the
subtlety or the experience, and then when he got fired at DIA during the
Obama administration, I think it really infuriated him and set him off a
course I can`t explain entirely, but which is very different from what he
was in the military.
MADDOW: You also – nobody comes off well, I should say in the book,
spoiler alert. The State Department comes off marginally has having a
slightly better understanding in sometime and some places about approaching
both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Are you concerned about the real atrophy of
the State Department that we`ve seen under Tillerson in terms of having a
material effect on what you`re documenting here?
COLL: Yes, deeply, because we keep going out to Afghanistan and saying we
can`t win this war militarily, certainly not against the Taliban. And yet,
and generals say there, not just civilians that were at State Department
officers. And yet we keep prioritizing military action.
To complement that or to ultimately make – replace it, we need diplomacy.
We need a State Department that`s out active negotiating for whatever is
possible in a difficult region.
MADDOW: And that has smart people that know their stuff.
COLL: Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: Steve Coll, now the dean of Colombia Graduate School of
Journalism, author of the new book, “Directorate S”, which will be a
bestseller, deservedly so and will win all awards that it should be up for.
COLL: Rachel, thank you.
MADDOW: Yes, I know it embarrasses you. That`s why I say it.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: It`s one of the nights when the news keeps happening. Quick
update on two stories that we`ve touched on already over the course of this
hour, both of which have developed materially since we have spoken of them
in the last few minutes.
First, there is a CNN report now that White House chief strategist Steve
Bannon will not appear before the White House Intelligence Committee
tomorrow despite a subpoena to do so. Again, NBC News has not confirmed it
but there`s an initial report his evening that Bannon will be defying the
subpoena this morning despite what we just heard from Congressman Eric
Swalwell that he expects him to be there. That`s one to watch.
Also, we talked at the very top of the hour about the huge market sell off
both Friday and today. Friday, 666 points off the Dow. Today, almost 1200
In the Dow futures which is basically people`s bet for where it`s going to
open tomorrow, they`re down over 1,000 right now. That is traders bets on
what the market will open at tomorrow. That is – that`s deep.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.”
Good evening, Lawrence.
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