Authorities in TX responding to explosion. TRANSCRIPT: 03/20/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show

Carol Leonnig, Mark Warner

March 20, 2018
Guest: Carol Leonnig, Mark Warner

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HGOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this

We have a lot to get to tonight, really a lot to get to over the course of
this hour, including this breaking news this hour from Austin, Texas, where
as you just saw with Chris, law enforcement has been dealing with a series
of scary and in some cases deadly bombings.

The bombings started on March 2nd when a package exploded and killed a man
on his porch in Austin. Altogether, the bombings this month in Austin have
killed two people and wounded four before tonight. Now, plus, another
person who was hurt when a package exploded before dawn this morning at a
FedEx facility about an hour south of town.

Well, now, tonight, we have reports just within the last hour of another
explosion. This would be the sixth bomb, the sixth explosion.

The initial reporting from the “A.P.” is that it happened at a Goodwill
Store. We`re told that a man in his 30s has been injured in this latest
blast. He`s been taken to the hospital with potentially serious but
reportedly non-life threatening injuries. We`re going to be talking live
to a reporter on the scene in Austin, Texas, in just a moment, as you`ve
been watching this news unfold. You can tell that this story is
developing, and we`re just starting to get first information, first
credible information from first responders and law enforcement on the
scene. And so, we will be getting a live report on that in just a few
moments with a reporter on the scene.

Now, I should also tell you that we`ve got Virginia Senator Mark Warner
here tonight for the interview. This is – I think an important time to
have Senator Warner here, it appears to be a moment of crisis for the
Intelligence Committees in Congress. Senator Warner is going to be joining
us live for an extended interview coming up later on this hour.

On November 9th, 2016, the day after the Trump Clinton presidential
election, the CEO of the data firm that the Trump campaign had used during
the election, they put out a proud statement about what had just happened.
They put out a statement that said, quote, we are thrilled that our
revolutionary approach to data-driven communications played such an
integral part in President-elect Donald Trump`s extraordinary win.

That statement in response to the news that Donald Trump had just won the
presidential election that was from the CEO with the firm Cambridge
Analytica, Alexander Nix.

Today, Alexander Nix, was removed from the firm Cambridge Analytica. The
company`s board of directors announcing that they`re removing him as CEO
pending an immediate investigation into his recent statements about the
company`s practices in recent election campaigns. This follows a third day
of reporting from Britain`s Channel 4, including new tape today where
Alexander Nix proudly explains what his company`s role was in getting
Donald Trump elected.


REPORTER: Have you met with Mr. Trump?

research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We run all
the digital campaign, the television campaign, and our data informed all
the strategy.


BURNETT: All the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the
targeting we ran, all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our
data informed all the strategy. We did it, basically.

That CEO of Trump`s campaign – Trump campaigns data firm is now out at
that company as of tonight. British investigators are seeking search
warrants for the company`s servers and databases here in the United States.
The Federal Trade Commission has now announced an investigation into
Facebook because of its dealings with this company.

And in the context of the ongoing special counsel`s investigation by Robert
Mueller and his team of prosecutors, questions are now being raised about
several aspects of this firm and its work for the Trump campaign, including
this new revelation from a whistleblower from the firm`s former research
director who says the core data that the firm was built around that the
spine of the company was data that was obtained for the company from
Facebook illicitly by a Russian-speaking Cambridge University professor who
had a joint appointment at a Russian university and who`s been getting
research grants from the Russian government.

The same whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica is also reporting that a
Russian oil company close to the Putin government also took meetings with
Cambridge Analytica ahead of the U.S. presidential election, meeting
specifically focused on techniques to influence American voters. Why would
a Russian oil company care about that?

So, that`s all were sort of roiling the background, right, in today`s news.
The president reportedly approaching yet another Republican super lawyer to
try to add some talent to his Russia legal team. “The Washington Post”
reporting that the president`s request to former Solicitor General Ted
Olson came, quote, as the president is feeling more vulnerable to the
investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The president has
told confidants he wants to recruit top-tier talent for his legal team,
which is probably not a very nice thing for his existing, not necessarily
top-tier legal team to read in “The Washington Post”.

But, alas, Ted Olson has turned down the president, has turned down the
president who requested that he joined his Russia team. This comes after
at least one other blue chip lawyer in recent days has also reportedly
turned down the president. But the mere fact that the president is trying
to get new lawyers on board at this late date tells you something of how
serious things have become in recent days, or how newly serious the White
House perceives them to be.

Our closest overseas ally in the world is Great Britain. I think they – I
mean, they still – I mean, at least that`s what we`ve all thought for the
past several generations. Let`s just assume there`s still our most
important overseas ally.

As such, it`s important to us as a country that Britain right now is
dealing with an incredibly serious situation of their own.


THERESA MAY, PRIME MINSTER, UNITED KINGDOM: The attempted assassination of
two people on British soil for which there is no alternative conclusion
other than that the Russian state was culpable, it is Russia that is in
flagrant breach of international law and the chemical weapons convention.
We will never tolerate a threat to the life of British citizens and others
on British soil from Russian government.

quarrel is with Putin`s Kremlin, and with his decision. And we think it
overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve
agent on the streets of the U.K., on the streets of Europe for the first
time since the Second World War. That is that is why we are at odds with

MAY: The United Kingdom will now expel Russian diplomats who have been
identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to


MADDOW: Those Russian diplomats, undeclared intelligence officers, they
got kicked out of the U.K. today. We`ve actually got footage of them
leaving. These are the Russian diplomats and their families. Altogether,
the Russian embassy says it was about 80 people in total bundled into vans
and taken to Stansted Airport outside London, where they then boarded a
Russian state-owned plane which flew them all to Moscow.

These diplomats or undeclared intelligence agents, they were expelled by
Britain today, as punishment for the nerve agent poisoning of former
Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British
city of Salisbury, and attack that Britain and its European allies and the
U.S. government all agree was carried out by the Russian government. Now,
one of the reasons everybody`s so certain this poisoning was carried out by
the Russians is that the nerve agent used in the attack was invented by the
Russians. They`re the only ones on earth who are known to possess it.
It`s a class of nerve agents called Novichok.

And when you`re dealing with a proprietary secret military weapon that
incidentally is illegal and that only one country has, it`s particularly
scary to think about something like that being brought into a provincial
town in Britain and used in an attempted assassination. But even beyond
the fear factor, just as a practical matter, we as the general public can`t
even really imagine what this particular agent might physically do to
people when it`s used on them.

Since the Skripals were attacked on March 4th, more than two weeks ago, it
is striking how little we found out about the condition of the two people
who were attacked. We know that Sergei and Yulia Skripal have been in the
hospital, in critical condition since they were both found slumped on a
bench on March 4th. We are told they are both still alive, but that`s it.

Today, a Russian publication called “The Bell” ran an interview with a man
who says that he helped create this class of nerve agents for the Russian
military, and if what this scientist says is true, it`s a lot more
information but it`s not the kind of information I`m – I`m not sure I`m
happy to know this information. It`s unsettling.

In “The Bell” today, this reporter asked the scientist, quote, is there
even a minimal chance that the victims of this poisoning might recover? He
replies, quote, most likely, they will suffer the same fate as earlier
victims. There is no antidote to these agents. I can say with nearly 100
percent certainty that if Skripal and his daughter are taken off of life
support, they will die, although they are now only technically alive.

So, that`s the assessment of this man who says he was one of the creators
of this Russian nerve agent. We posted a link to “The Bells” English
translation of that interview on our Website tonight. Fair warning, it
will keep you up.

That scientist, though, also says that the Russian government manufactured
this type of nerve agent in the 1970s, in the 1980s, in batches as large as
several kilos, as in several kilograms. He says he has no idea what
happened to those stockpiles, quote, large doses were stored in a special
warehouse in sealed packaging. I don`t know anything else about what then
happened to those doses beyond where they were stored.

So, that`s the situation in our closest overseas ally right now. Two
people remain in critical condition after an attack with a Russian nerve
agent. The existence of which is a surprise to most people on earth, let
alone its appearance on a British park bench.

Twenty-three diplomats and their families expelled as of today. The U.K.`s
leaders condemning Russia in the strongest possible terms. Oh, and another
death of another Russian Kremlin critic on British soil now being
investigated by British counterterrorism police in a murder inquiry his
death eight days after the Skripal attack. It`s very serious stuff in
Britain right now.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, it was just five days ago that the
Trump administration finally enacted some sanctions on Russia for their
interference in our election in 2016, after slow-walking for months the
sanctions that the Trump administration was legally required to impose on
Russia, after denying the intelligence community`s conclusion that Russia
was responsible for that attack, finally, five days ago the us government
under Donald Trump finally admitted that, yes, the Russians did mess with
our election and, yes, we will OK agree to do something about it. And so,
they, finally, for the first time put these sanctions on. That was five
days ago.

Also, five days ago, the very same day the U.S. finally issued these
sanctions on Russia for its actions in the 2016 election, at the same time
that same day, we also got this very serious technical announcement from
the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security about Russian government
attackers going after American infrastructure, specifically going after
U.S. power plants. This technical alert from the department of homeland
security and the FBI announcing that Russian government entities have
hacked into U.S. power plants not just to mess with them or steal data, but
so they would have the ability to turn the American electric grid on and
off at will.

It`s been sort of an intense couple of weeks, right? Poisoning two people
with a previously unknown nerve agent in broad daylight on the streets of
Britain – freaking serious, right? Hacking into the American electric
grid so as to have the power to turn it on and off, at will – also
frigging serious. Not to mention all the election stuff, right? I mean,
Russia`s behavior is a little bit off the hook right now.

And this morning, this is what the president of the United States had to
say about it.


Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. The
call had to do also with the fact that we will probably get together in the
not-too-distant future. We had a very good call and I suspect that we`ll
probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future. So, I think probably
will be seeing President Putin in the not-too-distant future.


MADDOW: President Trump called Moscow to congratulate Vladimir Putin on
his big election win this weekend, which was easier to win because he
wouldn`t let his opponents run.

But just in case you missed the important part, he repeated it three times
for you – such a good call, he`s such a good guy, did I mention we`re
getting together in the not-too-distant future? In the not-too-distant
future where we`re getting together, I think we`ll be seeing him in the
not-too-distant future.

Oh, and by the way, the reason we knew there had been a call at all was
because once again, the Kremlin announced it. Quote: on the whole, the
conversation was constructive and businesslike with a focus on overcoming
the accumulated problems in Russian-American relations, said the Kremlin
this morning.

And then a reporter asked Trump about it because we`d gotten word from the
Kremlin and that allowed him to deliver the great news about, yes, scoring
a meeting with Putin.

Well, now, tonight, “The Washington Post” has one of these scoops that
sounds like it was made up for a satirical movie about this kind of
situation at the top of American political leadership. Carol Leonnig,
David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey are now reporting that when the president
decided to make this call to President Putin today, he sort of went rogue
even against his own advisors. Here`s the lead of their story – again,
this is almost unbelievable, just listen to this.

President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security
advisors when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin today on
his re-election, including a section in his briefing materials in all
capital letters stating, quote, do not congratulate. I`m just going to
leave that up on the screen there for a second so you can let that wash
over you.

The president`s national security advisors wrote him a note in all capital
letters saying, do not congratulate Putin for his sham election victory, do
not legitimize that fake election, do not say congratulations, all capital
letters. And then the president gets on the phone with them and says, hey,

There`s more. Quote: President Trump also chose not to heed talking points
from aides instructing him – instructing him to condemn Putin about the
recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a
powerful nerve agent. Make sure you don`t congratulate him and condemn him
for the nerve agent thing.

Earlier in the day, we did have the heads-up from the White House that
somehow that difficult subject just didn`t come up.


REPORTER: And you said election meddling didn`t come up in the call. I`m
curious, did the recent poisoning in the United Kingdom come up in the

SANDERS: I didn`t believe that was discussed in today`s call.


MADDOW: You know, it`s funny you should mention. I don`t think that came
up. I don`t.

Well, now, thanks to this new reporting from Carol Leonnig and her
colleagues at “The Washington Post”, we know that that subject didn`t come
up even after national security aides at the White House specifically
advised the president that if he was going to call Putin, he really needed
to condemn Putin for that.

Remember, the U.S. government has joined the U.K. in concluding that that
nerve agent attack was committed by the Russian government and condemning
that attack. So, the president aides say – president`s aides say if
you`re going to call the person who we as the U.S. government have said is
responsible for that attack, you have to bring up that attack.

Why would the president disregard that kind of advice? Why would the
president blow off and thereby sort of legitimize a nerve agent attack on
British soil that the U.S. government has said was committed by Russia?
Why would he neglect to mention that? Why would he forget to condemn that?

Why would the president ignore the old capital letters warning: do not
congratulate when he nevertheless congratulates Putin and just ignores the
nerve agent attack. What`s driving his behavior? What is driving his
behavior that is so different than what his own national security staff
believe is the right thing for the country?

What explains the distance between what the president is doing and what his
own national security staff say the president of the United States needs to

Joining us now is Carol Leonnig, one of the reporters on this piece just
public by “The Post” tonight.

Carol, congratulations on the scoop. Thanks for joining us.


MADDOW: So, the phrasing in your report is that these were warning –
specific warnings to the president from his national security advisors. Do
we know what kind of advisors these were, the people within the
administration who are giving the president this kind of advice?

LEONNIG: So, whenever the president has a call with a foreign leader,
there is usually a lot of effort put into briefing him about the important
hot topics in that region. What he`s likely to be asked by the foreign
leader and what issues that are really like the hot lists that he should
address with that person. And there`s a panoply of people that are
involved in putting together this information to prepare the president for
an important call. Each one of these calls is considered part of our
foreign diplomacy.

And cue cards essentially – I mean, index cards are provided to kind of
guide this president and others in the past through the call. And
apparently, these staffers felt that it was important to make clear that
there were key topics that should come up and some key things that
shouldn`t be said, and the president seemed to basically choose for himself
what he should do, which is his right.

MADDOW: Is it clear that the president did accept some of the other advice
of his national security aides and these were – on this Putin call in
particular, that this warning not to congratulate Putin, this warning that
he should make sure to condemn the nerve agent attack in the U.K., were
those the only things that he disregarded advice about or do we know?

LEONNIG: That`s really all that we do know, other than what the president
and Sarah Sanders and some sources have said did – were topics that came
up in the meeting, for example, Syria and North Korea. But these are the
two places where we know things kind of went off of the script.

And the reason that it is concerning is not because the president has the
right to make these decisions all on his own, but there was a perception
that it would not be very good given the current state of affairs. We`re
under investigation here in the White House for potential campaign ties to
Russians, outreach from Russians to the Trump advisor team. It wouldn`t
look too good because really, our ally, the United Kingdom is now facing
the attack on its own soil on a – not a citizen, but a person who was in
their country. That`s considered very serious.

One of our allies is struggling with that issue and believes that the
Russians are culpable. It was not viewed as a particularly good idea to
congratulate Putin on his election in this moment, but the president chose
to do it.

MADDOW: We`ve seen – and you mentioned this in your piece and I thought
this was an important reference, that we`ve seen the president hold
handwritten notes giving him sort of cues for conversations with people
before. This one famously where the fifth point on the handwritten note
was I hear you. This is for a meeting with shooting survivors after the
Parkland, Florida school massacre. So, we`ve seen the president get these
kind of notes before.

What`s particularly striking in this case is that we haven`t learned about
this all caps warning, do not congratulate Putin, the warning make sure to
put to condemn Putin over the nerve agent. We haven`t learned this because
somebody in the case of that – like in the case of that shooting, took a
snapshot of the picture we managed to get a glimpse of it.

Clearly, people who are familiar with these warnings from the president`s
national security aides wanted to make it known to national security
reporters to you and your colleagues at “The Post”, that the president
ignored this advice.

I don`t want you to – I`m not trying to get you to talk about your
sources, but is it your sense and your reporting that that this was an
effort by the president`s own staffers to kind of signal to him that what
he did was wrong or that it was dangerous or to try to sort of raise the
alarm about the president`s behavior.

LEONNIG: I`d be careful about intuiting too much about our sourcing.

I will tell you, Rachel, that after the president`s call with Vladimir
Putin, there was quite a kerfuffle in the White House about what had just
gone down, a sort of OMG moment of what are we going to say about this
call? Are we going to say that the president congratulated Putin? Well,
the Russians kind of took that choice out of the hands of the White House
by announcing that that Trump had congratulated their leader.

But there was quite a burst of activity trying to figure out what to do, so
this became fairly widely known pretty quickly.

MADDOW: That`s remarkable.

Carol Leonnig, national reporter for “The Washington Post” – again,
congratulations on this scoop. This is obviously really important. It`s
also just fascinating. Thanks.

LEONNIG: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Again, just to underscore what Carol just said, her phrase exactly
– quite a kerfuffle, an OMG moment and a burst of activity in the White
House to figure out how to make sense and explain this call between the
president and Vladimir Putin today.

We had not known in advance this call was going to happen. The Kremlin was
first to announce it, and now we are told that the president ignored his
national security aides` direct advice that he should not congratulate
Putin, he went ahead and did it, and that he should make sure to condemn
the Russian nerve attack in – nerve agent attack in the U.K.

Remarkable reporting, remarkable story.

All right. Coming up next, we`re going to go live to Austin, Texas. We
are getting some new and important information about the reported explosion
that sent one person to the hospital tonight, in a city that is very much
on edge after a series of – a series of bombings in that Texas city.
We`ve got that live report coming up, along with Senator Mark Warner.

A lot going on tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: We`re looking live at the scene in Austin, Texas, tonight, where
we`re following breaking news. Now, this was initially reported as an
explosion after a series of five bombs that have exploded in and around
Austin since March 2nd.

Just in the past few minutes though, Austin authorities are now saying that
what happens at a Goodwill store in south Austin tonight wasn`t the result
of a bomb but instead they`re saying it was some sort of incendiary device.
Austin police just put out a statement that says at this time, we have no
reason to believe this incident is related to previous package bombs.

Now, this incident tonight reportedly happened as I said at a Goodwill
Store. A man in his 30s has reportedly been taken to the hospital with
what are being described as serious injuries – serious injuries though
that are not life-threatening.

Austin, Texas, of course, is one of America`s great cities, a cultural
capital that is unique and beloved and important at lots of different
levels. And Austin has been in the grip of this bizarre string of bombings
all this month. In the past 19 days, two people have been killed, another
five people have been injured in five separate explosions before whatever
this was at this Goodwill Store on Brodie Lane in Austin tonight.

The first bomb in Austin went off on March 2nd. A package was that was
left on a porch exploded and that seemed like a bizarre standalone story.
But then it happened a second time, and then it happened a third time, then
over this weekend, a bomb was set off by what investigators described as a
tripwire, which made it seem like a whole different type of device. Two
people injured with the tripwire bomb.

Then, overnight in the pre-dawn hours, there was an explosion of a package
at a FedEx facility. And then a second package at that same facility that
was reportedly intercepted before it could explode. Now, authorities
believe those incidents are all related.

And then we got word of another explosion in Austin tonight. But again,
this intriguing and interesting news just moments ago from the Austin
Police Department, Austin police saying they don`t believe the one tonight
is related.

Their statement tonight says, quote: There was no package explosion in the
9800 hundred block of Brodie Lane in Austin. Items inside package was not
a bomb rather an incendiary device. At this time, we have no reason to
believe this incident is related to previous package bombs.

So, this is a still developing situation. Let`s go right to our reporter
on the ground in Austin tonight. NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez who`s been following
this story closely.

Gabe, thank you very much for joining us.

Let me first just ask you to correct me if there was anything that I just
said right there that does not comport with your understanding of events.

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hi there, Rachel,

No, you pretty much hit it spot-on. The one thing you did mention that
there was a second bomb that was intercepted at a FedEx facility down near
San Antonio. That actually was intercepted at effects facility near the
Austin airport, but as you mentioned just within the past couple of hours
authorities had linked all five of those previous explosions plus that six
package as being part of this serial bomber.

But as you mentioned, within the past few minutes, we just got word that
this latest – what we thought was an explosion – is now being labeled not
a bomb but an incendiary device. But we can tell you, Rachel, as we`re
here on the scene, in Brodie Lane right now, this is a massive, massive
police presence. A strip mall has been evacuated.

Just a few moments ago, I spoke with the president of Goodwill of Central
Texas, he gave us just a few more details on what exactly happened here.
He says, just a short time ago, one of his employees in his 30s was
actually looking through a bag of donations and that is when he noticed a
flash of some sort, according to the president of Goodwill Central Texas.

And that flash, people started moving away from the bag of donations and
this employee suffered minor injuries to his hand. So, initially we had
heard there were serious injuries according to this – the president of
Goodwill of Central Texas. He says that it was minor injuries.

He actually, as we were speaking to him, he was getting updates from his –
from his staff, and it does appear to be a very fluid situation here. And,
Rachel, I really think this speaks to the – how much this city is on edge
just a – you know, a short time before maybe an hour, an hour and a half
ago, the initial call was that this was yet another explosion and the ATF,
FBI, Austin police were all responding to this as if it could be yet
another one of these explosions.

But again within the past few minutes that the breaking news that this is
not believed to be related to those other explosions, the five other
explosions. This was that sixth package that was intercepted, Rachel.

MADDOW: Now, Gabe, in terms of the authorities saying that those other
bombs as other packages as other explosions are all linked. Crucially,
we`re talking about five ones that blew up and one that didn`t. From
everything I know from talking to law enforcement sources in cases like
this, having an unexploded device, having an intact piece of evidence to
look at can be crucial in terms of trying to do forensics, to find the
bomber and to figure out what`s been going on here.

Do we know anything about how they linked the five bombs, how they
concluded that those were all linked and whether this unexploded device
that the second FedEx facility has been a key to their investigation?

GUTIERREZ: Well, as you know, Rachel, authorities have been very tight-
lipped about the details of those packages. But we can tell you the fourth
in the fifth bomb at least is our understanding that it contained nails in
order to inflict more damage. That`s according to – in the fourth bomb,
the tripwire bomb, we spoke with the grandfather of one of the victims who
says that his grandson had nails in his (INAUDIBLE) and was very seriously

In the fifth explosion, that one that just happened overnight just north of
San Antonio, in that case, according to the dispatch logs, the initial
report was, yes, that there was that there were nails in that package as

We do not know in the sixth package, the one that went – that was not
detonated or not a – did not explode, we`re understanding it was they were
about to detonate it later on the day, at least authorities were. We don`t
know what type of, you know, forensic information they were able to get
from that package.

But certainly, Rachel, today has been a crucial day for investigators
because they have been able to not only get that package, but also
surveillance video from that on another FedEx facility where the serial
bomber suspected of mailing two of those packages. That was another FedEx
facility in an Austin suburb also on Brodie Lane that authorities are
looking at right now to try and determine more information about how this
all went down.

MADDOW: NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez on the scene for us in Austin, Texas – Gabe,
I know that you`ve been working this story really hard. Thank you for
joining us tonight. Much appreciated, my friend.


MADDOW: What Gabe was just saying there in terms of the progress of the
investigation is heartening. This is a long time to have gone and this is
a lot of bombs for Austin to have gone through and a lot of people hurt and
too many people killed, to not yet be closing in on someone.

But again interesting news tonight that although there was a sixth incident
in Austin, this incident at a – at a Goodwill store and the 9800 block of
Brodie Lane in Austin, Texas, Austin police are saying that in this case,
they do not think this latest incident was related to the earlier five
bombs and the sixth unexploded device they were able to recover from a
FedEx facility.

Much more to get to tonight. Senator Mark Warner joins us next. Stay with



“Defeat Crooked Hillary”. You`ll remember this of course? “Crooked
Hillary”, I mean, and the zeros, the OO of crooked were a pair of handcuffs
and it was all about –

REPORTER: Like prisoner?

TURNBULL: She belongs behind bars.

REPORTER: And you have created this?

TURNBULL: “Defeat Crooked Hillary”. And then, we put – we made creative,
hundreds of different kinds of creative, and we put it online.


MADDOW: The Os, the Os more handcuffs in crooked, get it? Like prison

The guy talking about that neat word art is named Mark Turnbull, he works
for a company called Cambridge Analytica, just the data firm hired by the
Trump campaign in 2016. But the handcuff shaped Os in crooked are not the
only thing the company is taking credit for.


ALEXANDER NIX, CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA CEO: When you think about the fact that
Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but won the Electoral
College vote, that`s down to the data and the research. If you did your
rallies in the right locations, you move more people out in those key swing
states on election day, that`s how we won the election.

REPORTER: Have you met with Mr. Trump?

NIX: Many times. We did all the research, all the data, all the
analytics, all the targeting. We run all the digital campaign, the
television campaign, and our data informed all the strategy.


MADDOW: All the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the
targeting, all the digital campaign, all the television campaign and we
provided all the data for all of it, all the things.

Britain`s Channel 4 releasing more undercover video today from its multiday
investigation into Cambridge Analytica. Footage today of CEO Alexander Nix
bragging about his firm`s work for the whole – the Trump campaign, follows
that the footage they put out yesterday of the same CEO detailing fairly
sordid services that he said Cambridge Analytica could offer to help you
win your election, something involving Ukrainian girls being sent to your

At the heart of this reporting is the allegation that Cambridge Analytica
built its whole operation on Facebook data, that it took without permission
from as many as 50 million unsuspecting Americans.

Well, today, Alexander Nix got suspended from his own company effective
immediately and indefinitely. This comes amid multiple new investigations
on at least two continents into the company`s practices.

With all that coming to a roiling boil, the Senate Intelligence Committee
investigating Russia`s attack on our election took a piece of their
investigation off the stove today, telling us – calling it basically
cooked. Senate Intel put out their list today of security recommendations
for how America should shore up our elections against another attack that
is surely coming.

The chairman of that committee today saying, quote: With a great deal of
confidence, it`s clear the Russian government was looking at the
vulnerabilities in our election system.

So, the CEO of the Trump campaigns data firm is suspended. There are
investigations and all that stolen data that flooded our election. The
Senate closed up a big chunk of their Russia investigation today, saying it
is complete.

And just a few days ago, the deputy director of the FBI was fired. Andrew
McCabe saying he was fired by the administration to discredit him as a
witness in special counsel Robert Mueller`s probe, in an effort to shut the
whole thing down.

So that`s three really big things going on simultaneously right now. I
have questions about all of them for the top Democrat on the Senate
Intelligence Committee.

Joining us now is Senator Mark Warner who is the vice chair of the
Intelligence Committee. He joins us now live.

Senator, thank you so much for your time tonight. I know it`s an
incredibly busy time.

Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask you first about Cambridge Analytica. Obviously, you
have a tech background yourself. You`ve taken a particularly acute
interest in the data side and the money side and the sort of not front page
side of how the Russian attack worked in our election.

How concerned are you about these recent journalistic revelations about
Cambridge Analytica? Are these things that are now being reported about
the firm and the way it operates news to you or some of the stuff that you
have been able to figure out in the Intelligence Committee`s investigation?

WARNER: Well, Rachel, I had questions about Cambridge Analytica since the
beginning of this investigation. This is a pretty sketchy firm that not
only operated on behalf of Mr. Trump but operated in a series of countries.
They were known for their ability to disrupt an electoral process and it
potentially explains why in so many ways, the Trump campaign in effect
crept up on a lot of folks because their ability to use data, to use our
social media companies in ways prior to this last election. I don`t think
the United States government and frankly some of these companies were
prepared for.

But Cambridge Analytica, I think there`s a lot more stories to be told from
that firm.

MADDOW: When the firm does the sales pitch – because of the undercover
investigation by British Channel 4, we`ve seen them marketing themselves
and bragging about their capabilities to an undercover reporter who they
thought was a potential client. When I look at that reporting and I see
the way Cambridge Analytica describes itself in public versus the way –
they described itself in private versus the way they played down their
influence in the Trump campaign in their public statements, part of me is
left wondering, you know, is this just typical political strategy? Is this
the way that all strategy firms work, that they talk a big game in private,
that they try to play down their effectiveness in public, they don`t
necessarily want to get blamed for anything dirty.

Is it clear to you that they were doing something substantially different
than other public political consulting firms do?

WARNER: Well, Cambridge Analytica in effect said they had a new formula, a
better ability to really drill down on millions of Americans in terms of
personal wants and needs, and I believe because some of this effort was
supplemented at least indirectly, we don`t know whether it was directly by
a number of fakes accounts that the Russians used social media on Facebook,
Twitter and other social media platforms and this brew – their claims are
pretty outrageous but as had been mentioned by the former CEO or the CEO
was suspended, they were using other techniques with actually humans in
other countries.

MADDOW: Is it clear to you that there is any link at all between Cambridge
Analytica and the Russian attack on our election during 2016?

WARNER: I think that is a question that still needs to be explored. For a
long time, there were questions raised. How was the Trump campaign able to
so better target swing voters better than any other campaign?

Now, part of this, we found some of the answers of the last few days, they
used a so-called academic, a Russian British individual who solicited
individuals, 275,000 who agreed in effect to do a survey where they told
this individual about their likes and dislikes. Using that survey, they
were able – this individual who had an affiliation with Cambridge
Analytica, was able to in effect penetrate not only those 275,000 who
signed up, but literally 50 million Americans` accounts on Facebook, and
they were able to in effect leverage that information in ways that we need
to get answers on that potentially affected the auction results because
clearly, Facebook knew this was happening before the 2016 election cycle.
They said it was inappropriate.

Now I believe the lawyers are now deciding and arguing about whether
Facebook had a legal obligation to notify these 50 million Americans that
their personal information may have been used on behalf of the Trump
campaign. The lawyers can argue about that, but I would hope a company
that relies on the basic trust of so many of us, that they would do the
right thing and notify those 50 million Americans that their personal
information may have been abused.

MADDOW: Senator Warner, I know you and Senator Burr made some important
announcements today about wrapping up, essentially coming to some
conclusions for part of the Senate investigation into the Russia attack.
If you don`t mind taking a quick break with us here for a second, I`d love
to talk to you about that when we come back.


MADDOW: All right. Senator Mark Warner will be back with us in just a
moment. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat in the Intelligence
Committee, is still with us tonight.

Senator, thank you again for being here.

Just as we were getting on the air tonight, “The Washington Post” broke the
news that the president ignored written directions to him today from his
national security aides when he called President Putin of Russia today.
His national security advisers reportedly told him in all capital letters,
do not congratulate Vladimir Putin. He congratulated Vladimir Putin on his
election this weekend. He also reportedly ignored their direct advice that
he should condemn Putin for the nerve agent attack in the U.K.

First of all, I just wanted to ask your reaction to that news, and your
reaction to the president`s congratulatory call to President Putin today.

WARNER: Well, Rachel, I think John McCain put out a statement today, and
his words were better than mine. He says the leader of the free world
doesn`t call up and congratulate a dictator over a sham election. And
clearly that`s what happened today.

And what is evident is that even Mr. Trump`s own advisers say it`s time now
to stand with our closest ally, the U.K. He chose not to raise that issue.

Obviously, this was an election in Russia where the candidates who had a
potential chance of better contesting Mr. Putin didn`t even get a chance to

America has always been about free elections and spreading democracy around
the world. And here, we`re congratulating a leader who`s against the
principles that America stands for.

And unfortunately, Rachel, before you went to the break, you`re talking
what we did with our committee, one of the reasons we acted today with the
Illinois primary happening, with elections already happening this year is
we`ve had in the last three weeks, public testimony again from Trump
advisers who were the FBI director, the director of national intelligence,
the National Security Agency director, all saying that Russia was going to
continue to intervene. They did it at a very cheap price. They would
continue to do it. They`re intervening in other elections.

And they all said they had not received any directions from the White House
to make election security a top priority.

So, our committee came out bipartisan, virtually every member of the
committee showed up at the press conference today and said, hey, we need to
do some basic blocking and tackling. We need to make sure that election
security officials have appropriate clearances so they can be informed if
we see patterns of election interference. We need to make sure every
voting machine has an auditable paper trail. Even if they hack, there is a
paper trail that we can audit.

We need to make sure that we provide very information sharing so we are on
guard because these Russian tactics did not end in 2016, and they will
continue unless we`re better protected. That`s why I thought it was
important for us to act as a committee.

Again, I would point out in a bipartisan way on this topic of election

MADDOW: And as you point out, it is very important that those are
bipartisan recommendations. There`s been so little that is bipartisan in
the public discussion about the attack in 2016 and the way to prepare for
it. Moving ahead, is there a – is there a vehicle, is there a legislative
vehicle, is there a funding vehicle for getting some of these
recommendations accomplished and quickly?

WARNER: Well, there is actually broadly based bipartisan legislation which
I agreed to co-sponsor today. Three Republicans, three Democrats. It`s
common sense. This shouldn`t require huge action.

This is – you know, nothing is more basic than protecting the integrity of
our voting process. And we`ve got to have that paper trail. We`ve got to
have that information sharing. You know, there is protecting the actual
voting machines, protecting the voter files.

I also frankly think we need to put out some good cyber hygiene habits for
basic campaigns. Campaigns are the ultimate startups, and they oftentimes
may not have cyber high on their list. But we have to be protected because
what we`ve seen, and not only in terms of Russian intervention in our
elections, but Russia attempted interventions in the French elections,
observations they intervened in the Spanish Catalan elections. The British
have come and visited because they`ve seen intervention in terms of the
Brexit vote.

We in Western democracies have to be on our guard.

MADDOW: Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat, the vice-chairman of the
Intelligence Committee, thank you, sir. I really appreciate the time with
you tonight. Thanks.

WARNER: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.



JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I knew that there might come a day when
I would need a record of what had happened not just to defend myself but to
defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of
our investigative function.


MADDOW: Before the president fired him from the FBI last year, FBI
Director James Comey made a habit of writing down in detail what happened
between him and the president. As he says, the president tried to get him
to pledge his personal loyalty and as he says, the president asked him to
back off the Russia investigation involving Trump`s national security

James Comey has stuck to his telling of that story to spite attempts by the
president to embarrass him or even scare him off. The president repeatedly
calling him now lying James Comey and now playground taunting that James
Comey`s notes about his interactions with the president are somehow fake

This weekend, James Comey called that question directly. Quote: Mr.
President, the American people will hear my story very soon and they can
judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.

Part of that I believe is that Mr. Comey has a new book coming out. It`s
called “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership”. James Comey`s book
comes out in mid-April.

The other important thing to know though is that on the occasion of that
book, James Comey is going to be doing interviews in public, including
sitting down with me here on this show. That date will be April 19th,
Thursday, April 19th, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I am so excited about it that I`m
telling you now we are just getting started on the prep work. It tells you
how long it takes us to do stuff like this, but it also tells you we`re
pretty excited.

James Comey live, April 19th. You can put it in your date book now.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” tonight with Ari Melber sitting in for

Good evening, Ari.



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