Manafort accuese Mueller deputy of leaking to press. TRANSCRIPT: 05/22/2018. The Rachel Maddow Show
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: May 22, 2018
Guest: James Clapper
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Greatest lawyer of her generation, endorsed by
the entire primetime line-up between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Eastern on
Well done, my friend. Well done.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
This has been another one of those days when news has been breaking in big
waves, big crashing waves all afternoon and into this evening.
South Korean president came to the White House today, whereupon President
Trump announced that the planned summit between him and the dictator of
North Korea might not happen now. Supposed to happen three weeks from
today, but now it may be won`t happen at all. OK.
The Republican controlled Congress tonight has voted to repeal many of the
regulations that were passed after the Wall Street collapse in 2008, which
threw the country into the worst economic tail spin since the great
depression, ten years down the road from that disaster. The safety
features that were put in place to protect the country from any similar
Wall Street crash in the future, those safety measures will now in large
part be stripped away.
Congress passed this repeal literally on the same day it was reported that
the big banks in this country just had their most profitable quarter ever.
So, it`s not like the banks needed relief from the onerous regulation here
that was holding them back. They`re doing better than ever. Congress
still felt the need to do even more.
So, as a nation, we will saw the seat belts out of the cars and see what
happens. President Trump is expected to sign the bill, of course. And the
distant roar you hear is not peepers looking for dates. Those are
champagne corks hitting the ceiling at every firm on Wall Street.
Hold onto your wallet for this one. The president`s legal jeopardy may
have taken a leap forward tonight with news first broken in the “New York
Times” that there is yet another new cooperating witness in the
investigation that has been circling the president, his associates and his
campaign. This new cooperating witness is someone who may be able to shine
a light on some dark places the White House is probably not psyched to have
Now, this is an important story. It`s a short piece run in the “New York
Times.” “The New York Times” reporters were able to get this story because
they were there at a courthouse in Albany, New York, in a case that has not
been on the national radar at all.
But what happened in that courtroom today in a 20-minute hearing has big
national implications including for the president. The story is sort of
incredible. The prevailing theory of the president`s legal jeopardy, the
potential legal jeopardy for the president has long been driven by the
prospects of who might eventually be induced by prosecutors to cooperate
with them, to tell prosecutor what is they know about interactions and
involvement between the president and Russia before, during or after the
time when Russia was intervening in the 2016 presidential election to help
Paul Manafort is obviously one bright link between the Trump campaign and
Russia. He had been a pro-Russia lobbyist and consultant for more than a
decade right up to the moment when he somewhat inexplicably started running
Donald Trump`s campaign for free. Paul Manafort`s personal financial ties
to the former soviet union, the financial circumstances around his time on
the Trump campaign, the business dealings involving Russians that appear to
have overlapped with his tenure on the Donald Trump campaign, that is all
potentially very rich territory for prosecutors who are looking at the
president and his campaign.
But thus far, Paul Manafort is not cooperating with prosecutors. He has
pled not guilty. He is fighting the multiple felony charges they have
brought against him in multiple federal jurisdictions. He`s due on trial
in his first case in just a few weeks.
So, Manafort could conceivably, could potentially be a really big problem
for the president if he flipped, but Manafort hasn`t flipped. The other
person who is potentially an even bigger problem for the president is the
president`s long time personal attorney, a long time Trump organization
executive named Michael Cohen.
Unlike Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen has not been charged with anything, but
there is an ongoing federal criminal inquiry involving Mr. Cohen which has
been unfolding in plain view in the federal courthouse in New York City.
Michael Cohen`s office and home and hotel room and safety deposit box were
all searched by federal agents. A special master has been reviewing boxes
of documents seized from Mr. Cohen and as many as a dozen electronic
devices that the agents took as well. That special master is determining
if any of those seized documents need to be kept away from prosecutors
because they represent confidential attorney/client communications.
Thus far, it doesn`t seem like that determination has been this tough. The
special master has already started handing over multiple boxes of documents
to the federal prosecutors who are handling this investigation into Michael
Michael Cohen is known to have pursued hush money deals for the president
for multiple women who have claimed to have had affairs with him. Michael
Cohen is known to have spearheaded the secret pursuit of a major Russian
real estate deal for the Trump organization during the presidential
campaign, one that reportedly included a financing deal with a sanctioned
government controlled Russian bank and direct communications with the
Kremlin to try to move the project forward.
Michael Cohen is known to have been a conduit for years for money from the
former Soviet Union into Trump real estate projects, both in New York and
around the world.
Of all the people in Trump world, Michael Cohen flipping to Cooperate with
prosecutors in an investigation into Donald Trump and his campaign`s ties
to Russia, that would likely be a very harrowing prospect for the White
House, maybe even more harrowing than the prospect of Paul Manafort
Now, Michael Cohen has loudly proclaimed himself to be impenetrably loyal
to Donald Trump. And again, at least thus far, he hasn`t even himself thus
far been charged with any crimes. That`s important because that`s the
leverage prosecutors have to get a reluctant witness to cooperate with the
The way they get you to flip is by getting the good s on you, upping the
amount of legal jeopardy that you yourself are in. Then they hoist you up
on a proverbial cliff, they dangle you over the edge, they show you the
immense legal threat you are facing personally. Then they tell you, but
you know, we can basically make that threat go away, you can make you safe,
we can make it all better for you and your family if you`ll just agree to
Well, tonight, Michael Cohen started to dangle over the edge of that
proverbial cliff. This is the headline in “The Times”. Michael Cohen`s
business partner agrees to cooperate as part of plea deal. Quote, a
significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump`s
personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a
potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure
Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference
in the 2016 presidential election.
Under the agreement, the partner Evgeny A. Freidman, known as Gene
Freidman, a Russian immigrant who`s known as the taxi king, he will avoid
jail time himself, but he will assist government prosecutors in state or
The taxi business in New York has been a foundation of Michael Cohen`s
business career for years. No offense intended, but the taxi business in
New York is also a notoriously mobbed up business. And this man, Evgeny
Freidman, who has just agreed to flip and cooperate with prosecutors, he
was Michael Cohen`s main connection to that notoriously mobbed up business.
Mr. Freidman has also of late been in a ton of legal trouble himself.
Quote: Mr. Friedman has been Michael Cohen`s partner in the taxi business
for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators banned
Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions. Mr. Freidman
was disbarred as a lawyer earlier this month. Accused of failing to pay
more than $5 million in taxes, Mr. Freidman faced four counts of criminal
tax fraud and one of grand larceny, all felonies, each carries a maximum
prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
So, he`s been dangled over the edge. He`s already disbarred. He is banned
from the business. And he was facing potentially, at least theoretically,
125 years in prison.
Now, though, now that he`s taken this deal to cooperate, he has pled guilty
to, quote, a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes. And if
he fulfills the terms of his agreement, he`s looking at no jail time at
all, just probation as long as he tells them everything he knows.
That kind of bargain makes it clear why Mr. Freidman might have taken this
deal, why he`s cooperating now. But Mr. Freidman is apparently in all that
legal trouble, at least indirectly stemming from the years that he was in
business with Michael Cohen. And there`s a live federal investigation
already against Michael Cohen.
If Michael Cohen ends up deciding that his own legal jeopardy is too
overwhelming, if he ends up himself cooperating with prosecutors in the
investigation into the Trump campaign and President Trump, then Katy bar
the door, Michael Cohen cooperating? That would be a very big deal.
Who could possibly pose a greater danger to President Trump in terms of his
own legal liability than Michael Cohen as a cooperator with prosecutors?
Is there anybody who might pose a greater danger to him in terms of what
Cohen`s been involved in with Trump?
The possibility of Michael Cohen cooperating with prosecutors just got much
more real tonight in an out of the way courtroom in Albany, New York, with
this plea deal and this cooperation agreement from Cohen`s former business
partner. Super dramatic development. We actually expect that this may
shake loose yet more new news tonight as the night progresses, so you want
to keep the TV on.
And on top of all of that, there is James Clapper. James Clapper has
written a new book that is just out today. It`s called “Facts and Fears.”
The title comes from a quote from General George Patton.
Quote: The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an
important battle decision. That`s the time to listen to every fear you
could imagine. When you have collected all the facts and all the fears and
made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead.
Clapper uses that quote and takes it as his title for his book that`s out
today in part to explain why he has chosen to write a book. He says,
quote, as I left government service, I had my own decision to make. I had
not planned to write anything.
But after experiencing the election, the unprecedented Russian interference
in our political process and the behavior by and impact of the Trump
administration, I changed my mind. He says, quote, I think the catalyst
was the stark visceral realization of seeing the fundamental pillars of our
country being undermined both by the Russians and by the president. This
I should tell you James Clapper then goes on to say some absolutely
remarkable things about the sitting president of the United States. I will
quote you what he says about President Trump in just a moment. It will
curl your hair.
But the news that James Clapper makes in this new book is remarkable not
just because of the sort of position that he`s taking and the observations
he`s making, the opinions that he`s voicing. What`s remarkable about the
news that he`s making in this new book is remarkable because of what he is
in a position to know, what he has seen, what he has been through.
Clapper was director of national intelligence under President Obama. He`s
only the fourth person to have ever held that job, which is created after
9/11. He took that job in 2010. He held it until the day Trump was
inaugurated in January 2017, which means Jim Clapper held the intelligence
director job for longer than all three people who had it before him
Clapper was there at the head of the intelligence community for all of the
intelligence scandals and stories you remember for most of the last decade.
Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden
and WikiLeaks and Benghazi and NSA spying. In the book, you get a detailed
explanation from Clapper as to what went wrong in a now famous back and
forth he had with Senator Ron Wyden, in which he said that the NSA wasn`t
collecting data on millions of Americans when in fact it was. He gives his
whole explanation about what went wrong there.
Before he was director of national intelligence, James Clapper was running
a different intelligence agency which put him in a position to be
intimately involved with the disastrous failure in advance of the Iraq war
when the intelligence community in the Bush administration said there were
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there weren`t. James Clapper
personally has negotiated the release of American prisoners from North
Korea. Clapper, when he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency,
that`s – when that agency was caught up in a huge national scandal over
the pursuit of American prisoners of war and service members listed as
missing in action long after the end of the Vietnam War.
James Clapper has been there for all of it. He is a controversial figure
in lots of different circles for lots of different reasons because he`s
been at least tangentially and in many cases centrally involved in just
about every intelligence story that has made the news in the past 30 years.
And intelligence issues rarely become national news stories because there`s
such good news, it`s almost always when something has gone bad.
But in this new book, James Clapper is scathing about President Trump,
which is remarkable itself coming from a career nonpartisan military and
intel guy who has served under every president since John F. Kennedy.
But listen to this, this comes right at the end of the book – the last
giant intelligence story and scandal that Clapper was right in the middle
of things for was obviously the Russian attack on the 2016 election. You
heard me read the part where he explains that`s part of why he decided he
was going to write a book. The book explains in great detail what the
intelligence community knew about the Russian attack, how they responded,
what decisions were made while the attack was underway while President
Obama was still president.
Again, Clapper left the job of national intelligence director on the day of
Trump`s inauguration. In the intelligence community assessment that
Clapper released in January before Trump was inaugurated, you`ll remember
that the intelligence community announced its conclusion that Russia had
attacked the presidential election, specifically to try to help Donald
Trump win, but the intelligence community didn`t try to assess whether or
not the Russian attack worked, whether they actually succeeded in giving
Trump the win when he otherwise would have lost.
That was where the intelligence community`s official assessment left off in
January 2017, just as James Clapper was leaving office after decades in
intel. Well, now that he is out of government service and a private
citizen, James Clapper is ready to say what he really thinks on that front
and what he really saw happen.
Check this out. By May 2017 when James Comey was fired as FBI director, we
had learned that the Russian operation had been even more expansive than
the intelligence community had assessed in January. We knew now that the
Russians had thousands of Twitter accounts and tens of thousands of bots
that posted more than a million tweets. They posted more than a thousand
videos on YouTube with days of streaming content.
Facebook said Russian contact reached 126 million of its American users,
which is an astonishing number considering that only 139 million Americans
voted. As the leader of the intelligence community, I testified that the
I.C. did not attempt to assess whether the Russian influence campaign
impacted the results of the election. As a private citizen, I have no
doubt they influenced at least some voters.
Looking at the savvy ways the Russians targeted specific voter groups, for
instance buying ads on Facebook, promoting Clinton`s support of the Black
Lives Matter Movement, but ensuring those ads ran only on the pages of
white conservative voters in swing states. Looking at how they created
lives that helped Trump and hurt Clinton and promoted these falsehoods
through social media and state-sponsored channels to the point that the
traditional U.S. media were unwittingly spreading Russian propaganda,
looking at how they ran a multifaceted campaign and sustained at a high
level from early 2015, until election day in 2016, Clapper concludes, of
course, the Russian effort affected the outcome of the election, surprising
even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win.
To conclude otherwise stresses logic, common sense and credulity to the
breaking points. Less than 80,000 votes in three key states swung the
election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by
these massive efforts by the Russians.
Oh, the immediate past director of national intelligence who was director
of national intelligence during the Russian attack on the election says he
has no doubt that the Russian attack in his words, quote, swung the
election to a Trump win. That means that the immediate past director of
national intelligence believes that Donald Trump is only president because
of a successful foreign intelligence operation to make him president.
And as for the question of whether or not the president`s campaign
benefitted from that operation just by dumb luck or whether they were in on
it in some way, here`s what James Clapper says now in this book that is
just out today.
Quote: As the investigations have advanced, the specter of collusion has
dominated the discussion. When I left office on January 20th, 2017, I`d
seen no smoking gun evidence that the Russian government and the Trump
campaign were in substantive coordination of their efforts. I didn`t learn
about the June 9th, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump`s closest
advisers and representatives of the Russian government purportedly to
discuss dirt on Hillary and sanctions against wealthy Russians. I didn`t
learn about that until I was firmly retired.
But what I did see as DNI is that the Russians and the campaign seemed to
employ strikingly parallel messaging in social media posts and public
statements, effectively complementing each other to great effect with no
attempt to hide it. That combined effort appeared to go well beyond
candidate Trump`s calling on a foreign power to find 30,000 missing e-mails
belonging to his political opponent or his praise for WikiLeaks, for
publishing materials Russian intelligence had stolen.
On a routine basis, whenever the public published an allegation that hurt
Clinton, the Russians would repeat, amplify and embellish that claim. And
when the Russians promulgated a conspiracy theory about her, Trump would
repeat it at campaign rallies and on Twitter. Whether secretly coordinated
or not, whether this was actual collusion or not, this parallelism
constituted a putative team effort by the Russian government and the Trump
He served as director of national intelligence for 6 1/2 years including
for the duration of the Russian attack on the 2016 election. He says in
this new book just out today that the Russian attack did sway the election,
that Donald Trump would not be president but for that attack. And he says
the Trump campaign helped in the attack. He calls it a putative team
James Clapper joins us next.
MADDOW: The director of national intelligence for nearly seven years under
President Obama was James Clapper. Director of national intelligence is a
very important role.
It`s not always a high profile one, though. It`s not a great way to get
famous. The reason James Clapper has become quite famous since leaving
that job is because, at least I think it`s because he`s not a diplomat.
That`s the title of one of the chapters in his new book. Not a diplomat.
In his public remarks and in his congressional testimony since leaving that
very important behind-the-scenes job, Jim Clapper has made a habit of
saying important and surprising things in a blunt way, in a way that
sometimes surprises the people who are asking him questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Let me start with the President`s
tweets yesterday, this idea that maybe President Obama ordered an illegal
wiretap of his offices. At this point, you can`t confirm or deny whether
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I can deny it.
TODD: There is no FISA court order?
CLAPPER: Not to know my knowledge.
TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower?
TODD: That`s an important revelation at this point.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Over the spring of 2016, multiple
European allies passed on additional information to the United States about
contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians. Is this accurate?
CLAPPER: Yes, it is. And it`s also quite sensitive.
FEINSTEIN: OK. Let me ask you this –
CLAPPER: The specifics are quite sensitive.
I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer
Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset. And that`s what he`s
doing with the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re saying Russia is handling President Trump as an
CLAPPER: That seems to be the – that`s the appearance to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is James Clapper. He`s the former director of
national intelligence. He`s the author of “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths
from A Life in Intelligence”, which is just out tonight.
Mr. Clapper, thank you for being here.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Rachel, for having me.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about what I see – what – the part where I got to
in your book where I felt like I had to rush out and go into the bullpen
where my staff works and read it out loud to everybody. You write about
the intelligence assessment that was produced in January 2017. You call it
among the most important products ever produced by U.S. intelligence. It`s
about the Russian attack on the election.
That assessment does not say whether the Russian interference had any
impact on the election`s outcome. The intelligence community has been very
clear that they didn`t try to assess that. They didn`t take a position on
that. But in your book, you say that the Russian attack did affect the
outcome of the election. It did, in effect, elect Trump.
Why do you feel like you can say that?
CLAPPER: Well, first of all, the intelligence community is not formally
chartered to – and was not formally chartered to assess public opinion or
voter decisions or anything like that in the United States. That`s beyond
our charter, beyond our capabilities, beyond our authority. So, we didn`t
The only thing we said that even touched on it was that we saw no evidence
of meddling with voter tallies. Not to say there wasn`t any, but we just
didn`t see any evidence of it.
But after we did this assessment and I left the government and having
understanding of the magnitude, the massive effort that the Soviets –
excuse me, Freudian slip – the Russians made to interfere and influence
the outcome of the election, and as you outlined in your opening monologue
on the book, when you consider the fact that the election was settled in
less than 80,000 votes in three key states which the Russians targeted, it
just stretched logic to me that it didn`t have a huge impact on the
I should say, the second point I should make. This is not an indictment of
anyone who voted for President Trump. What this is an indictment of and
what I think should be the focus here is the threat posed by Russia, who is
bent on undermining our fundamental system. And they were eminently
successful, I believe, in the election of 2016.
MADDOW: You say, page 349 of the book: as summer led into fall – this had
been 2016 – I`d begun to meet with a small group of security leaders,
which included the CIA director, homeland security secretary and a few key
White House staff. We agreed that Russia was behind an unprecedented,
aggressive, multifaceted influence campaign, using cyber thief, cyber
espionage, propaganda across the broadcast spectrum, and all the largest
social media platforms and an influx of Russian money at least for buying
advertisements, perhaps even laundered and funneled into campaigns.
At that part of the book, I felt like – I was following you all along, all
the way through – working on the largest social media platforms. This
idea that Russian money was part of the attack and was potentially
significant is new to me. What do you mean by that?
CLAPPER: Well, the money they invested, although not in the (INAUDIBLE)
scheme of things not huge amounts, but the advertising they purchased, this
kind of thing wasn`t money like, you know, bribing people or that sort of
thing. I meant it in terms of the money they expended to promulgate their
views and to focus on specific targeted groups in this country, which
basically exploited the polarization that already existed. We were a ripe
target for this.
So, I don`t want to exaggerate the amounts here. They weren`t huge. But
they were effectively employed.
And I think you get another insight into that. I sort of felt like the
indictments that were made public in February by special counsel Mueller
about the 13 Russians and what the intelligence – the Internet Research
Agency did gives you another vignette into what this was about and what the
Russians were doing.
MADDOW: The reason that the idea of money being part of the campaign is of
particular interest now even a year and a half out is because of the idea
that money is one of the things that prosecutors are very good at tracking.
That we`ve gotten good both as an intelligence community and as a law
enforcement community in this country at following dollars when they
pertain to criminal matters.
CLAPPER: Well, that`s a favorite slogan in intelligence, is follow the
money. Whether it`s for terrorists, which ultimately rely on money, or
lots of other nefarious activity that goes on which in one way or another
are going to be buttressed or supported by financial support.
MADDOW: James Clapper, I have a million other things to ask you about.
Will you sit tight for a second?
MADDOW: We`ll be right back with James Clapper, former director of
national intelligence, author of the slightly scary new book which is
called “Facts and Fears”.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: This is from the new book “Facts and Fears” by James Clapper,
former director of national intelligence. This is quite, towards the very
end of the book, page 399.
I served 34 years in the military, 16 years as a civilian in government,
six years in industry, virtually all of it in the profession of
intelligence. I always considered this a noble calling, a sacred public
trust, because simply stated, I believe in this country. Part of this
instilled ethos was a profound respect for president as commander in chief.
I served in that spirit every president, from John Kennedy through Barack
So, speaking critically of our current president is counter-instinctive and
difficult for me to do but I feel it is my duty. We have elected someone
as president of the United States whose first instincts are to twist and
distort truth to his advantage, to generate financial benefit to himself
and his family. And in so doing, to demean the values this country has
traditionally stood for.
He has set a new low bar for ethics and morality. He has caused damage to
our societal and political fabric that will be difficult and will require
time to repair. And close to my heart, he has besmirched the intelligence
community and the FBI, pillars of our country, and deliberately incited
many Americans to lose faith and confidence in them. And it goes on from
Joining us once again is James Clapper, former director of national
Sir, I wanted to quote that to you, because I am – I know a lot from
reading the book about your history as a nonpartisan intelligence and
military professional, your decades of service. It is it – is striking to
hear the strength of your critique there of the president.
Was that a hard decision to make?
CLAPPER: Yes, it was. My collaborator, Trey Brown (ph), and I labored over
that to make sure that we captured what I really wanted to say. Yes, it
was very difficult for me. I come from a military family. My father was a
military intelligence officer in World War II and through Korea and
Vietnam. And even before I became a part of the military, it was instilled
in me about this.
So, I have a long family and experience tradition for respect for the
presidency and particularly in his role as commander-in-chief. This
president makes that difficult for me.
MADDOW: The president is the subject of a long running now
counterintelligence and potentially criminal investigation related to the
Russian attack on the election, and the intelligence community and the FBI
have come under sustained attack by him and his political allies because of
that. Do you feel like, having been through what you`ve been there, there
are lessons learned, there`s advice you want to give in terms of how law
enforcement and intelligence should be handling that investigation while
enduring those attacks?
CLAPPER: Well, I think the first point I`d make is today there`s, I think,
a special burden placed on the leaders of these organizations. Dan Coates
is DNI. Now, Gina Haspel is director of CIA and Director Christopher Wray
to provide to the top cover so that their organizations can function in as
nonpolitical an environment as possible. And that is a tall order these
This is – this is a burden that I don`t think any of the predecessors –
certainly I didn`t have to worry about. They do. It`s important that the
rank and file, the great men and women that compose our intelligence
services and the FBI continue to tee up, serve up the truth to power
whether the power listens to truth or not.
And that places a huge burden, I think, on the leaders to ensure they
continue to do that. And that`s going to be a real test, I think, of the
resilience of our institutions, which are kind of under stress right now.
MADDOW: As part of the counterintelligence investigation into what Russia
was doing, we now know – it`s now been reported that a confidential
informant was used to speak with members of the Trump campaign. They were
suspected of having contacts with Russians who are involved in that attack.
The president has described that as a huge scandal and has ordered the
Justice Department to investigate that aspect of the counterintelligence
Did that happen? And was it improper?
CLAPPER: Well, I wasn`t aware of it contemporaneously, nor was I aware of
the identity of any informant, nor should I have been in my position as DNI
for the FBI, because – for the informants for the FBI, because one of the
things you – that`s important about this program which is quite legitimate
and is a very valuable source of information for the FBI is
confidentiality. And so, if someone is going to cooperate and help the
FBI, they need to know that they`re going to – their identity is going to
So, this is going to have, I think, a chilling effect on – regrettably,
the identity is out there in the media. It`s going to have a chilling
effect on other informants who already help the FBI and certainly make it
more difficult I think to recruit other informants. So, the damage from
this potentially is quite grave.
It`s deliberately shielded from political officials. So, I am sure no one
in the White House – I certainly didn`t know about it. It would be
approved at, I`m sure, a very high level within the FBI, because this is a
rigorously overseen program that had rules, regulations and protocols that
have to be adhered to, to manage an informant. And I just worry about the
damage to what`s happened here is going to do.
MADDOW: Director Clapper, I have one last matter that I want to ask you
about, which is about your contact with President Trump after the election
and a request that he made of you, which you describe I think for the first
time in the book. We take one more break. I`ll ask you about that when we
MADDOW: James Clapper is our guest. His new book is called “Facts and
Fears”. It`s just out tonight. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back with James Clapper, former director of national
intelligence, whose new book “Facts and Fears” is out as of right now.
Director Clapper, I said I would ask you one thing. I lied. It`s two.
The first one is you say in September 2016, you say by September 2016, we
knew that Putin was personally involved in the Russian attack. Can you
tell us anything about how you came to that conclusion?
CLAPPER: I really can`t.
CLAPPER: This gets into, you know, pretty sensitive sources and methods.
But we had, I thought, very, very solid evidence of that.
MADDOW: So, with two months before the election?
MADDOW: You also – I played a clip just before you sat down where Dianne
Feinstein asked you in a Senate hearing, open Senate hearing about multiple
European allies reporting to the U.S. intelligence community about contacts
between the Trump campaign and Russia. And you confirmed to Senator
Feinstein that that happened but said the details are sensitive.
Is there anything that`s been publicly reported since then that would allow
you to elaborate?
MADDOW: No. Yes, I knew that was going to happen.
I have to ask, though – all right. Here`s something that I know you can
talk about because you wrote about it. You describe a phone call that you
made to President Trump after he had publicly derided the U.S. intelligence
community as Nazis. You said I thanked him for taking the call and I said
he had gotten my attention when he referred to the intelligence community
as Nazis. I explained to him I wanted to defend the men and women of the
intelligence. I tried to appeal to his higher instincts.
He thanked me. He said he valued the intelligence community and the
intelligence he`d been receiving. He then asked if I would put out a
statement refuting what was in the Steele dossier.
The request felt very transactional, that he would play nice if I would do
him a favor. I declined, saying that I couldn`t refute or affirm what was
in the dossier. He sounded disappointed.
The president was essentially making you an offer that he would make
palliative statements about the I.C.?
CLAPPER: Well, I don`t know. I mean, that`s probably the implication. I
mean, that part of the conversation felt transactional to me.
I mean, that seemed to be his focus, was the dossier. And I might say
respect to the dossier, a very important point to make is we did not use
that as a source for our intelligence community assessment. So, it was
based on traditional intelligence sources.
Our whole point, though, in briefing then President-elect Trump about it
was, I felt strongly and I think we all did that we owed it to him to warn
him that it was out there, without respect to the content. And Jim Comey
was particularly concerned from a counterintelligence standpoint, because
Russians will use kompromat whether it`s real or contrived, if they can, to
And Jim felt we should at least warn him about that. That was the whole
point, not to ascribe veracity, confirm or deny or rebut any of – what was
in the dossier. That said, some of it we did corroborate in the ICA. And
of course, it appears that more of it has been corroborated with ensuing
developments and what we`ve learned.
MADDOW: Is there anything in the dossier that has been disproven?
CLAPPER: No. Some of it hasn`t been proven. And some of it hasn`t been -
- no. I guess the short answer to the question. The salacious stuff,
absolutely no corroboration of that, to my knowledge.
MADDOW: Jim Clapper, former director of national intelligence, thank you
for serving the country in so many different capacities for so many years.
You`ve been involved in a gazillion different controversies, but your
writing this book is itself a service, because it gives us a window into
what you did and what you lived through.
And also, it is a real cri de coeur in terms of how you feel about what`s
going on right now and what happened in the election. Thank you.
CLAPPER: Thank you. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight, including the results of some
big primary elections that have been coming in while we have been on the
air. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Polls have closed in four southern states holding primaries
tonight. Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, each hosting a bunch of
congressional primaries and three of those four states also hosting
primaries for governor.
Governor`s race in Georgia has been getting the most attention on both
sides. On the Republican side, it`s a five-candidate field that has been
in a race to the bottom, particularly on one nicely divisive issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KEMP (R), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA`S GOVERNOR: I got a big truck. Just
in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take `em home myself.
Yep, I just said that.
I`m Brian Kemp. If you want a politically incorrect conservative, that`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not a joke. In this Georgia Republican primary, the round up big
truck was not even a clear favorite for the most intentionally offensive on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WILLIAMS (R), CANDIDATE FOR GEORGIA`S GOVERNOR: We`ve got the
deportation bus. That`s right, you heard me, the Michael Williams
deportation bus. We`re going to implement my 287G deportation plan that is
going to fill this bus with illegals to send them back to where they came
from. We`re not just going to track `em and watch them roam around our
state. We`re going to put them on this bus and send them home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ah, Republican Party 2018.
That`s been on the Republican side in Georgia.
On the Democratic side, the race for governor has been build nationally as
a strategy fight over how to win in a red state that`s been looking less
red year after year. State lawmaker Stacey Evans argued Democrats can turn
Georgia blue by courting moderate Republicans. But Stacey Evans on the
left, former statehouse minority leader, Stacey Abrams, that`s the Stacey
on the right, she has said that Democratic hopes instead should be in
turning out disengaged Democratic voters who stayed home in 2016.
Well, tonight, Stacey Abrams has now won that primary. Meaning she will be
the Democrats` gubernatorial candidate in Georgia in November. And it
looks like she has won that race by a ton.
For more, we are joined by the great Steve Kornacki, who is the man you
want the talk to on nights like this.
Steve, what can you tell us?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, not
much of a contest. We know what Democrats in Georgia are in the mood for
now. Put this in some perspective. We talked about how Georgia is
In 2016, the margin here for Donald Trump, it was five points. In 2012,
Mitt Romney won this by eight points. This is one Democrats think is on
the horizon with the Democratic changes and with the influx of folks,
especially the Atlanta area.
And I mean Abrams, really, she just cleaned up everywhere. Nothing
geographically here really stands out. The far northern part of the state
where there is very northern counties here, there are almost no black
residents. Even there we see Abrams winning counties tonight. So, not
each much of a racial divide.
Who will see face in the general election? Well, this is interesting,
Casey Cagle, the lieutenant governor, he is leading. Remember, Georgia is
a runoff state. He looks like he is going to be well short of 50 percent.
I think we`re going have to wait until July to have a runoff between Brian
Kemp, the secretary of state, you just saw his ad there, Casey Cagle looks
like a runoff.
One other race to tell you about, the surprise of the night, this is –
what a story this is. Jim Gray, this was the DCCC`s recruit. He is the
mayor of Lexington, Kentucky. The DCCC recruited him to run for Congress
in the one district in Kentucky Democrats think they might be able to flip.
This woman, Amy McGrath, put ad up. She`s a military veteran, a former
aviator. In her ads, she talks about hey, when I was a girl, I wanted to
fly planes. I was told I couldn`t do it. Look at me now.
The ad went viral. She raised two million bucks. She became an online
sensation. And tonight, she has upset Jim Gray, won the Democratic
nomination in Kentucky 6th district. What does that mean? Means she will
face Andy Barr, the Republican.
Now, we say again, this has been a double-digit Republican district lately.
Just before that, though, it was represented in Congress by a Democrat, Ben
Chandler. And the very interesting thing about the performance tonight of
McGrath is, this is the district right here.
Lexington is about 40 percent of it. She lost Lexington. Remember, that
is where Gray was the mayor. She won the rural areas outside of Lexington
big. And it looks like turnout there doubled from the 2016 Clinton/Sanders
primary on the Democratic side.
So there might be some energy behind McGrath in some areas where Democrats
have struggled. The DCCC didn`t want her. She might be the stronger
MADDOW: Fascinating night.
Steve, I have one question for you back to the governor`s race.
MADDOW: Stacey Abrams is going to be the Democratic nominee. I will say,
having interviewed Stacey Abrams back in the day in totally unrelated
before she was running for governor, I found her to be one of the most
charismatic politicians of her generation from any state. I think she is
an incredible talent.
What are her prospects statewide for that governor`s race?
KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, that`s the thing. We talk about – Democrats are
probably in a neutral year, you know, a few cycles away, the way the
demographics are changing. This is one of the fastest growing states in
the country, especially this Atlanta area right here. And the folks who
are moving back to the state of Georgia, you`re talking a lot about
nonwhite voters, younger voters. The population of single women is going
So, a lot of ingredients that Democrats see. What they hope is that in
2018 that it proves to be a wave election and it basically speeds up what
they see as a longer term trend. 2014 they had high hopes early in the
year that was Michelle Nunn, Jason Carter, they ran for statewide office in
Georgia. They each lost by about eight, nine points.
But remember, 2014 proved to be pretty much a Republican wave year. If you
get the reverse of, that a few more years of demographic changes, this is a
very interesting test here because the theory of the Abrams campaign is a
departure from what we`re used to hearing about. We`ll see. We`re going
to get some evidence this year about how that theory plays out in an
atmosphere like this.
MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, I tell you, I`m terrible at making prediction, but
no matter what else happens in that state and the rest of the country on
November 2018, I would always expect Stacey Abrams to outperform
expectations. I think she is that good just on a personal level.
KORNACKI: We`ll be watching.
MADDOW: All right. MSNBC national political correspondent Steve Kornacki
is the greatest in the business.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Very quick note on primary results which are still coming in, last
month thousands of Kentucky teachers held protests at the state capitol for
more education funding, big uprising by Kentucky teachers. Some of those
teachers then decided to run for office, both as Democrats and Republicans.
Tonight in a Republican primary, the house majority leader in Kentucky who
was backed by Mitch McConnell, he just lost his seat to a high school math
teacher named Travis Brenda. The teachers have turfed out not just an
incumbent but a top party leader who was endorsed by Mitch McConnell, in
the Republican primary.
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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