DOJ charged Russian woman. TRANSCRIPT: 10/22/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Caitlin Dickerson, Adam Schiff
Transcript:

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: October 22, 2018
Guest: Caitlin Dickerson, Adam Schiff

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

In 2016, so the last time we had elections, Congressman Lee Zeldin was up
for reelection for the first time. Lee Zeldin, a Republican member of
Congress from Long Island in New York. He had been elected to Congress for
the first time in 2014. 2014 was an election year that was pretty good for
Republicans, and that year in 2014, Lee Zeldin had turfed out a Democratic
incumbent and taken that seat in Congress for the Republican Party.

So he`s up for reelection for the first time in 2016. But his district had
been Democratic pretty recently. He was seen as vulnerable. The
Republican Party ended up dumping resources into his race.

You know, 2016 was a presidential election year. It looked like it might
go better for Democrats, right? Lee Zeldin in 2016 was definitely on the
bubble as to whether or not he was going to be just a one-term congressman.

But at the apex of that crucial race for him in 2016, Congressman Lee
Zeldin`s campaign did something that was a little hinky, especially in
retrospect it seems really hinky. But even at the time people could tell
there was something wrong.

At the height of that campaign in 2016, Lee Zeldin`s campaign sent out a
mailer that apparently targeted specific voters in his district, and that
mailer told voters that they had to mail in their absentee ballots a day
after the deadline when those ballots were due. Oops.

If voters in Zeldin`s district had actually followed the instructions on
that mailer from their own congressman, their vote wouldn`t have counted.
He is telling them to send in their votes a day late. That`s terrible,
right? Terrible.

Now, was that a mistake? The Zeldin campaign said of course that was just
a mistake. But you wonder, right? I mean, we see stuff like this. We see
things like this around the country in lots of different elections, right?

I mean, famously in the 2012 presidential election, you might remember
Maricopa County had a scandal something like this. Maricopa County,
Arizona, is the county where more people live in that state than any other
county. Maricopa County in 2012 put out voter registration information
from the county in English.

And the English language voter registration information listed the correct
date for the election that year. The county also put out the same document
in Spanish. So, Spanish language version of the same document. Only the
Spanish language version gave a date for the election that was actually two
days after the election would have been over.

So, that`s Maricopa county saying hey, English-speaking voters, turn up to
vote on election day. Hey Spanish-speaking voters, turn up two days later.
Nice. Subtle. Maybe it was just a mistake.

But this sort of thing seems to happen a lot. At least around this time of
year, right, when it comes to getting close to a hotly contested election,
sort of `tis the season for these kind over – kinds of things.

This past week, a Republican state legislator in Kansas who is supporting
Republican candidate Kris Kobach for governor this year, this Republican
state legislature just got dinged, just got a whole bunch of unfavorable
press statewide for a Facebook posting in which he said this, quote: Make
sure you know when to vote. Republicans, vote November 6th. Democrats,
vote November 8th. So Republicans vote on Election Day. Democrats vote
two days after that, says Republican Kansas state lawmaker.

And maybe that`s a joke, right? Maybe it`s an honest mistake. Maybe it
was a printing error, a typo. Who can tell, right?

These things seem to happen a lot. But maybe they`re all just innocent.

When it comes to Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin in New York, this time
we can tell for sure that it wasn`t a mistake because in Lee Zeldin`s case,
after sending out a mailer in his district in 2016 that told people to
absentee vote after the deadline had passed, he did that in 2016. Now, in
2018, Lee Zeldin has just done the exact same thing again, which is
actually sort of making it easy for the local paper in Long Island, which
is called “Newsday,” they get to keep writing the same story about Lee
Zeldin every couple of years. It`s almost word for word exactly the same
story.

Look, this is the “Newsday” article on Zeldin when he did this in 2016. It
literally ran this same week, two years ago. You see the headline there.
“Lee Zeldin mailer gives wrong deadline for absentee ballots.”

Quote, a Lee Zeldin campaign mailer gives voters the wrong date to send in
absentee ballots. Zeldin`s campaign`s spokeswoman says the mailing was a
mistake. That`s 2016. Now, it is two years and four days later, and here,
again, is the new reporting from that same paper from “Newsday.” I swear
they only had to change one word in the headline.

Now, instead of Lee Zeldin mailer gives wrong deadline, it`s “Lee Zeldin
mailer uses wrong deadline for absentee ballots.” Quote: For the second
consecutive election, a Lee Zeldin mailer has the wrong deadline to return
absentee ballots. And once again, quote, Zeldin`s campaign said the
incorrect date was a mistake. Quote, Zeldin`s Democratic opponent Perry
Gershon`s campaign said it targeted likely Democratic voters in the
district, such as college students.

So, you know, in 2016 you try to pull this off. You target Democratic-
leaning voters in your district and you try to trick them into voting late
so their votes won`t be counted, and you get caught and you say it was a
mistake. Oh, terribly sorry. We didn`t mean that at all. And then two
years later, you pull the exact same trick.

It`s almost honorable in its stick-to-itiveness, right? But the one thing
you can`t do is once again say, oops, it`s a mistake, the exact same
mistake we made last time. But that is how Republican Congressman Lee
Zeldin is trying to hold on his seat in New York state in Congress. `Tis
the season for this kind of thing.

Honestly, though, if you live in that district, man, think about how it
must feel to know that your member of congress, your representative in
Washington is trying to get re-elected by tricking you into voting on the
wrong day so your vote won`t count. Watch your wallet, man, in that
district, right? This is how he wants to represent you, by conning you
into maybe screwing up your vote so it won`t count. He he he. Cue evil
mustache twirling cartoon villain.

He got away with it in 2016. He is now trying to get away with it in 2018.
Presumably if he gets reelected this year, he`ll keep doing it every two
years? Sorry, suckers.

But that`s what time it is right now in politics. `Tis the season for this
sort of thing. Election day two weeks from tomorrow.

I`ve already started taking more vitamins. I`ve started feeling extra
guilty about never going to the gym. I`m not actually going to the gym any
more than I was, but I am feeling worse about it all the time, which is
your way of knowing that I`m getting excited. This is my way of preparing.

Lots of people all over the country are quite obviously very excited for
the election in two weeks, and some of that you can see at polling places.
We`ll talk about that in just a second. But the level of excitement for
the election is actually something that pollsters try to quantify every
year as well there is a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that`s just out.

One of the things they asked in this poll is they asked Americans how
strong is your interest in voting this year. Please tell us on a scale of
one to 10, with 10 being the highest. How interested are you in voting in
this year`s election?

And I know it seems like sort of an esoteric question, but this is one of
the questions they`ve been asking in this poll for years and years and
years, and they ask it exactly the same every year. So we can compare
different year election results to the response to that question. It turns
out to actually be a fairly predictive question, and you can see it in past
elections.

This was just looking at elections where we didn`t have a presidential race
on the ballot. So, just congressional elections going back the last few.
This was 2018, the last time we had a congressional midterm election, it
was 2014, before that was 2010, before that it was 2006.

In 2006, you might remember that ended up being a big Democratic year.
Democrats took the House and the Senate that year. Ahead of that election
in 2006, this was the response to that question and that poll. Democrats
showing intense interest in voting that year in 2006, 69 percent of
Democrats that year said their interest in voting that year, they`d rate a
9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, and that far outpaced the number of
Republicans who said the same thing.

The election results followed that very same pattern. That was 2006. Four
years later in 2010, you might remember that was a big Republican year, and
again, that polling question predicted it. Republican voters that year
much more highly interested in the election than Democrats. And the
election results followed that same pattern.

The following year, 2014, the next midterm election year, that was another
good midterm year for the Republicans. And again that specific polling
question predicted that specific electoral result in 2014. Ahead of the
2014 midterms, Republicans did very well. Republican voters told this poll
that they were much more interested in voting that year than Democrats
were, and it proved to be true on Election Day.

Well, now here are the results for 2018. Tighter than it was in those
previous years, right? This is a closer spread, but Democrats are more
psyched to vote in this year`s elections than Republicans are, and
Democrats are more psyched to vote in this year`s elections than they have
been in forever.

I mean, Democrats had a huge year in 2006. They took both houses of
Congress, this big rebuke to George W. Bush for the Iraq war and all the
rest of it. Democrats even that year were not as excited to vote that year
as they are this year, but it`s tight. Republicans are excited too.

And what that means is that Democrats think their chances are pretty good
in terms of taking the House maybe, right? But that portends a hard-fought
election night in two weeks. When both sides are excited, that means it`s
going to be probably a big turnout.

It also means both sides have a lot of room to run. It also tells you why
early vote numbers appear to be breaking records all over the country
already. We`re going to have more on that coming up later on this hour.

But the combination of very high Democratic enthusiasm for this year`s
election, and lots of people turning out already to vote, that is more
nervous making for Republicans than it is for Democrats. When more people
vote, Democrats tend to do better. Lower turnout elections tend to favor
Republicans.

So you can see some signs of Republican nervousness, and some of the ways
that it`s manifesting this year are frankly, in terms of Republican dirty
tricks. “Seattle Times” is reporting now on Republican activists sending
out a whole slew of fake ads and fake mailers in Washington state. These
are conservatives who appear to be mostly funded by a controversial Trump
donor in the state of Washington. They created a fake progressive PAC.

They call themselves Conscience of the Progressives. They`re not actually
progressives. It`s conservatives who made this PAC. But under this
progressive name, they`ve been sending out mailers to Democratic voters in
key districts all over Washington state, telling those Democratic voters
that their local Democratic candidate isn`t really progressive enough,
isn`t really liberal enough.

And so, real Democrats shouldn`t vote for that Democratic candidate. Real
Democrats, real progressives should instead write in another name. And
each district`s mailer has picked another fairly well-known local Democrat
who has run for some other office recently in the last few years as opposed
to the write-in candidate that real progressives should pick instead of
voting for actual Democrat who`s on the ballot.

So, it`s clever, right? This is apparently a fairly expensive campaign.
These are professional looking flyers and ads.

They`re the product of actual local research where they had to pick
seemingly plausible alternative candidates to try to undermine the Democrat
who is actually on the ballot. “Seattle Times” though has started to pick
apart the scheme, and they`re now seemingly finding evidence of it all over
the state. This Republican dirty tricks campaign all over Washington state
to try to split the Democratic vote and depress the Democratic vote.
Apparently, this one is an effort to try to flip the state legislature in
Washington, or at least to stop Democrats from taking more Republican seats
in that legislature.

I mean, hard-fought elections, close elections, theoretically should bring
out the best in everybody, right, in terms of the campaign`s ability to
just hustle and be efficient and make the most of their resources. The
competition for undecided voters, the race to knock on every door, the race
to get people to the polls – you know, the effort to win the argument
based on the issues, right?

And I`m sure there are close races around the country this year where that
is in fact what is happening and democracy is working the way it ought to.
But what we are also seeing in these close hard-fought elections is that
they`re bringing out the worst in terms of trickery and disinformation and
voter suppression efforts. And people like Congressman Lee Zeldin trying
to con their own constituents out of either voting or at least of having
their vote counted.

The remedy to that, of course, is always the same thing. You know, know
your rights. Vote. Don`t let anybody stop you from voting. Help other
people in your community to know their rights and to help them vote too.

That`s always been the remedy for this sort of thing. That`s what you do
in the face of trickery, when somebody is trying con you out of your vote.
That`s the same thing you do in the face of thuggery as well that tries to
intimidate you or threaten you from turning out at all.

In the 2012 election presidential year, of course, I remember vividly
covering these threatening anonymous billboards that went up in low income
predominantly black neighborhoods in the crucial swing state of Ohio. We
first covered this when these threatening billboards went up in black
neighborhoods around Cleveland. Then it turns out there were dozens of
them all over Ohio, cities like Cleveland and Columbus. They were all
seemingly targeting low-income black neighborhoods.

Quote: Voter fraud is a felony, up to 3 1/2 years and a $10,000 fine. You
see the big gavel there, right? You can also see it`s anonymous. Paid for
by a private family foundation.

In 2012, we started reporting on those billboards in Ohio. We later
learned that threatening billboards like that were also going up in black
neighborhoods and low-income neighborhoods in Wisconsin. Again, seemingly
targeting low income minority neighborhoods. In particular in Wisconsin,
they seemed to be up all over Milwaukee.

Eventually there was enough of an outcry over these things, over these
anonymous threatening billboards in minority communities that made it seem
like you might get arrested if you turned up to vote, there was enough of a
public outcry over these things what the company that controlled the
billboards themselves pulled them down. In Cleveland, the city council put
up billboards in their place that said it is not a crime to vote. It is,
of course, illegal to threaten or intimidate anybody out of voting.

The company that operated those billboards in 2012 said those threatening
billboards in particular violated their company`s own policy against
anonymous political advertising. But, you know, had there not been news
coverage of that, had there not been a public outcry over that, those
threatening billboards would have stayed up through the election in 2012.

This year in 2018, we`re seeing the exact same kind of blunt threats over
voting, making it seem like you might be in legal jeopardy if you turn out
to vote. This year we`re not necessarily seeing it on billboards, we`re
seeing it online. This year it`s not some anonymous donor making the
threats, this year the threat is from the president of the United States
who this weekend posted this on Twitter, quote, all levels of government
and law enforcement are watching carefully for voter fraud, including
during – all caps – early voting. Cheat at your own peril. Violators
will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal.

Really? The president is promising maximum penalties in case of
prosecutions for any crimes like that? Is the president allowed to get
involved in criminal cases likes that?

I mean, there is a history of this kind of intimidation and threatening
behavior and threatening messaging around voting in our recent past. We
saw that in 2012, right, in Wisconsin and Ohio, those threatening
billboards. There is also of course a rich history of this in our distant
past, plus or minus the available technology.

In 1922, somebody flew biplanes over Oklahoma City and dropped leaflets out
of planes over black neighborhoods right around election time. Those
leaflets carried a message that was essentially the 1922 version of the
president`s tweet. The leaflet said, quote, do not attempt to vote unless
you are legally registered.

Those cards dropped over black neighborhoods in Oklahoma in 1922. They
also had a little illustration next to the text, a guy in a hood with the
initials “KKK” written on the hood. “the Washington Post” a few years ago
dug up the coverage from “The Topeka State Journal” at the time of that
leaflet drop, the way “The Topeka State Journal” covered it that year in
1922 was with this headline, quote, scared away from the polls.

Oklahoma City, August 1st, quote, following the dropping of cards from
airplanes over the Negro districts, Negro voting has been light up to noon
in today`s primary.

It`s not like we don`t have a rich history of this, right? A rich and
effective history of this as a country, targeting specific voters and
specific communities, that if they dared turned out to vote, they`re going
to maybe get themselves in trouble. Maybe the law will come down on them.

It`s very threatening. It`s very dangerous. You could find yourself in
prison.

We have a long history of this, but this is the time of year when we see
it, right? `Tis the season.

We`re also now seeing a late-breaking swerve from the Republican Party and
from the White House in particular on policy issues that are supposed to
cause a whole different kind of fear, a whole different kind of fear that
they also believe could help them with the election in two weeks, and that
story is next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In 2004, the George W. Bush White House was worried about the
reelection prospects for President Bush, and one of the things that the
president and his party decided they would do in early 2004 is they decided
they would basically carve some red meat off of some particularly
vulnerable Americans to serve it up as a meal to their base, just in time
for that year`s elections, to try to goose the turnout for hardest hard-
liners in their base.

And so, in early 2004, as President George W. Bush basically reversed
himself on his previous stances on the issues of – on the issue of gay
civil rights, and in early 2004, he suddenly proposed a federal
constitutional amendment. He proposed changing the U.S. Constitution to
ban gay marriage. The Republican Party then put anti-gay constitutional
amendments on state ballots in swing states all across the country to try
to drive up turnout by freaked out anti-gay conservatives so as to benefit
Republican candidates in that year`s elections, up to and including
President Bush.

It`s old-fashioned politics, right? When your candidate and your party
can`t necessarily inspire enough love and enough excitement to bring out
your voters to vote for them, the other way to go is to try to get your
voters out by giving them something else, someone else to fear and/or hate.
You pick a good bogeyman, and then you stoke enough fear of that bogeyman
and maybe you don`t need to give anybody anything to vote for, you just
give people a way to vote I`m scared.

That was the George W. Bush White House calculation and the Republican
Party calculation in 2004 with those anti-gay ballot insurance and that
anti-gay proposal to change the U.S. Constitution. And in fact, George W.
Bush did get re-elected in 2004.

In the last 24 hours, the current Republican White House has leaked news to
“The New York Times” about an unpublished draft memo that they say is under
consideration by the Trump administration, a new policy that would
eliminate all federal recognition of transgender Americans. Quote: The new
definition would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated
1.4 million Americans who identify as a gender other than the one they were
assigned at birth.

So, forget all the campaign rhetoric and all the skin-deep political
analysis during the campaign that said Trump would actually be fine on gay
issues. He would be fine on trans issues. It turns out, he`s not worked
up on these issues like some Republicans are.

Now that we`re two weeks out from the election and Democrats are looking
enthusiastic and Republicans are worried about their prospects – well, now
it`s time to rip some red meat off the LBGT population to see what that
might do to goose Republican turnout. Simultaneously, we`re also seeing
the White House float the prospect more aggressively now that they will
start once again taking kids away from their parents at the border – a new
iteration of the family separation policy.

Now here on earth 1, the family separation policy was a total freaking
moral disaster for the country, and what appeared to be a political
disaster for the Trump administration. Well, the White House has
apparently since concluded that the politics of taking kids away from their
parents, it really only looked politically bad on the surface. They
apparently are calculating now that reviving that policy, bringing it back
might actually help them with their base.

That is, if immigrants and immigration itself can be made scary enough
ahead of the election so that the Republican base starts baying for blood
and essentially baying for kidnapping again on this issue. Conservative
media and the president are working double time on that fear factor element
right now.

The reason I say that their calculation behind this is transparent is
because they`re not being shy about the fact they might restart the
kidnapping policy again specifically to help them in this year`s elections.
This is from today`s “New York Times.” Quote: The architects of the family
separation approach in the Trump administration have been hard at work.
Quote: Their goal is to announce a plan before the November elections.

Why do you want to announce it before the November elections? I mean,
policy-wise, there is nothing about the November elections that has
anything to do with the substance of immigration policy or the numbers of
border crossings or asylum – people seeking asylum or refugees or anything
else.

The only reason a November election would be a deadline for announcing a
revivification of the family separation policy, is because they wanted to
announce it before the election because they think going back to the policy
of taking kids away from their parents and the resulting howls of protest
that will come from around the country and around the world, they think
Republican base voters will love that, and it will inspire them to turn out
to vote for Republicans. `Tis the season.
And, you know, `tis the season with not just votes in the balance, but
lives in the balance.

Joining us is Caitlin Dickerson, national immigration reporter for “The New
York Times.”

Ms. Dickerson, thank you very much for being here. It`s nice to have you
here tonight.

CAITLIN DICKERSON, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:
Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So, you and your colleagues at “The Times” are reporting on these
discussions that are happening within the Trump administration. Obviously,
I was very struck by your reporting that they want this done before the
November elections.

Is there any policy reason why the November election would be a benchmark
for them to roll out something new?

DICKERSON: No. There is nothing significant in terms of border crossings.
In fact, actually, when the weather gets bad, the crossings tend to go
down. But we are seeing right now, large numbers of families crossing the
border, and that is saying to the White House this family separation
policy, it was short-lived, it was widely decried here by the American
public, but it really did nothing to deter Central American families.

And so, that I think has really upset people who came up with this policy
to begin with, and that`s why they`ve really doubled down on their mission,
and that`s why we wrote this story.

MADDOW: The other way to look at that same set of facts is to say they
have the family separation policy. They took more than 2,000 children away
from their parents. It received not only national coverage, but worldwide
condemnation and that policy did not result in families making the decision
to not come to the border. It didn`t slow border crossings, therefore it
was an ineffective policy, which would be an argument to not going back to
it if that was the reason for the policy.

DICKERSON: It could be. But we hear the president saying openly that he
thinks that if parents believe that family separation is going to happen,
they won`t come. He still thinks that`s true. And so, that`s why. As you
said, this is another policy that is up for consideration.

I think what we keep hearing coming out of these meetings officials are
having on a weekly basis, they`re sort of desperate to come up with
something before the midterms is that the idea is that this policy should
be splashy. It should be intimidating. It should sound aggressive because
it`s intended to intimidate people out of coming, to make them – make that
calculation change for them such that they believe it actually might be
worse for them to come here than to stay.

But as you point out, you know, circumstances in Central America, which is
where most people are coming from, they haven`t changed at all. And so,
that`s why we still see the same numbers of people coming.

MADDOW: And to the extent they want this to be splashy and they want to it
seem intimidating and harsh and even brutal, and they want that known
before the November election, obviously, it`s not because they`re expecting
votes or the lack thereof from Central American immigrants. That`s because
they think their base will respond to it?

DICKERSON: Absolutely. And that`s what polls are showing. I mean,
conservative voters are saying that immigration is an incredibly important
issue for the majority of conservatives in a lot of polls. It`s looked
like the most important issue compared to lukewarm reaction from Democrats
in some polls.

And you can see why it`s a fairly straight forward calculation that makes
sense, to come up with something that`s very splashy, that says, you know,
we`re cracking down on the border. We`re making good on the promises that
the president made in 2016, so that it curries favor and votes.

MADDOW: Can I also ask you, in terms of this working group that you`re
describing inside the Trump administration, you say they`re meeting weekly
on this and considering these factors both in terms of policy and in terms
of politics here. A lot of Trump administration officials, particularly
those that didn`t necessarily come from Trump world, but came from more
normal Republican politics or from the sort of policy side of things have
tried to personally distance themselves from this policy of taking kids
away from their parents.

I`m thinking particularly of Health Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland
Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, both of whom seem to have key roles in
this policy, but they`ve publicly tried to define themselves as being
either, I mean, reluctant enactors of this policy or a sideline issue for
them, something they`re not working on them. Are they the officials who
are working on this? Who are the key people?

DICKERSON: Certainly, Secretary Nielsen is involved, and likely anybody at
the high echelons of these agencies. You know, President Trump, as we
wrote in our story, he has been on the phone several times a week with
Secretary Nielsen, checking in on the progress of this working group. So,
she is overseeing their work, absolutely.

I think what we`re seeing now is that the moderates are coming forward and
saying, you know, let`s look at the logistical and the legal challenges
that could come up here. So, for example, when we talk about a new form of
family separation, the idea is to give parents the choice. Do you want to
give your children up and let them be separated or do you want to keep them
with you and stay in detention?

Well, very quickly the moderates are pointing out the detention facilities
are going to fill up. There is going to be no more space. And that means
every family that comes in afterwards has to be released. So, it`s the
logistical pitfall of these ideas and the legal pitfalls.

You know, these ideas may not hold up in court, but I think the moderates
from what we`re hearing are pushing really hard to try to put the brakes on
some of these ideas and keep them from being implemented.

MADDOW: Anybody who thinks that they can – that their legacy will be
defined by whether or not they try to moderate or make more legally
resilient a policy of taking children away from their parents indefinitely
doesn`t understand how legacy works. Doesn`t understand how accountability
works. We can see these machinations at work, though.

But thanks to your reporting on this incredible process. Caitlin, thank
you very much for being here. Much appreciated. Thanks.

DICKERSON: Yes. Thanks,

MADDOW: All right. Caitlin Dickerson is a national immigration reporter
for “The Times.”

We`ve got much more ahead here tonight. Do stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Spot check, two weeks out. And in Miami, Florida last night, they
brought tents. About a dozen people slept on the sidewalk next to a
community park to make sure they got the top spots in line before the sun
came up.

In Houston, there was nowhere to camp, so they waited patiently in a single
file line that snake around the parking lot. Bystanders say about 2,000
people stood in this line today. Down the street, this Texas location was
so busy they ran out of spots even for people to park their cars.

This was the line at Texas State University today. To get to the end, you
had to snake through the hallways and then into the cafeteria and then down
a flight of stairs. Today was the first day of early voting on that campus
today in Texas, as well as the rest of Texas, and in Florida and a handful
of other states across the country.

In Harris County, Texas, they set a record today. These folks here in
Harris County waited upwards of 40 minutes to vote today. Harris County is
the part of Texas that includes Houston. In the 2016 presidential
election, Harris County broke for Hillary Clinton by 13 points.

The last time Harris County set a record for first day early voting in a
midterm election was in the 2010 elections. That record-setting year,
26,000 people turned out to vote that first day. Today in Harris County,
57,000 people cast their ballots in person on the first day of early
voting, 57,000. They more than doubled the previous record.

If you are a Democrat or you`re hoping for Democrats to do well in the
elections this year, or if it just makes your day to see lots of people
voting, these kinds of visuals will be good news. From a Democratic Party
perspective, they know they need to supercharge turnout and enthusiasm in
key battleground states and in key battleground parts and Democratic
leaning parts of those states if they want a shot at flipping enough seats
to take back control of Congress.

Besides those anecdotal reports that you saw from early voting, we also got
some new hard data today, too. NBC News and “Wall Street Journal” have put
out this new poll. They asked likely voters whether they intend to vote
for any given Democrat or any given Republican for Congress on November
6th. Pollsters call it the generic ballot which tends to be predictive.

Voters said in this new poll that they prefer Democrats to Republicans in
the upcoming congressional election by a margin of nine points. Plus nine
is a good healthy margin for Democrats heading into this year`s elections.

Now, when you ask women that same question, whether they prefer Democrats
over Republicans to take seats in Congress, look at the gender gap. Women
prefer Democrats by a margin of 25 points. And that level of support has
not budged. Democrats have had that 25-point lead among women since the
last time this poll was taken last month.

So, Democrats need strong support from women if they want to flip seats on
November 6th. Now we know from the latest polling that the gender gap,
women`s preference for Democrats, a 25-point preference, that isn`t just
strong, it`s basically made of granite, which is a big deal for Democratic
hopes.

More ahead. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev presided over a period of
tremendous change for his country and the world. Gorbachev taught the
world new Russian words like perestroika, which meant the loosening of
rigid communist politics and economics. He brought in glasnost for
openness, for greater transparency in government and increased freedom of
speech. Gorbachev ended up winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

He then actually used some of the cash prize from the Nobel Peace Prize to
launch a new independent newspaper in Russia, a paper called “Novaya
Gazeta”. “Novaya Gazeta” still exists, and today, they remain one of the
few truly independent press outlets in Russia reporting to the extent they
can on government corruption in the face of what must be daily physical
daily fear.

In Putin`s Russia, the staff of “Novaya Gazeta” have seen five of their
colleagues killed in what we call the line of duty. Today, the newspaper
is out with a chilling new story about the oligarch that everybody calls
Putin`s chef, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In February, you might remember,
Prigozhin was indicted by Robert Mueller in this country, for being the
architect behind the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm that
spread disinformation online in their effort to mess with our election in
2016 to benefit Donald Trump.

Well, now, today, “Novaya Gazeta” has this new report on the same guy,
Prigozhin and it is just ghoulish. “The Associated Press” writes it up
today, saying that “Novaya Gazeta” was able to speak with a security aide,
a former staffer to Prigozhin. He is the main source for this new story in
“Novaya Gazeta”. They talked to him for their story. He told the paper
that he, quote, orchestrated attacks on Prigozhin`s opponents as well as
the killing of an opposition blogger in northwest Russia, all on the
mogul`s behalf.

The same security aide who spoke with “Novaya Gazeta” for their story, he
then disappeared earlier this month, shortly after meeting the “Novaya
Gazeta” reporter and telling him that he was being followed. The reporter
said he received a call from the guy`s phone later that day. When he went
to the man`s house, he found two cell phones on the ground and what looked
like the man`s shoe. The guy has since gone missing.

Now, “Novaya Gazeta” says it couldn`t get a comment from Prigozhin himself.
The paper published the story despite several grisly warnings not to. So,
the paper says after they talked to Prigozhin`s former aide, this guy who`s
now gone missing, that told the paper he was basically a hit man for
Prigozhin, after the paper talked to him but before they published their
story, the reporter working on the story from “Novaya Gazeta” got sent a
funeral wreath at his home. That`s subtle.

And then this gets a little grisly, so you may want to look away if you are
squeamish, but a basket containing a severed goat`s head was then left at
the offices of “Novaya Gazeta”, along with a warning to the reporter
working on the story and the paper`s chief editor. This is apparently what
you get when you report unfavorably in Russia on the alleged mastermind of
the Russian attack on our democracy in 2016.

That attack, of course, continues. On Friday, federal prosecutors charged
the chief bookkeeper of the Internet Research Agency, this troll firm led
by Prigozhin with interfering in the election that we Americans are having
right now. And today, because this is our world now, right after that
indictment was unsealed, the National Security Adviser John Bolton went to
Moscow to start work on scrapping a landmark nuclear treaty that was signed
by the U.S. and the Soviet Union back when Mikhail Gorbachev was in charge.

Bolton also brought a message with him to Russia on the subject of Russia`s
ongoing efforts to interfere in our democracy, right? The Justice
Department unsealed this indictment against this accountant to Prigozhin,
talking about the ongoing efforts by the Russians to interfere in our
elections even now. They unsealed that on Friday, right before Bolton went
to Moscow, so he could really take to it them when he went to Moscow. He
could confront them with that information and that unsealed indictment.

Here is how National Security Adviser John Bolton got tough with the
Russians on the subject today. Speaking to a Russian radio station, John
Bolton said, quote: The point I made to Russian colleagues today`s is I
didn`t think whatever they had done in terms of meddling in the 2016
election, I didn`t think they had any effect on it.

I`m not sure I want to hazard a guess as to exactly what John Bolton meant
by that, but it`s possible that our next guest will. Top Democrat on the
House Intelligence Committee joins us next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Joining us now live here in the studio is Congressman Adam Schiff.
He is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:
Pleasure.

MADDOW: So in July of this year before President Trump had his Putin
summit, three or four days before that summit, the Justice Department
unsealed this massive indictment against a dozen Russian military
intelligence officers charging them in detail with having attacked our
election in 2016. Common wisdom at the time said with this indictment
unsealed immediately before the president takes that trip, he can confront
Putin with that. He can demand the extradition of those officers, he can
make this a real issue. Ha. None of that happened.

Now three days before John Bolton went to Moscow today, we saw the
unsealing of another indictment against another Russian charging that that
same criminal effort was – is still under way now and has been under way
for years and is directed by oligarchs close to Russian government. I
think the common wisdom again was that John Bolton would have to bring it
up, would have to confront the Russians about this. He couldn`t not.
Again, the common wisdom is wrong.

I feel like I`m watching a dramatic situation here teed up by the Justice
Department, and blown off by the White House. How do you see it?

SCHIFF: I see much the same way. It`s really breathtaking when the ink
was barely dry on the latest indictment of a Russian working for an
oligarch as you say close to Putin, we have this spectacle of the national
security advisor of the United States basically telling his counterparts,
you know, that interference you did in the last election, I don`t really
think it did very much.

Basically communicating to Putin, Putin has to walk away from this thinking
this weak U.S. president will never confront me. He doesn`t have the guts
to confront me. This national security advisor certainly doesn`t.

I have essentially carte blanche in the midterms. As long as what I do
helps the president`s party, he will not only not call me out, he may be
grateful for it. That`s basically the message that John Bolton delivered,
and it is so damaging to the national interest, it`s breathtaking.

MADDOW: When this indictment, this latest indictment was unsealed the
first thing I noticed about it was that it had been held for a while, that
the documents that we were looking at the affidavit from the FBI agent that
was essentially the narrative summary of the criminal information for that
case, that was from a while ago. This was from few days ago. It was all
unsealed from that time essentially of the Justice Department`s choosing.

It happens on the same day that we get a joint statement from the Office of
the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the Justice Department and
Department of Homeland Security talking about the seriousness of Russian
efforts and other international efforts to influence our election.

I feel like we`re having a bit of a replay of October 2016 when Homeland
Security and FBI, or Homeland Security and intelligence agencies among
others are sort of signaling that there`s a problem here that Americans
need to be paying attention. There`s something wrong. And once again in
this case, we see the Trump administration now saying, don`t pay attention
to that.

SCHIFF: It`s really worse than 2016 because in 2016, you had the
administration officials release that statement in October saying, you
know, the Russians are meddling in our election, and you had a president
who privately – President Obama – had told Putin essentially we know what
you`re doing, you better knock it off. Now, they didn`t, but that was the
message he delivered.

This time, we have agency heads making the same warning essentially, saying
the Russians are still messing around with us. We have an indictment that
follows that up. And instead, the message from our president and his
national security advisor is we don`t believe our intelligence agencies and
we don`t really take seriously what you did in our last election. And
what`s more, we`re not really going to confront you over what you might do
in the next election.

So, we have a president and his staff that are working at counter-purposes
to our intelligence agencies and certainly at counter interest to our
Justice Department and the American public interest. And that is just –
just staggering.

MADDOW: Is there – with that kind of leadership, with that being the
stance of the president and his national security advisor, do you think
that that essentially functions as a directive to the intelligence agencies
and to law enforcement at the federal level in terms of actually fighting
these efforts?

I mean, we were all fairly shocked early on in the Trump administration
when National Security Agency director, the director of the National
Security Agency said he had not been directed as head of the NSA to try to
fight in the ongoing efforts by the Kremlin to influence our politics. We
now know from this latest indictment that in fact this effort run by
Prigozhin and through the Internet Research Agency and the elements of this
Russian government directed interference campaign, they didn`t slow down
after 2016. They kept right up and in fact kept scaling up their efforts
and spending even more money to try to influence American voters and
American politics in 2017 and into 2018.

With this sort of leadership, are you worried that the intelligence
agencies aren`t doing what they can to keep us safe?

SCHIFF: Well, they`re certainly not going to win points with this
president for warning of the Russian threat, and doing things about the
Russian threat. But nonetheless, they`re professionals. They`re doing
their job.

The Justice Department did its job. It indicted this Russian woman for
meddling in the most ugly, divisive messages that the Russians could
imagine. But they`re not going to win any plaudits from this president
from doing it.

The only real deterrent I think that we have of the Russians, because we`re
getting this green light essentially from our present national security
advisor, the only real deterrent we have is the Russians had everything
they could want in Donald Trump. They have the perfect U.S. president, one
who is picking on NATO and belittling our allies and giving them cover.
Why mess with that? Why cross a red line that would force the Congress to
override the president when they have everything they want with Donald
Trump?

So, that may be the only deterrent we be in terms of election meddling, and
we have to hope that`s going to be powerful enough.

MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, top Democrat on the Intelligence
Committee in the House – thank you, sir. It`s good to have you here.

SCHIFF: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a very exciting announcement actually coming
up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Before we go tonight, I have a small personal note, something I
want you to know. I`m about to launch a new thing. We`re about – there`s
a new thing.

I did a podcast, and it is not like a current events podcast. This is a
podcast about a story from history. It`s sort of been lost to history, but
I think it matters an awful lot, particularly right now.

It`s not an ongoing thing. It`s not going to last forever. It`s seven
episodes long, so it`s like a podcast mini series. There`s only going to
be one series. It`s called “Bag Man,” two words, “Bag Man”.

It comes out next week. Next Tuesday is the first one. I`m going to leave
it a little bit mysterious just for now. But you can go ahead right now
and subscribe to it wherever you get your podcasts. I think you`ll like
it.

If you don`t subscribe to podcast yet, if you are new to the whole podcast
thing, welcome. You can find everything you need to join us absolutely
free at MSNBC.com/bagman. Honestly, I`ve been killing myself over this
thing, but it`s been really fun and I think you`re going to love it.
Anyway, advertisement over.

See you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell.

Good evening, Lawrence.


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