Pipe bombs sent to Obama. TRANSCRIPT: 10/24/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: October 24, 2018
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this
In May of 1972, a bomb exploded in a private home in Macon, Georgia. When
police arrived on the scene of that explosion, they found the bomb had been
contained in a package, and the package was addressed to be sent to a car
dealer. Turned out, that was the car dealer who had recently repossessed
the car of the man who lived in that home where the bomb went off in Macon,
Unfortunately, that man did not live in that house alone. What prosecutors
later pieced together is that this man, the man who lived in the house,
assembled this bomb, put it in a package, addressed it to the car dealer
who had repossessed his car. But then his wife came across the package and
his wife opened it in their home. And that is when the bomb detonated and
his wife was injured by the bomb.
The woman`s husband, the man who apparently made the bomb, was named Walter
Moody. He was arrested in that case in 1972. He was ultimately convicted
of possessing explosives, and on the basis of that conviction, he did three
years in federal prison.
Mr. Moody then apparently became absolutely obsessed with what he believed
to be the injustice of that conviction . After he did his three years in
the federal penitentiary, he got out and concocted a whole elaborate
scheme, wherein he thought he figured out a way that he would trick the
authorities, he would trick police and prosecutors into reopening his case,
because he was going to blame that bombing that injured his wife on a
fictional, mysterious new suspect who he had invented.
Prosecutors say he was so obsessed with this plot and with getting cleared
of this case, that he even started paying people off to serve as fake
witnesses for this fake story he had invented to try to sell to
authorities, to get his conviction overturned. He was obsessed. He worked
on it for years.
It did not work. But he pressed at it at every level of the legal system.
He pressed it all the way through the court system. And by June of 1989,
the federal appeals court, where he lived, in his region of the country,
they ultimately affirmed that old conviction from 1972, and said yes, this
is not going to be overturned. There was a three-judge panel. He appealed
to the full court in the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but they
needed to reconsider it again.
And in August of that year, August 1989, 17 years after his initial
conviction, the full court was like, no, dude, your conviction stands, this
is it, end of story. End of the road. We realized you`re obsessed with
this, but you were rightly convicted, it stands.
In response to that rejection from the courts, in August 1989, that guy
decided he would start building bombs again. And on August 21st, 1989, he
mailed a bomb that was packed with tear gas to the NAACP offices in
Atlanta, Georgia. That bomb went off inside the offices of the NAACP.
Didn`t kill anybody, but it did blow up and disburse tear gas throughout
that office. It was terrifying. It was intended to be.
Along with that bomb that day in August 1989, Walter Moody also sent
threatening letters to TV stations across the country and he sent a
threatening letter to that federal appeals court that turned down his case.
He said that was his declaration of war, and he would start bombing and
sending poison gas all over the country, and the country should brace
itself for his war.
Then he started making more bombs. Took him a couple months to get all the
materials he needed and get all his ducks in a row. But in December of
that same year, December of 1989, he started mailing out the new set of
bombs that he had made. And this new set of bombs he made, they were not
designed to disburse tear gas or scare people, these new ones were designed
to kill people.
One of them went to another NAACP office. This time the office in
Jacksonville, Florida. That package in Jacksonville, it was intercepted
before it exploded. Police were able to grab that bomb. They were able to
defuse it safely.
Another one of his bombs was sent at the same time to that federal
courthouse, to the 11th Circuit Court of U.S. Appeals, the court that had
turned down his case when he was trying to get his conviction overturned
earlier that year. And, again, that bomb too, it was intercepted before it
could be detonated. It was defused safely.
We have some remarkable footage from that time of what that bomb – this is
the bomb that was sent to that courthouse, what it looked like on the x-ray
machine that they put it through at the courthouse that allowed them to
catch it. Those are batteries and wires. That`s what allowed them to
catch that bomb and set it aside and defuse it before anybody opened it.
We have also got this incredible footage. Look. This is the bomb disposal
unit getting that actual device out of the courthouse in 1989, right?
Using the technology they had at the time, after they realized they had it
on a live bomb. They called in the bomb disposal unit to take care of it
and that`s them doing it.
So like I said, he sent out four bombs that December in 1989. All of them
designed to kill. That`s two of them, right? The one that gets
intercepted at the NAACP office in Jacksonville, Florida, and the one
intercepted at the federal courthouse at the 11th Circuit.
The other two bombs he set out in December of 1989, they were not caught
and defused. They reached their targets, and they killed their targets.
One of them arrived at the office of Robert E. Robinson, he`s an African-
American civil rights attorney in Savannah, Georgia. He had done work for
the local NAACP. He was killed instantly when that bomb exploded at his
office in savannah.
The other target, the fourth bomb, went to the Alabama home of Judge Robert
Vance, federal judge who sat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the
court on which this bomber had declared war after they turned down his
somewhat nutty effort to get his old conviction overturned. The bomb was
wrapped in a brown paper package. It arrived at Judge Vance`s home a week
He got the package, I believe out of his mailbox, brought it into the home,
put it on the table. He sat down at the kitchen table away from his wife.
The judge was killed instantly, his wife seriously wounded.
And, of course, the question you can`t help but ask in a circumstance like
this is why? What were the – why did this guy do it? What are the
intricacies of the motive here? And this was multiple bombs, right? There
were threats and it was a progression, and the pattern here, right,
multiple NAACP officers, some of the other messaging, certainly made it
seem at the time like this was a racist murder campaign, right? This was
an anti-civil rights murder campaign at least.
The initial news coverage of the murder of Judge Vance specifically focused
on the fact that he had recently been part of a three-judge panel that
heard a case involving the Ku Klux Klan and it went against the Klan, so
maybe this is the Klan itself taking revenge on him for that, along with
all these other attacks on civil rights targets. Maybe that was it.
The FBI seems to have not believed that was it. The FBI still has up a web
page about this case. They say that they later decided once they got
working into this case that all the racial elements of the story, may have
been red herrings. That the motivation for Walter Moody terrorizing and
killing people in his bombing campaign in 1989, was all about his obsession
over his old court case, and the FBI came to conclude that he only hit
civil rights targets to try to throw investigators off his trail. To make
them think he was some other kind of person motivated by some other means.
But, you know, by the time Walter Moody was executed for his crimes, which
only happened earlier this year in Alabama, he was 83 years old when
Alabama executed him in April of this year. By the time of his execution,
the press in the south that`s been following this case for so many decades,
they essentially settled on the motive issue just not being clear.
Maybe race was a red herring like the FBI concluded. Maybe race was the
prime motivator, like it looks like on the surface. Maybe it was a
mixture. When Walter Moody`s effort to get his old conviction overturn was
rejected, part of the reason it got rejected is that the case fell outside
the statute of limitations.
There`s been indication that he was mad at civil rights law, he might have
been made at civil rights lawyers because civil rights cases were getting
prosecuted years and years after those crimes had taken place, because
civil rights cases weren`t bound by the same kind of statutes of
limitations that resulted, he believed, in him not getting his court case
overturned, which is what he wanted from the courts. And so, maybe that
was his grudge on civil rights, which is about race, but it`s not just
being a racist murderer. Is that it?
Ultimately, who knows? And, ultimately, is that the most important thing
about the story, right? I mean, it`s impossible not to focus on the motive
and the intention when it comes to terrorism, when it comes to terrorist
attacks and bombings and attempted murders.
But, honestly, what seems obvious initially about the intention and
motivation of the criminal, of the terrorist in a case like this, it
doesn`t always turn out that way in the end when you get all the facts, or
at least it doesn`t turn out that simple. Sometimes these things are
crafted to be deliberately misleading. That`s what the FBI concluded about
That said, sometimes these things are what they seen and the target list
tells you exactly what motivated the killer. Some of the times, these
things end up neither here nor there. They follow some internal logic that
must make sense to the would-be murderer or terrorist, right? Not just
perfect sense, but imperative sense. But to all the rest of us, it doesn`t
follow logic that we can recognize as sane.
In the case of Walter Moody, this killer, and his mad, terroristic bombing
campaign in 1989, terrorized the country, certainly terrorized the
southeast, killed two people, including a sitting federal judge. It turns
out his motives and his intentions are sort of vaguely discernible if you
squint at the right angle. But honestly what arises from that story, now
that he`s dead and it`s over and we know everything we can know about it,
is the fact that he was extreme and cruel and twisted and criminal enough
to do it. That`s what arises as the only clear truth.
I mean, had they known more about the motive, would that have helped them
solve the crime? Had they understood more clearly about what was just a
red herring and what was just inflicting? I mean, what they did have in
the case of Walter Moody and what ended that string of bombings and put him
in prison and brought a close to that nightmare episode in our country in
1989, what they did have was his work product.
The thing that ended up being most important about that case and that man
and what ended what he was doing to our country is that they had unexploded
examples of his bombs. That`s how they caught him. His whole saga,
remember, started way back in 1972, when that bomb blew up in his house and
injured his wife, right? Because he was apparently mad about the repo guy
from his car.
In the investigation into that initial bombing, authorities discovered that
he was frequently experimenting with bomb making. 1972, that`s what they
discovered about that case, when they looked into his bombs which injured
his wife in 1972. Fast forward 17 years later to 1989, when he decides
he`s going to declare a war on the courts and start terrorizing people all
over the south, fast forward 17 years after the initial investigation into
this guy setting off bombs in his own house in Georgia, 17 years later, two
of his pipe bombs blew up at the judge`s house and killed their targets.
But authorities were, this poor guy and this suit, right, they were able to
contain and defuse his other two bombs, from December 1989, from the NAACP
office in Jacksonville, and from the courthouse.
And when the FBI and the ATF and the police and the postal inspectors and
all the rest of them were working to solve that case and catch that bomber,
it was an ATF agent, an old school, old guy ATF agent who helped defuse one
of these Walter Moody bombs in 1989. And he realized, you know what? This
bomb rings a bell for me.
ATF officer recognized the way that bomb was built. One of those bombs
that didn`t go off in 1989, that was intercepted and defused, one of the
guys involved in defusing them recognized that bomb, recognized that
technique. He remembered he had seen a bomb like that before. Back in
that old case from Macon, Georgia, back in 1972, 17 years earlier.
He remembered the bomb. It was distinctive. He remembered the case it
came from and ultimately, he remembered the guy`s name ultimately who had
made it and who had gone to prison for it. And that`s how they got him.
They catch these guys. That`s how they do it. We`re good at this as a
Today, police and federal authorities are in the possession of five
unexploded bombs that were sent to 88-year-old activist, philanthropist,
investor George Soros. And former President Barack Obama, and former
Attorney General Eric Holder. We know another was sent to the home of
Billary – excuse me, Bill and Hillary Clinton in New York, it was
specifically addressed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Another bomb addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, care of CNN
where he does not work, but the CNN offices in New York city were evacuated
in dramatic fashion today after that bomb was discovered in a mail room at
Law enforcement sources were telling NBC News tonight that all of the five
devices that they have got have the same characteristics. That`s according
to three senior law enforcement officials who have spoken to NBC News.
According to these officials, the bombs were made from PVC pipe that each
contain a timer, which looks to be some sort of a digital alarm clock,
which presumably would have been used as a detonator. Again, according to
these three law enforcement sources who have spoken to NBC News, the
explosive powder inside the pipe bomb appears to have come from fireworks,
pyrotechnic powder. And, quote, X-rays though there was likely shrapnel
inside the PVC pipe as well.
Because of the list of targets to whom these devices were sent over the
last two days, there`s been lots – and I should also mention, there`s also
late-breaking reports about a device maybe having been sent to
Congresswoman Maxine Waters tonight. Again, that`s late breaking news. We
don`t have the same information about that device that we do with these
other five where we have law enforcement sources speaking to NBC about the
character of those devices.
But because of the list of targets, which includes these people, including
also Congresswoman Maxine Waters, there`s been lots of inference and
speculation today, unavoidable, over the intent and motivation of the
bomber, the person who is sending out these devices. I mean, obviously,
all of these people and institutions have been targets for invective and
condemnation by the president and his supporters and conservative media.
George Soros personally even today stars in an official new Republican
Party ad as an evil, shady financier who the National Republican Party is
trying to associate with Democratic congressional candidates. Even after
the bomb arrived at George Soros` house yesterday, the National Republican
Party put out that ad today.
So, it is – it is hard to not jump to conclusions about who might have
sent these bombs, and why they might have picked these targets. I
understand the almost irresistible urge to do that. But I`m here to tell
you, that we don`t need to do that, because we will know soon enough,
because with five unexploded devices, and all of the forensic trails that
lead from these devices, and from the packaging material that they were in,
and everything else the federal investigators will be able to derive from
the material they have from these apparently linked bombs, I`m telling you,
we will know soon enough.
After Judge Robert Vance was killed in Alabama in 1989, his eldest son, Bob
Vance, Jr., went on himself to become a judge in the great state of
Alabama. His daughter-in-law, married to Judge Vance`s eldest son, went on
to become a federal prosecutor in Alabama in her own right.
And, you know, there`s not that many Alabama cases that rise to the level
of national news, right, but the killing of Judge Robert Vance in Alabama
was one of those cases, killed him with that pipe bomb stuffed with
shrapnel that went off in his kitchen in 1989. Another Alabama bombing
case that made national news was part of the string of bombings carried out
by the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, who not only bombed the
Atlanta Olympics, he also bombed an abortion clinic and another abortion
clinic, and a lesbian bar over a span of months, between 1996 and 1998.
The bomb prosecutor in Atlanta who handled the Eric Rudolph bombing of the
abortion clinic in Birmingham was the daughter-in-law of Judge Robert
Vance, who himself was killed in that terroristic bombing nine years
earlier. We actually contacted that former prosecutor today when these
bombs started turning up in Democratic Party and media mailboxes up and
down the eastern seaboard.
She told us today when we contact her, quote, bombs have signatures. She
told us the FBI and the ATF have some really amazing bomb experts who will
recognize the signature. She told us, these guys are very good once they
get a peek.
Joining us now is that former U.S. attorney from Alabama who handled, among
other cases, the Eric Rudolph bombing in her jurisdiction. She`s also the
daughter-in-law of Judge Robert Vance who was killed with a pipe bomb in
Joyce Vance, thank you very much for being here tonight. Thank you for
letting me tell some of your family history here.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY IN ALABAMA: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: You bring some particular expertise and experience to bear on
this. When you told us today bombs have signatures and the ATF and FBI are
very good when it has something to look at here, can you explain to our
audience what you mean by that and why you have such confidence in that
aspect of the investigation?
VANCE: Well, sure. Bombs are as individual as their makers. There are a
lot of different ways that you can put an explosive device together. And
so, individuals who are bomb makers tend to repeat. They might change a
little bit, but they`ll use a lot of the same tools in the same way of
putting a basic pipe bomb together.
So, I should say we have a full team in Birmingham that worked on the
Rudolph case, and all of the prosecutors on that team, myself included, we
relied heavily on the expertise of the agents who were so good at
understanding bomb components and using that knowledge to help identify the
MADDOW: When it came to that Eric Rudolph case, was there any important
lead in that case? Any important specific information that was derived
specifically from the forensics of the bomb, sort of being able to have
access to the materials he used to put together those bombs?
VANCE: Rudolph was a very different case. It didn`t involve a mail bomb.
Rather Rudolph planted physically and personally planted a bomb outside of
the all-women new women abortion clinic in Birmingham on the morning in
January of 1998. And so, he was actually seen by an eyewitness who
observed him leaving the scene. That helped with his identification.
But the agents who looked at the bomb, both physically, the components that
were used to build the bomb, but also some decorative leaves on top of the
bomb and some of the other housing for it, and they were able to track
those components, identify Rudolph as the person who purchased them. It
was a pretty immaculate process that they pursued for linking Rudolph to
the bomb components.
MADDOW: Wow, being able to track him – track the components, the
location, the store where they were sold, the fact that he was the person
who bought them.
Joyce, I have to – part of the reason I wanted to talk about this story
about Walter Moody tonight was because it seems instructive to me and
helpful in terms of historical context here, in terms of everybody sort of
jumping to try to explain this based on motive tonight. Looking at the
list of targets, I should tell you the FBI has now confirmed two additional
packages were both addressed to Congresswoman Maxine Waters that are
similar in appearance to the other packages that we`ve learned about today.
So the list of people we`re talking about is the greatest list hits of
people who the president has been targeting by name and with specific
invective over the last year or so in terms of his political appearances
and particularly his rallies. How does that factor in when it comes to
pursuing this as a law enforcement matter?
I was struck by the fact that in the Walter Moody case, there seemed to be
a lot of strong evidence about the motive, but in the end, it all felt very
much like a gray area and it doesn`t seem like it was crucial to nailing
down that case and getting him arrested.
VANCE: You know, that`s right. Motive is never an element of proof that
prosecutors are responsible for in a federal case. Motive can help you
understand what happened and who did it. But it`s not critical that you
assess the motive.
So, agents and it`s still early hours in this investigation, the agents
won`t be quick to rule any possibility out. They`ll acquire all of the
information that they can, look at all of the possibilities.
On the one hand, I think it`s very difficult to ignore that people who
received bombs today have been people in line for some strong invective
from the president, many of them in the last week. By the same token, that
– as in the Moody case, is something that someone might use to try to
divert law enforcement`s attention from their true purpose.
The FBI, ATF, the postal inspectors, they won`t be diverted. They will
chase this one straight down to the truth.
MADDOW: Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney in Alabama, really appreciate
your time tonight, Joyce. Thanks for helping us with this and letting me
tell that story. I really appreciate it.
VANCE: Sure. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got some other actual breaking news from “The
New York Times” to get to in just a moment. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: Sometimes there are certain things you want the people around you
to go ahead and tell you, even if it`s embarrassing. Like if your zipper
is down, right? Or if you have spinach in your front teeth.
Or if, for Pete`s sake, you are the president of the United States and you
are haplessly ascending the stairs of Air Force One with, wait for it, what
is that? What is – wait a second, is that toilet paper? What is that, a
napkin? What is that on the bottom of his shoes?
Cameras are clicking and rolling. Turns around and waves. I know you`re
all looking at me. I mean, even if this went perfectly, the whole world
would see this image of you on the stairs, but because you`re stumping up
there with those four pieces of Charmin stuck on your foot, this image will
be everlasting. This will be historic.
I was absolutely sure that was a fake when those images first came out, but
that was totally real. The president of the United States, literally
trailing a gigantic piece of toilet paper on his shoe onto Air Force One.
After that happened this month in real life, to the president, part of what
everybody wondered was why nobody told him, right?
I mean, maybe best case scenario, nobody around the president saw the paper
stuck to his shoe until he had climbed to the stairs and maybe it fell off
before he got on the plane. I don`t know. Maybe they all did see it but
thought it would be hilarious and were all laughing at him behind his back.
Maybe nobody saw it until it was already happening and he was halfway up
the stairs and the cameras are already clicking, they were afraid if they
ran after the president and took the paper off his foot. We don`t know.
But after seeing this new news story that just broke tonight in “The New
York Times,” the story that would be the dominant story in the country
tonight if not for the most famous Democrats in the country and CNN all
getting bombs in the mail today, now, because of this new story in “The New
York Times” tonight, I`m willing to float a different theory about the
president and the paper stuck to his shoe. But here`s the story that “The
Times” just broke, this is the headline.
When Trump phones friends, the Chinese and the Russians listen and learn.
Quote: When President Trump calls friends on one of his iPhones to gossip,
gripe or solicit their latest take on how he`s doing, American intelligence
reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening, and putting to use
invaluable insights into how best to work the president and affect
administration policy. Quote, Mr. Trump`s aides have repeatedly warned him
that his cell phone calls are not secure, but aides say the president has
still refused to give up his iPhones.
White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing
classified information when he`s on those calls. So, the idea here, in
this new “New York Times” report that`s just dropped tonight is that the
president is sitting around, talking on his personal phone, and on any
given day, for any conversation, spies for China are listening to those
calls. They`re totally not secure calls, totally open to foreign countries
listening to them and recording all of them, presumably since they`re
recording them, they can also doctor those recordings and release them to
the world as if the president said something he didn`t actually say or
release what he actually said. Who knows what would be more scandalous?
But what U.S. intelligence has further turned out is that China is using
what they`re hearing on these calls to come up with new ways to manipulate
the U.S. president to China`s advantage. The American public has already
known that the president has kept his personal phone, the beltway press has
a bunch of references to White House staffers and friends wishing somebody
would take away the president`s phone so he would stop tweeting things late
at night to create political messes, blah, blah, blah, right? We`ve had
the president and his phone as a story already.
But what`s in “The New York Times” tonight, this is new. Quote: American
spy agencies, the official said, had learned that China and Russia was
eavesdropping on the president`s cellphone calls from human sources inside
foreign governments and intercepted communications between foreign
officials. The Chinese have pieced together a list of people with whom Mr.
Trump regularly speaks and hopes of using them to influence the president.
Among those on the list are Steven Schwarzman, the chief executive of the
Blackstone Group, and Steve Wynn, the former Las Vegas casino magnate who
stepped down from his company after serious sexual allegations earlier this
year. Both men, who frequently speak with the president, have a history of
major business ties in China. That`s very handy for the Chinese
Quote: The Chinese are now relying on Chinese businessmen and others with
ties to Beijing to feed arguments to the Trump friends. Quote: The
strategy is that these people will pass on what they`re hearing and that
Beijing`s views will eventually be delivered to the president by trusted
You know how the president still and now other Republicans too, they get
crowds, Republican crowds to scream “lock her up, lock her up” at rallies
and events about Hillary Clinton? What that is supposedly about is about
her using a private e-mail server when she was secretary of state. Oh, the
horror. Well, now we know that, as president, even though his staff have
told him foreign spy agencies can listen in to all his calls if he uses his
private phone, he`s still using his private phone.
So, the Chinese, according to American intelligence reports, the Chinese
are not only listening in on his calls, they`re using what they`re
obtaining from the fact that they`re listening in on his calls to
manipulate him and to manipulate U.S. policy to their advantage. Now,
there is one little silver lining that “The Times” is reporting, one little
upside in this story. Here it is, quote, administration officials say they
have confidence the president has not been spilling secrets, because he
rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown, and he`s not
well-versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.
See, you can`t leak what you don`t know. He doesn`t pay attention to his
briefings, he doesn`t read. So, the good news is he doesn`t know all that
super secret stuff. Or he doesn`t understand it when we tell him. There`s
no chance he could repeat it. Are you kidding?
I mean, when he`s telling everything he knows to the Chinese government,
the best hope for American national security is that maybe he just doesn`t
know that much.
If U.S. intelligence and the White House knows he has this problem with
China and apparently Russia as well, listening into his private calls, the
president`s staff knows he has this problem. Why is he still talking on
his private phone, first of all? And why tonight are administration
officials talking about this to “The New York Times”?
Quote: Mr. Trump`s use of his iPhone was detailed by several current and
former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could
discuss classified intelligence and sensitive security arrangements. The
officials said they were doing so, meaning they were talking to “The Times”
tonight not to undermine President Trump, but out of frustration with what
they considered to be the president`s casual approach to electronic
So for the officials who were talking to “The Times” about this, the story
tonight, this is their way of, like, tugging on the president`s sleeve,
pssst, sir, I have to tell you, there`s a problem. Right? They`ve been
telling him in private there`s a security issue. He does not care.
So, now, they`re telling him in big, bold letters in the newspaper, right?
In this case, this is them telling him, hey, sir, you`ve got a little
spinach in your teeth. And he`s like, oh, yes? Get me a poppy seed bagel,
see if I can get some of that stuck in there too.
They`re telling him, sir, you got have four pieces of Charmin on your left
shoe. And he`s like, cool, how about some more on the other foot too? See
if we can get like six or eight pieces to stick.
I mean, they`ve been warning this is a security warning. I know this is
embarrassing, sir, but you really can`t use your private phone. And he`s
I mean, when you are warned that adversaries of the United States are
listening to your calls as president and using that surveillance to
manipulate you for the advantage of those foreign countries, and the
president doesn`t care and he keeps doing it any way, what do you do with
This is – this is more than worrying, this is weird, right? I mean, how
does this get fixed?
MADDOW: So we`re back now with this remarkable “New York Times” report
that`s just out tonight about U.S. intelligence reports indicating that
Chinese and Russian spies have been listening in regularly on the
president`s personal cell phone calls, calls that he`s been making from his
personal iPhone since he has been president.
The Chinese at least have been using what they`re hearing on those calls to
set up influence operations targeted at the people who the president speaks
to on a regular basis. So, his trusted friends who he speaks to regularly
end up telling him things that serve the interest of the Chinese
government. The president`s staff apparently decided to take this fact to
“The New York Times” tonight, because they can`t get him to stop doing this
otherwise. No matter how many times they`ve warned him about how dangerous
it is, he apparently doesn`t care, or he doesn`t care enough.
There is one hint in “The New York Times” story about why the president
might have kept doing this despite the security warnings. Quote: Officials
said the president does have two official iPhones that have been altered by
the National Security Agency to limit their abilities and vulnerabilities.
As well as a third personal phone that is no different from hundreds of
millions of iPhones in use around the world. President Trump keeps the
personal phone, White House officials said, because unlike his other two
phones, he can store his contacts in it.
Well, that seems way more important than, you know, the national security
consequences of the president`s personal communication all being listened
to in on speakerphone in the Chinese spy service every time he picks up
Joining us now is Jeremy Bash. He`s former chief of staff at the CIA and
the Department of Defense.
Mr. Bash, it is nice to have you here tonight. Thank you for being here.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Hey, Rachel.
MADDOW: Did you see this coming?
BASH: I did not, but I think Rachel tonight, we`re seeing two aspects of
the president`s behavior that are quite troubling. First, he`s talking on
unsecured telecommunication devices, mobile phones. But second is, he`s
also making himself incredibly vulnerable to Chinese and Russian influence
operations. Both of these are going to be major concerns for the U.S.
MADDOW: In terms of these influence operations, “The Times” report
tonight, goes into detail how the Chinese are trying to do this. They name
some of the people, at least a couple of people who the president is
regularly in contact with. They are people who have extensive business
connections in China.
According to “The Times” reporting, what the Chinese spy service decided to
do is to get Chinese business persons and other people related to the
Chinese government to essentially run influence operations, targeting those
friends of the president to convince them of things that are beneficial to
the Chinese government. The president will then hear them – hear those
things from his trusted friends and take action based on that advice to
benefit Chinese interests.
Does that seem byzantine to you, or is that the kind of influence operation
that you would typically look for in a national security context at a very
BASH: That`s pretty standard, Rachel. That doesn`t surprise me at all and
certainly won`t come as any surprise to anybody who`s got experience in the
national security community. The question is, what are the defenses
against those kinds of operations?
And the first key defense is you have to make sure that your conversations
are done with discretion. I don`t think it`s an understatement to say
basically that the president is not exactly a model of discretion. He
likes to talk, he likes to blab, he has no filter. He talks with his
friends. He talks with his colleagues all the time.
You know, it`s not per se a problem if he`s having unclassified
conversations, what`s going to be a problem if he goes into sensitive areas
and reveals things that make him and his team more vulnerable to influence,
to coercion and reveals information that could obviously benefit America`s
MADDOW: One of the things that strikes me as a potential risk here is if
Russia and China and who knows who else are able to freely listen in on the
president`s calls whenever they want. Presumably that means they can also
make recordings of the president. The release by a foreign intelligence
agency or foreign government of a private conversation by the president,
what it was undoctored or whether it was doctored to make it appear that he
was saying something that he didn`t actually say, that seems to me like the
kind of risk that the White House and that the national security sort of
infrastructure in our country would have to be very concerned about,
because if a hostile power decided to use that in a way designed to
undermine the United States or our interest, it seems like a
straightforward way to do it.
BASH: Yes, it`s going to be a problem. When the president is having
conversations that can be recorded, it`s not limited by the way to mobile
phones. I think he`s got to be careful on any unsecured land lines. And
really in any phone conversation and any system, e-mail, text, there`s no
such thing as a bullet proof system, and cyber security really isn`t about
technology. It`s really about the discretion and mindfulness of people who
have sensitive information and who have to understand that their
information can be used against the United States.
And this issue that you pointed out about them doctoring videos or audios
to something that`s attracted the attention of the intelligence oversight
committee as they`ve been warning where people take videos and dub audio
over them. This is a new world that we`re living in, and the new normal in
the era of social media and other sophisticated telecommunications
MADDOW: Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and DOD, thank you
very much for being here tonight, Jeremy. Much appreciated.
BASH: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I will say, one of the other remarkable things here, and I`m not
much for like psychological profiles of people in this administration, but
there is something important here about the fact that people who have been
warning the president about the national security implications of what he`s
doing with his phone and China listening in on everything he does on his
phone, people who have been warning him feel like he doesn`t care about the
And so, they have gone to “The New York Times” with this information as a
way to try to influence the president that way. That itself will end up
being one of the important things about this at the end of the day.
All right. Lots more to get to tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Big national races almost always come down to battleground states.
That`s how presidential races go, right?
In the same way, statewide races often come down to big battleground
counties. Right now in Georgia`s super close governor`s race, Gwinnett
County, northeast of Atlanta, is turning out to be one of those key spots.
Gwinnett is a big county, almost a million people live here, also happens
to be the most diverse county, not just in Georgia but the whole southeast.
Sixty percent of the people there are non-white.
Early voting started in Georgia last Monday. By the count of “The Atlanta
Journal Constitution”, almost 41,000 people in the county have cast their
ballots in the first nine days of early voting. What does that number
mean? Well, for context, you should know that that is quadruple the number
of people who voted early in Gwinnett County by this point in the last
midterm in 2014. Four times the number of people who voted in the last
But something else is happening in these really high numbers in Gwinnett
County. Absentee ballots in that country have been being rejected. If you
voted early in Georgia over the past nine days, if anything about your
ballot did not exactly match state records, including if an election
official didn`t think your signature on your ballot looked exactly the same
as your signature on file, that election official could have rejected your
ballot, they could have thrown out your ballot, and you might not find out
your ballot has been throne out until after the election is over.
So multiple civil rights and voting rights groups challenged the state,
sued the state for allowing those absentee ballots. It turns out the
county with the highest rejection rate is Gwinnett County. A group called
the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, they crunched the numbers
when they wrote to Gwinnett County`s attorney last week. They said, quote,
the absentee ballot rejection rate in Gwinnett County is more than three
times the average rejection rate across all the counties in Georgia.
Gwinnett`s absentee ballot rejection rate is higher than all other Atlanta
metro area counties. Last week, the ACLU in Georgia filed a suit against
Gwinnett County and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who`s the Republican
candidate for governor in Georgia right now, filed suit against them over
those rejections. We had one of those ACLU lawyers who brought the case,
Dale Ho, on the show last week to explain the suit, explain the goal, to
stop the state from throwing out those ballots as soon as possible, to
actually notify any affected voters to give them time to remedy the
Well, the ACLU was in court yesterday for the first hearing in that case.
And today in Georgia, they won. A federal judge in this case filed a
ruling today ordering Brian Kemp, ordering the Georgia secretary of state
to tell every election official they are no longer allowed to throw out
absentee ballots just because they don`t think the signature on the ballot
matches the signature on file. The judge says on those cases of signature
mismatches, election officials have to count them as provisional ballots
and crucially, they have to notify the voter in time for the voter to have
a chance to fix the mistake.
That ACLU lawsuit covered it last week, and as of today they are winning.
The state has until noon tomorrow to respond. Watch this space.
MADDOW: I mentioned earlier tonight that the FBI had identified five pipe
bombs sent to philanthropist George Soros to Hillary Clinton, to former
President Barack Obama, and former Attorney General Eric Holder and to
former CIA Director John Brennan, which was sent to him care of CNN even
though he doesn`t work there.
Law enforcement officials speaking to NBC say that those five suspicious
packages, Clinton, Obama, Soros, Holder, Brennan, they all contained pipe
bombs that were all substantially similar.
Well, as I also mentioned, we`ve now received confirmation from the FBI
that there were two devices, two bombs additionally sent to Democratic
Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. She like the other targets is
someone who has been frequently singled out for criticism by the president
in recent months.
Well, the FBI now says, quote, we have now confirmed two additional
packages both address said to Representative Maxine Waters are similar in
appearance to the other packages.
So, you know, we`ve been conservative in our reporting on this today.
That`s because you often expect early reports to be wrong in terrorism
cases like this, especially when there are multiple targets and they`re all
over the country. But it is now confirmed by the FBI that the list of
people receiving similar bombs, similar packages includes Maxine Waters,
So, it`s Clinton, Obama, Soros, Eric Holder, John Brennan care of CNN and
And the important thing here from a law enforcement perspective is number
one, nobody`s been hurt by these packages thus far, and number two, law
enforcement has all the bombs, has all the unexploded devices. And that`s
the best lead they could possibly have in figuring out who this is and
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: One last thing that I want to mention before I go tonight that is
slightly self-serving, I`m sorry. I have mentioned a couple of times this
week that I`m putting out a podcast next week for the first time.
Basically it`s just a mini-series, short mini series, seven episodes. I`m
super into it. It drops on Thursday of next week.
And I have mentioned two things about that. One I`m super nervous about it
because I`m excited tugboat because it`s really hard and I want it to be
good. And I`m just stressed out.
I – two, I`ve also mentioned that you can subscribe to it now so that you
get it as soon as it comes out on Tuesday. It turns out it`s the number
one podcast on iTunes now, which is awesome. So I want to say thank you to
everybody who subscribed to it.
But also this does not helping me with the number one point, which is that
I`m a little nervous about how this is going to go. This is not helping.
Thank you. But jeez.
All right. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”. Although Ali
Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Ali.
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