Russia targeted Mueller. TRANSCRIPT: 12/17/2018, The Rachel Maddow Show.
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 17, 2018
Guest: Tony Romm
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.
Happy to have you with us.
The most important and the most powerful military alliance in the world is
NATO. Within NATO, the largest military of all the NATO countries, of
course, is the one that belongs to our country. But what`s the second
largest military force in NATO?
It belongs to a country that is almost an original member of the military
alliance. The U.S. was there from the very beginning in 1949. The country
that has the second largest military in NATO was a full member by 1952, but
they are a hugely important part of the NATO alliance for a whole bunch of
different reasons, including the fact that their military is just so darn
big. And you should know that the country with the second largest military
in NATO after us is the nation of Turkey.
And whether or not you are particularly interested in the politics of that
region and the balance of power in that region of the world, because Turkey
is so strategically important, and because they are part of NATO, the U.S.
is literally obligated by treaty to consider the stakes, and if necessary,
to consider getting involved if things go particularly pear-shaped in
Turkey, which they did on July 15th, 2016. And we started getting images
like these out of Turkey. It basically brought the rest of the American
news cycle to a halt when we saw tanks in the streets.
And it was quite a feat at the time to bring the American news cycle to a
halt at that specific time because, again, this was July 15th, 2016. Think
about what was going on right there in our own politics and in our own news
cycle. That was not just the heart of our presidential election season.
July 15th, 2016, that was right before the nominating conventions were
about to start. And, in fact, that exact day, July 15th, was the day that
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter,
naturally, who his running mate was going to be.
And usually it is a huge deal when a presidential candidate makes his or
her running mate announcement. But in 2016, Mike Pence absolutely got off
easy. He basically completely elided the whole first day scrutiny thing.
July 15th, first of all, was a Friday. So as an announcement, the running
mate announcement of Mike Pence was probably doomed by the whole Friday
night news dump phenomenon to dissolve a little bit anyway over the course
of that midsummer weekend. But then that story, the announcement of Pence,
it just got absolutely knocked out of all primetime news coverage that day
because of the fiery super dramatic out in the streets, you know, shots
fired military coup in the country that is the second largest military
power in NATO after us.
And part of the drama with the American news coverage of that coup that
night, what was going on, overnight that night in Turkey, part of the drama
was that it really wasn`t clear as we were covering it whether or not the
coup was going to succeed in overthrowing the Turkish government. And, of
course, it did not in the end. We didn`t know that night how it was going
to work out.
I remember covering that night, there was this moment when the Turkish
president flew back into the country. He`d been abroad, and he flew back
into the country that night and he made a live speech from the airport,
proclaiming that the coup that had unfolded that night in his country, the
coup that had attempted to overthrow him that night, he called it in his
speech that night from the airport, quote, a gift from God. It sent a
chill down everybody`s spine, right? Because he explained this gift from
god, this failed coup would allow him to purge the country of his enemies,
and that was a sign that things were going to get very dark, very fast, and
they did. And they have stayed dark ever since.
The Turkish president intimating in that sort of blood-curdling speech that
he gave that night from the airport, intimating that night that he blamed
this military coup on a guy who lives in the United States, a legal U.S.
resident. He`s got a green card here. He`s lived here for a couple of
He is a Turkish cleric. His name is Gulen. He lives in the Poconos in
Pennsylvania. He is the boogeyman for everything that goes wrong in
So when President Erdogan got up there that night in the middle of the coup
and said from the airport, this is a gift from God, I will purge this
nation of my enemies. And, you know what? Turkey cannot be ruled from
Pennsylvania. That`s what he was talking about. He was talking about this
guy, green card holder, U.S. resident who lives in Pennsylvania on whom he
blames everything wrong in his country.
But again, this was in the thick of it in terms of our own presidential
race, July 15th, 2016. And that night in Cleveland, Ohio, the top national
security adviser to the Donald Trump campaign, he himself was giving a
speech to a conservative group in Cleveland, and he diverged from his
prepared remarks to tell people about this coup that was at that moment
breaking out in Turkey. Basically he said people at this event, you might
not have otherwise heard about it because you`re here, but what`s going on
in the news right now is there is a coup in Turkey.
And Mike Flynn basically explained to that conservative audience that night
in Cleveland, as the coup was going on, that the coup was basically
awesome, that it was something that that audience there should literally
applaud because basically it would be great if the Turkish government was
overthrown in that coup that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Now, I will tell you that I
spent most of my career in the region of the world that we`re still engaged
in, still engaged in. So, many of you maybe only caught it in the news, or
some of you – probably most of you don`t know, but there is an ongoing
coup going on in Turkey right now. Right now there is a coup.
I`m going to be very fascinated to see what happens because if the military
succeeds, one of the things that came out of the military tonight, they`re
about plus eight hours from here. So, it`s probably around, I don`t know,
3:00, 4:00 in the morning there.
One of the things what the military immediately says, we recognize our
responsibilities with NATO. We recognize our responsibilities with the
United Nations. We want to make sure that the world knows we are – we
want to be seen as a secular nation. This is the military.
So, yes. That is worth clapping for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is worth clapping for. There is a coup going on right now.
It would be amazing, right?
You want to see how corruption works? If you are ever considering selling
out your country, literally selling out your country for money, here`s the
world simplest demonstration of how to do that very quickly at the very
So, poor Mike Pence is announced as Donald Trump`s running mate on July
15th. Right? Mike Flynn that night gives a speech. It will be awesome if
the Turkish government gets overthrown. July 15th, the night of the coup.
Now, thanks to a new federal felony indictment that was just unsealed
today, now we know prosecutors say it took at most 11 days for Mike Flynn,
Donald Trump`s national security adviser, to do an absolute U-turn on that
important national security issue in exchange for a big pile of money.
Today, the vice chairman of the Flynn Intelligence Group appeared in
federal court in Virginia to face federal conspiracy charges and a charge
of acting unlawfully in the United States as the agent of a foreign
government. Mike Flynn himself is described in this indictment as person
After Mike Flynn got up in front of that crowd on July 15th and said they
all ought to applaud this military coup to overthrow the Turkish
government, according to today`s indictment, prosecutors say 11 days later
on July 26th, Flynn engaged in a, quote, detailed discussion with the vice
chairman of his company about going to work on behalf of the government of
Turkey, specifically, to go after that guy in Pennsylvania who the Turkish
government was blaming for the coup.
Wait. I thought the coup was a good thing? Eleven days later, nope?
Quote: On or about July 27th, 2016, Flynn`s business partner replied to an
e-mail from his Turkish government contact saying he had had a detailed
discussion with Michael Flynn the previous night. Flynn`s business partner
informed his Turkish contact, quote, we are ready to engage on what needs
to be done. Flynn and his business partner then proposed a detailed plan
to their Turkish government contact.
By the second week in August, August 10th, their contact with ties to the
Turkish government reported back that they had the green light to go ahead
with their plan. On or about August 10th, the Turkish government contact
sent an e-mail to Flynn and his partner saying, quote, I just finished in
Ankara after several meetings today with Turkish minister number two and
Turkish minister number one. I have a green light to discuss
confidentiality, budget, and scope of the contract.
And then, sure enough, about three weeks after that, Mike Flynn gets the
contract. Quote: Under the terms of the contract, company A, which is the
Flynn intelligence group, was to receive a total of $600,000 broken into
three $200,000 payments. Among the deliverables that Mike Flynn was
expected to produce in exchange for this money, quote, the contract noted
company A was expended to deliver findings and results, including but not
limited to making criminal referrals against the Turkish guy in
Pennsylvania who the Turkish government was blaming for the coup.
And then, within a couple of weeks, Flynn was at a fancy hotel in New York
City meeting with his business partner, who was charged today and their
Turkish government contact who was charged today, and those two ministers
from the Turkish government, one of whom we believe is Erdogan`s son-in-
law, his Jared, if you will. The purpose of that meeting in mid-September
was to discuss how Mike Flynn, for money, was going to help the Turkish
government get their hands on this permanent U.S. resident, this Turkish
guy who lives in this country, who has a green card here, who the U.S.
Justice Department says cannot legally be extradited to Turkey, no matter
how much Turkey wants to get their hands on him.
Mike Flynn, nevertheless, was going to deliver him, for money. Did I
mention this was all for money? By election day itself, on November 8th,
Mike Flynn published a somewhat terrifying op-ed in “The Hill” newspaper
where he called this Turkish guy living in Pennsylvania a shady Islamic
mullah, and compared him to freaking Osama bin Laden.
So all that unfolds over the space of less than four months. When Mike
Flynn was not being paid by this foreign government, he told an American
audience the night of the coup that they should applaud the coup, that the
overthrow of the government in Turkey would be great for the United States.
They should applaud that. That would be amazing. Let`s root for these
people who are trying to overthrow that government. Let us root for the
Sensing an opportunity to make a buck, though he turns on – I was going to
say turns on a dime. He turns on many dimes, $600,000 worth of dimes, and
says less than two weeks later, you know what? Forget what I actually
think is right for the United States when I`m not being paid to say
For the low, low price of $600,000, I will not only stop telling Americans
that they should applaud that coup, I will help the government that was the
target of that coup hunt down the guy they`re blaming it on. I will fight
and undermine the United States government`s determination that that guy is
safe in our country and is a legal resident here, and I will figure out a
way, for money, to hand him over to Turkey so they can do what they want
with him. All you got to do is pay me. And by the way, I`m going to be
the next national security adviser of the United States.
Thanks to today`s indictment, we know that the op-ed that Mike Flynn
published on Election Day attracted the attention of the
counterintelligence folks at the Justice Department who apparently looked
at this op-ed and thought, hmm, shady Islamic mullah. They thought that
seemed like it might be written by somebody who was a foreign agent of the
Turkish government. Should we check to see if the incoming national
security adviser is in fact a secret foreign agent? They checked.
Quote: Following Flynn`s op-ed, the FARA registration unit of the U.S.
Department of Justice sent a letter to Flynn requesting additional
information to determine whether he, the Flynn Intelligence Group, and/or
other individuals had an obligation to register as an agent of a foreign
government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. And, of course, in
quick succession thereafter, Mike Flynn was named national security
adviser. He was sworn in as national security adviser. He then very
quickly had to resign as national security adviser.
After he had resigned, he retroactively registered as a foreign agent
representing the government of Turkey. He was then charged with lying to
FBI investigators about his contacts with the Russian government. As part
of the charging documents in that case, he admitted that he also lied to
investigators about him being a paid agent for the government of Turkey and
the fact that he was acting illegally in this country as their unregistered
foreign agent during the time that he was the top national security adviser
on the Trump campaign and in fact right up through election day.
Today, with the unsealing of this indictment, we learn that Flynn`s Turkish
government contact who set up this gig for him, who was allegedly running
this whole operation on behalf of the Turkish government and arranging to
funnel the payments to Mike Flynn through a non-Turkish company so as to
hide the origin of the payments, that guy is was charged today by federal
prosecutors and is facing decades in prison, although he has still not
appeared in court.
He is described as a resident of Istanbul. One of the filings that was
unsealed today was a warrant for his arrest. But in “The New York Times”`
reporting in this case today, he is described as whereabouts unknown.
The other person was charged today, though, is the vice chairman of the
Flynn intelligence group, a guy named Bijan Kian, Mike Flynn`s longtime
business partner. Mr. Kian did appear in court today after responding to a
summons ordering him to be there.
You might have seen a lot of headlines today describing him as a Flynn
associate or a Flynn business associate who has now been charged as a
secret foreign agent. But honestly, the way he should be described today
in terms of the import of this new indictment and how this fits into
everything, the way he should be described today is as a Trump transition
official, who was charged today as a secret foreign agent.
Look, his LinkedIn page is still there. This is the LinkedIn page for
Bijan Kian, who today became the latest person connected with President
Trump to be charged with federal felonies. He says that he was on the ODNI
landing team for Trump`s transition team. See, his title listed there,
presidential title team`s intelligence community deputy lead. ODNI landing
And a prescient “Associated Press” piece from last summer which raised
concerns about this very early, reporter Steven Braun and Chad Day noted
that Mr. Kian, again, this is the guy who was charged today, noted that he
was involved in the transition in, quote, sensitive hiring and policy
discussions involving U.S. intelligence.
According to one Trump transition official speaking to the “A.P.” last
summer, one of the things Bijan Kian did in the transition when he was on
the landing team at the office of the director of national intelligence,
one of the things he did was he helped, quote, scrutinize then-Congressman
Mike Pompeo before Pompeo was named Trump`s CIA director. So one of the
senior people on the Trump transition landing team for intelligence matters
was secretly on the payroll of a foreign government while he was helping
select the next CIA director. Oh. And now he`s charged as part of an
alleged scheme to disguise the origins of more than a half million in
payments to Mike Flynn and Flynn`s company so he and Flynn could secretly
work in the interests of a foreign country without anybody knowing it while
they were also working at high-level jobs in intelligence inside the U.S.
And somehow Mike Flynn, who is person “A” in this indictment, and who the
indictment spells out was pretty clearly the other big part of this scheme,
somehow Mike Flynn emerges from this as an unindicted co-conspirator who is
not being charged and who is not facing any jail time for this scheme
whatsoever. And presumably that is because Mike Flynn`s cooperation is
what led to this indictment today. But given what seems to have been his
role in this, given the clear implication that he was a national security
adviser to a presidential candidate who was secretly also a foreign agent
for months and then lied about it when confronted about it by the FBI, I
mean, that seems like a remarkable thing for him to stayed on, right?
Why do you get to be unindicted in this matter when this matter sort of
seems to be all about you? We will get some expert advice in just a moment
as to why Flynn himself may not have been charged in this scheme that he
was at the center of. But there are a number of dangling threads here,
beyond why wasn`t Flynn charged for this.
I mean, as another matter, there have been recent reports that the Trump
administration even now is newly considering handing over this Turkish guy
in the Poconos to the Turkish government, because the Turkish government
keeps demanding it, even without Mike Flynn secretly on their payroll to
try to get that, and without the deputy head of the landing team at the
intelligence community secretly on their payroll to try to get that. There
are reports that the Trump administration is still thinking right now about
handing that by over.
There is also the unresolved allegation that was made by former CIA
Director James Woolsey, who says when he was briefly part of the
discussions that took place between Flynn and Flynn`s company and the
Turkish government on this matter, he recalls a meeting at which they
discussed a covert plot to actually go kidnap this guy in Pennsylvania, in
the Poconos, and take him – put a bag over his head presumably and fly him
to a remote prison island and thereby spirit him away to Turkish custody.
Woolsey went public with an allegation that this involved a kidnapping
plot. Whatever happened to that?
And then there is the timing here. This remarkable new indictment was
filed with the court last week, but it was only unsealed today. And today
is the eve of Mike Flynn`s sentencing by a federal judge in Washington,
D.C. is the unsealing of this indictment which spells out Flynn`s whole
foreign agent scheme involving Turkey, is this designed to help Mike Flynn
at sentencing tomorrow? Because this is yet another instance where the
defense can say, hey look, our client was super cooperative. You know,
just yesterday there was another indictment where Mike Flynn`s testimony
led to more indictments being charged with felonies. Is this something
that could help him in the sentencing? Because it shows yet another
investigation in which he has been an important cooperator?
Or would this potentially hurt him for his sentencing tomorrow since, of
course, it is a vivid reminder that Mike Flynn wasn`t just an otherwise
totally awesome dude who never did anything wrong until that one day he
hiccupped in the middle of his FBI interview, and, oops, they mistook it
for a lie, which is what his defense has been claiming to the judge. I
mean, the scheme laid out in today`s indictment shows that Flynn really
thought he could be national security adviser, the national security
adviser in the White House, and a secret foreign agent at the same time.
And he was willing to try it if you give him enough money, including lying
about it to federal investigators before finally he stopped lying about it
to federal investigators and he flipped on the other people involved in the
So, we will find out tomorrow at Mike Flynn`s sentencing whether or not
this new indictment, newly unsealed today, cuts for him or against him, or
potentially whether the judge decides to compartmentalize this and they see
it as a totally separate and unrelated matter. We should get clues to that
both by the length of the sentence that Flynn gets tomorrow, but also
hopefully by any remarks the judge may make in court explaining the
But honestly, aside from the fate of Flynn, I mean, the thing we all hope
gets explained here – and again, we will get some expert advice on this
from a national security reporter who has been on this story from the very
beginning, but for all of us. I mean, this is – this is our government,
right? National security matters affect all of us.
And you can`t get anywhere near the lurid story of Mike Flynn and his lies
to investigators and his schemes and his foreign entanglements that he was
covering up while he was involved in these sensitive matters, right, all
the ways he was caught, all the warnings and the red flags flying around,
you can`t get anywhere near this lurid saga of Mike Flynn as a national
security and counterintelligence disaster at the highest levels of this
administration without at least wondering why the Trump administration did
not care about any of this, right?
I mean, we now know during the transition, which was headed up by star-
crossed Vice President-elect Mike Pence, during the transition which Mike
Pence was running, Mike Flynn`s lawyers notified the transition formally in
writing that Flynn was the object of an FBI investigation into him having
potentially acted as a secret agent for the government of Turkey. The
transition was notified about that during the transition.
Despite that notification that he was under federal investigation on a
counterintelligence matter, they want ahead and named him national security
adviser anyway. Nobody blinked. It was only days later, literally less
than a month later, when the Justice Department, the acting attorney
general came up to the White House with a hair on fire absolutely
unprecedented warning that, you know, OK, if you don`t care about him
potentially being a foreign agent of Turkey, we also need to tell you he
has been having secret communications with the Russians too, and he has
been lying about those communications, which means the Russian government
has compromised him.
And you cannot have a national security adviser who is compromised by the
Russian government, even if you are comfortable with one who is secretly on
the payroll of a different foreign government, which apparently you`re fine
with. But even with that warning, nope. Nobody cared. No reaction.
They kept him on as national security adviser. They didn`t restrict his
access to sensitive and classified information whatsoever. I mean, set
aside – set aside the president on this. Set aside the existentially
challenging issue of the president himself potentially being compromised,
Flynn as national security adviser, given what we now know what was going
on with Flynn and what we now know the law enforcement community and the
intelligence agencies knew what was going on with Flynn and what they
warned the incoming Trump folks about Flynn, Flynn as national security
adviser is something that just seems impossible in retrospect. I mean,
that`s like learning that I was in the running to be first lady. Like,
really? No, not conceivable, no matter what drugs you take, can`t think
I mean, given the warnings and the information that everybody in the
campaign and administration were aware of at the time, whatever you think
of Trump, Mike Pence was running the transition. Reince Priebus was set to
be White House chief of staff. Don McGahn was set to be White House
counsel. None of these guys minded at all when they were told or reminded
that their national security adviser designate, or in fact their sworn in
national security adviser was under FBI investigation for secretly being on
a foreign country`s payroll, and he had been for months.
He had potentially been on a foreign country`s payroll for months while
running the national security apparatus of a presidential campaign, right?
And that, of course, meant sitting in on all the classified briefings that
Trump and his campaign, the upper levels of his campaign, were able to get
once he became the nominee. We now know at that time, right, Flynn was
being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars secretly by the Turkish
government to advocate for their interests in the United States at that
same time the Turkish government was repeatedly pressing the U.S.
government to hand over that Turkish guy in the Poconos who they wanted to
blame for the coup.
Flynn was in on classified briefings as a senior Trump campaign official at
the time that the Turkish government was pressing the U.S. government to
act on that issue. He was secretly being paid by the Turks to lobby on
that issue. Anything on that ever come up in any of the classified
briefings for the Trump campaign or the transition or the new
administration? Anything that he was in on?
One of the guys charged today admits to having been a secret agent of a
foreign government when he was on the Trump transition, setting up the
intelligence leadership of the intelligence community for the Trump
administration. The guy that was doing that with went on to become
national security adviser. And apparently he himself is not going to be
What about all the Trump transition officials and the Trump administration
folks who knew that Flynn was under investigation for potentially being a
foreign agent, who had to know that Flynn`s business partner was also under
investigation as a potential foreign agent while he had served in a senior
role in the transition on intelligence matters? What about the other
people in the transition and the Trump administration who knew all that and
just let those guys in, let them stay in there anyway?
I mean, Pence, McGahn, Priebus, all these guys who got these warnings, it`s
fine that they just blew them off? I mean, maybe this is just the way
these things work, but what we saw today is the guy who is literally the
lowest link in the chain getting charged, plus a foreigner, a guy in Turkey
who nobody is ever going to be able to find.
But all these other people, all these other ranking people who had very
senior and important national security roles and decision making roles in
the federal government of the United States, they were either in on it
themselves or they turned a blind eye to it and let these people have
access to highly classified intelligence information. They decided they
didn`t care, let it happen.
None of them get charged? None of them are implicated? This is how this
ends? Only the lowest guy on the pole gets charged?
Maybe. But maybe not. Hold that thought. We`ve got expert advice coming
MADDOW: Tomorrow, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, Courtroom 24-A, fourth floor,
Washington, D.C., district court. Former Trump national security adviser
Mike Flynn will be sentenced.
Today, on the eve of that sentencing, a federal court in Virginia unsealed
a new indictment charging a Trump transition official who is the vice
chairman of Flynn`s intelligence firm with illegal lobbying on behalf of a
foreign country, in this case Turkey. He is facing up to 15 years in
prison for his role in that scheme. But we`re led to believe that Flynn`s
facing nothing, no time at all in his sentencing tomorrow, despite what
prosecutors describe as his extensive role in this exact same alleged
Joining us now to make sense of this is Julia Ainsley, NBC News national
security and justice reporter, who has been on this story for a very long
Julia, thanks for being here.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Thanks for
MADDOW: Is there any evidence that – I have started to think about Mike
Flynn as a sort of counterintelligence and national security disaster.
MADDOW: Is there any evidence that he did change U.S. policy or the
behavior of the U.S. government when he and his business partner we now
know were secretly being paid by this other country?
AINSLEY: Yes, and I`ll tell you why. This is not a victimless crime.
For anyone who thinks, why do we care what Flynn did before he came into
the White House, it did impact our policy. We had exclusive reporting at
NBC News a few months ago. Now it`s all kind of falling together.
But the FBI was asked to reinvestigate Fethullah Gulen. They had gotten
boxes and boxes of material under the Obama administration from Turkey
saying, please look at this guy. Please extradite him. We think he is
behind the coup.
And then went through everything and they said, there`s nothing here. And
then these same investigators were asked again in early February, right
MADDOW: Right at the very start.
AINSLEY: At the start of the Trump administration.
MADDOW: While Flynn was still there.
AINSLEY: With no new information. So, they`re frustrated. We did our
job. We have did our due diligence. We went through this. There is
So it did influence our policy. You could – at the very least, it`s a
waste of time on the part of FBI and DOJ investigators who take these jobs
very seriously, but at worst, it shows that there was a foreign government
influencing our policy here.
MADDOW: So, if Mike Flynn, according to prosecutors, he and his firm were
being – had a $600,000 contract with the government of Turkey. One of the
expected deliverables of that contract, according to prosecutors today, was
that they were expected to produce a criminal referral related to Gulen.
If Flynn was being paid to do that and he tried to do that, how is it that
Flynn is not being charged here?
AINSLEY: That`s a good question. I mean, you look at all of this. It`s
not that Flynn was duped, right? He is supposed to be top intelligence
official, one of the great intelligence national security minds who can say
he was chosen to do that, chosen by this job for the Trump administration.
He wasn`t duped by these people. He was involved at every piece of this.
And as you go through what he had unsealed today, it`s obvious they would
have calls with their connection to Turkey and that Ekim Alptekin would go
to Turkish officials, it said Turkish official 1 and 2, and he would get
back to them and say Flynn, they`re satisfied.
It was so obvious. It`s not there`s more than points A, B, and C here.
It`s a direct way. So, he`s not being charged because he must have given
something pretty great to Robert Mueller.
I mean, I think that`s what you have to take away. And in the
presentencing memo that Mueller put out, he said he would not recommend
incarceration for him because of his cooperation in three investigations,
this being one of them.
MADDOW: Well, because this was unsealed today on the eve of Flynn`s
sentencing, I mean, it`s possible that`s a coincidence, right? This is
prosecutors in Eastern District of Virginia. He`s being sentenced tomorrow
in D.C. Mueller is separate from these prosecutors entirely.
Is this likely to cut for him or against him? I mean, what`s in Flynn`s
favor here is if he helped in his cooperation produce yet another
indictment, right? That`s good in terms of the value of his cooperation.
But he himself is so deeply implicated in the scheme that is outline in
this indictment. I can`t imagine that the judge is going to look at this
and say, oh, yes, you lying to the FBI is such a big deal. You otherwise
are such a great guy.
AINSLEY: That`s right. I mean, first of all, it`s not a coincidence that
they would want this wrapped up before they go through with his sentencing.
They want to tie up the Flynn piece with a bow. This started before
Mueller was even appointed. They need to finish this.
Flynn was a big part of this, and it would be hard for them to come forward
with more charges, after he`s sentenced because he`s such a big part of the
cooperation on this.
But, yes, you`re right. I mean, what this totally dashes is what Flynn`s
defense put out last week, where they tried to paint him as a boy scout.
How he saved toddlers from a rolling car. I mean, they tried to paint him
as this –
MADDOW: He was a lifeguard. He can`t possibly have meant it when he lied
to the FBI.
AINSLEY: Right, right.
MADDOW: I was a lifeguard. If I lie to the FBI, I should go to jail.
AINSLEY: Right. So, it totally takes away the idea that Flynn is this
golden boy. I mean, the fact that it wasn`t like he slipped up once. He
knowingly did this. He knew better, he lied to his attorneys. He lied to
He lied on his FARA filings. First, he didn`t file and when he did, he
lied on those.
AINSLEY: And he`s just so crucial to this entire scheme that you see laid
out here, it would be really hard to say that he was this, you know, golden
person who was really blameless and was just tricked by these people and
tricked by the FBI. And then, that, of course, as we saw Judge Sullivan
today had the prosecutors put out their interviews, and that actually is
pretty negative for Flynn, too, because it shows he knows exactly what he
was talking about. Some pretty full conversation and he wasn`t duped by
them, either, Rachel.
MADDOW: It will be fascinating to see how the judge weighs out all these
pieces. I mean, I know this is outside his district and this is a separate
matter and everything.
But you`re right. It can`t be a coincidence that this is out on the eve of
his sentencing. That`s going to be an amazing to watch.
Julie Ainsley, thank you so much. Great to have you here.
AINSLEY: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Congratulations on being part of the early reporting on this.
This has been a bear to get ahold of, but now that it`s all coming
together, it`s just a fascinating story.
AINSLEY: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Julia Ainsley is NBC News national security and justice reporter.
We`ve got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: They called it the no men midterms. Quote: Democrats win when
only women vote. #nomenmidterms.
Wave bye to mommy on the way out the door. She`s going to vote. We don`t
Be a feminist dude. Don`t vote.
Then there was this one. Quote: we`re making a woman`s vote worth more by
staying home, beardy guys. #letwomendecide. #nomenmidterm.
Three days before the election this year, Twitter en masse deleted over
10,000 accounts that were posting messages like these and other things that
were designed to dissuade Democrats. All male Democrats, at least, from
turning out to actually vote in the midterm elections because even super
stupid voter suppression can still be voter suppression.
The security firm that tracked that particular wave bye to mommy while
she`s going to vote campaign playing out on Twitter just ahead of this
year`s election, that firm is called New Knowledge. And today, we learned
that that same firm with that Orwellian name, New Knowledge, have been
working on something way bigger to help us understand the attacks on our
elections that we have been living through in this generation and that have
continued. That remarkable story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Chart imitates life.
This is a chart from researchers at Oxford University. And also a social
media analysis company called Graphica. And what you`re seeing here is the
average number of Facebook posts churned out by the Internet Research
Agency each day, in their Russian disinformation campaign that they started
in our country at the beginning of 2015 to try to help Donald Trump win the
And there are – there are charts that look very similar for other social
media platforms. This one happens to be for Facebook. What you see there,
to a certain extent, is what you might expect. The volume of posts, the
volume of this Russian disinformation that was pumped into American
Facebook feeds from this Russian troll farm.
It increases fairly steadily as we get closer and closer to the election
with a real ramp-up in the month or so before the vote. Reports released
by the Senate Intelligence Committee today made clear that the content of
these posts was basically uniformly crafted to boost Donald Trump and/or
hurt Hillary Clinton. And given that you might expect that once the
election happened, and Donald Trump won the election, you`d expect the
volume of posts to drop off, right? Job well done, mission accomplished,
time to pack it up.
That`s not what happened at all. Look at the time frame here. Look, after
the election, you see the dotted line there that marks election. After the
election, the volume and pace of Russian social media disinformation kept
going up and it continued at that ramped-up pace through much of 2017.
And while we can`t say for certain what exactly the Russian government was
trying to accomplish during that time, there is one clue. You see that
really big spike shortly after the election that`s the highest spike on the
whole chart? That came during the presidential transition. December 29th
and 30th of 2016 which were the days President Obama levied new sanctions
against Russia for them interfering in our election.
That`s also when incoming national security adviser Mike Flynn, who`s due
to be sentenced tomorrow, that`s when we secretly told the Russian
ambassador, hey, don`t worry about these new sanctions, the Trump
administration is going to be much friendlier. And then on that advice
from Mike Flynn, President Putin and Russia opted to not retaliate for the
In those first months of 2017, as the Russian propagandists kept up their
newly frenetic pace of social media disinformation, we now know, of course,
the Trump White House was quietly behind the scenes trying to get Russian
sanctions lifted, which Russia, of course, desperately wanted. We learned
this today when the Senate Intelligence Committee released their reports.
The one with the chart as well as another report by the firm, New
Knowledge, on the Russian attempt to hack the American public as a means of
helping Trump become president.
The Russians began tinkering around with this approach years before the
election. They continued after Trump won, trying to get out from under
American sanctions. And if you need yet more evidence that the Russian
U.S. disinformation campaign continued well past the election to try to
accomplish pro-Russian and pro-Trump outcomes, late tonight, we got this
new round of reporting from the “Washington Post.” Did you see this
Russian disinformation teams targeted Robert S. Mueller, says report
prepared for the Senate. Months after President Trump took office,
Russia`s disinformation teams trained their sights on a new target, special
counsel Robert Mueller, having worked to help Trump into the White House,
they now worked to neutralize the biggest threat to him staying there.
Quote: The Russian operatives unloaded on Mueller through fake accounts on
Facebook, Twitter, and beyond, falsely claiming the former FBI director was
corrupt and the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election
were crackpot conspiracies. The Russians tweeted about Mueller more than
5,000 times. Some called for his firing. Others mocked him as
incompetent. Still others campaigned for the end of his, quote, entire
That`s just breaking tonight from the “Washington Post,” one of the
reporters who broke that story joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee released two reports
showing the extent of how the Russian government used every social media
platform to try to suppress votes for Hillary Clinton, particularly among
African-American voters and to boost the electoral prospects for Donald
Trump. Well, tonight, “The Washington Post” has added this new reporting
about the Russian government disinformation campaign, training its sights
after the election to try to undermine Robert Mueller, once he was
appointed special counsel to investigate Russia`s interference campaign and
the question of whether or not the Trump campaign was in on it.
Joining us now is Tony Romm. He`s a tech policy reporter for “The
Mr. Romm, thanks very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to have
TONY ROMM, TECHNOLOGY POLICY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Thanks for
MADDOW: So, I feel like we`ve had sort of interstitial reporting, over the
course of the last couple of years, where every once in a while, you go
through the committees, or sometimes just through the tech companies
directly, we get a little more information, a little more primary sourced
material about what exactly the Russians did to try to influence U.S.
voters during the election. What`s different about these reports that were
released by the Senate Intelligence Committee today in term of us
understanding the nature and effectiveness of the attack?
ROMM: Yes, this is the most comprehensive report to date that shows the
work by Russians to destabilize American democracy on the word of
researchers and spread disinformation on major social media sites. And it
really is a whole of Internet operation on the part of the Internet
Research Agency. That`s the troll farm operated by Kremlin or backed by
the Kremlin. It wasn`t just Facebook, Google and Twitter, it was perhaps
lesser known sites, places like Tumblr and Soundcloud. They were selling
t-shirts in PayPal. They were in Medium.
This was a very deliberate effort to spread disinformation and spread
social and political unrest around the election and after Trump`s election
MADDOW: The language used in the reports to describe the two different
types of messages to approach right-wing voters or conservative leaning
voters with pro-Trump messages that were Trump specific, that used his
name, that built him up and on the other hand to target voters who would be
unlikely to vote for Trump with messages that were designed to be negative
about Hillary Clinton or to be sort of bamboozling or innervating or to
make people feel like not voting or to make people feel confused about
It`s fairly sophisticated in terms of the two different types of approaches
– one hyping a candidate, one very suppressive in the way that was
targeted to specific communities. Given that kind of sophistication, do we
have any way of knowing whether this campaign was informed by or
coordinated with any Americans?
ROMM: Well, we certainly don`t know for sure that piece. We do know that
members of the Internet Research Agency, that troll farm that has tries to
the Kremlin, you know, did send officials to the United States, that there
were definite attempts to recruit Americans and spreading its
We saw a lot of this after the election when agents of the Russian
government were creating events on Facebook to protest the president and
were recruiting real Americans who were actively trying to protest the
president to take over those events. So it really just sort of fit with
what was already happening on social media.
But you`re right, these were very sophisticated tactics. You would expect
maybe to see a corporate brand that was trying to target you, the pair of
shoes, doing the same kind of thing that Russian agents were doing. They
were very familiar with how to target their messages specifically to
individual groups on Facebook like African-Americans who they recruited
with messages pointing out police brutality while at the same time
encouraging them not to vote.
And they were very good at taking those messages into places like Instagram
and getting resonance with them. I mean, there were more than 187 million
interactions, things like likes and shares on Instagram from content from
Russian agents. So, this stuff went viral. It was seen by people. It was
MADDOW: It was sophisticated and it continued to be accelerated into the
Trump era even after the election. That`s the part is – sort of makes you
see everything differently, even just today looking around at the social
media landscape that we`re still inhabiting.
Tony Romm, tech policy reporter for “The Washington Post”, it was a
pleasure to have you here tonight. Thanks very much for your time.
ROMM: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Over the weekend, President Trump announced that Ryan Zinke won`t
be interior secretary anymore. Ryan Zinke has been the subject of at least
15 different investigations at his time at the Interior Department,
stemming from his conduct in office and from his business dealings back
home in Montana while he`s been in office.
But according to “The Washington Post,” it was something specific that got
Zinke to head for the exits. One of the investigations into him apparently
became a criminal referral to the Justice Department. And according to
“The Post,” it was that criminal referral that caused the White House to
push Zinke out the door. Which means he will be dragging a potential
criminal investigation behind him on his way home.
He, of course, would not be alone in that. When EPA Administrator Scott
Pruitt was forced to quit his job in Trump cabinet, he`d been drowning in
his own ethics scandals for the better part of the year. But his sudden
departure might have also had something to do with the fact that he like
Ryan Zinke was being scrutinized not just by ethics investigators but by
federal prosecutors at the Justice Department who were looking into whether
Pruitt broke laws while he say running the EPA.
CNN reports that that DOJ investigation into Pruitt, the criminal one, it
conveniently stalled once S
Scott Pruitt up and quit. That`s maybe an important precedent if you`re
Ryan Zinke, right? He seemed to have taken a page out of Scott Pruitt`s
handbook, and quitting ahead of that criminal investigation, or perhaps he
was forced to by the White House. But maybe this is the rule. You quit
before t the criminal inquiry actually grabs you, get out of town, hope the
whole thing fizzles before you`re gone? You think that`s one is going to
work for him too?
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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