First charges field in Mueller Probe Transcript 10/27/17 The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

Guests:
Natasha Bertrand, Ron Klain, David Corn, Malcolm Nance, Tom Steyer, Mieke Eoyang
Transcript:

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: October 27, 2017
Guest: Natasha Bertrand, Ron Klain, David Corn, Malcolm Nance, Tom Steyer, Mieke Eoyang


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Joy.

JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And once again, we can`t
go into our Friday night calmly with the plans that we had. It`s always
getting blown up –

MADDOW: If you –

REID: – by Trump himself.

MADDOW: If you would like to borrow my intact show –

(LAUGHTER)

REID: I think I`ll just –

MADDOW: – which has not been touched because of all the breaking news
tonight –

REID: I know.

MADDOW: – you`re welcome to use it.

REID: Exactly. And the one that we had, we can just import to Monday so
that when Lawrence is back, he can just use that. It`s going to be great.

MADDOW: We`re going to need to give all of our viewers little time
machines that they can fit over their heads. They can go back to Friday
noon when a whole lot of other stories seemed important before the stuff
that broke the news.

REID: Yes. We`ll bedazzle the time machine so that they look cute on, but
you know –

MADDOW: Very good.

(LAUGHTER)

REID: You know, do you think – and I – and we`ve been talking about this
sort of interim. I`m sure that you`ve been having the same conversation
with your team, that it did feel, for the last 48 hours, like something was
happening because there was a level of hysteria about trying to push a
narrative that was something other than Russiagate, right?

MADDOW: Yes.

REID: Making a Russiagate 2.0 that Hillary Clinton is the villain and that
she is colluding. It felt almost too on the nose to just be coincidental.
I don`t know if you felt that.

MADDOW: Well, it was – I mean, we have seen an – a very aggressive
dynamic at work, which is not like it`s been invisible before, but it was
way more aggressive and got way further this week, which is on two fronts.
One, to try to make Russia collusion about Hillary Clinton.

REID: Right.

MADDOW: That whole counter narrative thing, and let`s get a Special
Counsel on the uranium deal from the Obama administration, all that stuff.
Try to turn it around. You know, the White House has been saying,
literally, the shoe is on the other foot now. That`s the real Russia
story.

We`ve also seen the congressional investigations this week blow up.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: And the Republicans involved in those congressional
investigations, in the case of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, say,
we`re out. They`re not going to work together basically anymore on that
committee.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: And the other committees, they basically declared as of this week
that they`re wrapping up. Haven`t found anything. Just need to do some,
you know, dotting the I`s and crossing the T`s. We`re done here.

REID: Yes. Yes.

MADDOW: That all happening at once, the White House press, the
conservative media press, and the Republican congressional thing, all
saying, it`s over. There`s nothing to see here. Russia`s done.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: That all happening at once. You know, maybe it`s just a
coincidence. Maybe it was just time for that to happen.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: Or maybe that`s what happens when charges start to get filed.

REID: And that`s the thing, too, because they all sort of interrelate,
right? On the one hand, you have Mueller`s investigation that does impact
the Senate investigation, so they must be, at least at some point level,
read into what`s going on in Mueller`s shop. We would hope.

But I don`t know if you find it disturbing, the level of – this looks like
it`s all designed to protect Donald Trump, not designed to get at the meat
and potatoes of what Russia did to us.

I feel like so much of what we`re seeing are attempts to surround Donald
Trump, to protect him on the congressional side, and even to protect him on
– by a news organization. By, ostensibly, a news organization.

I don`t know. Maybe I`m just a little bit paranoid in thinking that is a
bit disturbing.

MADDOW: Well, the thing – the part of it that I find – that I do find –
I mean, I`m – none of us are naive. We understand how partisan media and
partisan impulses work.

But the part of it that I have been a little bit dismayed by is that it`s
one thing for people who are partisans of the Trump administration or who
are Republicans and see it as their job to defend the President to say, you
know what, this collusion thing didn`t happen.

What Russia did was terrible. We as Americans are against that, but don`t
try to drag Donald Trump into this.

You know, don`t try – you`re saying that he was involved in this to try to
undercut his election. He won his election fair and square, and what the
Russian did – Russians did was something separate.

I can understand Republicans making that case if that`s what they believe.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: What has started to happen now is that the White House, in
particular, is really trying to get away with saying that the Russians did
nothing wrong.

REID: That`s right, exactly.

MADDOW: And they`re doing that at the same time that Rex Tillerson is
dissolving the sanctions office in the State Department, that the White
House is dragging its feet on bringing sanctions against Russia for what
they did in the election.

And when – if we`re going to protect ourselves from Russia continuing to
do this, the Department of Homeland Security, DOD, and lots of other
organizations ought to be well down the road in terms of protecting us, and
they`re really not.

REID: Yes. Yes.

MADDOW: So that kind of surrender to what Russia has done, that`s a
patriotism thing, not a partisanship thing. And that is the part that
makes me sad.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Well, it is not Sunday, but you can get an amen on
that, sister. Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.

REID: Thank you.

MADDOW: I will look forward to my bedazzled time machine when they get
time to make them.

REID: It`s going to be fabulous, you`re going to love it.

MADDOW: I`m going to love it. Thank you, Joy.

REID: Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate it. All right. I am Joy Reid, in
for Lawrence O`Donnell.

And tonight, we begin with that breaking news, CNN reporting that,
according to two sources briefed on the matter, the first charges have been
filed in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The charges are apparently still sealed under orders from a federal judge,
so we don`t know who the charges are against, and we don`t even know what
the charges are.

NBC News has not yet confirmed this report. And no other news organization
confirmed it yet either, so we can only go by what CNN is saying at the
moment. But according to their sources, a federal grand jury in D.C.,
today, approved the first charges in Mueller`s investigation.

And joining us now are Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff to Vice Presidents
Joe Biden and Al Gore and a former senior aide to President Obama. He`s
also a former chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and was Chief
of Staff to Attorney General Janet Reno.

Also, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and an MSNBC
political analyst.

And Natasha Bertrand, political correspondent at “Business Insider,” and
she`s been closely following Russia`s involvement in the 2016 U.S.
presidential election.

Thank you all.

So I`m going to go around. I`m going to start with you, Natasha, just to
get sort of your top line on what we`re hearing now and, you know, what I
was talking to Rachel about a little bit.

Does it feel like this might be rather than the beginning of a story, may
be sort of the kind of crest of a story that began like 48 hours ago or so
when we started to hear this alternate collusion theory?

NATASHA BERTRAND, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: Absolutely.
I mean, this kind of puts into context all of the distractions that we`ve
been getting out of the, you know, Republicans over the last week.

And aided by the President this morning when he tweeted that now we know
that there is no collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. It was all
Hillary Clinton. The uranium story that mysteriously appeared after seven
years in the Hill last week.

This was all very much foreshadowing something big to come. And, you know,
the fact, that – well, the report that Mueller have filed these charges is
an indication that he is moving very quickly to perhaps get someone to flip
in the investigation because prosecutors don`t normally do charges this
early in the investigation.

REID: Yes.

BERTRAND: So this is definitely something that`s big.

REID: And it`s moving pretty quickly. And, Ron Klain, you know, the idea
here is that this – you know, if this investigation is sort of wrapping
up, it does impact, in some way, the investigations that are going on in
the House and in particular, in the Senate, where they seem to be more a
bit more serious, at least on the Senate Intelligence side, about doing it.

What do you expect to be – staffers to be talking about tonight on that
Senate side, thinking about their own investigations?

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.
I think staffers and everyone is just saying who, who, who, who, who?

I mean, I think that this is going to be an amazingly suspenseful weekend
as we wait and see who winds up being taken into custody on Monday or
Tuesday of next week as a result of this indictment.

I think there`s some possibility that it is just low-level people, that
Mueller is working his way up the food chain and trying to get people to
flip.

But it`s also possible that we`re going to see the first indictment of one
of the more headline names in this case, people against whom the evidence
has piled up mightily, and it`s time for Mueller to finally move.

So I think it`s going to be 48 hours of huge speculation in Washington as
we wait and see, really, who is going to wind up being this first person or
persons indicted by Counsel Mueller.

REID: Yes. Well, let`s see some informed speculation with David Corn.

David, you got some great sources. You were among the first to report on
that dossier that Republicans tried to hang around Hillary Clinton as if,
you know, who paid for it was really the important thing.

Give us a little bit of a benefit of what you`re hearing or what people are
speculating about. Who, who, who, as Ron Klain just said.

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Well, I think it would
be a little bit unfair to start speculating on names. We do know it`s been
reported that Special Counsel told Paul Manafort that he could expect to be
indicted.

And we also – it`s also important to know that the Special Counsel is
really – has given – been given the purview to examine any issue that
arises in the investigation.

And we do know that, in the course of investigating the Trump-Russia
scandal, the Special Counsel had reason to look at lobbying activities by
Paul Manafort, maybe some financial transactions, of course, what Rachel
was talking about earlier, activities involving Michael Flynn that may not
be related to Russia but may still be improper if not illegal.

So there`s just a lot to choose from for those who care to speculate. But
I also would say that after this week of distraction about Hillary – you
know, going back and looking at Hillary Clinton`s uranium deal, which
wasn`t her deal, going back and looking at how James Comey dealt with the
Clinton e-mail server controversy, that, really, nothing cuts through
distractions like indictments.

I mean, whatever is going on in the House Intelligence Committee, it looks
a little bit like a circus. I reported last week that they barely have
enough staff to do anything that they say they`re doing.

And who knows what`s happening in the Senate Intelligence Committee? The
Senate Judiciary Committee has blown up.

Indictments will concentrate the mind.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Natasha, I think David makes a really important
point here because I think that, for a lot of people who are watching this
whole thing that we sometimes call the Russiagate or the Russia collusion
story, the collusion is sort of the sexy thing that people talk about.

But what we`ve been – you know, the actual components of this
investigation have involved a lot more sort of straightforward potential
criminal activity, things like Foreign Agent Registration Act violations,
things like potential money laundering, the sort of potential things that
this could be.

We shouldn`t necessarily be looking for this to be a conclusion or an
indictment that has the word collusion somewhere in it.

BERTRAND: No, not necessarily. And, again, Mueller`s – his mandate is
very broad.

REID: Right.

BERTRAND: So whatever he comes across over the course of his investigation
that`s evenly remotely related to Russia or anything that might have had,
you know, Russian funding, et cetera, Mueller will have to investigate.

And he could use that as leverage to get people like Paul Manafort or
Michael Flynn to flip and to tell him what happened during the 2016
election because they really had a direct window into all of the questions
that Mueller now wants the answers.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Ron Klain, Ben Wittes, who has become very
famous for his tick-tick-tick tweets and ticks and booms and things – Sean
Hannity tried to steal them but didn`t do very well with it.

This is some of what he`s been saying tonight: so this is a very big boom
if true, but the story is very skeletal, both in content and sources.

Then another note here, you know, just noting the sourcing on the CNN
story, which is sources briefed on the matter. And he says, I can`t think
of very many classes of people who would be briefed on the matter.

What classes of people might be briefed on something such as this?

KLAIN: Well, they could be people who are lawyers or friends or family
members, potentially, of the people who are about to be taken into custody.

The indictment could be sealed because the person who`s been indicted has
been offered a chance to turn themselves in, and could be people involved
in the arrangements for turning themselves in, people potentially at a
courthouse or whatnot. So it`s a pretty small group.

I share David`s view that`s it a little bit irresponsible to speculate
about exactly who this would be.

But there`s no question that if, in fact, if CNN is right and if an
indictment has been filed today, and if someone is going to either be
arrested or turn themselves in on Monday or Tuesday, there would be a
number of people who will be briefed on the logistics and the mechanics of
doing that. And it`s possible one of those people told CNN.

REID: And let me just stay with you just for a moment, Ron Klain. If you
could just talk a little bit about – because that is an important point.
And it also could be somebody that Mueller is attempting to utilize in his
investigation to sort of go further up the food chain, right?

KLAIN: Yes.

REID: So the process of this may not be sort of the spectacular scene that
people think. You know, they think of sort of, you know, a T.V episode of
“Law & Order,” right?

KLAIN: No, probably not. But I do think – you know, I do think that this
is also not the culmination. This is definitely not the end of it.

I agree absolutely with your point a minute ago, Joy, that if people are
waiting to – for the final scene of this collusion drama, that`s not what
we`re getting into stage in time.

We`re probably going to get either one of these individuals who is guilty
of a series of other crimes, failing to file financial disclosures, taking
foreign money from foreign sources without disclosing that, or someone who
has some piece of information, some lower point on the totem pole that
Mueller is going to work his way up to.

So I think we`ve got to get our expectations for this set in the right
place for what`s going to happen early next week.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And, David, you know, the other point I was
talking with Rachel about is this sort of notion that you had certain
people on Capitol hill – obviously, David Nunez is the most high profile
of them – that seems to have been escalating their attempts to sort of
protect and quarantine the White House by engaging in these alternate
universe versions of the Russia scandal.

CORN: Yes.

REID: Do you think it is fair to sort of draw a line between what you`ve
seen on Capitol Hill – you`re there in Washington – and the idea that
something like this is coming and maybe sources were being briefed on it?

CORN: You know, it`s a good theory. I am not sure it`s true, but the
timing certainly is highly coincidental because this past week, we saw
indeed an intensification on the Republican side, with them bringing up
these issues of how the dossier was funded.

Whether, you know, the uranium deal was somehow connected to Clinton pay to
play. The answer is no. Bringing back the whole Jim Comey thing. I`m
expecting to go back to unmasking. Remember, that was one of the counter
errors.

And the thing that – you know, to take a step back, because we can look at
this in a very partisan way and say, look, it`s obvious they`re trying to
deflect from the core of the issue here, which is what the Russians did and
how Trump covered for that, whether he acted – interacted with it
directly.

The United States was attacked. The United States was attacked by a
foreign adversary. Its political system was subverted, was undermined.

We can argue about what the impact was and whether it was successful and
whether it influenced the election or not, and yet the Republicans who have
always claimed to be patriotic more than anyone else, claim to support the
intelligence community, are now dissing the intelligence community and,
really, doing nothing to deal with what happened in the past or what might
happen in the future.

And that, to me, is somewhat – I have to say that`s somewhat surprising.

REID: Yes. And, you know – and I think, Natasha – this is important to
me – this is the thing that you`ve been working on this week. I mean,
also before this big news or, you know, potential news broke tonight.

You had the news that Ms. Veselnitskaya, the attorney who met with Donald
Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower, was directly
connected or at least using talking points that have been shared with
Kremlin sources.

We had your reporting on the connections between the data firm that was run
by Paul Manafort – I`m sorry, that was run by Steve Bannon and this
potential sort of outreach to WikiLeaks.

So, I mean, I think, for a lot of people, it becomes very confusing, right?
This sort of Russia scandal is so far reaching. Do you think that there
was any news particularly this week that broke through as something that
might actually help us get to the answer as to why?

BERTRAND: Well, I think that the most consequential news, if confirmed, is
definitely the Mueller charges.

REID: Sure.

BERTRAND: That just signals a complete escalation of it all. But also the
news that Cambridge Analytica reached out to Julian Assange during the
campaign.

That is a really big indication that – and it`s the first time that we`ve
seen that an entity that was working directly with the Trump campaign was
reaching out to Julian Assange and trying to get Hillary Clinton`s e-mails
from an entity that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded as a
foreign intelligence agent, essentially.

REID: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

CORN: And it`s important to point out that when they did that in July,
there already was a pretty strong public record that the Russians were
behind the stealing of the DNC e-mails and other materials.

So they literally we`re saying we`re going to get into bed with someone
who`s probably working with the Russians in order to advance our political
campaign. You can only imagine what would have happened if Obama or
Clinton was – had been caught doing that.

REID: Yes, absolutely. So let – well, we can only imagine, Ron Klain,
what Donald Trump is going to say or do or how he might react this weekend.

KLAIN: Yes.

REID: I don`t know. Speculate for us. What do you think? What would you
anticipate? I`m sure, more tweets.

KLAIN: More tweets. But I think this could be getting serious enough that
we might turn on Fox and find the yule log and classical music playing.

I mean, I don`t know how they`re going to possibly deal with the fact that
this – the weeklong attack they`ve made on this uranium thing that the
U.S. government did, that they`ve tried to turn into the Clintons being
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, all this craziness about who paid for the so-
called Steele dossier and all these things.

They have been at full alert over there, you know, DEFCON 1, all week long
on all this so-called Clinton scandals. And the fact that we are facing,
potentially, the first indictments of people involved in this Russia
scandal, maybe peripherally involved, maybe involved on other issues, that
is going to be a real collapse in the narrative that they are very heavily
invested in over there.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Ron Klain, David Corn, please stay with us. And
if you`re just joining us – and, Natasha, stay with us as well.

And if you`re just joining us, the big news tonight, of course, is that
according to reporting from CNN, who cites sources familiar with the
matter, the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has filed
its first charges.

But here are some other big, breaking developments tonight related to the
Russia investigation. It has been a long time coming but we finally know
who actually is behind the original funding of the anti-Trump research that
eventually produced the infamous dossier on then candidate Donald Trump.

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by major
Republican donor, Paul Singer, has confirmed to the House Intelligence
Committee that it initially retained the firm, Fusion GPS, to conduct
opposition research on Trump and other Republican presidential candidates.

The publication says that it stopped funding the project in the spring of
2016, at which point Hillary Clinton`s campaign and the Democratic National
Committee picked up the funding of the project.

Today, we also learned new details about the research firm that worked with
the Trump campaign during the election. “The Wall Street Journal” has new
reporting on Rebekah Mercer, the Trump mega donor who partly owns data
firm, Cambridge Analytica.

According to the journal, Rebekah Mercer, in August of 2016, asked the
chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, who was working for Donald Trump`s
presidential campaign, whether the company could better organize the
Hillary Clinton related e-mails being released by WikiLeaks, according to a
person familiar with their e-mail exchange.

Here`s how Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House
Intelligence Committee, described Cambridge Analytica`s WikiLeaks
connection today on “MORNING JOE.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE
ON INTELLIGENCE: Here you have not only the head of the data analytics arm
of the campaign reaching out to someone our CIA Director says is basically
a foreign intelligence agency affiliated and working with the Russians, but
you also have the operative, Peter Smith, in contact with Flynn apparently
and also reaching out to likely Russians on the dark web to look for these
e-mails.

There are an extraordinary number of connections between the campaign and
those who are stealing the e-mails, those who are publishing the e-mails,
and a picture begins to emerge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: “The New York Times,” meanwhile, is reporting that the Russian
lawyer who held that Trump Tower meeting with principals from the Trump
campaign, and family, during the election was directly linked to the
Kremlin.

According to “The Times,” Natalia Veselnitskaya, who brought information to
that meeting that she thought was damaging to Hillary Clinton and the
Democratic Party, had discussed talking points about that information prior
to the meeting with Russia`s top prosecutor.

“The Times” reports the coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and
the Russian Prosecutor General undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya`s account that
she was a purely independent actor when she met with Don, Jr., Jared
Kushner, and Paul Manafort in June of 2016.

“The Times” also notes that this information contradicts the story we heard
from the Trump team that this was a useless meeting about adoptions that
didn`t go anywhere.

This morning before all these Russia developments broke, Donald Trump
tweeted: it is now commonly agreed after many months of costly looking,
that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with
H.C., exclamation point.

To which Congressman Schiff replied, Mr. President, the Special Counsel and
the Congress have yet to come to – have come to no conclusions yet. We
will let you know when we do.

Joining us now is Ken Dilanian, an intelligence and national security
reporter for NBC News, and Malcolm Nance, MSNBC counter terrorism and
intelligence analyst. And Natasha Bertrand is also back with us.

And, Ken, I`ll go to you first on anything you`ve been able to learn. I
know that we`re scrambling to try to confirm this news from CNN, but what
do you think is the import of it?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well,
we`re not there yet, Joy. We are – we have not confirmed it to our
satisfaction, and so I`m just going to withhold comment on it.

But in terms of the Veselnitskaya “New York Times” story, “The Times” story
was really interesting.

It essentially confirmed what we had reported at NBC News after our
interview with her on the telephone in September, which is that – and she
told us at the time that she was in contact with this prosecutor in Moscow,
who`s very close to Vladimir Putin, about these talking points, about this
information that she thought was very negative about Hillary Clinton.

Now, her story is that she actually got the Russian prosecutor interested
in this case. But however that shakes out, the point is that she was in
talks with people close to the Kremlin. She then brought that back to
Trump Tower and handed what she thought was damaging information on Hillary
Clinton.

Now, I have reviewed this information. It talks about political
contributions from some hedge fund people called the Ziff brothers.

It`s actually not what we would consider significant dirt on the Clinton
campaign, but the point that the Trump team was willing to take a meeting
based on a promise of dirt from the Russian government, that`s what I think
is most significant here, Joy.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Malcolm, you`ve talked about this being just
a dangle, essentially, to sort of gauge how open the campaign would be to
more contact with – potentially with the Russian government, correct?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC COUNTER TERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Yes,
absolutely, it was a dangle. And you know, I have said this from the very
beginning. There were probably multiple dirty tricks teams trying to get
all this information related to Hillary Clinton, and Russia was watching
each and every one of them and responding to them in various forms.

First, you have Veselnitskaya and her crew going directly to the top
management of the Trump campaign, including his son, and trying to offer
that information.

On the other hand, as we`ve learned, Flynn and Smith and Cambridge
Analytica, all quite possibly, independently, were trying to gather this
data in order to use the Hillary Clinton e-mails against her.

And at the same time, we know that Donald Trump at least became cognizant
of the – all of these efforts on July 27th when he said, Russia, if you`re
listening, please release Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.

REID: Yes.

NANCE: So all of these, taken together, create a massive, could
potentially be a very broad conspiracy.

REID: And, you know, Natasha, the – WikiLeaks` Julian Assange has said
that he did not respond positively to these overtures from Cambridge
Analytica.

NANCE: Sure, he did.

REID: Is there any way of verifying that?

BERTRAND: No.

REID: Yes, there`s no way to tell.

(LAUGHTER)

BERTRAND: There`s no way to tell. We don`t know whether or not there was
actually any active collaboration.

And now, we have “The Wall Street Journal” reporting that Rebekah Mercer
was actually reaching out and asking the CEO of Cambridge to reach out to
Julian Assange, as late as August, to ask if they could organize the e-
mails that were being released by WikiLeaks.

So there was this constant stream of communication beginning in June and
ending in August, maybe. At least continuing through August. We really
just don`t know.

REID: Yes. And, Ken Dilanian, we also have news today. NBC News
confirming that Carter Page, who, I believe, has already been interviewed
on the Senate side, Senate Intelligence Committee, met behind closed doors,
today, I believe, with Senate Intel Committee staff for more than five
hours.

And the House Intelligence Committee announcing that Page would appear
before that committee on November 2nd.

Any – what can you tell us about that?

DILANIAN: I find it really interesting because, you know, Carter Page is a
figure. He e-mails reporters. He e-mails me. He has, you know,
consistently denied any collusion with Russia.

And it`s tempting to sort of write him off, but he did take that trip to
Moscow while he was working for the Trump campaign and gave a favorable –
you know, a pro-Russian speech.

And it`s pretty clear that the Senate Intelligence Committee, after
spending five hours with him, had some important questions for him. And
there`s also been reports that in – to some questions, he has asserted his
Fifth Amendment rights not to answer.

So, you know, where he fits into all of this remains to be seen, but he may
not be the – you know, the figure to write off as some have thought for
some time.

REID: Absolutely. And, Malcolm Nance, we also have from NBC reporting
that Michael Cohen has been interviewed by investigators this week, that he
was supposedly grilled by congressional investigators. And as the personal
attorney to Donald Trump, significance of that?

NANCE: Well, as you know, Michael Cohen sent the e-mail in November of
2015, essentially saying that he was aware that Russia wanted to work on
this project of Trump Tower in Moscow, you know, and the Ivanka spa, and
that – he – they and he would try to get them elected President of the
United States.

He felt very confident that there was going to be some form of support.

Bringing him in, bringing Carter Page in, I`m not sure whether these are
just check the box interviews.

I think that these are supporting operations interviews, which, in some
way, shape, or form, not only will get the truth, but will also support
whatever comes down Manafort`s – I`m sorry, the Mueller investigation`s
pike and will support, quite possibly, future charges or other lines of
investigation.

REID: Yes. And, Natasha, you know, the Trump former campaign team,
including Donald Jr., has attempted to sort of portray all of these
contacts and meetings as inconsequential, unnecessary. They didn`t even
need them in order to win, you know.

Has there been any sort of – you know, sort of independent verification
that these data operations were successful? They`re saying that none of it
was even really needed.

BERTRAND: Well, a number of analysts that I had spoken to have said that
it is very unlikely that the Russians would have been able to target the
ads that they – the way they targeted them, target the people that they
targeted during the campaign, without any help from Americans who would
have had the kind of knowledge of the intricacies of American politics to
really be able to figure out who was going to be most vulnerable to these
fake news.

NANCE: Right.

BERTRAND: Who was going to be most, you know, susceptible to changing
their vote as a result of this barrage of disinformation and propaganda.
And that, according to people that I have spoken to, was very much
something that they thought that Americans would have had to have been
involved in.

REID: Yes. And isn`t that Cambridge Analytica`s expertise, per Cambridge
Analytica?

BERTRAND: Data mining and data analysis.

REID: Indeed. Malcolm Nance, Ken Dilanian, Natasha Bertrand, thank you
very much. Appreciate it.

NANCE: Thank you, Joy.

REID: And coming up on a big news night, my interview with Tom Steyer, the
real billionaire on a mission to get Donald Trump impeached.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: A federal jury has approved the first charges in Special Counsel
Robert Mueller`s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia,
according to CNN tonight. NBC News is still working to try and verify that
reporting.

The news may be of particular interest to one Democratic billionaire who
attracted the raged tweets of the President today with this new T.V. ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM STEYER, FOUNDER, NEED TO IMPEACH: He has brought us to the brink of
nuclear war, obstructed justice at the FBI, and in direct violation of the
constitution. He has taken money from foreign governments and threatened
to shut down news organizations that report the truth.

If that isn`t the case for impeaching and removing a dangerous president,
then what has our government become?

People in Congress and his own administration know that this President is a
clear and present danger, who is mentally unstable and armed with nuclear
weapons, and they do nothing.

Join us and tell your member of Congress that they have a moral
responsibility to stop doing what`s political and start doing what`s right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: That was Tom Steyer who is the most prolific Democratic donor of the
2016 election.

He used to be known for giving to candidates who back environmental causes,
but now, his cause is impeaching the 45th President, Donald Trump. And
he`s spending $10 million to air that T.V. ad, along with starting an
online petition urging Trump`s impeach.

And joining us now is Tom Steyer.

And, Tom, first of all, I have to get your reaction to the breaking news
tonight. CNN reporting – NBC not confirming it yet, but CNN reporting
that the first indictment or indictments may have been handed down in the
Mueller investigation. Your thoughts?

STEYER: Well, I think that this is a reflection of the kind of lawlessness
that has pervaded this administration.

And I think that we`re going to find out, along with everybody else,
exactly what those charges are, but I think the question will be not just
what are the first – what is the first charge, but where do they lead?
Who`s connected?

And I think that, regardless of anything else, that has to put this
administration into some kind of internal crisis because, the fact of the
matter is, they don`t know where it will lead either.

REID: Yes. And you`re not the first Democrat to call for the impeachment
of Donald Trump. Obviously, Maxine Waters has been very vocal about this.

There have been other Democrats in the House that have started to right up
articles of impeachment that we know will never go anywhere as long as
House Speaker Paul Ryan is in charge, but this is what the Democratic Whip
in the House, Steny Hoyer – this is his reaction to your effort.

In an interview with the “Washington Examiner,” he said, I think the leader
and I have made it very clear that impeachment is premature at this point
in time. It`s not necessarily off the table at some point in the future,
but it`s premature at this point in time.

If we start to see the Mueller investigation intensify, do you think that
that helps make your case that Congress should act or could the case be
made, let Mueller finish what he is doing?

STEYER: Well, I think that – obviously, I believe that the case has
already been made before Mr. Mueller has reported because, the fact of the
matter is, this president has met the basis for impeachment through already
obstructing justice and the Emoluments Clause.

From my standpoint, this is a question of the American people being at
great danger in terms of their safety and health due to the activity of
this administration so that there`s an actual urgency to impeachment.

But let`s say one more thing, Joy. We aren`t going directly to these
elected officials. We`re asking the American people to join us and raise
their voices because we believe that the voice and the will of the American
people still is and always should be the greatest power in the country.

REID: And should Democratic voters make this an election issue, about
whether or not they will support their member of Congress if their member
of Congress will not support impeachment?

STEYER: I think that this is a question for American citizens to stand up
and demand that their elected officials go on the record and do what`s
right.

The fact of the matter is, I think if you went through Washington, .D.C.,
on either side of the aisle, they would agree that what we`re doing, what
we`re saying is the truth. But right now, people are scared to say it for
whatever reason.

And I really don`t want to speculate and I don`t claim to understand it,
but what I do know is that the American people are in jeopardy as a result
of the behavior and activity of this administration.

This president has met the boundaries for impeachment, and we need to tell
the truth. And we`re asking Americans, if no one else will tell the truth,
will the American people please join us, which they have been, and raise
their voices to say we need to do this now.

REID: And, you know, there`s a way that you could put yourself in the
position to be a part of an impeachment proceeding, or at least a trial, if
Donald Trump were ever to be impeached. Are you interested in running for
Senate, sir? Are you planning on running for senate?

STEYER: What I`ve said, Joy, and which is – was true when I said it
before and is still true is, I believe that we have gone down a very dark
path as a country. And I will do anything, and I haven`t ruled out running
for office, to get us back on a path towards a much more just America and a
society where we`re more prosperous and healthier.

I will – I have not ruled out anything because, the fact of the matter is,
this impeachment campaign is what we came up with right now as the – where
we could have the most positive impact in directing Americans and our
country back to a better vision of a healthier, more prosperous country.
And that`s what we`re trying to do.

REID: And you did not charge in the ads that you are putting out that
you`re paying for that Donald Trump has committed high crimes and
misdemeanors. You called him mentally unstable. Upon what do you base
that?

STEYER: Well, actually, the – if you go back to the original writing of
the constitution and the words “high crimes and misdemeanors” written by
Alexander Hamilton, it`s a question, really, of violating your trust with
the constitution and the American people.

And the one that traditionally has been used is when you`re obstructing
justice, which Mr. Trump definitely did when he fired the head of the FBI
for trying to investigate him with regards to his ties to Russia.

So from the standpoint of high crimes and misdemeanors, I think people
should go back to the original text, understand what the framers of the
constitution were describing, and understand that, historically, this
president has more than met that, that line in the sand.

REID: Yes. And should Democrats run on, if you put us in charge of the
House, we will impeach Donald Trump? Do you think that`s a winning message
for Democrats?

STEYER: You know, I`m not doing this from a cynical, political standpoint,
Joy. I believe that our country is at risk, and I believe we should be
telling the truth about this. So I`m not really doing the calculation of
looking at polls and trying to figure out what`s politically tactical right
now.

I believe that Americans should stand up for what`s right. And I don`t
know what that means politically, but I know that, in the long run, if we
tell the truth and we try and do the right thing, that`s how we get good
outcomes. And that`s what I believe we`re doing and that`s what we`re
asking other Americans to do with us.

REID: All right. Tom Steyer, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.

And coming up, could tonight`s new report explain why Republicans now have
their eyes on Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s budget? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that our
position hasn`t changed since day one. And I think we are seeing now that
if there was any collusion with Russia, it was between the DNC and the
Clintons and certainly not our campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: That was the White House earlier today before tonight`s breaking
news that the first charges in Robert Mueller`s Russia investigation have
been filed, according to a CNN report. No word on what those charges are
or who they`ve been filed against since a federal judge allegedly ordered
that the charges remain sealed.

NBC News has not yet confirmed this reporting and has neither – and
neither has any other news organization, for that matter.

And tonight, we`re also learning that some Republicans who are hoping
Robert Mueller will quickly wrap up his Russia investigation have
reportedly got their eye on Robert Mueller`s budget.

According to POLITICO, lawmakers haven`t yet seen the Russia investigator`s
first spending report, which must go through a Justice Department review
before being made public, but they`re already setting up for a fight over
how much the probe is costing taxpayers in the fight – and the fact that
there is no end in sight.

Joining us is Mieke Eoyang, former House Intelligence Committee staff
member and vice president for the National Security Program at Third Way.

Ron Klain, David Corn, and Malcolm Nance are all back with us.

And, Mieke, I`ll start with you because the House Intelligence Committee
led by one Devin Nunes has been the most sort of obvious in what appear to
be tactics, we should say, to try to divert the investigation away from
looking at Donald Trump and toward looking at other things, or toward maybe
even trying to exonerate him.

Do you expect that that body or others on the House Republican side or
Senate Republican side might try to go after Robert Mueller`s funding, even
now with this new news?

MIEKE EOYANG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR THE NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM, THIRD WAY:
That`s right, David Nunes has definitely been trying to distract people
from the main focus of the investigation. It`s important to remember that
the House Intelligence Committee is actually running two separate
examinations.

Chairman Nunes was supposed to recuse himself from the Russia investigation
and leave it to Conway and Congressman Schiff, who had done a reasonable
job at being objective and working together.

And then Devin Nunes has gone running off into the middle of the night with
these stories of unmasking that his counterpart in the Senate have called
ridiculous. And then talking about this Ukraine uranium sale.

Devin Nunes is really trying to distract people from the issue, so I would
expect he would really focus on the budget and then lose sight of how much
exactly he has spent on this and spent on investigating things like
Benghazi.

REID: Yes. And it`s going to be kind of difficult to make that case now,
Ron Klain. I mean, this new news tonight really sort of just changed the
game a bit.

But you have had in the last several days, at least this week, Fox News, a
friend and allies of the President of the United States, floating headlines
like Mueller facing new Republican pressure to resign in Russia probe.

A little bit of an excerpt from this Fox News article: Special Counsel
Robert Mueller is facing a fresh round of calls from conservative critics
for his resignation from the Russia collusion amid revelations that have
called into question the FBI`s own actions and, potentially, Mueller`s
independence.

It does feel like there has been a drumbeat to try to discredit Mueller, if
not set him aside altogether. That, I would presume, becomes much harder
now?

KLAIN: It becomes harder, but they`re not going to stop trying. I saw
that noted legal ethics expert Sean Hannity, tonight, had tweeted that Bob
Mueller must either recuse or resign. So they`re definitely going to press
this hard.

Look, Joy, I`ve been saying for months, I think we`re headed to a
constitutional crisis here. And the crisis is that, ultimately, Donald
Trump will fire Bob Mueller to prevent him from indicting people who are
close enough to the President.

And what we see here is that the House and to a lesser extent, the Senate,
but the Senate somewhat, are just completely giving up their constitutional
responsibilities to have oversight on the President. And now, they`re
going the next step, which is trying to stop the person who is Bob Mueller.

And House Republicans and Donald Trump, I think, are going to provoke a
constitutional crisis when they try to prevent Special Counsel from doing
his job.

REID: A constitutional crisis, David Corn, but also potentially a
political crisis.

I mean, one could envision a scenario where if there were indictments and
Donald Trump were to, let`s say, pardon some folks, right, that then takes
us into a completely different political territory that could drag us
through the rest of the year.

I don`t think Republicans necessarily have an easy out from this Russia
probe and all of its many tentacles.

CORN: Well, they don`t have an easy out because they haven`t come to terms
with what happened. They haven`t come to terms with the fact that, as I
said earlier, the United States was attacked. They haven`t taken
responsibility for thoroughly investigating and making sure it doesn`t
happen again.

I think the indictments are going to, you know, make it harder for them to,
you know, put pressure on Robert Mueller. And we`ll get to see some
results of what he is doing, maybe get an idea of where he is heading, if
indeed these indictments come down.

But, ultimately, the President had a chance. He had a great chance to put
this behind him when he took office to say, we`re going to get to the
bottom of this. If it benefited me, you know, it was unintentional on my
part, and we`re going to move ahead and have an investigation to make sure
it never happens again.

But all he`s done with his Republican, you know, poodles is to make sure
that we don`t find out the truth and that everything is – gets covered up
and hidden away. And that`s why this is not going to go away for them.

REID: And you know what, Malcolm, and not only that, but you had Donald
Trump do some things that would – that seemed counterintuitive if the idea
is to put to bed the idea that he has any special sort of affinity for
Russia.

The non-implementation of the sanctions, for instance, which was supposed
to be implemented at the beginning of this month. The disbanding within
the State Department of the agency that would implement those sanctions
anyway. And the personal – you know, personally intervening to sort of
get this gag order lifted so they could further the uranium one conspiracy
theory.

There does seem to be almost counterintuitive actions coming out of the
White House, don`t you think?

NANCE: Well, I mean, we`ve had counterintuitive actions come out of the –
you know, Donald Trump from the day that he announced that he was going to
run for president. None of that`s surprising.

What is surprising, and I think this is what, I think, the Republicans are
most afraid of, is that if indictments come down the pike and Donald Trump
tries to put the kibosh on this investigation, goes after Mueller.

You know, unfortunately for him, he can get rid of Mueller but all the
documents that are left on the table, all of the investigation documents,
they don`t go away. I think Mueller understands that, and what he is doing
right now is he`s going to play bean ball.

He`s going to start throwing these indictments at people who are not
cooperating, who might get a pardon, but he`s going to make it so difficult
that anything Donald Trump does is just going to lead to more obstruction
of justice charges.

REID: And you know, Mieke, that is, you know, the sort of conundrum for
Republicans who may want this to all go away. At some point, this lands
back in the lap of the House of Representatives if Robert Mueller were to
find something.

And again, we have no idea what any of these indictments are even for. It
could be money laundering and not anything to do with collusion with
Russia. But if it starts to creep closer and closer and closer to some
sort of presidential obstruction – you know, we just had on Tom Steyer
who`s got a lot of money.

He`s a real billionaire. There`s no one questioning whether he`s a
billionaire. He`s got lots of money. He`s running ads on Fox News,
calling for impeachment and saying that Donald Trump is a threat to the
republic.

This drumbeat will not end and it eventually lands back in the House, no?

EOYANG: That`s right. And the House of Representatives, the Republicans
there, have to remember that it was their constituents who are much
stronger in being anti-Russia than Democrats were until we got to Donald
Trump.

So the idea that the Republicans are going to then try and protect Donald
Trump when what he did was collude with a hostile foreign power to try and
interfere with the election – I think that given what Russia wants to do
to America and bringing it low, they have a hard time defending that and
still maintaining that they are patriots.

REID: Yes, and absolutely. And, David Corn, I`ll come back to you for a
moment because the most – the attempt to sort of go and do a third rail or
a third direction and sort of create a new Russiagate that is Hillary
Clinton`s scandal, it doesn`t – see, I don`t know where that goes, right?

CORN: Well –

REID: I don`t know how long you can roll with that.

CORN: It works for the Fox News audience. It gives Trump something to
tweet about. And really, remember, what they want to do is they don`t want
to win this argument. They want to muddy the waters.

They want to make people think that the Russian scandal is just partisan
bickering, back and forth. Who knows? Uranium. Dossiers. That`s what
they want to do.

Well, they don`t want to focus on the key thing that the U.S. was attacked.
And they don`t want to focus on Donald Trump and his associates`
interactions with Russia before the campaign while this was going on.

They just need to make it look messy and get 15 to 20 percent of the public
to turn off to it. That`s the goal here.

Indictments, as I said earlier – my favorite line tonight. Indictments,
you know, cut through distraction.

REID: Yes, absolutely. And, Malcolm, you know, then, in that case,
really, re-clarify for us again, from an intelligence point of view.

Because it is not the case that there was just sort of an equal spraying
of, you know, assistance to the Democrats and the Republicans. That the
Russians were indifferent, if not, according to the Republican side, more
amenable to Hillary Clinton winning.

I mean, that is just – from an intelligence standpoint, it`s quite clear
who they favored and what they did, right?

NANCE: Well, that`s ludicrous. And as we – you know, this was reported
on by “The New York Times” earlier this year.

U.S. intelligence had information that was collected by either our
collections operators or a sister intelligence agency that had direct and
continuous communications with U.S. citizens, with no Russian intelligence
officers.

That`s where this manifested from in the U.S. intelligence community. Not
from the Steele dossier. Not from, you know, Carter Page`s trips to
Russia. It came from a source that, right now, has transitioned from
intelligence to evidence into the Mueller investigation.

And I think that`s probably terrifying Trump more than anything because he
understands – oh, well, I`m not sure if he does understand. But he
certainly has been briefed in some of the collections capacities in the
United States and what we can do when we really set our mind to it.

And that story has been out there for a year, that we know this
information. It`s just the question of, does it come in as a dagger into
his administration, or does it surround him like a wall of water and wash
him – you know, wash their excuses away?


REID: Yes. And, you know, Ron Klain, you know, if we know – and we know
that, obviously. We talk to you smart people here on television every day.
But so does the Senate and so does the House.

Republicans in elected power know this too. It`s hard to imagine how they
are not at least privately alarmed about it because, publicly, they aren`t
doing a whole lot – a heck of a lot about it.

KLAIN: That`s right, Joy. I mean, I think they, privately, are alarmed
about it on two levels. I think, one, there are patriots on Capitol Hill
in both parties.

And I do think David`s core point here that the America – America was
attacked, our democracy was undermined. A foreign hostile power tried to
subvert American democracy. I think, in the dark of night, there are many
Republicans who are troubled by that.

And they`re under political pressure not to say that, but at some point in
time, just the evidence and the fact and the reality of that becomes clear.

But a second point is, the Republican agenda has gone off the rails this
year. They`ve gotten literally nothing done on Capitol Hill, and they`re
about to go oh for the entire calendar year here. And that`s because their
president is busy mucked up in an investigation and tweeting hate at anyone
he can.

REID: Yes.

NANCE: Well –

KLAIN: And that`s got to upset House and Senate leaders about trying to
get some things done. And that`s their priority.

REID: Yes. I mean, and Mieke, there – you know, Mieke, there could be an
argument that, you know, it really sort of is much less important for this
president to pass, you know, a few tax cuts for wealthy people than for us
to answer the fundamental question of whether or not the election was
interfered with by a foreign power.

It`s sort of hard to believe that that is not the priority among even
Republicans, even partisan Republicans on Capitol Hill.

EOYANG: That`s right. And it`s not just this past election, but it`s
elections to come.

We have to remember that Russia really objects to the fact that the United
States is a country that is based on rule of law, that we hold our leaders
accountable and make them stand for election, that we believe in a free
press.

All of those things undermine Vladimir Putin and his regime, and so they
want to try and make sure that Americans don`t believe in that.

We`ve got to figure out what they did so that we can protect ourselves
going forward. And Republicans` disinterest in that question is really
troubling.

REID: Yes. And, Malcolm, you know, have you seen evidence that the
federal government, that the Trump administration, or that the Congress is
doing anything to prevent this happening in future elections?

NANCE: No. No, there is nothing happening that will prevent this from
happening in future elections.

Let me tell you something. If the Russians dedicated a year of two major
intelligence agencies` cyber warfare assets to go in and root around
throughout the DNC –

CORN: Yes.

NANCE: – you can be sure they`ve done that to the RNC. There is no one
out there, right now, who is immune to this.

So if they decide that they`re going to put an end to the Trump
administration by releasing all of his unsecured phone calls and texts that
we`re not seeing, they could do that. They have that capacity.

They`re just – you know, they`ve got NSA, but they`ve got rubbles behind
it. And it all depends on whether Vladimir Putin decides that he`s going
to do it. And we need to protect ourselves, but this administration has no
interest in that.

REID: And, David Corn, do any of the Republicans on Capitol Hill that you
talk to – you`re there in D.C. – do they have an interest in it?

CORN: You know, some have paid lip service to this from the beginning of
the administration, but we see the Trump administration not even, you know,
nominating much of the – many people to the key positions in the
Department of Homeland Security, which would be in charge of protecting the
election system.

And you see no complaints coming from the Russian – or from –

REID: Yes.

CORN: Certainly, the Russians, of course. They love that.

(LAUGHTER)

KLAIN: Correct.

CORN: But you see no complaints coming from the Republicans either.

REID: Yes.

CORN: There seems to be an alliance here of some sort. But, no, I mean,
you know, you have John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio and
others at the beginning of the year saying, this is terrible, we got to
make sure it never happens again.

You know, you don`t really hear them putting pressure on Trump or holding
him accountable –

REID: Yes.

CORN: – for doing very little because he`s still not even admitting there
was a problem.

REID: Yes. And, Mieke, last –

NANCE: Right.

REID: I`ll give you this final question. Do you think, in the end,
Republicans can get away with cutting the budget of the man who may now
already be issuing indictments in the case of the Russia probe, of cutting
Mueller`s budget?

EOYANG: I don`t think so. I think they`re going to have a really hard
time with that. There are a fair number of Republicans who do think that
we need an objective investigation.

And I think that a lot of the Mueller attorneys would be willing to do this
job for free. They`re doing this for love of country because it`s very
important.

REID: Yes.

EOYANG: So I don`t know that they could cut the budget in a point where
Mueller would stop as long as he has the authority to continue.

REID: Yes, absolutely. Mieke Eoyang, David Corn, Malcolm Nance, Ron
Klain, thank you all very much. Really appreciate you guys joining me
tonight. Appreciate it.

CORN: Sure thing.

NANCE: Thanks, Joy.

REID: Thank you. And tonight`s LAST WORD is next, and it`s related to the
breaking news we`ve been covering. You will want to see this. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: OK. Time for tonight`s LAST WORD. Here`s how the Women`s
Convention in Detroit, which was organized by some of the participants of
the huge historic inauguration protest against Donald Trump, handled the
report that the first charges in the Mueller investigation have been filed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don`t know who yet, but on Monday, there`s going
to be people walking out with some handcuffs.

(APPLAUSE)


END

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