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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/07/13

Guests: Jeff Merkley

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. There`s a lot coming up on the show today. It`s just one of those kind of days. In the summer of 2002, less than a year after the 9/11 attacks, in the summer of 2002, a guy named Mark Klein was working at AT&T in San Francisco. He worked for AT&T for about 20 years at that point. He worked in New York City and White Plains, New York. He transferred to California. He worked for AT&T there, and a couple of different cities. But by summer of 2002, he was in San Francisco for AT&T. He was a lifer at AT&T. He was a trusted long time employee. Then, one day, while he was at work, he got a message. Watch this. This is from "Frontline" on PBS. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK KLEIN, FORMER AT&T EMPLOYEE: In 2002, I was sitting at my work station one day. And some e-mail came in saying that somebody from the National Security Agency, NSA, was going to come visit for some business. And an NSA representative showed up at the door, I happened to be the one who opened the door. I let him in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was doing background check for security clearance for one of our field engineers. He was going to be working at the Folsom Street office and they were building a secure building there. KLEIN: I heard from our manager, Don, that he is working on some new room that`s being built. So people started speculating, oh, what`s this new room being built? REPORTER: Mark Klein got suspicious when the workmen constructing the room treated it as hush-hush. So, how do you know that it wasn`t just some kind of newfangled AT&T thing that was going beyond it already been established for its security elsewhere? KLEIN: They wouldn`t need the NSA for that purpose. The odd thing about the whole room, of course, was that only this one guy who had clearance from NSA could get in there. So that changed the whole context of what this is about. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. When that guy, Mark Klein, long time employee of AT&T, when he got the message about this newfangled room that was being built, he working in San Francisco, a few blocks away from where that mysterious new room was going to be constructed. If you know San Francisco at all, the office that was getting the secret new room was here. That`s what we`ve marked on the map. South of market on Folsom Street, 611. This is 2002. Mark Klein did not initially work at that office. But the following year, 2003, it so happened that he actually got transferred to that office. So, now, this thing that he`d been so curious about, he was now working in the same building where that secret room was in operation, secretly. The room was about 24 feet long by 48 feet wide. And it was labeled as room 641A. Mark Klein and his coworkers at that Folsom Street office, they had keys to all of the rooms in that whole AT&T complex on Folsom Street, but they not have the key to room 641A. Only one guy in the whole building, that guy who had the NSA clearance, only that one guy had a key to that room and only he was allowed in there. Mark Klein later testified that at a certain point, the air conditioner in 641A started dripping, started dripping so much that water from the secret room started leaking through the floor on to some expensive company equipment that was on the next floor down. But that one guy, one guy with the NSA clearance who was allowed to go in room 641A, he wasn`t around. So, there was nobody to go in and fix the problem. And so, they just left the air conditioner dripping for days until that guy came back. Mark Klein worked on the Internet side of the AT&T, not on the phone side. He was high-tech guy for AT&T. And it turned out that even though he was not allowed into that secret room in the building with the leaky air conditioner, right. It turns out that secret room had something to do with the kind of work he did for AT&T. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Klein`s job was to maintain AT&T`s Internet service for 7 million customers, domestic and international all mixed together. KLEIN: We have billions and billions of bits of data going across every second, right? REPORTER: A coworker showed Klein how their Internet room was directly connected to the secret NSA room, by a special device called a splitter. KLEIN: So, what they do with the splinter is they intercept that data stream and make copies of all of the data and those copies go down on the cable to the secret room. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What this thing was be a very school full device to take all communication, voice and data, and send it both wherever it was supposed to go, but also send it off to a little listening room. REPORTER: So what exactly was going on in that listening room? Klein found clues at work one day. KLEIN: I came across these three documents. I brought back to my desk. And when I started looking at it, I looked at it more and finally going, it dawned at me all at once and I almost fell out of my chair. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Those documents were wiring document. Wiring diagrams. Mark Klein would later tell "The Washington Post," this was sweeping up everything, vacuum cleaner style. NSA is getting everything. These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T`s customers, but everybody`s. He told "The Post", "That was my `aha` moment. They are sending the entire Internet to the secret room." And Mark Klein the whistle when he figured out that they were sending the entire Internet to the secret room. He sued, he joined a lawsuit in an effort to try to make AT&T stop what it was doing in room 641A and that office on Fulsome Street. That was 2006. And, meanwhile, a bunch of other stuff like this started to be exposed. "The New York Times" had reported on warrantless wiretapping and in late 2005. The Brave Windsor, Connecticut, librarians have come forward about the national security letters that they got, ordering them to hand over information about how people were using the library. "USA Today" published a really important piece in 2006 about widespread, indiscriminate vacuuming up of mass amounts of Internet communication. Piece by piece, it was all starting to come out. But people getting upset about it, did not make it go away. The result of people getting upset about it is that it was codified into law. So, it become no longer illegal spying on people, it was the exact same spying on people, but now legalized. That was change happened once get got upset. They kept doing it, they just made it legal. So, if you care about lawlessness, some progress was made there, in that the law was changed to now a law for what allow for what was previously illegal behavior, if you only care about lawlessness, maybe that`s progress. But if you care about the substance of the law breaking, if you care about spying itself, really no progress was made. None of that stuff was ever dialed back after it was exposed, ever. The guy who saw them setting up the room in 2002 to secretly copy the whole Internet, he`s right, that`s what they were doing and nothing stopped them from do doing that, since, as far as we know. It seems to be illegal when the government was doing that in room 641A starting a decade ago. That kind of thing got less illegal over time when Congress passed and President Bush signed legislation to bring all this stuff above board. One of the most contentious issues in that whole process was would happen to these companies who illegally help the government do this illegal spying. Could the companies get sued for that? Could the companies get in trouble for having done that, when the government acted illegally? Well, after much lobbying from the White House, Congress voted in 2008 to retroactively grant immunity to all the telecom companies. All the Internet companies, all the phone companies, all those companies who had acted illegally in helping the administration do what was now being declared a legal thing. It appears that they had done something illegal but Congress made it to the companies couldn`t be sued for it for prosecuted for it. So, now, here we are. 2013 with yet more details expose about them secretly copying the whole Internet, every day. And this time, not just a secret room at AT&T on Folsom Street in San Francisco. From "The Guardian" on Wednesday night, it`s Verizon. "The Wall Street Journal" today says it`s also AT&T and Sprint and unnamed Internet service providers and credit card companies. Then, from "The Guardian" and "The Washington Post", we got details of the PRISM program, sweeping up vast amounts of Internet everything, your emails, your videos, your photos, your chats. For the most of the big, famous Internet companies, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple. Here is the thing though, this is -- this is the question of the day. The companies are all basically denying it. I mean, back in the day, that AT&T story, AT&T just no commented, everybody. "We do not comment on matters of national security." And this week, too, when the initial leak this week was just Verizon, they started off as just no comment. But take that with a grain of salt, right, because we also know from the leaked court ruling about Verizon that was the source of that whole story, we know from that court ruling that Verizon is not allowed to tell anybody they are doing this thing that the government is already them to do. They`re sworn to secrecy. So, no, Verizon isn`t confirming it. But maybe they couldn`t confirm it even if they wanted to. That`s Verizon so far. But for the other leak, for the Internet companies, this PRISM program thing, for the Internet companies, it`s not "no comment". It`s not "we don`t want to talk about this". It`s not "we can neither confirm nor deny this". For Internet companies, it is a flat-out "no, we are not doing this". It`s weird, right? And statements from the Internet companies are weird. "The Guardian" covered it today, following up on their own reporting, within the tech companies and talking on and off the record executives say they never heard of PRISM until contacted by "The Guardian" for comment on it. Senior officials with knowledge of the situation within the tech giants admitted to being confused by the NSA revelations and said if such data collection was taking place, it was without their company`s knowledge. Without their knowledge? Yahoo! says, "We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems or network". Apple says, "We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers." Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook put out this statement tonight, "I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM. Facebook is not and never has been part of any program to give the U.S. or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata ion bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received." "And if we did," he says, "we would fight it aggressively. We hadn`t even heard of PRISM before yesterday." Microsoft is the company that is described by the NSA in these documents as having been first into this program. And the Microsoft denial is really, really specific. Maybe they thought they had to be specific since their whole ad campaign right now is all about how much they love your privacy. But check out, whatever they said, check out the way and with the specificity of which Microsoft denied it. Microsoft says, "We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntarily basis." OK. So they are saying we all need to do it when we are forced to. All right. Fine, if that forcing you, who really cares? But wait, there`s more. They also say, quote, "In addition, we only ever comply for orders with respect about specific account or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data, we don`t participate in it." We don`t participate in it. We`re not doing that. So companies are responding to this leak this week by saying, not us, we`re not doing it. Effectively, they`re saying, if it is happening, it is happening against our will. We would never given a chance to say no, would have said no. And here is the problem with understanding how that could be so. Why is Twitter not on the list of companies? Why is Twitter not on the list of companies that the NSA says it`s gotten this thing? This is the slide that leaked right? This April 2013 slide, which shows supposedly all of the companies that the NSA says are in this program. You know, Yahoo and Google, Facebook and all the rest of them. Twitter is just as big a company as all those companies. Twitter handled just as much as private information, just as much potentially identifying information, including geolocating information as any of those companies. NSA and FBI want all of those other companies but not Twitter data? Are they not interested with Twitter data? Or did they ask Twitter for access to their users data and Twitter said no. They would not let them have it, so they`re not the on the list but all of the other companies are. Apple held on and apparently didn`t get into the system until five years after Microsoft got into the system. Had Apple been resisting, had Apple been saying no before and they stop saying no and they finally got brought in? Did the NSA figure out a way to go around their saying now and get their data without them? The NSA presentation reportedly bragged that Dropbox was next. Dropbox is going to have its data in the program soon. Is that because NSA figure out how to wrangle Dropbox`s data against Dropbox`s will? Or is it because they convince Dropbox to say yes? Are the companies going along with this or not? Are they legally aloud to say if they are? Are they lying? Are they immune from any legal liability from lying about it? Are they immune from legal liability in terms of how they treated their customers, how they behave as a business because of that blanket immunity that Congress gave the whole industry back in 2008? You know, we know a lot more today than we did at the beginning of the week. But some of what has been told to us about this program and the businesses for which this government is getting all of our private information that we thought was private, some of this story still does not make sense even at the most basic level. I mean, if you`re -- let`s say have you a Google comment and you use Gmail, right? If you are feeling mad this week about the fact that you just found out all of your Gmail is in a military computer somewhere, your government is holding your Gmail in a military computer somewhere, and you want to know. You`re mad about that. And you want to know if Google is one of the people you should be mad at about that -- I can`t tell you. Kind of seems like Google must have gone along with this in order for them to get that data. But Google is saying, not it. Not our fault. We never say OK to this. And, objectively, I have to tell you, it is just not clear. Also not clear, or at least still contested this point is whether or not Congress really did sign off on all of this. Some members of Congress since this has all come out have been saying, ah, this is no big deal, we`ve known about this forever. This program has been going on for years. We all know about it. It`s totally authorized. Nothing to see here. The president today took that line as well. This has been authorized by Congress multiple times by big bipartisan majorities. Every members of Congress knew about this, the president said today. But some of the people who supposedly knew about this, who supposedly were briefed on it and who authorized it and all the rest, some of those people are contesting that now, too. Joining us now is a member of the United States Senate who has been spoken on this issue, he`s Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Senator Merkley, thank you so much for being with us tonight. It`s a pleasure to have you here. SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: You`re so welcome. It`s great to be with you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, the White House and some members of Congress and the Senate have been saying, everybody in Congress knew about all of this Internet surveillance. Everybody had been briefed on it. Were you ever briefed on this PRISM program? MERKLEY: No, I never heard of the PRISM program. I don`t -- I doubt that very many people outside the Intelligence Committee know anything about it. MADDOW: Is it the only thing that should be briefed to the Intelligence Committee? Or is it a sort of thing that other senators, even not on that committee, should be told about? MERKLEY: Well, it is deeply troubling. I can draw a parallel to the cell phone side and that`s a different section of the law under records, and section 215. I had heard stories like you had mention, that were there some shenanigans going on. So, I asked for a briefing on that program because we were talking about the extension of the Patriot Act, the extension of the FISA authorization. And so, I went and got a briefing. And the briefing suggested to me much what has been revealed through this document, that there was a large vacuum cleaner at work. Now I couldn`t say that because I was now in a classified realm, but what I could do is introduce legislation to say essentially there appears to be some secret law and let`s make that law public. Let me explain more of what I mean. You have in the law, it has a provision that says that the government can collect a tangible things related to an investigation and it says facts have to be shown and reasonable cause and so forth. Very consistent with what you would see in the Fourth Amendment. But how is it possible? How is it possible that the barriers get translated into not specific searches but into a vast dragnet? So, that`s what I wanted to understand. And when what I found out, I said, you know, OK, there appears to be a court interpretation, changing the common meaning of these words into something entirely different, let`s get that court interpretation into the common realm. So, I proposed the secret court law amendment that said these interpretations by secret court will be declassified so we could have a debate here in America about privacy and security. MADDOW: How much support did you get for that proposal? MERKLEY: We had 30-plus members vote for the amendment but we also had the chair of the committee say that she supported the idea I was presenting and she would join me in lobbying for these secret opinions to be classified. And that was Senator Feinstein. And so, she joined with me and Senator Wyden, Senator Mark Udall as well, and we wrote a letter in this case to the FISA court asking for declassification. And we didn`t get back a yes. MADDOW: I imagine that some of those proposals may be revisited now with public outcry over these leaks this week. You may get more support from those proposals from fellow members in the Senate. I don`t know. I have to ask, though, about the big picture here, which is about whether or not there can be effective oversight of secret programs. I mean, how can you make the case for legislation when you can`t explain the need for it, because the need for it is classified? MERKLEY: Absolutely. That was the problem I was trying to tackle by saying these opinions need to be classified. I mean, I can`t imagine how it is that there is -- that my cell phone information or your cell phone information is related to an investigation, a specific authorized investigation. I can`t imagine how that is the case. And but how can we contest it if we can`t discuss publicly or know that it`s going on. And, certainly, what the president today stretched several things. He said that Congress had approved this program. Well, if Congress approved something with very specific standard and those standards were secretly eviscerated, that guts were torn out of them so they were meaningless, then Congress really hasn`t approved the program at all. And so, I disagree with the president on that. And when he said that members have been briefed, well, I was one -- I think a few who saw a briefing on the cell phone side because of what I`d heard in the public press, but I don`t think many others outside of the intelligence committee got that briefing. So, if the president believes a hundred members of Congress knew the details of that program under section 215, I think he`s wrong. I think very few outside the Intelligence Committee, and in terms of the PRISM program which I don`t -- I think very few ever heard of, I certainly never heard of it, I doubt that the more than the intelligence committee would have known about that. MADDOW: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon -- thank you for explaining that to us tonight. You have you been more clear about that than anybody else commenting on this thus far. I think you made news here tonight by being so clear about it. Thank you for being with us, sir. MERKLEY: Rachel, you`re very welcome. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Earlier this week, on this show, John Stanton from BuzzFeed, the guy with big eyebrows and a goatee, bald guy, you know him, skull rings, he said one member of the United States Senate was playing a Jedi mind trick on the whole country. The evidence for that hypothesis is coming up. (COMMERICAL BREAK) MADDOW: The sending angry letters stuffed with ricin community in America is apparently falling on hard times. A couple of days ago, we had the indictment of a martial art instructor in Tupelo, Mississippi. He was charged with sending ricin-filled letters to President Obama, to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and to a state court judge. He was the guy who is inexplicably bitter online rival was the Elvis impersonator -- the Elvis impersonator who was originally suspected to be the letter sender. In fact, it kind of seemed like the Elvis impersonator guy was set up to seem like he was the ricin letter sender, but it wasn`t him and he ultimately ended up just giving a very highly entertaining press conference where he offered to rub lady`s feet. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL KEVIN CURTIS, RELEASED ON RICIN CHARGES: I am a licensed, certified, reflexologist, and I`m going to start with foot massage therapy with Christie. She`s going to be my first client and I`m going to donate 100,000 hours to community service to northeast Mississippi to all you ladies who need foot massage therapy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So the Elvis impersonator foot masseuse did not send the first round of ricin stuffed letters to President Obama and other politicians. He was set up, allegedly, by his bitter online rival, the martial artist. The one who says he`s in Mensa. The martial artist has been charged, arrested, and charged and he has pled not guilty to sending the ricin-laced letters. That was yesterday. But now, today, the second round of ricin letters. This one again sent to President Obama, also to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and to the office of his group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The letters were postmarked from Shreveport, Louisiana. Today, an arrest was made in connection with the second round of ricin letters, but it is pretty much almost as weird as Elvis impersonator foot massage, martial artist, Internet rival one -- maybe even weirder. The person arrested is Shannon Rogers Guess Richardson of New Boston, Texas. She`s being held right now at the federal court house in Texarkana, Texas. Here`s the weird part though, the woman arrested today originally called the FBI about those ricin letters. She called the FBI to blame her husband for them. She said she found something suspicious in her fridge and she found ricin related searches on their shared home computer and so, he called the FBI to nark out her husband when she heard about the ricin- laced letters. Now, the FBI says actually it was her. Yes, if you must know, the woman arrested and charged in the case is an actress whose most prominent in role was her turn in the "Walking Dead", in which as you see here, she played a brains-eating, blood-thirsty zombie. So the bit actor with zombie on her resume, who allegedly tried to blame her husband is under arrest. The Elvis impersonator is free. The martial artist who says he`s in Mensa who allegedly tried to blame the Elvis impersonator is also under arrest, but he`s pleading not guilty. And hey, you know what, it turns out that stories about people who send to the president angry letters stuffed with poison tend to be a little -- yes, who knew? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The `08 presidential campaign, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and John McCain, Sarah Palin, one of the most compelling story of politics, even if just told through the personalities involved. We will probably never see the likes of that again, except that one of the most unexpected, most incredible stories from within that campaign has just come to light now. I think most awkward possible moment in the course of the Obama presidency. It is from the campaign, we are learning about it tonight. You will not believe it. That`s coming up. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Whether or not you live in the great state of New Jersey, the weather in New Jersey is suddenly national political news. Here is the New Jersey weather forecast for this coming weekend -- rain, rain, rain, rain. At this point, it is expected to rain a bunch. Good for the Garden State. And unless we are talking about some huge weather disaster, which this isn`t, a rainy local weather forecast for the weekend usually doesn`t carry any political consequences with it. But right now, New Jersey`s rainy weather forecast for this weekend matters, because this weekend is the last opportunity that New Jersey residents have to get themselves on the ballot to become the state`s next U.S. senator. Monday`s the deadline. Monday`s the filing deadline in New Jersey to get on the ballot for the state`s open Senate seat. Each potential candidate has to submit a petition by Monday containing a thousand signatures in order to qualify for the ballot. So, everybody wants to be on the ballot will be out there collecting signatures in the rain. The Senate seat is open because earlier this week, long time New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away at age 89. Two of the state`s Democratic Congressman Rush Holt and Frank Pallone have already announced that they intend to run for that seat. And now, NBC News has confirmed that Newark`s popular mayor, Cory Booker, he will also make his announcement that he`s getting in tomorrow. But for anybody else planning to run, you better hurry. Signatures are due on Monday, please bring an umbrella. In terms of what is happening with that Senate seat, in the meantime, yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie picked his long time friend and state`s current Attorney General Jeff Chiesa, to replace Senator Lautenberg. If you will forgive me for saying so, I think Governor Christie did a respectful thing here. He found a guy that will just be a placeholder. Mr. Chiesa says he will not run for that Senate seat in the election this fall. He won`t run. He`s a placeholder to keep it safe until the residents of New Jersey can elect somebody new. The governor of Massachusetts did a similar thing earlier this year when he replaced John Kerry in the Senate with somebody who said he wouldn`t run for the seat. Same thing happened in Delaware, governor of Delaware picking a placeholder in 2009 when Joe Biden left the Senate to become vice president. They picked placeholder candidates who did not intend to hold on to the seat long term. It is a decent thing to do democracy-wise. So, good for Chris Christie for doing the same thing here. He did not have to do it that way but he did. That said, that quite honorable decision stands along side the embarrassing and profligate decision that governor made here overall, when he decided it order New Jersey tax payers to fork over $12 million they didn`t have to spend to hold a special election for that seat this coming October. There is already an election that`s scheduled it happen a few weeks later. Chris Christie is on that one. He`s on the ballot for reelection as governor on November 5th. But rather than just having the Senate election the same day, saving the 12 million bucks it cost to hold an election, rather than putting them both on the same day on the same ballot, Chris Christie decided to hold the Senate election three weeks earlier. On Wednesday, October 16 instead. Why on a Wednesday when you`re about to do one three weeks later in November? Because -- Governor Christie advisors conceding that adding that Senate contest to his November 5th election would risked energizing Democrats. Putting a really popular Democrat like say Cory Booker on the ballot potentially bring lots and lots of Democrats to the polls which could hurt Chris Christie`s chances of being re-elected p. So, you know, let`s let the taxpayers spend 12 million bucks to not do that. It is a surprisingly chicken move by the supposed tough guy, Chris Christie. It`s one that people probably won`t forget in New Jersey in the short term or in 2016 in the long-term. Until New Jersey resident have a chance to vote in the random Wednesday in October special election though. This will be New Jersey`s new senator, and while he won`t be in D.C. long-term, he will be there to vote for tough stuff. Por ejemplo, this morning, just a few days before he arrives at Senate, Senate today started debating immigration reform. Frank Lautenberg, the Democratic, was a sure vote in favor of immigration reform. New Jersey`s brand new placeholder Republican senator on the other hand, for him he says the jury is still out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JEFF CHIESA (R-NJ), SENATOR-DESIGNATE: I think the first thing we have to do is make sure borders are secured. I think that`s probably because I come from a background of law enforcement. From there, these are new to me, and the details are new to me. And I`ll get down there and meet with colleagues and discuss with them so I could make the most sense of (INAUDIBLE) -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Senator-designate Chiesa, as you just heard there, says he is eager to speak to his new colleagues about immigration reform. Someone should tell him before he gets down there, that those colleagues, if they care about immigration reform, might be busy. They might be busy trying to save it from completely falling apart because it seems like it`s completely falling apart. Republicans have all sort of agreed in the months after the presidential election that they really, really need to do immigration reform. There is a pretty clear reason why they all feel that way. You are looking at it. Republicans lost the Latino vote in 2012 by 44 points. So, yes, they need to do something. Something -- at least take a first step to win back vote and maybe immigration is going to be the ticket. The guy who took the lead on that for the Republicans in the Senate was the ambitious Florida Senator Marco Rubio. It was essentially his job to help craft an immigration bill that could be sold to his fellow Republicans, as well as to the conservative media types across that country that like to make hay over issues like this. And now, just as immigration reform is finally hitting the Senate floor, Marco Rubio is saying that not only does he think he doesn`t have the Republican votes that he needs to order to pass it in the Senate, oh, by the way, he is saying maybe he won`t even vote for it now. His own bill. Senator Rubio has since backed off from that stance just a little bit, but today, in the Senate, his Republican colleagues got the first chance to stop immigration reform from happening. Over in the House this week on the issue of immigration, Republicans were busy voting en masse, voting as a block yesterday to deny young undocumented immigrants the opportunity to live and work in this country. The architect of that legislation that almost got universal Republican support is the guy who`s been working for months to derail immigration in the Senate over all. Republicans all sort of agreed, at least most of them sort of agreed that immigration reform was something they needed to do if only for their own electoral survival. But now, what happened? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: This is the bill as printed, front and back, page of each page, it was reported there would be a thousand pages and colleagues are proud, they said it was 800. But more has been added to it. So, it`s now back over a thousand pages again. SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: We need to face the fact that thousand-page bureaucratic overall simply do not achieve their goals and they create far more problems than they tend to solve. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s so long. It`s too many pages. Also let`s ban the Oxford English Dictionary. Ulysses, also, let`s ban that. It`s too long. Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama, arguing that their colleagues should kill the immigration reform bill because it is too many pages. There`s got to be more to the objection than that. Joining us now is NBC News political reporter and producer, Kasie Hunt, who`s been covering the immigration debate. Kasie, thanks very much for being with us. KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: So, immigration reforms is one thing that everybody thought could move because Republicans believed they needed to move it, if for no other reason, than their electoral survival. Has that calculation changed? Did the people who disagreed with that calculus start winning the argument in the Republican caucus? HUNT: Well, it seems like the last week, the immigration bill has run into the House of Representatives where there are those voting their districts and this is one of the consequences of gerrymandering all those districts. You know, they have constituency where they are straight up opposed to this and this is at odds with where the national party wants to go. I was talking to Lindsey Graham earlier this week and he`s still articulating exactly what you just laid out and he told me that the Republican Party is going to be, quote, "toast" in 2016 if they don`t pass this bill. MADDOW: Well, in terms of those objections, though, I feel like the calculation was always that the Steve Kings of the world and that the very anti-immigration stalwart would be allowed to say their piece. But then, essentially, the party would make a calculation that some combination of all of the Democrats and a handful of Republicans who could safely vote that way would get it done. Is this still a possible outcome or are there more people objecting them were expected? HUNT: You`re seeing that act thing play out in the Senate right now. I mean, what you saw today on the floor with the Senate with Sessions objecting was a concession to Jeff Sessions, who is leading the charge against many gracing in the Senate. Democrats agree to give him the floor for a few hours today, in exchange for being able to vote early next week to start the debate on the legislation itself. But what you`re going to see next is a turn to the House of Representatives where all eyes are going to be on Speaker John Boehner, who is going to have to decide that very question. He has a lot of control over what happens on the floor of the House, more so than in the Senate for the leadership over there. And he`s going to have to way, does he want to prior advertise what national Republican leaders think is best for the future of the party or does he need to prioritize his own survival as speaker of the House, which could potentially be in jeopardy if he has a revolt from all of these Tea Party and right wing conservatives that have been elected over the last two election cycles. MADDOW: Kasie, since the last election, we`ve seen more than a handful of cases where things have been essentially allowed by the Republicans, allowed by John Boehner to pass out of the House with all of the Democrats and some minority of Republicans. There was a -- an informal rule against the Republicans letting anything like that happen for a long time. Now they seem to have slipped. And they sometimes let those things pass. Is John Boehner getting backlash against that as a tactic? Are hardliners in his party telling him to stop doing things like that any more? HUNT: He is absolutely seeing backlash. And "The Washington Post" reported earlier this week that, in fact, several of the conservative House Republicans have proposed resolution to essentially limit Boehner`s power to do that. It would say that, you know, as part of the Republican conference, he would he have to have a majority of the majority in order to put a bill on the floor. And that`s what, you know, he`s made those decisions himself and that`s something that could potentially have repercussions beyond the immigration debate, with budget and fiscal grand bargain and variety of other things. MADDOW: Yes, debt ceiling and student loans and everything. Well, on the issue of the Senate, obviously, Marco Rubio has been tip of the spear here for Republicans in trying to come up with a bill that Republicans can support. Early on, that meant him going on conservative media and lobbying conservative media host, that they should also support this, essentially that they should not whip this vote from the conservative side against Republicans and hold it against the Republicans. We have since seen Marco Rubio doing conservative media hits, where he`s talking the bill down, saying that it`s a bad bill, floating the idea he would vote against it himself. John Stanton from "BuzzFeed" was here earlier this week and told us that we should see what Marco Rubio is doing here as some sort of Jedi mind trick and that he still supports immigration reform. Can you shed light on that, do you know what`s going on there? HUNT: Look, Marco Rubio has hung his entire political future on the success of immigration reform. So, the question is, what is going to be in the bill. But no matter what that is, you`re going to see Marco Rubio pushing as hard as he can to get a bill passed, that`s exactly what he told reporters on hill earlier this week. He said, look, like I signed up to be the person who was going to sell this to Republicans. I still plan to do that. But I need this bill to be what they need it to be. And they`re focused particularly right now on border security provisions and exactly how the trigger would work. Right now, under the bill that passed out of committee, DHS, the Department of Homeland Security simply has to write a plan that says this is how we`re going to secure the border. And that`s not good enough for some Republicans who want to see either action taken, not just a plan written, or they want Congress to be able to certify the border has been secured before people are able to obtain legal status that would eventually allow them to apply for a green card. MADDOW: This is one of the things there`s so much punditry expended over the months and over the years on this subject, to actually see the rubber hit the road on this in Congress and on Capitol Hill next week is going to be fascinating. NBC News political reporter and producer Kasie Hunt -- Kasie, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you here. HUNT: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: The unbelievable story of the 2008 presidential election that you have not heard before is coming up next. This is a crazy story. Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a crazy story. In the middle of the presidential campaign in 2008, so McCain versus Obama, that summer, the McCain campaign was contacted by a senior Chinese diplomat, top John McCain policy adviser who`s working on the campaign, got a call from a senior Chinese diplomat in Washington. The diplomat was calling to complain about a letter John McCain had written to the newly elected president of Taiwan. So Taiwan and China are like this. And John McCain, presidential candidate, had written a friendly letter to the newly elected president of Taiwan. China apparently thought the tone of the letter was way too friendly. So, they called the McCain campaign to complain. Here`s the problem. The letter hadn`t been sent yet! The letter existed only in draft form on one of the McCain campaign`s computers. So how did China know what the letter said? NBC News has obtained the letter. This is what it looks like. But who cares what`s in the letter? The question is, how did the official in the Chinese government get any internal, unsent document from the McCain campaign? And it turns out it wasn`t just the McCain campaign. It was the Obama campaign, too. David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager in 2008, he got a phone call from the White House that summer telling him that something bad was going on, watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA 2008 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Josh Bolden calls, I assume to talk about transition matters. He says we have reason to believe your campaign systems have been penetrated we think by a foreign entity. He did not name countries at that time, if I recall, and said we need to get the FBI and law enforcement officials involved in investigating this. He did say it`s not just your campaign, we have reason to believe and we`ll tell the McCain campaign the same thing, they tried to penetrate their systems as well. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The story of the Obama campaign and McCain campaigns being hacked into during the campaign in 2008. That overall story was known before, but we didn`t know the extent of it nor did we know who did the hacking. Now, we do. Now, U.S. officials tell NBC`s Michael Isikoff it was definitely the Chinese government. Michael Isikoff getting this news from a U.S. official last night on the eve of the new leader of China visiting the United States today, to meet one on one with President Obama. This is going to be their first meeting since the new Chinese president got that job back in March. The one-on-one meetings are scheduled for five hours over the course of two days. It`s happening at a giant California desert estate near Palm Springs. It`s called Sunnylands. Sunnylands estate has hosted seven previous presidents, including Richard Nixon who visited Sunnylands shortly after he resigned the presidency because of Watergate scandal. He signed the Sunnylands guest book, "When you`re down, you find out who your real friends are." But in terms of friendship, imagine the trust level between President Obama and the head of the government that hacked into his campaign computers even before he was president. Maybe because of that, President Obama will be spending the night at the Sunnylands estate tonight, but the Chinese president will not. The Chinese president will be staying at a nearby hotel, maybe less buggy there, you know what I mean? So, here in the United States, U.S. government officials timed their tip to Michael Isikoff that it was the Chinese government that hacked campaigns in 2008, they timed that tip to coincide with the first meeting of the new Chinese president with President Obama. Meanwhile, in China, the marvelously coincidental timing there was for something different. The Chinese government on the occasion of this visit to the U.S., they decided to give passports to the family members of this high profile Chinese dissident who took refuge in our country from Chinese persecution. And his mother and brother can visit him here, all of a sudden because of this, because of this meeting. This was the scene in Palm Springs, just about 90 minutes ago. President Obama greeting the Chinese president and they sat down for the first of their big, important meetings. And this is kind of how these things are supposed to go on the sidelines of meetings, right? On the occasion of a high profile meeting with the president of the United States, on that occasion, you know what, kindnesses towards dissidents should suddenly become possible. Other countries should think we expect that. Contact with us, desire to have good relations with us is supposed to drive other countries for better human rights policies and better civil rights policies, because that`s what we are supposed to stand for. So, the timing is tough right now, right? We like to think of ourselves as the good guys, where the international cost of doing business with United States of America is that you have to be less evil. It would be a lot easier for the United States to pull off this attempted embarrassment of the Chinese government over them hacking our politicians, were it not for the coincide revelations flooding our media this week, about our own government mercilessly hacking us. That does it for us. We will see you again on Monday night. But I actually have some great news before we go. It turns out you do not have to go to prison tonight. Tonight you`re out on parole! THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END