The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/9/2016

Guests: Ellen Nakashima, Michael McFaul

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 9, 2016 Guest: Ellen Nakashima, Michael McFaul

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

So, we had a whole show planned tonight that had honestly nothing to do with this topic but then "The Washington Post" just dropped this astonishing bombshell within the last hour. Now, I`m going to -- if you haven`t seen this yet, I`m going to put the headline up on the screen so you can see it. But this is one of those stories where the headline is really only a fraction of the news that they just broke here.

This is a big deal what "The Washington Post" just published. And there are really two big deals within it. There are two bottom lines to this story that they just broke tonight.

The first one is what is reflected in the headline. I`m just going to quote the lead directly here.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system. They`re citing officials briefed on the matter. Quote, "Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked e-mails from the DNC and others, including Hillary Clinton`s campaign chairman."

According to U.S. officials these individuals are actors known to the intelligence community who are part of a wider Russian operation to boost Donald Trump`s chances at winning and hurt Hillary Clinton`s chances.

A senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators -- stick a pin in this sourcing there for a second -- that person is then quoted saying this, "It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia`s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected. That`s the consensus view."

OK. So that is the first part of this breaking news tonight from "The Washington Post." The CIA has told U.S. officials and senators secretly that when Russia hacked the e-mails of Clinton`s campaign chair and the DNC, when they fed that information to the U.S. public via WikiLeaks, it wasn`t some chaos plan to make Americans wonder about the integrity of our election system. They weren`t trying to make us feel ughy about voting. They weren`t trying to make us feel like our democracy was shaky and vulnerable. It was a specifically directed thing. They were overtly part of a Russian op to try to win the American election for Donald Trump.

OK. So that`s one. Here`s the other part. And I said stick a pin in that sourcing stuff there for a reason. I think it`s always important to pay attention to the sourcing, but particularly on stories like this. Obviously, the reporters at "The Washington Post" are not going to tell us who their sources are and we would never ask them to, but they do describe them.

They describe the officials they`re talking to and their sources for the story as, various throughout the story, officials briefed on the matter or U.S. officials or at one point, like I said, stick a pin in it. A senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators.

OK. So, that sourcing ends up being a big part of that story because this assessment by the CIA -- this is not a public assessment. The CIA has not made this incredibly inflammatory assessment public. They haven`t said overtly to us, to you and me, to citizens that Russia tried to win the election for Donald Trump.

But that assessment is now in the paper. That`s now on the front page of "The Washington Post." And the reason it is is because the CIA didn`t keep this assessment to itself. They gave this assessment to people in the U.S. government.

And the question is, I think, the sort of most disturbing part of what has just been broken here is how much of this information they gave to people in the U.S. government before the election. And that`s, I think, probably the biggest part of this story here. This is totally new tonight.

"The Post" describes what they say was a secret briefing for congressional leaders in September. Again, I`m just going to vote directly here. This came out in the last hour. So I haven`t written this up and given you a big explanatory thing about it. I`m just going to tell you what they got.

This from "The Post", "By mid-September White House officials had decided it was time to name and shame the Russian government by publicly blaming Russia for doing this. But they worry that doing so just weeks before the election unilaterally without bipartisan congressional backing, that would make President Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes. Instead, officials devised a plan. They would seek bipartisan support from top lawmakers."

So they set up a secret meeting with the Gang of 12, the leaders of the House and Senate, the ranking members of the intelligence committee, in the Homeland Security Committee, in both the House and the Senate, that`s the Gang of 12. Obama dispatched counterterrorism director Lisa Monaco, FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson. He sent them to go make the pitch to these leaders in Congress for a, quote, "show of solidarity and bipartisan unity against Russia interfering in our election."

This detail is incredible. "In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, these administration officials broadly laid out the evidence that U.S. spy agencies had collected showing Russia`s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the e-mails of the Democratic organizations and individuals. They made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.

And get this, the Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided. Some of the Republicans in the briefing seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election.

According to several officials, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence. He made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly to be an act of partisan politics.

And then, "The Post" helpfully notes after the election, Trump chose McConnell`s wife, Elaine Chao, as the nominee for transportation secretary.

This is stunning stuff, right? I mean, this has just broken within the last hour in "The Washington Post." They`re reporting that the CIA not only concluded that the Russians intervened in the election, stole information, publicized stolen information to help Donald Trump win the presidency, but the CIA gave its information about Russia to the leadership in the House and the Senate and the White House want to make a big public bipartisan stand against it, and Republicans said no.

Mitch McConnell specifically said, no, no, don`t tell the public. And so, we held the election with the leadership in Congress knowing full well what Russia was doing and we all went to vote while they sat on that. Until now. Until "The Post" published that tonight.

Joining us now is __. She`s a cybersecurity reporter for "The Washington Post". She`s one of the reporters who broke this story just a little while ago.

Ms. Ellen Nakashima, thank you very much for joining us. I know this must be a very busy time for you right now.

ELLEN NAKASHIMA, WASHINGTON POST CYBER SECURITY REPORTER (via telephone): Yes, thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So, it seems to me, as I just explained that the big new piece of this is both the CIA`s conclusion that Russia was trying to decide who should be the next president of the United States, that`s what this intervention was about, but also this information that was given to Congress. Were there multiple times when the intelligence agencies, when the CIA, when this intelligence information was brought to congressional leaders?

NAKASHIMA: Well, we know that the CIA briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee last week with this information, which is partly what prompted a letter, the letter we mention, in the article, from seven senators, Senator Wyden among them, of Oregon, to President Obama, asking him to declassify information that these senators thought was important for the public to know.

These are all Democratic senators who signed the letter. And, you know, this is the information, part of the information that was given to them and which the senators felt should be made public.

MADDOW: In terms of what the -- this congressional meeting that you and your colleagues describe happening in September where Jeh Johnson and Lisa Monaco and James Comey were all sent to that room that`s used for classified briefings on Capitol Hill in this larger group of Senate and House leadership were briefed on these matters, do we know specifically what they were told, how the intelligence was characterized in that meeting?

NAKASHIMA: So, that meeting was actually more of a meeting to get bipartisan support for a statement that would urge the state to avail themselves of the Department of Homeland Security`s, you know, help in protecting their election systems from attack, especially at a time when they were being targeted by a very advanced adversary, Russia. So, that was -- it was an informational session, and during that session, there was discussion about also publicly naming Russia as the, you know, culprit behind the hacks and the meddling and some lawmakers even wanted to go further and urged the administration to take a response to deter Russia.

MADDOW: And you`re able to characterize the disparate response from members of Congress who were briefed at that point by saying that the Democratic leaders unanimously agreed that the threat was serious and that presumably there should be some response, but it was a divide among Republican lawmakers which is the reason why there was no public statement of any kind after that briefing before the election?

NAKASHIMA: There was no bipartisan public statement. What happened after that meeting is when the Democrats could not get -- even though there was no consensus from the entire group, two Democratic lawmakers, Senator Dianne Feinstein from California who is the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee and Congressman Adam Schiff from California, who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, both put out a statement essentially pointing the finger publicly at Russia and blaming them for the hacks and trying to undermine the election.

MADDOW: Ellen Nakashima, "Washington Post" cyber security reporter -- thank you for helping us understand the story tonight. Thanks for taking the time to be with us. I appreciate it.

NAKASHIMA: Thanks again. Bye-bye.

MADDOW: All right. So, we have much more to come tonight, including on this story. We had Lisa Monaco, the national terrorism director, announce today that President Obama has ordered an intelligence review to be completed before he is out of office in terms of what Russia did in this election.

But this bombshell tonight from "The Washington Post" that the CIA knew that Russia wasn`t just meddling, Russia was trying to deliver the presidency to Donald Trump and this news about the partisan difference in terms of the response on Capitol Hill that members of Congress who are Republican particularly Mitch McConnell didn`t want the American people to be told what they were being alerted to, whereas Democrats wanted to do that.

It is -- it is striking. It`s striking not only because his wife went on to get a cabinet job from Donald Trump, but it`s striking because this is - - this is I think not what any of us expected to be living through in our lifetime in terms of thinking about the vulnerability of the American political system to our enemies and how American politicians respond to that with such incredible partisanship.

All right. Next, we will talk to the American who knows more about Russian-American relations in just about anybody else alive. He`s here with us live next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA MONACO, COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process. It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders to include the Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: So, that was Lisa Monaco this morning, President Obama`s counterterrorism adviser. She announced today that President Obama told the intelligence community he wants a full review of Russian interference in this presidential election before he`s out of office.

Now, of course, the president-elect keeps insisting, despite the intelligence community saying otherwise, that he`s sure Russia did nothing to interfere in the election. But both that announcement about the review and that repeated insistence from the president-elect, those were both before "The Washington Post`s" blockbuster report just out within the last hour tonight which says that not only did the CIA determine that Russia was interfering in the election, they determined that Russia was interfering in the election specifically to try to hand the presidency to Donald Trump. That`s why they were interfering. It was to make Trump president.

"The Washington Post" also reporting some disturbing details tonight about members of Congress being given that assessment by the intelligence community and by U.S. officials ahead of the election and them not wanting anything said about it, as we all went to vote not knowing this, even though they knew it.

Joining us now is Michael McFaul. He`s the former U.S. ambassador to Russia. He`s now the political science professor at Stanford.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for your time. It`s nice to see you.

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Sure, thanks for having me.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about this "Washington Post" report tonight. We had earlier, obviously, seen this public declaration from the Department of Homeland Security and the office of the Director of National Intelligence saying Russia had meddled in the election, but they didn`t say they were trying to elect Donald Trump. I think a lot of us were sort of making that leap.

Now, we`ve got the CIA in secret saying, yes, that`s what they were trying to do. They wanted Trump to be president. What do you make of this?

MCFAUL: Well, two things I think are especially new for me. And I want to remind you, Rachel, we`ve been talking about this for months. I wrote a piece about this in "The Washington Post", which we talked about in August, but we didn`t have the exact data or the CIA connecting the dots.

The important piece of this reporting for me is that the CIA now says, you know, in the story filtered through the different sources that you rightly pointed out about ten minutes ago, that the Russians gave WikiLeaks the data, right, before we had to speculate about that. The CIA has now briefed people to say that definitively. And therefore, it doesn`t -- you don`t have to be a rocket scientist or have a PhD. in Russian studies to say they did that because WikiLeaks then dropped that data to adversely affect one candidate in this election.

So, before we had to hypothesize about that, now the CIA is saying it`s true.

MADDOW: The CIA also reported, is intelligence community more broadly, I should say, appears to have delivered, according to this reporting, appears to have delivered some of this assessment to member of Congress, to leadership in the House and Senate and to heads of the Homeland Security and Intelligence Communities including in advance of the election whereupon there was a debate about whether or not the intelligence was good and whether or not the American people should be warned about this.

What strikes me in "The Washington Post" reporting is that they said there was a partisan divide, that the Democrats took this seriously and want to say we are unified against this. The Republicans didn`t. They were at least divided on this issue and Mitch McConnell was flat out against it.

I don`t -- I don`t -- I don`t think of intelligence as being that partisan a thing and I especially don`t think of classified intelligence that has to be done in one of those, you know, compartmentalized briefing rooms, I don`t think of that as being something that engenders a partisan reaction. Is that part of the reporting a surprise to you or am I just being naive?

MCFAUL: It`s not surprising to me given the election that was at stake. I mean, you know, time and time again some of us who consider ourselves to be national security experts tried to raise this issue during the campaign and every time, we were derided as, oh, that`s just a partisan statement. That`s because you`re for Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump.

And tragically, even after the election, President-elect Trump has already stated on the record that he doesn`t believe this intelligence.

So, you know, that is what it was, but moving forward, we have to have a real conversation about national security. Not divided between Democrats and Republicans. That`s why there`s new legislation that just dropped a few days ago. It`s called Protecting Our Democracy Act.

Congressman, Representatives Cummings and Swalwell have proposed this, an independent bipartisan commission to investigate this.

And with all due respect to my friends in the Obama administration, having them do a 30-day review internally in the U.S. government, that`s not enough. Because that will be dismissed once the new administration comes in. It has to be independent and bipartisan and a serious scrub of this so that we don`t go through this again in 2020.

MADDOW: Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, now professor of political science at Stanford University -- thank you, Professor. It`s good to have you here. This is sort of incredible.

MCFAUL: You can see I have a little passion about this, Rachel. Thanks for having me on tonight.

MADDOW: I appreciate it. Thank you.

MCFAUL: Thank you. Thanks for doing the show.

MADDOW: I also want to say that what the ambassador just said there about looking ahead to 20 and making sure this doesn`t happen again, you also heard Lisa Monaco say it in terms of having lessons learned about these sort of things -- there`s also the issue of retaliation, right?

I mean, if the United States government interfered in a Russian election to pick the next president of Russia and Russia found out about it, right after that election, don`t you think they would retaliate against us somehow? Will there be an American action in response to that, particularly if we know that Russia not only was doing it in order to just be mischievous, they were doing it to get an outcome. Does the fact that they got the outcome they wanted mean they get away with it? That`s hard to believe.

Much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: All right. You will notice a theme in tonight`s breaking news. Some Fridays are like this, a whole bunch of stuff happens and the news gods don`t care that it`s the start of the weekend. But this evening, just before we learned about "The Washington Post`s" reporting about Russia`s role in the election, this bombshell report tonight from "The Washington Post," the CIA concluding that Russia intervenes in our election specifically to hand the presidency to Donald Trump, before that bombshell broke in "The Washington Post" tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" broke the news that the CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, is now all of a sudden the top pick to be the next secretary of state.

"The Wall Street Journal" was the first to report it but now "The New York Times" and "the Washington Post" are running with the story. They are reporting that President-elect Trump plans on meeting with the Exxon CEO again this weekend. He`s expected to make a formal announcement of his secretary of state pick next week, but Rex Tillerson is reportedly the front-runner.

In case you are not connecting with that name or with the Exxon connection, Rex Tillerson is this guy we`ve been covering for the last few days, right? This is Russian president Vladimir Putin personally awarding him the highest honor they give to non-Russian citizens for Exxon`s big contributions to developing cooperation in the energy sector. He was awarded that prestigious medal after he went to Vladimir Putin`s vacation home and signed what would have been a $500 billion deal between Exxon and a Russian-owned oil company to explore the arctic and, indeed, our own Gulf of Mexico.

That guy who just finished doing a half trillion dollars worth of business with Russia or what would have been a half trillion dollars worth of business with Russia had the U.S. government not intervened with those pesky Russian sanctions, if those sanctions went away, do you know what would have happened to the value of Exxon stock and his Exxon stock and his Exxon pension?

That guy, the CEO of Exxon, the guy who has only ever worked at Exxon -- he started working there in the 1970s. He`s never held another job. He has just reportedly risen to the top of president-elect Trump`s secretary of state list.

There`s a theme in tonight`s election. It has an accent.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: The American idea. If there`s only one American idea, what would that be?

I don`t know. That actually sounds kind of sad to me. I think there`s a whole bunch -- well, I have no plan to propose what the one American idea should be, but I do know that that specific phrase "the American idea," whether you think that`s a good phrase or bad phrase, it was trademarked this year.

And the story behind trademarking "the American idea" turns out to be absolutely nuts. And that story`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: There is a Central Park perfume. I have no idea what it smells like but it comes in a pretty bottle and very expensive, 100 bucks on Amazon. And Central Park perfume is manufactured or sold by the next president of the United States.

There`s also a Central Park sports bra, this one in a kicky color. It`s also kind of an expensive item. It`s like about 50 bucks for a sports bra, but it is also not manufactured or sold by the next president of the United States.

There`s also this Central Park hat. This one isn`t bad. It`s about 20 bucks. Also not manufactured or sold by the next president of the United States.

But you do have to be careful about this stuff because those things, perfume, active wear, underwear, those are not him, but the next president really does basically make and sell almost everything else that says "Central Park" on it.

In 2008, for whatever reason, our next president decided to radically expand the number of trademarks that he had on the name "Central Park." It had previously been for Central Park as in parking, like a pun. Park your car here in Central Park. Ha ha. That`s what he previously had for a Central Park trademark.

But in 2008, he expanded his trademarks to include a gigantic list of Central Park stuff. Central Park paperclips, Central Park bookmarks, Central Park breadboards, Central Park fireplace brushes, Central Park bird baths and trash cans and tee balls. Tee balls. I don`t know what a tee ball is. Central Park nonmetal piggy bank, Central Park gravy boat. This gigantic list of stuff.

Our next president back in 2008 applied for registered trademarks for all of these Central Park things so he alone could make and sell these things and nobody else could. It`s kind of a weird thing to think about, right, but if you ever wanted to buy and like a Central Park hand operated coffee grinder, the Patent and Trademark Office of the United States says the only person you can legally buy that from is Donald Trump.

Or at least that used to be the case until very, very recently, and this is such a weird part of this story. Because on July 21st this summer, this happened in Cleveland, Donald Trump accepting the nomination of the Republican Party to become president of the United States. The very next day -- that was July 21st. The very next day, July 22nd, the Patent and Trademark Office canceled all of his trademarks on all the Central Park stuff.

Run that scroll again. It`s incredible. Can we run it again? Do we have it?

Yes, all of the Central Park branded stuff, the decorative pencil top ornaments, knife boards, knife blocks, wood chopping boards for kitchen use. All this stuff -- the day after he got the presidential nomination, they declared his trademark registrations of all of these things dead.

Why then? Why that day? No idea.

Just funny, we talked to a bunch of trademark lawyers who are experts on this stuff and reporting out the story, and they all told us about the timing, meh, who knows? Probably just a coincidence.

OK. But it does seem like an odd coincidence.

Now that his trademark registration on all of the Central Park branded stuff is dead, though, are you starting to see dollar signs of your own, right? If he`s lost that trademark, does this mean that you or I or anybody can now start manufacturing or selling Central Park pencil top ornaments or Central Park caviar coolers or Central Park commemorative plates or all the rest of it?

It`s interesting. We also don`t know the answer to that and that ends up being important in terms of what`s about to happen next to our country and what`s about to happen to presidency, because our next president appears to have lost his trademark registration on all of these zillions of Central Park items because the Patent and Trademark Office believes that he stopped using the trademark. He stopped making and selling all of those things. And with the trademark, if you don`t use it, you lose it, and that`s why they canceled it.

But if it turns out that the trademark office was wrong and according to him and his lawyers, he is actually still using this trademark, he does still deserve to hold the exclusive trademark on all Central Park caviar coolers, then we`d be in lawsuit-ville, right? Because you or I looking at that dead trademark registration, one of us might decide, you know what, I`ve always want to make and sell Central Park pepper grinders. But if you or I started selling Central Park pepper grinders, Donald Trump, who at one point held that trademark, he could conceivably come after us for that and say, oh, even though it looked like my trademark had lapsed, I was still using it, I was still the rightful owner, and now you have violated my trademark, you got to pay me all your profits, you got to pay me damages. I`m going to clean you out.

If he was still just a rough and tumble New York business guy, that would be an interest business question about all the trademarks that he used to have that lapsed and canceled the day after he got the nomination. But he`s no longer a rough and tumble New York business guy. Now, he`s going to be president. So, what`s he going to do about all the stuff that he had or had trademarks on? I mean, will he come sue you or me for our Central Park pepper grinders? You know, signing papers in the Oval Office to tell his lawyers to come after some citizen?

He`s proudly litigious as a businessman. Once he`s president, is he still going to sue to protect his many trademarks, lapsed or otherwise, while he`s still serving as president of the United States or is he going to leave that money on the table, let people walk all over him. You know, that sweet, sweet Central Park pepper grinder money.

Is he still going to sue people over that stuff? You tell me. We have no idea.

It ends up being a live topic because even in the late stages of the presidential campaign, he was still registering new trademarks in the middle of the presidential campaign, while he was winning but the Republican primaries were still going on, he applied for new trademark re registrations under the auspices of the "American idea". He applied to register a whole bunch of trademarks around the "American idea". I wonder where he got that, the American idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We`re here today to explore the American idea.

You deliver Virginia. You save the American idea.

Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea.

These are the principles that define the American idea. The American idea belongs to all of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Actually, the American idea belongs to the Trump Organization, because they trademarked it in April. Too slow, Paul Ryan, too slow. They got it.

I mean, who knows where they heard it first, but Donald Trump and his companies started registering the American idea as a trademark this year, deep into his run for president. And we don`t know what he`s going to do with that. We don`t know what the idea is there.

I mean, was the idea maybe if he`s president of America, that might be an even better brand than Trump or Central Park or any of these other things that he`s trademarked over the years and tried to monetize in his business? I mean, trademarking the American idea, what a great way for a U.S. president to make money off the country.

Too slow, America. He got the trademark.

Every day, there`s more stuff like this that we have to figure out. Every day this stuff in terms of the conflict between his business interests and what he`s supposed to be doing for the country, these conflicts get worse and weirder and not better. And the transition still is just not commenting very much on the president-elect continuing his moneymaking ventures and his ownership stake in his business while he`s now serving as president-elect and once he`s about to serve as president.

But no matter how little they want to talk about it, it is already weird. It`s weird every day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort: buy American and hire American.

Two simple rules when it comes to rebuilding this country: buy American and hire American. All right?

Two simple rules: buy American and hire American.

Two simple rules: buy American and hire American. Okay?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: The president-elect has been doing these campaign-style rallies for himself around the country over the last couple of weeks and he`s using this new slogan "Buy American, hire American." Always gets a huge round of applause, but he`s also at the same time still running his business. And so, he`s out there in the world saying, hire American. Hire American.

And now, here`s "The Palm Beach Post", "Trump again hires foreign workers for Mar-a-Lago." Little change in pay. Citing newly released data from the U.S. Labor Department, "The Palm Beach Post" says, quote, "President- elect Donald Trump has won approval to hire 64 foreign workers through the federal`s H-2B foreign visa program."

This is not like building something overseas in a foreign factory. This is for service jobs like cooking and bartending and waiting table jobs and cooking at a place in Florida. He`s bringing foreign workers into the United States to work at his place in the United States, at a place in Florida. He`s bringing foreign workers into the United States to work at his place in Florida.

I mean, there are local people in Florida who want these jobs. There`s a local nonprofit job placement agency for American citizens in the county where Trump operates this club. It`s a nonprofit called a career source. They say they know plenty of American citizens, hundreds of them wanting to go work at Mar-a-Lago. They says they have hundreds of candidates for hospitality like servers, and chefs, and cooks, and bartenders and housekeeping and all the rest of it.

But "Palm Beach Post" says, quote, "While Mar-a-Lago asks the federal government for dozens of H-2B visas for workers every tourist season, the private club has asked the local placement agency for help in finding a local employee, quote, `only once in the past decade`."

Apparently, they needed a banquet server really fast just one some time last year. So, they went down to the local place to get an American for that job. But they only did it once and it was only because they, what, didn`t have enough time to get somebody over here from Burkina Faso in time for tonight`s banquet or from wherever else he prefers to bring in his people.

But that`s not the -- bringing in a local person from a local employment agency? That`s not the way he likes to hire. And so, the president-elect will be bringing in from foreign countries 19 people to work as cooks for $12.74 an hour. They`re getting their pay cut from last year. They got over $13 last year. This year, he`s stiffing 26 cents per hour.

He`s also hiring his waiters and waitresses from foreign countries. He`s hiring his housekeepers from foreign countries.

I mean, it is awkward to be a guy who still owns a business, particularly a business that operates like that, while also being a politician who says things like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will put our people, not people from our lands, our people back to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We will? What we? Not you. I mean, people get to run their business however they want, but he`s out there preaching, preaching at these rallies, standing in the pulpit preaching hire American, hire American. We will put our people to work not people from other lands. Hire American -- while he is going out of his way to not hire American.

So, that`s awkward for him to still have an ownership stake in his business.

One last point here, and again, this is just today`s news, a snapshot in the life of what`s happening to the presidency. But 2 1/2 weeks ago, "The Washington Post" reported that during the campaign, Trump formed eight new companies tied to a potential new hotel project in Saudi Arabia. Eight new companies formed during the campaign.

Tonight, "The A.P." reports that the Trump Organization has shut down four of those companies that he set up to do the Saudi deal.

So, if you do the math, eight and you take away four, that means he`s shutting down four of the eight companies that he set up to do that Saudi deal. Are the other four companies still alive? Is the incoming president and his family in talks with Saudi officials about hotel deals that will personally benefit them while they`re also making decisions about Middle East peace making, Middle East policy making, U.S. military matters?

I mean, we have no idea. They don`t tell us.

For now, though, presumably there are interests all over the world and all over our own country looking for ways to do what previously was very hard to do, looking for ways to grease the palm of the U.S. president. That used to be a really hard thing to do. Now, it`s easy.

I mean, if you`re a business, you can advertise on the president`s new TV show that is going to start airing in January. That will grease his palm.

If you`re not a business who can advertise on a big TV show like that, you`re just a Schmoe who doesn`t want to advertise there, doesn`t have that deep a pocket, might I suggest an alternative, a Donald Trump Central Park crystal ice bucket that`s made in Slovenia. It`s cheaper there. Gives you a bigger profit margin, you know, which means more for him.

I`ll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Two simple rules: buy American and hire American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: OK. So, news continues to break on this amazing story that we covered at the top of the show, the new "Washington Post" bombshell about the CIA concluding that Russia intervened in the election specifically to hand the presidency to Donald Trump.

Also, "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that the intelligence agencies and the White House told Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress back before the election that Russia was trying to interfere in the U.S. election. They wanted a bipartisan show of resistance to that. They wanted a bipartisan response to that. Republicans including specifically Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell responded by saying no, that they didn`t want to say anything before the election. That`s particularly troubling given that his wife went on to get a cabinet position in the new Trump administration, get offered a cabinet position in the new Trump administration once Trump was elected.

But as we are all absorbing that news tonight, we now have a response from the Trump transition and it`s a doozy. Ready? Transition statement on claims of foreign interference in U.S. elections.

Quote, "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago and one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It`s now time to move on and make America great again."

It was not one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. Also, you lost by more than 2 million votes in the popular vote.

But the fact that Saddam Hussein didn`t have weapons of mass destruction, and the intelligence agencies indicated otherwise is indelibly true, the fact that U.S. intelligence agency say that Russia intervened in our election to help Donald Trump is an entirely separate matter and if you won`t engage with that on the substance, then telling other people to move on while you ignore it isn`t going to persuade anyone.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: When the national counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, spoke today at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast, she made a couple of pieces of big news. First, as we discussed earlier, she announced that the Obama administration`s order to review of what`s happened with the Russians intervening in the presidential election. But she also dropped a scary little bombshell that as the top counterterrorism adviser in the U.S. government, she hasn`t yet met with whoever is going to replace her. Not sure there is a replacement actually.

Quote, "I have not met my successor. My successor to my knowledge has not been named yet. I am eager to sit down with that person." Whoever that person may be, if they ever pick someone.

If you are the counterterrorism adviser to the president and they don`t get around to picking someone to replace you for the next president, what do you do like on Inauguration Day? What do you do with all of your stuff? Do you just burn everything in a trash can and go home? Do you lock the door behind you when you leave? What do you do?

The transition has had some weird elements. I mean, there`s the fact that it`s still being run out of Trump`s house. They`re not still using the transition offices taxpayers pay for in D.C. It`s also preceding in a weird pace, with priorities that sometimes don`t make sense.

For example, it`s been 31 days since the election. On every one of those days, the intelligence community has prepared a president`s daily brief that they`ve made available to the incoming president, but "Reuters" reported last night that the incoming president has only sat down and taken four of those briefings, four out of 31.

He`s been very busy, you know, holding rallies for himself and stuff, while he has turned down 27 of the 31 intelligence briefings he`s been offered. Also, there`s no counterterrorism adviser.

That said, today, we learned that elements of the transition are -- there are elements of he transition that are going super aggressively. The former director of federal affairs for Koch Industries is heading up the transition for the Energy Department. "Bloomberg News" is first to report that at energy, the transition has now sent over a list of 65 questions for the Obama energy department, including the names of individual employees who have worked on climate change. They want to know who went to climate change meetings, who worked on what climate change issues. They want names.

"Washington Post" reports that they`ve also demanded names from top scientists at the nation`s national laboratories. They want scientists` names, their salaries, their publications, their professional affiliations, everything they have put their name to as scientists.

Now, the worry here is obvious. I mean, everybody expects the incoming Trump administration will destroy everything the Obama administration has done on a lot of scientific issues. You make those intentions clear when you put the chief lobbyist for Koch Industries in charge of setting up this part of the administration, right? And you name an EPA administrator who mostly just wants to abolish the EPA. You make that clear, right?

But this new worry with this new reporting is not just that they`re going to change policy. They`re going to remove and replace people who Obama appointed in all the science parts of the administration.

The worry here is that they`re going to go after people Obama didn`t appoint. They`re going to go after the long-life civil servants. They`re going to go root out scientists and staffers who aren`t political appointees, but who committed the Republican sin of working on science that the right doesn`t believe in.

I mean, replacing political appointees is expected. Scouring the names of all the civil servants to root out all the permanent staffers? That would be radical. I mean, not everything is designed to turn over with every new president. That ends up being a really interesting potential break on radicalism for the next administration.

And there is a hot, hot, hot story about that that we just learned about tonight, and that`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Not everything is designed to turn over with every new president. There are jobs up and down government that are supposed to outlast any one particular administration. So, the people in those jobs don`t blow in the political winds, like the FBI director has a ten-year term.

The people on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve have a 14-year term. Federal judges serve for life, right? The idea behind long terms like this is political insulation. So, those folks aren`t always worried about their jobs security, depending what`s going on in politics.

Last week, you might remember that the Office of Government Ethics went on an epic, sarcastic tweet storm at the incoming president, basically telling him that handing his business off to his kids won`t clear up the corruption issue that`s posed by his business empire. He needs to divest. He needs to sell-off or he`s got a problem.

After getting a bunch of attention for that, it was interesting, that Twitter account, the Office of Government Ethics went dark. Not a single tweet for over a week until this popped up late yesterday. "New, new Office of Government Ethics profile explains how to prevent conflicts of interest in the executive branch," hint, hint, and they linked to their brand new pamphlet complete with very simple explanatory pictures about conflicts of interest in the executive branch. These guys think of anybody in particular?

If you`re thinking that that Office of Government Ethics is already annoying the incoming president, you think the incoming president might not cotton to folks like this with that kind of attitude about him once he gets to Washington. Well, that`s why it`s a good and now really interesting thing to know that the guy who runs that office, he doesn`t leave when Obama leaves. He`s one of these guys on a longer term. He`s got a five- year term. Trump gets him until 2018.

Elections have consequences, but they don`t change everything, at least they don`t change it all at the same time. And in the case of this plucky little agency they put in place after Watergate, that dynamic might be about to get really fun to watch.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again on Monday.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END