Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: March 8, 2017 Guest: Eric Swalwell
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Go, Chris, go, go, go! I`m excited about your book tour and your book and you did an awesome show. Thanks.
HAYES: Thank you all around.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us for the next hour.
"Politico" reports tonight that U.S. investigators, including the FBI, are looking into a Russian citizen in conjunction with one of the incidents on the Trump campaign last year which defied explanation at the time -- dramatic news tonight from politico.com.
This incident that happened last year, last summer of the Trump campaign, it was one of the first direct signs that we had that something strange was up in the Trump campaign when it came to the issue of Russia. It`s an incident that came to light during the Republican national convention. Just in the last few days, the explanations around this strange incident that happened during the convention, just in the last few days, the explanations have started to unravel. We`re getting some insight into why tonight.
The person who`s reportedly under FBI scrutiny is a joint Russian/Ukrainian citizen. He apparently worked as a top staffer to Donald Trump`s former campaign manager Paul Manafort. He worked with Paul Manafort in Ukraine while Paul Manafort was managing the political fortunes of that country`s pro-Vladimir Putin dictator.
Now, this guy, again, this being reported by "Politico" tonight, this guy who is reportedly being looked into by the FBI, he came to the United States last year to meet with Paul Manafort very shortly after Manafort was give a senior position in the Trump campaign. He came last spring during the height of the Republican presidential primary.
Then, this same guy, now apparently being looked into by the FBI, this same guy reportedly came back to the United States again to meet with Paul Manafort in the late summer right around the time of the Republican National Convention. And at that time when we were doing our reporting on the convention and what happened on the sidelines of the convention, at that time I remember reporting then that something weird happened that had to do with Russia -- that something weird that happened at the convention, this one strange thing that happened at the RNC that stood out like a sore thumb.
It didn`t make any sense given what else we knew about what was going on in Republican politics at the time. It, frankly, didn`t make sense when it comes to Republican politics of a normal variety at all.
I mean, at national conventions, obviously, the main job is to nominate the party`s candidates for president and vice president. But at the conventions, they also have to formalize the party`s platform. And honestly, nobody really cares about what`s in a party platform. It`s not like a binding document like you have to return on those things that are in the party platform or promise to do them once you`re elected.
The only people who care about the platform are insider party animals. And last summer, it was kind of a relief to those folks, kind of a relief to the life long Republican party activists who live and breathe Republican politics, it was kind of a relief to them when it became clear during their convention that even though Donald Trump was going to be their presidential nominee, he and his campaign didn`t seem to give a fig about what was in the dumb old platform.
I mean, in the platform, there was really aggressive anti-abortion stuff that you could imagine maybe Donald Trump himself would be a little wobbly about. This year in the platform, they put in a plank that was anti-porn. Well, OK, when your nominee is Donald Trump, that`s nuts. Donald Trump himself appeared in a soft core porn movie. Remember him in the weird "Playboy" thing? Right?
So, there`s all this stuff in the Republican Party platform from this past year that doesn`t seem very Trumpian and, yeah, it`s the social conservative stuff but a lot of other stuff besides. Stuff that doesn`t really comport with Trump the candidate or the way he campaigned for the nomination.
But party activists were psyched when it came time to work on the platform of the convention, and Trump did not care what was in the platform. Let the Ted Cruz people, let the John Kasich people, whoever else, let them get excited over that platform. It`s not a binding document, who cares?
That itself was kind of an interesting thing to watch at the time. Presidential nominee absents himself from the party platform process. That itself interesting. But what was way more interesting than that, what was riveting and bizarre to watch at the time that we couldn`t make heads or tails of at the time was the Trump campaign`s one exception on the party platform.
Even though they let all this other stuff slide, that was very much not in keeping with Trump and the campaign, they did decide to get up on their hind legs and fight and intercede aggressively for one specific thing in the platform. One specific part of the Republican Party platform, and that was a thing about Russia.
There was a proposed plank for the Republican Party platform that said Ukraine should get help from the United States up to and including lethal weaponry so Ukraine could fight off Russian incursions. And you know what? The Trump campaign let everything else in the platform slide. Even stuff that might theoretically have bothered them but that, that Ukraine and Russia thing, they jumped right up on that and they insisted that that plank only, that one, had to be taken out, that language could not stand.
And it was weird at the time and, yes, there was a lot else going on in presidential politics, it was the conventions, right? But even then, you know, as the Russia/Trump questions continued to percolate and ultimately got more acute over time, ultimately, Trump the candidate did have to answer for what his campaign did with the platform at his convention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wasn`t involved in that. Honestly --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Your people were.
TRUMP: Yes. I was not involved in that. I`d like to -- I`d have to take a look at it but I was not involved.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you know what they did?
TRUMP: They softened it, I heard, but I was not involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I was not involved. In addition to the candidate himself denying having anything to do with it, his campaign manager Paul Manafort, who had done all that work in Ukraine, he also denied having anything to do with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: There`s been some controversy about something in the Republican Party platform that essentially changed the Republican Party`s views when it comes to Ukraine. How much influence did you have on changing that language, sir?
PAUL MANAFORT, THEN TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I had none. In fact, I didn`t hear of it until after our convention was over.
TODD: Where did it come from, then, because everybody on the platform committee said it came from the Trump campaign? If not you, who?
MANAFORT: It absolutely did not from the Trump campaign and I don`t know who everybody is. But I guarantee you, there`s nobody that was on the platform --
TODD: So nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?
MANAFORT: No one. Zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, after the Republican convention, the candidate himself denies having anything to do with it. His campaign manager Paul Manafort denies having anything to do with it, denies that neither he nor anyone from the Trump campaign had anything do with it.
How did it happen? Don`t know, must have been fairies.
Well, now, that bizarre non-explanation, those denials, have fallen apart because now, a former Trump campaign official has fessed up about it. He`s a former Trump campaign official named J.D. Gordon and he says, as a Trump campaign official at the time, taking orders from the Trump campaign at the time, he`s the one who did it. He says now that he was the one who interceded in the Republican Party platform to get this language that would keep Russia happy and he says he did it specifically at Donald Trump`s request.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Gordon says he was a part of the effort that was pushed by the Trump campaign to put some language in the GOP platform that essentially said that the Republican Party did not advocate for arming the Ukrainians in their battle against these pro-Russian separatists. Of course, that was a big issue flaring up at the time of the Republican convention. That effort was ultimately successful. They were successful in having that language in the Republican Party platform.
And I asked J.D. Gordon, well, why is that? Why did you go ahead and advocate for that language? And he said this is the language Donald Trump himself wanted and advocated for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: OK. So, this is just one thing that happened on the Trump campaign. It was weird at the time. We got all these denials that seemed implausible about it for months, now it`s falling apart.
Why now? Why is this falling apart now? Why are people from the Trump campaign now admitting that, yeah, they did change that plank in the Republican Party platform to make it nicer to Russia? Why are they admitting it now after denying it for months? I don`t know.
But tonight, as I said, this breaking news, "Politico" is reporting that the FBI is on to this now, too because this Russian citizen who worked with Paul Manafort reportedly visited Paul Manafort while he was running the Trump campaign at the time and he reportedly later told people that what he came to the United States for last summer, around the time of the Republican convention, was to get that language changed in the Republican Party platform on the issue of Russia.
You can -- you can feel the pillars start to sway here a little bit, right? Oh, now, we`ve got an explanation for it. Now you`re fessing up. Why did you deny it for so long? And what`s the FBI finding? And why is a Russian citizen involved?
I mean, every day for the last few days, we`ve had a new piece of this fall into place, so we`ve had a previous denial fall apart. As we reported last night, yesterday in London, a man named Christopher Steele resurfaced after having been in hiding for his own safety for weeks.
Christopher Steele is a former MI6 officer. He`s the author of the unsubstantiated dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump that was published by BuzzFeed in January. Last night on this show, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told us the House Intelligence Committee would be very interested in obtaining testimony from Christopher Steele for the House Intelligence Committee`s inquiry into the Trump campaign and its ties with Russia.
Adam Schiff told us last night that his committee, quote, "certainly will want to get to the bottom of the details of that dossier and report what has been substantiated, what hasn`t and find out just how Mr. Steele based those conclusions." He told us, quote, "If it`s an issue of him not wanting to appear, him not wanting to come here and face questions from the whole committee, we more than welcome his cooperation in any manner that he is comfortable."
Quote, "If there`s an issue about whether -- if it`s an issue about whether he is willing to come before the committee, I can say I am more than willing to go to him. I know there are other members of the committee who would join me in that."
That`s an unusual offer from the top member of a congressional intelligence committee. I will come to you, sir. I will go to a foreign country to get your testimony. Stay where you are, we can come to you, right?
But this is a guy who clearly thinks that he has safety issues. This is a guy who has been in hiding for weeks reportedly in fear for his own safety ever since he was revealed as the author of this dossier of alleged Russian dirt.
The reason I raise the issue of that dossier in conjunction with this new information about the Trump campaign now admitting that, yeah, they did change the Republican Party platform to make it more pro-Russian, the reason I raised these two things together, that dossier and finally us getting an explanation on what happened with that Ukraine and Russia plank and the Republican convention, the reason I raised these together is because one of the baseline allegations of that dossier is actually -- it appears to be about that platform change. One of the things that the dossier alleges is essentially a quid pro quo between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign.
This is a quote from the dossier. "The Russian regime has been behind the recent leak of embarrassing email messages emanating from the Democratic National Committee to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was plausible deniability. The operation has been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return, the Trump team has agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue."
And again I have to stress that we need to describe this dossier as an unverified dossier of Russian allegations against Donald Trump. But everyday now, everyday I lead my show and I think I`m going to be talking about something else, but everyday, over the course of the new cycle, a new piece of it falls in place, and this is just the latest one. I mean, in the last couple of weeks and days, even into tonight, more pieces of it are falling into place.
I mean, the Trump campaign used to deny that any of its staffers, anyone related to the Trump campaign had any contact with any Russians during the campaign. Well, no, in fact, meetings between Trump campaign people and Russians have led to the resignation of the national security adviser, that`s led to the recusal of the attorney general of the United States. The Trump campaign as of last night is not only admitting a trip to Russia by one of its official foreign policy advisers during the campaign, but as of last night they`re now admitting this trip was authorized by the Trump campaign at the time he went to Moscow.
Now, politico.com is reporting what is basically a direct Russian tie to that change in the Republican Party platform to benefit Russia last year. If "Politico`s" reporting is accurate, then the FBI is looking into a Russian national who was previously suspected of ties to the Russian security services and they are reportedly looking into his role in what the Trump campaign now admits were its efforts to -- what is it? Quote, "Sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue." to take Russian intervention in Ukraine basically out of the Republican Party platform as an issue.
It`s everyday, another piece of it gets corroborated. So, we will all continue to describe this dossier from Christopher Steele as unfounded and unsupported, and that is certainly true when it comes to the dossier`s baseline allegation that the Trump campaign not only knew about but they actively supported the Russian government`s attacks on Hillary Clinton and the Russian government`s hacking and intervention into our presidential election to benefit Trump.
But even if that is as yet in itself uncorroborated and undocumented, all the supporting details are checking out, even the really outrageous ones. A lot of them are starting to bear out under scrutiny. It seems like a new one each passing day. And now that the author of this dossier, this increasingly corroborated dossier has been found, has surfaced in Britain and he`s OK, it`s now starting to feel like an incredibly important question about any U.S. investigation of this matter.
Seems like a very important question whether or not investigators are going to talk to him, whether they are going to get testimony from the author of this dossier. With each passing day, more parts of the dossier get supported by the facts and previous denials by the Trump campaign, whether it`s about Jeff Sessions, whether it`s about Michael Flynn, whether it`s about Carter Page, it`s about the Ukraine platform, whether it`s about Paul Manafort, their previous denials are all falling apart.
And we are also learning more in dribs and drabs about the law enforcement investigations and counterintelligence investigations that are under way into the Trump campaign in Russia and we are learning more dribs and drabs everyday about what the intelligence committees in Congress might be able to do in their investigations, whether or not they actually do it. So, we`re learning more about what happened. We`re learning more about what bullpucky the Trump campaign denials were on some of this stuff. We`re learning more about these investigations.
What we`re going to talk about tonight in part is that there is up with other piece of this that is getting clearer each day and it`s something that Jeff Sessions has not recused from and the intelligence committees are apparently not even thinking about investigating it, but it`s starting very much to feel like an urgent matter, and that is the question of what happened after the campaign. That`s the question of whether Russian intervention into U.S. politics into high level top level U.S. politics, whether it stopped during the campaign or whether it is still happening right now inside our government. And that sort of upsetting story is next.
MADDOW: Yesterday at the State Department, NBC News intrepid veteran aggressive reporter Andrea Mitchell once again became the personification of pushy persistence in trying to get the new secretary of state, trying to get him to answer questions, any questions, trying to get him on the record on anything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Again, welcome.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Mr. Secretary, China said there will be consequences for the deployment now of anti-missile defenses in South Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MITCHELL: Can you respond --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you.
MITCHELL: Can you respond to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, we`re leaving.
MITCHELL: Excuse me, Mr. Secretary. Can you respond to the threats from China?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Let`s go. Thank you.
MITCHELL: Mr. Minister, are you sure the Trump administration will be strong against Vladimir Putin?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. We`re leaving the room. Thank you.
MITCHELL: Can you assure us that Russia will not be able to move further in Ukraine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press are departing the room, Andrea. Let`s go.
MITCHELL: We haven`t had time in here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so sorry, we`re going to have to leave. Let`s go. Let`s go, guys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Andrea Mitchell is a very nice person but she`s obviously dogged at her work and at the end of the clip, you can see how frustrated she is there, right, after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has given absolutely no response to any questions after Andrea and all the other reporters were pushed out of the room at the State Department by State Department staff.
I mean, it`s clear, State Department staff know Andrea well enough to be on a first name basis with her. They have seen her at the State Department for years if not for decades, but the secretary of state won`t say a word. Won`t say a word.
And, you know, watching -- you see the look on Andrea`s face there. I think part of the reason Andrea seems so frustrated here is because this isn`t a one time thing. This keeps happening. This is the second time a few days Andrea has been put in this position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Mr. Secretary, can you do your job with the kind of budget cuts the president has proposed? What does it say about the priority of diplomacy in this administration?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everyone.
MITCHELL: Do you think you`ll have a deputy anytime soon, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. We`re done. Thank you.
MITCHELL: When do you think you might have a deputy?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Andrea -- come on, guys. Come on. Let`s go. Andrea, come on, guys. This way. Out. Please. Out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: When we first played that tape a few days ago my reaction to it, you might remember, my reaction to it spontaneously was "raise your children to be reporters", right? I mean, it is amazing tape of Andrea Mitchell and how she works and how hard she pushes to try to get information out of people in power.
But you know what? In addition to being an interesting thing there to see in terms of what it means to be a reporter and how hard Andrea works, there is something very serious going on there, right? What Andrea Mitchell was asking there -- what did she say exactly? "Do you think you will have a deputy any time soon? When do you think you will have a deputy? Can you do your job with the kind of budget cut this is president has proposed? Do you think you`ll have a deputy?"
You know what, there is no deputy to Rex Tillerson at the State Department. And his public appearances really are just silent tableau vivant of smiling men shaking hands and not speaking and not answering reporters` questions. That`s it.
When Rex Tillerson first arrived at the State Department, he gave a speech to employees in everybody thought he seemed nice, but he has not held a press conference or made sustained public remarks of any kind since then. And you know what? Immediately after he introduced himself and said "hey there, hi there" to the state department staff, they immediately started firing all the top people at the State Department, particularly the career people who hadn`t been there through President Obama. They were there through George W. Bush before that, and Clinton before that, and George H.W. Bush before that, and even Reagan before that, and even Carter before that.
I mean, as soon as Tillerson was brought on board, they fired four of the longest standing top career diplomats at the State Department who don`t turn over with new administration. Between them, those four people had a combined 150 years of institutional experience. Got rid of them.
When one assistant deputy secretary of state for consular affairs wrote her parting letter to her colleague, she said what an honored it had been to represent the United States as a foreign service office for 40 years, but now they`re telling me I have to go.
Those are the people they cleared out, people with 20, 30, even 40 years at the State Department, all the institutional memory in the building -- the people who form the spine of America`s foreign service in a non-partisan way. The career people, the core.
I mean, these have been the headlines, right? Trump administration asks top State Department officials to leave. Or this one, it`s a bloodbath at the State Department. Or this one, State Department carries out layoffs under Rex Tillerson. Even later, two more senior diplomats leaving the State Department.
I mean, they emptied out the whole suite of senior foreign service officers as soon as Rex Tillerson got there. And then, after that, while he was leaving on his first foreign trip, they laid off a whole other round of diplomatic officials with decades of experience, the most senior people in the building.
And again, these are not Obama appointees, right? These are the people who have been the institutional memory and the core of the State Department for years as presidents come and go. They have gotten rid of them. They have cleared them out and are not replacing them and there`s not a deputy for Rex Tillerson at the State Department and State Department officials are not attending meetings between the president and other foreign officials. He likes to bring his son-in-law instead.
And the State Department only yesterday restarted its press briefings which have continued daily since the 1950s before they stopped abruptly on the last day of the Obama administration. They only restarted yesterday and they`re no longer going to be daily.
And when the Office of Management and Budget announced that the State Department is in for a 37 percent cut in its budget, 37 percent, we haven`t heard a peep from the secretary of state about that. Apparently, 37 percent cut, that will not be a problem.
Looking at that thing that`s happening in Washington, turn the telescope around here for a second and look through the other side. Look through the other side of that telescope in terms of what is going on in this part of Washington.
If you`re Russia, whether or not you have a personal preference about who you want to be president of the United States, if you`re Russia, what you want is an end to the unipolar world where the United States leads the West and you`re not really part of that, right? If you`re Russia, especially under Vladimir Putin you have no desire to be part of a Western alliance of free countries, in part because you don`t think it`s in your interest to be a free country and, frankly, you don`t want to be part of something that is led by someone else.
I mean, once upon a time around the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a brief hope Russia might end up being a member of NATO. Yeah, no. Under Vladimir Putin instead, Russia has decided not just to continue to define NATO as its great enemy the world, but to set off a hoopty knockoff version of a competitor to NATO, which is ridiculous in terms of being any real competition. But there at least, Russia can be in charge.
I mean, Russia wants the United States out of a leadership position in the world. They love being seen as a competing military power to the United States even though the Russian military is in no way comparable to the American military other than when it comes to nuclear weapons. I mean, if you`re Russia, you like being seen as a military power. You don`t have an issue with the United States and Russia being seen as competing military powers.
If you`re Russia, what you really hate about the United States, what you really hate about the U.S. government, if you want to find a specific bull`s-eye for it, it`s the U.S. State Department, because the U.S. State Department isn`t military force, right? The U.S. State Department is American leadership in the world. The U.S. State Department organizes the world to support international organizations, to support the post-war stable world that America leads, right?
The U.S. State Department is in charge of soft power, supporting American- led interests with countries around the world. The U.S. State Department, frankly, does support dissidents in Russia and critical media in Russia. The U.S. State Department calls out Russian elections as Hillary Clinton did in 2011, calls out Russian elections as neither free nor fair when there`s evidence that Russian elections are neither free nor fair.
I mean, the one existential threat Vladimir Putin fears in his own country after 17 years in power, the one existential threat he really fears is a revolution by his own people, a color revolution, or an Arab Spring-type uprising by Russians against him and when there have been big protest movements in Russia that have threatened to rise to that level Putin has raged against the U.S. State Department for supporting -- no, for orchestrating those protesters.
If Russia did run a massive intelligence operation to affect the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, do we think they`d see that as it its own reward? That`s enough? OK, now we`re done? Or once you`ve done that, then is it time to reap the benefits of that?
Donald Trump never met Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon, before the presidential election. Rex Tillerson absolutely had met Vladimir Putin before the presidential election. He was considered to be the U.S. citizen closer to Vladimir Putin than any other. He received the Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin personally, the highest civilian award that Russia gives to non-Russian citizens.
Somehow Rex Tillerson ended up as the U.S. secretary of state under Donald Trump who he`d never met. And under Rex Tillerson, the U.S. State Department, Putin`s greatest nemesis in the U.S. government, under Rex Tillerson, the U.S. State Department has kind of disappeared.
When the State Department put out its annual human rights report like it does every year, criticizing Russia like it does every year, this year, there was no big public rollout. The secretary of state didn`t even announce it, they did no public events, why stress the issue?
That human rights report is usually the highest high profile thing the U.S. State Department does all year. This year they just press released it. Don`t say a word.
The more we learn about the Trump campaign and its ties to the Russian government, the more clear it gets that American investigations into that, they need to be aggressive and independent, but I want to propose that it is also becoming clear that Russia didn`t intervene in our election because they like the cut of Donald Trump`s jib. The more we learn about it, it doesn`t seem like it was personal. It seems like it was to get specific stuff out of the United States, actions by U.S. political figures to benefit Russia, right?
Things like, you know, the Republican Party taking out of its platform that Ukraine should get lethal weapons to fight Russia and fight off those Russian incursions. They wanted change. They wanted change by U.S. political actors to benefit Russia. They wanted actions taken to benefit Russia.
And also, we have to ask whether they wanted actions by U.S. political figures to weaken the parts of America that most annoy and that most undermine Vladimir Putin.
Is Rex Tillerson secretary of state because Russia needed somebody to stand by as secretary of state while the State Department was hollowed out, disappeared, and muted? Because that`s what`s happening under him.
We absolutely need an investigation of Trump and Russia, covering the campaign and before. With each passing day, that becomes more clear.
But who`s investigating if the Russia campaign here isn`t over? Who`s looking into whether this is still going on?
MADDOW: This next clip we only have in audio form. We don`t have video. We just have the sound. But it`s Hillary Clinton speaking to a private audience not long after the election.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vladimir Putin himself directed the covert cyber attacks against our electoral system, against our democracy, apparently because he has a personal beef against me. In the fall of 2011, they had, quote, "parliamentary elections" which were so flawed, so illegitimate that it was embarrassing and I basically said based on independent observations and analysis this was an unfair, not free, illegitimate election.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hillary Clinton at a private event in December in New York saying that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the U.S. election, did what he did in the U.S. election because of his personal beef with her based on her time as secretary of state. And you know what she`s talking about there is documented and clear.
During those big anti-Vladimir Putin in protests in 2011 in Russia, the one time where Putin probably came closest to losing his grip on power in the 17 years he`s been in power, Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was out there reminding anybody who would listen that the election that just took place in Russia, they were in her words neither free nor fair.
Post this past election in our country, Hillary Clinton tried to explain to her supporters why Russia did what they did in our presidential election. You heard her explaining it there. What she said there, what she just explained, though, was actually the same theory of the case as this guy, ex-British MI6 officer Christopher Steele who resurfaced yesterday in London after going into hiding for weeks after BuzzFeed published his dossier of unconfirmed alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump in January.
That dossier bluntly asserts that there was collusion and cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence about the Russian attack on the U.S. election. And in that dossier, the explanation for why Russia did what they did in part was this, quote, "Putin motivated by fear and hatred of Hillary Clinton." And you know, like many things in that dossier, that has started to seem less nuts over time.
When the U.S. intelligence committee released its official report on Russian hacking on January 6th, the U.S. intelligence agency said it, too, quote, "Russia`s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, to denigrate Secretary Clinton and to harm her electability and her potential presidency."
The dossier, the Christopher Steele dossier, it alleged there were repeated contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia officials before the election. The Trump administration denied that aggressively for months but we now know that to be true. The dossier mentioned a meeting between Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and a senior Russian official in July of last year. This week, the Trump campaign admitted not only that it happened, but that the trip was sanctioned by the campaign at the time.
Last night, we reported on this senior Russian diplomat, Mikhail Kalugin, who was working at the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. He`s accused of being basically the paymaster who handled the money side of Russia`s efforts to hack the election. The dossier reports that in August, he was withdrawn back to Moscow after he became the target of U.S. suspicion. Well, in fact, that diplomat really did get called home to Moscow and now we know, based on reporting from McClatchy, that when he did get recalled to Moscow, he was under suspicion by U.S. authorities for his potential role in the Russian attack on the election.
So, this crazy-sounding dossier, it keeps coming back. And now, after two months spent underground, its author, Christopher Steele, is back. Last night on this show, the top Democrat on House Intelligence made news. He said he was determined that his committee should talk to Christopher Steele, should talk to the man who compiled this dossier. We`ll have more on that in a second.
But you know admittedly, right, some of this, the consequence is done, right? Admittedly it`s done. I mean, you know what Hillary Clinton is doing tonight? She`s posted a Snapchat video. She got a new hair cut.
She`s posting a Snapchat video for women`s day, International Women`s Day, saying, "Every issue is a women`s issue, so stand up and resist and run for office." She`s on Snapchat, meanwhile, Donald Trump is president and apparently tonight, he just appointed his ambassador to Russia. His nominee will be Jon Huntsman of Utah.
You know, in 2012, Donald Trump derided Jon Huntsman`s own presidential ambitions saying that as ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, quote, "gave away our country" to them. Well, now, apparently, that`s just the guy to give away our country again. This time to Putin, though, this time to Russia.
The Russia connection, it is about the election. It is about what happened to our country with this last presidential election. I recognize that the election is done, but it`s also about who is running our government now and with what expectations and what debt.
And I`m very pleased to say that one of the young hungry investigators who is very aggressively on this is our guest next from Washington.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell is a new member of Congress in California. He`s on the Intelligence Committee. Look what he just did today.
He posted today -- look at this -- he posted this on his website today. It`s sort of an encyclopedia. It`s like a one-stop connect-the-dots reference guide laying out all the open source non-classified stuff that we as Americans know right now about the Russia connection to the Trump campaign. This is very handy.
This is a useful thing for a member of Congress to do for his or her constituents, right? If constituents have concerns about links between Russia and our new president, this which Congressman Swalwell has posted today, this is a public service.
Congressman Swalwell is also an active part of the investigation in the House. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee, as I said. He`s also the top Democrat on the subcommittee that deals with the CIA and Congressman Swalwell joins us from Washington.
It`s good to have you with us tonight, sir. Thanks for being here.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you, Rachel, and greetings from Castro Valley High School Trojans who are at the heart of my congressional district in the East Bay.
MADDOW: As a three-letter athlete from the Castro Valley High School Trojans Athletic Department, I am very embarrassed by you bringing that up. But thank you.
Let me ask about your decision to post this sort of guide for your constituents. You`ve posted a lot of connect-the-dots information about this Russia investigation.
SWALWELL: A lot of work on this issue is classified. I wanted in an unclassified way for my constituents to understand first why Russia is not our friend.
And, you know, Rachel, we`ve seen a lot of young people who look at Russia and they think, well, maybe, this is just a Cold War adversary. So, we posted a lot of atrocities in Syria and in Ukraine.
And then we walked through the Trump-Russia ties, which is growing everyday, as you pointed out. From there, we point out the influences and the different changes in positions that we`ve seen from Trump officials from Jeff Sessions to the platform committee`s changes and the president himself. And then, of course, we point out the interference campaign Russia ran and then lead everyone to the independent commission that I and Elijah Cummings are calling for and every Democrat has supported in Congress.
So, we wanted to walk them through so they understand kind of bit by bit what the evidence is in this case.
MADDOW: So you have called, as you mentioned there, for an independent commission -- a 9/11 style commission to take it out of the partisan- controlled committee process and to investigate this as a non-partisan independent thing.
I think my take on this increasingly and as far as I can tell from feedback from my viewers, people who I talk to, I think a pretty widespread feeling about this investigation is that if it is conducted by the Justice Department, which is run by Trump campaign official, Jeff Sessions, if it is run by the intelligence committees which are run by two Trump campaign officials in Richard Burr and your chairman in the House, there`s not much confidence that those investigations will be both aggressive and independent.
That said, nobody seems to be biting on the Republican side about your idea of an independent commission. Should we be worried that these won`t be independent investigations?
SWALWELL: Yes, I`m worried because the Trump team and many of my colleagues have failed to show impartiality on this issue. And as each day goes by, as we roll into another election, we know that Russia is sharpening their knives. That is a public finding in the intelligence report and we know that other adversaries with similar capabilities will look at what is the United States going to do?
Now, I do have to give credit to one Republican, Walter Jones. He`s joined our call for an independent commission, and he`s someone who`s put country before party before. He was the first one to speak out against the Iraq war.
MADDOW: One of the things I`m starting to feel like is going to become a further avenue of investigation is whether or not if there was quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. If there was, in fact, collusion or cooperation, if they knowingly interacted with Russian officials who were attacking our election in this way, they must have promised something, they must have offered something. There must have been a thank you they planned to deliver and that may not have been during the campaign. It may have been something they plan to deliver during the administration.
Is it your understanding that the intelligence investigations would extend to encompass what`s going on now in the administration? Whether any of those favors might be being paid back in the way the U.S. government is being run now by President Trump?
SWALWELL: It has to and it has to look at what the consideration may have been because all the dots here in this investigation continue to connect and the biggest question, of course, is were any of these contacts or ties that the Trump team had with Russia, were they working with Russia as they ran the interference campaign and now what we`re looking at is whether U.S. policy toward Russia is also changing. That would be pretty powerful evidence that they were working with Russia and that Russia is now getting something in return.
MADDOW: Congressman Eric Swalwell, member of the House Intelligence Committee, a man who represents the town where I grew up, which is just a coincidence -- sir, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate it.
SWALWELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`ve got the best staff, the best producers, the best researchers of anyone who works on any show on television. Better than any cable show on any network, better than any news show, period.
I put up the staff for this show against anyone. And one of the hallmarks of how we do our work, one of the things that has evolved in our own culture as a show is you read to the end. The headline might not be the most important thing. The 15th paragraph of whatever it is you`re reading, that might not be the news right now, but it might be the lead story tomorrow night. So you better make sure you read it, and remember it, maybe make a file.
And because we are like that as a group, we end up as a staff sort of competing among ourselves for, like, who can name the date of the next state Senate special election and what n what state and what is the partisan breakdown of that district. Or who knows the partisan split of the Connecticut state legislature off the top of their head, both houses, go! We`re like that.
Tonight, we`re going to deal you in on one of those stories about which we have a file. Can you identify on sight the person in this picture? Do not shout the answer if you happen to know.
Here is the clue, though. She is an underdog. She is challenging a household Republican name. And all of the sudden, for a very interesting reason, she is surging.
This is a story you will not hear anywhere else tonight. But I have a feeling you`re going hear a lot more about it a lot of other places soon. That`s next.
MADDOW: When it comes to winning elections, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah is on a streak. The last four races he has won, he has won by huge margins, 46-point margin minimum.
On paper, these numbers do not scream vulnerable House Republican. But this does. At his last town hall back home, Congressman Chaffetz was nearly booed off the stage. He hasn`t been home since.
But his stellar record in Utah congressional races is about to face a test. This is Dr. Kathryn Allen. A family physician from Salt Lake City. She is fluent in French. I learned today she sings in a lady barber shop quartet group thing. Utah, I love you.
Kathryn is a Democrat. She has never held public office. But like a lot of Americans, she has discovered a new appetite to get off the sidelines and get involved these days. She has been sending petitions to her congressman. She has been showing up to his town halls looking for answers.
After months of getting no satisfying response from their Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Dr. Kathryn Allen has decided to take a different approach when it came to getting her congressman`s attention. She has decided that she will unseat him from Congress.
And look at how that`s working out. She started by putting up a donation page, asking people to send money her way if they thought that she would be a good contender for that congressional race next year against Jason Chaffetz. She is telling people, listen, I`m a doctor, I`m putting my 30 years of medical experience front and center. Health care is indeed a right. Should I run against Jason Chaffetz?
She got a little pickup on the liberal blog Daily Kos. But then yesterday, Congressman Jason Chaffetz himself gave her a big helping of help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But access for lower income Americans doesn`t equal coverage.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, we`re getting rid of the individual mandate. We`re getting rid of those things that people said that they don`t want. And you know what? Americans have choices. And they`ve got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars in, that maybe they should invest in their own health care. They`ve got to make those decisions themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Maybe you should stop buying so many iPhone, people with cancer.
In the 36 hours since Congressman Chaffetz explained how we need to repeal healthcare because of iPhones, his unlikely opponent back home has quadruple her cash on hand. She raised $80,000 in a blink. And with that kind of support, now she says she is OK, officially in the race to unseat Congressman Chaffetz.
Congressional Republicans are blowing it with their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What they rolled out as legislation is very clearly DOA, dead on arrival. In some cases, they may be doing the same to their own careers.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Lawrence, I`m sorry, I took your 34 seconds.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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