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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/16/2017

Guests: Glen Caplin, Wendy Sherman

Show: The Rachel Maddow Show  Date: March 16, 2017 Guest: Glen Caplin, Wendy Sherman

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

In 1980, the Summer Olympics was held in Moscow. And even if you were an old person like me and you were an old enough person in the year 1980 to conceivably have memories of those Olympic Games, if you`re an American, there`s a reason why you don`t have memories of those Olympic Games. And it`s because the United States boycotted those Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter led a boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980. It wasn`t just us. Ultimately, the U.S. led a coalition of 65 countries that did not go to the Olympics in Moscow that year. And then, incidentally, it was pitiful four years later, the Olympics were held in Los Angeles four years later in 1984, Moscow decided that they would lead their own international boycott of the United States hosting the Olympic Games as retaliation for what happened to them in 1980.

But the United States had, again, led a coalition of 65 countries for the boycott of Moscow. The Soviet Union basically just got themselves and their little sphere of influence in the Eastern Bloc. It was 14 countries in total, including the Soviet Union that boycotted L.A. in 1984.

But that weird period in Olympic history had one legacy for right now that`s turning out to be sort of interesting. That -- the Moscow Olympics, that Moscow Olympic adventure with that weird international intrigue around it in 1980, that was the last time Russia got an Olympics for a very, very long time, for a generation.

Fast forward to 2007 -- July, 2007, the International Olympic Committee met in this city, in lovely Guatemala City in Guatemala to make a decision about who would get the Winter Olympic Games in 2014. As you can see, Guatemala City is lovely, cosmopolitan place. The International Olympic Committee likes to do their selections of cities who get the Olympics, they like to do it with as much drama and pomp and circumstance as possible. So, there was really global focus on the International Olympic Committee when they convened that July in Guatemala City to make their decision about where the Winter Olympics was going to be in 2014.

And the top three contenders were Salzburg in Austria, Pyeongchang in South Korea and Russia, the city of Sochi in Russia. It would have been Russia`s first Olympic games since 1980.

And it`s interesting. Most people thought Pyeongchang was going to get it. Pyeongchang had only narrowly come in second place to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics so a lot of people thought they actually had -- still had a good chance. They still had a pretty good bid in 2010, would hold up four years later. In the end, though, Pyeongchang didn`t get it, Russia got it, Sochi was awarded the Olympic Games for 2014.

And in order to win that bid, in order to get awarded the Olympics that year, Russia really had to pull out all the stops. They were not favored to get it. They hadn`t had one in a long, long time. They hadn`t had an Olympics since 1980. I think they knew in 2007 that was their best chance to get one. They really put the pedal to the metal.

For example, Vladimir Putin personally flew to Guatemala City to make the pitch for Russia getting the Olympics in person and when he got there he made that pitch in person in three languages. I`m not sure people were widely aware he speaks languages other than Russian. He doesn`t like to show that off. He`s a nationalist after all, right?

But that July in Guatemala City, Vladimir Putin was like the Rosetta stone. Jean-Claude Killy, the famous French ski champion, he was on the IOC that year and this is what he told the "Associated Press" that summer about what happened with that vote. He basically said the IOC was powerless before Putin`s charm.

Quote, "He worked very hard at it. He was nice. He spoke French. He never speaks French. He spoke English. He never speaks English. The Putin charisma can explain at least four votes."

And I`m sure the Putin charisma is considerable, particularly in KGB- accented French. But Putin didn`t only rely on his personal charisma to get Sochi the Olympic Games, to get it done that year in Guatemala City. He also had kind of a trick up his sleeve. He had a grand flourish in mind that he knew nobody would be able to resist.

In addition to Vladimir Putin flying personally to Guatemala City to make the pitch in three languages, Putin also flew to Guatemala City an ice rink. Russia literally flew a whole freaking functioning ice rink from Moscow to Guatemala in July to impress the International Olympic Committee. The ice rink, they set it up in Guatemala City, that`s where they mounted their official presentation, that`s where they made the case they should get the Winter Olympics at their Russian ice rink that they purpose built in Guatemala for that occasion.

And that is how Russia got the Sochi Olympics for 2014, which we now know ended up being yet another way that Putin found to make his friends spectacularly rich. That was also the winter Olympics where Russian athletes did better than they ever had before at a Winter Olympics. And that, of course, is how we ended up with the Russian Olympic doping scandal. So, all in all, it worked out great.

But the company that Vladimir Putin used to seal the deal in Guatemala City, the company that Putin used to show off what Russia could do, to fly this freaking ice rink from Russia to Central America to make a good impression for Russia`s Olympic bid, it was a Russian air cargo company called -- this is the name of it. I`m not going to pronounce this because Stephen Colbert will make fun of me if I try. I know the first word is Volga, the second word, no idea. Pronounce it however you like that.

But that is the company Vladimir Putin picked to fly the ice rink to Guatemala. It`s also a company that was at the center of one of the great modern corruption stories at the United Nations. This year`s Russian U.N. mystery is, of course, about the Russian ambassador to the U.N. dropping dead with no warning at the age of 64 last month, followed by the U.S. State Department putting out a strange statement insisting that no cause of death would be released for him because, quote, "Ambassador Churkin`s diplomatic immunity survives his death."

That`s -- that`s this year`s Russia-U.N. intrigue. Before this, though, before the mysterious death of the ambassador, this year, before this intrigue, the big Russia-U.N. intrigue before that was when a bunch of their senior diplomats got nailed in a huge bribery and corruption scheme. It was a bribery scheme involving that same company, that same air cargo company that flew the ice rink to Guatemala for Vladimir Putin. A bunch of Russian diplomats, including some of the most senior diplomats they had at the U.N., were caught and arrested in conjunction with this bribery scandal.

The company itself got in big trouble. They got struck off the list of approved airlines for any U.N.-related business because of their links to corruption and their links to corrupt Russian officials. It turns out, though, that Russian company, that air cargo company -- don`t worry. They`re doing OK now because now we know as recently as august, 2015, that company was paying Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. And then in October, 2015, he was taking more Russian money from a Russian computer firm that U.S. intelligence agencies have long believed to be linked to Russian intelligence.

If you want to see the documentation of those payments, it`s here. These documents were first published, the story was first reported by one of America`s great investigative reporters, Michael Isikoff. He now works at Yahoo News. How Mike Isikoff got this documentation, though, how he got this stuff is itself a great story.

And it`s about Flynn. I mean, if you step back from it for a second, the national security adviser getting fired 24 days into the new administration because he misrepresented his contacts with foreign governments -- I mean, that alone, if that was the only worrying or negative thing that happened in the entire Trump presidency thus far, that would be one of the biggest Washington scandals in decades.

As it stands, it`s one of many but it has been one month since Michael Flynn was fired and almost everything about his fire and his tenure as national security adviser has question marks lingering around it. Why the administration hired him in the first place is a big part of the mystery. When Michael Flynn got brought on board as a top advisor to the Trump campaign, even before they won the election and he became national security adviser, just being brought on board the campaign in a formal role, that itself raised a ton of eyebrows in part because Michael Flynn`s behavior toward Russia was already really odd for a recently retired general.

And at the Republican National Convention last summer, Mike Isikoff, this great reporter, he asked Mike Flynn about that directly to his face. It was one of the great news moments that came out of the Republican convention. Watch.


MICHAEL ISIKOFF, YAHOO NEWS: Last December, you flew over to Moscow --


ISIKOFF: -- to participate in the tenth anniversary --

FLYNN: Russian television.

ISIKOFF: -- celebration of RT, Russian television, a propaganda arm of the Russian government.

And you sat next to Vladimir Putin at a celebratory dinner. Were you paid for that event?

FLYNN: You`d have to ask my -- the folks that I went over there to --

ISIKOFF: Well, I`m asking you. You`d know if you were paid.

FLYNN: Yes, I mean I went over there as a speaking event. It was a speaking event. What difference does that make, though? Is somebody going, "Oh, he`s paid by the Russians"?

ISIKOFF: Well, Donald Trump has made a lot of the fact that Hillary Clinton has taken money from Wall Street.

FLYNN: I didn`t take any money from Russia, if that`s what you`re asking me.

ISIKOFF: Well, then who paid you?

FLYNN: My speaker`s bureau. Ask them.



MADDOW: My speaker`s -- ask them.

You know what? Don`t say something like that idly. Don`t say ask them idly to an investigative reporter like Mike Isikoff. Also just don`t say it unless you mean it because we now know that a congressional committee did ask them. A congressional committee did follow up on Michael Flynn`s suggestion, ask them that they ask his speaker`s bureau about that trip to Russia.

From this letter released by Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, we know the oversight committee in the House, they asked Michael Flynn speaker`s bureau last month, hey, who paid Flynn to go to Russia and meet with Vladimir Putin? And the speaker`s bureau responded in full, providing all their documentation surrounding that trip, including the stubs of the checks and the e-mail chain negotiating it, the terms of the deal.

And it terms out, yes, Russia paid him. Russia paid him. My favorite part of the back and forth with the Russians is this, "Great news, he has accepted" and then the smiley face emoticon. Great news, Russia, he`s coming. He`s going to take your money.

Russian state-run state-funded TV paid Michael Flynn $45,000 minus a percentage cut that went to the speaker`s bureau, but plus, a three -day long all expenses paid trip to Moscow, including accommodations at a five star hotel right off Red Square for him and his son Mike, Jr. And all of that, the cash that he pocketed, the business class round trip airfare, the five-star hotel rooms, all of his meals, all his on the ground travel, all of that appears to be payments from a foreign government.

And, you know, presidents are not allowed to take payments from a foreign government. American public officials are not allowed to take payments from a foreign government, and the Defense Department has made clear that retired military officers are not allowed to take payments from a foreign government. Michael Flynn took it, though, plus the money he took from his other two Russian gigs which we learned from his speaker`s bureau that was released to this congressional committee and then obtained and reported out and published by Mike Isikoff.

If you are a public official or president of the United States or a retired military officer and you want to get around the part of the Constitution that says you`re not allowed to take payment from foreign governments, the only way you can get around that is if you get permission in advance from the U.S. government to take the money. In Flynn`s case, he would have needed permission from the U.S. Army. And Flynn himself is not commenting on whether he stopped that permission, but the Army says nothing in its files indicates that he did, and he took the money.

So, this is an uh-oh moment for the administration. Did they vet this guy at all when they made him national security adviser? When they brought him in to sit in on the president`s daily brief and all the other highly classified intelligence briefings that he received alongside Donald Trump during the transition and into his time at the White House? Did they vet him?

Did they vet him? Did they not vet him? Did they know this stuff and decide they didn`t care?

Congressman Elijah Cummings wrote to the White House asking for the relevant portions of Mike Flynn`s applications for security clearance. Did he hide these payments from Russia when he applied for a security clearance? If he hid those payments, why wasn`t the White House able to discover them anyway?

I mean, Mike Isikoff is a good reporter, but he`s not god. He`s not omniscient. There`s Mike Isikoff at the Republican national convention asking him about his payments from Russia on the record. Did the White House not have any idea? Did that not pop when they vetted him?

If Michael Flynn didn`t lie about taking money from a foreign government, if he disclosed he`d taken tens of thousands of dollars from Russia, how could you then appoint him national security adviser? Especially given that him taking that money may very well have been illegal, not just a conflict of interest, but also illegal under the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

And this is separate and apart from the fact that he`s also now retroactively registered as a foreign agent. He`s now retroactively declared that he was also taking money from another foreign government. He was also taking money to lobby on behalf of the government of Turkey while he was advising the Trump campaign and while he was working in the transition, while he was getting those highly classified intelligence briefings alongside the new president.

It`s been a month since Flynn got fired but there were so many things that have not been explained about him. When he was fired a month ago, the White House purported explanation of why he was being fired then made no sense. I mean, the White House maintains to this day the reason they fired him is that Michael Flynn lied to the vice president. He lied to Mike Pence. That`s their explanation.

But they let him stay on the job for almost three weeks after they learned that he lied to Mike Pence. So, that doesn`t make sense. And now, increasingly, with each new revelation about him, including today`s new revelations about what Michael Flynn was up to between the time he was fired from the Pentagon at the Defense Intelligence Agency and when he came on board with the Trump folks, there are increasing questions every day as to how on earth the Trump campaign and the Trump transition and then the Trump White House could ever have hired him. Either their vetting was criminally negligent or it wasn`t, and they knew what they were getting with him and they wanted somebody like him around classified information, which is inconceivable unless they`ve got brilliant explanation for it.

The vice president has become implicated in a Michael Flynn story in a way that needs explaining. As of this past week, the vice president has been asserting that he had no about Michael Flynn`s foreign government ties, even though the vice president was head of the transition effort and he was notified multiple times, including by Flynn`s own lawyers that Flynn was in fact working on behalf of a foreign government.

Mike Pence`s explanation for his role in all this is that he had no idea. Never heard of it, completely in the dark which, again, is utterly impossible and now, there`s one more piece of this that is either going to fall in place tomorrow or it`s going to become a whole new scandal in its own right tomorrow.

What Mike Flynn ostensibly was fired for was lying about the content of his communications with the Russian government during the transition, right? His assertion that he didn`t talk about sanctions with the Russian government, that assertion was exposed as a lie when it emerged in multiple news reports that Flynn had been captured by U.S. surveillance in fact talking about sanctions with a Russian government official.

The piece of this that is about to fall into place, at least it seems like something about to fall into place, is the question of why Michael Flynn was caught in that U.S. surveillance. Foreign surveillance warrants, foreign surveillance practices allow U.S. agencies to capture the communications of foreigners, of foreign nationals, of non-U.S. citizens. That is not legally controversial. Foreign surveillance warrants and legal foreign surveillance practices by U.S. agencies can capture the communications of foreigners. They are not allowed to capture communications involving Americans.

If a foreign person under surveillance establishes communication with a U.S. person, foreign surveillance warrants say that that person, that U.S. person can`t be captured. The American can`t be listened in on, can`t be surveilled by the U.S. government. But Michael Flynn apparently was. Why is that?

Yesterday, we reported the chairman and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee wrote a very terse, short, two-page letter to the NSA, the CIA and the FBI, demanding an answer to that question. Why was Michael Flynn being surveilled?

They have given those agencies a deadline of tomorrow to report to them why Michael Flynn, a U.S. person, was captured in U.S. surveillance. They`re also asking whether other U.S. persons associated with either the Clinton or Trump campaigns were also captured in U.S. surveillance. They want an explanation they say by tomorrow.

And this is going to be really important and really interesting, because those agencies are going to respond. I mean, this isn`t a member from any member of Congress. This is the chairman and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.

This is an oversight committee. The Intelligence Committee oversees the intelligence agencies. It would be frankly unheard of for these agencies to not respond to this request from Schiff and Nunes. It would be a scandal of really significant proportions if the intelligence agencies and the FBI say no to this request, and they don`t disclose this information to this committee.

If they say, "No, we`re not telling you, it`s sensitive, we`re not going to disclose it to you," that would be a really big deal. That would be a huge break with all past practice. That would be kind of an epic national security moment in our country.

And so, it is very likely that they`re going to respond. In all likelihood, we`re going to get or somebody`s going to get a response from those agencies and that is going to be in all likelihood an explanation for why Michael Flynn ended up in that surveillance. Was it a mistake in which case people are going to go nuts and you`re going to hear a lot of calls for the heads of whoever inappropriately allowed this to happen, right? Who inappropriately and maybe even illegally surveilled this U.S. person, thus leading to the firing of the national security adviser.

If it was a mistake, that is going to be a huge deal. If it was not a mistake, if it was legal and appropriate for them to be surveilling Michael Flynn -- well, why that would be? In all likelihood, that would mean that Mike Flynn was the subject of a court-ordered warrant. Was he under criminal investigation or counterintelligence investigation personally during the transition in which case, oh, my God, how did he end up being national security adviser?

If the intelligence agencies tomorrow do not respond to this, it is a scandal. If the intelligence agencies respond to this and say Mike Flynn was outed for his calls to the Russians inappropriately, maybe illegally, that would be a scandal. If the intelligence agencies respond tomorrow and say, no, it was legal and appropriate to be surveilling Mike Flynn because he was under criminal or counterintelligence investigation, that, too, would be a scandal.

It`s a scandal if they don`t say anything, it`s a scandal if they say A, it`s a scandal if they say B. And their choices are A or B.

The only way to avoid a major news scandal breaking out on this subject tomorrow is if time stops and we don`t get to tomorrow. In which case, I`m going to Guatemala City to go ice skate and relax for a few decades and you can wake me up when this is all over.


MADDOW: So, the president is doing reelection rallies for 2020 already. Literally his reelection campaign is sponsoring events for him now. And the president took the stage last night in Nashville, Tennessee, in one of these campaign rallies. We`re now told to expect one of these every couple of weeks, apparently, for four years.

But as he was taking the stage in Nashville last night, outside the arena more than 2,500 people were out there protesting against him. This is Tennessee. Donald Trump won Tennessee by 26 points. But here were more than 2,000 people out on the street chanting, singing, waving signs in opposition to him last night.

The Trump presidency, of course, has been a huge change in our country. It`s a new thing. But it has created an equal and opposite reaction that is making itself manifest in all sorts of unexpected places and all sorts of unexpected ways.

Consider Virginia, for example. It`s kind of a national bellwether this year because Virginia holds off-year elections. Virginia state elections are this year in 2017, and this year in Virginia, there is an unprecedented wave of Democratic candidates running for office in that state.

Democrats are challenging 43 of the 66 Republican incumbents who are standing to try to defend their seats in the statehouse. That`s more than twice the number of Republican seats the Democrats contested last time around. Some of these districts even have a bunch of Democratic candidates who are going to be competing in a primary for the privilege of going up against the Republican incumbent. That is something that never happens in Republican districts in Virginia, but it`s happening all over Virginia this year.

There`s all sorts of signs of the energy on the Democratic side or at least the anti-Trump side in the country right now -- tons of protests, waves of new political candidates in local and state and congressional races.

But here`s the thing to consider -- Democrats in November picked up seats in the House and picked up seats in the Senate. They did not win the White House. But there was energy there, too, around those House and Senate races. You know, Democrats didn`t do as well as they were expected to or as well as they might have in November, not just Hillary Clinton but Democrats all the way down the ballot. And part of the reason for that is tied up with the biggest story in the country right now. Part of what happened to the Democrats in November is something that was done to them by an external force, and I`m not talking about the Republicans.

And the question is, are Democrats going to face that again this year right now?

Hold that thought.


MADDOW: Last year, in Florida`s 26th congressional district, which is at the very southern tip of the state, there was really bruising Democratic primary fight to see who would take on the incumbent Republican congressman in that district. One candidate was a Democrat who used to -- who formally held that congressional seat, another was a really popular Florida state politician.

The Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they had picked one of these guys over the other. It was the kind of primary fight that causes or exacerbates internal party rifts. You see the "Politico" headline here. "Primary fight drives rift between House Democrats."

So this was going to be, you know, a tough one for Democrats. But then, suddenly, in August of last year, it got much, much worse very quickly, because a whole bunch of hacked documents related to that race got posted online. Strategy memos, opposition research, e-mails, it included a 76- page dossier of dirt one of the candidates had compiled about the other as well as all the dirt the Democratic Party had dug up on their own potential candidates in order to know their weaknesses.

This oppo research that was posted online apparently included one of the Democrats getting caught on a C-Span feed picking his ear wax and appearing to eat it. OK!

So, all of this stuff was supposed to be behind-the-scenes Democratic Party stuff. It magically appears online. You can imagine how nasty the primary becomes then between these guys, right? Accusations and counteraccusations fly. The candidates use the hacked documents against each other.

And then, one of them wins. One of them wins the primary, makes it to the general election. But all this stuff is in the public domain, and, of course, the Republican in the general election turns around and uses the hacked documents against the ultimate Democratic candidate. And the Democrat, of course, did not win that race in Florida. Democrats didn`t pick up that seat.

We all know now that the Democratic Party was hacked last year as part of a Russian attempt to influence the outcome of our presidential election. And we know how that material was used against the Clinton campaign and in favor of Donald Trump.

What is also known, though, but got far less attention was the way that Russian operation also got deployed down-ballot. Russian hackers in their op against our election last year, in addition to targeting the presidential race, they targeted about a dozen House races around the country, some of the most competitive races in the country. Russian hackers took and then leaked damaging documents, they hacked the stuff from the Democratic congressional campaign committee which shares an office with the DNC in Washington, and then they released that stuff publicly in a strategic way.

Notably, they targeted Democratic primaries in most cases, and that`s a great tactic if you not only want to weaken Democratic candidates for the general election, but you also want to sow dissension in the Democratic ranks. You want to exacerbate splits or rifts that occur inside the Democratic Party.

"Huffington Post" has been doing some great reporting over the last week on what appears to have been a coordinated Russian effort to flood Bernie Sanders supporters and Bernie Sanders Facebook groups with anti-Hillary Clinton spam and fake news during the election, stories about Hillary Clinton murdering her opponents and using body doubles and all this crazy stuff. One Sanders Facebook page administrator started tracking down where these nuts stories were coming from and found that at least 40 percent of the domain registrations were in places like Macedonia and Albania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.

Another Facebook group administrator told the "Huffington Post", quote, "It came in like a wave, like a tsunami. It was a flood of misinformation."

Now, a lot of the people who are posting these things from foreign countries claimed to be Bernie Sanders fans who had decided to vote for Trump or had decided to vote for Jill Stein because Hillary Clinton was a murdering person with body doubles and all the rest of it. I mean, the goal, obviously, was to depress Democratic turnout, to inflame the mistrust that already existed between different parts of the party, to give people a narrative that would explain why they shouldn`t vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances whether or not they would consider voting for anybody else.

That was the goal of that op and it worked to a certain extent. And now, it`s 2017 and now, in large part because Trump is president, right now, there is a ton of energy on the Democratic side. You see in the protests but you also see it in a flood of new interest in running for office, new Democratic candidates registering to run in local and state and congressional races.

So, here`s the question -- is what happened last year going to happen again? As we start gaming out congressional races and state legislature races and statewide races all around the country, how much involvement should we expect from Moscow? Do the Democrats have situational awareness about exactly what happened to them last year? And since we can probably assume they`re not going to get any help from the federal government in preventing it from happening again, are they capable of stopping it from happening again this year and into the future?

Joining us now is a man who knows, actually. Glen Caplin, he`s former senior national spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign. And his responsibility on the campaign included handling questions about WikiLeaks and the hacking and that Russian op.

Mr. Caplin, it`s really nice to meet you. Thanks for being here.


MADDOW: First, let me ask you, in terms of the way that I laid that out, does that seem roughly right to you in terms of what you understood happened last year?

CAPLIN: It does but also, that`s the second shift in sophistication that we saw with Russian hacking operations.

MADDOW: What do you mean?

CAPLIN: Well, the first we saw was the original dump of information was by Guccifer 2, a name people don`t know, on an obscure web site called D.C. Leaks that people did not know. It was a massive dump of information and it was not user-friendly in any way. Even we had trouble wrapping our arms around what was in that information.

MADDOW: But it was from the Democratic Party, from your servers?

CAPLIN: It was from the DNC. Those are first DNC dump of the hacked information.


CAPLIN: The second one was WikiLeaks, a very well-known outlet with a highly-searchable search function where you could easily get to the good information, and on the eve of the Democratic Convention. So, it was the first shift in -- where Guccifer didn`t get a lot of attention with the original dump of information, the second one gotten a enormous amount of attention by going to a more well-known web site that was very user- friendly.

MADDOW: And at the time, again, you were on the campaign at the time, and these dumps -- these attacks were targeting the DNC and as you mentioned here, the DCCC, which shared an office with the Democratic Party. How aware were you on the campaign of how much information this was and how it was being deployed operationally in the campaign for political purposes?

CAPLIN: Well, we were aware very, very early what this was, which was the Russians interfering in the election, to put their thumb on the scale --

MADDOW: You saw Russian fingerprints on it from the beginning?

CAPLIN: Well, the very first dump of information by Guccifer and D.C. Leaks had Russian metadata on it. A friend of mine who is an expert in Russian cyber told me Russians are really good at espionage, but not very good at propaganda, which was why it was sloppy with Russian metadata on it.

MADDOW: So they can get it, but they don`t know how to present it in a way that`s going to be accessible.

CAPLIN: Which is why I think the first two shifts the, shift from Guccifer to WikiLeaks which, by the way, Guccifer claims -- the persona Guccifer which is a front for the Russian intelligence claimed that he gave the information to WikiLeaks.

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

CAPLIN: So, we -- in summer of 2016, U.S. officials, cyber experts were already attributing this hack to the Russians and you could see it was only hurting one side and benefitting the other. It was very clear what this -- what this operation was. It was to discredit Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump.

MADDOW: Glen, I am going to ask you a weird question.


MADDOW: Would you agree to come back on this show tomorrow? Because I feel like what you`re describing in terms of the way you saw this unfolding from your perspective on the campaign is a piece of the story that hasn`t been told and I`d like to give you a bunch of time to just walk us through it and tell us why what you experienced and what it was like at the time.

Are you busy tomorrow at this time?

CAPLIN: I would be -- I can ask the babysitter to come, I`d be happy to come back.

MADDOW: OK, if you need a note for the babysitter --

CAPLIN: A note will help.

MADDOW: All right. I will.

I have to go help Glen Caplin write a note to his babysitter. He`s former senior national spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign who worked on the WikiLeaks and Russia hack issue. We`ve got to get him a babysitter. If that works, we`ll be back with him tomorrow night. But we`ve got more ahead on other subjects tonight.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW: In most foreign countries, their equivalent of our secretary of state is called the foreign minister. So, when our secretary of state travels abroad, he or she meets with the foreign minister of that country, it`s the norm. I know this is an unsettling time in our politics, sometimes hard to keep track of what`s normal and what`s not normal anymore.

But I can tell you that in normal politics, one thing that would be weird is if the foreign minister of another major country came to the United States and didn`t meet with our secretary of state. That would be weird. It would be weirder if our State Department didn`t when another country`s foreign minister came here. That would be particularly, particularly weird if it was the foreign minister from one of our closest allies and the State Department had no idea.


TRACY WILKINSON, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I see that the foreign minister of Mexico is in town, Luis Videgaray, meeting with -- according to the Mexicans -- Kushner, Gary Cohn and McMaster. Is there no State Department meeting with him? And if not, why not?

MARK TONER, ACTING STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Tracy, good question. We`ll take that and get back to you. I was unaware that he was -- the foreign minister was in town and I`m not sure, I can`t speak to whether there`s going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level.



MADDOW: I was unaware that the foreign minister was in town. That was a few days ago at the new and improved Trump State Department. Who`s in town? The foreign minister from Mexico. Seriously? Nobody called.

Since then, since that happened a few days ago, we`ve had news the Middle East envoy appointed by the Trump administration who is a former lawyer for Trump`s real estate business, we`ve now learned that as Middle East envoy for the United States, he doesn`t even report to the State Department. He reports instead to Jared, he reports to the president`s son-in-law. OK.

Earlier this week, the new secretary of state had two hand shakes on camera with other countries foreign ministers. These events where he does not speak, at least does not speak in a way that would be audible to anybody else in the room, this is him with the Tunisian foreign minister not speaking.

Now, when these things happen, it`s not just Andrea Mitchell shouting questions that the secretary doesn`t answer. Now, it`s all sorts of reporters who shout out questions and the new secretary of state just smiles and turns his head from side to side and pretends he can`t hear anything.

This is him with the Greek foreign minister, another silent movie, not answering questions, can`t hear you, not speaking. There was supposed to be a third silent photo-op this week with Rex Tillerson and the foreign minister from the UAE, United Arab Emirates, they cancelled that photo-op, closed it to the press. Even with the "I don`t speak and I pretend I can`t hear you" rule, they didn`t even want reporters to be in the room for that one.

Well, now, the new secretary of state is on his first trip to Asia and there`s been attention to the fact that he`s breaking with decades of precedent and bringing only one reporter with him on the trip, a reporter from the conservative blog instead of the usual traveling press pool that travels all over the globe with the secretary of state.

If we`re talking about the invisiblization of the State Department, though, what was maybe even more striking than the no reporters thing today was that when the secretary of state got to Tokyo today, rather than visit the U.S. State Department outpost in Tokyo, rather than visit the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, Rex Tillerson instead opted for a nap. Rest time. Screw the embassy, nap time is upon us, everybody.

And he has made a habit of this. In February, he sent his acting deputy, a holdover from the Obama administration, to meet with the Israeli prime minister, instead of him meeting with the Israeli prime minister because Rex Tillerson decided he need to fly to Bonn, Germany, his first foreign trip, a night early, so he could, quote, "get a good night`s sleep before the conference started." Forget the Israeli prime minister, it`s nap time.

Beyond the cardboard secretary himself, though, is the consequential news today from Washington about, really, what is the planned decimation of the agency in terms of its budget. And we`ve got news on that ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Listen to his explanation for why the cuts are OK, why the cuts don`t matter.


REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What the president is asking the State Department to do is I think reflective of a couple expectations. One is that as time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in.


MADDOW: Don`t worry about cutting a third from the State Department`s budget, there`s going to be less war, you guys. There`s going to be fewer military conflicts. I mean, look around the world, isn`t that obvious?

We`re seeing the systematic destruction, chipping away, of the U.S. Department of State, little by little, bit by bit. The dismantling of the very thing that have put the U.S. State Department at the forefront of everything on the international stage appears to be dialing back and fast.

Joining us now is Wendy Sherman. She`s former under secretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration.

Ambassador Sherman, thank you for being here. Appreciate your time tonight.


MADDOW: I look at that proposed 37 percent cut, which we`re now told will be 30 percent in the first year, the secretary of state saying he is not just OK with that, he is going along with that willingly, he is excited about that. He thinks it`s appropriate, and I feel like the State Department is about to change radically.

Do you see it that way?

SHERMAN: Indeed. It`s sort of ironic, Rachel, that Secretary Tillerson is saying that there is likely to be fewer wars, while at the same time, Secretary Mattis of the Defense Department is buying more ammunition for more wars. So, they seemed to have a different strategic view of what the world is going to be like and what is necessary.

And it`s also strange because I understand that Secretary Tillerson was a CEO of a successful company. And in a company, I`m in the private sector now myself, in a company, you`ve got a bottom line and if you`ve got to tighten your belt, you tighten your belt. You tell employees they`re gone and you just move forward.

Government has more responsibility than that. We have a moral compass that is different and more expansive that what a private company or public company has to do.

And among the kinds of thing that are going to be gone as a result of this, we have a 65-member coalition fighting ISIS. We organize that coalition. We keep it together. We look at the interests of that coalition. We care about supporting the members of that coalition because we want them in the fight against terrorism.

The president wants to cut the OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Because of the investments that OPIC has made, it`s created 280,000 American jobs and returned in 2015, $2.6 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

The president is worried about Ebola. We know he is worried about pandemics. We heard that he`s terrified of a disease like Ebola coming here. Because of what the U.S. State Department did, what USAID did to help Nigeria build the health system, Nigeria managed Ebola very quickly and sent 200 health workers to other countries in Africa that were experienced in Ebola, that helped keep Ebola from our shores.

Those investments are in America`s national security interests. And it is short-sighted, dangerous, and cruel to do what is being suggested.

MADDOW: Ambassador Sherman, there is one threat that the new secretary of state has made in terms of U.S. involvement in the international community that I`d like to ask you about. If you could hold for one moment --


MADDOW: -- and we come back on the other side of the break, I have one of those questions for you. Thank you.

We`re with under secretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration, Ambassador Wendy Sherman.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: We`re back now with Wendy Sherman, who`s the former under secretary for political affairs.

And, Ambassador Sherman, thank you again for sticking with us.

I wanted to ask you about a threat that the secretary of state made this week that the United States might drop out of the Human Rights Commission. How important would that be in terms of American leadership in the world?

SHERMAN: I think it is very important. It is tough because the Human Rights Council at times has not been very good in terms of who it`s members are. There are human rights abusers who become members, and they certainly haven`t been a friend, nor has the U.N. has always been a friend to Israel, a key ally and partner of ours.

But if we aren`t there to speak up, if we aren`t there to put our values forward, then the silence will be deafening. We have to be there and we have to speak up.

MADDOW: Wendy Sherman, former under secretary for political affairs in the Obama administration -- appreciate your time with us tonight. We have been watching the sort of dismantling of the State Department, in my case, with some considerable alarm. It`s good to have your perspective on it tonight. Thanks, ma`am.

SHERMAN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.