Show: The Rachel Maddow Show Date: March 20, 2017 Guest: Adam Schiff
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That`s a public service announcement you never really think you`ll have to give.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Exactly. We`re proud to be servicey here. I dispense some tips for free, but just listen to that advice.
MADDOW: Well done. And I will see you in a minute, my friend. You`re on your way over.
MADDOW: Very good.
And thanks to you at home for joining us for this hour. Happy to have you with us on a really historic day in American politics and American governance and maybe even in international relations today. Today was a big day.
In 1945, in the summer of 1945, they called it the gadget. They tested the gadget on July 16th, 1945, and it worked. That was Trinity. That was the world`s first successful test of an atomic weapon.
And then right away, right after Trinity, three weeks later, they used it in war. They dropped it an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and then three days after that, they dropped another one on Nagasaki. It all happened incredibly fast from July 16th, the Trinity test, until August 6th and August 9th, those two bombs dropped on Japan.
And to this day, the United States remains the only nation in the world to have ever used a nuclear weapon against an adversary in wartime. But looking back on the aftermath of that first test and the aftermath of those bombings in Japan, it`s clear that a singular and defining feature of the world history in that era was not just that we have the bomb and that we use the bomb. A singular and defining feature of that era in world history is that for years, we were alone in that capacity. For years, the United States was the only country on earth that had an atomic weapon.
Again, our first atomic test was July 1945. It was not until more than four years after that that any other country figured it out, that any other country had a successful nuclear test of their own.
But it finally happened on August 29th, 1949. Soviet Union set off their first successful atomic test and it`s interesting. They didn`t make any sort of announcement about it. I think they knew they probably wouldn`t have to.
The United States picked up signs of the radiation that was released by that test five days after the explosion. There was a U.S. surveillance plane flying near Siberia and five days after the Soviets first successful atomic test, that U.S. surveillance plane picked up these unexpected signs of radiation and so, the U.S. collected what data we could, U.S. scientists set out to confirm the suspected tests and then finally almost three weeks after that surveillance plane first sniffed that radiation in Siberia, almost a month after the Soviet`s test, finally, the president of the United States, Harry Truman put out a statement letting the world know that somebody else other than the United States had nuclear capability.
It was a written statement that he put out. It said, quote, "We have evidence that within recent weeks, an atomic explosion occurred in the USSR." That statement from President Truman was issued on September 23rd, 1949. And as you might imagine, everybody freaked out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Truman`s dramatic announcement that Russia has created an atomic explosion sends reporters racing for (INAUDIBLE) where Russia`s Vyshinsky (ph) arrives to address the United Nations.
REPORTER: Mr. Vyshinsky, do you got a statement about President Truman`s statement about the atomic bomb? Does Russia have the atomic bomb?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russian foreign minister maintains his silence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Does Russia have the atomic bomb? Well, would you reply to me?
Russian foreign minister maintained his silence in that interaction and in his speech that day, honestly, because actions speak louder than words and you know what, the Soviets freaking had the bomb. It was not just the U.S. with that monopoly anymore. Every interaction with the Soviets that we would have from that moment forward would be made with the knowledge that they could destroy Washington with a nuke just as we could destroy Moscow with a nuke, just as we had destroyed two Japanese cities already. It changed everything. We were not a monopoly power in terms of nuclear weapons from that point forward.
Russia went nuclear in the fall of 1949 and incidentally, very soon thereafter, by the spring of 1950, one of the scientists who worked on America`s Manhattan Project, Klaus Fuchs, confessed and was convicted of passing America`s nuclear secrets to the Soviets.
So, yes, that weapon that the Soviets developed four years after us, that weapon that they developed and tested in 1949, it was a great equalizer between Russia and the United States. It really did change everything in terms of the international balance of power. But it`s helpful to remember that they actually had help from within the United States in getting there.
Klaus Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison for that betrayal, for giving the Soviets our nuclear secrets. Last year, in February, in Moscow, the Russian government hosted something that they called Info Forum 2016. David Ignatius is the national security columnist with "The Washington Post" who wrote about this earlier this year, but the event itself happened last February, February 4th to 6th in Moscow.
So, in terms of what was going on for reference sake, this Info Forum event in Moscow happened, again, the first week of February last year. That means on our calendar, that was right at the beginning of the presidential primary. That was well before the presidential general election got under way, but our contests had just started.
And at that event, the first week of February last year, a senior adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin got up to make his presentation and this is what he said. He was speaking to a Russian audience at a Russian event. He was speaking in Russian.
But this is the translation, quote, "You think we are living in 2016. No, we are living in 1948. And do you know why? Because in 1949, the Soviet Union had its first atomic bomb test. And if until that moment, the Americans were not taking us seriously, in 1949, everything changed and they started talking to us on an equal footing."
He then says, quote, "I`m warning you, we are on the verge of having something in the information arena that will allow us to talk to the Americans as equals."
"I`m warning you," he says, that was February of last year. Top adviser to Vladimir Putin, threatening at a Russian event that Russia had developed its information warfare capabilities to such an extent that the world would soon be tilted on its axis in terms of the balance of international power, that the United States would not longer be seen as a pre-eminent world power. In fact, we would be matched.
Russia was about to prove through information warfare, through something new they had developed in information warfare, they were about to prove that they were as strong as any nation on earth, that they could humble the United States, they could threaten the United States to such an extent that it would allow them to, quote -- it would tell them to, quote, "allow us to talk to the Americans as equals."
"It will allow us to talk to the Americans as equals. I`m warning you." That was February.
By June, we know that Russia had begun its operation against the U.S. presidential election. From the FBI director, we now have confirmation that the FBI started investigating that Russian attack within weeks. By late July, by which time the attack was in full swing.
We also have confirmation from the FBI director today that what is currently being investigated by the FBI is not just whether the Russian intelligence services and Russian military built that weapon and deployed it against the United States, that much we know, but we`ve had it confirmed today that what they are also investigating is whether, once again, the Russians had help from inside the United States when it came time to humble America and show our country what they are capable of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: The FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government`s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia`s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia`s efforts. That statement by the FBI director today obviously very carefully couched. By the time he said it, it could not have counted as a, you know, total surprise. But it is still shocking. This is a historic thing.
As "USA Today", Susan Page at "USA Today" put it, this afternoon, quote, "Not since the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon to resign more than half-century ago has there been an official investigation of such potential consequence."
At moments this big, it also sometimes helps to get outside our news environment and kind of look in on it from behind our shores. Toward that end, the left-leaning "Guardian" newspaper in Britain sort of nutted up the moment nicely today. They said, quote, "Comey`s appearance, flanked by the NSA director, marked a remarkable and unprecedented threshold in U.S. political history, putting beyond doubt that a sitting president`s entourage was under investigation for possible conniving with a foreign adversary to put that foreign in power."
The hearing today was at times incisive, at times, it was lame and embarrassingly partisan. Sorry. My favorite moment was when the Republican chairman of the committee demanded that Hillary Clinton must be investigated for Donald Trump`s ties to the Russians? Yes, I don`t know. Sorry. Just a reflex. Lock her up.
But, you know, despite low moments like that, not everything was partisan and we did learn some concrete new information. We have confirmed now that the FBI has an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and whether or not the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia while Russia was attacking the United States.
We know that that investigation started in late July last year. We know from some very pointed questioning from the top Democratic on the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff is going to be here in just a moment. We know from his questioning of Director Comey that one of the things we reported on Friday night is borne out by the FBI`s investigations.
We did this special report on Friday night where we talked to the guy who was in charge of these matters in real time at the Clinton campaign when the attack was happening. And we reported on Friday night that it was the Clinton campaign`s perception at the time that the initial dump of Democratic documents, Democratic Party documents that were stolen by the Russians, it was their perception that that was sort of inexpertly and ham- handedly released and handled by the Russians themselves.
The second release of documents, though, the one that was through WikiLeaks, was much slicker and appeared to have been handled through some sort of intermediary, some sort of intermediary, some sort of third party who sharpened its political impact both in terms of its timing and its presentation, its user-friendliness. That was as reported Friday night, suspected by the Clinton campaign at the time. The FBI director confirmed today that, in fact, the initial release of documents that the Russians hacked and stole and released through Guccifer and D.C. Leaks, that the FBI director today confirmed that it was a Russian operation directly. He confirmed today that the second wave of WikiLeaks stuff, according to Director Comey, he says those were done through what he called a cutout, some sort of intermediary. So, what we`re beginning to understand about how this happened, the FBI is confirming that`s the way it happened.
In general, I think it`s fair to say that the Republican members of the committee contributed less to the investigatory nature of what happened today in this public hearing, but it is also worth noting one exception to that rule. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a moderate Republican from Florida. She did not go down the other roads, you know, investigate Hillary Clinton. She didn`t go down these other roads with the other Republicans. She was an independent voice today.
She asked her own variety of direct, probing questions with most of the time that she had. And her questioning elucidated another one of the concrete new things that we learned today or at least that we had confirmed today by the FBI and the NSA, and it`s something that really makes sense, if Russia wanted not just to affect the outcome of our elections, they wanted this to be a show of force. They wanted this to be, you know, the test of an atomic bomb. They wanted this to be a display of their capability that would threaten the United States, hurt the United States, humble the United States and make us see them as equals, right?
They didn`t want anybody else to get credit for this work. They didn`t particularly want to cover their tracks here. They did this -- one of the things we had confirmed today by the FBI and NSA director is that the Russians did this in as loud of ways as possible when it came to the actual tactics of how they mounted the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-FL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Why do you think that they did not mind being loud and being found out?
COMEY: I don`t know the answer for sure. I think part, their number one mission is to undermine the credibility of our entire democracy enterprise of this nation. And so, it might be that they wanted us to help them by telling people what they were doing. Their loudness in a way would be counting on us to amplify it by telling the American people what we saw and freaking people out about how the Russians might be undermining our elections successfully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: People freaking out. Essentially making the case there that the Russians didn`t mind leaving their fingerprints all over this attack because they wanted to freak us out about what they are capable of.
Back in February, in Moscow when Putin`s senior adviser was explaining to this Russian audience about Moscow`s newfound soon-to-be demonstrated capabilities in information warfare, this moment that we`re having right now, this is kind of the moment that Russia was licking its chops about. This is what they were looking forward.
I`m going to quote David Ignatius again about that presentation in Moscow back in February, quote, "Putin`s cyber adviser stressed to the Moscow audience the importance of Russia of having a strong hand in this new domain. If Russia is weak, he explained, it must behave hypocritically and search for compromises. But once it becomes strong, it will dictate to the Western partners, it will dictate to the United States and its allies from the position of power."
And so, Russian strength, Russian capability, Russian -- essentially Russian warfare capacity in this regard must be shown off, right, to humble us, to bring us down to size, so that they can then dictate the size of national relations to us. They can get us to do what they want, because if they don`t, they can almost existentially threaten us with this kind of power. If that is the Russian project here, it sort of helps you to see how serious it is that any American might collude with that Russian project.
The FBI confirmed today that they are investigating the Trump campaign to see whether or not they coordinated with the Russian government in this operation. The FBI today would not say how many associates of the president or members of the campaign are subjects of this counterintelligence investigation. The FBI director would not even confirm whether the president himself is a subject of this investigation.
But you are starting to see little hints from the White House about some of the different directions at which they maybe would like to divert blame. Asked, for example, about fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn today, the White House press secretary notably stopped defending Mike Flynn as he has done in the past and in fact at one point today referred to Mike Flynn as a, quote, "volunteer".
You know, which he was, right? He was a volunteer for the Trump campaign for a time. OK. But then he was named national security adviser.
The White House press secretary also described former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort today as somebody who played a, quote, "very limited role for a very limited amount of time." He was the campaign manager for Donald Trump, up to and including the time when Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president.
Paul Manafort was brought onboard the Trump campaign in March last year, third week of March, almost exactly a year ago today. He was brought on board on the same week that Trump the candidate inexplicably and without warning started talking frequently about how terrible he thought NATO was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: NATO is obsolete. It was 67 years or it`s over 60 years old.
What I`m saying is NATO is obsolete. NATO is obsolete and it`s extremely expensive to the United States disproportionally so, and we should readjust NATO.
NATO is costing us a fortune and, yes, we are protecting Europe with NATO, but we`re spending a lot of money. Number one, I think the distribution of cost has to be changed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Look at the time. The same week that Paul Manafort came on as Donald Trump`s campaign manager, Trump pivoted to this whole new area of talking points. He started insistently and repeatedly volunteering his negative views on NATO, how terrible and obsolete NATO is and his views specifically that, you know what, NATO isn`t fair. The other NATO countries are not paying their fair share, are they?
And whether or not the White House is now already pivoting to throwing Paul Manafort, maybe even Mike Flynn under the bus, it`s not inexplicable why candidate Trump might start criticizing NATO at that point in the campaign and sowing distension and division among NATO countries, hitting this potential sore spot about whether the United States pays too much and other countries don`t pay enough.
It`s not inexplicable why candidate Trump might start doing that. I mean, the uncorroborated dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump that was published by "BuzzFeed" in January after handed over to the FBI by a former British MI6 officer, that dossier made, of course, a baseline claim that the Trump campaign was aware of the Russian campaign to attack our election. They were supportive of it. They cooperated with it.
It also claims that there was a quid pro quo, that in exchange for Russia`s attack on the election to hurt Clinton and help Trump, according to the dossier, quote, "The operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team. In return, the Trump campaign had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue, and to raise U.S./NATO defense commitments, to deflect attention away from Ukraine."
So, in the Christopher Steele dossier, I mean, that`s the alleged quid pro quo. Russia attacks the U.S. election for its own purposes, right, but then it also coops, corrupts and collaborates with the Trump campaign in that attack, and the Trump campaign allegedly agrees to take steps to help Russia along the way, drop that pro-Ukraine platform out of the Republican -- the pro-Ukraine plank out of the Republican Party platform, which they did at the convention, inject a whole new controversy into American and NATO politics, instead of America being NATO`s biggest cheerleader, will instead be its biggest detractor while make every other country feel attacked in terms of their financial contributions to that alliance.
This is the stuff that the ranking Democratic on the intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, this weekend, described as the circumstantial evidence, that it wasn`t just a Russian attack. That it was a Russian attack with collusion, with cooperation from inside this country, from inside the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they employed in Europe and elsewhere.
We simply don`t know. Not yet. And we owe it to the country to find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. He`s our guest, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: We do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of the Trump`s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime.
On the other hand, if the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of democracy in history.
In Europe, where the Russians have a much longer history of political interference, they`ve used a variety of techniques to undermine democracy. They employed the hacking and dumping of documents and sick propaganda as they clearly did here, but they have also used bribery, blackmail, compromising material and financial entanglement to secure needed cooperation from individual citizens of targeted countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee today, speaking today at this historic hearing where the FBI confirmed that there`s an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and its potential coordination with Russia while Russia was attacking the U.S. election last year.
Congressman Adam Schiff joins us now from Washington.
Sir, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate your time tonight.
SCHIFF: You bet.
MADDOW: I`d like to tell you what I observed a little bit in terms of new factual information we didn`t have before and if you could just let me know whether there are other things that we`ve missed in terms of new things that were disclosed. Obviously, the headline is that the FBI has confirmed a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian attack and potential coordination with the Trump campaign. We know it started in late July.
We also have the FBI and NSA confirming their assessment that the Russians did this loudly and didn`t particularly try to cover their tracks. The FBI director also told you that it appears that the Russians directly released the first tranche of stolen documents that they had, but the second one through WikiLeaks appears to have some sort of intermediary.
All of those pieces of information to me were sort of nuggets that I drew out of today`s 5 1/2 hour hearing. But I wonder if there are other things that you saw today that have been publicly disclosed now for the first time.
SCHIFF: You know, I`m not sure that I can point to any others but, you know, I would say this with respect to Director Comey`s discussion of the Russians loudly making their presence known. I`m not sure that I would draw that same conclusion and part of this is the question of what the Russians intended at the outset, that it may very well be when they first penetrated the Democratic Party computers, it was merely a foreign intelligence gathering operation and they didn`t feel the necessity of very cleverly hiding their tracks because it`s something the Russians have also done in terms of foreign intelligence gathering.
But when they decided to move to the weaponization of that data, that had become more important for them to hide their tracks, then they needed more plausible deniability in terms of the platforms that they would use to publish the material.
So, I`m not sure it is as simple as the Russians were intending to send us a signal here. That`s possible. I think it may be more likely that the Russians were either clumsy or what started out as an information gathering purpose later turned into something different.
MADDOW: On the point of the Russians releasing the information themselves, the Guccifer and D.C. Leaks release of information versus the Russians using an intermediary for later releases of documents, including through WikiLeaks, what`s your understanding of the importance there or the basis for that conclusion?
SCHIFF: Well, I can`t go too much beyond what the director talked about today, but, you know, it`s clear that in some cases, they have a more direct relationship or essentially the persona like Guccifer 2.0 is a reflection of the Russian GRU. There`s not much distance, if any, between the personnel that are collectively the identity of Guccifer 2 and Russian intelligence itself. In other cases, where they wanted more deniability, more distance they used a platform like WikiLeaks.
Now, whether they directly engaged Julian Assange or indirectly, one thing is pretty clear, not only does Donald Trump have a hard time criticizing Russia, so does Julian Assange. And why is that? Is there some relationship there? I don`t know the answer but I do think it`s worth our finding out.
MADDOW: Congressman, on NBC yesterday, you said that you see there being an accumulation of what you`ve described as circumstantial evidence, that there was collusion between this Russian operation and associates of Donald Trump during the campaign. Can you just expand on that a little bit, what you meant by circumstantial evidence and both the limits of that and also the extent of it?
SCHIFF: Well, you know I know when you use that term, a lot of people think circumstantial evidence isn`t very telling. It isn`t very powerful. But it all depends on what kind of circumstantial evidence. I can`t go into a lot of specifics here.
But probably the best example for your viewers is, if you go outside in the afternoon and there`s no snow on the ground and you wake up the next morning and there is snow on the ground, you can pretty well conclude that it snowed overnight. That`s circumstantial.
If you see the snow coming down, then you can say I have direct evidence that it snowed. So circumstantial evidence can be very, very powerful and indicative of something that`s happened. And here, you know, I think we can say certainly that the director made clear today that he had a basis in specific or credible information or evidence to initiate an investigation of the Trump campaign. That`s not something that you do lightly or at the drop of a hat or on a whim or someone suggesting, you know, third-party hearsay. No, as the director made clear, you not only need to have a certain quantum of evidence, but it has to be a high enough priority to supersede other investigations that you can`t do at the same time because of lack of resources.
So, this was obviously a big deal and I think we also can see some very direct evidence of deception, which raises profound questions about why are they hiding what they are hiding and why did Michael Flynn lie about his conversation with the Russian ambassador and why wasn`t Jeff Sessions more forthcoming to put it charitably with the Senate about his meetings with the Russian ambassador? What about Paul Manafort, why did he lie about the Trump campaign rule in fending off an amendment at the Republican Party convention that would have provided for defensive weapons for Ukraine? Why all of the deception? If this is aboveboard, why do they need to hide it and I think certainly those are important questions to answer.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff joining us tonight from Washington. Congressman, while we have been on the air, you and I discussing this, a little bit of breaking news has just happened. We`re just -- my control room is telling me that we`re just getting it in. It actually relates to something that we were discussing earlier in terms of the Trump administration relationship with NATO. If you wouldn`t mind sticking around for the commercial break, I`d love to ask you --
MADDOW: -- about that when we come back.
All right. We`ll be right back with Congressman Schiff right after this.
MADDOW: So, we have some breaking news tonight on this subject of the United States in the Trump era and Russia and also NATO. "Reuters" has reported just within the last few minutes that Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans now to skip a meeting next month for NATO foreign ministers. This would be his first NATO meeting, again "Reuters" citing U.S. officials says that Secretary Tillerson is going to skip that NATO meeting next month. Don`t worry, though, he won`t be house-bound.
"Reuters" also reporting tonight that Secretary Tillerson is not going to NATO next month, but he is now planning a visit to Russia next month.
The State Department had no comment for "Reuters". Again, this is not MSNBC reporting. This is "Reuters". But it has just broken within the last few minutes.
We`re back with Congressman Adam Schiff, who`s the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for sticking with us. I appreciate it.
SCHIFF: You bet.
MADDOW: The issue of NATO and the United States playing up divisions among NATO countries, playing down any concern about Russia`s incursions into Ukraine, that was raised in this mysterious dossier from a former MI6 officer as essentially the quo in a quid pro quo between the Russians and the Trump campaign. The allegation was there that the Trump campaign knew about Russian intervention in the election, cooperated with it or aware that it was going on and what they promised to do in return was to downplay Ukraine, sow dissension in NATO.
You raised that today in today`s hearing. And I wonder if that means -- if we should read into that. When you cited with that dossier, should we stop describing that as an uncorroborated dossier? Has some of the information of that been corroborated?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, Rachel, I can`t go through the dossier and disclose what we may have been able to corroborate or not, but I can say just in response to the "Reuters" story, that I have to hope that that story is not true. We`ve already sent a terrible message to NATO. The only message frankly that has gotten through of this administration to NATO is not that we support you, not that we value you, not that we thank our NATO allies for coming to our assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq where NATO soldiers have stood by, fought by and died with our own troops but rather pay up. That`s the only message we`ve delivered.
And if Rex Tillerson is going to avoid going to the NATO meeting and instead go to Moscow, I hope the reason he`s going to Moscow is to hand back the Special Order Friendship medal he got from Putin because after what the Russians have done to us over the course of the last year, that`s the only reason Tillerson ought to be going to Russia.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I really appreciate your time tonight. I know this was an exhausting day for everybody involved here. Thanks for being with us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Rachel.
All right. It is -- it`s not wrong, it`s utterly understandable if you can`t stop watching congressional hearings right now. But I promise you, it`s just the first course. Wait until you see what is being served around the country, outside of Washington.
That`s next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Watch the reaction here. This is capital F feedback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Will you support the immediate release of Donald Trump`s tax returns?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
REP. VERN BUCHANAN (R), FLORIDA: On the tax return, I believe someone that wants to run for president should release their tax returns.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
But I wouldn`t enforce it. If they don`t want to release them, that`s up to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan of Florida had that giant town hall on Saturday, facing 1,800 of his constituents. And they were not shy and there were a bunch like that over the last couple of days.
In Novi, Michigan, after not holding a town hall for two years, Republican Congressman Dave Trott finally faced his constituents. It`s quite possible that he was tired of them calling him a chicken. There were only 400 seats inside the Novi, Michigan town hall, but about 1,000 people showed up. The people who couldn`t get inside that one stuck around in a freaking blizzard.
Look at that. They did not leave even though they were stuck out there in the snow. Michiganders are hard core.
Also, in a red pocket of northern California, 1,300 constituents turned out for a town hall with Republican Congressman Doug LaMalfa. Those folks were happy to wait out in the rain. The line to get into his town hall stretched for over half a mile, well over 1,000 people. That red arrow is where the line starts.
Also, just north of Dallas, Texas, Republican Congressman Pete Sessions got an earful from his constituents this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETE SESSIONS (R), TEXAS: We are going to make the changes. We are going to pass the bill and we`re going to repeal Obamacare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Like I said, not subtle, not shy.
Look at Omaha, Nebraska. There`s no town hall this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska, but instead, look at this. It took to the streets this weekend, one of the busiest intersections in town. Again, this is Nebraska. People organized in part by their local Indivisible group. People showing up, getting in the way.
Honestly, it is almost bizarre that the Trump agenda, the Trump Supreme Court nominee are being considered right now, steaming towards votes while the president`s campaign is the subject of a counterintelligence investigation to see if it colluded in an attack on the United States last year. It`s weird that they still get to do stuff while that is happening.
But things proceed apace and Americans are speaking up about it and trying to affect the course of events. House Republicans plan to hold their vote on repealing Obamacare on Thursday of this week. NBC News has drawn a whip count on that vote. So far, they`re confirming 17 House Republicans will vote no on the Obamacare repeal.
That 17 number is important. If they get to 22 "no" votes, it`s dead. Even just in the House. It already appears to be dead once it tries to get to the Senate but they could kill it in the House, too.
This is -- this is a volatile time. This is going to be a very busy couple of days, including this building pressure back home.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: You know Chris Hayes, right? My buddy, Chris. Show before mine.
He wrote a book in 2012 called "The Twilight of the Elites." The basic thesis of this very good was that elite institutions of all kinds were losing their luster in this country. Elite institutions were not just failing, they were increasingly being rejected by the American people.
Very interesting thesis, very well reported and argued. It also sounded a little bit of an alarm in that book again, 2012 is when the book came out and he warned in this book that one of the consequences of the twilights of the elites, twilight of elite institutions, including the government and media and all the rest, one of the consequences of that would likely be increasing interest in our country in a new form of American authoritarianism, an anti-elite, anti-academic, burn down the establishment authoritarian impulse of the kind we haven`t really enjoyed in this country before now.
Nailed it. Called it. Four years in advance. Nailed it. That was his first book.
Now, Chris has written a second book. And I`m also scared of this one. It`s called "A Colony in a Nation." Title actually comes from Nixon, comes from Nixon`s acceptance speech of the 1968 Republican convention. It was Nixon`s law and order speech.
But in that speech, he warned against black America becoming a colony within a nation. In his new book, Chris takes that argument and turns it completely inside-out, argues that in many ways that is exactly what happened but not the way Nixon meant it.
And Chris argues that this did happen in large part because of how the law has been used to impose order. Quoting from Chris, "The terrifying truth is that we as a people have created the colony through democratic means. We have voted to subdue our fellow citizens. We have rushed to the polls to elect people promising to bar others from enjoying the fruits of liberty. A majority of Americans have put a minority under lock and key."
It is a terrifying, fascinating, well-told short, interesting book. Unlike "Twilight of the Elites," though, this one does not necessarily offer us a plan for getting out of it.
Joining us now, the host of "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" here at MSNBC, is that unfair?
HAYES: No, it`s totally fair. Yes, I don`t know.
MADDOW: Yes. I mean, you are lamenting what you describe as this colony in a nation phenomenon --
MADDOW: And it`s an emotional argument about how it hurts, the idea of America and all Americans. I don`t think that you are selling us a way out of it.
HAYES: No, what I think -- what I think I am saying is, we all have to recognize, you know, the way I`ve been thinking about it as I think about the book, is like there`s a Donald Trump in all of us. And what I mean by that is that, what he appealed to -- there`s an appeal to the idea of order.
There`s an appeal to the idea of particularly if you were experiencing decline, particularly if you`re experiencing a kind of unraveling, there`s an idea that, like, we can contain it, keep it over there, we can send in the guards, we can send in the cops and they can keep that disorder contained and you are going to be secure and you are going to be okay. And the appeal of that kind of order is very subtle and it`s very seductive and it`s very powerful and it`s very universal.
HAYES: I mean, I have felt it in my life. Many a time, I`ve felt the siren call that particularly growing up as 12 and 13-year-old in New York City when the crime rate was at a peak amount. And so, before we talk about, like, criminal justice policy or policing, like, the deeper truth is an emotional truth about how we, as political actors, respond to these appeals.
HAYES: And recognizing the way they speak to us, and I mean this specifically in this context of white people, frankly, how they speak to us and learning to take that reaction and sort of interrogate it.
MADDOW: Do we ever get any better in terms of not being driven by fear? And not having fear being the easiest button it is for politicians to push and for, you know, media elites to push in terms of getting people`s attention, getting them to believe --
HAYES: You know, that is so -- it is so hard, right, to overcome that because the fear stuff is located in the brain stem. It`s the first part that evolved. And then all the other stuff is here in the prefrontal cortex. And when you`re like, I don`t know, making a television show, or trying to get clicks on a website, there`s this appeal of the brain stem.
There are a lot of examples. I mean, here in New York City, there was an election to end stop and frisk, I mean, which that was overwhelmingly ratified and same echoes of fear, fear, fear, like crime is going to go right back up. And it did not. I think that was a sort of powerful and important test moment.
But we`ve also seen the inverse, right? We`ve seen the president of the United States warning that America is, you know, misquoting the homicide statistics, we`re going back to the bad old days, that chaos and violence and ruin are just knocking on the door and if we turn away from this very punitive model that we`ve been deploying for 40 years, we will allow this disorder into our lives and that retains its power.
I mean, if this election was a proof of anything, it is the degree to which that retains its power.
MADDOW: You know, on that point, that`s one of the very interesting statistical cases that you make is that people perceive, polling data shows that people perceive there to be an increase in crime --
HAYES: Every year.
MADDOW: Every year. It is not every year that politicians stoke it.
HAYES: That is true.
MADDOW: But it continues to increase every year.
HAYES: That is such a great point, because I think part of how we -- the project of the book is how do we build the system and one of every four prisoners in the world is an American? The answer is the two parts of it, right? There`s actual stuff that happened in the country, we had a huge crime spike in this country. The country got more dangerous and that freaked people out in ways -- in all sorts of totally natural ways, right? And then politicians took that thing and they ran with it and they did something with it.
And what we`ve seen this year is this politician particularly using this rhetoric that to him comes as second nature because this is a product of New York City in the `70s and `80s.
HAYES: This stuff is in his bones and it`s not an accident Rudy Giuliani was one of his closest advisers in the campaign, of using that to appeal to and speak to voters in a very specific way and that matters a lot, too. It`s coming in both directions. It is -- I call it in the book, it is a call in response.
MADDOW: Yes. We`re wired for it, but you still have to know where to put the electron (ph) down --
HAYES: You watch the people jump and see it sort of reflected back. That`s what you see sometimes in those rallies and see it when you go read the newspapers or watch events in large urban areas in the `70s and `80s, it`s like you can turn the switch on. It`s enriching political uranium when you do that.
HAYES: It is one of the most powerful forces in our politics, that kind of fear.
MADDOW: "A Colony in a Nation" is Chris Hayes` new book. It comes out tomorrow. It`s really well-written. It is -- I`d just say, it is emotional, a little bit personal. It is short. It is a very clear argument, very well argued. I would say that even if I don` didn`t like you so much.
All right. Much more on MSNBC tonight on today`s explosive and historic hearing in intelligence committee. And right here next, what you need to watch for tomorrow morning.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Hard to believe that when you`ve got a president whose campaign is the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation, as to whether or not his campaign cooperated in an attack on the United States by a foreign power, hard to believe that somebody facing that kind of investigation gets to nominate someone to the Supreme Court in the meantime, but yes, that`s our country.
Today was day one of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Tomorrow, the questioning portion of the hearings will start. We don`t yet exactly know what path Democrats will focus on with Gorsuch.
There`s also the question of why Democrats are there at all for the hearing. Today, a lot of the Democrats on the committee highlighted the fact that President Obama`s nominee for that seat, Merrick Garland, never got a hearing in the Senate. That question is still unanswered and looming over all of this. Why are the Democrats participating in a process that Republicans would not allow under President Obama?
But nevertheless, tomorrow`s hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. You, of course, can watch it all here on live on MSNBC.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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