RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It`s happening again. Almost the exact same thing that happened in our presidential election last year, starting first in July and then again in October. A mirror image of that exact attack that was carried out on our election to try to hurt Hillary Clinton and throw the election to Donald Trump, that attack that U.S. intelligence agencies now say definitively was carried out by the Russian government, Russian intelligent services and the Russian military intelligence unit, that same exact attack is happening again tonight and this time, it is happening in France on the eve of their incredibly consequential presidential election which happens this weekend on Sunday.
Now, we`re going to talk in just a second about what the attack is, about why it looks like it`s not even just Russia all over again but the exact same Russian government hackers who attacked the U.S. election. We`ve got all those details already as this attack has unfolded over the course of this evening and that is fascinating. We will get to that.
But focus here first on the timing because the timing is crucial even just for the ability of this story to be reported tonight. In France, for a variety of reasons for decades now, there has been a law that imposes a news blackout on anything related to the election for a full day before voting starts. So, we don`t have anything like this in our country, but it`s pretty simple.
Basically, the rule in France and it is a legally enforced thing and you can go to jail if you violate it. Basically, the rule is, as of midnight tonight local time in France, from midnight tonight, Friday night, until the polls close there on Sunday evening, legally there can be no reporting, no publication of any information that has anything to do with the election, that could have any influence on anybody in terms of their choice between the candidates, their choice whether or not to vote.
So what I am able to report here tonight on American news, it can`t be reported there tonight where it`s happening because it`s after midnight local time there. I mean, as if this election was not dramatic enough. A couple weeks ago we had the first round of this election. You`ll remember us covering it here on the show, got international attention and deserved it. The first round was a couple weeks ago.
This weekend, this Sunday, it`s the runoff. So, this is actually the definitive final contest to see who will be the next president of France. It`s either going to be the essential terrorist, young, Obama-esque and Obama endorsed mainstream campaign Emmanuel Macron, or it will be someone before this year would be unimaginable of a major Western nation. If it`s not Emmanuel Macron, it`s going to be Marine Le Pen, who is the leader of what has essentially been the French fascist party for decades.
Her campaign has been funded by bank loans from the Kremlin. She has promised to pull France out of NATO. She is likely to pull France out of the E.U. She is rabidly, openly anti-immigrant. She doesn`t just want to stop illegal immigration into that country. She wants to stop all immigration into that country.
She inherited the leadership of this far right party, the Front National from her charming father who is a Holocaust denier.
So, this contest to see whose going to be the next president of France, it was dramatic enough already because of these two being the candidates. And because Russia has a clear preference in this election, we, of course, have seen evidence of what we now recognize as Russian information operation designed to try to influence French voters in their choice in that election. We`ve seen Russia cyber warfare playing out already in this election.
There have been reports of hacking efforts. There`s been a ton of Russian- generated and Russian-amplified fake news about Macron in particular which Marine Le Pen and her party and supporters have tried to spend themselves and capitalize on just like the Trump campaign did when it came to Russia generated fake news about Hillary Clinton.
But that -- we`ve been watching that unfold over the course of this French campaign, through the first primary and into this -- as we headed toward this runoff this weekend, but then, I mean, I didn`t have much of an intention of talking much about the French election tonight, but then late this afternoon, our time, late, late tonight their time, this story just took a very serious turn. It was just before the blackout deadline arrived, right?
The blackout deadline arrives at midnight local time. Just before that blackout deadline arrived, which shuts down all election related news and discussion in the French media. Just before that midnight local time deadline tonight, the Macron campaign suffered a huge cyber attack. All of their internal stuff got posted online, their internal documents, internal e-mails, things like contracts, accounting documents, strategy documents, all apparently hacked off their campaign servers, all posted online at Paste Bin, which is one of these places where you can post stuff anonymously.
It`s apparently about nine gigabytes worth of data. The campaign says that most of it is, in fact, legitimate material that is authentic that was definitely stolen off their servers. But they say, whoever posted it mixed in fake documentation as well as, alongside the real stuff which is a hallmark of a well-run weaponized hacking attack.
Now, in terms of who dun it? It doesn`t seem like the people who did it tried very hard to cover up their tracks. Analysts thus far say the evidence pretty clearly points to a hacking group that`s called APT 28.
APT 28 appears to be the perpetrator of this attack. They`re a hacking group associated with Russian military intelligence. You may remember the name -- the more memorable name that they also used to describe them which is Fancy Bear, remember that from the intelligence documents about the attack on our election? Fancy Bear, APT 28, they are one of the groups named by U.S. intelligence agencies have carried out a similar attack on the Clinton campaign last year and on the servers of the Democratic Party. All that stuff that was posted on DC Leaks and then WikiLeaks. In France, they`ve posted it on Paste Bin, but again, internal documents posted online for maximum political damage.
Now again, this has just happened tonight. They apparently posted all of this hacked material, both the real stuff and the fake stuff. They posted it right before the blackout deadline in the French media. That deadline went into effect at midnight local time, which means French media can`t report on this. They can`t talk about it. They can`t discuss its existence.
Get this, at four minutes to midnight local time, four minutes before the deadline, the Macron campaign put out their statement explaining what had happened to them and I`m quoting from our NBC News translation here, "En Marche", which is the name of Macron`s political party, "En Marche was the victim of a massive and coordinated piracy action this evening, causing the dissemination of internal information of various kinds, e-mails, accounting documents, contracts, et cetera. Those who were circulating these documents added false documents to many original documents in order to sow doubt and misinformation. Taking place in the last hour of the official campaign, this operation is obviously a democratic destabilization as has already been seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign."
Quote, "We call on the media who want to report on this operation to be responsible. It is not a simple piracy operation but an attempt to destabilize the French presidential election. It is therefore important to take into account the nature of the leaked documents, the fact that a large part of them are pure and simply false."
"I plead with the media to consider," quote, "the desirability of echoing this destabilization operation."
You can hear the Clinton campaign in that play, right? And however far this plea is going to go in France, there is a whole different factor there that they have to contend with that we didn`t. I mean, this is plea from the Macron campaign only circulated for four minutes before nobody could say anything in the French media about these documents anymore because the blackout is in effect.
In fact, shortly thereafter, shortly after the blackout went into effect, at 1:15 a.m. local time, the minister of the interior put out this statement to news organization, quote, "We ask press not to distribute these documents and remind them that distributing false information could bring legal consequences." Quote, "We have entered the period of reserve from midnight Friday," meaning we are in a blackout. Do not say beep about this stuff.
But is that a good thing or bad thing, though, right? I mean, the stuff is out there. It`s not like people are not allowed to go on the internet.
However much they tell people in the media and in the campaigns, even individual voters not to talk about this stuff, not to make any sort of public pronouncements about the election, this happened and the stuff is out there. Thanks Putin. If you are in the -- fur in the Macron campaign or if you are in the news business in France and it`s your job to explain what`s going on and debunk stuff that`s fake and to give people context to understand things they may come across this online but you have to treat it as if it`s a secret, which must be incredibly mind-bendingly frustrated if you are French.
That said, I`m not French. Ready?
My poor high school French teacher`s like ba-boom.
In other words, nice to have you here French friends. I am sorry I cannot do this in French. I have a feeling more of you are watching than might otherwise be at a time like this.
I mean, despite what appears to be a massive Russian attack at the last minute, the French election is obviously still going to happen on Sunday. Now, the polls say that Emmanuel Macron is expected to beat Marine Le Pen by a lot, by like 25 points. With that said after Brexit and the U.K., after Donald Trump won the presidency in the United States, you will be forgiven if you do not trust polls in a contest like this any more.
For what it`s worth, though, I got to tell you the French polls did seem to be precisely accurate in predicting the outcome two weeks ago. As for this second definitive round on Sunday, though, there may be no reason to distrust the French polls, but we also have absolutely no idea what the effect is going to be of this last second massive Russian attack.
Joining us now live from Paris is NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
Richard, thank you for being with us tonight to cover this very strange story. I appreciate you staying up for us.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s strange but it is not entirely unexpected. I was waiting for something like this for the other shoe to drop. I thought maybe it was going to be a terrorist attack or some sort of document leak.
There was an expectation that outside forces would try and put their hands on the scale to influence this election and, frankly, that`s why I`m here.
The opinion polls have put Macron way ahead, so if you just believe the polls, there`s no story here. He`s going to win. But these are unusual times.
And there have already been these reports going back weeks and a few months that Russian backed groups have been trying to influence the election. There have been numerous terrorist incidents including one right on the eve of the first round of the presidential elections. So, basically, we`re here because this kind of thing could happen. It was expected that something like this could happen or at least we expect it.
MADDOW: And, Richard, in terms of the attribution for the attack, we have been reading reports, although it`s interesting, we can no longer read French media reports about this because -- we`re now within the blackout period, but we`ve been reading reports that this suggests that this is APT 28, this is Fancy Bear, this appears to be the work of the same Russian hacking groups that attacked the U.S. election.
What credence do you place in those reports?
ENGEL: Well, we`ve spoken directly to the investigators and we -- like I said, we thought this kind of thing would happen. There`s a group called Trend Micro. Trend Micro is a big cybersecurity firm. They have been following Russian-backed groups for a long time.
Starting on March 15th, this group detected that the Macron campaign was under attack, that it was getting what are called phishing e-mails. These are e-mails like the name suggests where they are probing for information and these aren`t the simple kind of phishing e-mails that you get on your BlackBerry or iPhone that says click here and you can win a cruise in the Caribbean. These were highly sophisticated come on kinds of e-mails that looked like internal campaign documents and prompted people to put in their passwords.
So, they were spoofed documents that were being sent to key individuals within the Macron campaign. This lasted for about a month, so from mid- March to mid-April. Then they apparently stopped and the Macron campaign at the time said it didn`t think that any documents were taken off of their servers but they knew they were under attack. This same company said that it has no doubt that the company -- that the attackers that were trying to extract this information was APT 28, also known as fancy bear, the same group that was associated with the attack on the DNC and also associated with attacks on other institutions across Europe.
So, whether that was the group that ultimately pulled the information, this nine gigabytes of information from the campaign and released it tonight, that we`re not sure. But we know that the campaign was under attack for about a month starting in mid-March and apparently ending a month after that by this Russian backed group.
MADDOW: And we know the campaign saying tonight in their statement that these documents that have been dumped tonight that have been posted line appear to have been stolen several weeks ago so that would fit that time frame.
ENGEL: They said several weeks ago. The time frame fits perfectly and also throughout this time frame, starting even somewhat before the phishing attacks, there has been a media campaign against Macron primarily by Russian-backed websites, casting dispersions for his personal life, that he has unusual relationship with his wife in casting doubts that he`s not the man that is -- that should lead France.
So, there`s been a media campaign as well in the background to this fishing attack and then this leak, this document dump. What`s significant is and you pointed it out, the Macron campaign had to deal with this, had to put out a statement, a fairly long statement fairly detailed and release it four minutes to midnight because they didn`t want to go over it seems that midnight boundary and then get themselves in trouble with the law.
And there were several media organizations in this country that started to talk about it and then the interior ministry sent out this warning saying, don`t forget, there`s a media blackout in place. Be responsible.
MADDOW: Wow, it`s just -- the strategy here is remarkable. The audacity is remarkable, and we`ll see what the impact is. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel in Paris past 3:00 in the morning for us tonight, Richard, thank you so much. I appreciate it, my friend.
MADDOW: You know, it is -- the parallels with what happened to our election are remarkable, right? You get the media campaigned run by the Russian state-run media outlets and also the bots that traced back to Russia, certainly get all that fake news stuff.
Then you get the hacked documents that are strategically released at just the right time, right? Put online in these anonymous posting sites. It`s exactly the same thing. We appear to have the same perpetrators here.
But remember when the Russians were doing it to us, by all indications, they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. They didn`t think it would work. They didn`t think they`d throw the election to Trump.
Their intention for doing it, even very late, very right up to the end was not necessarily because they were convinced they could help Trump win. They thought, even if Clinton won which was likely, this stuff would hurt her and delegitimize her as president once she took the presidency and that would be valuable to them in terms of dealing with a weakened United States because these attacks that they took part in during the election.
In this case, Macron is absolutely, absolutely, favored to win on Sunday. If he does, the Russians will still have caused to see this as, you know, reason for celebration that they`ll be able to use this against him as president and hopefully undermine his presidency even if he does go ahead and win this. Just remarkable.
All right. Big night. There`s actually more breaking news coming up from the Trump administration.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: I`m never going to get another Friday night off in my life. I`m telling you.
Friday nights are very news heavy in the Trump administration. Friday nights is supposed to be a time when you`re like, take it easy, have a panel. You know, do a weekend review because you expect that most of the news makers in the world are out on dates or seeing their families or something other than being at work making news, but nope.
Maybe I should get like -- start asking for like Wednesdays off. I don`t know.
In the Trump administration for whatever reason, Friday nights tend to be the busiest night of the week in terms of news and it`s for two separate reasons. One is that they like Friday night news dumps at the Trump administration just like all administrations do. The Trump administration does it may be more than most but all administrations do this.
Like, for example, this past Friday night, you might remember, they waited until after 10:00 p.m. Eastern to announce that the EPA was pulling all of its climate data off of the EPA`s website. That was a classy Friday night news dump last week.
We actually got two more EPA Friday night news dumps tonight that we`re going to be getting to later on in this show.
But in addition to the Friday night news dumps where they just hide stuff late on a Friday thinking no one will notice it, the other thing that happens with the Trump administration on Friday and this I think has to be a coincidence, this is just God hates me, it`s that news about them tends to break on Friday night as well and that is the case tonight in "The Washington Post" and "The Associated Press".
"The Washington Post" was first. They front-paged this exclusive story about fired national security adviser Mike Flynn, and all the pattern warnings he was given about his contact with Russian government officials during the transition. So, between the election and when President Trump was actually sworn in.
According to tonight`s front page scoop in the "The Washington Post," Mike Flynn was warned explicitly that his conversations with Russian officials were, quote, "undoubtedly being monitored by the FBI and by the NSA." Transition officials tell "The Washington Post" they also prepared a briefing document for Flynn, specifically a profile of the Russian ambassador who he liked to talk with and meet with so much.
Officials say that despite the fact that they prepared a profile on the Russian ambassador for Flynn, they are unsure as to whether or not Mike Flynn ever bothered to read it. So, interesting reporting from "The Washington Post."
After "The Washington Post" posted theirs, "The Associated Press" also went live with their scoop tonight on Mike Flynn. They`re reporting that the Obama administration was so concerned about what they could see of these ties between Mike Flynn and the Russian government that they decided to delay telling the Trump transition about the Obama`s administration plans to levy new sanctions against Russia as punishment for them messing with our election.
The Obama folks delayed telling the Trump transition what they were going to do in response to that election hack reportedly because the Obama administration was concerned enough about what they were seeing about the transitions contacts with Russians officials that they believed it was possible that someone in the Trump transition might tip off the Russian government about what was about to happen. That they might give the Russians enough time, enough lead time to clear information out of the two Russian compounds that the U.S. was closing down in retaliation for the Russians attacking or election.
Now, NBC can add a little bit that tonight. NBC further reports tonight that in terms of that advance warning that the Obama administration gave to the Trump transition about these Russian sanctions, NBC News reports tonight that that advanced warning was a matter of hours, not days. Even though they knew they were going to shut down these Russians compounds for days, they didn`t tell the Trump folks until hours before they announced it, so the Trump folks wouldn`t have too much opportunity to give the Russians a head`s up to clean out those compounds -- just in case the Trump transition folks were so inclined to do that.
So, obviously, there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered about how on earth the White House decided to hire Mike Flynn has national security advisor despite what they must have come to know about his contacts with foreign governments and his contacts with the Russian government in particular. NBC News reported several days ago that the Trump transition even knew about Mike Flynn`s payments from foreign governments and they hired him anyway.
This goes some distance to explaining people who were in contact with him and what they knew at the time that made that inexplicable decision that gave him that high ranking sensitive national security post.
I mean, reading between the lines, though, it also seems clear that people who want to remain government officials, people who don`t want to have their careers blown up by any association with Michael Flynn and whatever`s about to come next in the investigations of him, those people appear to be sort of getting out ahead of any further Michael Flynn reporting. This continues the pattern we have seen around him, Republican officials involved in investigations that get close to what Flynn did and what is known about his actions they`ve all been fleeing from those investigation.
Devin Nunes got himself taken off the house intelligence investigation. Jason Chaffetz took himself out of Congress entirely. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any Flynn related investigations.
And now, we`ve got named Trump transition officials saying basically in the press, hey, we tried to warn him. We noticed something was weird here. We tried to send up flags. We knew what Mike Flynn was doing with Russia was wrong and risky.
I don`t know where any of these investigations are going with Mike Flynn, but the way that other people in Republican politics are treating him, is like they`re grease and he`s a drop of dish soap. So, new Mike Flynn news tonight in the "The Washington Post" and "The Associated Press", but also brings us to tonight`s news dump from the administration and that story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, tonight, we are following this new breaking news from "The Washington Post" and from the "Associated Press" about fired national security advisor Mike Flynn. New reports that Trump transition officials and outgoing Obama administration officials were aware of Mike Flynn`s frequent communications with the Russian government and that it raised alarms both within the Trump transition and in the outgoing administration.
This, of course, raises yet more questions about why the Trump folks went ahead with hiring him then as national security advisor where he lasted all of three and a half weeks before he got fired.
After Mike Flynn did get fired, one of the interesting things that happened that I think maybe should have been a little bit of a warning sign for those us watching this administration is that the White House had a really remarkably difficult time replacing him.
U.S. Army General Ray Odierno, they apparently wanted for the job. He took himself out of the running.
Controversial General David Petraeus, they apparently wanted him for the job, too, but he took himself out of the running. Vice Admiral Robert Harwood, they wanted for the job, they apparently offered him the job and after they offered him the job, he said no. He would not take the job.
Eventually, they found H.R. McMaster who was not a retired admiral or a retired general. He is a sitting active duty general. And you know what, they`re not actually allowed to say no when asked to do something by the commander in chief. So, now, he is our new national security advisor.
But it`s not just the national security adviser position that proved hard to fill, that`s generally been true of their big national security jobs. For example, look at the Armed Forces. The Trump administration nominated a New York billionaire to be army secretary, a guy who had made his fortune as a high frequency trader. One of the things the White House did not notice about him when they vetted him for the job was the police report that had been filed on him not that long ago after he punched a guy out at an expensive horse auction in Upstate New York. Between his complicated business ties and the horse auction fistfight, Vincent Viola ended up pulling his name from consideration as army secretary.
Then the next nomination they pulled was for the navy secretary. A guy named Phillip Bilden, another finance guy was nominated to be navy secretary. Bilden pulled his name as nominee to be navy secretary in February. In February, the administration still has not nominated anybody else for that job. There is no nominee to be secretary of the navy.
After they lost their first nominee to be secretary of the army, the punch- out of the horse auction guy, they did pick a replacement nominee for that job, but now tonight, he has pulled his name from consideration as well. His name is Mark Green.
Until recently, he was a Republican candidate for governor in Tennessee. He dropped out of that race because of this better gig that he got offered by the Trump administration, secretary of the army. Well, now that that nomination has been pulled multiple Pentagon officials are going out of their way tonight to remind reporters that this really was a White House pick. Don`t blame this on the Pentagon.
Unnamed Defense Department officials insisting to reporters tonight that it was the White House who wanted this guy, it was the White House who vetted this guy, it was the White House who missed this stuff about this guy. That was after all out in the public domain about him and findable by anybody with a Google.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. MARK GREEN (R), TENNESSEE: Now, you poll the psychiatrists, they`re going to tell you that transgender is a disease. No, we`re not going to issue marriage licenses to gay people because our state voted differently. OK, Supreme Court. You said it, I don`t care.
School districts you want to have a bathroom that`s separate for all of the -- you know, guys or gals with question marks. You set up your own bathroom and AFL-CIO`s going to sue you -- well, I got your back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: AFL-CIO`s going to sue you?
When he says AFL-CIO, I will bet you $11 that he means ACLU. Oh, but come on. It`s not like military guys ever need to know acronyms. The AFL-CIO`s going to sue you? They aren`t going to sue you.
Anyway, so that`s the bright light that the White House tried to put in charge of the United States Army. And there are reams and reams and reams of this stuff from him and the public domain. He`s been a public figure for a long time. He`s a serving state senator in Tennessee. He was running for governor.
But apparently, the White House never noticed any of this stuff before they put him up as they`re second nominee to run the United States Army. One by one, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee started coming out against Mark Green as his record became more and more clear. As of a few days ago, his critics on the Senate Armed Services Committee including that committee`s chairman, John McCain. Once the chairman of the committee is against you, you`re not going to go far.
He also faced criticism from Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, who is an Army Black Hawk pilot who lost both her legs in combat in Iraq. She came out quite strongly against Mark Green to be secretary of the army.
We actually learned this afternoon here at MSNBC that as of last night, the White House had given up on Mark Green and had started interviewing potential replacement nominees. I was all set to report that tonight when news dropped right before we went on the air, news dropped late this afternoon that Mark Green, in fact, is gone. He`s pulled his name.
And the fact that Mark Green was ever nominated for this job in the first place, the fact that he`s now the second nominee to try and fail to become army secretary, is itself ridiculous, right? I mean, it`s just a ridiculous process. It`s ridiculous for him to have been a candidate given what`s available on him in the public record. It is ridiculous for the White House that they put him forward without apparently doing any vetting. Their vetting process for national security positions, even for really important national security positions appears to be about as difficult as the application process to get into Trump University.
But because these are national security jobs, it isn`t just ridiculous it`s also stomach churning, right? I mean, this guy was nominated to be secretary of the army. Within the last week a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in Somalia fighting under combat restrictions that the Trump administration just loosened there. It`s the first U.S. combat casualty in Somalia since 1993, since Black Hawk Down. He was killed yesterday.
Also within the past week, two Army Rangers were killed in fighting eastern Afghanistan. Also within the past week, an Army paratrooper was killed on Patrol outside Mosul, where the Trump administration has quietly and without announcement been sending more and more and more U.S. troops.
Next week, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is going to ask for thousands more U.S. troops to be sent into Afghanistan, once again, and whether or not you look at this new president and you think, that`s a capable commander in chief, I trust him to be making wise decisions about the men and women American armed forces, whether or not you look at him and think that, there is precisely one Senate confirmed nominee in the entire Pentagon, secretary of defense, that`s it.
There`s like 58 Senate confirmable positions in the Pentagon, they haven`t filled 57 of them. And it`s not that they`re putting forward nominees and their nominees are getting blocked. They haven`t made nominations for almost any of these jobs, for any of the open senior defense and national security jobs in the entire government, and the nominees they do put forward are literally guys like this who think the greatest danger to the United States is the AFL-CIO, because he doesn`t know that that`s a union.
So, happy Friday night news dump. Mark Green is out as the second nominee to be secretary of the army. We could sort of see this one coming as a mile off. But as of tonight, there isn`t a replacement nominee in sight. When they finally do make one, it will be their third attempt at finding someone to fill that job.
MADDOW: So conservative media must be taken a serious victory lap, right? After the big health care vote in the house right, kill the Affordable Care Act? The House Republican vote.
I mean, conservatives have been trying to get rid of Obamacare for years, so that conservative media must be absolutely crowing over this right now, right?
You`d think, but look at this. This was the FOX News home page last night after the house Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now, let`s see, where is that massive Republican win? Where is it? Oh, there it is, down there on the bottom next to the story about the football player.
Surely at Breitbart, they must be pounding their chest about this big win. Nope, that`s Jeff Sessions there. It was a tiny headline in the corner about Trump celebrating just above a headline about a Republican senator trashing the bill.
How about "The National Review"? They`ve been railing against Obama for years. No, "The National Review" home page barely mentioned the health care vote after it happened at all.
So, that was an interesting reaction on the right, right? Obamacare repeal? What Obamacare repeal.
The reaction on the left the other hand? Holy cow! I mean, you usually expect the side that won to be all over it, and the side that didn`t win to be playing it down -- total opposite this time. Swing Left is one of these new groups working to defeat House Republicans in the 2018 midterms, they tell us they raised over $1 million in the last 48 hours, including $150,000 they that raised instantly within the one hour after the health care vote.
And the liberal blog Daily Kos, they`re the ones who raised all that early money for Jon Ossoff, who`s the Democrat running in that special House election in Georgia, they also have raised over a million dollars over the course of 30 hours, over a million bucks specifically targeting 24 congressional Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, who represent districts where Trump didn`t get 50 percent of the vote.
"Daily Kos" political director David Nir tells NBC News they have never seen anything like this before. Quote, "To put things in perspective, it took us a week to raise $400,000 for John Ossoff. It took us a year to do so for Elizabeth Warren. We raised that amount of money in the first five hours yesterday for this slate after the health care vote."
So, at least in terms of fund-raising, the left saw a huge surge of support to try to turf out Republican members of Congress, after the house voted to repeal Obamacare yesterday.
Monies not everything, though. In terms of the on-the-ground response, the group Indivisible, they put out a very interesting statement about it last night, pointing that the next 11 days of congressional recess are crucial in terms of holding members of Congress accountable, quote, "on their home turf." We`re already seeing signs of that playing out. In Kansas today, people held a die in outside Congressman John Yoder`s office. Yoder voted yes to kill Obamacare yesterday. This is tactic of the AIDS activist movement. It`s now been appropriated by folks who are fighting for health reform.
In Florida, folks gathered outside Brian Mast`s office with a giant sign that says, "Clueless". Other signs saying, "Repeal and replace Brian Mast". "Shame on you, Brian Mast."
Republican Congressman Raul Labrador held a lively town hall in Lewis in Idaho today, lots of anger about his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re mandating people on Medicaid except dying. You are making a mandate --
REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: No one wants anybody to die. That line is so indefensible. Nobody dies because they don`t have access to health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Nobody dies because they don`t have access to health care. They die for all sorts of other reasons but nobody dies because they don`t have access to health care.
That was in Lewiston, Idaho, this afternoon. Expect that one to follow Raul Labrador around for the rest of his political life.
And there will be a lot more where that came from. Over this weekend and into next week, because there is an 11-day recess that starts today.
And part of what we`re now watching in terms of what`s coming up over the next few days is one congressman who may be trying to take on the burden for another neighboring congressman who apparently can`t take the heat himself. This is a very weird, very interesting story and one of the key players involved in it is with us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Last night, we had here on the show, a woman who lives in Republican Congressman John Faso`s district in New York state. She was a guest on our show here. Her name is Andrea Mitchell, not that Andrea Mitchell.
But we have this remarkable footage from a couple of months ago of Ms. Mitchell explaining to her congressman, to John Faso, that she had a brain tumor, and she was worried about losing her health insurance because of her preexisting condition. Congressman Faso hugged her and promised her he would never let that happen.
Congressman Faso then yesterday voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If what the House voted for yesterday is made law, it will have the effect of decimating access to health insurance for people with preexisting conditions.
Almost immediately after he announced that he would cast that vote, Congressman Faso`s office was apparently inundated with angry phone calls. And that led to a tweet from another member of Congress from New York, actually from a neighboring district, from Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.
This was his tweet, quote, "Hey, John Faso, could you turn your phones on? Your constituents are calling my office."
Apparently, Congressman Faso is really hard to get ahold of. He has held only one town hall since taking office. That was last night. The local Invisible group has invited him to join their town hall. They have scheduled in their district for this Monday.
But now, Congressman Maloney has issued John Faso another challenge.
Quote, "John Faso, these folks deserve answer. If you won`t explain your vote for Trumpcare, I will."
Joining us now is New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.
Thank you for being here, sir. It`s nice to see you.
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Nice to be with you.
MADDOW: Are you trying to take the heat off him? Are you trying to do him a favor here? Are you trying to help his constituents?
MALONEY: Look, it`s really simple. I mean, if you listen to a woman like Andrea, what I was struck by is she felt naive that when her congressman told her, promised her that he would not do this to her, I mean, this is a woman with a brain tumor who is not playing some political game. She was desperate in that video and he promised her he wouldn`t.
And she came on your show last night and she said, I felt maybe I was naive when he promised me, I thought he wouldn`t do it.
And I have to tell you, I felt like saying to her, Andrea, if you`re listening, you`re not naive because I believed him too. And I`ll tell you what, there are members of Congress who will look you in the eye and who will not lie to you about something that serious. And if this guy won`t stand up and explain to it you and the people he represents, my neighbors in the Hudson Valley -- well, I`m going to do it.
I think -- I think every Republican who voted for this thing ought to have to stand in front of their voters and explain it. And if it takes a Democrat to go in and do it for them for a while, I`ll explain what is in this bill. And if he doesn`t like it, he should stand up and explain it himself.
I mean, I think we ought to get on offense on this. And maybe a Democrat ought to go into every district where a Republican who supported Trumpcare won`t hold a town hall meeting and do it for them. You know, sit in that chair and say I`ll stand here and answer your questions until your own congressman starts doing his job.
MADDOW: Did his constituents really start calling your office trying to reach him?
MALONEY: Yes, yes. And after a few dozen phone calls, we started to wonder what was up. And they just couldn`t get through.
And I want to tell you, I spoke to Congressman Faso before I came on the show. I said, "John, I`m going the light you up. I hope we can still work on Lyme disease together and veterans issues because I spent a lot of time working across the aisle." I`m one of the most bipartisan members in Congress, and I mean tht.
But I said, I just I feel too strongly about this. And he was upset that we had that tweet. I don`t want to relay a private conversation. But I said people were calling our office. And they weren`t getting through to yours.
And, you know, we`re being a little tongue-in-cheek. But it`s a serious issue. And my goodness, these guys have got to stand up and defend this vote.
If you notice, a lot of them won`t want to. They`re saying things like oh, the Senate will fix it, or we`re just having a beer party at the White House and we wanted to have a win or to the president.
And that doesn`t cut it. I mean, there are 65,000 people in Congress Faso`s district who are going to lose insurance under this bill. There are 400,000 people in that district and in mine who are getting insurance through their employers, and now because of a totally unspoken about provision in this bill, employers can forum shop any state that gets a waiver and use the lower standards of that state with their employees, even in a state like New York.
So, the 400,000 people in most congressional districts who get employer- based insurance right now, who have a heart condition, who have, you know, HIV, they are at risk of being driven down to that lower state`s standards, like Wisconsin, where the governor said today he would consider getting a waiver.
So, look, this is not a game. And I think my goodness, if a Congress person can`t stand in front of their voters and answer questions about their vote, then something is wrong.
MADDOW: And they may, if they follow your example, start getting other districts` members of Congress answer questions for them.
MALONEY: Well, maybe we should do it. Start adopting a district. We`ll adopt a district. I`m adopting New York 19. There is a bunch more. All my friends in the Democratic caucus. You can adopt your own district.
MADDOW: The congressman for the 18th and now sort of the 19th district, too.
MALONEY: Until further notice.
MADDOW: All right. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, thank you, sir. It`s good to have you here, man.
MALONEY: Great to be with you.
MALONEY: All right. It`s Friday night. Yet more stuff to talk about because the news never stops on Friday nights anymore. That`s next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Because no one is allowed to cheat on the length of the workweek, no matter how much we might want to, we have some additional breaking news tonight. Last week, you might remember after close of business on Friday, the EPA announce they`d were take do you think their climate data off their website. This week, tonight, now it`s about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
You might remember he was picked to head the same federal agency that he tried to sue into oblivion when he was the attorney general of the state of Oklahoma. He sued EPA multiple times or participated in suits filed by other states over clean air, clean water, methane emission, mercury, you name it.
When he was asked whether he would take part in defending the agency he now runs from these lawsuits he filed against it, he wouldn`t say during his confirmation process. During his confirmation hearing in the Senate, he promise head would recuse himself from taking any actions regarding those lawsuits if ethics officials told him he had to, but he wouldn`t say one way or the other for sure.
Well, tonight E&E news, which covers energy and environmental policy, they got hold of a memo signed by Scott Pruitt, it is dated yesterday. And it says it, quote, "addresses all of my ethics obligations." E&E reports that this memo basically indicates that Scott Pruitt will now recuse himself from a dozen pending cases involving EPA, including the clean power plan, include in cases in both federal appeals and district courts over the clean water rule.
So, if this is what it appears to be, that means we know what those ethics officials told administrator Scott Pruitt he had to do. But it appears he waited until the very last second to let anybody know that he is actually doing it. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again here on Monday.
But now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence tonight.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END