Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 6, 2017
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes, I`ll tell you that in the building, we know the monitors are on showing what`s on TV as everybody goes about their business, everywhere I walked in the building, people were stopped in their tracks walking and watching it with their mouths open.
Incredible work. Thanks, man.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, MSNBC`S "ALL IN": Thanks.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
We`ve got a big show tonight. There`s a lot going on in the world.
We`ve got eyes on the big G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, where there were huge protests today. President Trump is in Hamburg tonight. He`s meeting there tomorrow with Vladimir Putin.
NBC`s Richard Engel is there too. He is going to be joining us live from Germany tonight ahead of his big Richard Engel special that we`re doing here tomorrow night.
The head of the government`s ethics office also resigned tonight. He got as famous as a bureaucrat gets for the robust way he stood up to the Trump administration and to Trump himself on ethics issues and the president`s unprecedented financial conflicts of interest.
His name is Walter Shaub. He said he was not forced out of the Office of Government Ethics. He basically says he`s leaving because the U.S. government ethics rules are not strong enough to allow him to stand up to what this president and his family are doing. So, he is leaving his job at the Office of Government Ethics in order to try to strengthen the rules from the outside. So, very interesting resignation today. We`ve got more on that story ahead.
There`s a lot going on. We`ve got a big show tonight.
But we are going to start with something different tonight. I said at the very end of last night`s show that we`ve got a scoop to share with you tonight. This is that scoop.
In-house on our staff, we have been talking about this as an inside -- kind of an inside-out story. Not your typical news story, not your particular scoop. But I think it`s important.
It is one of the few times we have ever had a scoop on the show where I feel like I need to send up this like a flare for other news organizations in particular. That`s part of what I`m intending to do with part of this story tonight.
OK, here it goes. We have this thing we have been doing on our show for a while now that`s called www.sendittorachel.com. Basically, the idea is if you want to get in touch with us, if you want to give us a tip or send us a document, you can do so via that Web site, www.sendittorachel.com. We get tons of stuff that way.
We get information about important local political fights that otherwise aren`t getting national coverage. We get a lot of information about bad behavior by elected officials. We occasionally get news about really good behavior by elected officials that has gone unnoticed.
We get anonymous tips and we get documents, too. We get a lot of documents. We`ve had a lot of first-hand records come across the transom through the www.sendittorachel.com, documents that show us how the government is making decisions, what the government is doing, whether or not they`re talking about it publicly yet. So, it`s been a great resource for our reporting.
I will say it one more time, www.sendittorachel.com. It`s still up and running. We`d love to hear from you.
Well, a few weeks ago, we got a new document through that channel. And at first glance, it was just unbelievably red hot. If by any chance this document is real, it is so sensitive, so classified that I cannot show it to you. I cannot show it to almost anyone because of its purported classification level. It`s actually hard to circulate it at all or even to describe it to people.
And I don`t say that to try to hype it. I say that to let you know that it`s actually logistically difficult to validate something like this, because when it`s classified at that level or appears to be classified at that level, you can`t run a document like that by people the way you would for any other kind of document we might get shipped to us from some source.
People who are in a position to recognize or authenticate this kind of document, people who have worked with things at this level of classification, they typically will refuse to even look at a document like this if there`s any chance that it is real, that it is real classified information that has been improperly disclosed. That`s because the terms of their own security clearance mean effectively they can`t review anything like that without it creating legal obligations on them.
So, it`s very hard to check this stuff out. Classification wise, it is logistically just very difficult to deal with, very, very sensitive.
But in terms of the political implications of this document that we were given, its content -- politically, this thing is so sensitive it takes all of the air out of the room, and all of the nearby rooms as well. People talk about finding the smoking gun. What got sent to us was not just a smoking gun, it was a gun still firing proverbial bullets.
So, here`s the deal. We believe now that the real story we have stumble upon here is that somebody out there is shopping carefully forged documents to try to discredit news agencies reporting on the Russian attack on our election, and specifically on the possibility that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russians in mounting that attack.
Let me show you what I mean. Here`s what we know. Do you remember a month ago when a relatively new news organization called "The Intercept" published this report? Top secret NSA report detail Russian hacking effort days before 2016 election. This was published by "The Intercept" almost exactly a month ago, Monday, June 5th.
"The Intercept" has a bunch of good reporters, a lot of aggressive national security reporters who really earned their stripes. In terms of the Russia story, "The Intercept" have -- they are really stood out for being basically aggressively skeptical on that story. Skeptical that there was a Russian attack on our election, skeptical of the possibility that the Trump campaign might have colluded in that Russian attack.
I mean, there is nothing wrong with a news organization having an editorial take on a particular story. I am not criticizing them for their take on Russia. But for purposes of understanding what we just figured out, it`s important to understand that "The Intercept" does as a news organization have a take on the Russia attack, on the Russia story, and their take on it is that they`re dismissive of the story.
And that`s why it was really surprising and really interesting that it was "The Intercept" of all places that published this big advance in the Russia story. New details on the Russian hacking effort into the U.S. presidential election, including a U.S. intelligence report which said that the attack went on for longer than had been previously disclosed, it was wider than previously disclosed, and they got further in their attack than had been previously disclosed.
Quoting from "The Intercept": Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear- phishing e-mails to more than a hundred local election officials just days before last November`s presidential election.
Quote: Russian government hackers were part of a team with a cyber espionage mandate specifically directed at U.S. and foreign elections. They focused on parts of the U.S. election system directly connected to the voter registration process.
Quote: Russian hacking may have penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than was previously understood. Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the U.S. voting system.
And all of this explosive stuff is cited to, quote, a highly classified intelligence report obtained by "The Intercept". In addition to their write-up of it -- this is important -- "The Intercept", they didn`t just publish an article about that top secret intelligence report, they actually published the top secret intelligence report, the top secret NSA report they said they obtained, five pages of it, detailing this American intelligence understanding of how Russian agents attempted to wriggle their way into the U.S. election system, further than we`d ever known before.
The document came with a flow chart of how the Russians got in, and why they targeted the places they did. It`s very detailed. And the whole thing, as I mentioned, was labeled top secret on every page.
"The Intercept" reported when they published this thing that U.S. intelligence officials wouldn`t comment on the document but they said agencies did ask them for certain redactions, some of which "The Intercept" agreed to make. So, they made those redactions, specific redactions at the request of U.S. agencies and then they hit publish on this story.
Big deal, right? I mean, new detail evidence into American intelligence gathering on Russian attempts to get inside our election system. This was a very big story based again on a very classified document. Huge story, real scoop, real coup for "The Intercept".
But now, even just a month later, that "Intercept" story is remembered less I think for the content of the story and more for what happened immediately after they published, because immediately after they published it, we learned that there was an arrest.
We got our first head`s up about that "Intercept" story just before 4:00 p.m. on June 5th. An hour later at 5:00 p.m. sharp, June 5th, the Justice Department announced they had already had in custody, they had already arrested the person who allegedly leaked that top secret document to "The Intercept". And this is a pending federal case now against that NSA contractor. It`s not resolved at all. But from the criminal complaint the government filed here, the case is not at all subtle.
Apparently, the NSA can tell how many people have ever accessed, have ever looked at an individual secret document like this. They can tell who they are by name. And in the criminal complaint, the FBI agent named in the complaint lays out how the FBI investigation into this leak proceeded. They have this list of like a half dozen people who they know have accessed this document. They go down that list looking for someone who has accessed the document who also appears to have been in touch with this news organization, with "The Intercept".
By that process, they quickly narrow it down to one NSA contractor working in the state of Georgia. A contractor named Reality Leigh Winner. According to the FBI she was the only one of those six who had accessed -- who had both accessed the document and been in touch with "The Intercept".
Then they go down a second line of approach. The agent says in this criminal complaint that there`s a crease, like you get a crease from folding something. There`s a crease that is visually evident on the document itself that was a clue to the FBI that whoever took this document off of the NSA had printed it, had printed the page and folded it and carried it out of the NSA office by hand.
And then there was another clue -- and this is where the story gets a little bit crazy. Most color printers, maybe even all of them, I don`t know, they apparently leave behind when they print, right, when they print out a piece of paper from a computer, when they print, they leave behind a fingerprint on every sheet that they print out.
You know in old school detective stories, they do forensic analysis of the corks of individual typewriters, right, to find out which typewriter typed the ransom note or whatever. There is a version of that for computer printers, too. And that may have come calling when "The Intercept" showed the NSA this document they had obtained through a source because they wanted the NSA to validate it, to comment on whether or not this document they had received was real.
In that document -- which we have access to because they published it online when they published their story -- in that document, alongside all the plainly visible texts and the flow chart and even the redactions and everything, alongside all of that, all that obvious stuff was also this barely visible fingerprint from the printer it was printed on.
The fingerprint is basically a series of light almost invisible yellow printed dots. And unless you`re looking for them, you would never notice them just by reading the document. But if you run the page like through an image software and do a magic reversing of the colors and in this case, a little brightening so you can see them on your TV, up pops, if you`re looking for it, a readable specific grid of these little dots.
And that grid of those little dots is basically a fingerprint and it tells you which exact printer was used to print out that page. It tells you the model number. It tells you the serial number, and it tells you exactly which time and date that printing happened.
Now, it may be that the FBI didn`t have to use those little yellow printer dots to track down their suspect. The FBI doesn`t mention the printer dots in their charging document in this case. But once "The Intercept" published this document online, for people who understand forensic tracking of documents and the dangers of leaking documents, those yellow dots were an obvious thing to worry about, because they were there on that document that "The Intercept" published. They were there to be read by a trained observer on that document that "The Intercept" published online.
OK. So, now, let me show you how this worked for us. This is the NSA document published by "The Intercept". You see the little dots. You`d see the little dots in that very specific pattern in relation to that little piece of text that we`ve excerpted there. It`s uncovered on one of the pages that "The Intercept" published.
Now, watch, I`m going to show you that same pattern of dots, except this time, it`s from a different document. OK? As you can see, it`s the same pattern of dots, the top half of the pattern. But what I`m showing you here, this is not the document published by "The Intercept". This is from the document that somebody sent us through www.sendittorachel.com.
That same pattern of dots, the supper portion of it exactly appeared on the supposed NSA document that somebody sent to us anonymously. So, again, you see it here in "The Intercept" document with the dots by the word summary. Those same dots, the top part of the pattern appear magic by the word summary in the document that we got.
It`s not all of the dots. Just the ones that appear to have slipped through in a photocopy cut and paste job.
This is what it appears to be to us, a cut and paste forgery, using "The Intercept" NSA document as a template. And again here, see that thin line is there on the upper left-hand corner? You can see why I think is the crease where the FBI says "The Intercept" document was folded after it was printed. We think we see remnants of that exact same crease on the forged supposed top secret NSA document that got sent to us.
Now, it may be helpful to know, we got this purported NSA document the same week "The Intercept" published theirs. And here`s another thing I can show you in terms of sussing that out. Look at the metadata here. Check this out in terms of the timing.
The suspect on "The Intercept" leak goes to jail on Saturday, gets arrested on Saturday, June 3rd. Saturday June 3rd, the FBI interviews and arrests Reality Winter, this NSA contractor. She has pleaded not guilty, but she has been in jail since Saturday, June 3rd.
"The Intercept" published their story two days later, around 4:00 p.m., that Monday, June 5th. The forged document we got sent to us appeared to have been created in that narrow window of time between those two events, after Reality Winter got arrested and before "The Intercept" published the document, with its identifiable printer dots and the crease and the paper that appeared to have been lifted off that same document that "The Intercept" published.
Our document appears to be a cut and paste forgery derived from "The Intercept`s" document. We cannot know for sure. But if that is the case, then whoever did that work to create that forgery was cutting and pasting together a fake document, working from a document that was not yet publicly available.
They would have started creating that file or they would have started that file after Reality Winter`s arrest and before "The Intercept" published it to everyone and then sent it to us two days later.
Given what we know about the time it was sent to us and what we can see from the metadata, we believe this is the timeline. Now, is the time line a clue as to who contacted us and sent us this document? We don`t know. Maybe the metadata itself has been faked or wrong in some way. I don`t know.
There are other things that are wrong in the document, too. That raised red flags for us but they`re subtle. There are some little typos. There`s some weird spacing that just doesn`t look right.
It has a date on it in terms of when in the future it can be declassified. That doesn`t make sense if it was produced when they said it was produced.
The big red flag for us is that the document we were given, this is part of what made it seem so red hot, it names an American citizen. The document we were sent, which we believe to be a forgery, names a specific person in the Trump campaign as working with the Russians on their hacking attack on the election last year. And the specific name of the Trump campaign person is irrelevant and I`m not sharing it now because we believe from how the NSA works from multiple conversations with current and former officials familiar with documents of this type, we believe that a U.S. citizen`s name would never appear in a document like this.
Even if the typos and the weird spacing and the other odd stuff has snuck through for some reason, an American citizen`s name would not have snuck through, not at this level of an NSA report. That our document contains an American name spelled out, that says to experienced people who have worked with this stuff that what we got is forged. It`s fake, which is interesting if you work on this show.
This is news because why is someone shopping a forged document of this kind to news organizations covering the Trump-Russia affair?
Last week, three journalists resigned from their jobs at CNN after that network retracted a story they had written about the Trump administration related to the Trump-Russia affair. CNN says the sourcing of that story in retrospect did not meet its editorial standards.
Also last week, "Vice" retracted two stories about the Trump administration. Like CNN, "Vice" also cited problems with the sourcing of those stories.
The thing that`s knocking around in the back of your mind right now is from 2004, when the legendary Dan Rather lost his career at CBS over a story on the evening news that delved into George W. Bush`s truncated service in the National Guard during Vietnam. The Rather team had documents that they got from a source that they checked out, but the sourcing of those documents was later attacked and undermined. CBS was ripped to shreds over the process it went through that resulted in those documents being put on the air as the basis for that story. Still over a decade later, the origin of those documents is murky.
But undeniably, CBS running that story was a disaster for two things. It was disaster for everyone involved and it was a disaster for a news story. All right. That was in personal terms, that was the end of a trusted voice of reason and insight and perspective, Dan Rather, as a regular presence in the family living room.
In terms of the news, that was a spike through the heart of the story of George W. Bush`s National Guard service keeping him out of Vietnam, which was a true and interesting story and which really might have been a serious ongoing political liability for candidate George W. Bush. But nobody was ever willing to touch it again during that campaign because of the way those documents purporting to prove out the worst aspects of that story blew up like a pipe bomb at CBS News.
And so head`s up, everybody, this is what I mean by an inside-out scoop. Somebody for some reason appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump campaign in working with the Russians on their attack on the election. It is a forgery.
Let me caveat that. It is either a forgery or every single national security official we consulted about this story is wrong about it.
I don`t know if the Trump campaign worked with Russia or not. If they did knowingly work with a foreign government, a foreign military intelligence service to attack our election, to help Trump to the presidency, that is clearly the biggest political scandal in modern history by a mile. We don`t know if it happened or not. So, we don`t know yet whether it happened or not. Not yet.
The special counsel is investigating. Congressional committees are more or less investigating. And the American news media is investigating.
Whether or not the Trump campaign did it, one way to stab in the heart aggressive American reporting on that subject is to lay traps for American journalists who are reporting on it, trick news organizations into reporting what appears to be evidence of what happened, and then after the fact blow that reporting up.
You then hurt the credibility of that news organization. You also cast a shadow over any similar reporting in the future, whether or not it`s true, right? Even if it`s true, you plant a permanent question, a permanent asterisk, a permanent -- who knows -- as to whether that too might be false like that other story, whether that too might be based on fake evidence.
So, head`s up, everybody. Part of the defense against this Trump-Russia story, now we can report, include somebody apparently forging at least one classified NSA report and shopping it to news organizations as if it`s real. We don`t know who`s doing it but we`re working on it.
Head`s up in the meantime, everybody. We will be right back.
MADDOW: The G20 are the 19 richest countries in the world plus one, plus the European Union. They meet every year. G20 Summits almost always attract major protests, mostly anti-capitalism protests, but also just protests by anybody who has a beef with this small minority of countries that represent the lion`s share of all of the wealth and trade in the world.
This year, today, the G-20 is meeting and they are meeting in Hamburg Germany. This year`s protesters picked a cheery theme to greet the leaders of all the G20 countries. Their theme this year is: G20, welcome to hell. OK, this should be fun.
Officials say they expect upwards of 100,000 protesters to show up during the G20 overall. Today, it kicked off with about 10,000 to 15,000 protesters in the streets. Within minutes of the start of their planned march today, the march was broken up by German riot police. Look at this.
Police said that some protesters were breaking the law by wearing masks that covered their faces. And so, they broke the whole thing up. From there, things pretty quickly went pear-shaped. Police turned water cannons and copious amounts of tear gas and smoke bombs against the protesters.
The protesters for their part threw rocks and bottles at the police. By nightfall, the protesters were lighting fires in the streets. Now, we don`t know how many protesters were arrested in Hamburg today, nor we do know how many were injured.
We are told that more than 75 police officers were injured today. Three of whom had to go to the hospital, including one who had an eye injury when the officer had a firecracker blow up in his or her face. Right now, as we speak it`s after 3:00 in the morning in Hamburg. Things have died down. After the big and somewhat violent confrontations today, there were a lot of peaceful protesters who stuck around and made themselves know thereafter.
But as of right now, we`re told that heading into tomorrow, despite the very big protests today, things are still on schedule for the official summit which does start tomorrow. And in terms of American politics, that means everybody is bracing for the first official meeting between President Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tomorrow is Trump`s first meeting as president with Putin. But it is not his first meeting as president with a Russian official. I think part of what`s giving so many Americans so much shpilkes about this meeting tomorrow is what happened the last time Trump had a meeting with Russians since he`s been president.
You`ll remember that was the one inside the Oval Office where Trump inexplicably disclosed to the Russians code word protected top secret intelligence that should have never been shared with any other country, but especially not with the Russians. That was also the meeting where he told them overtly that yes, he had fired the FBI director because of the Russian investigation, that he was feeling pressure because of the FBI`s Russia investigation and that firing the FBI director gave him hope that he would be relieved of that pressure from that investigation.
That`s what happened the last time this president met with Russian officials. And also, remember, he got played too. Remember for that meeting, the White House refused to let any American media into the Oval Office to cover that meeting. But Trump did let the Russians persuade him to allow the Russians to bring in their own official Russian photographer with his own equipment into the Oval Office, after which they admitted they had no idea that the photographer also worked for a Russian news agency and would publish all of the photos.
A White House official told "The Washington Post" thereafter, quote, we were not informed by the Russians that their official photographer was dual headed and would be releasing the photographs on the state news agency.
CNN`s Jim Acosta got a White House official to speak much more bluntly on the subject. This was his tweet, quote, White House furious over the Russian government photos of Trump meetings with Lavrov, Kislyak. They tricked us, an official said of the Russians. They tricked us. They lie.
So, it went awesome the last time the president met with Russians. Now, he`s going to meet with Vladimir Putin tomorrow. The only other people in the room beside Trump and Putin and two translators at that meeting will be Rex Tillerson, who was personally awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin for his friendship to the nation of Russia. The only other person beside him will be Sergey Lavrov last seen receiving code word top secret intelligence from Trump in the Oval Office and tricking Trump into allowing into the Oval Office a Russian photographer and his bag full of electronic equipment.
So, it will be just the four of them, making sure America`s interests are protected in the face of Russia`s unprecedented recent attacks on our country. Sure, that should go fine. Richard Engel joins live from Hamburg, next.
MADDOW: Richard Engel is NBC`s chief foreign correspondent. And forgive me for saying so, but he is better at being a foreign correspondent than anybody else in this business in this country. He is the best of his generation.
You can drop Richard Engel anywhere in the world and he will intrepidly hunt out the most important, most newsworthy thing that is happening there. And when the most important news in the world is happening in a place you are not supposed to drop a foreign correspondent, he is the kind of guy who has been known to get himself there any way in order to get the story.
As a young man who did not speak Arabic, Richard moved to Cairo alone, figured he would pick up the language while he was there. He did. When the Iraq war started, he often brought himself to Baghdad on his own steam, started covering it alone as a stringer.
When I started at MSNBC, he started tutoring me on the subtleties of the Middle East and Central Asia, mostly in bars with hand drawn maps that he would make for me on cocktail napkins. I`m not ashamed to admit.
When it was time for me to do a little bit of reporting in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was Richard who hooked me up with his local knowledge, his access to sources and language. On this show, Richard has been our interlocutor of all things international that has been fascinating always. It has also sometimes been terrifying, like him walking us through the five harrowing days he spent in captivity in Syria, after he and his crew got kidnapped.
So, because of all that, I am psyched to tell you that Richard Engel has a new special that he`s doing right here, this network this hour tomorrow night. It`s the first of a new series called "Richard Engel on Assignment". It premieres tonight here.
And tonight, Richard is at the site of the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, where Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are meeting in just a few hours. And Richard joins us live now.
NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel -- Richard, I am so happy we have finally got this new series launched. Congratulations, my friend.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We`ve been talking about this for a long time. I`m really excited about it. Thank you. It`s going to be interesting.
So, we`ll start with this one on Russia, on this meeting between Trump and Putin, and then we have some others in the works.
MADDOW: Tell me about what is going to be in the special tomorrow. Obviously, the Trump-Putin meeting is in just a few hours at the G20 meeting in Hamburg where you are. What are you looking at in terms of the first in this series tomorrow night?
ENGEL: So, the way this show, this series is going to work is it will look at a specific subject, in this case it`s Russia and the U.S. pegged to this meeting, this summit between Putin and Trump. And it tries to look at the issues around it. How does it work?
We`ve heard so much about Russia. We`ve heard so much about the U.S. elections. You`ve covered it so much in your show.
We went to Russia. We went to talk to people who are directly involved in this. We went to several different countries in fact. We`re in Ukraine. We crisscrossed the globe to try to find out a little bit more.
So, what we`re going to be looking at in this special is how do you understand Russia? What is Russia after? What is Russia`s game? What does Vladimir Putin hope to do with all -- what is he up to?
And that`s what this special really tries to look into, the why of the story. And then you know we`re working on another one. I was just in Baghdad the other day and I think -- in Mosul, excuse me, the other day, about the offensive there. We`ll be heading back there soon. We`ll be doing a combination of not just Russia, but some front line reporting and jumping from issue to issue, story to story.
And I think your audience has clearly shown that they want to hear more about complex issues around the world.
MADDOW: And you have also sparked something of an insane and difficult for me fight among all of my producers who want to work with you on these damn things.
So, thank you for making my life much more exciting. But also on a day to day basis, a little more difficult like you always do.
ENGEL: Well, I`m glad that your show didn`t just blow up, that you didn`t step on the land mine that was sent in your inbox.
ENGEL: So, we can keep going and do things like this.
MADDOW: I know.
Richard, something else happened today that I want to ask you about. Do you mind sticking around for one more minute before we let you go?
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back with Richard Engel. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s a thought experiment for you. Imagine if as soon as Donald Trump took office, he and his Republican allies in Congress passed a law that said the editor of your favorite newspaper or the manager of your favorite TV news network would now be hand-selected and installed in office by Donald Trump`s treasury secretary. It would be one of the follow-up questions on election night. Trump has won the election.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who will you put in charge of NBC News now and CNN and "The New York Times." That is not the way it works here, praise Jesus and the Founding Fathers.
But in Poland, that has recently become not a thought experiment. Last night, we started talking about the radical change in government that preceded this visit by President Trump today to Poland. Very conservative right wing nationalist party came to power in Poland less than two years ago. They did all sorts of things to consolidate in themselves all forms of political power. They removed the independent leadership of the secret services. They took over the Supreme Court. They put their finance minister in charge of hiring and firing at media outlets in Poland, and they didn`t make up some high-minded reason for that change.
The president said he signed that law about who`s running media companies because all of those dark journalists were biased against him, so they had to go. Thereafter, they just kept going. They try on a new rule to limit the number of journalists who would be allowed into the parliament. Those who were allowed in to cover the parliament would have to stay in a special room and not go out into the halls where they might run into an actual lawmaker they could talk to. Oh, and also, nobody would be allowed to film or take pictures anymore. That proposal sparked such a backlash, including days of street protests and a blockade of the parliamentary hall by opposition lawmakers.
But the ruling party eventually scrapped that plan. Poland`s president then said that the plan had only been intended to, quote, help journalists organize their work better. That`s nice.
And, you know, it`s one thing, you know, whether or not you call about Poland. But today, after in recent weeks Senate Republicans here briefly tried to institute a plan where American journalists would no longer be allowed to interview anybody in the halls of the U.S. Senate. After a few weeks press briefings stopped almost altogether at the State Department and where journalists have recently been restricted from using their cameras or even their audio recorders even at White House briefings, today, our new president went to Poland where they`ve had radical curtailment of the press in the last couple of years.
And standing beside the Polish president, our American president joined him in attacking the press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have been fake news for a long time. They`ve been covering me in a very dishonest way. Do you have that also, by the way, Mr. President?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: See that face the Polish president made?
In Polish, that face means, we did have that, Mr. President, but then we just fired all of the journalists. You should try it. Used to have that problem.
In any year before this year, Poland`s media crackdown is the kind of thing that you would expect a visiting American president in Poland to raise a big stink about. Not to make common cause with.
Still with us is NBC chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel.
Richard, thank you for sticking around. I wanted to ask you about this part of the presidential visit today to Poland. As a journalist who works around the world often in inhospitable places, do you think that it matters materially when an American president says stuff like that in a venue like that? Does it have an impact or is it just noise?
ENGEL: No, I think it has an enormous impact. If you remember when President Trump got elected, I`m sure you do, the international reactions around the world, first most effusive reactions to come in were from countries like Poland, the far right government there, the far right government in Hungary, far right leaders like Marine Le Pen, the Brexit movement in the U.K. They thought they had a new member of the club. They thought, the U.S. now has someone just like us, sympathetic to our cause.
Whereas the sort of let`s call them other European countries were somewhat diplomatic. But in private, in private conversations I had with them, their hair was on fire.
So, it does matter when you have the U.S. president come and share the stage with the government, with a country who is tearing apart press freedom and sort of jokes about, you know, how is the press going in your country? I think it sends an absolutely loud and clear message of encouragement that this kind of behavior is not only tolerable, but it`s something that the United States and the U.S. president encourages.
MADDOW: And, Richard, looking ahead to the G20 and to obviously everybody is very much focused on that bilateral meeting between Trump and Putin which is going to happen in just a few hours, what do you think we should be looking for in terms of the way Trump is received in that stage tomorrow, from that important bilateral meeting, but in general at this summit? In terms of America`s role in the world and how it`s changed under this president, what are you going to be watching for?
ENGEL: I want to watch the statements that come out of the meeting between Putin and Trump. You brought up a tiny example but I think a really revealing one. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was in the Oval Office and then, suddenly, the Russians released the photograph which the White House really didn`t want to release.
And I would be curious to know if tomorrow there will be dual releases. The U.S. will release some summary of what happened during the meeting and the Russians will as well. I want to see who goes further.
And if the Russians go further and further and start laying out all of the things that they supposedly agreed upon, will the U.S. push back? Will President Trump say, well, we didn`t do that or will that become policy? Will he get played?
That`s one of the things I want to see about, because there could be some very big statements there. And if this is not -- this is not the policy that Trump agrees to, he`s going to have to go out and say, no, Putin lied. So we will see.
MADDOW: Richard Engel, NBC`s chief foreign correspondent, the host of the brand-new series "On Assignment with Richard Engel" which starts tomorrow night in this very timeslot, and we could not be more psyched about it, 9:00 Eastern MSNBC.
Richard, thank you so much. I`m super psyched for tomorrow. Thank you for being here tonight, man.
ENGEL: Until tomorrow.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We reported late last week on the president`s new Commission on Election Integrity. It`s been making a lot of news over the past few days because of the person in charge of it, Kris Kobach, and his decision to send this letter to elections officials in all 50 states, asking those elections officials to give up personal information for every single voter registered to vote in all of those states. For every voter in every state, he wants full names, addresses, date of birth, political party, the last four digits of your Social Security number, your voting history back to 2006. Pretty much everything short of what you ate for breakfast every day you ever voted and whether or not you liked it.
Should all of those pieces of information really all be collated in one convenient place for everybody in the country? Really?
Before today, even as there has been sort of increasing upset over that request to the states, before today, it had been an open question as to what exactly the White House intended to do with all this data, where they plan to keep all of this super personal information about every single voter in America.
Today, we got our answer. "Washington Post" reports that according to Kris Kobach, all that voter information for every voter in the country will be stored on White House computers under the direction of a member of the vice president`s staff. Well, that`s fine, then.
This past year, we now know in an attack that continued right up until days before the election, Russian hackers tried to access voter data from individual states. They successfully broke into multiple states` voter registration systems. That is a scary thing to hear about in terms of the integrity of our elections.
What`s always been the silver lining here, the thing that makes stealing voter information and stealing elections so hard to do in this country, is that every state has its own system, their own database where they store all their sensitive information about their voters in different ways. Hackers would have to crack 50 different systems. That`s been a safeguard thus far.
And the feeling that that safeguard might be endangered is what`s been rumbling underneath this news that the White House wants to put all that information about every single voter in all 50 states all in one place, on a White House server. What could possibly go wrong?
Depending on how you count it, somewhere between 14 and 45 states have already said they will not turn over some or all of that data to Kris Kobach`s office and to Mike Pence`s laptop. It`s been an amazing, even entertaining scene to watch the responses from various states trying to sound more resistant and more upstanding and refusing to hand over their voters` personal information.
But even as that has unfolded, something else happened the day that Kris Kobach sent all those letters to the state. And that other thing is arguably more important than your Social Security number ending up in a mystery meat government database somewhere in Mike Pence`s office. And that other thing that happened that same day, that`s next.
MADDOW: Before the 2000 presidential election, Florida, under then Governor Jeb Bush, paid a private company to purify Florida`s voter rolls. You know, eliminate duplicates and take off dead people or felons who are on the rolls.
The resulting list was full of mistakes. The state ended up wrongly purging thousands of people off the rolls who should have been allowed to vote, disproportionately they purged African-American voters. And because this was Florida in 2000, because Jeb`s brother ended up winning by just over 500 votes, the decision to kick those thousands of people off the rolls wrongfully very well could have swayed not just the results in Florida but arguably the presidency.
And that`s where the White House`s new pop-up election commission comes in. The same day this past week that a letter went out from the White House`s new commission to all 50 states asking for voter information from everybody who has voted in every state, this letter also went out not from Kris Kobach and the pop-up commission but from the Justice Department. State election officials got this from the Justice Department informing them that Justice is, quote, reviewing voter registration list maintenance procedures in each state to make sure states are in compliance with the law that decides who should be kicked off the voter rolls.
Justice Department tells the states to explain how they`re going to kick people off the rolls in every state in the country. We talked to officials in Rhode Island and California, who told us that the Justice Department letter was a total surprise out of nowhere. People who track this sort of thing say the letter is unprecedented. They`re calling it a directive from the federal government to start purging voters off the rolls.
It appears that the Justice Department is laying the groundwork for a lawsuit if states refuse. This is one to keep an eye on. We have seen big purges of the voting rolls before, and we have seen it go very, very wrong.
Whether or not there is a national effort to push for that sort of thing, we do not know. But watch this space. The Department of Justice pushing for that, again, it`s unprecedented, and we don`t know how this is going to work out. Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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