The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 7/10/17 NYT: Russian Govt. sought to help Trump

Guests: Adam Schiff

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 10, 2017 Guest: Adam Schiff

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: At the end of the day, we all boil down to our irreducible desire to tweet.

HAYES: That`s exactly right. I was always like, I see you. I see what you`re doing and I`ve got to say I relate to what you`re doing.

MADDOW: Ashes to ashes, dust to guy tweeting in the corner. I know, I know how that goes. Thanks, my friend. Thanks for joining us this hour.

Week and a half ago, there was this strange and fascinating report in "The Wall Street Journal" from national security reporter Shane Harris. That reporting was the first time we ever had any documentation, any confirmed reporting about any American citizen making an effort to get involved in the Russian attack on our presidential election last year. That "Wall Street Journal" scoop, again, about a week and a half ago, was about this wealthy Republican operative who had funded, and who`d been involved in opposition research efforts and dirty tricks campaigns against Bill Clinton, all the way back in the `90s in Arkansas.

What Shane Harris at "The Wall Street Journal" was able to report was that Republican operative, Peter Harris, at the end of last summer, he assembled a team to try to get in contact with, to try to get in cahoots with Russian hackers. Before Peter Smith died earlier this year at the age of 81, he freely admitted to "The Wall Street Journal" that he had surmised that these Russian hackers he was trying to get in touch with were probably linked to the Russian government. That didn`t bother him. He thought the Russian government hackers attacking our election system might have been able to hack Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.

And so, he formed this team late last summer to try to find the appropriate group of hackers, to try to make contact with them, to try to get Hillary Clinton`s stolen e-mails off of them so those e-mails could be deployed against her in the campaign on behalf of Trump supporters. So, it`s really interesting bombshell reporting from Shane Harris, again, about a week and a half ago. It was a big advance in terms of what we understand about this story and what we as Americans understand about what happened to our country last year. I mean, it is now well-established or it is at least firmly attested to by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies that the Russians did this attack last year and it had a few different elements to it, right?

And all of these elements we`re getting more detail on all the time, but we`ve got the basics. It was a three-pronged attack, right? Russian government and military hackers first went after U.S. state and local election systems. They targeted voter registration rolls. We`re still not exactly sure what they did with that information, but we do know that they tried it on in multiple states. That was the -- that was one prong of the three-prong attack.

Second prong was a sophisticated intensive propaganda effort largely used in social media, but also used in Russian state controlled traditional media outlets like RT and Sputnik. Incidentally, there have been reports that U.S. investigators are also looking into whether or that American pro- Trump right win media outlets like "Breitbart News" might also have been part of that second prong. But those reports are as yet unconfirmed.

But the third prong of this three-prong Russian attack on our country last year was straight up hacking. The Russians hacked into American political organizations, notably including the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. They stole data from those sources and then they strategically fed that information back into the United States to try to inflict maximum political damage on Hillary Clinton and not incidentally to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

So, we know about that three-pronged Russian attack. And that reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" a week and a half ago was a really significant advance to understanding what happened. Because for the first time in that "Wall Street Journal" report, we had news that American citizens tried to participate in one prong of that Russian attack.

American citizens tried to participate in the third prong, the hacking part. They tried to obtain some of the Hillary Clinton materials they believe the Russians had hack and stolen because they wanted to use them for political effect on behalf of Donald Trump. Now, in addition to advancing the story in that way, advancing our understanding of what happened, there were two big specific revelations in that "Wall Street Journal" reporting that really brought that story to the doorstep of the White House.

The first is that Peter Smith, this now deceased long time Republican operative who admitted to "The Wall Street Journal" that he was running this project, that he was trying to work with the Russians, he claimed during those efforts that he was working with Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn who at the time of those efforts was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign. Now, Mike Flynn is not confirming whether or not that`s true. He`s not commenting on that reporting at all.

But the other big specific revelation in that Shane Harris piece in "The Wall Street Journal" which sort of corroborated or at least supported that claim about Flynn is that in that same "Wall Street Journal" piece, Shane Harris also reported that U.S. investigators, quote, have examined reports from intelligence agencies that described Russian hackers discussing how to obtain e-mails from Hillary Clinton`s server and then transmit them to Mike Flynn via an intermediary. So -- I mean, that still doesn`t mean for sure that Mike Flynn, then a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, it`s still doesn`t mean that Mike Flynn for sure was in on this project, to work with the Russians on their attack.

I mean, we have reported that the guy running that project claimed he was working with Flynn. We have reporting quoting a number of people who were either involved in that project or who were approached to be involved in that project saying that Peter Smith, the guy running it, told them that Flynn was part of it. We`ve got this report from "The Wall Street Journal" that these intelligence reports about Russian hackers trying to get Clinton e-mails and trying to get them to Mike Flynn through an intermediary.

So, the statements by Peter Smith, the fact that he said those statements not just to the "Wall Street Journal" but to multiple people at the time, these intelligence reports which describe something that sounds very much like that, I mean, none of that is proof that Mike Flynn was involved in it. That`s a lot of smoke burning around that specific question of whether or not a senior adviser to the Trump campaign was in on the Russian attack, right? There`s strong suggestion here, but no proof.

One of the most remarkable elements of that reporting, which is so important in he retrospect, was that even though that suggestion about Mike Flynn being in on this thing was as red hot as you can possibly get, right? All that smoke. All that sort of circumstantial evidence that the Trump campaign senior adviser was involved in the Russian attack, despite what a bombshell that would be if that were proven to be true, Mike Flynn has no comment on the matter and the White House doesn`t even try to say it didn`t happen.

You remember what the White House statement was in that "Wall Street Journal" report? On whether or not Mike Flynn really did participate in that effort to get involved in the Russian attack? The White House statement on that to "The Wall Street Journal" was, quote, if Mike Flynn coordinated with this in any way, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual.

So they`re not denying it, right? They`re saying, you know, in other words, yes, sure, maybe we had a guy on the campaign who was working with the Russians on their attack and sure, maybe we later made him national security adviser. But that whole thing where he was working with the Russians on their attack, that was like a hobby. That was, like, you know, a side -- that was his after school project. That was -- it`s, like, something he did on his own, nothing to do with us.

So, that "Wall Street Journal" report was not this past Thursday, but the Thursday before. The following night, so two Fridays ago, the night after that initial "Wall Street Journal" report, they moved the ball a little bit further when in a second story, they reported that in addition to Mike Flynn, Peter Smith, this Republican operative running that operation to try to get involved in that Russian attack, to try to help the Russian attack, "The Journal" reported last Friday night that he also claimed to be in communication with, in coordination with not just Flynn but a number of other people who were senior campaign officials on the Trump campaign at the time and who are now senior officials in the Trump administration. He said that he was involved with, he was in communication with, he was in coordination with not just Flynn but also Steve Bannon, Sam Clovis, Kellyanne Conway.

So, that was reporting on two subsequent nights from "The Wall Street Journal". And all of that was incredibly dangerous reporting for the Trump campaign and Trump administration, right? Evidence that there were Americans involved in trying to help Russia attack the United States.

And that American effort was admittedly led by a Trump supporter who said at the time, who admitted openly, who bragged about the fact that he was working directly with the Trump campaign, right? At least he was working directly with Mike Flynn and these other folks. He was at least in communication coordination with them to some extent, right?

That is very dangerous stuff for the Trump campaign and obviously for the Trump administration. But as worried as the Trump folks must have been by that report, I think the comfort they could take was that there was no definitive proof that the Trump campaign was involved, right? Maybe it looks like there`s a lot of suggestion that Flynn was involved. Certainly the guy running it said other Trump campaign people were involved. But that`s not proof, all right? That reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" sort of crept right up to the water`s edge, but it did not dip in a toe. That was the status of this story before this weekend.

And then this weekend, cannon ball. "The New York Times" reporting this weekend follows that initial "Wall Street Journal" report. It is now the second documented confirmed report of Americans participating knowingly in the Russian effort to affect our election. This time, the incident occurs two months early than that effort convened by Republican operative Peter Smith that was reported in "The Wall Street Journal."

And this time, it is not someone who was acting as a Trump supporter. It`s not somebody who was acting in, you know, adjunct to the Trump campaign and in support of Trump campaign. It`s no longer someone who says he knows people and is maybe working with people on the Trump campaign. No.

This time, it`s the Trump campaign itself at the highest level. It`s the president`s campaign manager. It`s his son-in-law and senior adviser. They`re not denying they were in the room for this meeting.

And his eldest son, his namesake, not only admits attending this meeting, he`s planed that the reason he took the meeting, the whole reason he went was because he thought he might be able to obtain some new dirt on Hillary Clinton from this Russian lawyer who was coming to Trump Tower for a meeting, coming to Trump Tower for a meeting to talk about dirt on Hillary Clinton. Coming to Trump tower on the recommendation of someone that Donald Trump, Jr., knew from the time the Trump Organization put on the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow with a financial partnership with a Russian oligarch known to be close to Vladimir Putin.

Now, meeting with a Russian person who you know or in this case meeting with a Russian person who you say you don`t know, that`s not a crime. It`s a little weird for that to happen in the heat of a presidential campaign and for the meeting to involve the president`s son, his son in law and his campaign manager. They`re all meeting with somebody they don`t know from another country. I mean, it`s weird, but it`s not criminal.

That said, it may actually be criminal. If the stated and explicit purpose of that meeting is because they`re aware that foreign nationals are trying to influence a U.S. election and they explicitly overtly take that meeting because they would like to help those foreign nationals in their goal of trying to influence our election in a way that will hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

If you explicitly take a meeting with the express purpose of trying to help foreign nationals succeed in their attack on the United States, which you understand they are carrying out, if that`s the case, then you admitting to taking that meeting, which Donald Trump, Jr., has now done? That is -- that`s a lot of things.

But that is not a smart thing to admit to if you`re trying to avoid potential criminal liability, say, in case these things are ever investigated or prosecuted which I don`t know. They might be. Who can say?

There have been a lot of surprises in the reporting on the Trump/Russia affair. This evening it was, however, the least surprising news yet when we learned that Donald Trump, Jr., has finally now hired a lawyer to help represent him in the investigations into the Russian attack on our election and the investigations into whether or not the Trump campaign or anybody associated with the campaign ever tried to help in that attack. So, yes, now, he`s got a lawyer now that he explicitly admitted he took that meeting to try to help the Russian attack.

So, now, in the space of a week and a half we have had two major stories. None of which are denied by any of the principles involved. First two major stories about that Russian attack last year having American confederates. And the first in "The Wall Street Journal" was about a Trump supporter who suggested he had links to the Trump campaign. The second story broken this weekend by "The New York Times" was that it was the Trump campaign.

At which point, like, from a distance, is this kind of a game over moment, right? I mean, this is -- I mean, at the beginning of the scandal, this is what everybody was wondering about. Might something like this have happened, could something like this ever be proved? Is it really possible something like this could have happened?

Now that it`s upon us, though it`s interesting that they`re really not denying that it happened. I mean, I think in both of these instances, both "The Wall Street Journal" story and "The New York Times" story the reporting is so good they can`t really deny that it happened. Instead their defense, I guess, has to be yes, it happened, but so what? I mean, with reporting this good, the Trump campaign defense, the White House defense basically has to be that yes, this stuff happened, but there`s nothing wrong with what they did. They`re not embarrassed by it.

This behavior is totally fine. All these meetings with Russians and contacts with Russians throughout the campaign, nothing to be embarrassed about. They`re totally on the up and up.

The problem with that is their defense is that if that were the case, you would expect them to have been totally up front about all of their Russian meetings, all of their Russian contacts from the very beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Are there any ties between Mr. Trump, you, or your campaign and Putin and his regime?

PAUL MANAFORT, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: No, there are not. It`s absurd and there`s no basis for it.

JOHN DICKERSON, CBC NEWS HOST: Did anyone involved in the Trump campaign have any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely not.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: I`m asking you a direct question. Was there any contact in any way between Trump or his associates and the Kremlin or cutouts they have?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I joined this campaign in the summer and I can tell you that all the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people.

WALLACE: By contacts, sir, I`m just trying to get an answer.

PENCE: Yes. Of course not. Why would be there any contacts?

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not have any communications with the Russians. And I`m unable to comment on it.

DICKERSON: Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the election?

PENCE: Of course not.

REPORTER: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I told you general Flynn obviously was dealing, so that`s one person, but he was dealing as he should have been.

REPORTER: During the election?

TRUMP: No. Nobody that I know of.

CONWAY: This conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it`s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it`s dangerous and it does undermine our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: What`s about that undermining our democracy?

This latest reporting about a Kremlin linked lawyer meeting during the campaign with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr., and Paul Manafort, this is on the one hand just the latest in what is now an incredibly long string of meetings and contacts between people in the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the campaign and during the transition. Meetings that were all denied. None of which were initially disclosed until the press figured them out one by one and then oh, yes, one by one they`ve admitted to each of them. Oh, yes, I forgot that one too. Oh, yes, I forgot that one too.

But in addition to that, this new reporting really does include an explicit admission from the president`s son who was acting as a campaign official that when the Trump campaign learned that Russians had launched a hacking attack against the United States to try to influence the outcome of our election, the Trump campaign response to that at the highest levels was, how can we get in on that? To see what the Trump campaign might be able to get out of that sweet, sweet foreign attack on the United States.

At the beginning of this saga, there were so many mysteries, so many intriguing questions that we now have answers to. We now have answers to the worst and most damming of though questions. We knew about the Russian attack. We knew the Trump campaign was denying any contacts with Russians.

There was this interesting question as to whether or not it was possible that any American, let alone anybody connected to the Trump campaign, might have been aware of, let alone involved with, let alone supportive of that Russian attack. We`ve now got answers to those questions. And honestly, it is now therefore no longer a question of whether they did it. It`s just a question of what`s going to happen now that we know that, now that they are admitting it.

And let me add this. Just within the last couple of minutes, and we`re going to have more on this in just a second, just in the last couple of minutes, "The New York Times" has published an addendum to the story. I`m just going to read you the lead of this, OK? Just to put the cherry on top of this.

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin connected Russian lawyer he believe would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Jr., was informed in an e-mail that the material he was going to get about Hillary Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father`s candidacy.

The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone`s who helped brokered that June 2016 meeting. Mr. Goldstone`s message as described to "The New York Times" by three people indicates explicitly that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information.

Ahead of that meeting, they knew it was Russian government. Ahead of that meeting the president`s son, according to this new reporting was informed, hey, the Russian government has dirt on Hillary Clinton. And apparently, the response to that was -- just broken tonight in "The New York Times" just moments ago.

Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. He joins us next for an extended interview tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, I want to circle back to the breaking news about this top story that we`ve been following tonight, that the president`s son, Donald Trump, Jr., met with a Russian lawyer during the campaign along with campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. That`s where we began tonight at the top of the show and then midway through the block, midway through my opening segment "The New York Times" just published some very important updating to that reporting.

Again, this is just posted by "The New York Times" in the last few minutes. Here`s the headline: Russian government sought to aid Trump`s candidacy according to e-mail.

So, you`ll remember the basics of this story. A man named Rob Goldstone who had been connected to the Miss Universe pageant that the Trump Organization had put on in Moscow with financial partner who was a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Rob Goldstone reportedly was the acquaintance of Donald Trump, Jr., who contacted him to set up this meeting in June 2016 with this Kremlin-backed lawyer.

Donald Trump Jr. then reportedly accepted the invitation for meeting and asked Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner to be there as well. Now, according to "The New York Times," before that meeting happened, Donald Trump, Jr., was told in an e-mail from this guy Rob Goldstone who he knew, told that there would be compromising information about Hillary Clinton offered in this meeting and he was informed explicitly in this e-mail, according to "The Times", quote, that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father`s candidacy. This e-mail message was described to "The New York Times" by three people and according to "The Times", they have not published the e-mail, but they say the e-mail indicates that the source of this potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton was the Russian government.

And then after that e-mail, Donald Trump, Jr., accepted the invitation for the meeting. It convened in Trump Tower. He was there, along with the Trump campaign chairman and Jared Kushner.

Again, as we were saying at the top of this hour, there have now been two major reports that there were apparently willing American efforts to help what was a Russian attack on our country, a Russian effort to affect our election. The first report was in "The Wall Street Journal", a week and a half ago about supporters of the Trump campaign who said they were connected to the Trump contain. Now, we`ve got information that it was the Trump campaign who was trying to do basically the same thing, and this reporting just out moments ago says they knew that the information behind the meeting that they took with this Russian Kremlin-backed lawyer was information that had been obtained by the Russian government which was trying to help the Trump campaign.

This answers a lot of questions. It does not answer what`s going to happen next.

Joining us now is Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He`s the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee in the House. He`s here tonight for the interview.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It`s good to be with you.

MADDOW: I have a lot of things to talk to you about, but this has just come out. Have you had a chance to absorb this reporting?

SCHIFF: Yes. I have, yes.

MADDOW: Can you tell me if you think this is a significant advance in the story, if this is a serious development?

SCHIFF: It`s a very serious development and I think we need to look at this in the chronology, and that is this goes back to June of last year just when the now president has essentially seized the Republican nomination. If this article is correct, his son gets an e-mail from someone who helped the Trump family saying the Russian government is helping your father get elected president, we have some damaging information, you should take this meeting. Donald, Jr. takes the meeting with this woman who`s an advocate for the Kremlin, along with Kushner and Paul Manafort.

During that meeting, she brings up the Magnitsky Act, which is a bill that provides sanctions on human right abusers in Russia, something that Putin hated. After that meeting, we know what happens in terms of the hacking and dumping, the dumping of documents. This meeting purportedly in June. In July, the Russians start dumping documents helpful to Donald Trump, hurtful to Hillary Clinton.

And then, you know, flash forward after the election. Investigation starts. And the family is asked, the president is asked, did you have any meetings with any representatives of the Russian government? The answer is no, absolutely not. Not in a million years.

And then Donald, Jr. is asked well, what about this meeting? And in a pattern we have seen over and over again, when confronted with evidence of particular meetings, they`re forced to acknowledge, oh, well, yes, we did have that meeting. But that meeting was about adoptions.

MADDOW: Right.

SCHIFF: They`re confronted again and then it`s acknowledged, OK, Paul Manafort came to this meeting about adoptions. Now, why will the campaign manager come to a meeting about adoptions? Then it`s acknowledged, OK, it wasn`t really just about adoptions, it was about sanctions, the Magnitsky Act, but it was also because we were offered damaging material against Hillary Clinton, which we were really disappointed with, that it wasn`t damaging enough and she didn`t seem to have the goods. But, of course, the goods came out the following month.

So, obviously, there`s a lot to impact here, but the chronology I think is very concerning. It`s all warrants a thorough investigation. Everyone who was in that meeting ought to come before our committee. These e-mails that are described we need to see. It`s obviously a narrative completely at odds with what the first family has said and represented time after time.

So, I think it`s very significant.

MADDOW: The defense against the implications of this reporting has been evolving on the right. It`s not just from the White House. It`s from the president`s supporters as well. You`re seeing it really I think a lot in the conservative media now. And that is that even if you don`t like this, you find it distasteful that Americans might have cooperated in what the Russians were doing to influence our election, there`s nothing criminal about it. The collusion, like, you know, like the term person of interest, it`s a way the people talk about the law that doesn`t actually reflect any sort of criminal statute.

What do you think about that argument?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, one of the things it makes me wonder, because we have been now hearing this evolving argument. First, there was no collusion, and then there was this shift to OK, even if there was collusion, that`s not a crime.

Now, what I wonder when these stories started coming out is these stories don`t appear in a vacuum. The reporters who write these stories often will go to get a comment or feedback and so, the family might know these stories are coming out. Does this account for the shifting narrative away from there`s no evidence of collusion to collusion is not a crime? I don`t know.

The reality is conspiracy is a crime. Now, collusion is a colloquial term. Conspiracy is a crime.

MADDOW: Conspiracy to do what though?

SCHIFF: Well, the hacking of American institutions by foreign power is a crime. If there is a conspiracy to obtain foreign assistance in violation of U.S. election laws in a campaign, that`s a crime. Now, I`m not saying that these crimes were committed, but those are crimes.

MADDOW: Was foreign assistance, and I`ve seen a lot of sort of lawyerly writing about this today, and I`m not a lawyer so I`m not sure I always get it. But I get that foreigners are not allowed to make campaign contributions, for example. That foreigners are not allowed to play that kind of explicit role in our elections.

And I would understand even from a non-lawyer`s perspective that soliciting that or conspiring to make that happen or even covering up that that happened might be seen as a crime, if you were talking about something like campaign donations. In this case, it seems like what they`re talking about is a Russian effort to influence our election, but not necessarily by giving the Trump campaign money or giving anybody money, although we don`t know about that part of it. It seems like the way they were trying to influence it by giving them something else of value, giving them intel, giving maybe, you know, stolen documents.

Does that fall under the same part of the criminal law?

SCHIFF: Well, it certainly could, in a couple ways. First of all, this meeting in June where the Magnitsky Act is raised and this advocate for the Kremlin wants basically Donald Trump if he becomes president to do away with the Magnitsky act. If in that meeting they signaled an openness, or willingness of his activity to doing that, and there`s any kind of quit pro quo arrangement, that is, help us get elected, we`ll do away with this. Obviously, that would be a crime. I`m not saying that`s what took place.

But when we`re looking at what are potential violations here, that would obviously be a violation. But also if there is an effort to solicit what would be an in kind contribution, that is if you can do op research for us and provide that to us, that I think very much invokes whether there`s an illegal solicitation of an in kind contribution, a failure to report what would be an illegal contribution from a foreign power and, of course, any false statements about any of that would be offense. So, they`re clearly under certain circumstances are lots of criminal laws that would be applicable.

Now, again, very separate question about whether that`s the case here. But you can`t say as a generic overarching matter that getting the help of a foreign power in election is not a crime, because there are a lot of circumstances where it would be.

MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Untelligence committee.

Can you stick around, sir?

SCHIFF: Yes.

MADDOW: We`ll be back with Congressman Schiff in just a moment. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: We`re back now with Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

As we are absorbing this information from "The New York Times", they reporting citing an e-mail described to "The New York Times" by three people, that ahead of the meeting that took place last June, which was reported on by "The Times" this weekend, between a Kremlin-backed lawyer and basically the triumvirate at the top of the Trump campaign, his campaign manager, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his eldest son Donald Jr., before that meeting took place, the acquaintance -- business acquaintance who arranged that meeting sent an e-mail to Donald Trump, Jr., informing him explicitly that if they were going to get compromising information about Hillary Clinton from this meeting, they should know that that material was from the Russian government. And it was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father`s candidacy.

Congressman Schiff, one of the things that was reported by "The New York Times" in their initial version of this story this weekend, was that this meeting they had discovered evidence of was first disclosed by Jared Kushner when he revised his application for a security clearance. Apparently, he`s revised that application multiple times now.

They then said that Paul Manafort had also described this meeting in documents that he handed over to congressional investigators.

Can you tell us anything about either of those sets of documentation, any of that information as it pertains to your committee, House Intelligence?

SCHIFF: I can`t. I can`t go into what documents we received or what the contents are. One other thing that really leaps out about this to me is this is taking place in June. So, this is taking place before the documents are dumped. Now, one of the questions that we`re investigating is did the Russians begin this as an intelligence gathering operation and later decide to make it a weaponization of data organization operation or did that begin with that intent in mind? And --

MADDOW: I`m sorry to interrupt. You`re saying that the Russians had done the hacking already but at the point of this meeting they were holding the intelligence? They were holding the stuff that they had stolen?

SCHIFF: Yes.

MADDOW: But then after this meeting happened in Trump Tower, they then started releasing it publicly?

SCHIFF: If this is in June of 2016, that`s exactly right. So, the hacking had been earlier. The theft of documents had been earlier. But they hadn`t been dumped. And at this point, we wouldn`t have known that the Russians intended to escalate that way.

So, if this is correct, the first person who may have found out that the Russians had decided not just to gather information about what the candidate`s positions might be or what they might do in office, but they had made a decision to intervene to try to help a candidate. The first person who may have learned that was the president`s son through this e- mail, because at that time, we couldn`t be sure whether this was going to go beyond the intelligence gathering operation.

MADDOW: So, when they were just stealing stuff, when they were stealing documents, that`s what I traditionally think of as a spying operation. I think of spying mostly as stealing secrets. When -- whether it`s, you know, potentially damaging political information or useful industrial information or military, whatever it is. Stealing information is fine.

But when it came to turn that around and not just let the Russian government use it for its purposes at home, but to use it on the American public to change our behavior, that was -- that`s what you`re describing as the weaponization of that information.

SCHIFF: Yes, exactly.

MADDOW: And that`s what was new about this attack, right?

SCHIFF: Absolutely.

You know, other countries engage in foreign intelligence gathering. We engage in foreign intelligence gathering. What was remarkable here was that the Russians decided to go beyond that in the most powerful nation on Earth, and that is turn that data into a weapon designed to influence outcomes.

And, as I mentioned in that very early open hearing we had with James Comey in the House, the period of the summer of last year was very significant, because that`s when it went from information gathering to weaponization. So, what was it about that summer? What was happening during that summer?

Now we know during that summer, the Republican Party platform did not incorporate that strong language about providing defensive weapons to Ukraine. So, the platform went in a pro-Russian direction. Was there also some effect of this meeting or other meetings? These are unanswered questions that we really need to find out. Were there things that contributed to the Russians willingness to intervene on our election?

MADDOW: One last question for you on this. The Russian government doesn`t operate in the same way that our government does. All governments are different. It seems like one of the things that we as Americans have a hard time wrapping our head around is that a Russian -- somebody acting on behalf of the Russian president, somebody acting on behalf of the Russian government isn`t always a Russian government official.

So, in this case, the person who was in this meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort apparently talking about sanctions and they believed she was going to be talking to them about dirt on Hillary Clinton, that the Russian government had obtained according to this new reporting, she`s a private lawyer. She says that she`s never worked on behalf of the Russian government.

We certainly know that she was married to a Russian government official. She has represented high ranking Russian government officials and their family members. But she`s not herself an official. She is just a Russian lawyer.

Does that at all change your understanding of whether or not this -- this was an effort connected to the Russian government`s operations?

SCHIFF: Not at all, because this is how the Russian government operates. They use oligarchs. They use influential people that have spent time in the United States or other countries as extensions of their power and their influence.

In fact, when we had Director Brennan -- former CIA Director Brennan testify in open session in the House, he talked about this, how the Russians will use people sometimes unbeknownst to their American targets and he talked about being concerned with things he was seeing, that he referred these matters to Director Comey for counter intelligence investigation. And he also said that you might see contacts with Americans that rise to the level of having these counter intelligence concerns where the Americans before they know it get entangled in ways they may not have been able to see coming.

But what`s significant here, of course, is if this e-mail, if this report about this e-mail is accurate, an e-mail said the Russian government is trying to help your father, then there`s no mystery about what this lawyer is up to and who she`s representing, because that was the whole purpose of the meeting. So, you can`t claim ignorance if you`re told in advance this person is acting essentially as an agent in the Russian government.

MADDOW: And if that e-mail ends up, that written warning to you ends up in "The New York Times" months later, it makes sense that today is the day you got yourself a lawyer.

Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, it`s nice to have you here, sir. Thank you.

SCHIFF: Thank you very much.

MADDOW: Really appreciate having you here.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

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MADDOW: So, on top of tonight`s big political news, we also have some breaking and tragic news coming to us tonight out of state of Mississippi. We`re learning tonight that a U.S. Marine Corps military transport plane, a C130 has crashed in northwestern Mississippi. Seeing this remarkable footage of the crash scene. Obviously, this was a fatal accident.

We, so far, have had conflicting accounts as to the number of people killed. We are assuming that the people who were killed in this crash would have been U.S. Marines, but we do not have confirmation of that.

The Mississippi NBC affiliate, WNBD is reporting that at least eight bodies have been recovered from the crash scene. In terms of the cause of the crash, it`s unclear. Local reporting says the plane appears to have broken up at about 20,000 feet. A spokesperson for the Marine Corps is only saying the C130 experienced a mishap. But you can see what the results is.

Local officials say this military plane crashed about 5:00 p.m., just before 5:00 p.m. local time near Greenwood, Mississippi, which is on the border of Sunflower and Leflore Counties in the Mississippi Delta. It is unclear at this time where the plane took off from or where it was headed.

Again, we do not have confirmation on the death toll or whether or not all the people involved here would have been U.S. Marines. But this is a Marine Corps C130. It`s coming out of Northwestern Mississippi. A C130 crashing with what appears to be multiple people killed. We are still getting conflicting reports but we`ll let you know as we get better information. Stay with us.

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MADDOW: Lake Norman is the largest manmade fresh water lake in North Carolina. It`s about 20 miles north of Charlotte, great little vacation spot. They have water sports, lots of local breweries, pretty good fishing. Also, a booming pontoon boat scene.

That was Lake Norman this weekend outside Senator Thom Tillis` lake house. Senator Tillis hasn`t faced his constituents at a town hall meeting since he was elected three years ago, so they came to him this weekend. A flotilla of pontoon boats sailing past his lake house to protest a Republican health care bill that would put 22 million people off their health insurance.

They had nautically appropriate sink Trumpcare signs and a big loud speaker P.A. system. They also had a water slide strapped to the roof of one boat, which I think should be at every protest.

With the Senate on recess last week, protests against the Republican health care bill continued all across the country while senators were at home. Members of the Ohio chapter of the disability rights group ADAPT staged an overnight sit-in at Senator Rob Portman`s Columbus office. That lasted more than 12 hours. That protest ended dramatically when 15 people were arrested.

I`m going to show you a short video that may be a little bit upsetting. One woman was tipped out of her wheelchair by a police officer. Luckily, ADAPT says that none of their protesters were seriously injured by police. Some people were carried out of the building and put onto the ground, then loaded onto police vans.

Today, the Senate came back from recess. Protesters were ready for them at the Capitol, having given them such a hard time at home. At Senator Dean Heller`s Capitol office, parents brought their kids with disabilities to show how the Republican plan would affect the services they need to keep their families alive and together.

A handful of protesters packed into Senator Corey Gardner`s lobby at the Capitol, chanting, let me live, let me live, as a staffer stood there awkwardly and watch. Protesters were then zip tied and perp walked out of the building by capitol police.

Similar thing over at Ted Cruz`s office, about 15 activists, a lot of them nurses were kicked out of his lobby, so they laid down on the hallway floor right outside and they kept chanting. Police tried to carry one of these guys out by his arms and his ankles at the wrong angle.

Senator Jeff Flake`s constituents camped outside his office on the floor. They made a human chain to avoid being dragged off.

Protesters also door-stopped Speaker Paul Ryan. They eventually wrangled themselves into his office despite the closed door. They chanted their concerns about the bill. The staffer said he would pass along their message to the speaker.

All said and undid, at least 80 people were arrested on Capitol Hill today.

Republicans on the Hill say they plan to release their new and improved version of their health care bill soon. They say they could vote on it as early as next week. But the longer the wait, the harder it presumably gets to turn a blind eye to just how unpopular what they`re trying to do -- how unpopular it is. Every day they drag this thing out, the louder it gets. Watch this space.

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MADDOW: So, this weekend, we learned from "The New York Times" that the Trump campaign in June took a meeting with a Kremlin-backed Russian lawyer, and the reason they took that meeting according to Donald Trump Jr., who was one of the people who attended that meeting, was because they believed they would get at that meeting some dirt on Hillary Clinton.

"The New York Times" tonight has just furthered that reporting. This just came out during our show tonight. They`re now saying that in advance of that meeting, the person who set it up, an acquaintance of Donald Trump Jr.`s, who set up that meeting, informed him in writing in an e-mail that this Russian lawyer who was coming to visit, who they should take a meeting with, had material that was part of a Russian government effort to aide his father`s candidacy.

This e-mail message described to "The New York Times" by three people indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information.

Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, raised what I think will be an important question in the investigation about this new reporting. Congressman Schiff pointing out that when Donald Trump Jr. met with that lawyer, took that meeting, the Russians had already hacked into Democratic servers and obtained all DNC information.

But at the time of that meeting, they had not yet dumped the documents they had and turned them back into the United States. That only happened after that meeting. It`s part of the reason that happened, because of what happened in that meeting or any other meetings like it, that have yet to be disclosed.

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.

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