Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 13, 2017 Guest: Michael Carpenter, Walter Dellinger
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: Do you think ultimately that this -- there`s a sort of question about do people care about this?
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, A.M. JOY: Yes.
HAYES: And I think it`s a fair question because I do think when you think about the politics of it, it`s a separate question of should it be substantively pursued, right? But there is a degree that I can imagine it feels remote to a lot of voters, though.
REID: I`ve talked to Trump voters who dismiss it. The reality is if you`re a Republican base voter right now, you`re so cloistered in only the media that you trust.
HAYES: That`s right, yes.
REID: If the media you trust doesn`t tell you what`s important, then it isn`t important to you, because they are telling you ignore it.
HAYES: Joy Reid, Lawrence Wright, Lawrence, thanks for making time. I`m a huge fan.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT, AUTHOR: My pleasure.
HAYES: All right. That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: Much appreciate it.
I know it is a Thursday night in mid-July and that means by political science logic, there is not supposed to be a lot going on on a night like this. But there`s a lot going on, including a few stories we`re keeping an eye on as developing stories even into the late evening tonight.
Former President Jimmy Carter, God bless him, he`s about to turn 93 years old. But look at him. He nevertheless has been spending the week doing construction, building affordable housing along with his wife Rosalynn with the group Habitat for Humanity. And today, he was out on a hot July day in Winnipeg building houses.
He got dehydrated in the heat while working. He ended up being hospitalized tonight. His wife Rosalynn is with him.
The Carters put out a statement saying that the former President Carter is OK. The statement also says, quote: He encourages everyone to stay hydrated and keep building.
God bless him. Former President Jimmy Carter, age 92, he is in the hospital tonight. Everybody in the whole country, of course, wishing him well. We are keeping an eye out tonight for any updates that we may get on his condition over the course of the hour.
We`re also keeping an eye out tonight for developments on the Republican health care bill. This is the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare. It`s unpopular for a number of reasons, not least because it is expected to cause millions of American to lose their health insurance. And in particular, it will take a huge whack out of Medicaid, which is the single biggest health provider in the whole country. It`s even bigger than Medicare.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans introduced their latest version of the kill Obamacare bill. It already has two definite no votes against it from Republican Senators Rand Paul and Susan Collins. If one more Republican senator says no to it, it is toast. So, even though it`s past close of business in Washington, basically every hour from now until they vote on it people are going to be watching to see if any other Republican senator, any third Republican senator comes out and says no.
So, that news could come at any time. We are watching that tonight as well.
And we`ve got news about the character of the campaign against what the Republicans are trying to do here. You will definitely want to see that a little later on this hour.
We`re also learning tonight of some surprise news that is basically personal in nature. In most cases, it would be considered not even just personal but private information. But in this case, it has become national news because of its link to a big important news story that was recently published in "The Wall Street Journal."
Two weeks ago today, "The Wall Street Journal" published this story, documenting for the first time an admitted instance of an American citizen contacting Russian government hackers during the campaign, or at least trying to contact Russian government hackers to basically try to participate in the Russian government attack on our election. That story from "The Wall Street Journal" focused on this man, Peter Smith. An elderly 81-year-old long time Republican activist who admitted that he headed up this effort to contact Russian government hackers because he was seeking damaging information he thought he could get from them about Hillary Clinton.
Peter Smith talked openly about this project that he ran to try to accomplish this during the campaign. He talked about it to "Wall Street Journal" reporter Shane Harris in an interview that took place in May. And one of the striking details in that "Wall Street Journal" story when it was published two weeks ago was that Peter Smith had died not long after sitting down and doing that interview with Shane Harris.
Well, now, tonight, "The Chicago Tribune" reports that Peter smith`s death was a suicide. Now, again this is something that would normally be considered an entirely private matter, only of concern to his family. Because of Peter Smith`s interesting and unique involvement in the presidential campaign though and the subsequent focus after the story came out as to who in the Trump campaign might have been working with him on this project with the Russians, because of all of that, the news of his apparent suicide at age 81, it`s not just his family`s information, it is now national news.
And we actually have one new piece of information to contribute to what is known about that story. That`s going to be coming up later on in the show tonight as well.
So as I said, there`s a lot going on right now. We`ve got our eyes on a lot of developing stories late into the night tonight.
But I want to start tonight with Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen. At the end of May, Michael Cohen confirmed that he had been asked by House and Senate investigators who are looking into the Trump-Russia affair, he was asked if he would testify and hand over documents in conjunction with their investigation. And Michael Cohen said no.
He said he would not cooperate with the House and Senate committees investigating the Trump-Russia matter. He would not testify. He would not hand over documents.
He was then subpoenaed. So, not just asked but issued with a subpoena to testify. And after he got the subpoena, he said, OK, he will.
Before Michael Cohen was a central figure in the Trump-Russia investigation, though, he was a long standing Trump organization executive. He has been Donald Trump`s sometimes personal lawyer. And when Donald Trump first considered running for president this time around, when he first started kicking that around in 2015, Michael Cohen was basically his top, his only political adviser for the early days of his campaign.
And in some combination of all of those roles, Trump Organization executive, personal lawyer to Donald Trump, political adviser to Donald Trump who might run for president, in some combination of all of those roles, in the summer of 2015, so not that past summer but the summer before, Michael Cohen decided to give a comment to a reporter who was writing a story on Donald Trump for "The Daily Beast". And that story concerned allegations against Donald Trump that had been made once upon a time in a sworn deposition by one of his ex-wives.
Now, Michael Cohen spoke to the reporters writing that story. He defended Trump from those charges, but then it got weird. Michael Cohen told "The Daily Beast" reporter that if that story ran, quote: I`m going to mess your life up for as long as you`re on this freaking planet. You`re going to have judgments against you, so much money. You`ll never know how to get out from underneath it.
Quote: rest assured, you will suffer the consequences. So, you do whatever you want. You want to ruin your life at age 20? You do that, I`ll be happy to serve it right up to you.
Quote: I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we`re in the court house and I will take you for every penny that you still don`t have and I will come after your "Daily Beast" and everybody else that you possibly know.
Quote: So, I`m warning you, tread very f-ing, although he didn`t say f-ing, tread very f-ing lightly because what I`m going to do to you is going to be f-ing disgusting. You understand me?
Signed, Michael Cohen. Trump Organization lawyer. Trump`s personal lawyer for many years.
The man who managed Trump`s early political maneuvering to run for president in 2016, Michael Cohen coming to a congressional committee near you. He is due to testify September 5th before the House Intelligence Committee investigating the Trump-Russia matter.
Hopefully, they`ve got a bleep button in that committee if it`s going to be on C-Span.
As president, Donald Trump has had to hire some new lawyers, not just for the legal jobs in the administration. He`s also had to hire new lawyers for the job of representing him in the Russia investigations. I think we probably should have known from the Michael Cohen experience what Trump like to look for in a personal lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re going to want to watch this next piece of video that we`re going to show you. Raj Rajaratnam is free on $100 million bail after being convicted on all 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud in his insider trading trial. He is said to be sentenced on July 29th.
Prosecutors had asked Rajaratnam to be remanded into custody saying he was a flight risk but the judge granted bail, although Rajaratnam will remain under house arrest with electronic monitoring of his whereabouts. His attorney, John Dowd, has promised to appeal those convictions.
This is the video that I was talking about. CNBC caught up with Mr. Dowd just a short time ago.
REPORTER: Do you have a comment for CNBC though?
JOHN DOWD, ATTORENY: Get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of here. That`s what I got for CNBC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s what I got for CNB -- that gentleman, John Dowd, is one of the lawyers who President Trump has brought on in a personal capacity to represent him in a Trump-Russia investigations in Washington. That was CNBC`s coverage from after Dowd`s client, a hedge fund billionaire, received the longest prison sentence ever handed down by any court in the United States for an insider trader investigation. That`s what his client got, now that hedge fund guy`s lawyer is on Trump`s Russia team.
But the captain of the team is a different lawyer, a lawyer named Marc Kasowitz who president Trump brought to Washington to lead his personal representation on all things Russia. Marc Kasowitz is a little like Michael Cohen in that he`s represented Trump for years in all sorts of different legal matters. He represented him in the Trump University fraud fiasco, where Trump ended up paying out $25 million. He represented Trump in an effort to keep secret the proceedings of one of the Trump divorces. He was the one who wrote to "The New York Times" threatening to sue "The Times" for publishing interviews with women who said they had been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed by Mr. Trump.
You might remember, Trump threatened to sue every one of those women as well as "The New York Times." He never actually did sue any of the women or "The New York Times", but the threat to sue the sometimes came from Marc Kasowitz. So, Marc Kasowitz is a long time Trump lawyer, but now he`s been shipped down to Washington to become the lead lawyer for the president in the most serious national security foreign influence scandal to ever hit this presidency or any other American presidency.
And last night at almost exactly this time on this show, I mentioned that we might be seeing signs of some problems brewing, a little shakiness at the top of the president`s legal defense team. First was this reporting from "The New York Times" that Marc Kasowitz is considering resigning as Trump`s lawyer in the Russia matter. Today, Marc Kasowitz put out a statement saying that "The New York Times" reporting was not true. But still, for what it`s worth, that reporting it exists.
And there was this remarkable piece just published at "ProPublica" by Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger. It`s sourced to more than two dozen current and form her employees of Marc Kasowitz`s firms as well as friends and acquaintances of Marc Kasowitz. "ProPublica" reporting in detail on one strange fact about this lawyer, Marc Kasowitz who is leading the defense of the president in this highly sensitive national security foreign influence scandal.
And that one strange thing to know about the president`s lawyer is that despite this case that he`s working on and the sensitivity of it and what it`s about, the president`s lawyer in this case does not have a security clearance. He doesn`t himself have a security clearance and he says he doesn`t intend to get one, which means, among other things, that if there is any classified information that is involved in either the case against his client or the defense, he is going to try to mount for his client, he can`t even look at that information. He can`t even have it described to him.
If his client or somebody else relevant to the investigation ends up being asked to testify in a classified session somewhere, Marc Kasowitz can`t even go into that room. "ProPublica" quotes Bob Bennett who is a very famous Washington lawyer. He was personal lawyer to President Bill Clinton during the Clinton presidency. He says, quote, no question in any mind in order to represent President Trump in this matter, you would have to get a very high level of clearance because of the allegations involving Russia. But Marc Kasowitz doesn`t have one.
And the rest of the remarkable piece at "ProPublica" is about the possible reasons why Marc Kasowitz might not be able to get a security clearance if he wanted to. And this, again for the second time tonight, gets into personal stuff about drinking and rehab and what sounds like kind of a tremendous bar fight. It`s lurid stuff and it is, as I mentioned, sourced up the wazoo.
And this kind of stuff would be mostly personal in nature and none of our business if it wasn`t for the fact that Marc Kasowitz is now the president`s lawyer. And this stuff described by "ProPublica", it may affect his ability to get a security clearance, which really may affect his ability to provide effective representation to the president in this very serious scandal. Now, I talked about that briefly last night`s show at around this time, and then something new happened. I`m going to recount this.
We`re going back to reporter Justin Elliott at "ProPublica". Quote: Marc Kasowitz, President Trump`s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-lade emails last night. The exchange began after the man saw our story featured last night on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW on MSNBC.
The exchange of e-mails Wednesday began at 9:28 p.m. Eastern when the man sent the following message to Marc Kasowitz` firm account, meaning his e- mail account at his law firm. The text of the message says: Marc, you don`t know me, I don`t know you, but I believe it is in your interest and in a long term interest of your firm for you to resign from your position advising the president regarding pending federal legal matters. No good can come from this and in fact your name may turn out to be a disparaging historical footnote to the presidency of Donald J. Trump.
So, that was sent at 9:28 p.m. Eastern Time. Five minute later, Marc Kasowitz responded. It was a short response: F you.
These guys don`t know each other. I think this is adorable. He used an asterisk for the u. We did not add that. This is the original. He did that.
Then 15 minutes later, the other guy doesn`t respond to that, but 15 minutes later, Marc Kasowitz is apparently still stewing and he sends this, quote, and you don`t know me but I will know you. How dare you send me an e-mail like that? I`m on you now. You are f-ing with me now. This time he spelled it out. Let`s see who you are. Watch your back -- word that rhymes with ditch that starts with b.
So, then at this point, the guy who initially started this exchange, then he respond six minutes later and you`ll notice, he does not match the escalated tone that Mr. Kasowitz has thrown at him. He responds, thank you for your kind reply. Thank you for your kind reply. I may be in touch as appropriate.
Then two minutes later, the president`s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, continues to go nuts. Quote, call me if you want a conversation. I will have it with you. You are such a piece of -- call me. Don`t be afraid you piece of. Stand up. If you don`t call me, you`re just afraid. Call me.
No response from the other guy to this e-mail. But Marc Kasowitz is not done. That did not help him blow of any steam. He`s not done. Also, he`s apparently not busy. Five minutes later, dude is still erupting.
I`m Jewish. We think he`s responding here to a Jewish sounding last name from the person who was emailing him maybe? I`m Jewish. I presume you are too. Stop being afraid. Call me or give me your number and I will call you.
I already know where you live. I`m on you. You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise. Bro. Bro?
So, that`s the president`s lead lawyer on the Russia investigation. The guy he was threatening there, he says he has now forwarded this exchange to the FBI. But for what it`s worth, again, I am not a lawyer, but the I know where you live and you will see me, that is not awesome for the president`s lawyer in terms of whether or not this might legally be interpreted as a legit and criminal threat.
Now, Marc Kasowitz, the president`s lawyer, has since published an apology. I should mention, it`s not technically from him. It`s from a spokesman from him which is a hard way to apologize, especially because we know he doesn`t work nights.
But he says, the spokesman says, quote, Mr. Kasowitz, who is tied up with client matters says he intends to apologize to the writer of the e-mail referenced in today`s story. While no excuse, the e-mail came at the end of a very long time that at 10:00 p.m. was not yet over. The person sending the e-mail is entitled to his opinion and I should not have responded in that inappropriate matter, Mr. Kasowitz said.
Quote, I intend to send him an e-mail stating just that. This is one of those times when on wishes one could reverse the clock but, of course, I can`t.
OK. So, on the hand, this is hilarious. I mean, how do you find people like this, let alone a whole stable of them, right? This is like you went shopping for all of your lawyers at the before section of the anger management commercial, right?
But like -- but on the other hand, the president, any president, really does need good real representation. And I say that as a matter of me being an American citizen and wanting what`s best for the country. I mean, even if you`re not a Trump supporter and you are hoping that the investigations into the Trump administration and the Trump campaign, even if you`re hoping those administrations are damning and he gets turf out of office because of them, frankly, especially if you`re hoping for that kind of outcome, it is my opinion I think that you should be hoping for him to have competent representation along the way.
We have an adversarial system of justice in this country for a very good reason. At the end of the day, however serious this scandal is, it has to be resolved in a way that the country broadly feels confident in -- confident that it was handled properly, that the investigation was unimpeded and un-intimidated and unbiased and thorough. And for it to be settled in a way that it is truly settled, we`re all really going to need confidence that the president was well-represented. That he got good legal advice through this process, that his side of the argument, whatever you think of it was, was hard fought and well fought by experts who are good at what they do.
Whether or not he wins in the end, you want to know that the investigation was fair and his representation was fierce and professional.
And that`s why these worries about these guys being his lawyers I think ought to be a bipartisan above the fray kind of thing. I mean, Marc Kasowitz really did put out his first statement as Trump`s Russia lawyer misspelling the word president in the first line. His first action as President Trump`s Russian lawyer was to announce that he was going to file professional complaints against FBI Director James Comey, then he never did. Just never did it. Just blew it off.
Michael Isikoff just reported that Yahoo! News just a few minutes actually, within just the last hour, that Marc Kasowitz apparently received the Donald Trump Jr. e-mails about the meeting with the Russian lawyer in Trump Tower, he apparently received those e-mail three weeks ago, which if true raises some real questions about why the White House so spectacularly mishandled the management of information around that meeting and the disclosure of the e-mails themselves.
The president`s lawyers are his own choice. But it is also unfortunately a choice that is going to matter to all of us as a country as we plow through this scandal to its end and hopefully come to some closure as a country when it is over.
And I have just one last point on this. The top Trump lawyer who is not working for the president but is the top law enforcement official in the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he today finally released, because a court ordered him to, he finally released the portion of his security clearance application that concerned his contacts with Russian officials. What they released from the Department of Justice is one page. It is almost entirely redacted, except for the part on the form where he checked no in response to a question about whether he or anyone in his family had had any foreign contacts with any foreign persons in the past seven years. He checked no to that.
We now know since he filed this form that that was an incorrect answer. He has sense admitted to contacts for example with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. That means his security clearance application appears to have been incorrect.
We spoke tonight with a lawyer who handled employment issues for the criminal division of the Justice Department for over a decade. That lawyer told us that omitting that kind of key information on a security clearance application would get any normal attorney fired from the department of justice. Fired.
That said, the phrase any normal attorney is not one that applies easily to any matter of this administration.
We got a lot more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, Russian attack on the election last year had three targets. First, they went after the government, actual government systems and infrastructure. That was the straight up hacking effort to penetrate local and state election systems all over the country, mostly targets voter registration. We still don`t know exactly what that was all about.
Second, they went after the Democratic Party. The Russians stole e-mails from the DNC and the Clinton campaign and then basically fed that information back to the American people in a way that they hoped would most inflict -- would inflict the most damage on the Democratic Party and the Democratic candidate.
Third, the Russians went after American citizens. This was the operation they carried out in the media and on social media, manipulating our news diet, polluting an overwhelming online discussion of news about the election again to try to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
So, those are the three prongs they attack. Attack the government, attack the Democrats and go after the American people.
On that third part of the attack, the targeting of the American people, there remains this open question. Did they have any American help in doing what they did? Did they need American help to do what they did?
I mean, in terms of what the attack looked like, we know for instance that in the spring of last year, as the Democratic primary was winding down, the Democrats launched a social media operation specifically targeting Bernie Sanders supporters. They used automated social media bots, and what appeared to be paid operatives in Russian and other countries to flood online pro-Bernie groups with vitriolic anti-Clinton stuff, attacks that appeared to come from fellow Americans, fellow Sanders supporters but they did not.
The Russians took the real split in the Democratic Party between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and they did their best to make it nuclear, to just blow it up into an unbreachable chasm.
We also know that far right Websites, conservative Websites, pro-Trump Websites like "Breitbart" and "Info Wars", those sites and their social media feeds were flooded with Russia-produced or Russian-promoted stories. Maybe that`s a coincidence but back in March, "McClatchy" reported that an investigation led by the FBI`s counterintelligence division is looking into where the pro-Trump Websites were just convenient receptive targets for Russian operatives or whether those outlets might have helped the Russian operatives and not part of the attack.
Also, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Warner, he suggested repeatedly over the last few months that Russia might have targeted its social media operation all the way down to the precinct level, in battle ground states, identifying pockets of Democrats most vulnerable supporters and inundating them with negative material intended to drive down any enthusiasm they may have to turn out and vote for Hillary Clinton on Election Day.
At a hearing in March, Senator Warner said, quote, would the Russians on their own have that level of sophisticated knowledge about the American political system if they didn`t at least get some advice from someone in American?
It`s an open question. The jury is still out on that.
Honestly, from what we know about this from international context, we know that Russians are very good at this stuff. They kind of reoriented their military so that a lot of their best offensive work as a military power is this kind of stuff. They do it all over the world.
Maybe they can do this stuff even at this level of detail and sophistication all on their own. But yesterday, "McClatchy" further reporting that investigators on both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and on special counsel Robert Mueller`s team, they are looking into whether the Trump campaign digital operation helped guide Russia`s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Now, whether or not the Russians needed American help, we can also tell you that someone who is in a position to know these things says the Russians appear to have gotten help with this part of that attack. And ringing out like a bell from that "McClatchy" piece yesterday was a quote from the man who, until this past January was the top official at the Pentagon on Russia. He tells "McClatchy", quote, there appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia`s online propaganda machine, and individuals in the United States who are knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation.
Again, that`s not just an observation from some yahoo reading the news. That`s from the guy who was in charge of the Russia stuff at the Pentagon while the attack was happening. This is someone who`s in a position to know. He joins us for the interview, next.
MADDOW: Michael Carpenter was deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia until this January. He`s also the former director for Russia at the National Security Council. Now, he is the senior director at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
And Michael Carpenter joins us tonight for the interview.
Thank you very much for being with us tonight, sir. It`s nice to have you here.
MICHAEL CARPENTER, FORMER DEPUTY ASISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: First of all, Pentagon titles are very long, particularly for those of us who have never been in the military or work inside that building. What does it mean to be the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia? What were your responsibilities at that job?
CARPENTER: So, it is essentially the senior-most policy job with specific responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, the Balkans, the countries of Eurasia. In other words, the former Soviet Union, and then also, and my job responsibilities included conventional arms control in addition with those other responsibilities.
MADDOW: OK. So it`s a policy job with a very broad swath of the world under your remit there. From that position, because of that experience, it has really struck me what you told "McClatchy" for their recent reporting on the Russian attack last year. You told them: There appears to be significant cooperation between Russia`s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States.
What exactly did you mean by that? And how do you -- how do you know enough to make that observation?
CARPENTER: Well, Rachel, in the course of my career at the State Department, at the White House National Security Council but also at the Pentagon, I saw a lot of Russia, this information campaigns, usually covert campaigns. I saw it in Georgia in 2008, in Ukraine, in Moldova, in Montenegro, where, by the way, just a couple of weeks before our election, there was both a cyberattack, there was a sophisticated disinformation campaign on social media, and actually a plot to launch a coup d`etat and assassinate the sitting prime minister.
So, I`ve seen a number of things over the years. And so, I sort of understand what the Russian M.O. is as far as these things go, and how the Russian intelligence services operate. In a sophisticated and big operation like the one that was conduct in the U.S. presidential election last year, it is clear to me that in addition to just relying on bots, which essentially retweet, share, or repurpose, repackage information that is already out there either on RT or Sputnik, which are Russian TV propaganda sites essentially, but also from "Info Wars" or "Breitbart". In addition to that, there was some degree of tailored messaging -- and you saw this in the quote that you ran from Mark Warner -- in fact down to the precinct level targeting swing voters in certain Midwestern states.
In order to do that, the Russian intelligence services, A, don`t possess internal capacity to be able to do that on their own, in a very sophisticated way. But, B, it is their M.O. and I`ve seen this in a number of countries, to reach out and try to use political operatives in the United States in this case to help with both the message, both the content but also where to target it.
MADDOW: Russia has been doing this all over the world, as you just described. It`s what it considers to be its sphere. It does this stuff. Is it possible that they`ve just gotten so good at this over time and that our system is so open for anybody who wants to observe it, and our political system in particular is so picked over by punditry and political science and all of these open source things that they could have just become expert enough to do it on their own without any American confederates?
CARPENTER: Well, look, we know that Russian intelligence cutouts for the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, like the Guccifer 2.0 persona, which was a GRU agent, reached out to U.S. persons both inside the Trump inner circle but also to a political operative in Florida in order to elicit information and also to share information.
It is inconceivable to me that the Russian apparatus, knowing how they operate, would not have reached out to individuals in the U.S., maybe connected to the Trump campaign or maybe outside of it in order to glean more information on how to target this information. It`s just not credible for me to believe that they ran this from the GRU headquarters in Moscow. That doesn`t make any sense.
MADDOW: Michael Carpenter, I have a strange last question for you, which is, are you busy this time tomorrow night?
CARPENTER: No, I`m not.
MADDOW: Would you please agree, right here in front of everybody, to come back? Because I can tell now talking to you about this, I`ll have more 40 questions for you about this because you`re in a position to see a lot of this happen from a perspective that nobody else has. I would love to have you back here tomorrow evening to have a fuller conversation.
CARPENTER: Great. Thank you.
MADDOW: Great. Thank you very much. Michael Carpenter will be back. He`s the former deputy assistant secretary of defense whose remit was Russia during the Russian attack on our election last year. Oh, boy, do I have more stuff to ask him. I didn`t -- yes.
OK. Much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So we learned late tonight that the subject of one of the big stories in the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign`s ties to Russia reportedly committed suicide only 10 days after being interviewed by the reporter who broke that story. Peter Smith was a Republican activist who specialized in oppo research. He told "Wall Street Journal" reporter Shane Harris that he launched a project late last summer to contact Russian government hackers to try to get derogatory information on Hillary Clinton that he believed those hackers might have hacked.
Mr. Smith talked to "The Journal" about this in May, and about 10 days after that interview on May 14th, he died at the age of 81, and we had known that before tonight. And now, tonight, "The Chicago Tribune" reported that Peter smith`s death was in fact a suicide. In a hotel room near the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
He reportedly left behind a note that said no foul play whatsoever was involved in his death. "The Tribune" says -- cited a, quote, recent bad turn in health since January 2017 and timing related to life insurance as the reasons he stated for why he took his own life.
Now, because this apparent suicide happened so close to the interview with "The Wall Street Journal" that Shane Harris had with Peter Smith, we actually reached out to the reporter, to Shane Harris, tonight to get his reaction to this news and find out if he had any sense this might be coming.
Shane Harris told us tonight, quote: I had no indication when we spoke that he was either ill or contemplating taking his own life.
So, as I said earlier in the show, the manner of an 81-year-old`s death is normally personal and private. In this case because of his connection to this huge story, because he was the first American citizen we have on record admitting he was trying to work with Russian operatives to affect the outcome of this election, there is significant public interest in the matter of his death and timing of it.
Obviously, our condolences to Mr. Smith`s family and my apologies that this has to be the country`s news tonight instead of just your families.
We will be right back.
MADDOW: Protect Democracy. This is from the very dry super bureaucratic opposite of electrifying application for a trademark from a new group in Washington pledging group in Washington pledging to keep an eye on the Trump White House. Quote: Monitoring, investigating, analyzing, reporting on, and challenging when appropriate the actions of the U.S. government and its officials to ensure compliance with the Constitution, with the rule of law, and with small-d democratic norms. Trademark application.
By late February, Protect Democracy was launched, staffed by a group of former Obama administration lawyers. Soon thereafter came their first projects. They started by flagging the issue of possible meddling by the White House in the affairs of the Justice Department and the FBI. Oh, really? That one seems especially prescient now. It did not make that big of a splash when they did that in early March.
They also raised a red flag about the administration`s handling of a merger between two insurance companies. Not exactly the soul of sexy but, boy, does that mean they`re paying attention.
Now, the same group has just filed a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump campaign for what is essentially the virtual mugging of three specific Americans. This is a fascinating lawsuit. I mentioned it last night. I read it. I read the entire complaint today, and this is the best book I`ve ever read about what happened in the Russian attack.
It`s -- this is a lawsuit that landed yesterday in federal court in D.C. We posted it on our Website MaddowBlog.com last night. If you have not checked it out yet, you should read it.
Each of these plaintiffs had their personal information from DNC records exposed on WikiLeaks, including like really personal stuff like sexual orientation and Social Security numbers. It all got published when WikiLeaks published the e-mails that had been hacked from the DNC by Russia. Each of these plaintiffs recounts suffering personal harm as a result of that exposure. They allege not just that they were harmed by Russian government hackers stealing their information. The important part here is that they`re alleging specifically that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians to release the information that the Russians had hacked.
Quote: Defendants agreed with each other and with other parties, including Russian government officials and WikiLeaks, to publicly disclose on the Internet private e-mail communications that were stolen or hacked from the DNC for the purpose of influencing the election.
This is a lawsuit not against Russia. This is a lawsuit against the Trump campaign for helping Russia, which means this lawsuit, among other things, this is a very carefully constructed lawsuit. This may end up being a new way, a whole new avenue by which we might learn through the discovery process whether the Trump campaign worked with Russia deliberately on the part of the Russian attack that was the hacking and the repurposing of all those e-mails and documents from the DNC.
Joining us now is Walter Dellinger. He`s forming acting solicitor general under President Bill Clinton.
Mr. Dellinger, it`s a real honor to have you here tonight. Thank you. Thank you very much for your time.
WALTER DELLINGER, FORMER SOLICITOR GENERL UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you.
MADDOW: I know that you are not personally involved in this lawsuit. I also know that you are an important and busy man. Can I ask why you think this lawsuit is important, why you feel it`s important to talk about it?
DELLINGER: Well, you know, when you have something as unprecedented and audacious as a hostile foreign power`s attempt to intrude into our election process, there are going to be lots of harms done, large ones like corrupting our democracy, but also individuals get harmed. And while Mr. Mueller is looking at criminal offenses and Congress is looking for legislative insight, there is harm to individuals.
And here you have what was essentially a break-in of the Democratic Party`s computer system that targeted members of the finance team and exposed thousands of e-mails and countless private information of people who are not prominent public citizens. They were people who -- two donors and a mid-level staffer who worked in the finance part of the DNC, who had medical records, financial information, sexual orientation, Social Security numbers all revealed to the world through thousands of e-mails.
And they brought a very serious suit brought by some very serious and able lawyers, first arguing that under the District of Columbia`s law, this public revelation of private information, information that serves no legitimate public purpose, is a compensable tort under D.C. law and, secondly, under the federal reconstruction era statutes, Section 1985, designed to prevent intimidation of voters or participants in the political process.
This wound up punishing people because they advocated for candidates or contributed to candidates or worked in a political campaign, and that is exactly what the reconstruction era statute was designed to prevent. So, in that sense, I think, Rachel, it`s a very serious lawsuit.
MADDOW: And reading this not as a lawyer myself, it seems to me that the kind of premise of this claim, the premise of this lawsuit is that the Trump campaign conspired and coordinated with the Russians in releasing these e-mails and causing this harm to these plaintiffs. Obviously, that is a subject of fierce investigation both in Congress and by the special counsel.
Do these plaintiffs have to be able to prove that up front so they don`t get thrown out of court? How does that get litigated?
DELLINGER: No. They eventually will have to meet their burden of proof as plaintiffs, but there`s plenty of information right now to allow them to go forward. You have the undisputable fact that there was a break-in to the computer systems, the undisputable fact that private information was released for the whole world to see of these private citizens. That we know that the Russians and Guccifer and WikiLeaks were involved in this.
Their argument is that they believe that the Trump campaign and, in particular, one individual were involved, and they`ve got lots of meetings and lots of information. And now, of course, their case was strengthened this past weekend with the release of the e-mail showing that senior officials of the campaign were willing to discuss getting help from the Russians. So, they have, I think, a solid basis for going forward and seeking more information through the discovery process.
MADDOW: Walter Dellinger, forming acting solicitor general, thank you very much for helping us understand this, sir. I did not really get the voter intimidation part of this before you walked us through it here. That`s a very important part of the premise for this.
Appreciate you being here tonight, sir. Thank you.
DELLINGER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Programming note: if you frequently turn your television to this channel at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, you might have seen this last Friday. The great Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent premiering his show, "On Assignment". Last Friday, 9:00, it`s really good, including that incredible interview he did with the Russian lawyer who survived the mysterious fall from the fourth floor window right before he was due to testify in a Russian money laundering case. Just incredible, right? Whole show was great.
He`s about to do it again. This week, he`s doing it again but at a different time. You will still see me here tomorrow like normal at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Richard Engel "On Assignment" will also air tomorrow, but it`s going to be at 10:00 p.m. instead of at 9:00.
Richard is going to be in Iraq doing his show live from Iraq tomorrow. It is going to be excellent, but I didn`t want you to be confused.
All right. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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