Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: July 18, 2017 Guest: Ian Bremmer, Wendy Sherman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: You`re like a comet in the days before we had astrologers, who could tell when they were going to be in the sky. Some day, there will be the appearance of Ari at 6:00 p.m.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: It`s a vague weather tease. You nailed it.
MADDOW: It is. At some point, those skies will move. I understand. Thank you, Ari. Thanks, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The Republican effort to kill the Affordable Care Act, to kill Obamacare, that effort appeared to die a hard and unexpectedly sudden death this time during our show last night. Well, today, the Republicans came back. They tried two separate times to bring it back, to revive that effort. Both of those efforts appear to have also failed today. That means that Republicans broadly, very well and truly have failed in their effort to kill Obamacare, their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
We`re going to have more on this big news story coming up later on in the show tonight, including how some news about how opponents of what the Republicans are trying to do are really not taking time off to celebrate here. They are keeping the pressure turned up high and hot on Republican senators to try to keep this thing dead now that it has died. So, again, there will be more to say about that tonight. We got a lot of reporting to do on that this evening.
I do have to say, big picture, though, even as we`re following this sort of day to day and hour by hour now, just stepping back from this for a second, this is a remarkable place we have ended up, right? In this last election, Republicans got control of the Senate. They got control of the House. They got control of the White House, and even with that total control in Washington, they really are about to hit six months in power, which I think they hit on Thursday of this week.
By the end of this week, it will be six months in power with Republicans in control of all branches of government and they will have not passed a single substantial piece of legislation. I mean, they can pass anything they want to zero Democratic votes. They only have to line up votes in their own party. And still they have passed nothing.
I mean, even this one thing they campaigned on for seven straight years and practiced doing impotently dozens of times while President Obama was still in office, even this one thing, they really do not appear to be able to do it. So, again, we`re sort of tracking this story day by day and hour by hour, and we will have more on that ahead tonight as the opponents keep the pressure on and as the Republicans who appear now to have lost this fight as they continue to hunt for votes, but big picture story here is just flabbergasting in terms of this turn in American politics. So, that`s ahead.
Also, news coming up tonight about the clown car of previously undisclosed Russians who are all apparently at that Trump Tower meeting last summer involving Trump`s eldest son and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. We`ve got some really interesting news coming up on that meeting now, turning into a point of focus for investigators and what is also turning out to be unexpected serious leverage that investigators might have over at least one and possibly two of the participants in that meeting.
I know you`ve heard a little bit today about there being an eighth man who is in that meeting and the identity of the eighth man. You`ve probably heard a little bit of that today. You have not heard what we are about to report on that. So, we`ve got that coming up ahead tonight.
But we`re going to start tonight with this late-breaking news. So, this is a little window into my work day. Whole staff is working away today. You know, the cubicle farm is really humming. People are in and out of everybody`s offices, like we know what we`re doing. We`re working on the show.
I`m in my office threatened to be buried under teetering piles of paper, as usual. We`re all working away like we usually do. By this point, almost six months into the Trump administration, we as a staff are now used to big stories about the Trump administration breaking late in the day and then we have to throw our plans out the window and start to cover instead what the other new bombshell is. We`re used to that.
But even with the fact that we are used to that timing now and to stuff breaking late in the day, when these headlines popped tonight, when this story first crossed, Trump/Putin held a second undisclosed meeting at the G20. When this started to cross tonight our newsroom, it caused an audible "oh my God" to repeal cross our cubicle farm. Oh, my God. Seriously?
And I guess we should not be surprised anymore, right? We should have expected something like this. But still, this is remarkable news and this is about, of course, the G20 meeting that took place a week and a half ago in Germany. We had known heading into that meeting that it would be the first face-to-face one-on-one contact between Donald Trump as president of the United States and Vladimir Putin as president of Russia.
That meeting that we knew about in advance, that ended up being itself pretty unusual. That meeting between Trump and Putin, it was on the schedule for 30 minutes. It went on for more than two hours. And then after that unusually long meeting was over, the Russians held an on-camera briefing for the press about what happened in that meeting while the United States did not do that.
Now, the Russians briefing the press after the meeting and the Americans not briefing the press, "Foreign Policy Magazine" described that as, quote, ceding to Moscow. The narrative about what happened behind closed doors.
So, the official meeting, that was -- you know, it was unusually long. More than four times its scheduled length. That meeting that happened between Trump and Putin on Friday, it ended with just the Russians briefing the press on what happened.
But now on top of that, we are learning that there was a second meeting at that same event. And, you know, the first peep about this as a possibility had actually been the day after the meeting. The Saturday after, at the end of the story that they reported on the G20 that day, "BuzzFeed News" mentioned in their article about the G20 that they had heard from a single source that there might have been an additional long chat between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin that hadn`t been disclosed by the White House, but now today, it has broken wide open.
Ian Bremmer has confirmed the news, citing multiple sources and wait until you hear him describe his sources. But he`s reporting that, in fact, in addition to that formal meeting that went on for two hours, even though it was only scheduled for half an hour, Trump and Putin then thereafter had a second long meeting later that night. That took place over the course of about an hour.
And in what`s being described as a fairly significant breach of national security norms and protocols, it was apparently only Vladimir Putin`s translator who was present for and participating in that meeting. In the discussions between Trump and Putin, there was just the Russian translator. There was no American translator, nor were there any other American staff member who were taking part in those discussions. That is a very unusual thing.
And then there`s the fact that the White House didn`t tell anybody that the second meeting happened. You have to imagine, put yourself in the shoes of anybody who works at the White House. You have to imagine if there`s one thing this White House might be aware of by now, it`s that undisclosed contacts between Americans associated with Donald Trump and Russian officials, particularly at the highest levels. That`s something that is of intense interest in this country.
But still, the White House never mentioned it. They never mentioned that there had been this second long meeting until Ian Bremmer broke the news and then the White House belatedly confirmed it tonight.
Joining us now is Ian Bremmer. He`s the president of the Eurasia Group who brought this news to national attention.
Mr. Bremmer, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for being here.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Sure, Rachel. My pleasure.
MADDOW: So, for folks watching you tonight, wondering who you are and wondering what the Eurasia Group is, can you just give us a little bit of an introduction as to who you are.
IAN BREMMER: Sure. I`m a political scientist. I got my PhD at Stanford over 20 years ago now. So, I`m getting a little gray. And it is the world`s largest political risk consultancy. So, it`s a company of political scientists who look at how politics affect markets all over the world.
MADDOW: OK, political risk consultancy.
How did you come to know about this second meeting between President Trump and President Putin that the White House had never discuss?
BREMMER: Look, I don`t want to tell you who directly told me, but I -- this is a meeting of the principals. So, it`s the G20s heads of state and their spouses. Most of them were in attendance. It was a very long dinner, almost 3 1/2 hours.
I know a lot of people in that group and many of them, including all of America`s principal allies were -- they found it remarkable. They were concerned by it. It was noteworthy and so, it got out.
And I personally was quite surprised that there was no readout on it whatsoever after the meeting happened, and so, as a consequence, I felt like -- especially because Trump himself and, you know, there`s been so much talk about what was and was not discussed in the broader formal meeting, the two-hour meeting that you just spoke about, did they talk about sanctions, did they talk about the hacks, did he push them, they did they not, Ukraine, all of that.
I mean, none of that matters if they then had an hour one on one at the dinner with only the Russian translator. We have no idea what was in that conversation.
MADDOW: Now, when you described that as a one-on-one, while you`re talking, we have pictures from the dinner. Is it -- should we think of the second meeting that you`re describing as being something where they were separate and apart from everybody else at the dinner? Were other people at a position where they could overhear what was being said?
BREMMER: So, I don`t know if we should call it a meeting. What we should do is say it`s a dinner. That dinner was 3 1/2 hours long. Very long. Not everyone that was supposed to attend actually showed up. There were a number of empty seats and halfway through the dinner, Trump gets up, goes around the table, sits down next to Putin and has -- begins this conversation.
Everyone that was there -- this was in full view of all of these heads of state and their spouses and it was very animated. It was extremely friendly. There was certainly a lot of hand motion going on between the two leaders, the two presidents.
But no one knows what -- they were out of earshot. So, I mean, unless the Russian translator has a tape -- and I think there`s probably a reasonable likelihood that he does, then nobody else is going to have a readout of this meeting.
MADDOW: How unusual -- on that point of the translator, how unusual is it for the president of the United States to have a one-on-one lengthy discussion with a foreign head of state using only that country`s translator with no American translator participating in the discussion?
BREMMER: You know, apparently, President Nixon used to do it because he felt -- he didn`t really trust the State Department at that point providing the translators and didn`t necessarily want information getting out, leaking that he would want to keep private.
BREMMER: Interesting historical point.
BREMMER: But, I mean, you know, given the fact, given how unusual the Trump/Putin relationship has been, how notably and consistently warmly both of these leaders have taken every opportunity to be towards each other, both publicly and as we see privately, the fact that you would have this kind of a meeting in front of all of these leaders, the first G20 Summit that Trump himself had attended with American allies already unnerved that their relationship, their private bilaterals, their phone calls with President Trump leads them worrying, can we really count on the United States in terms of NATO, security, global trade, climate, values, you name it.
To then show that by far his personal relationship is actually with a country that many of them consider to be antagonist and at least until Trump became president, the United States did as well, that`s unusual. It`s disconcerting for American allies around the world and it certainly -- I mean, despite the fact that Trump apparently just tweeted that it`s fake news, it`s a real story.
MADDOW: Yes. Anytime the president has just tweeted that something is fake news, we just consider that to be a day that ends in why around here.
One last quick question for you, Mr. Bremmer, on the point of the White House not doing a readout of this, not explaining what happened in this discussion, it seems to me, just as an observer of these things, that the White House almost always or always does a readout of any discussion that the president has with a foreign head of state, particularly if it`s not one held in secrecy, if it`s held in full view of other people so they can tell that some discussion happened.
Is -- are you saying that that, too, the fact that there was no White House readout or discussion about what happened, that also is very unusual here?
BREMMER: I think it depends. I mean, certainly, when you have meetings like this, big summits, it`s not unusual for a couple of leaders with business to discuss to take each other aside five minutes, ten minutes, that sort of thing.
But I think both given the unusual nature of the Trump presidency, the uniquely unusual nature of the Trump/Putin relationship and the length of this meeting that they chose not to disclose, given the controversy around the broader disclosed meeting, public meeting as it were, this all strikes me as exceptionally unusual, and something that is not going to go away anytime soon.
MADDOW: Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, which is a political risk consultancy, who brought the second Trump-Putin meeting to national attention tonight, thank you for helping us understand it, sir. Appreciate you being here.
BREMMER: Yes, my pleasure, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks.
Yes. Like I said, the news came across second undisclosed meeting between Trump and Putin. My office is like here and my executive producer`s office is like here, and the other offices for everybody who works on the staff kind of splay around the corner like this. I heard it coming like a stadium wave made audible. Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God, did you see this? Oh, my God.
Oh, my God. Today`s news. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: IBM stands for International Business Machines. This company instead was called IBC, which stood for International Business Creations. And what they did was they created a lot of businesses. Like 2,000 of them. That was their business, creating other businesses.
The way it worked was you would give them $350 and they would create a business for you. They`d create a company for you. If you gave them another $450, your company would also get a bank account.
This itself was the purpose of International Business Creations. They made over 2,000 companies, opened at least 236 different bank accounts. And we don`t know who any of the people are, for whom they formed these companies and for whom they opened these bank accounts. We do know, because of congressional investigations into International Business Creations in the 1990s, that the guy who ran IBC, the guy who ran that company, said that, quote, his company`s clients consistent entirely of brokers in Moscow, in Russia, who make requests for the formation of U.S. corporations in Delaware.
Quote: The president of IBC told us the bank accounts were formed to move money out of Russia.
So, as money laundering scams go, when the president of the company says, yes, I`m doing this to get money out of Russia, I mean, this is like cut right to the punch line, right? This is a particularly flagrant money laundering scam.
The guy running IBC told the banks where he was opening these bank accounts, he told them, yes, I know who these companies are. Yes, I know who is holding these bank accounts, but he admitted when congressional investigators came calling that he actually didn`t know, that he couldn`t cough up the names of these people in whose names he had done all of this paperwork. We don`t even know how many people he was acting on behalf of.
We do know that at Citibank, he applied for cards in the names of 50 different Russians, all of whom he said lived at his office address in Delaware. Ultimately, Citibank closed all of its accounts that had to do with this Russian money laundering scam.
Another bank that was also implicated in working with them was called the Commercial Bank of San Francisco. The response of commercial bank when congressional investigators came calling about all these phantom Russian bank accounts they were holding, their response was to shut down not just those accounts, they shut down their entire international banking division and then the bank very quickly ceased to exist. They got sold off and dissolved into another bank.
That congressional report on this flagrant Russian money laundering scam was titled, you can see it there on the left side of your screen, suspicious banking activities, possible money laundering by U.S. corporations formed for Russian entities. It was a report that was created at the request of former Senator Carl Levin came out in October of the year 2000. And this report, because what it described was so flagrant, it made IBC, International Business Creations, and Citibank and Commercial Bank of San Francisco, it made this scam, basically the American poster child for money laundering in the United States.
The conclusion of the report was this giant red flag for Congress telling them how easy it is. That`s the word they used easy, for foreign individuals and entities to launder money through U.S. banks.
Money laundering, of course, is illegal, right? To hide the origins of illegally obtained money, by moving it around through different entities, that`s illegal. Under U.S. law, banks that suspect that their bank is being used for money laundering, they have to report it to the federal government.
The way banks are supposed to know if money laundering is going on in their bank, one of the ways they are supposed to know is that they`re supposed to follow the know your customer policy. You`re not supposed to open up a bank account at your bank unless you know the individual person who`s opening it up. You validate that they are a human being. You validate that they are a person whose identity you understand and you`ve checked them out.
Quoting from that congressional report, know your customer policies generally commit the financial institution to verify a customer`s identity, to determine the customer`s source of wealth, to review the customer`s credit and character and to understand the type of transactions the customer would typically conduct. That is what banks were supposed to be doing, right?
When International Business Creations came to them and said, we`d like to open 2,000 bank accounts, yes, we know who they are. That`s what the banks are supposed to be doing with these thousands of Russian companies. Clearly, they were not doing that.
And the eye-popping bottom line of that congressional investigation into IBC and Citibank and Commercial Bank of San Francisco, that whole scam, the eye-popping bottom line was that because these banks didn`t implement the know your customer policies, because they were knowingly or unknowingly being used by this Russian laundering scam, between Citibank and Commercial Bank, they appeared to have laundered $1.4 billion. Billion with a "B" -- $1.4 billion in the `90s, all money taken out of Russia and cleansed to appear like legit money through the magical power of the supposedly unassailable American banking system.
So, IBC, Citibank, Commercial Bank, that scam they were running, that was the poster child for Russian money laundering. October 2000 was that report. A year after that report came out, so that would be immediately in the wake of 9/11, the U.S. government decided to change the rules about banking and money laundering.
And after 9/11, they changed the rules so that the know your customer policy at U.S. banks, it`s no longer a voluntary compliance thing where you just tell people that`s what you`re doing. Now, it`s actually mandatory. It`s a law. Banks have to do it.
So, the guy who was the head of International Business Creations, who opened up those 2,000 companies for unknown Russian companies and the hundreds of bank accounts and the dozens of Citibank cards all with addresses who thereby moved $1.4 billion through this money laundering scheme involving U.S. banks, that guy, the president of IBC, we learned today he was also at that meeting in Trump Tower last June -- the one that involved the Trump campaign chair and Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.
CNN had been first to report last night that there was an eighth person who still had not been named who was at that meeting. "The Washington Post" was first to report his name.
And I know this has now been incrementally rolled out. We are all frog soup. We`re all boiling over time. But if you step back from this a second, what we now understand about this is that this means that during the campaign, this meeting at Trump Tower, which was initially described by the White House and was still described by the White House yesterday as a meeting about adoptions, this meeting was set up by the publicist for a Putin-linked Russian oligarch. The publicist had just been in Russia, four days after he got back. He sent this e-mail to Donald Trump Jr. promising Russian government documents and information from the top federal prosecutor in Russia who is known to be very close to Vladimir Putin.
He said that he`s got this Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton. He asks for a meeting to discuss it. He gets the meeting in person, not just with the president`s eldest son but also his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the chairman of the Trump campaign.
Attending the meeting was this emissary from Moscow who was described as a Russian government lawyer. She supposedly had the incriminating Hillary Clinton in a folder that she brought with her to the meeting, that she reportedly left at the meeting. She`s a Kremlin-linked lawyer, a former prosecutor, who has now told "The Wall Street Journal" that she was, in fact, on this, working with the top federal prosecutor in Russia, who is very close to Vladimir Putin.
Along with her, there was also a translator, there was also a long-time Russian-American political operative who has a Russian military intelligence background, who himself has been named in a major lawsuit about predatory hacking of a Russian mining corporation. Also, we know as of today, the meeting included the apparent poster child for Russian money laundering in U.S. banks, a dual national named Ike, forgive me, Kaveladze, maybe? Maybe that`s how you say it?
He reportedly was there as a representative of the Putin-linked oligarch who Trump had business dealings with in Russia, whose publicist set up the meeting and we`re told that the oligarch`s publicist who did so at the meeting, he was there as well.
And you take all of that together and that means, A, the clown car is getting very crowded. And, B, there`s an interesting question as to why the -- our understanding of this meeting, why all of these names are rolling out so slowly over time. It was four people in the meeting and then it was five people in the meeting, and then, it was six people in the meeting, and then seven people in the meeting, including the guy with the military intelligence background. Now, it`s eight people in the meeting, including the money laundering guy.
I mean, if this is in fact the last name we`re going to get in terms of who attended this meeting, why was the money laundering guy the last name leaked? After all these days of reporting on this and all these people making their truly transparent disclosures on this, why was he not mentioned before now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
NBC NEWS: Senator Warner, can I get your reaction to the eighth person in this meeting with Donald Trump Jr. meeting? What about all the names?
SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It`s very disturbing to me. It`s taken us this long for this kind of information to come out. So this individual who has had a colorful past if not potentially criminal, it is very strange to me that this meeting that was supposed to be originally related as three or four people about Russian adoptions, I doubt if this individual who`s had a history of setting up thousands of fake accounts in Delaware was really there to talk about Russian adoptions.
So, what we see here is, again, senior levels of the Trump administration and now the Trump family not coming clean with information and this has been a week before we`ve got this -- why was that cast of character there?
NBC NEWS: Has the committee reached out to a number of people in these meetings?
WARNER: We`re in the process of continuing to reach out, but as we continue to find more individuals, I wonder how many more people are going to -- how many more people will show up in that room at one point or another.
NBC NEWS: So, you`re unaware of any other cast of characters that could have been there?
WARNER: But, again, I was -- I was unaware until the last 24 hours that this eighth individual who at least based on press reports has had a very colorful past.
REPORTER: Do you feel like you understand everything that happened at that Trump Tower meeting at this point?
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No, absolutely not. There`s a lot to learn from that and we`ve reached out to the appropriate people and asked them to provide information for us.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: So that`s the leaders of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, both the top Democrat and top Republican, the chair, saying they had no idea about this eighth guy in the meeting before now. And as I mentioned, his name was not publicly reported until today. Last night, CNN reported that such a person might exist. We got the name today.
What`s important about that timing is that even before the Intelligence Committee knew about this, they say they are just learning about it now, even before there was any public reporting about this, which we`re just getting today, even before that, you know who knew about this? And who knew about this guy by name, special counsel Robert Mueller.
A lawyer for the Putin-connected oligarch in Russia who`s now at the center of the story, he tells "The Washington Post" that staffers for Robert Mueller, the special counsel, contacted him this weekend, asking if they could speak with Mr. International Business Creations, asking if they could speak with the eighth man in the meeting and they were asking for him by name.
And that means that however exciting and occasionally bewildering it is to cover the aggressive reporting that is turning this stuff out day by day, new details they try to keep under wraps, the special counsel investigation is apparently ahead of all of us because Mueller knew about this guy and knew who this guy was before any of this was in the press, and before the Intelligence Committee knew about it.
How did the special counsel learn about it? Who told them?
I don`t know. We`ve asked the attorney for Donald Trump Jr. if perhaps Donald Trump Jr. was in contact with any investigators on this matter, not just congressional investigators but potentially Mueller`s office. So far, we`ve had no response from Mr. Trump`s attorney.
Mr. Trump`s attorney, we`d love to hear from you. You have our number.
Who else might know about that might have been able to tell the special counsel? Well, who else was in the meeting? Paul Manafort was described in "The New York Times" this past weekend as having, quote, mentioned the meeting to congressional investigators, but at least the congressional investigators on the intelligence committee said they`ve never heard of this eighth guy before today. So, it doesn`t sound like Manafort told them about him.
The other reporting that`s happened about this meeting, we`re told, is on Jared Kushner`s revised, revised, revised again application for a federal security clearance. We don`t know how much detail Mr. Kushner might have provided on his security clearance application about this Trump Tower Russia meeting let alone on any of his subsequent revisions on his application.
But Matt Zapotosky at "The Washington Post" reported last night that if Bob Mueller did decide that he wanted to bring felony charges against Jared Kushner for making intentionally false statements on his application for a security clearance, for deliberately leaving stuff off of that security clearance application because he was potentially trying to hide evidence about meetings that he had had or contacts that he had had, if Robert Mueller did want to bring a prosecution against Jared Kushner for that, he would have one tool in his arsenal that is sharp and ready, ready to go for that kind of prosecution.
The highest profile felony prosecution in recent years of a person who made misrepresentations on his or her applications force security clearance is a prosecution that was handled last year by the public corruption unit in the U.S. attorney`s office in the southern district of New York in conjunction with the FBI. The person they prosecuted was a DEA agent who made misrepresentations on his security clearance application. That DEA agent was tried and convicted last year. He was sentenced in February and one of the lead prosecutors on that case is named Andrew Goldstein.
And Andrew Goldstein just left the U.S. attorney`s office in the southern district of New York to go join Robert Mueller in the special counsel investigation. So, if Mueller wants to prosecute somebody for lying on their application for security clearance, he knows just the prosecutor to go through with that.
So, bottom line, we now know the names of eight people at that meeting. We now know that Robert Mueller`s investigation is out ahead of the congressional investigations and out ahead of anything else that might be reported in the press.
In terms of who might be squeezable on this subject because of their own liability, there are very upfront concerns obviously about Jared Kushner who is a current government official, who has a current security clearance that has a bulls-eye on it because of this meeting and because of other things he didn`t disclose when applying for that clearance. So, that`s one point of leverage.
I want to make one last point here. There may be another significant point of leverage on one other person, at least one other person in that meeting. Charles Grassley, this is the chair of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, he released this letter today about the immigration file for one of the dual Russian American citizens who was at that meeting.
Not the one we learned about today, but the one we learned a couple of days ago, the guy with the military intelligence background, Rinat Akhmetshin. He`s the one who has named in the hacking case about the mining company and he`s the one who has the Russian military intelligence background.
Senator Grassley alleges in his letter today that Akhmetshin might have misrepresented his own past with the Russian military and his own past with the Russian intelligence -- his own past with the Russian intelligence on his various applications to enter the United States. Again, Mr. Akhmetshin is now a dual U.S./Russian citizen. If his citizenship is going to be put at risk because of any improper disclosures, they might have peered it out in his paperwork, you might expect that that would be another major point of leverage that investigators might have on him if they are going to try to get him to talk about what happened in that meeting.
And that`s separate and apart from the money laundering guy. I wonder if investigators will have any legal leverage over him.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: If Russia decided to interfere with our presidential election because they wanted something, because they wanted to change the world to more like what they want, what are the things they might try to get from the United States? What could they conceivably get from the United States if they could wave a magic wand? And have they been getting any of it?
This was our first back of the envelope calculation, our first guess of what might be a Russia wish list. Russia might like the United States to be isolated in the world and the west to be fractured. They certainly want to be released from U.S. sanctions, which they hate. They would definitely like deciding power over what happens in Syria. They see that as their footprint in the Middle East.
Russia has resented for years, for decades what they see as the meddling of the U.S. State Department in their affairs. I`m sure they`d like to hit the State Department with a big freeze ray, to sort of render the U.S. State Department inert. They want their seized U.S. properties back, the ones that Obama took away from them in exchange, in response to them hacking our election.
And speaking of them hacking our election, they presumably would like continued ability to do stuff like that, continued intelligence operability, even military operability inside the United States, so they can continue to mess with us at will.
The unnerving thing about that list, is that all of those things, Russia has at least made progress towards getting since the U.S. election in which they interfered. And now, we`re learning that there are boxes on that check list we didn`t even know existed, stuff we didn`t even guess they might want. It looks like those boxes are getting ticked, too.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports today that Republicans in Congress are moving ahead with their plan to kill the Election Assistance Commission. What`s the Election Assistance Commission? It`s, quote, the sole federal agency that exclusive works to ensure our voting process is secure.
All right. Who needs that? Definitely time to close that agency down. Our elections are obviously totally secure.
Who knew that less election security could even be a box on the Russia wish list? I mean, we knew they wanted to be allowed to keep doing what they were doing, right, messing with us, however they want to mess with us. But now, we`re really going above and beyond. We`re like a family that just got burgled and we decided to respond to it by removing our doors. Now, we`ll do even less to secure our election if Republicans get their way.
We also learned today that the top cybersecurity official at the State Department is leaving. "Politico" reports that he, quote, has been leading American delegations to international cyber meetings since 2011, and negotiating joint agreements with other countries on issues like protecting critical infrastructure and developing cyber norms.
Quote: His departure may complicate the State Department`s task of delivering an international cyber strategy. Again, what could be more happy making right now than for America`s main international voice on cyber issues to be silenced, to be goodbyed?
Another item on the wish list, another wishful filled, we`re going to have to start using a smaller font on our list. Hold that thought.
MADDOW: Joining us now for "The Interview" tonight is Wendy Sherman. She`s the former undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration.
Madam Ambassador, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you for being here.
WENDY SHERMAN, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Delighted to be here. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ve had you for short stints in the past but I feel like I need to have a slightly more in-depth conversation with you because I feel like I`m starting to feel big thoughts and it`s making me feel humble and shy about my conclusions.
I have worries about the State Department being diminished, being rendered inert and in some ways dismantling itself, not necessarily as a project that has any goal towards strengthening the United States that I can discern. Do you think those worries are fair?
SHERMAN: I think those worries are very fair.
It`s very interesting, the list of what you have of what Russia is getting, that it wants an inert State Department. Well, I think the U.S. government is doing that all by itself, Russia aside. But it certainly has implications for our ability to do diplomacy. You know, diplomacy works in the world, but it takes a team of people to get it done and what we`re seeing is Secretary Tillerson sort of responding to the president who, as the CEO of this family organization, says cut, cut, cut and having been a CEO of an organization where if he told people, cut, cut, cut, that that`s what you do, that he is, in fact, doing just that.
He`s also an engineer looking at the boxes and moving them around and very, very concerning things are happening, like wanting to get rid of the Bureau of Population Migration and Refugees, which really worries about what happens to people around the world. That is a really strong tool of American diplomacy.
MADDOW: And a huge national security issue.
SHERMAN: Huge national security issue. As you noticed, he`s closing down the cyber office. Chris Painter and I sat down years ago and started to figure out what strategy ought to be to start to look at something that we were all just beginning to understand and think about and has become obviously a staggering tool that we have spent a lot of time on in the Situation Room, but a lot more, because we all live in the cloud now, which you know well, and the security around the cloud is not so secure.
MADDOW: So, the only issue that I would take with that portrait that you just painted of what`s been going on, is that I feel like Secretary of State Tillerson is not just responding to the president saying, I want you to get down to a smaller number in terms of your bottom line. This president does not appear to be particularly budget sensitive. We`ve seen him called for very large increases not just in military spending but his overall budget is something that doesn`t do anything near what he said it would do in terms of numbers.
I see with Rex Tillerson an enthusiasm for --
MADDOW: -- for hollowing out the State Department. There was concern early on that top people at the State Department were leaving and they weren`t replacing them. That has gone on and on and on for months now. It appears that maybe those are jobs that will never exist again inside the State Department. I think he`s an enthusiast for this sort of change.
SHERMAN: Yes, I think he`s an enthusiast. He believes in using attrition as a way to get those numbers down.
SHERMAN: But even more concerning and going to what you`ve been talking about this evening, is we have believed there`s a community of nations that we have to create an international order and the United States wants to be a champion of that international order.
MADDOW: And the leader of it I think.
SHERMAN: We want to write the rules so that people play by rules that are in our interests and the world`s interests. The Trump administration, starting with the president and I think Secretary Tillerson as well, believe in what national security adviser McMaster and economic adviser Cohn wrote, which is that we`re not a community of nations. We`re just a bunch of competing agendas. We all have to look after our self-interests. That`s what America first is about.
And that is Vladimir Putin wants as well. He talks about it in terms of spheres of influence. And there is great concern that we are going to trade way our influence, our leadership, and give Vladimir Putin something he wants.
MADDOW: And that idea of a sort of short sharp shock community of nations fighting each other in that way, non-community of nations, but rather a system of competition where everybody is just fighting for their way, that`s not just a radical change in the terms of way America`s sees itself in the world. But when you say that is how Putin sees the world, does that mean that we`re aligning ourselves with a model of international competition that Putin championed? We are sort of getting on board his view of the world instead of retaining our own?
SHERMAN: It certainly feels that way. And the real anxiety about this is that we will find ourselves down a path to war before we even know it. I don`t want to sit here and be a warmonger. I certainly believe in diplomacy. I believe in diplomacy backed up by a credit work of force. I think it`s very important for all of our tools to work together.
But whether it is what`s happening in North Korea or not happening in North Korea, what diplomacy is not taking place, what we are doing in terms of the Gulf States and all of the infighting that`s going on there and the fight with Iran which is ongoing, and as we saw, even though the president recertified the Iran deal, at the same time he said, bad deal, bad people have to take care of their bad things, we may find ourselves inadvertently marching down to war to protect those interests.
MADDOW: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, I have one other question I would like to ask you. Can you stay for just another moment?
MADDOW: It`s about what we`ve just learned tonight about this second meeting between President Trump and President Putin that not disclosed by the White House. Can you stick for just one second?
MADDOW: All right. Ambassador Wendy Sherman is a former under secretary of state for political affairs. She joins us tonight for the interview. She will be with us when we get right back.
MADDOW: Joining us once again is Wendy Sherman, the former under secretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration.
Madam Ambassador, thank you, again.
SHERMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: We got this unusual news tonight that in addition to their formal meeting at G20, which we knew about previously, President Trump and President Putin of Russia had an additional long, one on one discussion that took place at a meeting but not -- sorry, at a dinner, later that evening at the G20.
And what sounds unusual to me is just an observer, is that only Putin`s translator was involved in that discussion? There were no U.S. officials involved in that other than Trump. And that White House didn`t disclose the meeting or give any sort of read-out about it. Is that just strange or is that worrying?
SHERMAN: It`s absolutely worrying. You know, if it were, as Ian said at the top of your hour, if it was a five or ten minute pull-aside, five or 10 minute pull aside, that happens all of the time. That`s what you use those dinners for, to have a little say, to set up a meeting, to follow up on something. But an hour-long conversation with only one translator, the president of the United States has no idea what Vladimir Putin really said to him or what got translated back to Vladimir Putin.
MADDOW: So, the translator issue isn`t just a technical thing. It`s not just a politeness thing. There are actually security concerns about that?
SHERMAN: Grave security concerns. Absolutely.
MADDOW: Wendy Sherman is former undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Obama administration, thank you.
SHERMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Really appreciate your time. Really appreciate you being here.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, the Senate hasn`t gone home. Which means that every hour from now, until they do, we`re going to be watching to see if another vote turns up.
Late last night, Senate majority leader, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, announced that he wanted, no longer try to repeal and replace Obamacare since that effort had died. Instead, he was going to scrap the replace part and just go whole hog on repealing it all together. Just get rid of it. Don`t replace it with anything.
The CBO reports that that approach would cause 32 million Americans who have health insurance right now to lose all health insurance. That means 1 out of every 10 people in the country would lose all health insurance coverage.
Three senators came out this morning and said they wouldn`t vote for straight repeal. That stopped that idea dead in its tracks. Senator McConnell insists that the Senate will vote on full repeal early next week and, though he knows he doesn`t have the votes he needs, you need like four arms and several additional opposable thumbs to be able to juggle every piece of this moving puzzle. But people, we`ll keep an eye on what is going on in the Senate for now until it is dead and dusted.
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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