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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 8/9/17 Street Legal

Guests: Carol Leonnig, Joyce Vance

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 9, 2017 Guest: Carol Leonnig, Joyce Vance

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": 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. Appreciate it.

HAYES: You bet.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. There`s lot going on tonight. Lots to cover. Very glad you`re here with us.

We`ve got a dynamite former U.S. attorney who is here tonight to help us understand why the FBI raided the Trump campaign chairman`s house in the middle of the night.

We`ve got Andrea Mitchell with us here tonight for the latest on the North Korea situation. And for the latest on this other truly strange story, that kind of halfway broke tonight about U.S. diplomats in one particular country allegedly being targeted in that country with secret devices that were designed to make them go deaf. I`m not kidding. It is the weirdest story I`ve heard in a very long time. It almost made me wish we still had a State Department back in Washington who could answer questions about it. That`s ahead tonight.

Plus, we`ve got a multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter from "The Washington Post" here with us tonight to walk us through "The Post`s" latest scoop on the Russia investigation. So, there`s lots to come tonight.

I want to start, though, with one of the biggest and most successful corruption prosecutions we have ever had in the modern era in this country. It started in 1994, on Election Day 1994, when a big family from Chicago, a family called the Willis family, was driving down the highway in their van. They`re from the south side of Chicago.

They were driving -- actually, in Wisconsin, near Milwaukee. Six kids, and two parents in their van rolling down the interstate. When a truck in front of them started shedding its parts.

Now, apparently other drivers on the highway had seen that this truck was having trouble. They had seen that this stuff -- that there was stuff hanging off of this truck. They saw how dangerous it was. Other drivers had tried to signal to the driver of the truck to let him know something was wrong, but the truck driver didn`t respond appropriately, didn`t seem to do anything in response to these alerts from other drivers.

Ultimately, a piece of his tail light assembly fell off his truck at speed on the highway. And it bounced on the road, and it bounced underneath the van that was carrying the Willis family. And that piece of that truck became shrapnel. And it punctured the gas tank of the van, and the van went up in a fireball.

Five of the six kids were killed instantly in the fireball. The sixth child who was the eldest, and he was only 13, he died hours later. He died the next day. The parents were severely burned. But they survived.

Just an unbelievable tragedy. It happened on Election Day 1994.

And that unbelievable tragedy ultimately turned into one of the biggest corruption prosecutions in modern U.S. history. And it took a dozen years to get to the end of it. It took years to figure out. It took years to unwind it all.

But it turned out that that truck driver, on that highway outside Milwaukee, never should have been licensed to drive that truck. In fact, he wasn`t really licensed to drive that truck. The way he got his commercial driver`s license was that he paid a bribe for it.

The corruption scandal that state investigators and federal prosecutors and the FBI ultimately unraveled turned out to be a thorough and ongoing scheme to sell commercial driver`s licenses for a price. To sell licenses of all kinds, to sell apartments, to sell leases, to sell contracts, to sell all sorts of things that the state government did in exchange for bribes.

And the elected officials who oversaw that bribery scheme saw to it that the bribe money didn`t go into public officials` pockets, it also specifically went into their campaign funds, to make sure they`d be able to stay in office so they could keep overseeing this corrupt system, where all that bribery money went into their pockets, and the people who paid were people who happened to be on the motorway with people who got their commercial driver`s licenses by greasing somebody`s palm instead of being qualified to have them.

And by the time prosecutors finally nailed down that scheme, more than 75 state officials got indicted and convicted. No one who was indicted and put on trial was found not guilty. They just nailed them. More than 75 of them.

And by the time it was really over, the guy they had at the dock was the very top guy in the state, was the governor of the state, a guy named George Ryan.

George Ryan was a Republican. He wasn`t actually perceived as a terrible governor in Illinois, but he was right at the center of that absolutely corrosive corruption scandal. That election day back in 1994 when the Willis family lost six kids on that highway, that day, that Election Day, George Ryan had just been reelected to the secretary of state`s office in Illinois, which was in charge of issuing things like commercial driver`s licenses.

After that tragedy, an internal review found that the truck driver in the Willis family crash should not have been licensed, and in fact, he probably paid a bribe to get his commercial license. When that internal investigation came up with that finding, good old George Ryan, in the secretary of state`s office, shut down that internal state investigation and he fired the investigators.

Harder to get these things done when people are shutting it down along the way. But a good investigation team, good prosecutors, good law enforcement doesn`t stop. It ultimately took years of investigators, and years of all the corrupt politicians trying to cover it up.

It took more than 75 indictments and convictions of state employees, but by the end of it, they got them. They got George Ryan, who by the time they got him, had risen to become governor of the state. They got him on bribery, obstruction of justice, lying to investigators, extortion, money laundering, tax fraud.

They got him on racketeering. Orchestration and involvement in an ongoing criminal enterprise, which under him was a significant portion of the government of the state of Illinois, which was being run as a criminal enterprise. That`s how you get the governor on a RICO case.

And that scandal pops in modern American history and will continue to pop in American history for a long time for a few different reasons. I mean, first, and most obviously, it is a textbook case of how corruption works. And how in America, when things work the way they should, you cannot use corruption to build up so much political power that you can outrun or outlast a good criminal investigation of your behavior.

If you did it, if you left evidence of your crimes, there is no get out of jail free card, no matter how high you rise in politics. Good investigators, a good prosecution will catch you. No matter how long it takes and no matter how high you rise, and no matter who you are. That is one reason that case sticks with us, still, a decade after Governor George Ryan got sent to prison.

The Governor George Ryan case also sticks with us, because it`s Illinois. It`s like a punch line corruption case. Even before George Ryan was done serving his prison sentence for corruption, he was joined by the next governor of Illinois, Rob Blagojevich, who was also sentenced to prison for corruption. Four of the last seven governors of Illinois have gone to prison. So, that`s another reason the case sticks with us.

But there is one more reason that case will stick with us a while longer, and it`s because of a small piece of that dramatic trial for Governor George Ryan, a small piece of that trial, which is controversial at the time, is now back. You might recognize the federal prosecutor who brought the corruption case against Governor George Ryan. The prosecutor`s name was Patrick Fitzgerald.

You might remember him from George W. Bush years. He played a high-profile role in the Scooter Libby-Valerie Plame case in the George W. Bush administration. That`s the case where Dick Cheney`s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of lying to federal investigators and obstructing justice.

Patrick Fitzgerald was the special counsel in that case. He was also the U.S. attorney, the federal prosecutor in Chicago, and he led the prosecution of Governor George Ryan. And in the middle of that prosecution, one very strange thing happened, at least strange from the perspective of federal law enforcement.

So, in this case, right, they`re trying a governor in this huge corruption case, this huge deadly, years-long corruption case, there`s Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois, all right, based in Chicago, and he`s prosecuting this case against the governor of the state. And at that trial, another serving federal prosecutor from the same state, the U.S. attorney from the southern district of Illinois, came into that trial and testified for the defense, came in and testified for the governor. That`s a very strange thing. I mean, it was seen as a very strange thing at the time. Even a decade later, it`s still seen as a strange thing.

Christian Bertelsen and Matt Robinson wrote about this recently for "Bloomberg News," describing it as a, quote, bizarre spectacle. I mean, it`s a weird thing. One of the U.S. attorneys in Illinois coming in and testifying in effect against one of the other U.S. attorneys in Illinois, criticizing his office, criticizing the prosecution, standing for the defense against his fellow prosecutors. It was a weird thing.

The prosecutor who did that is a man named Edward McNally. And it was controversial at the time, not just because this was a weird thing to do, to have a federal prosecutor on one side and a federal prosecutor on the other side, too.

It was controversial for months thereafter because it soon emerged that the law firm defending the governor, right, the law firm defending the governor who scored this huge coup by having a sitting federal prosecutor come in and testify on their side of the case, turns out that that law firm was also involved in another matter at the same time. Where they were the law firm that was trying to recover debt that a bunch of Chicago lawyers, or a bunch of Illinois lawyers owed when their law firm had gone bankrupt. One of the lawyers it turns out who they were trying to collect a six-figure debt from was Edward McNally.

While they`re pursuing him for that six-figure debt, he comes into this trial and pays that law firm this remarkable favor of sitting down on the other side of this other federal prosecutor on behalf of the defense while he`s serving as a federal U.S. attorney. He was -- they`re after him for money, and he comes in and does them this favor.

The prosecution side, the Patrick Fitzgerald side figured it out and went nuts. They even found an e-mail in which the guy`s own lawyer had written to the firm defending Governor Ryan, saying, hey, they should cut Edward McNally some slack. They should give him extra time to pay off his debt, in part because, look, he came in and testified for the defense to help their client, the governor.

So that weird part of that trial, one prosecutor facing off against the other prosecutor from the same state, these two U.S. attorneys on either side of the case, it was a weird offshoot of a big, important corruption case that continues to resonate for years later, for all sorts of reasons. When that part of it came out, about this federal prosecutor testifying for the defense, the two senators from Illinois at the time, Dick Durbin, who is still a senator, and the then senator named Barack Obama, they asked the Justice Department to review the whole thing for potential misconduct.

The Bush era Justice Department did investigate it. They cleared McNally and decided nobody did anything wrong. A decade later now the whole thing is still remembered as a bizarre spectacle.

But Edward McNally, he`s absolutely landed on his feet. He`s now a partner in this guy`s law firm. He`s partner in Marc Kasowitz`s law firm. Mark Kasowitz might still be the president`s lead lawyer on the Russia investigation, might now, hard to tell at this point.

Marc Kasowitz and his firm has represented Donald Trump and Trump Organization for years on everything from the multimillion dollar fraud case that Trump lost about Trump University, to Trump`s efforts to keep his divorce records out of the public eye, to the pseudo legal threats to sue or register complaints against everybody from "The New York Times," to FBI Director James Comey, to women accusing Donald Trump of sexual harassment. They maybe are even representing the president in the ongoing issues related to the Russia investigation.

Edward McNally is a partner in Marc Kasowitz`s firm and the White House has now reportedly forwarded Edward McNally`s name as one of their top candidates to be the new U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York.

The eastern district of New York is based in Brooklyn. It`s one of the highest profile law enforcement districts in the country. They`re known in particular for their vociferous prosecutions, their relentless prosecution of organized crime, racketeering, money laundering, things like that.

The White House has named the George Ryan corruption trial guy who was Marc Kasowitz`s law partner as one of their potential nominees for the eastern district of New York.

And for the southern district of New York, which is even more high profile, the epicenter of financial crime prosecution in this whole country, it happens to include part of its jurisdiction the place that Trump Tower is, where the Trump Organization is headquartered, for the southern district of New York, they forwarded the name of a different lawyer, Geoffrey Berman, who is a law partner of Donald Trump`s best friends in the world, Rudolph Giuliani.

So, if hypothetically, President Trump has any concerns about potential federal liability related to his family business, or his past or current business practices, the president obviously will have in mind the special counsel investigation on Russia led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. But he will also probably have in mind these two crucial, high profile New York jurisdictions.

So, having those prosecutors` offices headed up by a guy from Marc Kasowitz law firm and a guy from Rudy Giuliani`s law firm, I mean, if you were worried, hypothetically, that would probably feel like a cold compress on a fevered brow, right, for this beleaguered White House.

Rudy, you got anybody for the southern district? Marc, you got anybody for the eastern district?

I mean, if Congress lets them do it, right? These are Senate confirmed positions.

And in the general sense, it`s true that it`s the U.S. Justice Department that, as a body, that oversees all federal law enforcement matters and prosecutions in the United States, right? The Justice Department does federal law enforcement. That`s why it was weird to have two Justice Department federal prosecutors working opposite sides of the same case back in the Governor George Ryan corruption scandal.

But within that overall umbrella of the Justice Department, individual personnel matters. Who an individual prosecutor is, how an individual prosecutor works, it can -- yes, it can change the course of justice. It can change lives. It can change history.

In terms of the day-to-day way they do their work, the federal prosecutor works hand in glove with the grand jury. Grand juries are regular citizens called up for what`s basically like normal jury duty on steroids. You called up for jury duty, usually you sit for a single trial.

If you`re on a grand jury, you don`t just sit for a single trial, you sit anywhere from a month to a year, usually for several months. And under the direction of the prosecutor, the grand jury makes decisions about whether criminal charges can be brought in federal cases. And in the course of making that decision, the grand jury has a lot of power. They can pursue evidence.

Prosecutors have grand juries sign off on subpoenas to go get evidence, or to compel testimony, or to compel the production of documents. It`s a very powerful -- can be very intimidating part of our justice system.

In the case of the Trump-Russia investigation, we started hearing about grand juries issuing subpoenas to people related to the Trump campaign and related to the Trump administration back in May. We were first to report here on this show on May 11th that the Attorney General Jeff Sessions was refusing to say whether or not he was recused from overseeing any Justice Department investigations, that might relate to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

By later on that month, by a week later in fact, by May 17th, "The New York Times" and NBC News had reported that that was not a hypothetical question. Grand juries were at work with federal prosecutors on investigations related to both Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort. That was in May.

By the first week of June, it was reported that whatever prosecutors and grand juries had been working on Manafort and Flynn investigations, whichever grand juries and prosecutors had been issuing subpoenas in those investigations, both of them were being taken out of the normal course of justice department oversight. Both Flynn investigations and Manafort investigations were being taken over by the special counsel, Bob Mueller. By the end of June, June 30th, we learned among the prosecutors and lawyers who Bob Mueller has been bringing on to his team at the special counsel`s office, one of the lawyers he brought on is the prosecutor who was leading the Paul Manafort investigation in the southern district of New York. Before that prosecution got subsumed into Mueller`s work.

So, in parallel with all of that attention and action, from federal prosecutors and grand juries and the special counsel`s office, we also know that Paul Manafort was dealing simultaneously with another group of people, who had subpoena power, and who were interested in him, and those were the congressional committees investigating the Trump-Russia issue. Paul Manafort was initially scheduled to testify on Tuesday, July 25th to the intelligence committee in the Senate. He was then scheduled to testify the following day, Wednesday, July 26th, to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.

And some of that planned testimony was in response to requests from those committees. Some of that was in response to subpoenas from those committees, like grand juries. Investigative committees and the Congress can issue subpoenas. And so, remember, by this point, by late last month, we know that Paul Manafort is not just dealing with subpoenas and demands from Congress, he`s also dealing with subpoenas from federal prosecutors, and grand juries. He`s been dealing with those for months. And that`s all been happening simultaneously, all the way through May and June and into late July.

But now we know that something very different happened two weeks ago in late July. Thanks to the "Washington Post" today, reporting by Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman, we now know that for some reason after midnight on the night of the 25th, the morning of the 26th, so the night after he testified to the Intelligence Committee and the morning before he was initially scheduled to talk to the Judiciary Committee, for some reason, in the predawn hours, the federal prosecutors and grand juries that have brought this thing this far decided they would go another step and start doing this in a different way.

When the FBI raided Paul Manafort`s house in Virginia in the wee hours of July 26th, ABC reports tonight he was awoken by a group of armed FBI agents knocking on his bedroom door. When those armed agents raided his house, they weren`t just working off the word of a federal prosecutor, and a grand jury, who can act on their own steam, who have been powering this investigation, and everything we have learned about it up until this point for months.

No, for the raid, for there to have been a raid by armed FBI agents, that means they were serving a search warrant, which means that Bob Mueller and his team had filed a sworn affidavit with a judge that spelled out probable cause that a specific crime or crimes had been committed, and also spelling out probable cause that evidence related to those potential crimes would be found at the specific location named in the warrant, which was Paul Manafort`s house.

And presented with that affidavit, the judge signed off, which means we are in a new phase here. This is the first time we know that the investigators have presented and persuaded a judge of probable cause that crimes have been committed in the matters under investigation.

So, here`s my questions. One, why did they stop seeking information from him by subpoena? Why did they instead move on to raiding his house? And taking things under a search warrant? Did the subpoena process stop working?

Also, as far as I understand it, Justice Department guidelines require agents to pursue evidence by the least obtrusive means possible. Sending armed agents to his bedroom door in the middle of the night is not the least obtrusive means possible. Do they have to explain why they did it this way? What is all the urgency about?

Do we ever get to see the search warrant or affidavit that spelled out the alleged crimes here and the evidence they were looking for? Did the timing of this raid have anything to do with the fact that Paul Manafort less than 24 hours earlier had done an interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee? If so, what`s the connection between those two things? Would the FBI have known the content of what Manafort said to the intelligence committee that morning, if that is what sparked the raid?

Also, because I`m nosey, how did Paul Manafort`s house get raided at 3:00 in the morning and none of his neighbors leaked a word of it for two whole weeks? I mean, it`s not the most important part of this, but puts a whole new spin on neighborhood watch, right? Neighborhood, oh my god, watch, Paul Manafort, don`t tell anyone.

So, there`s a lot going on here. Some of these questions have answers we ought to be able to get in the public domain, and we`re going to try to get to some of them this hour. Some of the questions we won`t know the answers for a long time.

I should also tell you, the story continues to develop tonight. "Politico" reporting tonight federal investigators have approached Paul Manafort`s son-in-law about cooperating in the investigation and what "Politico" describes as an effort to increase pressure on Paul Manafort.

Federal law enforcement is powerful. It matters who holds the reins of power within that system. Federal law enforcement has a logic that is interesting to untangle and follow when it is unraveling dramatic wrongdoing.

But covering federal law enforcement actions, very rarely seems weird, right? Very rarely takes a bizarre turn nobody was seeing. When it does, it tends to resonate not just for months, but years, tends to resonate into history. And rarely since the start of this scandal have we watched a federal law enforcement action that has immediately provoked not just conclusions, but tons of burning questions.

And that`s why we`re very lucky enough to have Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Carol Leonnig with us from "The Washington Post." She broke this FBI raid story today. We`ll be with her next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It`s a highly significant, even stunning development. This kind of predawn raid, a search-and-seizure without any advance notice, is typical of the most serious criminal investigations, especially dealing with a target or a witness who is uncooperative, or untrusted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Reaction from Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former federal prosecutor, to the news of the FBI raid on the home of Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Joining us now is Carol Leonnig. She`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for "The Washington Post" who broke the story today.

Ms. Leonnig, it`s really nice to have you here tonight. Congratulations on this scoop.

CAROL LEONNIG, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTONO POST: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, correct me if I`m wrong, I think this is the first time we have learned of an FBI raid as part of this investigation, isn`t it?

LEONNIG: It is. It is. And while FBI raids are actually a lot of what the FBI does, it`s kind of striking in this kind of case. And it is a threshold moment in the Russia probe for special counsel Bob Mueller. You could view this as one of our legal experts said to us, a shock and awe moment on the part of Bob Mueller, and the FBI agents who work for him.

They can be communicating to Mr. Manafort that he`s in their sights, and they view him as someone who`s very vulnerable legally. And you can also view it as a moment when a federal judge agreed that there was significant evidence of a crime, and reason to be concerned about preserving evidence.

MADDOW: And I am no expert on these matters at all. It`s my understanding that Justice Department rules on these sorts of things say that agents have to use the least intrusive means, the least obtrusive means, I guess, in trying to obtain evidence. Is -- does the fact that this raid happen suggest because those Justice Department rules that they felt that they couldn`t get what they were after? They couldn`t obtain the kind of evidence that they were looking for through the process that we know they were following before which is issuing subpoenas to Paul Manafort to people connected to him?

LEONNIG: It`s an absolutely great question. And, of course, there`s something that happened. And we can speculate all night long, but what`s most likely is that prosecutors were able to, based on something that Manafort or his lawyers said, remember, Paul Manafort is the former chairman of the Trump campaign for president in 2016, there is something that he said or his lawyers said that indicated a lack of cooperation, a resistance to provide information or answers.

And indeed, Paul Manafort has some serious legal exposure based on many things we already know in the public domain as you mentioned. One of them is that his son-in-law has been accused of a Ponzi scheme involving some real estate deals in California and in Manhattan. And Mr. Manafort`s funds were used for some of that project. So he`s got lots of questions to answer there. And that`s a pressure point for Mr. Manafort, a son-in-law in some jeopardy as well.

Also, Mr. Manafort did not disclose some important lobbying he was doing on behalf of Ukrainian political party that was sort of Russian leaning. And that`s an important issue about false statements to federal agents, or failure to disclose. And though you could argue that`s a technical violation, it`s still a violation, and it`s a worrisome one for him.

If there are other issues involving banking or tax matters, where he has not done everything he was supposed to do, and that is certainly what the record seizure indicates, that the prosecutors are looking at all of his finances, and whether he crossed all his T`s and dotted all his I`s, there`s a lot of pressure on this person who is a witness to whether or not the Trump campaign was coordinating with Russians in the 2016 election.

MADDOW: Pressure being the optimum word there and pressure becoming more viscerally understanding to us who have never been in a situation like this, but know how scary it must be to have FBI agents at your house at 3:00 in the morning.

Carol Leonnig, reporter for "The Washington Post" -- again, congratulations on the scoop. Thanks for helping us understand it.

LEONNIG: Thanks for the good questions.

MADDOW: Thanks.

That just made my year. I`m going to bask in that for a second and be back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: This is such a strange story.

It started this morning on the radio, with the CBS Radio report that was very interesting. I love radio news. It`s my background. It`s my favorite thing in the world. CBS is really good at it.

And this was a very unusual thing for them. They ran this very provocative, very interesting report that also made no sense.

Listen to this. Tell me if this makes any sense to you.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STEVE DORSEY, CBS NEWS RADIO: The State Department spokesperson says some U.S. government personnel in Havana on official duty have reported incidents that have caused a variety of physical symptoms. The department hasn`t made clear what those incidents have been and what those symptoms are, but it did take action against Cuba. On May 23rd, the U.S. asked, two Cuban officials in the U.S. to leave the country. The spokesperson also says it reminded the Cuban government of its obligations under the Vienna Convention to protect diplomats. An investigation is under way.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MADDOW: Protect the diplomats from what? But that was the full report. Non-described incidents happened to our American diplomats in Cuba.

Those incidents caused the diplomats to develop symptoms that cannot be described. Conventions. Like, what a thing happened at a time at a place, bad, got it? We`re not explaining further.

And this report just kind of hung out there for a few hours. Wire services eventually picked it up. Nobody was able to add anything to the original radio report.

So, then, that same CBS radio reporter showed up at the State Department briefing today, clearly frustrated, right? Hoping to get some more actual information, some flesh to hang on those bones, as to what the heck those incidents were, what those symptoms were, that befell our U.S. diplomats and how big a deal is this.

They asked today the State Department. And then, it got even weirder. And we`ve got that next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: See if you can figure this out. What on God`s green earth is the government refusing to explain here? See if you can figure it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DORSEY: Can you tell us about the incidents that have been going on in Havana affecting U.S. government workers there?

HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Yes. We`re certainly aware of what has happened there. Give me one second here. And that`s why we got a little bit of a late start getting some recent updates for you on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Excellent. The State Department is certainly aware of whatever happened in Cuba. They have recent updates. They have been working on it. They have been preparing to tell us more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAUERT: I`m not going to be able to give you a ton of information about this today. I`ll tell you what we can provide so far. We don`t have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of what we consider to be incidents.

REPORTER: If the U.S. doesn`t have a definitive answer on the cause or source of the incidents, why did it ask those two Cuban embassy officials to depart the U.S.?

NAUERT: Look, our -- some of our people have had the option of leaving Cuba as a result, for medical reasons.

REPORTER: How many?

NAUERT: I can`t tell you the exact number of that.

REPORTER: Was it in the tens, dozens?

NAUERT: I`m not going to characterize it.

REPORTER: So, this has been going on since 2016, you don`t know what this incident is?

NAUERT: What this requires is providing medical examinations to these people. Initially when they started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was. This is still ongoing. We take this very seriously.

REPORTER: What is this?

NAUERT: This incident. This incident. That`s what we`re calling it. We don`t know exactly --

REPORTER: The physical symptom wasn`t death, was it?

NAUERT: No. It was not. It was not.

REPORTER: Not life-threatening?

NAUERT: Not life-threatening. I`ll leave it at that. Anything else on Cuba? We`re done with Cuba, correct?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: We`re done with Cuba. Everybody got a handle on this story? We`re done, right? You write it all down? Sorted.

Let`s get this straight. There were incidents. We do not know what the incidents are. We do not have the date when it happened. We don`t know how many people showed the symptoms from these incidents. We will not tell you what the symptoms are, but we do know the U.S. State Department is taking this very seriously and is happy to clear it up.

Imagine if you knew somebody was working for the State Department in Cuba.

Well, thank god for reporters. "The Associated Press" actually finally spelled this out today. Long after the State Department blew all that weird smoke, the "A.P." got a source to describe those mysterious symptoms and what this is all about. It was a single source giving this to the "A.P."

Quote: Investigators are looking into whether elements of the Cuban government placed sonic devices that produced non-audible sound inside or outside the residences of roughly five U.S. embassy staffers with the intent of deafening them.

American diplomats in Cuba, starting last year, have been being intentionally made deaf by secret devices placed at their homes by the Cuban government. This is not just strange. This is obviously a very bad story if this is what happened.

The Cuban government on their part says they`re investigating these reports. In a case like this, it would be helpful to get something other than smiling word salad from our own government. But that`s not the way things work anymore in our own government. We`ll be right back. Hold that thought.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAUERT: We take this very seriously. Look --

REPORTER: What is this?

NAUERT: This incident. This incident. And that`s what we`re calling it. We don`t know exactly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: It`s been one day since "The Washington Post" reported that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit on a missile. That was according to a confidential assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency. That reporting from "The Post" was yesterday. Since then, there have been no other intelligence agencies, no other sources who would know who have come out and corroborated that bombshell reporting.

Nevertheless, after that report yesterday, the president issued threats that he would rain down fire and fury and power on North Korea if they continued to issue threats. North Korea responded immediately by threatening to shoot missiles at Guam.

NBC News is reporting tonight that the Pentagon is preparing a plan for a preemptive strike on North Korea`s missile sites using B-1 bombers should the president want to act on his threats. Meanwhile, the secretary of state assured Americans that we should all sleep well and not worry about the escalation of this situation, no matter what the president says.

Is the U.S. running an actual policy here or is this improv? And what do we expect to happen next?

Joining us now is Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" here on MSNBC.

Andrea, it`s great to see you. Thank you for being here.

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST, "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS": Great to see you, Rachel.

MADDOW: The Pentagon prepping a preemptive strike using B-1 bombers. Is this the sort of thing that they always keep at hand, that they always draw this, or is this really new?

MITCHELL: They`ve got plans. They always have plans. This is one plan as we`ve been reporting.

Also, their other plans, there are sea launched missiles, surface to surface missiles. They`ve got a range of options obviously because of the potential bad weather, which would militate against the B1 bombers.

The B1s have also been flying because they are such an obvious signal to the North Koreans. They`ve been flying particularly since the last month, since the North Korean IBM -- first IBM launch, the long-range missile launch, and then the second one, of course. So, the accelerated pace of Kim Jong-un`s not only the nuclear tests immediately, but then the missile test, the increased sophistication, which were underestimated clearly by U.S. intelligence has really got everybody`s hair on fire.

MADDOW: Andrea, the Defense Intelligence Agency back in 2013 reported -- that was under the leadership of Mike Flynn. They reported that then North Korea had miniaturized a nuclear device and could put one on the missile. That proved not to be the case then.

This is just --

MITCHELL: Well, it was just -- it was right but just a couple years early.

MADDOW: Just a few years early. The timing ends up being important.

Are other U.S. intelligence agencies corroborating this DIA report this time? Is DIA still out there on its own? Are we expecting a more fulsome report on this?

MITCHELL: Well, it`s a little bit unclear. Let me just say that not on the record, we`re getting a lot of signals, off the record signals on background, not really anything definitive. But other agencies are not falling into line behind the DIA, which has, as you`ve been pointing out, a reputation for being a little aggressive and out front and not always correct.

So, we don`t have yet a formal assessment that I am aware of, but it does seem that the chief of staff, the secretary of defense, that a lot of very serious players, H.R. McMaster, are taking this seriously enough that it seems to be at least something that was briefed to the president and briefed by the DNI, and by the CIA Director Mike Pompeo who do the daily -- presidential daily briefs.

MADDOW: And, Andrea, in terms of those major figures in the administration, there`s been some reporting tonight that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, that her spokesperson resigned today and that her chief of staff is leaving. I just had to ask you about those reports, if you`ve heard anything about that, if you can shed any light.

MITCHELL: We`ve heard those reports and some very incredible -- credible reporters are confirming those, but I haven`t confirmed it personally. I`ve heard from one person that one of the resignations has to do with family reasons. It`s not policy.

One of them is a holdover who had been but there from Samantha Power days. It would not be surprising. This would add to the number of diplomats who are leaving who were holdovers. Many of them stayed for what they thought would be a reasonable transition, but they are not being given the authority, and they`re not trusted by foreign, you know, allies and adversaries. They don`t have any power.

So, even though the administration is trying to say, well, we don`t have these vacancies, a lot of these positions, 22 out of 24 assistant secretaries are holdover appointments, and five out of six undersecretaries.

So, you see the problem. Who is going to trust someone who is not a Trump loyalist in these positions? Not hardly. This has become a really problem for the secretary of state.

MADDOW: Yes, it would be one thing if this was a world that held still for a minute. But with all of these multiple crises, not having anybody nominated for most of positions is remarkable 200 days in.

Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News --

MITCHELL: You bet.

MADDOW: -- host of "ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS" -- thanks, Andrea. I appreciate it.

All right. We`ve got one more guest joining us tonight. Stay with us. There`s still yet more to come.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, we started off tonight`s show with the big news reported by "The Washington Post" today that FBI agents raided the northern Virginia home of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort without warning, in the pre- dawn hours. It`s the first FBI raid we`ve learned of in the Trump/Russia investigation. The raid happened two weeks ago. We learned about it today.

I have questions about what this means and why it happened.

Joining us now is Joyce Vance. She`s former U.S. attorney.

Ms. Vance, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you for your time tonight.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, forgive my ignorance on these matters. I understand that a judge had to believe there was probable cause that a crime was committed in order to issue a search warrant for this raid. What I don`t know is will we, the public, ever see the search warrant that the judge signed off on or the affidavit that was submitted to the judge in order to get this warrant?

VANCE: That`s always the question because we know that all of the details are in the affidavit that the agent signed in order to convince the judge that there was probable cause. Unfortunately, the answer most likely, at least for now, is no. When that search warrant affidavit will come to light will more likely be if there are indictments in the discovery phase down the road.

There`s a tiny possibility, though, that there`s a return from that search warrant. The agents are required, as they close out a search, to actually do an inventory of property that they seized. The agent who`s making the inventory has to do that with another agent, and the homeowner, or the person being searched, present. Whether or not that return is sealed is a very interesting question here.

MADDOW: A lot of people who, like myself, are non-lawyers, just observers of this today, have been making a big deal out of the fact that this was a pre-dawn raid. ABC News reports that Manafort was awakened in the midst of this raid when FBI agents were knocking at his bedroom door, which would imply that they got in through the front door without his consent.

Is there any -- are we reading too much into those details? Do those details tell you anything as a former U.S. attorney as to the circumstances here?

VANCE: I`ve been wondering about the same thing all day. So, 6:00 is a little bit of a cutoff. Typically, search warrants happen during normal daytime hours. To go earlier than 6:00 in the morning, you would have to convince the judge that there was a good reason to authorize you to go ahead and hit -- to begin the search warrant execution that early. Not clear exactly what time this took place at.

And then there`s this whole issue of did they actually make entry into Manafort`s house and reach the bedroom door before knocks? I tend to think that that`s just a little bit of confusion in the reporting. That would be what we call a no-knock warrant and typically that`s used when you believe someone going to come out shooting at law enforcement or flushing evidence into the toilet if you announce your presence before you make entry.

MADDOW: And, briefly, let me just confirm that if this sort of thing had happened while you were a U.S. attorney in Alabama and a sneaky reporter like me started asking you questions about this as an ongoing investigation, you wouldn`t say beep about it, would you?

VANCE: I would probably smile very nicely at you and tell you, you just have to wait.

MADDOW: Yes. I`m starting to get that feeling.

Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the northern district of Alabama, it`s a real pleasure to have you here tonight, ma`am. Thank you for your time.

VANCE: Thanks.

MADDOW: All right. That does it for us tonight.

I will tell you one of the things people are watching in terms of this Manafort FBI raid news is the possibility that it was related in terms of the timing with the fact -- related to the fact that Manafort had been testifying on Capitol Hill just that morning, less than 24 hours before the raid. We talked about that a couple different times tonight on this show.

All of the talk about that is speculation. There`s nothing in the reporting about that, and there`s nothing from anybody, even source near to the investigation who tells us anything specific about whether or not that testimony to Congress and that raid were connected. That is speculation entirely at this point, but someday I expect we will get that answer.

Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.

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