Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: August 23, 2017
Guest: Rick Wilson, Gordon Lubold
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Thank you.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well.
Rick Wilson is a Republican political operative. You`ve probably seen him here on MSNBC. He`s appeared on lots of different shows.
Part of the reason he is such a popular guest is he`s not only very connected in Republican politics, he knows a lot of what`s going on inside the party. And he also has a good sense of humor, which makes hit great on TV. And he`s one of that endangered species of modern Republicans that is not afraid to be very vocally critical for President Trump.
And for Rick Wilson, that has been true all along. He was a Marco Rubio supporter in the Republican presidential primary last year.
But unlike a lot of other professional Republicans, including Senator Rubio himself, Rick Wilson didn`t decide to eat his criticism of Donald Trump once Trump won the nomination and ultimately the election. He has stuck with his critique.
He`s the unusual high-profile Republican who started off as a no to Trump guy. And he remains a no to Trump guy. And he`s not the only one. There are some, but not many.
Back during the election last year, last July, which was right after we started getting the first reporting about how Russia appeared to be involved in the hacking attacks on the Democratic Party`s e-mail servers, last July, Rick Wilson got a call from a reporter about something very strange, and honestly, very worrying that was starting to circulate about Donald Trump.
An investigative reporter in the TV news business called up Rick Wilson and said, hey, basically, you`re a never Trump guy, have you heard anything about this private intel operation that has turned up supposedly a whole sheaf of allegations about Trump being connected to Russia? About Russia having compromising material on Trump? And Trump being involved, or at least informed about this Russia hacking the Democratic Party?
He got a call that was an inquiry as to whether or not he had heard that stuff. He`s a guy who hears about opposition research. He`s involved at a professional level in Republican politics for a long time. Hey, buddy, you heard about this?
That call last July, that`s how Rick Wilson learned, that`s the way a lot of people learned that there was something out there rumored, right, described vaguely, something out there about Trump that seemed like it might be really worse than your standard political oppo in this country. Last July, around that time, there were a bunch of reporters who started hearing about this private intel project that had turned up, this Russia specific information about Donald Trump.
Now, it was just people talking about it. Nobody published anything on it for months. But lots of reporters did try to chase it down.
And the way you try to chase things down is exactly what you think. You try to retrace the steps of the purported investigator as best you can to try to independently corroborate what`s in these reports that you`ve heard about. You call all the sources you know, who might conceivably have heard something about this, to see if they can give you any other detail, any other angle on what you`re trying to track down. You call around, you talk to sources, you work what you got.
And that process last summer of reporters calling around to their sources to check out this rumored thing that they had heard about, that was the very casual way a lot of people in Washington first heard about the supposed dossier, which we now call it, the dossier of alleged Russian dirt on Donald Trump.
Now, David Corn and "Mother Jones" magazine, he did get out ahead of the pack. He was first to publish a piece on this intel project, this intel reporting on Trump. He published just before election on Halloween night last year. In his piece, David Corn described a former Western intelligence officer who was well-respected in his field who had gathered this inflammatory information on Trump that was starting to circulate in political circles.
But again, because the intel itself, the allegations themselves about Trump hadn`t been independently verified by the journalists who were hearing about it and reporting on it, the intel really could only be described in very, very vague terms.
Until finally, well after the election was over, it all broke open. What broke the dam on this story seems to have been the news that leaked in early January, that the product of this private intelligence operation, the report that was produced by that intelligence operation about Trump and Russia, it was leaked information in the first ten days of January that that reporting which had been rumored for all these months, it was now being taken seriously enough by the U.S. intelligence community that the findings of that report had been summarized and briefed to the outgoing president, Barack Obama, and to the incoming president-elect, Donald Trump.
CNN was first to break that story right at the beginning of January. And that went off like a flash-bang grenade in the news when CNN broke that story.
But it led immediately to the obvious urgent follow-up question, OK, they`ve been briefed on this intel. They`ve been briefed on this thing we`ve all been hearing rumors about it. What is it? What does this intel actually say? What is this inflammatory explosive information that`s been briefed to the president and president-elect? What is it?
And that`s where "BuzzFeed" came in to blow the whole thing open. On January 10th, less than two weeks before the inauguration, "BuzzFeed" went ahead and did it. They uploaded the report, 35 pages of it.
It turns out, David Corn was right. It was from a respected former Western intelligence operative, a former MI-6 agent from Britain, and as had been hinted about and rumored for months, the claims in this intelligence product, in this report, they were in fact lurid. Even if you got through the first couple of pages and then put it down, and reacquainted yourself with the other side of your stomach, even if you didn`t make it all the way through, all 35 pages, right up-front, it was very blunt.
And the thing that got the most attention initially was a description of alleged salacious personal behavior by the president-elect that Russia had supposed documentary evidence of, the implication being that Russia could use that tape of his behavior to blackmail him, and that`s the thing that resonated most loudly at first, for obvious reasons.
But if you could get past that alleged X-rated stuff, what was also made clear in that dossier was that Russia didn`t necessarily need to blackmail him, whether or not they had a tape. What was in the dossier was spelled out, a detailed allegation that there was a mutual operation under way here, that there was collaboration and coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Yes, during the election, as the Russians tried to hurt Hillary Clinton and her chances in the election. But that was the product of a long-standing years-long relationship between the Russians and Donald Trump.
Quoting from the dossier. Quote: The Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for at least five years. Quote: Trump and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals. Quote: In terms of specifics, the Kremlin has been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Now, I mentioned just a moment ago that people in political circles and journalistic circles first started hearing rumors about the existence of this intel right after we learned that Russian hackers had been involved in breaking into the DNC and stealing those Democratic Party documents back in June. Well, there`s a lot of detail in the dossier on that part of the Russian attacks. Specifically, quote: The Russian regime was behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages emanating from the Democratic National Committee to the WikiLeaks platform. Quote: The reason for using WikiLeaks was plausible deniability by the Russian regime, and the operation was conducted with the full knowledge of Trump, and senior members of his campaign team.
So, this was all made public the night of January 10th by "BuzzFeed", created a huge uproar, right?
The day after "BuzzFeed" posted it and everything went nuts, "The New York Times" contacted Republican operative Rick Wilson as part of their reporting on the impact of this dossier, now that it had been made public. Their reporting also on the back story as to when people first started hearing about this information, how long it had been circulating, how it ended up coming up into the public domain.
Even though Rick Wilson had first heard of the existence of this intel months earlier, last summer, seeing it all come out in black and white in January, according to him, was a different thing all together. He told "The Times" in January, quote, it is a remarkable moment in U.S. history, what world did I wake up in?
That`s always stuck with me. Since that first came out. What world is this?
Now, that was January. It is now seven months down the road. Trump is president. He`s facing multiple investigations into his Russia ties. Multiple committees in both Houses of Congress are investigating his Russia ties. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is leading a special counsel inquiry into his Russia ties.
The Russia issue is not just the focus for this presidency and this president, it appears to be an increasingly an object of fixation for this president, probably for good reason, given the seriousness of the investigations that he`s facing.
Jonathan Martin tweeted that a Republican senator just called him to tell him that Trump is, quote, consumed with Russia. An unknown senior -- unnamed senior Republican aide told "Politico" tonight, quote: It seems Trump is just always focused on Russia. That quote comes as part of new reporting tonight from Josh Dawsey and Elana Schor at "Politico" saying that Trump in recent weeks has been calling Republican senators and berating them. That`s the word "Politico" uses, berating them on issues related to Russia.
"Politico" now describing Trump calling Republican Senator Bob Corker to yell at him and complain to him about a Russia sanctions bill that Corker had sponsored and supported. "Politico" also describes the president dialing up Senator Thom Tillis from North Carolina, calling him on August 7th to complain to Thom Tillis about a bill he was working on that was designed to prevent Trump from firing the special counsel Robert Mueller who is looking into the Russia matter.
And it`s kind of interesting, the two different levels to look at this, right? All this reporting about the president, you know, calling senators about Russia. Not being able to let go of Russia. Talking about Russia all the time. It`s all evidence that the president is sort of centrally focused on Russia at the moment.
But if you step back from it for a second, it`s also evidence that lots of Republican sources are willing to tell reporters about that now. Republican sources, congressional aides, senior Republican congressional aides, maybe even Republican senators themselves are now getting very comfortable calling up reporters to tell the press how fixated Trump is on Russia and what he`s been saying to them about Russia in individual private conversations.
And that includes this bombshell report from "The New York Times" last night, with multiple Republican sources claiming to "The Times" that Trump isn`t just randomly calling Republicans and yelling at them about Russia. When it comes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to these Republican sources in "The Times," Trump called McConnell on August 9th to berate him and swear at him and scream at him about Mitch McConnell not protecting the president from the Russia investigations that are being conducted under McConnell`s purview in the Senate.
The president, of course, is already reportedly facing an obstruction of justice inquiry from Robert Mueller, due to him firing the FBI director, James Comey, after Comey reportedly rejected the president`s pressure on him to stop the FBI investigation into the Russia matter. What`s another inquiry on top of that? Two scoops.
So, all of this is proceeding, right? All of these investigations are ongoing. Republican sources are getting increasingly aggressive against the president, specifically on the Russia issue.
And now today, it comes full circle. Because today, more than a year after those rumors started circulating about some weird intel sheaf of private stuff that shouldn`t disclose -- after those rumors started circulating, more than a year from that, seven months down the road from when we first laid eyes on this crazy private intelligence effort, right, that produced this almost unbelievable sheaf of reports about Trump and Russia, seven months down the road from when we first saw the dossier, we`re back to the dossier in a way that may be a big problem for the White House if the dossier is at all real.
Yesterday, we reported that the firm that hired Christopher Steele, that MI-6 agent who got all that intelligence, who did the dossier, the head of the American firm who hired him to do it, Fusion GPS, was interviewed yesterday by the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee for ten solid hours. We can also confirm tonight that Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, did hand over 40,000 pages of documents to the committee as well. That was first reported by FOX News last night. We can confirm it tonight.
But even if you put aside 40,000 pages of documents, think about his ten- hour-long interview. We know what it was about. I mean, the only reason the head of Fusion GPS was talking to the Senate Judiciary Committee for five minutes, let alone ten hours, is because of that firm`s role in commissioning the Trump-Russia dossier. When the head of the firm, Glenn Simpson, came out of his interview, his lawyer made a statement making clear that the dossier was the subject of the interview. And even though everybody`s grown accustomed to habitually describing the dossier as uncorroborated and unverified, that`s not the way Fusion GPS views it.
Richard Ben Veniste is a famous American political figure particularly when it comes to investigations in complicated national scandals. Richard Ben Veniste was a Watergate prosecutor. He was also a member of the 9/11 Commission.
When Glenn Simpson came out of that ten hours of testimony yesterday with the judiciary committee, his lawyer quoted Richard Ben Veniste in calling the Trump Russia dossier, quote, a road map for the investigation. They want the congressional committees and the FBI and all of these other professional investigations, they want all those investigators to follow the dossier. Check it out. They want the dossier to be the basis of other people`s investigations. They are volunteering it. Check it out.
They say they stand by their work. They say they are proud of their work. By their work, they mean the dossier.
And even though the White House and people from the Trump campaign and the Trump administration keep denouncing it as like this dodgy dossier, reporters routinely talk about it as unverified and uncorroborated. You know what? That`s less and less true all the time.
This thing was made public in January. By February, we had the first substantive reports that a lot of it was starting to independently check out. Investigators were following up what bits of it they could, and were finding that the dossier was true. Quote: U.S. intelligence intercepts confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals, on the same days, and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier.
I mean, that was just by February. After that, there was further corroboration of things like the specific details mentioned in the dossier about Russian staff who were based at the U.S. embassy in Washington, who had to get sent home in the middle of the scandal. I mean, even stuff like that about the Russian side of it, those too, those details, too, were checking out when people were able to independently verify them.
The important thing that`s now new here is that Fusion GPS is basically having to make itself known because of this testimony to Congress by the founder of Fusion GPS, and now that they`ve been sort of forced to answer questions about this stuff, they are inviting scrutiny of this dossier. They are standing by it publicly.
And we know that the dossier itself was delivered to the FBI. It`s been reported that the delivery of the dossier to the FBI by Christopher Steele including him giving the FBI information on who his sources were that he used to create the document, again, to further help them verify his information. Now as of today, we know we`ve got ten hours of testimony on that dossier, yesterday in the Judiciary Committee. And I have to say, the dossier remains a series of allegations.
But you know what? None of them have been overtly disproved, since it was first posted online. And that brings us tonight to Mount Ayr, Iowa. It`s a small town, about 1,700 people, south-central Iowa. It`s a really out- of-the way place.
It`s a part of Iowa I`ve never been to, so I looked it up on Google Earth today. Other nearby towns around Mount Ayr, Iowa, have amazing names like, Gravity, Iowa, Diagonal, Iowa, and Siam, Iowa. I`ve never been to that part of Iowa and now I want to go.
I especially want to go after seeing this footage tonight from Senator Chuck Grassley`s town hall in Mount Ayr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: The second thing I`d like to talk on is the Senate Judiciary Committee staff members, for 10 hours, I would like to hear what they discovered in that meeting. And I would like the transcripts released. Will you do that?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The answer is, it will take a vote of the committee to do it. But I presume that they will be released. But if you heard from the lawyer for Simpson in the evening news, the fact that we were going to release it, we can`t release it until we give Simpson and his lawyer a copy of it.
So, if there`s something that the transcript is wrong, give them an opportunity to change it, or to correct it, or at least to negotiate what was typed. First of all, it takes a long time for the court reporter to get it ready to go. But we`ll have to give it to them before the thing you`re asking me about can be done.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: Will you do that?
GRASSLEY: Of course, we`ll put it to a vote of the committee.
But here`s what might happen as a result of this. We have not given up the possibility that we would have Donald Trump Jr., and Simpson, and Manafort, it depends what comes out of these transcripts. There has to be an open session. That`s something we`re going to wait until we get done.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: Will you personally vote for the release the transcripts?
GRASSLEY: I don`t know why I wouldn`t. But I don`t want to say so, because I`ve never -- in all the years I`ve been in Congress, well, I guess I`ve only been chairman of two committees, I`ve never gone through this process before. So, I`m not going to answer your question until I get a firm footing of what the precedence is.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: My statement is, I want to see the transcripts.
GRASSLEY: OK. But you understand the necessity of giving it to them, to make sure it`s correct.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: Absolutely. But I don`t see that that would take a long time, amount of time to do so.
GRASSLEY: I would guess, even better than what you`re asking to be done, is if we decide to have a hearing, an open hearing on this issue. With those three people.
TOWNHALL ATTENDEE: It`s already been said for ten hours, release that memo and the have your open hearing.
GRASSLEY: OK. Go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
I don`t know who that guy was at the town hall, but I love you.
Senator Chuck Grassley tonight speaking with one of his absolutely persistent and well informed and plain spoken constituents at home in south-central Iowa. I think what he just indicated there, I think what the senator just indicated there is that he`ll vote for the release of the transcript of the 10 hours of testimony that the founder of Fusion GPS did yesterday about the Trump dossier. He said he has to check with precedence. But he doesn`t know of any reason he would vote against releasing that document.
Now, in terms of this issue of the transcript having to go back to Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS so they can review it before it could be made public, Chuck Grassley seems to think that would be some sort of major barrier to releasing the transcript. Like my new boyfriend in Mount Ayr, Iowa, I don`t think that would be a major barrier to releasing the transcript. And I`ll tell you why, tonight, we have just in the last few minutes received a statement from Josh Levy, who is Glenn Simpson`s lawyer, responding to what Senator Grassley just said.
The statement is exclusive to us. It`s very interesting. Are you ready? Here it goes.
Quote: Yesterday, Glenn Simpson spent the entire day answering questions of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff, pursuant to a written agreement from the committee`s chair and ranking member that was reached some weeks ago. Mr. Simpson told the truth and so far has been the only witness to fully cooperate with the committee. The transcript reveals all of Mr. Simpson`s testimony based on the hours of questioning from staff.
The committee can release the transcript, if it so chooses. But after spending an entire day answering questions, and zero testimony from any other witness, calling Mr. Simpson to a hearing, I think he means an open hearing, serves no investigative purpose other than to try to find out the identities of clients and sources which are protected as matters of privilege and in the case of sources, protected as matters of safety.
We appreciate the opportunity to review the transcript and will do so. At the end of the day, that transcript is the committee`s. It`s not ours.
OK. Do you see what`s about to happen here? The reason this is such a big deal is because, again, nothing in the dossier has been overtly disproved. If it really is a road map to the investigation, well, that`s a very serious road map to somewhere for the Trump White House. Because the two main claims in the dossier are that Russia was cultivating Trump for years, including collecting information on him for years that could potentially oblige him to do Russia`s bidding, and the other part of it is that it alleges overt knowing collusion between Trump and Russia, in Russia`s effort to interfere in the presidential election in order to hurt Hillary Clinton.
That`s what the dossier says. And if the dossier is now about to be publicly defended and explained and backed up, I mean, that`s conceivably the whole ball game. When is the judiciary committee going to take that vote?
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: In the public domain is this question of the Steele dossier, a document that has been around now for over a year. I`m not sure when the FBI first took possession of it, but the media had it before you had it and we had it. At the time of your departure from the FBI, was the FBI able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the Steele document?
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Mr. Chairman, I don`t think that`s a question I can answer in an open setting, because it goes into the details of the investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ah, no, that goes into the details of the investigation.
The firm that commission that Steele dossier now says that they stand by the veracity of that document. They are proud of their work on it. They`ve now handed over 40,000 pages to the Senate. And the firm`s founder gave 10 hours of testimony about it to the Judiciary Committee yesterday. Those ten hours we`re told were transcribed.
Fusion is suggesting they are now open to that transcript being made public, so we can all read what happened in those ten hours of testimony. And tonight in Iowa, Senator Chuck Grassley, who runs that Judiciary Committee, he said he`ll let the committee vote on putting that transcript out. He sees no reason why he would vote against that idea himself, if he and the Democrats on that committee all vote for it, then that transcript is coming out.
It`s one thing to have heard rumors in advance, about what was in that intelligence dossier about Trump and Russia. Those rumors started about a year ago. It`s another thing to have seen all that stuff in black and white, once "BuzzFeed" published it in January. But the people who commissioned it say now publicly that it`s true, that what`s in that dossier is real and can be backed up.
And that case looks like it may soon go public, which is a big deal, because if the dossier really is right, what it has to say about Trump is not just compromised by a foreign government, it is overt and knowing collusion in the Russian attack.
Joining us is Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist who worked for a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio in 2016 and who is star of my opening anecdote this evening.
Rick, thank you very much for being with us tonight. It`s nice to have you here.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, I want to get your reaction to this tonight, this news overall, just reaction as a Republican.
MADDOW: But I was also hoping that you could talk a little bit, shed a little light for us on how people in politics first started hearing about the dossier before it ever got published.
WILSON: Well, sure.
I mean, first off, I think the fact that the guys from Fusion today gave this extensive testimony and are willing to have that put out there in the public record, and turned over 40,000 pages of documents, should absolutely terrify Donald Trump`s attorneys, and the sort of constellation of media who have been denying and denying and denying that anything in the dossier is true, and that anything in the intelligence community has gathered on this guy is true.
That 40,000 pages is what oppo always has, intel always has. A gigantic iceberg of information underneath the tip that you see above the ocean. And so, this sort of thing has been swirling around for a long time.
Even before I got that phone call last summer, there have been rumors of Trump business entanglements and Trump financial entanglements with a variety of Russian oligarchs and Russian interests, you know, and Russian oligarchs and the Russian intelligence service and the Russian government all basically tied together as the same entity. And those things have been floating around. We`ve been writing some of that stuff down.
But as the individual accusations started to be made clear inside the political community, inside the sort of consultant world and folks who have interesting overlaps between politics and intelligence and government, those things started to come up more and more. Those things started to burble up more and more. We didn`t know the exact source. We knew there was something out there, a package floating around out there of information.
I didn`t know it was from Christopher Steele or Fusion proper until January when the "BuzzFeed" document rolled out. But the information was certainly circulating. And all of it, you know, the tip of the iceberg on these things, like I said, is always backed up by a gigantic amount of other data. And so, the most salacious detail, the fabled Ritz-Carlton moment in the dossier became a distraction for a lot of people. But it was the financials that most people were talking about before that started to pop up into the dialogue.
MADDOW: A lot is being made, as you said, about how some of the allegations in the dossier remain unverified. It`s often sort of shorthanded as unverified or uncorroborated document, even some of the stuff in there has been checked out and verified by other sources.
Now, Glenn Simpson`s lawyer said Fusion GPS stands by the work. That`s new. We`ve never really heard from them before this. They say that they`re proud of the work. They`re obviously inviting scrutiny of it at every level that they can.
Did you have any previous sense of Fusion as an organization, in terms of their credibility and research, or previous work in opposition research?
WILSON: I had never hired them as an opposition firm. But as a -- from what I do, I`m one of the consumers of oppo in great volume. I knew of them. They just weren`t in my particular stable of folks that I hired for work, but they certainly were not considered anything but professionals. They`re not some fly-by-night agency that, you know, does a rip-and-read off of Google and dumps a 200-page document on your desk.
These are professionals. They come from a professional journalism background. Obviously when they hired Orbis and Steele, who is an incredibly well-regarded intelligence agent for MI-6, who covered Russia in great depth, both in official cover and non, this is a guy that they obviously went out and they said, we`ve got to find somebody who can credibly do this work, and they certainly did.
There is nothing about Christopher Steele`s record that is anything but an incredibly serious, diligent public servant, and a guy who is an expert on Russia and all things Russian intelligence, including their influence operations overseas. And I think he produced a framework here, and the documents that fusion has turned over have produced a framework here that when you marry it up with the other information that our intelligence services and the rest of the files put together on this thing, I think Donald Trump has got some exposure here, and I think that`s why he`s lashing out so aggressively, why he`s so angry, why he`s yelling at senators and calling senators randomly to blurt out whatever`s on his mind, to I`m sure to the great chagrin of his attorneys.
MADDOW: Republican strategist Rick Wilson, thank you for being here with us to talk about this tonight.
WILSON: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
And, you know, what Rick was saying about this being a framework in this stuff potentially resulting in some exposure for the president, if those ten hours of testimony are, they finish the transcription, they are run fast Fusion to make sure that they don`t have objections to them and they come out, I think we can expect that to be a ten-hour defense and explication of what`s in that dossier and why Fusion stands behind it. That will be the biggest new chapter in this story for a very long time.
All right. We`ve got much more to come here tonight, including some news that is just breaking on President Trump`s proposed transgender ban in the military. This news is actually just breaking right now as we speak. We`re going to have it for you right on the other side of this break.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We have some breaking news right now about transgender service members in the United States military. Just about one month ago, the president surprised military leaders, surprised everybody, by announcing without warning on Twitter that thousands of transgender U.S. service members were going to be kicked out of the military basically.
He said in his tweet, quote: The United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.
Despite that surprise summary declaration from the president on social media, since then it`s not been at all clear whether or how this new announced ban on transgender troops would go into effect, or how it would go into effect. Or what would happen to the thousands of American troops who are transgender, who are serving openly in the armed forces today.
Well, tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" has just reported that the tweet is about to get follow-up. According to "The Journal", we should expect new guidance soon from the White House about implementing the president`s Twitter announced plan on transgender troops.
"The Journal" just in the past few minutes has described a White House memo that, quote, directs the Pentagon to deny admittance to transgender individuals and to stop spending on medical treatment regimens for those currently serving, according to U.S. officials familiar with the document.
Quote: The two and a half page memo gives Defense Secretary James Mattis six months to prepare to fully implement the transgender ban. That`s according to these officials. Quote: Mr. Mattis, under the new policy is expected to consider deployability, the ability to serve in a war zone, participate in exercises or live for months on a ship as the primary legal means to decide whether to separate service members from the military. Again, that`s just been reported moments ago in "The Wall Street Journal."
Joining us now is Gordon Lubold. He`s the "Wall Street Journal" Pentagon reporter who broke this story tonight.
Mr. Lubold, thank you very much for joining us, especially on short notice. I appreciate it.
GORDON LUBOLD, POLITICAL REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL (via telephone): Of course. No problem. Thank you.
MADDOW: So, you`re describing this new memo as something that the White House is expected to send to the Pentagon in coming days. Is it your understanding that this is a trial balloon, that they are considering this as the implementation following the president`s tweet or is this done?
LUBOLD: So, there`s a lot we -- there`s some we know, and a lot we still don`t know. I don`t know if the Trump administration does trial balloon or not. What I think that we learned here in this reporting is that there`s a lot of discretion left to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to decide at least on the -- those who are serving now, as you said in the opener, you know, it`s pretty definitive in terms of no new accessions, that the military called accessions, and no more -- that the focus is on spending for medical treatment for those who are now in the military and receiving it.
What`s not clear on that count is, does somebody who`s receiving, say, medication, is that suspended or do they have to go buy it on their own or what, that`s still a little unclear. I think some of that is left to the discretion of the secretary.
MADDOW: And in terms of the discretion of the secretary, in terms of the members of the military right now who are serving openly as transgender, is it your understanding from this memo that Mattis will be given, at the secretary of defense level, he`ll be giving discretion whether or not to kick out each individual member of the service depending what he views as their deployability as it specifically pertains to their gender?
LUBOLD: Yes, that`s correct. And there`s some precedence for this, because when Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in office, he had essentially personal say and discretion on that level at that time.
But I think, you know, I want to take you back to January when Mattis was being confirmed, and they asked him about some of these issues, and his whole kind of thing is, deployability, and is somebody ready to go to war. And if they are, great. If they meet the standards, great. If not, then there`s a problem.
So, this sounds like a lot of this memo that I think will get to the Pentagon in the next day or so, maybe early next week, will be -- it`s written and kind of influenced by Mattis, who I don`t think wanted this on his plate. He`s got a lot of other things to worry about. So, this gives him a little bit of time, and gives him a lot of discretion, at least in terms of those who are actively serving.
MADDOW: Gordon Lubold, "Wall Street Journal" Pentagon reporter, joining us on short notice by phone after breaking this story tonight -- Mr. Lubold, thank you for being with us. I appreciate it.
LUBOLD: Thanks so much.
MADDOW: It -- we`ll wait to see. Gordon Lubold said, I don`t know if they do trial balloons. We`ll wait to see if this is a trial balloon.
One of the things interesting about the surprise announcement from the president was to see the various service chiefs come out in the Coast Guard, in the Navy, basically all the different chiefs basically came out and undercut the president`s Twitter order on this subject. It remains to be seen whether or not they`ll have the same sort of resistant attitude toward this follow-up guidance that they did to the initial pronouncement from the president.
But what this sounds like is an outright ban that they`re going to implement in terms of transgender people joining the military, and every single person serving openly in the military right now as transgender, at risk of getting thrown out simply for that purpose.
If that`s a lawsuit you hear in the distance? Yes, that`s what you hear thundering down the hall.
I`ll be right back.
MADDOW: I want to go back and re-up our exclusive tonight. The lawyer for the head of Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the Trump-Russia dossier last year, tells us tonight that after Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson gave ten hours of testimony on the Trump-Russia dossier to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, as far as Glenn Simpson is concerned, the committee is welcome to publicly release the transcript of those ten hours of testimony.
In an exclusive statement provided to us tonight, Simpson`s lawyer Josh Levy says in part, quote: The transcript reveals all of Mr. Simpson`s testimony based on the hours of questioning from staff, the committee can release the transcript if it so chooses. Be my guest.
That`s important, because Chuck Grassley, the chair of that committee, just told a town hall in Iowa tonight that his committee is going to take a vote on whether or not they want to put out that transcript of the ten hours of testimony. He said personally he sees no reason why he would vote against making that testimony public. Oh, dear.
Intelligence veteran Malcolm Nance joins us next.
MADDOW: Malcolm Nance is an intelligence veteran. He`s the author of "The Plot To Hack America", which is about the Russian attack in our election last year. But even more specifically pertinent to tonight`s news that we`ve broken at this hour about the Trump/Russia dossier and it`s underpinnings, potentially going public in a large way very soon, we believe that Malcolm Nance may have been the first to be briefed of the existence of this dossier when it was first created.
Malcolm Nance joins us now.
Malcolm, thanks very much for your time tonight. I really appreciate you being here.
MALCOLM NANCE, INTELLIGENCE VETERAN: my pleasure.
MADDOW: So, Malcolm, how is it that you were one of the first people to learn about the dossier?
NANCE: Well, I may have been one of the second persons to learn about the dossier. David Corn managed to get ahold of the dossier relatively early on, you know, more than a month and a half before the election. He called me out of the blue and he had known that I had published "The Plot to Hack America," which had come out about eight weeks before the election.
And prior to that, I hadn`t heard anything about this dossier. But what`s really interesting about it is, when he called me, what are the methodologies that an intelligence officer like Christopher Steele would use to actually go out and verify the information, and we had a very long discussion about what we call rumint. That`s rumor intelligence.
This is the kind of information that diplomats get at dinner parties. People who are friends, sitting around cafes or drinking, come out and tell the stories as they know it. And the information that we had in the Steele dossier, as I said it was, it was an enormous amount of rumint. But you notice the term of art, rumint has int in it, has intelligence in it.
And when the final dossier came out in its fullness, it was very clear that Christopher Steele had something enormous on his hands. This was not a joke. Everything that I had written in the months prior to that dossier coming out was almost identical to what the CIA had written because we`re intelligence officers. This is what we do.
But the Steele dossier had the details of our conjecture. Enormous things that are coming out now, such as, you know, Manafort`s dealings with the Yanukovych government, and being paid off. That was detailed in that dossier, in great detail, and all of the individual players who are now being investigated by the Mueller investigation.
So, what this does is this gave the U.S. intelligence committee, as we`re finding out now, you know, had already as early as June had its hair on fire over the Russian hacking sent to the DNC and a campaign to essentially get Donald Trump elected. But Christopher Steele was way ahead of it and so was David Corn.
MADDOW: Malcolm, I`m struck by the way of sort of the way this has been furthered in the last 48 hours. The co-funder of Fusion GPS which commissioned the dossier from Steele, he`s done this fulsome 10-hour interview with the Senate and has handed over 40,000 pages to the Senate, very obviously cooperating with the investigation. And Fusion is saying openly, listen, we stand by the dossier. We think -- basically, we think it`s true. Check it out.
If that testimony that he just gave, those ten hours of testimony, the transcript for that will be made public. Do you think that changes the stakes materially for the White House?
NANCE: Well, I think it does because what it does is if he turned over 40,000 documents, forget about the ten hours of answering questions. If he turned over the raw material, the traffic that he used to -- you know, Christopher Steele used and the notes that he took to bring that about, trained intelligence analysts at the CIA and counterintelligence office of the FBI, they are going to make a lot of links back to known intelligence that comes from the broader intelligence community.
We had heard about that from John Brennan earlier this year, that U.S. intelligence had some indications that many of the things, or at least some of the things in the Steele document were verifiable through our independent multibillion dollar, multi sensor systems.
If that`s the case, it`s going to recreate a verifiable framework for the Mueller investigation to go through and it is a damning document. Let`s not make any jokes about it. That document is explosive.
MADDOW: Malcolm Nance, intelligence community veteran, author of "The Plot to Hack America," a man who makes sense of a lot of the darkest stuff we talked about in American news -- Malcolm, thank you. Appreciate you being here, my friend.
MALCOLM: My pleasure.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I just want to tell you once again about the breaking news we got in a few minutes ago, that the White House is following up now on the president`s surprise Twitter declaration from the last month of a ban on transgender people serving in the military. "Wall Street Journal" has just reported that the White House is about to send new guidance to the Pentagon on implementing that ban. The guidance spells out that openly transgender people will not be able to join the military anymore and it spells out the discretion that Defense Secretary James Mattis will apparently have to throw out currently serving transgender troops one by one. There are thousands of transgender Americans who are serving in every conceivable role in the U.S. military right now in all branches.
"The Wall Street Journal" is describing this planned guidance from the Pentagon but we have not seen it directly yet. We let you know more when we learn more.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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