Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: September 6, 2017
Guest: Massimo Calabresi, Eric Schneiderman
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Prayers tonight and hopefully good planning tonight for Puerto Rico, as the 3.4 million American citizens who live on that island bear down under a category 5 hurricane. You know, it has been almost 100 years since a category 5 storm made landfall in Puerto Rico. There are very real worries about what this storm is going to leave behind and just how life- threatening it is.
This storm has already killed people in Anguilla, and Barbuda and St. Martin and St. Barts. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda announced today that he believes 90 percent of the buildings on the island of Barbuda may have been destroyed by the storm -- 90 percent of the buildings on that island.
There are real fears ahead for the U.S. Virgin Islands, and for Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. That`s all before Hurricane Irma could potentially hit densely populated Miami and South Florida.
So, Hurricane Irma obviously is front and center tonight, one of the largest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. We`re going to be talking about the preparations ahead of its path tonight and also what we`re learning from the storm`s path as it churns through the Caribbean and towards Florida tonight.
Simultaneously, we`re also keeping an eye on the aftermath of Harvey in Texas. Some towns outside of Houston are still underwater today. There are now also worries about what`s basically a toxic stew that has been left behind in parts of east Texas, and southeast Texas because of this storm.
In addition to all of the other things that the Houston and Gulf Coast region is to our country, it is also our nation`s center for our chemical industry, and one of the centers for the petroleum industry in this country. And there are new reports out of Houston today that people who were exposed to the floodwaters after Harvey, they`re turning up at local hospitals with strange skin infections and rashes.
There are some very worrying reports about a large plume of benzene, which is a toxic flammable gas that is known to cause cancer. Benzene and also volatile organic compounds have been detected over industrial Houston in the wake of this storm and in the flooding that followed. So, now, among all the other challenges that Texas and Houston are facing, there are real questions now about whether those new chemical and health dangers are being even monitored and measured, let alone addressed as people try to recover from that flooding, which, again, in some places still persist.
So, we`re going to have more on that over the course of the hour tonight, and again, all eyes on Irma.
We`re going to be joined tonight also for the interview by a powerhouse state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, the state attorney general from New York. He is now reportedly working with the Robert Mueller investigation in Washington. He`s also the same attorney general who today filed a 15-state lawsuit against the federal government to try to save DACA. That lawsuit was joined today by big tech firms, including Amazon and Microsoft.
And it`s proving to be a pretty significant challenge, also pretty personal challenge to the president in terms of why the president acted to rescind DACA protections and why the states think they can stop him. So, it`s very interesting strategy there.
We`ve got all those stories coming up. Attorney General Schneiderman is going to be joining us.
But what I want to start with is a big development that we got today on a major story we`ve been covering for months now. This particular thing that just happened today is something that has been denied and denied and denied again by the entities in question. But now, months down the road, they finally admitted to it, and that`s potentially a big deal for the Robert Mueller investigation, and for the congressional investigations into Trump and Russia.
I think also it`s personally going to be a big deal for some of the reporters who were right about this story in the first instance months ago, reporters who have been staring down denial after denial after denial on this story for months who have now finally been proven right. We`re going to speak with one of those reporters this evening.
But it started in May of last year, May 2016, American intelligence agencies reportedly intercepted a communication that they didn`t really know what to make sense of at the time, but it was a communication they intercepted between two different Russian officials.
There was a guy who worked at the GRU, Russian military intelligence, and last May, he was overheard on this intercept bragging to one of his Russian colleagues that Hillary Clinton was about to get a big surprise courtesy of Vladimir Putin and Russian military intelligence. This is first reported by Massimo Calabresi at "Time" magazine. And here`s how he reported it in May 2016.
Quote, in May 2016 -- sorry, Calabresi`s report from May 2017, but he`s reporting on something that happened May 2016. Quote: In May 2016, a Russian military intelligence officer bragged to a colleague that his organization, the GRU, was getting ready to pay Clinton back for what President Vladimir Putin believed was an influence operation Clinton had run against him five years earlier when she was secretary of state. The GRU, he said, was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election.
So, Massimo Calabresi was first to report that at "Time" magazine this year. This is the first we had heard about this particular intercept, which was apparently intercepted by U.S. intelligence last spring. "McClatchy" later confirmed Calabresi`s reporting with multiple sources, and "McClatchy said that the specific type of chaos, the GRU was promising for the U.S. presidential election, was that they were going to, quote, spread news damaging to Hillary Clinton.
So, this reported U.S. intelligence intercept of this Russian conversation, this, again, was something apparently that happened in May of last year, so last spring as the presidential primaries were winding down, Russian military intelligence bragging that they`ve got some secret plan to mess with U.S. public opinion, to mess with Americans` understanding of the news about Hillary Clinton and her run for the presidency. That discussion was captured in May of last year.
And then, of course, we know about the things that happened soon thereafter. In June last year, there was that meeting involving the top echelons of the Trump campaign. Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman and Jared Kushner, the president`s son-in-law, and Donald Trump Jr., all meeting with a whole bunch of Russians in Trump Tower, a meeting to discuss Russian government negative information about Hillary Clinton, according to the e-mails released by Donald Trump Jr. that purportedly set that meeting up.
Now, one of the participants in that meeting is someone who we now know has given grand jury testimony to the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. He`s a Soviet born D.C. resident who has Russian military intelligence connections, and he`s reported to have been involved in multiple campaigns in the past where he worked for allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and those allies with Putin were involved in legal or business or financial disputes with other people. And those other people soon found themselves to be the victims of sophisticated hacking attacks, where they had documents stolen from their computer servers, and then publicized, or those documents were repurposed to hurt his client`s opponents.
So, again, in May, Russian military intelligence is overheard talking about how they`re going to spread negative information about Hillary Clinton. In June, this guy with the Russian military intelligence background is in Trump Tower meeting with the top of the Trump campaign to discuss negative information about Hillary Clinton. Then the following month in July, DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0 start, in fact, leaking and publicizing hacked negative information about Hillary Clinton`s stolen from the Democratic Party.
The intelligence community later, quote, assessed with high confidence that Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.com were both basically operations run by Russian military intelligence, by GRU.
By the fall, that Russian attack included the tens of thousands of hacked documents that were stolen from the Clinton campaign staff and released through WikiLeaks. Again, that operation assessed by the U.S. intelligence community with high confidence to be a Russian op, to be a Russian military intelligence operation.
Meanwhile, while all that`s happening and all those things are associated with Russian military intelligence, meanwhile, beyond stealing and leaking back into the U.S. these stolen Democratic documents, Russia simultaneously also through the summer and the fall, they ramped up their efforts to manipulate American news, and in particular, to manipulate online discussion and interpretation of the news by interrupting and steering and perverting social media traffic to hurt Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, and help Donald Trump.
And again, this is -- this is something that the intelligence community made a positive declaration about in January of this year. This is not controversial stuff. This is basically settled and understood, at least if you believe this intelligence community report that came out in January. Russia`s state-run propaganda machine, including its network of quasi- government trolls, contributed to the influence campaign to help Trump and hurt Clinton by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging.
So, I mean, here we are in September of 2017 now. We know about the timing, about how all these things stacked up. We can put more dots on the map and items on the timeline in terms of how they all connect and how they fall in order. But we`ve known really the basics of what the Russians did for about nine months now, right? Nine months since that intelligence committee report came out.
On the social media part of what Russia did, though, there have been some outstanding questions that have been aggressively reported on, but it`s been pretty hard to get to the bottom of them.
For one thing, how did Russian military intelligence or other elements of the Russian government, how did they do this stuff in American social media without us knowing at the time that that`s who it was? Without Americans being able to see bluntly that this was a foreign influence operation?
I mean, if the Russian government, the Russian military were using American social media to influence the outcome of our election, that, of course, is a criminal matter, right? You can`t spend foreign money on anything in an American election.
So, there`s this question of how they did it. It`s a -- there`s also a technical, legal matter for investigators to look into, into whether or not this was the expenditure of foreign money to influence the outcome of an election.
But there`s also this broader counterintelligence question, this treason question about whether or not they had any help in launching that part of their attack. And this is the part where there are so few American reporters today who get to sort of stand up and pound their chests on this, because they were right about this.
In May of this year, in that "Time" magazine article, where we first learned that the GRU had been overheard by U.S. intelligence officials talking about how they were about to mess with Hillary Clinton and the election, Massimo Calabresi in that article, was also first to report that intelligence officials were looking into Russia using Facebook to infiltrate the U.S. election.
This was Calabresi in "Time" magazine back in May. Quote: Intelligence officials have found that Moscow`s agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda.
Now, that makes sense that Russia would do that, right? We understand they were out running this influence operation on Trump`s behalf, right? They`re running this influence operation to benefit Trump and hurt Clinton, we`ve understood that now for months. So, it would make sense that they would use American social media.
It does raise all sorts of interesting questions whether or not they needed help to do it, so it would look like American stuff, so it would also target the right American Facebook users, have a maximum effect on the vote. It raises very interesting questions about Facebook accepting that money to influence the U.S. election without noticing that it was from a foreign source.
But Facebook came out and told "Time" magazine in May that it didn`t happen. Quote: A Facebook official says the company has no evidence of that occurring.
So, Calabresi says intelligence officials have found that Moscow`s agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda. Facebook comes out and says, no, the company has no evidence of that occurring.
All right. Well, then in July, "McClatchy" reports that, quote, investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the Justice Department are investigating whether the Trump campaign`s digital operation overseen by Jared Kushner helped guide Russia`s sophisticated vote targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. They cite several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.
Peter Stone and Greg Gordon reported at "McClatchy" that congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump`s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states -- areas where Trump`s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton.
In that article, crucially, "McClatchy" spoke with a guy who had just left his post as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia at the Pentagon. So, he`s the senior Pentagon official responsible for Russia during the Russian attack on our election. And he told "McClatchy" in July, quote: There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia`s propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation.
So, "McClatchy" comes up with that in July, specifically citing investigators` interest in how the Kremlin was able to target millions of voters` Facebook accounts, not just down to swing states, but even down to key precincts.
Very, very pointed accusation there, right? And that elicits once again a spate of denials from Facebook.
Facebook -- days after this "McClatchy" piece ran, they told Wired.com that they found no evidence of Russian entities buying ads during the election.
Then days later, it was CNN reporting that top Democrats on the Russia investigation and Senator Mark Warner in particular on Senate Intel, they were convinced that Facebook holds the answers that investigators are looking for on the question of potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. CNN describes Senator Warner as convinced that Facebook can explain whether anyone from the Trump campaign helped Russians boost fake news articles on Facebook, targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
After that comes out, the Trump campaign itself says, no, no, no, that definitely didn`t happen. The head of data operations who worked with Jared Kushner on the campaign comes out and says he was unaware of any Russian activity during the election at all.
And then once again, Facebook itself comes out and says, no, no, no, this didn`t happen. Facebook told CNN, quote: We have seen no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.
So, this would -- this would appear to be a key part of what Russia did to try to skew the election toward Donald Trump. This behavior by the Russians using American social media, specifically using Facebook, it`s a key component of the investigation into whether or not they had any American help in what they did, whether any Americans knew what they were doing, and let it go, or cheered them on, or even helped them do it.
And for months now, really good reporters, outlets all over the country, have been chasing this down.
And the big hurdle in the middle of all this investigative reporting is that Facebook keeps saying, no, no, no, no, we know you think this happened. This didn`t happen. Russians? What Russians? There were no Russians.
For months, Facebook has denied this ever happened. Now, as of today, Facebook admits, OK, there were Russians. Today, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Facebook released this un-Google-able blog post with a headline that I`m currently forgetting even as I`m reading it to you out loud: An Update on Information Operations on Facebook.
Despite that thrilling headline, what this means is that Facebook is now admitting, despite all its earlier, repeated, insistent denials that, in fact, it has now positively identified thousands of ads during the presidential campaign as having originated in Russia. So, that goes out at 4:00 p.m., and then Carol Leonnig and Tom Hamburger and Rosalind Helderman at "The Washington Post", they were first to scoop on the story, beyond the, frankly, anodyne self-congratulatory statement by Facebook in which they basically intimate that the biggest threat here is to their own Facebook business policies that weren`t followed. (INAUDIBLE)
After that statement from Facebook, Carol Leonnig and her colleagues at the "Washington Post" were actually able to get this much more helpful information from a Facebook official for their story. Quote: There is evidence that some of the accounts that Facebook now admits to, some of the accounts are linked to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, one that is referred to as the Internet Research Agency.
So, I mean, again, the bottom line here is, what this means now is Facebook is finally confirming after months of denying it that Russian fake accounts were shunting political messaging into the U.S. election for months. And although they don`t say it in their blog post, an official does admit to reporters working on this story now that some of those Russian posts were tied to something called the Internet Research Agency. And even though that sounds very generic, that is a specific and Google-able thing.
The Internet Research Agency is cited in the intelligence community`s report on the Russian attack on our election. It`s a -- they cited essentially as a project of Russian military intelligence.
This is from page 4 of the intelligence community`s report. Russia used trolls as part of its influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton. This effort amplified stories on scandals about Secretary Clinton.
Who were those trolls exactly? Again, from the intelligence community report, quote: The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in St. Petersburg, financier of that is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence. So, Russian intelligence, again.
It`s -- sometimes some of these nights, you feel you can connect the dots. Sometimes you feel like, oh, it`s one big dot.
Russian intelligence officers overheard discussing their plans to disseminate negative news about Hillary Clinton last May. Guy with Russian military intelligence background turns up in Trump Tower last June. Russian intelligence cutouts start distributing stolen hacked Democratic documents denigrating Hillary Clinton in July. Russian intelligence uses WikiLeaks to have stolen hacked documents denigrating Hillary Clinton in the fall.
And all along, for months, Russian intelligence is using American social media companies, including Facebook -- Facebook now finally admits -- to circulate information intended to influence the election.
It`s like 17 different dots that are all labeled Russian intelligence, Russian intelligence, Russian intelligence.
So, this is a key part of the collusion narrative that was denied for months by this gigantic, powerful company. Now that Facebook is no longer denying it, now that everybody involved, except the Trump campaign, I think, admits to exactly what Russia did here, can we now look at what they did to see if they had help?
If the Republican-led congressional investigations aren`t looking into that now, they should have to explain why they`re not, because now, there`s really no more disagreement about what happened here. The only question is whether there were American confederates involved, and it`s now a very investigatable thing.
The other reason thing this is important is for a very pedestrian and direct reason, which is that as I mentioned, you can`t spend foreign money to influence U.S. elections -- even just on Facebook ads. And so, this is evidence now -- direct evidence confirmed by Facebook of a discreet, clear crime committed in the course of the Russian attack on our election.
Now, good luck bringing in the Russian military intelligence service into court to face the music for that particular crime, I know. But it`s a crime, clearly. And if any American knew that crime was happening, if any American was part of the effort to make that happen, that American could absolutely be criminally charged on that matter.
So, this all finally gets confirmed today. When the Mueller investigation is actually under strange new kind of pressure from camp Trump, a Republican congressman who was a member of the Trump transition and early Trump supporters, Congressman Devin Nunes of California, he appears to have now basically unrecused himself from the Russia investigation. He has started unilaterally threatening the FBI and the Justice Department with subpoenas and potential contempt charges if they don`t hand over to him information on the Mueller investigation.
Nunes has been the White House`s best friend in trying to divert and fend off the Russia investigation from the very beginning of this scandal. It will be interesting to find out, and we eventually will, it will be interesting to find out whether or not Devin Nunes is freelancing this latest effort to try to interfere with the investigation, or if he is working directly with the White House on this again.
But he has brought a new form of pressure to bear on the Mueller investigation, and we don`t know how that is going to turn out. The investigation itself proceeds, though. And today really is vindication for all the reporters who have been saying for all these months that the Mueller investigation has one very specific criminal matter to follow up on here, because of this evidence of Russian money flowing through Facebook in an effort to influence the U.S. election.
Reporters have been aggressively following that line of inquiry for months. The company at the center of those allegations has been denying it insistently for months. Today, they finally stopped denying it. One more piece of this just got proven true.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: This is from May 2017, so this year, in "Time" magazine. You probably remember this cover. I always thought this was good, the White House slowly morphing into a Red Square White House.
In that issue of "Time" magazine, reporter Massimo Calabresi was first to report that U.S. intelligence officials had discovered that one of the ways Russia tried to influence the U.S. presidential election last year was by using Facebook, to try to sway Americans` views. He reported that in May. Facebook denied it was true at the time. And then they went on to deny it again and again and again.
Now, today, about-face -- look. It was true all along, despite their earlier denials.
Joining us now is Massimo Calabresi, deputy Washington bureau chief at "Time" magazine.
Mr. Calabresi, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Congratulations in retrospect on getting this right in the first place.
MASSIMO CALABRESI, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TIME MAGAZINE: Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: Why did investigators and intelligence officers believe that this was going on for so long, that the Russians had used Facebook? Why did they believe it for so long while Facebook was still denying that it was happening?
CALABRESI: So, what we found in speaking with U.S. intelligence officials, and outside experts, and indeed officials in other countries, was that the sophisticated Russian social media propaganda operation that was put into play in the 2016 election here was in fact just the latest in a westward march of cyber election meddling by Russia that started as many as nine years ago, in some ways in Georgia, moved to Ukraine in 2014, and was found also at various points in Western Europe.
So, this is a capability that Russian intelligence has been developing very intentionally over time. The Russians, as you know, have always been fascinated with propaganda, and they have seen in cyberspace where the U.S. always viewed a potential sort of kinetic battlefield where things would blow up, or banks would be shut down. The Russians also viewed cyberspace as a battlefield for propaganda. And so, they`ve been very intentionally developing this capability.
MADDOW: From a reporting perspective, or from an investigatory perspective, do you think this is a jumping-off point for figuring out if there were people on the American side who may have helped Russia with any of its social media influence operations against Clinton during the campaign? I can see what you just explained in terms of if you sort of knew what to watch for, if you had seen Russia do this in other countries, you could recognize them start to do that in the United States.
From that previous understanding, does it help you figure out if they had some confederates helping them?
CALABRESI: Well, it`s one of the confounding things about what happened last year that, to be frank, U.S. intelligence did not do a good job of pursuing the evidence that they had in hand of potential collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. It was only after Trump`s victory, several intelligence sources have told me, that the community really turned to the possibility that there had been an act of collaboration.
And so, as a matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge, it wasn`t a focus of the intelligence community in a systematic way, the kind of tasking from higher levels that now in retrospect it seems they should have undertaken, if that`s what you`re asking.
MADDOW: Yes. And the question is, you know, what bread crumbs do these things leave behind, and how much help might a Russian operation of this kind need in order to look native to the people who were targets of this information? I don`t know if there`s enough that we understand about Russian operations in other countries to know whether they`d need domestic confederates in order for it to work.
CALABRESI: Well, several public figures have raised the possibility that the Russians might not have been able to do the sophisticated targeting in social media with their propaganda that the intelligence community and others now -- investigators now believe that they did. I think that`s an open question. I don`t think it`s been shown one way or another. I mean, if you think about the kind of work that the State Department diplomats, or our own intelligence community does in other countries to learn how power is consolidated and distributed, it`s not beyond the realm of the possible that Russia would have a fairly good sense of how elections ran.
Indeed, we know from other reporting in a whole separate basket of this, what was really a government-wide effort by Russia, that they were hacking into state and local electoral systems to gather data on individual voters themselves. So, this was really a very big, broad attack on the U.S. -- the core exercise of democracy in America by Russia.
MADDOW: Massimo Calabresi, deputy Washington bureau chief for "Time" magazine -- again, congratulations for getting this right early on. And thanks for helping us understand your reporting.
CALABRESI: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. Do you remember how the Trump administration got shellacked in the courts on the Muslim ban? The people who brought you that shellacking as of tonight are going back for round two. And that story is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you were going to run for public office, what would you run for? There`s one high-level elected public office where as far as I can see it, you regularly get to fight winnable fights. You get to stand up for your state and its people in a totally tangible way where you know if you won or lost all the time.
I mean, I`m sure there`s downsides. But if you had to run for something, I think being a state attorney general has always been one of the more, at least potentially exciting and satisfying jobs in public service. And that`s in normal times.
But right now, if you`re a state attorney general, no, specifically, if you are the attorney general of the state of New York -- forget the exciting, dramatic, satisfying stuff that happens in your daily life, with just your state, and its drama -- if you`re the attorney general in the state of New York right now, you`re in the middle of a significant portion of what counts as national news right now.
Just in the past few days, it`s been reported that the attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman, is working with the Robert Mueller special investigation into Trump and Russia. It`s been reported by us that the Schneiderman office has on its radar the potential corruption self-dealing case involving Trump administration adviser Carl Icahn, and now today, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced the New York and 15 other states are suing the Trump administration to save DACA, to save the DREAMers who the Trump administration now wants to deport.
If you have not yet read about that lawsuit or seen that today, you will find the reasoning of that lawsuit very, very interesting.
Joining us for the interview is Eric Schneiderman, the attorney general of the state of New York.
Appreciate your time tonight, sir. I know you`re very busy.
ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN (D), NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Glad to be here.
MADDOW: Let me ask you the reasoning behind the DACA lawsuit today. When I was reading it today, I felt like, in some ways, you`re making a similar argument to the successful case that was made against Trump`s Muslim ban. It`s a very personal argument. You`re basically arguing that Trump is repealing DACA because he`s motivated by prejudice, he`s motivated by racial and other improper animus toward these young immigrants. It`s a very provocative argument.
SCHNEIDERMAN: Well, it`s a provocative argument, but it was argued successfully by our coalition of attorneys general, a lot of the same folks in a coalition that sued today. We sued -- I sued, along with 15 other attorneys general, from all over the country. And it`s very straightforward as a matter of constitutional law, that you cannot enact a government policy if one of the major factors -- it doesn`t have to be the only factor -- is discriminatory animus and if it has a disparate impact on a protected group.
Here, since the first days of his campaign, Donald Trump has flagrantly displayed an anti-Latino, particularly anti-Mexican discriminatory animus, calling them rapists and murderers, disparaging a judge because of his Mexican heritage, saying Mexico only sends us the bad ones. And it clearly has a disparate impact because 93 percent of the DACA grantees are Latino, and 78 percent are Mexicans.
So, if you wanted to do something to a group you`ve been disparaging for a couple of years, this would be a pretty good opportunity. And the reasons offered to shut down this massively successful program, 42,000 DACA grantees in New York, 800,000 across the country, 93 percent of them are in school or have jobs. They are great kids.
I spent today with a bunch of them. The business community has rallied to our side on this, because they love having these kids as employees. The academic community love having them as students.
This is a massively successful program. There is no good reason to shut it down. There`s no legitimate reason to shut it down. No court has held it unconstitutional.
We think the court will see through the pretext offered up yesterday by DHS and Jeff Sessions and others and see that the real motivating factor here is the discriminatory animus.
MADDOW: When you approach something like this in terms of looking for the best way to stand up for those New York DREAMers and the best way to approach this, as a policy matter, because this is litigation to try to stop a policy decision by the president, what goes into deciding whether or not every state ought to pursue its own? Or 15 states ought to go together?
Or Amazon and Microsoft basically joined in with what you were doing today. I thought about the strategic decision making that must go into that, thinking about whether the business community should be doing that on their own terms. How do you -- how do you approach those things and figure those out?
SCHNEIDERMAN: Well, there have been occasions, and this has really been -- there`s been a transformation of this coalition of attorneys general since January, and we have come together, we`re in regular communication now, it used to be much more ad hoc and informal for us to collaborate on cases, but we recognize the threat to the rule of law posed by this administration. And as lawyers, with the duty to protect the people we represent, we came together very quickly as first week in office, around his first discriminatory anti-Muslim travel ban, that weekend, 17 of us put out a statement that we were going into court to stop it. We did. He issued a second ban. We went to court and got a second injunction against that.
So, it`s really the same coalition, my colleagues in Washington and Massachusetts, and really all over the country, have seen things like the travel ban, or the effort to rescind DACA, which is just really borders on the despicable. These kids came here because they were brought here by their parents. They came here as children. This is the only home they`ve ever known.
You can`t get in DACA unless your nose is clean. You don`t have a criminal record. You have to meet the educational requirements.
This is the last group of people we should be thinking about deporting. And for them to turn on them, after promising them repeatedly they`d be taken care of, and that any information they provided would not be used in immigration proceedings. To reverse all of that is just so fundamentally unfair that I think my colleagues just very quickly, as soon as they issued the order yesterday, we were on the phone together and we came together very, very quickly.
That`s happened on a couple of occasions since the president took over.
MADDOW: I am not a lawyer, I`m always interested in terms of the strategic decisions in terms of how you approach a fight, whether you`re, you know, stronger together, waging the same thing at once, whether you should work collaboratively, whether you can pool your resources like that. A collaboration story that was reported about you recently that went off like a bomb nationwide in terms of its news impact was the report that your office is cooperating with the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation on the Trump-Russia investigation.
Is that reporting true? Are you -- are you involved with that investigation?
SCHNEIDERMAN: So, I don`t comment on ongoing or potential investigations. I know that -- I understand why people are interested in that story. But we just don`t comment on criminal investigations until they reach a certain level of maturity.
I would say it is kind of unremarkable in the world of law enforcement for a federal and state prosecutor to communicate somewhat with each other. But we don`t -- I`m not going to comment on anything, any potential or ongoing investigation.
MADDOW: So, not asking about that particular investigation, when you say it`s not unusual for federal and state prosecutors to work together, is that just -- is that not unusual because of jurisdictional decisions about whether something that`s being prosecuted at the state level might step on the toes of a federal prosecution and vice versa? Is it just about sorting things out in terms of who should move first?
SCHNEIDERMAN: In some cases, in many cases. I mean, I work with the U.S. attorneys` offices in New York, and we communicate sometimes. You don`t want to run into a double jeopardy problem if you`re both going after the same person for the same exact offense. And sometimes we work together.
So, it`s a combination of things. But we`re -- good communication makes for good law enforcement. But this is better off left to the work of the prosecutors. And at some point, when we have something to say, we`ll say it.
MADDOW: You are a Democrat, and outspoken critic of the president. Have you been worried at all about some of the reporting on this hypothetical collaboration that suggests that maybe that Mueller working with you is somehow him tipping his partisan hand? That you being involved in this investigation would make it a more partisan investigation than it would otherwise seem?
SCHNEIDERMAN: No. I mean, I think we`ve got an extraordinary record of having gone after many, many Democrats since I`ve been in office. We`ve expanded our public corruption work and sent to prison sitting state senators, assembly members, just got a conviction of a city councilman, all Democrats.
So, we have -- corruption is a bipartisan enterprise in New York, and in most of America. And so we follow the facts wherever they lead. But we`re not -- you know, we`re not prejudging everything. We`re looking at everything.
I think we`ve tried to approach this administration by focusing on the merits of decisions. We try not to personalize it. It`s -- if he`s going to wrongfully end a program that benefits hundreds of thousands of young people who shouldn`t be punished, we`re going to go after him. He tries to eliminate health care for millions of New Yorkers. We`re going to go after him.
So, we keep it on the merits and keep it on the substance. This is not personal.
MADDOW: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of New York, I have one other matter I would like to ask you about, will you sit there for just one more second?
All right. We`ll be right back with attorney general of the state of New York. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`re back with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who has today announced a lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of New York and 14 other states and D.C. to try to preserve DACA, to try to prevent the Trump administration from deporting the DREAMers.
General Schneiderman, thank you for sticking with me.
Because New York is the financial capital of the country, you as the state`s top law enforcement official have a whole bunch of interesting jurisdictional stuff that you may have access to -- a whole bunch of stuff that may look like stuff that is of national concern, arguably can also be on your plate.
So, I`m going to ask you about Carl Icahn, famous investor, famous New York financial figure and recently a Trump administration adviser. If Carl Icahn were to be investigated for potentially self dealing while he was serving as a Trump adviser -- and there`s been a lot of public reporting about this, your office told us that this issue was on its radar. If he were to be investigated for potentially self-dealing, for using his public position to goose the market for his own financial benefit, is that potentially a New York state investigation whether or not the Justice Department decides to pursue it as a matter of public integrity?
SCHNEIDERMAN: It`s -- I mean, we obviously are aware of the circumstances. But again, we don`t comment on potential or ongoing investigations.
But in many cases that involve dealings in the market, New York and the federal government share jurisdiction, so that`s pretty common. And I`ve pursued a lot of cases having to do with fraud in the financial markets. My predecessors did. Eliot Spitzer when he was attorney general got famous for doing it. So, it`s -- there is overlap.
But we -- as to the specifics of this case, we really aren`t going to comment on anything.
MADDOW: And that would be again in general, not speaking about the specific case, that would be something where there would -- you would expect there to be discussions whether they`re deconfliction discussions or collaborative discussions with the Justice Department in terms of who should pursue that if it was going to be pursued?
SCHNEIDERMAN: Yes, we try and communicate with our counterparts in other states and the federal government, just to, you know, make sure we don`t step on each other`s toes or interfere or do something that could interfere with the result of a good investigation.
MADDOW: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, thank you for being willing to sit here and allow me to ask you things that you cannot answer. Appreciate it.
SCHNEIDERMAN: My pleasure.
MADDOW: Congratulations on the DACA suit. Keep us apprised, sir.
SCHNEIDERMAN: Thank you.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Twenty-five years ago this month, in August 1992, Florida got hit by a category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Andrew. In addition to the immediate concern for human life and well being, there was also a lot of worry at the time about this place.
This is called Turkey Point, Florida`s oldest nuclear power plant. And as the eye of that hurricane passed over the Turkey Point nuclear plant in 1992, some of the facilities around the reactor buildings took a beating, including stuff that was supposed to be hurricane-proof.
Within ten miles of the plant, within ten miles of Turkey Point, there were 41 warning sirens set up for the nuclear plant. Of the 41, Hurricane Andrew blew down 36 of them. They left the plant running on backup generators for more than a week in order to keep the reactors and the fuel cool. Debris from the storm blocked the access road to the plant. One of the 400-foot smokestacks on that nuclear plant got cracked in half.
It was supposed to be able to survive 235-mile-an-hour winds. You can actually see the crack there. And that crack was very worrisome because if that smokestack had fallen, it could have hit the crucial emergency diesel generators that were keeping the plant cool. In the end, the smokestack didn`t fall, and radiation wasn`t released, and the nuclear units remained in stable condition. But that was a scare, what happened at Turkey Point nuclear power plant in south Florida in 1992, when a cat 5 came calling.
Twenty-five miles away in Miami, there was utter devastation from Andrew. The hurricane ripped the roofs off houses and flattened whole neighborhoods. Andrew changed Miami, it changed Florida in terms of who lives there and what people expect from extraordinary storms.
And you can in fact see that in the lessons that Florida took from Andrew, which are all the more important tonight as Hurricane Irma, which is even larger than Andrew, now churns through the Atlantic toward Florida.
After Andrew, Florida toughened up the state`s buildings codes. They now have some of the toughest building codes in the country and it matters because now, Hurricane Irma is heading right for them and this is going to be a test. We`ll see how the post-Andrew tougher building codes stand up.
Hurricane Irma has been at 185 miles an hour since middle of the day yesterday. Tonight, local officials have declared mandatory evacuation for half dozen neighborhoods in Miami-Dade and Miami Beach starting tomorrow.
Today, a spokesperson for Turkey Point tells the press any decision to shut down the nuclear plant will be made well in advance with the storm making landfall. They haven`t decided what they`re going to do yet. Current forecast calls for Irma to hit the coast of Florida sometime on Saturday as it churns through the Caribbean tonight.
Prayers and planning, lots of planning.
MADDOW: All right. That pretty much does it for us tonight.
I do have one note for you about tomorrow`s show. On tomorrow night`s show, we are going to have some news to share about Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin of all people. Not that we have news about Hillary Clinton and news about Vladimir Putin. We actually have news about Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin. We`ll have that for you tomorrow.
But now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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